All of the photos from the Ride to Alaska will be posted on Smugmug and can be reached HERE!
Check ’em out and comment if you like!
All of the photos from the Ride to Alaska will be posted on Smugmug and can be reached HERE!
Check ’em out and comment if you like!
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.
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.
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….
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:
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.
Today was a “stop whining and ride” day – at least that is what I said to myself. As predicted, cold (high of 50) and wet. Spent most of the day in the saddle because you couldn’t see much. Every once and awhile, a glimpse of the mountains came through, but rained most of the way.
Was a pretty so-so ride, until turning the corner on Rt 34A to Stewart, BC. Unbelievable! I didn’t stop for pictures; just too damned tired. But, did strap the helmet cam on and shot some video. I am still trying to work out editing video with the Apple software… iMovie seems to want to import the thing into little bites and takes forever. I must be doing something wrong. In any case, I posted the whole clip here:
Pretty boring, so you probably don’t want to watch the whole thing, but does give some sense of the ride. Keep in mind that it is about 45 degrees F out and raining/sleet. Best to turn your sound down. Not the best circumstances to shoot video, but here it is:
I landed in Stewart about 4pm – 8 hour day in the rain. The hotel looked like heaven – nothing special, but warm and dry. Was a little concerned about not having any reservations – but, no problem. I actually think I will stay here for 2 days, take the day off tomorrow for some exploration and photos. Hope the clouds clear…
Please go back and check yesterday’s post – I added some pictures now that I have internet access – albeit slow…
Once again, I checked into the Days Inn in Prince George, BC with the intent of updating the blog and adding pictures – lots of them. Unfortunately, another sucky internet connection and very limited. Am typing this entry on the hotel computer… How we have become spoiled…
Current Odometer: 31,882 Days Mileage: 400 mi (est)
Today, went through some beautiful scenery – mountains, ice and snow. Great ride, until the tourists arrived (I guess I am one of them). When I hit the Icefields Parkway above Lake Louise, lots of RVs and buses abound. I am amazed at how unaware the drivers of these RVs are.. They will stop in the middle of the road when passing a nice scene or animal – no consideration for the 20 cars lined up behind them. Oh well, but the views are worth it.
Saw bears, coyotes, a moose and all kinds of wildlife. Actually, I saw more black bears than anything else, maybe because they stand out against the background. This one as about 30 yds off the road munching on some flowers – didn’t even lift his head when I stopped the bike. The moose was a bit more curious, when I stopped she started directly for me – was a bit worried for a minute. Found myself hoping the bike would start if I had to get away in a hurry.
The pictures really don’t do justice to the perspective – everything is big, really big; and rugged. I can only imagine he 1st explorers coming through this part of the country with family in tow trying to figure how to get past, over or around these rivers and mountains.
Saturday’s Ride – Prince George to Stewart, BC – 700
miles kilometers, Google maps says 9 hrs. However, rain all day and a high of 50 degrees F. Will be a long, slow, cold, wet slog today. Hotels are few and far between now and I am riding in an unproven wet weather riding suit (BMW). Supposed to be dry, but have not ridden all day in it yet. Camping is an option, but not an attractive one.
PLEASE CHECK BACK LATER AS I WILL ADD PICTURES AND DETAILS TO THIS POST!
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.
What is the attraction to Alaska? What would motivate someone to hop on a motorcycle, spend 8-12 hours a day on it for 12 days to get to a place, just to turn around and go back? Is it the adventure, the scenery, the wildlife, the people (although it is only 1.264 folks per sq mile up there), the mosquitos? What is it?
Well, I think it is a bit of all of the above; but surely, the people and the history of the place with all of its color, create a siren that is hard to resist. As an example, while verifying a few reservations for the upcoming trip, I stumbled across an interesting tradition at the Downtown Hotel in Dawson City, Yukon Territory. For those of you having trouble keeping up with my schedule and blathering
about the trip, Dawson is where the famous Summer Solstice Dust to Dawson gathering takes place – and yours truly plans to be there this year. It looks like 150-200 riders will be converging on the “city” for a little fun and camaraderie before heading off on their respective adventures. Of course, there is much history associated with the Hotel and its current proprietor , but one of the more interesting traditions is the “Sourtoe Cocktail Club.”
The tradition involves having a “cocktail” at the Downtown Hotel, but with a bit of a twist… The cocktail contains a severed appendage from some poor sucker, the sourtoe. One must drink the cocktail, allowing the severed toe to touch your lips. What does accomplishing this feat get you? Absolutely nothing, except for bragging rights that you had been there, done that. From the Sourtoe website:
“Established in 1973, the Sourtoe Cocktail has become a Dawson City tradition. The original rules were that the toe must be placed in a beer glass full of champagne, and that the toe must touch the drinker’s lips during the consumption of the alcohol before he or she can claim to be a true Sourtoer. The rules have changed in the past twenty-seven years. The Sourtoe can be had with any drink now (even ones that aren’t alcoholic), but one rule remains the same. The drinker’s lips must touch the toe. ” You can drink it fast, you can drink it slow– But the lips have gotta touch the toe.”
The Sourtoes are actual human toes that have been dehydrated and preserved in salt. Swallowing one is not suggested.”
Check out the details of the Sourtoe Tradition at the Downtown Hotel site. I am sure to write a detailed post about the experience after I get there and receive my indoctrination to the club. Should be about June 21-22 or there about. Hope I don’t swallow the damn thing…