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Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by DYNOBOB, Nov 2, 2018.
End of the road
It wasn't all happy fun times though, the Dempster did charge it's toll...
To start, I'd like to thank everyone on ADV that contributed information on the various threads about Tuktoyaktuk. All that data makes it much easier to get your head around, and make decisions on a trip like this. These are a couple of the threads: https://advrider.com/f/threads/road-to-tuk.1199999/ .. https://advrider.com/f/threads/alaska-canada-2018-lets-share-on-the-road-updates.1298397/
They say timing is everything, and this was another example of AdvRider research being invaluable to good timing. When planning our 2016 Alaska trip, the Dempster Highway was on my radar as a possibility - but then someone here pointed out that the road was being extended from Inuvik to the Arctic Ocean and was a year from completion. That made it a no-brainer to hold off on the Dempster and do the Dalton instead. Besides, that would leave some unfinished business up north .
A year later the Dempster is still on my mind, and indeed, the 85 mile extension to Tuktoyaktuk is completed and scheduled to be open in November 2017 ... well, sort of open. As far as motorcycles are concerned the Dempster won't be passable until the ice breaks up on the Peele and McKenzie rivers and the ferries are launched in early June '18. Knowing this, looking at schedules, and wanting to give the road time to settle down, I decided on mid-August to be safe.
Canadian news reported the road opening ceremony on Nov 15, 2017, and four days later I had Jim and Shannon over to explain the trip and see if they were interested - yes, I'm pretty excited about this and like to plan ahead. Well, I couldn't scare them off by explaining it would be long grueling days in the saddle, to a place really far from home, and that there has to be something wrong with you to even want to do this. They're both in! I have my new (used) Tenere, Shannon has a minty-fresh 1190 that he is itchin' to use, and Jim has 6 months to look for the right bike.
My plan had I gone solo included the South Canol Rd, Tuktoyaktuk, Haines, Skagway, and Telegraph Creek. All places I didn't see in 2016 (unfinished business ). Since my trip partners have never been to Alaska, I added some time for the Top of the World Highway, Denali Highway, and Hatcher Pass. But, as I explained to the guys, the primary goal of the trip is parking the bikes in the Arctic Ocean at Tuktoyaktuk.
Our tentative schedule. I do these spreadsheets so the guys have an idea what the daily miles look like, and they can see some of the places we're traveling through. They also reduce my stress on the trip by having an idea where the logical overnights are and researching lodging options ahead of time. The initial plan was about half camping/half hotels, reality turned out a bit different.
Approx route to Tuk - gives some scale.
Years of waypoints I've collected: https://www.dropbox.com/s/fxrfhx4eg6ngam5/ALASKA WAYPOINTS - CLEANED UP.gpx?dl=0
As is always the case, the months to departure disappear quickly. In April Jim made a fast run to Florida for a nice used Tenere, and at 2 weeks to departure we have our tire change/final maintenance day.
Day 0/Day 1 - Friday Aug 3rd/Sat 4th - Cincinnati to Billings - 1600 miles (2575 km)
Job realities mean we have 3 weeks to travel so it's important to cover ground efficiently. A couple days before departure we decide to scoot out of town Fri after work instead of 6am Sat morning, the 12 hour head start seems insignificant but turns out to be key in our making it to Tuk. Given time constraints, I'm a believer in trailering non-stop across the Mid-West - especially in hot/humid August. We'll do 1600 miles to Billings, Montana by Saturday evening, and besides saving four 800 mile days on the bikes and 2 days of travel, we also don't have to worry about tire/oil changes on the bikes.
We unload at a friend's house in Billings (thanks Pat), pack the bikes, and grab a hotel so we can be rolling early Sunday morning.
Look at those shiny pretty bikes
In downtown Billings we find a decent little hotel within walking distance of Denny's for supper. Sleep comes easy after 28 hours in the truck.
Day 2 - Sunday August 5th - Billings to Longview, Alberta - 526 miles (846 km)
Jumping west 2 time zones in 28 hours has one advantage. Our bodies think it's time to get up at 5am local (7am to us), and we're fed, packed, and rolling at 5:45am. Given that we have a 14hr day/526 miles of 2-lane road and a border crossing ahead of us, this is a good thing. Our route takes us through Great Falls, up the eastern edge of Glacier NP, and through the Chief Mountain border crossing. We then skirt the east edge of Waterton Park and the Canadian Rockies, while crossing the Alberta prarie to the well-named town of Longview.
Montana has some fine scenery.
Every time I take a trip there are a handful of times I regret not turning around for a pic - this one was in the first 100 miles. As we rode through Ryegate (pop. 233), I caught a sign out of the corner of my eye and I knew I should have gone back. I had to google this later. Who knew a Testicle Festival was a thing..? https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/5gjd85/having-a-ball-or-two-at-the-montana-testicle-festival-999
We take a break in Harlowton and discover the evil KTM is already up to no good.
The rest area across the street reminds me we also stopped here for lunch with the crew in 2013. Good memories.
We are dodging a bit of rain today.
We stopped for fuel just before Great Falls - apparently the Sinclair dinosaur has tried to escape.
10ft x 10ft hotel rooms?
When I snapped this pic I had a feeling I was being watched from the hill behind me.
Fourth time at Chief Mountain Border Crossing. It's more scenic and a little less busy then some others.
What have I got myself into...
We stayed at this hotel in 2013 so why mess with success. Great little mom/pop place with a decent restaurant next door. I go to bed quite happy that we've covered 2150 miles (3160 km) in our first 2 days of travel.
Glad to see this , and some more of your superb photos.
Looking forward to seeing the rest of the trip. Thanks for posting.
Looks like you’re off to a brilliant start!
Awesome! Keep it coming!
Great report, subscriber
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we trailer too, for the same reasons, limited vacation time and save the tires... we trailer 1800 miles due North, park the SUV and trailer and the fun begins! We can easily drive in the SUV 800 or more miles a day (team driving)
followed your previous reports.. in again...
Thanks for the comments guys! Keeps the rr mojo going.
Good to hear from you Jack, hope all is well. It was on our schedule to crash at your place one night but things changed and we pushed to Beavercreek. I think you were gone to Anchorage the afternoon we drove through Tok. Sorry we missed you.
I like to call Alcan Rider "the godfather" of far-north travel . For those planning a trip north his primers are a must-read. https://advrider.com/f/threads/the-lure-of-the-dalton.599310/ .. https://advrider.com/f/threads/the-lure-of-the-dempster.906146/
Day 3 - Monday August 6 - Longview, Alberta to Grande Cache - 437 miles (703km)
Today's route starts with some world-class stuff. The Kananaskis Trail, Spray Lakes Trail, and Icefields Parkway are absolutely amazing roads.
The Kananaskis Trail (Hwy 40) is 90 miles of beautiful pavement along the edge of the Canadian Rockies running between Longview and Canmore. It's a lightly traveled road and the middle 50 miles are closed from Dec 1 to June 14th so there's a good chance of seeing wildlife.
About 60 miles in on the Kananaskis Triail you have the option of turning onto the groomed gravel Spray Lakes Trail. It runs right into the Canadian Rockies along the Spay Lakes and brings you in the south side of Canmore.
We pull over for a snack break and to soak it in a bit. You have to slow down time every once in a while.
Hey, I'm in a picture! Thx Shannon!
I got a little grief for marching us through a swamp to get to the lake. And of course no one brought bear spray, luckily Yogi was elsewhere.
Just above Canmore
I had expectations of Spray Lakes/Smith-Dorian Trail being being a little-used gravel shortcut through some beautiful scenery. Beautiful scenery .. yes - little used .. no. The quantity of traffic was quite high, almost a traffic jam as you neared Canmore and probably added an hour to our day. An hour well spent.
Canmore is a very popular, very busy tourist destination - we grab some lunch at Dairy Queen and hit Canada 1 toward Banff/Lake Louise. Since we are traveling through and not staying in the park, we skip the 30 minute line of traffic waiting to pay the entrance fee. Since Shannon had never been here we did stop briefly at Lake Louise and noticed cars being ticketed for no entrance pass.
Lake Louise was wall to wall people and traffic. This was really a waste of an hour but hey, when in Rome...
Heading north up the Icefields Parkway. We've got a bunch of miles left to cover today so we didn't stop for a ton of pics.
We roll through Jasper without stopping, and refuel in Hinton. Decide to look for a hotel since it's 8pm and we've been on the road 12 hours, but everything reasonable is booked. So we grab some McDonalds, make a reservation 90 miles up the road in Grande Cache, and commence a speedy run up Rt. 40 as it gets dark. Pretty high-end accommodations tonight ... bikes locked together. What a day!