Category Archives: Motorcycling

Posts related to motorcycling and adventure travel

Trip Presentations Made – Northampton Community College and Buck Ridge Ski Club

Had the opportunity to make a presentation on the trip to Alaska to both the Northampton Community College and to the Buck Ridge Ski Club this week. I have attached a “movie” version of the presentation for anyone interested.

If you are connected with an organization and/or group that might be interested in seeing the presentation, I’d be happy to do it for you.  No cost, just furthering the cause.

Final throws of the fundraising through the Jingle Bell Run in Malvern, PA in a few weeks.  If you have a notion to contribute, I will probably keep the fundraising site active until the end of the year, the its to the mothballs for it…

Reflections on the Trip… The final post…

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….

Sat – June 30 – Anchorage

I know, I know…I am going backwards here…

Because I left immediately after the picnic in Anchorage, I had no time to make an entry for one of the best days of the ride – the gathering/picnic in Anchorage!

The Anchorage “Escort”

About 10-12 riders met up at the House of Harley in Anchorage on Saturday about 2pm to show me the way to the Alaska Native Medical Center.  It was a great group of folks – a good mix of Harleys, Ducatis, BMWs and everything in between.  Some had attended the D2D earlier in the week and others were connected to the Medical Center where the picnic was to be held.

Because we had a little time to kill, the group took me on a little tour of Anchorage and Seward Highway.  I have to admit, I was not too worried about where we were going, just enjoyed the scenery for a change and followed.  We stopped off at a pull-off to enjoy the scene – king of made me wish I had spent more time in Anchorage than running up the Haul Rd.

After chatting for a bit at the stop, we headed back to the Medical Center to meet the folks there and some of the kids who would deign the bike for the trip back to Philadelphia.  We were created by 20-30 folks at the center that had everything set-up/  Grills, food, tents of shade and the works.  Was very nice.  But, the special part was meeting some of the kids and having them sign the bike.  Seems like kids always react the same to motorcycles…  A little scared but itching to sit on it to see what it feels like. Unfortunately, I don’t remember everyone’s names and by this time – my mind was a little toasted from being on the road for 3 weeks.  Anyway, kids loved it and certainly re-inspired me.  Sometimes you need to be reminded why you are doing what you are doing.

The Signing!

 

Things wrapped up about 6pm and of course, I was itching to get moving.  The group presented me with a token to remember them and a “thanks” for the ride – made from a ’76 Chevy – Very Nice!  Hanging right above my desk:

Was a great gathering and special thanks to Kristin Helvey and Chris Mandregan (of the Center) for setting all of this up.  Thanks also to the Haldane family (Mark, Sandy and Corbin) for helping in any number of ways.  Word has it that there will be a special donation to the Ride coming which should amount to $1,500 – I’ll wait to name the donor as not to put any pressure on…

The kids in Alaska have it even a little tougher than the lower 48 kids with JA.  Most of the best technical/medical help is in Seattle, an expensive plane ride away.  Many don’t have insurance that covers this trip, so the parents must come up with this out-of-pocket or just wait for treatment – tough call.  Things are getting better though.  A camp for kids is coming up in a few weeks – the 1st one.  I can only hope that the kind of attention that I may have garnered speeds this process along a bit.

Wrap-up

Looks like I have two more scheduled events related to the ride, then will be wrapping things up.  On July 17, I will be visiting the kids at Camp Victory to recap the Ride, then on July 20, I am meeting the kids at Hopwood camp to talk about the ride.

In closing – was an inspiring event.  Can’t wait to share this with the  kids at Camp Victory in a few weeks – I am sure they will think it was “awesome.”

I will do one final blog entry after all of this with some reflections on the trip, the best parts, what I would change and the perceived impact n me,and those who participated.  For now, I am going to nurse my tired and sore body back to its pre-ride condition, contemplate the previous 4 weeks a bit and maybe have a beer or two in a self-toast to another once-in-a-lifetime adventure.

Day 17 and 18 – Prudhoe Bay back to Fairbanks

 

Odometer: 35,109 miles
Miles today: 532 miles
Total Miles: 6,488 miles

Alaska Pipeline

Yesterday I left Prudhoe Bay about 5am intending to make it back to Wiseman to stay for the night, then on to Fairbanks on Wednesday.  The day started with its challenges.  Temperature was 36 degrees with heavy fog.  In fact, once I got started on the Haul Rd south, I couldn’t see more than about 50 yds in front of me for almost 25 miles.  A bit scary when you see the truck headlights appear out of the fog and in the center of the road… Oh well, builds character.

Haul Road Climbing Thru Atigun Pass

I was determined to get some pictures on the way down, as I took none on the way up.  By the time I got to Atigun Pass, the weather had pretty well cleared and the sun was actually shining.  The pass rises through the Brooks Range to about 4,700 feet via a very steep climb.  The pictures I took do not portray the rugged nature of the mountains here.  As I mentioned before, in several spots the guard rail was missing, indicating an accident of some type.  Apparently an area of frequent avalanches in the winter.  Ice Road Truckers and all…

The bike had no problem with the pass, easy climb – not so much for the rider  on the other side though.  I really didn’t like going downhill in that loose gravel and wet Calcium Carbonate.   Just waiting for the rear to start sliding – guess that’s an impossibility with the traction control.

The ride was becoming very pleasant – but the mosquitos smelled fresh meat – aggressive little buggers…  All of the photos were pretty rushed because of the blood suckers. Within 30 seconds of stopping,  hundreds would be buzzing around my face.  Always kept the helmet on until just before taking the picture.

Another Moose

Muskox Along the Haul Rd

I got a good shot of this guy munching on flowers next to an access road.  He wasn’t too worried about me, but he knew I was there.  The muskox gets its name from the smell emitted from male to attract females during mating season.  These guys are survivors of the ice age – the sure look prehistoric.

I had to do one self portrait proving my presence along the Haul Rd.  This was shot about 9am and the weather was truly spectacular.  I was having thoughts about continuing all the way to Fairbanks – was just having a good time.  By now, the gravel didn’t bother me too much and the roads were dry, making very good time except fro stopping for the photos.  Got to Wiseman about 11am and stopped in to see Clutch at the Gold Rush Camp.  Spent a few minutes chatting, then headed back on the road.  For a couple of hours the weather held, then it went bad – really bad.  Cold and raining for 4 hours back to Fairbanks.

It is hard to describe the character of the Haul Road when it goes from dry to wet.   The dust is gone, but replaced with the sloppy, slippery muddy mess that coats everything.  You can see the clouds building here and the road surface – I didn’t stop to take any shits of the wet stuff – too busy staying right-side-up.

Anyway, got back to Fairbanks – to Rich and Steph’s place – about 7:30pm – over 14 hours on the road.  I was cold and wet and Rich graciously offed to have me stay with them rather than finding a hotel.  I picked up a terrible cold along the way and had a miserable night fending off a sinus infection – my telltale symptom of exhaustion.

The next day I spent 48 quarters at the car wash trying to clean Sally up a bit.  I got most of the slim off, but I think the Haul Road dirt will be showing up in the oddest places over the next few years.

Tomorrow is an easy day – probably change the oil, filter and some other maintenance  and get ready to head home.  One more stop to Anchorage then back to PA!

Day 15-16, June 24 and 25 PRUDHOE BAY!!!!!

Odometer Reading: 54,577
Mileage Today: 239 miles 
Total Miles: 5,956 miles

Day 15 (June 24, 2012)

Road from Fairbanks to Wiseman (just above Coldfoot) after stopping by the Northern Moosed RV Park and Campground to meet with Rich Welliver (owner and Arthritis Foundation contact).  Rich helped out by making arrangements for me to stay at the Wiseman Goldrush Camp in Wiseman before heading to Prudhoe Bay.  Wisemand is about 250 miles south of Deadhorse, AK (Pruhoe Bay) via the Haul Rd.  Thanks for your help Rich!

Headed north from Fairbanks about 8am and crossed the Arctic Circle about 11am that morning.  The Arctic Circle is partially defined as the place above which the sun does not set – and I can testify to this.  I am still having trouble dealing with bright sunlight at 1:00 in he morning. But, a good night’s sleep the night before hitting the road has made all the difference in the world. Felt good and the reputation of the famous Haul Road didn’t seem as intimidating.

Stopped off in Coldfoot for gas and guess who came running out of the restaurant? Roger Patterson of Areostich Tours fame!  Roger lead the tour of Patagonia that I did about 2 years ago.    For all the details on the “End of the Earth” tour, see the Patagonia Blog or check out the Patagonia video.  Roger had tried hard to talk Aerostich into sponsoring the Ride to Alaska, but I guess it kind of bucked the company policy.  If any of you riders out there has an interest in doing one of Aerostich’s tours with Roger – do it, you won’t regret it.  Roger was leading about 28 riders from Fairbanks to Prudhoe Bay and back – they were on the return trip.  Was good to see him and we both committed to staying in touch.

Made if to Wiseman about 2pm and met Clutch Loundsbury, owner of the Wiseman Goldrush Camp.  Quite a character and heard many interesting stories over the next few hours when we ended up going back to Coldfoot for dinner.  Clutch donated the stay at his place to benefit the Juvenile Arthritis cause.

Day 16 – June 25, 2012 – Wiseman to Prudhoe Bay (Deadhorse)

Well, everyone I talked to about doing the “Haul Road” on moto cautioned that gets pretty tricky only if it rains.  The calcium chloride used by the road crews to keep dust down gets really slick when wet.  Well, of course, the clear warm weather trend of the last week or so decided to change just in time for my push to Deadhorse.  It rained most of the night and temperatures dropped to about 50 degree F.  It had stopped raining by the time I actually got moving, but the damage was done – the dirt roads were wet and slick.  Very, very big space up here. Miles and miles of tundra and nobody else around, especially at 5am.  the bike danced on the gravel and slid on the wet smooth sections.  Just about the time my confidence grew, I would hit a patch and almost loose the bike – needed to be very attentive on this ride.

Passed over the Atigun Pass after about 55 miles – pretty amazing and kept the adrenaline flowing.  Not sure how steep the decent is over the other side, but couldn’t imagine doing this in winter.  This is the spot of all of the drama in the Ice Road Truckers series.  I saw evidence of past catastrophes in the damaged/missing guardrail at 5000′ ASL.  Dramatic plunges to the valley below.

Prudhoe Bay (note the ice on the Bay)

Anyway, by abut 11am, I pulled into Prudhoe Bay. Outside temperature was about 43 degrees and the wind was howling.  Impressive place – even though it is mainly industrial buildings.  As one who works in the industrial environment, I can only imagine the work it took to establish this industrial complex, all to satisfy the insatiable thirst for oil – makes you wonder…

So, I made it.  Now begins the long trek home, after a good night’s sleep and a few meals.  Heading out by 5am tomorrow.  Supposed to be about 35 degrees out.  Will be chilly for the 1st 2-3 hours.   Just hope the rain quits.  Depending on how I feel, I might just continue on the  Fairbanks – would be a 12-14 hour ride.  However, if it is warm and dry by the afternoon – I am finding the dirt/gravel road kind of fun.  Dirty though – thorough cleaning needed  – both me and the bike…

Sally Needs a Bath!

Day 13 & 14 On to Fairbanks

I know, I know…  Getting negligent about posting.

Mileage today: 404 + about 200 yesterday (exploring)

 

I did visit Chicken, AK yesterday, or I thought I had.  Apparently missed the town, even though I was looking for it…

I have a ton of photos from the Top of the World and just haven’t had time to sort through them all. Kind of falling apart in the organization department.  Dawson was getting a bit nuts and I was ready to head out.  Glad to be in Fairbanks on the final push of the ride.  More on tomorrow in a minute, 1st the Top of the World Highway:

View from Top of the World Highway

Gives and idea of the road… mostly gravel

A Cairn Along the way (just before the AK border)

Last night was the final night of the D2D – lots of partying and games.   There was the slowest rider contest, the slalom, the blind stopping contest and others.  I will embellish on these later, but for now a few photos:

Today I drove to Fairbanks in preparation for the run to Prudhoe Bay.  Have to admit a bit of apprehension, it’s a long way and there are lots of horror stories.  Although the weather has been very good the last few days, rain is in the forecast and that makes the Haul Road a bit of a challenge.  Apparently the calcium carbonate surface gets pretty slick when wet.  Also, there are a few spots of fresh gravel that is pretty deep – some have said axle deep.  Not a big problem when you see it and are join slow, but at any speed…  Well, my skills aren’t up to that level yet.  I will putt along at my agonizingly slow pace and get there eventually.  I did finally get reservations at the Prudhoe Bay Hotel, which eliminates the need to head right back to my starting point – many have advised against trying to return inane day…

Anyway, Here is my route tomorrow through Wednesday: Fairbanks (A) to Wiseman (B) to Prudhoe Bay, then return.  I am pretty sure I will not be posting during this time, but will catch-up  when I am back in Fairbanks on Wednesday night and Thursday.  Friday to Wasilla to have the street tires mounted, Saturday to the Alaska Native Medical Center Function, then home.  I opted to cancel the engagement in North Pole (Jingle Bell Run).  I am just too tired and there are too many things pressing at home.  I really miss Andrea and Azhar and am going to push to get home quickly.

The Route to Prudhoe Bay and Back

Day 10 – Watson Lake, YT to Carmacks, YT – Tues, 6-19-12

Distance today: 385 miles – 9 hrs
Total Distance: 4835 miles
 

Today’s focus was on getting from Watson Lake to Whitehorse (6 1/2 hr drive) in order to get the oil changed in the bike.  Had to be there by 10:30 am which meant a 4am departure.  I did all of the above ad got to the Yukon Yamaha dealer at 9:30am, an hour early (typical me).  Met some guys from W. Va and from Oregon – all heading to the “non-rally” in Dawson City.

Got the bike’s (Sally)  oil changed, but took pretty long.  The ride was filled with threatening rain clouds;  but more often than not I managed to thread the needle (storms to left and right):

Threading the Needle

Red Onion Saloon

Was thinking about a run to Skagway to visit the brothel, actually a brothel museum, but ran out of time.  Was invited to the Red Onion Saloon by someone, but can’t remember who.  No matter, not going to make it…  Still would like to make it – would be a great picture for the kids –  the ladies with the bike; on 2nd thought maybe not… Guess I am better off in the “Hotel Carmacks” tonight.  Don’t think I can get in much trouble here…

Rain off and on today – cold start at about 45 degrees F.  Interesting ride from Whitehorse to Carmacks (about 2.5 hrs).  Passed through another area ravaged by fire.  Seems to be a common theme here.  But, the further north I go, the longer regeneration of the flora seems to take.  The pictures below are from a fire in 1998 – 14 yrs ago.  Still looks pretty desolate.

Lots of damage, and up here seems to take 20-30 years just to get started again.  Wouldn’t want to be here when it was burning.

Say lots of these purple floors along the road on the way to Carmacks.  Not sure what it is, but have asked Andrea – she is sure to figure it out.  Once agin the smells were overpowering.  This time, riding along these purple flowers, remind me of stepping into an elevator with one of those old ladies whose olfactory senses left a long time ago… Overwhelming floral smell, but no bugs.  Isn’t that why these plants put out the smell?  to attract bugs for pollination?  Oh well, just an ignorant engineer…

I know, I know…  Pretty boring post.  Maybe tomorrow I’ll see a guy being eaten by a bear or an avalanche or something…  Days are getting long and I miss the family – about 1/2 way.