Tag Archives: adventure riding

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….

Home! Thursday, July 5, 4pm

Mileage Today (and Yesterday): 1,822 miles (36 hrs)
Odometer Stop: 39,884 miles
Odometer Start: 28,621 miles
Total Distance: 11,263 miles
Miscellaneous Info: 2 oil changes, 1 air filter, 2 sets tires, 1 headlight bulb – no mechanical issues
Funds raised:  Just over $10,000 – exact count  pending
 

Weyburn, SK – Home

I will be doing some post-dated posts on the activities of the last few days in Alaska, but for now, just letting everyone know I am safely home.

After getting stranded in Weyburn, SK by my 3rd set of violent T-storms, I decided to push for home at 4am on Tuesday morning.  I was trying to time it so that I made it through Chicago about midnight or later to miss the traffic – WRONG!!!!

I forgot that it was the 4th of July and hit Chicago about midnight – 4-5 lanes of traffic all night long.  I had left Weyburn about 4am, so had been on the bike for nearly 22 hrs when I hit this mess.  I was not a happy camper to say the least. Man, and I thought Philadelphia traffic and drivers were bad! Then there were the construction delays…  more later.

Anyway,  was finally on the PA turnpike about 2 pm on Thursday cruising about 80 mph, when I caught sight of a couple of crazy people waving and jumping around on the side of the road!  It was my sister, Georgia and her partner Ron with their own version of “Welcome Home.”  What a surprise!  I have to admit being fairly delirious by this time after almost 34 hrs of straight driving, but a welcome sight! Thanks Guys!

Writing this from home and will update the blog later this week-end so check back.  Epic journey to say the least.

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 3 – Fargo to Bismarck Tuesday, 6-12-12

Yesterday’s (6/11/12) Summary:

Description: St. Ignace, MI to Perham MN (outside Fargo)
Odometer: 30,060  Mileage: 603 Total Mileage: 1439
Time: 12 hrs
Today: Perham, MN to Fargo to Bismarck, ND
 

Yesterday was a long one…  2 lane road most of the way and lots of folks doing the speed limit – imagine that!  Had a stunning ride after crossing the Mackinac Bridge to the Upper Peninsula of MI.  Completely different world up there.  Rt 2 runs along the northern shore of Lake Michigan and at 6am, with the sun rising, was pretty amazing.  I shot some video of the ride and will post it as soon as I figure out how to edit it.  For now, I will settle for a picture of the bridge shot with a little point-and-shoot camera (still haven’t taken the Nikon out of the case). Great ride through the forest and the smells of balsam were strong and stimulating – a feeling you can’t get sitting in a car.

Slogged though some 2-lane back roads with little stimulating scenery.  Took the obligatory picture of the bike next to the water – note the trees leaning – windy.  Stopped in Duluth to visit the Aerostich warehouse.  Very pleasant folks who cater to riders coming through.  Couldn’t resist trying on on of their Roadcrafter one-peice suits – custom fit and could be ready when I ride back through in a few weeks.  But, resisted – for now…  Figured I have a few days on the bike to ponder any decisions.  Stopped on last time to look back at Duluth – nice scene, but snapshotish…  Promise photography will improve in a few days…

Today will be pretty easy. Stopped in Perham, MN (just outside of Fargo, ND) yesterday thinking that the hotel might be cheaper than the one in Fargo.  Meeting a friend, Dr. Mark Jensen of Fargo, who I roomed with during a trip to Patagonia (Patagonia Blog) a few years ago.  I am meeting Mark at the Fargo Indian Triumph motorcycle shop where we are going to grab lunch and catch-up.  I don’t have to leave the hotel until about 10am, so plenty of time to fill in some details about the trip. There might be a function or interview or something by a local radio station at the shop, not sure yet.  Mark is s surgeon at the VA Hospital in Fargo – very nice guy, but during the ride in Patagonia he kept hoping someone would break something so that he could demonstrate some field surgery… (just kidding Mark).

From Fargo, about a 3 hr ride west to Bismarck to meet Tom Trenbeath of North Dakota government fame.  Actually staying at Tom’s house tonight then he and a group of riders are joining me for the ride to the ND border.   A bit chilly out at about 45 degrees F, but the wind has died a bit.  Should be a nice day  for a ride.

Thanks Hermy! A Week to Go!

Had the moto in for a final servicing before heading to Alaska next Sunday.  Oil change, valve adjustment, new front tire etc…  All done at Hermy’s in Port Clinton and at a substantial discount as a contribution to the ride.  Thanks Hermy!  Great shop and people, very supportive.  Highly recommended if you are looking for a new BMW or Triumph – or services on the same!

A Week To GO!

With only a week to go, have to say it is hard to imagine riding after all of the preparation.  As I write this, a week from now I hope to be heading down the PA turnpike to land in St. Ignace about 8pm.  Really can’t wait and am really looking forward to some veg time in the saddle – think I’ll have plenty of that.  Just some time to focus on riding, the scenery and being “in the moment” as the Zen proponents suggest…  Committed to moving ahead, but not too worried about exactly where I end up for the day.  Need to be in Fargo by Tuesday, but other than that – no real plan.

Have packed and unpacked – too many times.  Trying to minimize the obligatory list of things that I have forgotten.  Feels like a self-expanding list of things to get done for family, business and such, but 5am next Sunday will come and I am sure that there will be a few things remaining that will go unfinished.   Went from detailed planning to keying in on a few dates and letting the rest happen.  Weather looks pretty good and am ready to go.  Working on last minute details and figuring out the SPOT GPS so anyone following can track the route I am taking and progress along the way.

This will probably be the last post until just before leaving.  Lots to do and title time to do it…  Subscribe to the blog for notifications and details.  Be back in about a week!

Packing for the ride… 2 weeks until departure

The time is here to shift from writing, planning and fundraising  to the ride and beginning the technical preparation.  All of the necessary gear for 34 days/14,000 miles on the road is here – next the packing.

Because I intend to camp as often as possible, with hotel stays only every 3rd or 4th night, a bit more gear is necessary to brave the elements.  Tent, sleeping bag, pad, cooking gear, food and similar equipment is necessary as well as a place to store all the stuff on the motorcycle.  To this load, add the myriad  of parts and tools that allow the rider to be self-sufficient in terms of  emergency repair and maintenance for the ride, and you have quite a bit to carry.  Maybe after the 3rd or 4th solo trip the list of gear would get a little smaller, but for my 1st solo ride, when in doubt I am bringing it along.

So, what does all the gear look like prior to loading?  Take a look below to see. This picture shows all of the stuff that I am taking with me, including the riding gear and helmet.  Think it will all fit?

Well, the picture below shows the bike with all of the gear loaded and ready to go.   This exercise is kind of critical to complete prior to the ride.  I was hoping to have the top box empty for the ride to use the space for food, quick storage access and the like, but I had to use it to get all of the gear on.  For those nights where a hotel  is available, I only have to grab the duffel and the rest of the gear stays in place.  For nights spent in the tent, a good bit of the gear needs to be unloaded and used.

I am sure there will be some last minute incidentals that I will add, but I should be in pretty good shape.  I am guessing that the bike and gear weigh a little over 650 lbs – but the bike handles well at this weight and has no trouble handling the highway – very comfortable.  The electronic suspension compensates well for the increased load.

For those interest in the details of the packing, I have included my packing checklist in pdf form HERE.

The next 2 weeks seem to be crammed with activities related to the ride, securing my consulting practice  while I am gone and of course, connecting with the family that I will be separate for about a month.  Will be harder than I originally thought…  As for blog posts, they might be a bit succinct over the next few weeks, until the ride starts.  Just not enough hours in the day.