After spending 26 days and nearly 12,000 miles on the road to get to Alaska and back, I thought it might be appropriate to spend a minute and reflect on the ride a little. The dust has finally settled and after about 3 weeks, I have finally recovered from the ride – physically, mentally and readjusted to “normal” life. I wouldn’t say that the trip was a life-changing experience, but it certainly was an accomplishment – at least for me. Keep in mind that hundreds of riders do much more extensive and challenging rides every year with little worry.
I wish that I was more articulate in my attempts to describe the odd mix of feelings encountered during the ride. In some sense, compared to the planning and anticipation of the ride, the execution was a bit anti-climatic. Once the wheels began to roll down the highway, life was pretty simple… eat-sleep-ride… On the other hand, there was definitely a dichotomy or trichotomy of goals or objectives. Part of me wanted to keep moving and get to the next spot while part wanted to hang-out and get to know the land, people and sense of place. Part of me yearned for companionship and fellowship, while part of my soul soared at with the solitude and single-minded simplicity of life as I faced each day. Part of me despised the need to be in a certain place for the fundraising aspects, but that turned out to be the most fulfilling part of the ride.
In the end, my drive to complete and “succeed” or “do what I said I would do” won, in most cases. I think I put way too much on my plate – and my nature is to clean the plate – at all cost. Between the fundraising objectives, Prudhoe Bay objectives and the desire to see more – by the time I got where I wanted to be, I was too damned tired to do much more than recover for the next day. A common error apparently – trying to do/see too much and ending up doing it all superficially.
Don’t get me wrong, it was a phenomenal trip; worth all the planning, physical expenditure and cost. But, I could have spent 2 weeks on the Cassiar Highway alone – exploring, photographing and experiencing; maybe 3 weeks. Still, the solo aspect was inspiring.
Do you remember the TV series “Then Came Bronson” – maybe 25 years ago – that’s my point of reference – has been for 20 years. The romantic notion of traveling from place to place on a motorcycle, helping the single mother in distress, working odd jobs for gas money then traveling to the next town – what a neat life…
But… On the other hand, I am way too connected to my life as I live it. I missed my wife and daughter tremendously; missed the contribution that I was making (real or perceived) to my clients and their business success, and missed the comfort of familiarity – waking up knowing that there were clean socks in the drawer or weather was inconsequential to my routine. Not quite as romantic as Bronson portrayed.
Anyway, enough blathering about the ride and those deepest feelings about it. Would I do it again, yes, but differently. More time for nature and photography; less schedule and probably without the fundraising aspect.
Thoughts On the Bike
No worries. Performed flawlessly. I was a little concerned when the outside temp reached 105 degrees F and the engine sounded like hell, but later learned that the “anti-knock” program of the engine computer doesn’t work that well at high temp. A few oil changes, a few bulbs and tires, and Sally was good to go. 12,000 miles w/o a hick-up. She was forgiving of my ineptitude on the Dalton and all of the gravel; she went down the highway at 85 mph for 4-6 hrs without missing a beat; she even tolerated enough mud and calcium carbonate to clog her engine fins and kept on running. No better bike to do the trip – spot-on with this choice. I should note that the overpacked panniers (BMW Stock for GSA) leaked a bit. In fact, the left one had about 1″ of water in it after 16 hours in the heavy rain. But, that was the extent of her failings; not too bad in my book.
Thoughts on the Land
Although I can’t determine if it was the timing of the trip, lay of the land or just my energy level, British Columbia was the most impressive part of the trip. It was the only place that I felt connected and inspired. I can still feel the excitement when I think about the scenery of Route 39a enroute to Stewart and Hyder. The Cassiar was breathtaking – a must do if you have the opportunity. As for Alaska, I think that by the time that I got there, it was just a place on the map. The Haul Rd, although impressive, would be one of the 1st things I would eliminate from the plan if time was short. Kind of a been-there-done-that king of place. Prudhoe Bay ? Don’t bother… go to the Arctic Circle or Atigun Pass and turn around…
I think My future holds another visit to BC or the Yukon, maybe even Alaska. However, I am sure it will be a few years and the itinerary will be much less structured. Always wanted to do it with my son, Ben, but things just never came together. But, now he has a bike and is learning how to keep the rubber on the road. Maybe in a few years… think I have time….