Two guys, two bikes, and 11,000 miles from VA to AK and back.

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by phreakingeek, Jun 21, 2019.

  1. phreakingeek

    phreakingeek adventurer Super Supporter

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    Ok, time to get serious about this ride report. It's been a few months and getting cold enough here in VA to keep from riding every weekend.

    So, we left off after the planning and introductions.
    #21
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  2. phreakingeek

    phreakingeek adventurer Super Supporter

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    Alaska Trip Day 1 6/22/2019
    Met up with Eric 7am at a local gas station to top off and get a few snacks for the ride.

    We took some back roads through northern Virginia to connect to I-66 west and pick up I-81 north. Our goal for the day was Whittemore, MI. Weather was fantastic, perfect blue skies and fairly mild temps for VA summer months. Only major casualty was my newly installed cupholder (LOL yeah I know) fell off on the highway and nearly took Eric out. He said it was like slow motion tumbling toward him and took a lucky bounce at the last second and it flew off the road to the left. We had made plans to stay at an inmate's house in Whittemore. Chad and Tammy (@Xcntry ) hosted us at their amazing property and served us some of the best food of the trip.

    Ended up doing about 670mi for the day.

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    #22
  3. phreakingeek

    phreakingeek adventurer Super Supporter

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    Day 2 6/23/2019
    Start 9AM Whittemore, MI
    Stop 6:30pm Thunder Bay, OT
    Total miles: 559

    After a great breakfast, Chad recommended taking a scenic route around the Great Lakes instead of going back to the interstate and going straight north. Turned out to be a good call. We burned a few extra hours, but well worth it to see some pretty amazing sights. Weather was pretty amazing, 70's and clear blue skies. We found a great campsite at Neys Campground and enjoyed a quite night on the shore of Lake Superior. Had a tasty poutine lunch and Mountain House beef stew for dinner.

    Met a couple nice folks, Calian at the Neys campground and a dude on a mountain bike style unicycle. Didnt chat much, but pretty interesting choice of vehicle.

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    #23
  4. phreakingeek

    phreakingeek adventurer Super Supporter

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    Day 3 6/24/2019
    Start: 8AM Neys Campground
    Stop: 6PM Winnipeg Super 8 (were hoping for Brandon MB but didnt make it that far)
    Total miles: 425

    Well, Thunder Bay lived up to the name. We hit rain and were in it most of the day. Stopped at Timmy's to put on my rain gear and promptly broke the buckle on my boot. So, not in the best of moods for most of the day. Pretty cold wet day of riding and instead of another campsite, decided to call it early and get a motel room.

    We did have a tasty lunch at the Pita Pit in Thunder Bay and ordered Boston Pizza to the room for dinner. Lucked out that they had a gluten free option for my buddy Eric.

    While the overcast foggy day wasnt much fun to ride in, the pics turned out pretty interesting.

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    #24
  5. phreakingeek

    phreakingeek adventurer Super Supporter

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    Day 4 6/25/2019
    Start: 7AM Winnipeg Super 8 Motel
    Stop: 7PM Calgary-Eagle Valley Park
    Total: 634mi

    Started the day with the freebie breakfast at the motel and got on the road fairly early since we didnt have to pack up a campsite. Stopped for lunch at a place called Mr. Greek and it was fantastic.

    Rode almost straight West across the plains. It's always interesting to me when my misconceptions are utterly dashed. As a regular 'lower 48' resident, you kind of have this idea of what Canada is like from movies/TV/books. However, nature doesnt seem to care about our made up borders too much. The plains that you cross in the US (Montana/North and South Dakota) extend well up into Canada. It was pretty windy and flat across the middle of Canada. Strong winds killed our mileage, my tank range dropped by 1/3.

    Loaned my Beadrider to Eric for the day and he was converted...Eric didnt want to give it back. Thought I might have to put it into witness protection for the rest of the trip. We stopped at a couple shops thinking they may have something to help out, but so far nothing available.

    We were striking out for a place to stay until we saw a place right off Highway 1. Wandered in and found the Eagle Valley Park. If you are in the area, this is an excellent campground. Nice sites, hot showers, and excellent restaurant/bar.

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    #25
  6. phreakingeek

    phreakingeek adventurer Super Supporter

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    Day 5 6/26/2019
    Start: 8AM Eagle Valley Park
    Stop: 7PM Dawson Creek, BC
    Total: 550Mi

    Today was one of the highlights of the trip. We stopped near Calgary the night before so we could ride through Banff and Jasper parks today. We did hit a few rainstorms and cold temps, but kept moving and enjoying the scenery.

    First glacier, grizzly, and moose sightings today. The grizzly was walking with a cub near a big glacier viewing spot so the rangers were out in force with pepper filled paintball guns in case they decided to chase a tourist. They were announcing for everyone to get back in their cars...which Eric and I decided was a good time to leave...neither of us packed doors or roof on this trip. We stopped at a couple cycle shops looking for a Beadrider but settled on an Airhawk. Eric was happy to have an improvement, but said it wasnt nearly as comfortable as the beads.

    Kind of struck out on food today, stopped at a gas station and I had Tim's and Eric didnt find much for non-gluten options. We camped at a nice place in Dawson Creek.

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    #26
  7. phreakingeek

    phreakingeek adventurer Super Supporter

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    Day 6 6/27/2019
    Start: 7:30AM Dawson Creek BC
    Stop: 5:30PM Wonowan, BC
    Total: 515Mi

    Gets a little hazy in memory looking back through my logbook and pics to see where we rode on each day...so I'll have to wing it as best I can.

    We rode through Jasper Park today and ended the day in Wonowan BC. We rode through some amazing scenery and stopped a few places to walk around and see the sights. We hiked up the face of Columbia glacier, stopped in the town of Jasper for coffee (and Eric dropped his bike in front of a bunch of tourists...sorry Eric, but not the first or last of either of us dropping bikes this trip). We went through Dawson Creek and stopped in the rain to take pics of the Alcon Highway sign.

    Nothing too spectacular for breakfast/lunch/dinner...just some oatmeal and mountain house at campsites and a stop in a strange mall for the cheeseburger special. Seems like the local place to go to gossip about the upcoming town parade.

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    #27
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  8. phreakingeek

    phreakingeek adventurer Super Supporter

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    Day 7 6/28/2019
    Start: 6AM Wonowan, BC
    Stop: 5:30PM Watson Lake YT
    Total: 509Mi

    Started out rainy and cold, but once it stopped we warmed up and dried off. We saw a lot of wild animals today...black bear, buffalo, longhorn sheep, mountain goats, and a grizzly. We stopped for almost an hour to wander around the Signpost Forest and read a lot of the signs. It's much bigger in person...all-in-all, fantastic day of riding.

    We enjoyed a killer elk burger at the Toad River restaurant. Dinner we splurged and bought a couple steaks and fresh veggies to cook over the campfire. Almost forgot that when we got to camp, I couldn't find my logbook. Turns out I forgot to zip my tankbag closed and lost it between the Signpost Forest and our campsite. I went back looking for it and it was on the road about a mile from camp. When I bent over to pick it up, lost footing in the gravel and dropped my bike (first time this trip). Worst part, I had my vest connected so yeah, little salty about activating the airbag in a 0 MPH fall over.

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    #28
  9. phreakingeek

    phreakingeek adventurer Super Supporter

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    Day 8 6/29/2019
    Start: 8AM Waton Lake YT
    Stop: 7PM Destruction Bay- Congon Campground
    Total: 424Mi

    Had another fantastic day of riding (hate to keep using words like Awesome/Fantastic/Amazing...but seriously, on a month long ride through some of the most beautiful places on earth...how else can you describe it?)

    Weather was finally cooperating a bit and we had some clear sunny skies...but hazy from some forest fires in the distance. Spoke to a couple of truckers who were hauling tankers full of fire retardant. Sounded like they've been kept busy for quite a while.

    We stopped at a bit of a tourist trap gas station and paid to go in and see the wildlife museum. It was actually a worthwhile visit and had some nicely put together displays.

    While washing off a thick layer of bugs from the windshields, I struck up a conversation with another rider named Bob. Bob was an older guy riding a mid-80's Yamaha street bike loaded down with more gear than I had (hard to imagine right? who the F packs more than me? Crazy). Bob had a bucket list desire to ride up to the Arctic Circle in time to see the Summer Solstice. So he loaded up the only bike he had and hit the road. He gave us some tips on good riding roads and said he thought we were on better bikes for the roads up north. I have to say, meeting Bob was kind of kismet. He was doing what he loved and didnt care that he wasnt on a new bike or agonized about what oil/tires to use. He also didnt waste a lot of time worrying about the latest textile gear/helmet/comms...none of that seemed to matter as much as making the decision to go and doing it. After talking to Bob for a bit, I really wanted to be more like Bob. He mentioned that we should avoid some of the Canada parks since they are so expensive...but when I asked if he's been, he said no. So I gave him the Canada Parks annual pass that I bought (ended up being cheaper in the long run for the two of us to get one annual pass since we visited several parks already). We were both planning to head home from Seattle, so wouldnt be going back through any Canada parks...but Bob was ecstatic. He had the time and now could hit all the parks he wants on his trip. He said with a gleam in his eye "fellas, I guess I'll have to totally change my route home."

    Camped on the shore of a lake...must have a fairly aggressive bear population since this was the only spot where they had an electric fence to enclose the tent camping area. I didnt test it, but the guy who was riding a bicycle "Freeze to Breeze" apparently didnt realize he'd grabbed the wire and we saw him get a jolt.

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    #29
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  10. phreakingeek

    phreakingeek adventurer Super Supporter

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    Day 9 and 10 6/30/2019 and 7/1/2019
    Start: 7am Destruction Bay
    Stop: 7pm Fairbanks AK
    Total: 427mi

    So we rode out of the nice site at Destruction bay and make our way through the smokey haze for quite a while. It was warm and sunny for most of the day, but started raining as we got into Fairbanks. From what we heard, that was a good thing as there were a couple of fires burning and the rain would help clear up the air.

    We stopped for lunch in Whitehorse and had a tasty roast beef sandwich. On the PG scale of roast beef sandwiches, this was a solid 6 out of 10. The primary reason for mentioning the roast beef sandwich scale is that on a previous ride, I was attempting to find out who makes the best and I had either a regular roast beef or french dip about 15 places around the country. Since it was raining, and we were planning to stay a couple nights in Fairbanks...we found the best deal at the Westmark Fairbanks. Seems kind of strange that it was a big hotel in the center of town which was the best deal, but I wasn't going to argue. Bonus being the restaurant served up a smoked brisket french dip sandwich that scored the only 10/10 on my sandwich scale to date. If you are in the area, that sandwich is worth stopping in to get.

    Our second day in Fairbanks was for some maintenance on bikes. Eric's brand new 1250GS was due for the 6k mile service and tires, I was due for oil change and new air filter. We spent most of the day at Trails End BMW/Harley. Met a bunch of guys from New Jersey who ride up that way every year. They recommended that we ride out to Stewart/Hyder AK (not sure if I can fully convey the accent "Ya gotta go ta Hydaa") the towns were not much to see, but the road in and out was great. John, owner of Trails End, was great...he let me change my oil and use his pressure washer to clean up my bike. All around great shop and folks.

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    #30
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  11. phreakingeek

    phreakingeek adventurer Super Supporter

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    Day 11 7/2/2019
    Start: 7AM Fairbanks AK
    Stop: 5PM Prudhoe Bay AK
    Total: 460mi

    So, I'm not real proud of this part...but let me explain. Early on in the planning, Eric mentioned that being on a brand new bike (approx month or so with the new 1250GS0) and that he had zero time riding it on anything but pavement, he was not comfortable riding the Dalton Highway. So we were initially planning to just tour around AK and see the sights. I woke up early...about 4am and had some serious anxiety about coming all the way to AK and not going to the end of the road. I was thinking about and planning this trip for years, and to not do what I initially set out to do would have been pretty devastating. So, I talked to Eric about it and we decided to split for 2 days. I would ride solo north to Prudhoe Bay and he would ride south through Denali/Anchorage/Wittier. We planned to meet back up in Chicken, AK on the 4th. So I packed up my gear and headed out. It was a bittersweet beginning. Felt like a total a-hole for ditching Eric, but I had some other rides where I didnt stop and do something, and that regret kind of stays with you.

    So, the Dalton Highway...interesting mix of terrain. Right out of Fairbanks, I ran into some construction where we had some graded dirt that was sprayed with water to keep the dust down. It wasn't too bad, but the low speed of the pilot car made it a little tricky. Once out of that, I had a mix of smooth gravel, washboard gravel, ancient pavement with large potholes, and surprisingly some new pavement that could not have been more perfect.

    Weather started out very nice, although still smokey haze. It was pretty chilly, dipping into the low 40's as i got to Coldfoot. I was carrying a collapsible fuel bladder that I've used on previous trips...and it worked well enough before. However, this trip i guess I left the fuel in too long and it had started to soften the threads on the cap. I noticed that it was leaking and had to rearrange how i attached it so i could use the fuel on the Dalton to make it between fuel stops. Atigun pass was the only spot that provided some challenging terrain. It had some loose rocks and muddy spots, but nothing all that difficult. The loose gravel closer to Prudhoe that the graders dug up was a bit unsettling, but again, nothing too challenging.

    I was surprised to see the herd of oxen on the tundra. I didnt realize they were originally native to the area and were re-introduced in the 70's.


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    #31
  12. phreakingeek

    phreakingeek adventurer Super Supporter

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    Addendum to Day 11

    I forgot to mention some of the other animals I saw. Several foxes were out and about and I saw a very large fat black bear just a few miles before Coldfoot. He was sitting on the shoulder and I stopped about 100yds from him to honk the horn and see if he'd run away. Well, my horn seemed to attract the bear and i did a quick u-turn and he chased me for a bit. A truck coming the other direction laid on the horn and scared the bear away. When I mentioned it to the guy at Coldfoot, he said he thinks the tour bus drivers feed the bear and honk so he comes close for the tourists to get pics.

    Got a room at the Prudhoe Bay Hotel. Kind of a dorm feel to it, but the place was clean and the included dinner/breakfast was excellent. One of the local workers saw me looking over the dinner options and said "try the bbq chicken". So I did, and I was pleasantly surprised at just how good it was. Ate a hearty meal and passed out in the room.
    #32
  13. phreakingeek

    phreakingeek adventurer Super Supporter

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    Day 12 7/3/2019
    Start: 5am Prudhoe Bay AK
    Stop: 10:30pm Chicken AK
    Total: 775mi

    Long day of riding today...not intentionally, but just how it worked out.

    Due to the sunshine and early night getting to sleep, I woke up at 4am. I checked the weather and it looked like the sunny day I saw on the forecast was replaced with a cold wet front moving in. So I hurriedly ate and packed to leave by 5am. I wanted to be over Atigun Pass before the rain set in for good. I wasn't fully prepared for the cold that accompanied the fog. It was pretty dense and in the upper 30's. The ride south was tough, the toughest part of the entire trip. I had very low visibility going over the pass and had to take it extremely slow. The terrain and traction were not any tougher than the day before, but the visibility was a challenge. Luckily I'm originally from central California where fog is one of the four seasons...so I'm fairly comfortable in it.

    Got into some rain about the time I made it to Coldfoot. I stayed there for about an hour hoping for it to move on. It was still sprinkling when I was warm enough to get back on the road. It did warm up a bit as I traveled south. But I was very concerned as I got to the bridge over the Yukon River. As you can see in pics above, the surface of that bridge is wood plank. When I got to the bridge, I saw a guy on a new Honda TransAlp take a fall on the slippery wet wood. As I got parked and offered help, he was walking the bike onto the shoulder to park. He mentioned that as he was crossing, he felt the back start to get squirelly so he had to lay er down. He then warned me for a few minutes that I should stop for the day and wait for it to dry off before I attempted to cross. I parked and walked onto the bridge and although it was slick, I've ridden on worse. I opted to go for it and I took it really slow and stayed close to the shoulder where there was some gravel for traction. Made it across without any drama and cruised on to Fairbanks.

    I stopped back at Trails End BMW to replace my soft fuel bladder with a rotopax and used their pressure washer to clean up the bike again.

    Decided it was too early to stop for the night and got back on the road to Chicken AK.

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    #33
  14. phreakingeek

    phreakingeek adventurer Super Supporter

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    Day 13 7/4/2019
    Start: 10AM Chicken, AK
    Stop: 11PM Whitehorse YT
    Total: 439mi

    After a weird night at Chicken (very strange community and I got there well after closing, I didnt know where the tent sites were...so I was sandwiched between million dollar land yachts) I met up with Eric the following morning and we got on the road. We decided to ride the Top of the World Highway to Dawson City on our way to Whitehorse. While it was a bit dusty and smokey, it was a good ride. Although, I think Eric might have been second guessing his choice of new tires as they were not quite as stable on the gravel as his stock tires. We took the ferry across the river and had lunch at the Jack London hotel. The Dredge #4 burger was very tasty.

    We stayed the night at the Westmark Hotel in Whitehorse. For the price, i expected a bit more. It turned out to be quite a dump and the parking lot was pretty sketchy. We had dinner at a restaurant called the Klondike. They served up a fantastic fish and chips...and sized to feed a family of 4 i think.

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    #34
  15. Xcntry

    Xcntry Ride More!!!

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    Great pics and ride report so far! I could tell when I brought up the dalton at my house there was a little indecision. I’m glad you guys came to a good compromise. I always think it’s good to have a little separation on a long trip. It’s great to talk about things you both experienced while being separated. You guys were really putting down the miles to get there. I’m loving it keep the story and pics coming!!
    #35
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  16. Gatornation

    Gatornation Ayatollah of Rock n Rolla Supporter

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    Great pics and what a ride!!! It really must be unbelievable seeing all the different wildlife and the unmolested scenery. Very cool of you to hook that guy up with the campsite pass. That truly looked like a Bucket-list ride that met expectations.
    #36
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  17. Phoenix101

    Phoenix101 Long timer

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    Musk Ox... and I have serious envy... been up there a couple of times with the hope of seeing one in the wild... not yet. enjoying the RR and photos!!
    #37
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  18. onthetrail

    onthetrail Been here awhile

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    You guys put down some serious miles and I love the pictures. The blue lakes look gorgeous!

    Day 12 picture with rear of the GS with mud and VA tags is perfect.
    #38
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  19. Moto-Kafe

    Moto-Kafe Gnarly Entre-manure Supporter

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    Vivid pics, well done...!!! Keep the report coming...……"in" (and hoping to repeat what you did June 2020)
    #39
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  20. phreakingeek

    phreakingeek adventurer Super Supporter

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    Day 14 7/5/2019
    Start: 8AM Whitehorse, YT
    Stop: 9PM Dreese Lake, BC by way of Skagway
    Total: 525mi

    Since we had some extra time before I had to be in Seattle for a family wedding, we decided to do a little sightseeing. We got off of the Alcon Highway and took Highway 2 all the way down to Skagway. From Skagway, we had to head back north to get back to the highway and head south. We got onto Highway 37 and took our time. We passed an number of snow capped peaks, crystal clear lakes, and stunning waterfalls. Eric played chicken with a bear on Hwy 37...just did not want to get out of the road. Also saw plenty of moose, fox, and more bears.

    We ate lunch at the Skagway Brewing Company, the Gandolfini Grinder was mighty tasty. On the way back to the bikes, we met Gary who was a parking enforcement officer. We thought we were in for tickets or something, but he saw the Virginia plates and wanted to talk bikes and rides for a while. Cool dude and had some funny stories.

    Weather was perfect, blue skies and nice temps for riding. It was still a bit hazy and smokey from the fires, but nothing like the previous days farther north.

    We originally planned to stop at Boya Lake around 7pm, but after cruising through a couple times, came up with nada. Guess the Canada Day weekend had every spot taken. So, we kept on rolling and found a small mom&pop campground. Place was called Waters Edge Campground in Dease Lake BC. Pretty nice little campground, but primitive camping without much for amenities. Didn't matter too much to us as long as we had a nice quiet place to set up where there was minimal chance of getting eaten by a bear. We met a couple other riders camping there, Rob and Jeff. Both were experienced ADV riders and we enjoyed talking to them for a couple hours.

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    #40
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