SgtMarty wandering around Earth

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by SgtMarty, Jun 10, 2008.

  1. SgtMarty

    SgtMarty Retired, baby!

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
    2,388
    Location:
    Colorado
    Thursday, July 1, 2010
    ----------------------

    The hotel's breakfast buffet called to us, so we forced ourselves up earlier than was otherwise necessary. After stuffing ourselves, it was the room that then called to us, so back upstairs we went. Laurie snoozed out right away while I got this diary caught up.

    There was a free trolley shuttle between many of the hotels, and it also stopped where the car museum was located, so we would catch that later in the afternoon. The antique car museum wasn't here when I was here last time, but the owner has had the cars for a long time.

    We took the trolley bus to the Wedgewood Resort Hotel, which was actually a large apartment-type complex that used to house the families of the men working on the Alaska pipeline back in the '70's. The car museum might be owned by the same guy who owns the hotel, but I got mixed answers when I asked people. In the hotel complex were several small displays, including a relocated old trapper's cabin.

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    There is also a bird observatory and some kind of aircraft exhibit on the grounds, but we didn't see them.

    The museum reminded me of the one in Gateway, Colorado. This one had more cars, some of which aren't on display currently. These cars are all from the 1898-1936 years, each with a detailed explanation. Many of these cars were the first of their kind to have certain innovations, and several were the last of their kind. We spent a couple hours there, but I'll only include a few photos.

    The cars were arranged in order of their year of manufacture, with a special display of significant cars from Alaska history. There were also lots of photos and movies of old cars and motorcycles in Alaska, and many displays of period clothing. Entry was $4.

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    1904 Rambler:
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    1907 Franklin:
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    Um... a white car:
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    Okay, I thought to take a photo of the signs of many of the other cars.

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    The trolley bus had broken down (a common occurrence, we were told), so we had to wait a while for its replacement to take us back to our hotel. On the way, it stopped at several other hotels and shopping sites. It also stopped at Pioneer Park, which might be worth visiting to see the historic displays. We weren't that interested, so we skipped it and went back to the hotel.

    The day was partly sunny and warmish.

    Next to our hotel was Big Daddy's BBQ, where we had a great platter of meat. Yum.

    We played Uno again for hours, but this time Laurie didn't stand a chance.

    .
  2. SgtMarty

    SgtMarty Retired, baby!

    Joined:
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    Friday, July 2, 2010
    --------------------

    Laurie made calls to check in with folks back home, including our house-sitter. All was well.

    We had slept through the breakfast buffet, so we went back next door to Big Daddy's BBQ for their lunch buffet. A very meaty breakfast.

    We hit the road on a mostly sunny day, and it pretty much stayed that way. There was a brief period of cloudiness and brief sprinkle, but it was nice ride. Well, aside from riding the many gravel patches and construction delays again.

    There is a large river expanse in this area, but it was still a surprise to see a fan boat on the side of the road with a "for sale" sign on it.

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    My bike's rear wheel was wobbling when I got to higher speeds. I had somehow managed to leave my regular axle wrench at home, so I had used a small crescent wrench when I had put my wheel back on yesterday. I suspected that the axle nut wasn't tight enough, so I stopped and used a larger wrench (which I had the foresight to buy this very morning!) to snug everything down. Yup, that fixed it.

    Next was a renewal of the engine stuttering and jerking that I hadn't had in weeks. It wasn't the fuel or vacuum hoses, so it was either air or spark. It got bad enough that we stopped in Delta Junction where I cleaned and re-oiled my air filter. I ride faster in the long gravel sections, so I eat a lot more traffic dust than Laurie does. The filter looked dirty, so it benefited from a cleaning, but it didn't look bad enough to account for the engine stumbling. I drained the carb's float bowl as well, just in case.

    Onward. We passed two moose along the road. The first one got all self-conscious when we circled back to take a closer look and it disappeared into the woods. The second one just ignored us, so we got a few pics.

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    The engine got all jerky again, stumbling and stuttering worse and worse. I almost stopped on the side of the highway to work on the carburetor. For no reason, it then smoothed out and ran fine for most of the way to Tok. I hate when something goes wrong with how the bike is running. I hate it more when I don't know why it was running badly. I hate it worst of all when it mysteriously heals itself, making me think that it isn't really healed... it's just waiting to spring a whole new shitstorm on me at any time.

    The day mostly looked like this:

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    But looked like this briefly:

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    We only rode back to Tok, which took about four hours with my maintenance stops.

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    This time, we were able to get a room behind Fast Eddy's. We had made the whole ride from where we had last refueled prior to Fairbanks (274 miles ago) on one tank of gas, and hadn't hit reserve on either tank. My mileage had been 47 MPG for that stretch, averaging about 55-60 MPH on the highway. Not bad, loaded the way I was.

    After eating at Fast Eddy's, I worked all the Sudoku and Crossword puzzles in the local paper and then did photo management and got this narrative caught up.

    .
  3. idea man

    idea man Remote Plate Spinner Supporter

    Joined:
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    North Coast -California
    Thanks for getting caught up. :thumb
  4. SgtMarty

    SgtMarty Retired, baby!

    Joined:
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    2,388
    Location:
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    Saturday, July 3, 2010
    ----------------------

    Our plan was to get back into Canada today, which seemed wrong since tomorrow was the 4th of July. Shouldn't we tarry in Alaska for a day? For the Fourth?

    Well... shouldn't we? Hmmmmm...?

    Yes, we should.

    We bailed out of Young's Motel...

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    ... and headed out into another cool day. The mostly-cloudy day became all-cloudy before we had gotten very far.

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    When I stopped at a pull-out area to take a photo, Laurie stopped to wait for me. For some reason, she stopped partly in the traffic lane and the truck behind her had to lock up its brakes to keep from running into her (and it almost got rear-ended by the next car behind it). It was a brain-fart moment for her, which shows that a rider has to be tuned-in at all times. She was very lucky not to get wiped out by that truck.

    We made a pit stop in Gakona to enjoy their top-notch facilities.

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    After clearing through the Glenallen area, we grew worried that the weather ahead would be terrible. It might even be snowing on Thompson Pass.

    No worries proved justified, and the sky even cleared a bit as we worked up the Pass. That made it worth stopping at the Worthington Glacier.

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    There are a lot of small waterfalls alongside the road as it descends toward Valdez, but the road was twisty and I didn't take many photos.

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    In Valdez, we rode to the dock area first.

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    Valdez was packed, partly for the coming holiday weekend and partly because it looked like there might be a fishing derby taking place. We found from the hotels that there was also a convention and some large travel groups in town. Every hotel was full, all cabins were rented, and the visitors' center could only point us to a list of B&Bs to call for availability. Laurie finally found the Headhunters Inn in town the had just gotten a cancellation, so we were very lucky.

    When we arrived at the Headhunters Inn, we found the B&B manager, Suki, cutting a customer's hair in the downstairs salon. She checked us in while the customer and I chatted about things to do in Valdez. He recommended one of the tour boats, so that's what we planned to do tomorrow. Like most B&Bs, this was also Suki and Ernesto's home, so it was very homey. We had gotten the last room, tiny with no window but with a private bathroom. It also had the fire escape door for the second floor, so we could get out in a hurry if necessary.

    It had been 255 miles to Valdez, and we were thankful that we didn't have to sleep in our clothes or ride back to Glenallen.

    The Pipeline bar was going to have a live band tonight, but it's one of the remaining bars where they still smoke indoors, so we skipped that. When we stopped in at the Glacier Inn's bar for a drink, Bob the bartender remembered me from two years ago and we had a chat. He used to work for the San Francisco P.D., so we didn't need much to be comfortable in each other's company.

    Laurie borrowed Bob's laptop computer to book us on a wildlife and glacier tourboat tomorrow. There is a 6-hour tour and a 9-hour tour that goes to a second glacier, but we thought the shorter tour was good enough for us.

    Bob gabbed with us for quite a while and bought a round of vodka shots (from a bottle that was printed entirely in Cyrilic--not from around here). When the night had worn thin, Bob refused to take any money for our drinks. I left a $5 bill on the bar and told him to throw it at somebody. He said he would.

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  5. SgtMarty

    SgtMarty Retired, baby!

    Joined:
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    2,388
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    Sunday, July 4, 2010
    --------------------

    Breakfast was included at the B&B and we had been given a chit for each morning. The Mexican food restaurant was in the same building, operated by Ernesto, and the chit was good for anything on the breakfast menu. That made the value of the chit about $24 with the food we ate.

    We were at the marina for our trip at 11:00. Our boat was the Glacier Spirit.

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    The day was cool with occasional light rain. Lots of small glaciers around Port Valdez.

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    Our skipper was Stan Stephens himself, and he puttered around in the local area so we could see the sea otters.

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    Stan had been in Valdez forever and knew everything about everything. He kept up a narrative for a long time, explaining everything that tourists would usually ask about.

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    Here is the termination of the Alaska Pipeline, across the water from the town.

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    Stan went slow past the net boats. One of the boats anchored in the Port was the Northwestern, featured on the TV show, The Deadliest Catch. He explained the whole fishing process to us, but we couldn't stay long enough to watch these other boats pull the nets in.

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    Once out of Port Valdez, we went through the Straight of Valdez and headed across the sea lanes while soup was served on the boat. Clam chowder, unless you wanted a veggie stew.

    At the Bullhead coast, Stan took us past some sea lion beaches and chased humpback whales around for an hour. The seals were cooperative, the whales were not. We never got close to any of the humpbacks, but we did get a few glimpses of them.

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    Stan then took us toward the Columbia Glacier ice field. This is a tidewater glacier, which flows from the mountains directly into the water. Most of the lower part of the rapidly-retreating glacier is underwater, and when the icebergs break off, they just float up and create a huge iceberg field.

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    The surface of the water appears different, depending on whether it is fresh water or salt water, the temperature of the waters, and if the water was sheltered by the bergs or exposed to the ocean currents. The glacier has retreated twelve miles from this point in the last couple of decades.

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    We hugged the other side of the Straight and Port Valdez as we worked our way back. Stan told us about the huge earthquake of 1964 (the largest ever recorded in North America) and all of the destruction it had done in Valdez and other coastal cities.

    Lots of coves and waterfalls. Stan had stories about them all.

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    Before getting back to dock, we watched another salmon boat unload its catch to another boat for transport to shore.

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    We had dinner at another hotel's restaurant and stopped in at the Glacier Inn's bar to see Bob. He wasn't in, but the gal behind the bar said that Bob would be in at midnight.

    We eventually wandered down to the bonfire, which had been burning for a few hours. The community 'Smores were all used up, but there were mini-marshmallows all over the parking lot. Smaller kids had been playing in a local pond, so the fire attracted them like it attracted the mosquitoes.

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    The city's fireworks went off at 22:30, launched from another pier. Not very dramatic, given how light the sky is up here at this time of year. A few other large fireworks displays were going off nearby, probably from hotels or RV parks.

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    Before midnight, we walked back to the Glacier Inn bar and talked with the bartender, Sunny, who told us all about how she had come to Alaska as a tourist but ended up meeting a guy and staying. There weren't many customers, so she wasn't busy. Sunny told us all about her favorite places in Alaska, but most were related to hiking and fishing. She also liked Argentina, so we talked about the places we had each been down there.

    Bob came in at midnight, but he was busy with business, so we just said our goodbyes and let him get to work.

    .
  6. SgtMarty

    SgtMarty Retired, baby!

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
    2,388
    Location:
    Colorado
    Monday, July 5, 2010
    --------------------

    It was a dreary breakfast, and we weren't feeling chipper about the rain.

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    We gassed up and Laurie's bike suffered a sudden failure of the sidestand lockout switch. I had long ago installed a bypass on my bike for this potential problem, but Laurie had wanted all of her safeties left in place. With some bikes (the KLR650 is one of them), either the clutch switch or the sidestand switch can get corroded or out of alignment.

    I pushed her bike under an overhang to get out of the rain and got to work. I removed the starter lockout relay and jumped the wires, but I must have been doing something wrong because I couldn't get it to work right. Very odd. In the end, I disconnected the sidestand cable from the switch, effectively bypassing the safety.

    At Glenallen, the temple piece of my sunglasses fell off. The tiny screw had fallen out. No problem, since a pair of pliers and a paperclip was all I needed to repair it. Small fixes like these are constant when you travel like this.

    The ride back to Tok was nicer than we had expected, since the skies eventually cleared up.

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    My bike was still wobbling at 70 MPH, and I couldn't figure out why. It didn't feel like it was coming from the front wheel, so I was back to wondering why the back wheel was all goofy. The tire was fully on the rim, so it wasn't a problem with the bead not being popped all the way around.

    255 miles later from Valdez, we checked out a couple different hotels in Tok, but ended up at the hotel at Fast Eddy's again. One of the hotels was next to a craftsman who carves bears with a chainsaw. He wasn't working while I was there.

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    At the hotel, I removed the rear wheel and examined the bearings. As far as I could tell, they seemed fine. Nothing else was amiss. Weird.

    I also noticed that my cush drive in the rear hub had a lot of play in it. I cut up a soda can and made small shims to put under the rubber cushion, and that took a lot of the looseness away.

    A test ride seemed to indicate that the wobble was gone, but I was riding with less weight on the bike during the test. I hadn't really done anything to fix the wobble, but I hoped that removing and reinstalling the wheel might have solved something. Loaded again in the morning, I would find out if it was still wobbling.

    In the middle of the night, there was a major power outage throughout the town. We opened the curtains to let the light in so we could continue our game of Uno. It was a long game, but I finished stomping Laurie soon after the lights came back on.

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  7. SgtMarty

    SgtMarty Retired, baby!

    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2006
    Oddometer:
    2,388
    Location:
    Colorado
    Tuesday, July 6, 2010
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    It was a clear but very windy day when we gassed up and checked our tire pressure. Five miles out of Tok, Laurie realized that she had left her valve stem caps behind. I told her that I didn't care (I had some extras with me), but she went back for them. I puttered along slower until she caught up.

    The skies were partly-cloudy or partly-sunny all day, but the wind gusts were tremendous. Not like Patagonia, but they were still enough to cause an unintentional lane change if you weren't careful.

    These are tree-covered sand dunes. Yes, sand dunes in Alaska. Not big ones, but still...

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    Lots and lots of construction and road-repair zones.

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    Near the border, there was a long construction zone that was rough and dusty. After crossing back into Canada, we were greeted with another long construction zone. Most of it was hard-packed gravel and dirt, but some of it was a new-laid gravel layer that was butt-puckering at times.
    Along Lake Kluane, the weather was warm but very windy.

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    The clouds being shoved over the mountains were dramatic at times. I missed some of the best photo-ops.

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    We stayed in Haynes Junction at the hotel with the Chinese restaurant. No lesbians at the pool table this time, but we did meet Geoff, an Australian rider whose BMW F800 was parked next to our bikes.

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    Geoff was taking a year from work to ride around the Americas and was now returning from Prudhoe Bay. He had worked for eight years without any vacation to save up the time to take this trip, and he expects to spend 54 weeks in the Americas before he heads home to Sydney. Geoff bought his F800 in Reno, Nevada after a dealer in Las Vegas refused to sell him a bike out of some weird concern that the bike would end up in Australia. (When Geoff then called BMW USA, he learned that there was no real concern with their bikes being exported from the USA, and they recommended that he buy from another dealer.)

    We might see Geoff again in Darby, Montana later in July, at the ADVRider West Fest rally.

    Laurie and I ate at the bar for the sole reason of being able to talk with the locals. Meet Janice, who works for the local Social Service agency, and Vern, who works at a sawmill.

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    We talked about a lot of things, including the local native population and their relationship with the merchants. I told them about the guy who basically scammed/begged a meal from another restaurant the last time we were here, and Janice had lots of venting to get out of her system. I asked Vern about the riots during the G8 conference, and he could only talk about how expensive it was to Canadians to pay for.

    There were a couple others in these conversations but we didn't get photos of them. Steve worked at whatever jobs he could find from month to month, and another local guy who was still hung over from having partied too much the night before. Still hung over at 22:00 the next evening? Good lord, that must have been a hell of a party. Allison, the bartender, didn't say much but sat with us at the two-sided bar and nodded her head in agreement occasionally.

    Another thing we talked about was Canada's relatively-new smoking laws. They were all smokers and and various opinions about the matter. They shared the habit of frequently stepping outside to "feed the addiction" as Janice put it.

    Several other riders checked into the hotel, but we only met Clark, a Harley rider who had placed 8th in the recent Harley-Davidson Hoka Hey ride from Key West, Florida, to Homer, Alaska. He was now working his was back home to upstate New York, but was first going to visit his son who was in college in Kentucky. Clark had a cousin, Kevin, who worked on a police department in Colorado. I asked, and found that Kevin worked for the Aurora, Colorado Police Department! I told Clark that I had retired from the Aurora P.D., but I didn't know his cousin's name (although I might recognize him). Much to my regret, I had spent the last two years of my career out of the Field Training Program, so I had less awareness of the newly-hired officers. I spent my final couple years on a late swingshift working with a great team of veterans and new officers that kept me, as the sergeant, in a happy place.

    There was a weak Wi-Fi connection, but I didn't feel like spending time on the computer.

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  8. SgtMarty

    SgtMarty Retired, baby!

    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2006
    Oddometer:
    2,388
    Location:
    Colorado
    Wednesday, July 7, 2010
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    Last night at the bar, a guy had mentioned a bakery in town, so we went looking for it. I have been through Haines Junction a few times, but my awareness of the town was limited to the hotels, gas stations, and restaurants along the highway. That's not fair to the town, of course, and it was proof enough of that when I got directions to the bakery. Only a couple blocks off the highway, it was a great place to hang out. Lots of deck space, a Wi-Fi hotspot, live music on Fridays, a variety of nummy-num munchies. Everything a traveler needs. I would never have guessed it was there if I hadn't asked.

    We shared a veggie quiche and a spinach-filled Spanikopita, then added a couple of fruit-filled strudels. Okay, ready for the road.

    It was mostly-sunny for most of the day, but it was again very windy. We zoomed through Whitehorse with only a brief pitstop. The gas station attendant told me that it had snowed a half inch just a few days earlier, but it was warm again and there was no evidence of it.

    We came on some RVs stopped on the side of the road and people standing outside. I stopped to see if anything was wrong, but they pointed at something moving along a frontage road.

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    I moved closer and the young grizzly started toward me, as if curious. It turned away by the time I took the next photo.

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    The day was warming up.

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    Near Watson Lake, I saw people picking something alongside the road, so I stopped to see what it was. It looked like tiny raspberries (but I was later informed that they were strawberries). Small, but the ripest ones were semi-sweet.

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    I'm not sure what road chemicals might be used here during winter, but they would have probably have been healthier further from the roadside. They were very scrawny. Each plant looked like the one above.

    At 258 miles, Laurie hit reserve, which was much less than we have managed before. I attribute it to the heavy winds and the fact that I led all day (at a faster pace than Laurie would have set). She had also run faster for a while catching up to me after a construction zone. My bike wobble wasn't kicking in until well over 70 MPH now, which was still confusing. Maybe the balancing job done on the wheel was bad, and the imbalance only happened at a certain harmonic frequency.

    We got to Watson Lake and found a hotel. It had been 370 miles/595 Km, but it was still fairly early. I noticed a significant oil leak from the bottom-left of my motor, but it wasn't obvious where it was coming from. Was it coming from the countershaft seal? From the shifter shaft? I'd wait to see what kind of oil puddle was under the bike in the morning before I would invest any worry in it.

    We ate in the hotel, but regardless how I tried and got help from the hotel staff, I could never get their Internet connection to work.

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  9. SgtMarty

    SgtMarty Retired, baby!

    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2006
    Oddometer:
    2,388
    Location:
    Colorado
    Thursday, July 8, 2010
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    It was a hot, nearly cloudless sky that greeted us in the morning. Now away from the rainy costal and mountain regions, we were likely to see more hot, clear days ahead.

    At breakfast, two riders from Argentina talked with us. They saw the stickers on my bike and asked if I was from Argentina or had been there. I gave them the short version of my ride around South America, but Laurie took over and gave them the details. They were on big BMWs, which one of them said was nice on the highways but too heavy on the interesting roads.

    Laurie called the Liard Hot Springs Lodge and booked a room there. It was only three hours away, but the next logical stopping place was Ft. Nelson. That was a day's ride for us (300 miles has become typical for Laurie's pace), but the Liard Hot Springs was worth stopping at. The last time I was there, it had been the middle of the night, not long after I had almost ridden into a herd of bison on the road. I had stopped there because I had been nearly out of gas and I needed some rest (I ended up sleeping in a chair in the lobby). This time, we would have a better plan.

    We hit the road, dressed lighter for the heat.

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    The bison warning sign are there for a reason.

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    We didn't see herds of bison this time; only a few solitary brutes and later there was a cow and calf by themselves.

    Only one major construction zone today, but after passing the other waiting cars and trucks we ended up behind two loud Harleys. They had apparently been on the Hoka Hey Harley ride, and one of them had a "Hoka Hey" patch on the back of his vest.

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    Lots of easy riding on a good section of the highway, with most of it spent along the Liard River.

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    My bike wobble and engine stuttering both got so bad that I pulled off the highway at a campsite, determined to get out my tools and pull the bike apart to see what was wrong. I found some shade and examined the vacuum line from the carb to the fuel petcock. It still looked okay--not kinked or split anywhere that I could see--but the symptoms were indicative of borderline fuel starvation. If the vacuum line was leaking or pinched, the vacuum-operated fuel valve would be only partially open, letting less fuel flow than was needed. The other possibility was a defective petcock diaphragm, and either way I had the necessary parts to fix it.

    The bike wobble was still a poser. I did notice the oil leak was more pronounced. If it was coming from the countershaft seal, that was a problem I couldn't solve on the side of the road (only because I didn't have a spare seal with me). The leak wasn't causing enough of an oil loss that I worried for that, but it was still something that would have to be fixed. I decided to ride the remaining half-hour to the Liard Hot Springs and work on it there. It was only 14:00, so the day was young.

    When we got to the Lodge, it was so hot that I was soggy with sweat. Laurie got us checked into the Lodge while I parked the bike in some shade. I found a piece of plywood and we got the bike up onto the centerstand. I unpacked and stripped the soft bags from the bike, then pulled off the gas tank, countersprocket cover, and bash plate.

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    I removed the vacuum line and discovered some small holes under the wire retaining clip at the petcock. Okay, if that was all there was to that, it was an easy solve. I cut a half-inch from the line and put it back on. That should solve the engine stuttering.

    One other curious thing was that when I removed the fuel line from the petcock (the vacuum line was already removed), fuel was free-flowing from the petcock. That shouldn't happen to a vacuum-operated fuel tap. I turned the tap to "off" and then back to "on" and the fuel stopped flowing as it should (since there was no vacuum pulling the diaphragm open). I couldn't re-create the free-flow issue, so maybe there was something temporarily clogging the vacuum nipple, or maybe the internal diaphragm was dying. I had a couple of petcock repair kits with me--and I had done the repair before in Venezuela--so that didn't cause me much concern. Just needed to remain aware that a leaking fuel tap combined with a stuck float valve in the carburetor can cause fuel to fill up the cylinder above the piston, and even leak down into the crankcase. That would be what we call a "bad thing."

    [mental note to myself: CHECK THE FUEL TAP NOW AND THEN, TURN IT TO "OFF" IF NOT SURE!]

    I then scraped and wiped up all the accumulated oily crud from the lower motor and from around the shifter.

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    That revealed nothing. A leak from the shifter shaft was almost unheard of, but a leak from the countershaft was a common problem when the chain was too tight. I keep me chain on the loose side deliberately, so that wasn't going to cause a leak there. As I was staring at the countersprocket, the problem finally soaked into my brain.

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    The retaining nut for the sprocket was completely loose, and would have spun off if it weren't for the sprocket cover that had kept it there (but my chain's master link still looked good, eh?). What should have been the folded-over edge of the washer under the sprocket nut was flat. Had I forgotten to fold it over when I mounted the new sprockets and chains? Had the nut vibrated loose and pushed the washer's folded edge back?

    I hate to admit it (such a simple error), but it's more likely that I had neglected to fold over the washer. With the sprocket playing back and forth on the shaft, that would have caused both the bike's high-speed wobble and the oil leakage from the over-taxed shaft seal.

    I got out the breaker bar and got that nut tightened back down while Laurie stood on the rear brake pedal. The convenient little multi-tip screwdriver that I carried was completely inadequate for bending the washer over, so that would have to wait until I had a larger screwdriver.

    [mental note to myself: BEND THE COUNTERSPROCKET NUT WASHER OVER SOMETIME SOON!]

    I hoped that there was no damage to the countershaft seal, but time would tell.

    While I worked, several people came over and chatted with us. (Mostly, Laurie chatted with them while I was swearing under my breath.) One family was traveling in an old school bus that they had converted into an RV camper.

    [​IMG]

    Another couple were driving the Alaska Highway, scouting roads and routes for future motorcycle rides. Graham had ridden a motorcycle around the world recently and was still working on a DVD of his long ride. Right now, he and Jane were taking a long (tax-deductible!) ride around Canada and Alaska to prepare for their new business of leading motorcycle rides over here. That's not a bad plan.

    Not that I'm promoting their business or anything, but their site is ToursAreUs.co.uk if you're feeling pent up in Britain and need to release some energy on a long, guided ride.

    I got the bike back into riding condition and took it for a test ride. No issues at all, as far as I could tell. But then, a few earlier test rides hadn't felt bad, either. Tomorrow would tell.

    I got the bike fully re-assembled and got washed up. Our room in the Lodge was very Spartan. Two double beds, table, chair, bathroom... that was it. No TV, no refrigerator, no clock, no telephone, no masseuse, no hot tub, no French maid in skimpy clothing...

    Okay, I took that too far.

    The room was an oven--too hot to even relax in. The tiny ceiling fan in the room wasn't even near the beds, so it did no good. Laurie went down to ask if they had a table-top fan we could use, and she came back up with a brand-new large floor-standing fan. The Lodge had just gotten a shipment of them in today, and the handyman was putting them together just then! Woo hoo!

    We put the fan at the window and things got much better.

    The hot springs weren't much of an attraction during the heat, but we thought we might walk over there later when things were cooler. We ate and played cards for several hours just to kill time, but it wasn't until 22:45 that the evening got cool enough to be inviting.

    We walked across the road and through the locked gates that kept cars out of the park and camping area. It also locked in the cars that were inside the park after 22:00. Past the camping area, there is a long boardwalk through the bogs, and you can smell the sulphur in the air. The mosquitoes were many and they were voracious.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    At the springs, the boardwalk connected the toilets and changing rooms to the two pools. The upper pool is hotter, the lower pool is much less hot. There were several people there, people from the campgrounds, I suppose, and more came and went during the hour or so that we were there. The little kids were not handling the water's heat very well. The sulphur smell was less than I expected. The odor was much stronger in the larger springs I've been to in Colorado.

    This is the upper pool.

    [​IMG]

    The old guy soaking by himself in the photo above started talking to me while I paddled past him in the shallow water. When he learned that we were riding motorcycles, he started suggesting various routes that we should try. That turned into a 30-minute description of almost every "good" road in lower BC and Alberta. I tried to politely end the conversation by telling him I was going to join my wife in the lower pool, but he got out of the upper pool with me as if he were attached. While we were toweling off, he started telling Laurie all the same stuff he had just told me. The guy's wife finally gathered him in and shuffled him back to the campground.

    We wiped ourselves with an anti-mosquito towelette for the walk back to the Lodge, but the biters still got me a few more times.

    .
  10. SgtMarty

    SgtMarty Retired, baby!

    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2006
    Oddometer:
    2,388
    Location:
    Colorado
    Friday, July 9, 2010
    --------------------

    After breakfast, we kept heading east. The day was sunny and warm so we didn't dress as heavily as we had been doing. Before long, we came to yet another construction stop. I rode to the front of the line of waiting trucks, and as soon as I stopped behind the two Harley riders there, my engine died. It cranked but wouldn't fire.

    Laurie rode up next to me, but I was already getting a bad feeling about things. I rolled the bike backward to the shoulder of the road and started checking things out.

    I pulled the fuel line, and again the fuel was free-flowing. When I turned it off and back on, the fuel flow continued but at a trickle. Still not good, but at least there was fuel flowing to the carb. As I moved from one side of the bike to the other in the heat, traffic kept piling onto the waiting line.

    I was so focused on the fuel and vacuum lines that I didn't notice at once that there was a small stream of fuel flowing to the ground from the carb's overflow/vent line. That gave me a bit more information. The carb's float bowl was full of fuel, and more fuel was still flowing into the carb. Did that suggest that the float valve was sticking open as I had mentioned yesterday? Why it was still getting fuel at all was another problem.

    I hadn't done any maintenance work on the fuel system after returning from South America, and I was now paying the price. The petcock valve was probably sticking open or about to fail, the float valve was possibly sticking open, and there still might be a problem with the vacuum line.

    I drained the float bowl and rapped on the side of the bowl in the vain hope that if there was some grit in the valve, that would knock it loose. I pulled the fuel line from the petcock again, but there was still a trickle of fuel with no vacuum being applied to the diaphragm. I'd have to remember to turn the petcock off each time I parked the bike.

    Lastly, I removed the vacuum line completely. That was the only way I was able find a break in the underside of the line. I had looked at that line several times in the last month, but had never seen the split. It had probably been getting worse over the weeks. I only have this fuzzy photo, but it'll have to do. The problem looks pretty obvious in this photo, even out of focus.

    [​IMG]

    Fortunately, I carried a few bits of various hoses, so I cut a new length of vinyl hose and replaced the vacuum line. It would do for a while, but I'd replace it again later. The bike fired up after enough fuel had flowed to fill the float bowl.

    Not only had I fixed it quickly, I had done so while we waited for the pilot truck to lead us all through the construction zone. I got back on the bike and we were ready to go without any extra delay.

    The next several miles were spotted with lots of dusty gravel patches that had been baked dry in the recent heat wave. When big fast-moving trucks pounded over these sections, it was a white-out condition for a while.

    [​IMG]

    The warm weather didn't last the day, but it held for a few more hours.

    I was behind yet another truck towing a camping trailer when I saw a beer can come flying from the left side of the vehicle. That one was followed by another and I formed a very low opinion of the truck driver. That's when I saw a window frame on the left side of the trailer flapping open. The turbulence was slamming the window frame open and closed, and some curtains were streaming out in the wind. That situation didn't last long, and the whole window frame was suddenly ripped from the trailer and went soaring. It smashed on the road next to me, glass shattering everywhere. More trash came out of the now-gaping hole in the side of the trailer and I realized that is where the beer cans must have come from.

    I finally had a straight section of road that allowed me to ride up next to the truck driver and get his attention. When he pulled over, I showed him the problem. He seemed to shrug off the problem, and said that there was nothing he could do about it now. I told him that he had left glass all over the road behind him, and that he should probably tape up the open window. He agreed that was a good thing to do, and I rode off. I don't know if he ever went back to clean up the glass.

    Muncho Lake was worth a brief stop to enjoy the view. Mineral sediments in the water make the water look a vivid green when the light is right. But for now, see that dark cloud on the left?

    [​IMG]

    That cloud was part of a large weather system that ruined the warm, sunny day for us.

    As we worked our way up over the northern tip of the Rocky Mountains, the air started cooling off quickly. There were sheep all over the road, some nibbling at the sand, some actually laying on the shoulder of the road. I only got a few photos, but they were everywhere.

    [​IMG]

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    Once over the pass, there was a brief warming, but it wouldn't get hot again today.

    [​IMG]

    Another pilot truck led us past some road work next to a grader. At least the grader was accompanied by some rollers that were packing the road back down.

    [​IMG]

    I really enjoyed the ride down off the mountains. Twisty roads that were in good condition were a fun ride for about an hour.

    We got to Ft. Nelson and Laurie decided that she was good to go onward to Ft. St. John, another few hours ahead. Since Ft. Nelson was a decent-sized city, I checked out a few hardware stores but couldn't find a decent large screwdriver anywhere. All that the stores had were cheap ones with soft rubber handles. I needed a durable screwdriver that could stand being pounded on with a hammer. I still had to fold over my countersprocket nut washer at some point.

    When Laurie had stopped, I heard an odd noise from her motor just as she shut it off. She said that it had done that a few times before. Starting the motor and shutting it off again didn't cause the noise, so I wasn't sure what it was.

    Soon after leaving Ft. Nelson behind, we passed a large cow moose and its calf running through the shrubs alongside the road. They were gone into the woods before I could get a photo. It was the first moose and calf that Laurie had seen.

    We got rained on for a while as the cloud got all grumpy and frumpy. It actually got cold for a while.

    [​IMG]

    At Ft. St. John, we settled into a hotel with the first decent Wi-Fi access we've had for a while. Breakfast included, too, so that was another bonus.

    The liquor store next door didn't have any [yellow tail] merlot, but they did have some Black Tower, a fruity German white wine that I hadn't had in many years.

    .
  11. Klay

    Klay dreaming adventurer Super Supporter

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2005
    Oddometer:
    120,660
    Location:
    right here on my thermarest
    I'm impressed at how you can keep up the commentary while traveling. Your devoted fan, Klay.


    :lurk
  12. Throttlemeister

    Throttlemeister Long timer Super Supporter

    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2007
    Oddometer:
    4,553
    Location:
    Okie near Muskogee
    For the record, I believe this is the "lower pool" or the first one you come to after the long board walk. The "upper pool" is much smaller and farther up from the parking area.

    One of my favorite HS stops up North, hellulva lot better when its nice and cold out like September on.

    Excellent Report from the road:clap
  13. RobBD

    RobBD Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2007
    Oddometer:
    442
    Location:
    Perth Australia
    Glad to see you on the road again Marty... I am enjoying your report and thanks for taking the time to post
  14. SgtMarty

    SgtMarty Retired, baby!

    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2006
    Oddometer:
    2,388
    Location:
    Colorado
    If there are more than two pools, then this was the second-lowest. I only saw two pools, and this was the upper one. It falls over a small waterfall into the lower pool at the back of the photo. It was pretty hot, so I found that I had to warm up in the lower pool before moving up to this pool. Because the water flows through the pools, there were some cooler spots in each pool.
  15. Throttlemeister

    Throttlemeister Long timer Super Supporter

    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2007
    Oddometer:
    4,553
    Location:
    Okie near Muskogee

    I see what you are talking about now, there is another different upper pool that is a short walk up another boardwalk/trail to a pool which when I was there had a sign on a gate saying it was closed due to recent bear activity in the area, being interested in the upper pool I had to go have a quick soak and check it out, little scary and the whole upper pool's surface was totally covered in leaves . The lower main pool in your picture has its source in the end and a game is to take a rock and see if you can place it on the little dam by the source, needless to say this water is extremelly hot on the surface and its a SOB to place a stone on the dam, you have to keep brings cooler water up to the surface to keep from scalding your legs on the surface. From this pool it flows over the water falls you mention and into cooler areas.

    This is one of my favorite hot springs of all time, its got pools for just about everybody's needs.


    Nice work with the report, have a safe trip back South.
  16. SgtMarty

    SgtMarty Retired, baby!

    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2006
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    2,388
    Location:
    Colorado
    Saturday, July 10, 2010
    -----------------------

    After adjusting the KLRs' doohickeys (if you have to ask, you don't need to know) and lubing the chains, we set out into a warm morning.

    From this point east, there was much less wilderness than was apparent all along the rest of the Alaska Highway. It was rural now, with farms along the road. We got to Dawson Creek with no sense of being away from civilization.

    At the big, touristy "Beginning of the Alaska Highway" sign, there was a group of classic car rally fans taking turns in front of the sign for photos.

    [​IMG]

    While we waited in the hot sun for our turn, some of the women in the rally came to us and asked if we were tourists. When we said yes, they showed me some pins and rally participant papers that they needed to complete. They had to have photos of two tourists that they had given pins to, so we posed for the pics while we waited. I took a photo of one of them in return, but I didn't have pin to give her.

    [​IMG]

    Another gal from the rally group took our photo when it was our turn in front of the sign.

    [​IMG]

    There is a smaller sign marking "Mile 0" of the Alaska Highway in an intersection in town, so I waited until Laurie went past it to take her photo there as well.

    [​IMG]

    All of the classic cars had British Columbia license plates, so I didn't know if they were all locals or were on a ride. I asked the guy driving this old car, but all he said was that they weren't on a ride up the Alaska Highway.

    [​IMG]

    The local events arena was having a concert by Meatloaf soon, so that was a point in their favor.

    The road from here was more heavily traveled than we had been used to for some time. Lots of local commuter traffic and old ladies puttering around, lots of trucks, lots of farm road intersections. At Grande Prairie, we turned off the main road onto highway 40, a new road to me. This would take us down to the Jasper National Park area. It was a nice road, sometimes straight and boring, sometimes nicely winding around through the hills.

    [​IMG]

    It was only 247 miles, or 391 kilometers, from Ft. St. John to Grande Cache, so another light riding day. I saw foxes and small red deer along the treelines, but Laurie missed them.

    Gasoline is cheaper now that we are out of BC.

    After settling into a hotel, I went out and found a sports bar to park in for a while (Laurie had chosen a hotel whose restaurant was shut down). It was only mid-afternoon, so it was still warm out. I had a beer and started writing. I knew that Laurie would wander over eventually, so I ordered a pizza. The double-meat was tasty, but the added shrimp somehow threw the taste off, so it wasn't as good as I had expected.

    .
  17. SgtMarty

    SgtMarty Retired, baby!

    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2006
    Oddometer:
    2,388
    Location:
    Colorado
    Sunday, July 11, 2010
    ---------------------

    Laurie called ahead and booked rooms in Jasper. Neither of us had ever been in the Park, so it would be new for us.

    The day started cloudy and cool, and it stayed that way until mid-afternoon. It rained most of the morning as well. I saw deer and moose along the way, but Laurie only saw some of the deer.

    [​IMG]

    The road was in good shape aside from a several-mile section that was cracked with lots of small potholes. After the rain fizzled into a light drizzle, we got to the Park.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Laurie consulted her map and we went past Jasper instead of stopping there. Tomorrow was supposed to be worse weather, so we went sight-seeing now.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    We stopped at the Athabasca River Falls and walked around for a while. The falls themselves are a small but turbulent affair, but you could also walk down where the water channel used to be long ago.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Taking advantage of suddenly sunny and warm weather, we continued south. Along the way, we (and lots of other tourists) stopped and watched a very large black bear scavenge along the side of the road.

    [​IMG]

    We turned around and took the Yellowhead Highway west to the edge of the Park before finally turning around and heading back to Jasper.

    [​IMG]

    I didn't note the mileage for the day, but it was somewhere around 360 KM / 226 miles. After checking into the Tonquin Resort ($154 if you booked online, a lot more if you just walk in), I took a shower and staked out a table in the restaurant's lounge while Laurie did a load of laundry (mostly my laundry, but her laundry needed special settings while mine could survive being washed in a muddy river just as well).

    Overhead in the lounge was a large screen TV showing the FIFA championship game between The Netherlands and Spain. The game had been played earlier in the day, but this was a re-showing for this time zone. The hard-fought game was still 0-0 as they started the extra time (overtime) period. Just then, a very harsh thunderstorm exploded on the valley and the satellite signal was lost. Most of the outside diners retreated to shelter, but one couple grabbed their umbrella and waited it out despite the waitresses urging them inside. When the winds let up, I took their photo just in case you know these people and want to make fun of them.

    [​IMG]

    I didn't really care about the soccer game, but I finally took the bartender's offer to tell me the results of the game. So, when the replay finally came back on, I was even less interested. Anyway, Spain managed to score and win in some strange added-time period after the expiration of the extra time period. I don't understand the timing of soccer games.
    Prime rib was the restaurant's specialty, and both it and the Mediterranian Pasta were very good.

    The beer was good, too.

    .
  18. SgtMarty

    SgtMarty Retired, baby!

    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2006
    Oddometer:
    2,388
    Location:
    Colorado
    Monday, July 12, 2010
    ---------------------

    Very little to write about today since it was a short ride (200 miles) and it was mostly in the cold rain.

    Photo interlude:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    We stopped for hot chocolate at this lodge at Bow Lake. I don't remember the name of the lodge.

    [​IMG]

    The weather cleared for a while, but it got drizzly again before we got to Canmore.

    [​IMG]

    Canmore is a well-developed city, with lots of year-round activities. The Towne Centre was a bit nostalgic, but still aimed at lots of tourists.

    [​IMG]

    Our hotel was more like an apartment complex. We stayed in a 2-bedroom unit for $130, the train that ran right behind the complex was included at no extra charge.

    [​IMG]

    .
  19. SgtMarty

    SgtMarty Retired, baby!

    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2006
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    2,388
    Location:
    Colorado
    Tuesday, July 13, 2010
    ----------------------

    Breakfast was some groceries we had picked up last night on the walk back from an English pub that we had found for dinner. Soon after eating and getting packed up, Laurie suddenly didn't feel well and threw up. Although she didn't actually feel sick, she wasn't sure she wanted to start riding just yet. We delayed our check-out time so she could think about it, and after another hour, she decided she wanted to stay here another night just in case.

    We watched TV all day and played cards, sending out for Chinese food when Laurie felt that she could eat.

    That was all there was to today.

    .
  20. SgtMarty

    SgtMarty Retired, baby!

    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2006
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    2,388
    Location:
    Colorado
    Wednesday, July 14, 2010
    ------------------------

    Laurie still didn't feel ill this morning, and why she had been sick yesterday was a mystery. We finished the Chinese food for breakfast and rode out into a cloudy late-morning.

    [​IMG]

    We took the highway east for a while before turning south on lesser roads that were nicer to ride. A lot of the ride was mundane and even boring, but some of it looked like this.

    [​IMG]

    It got very windy as the skies cleared and the afternoon wore on.

    [​IMG]

    We arrived in the Waterton Lakes National Park area and although we hadn't planned on entering the park (or paying the $8 fee for each bike), we learned there was no fuel at the U.S. border. The park was the nearest place to gas up, so into the park we went.

    This is the northern part of the park that is known as Glacier National Park in the U.S.-side of the border. Up here, there was one road that went in to the resort area and came back out.

    [​IMG]

    We briefly considered staying the night here, but there wasn't much to do for motorcycle riding in the area. We certainly weren't going to stay at the Prince Of Wales Hotel.

    [​IMG]

    In the resort, we refueled and parked to find someplace to eat. Instead, someplace to eat found us.

    As we were getting off our bikes, a guy came up to us and asked about our bikes and where we had been. He had seen the Ushuaia sticker on my KLR, and told me that he and some friends were planning on riding down there someday. After a while, I noticed his T-shirt had a logo for the Trapper's Mountain Grill on it, and we learned that he was the owner of the grill. So that made finding a place to eat very easy.

    The grill owner's name was Steve, and he talked with us a while longer as we ate. When we left, he cut us a deal on our meal and I gave him a card so he could find my ride report to Ushuaia and get more information that might help and encourage him to make the ride.

    As we were riding back out of the park, I saw the side road to Pass Creek and took it up the valley. It was only a 20-minute ride, and aside from a few nice views and one moose, there wasn't much to it.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    After leaving the park, we continued south toward the U.S. border. Laurie tipped her bike over again when we stopped at a scenic overlook, but I again failed to get a photo.

    At the border, there was nothing except the Canadian and U.S. control points, not far apart.

    [​IMG]

    The U.S. agent warned us about free-range cattle just ahead, and he was right.

    [​IMG]

    When we got to St. Mary, we found that it was infested with bikers, and there wasn't a room to be had. Laurie started calling around for a room (she needed to get a calling card, since there was no cell phone signal on either of our phones). She skipped an available room nearby because it had shared bathroom facilities and booked a room at the Aspenwood Inn, further away toward Browning.

    The ride south from St. Mary was twisty and nice.

    We rode past the Aspenwood (which looked like a converted farmhouse with not much else around it) and went several miles farther into Browning to see what might be available there. The guy in the first motel we stopped at said that everything around the area was booked and he suggested we go back to the Aspenwood, so that's what we did. The Aspenwood has camping and RV spaces behind the main house.

    [​IMG]

    The room we got at the Aspenwood was the remodeled attic. Rustic and big, it had some odd angles and an inconvenient layout, but it was nicely done.

    [​IMG]

    We had a chance to talk with the current owner, Terri, and she told us about the farmhouse's original owner converting her home into a B&B some years ago. Terri and her husband, John have been slowly getting some needed repairs and remodeling done. The cafe in the Inn was closed on Wednesdays (because that's when they go grocery shopping each week), so we hadn't met her until now.

    We told Terri that we had unexpectedly stayed another night in Canmore, but had planned on being in this area last night. She told us that we had been very lucky to have stayed in Canmore last night, because the weather had been so cold and windy that all the campers from a hundred miles around had taken every available room in the region. The next couple of days were supposed to be completely clear and warm, so our timing for riding in the Park was good.

    Terri gave us some advice on riding Glacier Park tomorrow, and we told her that we might do that and stay here again the next night. As of now, the room was still available, so that was an option.

    Since she is the cook and the boss, Terri told us that breakfast was whenever we wanted it, and checkout was noon-ish.

    .