RTW the Jamie Z Way: Winter Hiatus

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Jamie Z, Nov 29, 2020.

  1. Jamie Z

    Jamie Z I'm serious. Supporter

    Joined:
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    September 6, 2021

    Didn't go far today.

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    https://new.spotwalla.com/trip/fad5-5fe4c-4716/view

    I stayed in my tent for a couple hours after I woke up to write in my report. My tablet and keyboard were giving me some trouble. The keyboard wasn’t responding… I hope all the recent moisture hasn’t damaged it.

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    The wind continued to blow this morning, off and on. Long stretches of perfectly calm air, and then sudden bursts of wind strong enough to deform the tent. On the positive side, it hadn’t rained and my tent was dry for the first time in several days.

    Packing up in the wind is a pain, and I ended up stuffing my tent into its sack rather than rolling it up like I usually do. My first stop today was to backtrack back to Smith River Falls.

    The trail down is steep, muddy, and not well-maintained. And at the end, the view of the falls is not much better than what you can see from up top.

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    Not long after I got back on the Alaska Highway south, two loaded up V-Stroms passed me and we gave a wave. There are a lot of V-Stroms around here.

    I had been debating stopping at Liard Hot Springs just down the road, an oft-recommended stop along the Alaska Highway. I could stop early, get a campsite, soak in the hot springs, spend the night, and move on tomorrow. Or I could stop for a quick dip in the springs and continue on today. Or I could pass it up entirely. As usual, I was being indecisive.

    I pulled into the campground and told the attendant I was looking for a campsite. I planned to circle the campground to see if I felt like staying overnight. I saw one of the earlier V-Stroms at the entrance to the camping area and I pulled up next to him for a quick chat. He told me he and his girlfriend had just set up camp, and suggested I get a site nearby. He was very interested in my bike and what I thought of it.

    So that’s what I ended up doing. I found a site across from James and Vickie and set up my tent less than two hours after breaking camp up the road. They have an elaborate camp setup.

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    I popped over for a quick chat and James had a bunch of questions about my bike. They currently ride two 2016 V-Strom 650, but he’s considering something smaller, like the CB500X. I offered that he could take it for a ride, so I got on his Suzuki, and he the Honda and we took a quick ride up the highway and turned onto a logging road.

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    I had forgotten how smooth the V-Strom twin is. The whole bike felt great. The manners on the logging road surprised me. Damn, maybe I got the wrong bike!

    We rode back to the campground. Vickie wanted to take a nap, James suggested he and I walk to the springs.

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    We got into the water and got to know each other. James is originally from Britain and moved to Canada five years ago.

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    He and Vickie live in Vancouver and are planning their own long-term trip starting next year. We talked a bit about traveling solo versus with a partner and James admitted that they occasionally do separate things, like now.

    The pool is fed by a spring on one end, and flows out over a small dam on the other side. You can pick your ideal temperature by moving closer or farther from the source, but sometimes no matter where you are, a bubble of terribly hot water will flow past. The water was a lot hotter than I was expecting, and it felt great.

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    I enjoyed the chat with James; we talked for about two hours before Vickie showed up and joined us in the pool.

    Since I hadn’t gotten anything for dinner, I got out of the water to go across the street to Liard Hot Springs Lodge, where there is a restaurant. The place was full and I had to wait about fifteen minutes for a seat, and the staff was completely overrun. I was happy enough to order the daily special.

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    When I walked back to the campground, James and Vickie were finishing their own dinner and invited me inside their bug net. We didn’t stay up too long, but they were a lot of fun to talk to.

    Vickie went to bed early, James and I walked to the parking lot to watch for northern lights. James showed me some of his nighttime photos where he’d captured the northern lights. They were beautiful.

    I took a few long-exposure shots. Though the colors aren’t apparent to the naked eye, the green tinge of the aurora show up.

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  2. CanadianRocky

    CanadianRocky No Bucket List... a Bucket full of Lists

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    Well, this looks like fun... now I have something to read for the winter...
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  3. CanadianRocky

    CanadianRocky No Bucket List... a Bucket full of Lists

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    I just scanned the last few pages... I rode up to Alaska via Dease and back out via Edmonton in '017... it was nice to see some of the same places you stopped that I did... the gas station at Meziadin, the one when you get to the Alaska highway... the sign at the Yukon border... I took this picture right about where you are right now...

    TheAlCan copy.jpg
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  4. gpfan

    gpfan a mari usque ad mare

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  5. szurszewski

    szurszewski Long timer

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    Hi Jamie!

    You've had a few updates since my last check in. I'm really glad you stopped at the hot springs. I can't remember if I told you, but Laura and I stopped there often enough the camp host suggested we have our wedding there...and we almost did...but then opted to go a few more thousand miles south instead :) Did you make it up to/is one still allowed up to the upper more primitive spring?

    A couple of thoughts to go with your posts a few pages back: in the days we lived in Alaska (it doesn't feel that long ago, but I guess it's closing in on 15 years since we left) those gravel sections of the Cassiar you pictured are what the entire Cassiar looked like. Very little traffic the couple/few times we were there. I have a couple pics of Stewart that match yours - too bad they're on a hard drive in a box right now... The first time we drove out there in our truck we lost the power steering pump the day before Canada Day weekend. It was either wait out the weekend and another day or so in Stewart, or drive back to Terrace (the nearest "real" autoparts store with a pump) without power steering. Not the most fun, but interesting. Oh hey - what did you pay for fuel at Bell II? I think that our most expensive fuel stop ever anywhere was still there and back in like 2004.

    ...and to close out with something not at all fun, the red dresses and other clothing you saw along the highways are hung to remember/honor/bring attnetion to native women who have been the victim of violence. You posted a pic of a sign that's related, as well as that podcast. Plenty of info online for anyone who wants to look it up. My understanding is that the red clothing started around 2010.
  6. red bud

    red bud alky w/motorcycle problem Supporter

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    when i read that about u riding the vstrom i thought that was like probably visiting a old friend for ya
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  7. MrBob

    MrBob Long timer Supporter

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    I bought a brand new 2006 Wee Strom and toured extensively with it, and bought a 2014 Wee Strom last year. They are wonderful bikes, but IMHO, the 500x is much more versatile.
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  8. Pete_Tallahassee

    Pete_Tallahassee Grampy Supporter

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    "It's a stone-skipping goldmine!"
    One of my favorite things to do as a kid. That place would have kept me there for hours.
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  9. Jamie Z

    Jamie Z I'm serious. Supporter

    Joined:
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    September 7, 2021

    Cold morning, cold evening.

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    https://new.spotwalla.com/trip/fad5-5fe4c-4716/view

    I did not sleep well, feeling cold all night. I woke up twice to add more layers and use my liner. I wondered if my long bath in the hot water was now making me feel cold. But when I got up in the morning and checked the temperature, it was just a few degrees above freezing.

    I dressed and took a walk around the campground and back down to the springs. The campground is surrounded by a tall electric fence to keep out bears (and other large wildlife). It has a weird, Jurassic Park feel.

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    This morning the springs were mostly empty. I wish I had the ambition to get in the water again. I tried to walk beyond the spring to an area called “Hanging Gardens,” but the trail was blocked and closed.

    On the walk back to the campground, I watched a moose feeding in the water.

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    Vickie wanted to try my bike so we suited up and took a ride down the same logging road.

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    When we returned we all discussed what we thought of each others’ bikes. I don’t think Vickie liked the Honda, in part because it’s quite a bit taller than her V-Strom and she could barely reach the ground. She said it felt underpowered. James was quite interested in the fuel economy of the CB500X.

    We met up for a group photo. They were heading north back through Watson Lake, I headed south. I envied them traveling together.

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    As I rode, I had a lot of time to think about what James and I had talked about, and traveling with a partner.

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    It’s not a new line of thought for me, of course. But it’s something that’s been on my mind, and especially after meeting James and Vickie and others recently. It makes me wonder how it would be to have someone else with me. Of course, it’s a purely academic question. It’s not up to me whether someone else wants to travel with me or not…

    So, this being a solo trip as it is, I stopped frequently for scenic photos.

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    And a couple more moose.

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    At the Toad River Lodge, I stopped for fuel and picked up a couple of cinnamon buns inside.

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    More scenery.

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    I learned later that this is considered the most rugged (and highest altitude) portion of the Alaska Highway.

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    And my first (live) caribou!

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    The caribou were strange. The crossed the highway in front of me half a dozen times while I took photos. They appeared to intentionally cross in front of oncoming vehicles.

    It had been a chilly morning, and though the day had warmed up some, I was still quite cold, and I hadn’t taken a shower since Prince George, I decided to look for a room when I got to the next big town, Fort Nelson.

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    The room was nice, with a separate bedroom and a kitchenette including a full-size refrigerator. What it didn’t have was heat. I went back to the office and asked about heat. The lady there told me she’d call the manager.

    An hour later, still no heat, so I checked back with the front desk. “I’ll call the manager.”

    Eventually a guy showed up and turned on some valve.
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  10. Contrarian

    Contrarian Been here awhile Supporter

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    This is an awesome and inspiring thread. I can't emphasize enough how much I live through you vicariously. Keep going!
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  11. Desert John

    Desert John Desert John Supporter

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    I also ran into your couple from Vancouver and we chatted for a while in a small market. I bought ice cream and a banana and they got a small basket and filled it with supplies. The last time I saw them they were hustling across the road for their own picnic — in the rain!

    I don’t remember how far north you’re headed but for sure put McCarthy/Kennicott on your itinerary. The last 65 miles had at least 65,000 potholes, filled with water (it rained the two nights I was up there.). But the road became fun after I finally realized my GS was eating up the road with aplomb and I rode through them rather than dodging them. Interesting side note occurred after I gassed up in Chitina and got back on the Richardson Hwy. I realized that Copper Centre was 20 miles north and since I wasn’t that hungry I’d just head toward Valdez in the opposite direction. Within 25-30 miles I say a tiny sign that read “Russian-American Food” so I pulled in. The food was fantastic and the conversation was even better. Her husband was from Moscow and she was from a smaller city near the Balkins. My maternal grandmother was from Riga, Latvia meaning I ate Russian food almost every meal with her. I spent three days and two nights in Valdez, my favorite location in the state.

    Today I flew home from Anchorage. While there I decided to sell my GS to the local dealer. It’s a ‘19 with 28,000 miles and some quirks that were annoying me. I’m replacing it with a new 2021 GS though my local dealer is charging me the “demo” pricing and other discounts. There are very few GSs around Southern California.
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  12. Shep

    Shep Vagabond Supporter

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    I have not commented since the beginning, but I’ve been reading along ever since. Thoroughly enjoying your experiences and living vicariously until I can follow suit in some fashion.

    Your recent thoughts on traveling with a partner resonated with me. I’m always a little jealous when I see people who enjoy traveling together, whether its an actual couple or just a two people who get along well. I’ve never had that. My wife is a wonderful partner but she is not an outdoors person and would never consider riding on a motorcycle. I have ridden and traveled with a few friends in the past, but most of the time I did not enjoy it, as we typically had different ideas of what an enjoyable ride would look like. I have one friend I can travel with on a limited basis. We have an agreement that all we are really sharing is lodging and an experience; each is free of obligation to follow or lead the other when we ride.

    I am, by nature, a quiet person (no one believes that because my work requires the opposite) and I really enjoy solitude. However, to have someone share the experiences with me and simply have the “aura” of another person that you sync with, nearby at your camp or lodging appeals greatly to me.

    Getting my old body fixed up (I think!), retiring in January and hope to cross your path in the future.
  13. liv2day

    liv2day Life is about how you handle Plan B Supporter

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    Having caught up again after several days of solo backpacking in Indian Heaven wilderness over Labor Day, and reading @Shep's post, I wanted to quote this @Jamie Z.

    To be honest, I have a hard time not quoting multiple sections of each of your updates as I find them both incredibly inspiring and refreshing. Like the story about running into folks who fed you caribou and sent you on your way with homemade cookies, or the local who took your picture with the Hyder AK sign in the background. So much life in each of your posts man.

    In any event, back to the thoughts occupying your mind after meeting James and Vickie. Having been unexpectedly thrust back into single life and now at the ripe age of 50, I've spent countless hours (days!?!) contemplating my future-self and the moto-travel I plan to do once my boys are off to college (or whatever they choose when high school is in the rear view mirror).

    Though I have never undertaken anything akin to what you're doing right now, I do (and have done) lots of solo riding, camping, and backpacking. There were multiple times during my backpacking trip last weekend when I thought of how amazing it'd be to be sharing it with someone special. Like when I scared the hell out of a bear (and it scared the living shit out of me...lol) hiking on a somewhat obscure trail, or laying on the ground outside my tent in the middle of the night soaking in the Milky Way. Those experiences - would they be enhanced if someone was with me? I believe so, but then I question that belief - would I want to have the "burden" (can't think of a better word)?

    Writing all the drivel above is merely a long way of wanting to ask you for more of your thoughts on the subject Jamie. Now that you've traveled so far and done so much, like hanging with @FinTec and others; how do you feel it'd have been with a romantically affiliated female on her bike? Do you think you've had enjoyed staying with that family in Cuba where you helped slaughter dinner? Would the hiker you gave a ride to on the Oregon coast and subsequent sharing a campsite with others been cool? Would stopping to help Annabel with her bent key have been the same experience (obviously not, but hopefully the point comes across)?

    And yes, this is purely academic as you point out. But I'm very intrigued to hear your thoughts if you have time and patience to elaborate given the miles (kms for you Canucks) traveled. Though I sincerely believe in the joy of shared experiences, I'm keenly interested to hear your thoughts.

    Sticky side down amigo.
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  14. MrBob

    MrBob Long timer Supporter

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    If my own experience is any help, once I left remote locations and arrived in places with lots people and with lots of activity, I found enough stimulation in daily events to help me stay in the moment. The thing about motorcycle travel, as you well know, is that you spend a lot of time in your head, and that isn't always a good idea, especially during the gray of the autumn. Head for the sun and warmth, I say.
  15. NorskieRider

    NorskieRider Ultracrepidarian

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    Traveling with a partner - romantic or otherwise - can be complicated. Each of us are different in how we approach compromise and handle conflicts, and what we need in terms of solitude and companionship. There's so much more to it than "good" or "bad".

    Jamie, I suspect if you had a partner with you, your trip would likely turn out very different. Traveling solo invites questions and conversations from strangers. I bet a part of your 'social needs' are met through documenting your travels; instead of telling a partner about what you saw on a day, you're retelling it this RR, for our benefit. It keeps you connected. I guess you can say that you have many "travel partners" in the form of RR readers, and I selfishly appreciate that.
  16. jonz

    jonz Miles are my mantra Supporter

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    Nice ride report. I really admire your ability to keep up on the ride report while on the road. I tried to do it once or twice long ago and found it frustrating between dodgy (or no) internet and then spending time writing when I could have been riding. But on long trips like yours, updating while riding may be the only way to document the important parts. I did a 2 month ride in South America that I intended to write up afterwards but found the prospect so daunting on my return that I never did it. So good job.

    I've been around awhile (i.e. I'm old) and as far as riding with others, for me 2 weeks +/- is the dividing line. On trips longer than that with someone else, I find I start to grate on them and they on me. I'm definitely NOT an introvert and that happens with people that I know and chose to ride with. I have grown to prefer riding by myself, meeting others along the way for rides/human interactions, and then riding on by myself. Occasionally alone becomes lonely but that is usually a fleeting feeling. I think the extra isolation due to Covid 19 is exacerbating your and everyone's situation. I hope our interactions via this ride report help get you through those moments so we can keeping enjoying this report for months to come. I'll be in West Yellowstone through the end of the month if you find yourself in the area and want a little interaction with a grumpy old dude that will remind you why you want to be on your own.
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  17. MrBob

    MrBob Long timer Supporter

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    I'm looking for a bike cover for my 500X. This looks like a perfect fit. What size is it, and are you satisfied with it? Thanks for a reply.
  18. HandCanonShootr

    HandCanonShootr Been here awhile Supporter

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    Great updates Jamie, your wanderings are closely followed, your RR/writings/time spent, appreciated.



    Wow Liv2day, how did you get into that part of my mind??

    While I usually travel Solo; in a partner, it would take not only an adventurous soul-mate, but an exceptionally adaptable, and spontanious one. Finding those qualities together in one person, throwing in gender, age, & marilal status, makes for a Unicorn methinks. While I always have an eye open, my spouse checks many boxes strongly. But her back keeps her off the bike...

    Thanks Liv2day & Jamie for keeping this real.
    Mike B
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  19. bk brkr baker

    bk brkr baker Long timer Supporter

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    My experience of traveling with others has been uneven to say the least.
    When I was 22 I formed a rough plan of riding west to Oregon the down the coast to San Francisco where I figured my money would be getting low , so turning toward home.
    Then a buddy said he wanted to go to . He didn't even own a bike , so , I figured it was just talk. Then he bought a new KZ 650. I helped him mount a crash bar and when I made a throttle lock , made him one too. And we headed west.
    First deviation of the plan was to Fayetteville , AR. where he knew a nurse , then in Utah he said , "We could go to Las Vegas to see John , a friend stationed there in the Air Force. After a few days in Vegas we turned to San Diego to visit Dale who was in the Navy.
    I didn't object strongly to any of these destinations because I hadn't been there yet.
    We made it north as far as Monterey before turning east.
    One other bump that I've still not gotten over happened at the Bonneville Salt Flats . We pulled in late at night , went up a road to an empty spot and spent the night . The next morning we hit a Greasy Spoon for breakfast and there were LSR cars and motorcycles getting breakfast too. I thought we were lucky in the extreme just randomly showing up for Speed Week !
    But , it was not to be , buddy started whining about getting home to sign up for college , the first I'd heard of that. I pointed east and said "Ride that direction for 4 or 5 days and a little south and you'll get there."
    Of course that didn't work , he kept up the whining until I gave in and to cap it off he quit before the end of the semester.
    So now I go alone. Having a female travel partner on her own bike that's fun to be with and never a drag ? Sounds like a Unicorn to me.
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  20. Pete_Tallahassee

    Pete_Tallahassee Grampy Supporter

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    I stopped looking long ago. That unicorn is going to have to find me.