Washington State, British Columbia, Yukon Territory, & Southeast Alaska (July, 2006)

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by BeyondPavement, Nov 27, 2006.

  1. BeyondPavement

    BeyondPavement Resource Conflict

    Joined:
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    Location:
    North Bend, WA
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    The Plan
    Assemble three brothers, two wives, and three 2004 BMW R1150 GS Adventure motorcycles... ride north from Seattle Washington USA through British Columbia Canada, through the Yukon Territory, just touch mainland Alaska along the Top Of The World Highway... then return to Seattle via the Alaska Marine Ferry System in two weeks. Add to this a minor detour to explore Mitkof Island.



    The Participants
    The brothers. Each of us three brothers had worked in Southeast Alaska during various time spans within the past 20 years (yet, the three of us have never all been in Alaska at the same time). As each of us were growing up, Alaska was seen as a wild and magical place that promised adventure, raw beauty, and uncertainty. While Alaska far and away exceeded all of these promises and much more, Alaska's initiation was hard, relentless, and unforgiving. It challenged each of us to dig deep within ourselves in order to conjure up those most primal instincts of will, of drive, and determination. Ultimately, this initiation forged the young and the weak into the strong and the determined. Over time, Alaska opened its nearly boundless heart and rewarded each of us with experiences that were so numerous in quantity and so spectacular in their creation that to this day these experiences remain surreal memories trapped in our minds by our inability to pull our senses together and express to anyone else the magnitude and magnificence of what we had been a part of. While this 2006 trip was more on the order of a travelers vacation, our journey brought many of these surreal memories back to the surface as we once again set out to traverse a few old footsteps.


    The wives. Add to this equation two great wives, who not only OK'd the ransacking of our respective vacation accounts, they also wanted to be an active part of this minor expedition. While each of these ladies rides their own off-road motorcycles for fun on the weekends, they both agreed to ride as passengers on this trip - saving us untold amounts of money outfitting another set of bikes. The compromise was that this was to be a vacation based trip, and not a race or an endurance contest. The brothers were mandated to keep the mileage at or below 300 miles per day. Each of the wives had done 600 mile days as a passenger before and none was too enthused to do it again. Due to the mileage restriction combined with the finite block of time we could take off of work, camping was not the desired option as daily setup/teardown would have consumed time we could be out exploring. As such, we opted to stay in hotels every night. Another negotiated point was that our breakfasts, lunches, and snacks were whatever we could carry on-board during the day... but our dinners were to be eaten at a sit down restaurant in each of our destination cities. Personally, I thought that this 'catered service' was going to diminish the adventure aspect of the trip. As it turned out, I was completely off. This really turned out to be a blessing as we were all able to relax and enjoy each others company, rehash old stories, and share new ones. The food was great, the service was excellent, and the people we met everywhere were all first rate.

    The machines. For starters, each brother purchased a new 2004 BMW R1150 GS Adventure motorcycle. These machines may have started out life the same, but once the aftermarket catalogs were opened, each bike diverged greatly from its respective base. The aftermarket parts are far too numerous to list - so lets just say that the base cost of each bike was the cheapest part. Anyone that says that these bikes come from the factory setup and ready for adventure travel is simply not being honest. Sure, there are varying degrees of comfort and eye candy, but the basics being provided are either seriously deficient or missing entirely (front and rear suspension, luggage, navigation, usable lights forward and backward, head guards, seat, electrical outlets, headlight and radiator guards, transmission, clutch, foot pegs... the list goes on and on). However, even with its deficiencies in OEM trim (at least as I experienced them)... the 1150 GSA has about the best adventure platform for riding two-up of any OEM bike ever sold and - I cant even imagine selling mine.


    The Itinerary


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  2. BeyondPavement

    BeyondPavement Resource Conflict

    Joined:
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    Location:
    North Bend, WA
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    Minutes Before Departure On Day 1

    It is 8:00am on day 1 of our trip. The wife is up, on-schedule, and anxious to get going. I am lagging a bit as I have been up thrashing on the bike all night wiring our radio gear. We have not even fired the bike yet and we are already running an hour late getting to our agreed upon starting location. Phone calls ensue. While the other brother is giving us a hard time for not being ready as we had promised - we suspect that he is equally as late... :-)

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    What is all of that stuff?

    The bike for my wife and I is packed as follows:
    • Center tank bag - holds my camera, radio gear, phone, passport, wallet, maps, and misc quick grab stuff.
    • Left forward tank bag compartment - holds one bottle of ice and one bottle of water.
    • Right forward tank bag compartment holds my sneakers wrapped inside of a trash bag.
    • The rear luggage box contains all of my tools and my camera gear.
    • The center luggage box contains all of our dry food/snacks.
    • The left rear luggage box contains all of my wifes clothes.
    • The dry bag on the top right contains my clothes.
    • The dry bag on the top box contains the tent, one sleeping role, and my tripod.
    • The dry bag on the top left contains one sleeping bag and one pillow.
    • The GPS occupied the cockpit.

    The one missing item was the Touratech rain fly designed to cover my specific VP45 tank bag. Even though I had ordered the item weeks ago, the item was on backorder and had not been shipped yet. This single missing item would play a big role in how much information I was able to salvage from this trip. More on that later...

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    Another brother joins the fray

    Due to the location of our pre-determined meeting point, one of the brothers - who lived the furthest distance away - started out a day earlier and spent the night at our place in order to ensure a timely departure. His arrival late on Friday night almost did not happen. Prior to his departure, he had his bike running outside in his driveway in the direct sunshine and noticed that smoke was billowing off of the engine. Upon closer examination he found that one of the fuel lines was leaking past one of the OEM clamps and then dribbling down onto the engine. He quickly shut the bike off. He investigated the issue, but did not make any changes. Then in a go or no-go move, he fired the bike, checked one last time for leaks, and then rode the bike anyway. Fortunately, the leak did not reappear and bike did not burn to the ground. What's the saying... the real adventure starts when the first thing goes wrong.

    Note to self: Make certain that this brothers bike makes it into a BMW dealer for the service related recal, specific to this issue.

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    We finally all arrive at the official starting point

    After arriving one and a half hours late to our designated meeting point, we are now all together and ready to get this show on the road. We check our bike-to-bike communications gear, synchronize our GPS routes, and finally get underway.

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    Crossing the US/Canadian border

    Crossing the border into Canada went off without a hitch. Well, except for the 6 mile detour I managed to lead us on while making a wrong turn just south of the border. Note to self: GPS is useless unless you actually LOOK at it.

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    Hilton, Whistler B.C.

    Ok, so July, 01 is Independence Day in Canada. Everything was sold out and the only option we came up with was to stay at the Hilton. How's that for roughing it? At $420.19 (US) per night, the price was well outside of our budget - and lacking the creativity to find another option in the town of Whistler, we took the $$$ hit anyway.

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    Anyone lose a bear?

    So... the ladies are inside checking us into our room. The brothers are outside in the load/unload zone talking about the days ride. The bushes behind us move a bit and then out steps this fellow (a black bear). It has a collar, but there are no signs of anyone overseeing its movements. Then from the same general vicinity that the bear appeared from, out steps a snappily dressed gentleman who said that he found the bear sleeping next to a dumpster. Once he approached the bear, it got up and walked off. People entering and leaving the Hilton were dumbfounded. Some nearly walked into the bear without fully grasping what it was. Then, once their disbelief wore off, they scurried in through the main doors of the Hilton and watched and pointed from behind the protection of the main lobbies glass. The bear wandered around for less than a minute and then as quickly as it appeared it just walked off down the main drive.

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    No Parking

    We were warned that there was a big wedding going on and that parking would be very limited in the Hilton's parking garage. We searched the garage (which was indeed full). Fortunately for us, there was one area full of construction garbage. We condensed the pile a bit and were able to fit all three bikes into this new space without any problem. Not everyone was so lucky. Cars kept driving around and around and peoples nerves were getting frazzled. In one instance, a dispute broke out (not 20 spaces away). There was yelling and screaming and all sorts of ruckus. Finally, one of the disputers (who happened to be the father of the bride) actually attempted to kick in the door of the other gentlemans vehicle. Tempers fortunately did not escalate beyond that incident as security was called in to take over. Money cant buy happiness (at least for the brides father). This level of stress was exactly what I was attempting to leave behind. Hmmmmm... it looks like I was going to have to ride a bit further to find my nirvana.

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    #2
  3. BeyondPavement

    BeyondPavement Resource Conflict

    Joined:
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    Location:
    North Bend, WA
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    Pull over... I mean now!

    We departed Whistler early the next morning. The weather was perfect and the roads were empty. This was going to be an epic day. One of my favorite stretches of asphalt is between Pemberton and Lillooet. My wife and I discovered this road a couple of years ago while on a weekend B.C. exploration ride. I had wished then that my brothers could have been along. Now, I was able to re-live that moment all over again - with everyone. This stretch of highway is very twisty, it gains and drops in elevation as you go over a mountain range, and is exceptionally scenic. To have the place all to yourself tops it all off. So here we are diving in and out of corners, getting on the gas early and braking late - the three brothers just having the times of their lives. Unknown to me, my wife is behind me getting more and more nauseous. She then comes on the radio and says that I must pull over - NOW! I come to a stop as quickly as I dare and she proceeds to hurl off of the side of the bike. We pause for a moment, and then start off again. A minute later, she comes on the radio and repeats the first incident. Then again. And again. Finally, we pull over and rest in the shade for a while. At this point I am encouraging the others to go on so that I can better attend to my wife. They stay put. We mount up and try again - only to stop again 10 minutes down the road. Whatever came up during that last episode, must have taken care of the bulk of the problem. That and the fact that the route started to straighten out a little after we hit highway 97. We stopped and purchased Dramamine the first place that carried it. We had no further problems of this type during the remainder of our journey.

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    Best Western, Quesnel

    The destination for the evening was the Best Western - Tower Inn Suites in Quesnel. The total price for our overnight stay - which included everyone - was 170.04 (US). Here, two of the brothers are trying to help support the local economy through the careful consideration of their post ride beverages. This would become a theme for these two. :-)
    #3
  4. BeyondPavement

    BeyondPavement Resource Conflict

    Joined:
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    Location:
    North Bend, WA
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    Hudson Bay Lodge, Smithers

    The destination for this day was the Hudson Bay Lodge, Smithers. The total price for our overnight stay - which included everyone - was $252.77 (US) - for two rooms.

    We set out from Quesnel early in the morning and once again were greeted with perfect weather conditions for the days ride. Highway 97 and highway 16 are well known to all of the brothers. This is the route we drove many times while each of us was working our seasonal jobs in Alaska. In fact, we had it down to a science. We could leave Seattle and be at the ferry dock in Prince Rupert in 18 to 20 hours driving straight through. This meant that we could catch the ferry North to Alaska without stopping to spend the night anywhere. Ahhh, back in the day.

    At some point in the day, the bike gremlins started to play with one set of the aftermarket driving lights. Eventually, these HID lights failed to fire. Upon arriving at our destination, we pulled the tank off and attempted to troubleshoot a suspected wiring issue. Not finding a defective wiring connector, we next suspected a faulty relay. Now, where to find a new one. It was about 5:30pm and stores were in the process of closing or had already closed. The lady at the front desk of our hotel found out about our plight and called her husband (who was a bike guy) and asked him where we might locate a specific relay. He proceeded to give us very good leads. Unfortunately, most of the places we tried had just closed. However, we came across a small custom cycle shop (sorry - the name escapes me). Even though they were closed, their door was ajar. We knocked on the door and then looked inside. We were greeted by a lady who was the wife of the owner. He was away and she was just on her way home. After hearing our story, she took us in and produced a relay that was nearly identical to the one we had. She had no idea what to charge us for it and thus would not accept any money for it. She told us to swing by on our way out of town in the morning and work it out with her husband. We took the relay back to the sick bike an tried it - and while it partially worked, it was not wired the same internally. We ran right back to the store before she left and returned the part.

    All of the people we met in Smithers were great. The hotel staff, the restaurant staff, the shops who tried to help - wow. This was one of the genuinely friendliest places I have ever been. Thank you all so much for taking such good care of us.
    #4
  5. BeyondPavement

    BeyondPavement Resource Conflict

    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2005
    Oddometer:
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    Location:
    North Bend, WA
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    Highway 37 (Cassiar Hwy)

    This was a big day for all of us. None of us has ever been on the Cassiar Hwy before, none of us had been to Hyder Alaska before... and it was the fourth of July (US Independence Day) to boot. The weather was once again perfect and there was not another truck, car, motorcycle, bicycle, or pedestrian in sight.

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    Alone

    One of the common themes of this trip was just how few other people we actually encountered on the roads. Ever since leaving Whistler we seemed to have had the whole place to ourselves. Totally amazing.

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    Bear Glacier

    Over the past 200 miles or so we occasionally encountered tourism signs that informed us not to miss the attraction of Bear Glacier. Well, here we are. Bear Glacier is a relatively small glacier just off of Highway 37A and about 22 miles outside of Stewart B.C. One of its claims to fame is that it is one of the worlds few blue glaciers - located right next to a highway. There is ample room to pull off and let your camera go nuts. Just save some battery life for later. As you will see, Bear Glacier is little more than an ice cube in comparison to Salmon Glacier.

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    Stewart, B.C.

    Even though Stewart B.C. was our planned destination for the evening, we arrived early enough in the day to continue on further down the road and check out Hyder, Alaska.

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    Hyder, Alaska

    We were a little confused crossing over into Hyder Alaska (USA) from Stewart B.C. (CAN). The road is straight enough... but where was the US border crossing, border station and border guards? We briefly stopped and looked around - but could not find any. We turned around and went back through the Canadian border crossing (which does exist). This Canadian border crossing must be where they send recruits to build their interrogation skills. Completely friendly and professional, but they knew more about me than I did by the time I was released. I then proceeded 20 feet down the road, made a U-turn, and went back over into the US to see more of Hyder.

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    Dust - to glory

    The 30 mile or so gravel road leading out to Salmon Glacier was worth the trip for me. The climbs, the turns, the vistas... I cant wait to go back.

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    Salmon Glacier

    Now, that is a glacier. Truly one of the most spectacular natural sights I have had the privilege to gaze upon with my own eyes. We were all blown away by this one. A number of poser shots to follow.

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    Never give up

    Almost three years ago, my wifes dreams started to crumble one-by-one as she was put on kidney dialysis, having suffered complete renal failure (a genetic disorder). Nine months ago, a co-worker, mother of two, and pastors wife donated one of her healthy kidneys to my wife. Today, my wife is standing on top of the world... her life support tether removed, her prospects excellent, and her possibilities - boundless. I remember sitting with her each day of dialysis as if it was yesterday. I remember the day of surgery, the months of recovery, and the hundreds of doctors appointments that followed. And now... I am standing here, at a place more spectacular then I could have ever imagined, with the people that mean the most to me, on a journey made possible by the unselfish gift of a stranger - the gift of life itself. When asked by a co-workers six year old daughter who noticed a picture of an Angel on my office window - if I believed in Angels(?)... my response was... absolutely (pointing to a picture of my wife and her donor), I know two of them personally.

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    The three brothers

    In 1999, the three of us brothers each purchased new Yamaha WR-400 motorcycles and had them licensed for the street (back when we could get away with this). Our intent was to ride these most serious off-road machines to Alaska. Time passed, circumstances changed, and a trip to Alaska by motorcycle was put on indefinite hold. Fast forward to July of 2003. All of us were camping in the Mt. Rainier National Forest when the idea came up again. That conversation lead to me and my wifes BMW purchase in September, 2003. My brother and his wife followed suit in November, 2003 with their BMW GSA purchase. Finally, the youngest brother purchased his BMW GSA in early 2004. We had targeted the summer of 2005 for this trip, but then my wife became ill. The others said that they would wait for 2006 to see if our circumstances had changed by then. They then used their 2005 vacation to ride their bikes south and explore Moab and The Grand Canyon. Against serious odds, everything fell into place in the past year and here we are today. I cant even begin to comprehend what had to align to make this all finally happen. What I can do is enjoy the fact that all of us are here now, savor this moment, and store it away for a rainy day - when things might not be as good and I need a tangible reminder that - persistence can pay off, dreams can come true, and miracles do happen.

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    Ripley Creek Inn

    Destination for this evening was the Ripley Creek Inn, Stewart B.C. The cost of the single room was $126.87 per night (US).

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    Hola...

    During our journey north, we would occasionally run across this handful of very well outfitted riders on BMW 1200 GS Adventures - who looked to be on a heck of an organized ride.

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    Solo return to Salmon Glacier

    After we checked into our hotel and had eaten dinner, I was all ready to ride back up to Salmon Glacier. However, no one else wanted to go as they wanted to explore the neighboring towns of Stewart and Hyder. It was getting late in the day at this point and even the local residents that I spoke with thought that riding back up to Salmon Glacier at this time was nuts (as it would be dark soon). Against everyones advice, I loaded up my camera gear and headed back out the road. I was under strict orders to take it easy, be safe, and return by 1:00am or a search party would come looking for me. I started out. Without my wife and her gear on the back, the bike felt light. The gravel road was - smooth enough, devoid of traffic, and it was just begging for another gear. So I obliged it. It was late anyway and I was worried that I was going to miss sundown completely. To avoid total self incrimination, lets just say the trip up there... was real fun. :-)

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    Sundown on Salmon Glacier

    Well, despite my best efforts to catch sundown... I was (issue #1) too late. I parked the bike and hurriedly started to get out my camera gear. This is where I encountered issue #2. The bugs that were not there earlier in the afternoon were out in force this evening. They were so thick that I had to wear full coverage riding gear (helmet, gloves, the works) to keep them at bay. Even then, the little buggers would occasionally find some vulnerability I had overlooked and fully exploit it. Then I ran into issue #3. My precision crafted tri-pod had shaken loose some key pieces during my trip out the road. This same Gitzo G-1228LVL Mountaineer Reporter Mk2 Carbon Fiber Performance &%$#@! &*^%%# @#%&!! tri-pod had failed me before in a similar way on a totally separate trip so I knew a bit more of what I needed to do to get it to work temporarily again. Unfortunately, I did not have the correct tools for the job at my disposal. So I used a softball sized rock to beat the tri-pod back into submission. That took about 20 more minutes (not including the 10 additional minutes to remove a rather lengthy carbon fiber sliver that had embedded itself deep into the palm of my hand while I was making these precision adjustments). Finally, by the time I had my half busted tripod setup, my first aide completed, and the first digital exposures committed to my memory card... this most spectacular and vivid sunset had almost completely vanished. It was around 11:00pm when these shots were hurriedly taken.

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    Dark as night

    It is after midnight at this point and I am running the risk of not getting back to the hotel before my curfew. Despite the looks of this photo, the real conditions were nearly black. My added HID lights were worth every penny. As I made my way down closer to Fish Creek I was somewhat nervous about the possibility of encountering a brown bear crossing the road while looking for a midnight snack in the creek. The road was about 20 feet wide and was thickly lined with heavy vegetation. If something wandered out in front of me there would be next to zero chance I could avoid it. I ran down the center of the road at 40mph plus, knees tight on the gas tank, finger hovering over the brake lever. I probably held my breath the entire time. Fortunately, other than a few napping birds I did not encounter anything that was big, curious, and hungry.
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  6. BeyondPavement

    BeyondPavement Resource Conflict

    Joined:
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    Location:
    North Bend, WA
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    The three bears

    Before leaving Stewart/Hyder and moving on to our next destination, it was decided that we should pay one last visit to the Fish Creek viewing area and see if the momma bear with her two cubs was going to show up (as reported by the on-duty ranger who saw them earlier in the week). We had visited twice before - with no sightings. The area had not seen a good rain in a long time and as such the salmon had not started running up-stream yet - so even though the bears were reportedly around, they were just not out in full view. All of that was ok by me. I was not really all that enthused about encountering a hungry brown bear in its element, especially one with inquisitive cubs. I guess that my curiosity does not eclipse my probable survivability (say, if something were to go amiss).

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    No bears here, move along...

    My wife was bound and determined to see a bear. She was perched like an eagle watching the brush for the slightest movement. Me, I was bound and determined to throw her over my shoulders and run like hell if one actually showed up... :-)

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    Very funy brother

    Even my brothers started ribbing me about my rather-be-safe-than-sorry attitude toward the Alaska Brown Bear. Real funny, ha ha ha.

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    A quick check of the equipment

    The above three images show each of the bikes so far. Everything is working as expected. No serious issues other than one set of dead HIDs due to a spent relay.

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    Hello, hello, hello, hello...

    Where is everybody? Mile after glorious mile and it is just us. This must be the best kept secret out there

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    Road work, just for us??

    Here we are waiting for a construction crew to let us continue (just east of Kinaskan Lake, I think). As you can see, we were there a while and no body showed up behind us. Amazing. This section of gravel was good - but too short as we were back on pavement within a few miles.

    Destination for the evening was the Northway Motor Inn, Dease Lake. The cost for two rooms was $179.95 (US) per night.
    #6
  7. BeyondPavement

    BeyondPavement Resource Conflict

    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2005
    Oddometer:
    32
    Location:
    North Bend, WA
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    Lean angle

    So, we had arrived at Dease Lake the night before. I was restless and considered riding out to Telegraph Creek. The problem was the time of day and the distance required to get out there and back. It did not seem like a wise decision (this will be on my to-do list for next time). As I was riding around, I stopped at the only service station around and filled up our bike with fuel). The others focused on laundry and planned to get fuel in the morning. Anyway, morning comes. It is raining for the first time on our trip. We load the bikes, checkout of the hotel, and head over to the fuel station. Problem was that it was the only fuel station we knew of for a hundred miles and it did not open for another two hours. Once again we were alone. We are parked just off of the main highway through town and you could hear a pin drop a block away.

    As I already filled up the night before, my wife and I eventually decide to ride out to the Welcome To Dease Lake sign we saw while riding into town the day before and click off a poser picture. We get out to this sign and I pull down just off of the highway into the rain ditch so that I can use the slope of the ditch to support the bike while it was on the kickstand. I put the kickstand down, dismount the bike, and start to lean the bike into the face of the ditch. The wife, who is still on the bike and not informed of what it was that I was doing... figures that the bike is going to fall on me. To compensate, she shifts her weight far to the right. The harder I try to get the bike to lean toward me, the farther she leans away from me. We are now in a strange tug-of-war. Well, long story short... she won. With all of my might, I tried to keep the bike from falling over (away from me). But I was no match for my determined wife. Once my wife realized that she had won, she shot off of the back seat like a leap frog and cleared the falling bike by six feet. Now, how to get a fully loaded GS, with a full fuel load, and facing the wrong way down a steep ditch - up righted. I had zero hope of doing this myself (without taking the bike apart). In the mean time, the brothers were still waiting for fuel and did not have their radio equipment turned on. Great. Now to suffer the embarrassment of a passing motorist, a policeman, the mayor, or a territory camera crew as we sit helpless and upside down... next to the highway, in front of the biggest sign for a hundred miles. Remember how I have been saying that we have seen very few other motorists on this trip? As luck would have it, there were no motorists passing by. Zero. For a half an hour. Finally, I was able to raise one of the brothers on the radio and let him know of our predicament. A few short minutes later, both brothers showed up. With everyones help, we righted the bike (before anyone got a camera out). We clicked off our poser shot and then high tailed it out of there - without ever seeing another motorist.

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    Yukon

    Your standard tourist shot with the Yukon boundary sign in the background.

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    I dont have it, I thought you had it?

    Due to rain and significantly cooler temperatures, we had to stop and get warmer gear on for the first time. This is where we discovered issue #1 - between my wife and I, we somehow misplaced the electrical cord that powered her heated jacket. Issue #2 was that we did not have similar heated clothing, so none of my electrical parts would cross over and work with her clothing. While it was not cold every day of our trip, there were times where we had heavy rain and as bundled up as my wife could get, she would still go for relatively long stretches (measured in hours) where she would absolutely freeze. To her credit, she did not complain - once. I eventually found the missing cord a week after I had returned home. It had apparently fallen behind the sofa while we were packing. Note to self: Even if it was clearly checked off as being on the packing list in the living room - does not mean that it actually made it on to the bike.

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    Whitehorse, Y.T.

    Destination for the evening was the Yukon Inn in Whitehorse. We opted for a one room master suite that was very spacious (total cost $141.86 US per night).
    #7
  8. BeyondPavement

    BeyondPavement Resource Conflict

    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2005
    Oddometer:
    32
    Location:
    North Bend, WA
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    Go to the front of the line

    If at any time we pulled up to a construction zone like this, the flaggers would always wave us (motorcycles) to the front of the line. We really appreciated this.

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    Road construction

    We encountered a few miles of new gravel here that was pretty soft in places. This made these fully loaded bikes a bit twitchy and a handful at lower speeds. Faster speeds (say 35 miles per hour) helped keep the bikes upright and headed in the right direction. Of course, getting to 35 would have not been possible if we were buried behind a tail wagging RV traveling at something less than 15 miles per hour. Thanks again to the Canadian road workers who - by letting us go before the autos, really helped us out here.

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    Dawson City

    Destination for the evening was the Bonanza Gold hotel in Dawson city. The cost for one room was $136.45 (US) per night.

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    Tourist trap, way out here?.

    The last really touristy place that we had been to was Whistler B.C. (and in terms of extracting dollars from your wallet... it is in a league of its own). All of the other places we had visited seemed to be focused more on taking care of each other (meaning the local residents). Here we come to Dawson city. After a hundred plus years of mining, blasting, and digging it turned out that the real gold of today was in tourism. This town reeks of tourism. It was nice enough and all of that, but at the same time it was catering to a demographic much different than my own. Contrast miles upon miles of overturned mining rubble with the pastel colored buildings in the background. As a first impression (without spending any length of time there) the town appeared to exist for but one purpose... and that was to sell trinkets to tourists. What amazed me the most was how in the world the tourists even got way out here? That would become evident a little later.

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    #8
  9. BeyondPavement

    BeyondPavement Resource Conflict

    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2005
    Oddometer:
    32
    Location:
    North Bend, WA
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    Yukon River Ferry

    We got up and out early in the morning and jumped on the Yukon River Ferry for a very short trip across the Yukon River. This ferry is a free service that connects the Klondike Highway (from Whitehorse) to the Top of The World Highway (to Tok, Alaska). No lines and no waiting here.

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    Top Of The World Highway

    This trip had provided us with hundreds of miles of absolutely terrific riding and this day would be no exception.

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    Riding in the clouds on the Top Of The World

    Clouds would occasionally wash over the ridge and erase all but the 20 or so feet beyond the windscreen. Dual HID lights out the front, LED brake lights in the rear, and two way radios on all bikes helped counteract the effects of situations like this where there was very low visibility.

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    Papers. Papers please

    Another friendly and uneventful border crossing. One got the impression from the questions being asked that this is - or was - a hot spot for trafficking wacky-tobaccy.

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    Big sign, bigger dreams

    While we fell short of riding every road in mainland Alaska on this specific trip, this story is not about failure. The real story lies in the events and circumstances that lead up to this moment. This is a story of long held dreams that never died. This is a story that speaks to years of patience, perseverance, and determination. This is a story about good-will, grace, humility, the gift of life, and another chance. I visualized this moment over and over in my head for some 20 years - and through all of the adversity it took to actually stand here - this moment is far sweeter and more meaningful than anything I had ever imagined. Yes, it is a simple enough looking sign... but the fact that each of us - in our own very different ways - actually arrived here together... was nothing short of miraculous.

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    Here comes the... tourists

    Remember how I was wondering how in the world tourists made it out to Dawson City in droves? Here you go. Bus loads of them. Each of these busses has a pilot car that can radio back information to the bus regarding traffic conditions and/or road hazards.

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    Top Of The World - H i g h w a y

    Everyone tries to give each other room, but there is only so much firm gravel available. As you get closer to the edge of the road (either edge) handling gets a bit dodgy. For encounters like this, it is a while knuckle ride for a couple hundred yards anyway. As we were told, tour bus operators and freight trucks are not the real worry out here (they are professional drivers who have driven this road countless times). The border guard informed us that - by far - the most dangerous encounter we should be aware of (statistically) is elderly folks pulling a fifth wheel trailer. Fortunately, we never encountered any. In fact... other than a couple of cars, a bus, and this truck - we had the place to ourselves.

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    Wildlife

    We have had our eyes open the whole trip for wildlife. Bear, moose, elk, ...the big stuff. Up to this point we had seen a number of black bear off on the side of the roads near the tree line, but not really much else. Not even six hundred yards from the main store in Chicken my wife spots these two moose. I pull over to the side of the road, grab my camera, fumble around with the controls, and start shooting. These moose are on the go and they will not be in sight for much longer. I keep my distance but ride up to a spot where I think that they will cross the main road. Sure enough, the perfect shot. The moose, on the road, paused next to a road sign (to help show scale). I press the button, nothing. I fumble around... knowing that I am going to lose the moment. Sure enough, my memory card is full. I take a deep breath, put the camera down and watch as the moose cross the road just in front of me. A lost moment for the digital record maybe... but not lost to those who witnessed it. Sometimes - you just hade to be there.

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    Tok

    We had been making good time, so we decided to take a relatively quick detour from our scheduled route and head a little further north into Tok. As such, more poser shots ensued.

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    Yeah... hi, I am calling about the ferry that had an engine fire

    We found out earlier in our trip that our scheduled cruise home on the Alaska Marine Ferry Columbia was in jeopardy. Apparently, the ferry had suffered an electrical fire earlier in the week and it was pulled out of service for a short time. Here, my wife is on the phone with the Alaska Marine Ferry folks who are checking to see if we need to change our schedule. The boat had not been put back in service at the time of this phone call but the expectations were that it would be back in service by later that evening. So far, we keep to the original plan.

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    Beaver Creek

    Destination for the evening was the WestMark Inn in Beaver Creek. We had two rooms for a total cost of $169.24 (US) per night. This was another hotel right off of the main highway - and there was nobody using the main highway. You could hear your own heart beat it was so quiet. At some point, a few tour busses dropped off a number of folks who were attending a dinner theater event on the property - but we never really heard them. Once again, everyone we met (hotel staff, the folks in the convenience, store, the restaurant staff, etc...) were great. Thanks for making us feel welcome and thanks for sharing all of your great stories.
    #9
  10. BeyondPavement

    BeyondPavement Resource Conflict

    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2005
    Oddometer:
    32
    Location:
    North Bend, WA
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    You wont have any problem on those bikes

    We were warned a few times that the road south for 50+ miles was very rough and there were sections that were gravel only. Sure enough, the road was pretty uneven - with significant dips and stair-casing due to changes in the underlying permafrost supporting the road. This was where the Ohlins shocks and significantly larger sized springs (both front and rear) really made the traveling nice. Taking six inch drops at 55mph, fully loaded, with two-up really put this gear to the test. Everything passed with flying colors. I did bottom out a few times due to the nature of the road and the speed at which we were traveling, but the overall experience was confidence inspiring.

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    Back into the clouds

    As we approached Skagway, the weather became intense. Visibility dropped to less than 10 feet off of the front fender as we got totally socked in. It remained that way for a number of miles as we made our way down a long grade, through US customs, and on down to the coast and Skagway, Alaska.

    It was during this section of the trip where we encountered the most severe rain squall of the trip. It has been raining so hard that I literally had a pool of water trapped in my lap. Remember that rain fly that did not make the trip? Well, this deluge overwhelmed my tank bag and soaked it inside and out. As my tank bag was where I had stored my notebook, flyers, brochures, and daily gas and food receipts - all of this now thoroughly drenched information fused together to become one water-logged mass of pulp. Most of this information was unrecoverable. Note to self: Ten cents worth of Zip Lock bags are more effective at repelling water than $300.00 (US) worth of an aftermarket - touring - tank bag. For an additional $20.00 (US), you can get a fitted rain fly/rain hood - which is amazingly enough… sold separately.

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    Skagway, Alaska

    Welcome to Skagway. Destination for the evening was the Westmark Hotel. The price for two rooms was $235.44 (US) total.

    The riding portion of this trip is nearly over. While we are happy to arrive safe and sound – we are also a little sad to think that we cant keep doing this forever. At least - collectively - we dont seem smart enough and/or creative enough to figure out how to make a living doing this. To be certain, we are still working on it... :-)

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    R & R ensues

    After checking into our hotel and getting cleaned up, we head out to explore the town. It is roughly just after 4:00pm local time. The town seems pretty empty (the grand illusion) and a number of stores appear to have already closed for the evening. We had no idea... (stay tuned).

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    Victory Dinner

    We settled on the Skagway Fish Company as the location of our victory dinner. We were seated at a prime table next to the window overlooking the water. The food was excellent. The only glitch was that our victory dinner was cut a little short when we were asked to leave our table after only 30 minutes as we came up against a 5:00pm reservation. No big deal, we just went for a walk around town instead.

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    NOOOOOOOOOOO!!

    Now, when I stated that the town appeared to be empty upon our arrival - please understand that I had never been to Skagway before. The big dark secret of Skagway for those traveling overland is that Skagway is a seaport. Not just any seaport mind you. Skagway has a very deep harbor and a plethora of heavy moorage. What this means is C R U I S E - S H I P S. Not just one, but FIVE at any given time. With more than two thousand people on each vessel - that is ten thousand people who instantly have access to land. Have you ever seen a cattle drive? Before 9:00am in the morning the streets are totally empty, silent. By 9:15am the shops, sidewalks, and roads are crawling with activity. In fact it was sooooo busy that I can only compare it to trying to leave a major stadium event in any big city. Total chaos.
    #10
  11. nickatnite

    nickatnite Poster Boy for Red Death

    Joined:
    Dec 2, 2005
    Oddometer:
    1,897
    Location:
    Lousy-ana, learing kung pow streetfighting.
    July 2007 will not get here fast enough.....


    :lurk
    #11
  12. BeyondPavement

    BeyondPavement Resource Conflict

    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2005
    Oddometer:
    32
    Location:
    North Bend, WA
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    Swim for it

    I woke up early the next morning, grabbed various bits and pieces of my camera gear and went out for a short hike along the water front. I ended up out on the Yakutania Point Trail and ultimately out on a tidal flat. It was early enough that everything was dead quiet. As I was beachcombing, I heard a whoooosh sound coming from the direction of the water behind me. I looked, saw nothing and went back to beachcombing. A little while later, another whoooosh. Now, whatever was making the sound was big, it was not man made, and it was close. That was when I spotted this character just off of the beach. I ran back up to a cluster of rocks to grab my camera then spun around and took this mug shot of a dorsal fin. Piecing together the whales movements from earlier (now that I knew what was making all of the noise), I figured this whale was swimming in large loops which was why it would pass the beach in front of me every half hour or so swimming in the same direction. Thinking I could get a closer shot on the next pass, I went out to the waters edge and waited. And waited. And waited. So, ten to one says that I was too close to the water and the whale knew full well that I was there. The kicker was that I was so focused on being at the right place and at the right time that I never bothered looking behind me – back toward the shoreline (issue #1). In so doing, I had failed to notice the tide was on its way in (issue #2). Not only was the tide on the way in, I was now isolated on a ten-by-ten high spot of land, which was the only thing not yet under water (issue #3). How was I going to explain this? My options were to sink or swim. I swam. By the time I had arrived back in town, the tour boat hoards had been unleashed upon the landscape. I was soaking wet and giving off a strong seaweed odor. Apparently, my man-dipped-in-the-bay-look made me stand-out among the cardigan clad window shoppers. So, as I made my way back to the hotel, I started dragging one leg and mumbling like a pirate – just for effect. :-)

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    Waiting for our ride out of here

    Here we are at the Alaska Marine Ferry terminal waiting for our sea-bound ride out of here on the MV Columbia. Unlike the day before, the clouds parted and the sun came beaming down. This was especially good for me as it gave my soaking wet clothes from earlier in the day a chance to dry out. It was also nice to see more of the magnificent landscape that surrounded the town.

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    Alaska Marine Ferry, Columbia

    The boat arrives on schedule.

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    BYOTD - Bring Your Own Tie Downs

    Let me just start by saying than none of us had ever stowed motorcycles on-board an ocean bound ferry before. Apparently, neither had any of the crew. In my case, I brought my own tie dows – which helped. The other two brothers did not carry their own means of lashing their bikes to the deck and were thus at the mercy of the crew. My advice, don’t be at the mercy of the crew. It took about an hour to round up enough suitable material to hold these bikes to the deck. At one point we were offered anchor chain with individual links that were as big as my fist. Then there was mooring rope designed to hold 70,000 tons to the dock in a 12 knot rip-tide. Have you ever tried tying a knot with either of the above? At least one of the scientists among the crew was having a go of it. Finally, we managed to beg, borrow, and steal enough simple rope to provide the basics. We needed a little luck – and got it. Had the ferry been rolling around in bad weather, I am pretty certain that our bikes were simply not secured well enough to handle it. We caught a break here as the weather was perfectly calm all of the way home.

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    All aboard

    With Skagway off of our stern, we can all catch a little R & R for the next few days.

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    Cabin, ha... who needs a cabin anway?

    My wife and I opted for an inside cabin during this voyage. My other brother and his wife did the same. However, the solo brother opted to forgo this luxury and camp out on the back deck instead. Hey, he packed that tent this far so he might as well put it to good use. Fortunately for him, the weather cooperated quite nicely as well.

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    Sundown

    Everywhere you look the scenery is simply amazing.
    #12
  13. BeyondPavement

    BeyondPavement Resource Conflict

    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2005
    Oddometer:
    32
    Location:
    North Bend, WA
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    Juneau, AK - up with the setting moon

    It was 3:00am local time in Juneau, AK when I wandered out on deck. This brilliant full moon was just setting behind the mountains and I barely caught a piece of it before it disappeared totally. The surrounding waters were thick with jumping salmon. Eagles were flying overhead, all traveling in one very specific direction - like bomber squadrons. It was quite a site.

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    Where eagles fly

    Here is an eagle doing a fly by over the ferry as we are getting set to tie up in Sitka, AK.

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    Sitka, AK - bear encounter

    Another brother, apparently giving his best impression of just how he would react to a wild bear that had somehow managed to sneak up behind him and tap him on the shoulder. Luckily, this was a dry run and not the real thing.

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    #13
  14. BeyondPavement

    BeyondPavement Resource Conflict

    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2005
    Oddometer:
    32
    Location:
    North Bend, WA
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    All ashore going ashore

    So, two of the brothers decided to get off of the boat a little early and spend a few days riding around on one of the islands in Southeast Alaska. Specifically, Mitkof Island - home to the city of Petersburg. Petersburg was the location that each of the three brothers had spent working their seasonal jobs in those years long gone by. Even though only two of us were getting off of the boat here, the other brother joined us while the boat was in port just to say that we had all finally set foot on this island - at the same time – together.

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    Deja Vu

    In my specific case, I worked in Petersburg for 9 consecutive summers (arriving as early as the beginning of March and returning home as late as the end of September). In all of the time I had spent working here, I never brought a motorcycle with me to ride - although, I had imagined what it would be like a million times. Well, here I am for real. Even though all of us had driven 60% of the roads on the island in an automobile at one time or another, none of us had ever ridden bikes here. Add the fact that I had not been back to Petersburg in almost 20 years... and this was all new territory to me.

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    Our ride leaves us behind

    My wife and my brother and his wife all stayed aboard the Columbia and continued on down to Bellingham. They would have loved to join us, but each had specific work commitments that could not be put off any longer.

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    Sunrise greetings

    For the two that stayed behind, we went for a quick early morning ride around the town and were greeted by this magnificent sunrise back-lighting Frederick Sound.

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    Any port in a storm

    Because we had arrived long before anything was open and the place that we were staying would not be available until later in the afternoon, we decided to take a ride - out the road. I knew of a ski shelter that was just remote enough that the chances of anyone being out there at this time of morning would be remote. We could start a fire and stay out of the weather - should we need to. Sure enough, after all of these years I had spent away from this place, the shelter still existed just as I had remembered it. Even though we did not start a fire, we hung out for an hour or so while the sun came up.

    Side note: The place was overrun with deer (hundreds of them). Prior to arriving at the shelter we had decided to put down a few miles exploring various land marks that we had both remembered. In so doing, we found that there were deer - everywhere. At the air port, in peoples yards, parks, wandering around in the roads, etc. We even followed five young bucks down the main road at 35mph for more than a mile before they decided to make for the tree line. I think I now have a pretty good idea of what Santa Clause looks at when he is taxiing for takeoff.

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    The North Harbor

    It was 9:00am local time when we headed back into town. One of our first stops was to checkout the North Harbor - a place where we had spent so many hours hanging out before.

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    Petersburg Fisheries - a view from the harbor

    This was a view that I had etched into my mind from long ago. The large white building to the left is Petersburg Fisheries (cannery) and the large green building on the right is Petersburg Fisheries (cold storage). The body of water in the foreground is the Wrangell Narrows (looking north).

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    Meanwhile, the other travelers land in Ketchikan, Alaska

    During a layover in Ketchikan that lasted a few hours, the other set of intrepid travelers decided to get off of the ferry and go exploring.
    #14
  15. BeyondPavement

    BeyondPavement Resource Conflict

    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2005
    Oddometer:
    32
    Location:
    North Bend, WA
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    Downtown Petersburg

    I woke up early the next day and tried to capture another sunrise picture - now that I had more of my camera gear unpacked. Unfortunately, the sun was hidden by a thick layer of low lying clouds so I wandered around the empty town for a while instead. Here is a view of the main street in Petersburg. If the salmon had been running this place would be bustling with activity.

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    Calm before the storm

    This sign was a further indicator that the Southeast Alaska salmon season had not really kicked into gear yet. The fishing fleet was out on the fishing grounds already, so one would expect that it would not be long now.
    #15
  16. iom

    iom Adventurer

    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2005
    Oddometer:
    32
    no words!! ...:clap :clap :clap
    #16
  17. BeyondPavement

    BeyondPavement Resource Conflict

    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2005
    Oddometer:
    32
    Location:
    North Bend, WA
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    Das Hagedorn Haus

    During our multi-day detour in Petersburg, we stayed at a Bed and Breakfast called Das Hagedorn Haus (shown here). The downstairs had been outfitted as a separate apartment (one bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, and living room with a couch that doubled as a futon/bed). These accommodations were excellent. The room rate for both of the brothers was $90.00 (US) per night and we paid a $90.00 deposit a little more than a month in advance. We were even able to park our motorcycles in the garage overnight.

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    Sandy Beach

    Here is just one of many parks located on the periphery of Petersburg (within a few miles of city center). This specific park has undercover picnic areas, large open barbeques, fire places, and a good view of Frederick Sound. Occasionally, you can see large chunks of ice from the LeConte Glacier floating off in the horizon. Unlike the last time I was here, this place also has a bunch of new, very strict, and rigorously enforced rules – like dusk to dawn curfews, no alcohol, and the like. Tourism breeds restrictions.

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    Tent City

    During one of our outings to rediscover old landmarks, we ran across one of the most famous – or infamous – landmarks of the day. Tent City. Now closed down (except for day use) this was once a hot bed for all manner of mischief.

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    If these tent pads could talk

    Now in ruin, this was once a thriving mini-metropolis... short on law and big on personal expression.

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    Poser

    While we were out riding around we stopped at the local airport to click off a standard - location - picture. I cant even begin to tell you how weird it was to be riding these bikes around town. Based on their reaction, the locals had never seen motorcycles quite like these before either.

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    Scow Bay.

    Next, we headed out the road again to do some real exploring. Here we are passing a place called Scow Bay. All of the containers you see here are empty now. They will soon be filled with cases of canned salmon and will shipped by barge down to a storage location in Oregon. Due to an abundance of supply, it might take three to five years before these cans are opened by the end consumer (at least that was what I was told years ago).

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    Three Lakes Loop Road

    Even though Mitkof Island is an island, it is a fair sized island. You can ride for well over 100 miles and not retrace many steps. Most of the roads here are semi maintained gravel (mostly hard and smooth but with many potholes). For a GSA, there are very few places it just cant go - even in the hands of an intermediate rider.

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    Frederick Sound

    Just one of the many vistas overlooking Frederick Sound / Dry Straits / Stikine River. At this specific location, there is a well hidden trail that leads a few hundred yards down a creek bed to a private garnet mine.

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    LeConte Glacier

    Here is a relative close-up of the ice that has calved off of the LeConte Glacier and is floating out into Frederick Sound. LeConte Glacier is known for releasing giant blocks of ice and in great quantity. As the glacier extends some five hundred feet below sea level, some of the ice is released under water. These submerged blocks of ice are known locally as - shooters - as it then races to the surface, sometimes up to a thousand feet from the face of the glacier.

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    Gully Washer

    We had been narrowly avoiding rain storms all day as different parts of the island can offer significantly different weather. Unfortunately, this was one of those storms that we were not going to be able to out maneuver. As we faced this storm head-on, I still had my camera out in the open - shielding it with my body the best I could. After only a couple of minutes, I was forced to pull over and put the camera away. That was the last time my camera worked until after I had arrived home. Moisture had entered the viewfinder to such a degree that it rendered the camera totally useless. I now had no way of actually looking through the viewfinder and seeing any field of view. I tried everything to make repairs from taking the camera apart to warming it near a blazing campfire. No luck. It was not until I got home and placed the camera over an active air-conditioning duct that the moisture was pulled from within and the camera and it functioned properly once again.

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    First group arrives in Bellingham, WA (USA)

    Time to travel that last sixty miles home, unpack, get cleaned up, set the alarm and get ready to go back to work in the morning. Uuuuggg!
    #17
  18. BeyondPavement

    BeyondPavement Resource Conflict

    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2005
    Oddometer:
    32
    Location:
    North Bend, WA
    Sightseeing

    The next few days were uneventful. We did a little sightseeing, looked up a few old acquaintances, and got a first class tour of our former employers upgraded facilities. It was early morning on day 16 when we boarded the Alaska Marine ferry M/V Malaspina southbound for Bellingham (USA).
    #18
  19. BeyondPavement

    BeyondPavement Resource Conflict

    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2005
    Oddometer:
    32
    Location:
    North Bend, WA
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    The last two arrive in Bellingham

    We are now at the end of this specific journey. The two of us have a relatively short ride home today and then it is back to work in the morning for us as well.

    Thanks

    Thanks to two of the greatest brothers anyone could ever ask for… for all of the camaraderie, for all of the memories, and for always being there to lend a helping hand. Thanks again to both of these brothers and my brothers wife for committing to such an adventure in the first place, then delaying their departure date by a full year so that my wife and I might be included. Thanks to my wife for vastly enriching my life and helping me understand that living moment by moment is far more rewarding than living paycheck to paycheck. Finally, thanks to one very special living kidney donor - who by her incredible selfless gift has enabled my wife and I th luxury of transforming our life long dreams into living memories.

    Regardless of the scope of your first journey - or - your next journey… here is to inspiration, preparation, and determination. Pass it on...

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    #19
  20. Bob

    Bob Formerly H20Pumper

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2002
    Oddometer:
    3,403
    Location:
    Corral de Tierra CA, Ketchum ID
    Excellent report and pictures :clap :clap . Nice family trip!
    #20