Meandering north to Alaska

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by jwc, May 24, 2019.

  1. jwc

    jwc Ready to go Supporter

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    05/24/2019

    Here we go again. It’s me, Bill, and my wife affectionately known by our grandchildren as Ted, riding from our home in south Louisiana. I’ll be on my Tiger 800 and Ted on her trusty Honda CB500X. Both fitted with a few creature comforts and Motoz GPS 50/50 tires for when gravel and forest service roads beckon. We will camp when we can and hotel it otherwise. Solidly belonging to the group where time and gravity have not sharpened any athletic prowess we will be taking a leisurely pace and stopping whenever something strikes our fancy and seeing more of our country while we are still able to ride and our fancy is still strikeable.


    For the next two months or so I’ll attempt to document our travels to provide a way to assist our ever flagging memories in recalling sundry details later on when we may want to reminisce AND to provide some reassurance to family and friends that we are indeed still breathing and all of our body parts are still attached and in working order as we pursue our passion for motorcycle travel. Or at least that’s the goal ..... especially the breathing and all parts attached and in working order bit. As the prevailing opinion among our kith and kin still seems to be that we are deficit in sound judgement in choosing to occupy the same roadways at the same time as large ( mostly ) metal contrivances many times larger than a motorcycle. Perhaps this ride report will help assuage their concerns as we travel.


    Our first trip after retirement, Our Great Adventure of 2017 , addicted us to traveling on our motorcycles with it’s unique vantage point in seeing the countryside and meeting the people who live there. We had a hiatus from our motorbikes in 2018 and summer traveling due to a work assignment, but now it’s back to retirement and riding our bikes.


    Ok. Our interest is piqued. After reading all the ride reports, blogs, and e-zine articles Ted and I have decided to ride to Alaska and see what all the hullabaloo is about for ourselves. For a state that refers to Texas as that little place down south there is no way to ‘see Alaska’ in one trip but we hope to enjoy visiting a few of the more accessible regions and meeting the folk that call it home.


    While there are some who prefer to ride solo with only a clear road for navigation our path will be a bit more convoluted as Ted and I are at heart social creatures, so .........

    Originally we were to be accompanied by another couple, Ronnie and Karen, who would 2up on their Goldwing as far as Jasper, AB then the Ted and I would continue on to Alaska. Then as sometimes happens an unfortunate gust of gravity and corresponding loss of control during a bicycle ride converted one of Karen’s collar bone from a solid structural support into a two piece unit. Then other concerns stymied Ronnie’s ability to spend any time on their Goldwing and their riding plans had to be canceled. Not to be completely denied my stalwart yet now infirm friends though prohibited from traveling on two wheels decided to follow along on four in their pickup. We plan to all meet up in Kentucky with YET another couple then continue on to join MORE folk, locals in Michigan who will show us some of their favorite riding areas the Upper Peninsula. What a merry group we will be, 5 motorcycles with a pickup truck following along in the back. Leaving the U.P. the Ted and I with the truck following along in the back will make a brief stopover at the Mississippi River headwaters in Wisconsin then meander across the US then on up to Jasper AB. Here we will part company with our truck following along in the back and continue on the Alcan to Alaska without escort. Once we get to Fairbanks, weather permitting, we’ll ride to the Arctic Circle sign on the Dalton Hwy. Then loop through the interior through Denali to Anchorage and down to the coastal towns. Then back home with the exact route TBD.


    Whew, that sounds like a lot of planning and people organizing. But we’re flexible so we will see ......

    The house sitter is arranged and will be under the watchful eye of our ever vigilant estate manager who is always on the job and cannot be bothered with such frivolous pursuits.

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    A few more loose ends to tie up and tomorrow we leave.
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  2. black 8

    black 8 coddiwompling motographer

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    :lurk... In...
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  3. GR8ADV

    GR8ADV Safety Second!

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    Fun read so far. Gl!!
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  4. bobw

    bobw Harden the phuck up

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    Sad your friends were bushwhacked by Murphy, but cool that you can all share the road with a Plan B. Sounds like a great trip, safe travels!

    :lurk:drink stocked up and "In!"....
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  5. Motormom

    Motormom Been here awhile

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    Looks like a great trip! I'm in
    We will retire soon and I'd love to do something like this!
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  6. James Skinner

    James Skinner n00b Supporter

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    Bill & Ted, Patsy and I will be following your adventures. Looking forward to doing some (if not all) of the CDT or TAT with you later this year or next year. You two stay safe. If we can provide any logistics support from Baton Rouge in any way, don't hesitate to call.
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  7. twowings

    twowings Comfortably Numb... Supporter

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    That dog needs to go to Alaska...
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  8. jwc

    jwc Ready to go Supporter

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    05/25/2019

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    Here is Ted with the bikes loaded to go. As you can see this is not our typical predawn departure. A relaxed 7AM rollout seemed to be the theme. As it happens, adventures with continuous mishaps and where danger lurks around every corner make interesting stories. Calm, clear blue skies, easy paced rides are relaxing and enjoyable but not much to read about.

    And such was our first day as we rode to our first meet-up in Kentucky.

    Since we were going through Birmingham we thought why not stop at Barbers Motorsport Park, which led to an unplanned meeting with Mr Tom.

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    At 83 yo he has just recently hung up his riding gear and put his 750 Honda up for sale. On hearing of our trip to Barber’s he decided to join us and drove out from his home in Louisiana. As a former Army special Forces and then Federal Wildlife Agent he regales us with stories of his younger years from when he was stationed in Panama and he and his fellow soldiers would compete in impromptu enduro races in the nearby jungles in their spare time, to his recollections of his tour of duty in Vietnam. Before I knew it our 30min dinner turned into a several hours. I consider it a privilege to share a meal with him.


    After dinner and back to the hotel we noticed Ted’s bike lean angle seemed a little excessive while on its side stand and began discussing options and breaking out tools. Then a passerby named Will who was walking his dog in the parking lot noticed us and came over. Come to find out Will is a member of the staff from the California Superbike school who happened to be currently putting on an event at the Barber Motorsport Park. Not to be one that just talked about a problem, he grabbed a couple wrenches and dove in. seems the CBX may have a slightly bent side stand boss with a small stress crack. We’ll have to keep an eye on it and use the centerstand more.

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    Now we have to add watching superbike practice laps to our museum visit.
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  9. GR8ADV

    GR8ADV Safety Second!

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    Your last post is the essence of travel. Take our minds off the destination and enjoy the moments and in particular those we meet along the way.
    #9
  10. bobw

    bobw Harden the phuck up

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    Excellent start and agree whole heart idly as to GR8ADV sentiment.

    Cheers and In.
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  11. Koyukon

    Koyukon n00b

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    #11
  12. Koyukon

    Koyukon n00b

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    My wife and I will be watching your progress. I met Ronnie, Karen, Tom and his wife as well as Gene and his wife in Eureka Springs, Arkansas while I was experiencing my ride from Philadelphia back home to Alaska on my KTM 1190 adv. R in 2014. That night we celebrated Toms 78th birthday if memory serves me correctly. We’ve kept in touch and Ronnie and Karen have been loyal in sending pictures.
    We will do our best to meet you and offer help. I see you may be spending the night in Seward, Alaska which is where I was born. So nice to see the picture of Tom. God bless him and we offer our best to you two as you travel north. It’s an adventure.
    #12
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  13. jwc

    jwc Ready to go Supporter

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    9763ECF6-9AEE-4A47-8C3D-4A84FE988D9C.jpeg 5/26/2019


    Spent the day at Barbers Motorsport Park. Thanks to Will for hooking us up with a pass to the California Superbike School as spectators. Everyone we spoke to thought highly of their experience there. Classroom to track time looked like something I would like to participate in one day.The $80k BMW HP4 ‘production’ race bike on display was pretty sweet, with Carbon fiber / titanium / unobtainium parts. Watching the bikes make practice laps and listening to their engines scream by was great.

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    The museum itself would take days to go through properly. 5 stories of every bike I had ever heard of and many I haven’t all displayed in a condition where they could be started in 1 hour. From the first motorcycle made to a 2017 Africa Twin same as I saw in a Honda dealer showroom. Appreciating the creative way the earliest motorcycles were engineered to the TFT screens of today. Amazing place, way to many bikes to document with an iPhone and report on here. And that’s before all the cars.
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    Tomorrow we leave for the first meet up in Kentucky.
    #13
  14. jwc

    jwc Ready to go Supporter

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    1/27/2019


    We ate breakfast and said goodbye to Tom. It was great spending time with him. His passion for adventure and enthusiasm for life at 83 is infectious. Continuously upbeat despite the loss of his wife and a recent bout with cancer he sets a very high bar.

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    Taking our leave we made it to Jefferson, IN for our first meet up. Picked up our two friends in their truck and two more riders Ray and Julie whom we have known for years ride a BMW K1600 GTL.

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    Ray and Julie were kind enough to host our growing group at their home so we all could get a fresh start in the morning. It was a good to catch up with Ray and Julie they’re the kind of folk that go out of their way to make you feel at home. Before our arrival they had procured an ample supply of ginger snap cookies that I frequently consume in a less than moderate measure, strictly for medicinal purposes of course. Ray’s brother Dave who has a admirable stable of bikes himself showed off the dual sport riding in the area with pictures he had taken while riding. Ray and Julie will go as far as the Michigan UP and then return home.
    #14
  15. jwc

    jwc Ready to go Supporter

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    5/28/2019


    Almost to the last meet up. Rain threatened on the horizon as we rode through the plains of Ohio and into Michigan but the most we saw were a couple shallow water crossings and wet pavement as the front either passed in front or behind us. While taking a break in Ohio a local informed us that the wet weather was threatening the planting season and if there wasn’t a break in the weather very soon then we can all expect higher prices at the grocery stores. Gusting winds gained momentum as it blew across large plots of fallow ground bordering both sides of the road making our bikes dance around on the road. As we entered Michigan an enterprising but apparently financially struggling landscaper was pulling a load of sod on a trailer that was waaay overloaded. As we approached from behind I saw smoke coming from the trailer tires and an occasional chunk of rubber part company with the rest of the tire. Deciding that an expeditious pass was our best option we tried to alert the driver that he was likely about to plant his load of sod prematurely.

    We rode to Livonia Michigan to meet Doug who was a former workmate of Rays and enthusiastic about all his favorite riding routes in the area and will be our personal guide. Doug who rides a BMW 1200 GS was a good source of information has been up the Alcan and Cassier several times and ridden parts of the Dempster and Dawson Hwys. Doug and his wife Joyce were waiting for us with pulled pork barbque and brats off the grill. Yum..... they live in a beautiful large home that they put us all up in for tomorrow’s ride.



    We were to meet Dave, Doug’s twin brother and riding partner who would ride with us help show off their beautiful state.

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    #15
  16. jwc

    jwc Ready to go Supporter

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    5/29/2019

    We Left Livonia Michigan in 47 deg drizzling rain, happily against rush hour traffic flow to pick up Doug’s twin brother Dave who were to be our guides around Michigan. It was a pleasant ride over rolling terrain through quiet neighborhoods and light traffic and the rain didn’t last long and had stopped by the time we arrived at Dave’s house.

    From there We rode to US23 that follows Michigan’s east coast with Lake Huron which is mostly a scenic ride on a two lane road through small communities, lake side vacation homes and it seemed one state park or recreation area or preserve after another. Stopping at one of the overlooks and looking out over Lake Huron I’m amazed at the size of this fresh water Great Lake, Canada’s distant shore is too far to see.


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    Mackinaw City On the southern terminus of the bridge crossing the straits of Mackinac between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron is full of new hotels, restaurants and shops that seem to grow up around areas intended to attract tourist dollars. We passed through to the base of the Mackinac bridge to Colonial Michilimackinac which is a restored area with the Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse built in 1892. Deciding to take a closer look we walked to the shoreline and encountered enthusiastic local residents who swarmed our heads and clothes and photobombed our snapshots.

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    So much for the insect repellant I had applied to our riding gear back in Louisiana that was supposed to be good for 6 weeks. At least our determined welcoming committee couldn’t bite through our riding gear. Determining a brief visit was all that was required we left for St Ignace across the bridge hopefully for a less aggressive indigenous population and rest before exploring Mackinac Island in the morning.
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  17. jwc

    jwc Ready to go Supporter

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    05/30/2019


    It’s been 1,508 miles since we left Baton Rouge and I feel we are just getting started. We’ve reacquainted with old friends and made new ones along the way. Riding with a group is usually a compromise in some facets of the journey, and some find this too restrictive and avoid riding with others. While I fully understand the sentiment, who makes up the group is essential, for us, and in this experience it is well worth it.

    The ferry to Mackinac Island was about a 15 min ride including a brief crossing into Lake Michigan to get a good view of the Mackinac Bridge. One interesting note was that the middle lanes were constructed of metal grating instead of solid concrete to keep the bridge within it’s design limit of a 15 ft swing in high winds, or it would tear itself apart. The side railing on the bridge is only 36” high, a metal grated roadway swinging 15ft in gusting high winds over 150ft above the water would be quite a ride on a motorcycle. I’m glad it was calm when we came across.

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    (Photo not mine, I was occupied as we were forced to ride on the grated section due to bridge maintenance : Uploaded by: The HighwayMan, Nov 10, 2012)


    Arriving at Mackinac Island landing fudge seems to be the main staple here as there seems to be someone selling fudge every other shop. The other shops were restaurants or hawking T-shirts and other souvenir type fare. There is a small community in the center of the island for folk that live there permanently, though one of the locals told us that some shops house their employees in apts above their businesses. There is a fort built by the British in Revolutionary War, a State park and of course the Grand Hotel. A political convention was being held in the Grand Hotel while we were there so us common folk were not allowed access. As there was a sign at the entrance requiring all gentlemen to wear a coat and tie I doubt I would qualify anyway - unless my riding jacket and neck balaclava would do..... The suit and ties of the convention attendees that decided to venture from their cloistered sanctum stood in marked contrast to the rest of the tourists’ attire as we walked the storefronts. - Did I mention there were also hordes of shrieking school children running amok as hapless chaperones tried to corral their energetic charges.
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    We retired back to the mainland and relaxed after dinner doing old people stuff.
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  18. Amphib

    Amphib A mind is like a parachute....

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    Very grateful to you folks who take the time to share your journeys and experiences with us. Looking forward to following along!
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  19. jwc

    jwc Ready to go Supporter

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    Thanks,
    reports may get sporadic as we get to areas were we won’t have WiFi access but we’ll keep it up.
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  20. jwc

    jwc Ready to go Supporter

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    5/31/2019


    Following our guide who has been nicknamed ‘Mothers Arms Gide Service - as safe as being in your mothers arms ( until your not )’ we left St Ignace riding through spots of light rain to the SOO locks at Sault Ste Marie on the Canadian border. There we watched a freighter passing through the locks from the lower Great Lakes to Lake Superior on the St Mary’s river from an observation platform built on the locks edge. There were also a couple museums, one dedicated to shipwrecks on the Great Lakes and another to the SOO locks and their history.

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    I knew shipping on the Great Lakes has always been instrumental to commerce but I didn’t realize just how dangerous it actually was with over 6,000 shipwrecks and over 30,000 lives lost documented. The shipwreck museum was small but well done and informative. The loss of life from shipwrecks on the Great Lakes is what started weather prediction. Weather. stations across the interior of the country were built and would telegraph storm conditions in their area so the strength of approaching storms could be discovered and shipping scheduled accordingly. There were also -wait for it - fudge shops, which some of our group decided to visit.

    From Sault Ste Marie we rode a 2 lane road through the Hiawatha national forest and then followed the coast of Lake Superior. The some of the trees were just greening out while many others were still in winter garb. Stopping at the Point Iroquois lighthouse, the lighthouse and living facilities for it’s caretaker had been restored and access to where the light beacon had been was allowed through a circular stairway. The climb was rewarded by an excellent view of the area even though it was somewhat obscured from the cloudy conditions of the day. We relaxed on the boardwalk that had been built at the shoreline and took in the majesty of Lake Superior.

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    Leaving Iroquois Point we continued on the coastal road past many lake houses dotting the roadside and through small communities such as one named Paradise. With a name like that we had to stop for lunch so we could say that we ate in paradise.

    After our brief sojourn in Paradise we continued down the coastal road till we got to Whitefish Point. Here there was another restored lighthouse with the ancillary buildings and a museum which housed the bell that was recovered from the Edmund Fitzgerald.

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    It was a short scenic riding day and very interesting in getting a better understanding about the lives of the people that worked, lived and died in making shipping on the Great Lakes possible. From the isolated life of the lighthouse keeper to the perils that even today must be endured in sailing the Great Lakes. Mother of Mothers Arms Guide Service did an excellent job in pointing out points of interest to the recovery of misplaced cell phones to a brief foray withe ire of a local shopkeeper when one of the group credit card payment failed to complete at the pump and he had to be called back to pay in cash. Dang new fangeled gadgetry at the pump.
    #20
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