Return of the Clunk: The CX goes looking for the middle of nowhere

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by jlevers, Jul 16, 2019.

  1. ChopperCharles

    ChopperCharles Long timer

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    Why is that? What’s going on there?

    Charles
    #81
  2. blitz11

    blitz11 Adventurer

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    I just found this. Nice report!

    I am in Bozeman, so if you need a place to crash, place to work on your bike, change oil, etc., I am game. I have had 2 Cx 500s (one 1978 like yours), so i know my way around them, and may still have some parts / oil filters for it. (Pack Rat.)
    #82
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  3. jlevers

    jlevers Type 2 fun

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    Awesome, thanks man! I'll almost definitely take you up on that -- Bozeman is one of the places in Montana that I'm most stoked to see :)
    #83
  4. jlevers

    jlevers Type 2 fun

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    Since the initial backpacking trip I wrote about, we’ve been having a great time up on the Kenai Peninsula, with my uncle and cousin. It’s light out till past 10pm, which makes it easy to do stuff outdoors...because you don’t even have to get started early!


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    Kayaking, fishing, watching wildfires (more on that later), another backpacking trip, Cuban cigars...good stuff. A couple days ago, my mom and cousin are flew out, and my dad and I stuck around to do some more backpacking, and so that my dad can do some work-related stuff up here, which is gonna involve taking a bushplane to a tiny town called Tatitlek, which is only accessible by plane or boat.

    Here’re some pictures from last week:

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    This is a glacier...it looked completely otherworldly because of all the smoke. Smoke from a fire that was 50mi away. It was wild.

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    We took a water taxi across Kachemak Bay to Kachemak Bay State Park, where we did a short but beautiful overnight backpack, staying near the base of the Grewingk glacier. It started out not too smoky, but by the morning of the second day, it was REALLY smoky. Everything smelled like a campfire, and we weren’t even particularly near a fire.

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    So about those wildfires. There was a 100k acre fire called the Silver Lake fire, which was supposed to be fully contained as of a couple weeks ago, but the strong winds last weekend started it up again, and took them by surprise. We happened to be driving past it at dusk, right as it really started ripping again. We stopped for a couple hours and watched it burn down the whole mountain next to us. Later that night, after we left, the fire jumped the highway, and since then, the highway has been closed periodically. That highway is the only way on or off the Kenai peninsula by car. Since we’ve been here, another couple of fires have started down near Homer...so all in all, it’s been a surprisingly smoky vacation! Cool experience, though.

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    (this is a video, click below to see the video)
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    A couple of crappy-quality pictures of what this looked like after the fire:

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    For context, here’s a shot from when we first drove past the fire, when it was just starting back up. So insane.

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    P.S. sorry for the crappy phone pics, I’ll start taking camera photos again when I’m back in the lower 48 :)
    #84
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  5. 08StangGT_CS

    08StangGT_CS Adventurer

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    In. Great adventure.
    #85
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  6. jlevers

    jlevers Type 2 fun

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    After dropping my mom and cousin off at the airport, my dad and I drove an hour or so out of Anchorage to the Mint Glacier trailhead. We slept at the trailhead, and headed up the valley the next morning.

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    Never have I seen such consistently incredible views! The first 8ish miles were basically flat, in a pretty narrow valley with 4-5000 foot peaks on either side. The valley was full of fireweed, and the glacier-fed Little Susitna River ran through the middle.

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    At the end of the valley, the trail totally changed character and became extremely steep for the final mile. It finished with a traverse across a very steep slope, way above the valley floor. It ended at a tiny hut, built in one of the gnarliest places I’ve ever seen a building. The hut, and the surrounding area, was in a glacial bowl, with massive craggy peaks all around. It’s one of my all-time favorite campsites.

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    (you can juuuust see the little red hut in the lower left)

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    After setting up camp, my dad and I decided to hike up a little further. Eventually the trail petered out, and I decided to try and scramble to the top of one of the surrounding peaks. How hard could it be?

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    I started traversing across huge boulder fields, which at the time, felt totally safe...it wasn’t exactly my first time boulder-hopping. I eventually found a narrow slide that brought me to a saddle just below one of the closer peaks, so I started up it. It felt pretty stable at the bottom, but the higher I got, the looser the rocks were, and it started getting a little scary -- it felt like if I knocked one rock out, the whole slope might go. Also, even though while climbing up it the slide didn’t feel super steep, I think it was at least 45 degrees, possibly more. By the time I got to the saddle, I was pretty gripped, and there was one class 5 move near the top that I would have been a lot more comfortable doing with a rope, but it felt ridiculous to turn around so close to the top.

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    I got on the ridgeline, which was about a foot wide, loose, and wet, white-knuckled my way to the peak, took a single picture (I was too scared to stay there for long, and I’d hit my turnaround time), and headed down...which proved to be WAY harder than going up. It was much harder to avoid knocking rocks loose, and it was more apparent how steep the slope was. At one point, I actually did knock loose what I think was a 500+ pound boulder, which luckily hit a much larger boulder almost immediately and stopped before it gathered momentum.

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    Here’s the one summit picture I took...it doesn’t come close to conveying how epic the view was.

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    I made it down safely, but definitely learned my lesson about climbing boulder fields: even if the rocks are large, they can, and will, move. That being said, it was a cool experience topping out on a peak that required that much scrambling, and I’m excited to climb other peaks like it, but maybe I’ll find some with less loose rock.

    The epic views continued on our hike out the next morning. It’s just incredible to me that an hour from Anchorage, a city of 300,000 people, there are places as wild and beautiful as the Susitna Range.

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    My dad works in education reform, and the Chugach school district, which encompasses Prince William Sound and the surrounding Chugach State Park/National Forest, is a standout district in the kind of reform that the non-profit he works for is focused on. The thing is, Prince William Sound is goddamn huge, and there’s almost no one living on it, so the schools are few, far between, and hilariously small...and it ain’t easy to get to them.

    Monday afternoon, we took an 8-seater plane 45 minutes to a tiny town called Tatitlek. It has a year-round population of 88 (according to Google), mostly composed of native Alutiiq and Suqstun people. I don’t think I’d ever been somewhere quite that remote before -- your options for leaving were a) bushplane, b) the ferry that comes once a month, or c) a 30 mile bushwhack through basically impassable terrain to Valdez, the closest town. There were 3 streets, and we walked down all of them in about 20 minutes. Crazy.

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    That once-a-month ferry I mentioned happened to be coming the next day…

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    ...so in the morning we took a beautiful 5 hour ferry ride across Prince William Sound to Whittier, a town that I’d been to a couple years ago in March. It was REALLY different in the summer...there were actually people there! Whittier’s a really interesting town -- it’s in a very narrow cove, and is only accessible by water, or via a 2.5mi tunnel through a mountain, which opens once per hour with some pretty hefty tolls. The tunnel was created during WWII, because Whittier’s geography gives it nearly constant cloud cover, which defeated the radar of the 1940s. No one knew about the tunnel until after the war was over. About 80% of the town’s population lives in a single building, which used to be the officers’ living quarters.

    I somehow managed to not take a single picture in Whittier, but here’s a picture from when I was there in winter. I’ll get my dad to send me some pictures that he took at some point.

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    Well actually, I did take ONE picture…can someone tell me where to buy one of these?

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    Now we’re back in Anchorage, and we both just spent the last couple days working. Next stop: Minneapolis!

    P.S. I keep forgetting to mention that someone gifted me Flickr Pro, and I’m guessing it was someone from this forum. If it was, thank you! I was about to have to buy it so I didn’t run out of space :)
    #86
  7. flei

    flei cycletherapist

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    Great photos! :clap

    Has anyone ever suggested to you that you ought to stop climbing up on dangerous things? :yikes
    #87
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  8. jlevers

    jlevers Type 2 fun

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    ...but what fun would that be??
    #88
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  9. flei

    flei cycletherapist

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    Your AK trip looks amazing! :clap (but of course pretty much anything in AK is amazing)

    I can't believe you went to Tatitlek! My wife Liz worked in that village for a summer in 1980 and we as a family went back to visit there on our Alaska trip in 2010. We paid to get on a boat that was bringing guys out from Valdez to install high speed internet (we still had dial-up at that time here in Leverett, MA, lol!). Tatitlek got a lot of $$ from the Exxon-Valdez disaster and it has gone to improvements (like a health center, community center, internet, etc.); their way of life (i.e., fishing, sealing, etc.) was pretty much totally wiped out by the spill and changed forever, so IMO the money is justified. The photo of the small house with the ATV is from Tatitlek, right? Well believe it or not, THAT was the very house, still unchanged, that my wife lived in the summer she worked there! Liz commented that the yellow house behind it was "new", lol. She had worked with children when she was there and we met some of them who still were there (tho of course now adults with children of their own). You and Liz would have a good time trading Alaska stories.

    Enjoy the rest of your time in AK. Personally, i am looking froward to more moto riding and camping photos and stories..... :-)

    BTW, has anyone ever advised you to stop climbing up on high places?????
    #89
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  10. CCitis

    CCitis Been here awhile

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    #90
  11. jlevers

    jlevers Type 2 fun

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    I know I've already said this to you, but every time I think about it, that just seems more and more impossible. How many outsiders do you think have lived in Tatitlek since the '80s? Maybe 100? So bizarre. And that I happened to take a picture of that particular house...

    I appreciate the words of caution -- I definitely realized on that last scramble that it can get gnarly fast. I won't climb something that loose again. It's definitely easy to overdo it.
    #91
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  12. jlevers

    jlevers Type 2 fun

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    My bike isn't starting, which is weird, because it's only been parked for a month or so. It has fuel and spark, so I'm not sure what's going on. I killed the battery trying to start it, so I'm going to have to wait till the rain stops and then try and jump it. Strange.
    #92
  13. bk brkr baker

    bk brkr baker Long timer

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    Drain your carbs and refill with fresh gas from the tank. The volatile components evaporate out of the small volume in the carb bowl.
    #93
  14. jlevers

    jlevers Type 2 fun

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    Thanks, that seems to have worked, after 30 or so popstarts :)
    #94
  15. flei

    flei cycletherapist

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    I seriously doubt that 100 outsiders have ever lived in Tatitlek. Me wife was there by invitation of the tribe to provide cold water survival and first aid training to the village. She also did this in other even more remote and inaccessible villages (e.g., Sleetmute). There were a lot of accidental drownings in these villages due to natives not knowing how to swim and/or heavy alcohol use. When we went in 2010 we needed to get permission from the tribal council to come and to stay there (we camped on the beach next to the ferry dock; it kind of sucked because the (huge) salmon were running and their splashing as they jumped out of the water kept us awake all night, lol!). Did your family need permission? Why did you even go there? Interestingly, my daughter had a terrible ear infection in Tatitlek and was in severe pain; luckily the visiting nurse had flown in and was at the beautiful modern health center, did an exam, consulted via internet with a doctor in Anchorage (sent him pictures of her ear, etc.), and gave us the medicine she needed so our trip could continue (all at no cost to us). It was my first experience with tele-medicine!
    #95
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  16. radianrider

    radianrider Adventurer wanna'be

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    Avon, IN If we never go, we will never know
    Enjoying the report. Thought you might enjoy this pic from Keystone, SD this summer the week before the Sturgis rally. Took it because it so beautifully stood out from the crowd. :lol3

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    #96
  17. jlevers

    jlevers Type 2 fun

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    We didn't need permission, no -- we went there with the superintendent of the Chugach school district, which includes Tatitlek. My dad does education research for work, and the Chugach district has implemented a lot of the types of reform that his research focuses on, so we visited schools all over the district. Fun fact -- the district spans from Tatitlek to Adak, which is way out at the western end of the Aleutian islands. The superintendent told us the ends of his district are as far apart as Minneapolis and Seattle!

    Yep, stands out like a sore thumb...but in a good way :) glad you're enjoying the report, and thanks for sharing!
    #97
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  18. jlevers

    jlevers Type 2 fun

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    I flew back to Minneapolis on a redeye (it was only 4.5hrs, which somehow seems impossibly short :shrug: planes always amaze me). I managed to not sleep at all, and instead looked out the window at the sunset-lit mountains, watched A Star is Born (highly recommend it!), and read a book. I landed around 5am, and since I’d told my friend Patrick that he definitely didn’t need to get up that early to come pick me up, just started walking to his house from the airport.


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    I made it a little over 5 miles before he got to me. At his house, I repacked, pounded some coffee, and we drove north to a town called Cuyuna Lakes, with some of the best mountain biking in the Midwest. We spent a couple days biking up there, which reminded me how much I love mountain biking―I used to be really into it, but haven’t done it much in a while...and DAMN is it fun.


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    When we got back from that, I tried to start my bike, and...bupkis. I eventually drained the carb boals at @BK brkr baker’s suggestion, and after about 30 popstarts (or .6mi of pushing, according to my odometer), she fired up!


    Patrick had asked me to teach him to ride, and I figured it would take a while, especially since he’d never driven a standard car before. Oh how wrong I was! Literally his 3rd time letting out the clutch, he rode around the block. Holy shit. I think we have a convert! He’s already talking about buying one. Sorry, Patrick’s mom ;)


    I met up with @72 Yamaha RD350 for lunch, which was great -- nice to meet you Mike! Good food and good company. Thanks for the invite :)


    One of my high school friends goes to school at Macalester in St. Paul, so I spent the next couple of nights there. I also met up with a bunch of the guys from the CX500 Forum, who were kind enough to weld up my extraordinarily rattle-y and leaky mufflers, which has significantly increased how much power I have, and I’m guessing improved my gas mileage. Randall, Lee, Steve, and Paul -- great to meet you guys, and thanks again!


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    The last bit of Minneapolis business was meeting up with a guy named Pat from the Garage Journal, who runs a major sheet metal business in the area. He’s kept the name of his company off of Garage Journal (username 4 FN 27 on GJ), so in deference to that, I won’t name it here, but seeing a machine shop of that scale was absolutely insane. Seeing 100k square feet of just metal and metal-forming equipment, and having Pat explain what it all did to me, was an experience I will never forget. He also gave me a tour of his home shop, which wasn’t anything to sneeze at. He used to build and race Pro Stock cars, so he knows what he’s doing.


    A monster press brake at his company (one of many presses, in addition to some massive punches, laser cutters, etc)

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    One of Pat’s old Pro Stock motors, making 1400hp @ 10,300rpm:

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    Some of his personal projects:

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    And the man himself!

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    I had so much fun learning a little of what Pat knows about metalworking that I didn’t actually leave the city until 5:30, so I just looked up the nearest free camping and hustled on over. I wrote this from my tent, in Sand Dunes State Park, 40 or so miles out of Minneapolis. The ride continues!


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    I got around to processing some more Alaska pictures...these are mostly from the plane ride to Tatitlek, with a few from the Susitna Range.


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    #98
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  19. jlevers

    jlevers Type 2 fun

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    I love waking up in places like this.

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    I basically rode north all day. Nothing terribly exciting happened, other than a couple of kamikaze dogs trying their best to run under my wheels as I whizzed past at 70mph :lol3 it felt so stereotypically midwestern -- huge fields, small farmhouses, blue skies, and bloodthirsty dogs. Ahhhh, America.

    I kept coming across bike paths everywhere I went, which I think is totally awesome. I think everywhere should have this many bike paths, even in the middle of nowhere...they’re a great way to get around! Here’s one of em:

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    I stopped for a little while to eat lunch in the sun.

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    I’d been on pretty flat roads all day, and was jonesing for some turns, when I finally came across some twisties...except it seemed like Minnesota only does right-angle turns. Well, they’re good practice!

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    As I got farther north, the scenery became more and more like what I saw in Ontario: smaller trees, and bogs with rivers flowing through them.

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    The license plates here don’t say “10,000 lakes” for nothing -- I must have seen at least half of them by now! You can hardly turn a right-angle corner without running into a lake. So naturally, I didn’t take any pictures of the lakes :lol2 you’re gonna have to use your imagination!

    I found a dispersed camping area via freecampsites.net, near Bena, MN. And wait, you’ll never guess -- it was right on a lake! More specifically, Sixmile Lake...and I guess I did take ONE picture of a lake.

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    I went to bed really early, and woke up at 5am to the sound of one of the loudest thunderstorms I’ve ever heard. So much for that 0% change of precipitation I read about last night! Unfortunately, I hadn’t planned for rain at all, so my boots, food, and one saddlebag got super wet. Live and learn: it’s a lot less of a pain in the ass to plan for rain and have it not rain, then to not plan for rain and have it rain! Here’s my damp campsite, after I packed up.

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    I started heading for Fargo, ND.

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    I eventually got out of the rain, although it stayed overcast and chilly for quite a while...but I can’t really complain, because I’ve had practically nothing but sun on this trip so far. Plus, I hadn’t yet cleaned my visor, so the rain washed off a solid half-pound of dead bugs :raindance

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    As Pat said to me, Minnesota has two seasons: winter and road construction. Well, he wasn’t wrong. At one point, as I tried to finagle my way around a road closure in Cass Lake, I rode past an absolute behemoth of a German Shepherd. At first, the dog didn’t move, and I thought I was all clear. But right as I got even with it, it absolutely took off. Now normally, this wouldn’t be an issue, since my (optimistically) 50hp is usually faster than a dog, but I happened to be on a road with 4-way stops every 200 feet...so I pinned the throttle, but immediately slammed on the brakes to avoid running a stop sign. When I looked over my shoulder, the dog was about 30 feet away and coming fast, so I decided the stop signs could suck it and absolutely ripped through the next couple of em. I’m not sure what it is about motorcycles that makes dogs go beserk, but if this keeps up, I’m gonna have to run one over before this trip is over!

    I eventually got onto County Road 113, which is one of the better roads I’ve ridden on this trip. Lots of curves, a high speed limit, and no traffic. The only downside was the truly spectacular number of tar snakes, but I just thought of it as some added spice :lol2

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    The curves abruptly turned into agricultural land, and from there on out, I didn’t see another curve the whole way to Fargo. I probably won’t see another one till I get to the Badlands...my poor rear tire.

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    When I got to Fargo, I ate lunch, and spent the next bunch of hours working, editing photos, and writing the ride report. Scott, from the CX500 Forum, invited me to stay at his place in West Fargo, so I headed over there, and enjoyed some good company, good pizza, and the first football game of the season. He also hooked me up with a Vista Cruise setup, which is gonna come in handy for the next 400mi of perfectly straight roads. Scott, you’re the bomb.
    #99
  20. Cro59

    Cro59 Been here awhile

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    I'm enjoying your trip. One bit of advice... You should hang your bear bag at least fifty feet (one hundred is better) away from your camp, preferably downwind.
    jlevers likes this.