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post #21 of 73 Old 04-04-2010, 11:28 AM Thread Starter
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July 8, 2009
A few local miles.




We slept in. After cleaning up, Jim found two hair dryers in the house and was determined to dry out his boots. I stepped out of the shower to an overpowering stench of stink foot emanating from his hot boots. The odor was absolutely nauseating. The heat had vaporized the odor and sent the smell wafting through the house much like the more pleasant odors of chocolate chip cookies can fill a house when they come out of the oven. But instead of a warm feeling of homeliness in anticipation of a gorging on hot cookies and cold milk, this was more like the cold sweat you get just before you have to vomit violently.

I opened all the doors and windows and went outside to catch my breath. Jim was ignoring all my protestations concerning the foul odor and health hazards of his boots. I wondered if I had brought my hatchet to the house or if it was still back in the garage. I hurried up and dressed and made ready to leave the house. I hoped the odor would be gone before my friends returned from their vacation.

We drove into town to buy oil and then stopped at Alaska Rider Tours to wash our bikes. After cleaning the bikes we drove to Elmendorf Air Force base to check out the Base Exchange. The BX has very good prices on items you might need as well as a special services area where you can buy souvenirs and local crafts at a much better price than anywhere in town. Also there is a UPS store next to the BX to ship it all home so you do not have to cart stuff around with you and declare it when crossing into Canada.



We bought items we thought our family and friends might enjoy and went back to Alaska Riders to change our oil and tires. The folks at AK Riders are extremely helpful (http://www.motoquesttours.com/akride...ider-tours.php). Not only did they store our tires for us to have when we arrived in Anchorage but they let us use their water, soap and brushes on our dirty bikes and they offered us the use of their jacks, tools, oil pans, and extras like Lock-tite and anti-seize. I cannot say enough about how hard they work to make it easy for tourists to work on their bikes. The entire staff is friendly. Be sure to tip anyone who helps you put tires on your bike. The mechanics do this after working hours on their own time. I suggest a donation equal to about half what you would pay your local shop to mount a tire. This is welcomed by the employee and makes a sweaty job go much faster than most of us could do by ourselves.


After getting the TKC knobbies put on, we rode our clean bikes back to Humpy’s for another sea food dinner. The aggressive knobbies on the street took a little getting use to. There was the usual bumpiness at low speeds as well as the initial concerns about cornering on pavement. We soon felt relaxed on them and enjoyed the wild look to the bikes. These truly were beasts that could take us to the Arctic Ocean and back.

We headed back to Humpy’s for one last night in Anchorage for six or seven days. While we were eating a young man from Atlanta walked up to us and asked if those were our VStroms parked outside. He owned a BMW 1200 GS and frequented the ADV web site. He was admiring our rigs and like most folks we met on our trip, was a most agreeable fellow.

We went to our house for a night’s rest before tackling the Denali and Dalton Highways.

2000 Honda Sabre VT1100 (194,000 miles)
2005 Suzuki DL650 (116,000 miles)
1976 BMW R90/6 (33,000 miles)
2009 Vespa GTS250ie (8200 miles)
1993 Honda CB750 (13,000 miles)
2013 BMW R1200GS LC (16,600 miles)
2015 Kawasaki KLR650E (3,200 miles)

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post #22 of 73 Old 04-05-2010, 01:02 AM
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Same Time Same Places

Thanks for your write-up. It brings back very fond memories. My buddy and I followed a very similar route at the same time.

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post #23 of 73 Old 04-06-2010, 01:12 AM Thread Starter
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July 9, 2009
Miles 4484-4722



I woke to the stench of drying boots. This caused me to pack and leave much faster than I had planned. Our ride through Anchorage and north past Wasilla was somewhat boring. After we passed Trapper Creek the ride became more interesting. Soon the southernmost mountains of Denali National Park loomed into view. This made every turn exciting as we again marveled at each new sight that rolled past us. It was another clear sunny day and 65-70 degrees. There had been a few forest fires south of Anchorage in the previous few days obscuring visibility. The smoke had cleared and we were hoping for a rare glimpse of Denali.

We stopped at a rest stop to get better views of the mountains. The rest stop contained a display about Denali and the first people to climb it in the 1800’s. It amazes me to think about the gear they used to climb such a mountain back then. Unfortunately we were not able to see Denali from this spot. We rode onward to the north.

The road before Cantwell becomes magnificent. Just past a railroad crossing there are wide stretches of valley to the west with a huge calm lake east of the road. There are small fishing cabins along the far side of the lake and I wonder how one gets to them as there are no roads leading into the area. I suppose you can always use a float plane. There are dirt roads leading off to the west that beckon but alas we do not have time to see everything in Alaska and these roads would be better on a true enduro bike like a Honda XR600 or Kawasaki KLR 650. Maybe next time.



We reach Cantwell and refuel knowing that the turn east on the Denali Highway will take us 140 miles until we reach Paxson with no gas stops in between. We grab some items from the store to have for dinner in case we don’t catch any trout. We then take the dirt road that will be our route for the next day if all goes well.

The road turns out to be smooth but very dusty. I will take dust over mud any day. We make good time going into a wild area of Alaska with even fewer inhabitants. The primitive nature of the route is overpowering. There is nothing but snow capped mountains and valleys full of hundreds of ponds and lakes as far as you can see. The dominate colors are blue and green, lots of green. Trees and grass are everywhere you look.



We travel east for 31 miles before finding a very nice BLM camp ground at Brushkana Creek. Our camp site was next to the creek. After setting up our tents we headed off to the stream to try our luck at fishing. It was fun throwing out the line and reeling it in, but I am sure the fish were mocking me and my poor attempts to catch them. They probably knew just how inexperienced I was and what a cheap rod and reel I was using. How embarrassing. At least I enjoyed the quiet time by the stream away from Jim’s smelly boots. I took some pictures of the area and made sure I was making enough noise to alert any bears along the path that I was coming so I would not surprise them. I decided to climb a small hill to get a better view of the land. The scrubby brush allowed easy walking away from the stream. The view of the mountains to the north was spectacular as was the view of the stream as it ran from the camp ground to where I was standing. I then made my way back to camp keeping the stream to my left as I walked so I would not get lost in the “Bush”.



It seemed like while fishing more of my time was spent untangling my line or reel and unhooking the line from brush behind me when I cast. Sometimes I would have to cut the line and reattach the hook and swivel when the line turned into a “bird’s nest”. I wondered where all the fish were hiding. Was it my fly or my cheap rod and reel? Was it me? Was it Jim’s boots? I was resigned to eating a can of Beanie Weenies for dinner.

The camp host for Brushkana Creek Campground was an old guy named Eldon. He was a funny guy. We enjoyed talking and joking with him for a while before we had dinner. He recommended a good place for breakfast in the morning, just 60 miles down the road.



The days were passing by fast. Our motorcycle vacation was turning out to be everything we had hoped for. We couldn’t believe our luck with the weather. Also the bikes were performing like true champs. We were seeing the sights, meeting great people, having fine food and taking in awesome scenery and wildlife. I was ready to move to Alaska.

2000 Honda Sabre VT1100 (194,000 miles)
2005 Suzuki DL650 (116,000 miles)
1976 BMW R90/6 (33,000 miles)
2009 Vespa GTS250ie (8200 miles)
1993 Honda CB750 (13,000 miles)
2013 BMW R1200GS LC (16,600 miles)
2015 Kawasaki KLR650E (3,200 miles)

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post #24 of 73 Old 04-06-2010, 01:38 AM Thread Starter
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July 10, 2009
Mils 4722-5050




We woke at 7AM. I was packed by 8Am and waited for Jim only another 20 minutes. We departed east for the remainder of the Denali Highway. We had another 70 miles of gravel and unpaved road. The ponds, rivers and snow covered mountains accompanied us on the ride. We crossed two long bridges over wide and fast moving rivers. One bridge was over 400 meters long. I caught sight of one moose in a meadow to the south and a parka squirrel by the road.



The last half of the highway was more difficult. For the most part we were able to go at least 40-55mph. However just when you got up to speed a stretch of potholes about 6-8 inches deep and as big as a trash can lid sprang up like a mine field. I was suddenly hard on the brakes and weaving in the gravel to try to avoid the largest holes. As soon as you managed to hit some of the bigger ones, the road smoothed out again for another 300-400 meters and another patch of holes appeared. This went on for over 20 miles. We encountered about 3 or 4 cars traveling the opposite way in the 70 seventy miles to the café near Paxson.

By 10AM we had arrived at the paved eastern part of the highway and were soon in the parking lot at the café for breakfast. The store was very rustic as most of there are in this part of the world. The café was a log cabin with a beautiful view of Round Tangle Lake across the road. We wandered around the nearly empty café admiring all the trophies and photos on the wall while our breakfast was being cooked.



There were wolverine pelts hanging on the wall, huge mounted trout over the fireplace, and many family photos of the women who were now part of the family business showing them as young girls with there giant fish catches. One photo chronicled the story of a local woman who bagged a charging Kodiak bear when he was a mere 66 feet away. The bear weighed in at over 1,000 pounds and at 10’6’’ was the largest bear in the Boone and Crockett and Safari Club records ever killed by a woman. The photo shows a 4’11” smiling woman holding her 7x57 Rueger rifle behind a dead bear. Awesome. Alaska is chock full of people who love to hunt and fish, drive big 4 wheel drive trucks around and still love American freedom and independence. And that’s just a description of the women. It really is the last frontier.



We scarf down our usual hearty, coronary choking breakfast and mount up to ride to Fairbanks. The morning is beginning to heat up. The older lady, matriarch of the family business, leaned out of the upstairs window to ask us not to make a lot of noise as we leave because it will wake her guests. We assure her that we have quiet dual sport touring bikes, not straight piped cruisers. I thought how shameful that jerks on loud cruisers are ruining the sport everywhere we go, even the last frontier.

It was a short ride to the Richardson Highway that would lead us to Fairbanks. We rode along a beautiful lake for many miles and I decided it was time to see if there were any fish to be had. Once again I discovered I spent more time untangling my line than actually trying to hook a fish. But the lake was so calm, the morning so bright and clear and the act of casting the line out and reeling it back in was so relaxing I didn’t care. I had the whole lake to myself. Unfortunately the warm weather meant the trout were hiding in the really deep water in the center of the lake where one needed a boat to go after them. At least that’s how I rationalized not getting a nibble.

In a few minutes we were back on the road again for a long ride north for a beautiful day of riding. Once again the miles rolled by while I listened to hours of great tunes on the iPod. We needed to refuel when we arrived at Delta Junction. I have to say the part of Delta Junction that the Richardson Highway passes through is pretty ugly and boring looking. It is amazing how people can settle in such places when there is no shortage of beautiful places nearby. Invariably we meet the locals who said that they would like to see Anchorage or the Kenai someday. I mean, those places are only 400-500 miles away and they have lived their whole lives without going over 100 miles from their homes. In some instances we would meet someone who had not even been to the other side of town in many years.

Another couple of hundred miles of following the pipeline and we were just south of Eilson Air Force Base and Fairbanks. We tried to drive off-road to a glacier that was about 7 miles away but the road was too rough for our loaded bikes.


We stopped at a roadhouse that was family owned and contained a gas station, post office, general store, restaurant and motel. The name of the place is Salchaket Roadhouse. I bought some stamps for my post cards and asked the woman running the place where a good place to eat was. She said, “We are having prime rib coming out of the oven in 30 minutes. You should stay for that.”

We went in, cleaned up and had some coffee while we waited for dinner. Right at 5:30 when the prime rib was ready, the place filled up with locals. Friday evening dinner was a special event here. We were served first. It was a magnificent meal. The horseradish was very fresh and hot just like I like it. Jim struck up a conversation with the owner of the roadhouse that was a prior motorcycle shop owner and had sponsored dirt bike racers. Jim said he had always wanted to try some moose meat but the owner said it was not ever served on restaurant menus. He said you had to know someone who would fix it for you. He said maybe be could fix us up. He disappeared for a few minutes and returned with a vacuum packed plastic pouch. He said he did not have any more moose meat but he gave us about a pound of smoked salmon.

Before we left we asked if there was anything fun to do in Fairbanks on a Friday night. The owner’s wife said not in Fairbanks, but if you are going as far as Fox tonight, be sure to check out the Howling Dog saloon. She said you couldn’t miss it as Fox was very small and there was only one bar in town. (Actually we saw another one but she was right about the Howling Dog).



We paid our bill and left for Fairbanks. We passed by Eielson Air Force Base with the signs posted that warned against stopping along the road or taking photos of the area. I have heard the base is an early warning facility and has nuclear missile silos so they take their mission very seriously. You could see fighters and bombers on the runway next to hangars less than a mile from the road. Of course if you really want a good look at the base just go to Google maps and you can see the planes parked on the tarmac as if you were flying over the base at 500 feet.

The next area we passed through was North Pole, Alaska. This city’s claim to fame is all the mail it gets from children whose parents mail their letters to Santa there so the people there can write a response and mail it with a postmark from the “North Pole”. Everything there had a Christmas look to it. I especially liked the welder’s shop on the east side of the road with giant metal candy canes around his shop.

As we were leaving North Pole the highway was a spread out 4 lane divided road with a large median and over 100 feet of clear shoulder before the brush and trees. There had been some kind of accident ahead as traffic was slowing. There was an emergency vehicle flashing his lights and a van in the median with a smashed front end. A small KIA sedan was on the far shoulder of the highway with people standing around it. As we slowed to pass by, it appeared to me that the KIA had its rear seat removed and was placed at the side of the driver’s door. Then I got a good look at the car and realized the “rear seat” was actually the hind quarters of a large dead moose that had taken out two cars on a clear sunny evening on a broad highway. Go figure. The sedan was resting on the body of the moose with both of its left wheels off the ground. It was not going to be able to drive until it was lifted off the dead moose. It would have been a cool photo but I didn’t think we should stop and add to the circus just for a grisly photo. Jim and I looked at each other with the same thoughts in our minds. How could you hit such a big animal on a clear day, on a wide open highway? And what would an animal of that size have done to a couple of motorcycles if he decided to run out in front of us?

We skirted around Fairbanks quickly and found our way to Fox after refueling just north of Fairbanks. We saw the Howling Dog saloon at the exit onto Highway 2 at Fox. We parked outside the front door and checked it out. It was still early, 8PM and the place was mostly empty. I could tell it had the local rustic flavor we were seeking. A solo guitarist- singer was performing on the small stage. We enjoyed a beer and then decided we should look for a place to pitch our tents for the night. That way we could enjoy the saloon without worrying about finding a spot late at night.




There was an empty lot only 100 yards down the road from the saloon. Very nice. I drove down a short dirt path to the lot. The lot was flat and grassy but a bit rocky and there was good tree coverage from the highway since we would be camping in daylight. The only concern was fresh piles of moose droppings that indicated we might get trampled by a sleepy moose wandering through the area. No place is perfect but I liked the idea of only not having to drive very far after having a few beers.

After scoping out our future camping site we headed back to the Howling Dog saloon. The place didn’t really get cranked up until after 10PM. We spent several hours there listening to a live rock and roll band and talking to the doorman, Dave who had the skinny on all the patrons who came to the saloon. He was a retired school teacher and also currently worked on the runway lights at the Fairbanks International Airport. It was quite an entertaining evening. However after midnight we had had enough fun and returned to our camp site.

I had no desire to put up a tent at 1AM and then take it down again. I pulled out the bivvy bag and made a nest on top of my plastic tarp and Thermarest pad. The bivvy bag kept the mosquitoes away. I slept quite well with no moose trampling.

2000 Honda Sabre VT1100 (194,000 miles)
2005 Suzuki DL650 (116,000 miles)
1976 BMW R90/6 (33,000 miles)
2009 Vespa GTS250ie (8200 miles)
1993 Honda CB750 (13,000 miles)
2013 BMW R1200GS LC (16,600 miles)
2015 Kawasaki KLR650E (3,200 miles)

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post #25 of 73 Old 04-06-2010, 02:16 AM Thread Starter
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July 11, 2009
Miles 5050-5309




We woke to a cool misty morning. We began packing up and decided to go to the Tesoro gas station next to our empty lot for breakfast.

When leaving the lot, Jim had selected a poor route over some larger rocks hidden by the tall grass that caused his bike to topple without fully landing on its side; however he still had difficulty getting the bike into a position to get over the obstruction. With a little effort he rode out of the area and was at the Tesoro while I finished packing up my gear.

We ate at Granny’s, a small log shed that an old woman and her husband operated in the summer. They spent the rest of the year in Florida. Granny whipped up a fine breakfast of scrambled eggs, coffee and a big warm cinnamon bun. After eating I walked to the gas station and purchased some wine for later when we reached the Arctic and stores were scarce.

We spoke to two Harley Davidson riders who had stayed at a motel behind the Howling Dog and drove over to Granny’s for breakfast. It was amazing how much crap they had packed onto their bikes. They were very heavily laden and admitted they would not be going up the Dalton Highway because of this and the more obvious reason of being on heavy cruisers. They both admitted to having brought way too much gear on this trip. They had too many clothes and shoes. We agreed that even on very long rides it makes no sense to carry more clothing than you could wear in 2 or 3 days.

We parted ways and Jim and I headed northward toward the Arctic Circle and Coldfoot. The route towards the Brooks Range was filled with fun sweepers and excellent views of distant mountains. We were making very good time all the way to a way station called Wildwood General Store.


It was apparently a popular stop for tour buses on the way north. They had some rather uninteresting souvenirs and clothing. The interesting stuff was actually outside. They had a 50 year old limo for sale and a barn with one side covered in orphaned hubcaps found along the highway.



Down the hill on the right side of the store was a sign stating “Magnificent Bathrooms This Way.” These really were beauties. They were standard outhouses but inside they had hung local artists’ landscape paintings, Glade air freshener cans, small bouquets of flowers, magazines and each toilet had a fancy toilet seat. These were more inviting to use than many dirty restrooms I have encountered in countless service stations across the world. They even smelled much better than many indoor toilets. They freeze up in the winter though and have to be steam thawed.



We were about 60 miles south of the Arctic Circle now. We were becoming much more confident riding on the unpaved roads which actually were very nice as long as they were not wet. Some areas of the road between hills were built up in the valleys and were easily 75 or 100 feet above the valley floors. If you were to run off the road there was no guard rail to stop you from flying down a very steep embankment to the bottom. Fortunately the road was wide enough and had a fairly wide shoulder that we felt certain we could keep on the road. There were a few dicey curves that made you want to cheat toward the middle of the road. The lack of traffic on the road made this easy to do without worrying about meeting someone.



We had a view of the pipeline most of the way north. We stopped at a rest area that included a display about the pipeline and how it was built. It was over 800 miles long. It was built in about 18 months using crews that worked day and night year-round in all types of weather. The Dalton Highway we were travelling was called the Haul Road because it was built to bring in crews to build the pipeline. They had to build about 8 pumping stations to keep the oil flowing. The oil goes in a Prudhoe at about 90 degrees and 2 weeks later arrives at Valdez at 75 degrees. The pipeline has two walls. The outer wall acts to protect the inner wall just like the dual hulls on a submarine.

Engineers had to come up with new technologies to build the pipeline. They used a new way to weld the pipes together on the inside with a robotic welder. They used heat exchangers to protect the permafrost from melting due to the hot oil travelling down the pipe. They ran the pipeline with frequent zigzags to allow for ground movement during earthquakes. One recent quake caused the pipe to shift side to side by over 27 feet and there was no break in the line.



I remember back in the late 70’s when they were trying to build the pipeline; the environmentalists were all up in arms over how it was going to destroy the permafrost and disrupt the caribou migrations. All of those concerns were addressed and eliminated. The pipeline stands as a modern engineering feat and has allowed this area of Alaska to be opened up to people hardy enough to endure the rigors and relative dangers of traveling on such an unimproved road into a wild area with little support in the event of a breakdown or accident.

We traveled on until we crossed the mighty Yukon River. This huge river was navigated by Russian ships as they explored the interior of Alaska. It is amazing how far into the interior of Alaska and Canada this river will allow ships to travel. Shortly after crossing the Yukon we stopped for coffee at the Hotspot Café. As we passed recently burned out forests the fireweed flowers gave the air a sweet smell. The purple color of the massive fields of flowers covered whole mountains. We had to stop to get pictures of this beautiful flower.


We reached latitude 66°33’, the Arctic Circle. Naturally we had to stop at the famous sign for photos. The photo op was hurried since the mosquitoes were out in huge numbers here.


A few minutes later we were back on the gravel road north. We stopped at Finger Mountain for a while to see if we could spot any wildlife. This area overlooks a large part of southern end of the Brooks Range and the Kanuti National Wildlife Refuge. The native people used the area to spot for big game. Unfortunately we did not see any big game even though you could see for a hundred miles in any direction. I even got out my binoculars to search the distant hills. Finger Mountain was about a half mile from the parking area. It is named for the large solitary rock formation that looks like a finger pointing the way toward Fairbanks for the bush pilots.

We cranked up the bikes for the thousandth time and headed north, ever north. Coldfoot was only about 35 miles away and we were looking forward to stopping for the day and eating dinner. When I am riding my bike, it becomes second nature for me to compute distances and gas mileage. I know that I have a 5.8 gallon tank. I know that I can get at least 45 miles per gallon under the worse circumstances, unless I have been riding around in 3rd gear without knowing it for over 100 miles. Then my mileage could suffer. Anyhow, I like to know how far I can go before I need to stop or before I will run dry. I have the map on my tank bag or my GPS showing distances to the next stop. I will watch for sign posts that tell how far the next gas stop is. I am constantly updating my info and reassuring myself that I have the fuel to make it. So far there have been very few surprises. I have computed that I have plenty of gas to make it to Coldfoot. It has been about 270 miles since we refueled just south of Fox. I figure I can go about 280 to 290 miles if I get my usual 50 miles per gallon.

I slow down to “max cruise speed” at around 50-60mph. Finally the signs for Coldfoot appear. The gas stop and restaurant are on a side road that is poorly marked so I end up taking the turn farther to the north. I pull into the area and see a single story motel area, a small old log structure and to the west of the complex are a couple of old gas pumps standing alone in the dirt about 50 yards from a newer building that is the restaurant and bar.



You are required to pay before pumping. I walk in and hand the man behind the counter my American Express card. “Sorry, we don’t take that one.” No problem I have more where that one came from. I go out and begin pumping gas. By now I have that familiar feeling that Jim is either lost or more likely out of gas again. He may have missed the poorly marked turn. In that case, he will run out of gas, put his one gallon reserve in the bike and continue on north only to run out of gas about 40 miles farther north. Or he may be putting his gas in the tank and will soon be in the area. Hopefully he has not crashed in the gravel.

I have time to collect my credit card, wash up and check out the evening dinner buffet as he drives up. He leaves his American Express card at the counter and begins to pump gas. He had run out of gas. I am perplexed at this. We have the same bikes, the same gearing, approximately the same weight, why is he getting less mileage? I ask him if he is riding around in 4th or 5th gear instead of 6th.

It feels good to clean off the dirt and sweat. Dinner will be ready at 5PM and is all you can eat. You can get the salad bar and soup for $10.95 or go for the whole meat and veggie thing for $16. Since they give you hearty chicken soup and bread and the salad bar has about 40 items to put on it, I go for the soup and salad. I also find out desert is included with the soup and salad. After a couple of bowls of soup and a giant salad, a huge roll and 3 cookies, I knew I had made the correct choice. I just saved $5.50. There is no way I could have eaten the whole buffet.

After dinner we talk to an older Texas gentleman on a Suzuki Vstrom 1000 who is making his way to Deadhorse solo. He doesn’t have knobby tires like we do. The truckers we meet at the café tell us how nasty the weather has been the past few days. The road is wet and they “have laid down 3 inches of pea gravel”. They indicate it will not be pretty for motorcycles. Jim stiffens and visibly breaks out in a sweat. Is there any question of not proceeding north after going this far?

Jim and I briefly consider where to camp for the night. The truck stop at Coldfoot allows camping at an out of the way spot near the compound but I am not thrilled about listening to trucks coming and going all night, especially when “night time” is as bright as 4PM in San Diego. We drive north in search of a BLM campground a few miles north of Coldfoot.

Approximately 5 miles north of Coldfoot we find the turn into the campground. It is halfway between Coldfoot and the turnoff to Wiseman. Wiseman is an old community of hardy folks who live there year round. They are descendants of the gold rush era and now make money from tourists wanting to see their isolated town. They sell crafts and live off the land. There is also a hotel there for people who want to experience austere accommodations or if they are afraid of bears.

We found the campground to our liking. It was open, clean and had magnificent views of the nearby mountains and all the mosquitoes you could handle. There were large flat areas to pitch a tent and clean pit toilets. We talked with a group of folks who were from Fairbanks while we swatted mosquitoes. Finally by midnight we are tired and will try to sleep.

2000 Honda Sabre VT1100 (194,000 miles)
2005 Suzuki DL650 (116,000 miles)
1976 BMW R90/6 (33,000 miles)
2009 Vespa GTS250ie (8200 miles)
1993 Honda CB750 (13,000 miles)
2013 BMW R1200GS LC (16,600 miles)
2015 Kawasaki KLR650E (3,200 miles)

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Last edited by docsabre; 04-06-2010 at 02:19 AM. Reason: add photo
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post #26 of 73 Old 04-07-2010, 01:05 AM Thread Starter
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July 12, 2009
Miles 5309-5560



We slept until 8AM. We made coffee and ate breakfast bars before packing up the gear. The unpaved road was in very good condition. We passed over a bridge on the Middle Fork of the Koyukuk River just south of left turn to Wiseman. The river had a wide pebble bank and some people had camped there the evening before. We stored this fact away for our return trip. It would be nice to camp along the river and fish and also save us a few dollars at the BLM campground.

The road north toward the Brooks Range and Atigun Pass was very, very nice. The rain the night before had not left the road muddy. In fact the road was pretty dry with lost of dust to contend with. Many areas of the highway allowed us to travel 70 mph with ease.

After 75-80 miles we were heading up the steep 12% grade to the Atigun Pass. The view was unbelieveable. The lack of trees at this latitude allowed for views of incredible distances. We had a few dicey moments as we headed up the pass. Most of the road had no guardrail and there were steep drops from the road to the valley 700-800 feet below. Where there was a guardrail it had been torn to pieces by a tractor trailer rig that had gone over the side. There were areas of mud, water filled potholes and deep gravel that forced us to stay alert. When we reached the summit we stopped to bask in our achievement and take a few photos. Then we had an equally dicey ride down the north slope of the pass.



There were areas of road repairs that forced us to come to a stop and wait for clearance to pass. The flagman told us of seeing grizzlies in the area a few days ago. So far we had not been seeing any wild game, just the ubiquitous varmints along the side of the road as we sped past. For the most part they dashed into their burrows and did not run across the road like a dumb squirrel. We saw no moose, caribou, bears or even deer. The spruce trees became more scrubby as we went north. We passed the northernmost spruce tree at one point. It had been vandalized by some idiot. After this, there were no trees, only low scrubs and grasses.



The road became more undulating as we entered the tundra. We hit areas of pea gravel that were best navigated by keeping up your speed and letting the bike wander around. You didn’t want to touch your brakes or put in any radical corrections. I thought I was doing good if I could just keep the rear tire somewhere behind the front tire. A few times the rear tire came around to one side or the other and got your attention. At one point we needed to stop for a nap. We left our riding gear on and put on our mosquito head net. We both napped for 30 minutes on the ground next to the highway. The shoulder of the road had a nice slope to it that made a comfortable recliner. Our bikes were between us and the highway. The trucks were not coming by frequently enough to wake us or worry us.

We passed the occasional pump station and the pipeline stayed in our view almost the entire time. Occasionally we would find a lone 10 mile stretch of asphalt in the middle of nowhere. It was like a special gift. About 20-30 miles south of Prudhoe Bay an odd geologic formation appeared. The multicolored Franklin Bluffs to the east seemed totally out of place in the tundra. By now we were just 40 miles from our most northerly destination. We hit one last scary bit of gravel about 10 miles from Prudhoe Bay. We made it to Prudhoe Bay in the late afternoon. We stopped at one of the hotels to check n prices and discovered it was $110 per night with meals. We filled up at one of the gas stops and then checked into the Prudhoe Bay Inn. This place offered all the food you could ever want, TV, showers and a shared room for $110 per person per night. We decided it was a bargain. We had no desire to find a place outside of town in the windy, mosquito ridden tundra. The shower alone was worth $10, the meals were worth $50. That meant we could have a warm bed inside for about $50.

After we settled in and had a shower. Jim was outside exploring the hotel area and he walked in and asked me who he had just run into outside. I asked who. “Captain Killswitch!”

Jim had asked him if that was him we passed in the Kenai a week earlier. He said it was. He said he wasn’t sure if the two riders he saw were us or not. Jim has a lime green jacket and a red and white helmet that would be hard to mistake. I had no intention of talking to him and striking up any friendships. I was glad he had made this far safely but did not care to team up with him again.

Jim also discovered a 5 K fun run sponsored by some of the local oil companies, heavy equipment manufacturers and hotels. There was no cost involved. If you completed a run/walk for 3 miles you would receive a cool 5K tee shirt. We both did the “run” and then went back to the hotel for another shower and dinner.

The really strange thing about the TV at the Prudhoe Bay Inn was the fact that the History Channel was airing 24 hours of “Ice Road Truckers”, the true adventure series about truckers in Alaska who drive the Dalton Highway in the winter. Here we are in Prduhoe Bay after having ridden the same road for 2 days and we are watching a documentary about the same road in the winter. What are the odds? There is no way I would want to drive a truck up those mountain roads with blizzard conditions during the dark nights of winter.

After dinner we head to the general store to get souvenirs. We find the usual stickers proving we made the trip. We also get postcards to send back to our friends. I liked the one showing Alaska from a high satellite. I mark the spot on the north shore and write in, “We are here”. The geographic illustration highlights just how far north we have driven. If you were to tell people you were at Prudhoe Bay they might not be impressed if they did not know the location. Seeing it on a space view of the state was impressive. We were closer to Russia than San Diego. I made a few calls on the cell phone. The connection was as good as if you were talking to someone across town. We were over 4,000 miles away from home.

We turned in late as usual. I woke around 3AM to use the bathroom and it was as bright as mid afternoon in San Diego, weird. I had to step outside just to experience this for its full effect. It was like being on another planet where the sun doesn’t set.

2000 Honda Sabre VT1100 (194,000 miles)
2005 Suzuki DL650 (116,000 miles)
1976 BMW R90/6 (33,000 miles)
2009 Vespa GTS250ie (8200 miles)
1993 Honda CB750 (13,000 miles)
2013 BMW R1200GS LC (16,600 miles)
2015 Kawasaki KLR650E (3,200 miles)

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post #27 of 73 Old 04-07-2010, 01:13 AM Thread Starter
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July 13, 2009
Miles 5560-5800




We woke at 6AM and showered. We had a hearty breakfast and then headed over to the Arctic Caribou Hotel to catch the early tour bus to the Arctic Ocean. Captain Killswitch was in the group of 40 people who were assigned to the first bus to leave. Jim spoke to him briefly and discovered he had wished he had started the trip in California with brand new tires. He had barely made it to Anchorage on bald tires and then switched over to his knobbies as soon as he arrived in Anchorage. He then headed off for 400 miles or more of travel through the Kenai before turning north toward Denali and Prudhoe Bay. Jim had noticed his tires in Prudhoe Bay and saw that these were “shot”. Now he planned to ride back to Fairbanks to find some street tires to get him home.

The tour bus ride included a nice commentary by the driver about the various buildings and equipment used in searching for oil in the tundra. They actually wait for the snow and ice in the winter to drive the special vehicles onto the tundra so they do not damage the vegetation or permafrost. Then they search for new oil fields and begin drilling operations during the worst weather in the winter We managed to see a few caribou on the tour. Later we stopped to walk a hundred yards to the edge of the Beaufort Sea so we could dip our feet into the 57 degree water. Some hardy younger folks had to plunge all the way in. I just didn’t feel the need to do that.



When we got back to the hotel we packed sack lunches for later. Jim actually packed 2 meals for later. He said it would be his lunch and dinner later in the day. This meant he had gotten 5 meals, a late night snack and two showers for his room fee. Not bad. I did not want to carry a lot of food with me and I had expected to be at Coldfoot for dinner so I packed only a sandwich, soda and chips for a later lunch.

We left Deadhorse around 10:30AM for Coldfoot 244 miles away. I tried not to think of the distance and was just happy for the incredibly good weather we had been having.

We had to put up with stretches of highway workers. Parts of the road detoured into side areas that were deep dirt and gravel. Other areas were deep areas of pea gravel and oil mixture that played havoc with the front tires. We took a few breaks along the way. The effect of the razor straight horizon on the tundra was mesmerizing. After 30 minutes of riding and staring ahead at the featureless tundra, I had to shake my head to come out of my trance. The solid green earth and the deep blue sky meet at the horizon to produce what appeared to be a two dimensional canvas of artwork as if you were riding into a wall. I thought at one point something had been painted on my windshield. The point between wakefulness and sleep was becoming blurred. We pressed on at over 70 miles per hour as the landscaped zoomed by. I studied the sky, the wind, the cloud formations, the road texture, the music I was listening to, the vibrations of the motorcycle…anything to stay alert and chase away boredom.



We stopped for lunch just prior to attacking the north slope of the Atigun Pass. Then Jim took a nap while I kept watch for bears. Below is a photo of him sleeping on the ground in the small area of shade beside his bike. I was quietly admiring the durability and dependability of these Suzuki's that had brought us so far without the least whimper.




Mile after mile rolled by. The Atigun Pass receded in our mirrors. The scrub spruce trees slowly began to reappear. The mountains loomed around us. We became more concerned about a moose or caribou dashing into our path, but not enough to slow us down.



I was getting some good videos of the ride by holding my small digital camera up with my left hand and using my arm as a boom to rotate the camera around the bike and point it to the road behind or in front. I also tried low side shots of my front wheel as I drove.

We arrived at the bridge over the Koyukuk River. We rode the bikes down to the river’s edge and rinsed off over 700 miles of off road dust, mud, and calcium chloride. The calcium chloride proved very resistant to cleaning. While we were washing off the bikes we saw a lone Suzuki piloted by the intrepid Captain Killswitch putt-putt its way across the bridge. We estimate he will ride on to Fairbanks and be there by late evening. He should find a tire and have it mounted by mid afternoon. He can be back home by July 17th or 18th if he puts his iron butt into it.



I eat some of my camp rations for dinner and have some wine left over from a few days earlier. Jim is eating his second meal from his sack lunch. I see him eating cold fried chicken and then throwing the bones and skins on the ground not 20 feet from our tents. I exploded at him. What is he thinking? Does he not realize this could bring all kinds of big scavengers (bears) around our tent site? I tell him to throw them away about 300 yards downstream. I figure he must be trying to kill me by having a bear maul me so I keep my hatchet close to me for the evening.

I throw my line into the river to see if I can catch a fish but have absolutely no luck. I turn in fairly early and sleep through the daylight of late evening and early morning. Throughout the night the occasional big rig high balling over the bridge 200 yards to our east sounds as if the truck is nearly driving over the tent. I dream uneasily about big rigs and bears eating fried chicken bones outside my tent as I gently caress my camp hatchet.

2000 Honda Sabre VT1100 (194,000 miles)
2005 Suzuki DL650 (116,000 miles)
1976 BMW R90/6 (33,000 miles)
2009 Vespa GTS250ie (8200 miles)
1993 Honda CB750 (13,000 miles)
2013 BMW R1200GS LC (16,600 miles)
2015 Kawasaki KLR650E (3,200 miles)

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post #28 of 73 Old 04-07-2010, 01:25 AM Thread Starter
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July 14, 2009
Miles 5800-6203





We woke and left camp at 9AM. It was a short ride south to Coldfoot to have our typical hearty breakfast. We stopped at the gas pumps to fill up before the long ride south to Fairbanks. Jim made the same mistake of leaving his American Express card at the counter for his gas. The man behind the counter was the same one we saw on the way north. He had a big mustache and looked like Sam Elliot. When I told him about Jim being somewhat "challenged" and unable to remember from one day to the next that they do not take American Express, Jim and I started arguing with each other. The Sam Elliot dude calmly said, “You guys are still together after all these miles.”

I said, “Oh, you don’t understand. I have wanted to kill him about a dozen times a day on this trip.” (Joking, of course.)

The dude didn’t miss a beat and said, “Well this is the place to do it.” Hmmm. Interesting comment to say without pausing.

We ate our breakfast with gusto. We had wanted to see the Nature Center on the way north but did not stop. We had decided to check it out. It was directly across the highway from the gas stop. We ended up viewing most of the exhibits and thought it was worth the stop. I was able to buy a book about the indigenous people of Alaska. It told about the history of the people who populated such a harsh environment and how they survived. Probably the most interesting parts were how they made waterproof garments out of seal intestines. The book tells how they built their houses, how they hunted or went miles out to sea for seals, fishing or whale hunts. Their kayaks were made from seal skin sewn together. It is truly amazing to imagine how people settled and decided to stay and actually survive in such a hostile area.

We headed back south toward Fox. The ride went fast. The road improved greatly the further south we went. At times we were going 80 mph when there was asphalt and wide sweepers.

We landed in Fox and stopped at the Howling Dog for a quick brew. Not much was going on but Larry the Gold Prospector was there to talk to and keep us entertained. He recommended some places to check out if we were going toward Fairbanks and the over to Highway 3 to Denali. He said the Blue Loon was a good place. We had lunch there. When we left for Denali Jim saw a fox run across the road. The afternoon was wearing on and there was heavy smoke in the air to the south from forest fires.

As we approached Nenana the smoke was so dense it was darker than any evening we had experienced in the Arctic. There were cardboard signs at various intervals saying things about the fire or places for fire fighters to assemble. We pulled in to a rest area where some fire fighters were gathered and asked where the fire was. They said it was 300 miles to the west. When we got within 50 miles of Deanli National Park the smoke cleared. We had been riding most of the day and it was now near 10PM.

The closer to Denali National Park we got, I realised we had made a mistake to not find a camp site. Denali was a huge tourist trap. The town was full of outfitters, hotels, restaurants. It was like Gatlinburg, Tennessee or Cherokee, North Carolina. The worse part was all the “No Camping” signs posted all over the place. We were tired and decided to try for the national park campground just within the park.

We arrived at the entrance to find that we had to sign in at the general store. The kid working the counter said there were no sites available. Light rain was beginning to fall. He said we could drive into the campground and ask the host if there was space for walk-in tenting.

We rode to the host’s site and he told us we could find a spot at the walk-in space. To camp at the walk-in space we had to park our bikes and unload them, carry our gear 100 yards to the tent site. Then ride our bikes 400 yards away and park them in the open parking area. Jim and I discussed how this was total BS and were about 2 seconds from leaving and heading south. In reality we were 2 seconds from the decision to leave, Jim would have taken another 5 minutes to actually get his gear back on and drive away.

At any rate, we were committed to leave when the host rode up in his golf cart. He said we could have the “handicapped tent space” which happened to be 20 feet away from where we were deliberating the tragic hand that had been dealt us.

The host said that the space was available and that as late as it was, no one would be coming in. He also said that the handicapped space cannot be reserved in the National Parks. He was irritated at the entitlement mentality of some folks sporting a handicapped tag who waltz in and demand the handicap space as if it must legally be reserved just for them. He said most of these folks game the system and do not have any discernible disability. He is barred by law from asking the nature of their disability. But he is happy to tell them the space is taken and that he does not, in fact have to reserve it just for handicapped persons.

The weird thing about the site that makes it fulfill the legal requirements for being a handicapped accessible site is that the tent pad is elevated about 2 feet above the ground elevation on a gravel pad. I tried to figure out why this makes it better for handicapped persons. But the only thing I could come up with was if you were in a wheelchair, you could transfer onto the pad from your wheelchair and roll into your tent. If your disability was having a prosthetic leg, you were hosed. If you were blind, you could fall off the pad and break your neck. If you had arthritis in the knees, hosed. Emphysema, hosed. Stroke, hosed.

In fact, it made no more sense to me than the Americans with Disability Act requiring Braille lettering on drive up ATM machines. Or the large toilet stalls found in the ski chalet halfway up Mammoth Mountain. Not too many people in wheelchairs can get to this chalet, much less navigate down the two long flights of stairs to the bathroom. But the good thing is that the rare wheelchair-bound skier can get his wheelchair fully into the large stall as mandated by our federal government. Yeah.

Anyhow, back to the elevated tent pad. The host said the showers were closed for the night. We pitched our tents and washed our faces, brushed out teeth and made it to our tents before the heavy rains started to fall. I fell asleep on top of my bag until it got cool later in the night and I crawled inside the bag. It rained most of the night and into the morning as we were packing up. We had wanted to start early for the bus ride into Denali to see the wild animals. We were soon about to learn a valuable lesson about the bus ride.

2000 Honda Sabre VT1100 (194,000 miles)
2005 Suzuki DL650 (116,000 miles)
1976 BMW R90/6 (33,000 miles)
2009 Vespa GTS250ie (8200 miles)
1993 Honda CB750 (13,000 miles)
2013 BMW R1200GS LC (16,600 miles)
2015 Kawasaki KLR650E (3,200 miles)

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post #29 of 73 Old 04-07-2010, 01:34 AM Thread Starter
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July 15, 2009
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We rode from the campground to the ticket office to get our ticket for the bus ride into the park. We purchased the 8 hour round trip. Pay close attention here if you plan to see Denali Park. The mistakes we made on this part of the trip were this: 1) We should have camped at the campground that is at the end of where they allow private vehicles to go. That way you can get up early before the buses begin to scare off the wild animals and hike into the park thus saving yourself the money for the bus ride. 2) Never take a bus ride into Denali if it is raining. The buses spray up fine mud that covers the windows and prevent any good views of mountains or wildlife. Also, the buses are filled with people who jump up at the least little mention of wildlife. Most of these people are large bottomed retired people on group tours or cruise ships. They have large expensive cameras that take crappy photos of wildlife that is faintly visible through muddy windows and is over 1000 yards away.

And have you ever been on a school bus for 8 hours on a bumpy dirt road? I was wishing for the comfort of my motorcycle and heated gear. Overall it was one of the most disappointing experiences of the trip. As soon as we got back to our bikes and took off the rain covers I was feeling better. I was very glad when I had 20 miles between me and Denali with all its buses full of overweight tourists who would never consider sleeping in a tent in the Alaska bush. But these same folk felt like they were on a real safari in the school bus. Agggg!

The rain persisted for an hour and my riding gear kept me dry and toasty. We stopped at the Panorama Pizza Pub 20 miles south of Denali. The place makes a great brick oven pizza and has good Glacier View Stout on tap. We enjoyed the 60’s rock and roll on the stereo while we ate pizza and drank beer. The rain had finally stopped by the time we left the pub. I pulled out on highway 3 to head south to Anchorage. Jim was a few minutes behind me. He saw a moose on the road when he pulled away from the pub.

We pass Cantwell after 10 minutes and stop for gas at the same place we stopped at when we turned east on the Denali Highway on July 9th. Wow, was that really 6 days ago? We see the turn for the Denali Highway and realize what we had accomplished. We had driven over 700 miles of unpaved roads through some of Alaska’s desolate areas. We had hung it out and so far survived without hurting ourselves or our bikes and neither one of us killing the other with a camp hatchet.

Whenever you are backtracking on a bike trip, the mood of the ride becomes different. The ride has now become, “The Return Trip”. There is a certain desire to get on with it and get home. But at least we were taking an epic return route. After a couple of days back in Anchorage we planned to head north to Chicken, Top of the World Highway, Dawson City in the Yukon for part of the music festival, Watson Lake to search for the mythical Mandeep, Jasper and Banff in the Canadian Rockies and the Idaho panhandle, eastern Oregon, Northern Coastal California and eventually home. Yes, half of the trip was still ahead of us.

There was one little amusing event when Jim and I became separated. Just south of Cantwell I spotted a dirt road that I wanted to try out. I pulled over and whipped a U turn. I misjudged how close the dirt road was and shot past it going north so I whipped another U turn and saw Jim almost completing his first 5 point U turn to the south. He was perpendicular to the highway and looked almost ready to pull out and go south in my direction. I assumed he would lift his eyes long enough to see my position as I turned off the highway onto the dirt road.

I was only on the dirt road for 3-4 minutes but Jim never followed me so I assumed he had stayed on the highway to wait for me. When I rode back to the highway he was not there. Since the road north was straight and clear for over a mile I was sure he would have seen that I had not taken that route to the north. My V Strom is not fast enough to disappear that fast. So I surmised he must have continued south and was no more than 4-5 miles away. If I drove 80mph I could catch him in 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes it was clear I was not going to catch him. He must have done the unthinkable and gone north for a longer time than any human would have thought necessary. At this point I slowed down to to 50mph and calculated he should be able to catch me in 30 minutes assuming he had traveled no more than 5 miles looking for me to the north.

Alas, after 30 minutes of this crap, no Jim. Oh, well. We can meet up in Anchorage. We have cell phones. All the fast riding trying to “catch”Jim had cut into my gas supply. I was becoming concerned about making it to the next gas station. I stopped when I had calculated I would down to a critical low state of fuel. I made it to Trapper Creek and ask the lady if she noted a black bike like mine coming through. “No.”

I tell her to be on the lookout for one and to tell the rider I had been here. Then I head south. The ride through Wasila and into Anchorage was boring. The road delays due to highway maintenance was maddening. I get to Humpy’s for dinner and Jim has left a message on my mobile. I call him and tell him I am at Humpy’s and by the way, where is he? When he met up with me he was pretty sore at me. I didn’t care to argue. It seemed to me that he had made a few critical mistakes but it wasn’t any big deal. I realized he hadn’t felt comfortable whipping his bike around and failed to look 150 feet up the road where I had turned onto a dirt road. And the dirt road was not like it was into a thick forest. The road was next to the usual bushes and wide open fields with scrub spruce trees. It must have truly amazed him how quickly and utterly I had vanished after just going 40 or 50 yards away. Poof!

Now if I were running from the law it would not happen as easily for some damn reason. “What do you mean you lost the suspect? He was only 150 feet away from you!

We eat and it seems like Humpy’s has become overused. The music and crowd is too loud. I just want to go to my buddy’s house and rest. We get there at 1AM and it is already becoming dark. It is as if winter is closing in on us. It is only 2 weeks later and it is noticeably darker much earlier. Just a few days ago when we were above the Arctic Circle it was bright at 3AM.

Tomorrow we plan to clean up the bikes and change our oil and oil filters. We will also put our street tires back on. A decision that in retrospect could have been handled differently with spectacular results. We fall asleep easily.

2000 Honda Sabre VT1100 (194,000 miles)
2005 Suzuki DL650 (116,000 miles)
1976 BMW R90/6 (33,000 miles)
2009 Vespa GTS250ie (8200 miles)
1993 Honda CB750 (13,000 miles)
2013 BMW R1200GS LC (16,600 miles)
2015 Kawasaki KLR650E (3,200 miles)

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post #30 of 73 Old 04-07-2010, 09:20 PM
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Good stuff, I'm really enjoying this ride report!
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