North to South America on a Honda 250

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Joris van O, Apr 26, 2019.

  1. Joris van O

    Joris van O Been here awhile

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    So.. Tomorrow came quickly, and the ragged crew (Steve, John, Martin and me) that had formed over the weekend was ready for the long haul up the Dempster, destination Tuktoyaktuk. Or atleast we thought we were ready, I believe none of us had any idea what lay ahead. A roughly 900km (600m) unpaved one way street, and from what we heard impasseble when wet. The weather forecast looked promising for the next couple of days, with only a slight chance of rain. I had stocked up on food for at least five days, figuring I'd need five days up and down. First day, to Eagle Plains, second day to Inuvik, third day up to Tuk and back to Inuvik, etc.. But you know things go, something with best laid plans ...
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    We all topped off our tanks and canisters at the Klondike/Dempster junction and turned our wheels north to Eagle Plains, 370km further. The 16 liter tank on Little Red should in theory get me there, but to be safe I did some dumpsterdiving the day before and found a 2 liter can of chemical toiler cleaner. Washed it out and filled it up with gas.
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    First stop was the Tombstone Interpretive Centre, after a quick look around we were on our way again. The road so far was perfectly smooth, the views were awesome and we were making good time.
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    Although our bikes were very different we still rode together at the same speed most of the time. Holding a good distance on the dusty bits, and slowing down or stopping every now and then for everyone to catch up. It's not a race.. getting there and back safe, that was the idea. Although sometimes the road begged for a little racing, but thinking about how long it would take for help to get there made us slow right down.
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    Our lunchstop on the halfway point to Eagle Plains. Notice how I stashed the makeshift thin plastic gas canister in my topcase, that would come back to bite me later on.
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    Onwards.. we all agreed 80km/h was a decent speed, so that's what we did most of the day. Apart for a few sections with rocks, the road was as smooth as a paved road thanks to the continues work of the maintenance crews.
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    Arriving at Eagly Plains this guy proved the point too, if a fully loaded street bike on street tires can do it, anyone can. After setting up camp we ran to the restaurant for a well deserved meal and to get away from the endless amount of mosquitos. We weren't the only ones heading up the Dempster that day, but we luckily made it without issues. I think two or three other guys weren't so lucky and had to be airlifted out. Warning us once again that even on a perfect day like this one, things can go south quickly. Darren (@outdoorsman) told us he had a nasty off in one of the wet sections under maintenance, but was fortunately able to ride on.
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    In the morning the mozzies were out in full swing, and even a protective head net was useless. They will find a way in, or through.. Best remedy is to just ride! And riding we planned to do, the weather forecast showed rain for the following days. So the plan was to ride from Eagle Plains all the way up to Tuktoyaktuk and back down as far as we could. With 24 hours of daylight our biggest hurdle would be fatigue.
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    Steve (@squiffynimrod) blasting past!
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    A big milestone along the Dempster is the Arctic Circle sign 30 minutes north of Eagle Plains. Again stunning scenery, there really is nothing around for hundreds of miles! The sign is also just past the halfway point on the route to Tuk.
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    Another milestone was entering the Northwest Territories. I always try to divide a long ride into smaller sections, makes it manageable for me atleast. First get to the Arctic Circle sign, then another hour to the NWT-border sign, then a bit further to the first ferry and Fort McPherson.
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    Everything was going exceptionally well, the bikes were fine, the weather was fine, the road was fine. John was leading, with me and Martin following closely and Steve was not far behind. We were just about to pull over for a break when a woman in an oncoming truck began waving frantically. Weird I thought, why is she so enthusiastic to see acouple of motorcycles here. John and I pulled over and looked back to see were Martin and Steve were. Seeing a silver BMW on the side of the road, the woman waving to us suddenly made sense. Oh fuck.. ''Steve's down'' I yelled to John. We raced back and there he was laying on the ground, not moving. ''Steve, Steve, are you awake?'' I had no idea what to do, I was hoping for him to be okay. it took a couple of moments to catch his breath but then came the''I'm okay''. Can you move your fingers, and feet? By now the lovely people that had warned us in the first place had pulled out a chair and slowly Steve came back, fortunately he was very sore but otherwise alright. Looking at the skidmarks on the gravel, he somehow highsided after the rear came around and was thrown clean off the bike at considerable speed. We righted the bike and dragged it back onto the embankment, assessing the damage. Which there was a fair amount of, it still ran though. We strapped and ducktaped everything together as best as we could, it had to do. We lacked enough full to turn around to Eagle Plains so the four of us first had to continue to Fort McPherson to refuel and reassess. Remember that 2 liter canister in my topcase, when I went for the ducktape I found out it had sprung a leak and literally everything was ruined. Five days worth of food, my raingear, shoes, all sorts of things, drenched in gasoline. Not the brightest of ideas I must admit.
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    When we arrived at Fort McPherson it was clear that Steve couldn't continue, now the adrenaline had worn off the pain was coming. He would ride back to Eagle Plains accompanied by Martin. John initially said he would ride back with them too, but when I said that I would continue to Tuk alone he wouldn't let me. I was stubborn enough to do the whole thing alone, but riding with John was a much better experience. We all fueled up, and then said goodbye. Good luck guys, and see you in Dawson City! Thus it was only John and me left for the ride to Tuk.
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    Around 5pm we rolled into Inuvik, grabbed some food at the grocery store and had a fantastic meal at Alestine's (or the yellow schoolbus). It had been a long tiring day, and my original plan was to set up camp in Inuvik and take one whole day to ride to Tuk. John insisted we'd continue to Tuk to beat the rain, and since we had full bellies and all the daylight in the world we rode on.
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    Those last 150km to Tuk must be of the gnarliest stretches of road on the planet, so much loose gravel, imagine just one thick layer of small loose rocks.. John was having a hard time too and there were many times I was certain he was going down only to save it at the last moment. I probably had an equal amount of 'oh shit' moments.. But, in the end.. we were there. Well, that was after I dropped the bike midcorner riding into town. The long haul to Tuktoyaktuk was complete, we rode to the Arctic Ocean.
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    There's not much around in Tuktoyaktuk, and prior to finishing the last stretch of road from Inuvik to Tuk in 2017 the town was only accessible by means of an ice-road in winter times.
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    This far north, the nature is very impressive though. It really feels like you are on top of the world.
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    Since rain was imminent the next day, we decided to ride as far as we could while the conditions were still good. That meant we rode well into the evening, back past Inuvik and after a 720km (450m) day, we finally pitched our tents at 1am. With the sun of course still shining bright.. We were knackered, but what a day it was!
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  2. Joris van O

    Joris van O Been here awhile

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    Hahah, well.. she disappeared as quickly as she had shown up.. Probably not impressed by my riding :D

    Such a loss for the adv-community! Crossing the Darien Gap with the Stahlratte was genuinely a brilliant experience. I believe we were on the last ever sail from Panama to Colombia. Ludwig did some tours from Mexico to Cuba after that until Covid closed all borders and he was stuck onboard for half a year.
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    Thanks Miko! Glad you like it, and I'm happy to help :)
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  3. outdoorsman

    outdoorsman Lets Ride! Supporter

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    So much memories of this trip and meeting you Joris! I need to go back and make it to Tuk next trip. I turned around at the Artic Circle sign and went back to Dawson because I was coming down with a fever. I ended up staying in Dawson for 3 days to recover from the fever. Good times!
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  4. Joris van O

    Joris van O Been here awhile

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    John and I had agreed to wake up at 5am to make the most of the day. After a few miserable hours I heard his alarm going of at 4 in the morning.. His phone had switched time zones, mine hadn't, aah.. great! Put on riding gear (including helmet against the mozzies), quickly take down the tent, take a leak, sip of water and onwards we went. The same way back to Dawson City. Oh and the weather forecast was right. It was raining..
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    We wanted to get as far as possible before the rain would turn the road into a slippery mess, that's why we woke up so early. But in our haste we forgot about the ferry. See, I looked at the timetables a few days ago, I even took a picture of it.. But when we got to the ferry it was quiet. It was at least another hour before it would run. Oh well, have some breakfast and enjoy the mozzies.
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    Besides the rain, the mud and the mosquitos, John picked up his first puncture a few miles after the ferry. His rear tire was nearing the end (hence the new spare), fortunately a plug was all that was needed to get him going again.
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    The gravel parts of the Dempster were pretty doable in the rain, but the parts where they spray the calcium chloride the keep the dust down turned into a right mess when the rain started falling. John and I were working hard to keep the bikes upright, especially the part north of Eagle Plains is notorious for taking down unsuspecting motorcyclists. It also turns into concrete when dry, which I had to chisel of later.
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    Aah.. to make things even better John signalled he had another puncture. Expecting the previous plug to have failed, his mood (and the severity of swear words) got slightly better when he saw it was a new puncture. We weren't looking forward to swaping tires on the side of the road, but again a plug was all that was needed to get going again.
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    Not only our bikes were getting destroyed by this muddy crap, wiping the endless stream of wet mud and grit from my visor didn't do it any good. After a few hundred miles I couldn't see anything , as I'm wearing glasses I continued with the visor open (wouldn't recommend it). I see the use of those motocross goggles now.. Then after 700km the rain finally let up, the sun came out and there it was again.. The Dempster Highway sign. Only an hours ride left to Dawson City, but we did it. In three days up and down the Dempster, in the rain.. and we didn't die.. :) Thanks John for motivating me to keep going! What a beautiful and remote part of the world, but I'd say take an extra day or two.
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    Back in Dawson City we met up with Steve and Martin again. We parked our dirty bikes, took a long hot shower and went out to celebrate everyones survival with some of the Yukon Breweries finest. That Dempster can definitely kick your butt, glad we all made it back safe.
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    Next day was rest & repair day. First thing to do was get the bikes washed. To get all the schmutz from the bike I removed the fuel tank before pressure washing it. Not covering the fuel line a little bit of water got into the carburator and before I knew it the next job on the list was to remove carb and clean it. Going over the bike I noticed that the bolt from the upper engine mount was missing, now idea where that went but luckily a guy camping next to us had one that fit perfectly. I also noticed my airfilter was extremely dirty and when I went to remove it the little plastic connector for the breatherhose snapped off.. Oh well, it's not that important anyway. After cleaning the airfilter using one of the neighbours aircompressor I JB welded that little thing back on and thought nothing more of it. We all know how that ended..
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    The following morning we all departed, I believe John and Martin headed for Alaska via the Top of the World highway while Steve and I rode south back to Whitehorse and beyond. I was kinda sad to leave Dawson City, it was such a great experience with so many wonderful people.
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    Since it was the same way South I didn't stop much, only for a little break at Pelly Crossing and then at the Five Finger Rapids. Repeating much of the way up, in the afternoon Steve and I stopped at the Takhini Hotsprings Hostel and spend an evening soaking in the hot water for a second time.
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    On the road early, I tried to take photo of a moose crossing the road but it scuffed off between the trees before I got near. At the junction with the Cassiar Highway Steve and I said goodbye, he would continue riding East back to Regina. I would follow the Cassier south, stopping at Steward before riding to Prince George and Vancouver.
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    Riding along on the Cassiar I stumbled upon this shop with a lot of interesting things out front, the Cassiar Mountain Jade Store. Unbeknownst to me this is -or was at least- a famous Jade shop, they were even filming some sort of documentary for I believe the Discovery Channel. I mostly stopped because they had some cool stuff laying around the shop.. plus they offered me hot coffee, that definitely was a bonus! The jade thingies they're selling were good too, if you're into those things.
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    It had been quite a long day when I pulled into the Waters Edge campground at Dease Lake. After cooking up some pasta (my go-to dinner really) the owner invited me over to have a beer with him and his relatives. He said that there was a fishing competition on the lake that weekend and if I wanted I could join them. Since I have held a fishing rod maybe twice in my life I politely declined, I'd probably end up in the lake. It was that, and I wanted to get somewhere further south for Canada day, preferably Vancouver.
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    I have to say that the Cassiar Highway is a smaller, more enjoyable and scenic road than the Alaska Highway. The latter is a long, mostly flat haulroad up north, still interesting but not as pretty as the mountainous area the Cassier runs through.
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    At Meziadin Junction I grabbed a coffee at the little shop there, fueled up and then continued on the Glaciar Highway (the 37A) towards Stewart. I was looking forward to getting to Stewart, it's the only place you can go to 'Alaska' without actually entering the US :D The only way in and out is via Canada, so they're not to worried. And as I didn't want to start my 90-day ESTA yet, going to Hyder was a good option. Plus I wanted to see that mighty Salmon Glacier in the flesh!
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    On your way to Stewart you come across the Bear Glacier, lots of run-off water.
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    It was around three in the afternoon, so more than enough time to cross the border, ride to the glacier, come back and find a place to camp afterwards. Typical.. the moment I crossed into Alaska there was a Bald Eagle circling in the sky high above me. 'Murica! :D
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    There I also met German rider Frankie (@fastfrankie007) on hsi KLR650, we would meet up later in Stewart.
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    From the little town of Hyder you follow the gravel road all the way up through the valley until you reach the viewpoint over the Salmon Glacier. I tried, but I couldn't frame it in one single shot. It is massive!
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    There is something magical about glaciers.
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    On the way down, passing Fish Creek I had to stop. Can't not watch this stunning green color.
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    After I got a site at the Rainey Creek Campground I went to see where this music was coming from. There was some sort of festival going on, someone selling food and drinks, a band, and I met Frankie again. Together with some other guys that worked as researchers for one of the mines in the area we had some beers. Stumbling upon these spontaneous events are always the best!
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    Well.. the next day... We know how this ends..

    I had seen there was someone on the ADVrider tentspace map in Prince George, and asked if I could camp at his place for a night. He responded that it was no problem, great! I knew it would be a long day from Stewart to Prince George as it was just under 450 miles (700km). So I tried to leave early, and was already in a bit of a rush.
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    I remember when I passed Bear Glacier on my way out of Stewart I looked down and saw that my left boot was wet. Weird I thought, how can it be wet. It hasn't rained and I don't remember riding through a puddle or something. But since I left late and was in a bit of a hurry I continued, not stopping to see if anything was wrong.

    The reason my left boot seemed wet soon revealed itself. About 200km in the ride, humming along nicely, a loud rattling noise appears. It lost all the oil and ran itself dry. Now these little Honda engines can handle a lot of abuse, but running without oil will kill them eventually. It still ran at that point, but the point of sounding healthy was long gone. I can't describe the feelings that went through my mind back then, being far away from home, miles away from the nearest town and your trusty little bike that has to carry you and all your belongings across the world for the next year, sheds it engine.
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    What I learned then, is that there's always a way. Focus on what you can do, instead of what you can't. And if you're in need of help, there's probably someone willing to help you. It's a cliché, it's not an adventure until something goes wrong. But I learned that something going wrong isn't always a bad thing.
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    The rest of the story you can find on page 5! (excuse the timeline :) )
    https://advrider.com/f/threads/north-to-south-america-on-a-honda-250-back-home.1379856/page-5

    That's it for now! :hide
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  5. roadcapDen

    roadcapDen Ass, Grass or Gas, no free rides.

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  6. Pete Pilot

    Pete Pilot Been here awhile

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    A 10-4 with Dens comments. I did the peddle up to Inuvik on dr650 and dry and fast road. Now, the Haul Road in Alaska was different. Much of it wet with water and calcium. Which I lovingly named LIQUID GREASE. Your pictures are memories for me. Thanks. Petepilot
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  7. nails1

    nails1 Been here awhile

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    > it's not an adventure until something goes wrong.

    Amazing that you still had the gumption to take photos. (But I notice none were vertical format -- no doubt struggling.)

    Okay, bricking the motor, then: A passerby picking you up out of the wilderness, fabricating tools, someone giving you a bike for a few days, others giving you a place to stay and work on your bike, a gorgeous blonde in Vancouver, hanging out with the hippies ... the list goes on. And that's still in Canada.

    Definitely qualifies as Epic. Many morals to this story. Thanks again for sharing.
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  8. Red-hungarian

    Red-hungarian Been here awhile

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    super update Joris! 60804DC3-C8A1-44D5-B08A-33D31543F890.jpeg CBA516C7-46F1-4F96-B847-824D62D6540F.jpeg

    Attached Files:

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  9. Joris van O

    Joris van O Been here awhile

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    That's the one! I haven't seen the series but expect it to not differ much from the other 'mining' shows. Lots of drama, shouting, building tension, and nothing actually happening :D

    Liquid grease is an appropriate name Pete! When dry there's zero issues, sometimes it's as smooth as fresh pavement. But when it rains, LIQUID GREASE!!

    Haha I try to avoid shooting in VVS (vertical video syndrome), even when it's only photos ;)

    You listing all those epic moments makes it feel so far from our current reality, or my current reality at least. Sometimes when I look at the photos it's hard to believe that little Honda and me did all those things, went to all those places, met all those people. I do feel spoiled though, a person shouldn't be allowed to experience so much in such a short time. It almost feels like cheating, those countries should take a lifetime to explore.

    Thank you for following along all those months! I might not have always responded to every reply while riding but sure did read them all and they really motivate to continue with the rr. :-)
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  10. Joris van O

    Joris van O Been here awhile

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    Thanks John! Those pictures tell a thousand words! The mud and dust on our faces, looking tired but oh so happy to stand in front of both of those signs :D
  11. Joris van O

    Joris van O Been here awhile

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    Little bike update, a few months ago I sold that yellow BMW. Left without something to repair I soon found a new project. Picked up this old '89 KLR250, it's a decent base but needs some love to look good again.
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    Then, because you need n+1 bikes.. added another 250 to the stable. Looks familiar? :D They say you never should buy something with emotion, but I just couldn't resist. It also needs a bit of work, bit then it should hopefully be ready for some adventures.
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    Any ideas where to go next? :lol2
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  12. nails1

    nails1 Been here awhile

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    Ha. I also have a KLR250. Haven't started on it, but planning to set it up for BDR, TAT, &etc style "touring". And what's all this fuss about bikes that look good? That's just to attract the thieves to the KTM and leave my gloriously ugly KLR alone!

    Oh come on! Nobody, but NOBODY, ever bought a motorcycle with anything except emotion!
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  13. Franque

    Franque Nilé na sohakélwa manga

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    I'm about 1.5 years out, but I'll be living in Guinea, and I hear the Fouta Djallon is great to see if you want to plan a trip to West Africa. I'd be willing to do a trip from the capitol to there on a small Chinese bike.
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  14. Cal

    Cal Long timer

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    Hey Joris
    A 250 Kawasaki KLR! right on. As you know 250 Kawasaki's are right up my alley. I do have another bike on order which should be here by June, it is coming from Italy, Ill keep you guessing!!!
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  15. X-wing fighter

    X-wing fighter Do or Do not, There is no try!!!!!! Supporter

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    I should have headed south after Dawson. So many good stories and riders Crossing paths coming out of Summer 2019 into the spring of 2020.....then the lockdowns.



    Hopefully I can break free from Alaska soon and start my own epic ride!

    Maybe I can catch up with Joris, Declan and Lauri if I make it to Europe!
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  16. Joris van O

    Joris van O Been here awhile

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    True, you're right! Just don't tell anyone, you have to 'sell' it as a well thought out rational decision :D

    There must be some KLR buildthreads here, i'm gonna look for some inspiration soon! First have to get the Honda 250 in decent condition, then de-uglyfy the Kawasaki.

    Thanks, hadn't heard of that place before but have it bookmarked now :) When we did the trip to South Africa a few years ago we skipped that whole part, went straight from Senegal to Mali and then via Burkina Faso down into Togo. Still on the wishlist to head back there at some point. Up to Nigeria most countries are pretty straightforward with Visas too, although we weren't allowed into Ghana back then.

    Ohh.. another bike! Nice, in addition to the CB500X? Going by your preferences i'd guess it's either a Moto Guzzi of some sort or one of those SWM dual sports? Could be wrong of course! :)

    Yep, told you so :D Would be great to ride from Alaska all the way down to Argentina and then ship over to Europe. Just a but more patience is needed for the world to open up again, but isn't that what they say.. There will never be a right time to go, always another hitch to prevent you from leaving.
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  17. nails1

    nails1 Been here awhile

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  18. lfmn

    lfmn Been here awhile

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    Very cool trip. I had to laugh about the mosquitos. My brother and I rode to Alaska from Virginia and going through Canada, every time we pulled over within a minute we were covered with mosquitos. What they hell do they eat when they can't find tourists??
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  19. Red-hungarian

    Red-hungarian Been here awhile

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    They can be relentless. You have to chase the mosquitoes down that manage to sneak into the tent, stay covered & keep moving when uncovered. Dempster camp set ups and take downs were a challenge. Eagle plains and Inuvik camp skeeters were vicious. When Joris and I stopped south of Inuvik to camp at 2am I had to set up my tent fully geared up, throw my bags in and dive in. That was it for the “night”. Tip for the aging prostate crowd, keep a pee bottle handy to minimize the need to open the tent and have to chase strays for 20 minutes.
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  20. Trainee_adv

    Trainee_adv Adventurer Supporter

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    Location:
    Regina SK
    fantastic read, Just finished the whole report and it took me a week in between work (at work lol)

    I cant wait for the next adventure!
    Joris van O likes this.