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post #31 of 73 Old 04-07-2010, 11:29 PM Thread Starter
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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 #32 of 73 Old 04-08-2010, 02:53 AM Thread Starter
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July 16, 2009
A few dozen miles







We got up early and Jim is already stinking up the entire house by putting hair dryers into both of his boots that by now have been continuously wet for over 2 weeks. The smell so overpowers you that it brings up a bile taste in the back of the throat and causes the eyes to water. I demand that he move the boots out to the patio deck. His new “waterproof” boots have failed the road test miserably. He plans to send them back for a refund when he gets home. I am not sure the boots will make it home. Perhaps a wild animal will drag them off during the night, or at least that is what I plan to tell him must have happened to them.


We plan for a big breakfast at the local IHOP. There is a Wal-Mart next door where we can get our cleaning supplies, oil and a decent oil drain pan. I also need a cover to replace the one that departed from one of my accessory plugs if I want to keep any water from collecting in the plug.


We found a self-service car wash nearby and cleaned more Dalton Highway “cement” off our bikes. It is becoming clear that no amount of cleaning or scrubbing will ever get all the mud and scale off our bikes. Still they look pretty good as we head into town to do a few errands.

Jim needs to get a new charger for his phone and he wants to mail some items home. We stop by the Moose’s Tooth for a beer before going to AK Riders for our bike maintenance. We arrive at 6PM to begin changing our oil. The simple drain pan makes my job go much easier. I had made a complete mess of the job when we passed through AK Riders on the way north. I was not used to the pan they let me use. I managed to spill oil all over the parking lot. I was sure that CNN would come roaring in with the story of an environmental disaster much like the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

I felt good to be able to show the guys at AK Rider that I was not a total buffoon when it came to oil changes. That job completed, I turn to taking off the wheels. Everything was going great. One of the AK Riders employees, Jason, was helping us with the tire changing machine. It takes about 45 minutes to do all four tires on our bikes. We donate our lightly used Continental TKCs with approximately 1500 miles of good tread life left to the AK Riders to use on their bikes. They are pleased with the donation and plan to use them. (More on this decision later.)


As I am completing my tire swap, the last task thing I need to do I torque down the rear axle nut and put on the cotter pin and we will be done. I am applying the proper torque when suddenly I feel an unexpected “ping”! The nut spins freely. I try screwing the bolt onto the nut, again. And then I suddenly realize that the nut is completely stripped!



Yikes. This is a 19mm castellated nut. It is not a common nut. Jason says, “Don’t worry. I have a box of salvage parts. I am sure I have a nut to fit.” He comes back with a nut that is too small.

“Don’t worry. The local NAPA dealer can find any sized nut for you. I have never seen them fail to get a fastener. In the meantime you can simply slide the nut over the axle and use the cotter pin to hold it on. Just don’t pop any wheelies or ‘get on it’ and you should be safe.”

Hmm. I have never driven a bike with a loose axle held on only by the cotter pin. I make a few quick calls. I am already worried that this nut could keep us in Anchorage a week longer than we want. I call my buddy Ryan Williams at North County House of Motorcycles. I ask him how soon he can get me a rear axle assembly. It is Thursday afternoon and around closing time in San Diego. He says he can put the order in tomorrow and have the part no later than Monday and out the door for overnight delivery on Tuesday. I ask him to stand by for further instructions tomorrow if I can’t find a nut. I then call my mechanic buddy, Ronnie Lindley at Power, Performance, Perfection in San Marcos, California.

Ronnie is a true craftsman and knows everything there is to know about motorcycles and repair. He is also a good friend to answer a critical question like this when on the road with a potentially serious mechanical problem. I dial him up and ask him about riding with a stripped axle nut held on only by the cotter pin. “Hmmm. Never heard than one before. But I guess it should work since most of the force on the axle is perpendicular to the axle not along the long axis of the axle,” he says.

I was breaking new ground. He says he has a salvaged axle assembly off a Suzuki SV650 that will work on my bike. I ask him to overnight it to me in the morning. This assures me that I can at least have a workable part in 2 days if I cannot scare up a part in Anchorage. He is also sending me his thread file to clean the threads on my current axle in case the axle he sends me does not work but the nut does. What a guy.

But before I can use the stripped nut, I have to take off the washer from the swing arm so the nut will slide far enough onto the axle to expose the hole that the cotter pin slides into. Interesting. I save the washer for later. We drive to the NAPA Dealer and ask for a 19mm nut. They do not have one but the employee suggests we check with an industrial fastener company nearby. They are sure to have one. They are closed now so we are left with dealing with the problem tomorrow morning.


We are close to a popular restaurant and bar called Chilcoot Charlies. It is supposed to have lots of local color, local talent, good music, beer and food. We need to eat and it is on the way back to our house so we stop in. It doesn’t disappoint us. It is a rambling affair with at least six separate bars.Check out their web site (http://www.koots.com/) and click on "The Bars". Then from the drop down menu look at the "bar map". Click on the separate bars and you will find lots of photos of the kind of wild life available there. Suffice it to say, some people are well known there from all the time they spend at the place. There is a lot of local talent. I note that a large percentage of the Alaskan women have full sleeve tats.

There is an outdoor patio with a mural composed of colored wood pieces that have been jig-sawed to fit like a puzzle. It is an intricate work of art with all manner of scenes taking up a space over 40 feet long and 10 feet high. If you stand too close to the wall the figures do not appear. It was only when standing back about 15 feet that the images are apparent. You could spend quite a while just sipping your beer and talking while finding a new figure on the wall.

At the other end of the patio a fishing boat had been built into the wall. The far end of the bar contained what appeared to be an ice cream van. It had been converted into a bar to make drinks for the people outside.

Another part of Chilcoot Charlies has a live band, another was a karaoke bar. In the far end you walked into a low ceiling room that was festooned with bras and female undergarments. The bar was a taken from an old boat and still had a 20 degree slope to it. Any round object laid on the bar would slide away from you. After a few drinks you felt much more intoxicated than you actually were. Or maybe not.

We left the bar at around midnight after making a lot of friends. We spent time talking to an ex-con from Arizona and his girlfriend. Another friendly guys was a fishing boat worker from Virginia who was heading home the next day. Many other other folks happened by. We were having a good time.

A light drizzle greeted us as we headed back to our bikes for the 15 mile ride back to the house. I kept my speed to around 55 mph just in case my rear wheel decided to fall off.

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 #33 of 73 Old 04-08-2010, 03:13 AM Thread Starter
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July 17, 2009
6550-6899 miles





I wake up early, anxious to begin making phone calls to find my nut. By 9AM it is becoming clear that this is not going to be easy to find. The industrial fastener supply doesn't have it. At 10AM the local Suzuki shop opens. I call them and ask about the rear axle nut. The young lady who works the parts counter says, “We don’t stock them. But we could get one here in a week.”

A week? I told her I can order one from my shop in San Diego and have it in Anchorage in 4 days. She doesn’t offer any other suggestions. Finally after a few more calls I call Ronnie and ask if he was able to send off the axle assembly. He has already sent it. Good. At least I should have something by tomorrow.

I call Anchorage Cycle Center at 4908 Old Seward Highway (http://www.akcyclecenter.com/default.asp) and speak to a helpful young man working the parts counter named John Kubina. He simply states, “We don’t have them in stock. Is your bike ridable? Then bring it down to the shop. We have a spare parts bin of salvaged nuts and bolts and I am sure we can find one for you.”

Finally, someone who can relate to being broken down in a distant city. We drive over to to the shop. I spend exactly 30 seconds taking off my rear wheel by sliding the damaged nut and axle out of my swing arm. He takes the assembly to the shop and in 15 minutes I have a salvaged nut off a Kawasaki that fits and they have cleaned my axle with a thread file. It is even castellated to accept a cotter pin. I ask how much I owe them and John says, “No charge.”


What the heck? Have you ever experienced this level of service in your life? A nut that would have cost me $10 or more and if delivered overnight would be another $30. And they spend time cleaning my threads, finding a nut and don’t even charge for the effort! I took time to find the store manager and told her how much I appreciated the service and the fact that John went above and beyond with service. It is hard to find good people like him in the work place.


I put the axle and nut on my bike but find the new nut’s outside diameter is larger than any wrench or socket I have in my toolkit. I again ask John for help to torque the nut. A mechanic appears with the proper sized socket and torque wrench. Done! I know my next order of business is to find a socket to fit the new nut. The last thing I need now is to have to remove the wheel for a tire problem and not have the right socket.


Jim and I head to a place for lunch and afterward find a local auto parts store for the proper sized socket. Booyah! Back in business. We return to the house to pack up our bikes and leave for Tok. We plan to be in Dawson City in time for the music festival. The entire stripped nut business only delayed us 4 hours from our original departure time. I call AK Riders to advise them of the salvaged SV650 axle assembly coming in tomorrow. I ask them to hold it for me and I will make other arrangements. I thank them for all their help.



We leave Anchorage at 2PM. It is a boring ride out of town with the usual blocked lanes due to construction and heavy traffic. The ride gets no better until we reach Palmer. The ride out of Palmer is very nice. There are nice sweepers and views of the river with a nice glacier view thrown in. There is always the slow RV driver who refuses to move over for the 10 vehicles stacking up behind him. Jim and I blow past him at the first opportunity.


Not much farther up the road is an Alaska State Trooper in a pick up truck heading in our direction. He is going just fast enough to make the ride tolerable. As his vehicle disappears around a curve or a crest of a hill, I apply gas and get closer. All northbound traffic comes to a stop at a construction site. We note the trooper is with a little girl. He is probably off duty and going somewhere with his daughter. However, we don’t want to test him. We pull our helmet and ear buds off and take a break. There is enough time to walk 50 yards to the edge of the woods for a bathroom break. I marvel at the speed that mosquitoes can find any part of exposed skin. I wave the mosquito off with peeing on myself.


After 10 minutes we are on our way again. The trooper pulls off the road 10 miles up the road and we resume our "slightly faster than speed limit" cruise. Somewhere south of Glennallen the sky turns very ugly and dark. Light rain begins to fall. We find a restaurant just before a major deluge begins with lightning and hail. We stay for a nice lunch and lots of coffee and hot cherry pie with vanilla ice cream. While we are watching the buckets of rain and hail blowing sideways we see three elderly women ride in on a Gold wing trike, a VTX 1800 and BMW K1200LT. I am amazed to see such a group. The rain had eased up so I walk out to get a photo of them and ask them a few questions. They are on a 5 week extended trip from New Hampshire. They each looked at least 70 years old. I am not sure the three of them together could right either the BMW or the VTX if it were dumped. They were in the process of putting on their rain gear so they could keep riding. They were fearless and living their dream. It was good to see older people doing this, especially women. It goes to show you anyone can ride to Alaska when they want to do it badly enough.



We make good time after the storm passes. We stop at the last place to get gas before Tok. It was a good thing we did, too. They were closing for the day immediately after we bought gas. We head onward to Tok. Just outside of Tok we see the same moose in the same pond that we saw on the ride south two weeks previously. Well, it was the same pond, but I couldn’t swear that it was the same moose.



We make it to Tok in time to have another nice halibut burger at Fast Eddies. We were now only 185 miles to Dawson City. We could camp somewhere north of Tok and have an easy ride into Dawson City for a Saturday night stay. We also wanted to check out Chicken, Alaska tomorrow.

We rode east from Tok towards Tetlin Junction where we would take the Taylor Highway 5 to Chicken and the Top of the World Highway into Dawson City. At Tetlin Junction we rode north. It was now getting late and we had ridden over 300 miles since leaving Anchorage. We began looking for a suitable place to camp.

We tried a dirt road to the east but it just looped back to the highway and offered no suitable place to pitch a tent. Most of the area appeared to be recently burned from a forest fire. We rode on for a few more miles and found a turn off to the left that was a highway maintenance area. It was about ¼ mile off the highway and was shielded from the road by a large mound of dirt. It was a perfect place to set up camp. The ground was flat but very hard. No matter. I had my trusty Thermarest and foam pad to cushion me. The mosquitoes were out but DEET kept them at bay. We had our routine glass of wine before writing a few lines in our journals and hitting the sack. It was 12:30 AM and too dark to see well enough to write without lights. A rare lone truck or car was heard occasionally in the night air.

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 #34 of 73 Old 04-08-2010, 11:42 PM Thread Starter
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July 18, 2009
6905-7085 miles



We woke to a bright and sunny morning. We were packed and on our way by 9AM. We arrived in Chicken at 10:30AM. We made the requisite stop in “downtown” Chicken. We ate a huge breakfast at the Chicken Creek Café. We bought a few souvenirs and took photos as proof of our passing this way. We checked out the Pedro gold dredge nearby that is being reconditioned for tours.



While we were doing our tourist thing. Jim struck up a conversation with an older fellow who had been at Denali a week earlier. We began to tell him about our other rider who had broken off from us. We told him about his strange approach to riding and how he was into high mileage days. The gentleman then said he had met this guy at Denali. He described him to a tee. Saying he was on a bike like ours only a different color, how he was retired, and how he was all about how many miles he could on his bike in a day. Yep, that was Captain Kill Switch. He agreed that he thought the lone rider was a bit unusual in his approach to touring Alaska. Talk about a small world. We had run into Captain Kill Switch twice after parting ways on the fourth day. Now we had met another person who had also met him and formed the same opinion of him.




I spoke to a local who rode in on a small bore Yamaha dirt bike wearing a large bore handgun strapped to his chest. He was on his way to visit a friend who was a gold miner who lived 75 miles down a dirt path outside of Chicken. I asked him if he carried any tools to fix a flat. He said he did not. I thought how it would generally suck to have to walk 40 miles or more to get home if he had a flat.

We motored out of Chicken toward the Top of the World Highway and the Canadian border. There was a stream running by the road where some people were panning for gold. The stream was drying up and all the locals were remarking how dry the area had become. The road became pot holed and had long areas of corduroy ripples making the ride very difficult and rough.

Just west of the Canadian border we were aware of being on top of a mountain range with no tree coverage. The combination of northern latitude and high altitude combined to put us above the tree line. As we reached the border the sky turned dark and a few drops of rain began. I took the time to go into the customs office to rearrange my gear out of the rain.



Immediately after we entered Canadian territory the bottom dropped out of the sky. We had lightning, 40 mile per hour cross winds, rain, pea hail, and a sloppy rutted gravel road. The rain drops were blowing sideways off my face shield even though I was going 40-50 mph. The lightning was hitting nearby. I decided to ride faster so I could try to get off the ridge line to find some protection from the lightning. We were passing slower RVs. The visibility sucked. I was concentrating again on trying to keep my rear wheel behind my front wheel. This was easily the worst riding condition we had seen during the whole trip. It was a good thing we were now more experienced and up to the task. Had we encountered this type of riding early and often in the trip it would have worn us out. My heated vest and heated grips also made the ride more tolerable. The iPod never failed to belt out good tunes.

I was wishing I still had my TKC knobby tires on the bike. In fact, it was around this time that I had noticed the rear street tire I had put back on my bike was wearing out much quicker than I had expected and would not take me all the way home. It was to be a constant nagging worry for me over the next few days. Every time I stopped for gas, I would look at the rear tire. I thought that I could actually see the tread depth disappearing before my eyes.

We continued onward toward Dawson City. By early afternoon we had descended off the mountain and caught a glimpse of the Dawson City across the Yukon River. What a site. It looked like an old west town with old buildings, boardwalks for sidewalks and muddy town roads. We waited a few minutes for the free ferry to carry us across.

The ferry is able to handle a handful of cars or small trucks at a time. They take motorcycles up front as they are small and easy to place on the sides of the boat. You drive onto the ramp that is dropped onto the pebble shore. A crew member hustles you up to your spot with minimal instructions, not at all like the ferry ride from Valdez to the Kenai! No chocks, no tie downs, no warnings to hold on.

The captain keeps his engine at nearly full power while the vehicles are being loaded. The boat strains to maintain its position against the strong current of the deep and swift moving Yukon. When everyone is aboard, the engine goes into full reverse to pull the ramp off the shore. The boat now is accelerating downstream. As the boat picks up speed the captain swings the rudder hard to whip the bow of the boat into a 270 degree clockwise turn. The G forces are such that I am having a very difficult time keeping my bike from tipping over onto the left side even though the side stand is down. I prop my left foot against a large cleat to add stability. The whole time this is happening, I am trying to pull my camera out for a quick photo of us on the deck of the ferry as we approach Dawson City. The ferry ride is over in about a minute. Now I am hurrying to put the camera away and get my helmet on for the departure.





The ferry plows into the gravel shore so the ramp is high above the water line. The engine stays at full power to keep the boat in place as we ride off into town. The process was fast, efficient and exciting. It was like a ride at Disney Land with the additional terror of possibly falling into a raging freezing Canadian river or falling over on the ferry with a motorcycle on top of you.

There is a very short ride into town on muddy roads. We stop at the Visitor’s Center to get a recommendation for campgrounds, concerts, restaurants, etc. As I head to the restroom to wash up, I note that the rain has soaked some of my clothing. We are anxious to get a campsite and take a shower. The rains have put a damper on my desire to spend much time wandering around Dawson City. The lady at the Visitor’s Center tells us of a campground a few miles out of town. Off we go.

The campground was privately owned and not much to talk about. The sites were cramped and overpriced. We were just able to put up our tents before a huge rainstorm and thunderstorm hit. I spent time in my tent relaxing and sorting out my gear. I put the wet stuff in my tent loft to try to dry before needing it again tomorrow. I was not looking forward to going back into town.

The campground offered 5 minute hot showers for about $2 Canadian. It was long enough to wash up, shave and warm up before the time ran out. Not bad. After showering and cleaning up, the rains had passed and I was more eager to check out Dawson City. We buttoned up our tents and rode a few miles back to town to look for dinner, a few drinks and some excitement.

We rode throughout most of the town to see what it was like. It was like being on the set of a western movie. I expected to see the Cartwrights or Wyatt Earp any moment. We stopped at a store to get the usual souvenirs and such. Then we walked around to get some photos of town. We asked the locals for recommendations for a good dinner. At one point I asked two local police on ATVs where to find a restaurant that was highly recommended. They said, “We don’t know. We are not from around here.”



The town had imported a small police force to help keep the peace during the music festival. The town was full of young people who were stumbling from bar to bar and going to various music venues. There were also beer gardens set up and food vendors much like a county fair. The whole town was celebrating the annual music event.

I thought it was strange that the temporary police force did not know the town well. I asked them what would happen if they had to respond to a fight at the restaurant where we had wanted to go. They would have to ask directions.



We wandered around town a bit and settled on Diamond Tooth Gertie’s. The elk burgers and fries made a delicious meal. Now we were ready for a few beers in some of the famous saloons of Dawson City. We sampled beers at several places but had the most enjoyment at Jack London’s Bar. There were a group of college kids at the back of the bar all lined up to have the Sour Toe Cocktail. For $10 you can go through the elaborate ritual of having an old man rub a dead toe on your face and then drop it in a drink you have purchased. You get the certificate of authenticity if you allow the toe to touch your lips as you finish your drink. Wow. I have no plans to do that.


Jim and I have a few beers and talk to some locals. One guy is a huge young Polish-Russian oil worker who was a large as a pro NFL lineman. He had some interesting perspectives about the Yukon and Dawson City. Another interesting couple was a young Canadian graduate who had just completed his geophysics degree. He lived in Dawson City with his girlfriend. He was enthralled with our bikes and our journey. Another interesting person was a young Mormon girl who spoke perfect Italian. Obviously she was not having the Sour Toe Cocktail.

We were looking for the bar with just the right amount of local flavor. All the locals said, “stay away from The Pit”. It was a bar local bar full of mean, dangerous, drunk locals and First Nation people. Now we’re talking. We headed for The Pit.

The atmosphere in The Pit was just right. There was a one man band playing a bang up job with a guitar and a harmonica. The place was rocking. It was especially cool that the floor undulated in about 6 different directions from the years of permafrost melting and settling of the building. Even if you were not drunk it would be hard to walk in here without looking drunk. We found the place genuine and not at all dangerous. We were in infinitely more danger at Chillcoot Charlie’s in Anchorage.



We head back to our camp around 1AM. We quietly park our bikes and crawl into our tents. Since the camp was moderately crowded we wanted to be as courteous as possible. I wrote in my journal for 30 minutes and turned out the light to go to sleep. There was a lot of noise coming from the area 50 yards across the campground from us. It sounded like someone beating on pots and pans, talking loud, laughing, and slamming car doors, etc. There was a young man camping next to us with a BMW cycle. He had told us earlier when we arrived that he had been in Dawson City for 2 days trying to decide if he wanted to ride to Inuvik or not. Apparently the stress of deciding on his ride and the late night noise got to him. He starting yelling at the folks across the camp to “be quiet!!! This is a public campground and they need to show to some respect for others!!!” Or words to that effect.

Then 15 minutes after this happens. Their car alarm goes off. Not for just a few seconds, but for two full minutes. The whole camp is awake now. After it stopped I had to ask in a loud voice, “are you complete morons over there?!” A young lady said meekly, “sorry”. Then more pots banging, loud voices, laughing and the car alarm goes off again for at least ten seconds. Wow. I love public camping, not. Give me primitive camping and wildlife any day.

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 #35 of 73 Old 04-08-2010, 11:48 PM Thread Starter
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We get up late. The BMW guy is already gone. Too bad we didn’t find out which way he headed. We were packed up just before a heavy rain started. It was a short distance to the gas station where we refueled and got coffee. We asked about cafes south to have breakfast. There was one 24 miles south. We drove through moderate rains and stopped at the café. It happened to be filled with an AARP convention. There was not a single seat in the entire place. We left and headed south for another 60 miles.

We stopped at Moose Creek Crossing. There is a homestead with a small café, It was the highlight of our day. The owner was a lady who had moved there from Switzerland seven years ago. She baked all the breads, cakes, cookies, brownies and pastries in her kitchen. The back of the café had a small store where local folks sold arts and craft items. There was an area devoted to museum type items from the area. It was located in an old log cabin with low ceilings. It was like visiting a friend’s house in the middle of nowhere. It was very cool and her breakfast was also very good.



Outside on the grounds the area had all sorts of curios. There were old trucks, old gas pumps, large carved wooden structures, home built meat smoker, frivolous contraptions like a phone booth 15 feet up in a tree and a seat with moose antlers that allowed you to sit and look like the horns were growing from your head. It was like an amusement park.















After breakfast in this cool place with no crowds of AARP fanatics we hit the road again and there is no more rain for the day.The sky was filled with fluffy clouds and lots of sun. We had mostly great asphalt with short stretches of gravel. One section of gravel gave me fits.

I studied the clouds and winds. It was amazing how the weather changed as you drove along. The iPod was cranking out some great traveling tunes. It seemed as if the iPod was neurologically linked to my brain. I would be thinking about some obscure item and then a tune would play that had held some loose reference to the item I was thinking about. What are the odds?

We crossed many wide rivers on this route. We also crossed the Yukon River again. Fox Lake was very large. The headwinds were quite stiff heading towards Whitehorse. When we reached Teslin we refueled and ate at the restaurant on the left just before the long iron grate bridge. I ordered reindeer sausage with pirogi's and bacon. Not bad.

After dinner the weather was turning cool so we put on our cool weather riding gear and resumed traveling south. It was 8:30PM and we were now seriously thinking about the Mythical Mandeep in Watson Lake. We were hoping to have an audience with him. We ride for a few hours and darkness forces us to look for a tent site. Mandeep will have to wait until tomorrow.

I see a dirt path heading off the Alcan Highway and turn around to check it out. I ride about ½ mile into the trees and there is a wide flat area about the size of 10 football fields. We have the entire place to ourselves. It looks like a place that was used as a camp for the road crew when the highway was being built. There are lots of these cleared areas to be found just off the Alcan. The mosquitoes are fierce but can’t compete with our long sleeve gear and DEET. We put up the tents, pull out the wine and talk into the night. I write in the journal and look at my thermometer which read 45 degrees. We go to bed with thoughts of meeting up with the Mandeep tomorrow and seeing the Sign Forest in Watson Lake.

My rear tire is very worn now. I expect to see cord showing at any moment. I had been riding for long stretches with the bike heeled over to one side while I hung off the other side. I figured this would help wear on the part of the tire that was not dead center. Even if it gives me another 50 or 100 miles it might be worth it. It was also good for breaking up monotony on the ride. I hoped it could get me to Dawson Creek, 550 miles south.

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 #36 of 73 Old 04-10-2010, 02:51 AM Thread Starter
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July 20, 2009
Miles 7673-7983


We woke at 6:30AM after 4 hours of very good sleep. The air was 40 degrees outside and the clover we had pitched our tents on was very soft. We were packed and on our way in an hour. In another 30 minutes we were at the Sign Forest in Watson Lake. It is worth a quick look. It is so overwhelming that you feel like leaving in a few minutes. I kept wondering why and how people brought such large traffic signs from all over the world. The cost of the 6x6 posts to mount all the signs was not insignificant. There are over 60,000 signs.



We began asking people we met in Watson Lake if they knew of the Mythical Mandeep. We had precious little information to go one. We knew he operated a campground in Watson Lake and was like the Dali Lama of bikers. If you could get an audience with Mandeep your life would take on a whole new dimension.

We pulled into one campground in Watson Lake and asked the lady who met us, “do you know the Mandeep?” No, she said he may live on the other end of town. She didn’t go that way often. Watson Lake is about 5 miles long. What kind of person lives in a little town in the Yukon and “never gets to the other side of town”? She thought we were a bit strange. I see Watson Lake is bigger than I had expected and finding the Mandeep was turning out to be a bit harder than I had planned.

We needed gas. We stopped for gas and as I was paying the cashier, who looked like she could be Indian or Pakistani, I asked her, “have you heard of the Mythical Mandeep?”

“Oh, yes. I know him. He works at the campground between the RCMP and the truck scales on the south end of town.”

This was solid information that we could use. We paid for our fuel and then stopped for breakfast at Bee Jay’s café. Usual good breakfast fare. Next stop, the Mandeep.

It was a short ride to the campground. There was a gas station and convenience store out front. I walked into the gas station to ask if the worker knew of this Mandeep and if we could speak with him. The attendant said Mandeep was the manager of the campground and was probably sleeping since he usually stays up until 4AM every night. Awesome. We were tapping into the actual habits of the Mystic. I told the attendant that we had traveled all the way from San Diego, California to have audience with the Mandeep. He looked at us as if we were strange. But he called Mandeep on the phone. He said some fellows were here to say hello to him.

I was handed the phone and said we were here on Vstroms and I had read about him on the Stromtrooper.com web site in an epic tale written by Greywolf who traveled through Watson Lake the year before. Greywolf had written about him in such glowing terms, he said “if you ever get to Watson Lake, you must look up Mandeep.” I told Mandeep that I had thought of little else since leaving San Diego. He said, “wait right there. I will be right down.”

I a few minutes he appeared. He was smiling and friendly and acted like he had known us all our lives. We talked about our journey, the Stromtroopers, and where we came from. It turns out he had lived in Carlsbad and attended San Diego State University for two years. Carlsbad is about 3 miles from my house. He was going to be starting law school in Vancouver in the fall. He told us he had started this campground business at age 16 when he was working in the summers in Watson Lake.



I told him about my tire situation. He gave we a used TKC some biker had donated to him which might have had about 500 miles of life left in it. I immediately thought of the TKCs we had left in Anchorage with over 1500 miles left in them. He then told me to go to the store and use the computer to get on the web and call ahead to some of the towns to get a new tire.

I spent a few minutes on the web writing down names and numbers of bike shops as far away as Grand Prairie over 600 miles away. He let me use the store phone to call 15 business to track down a tire. I must have been on the phone 45 minutes. One shop had a 130-90 x 17 for my 150-70 x 17. I called Ronnie at Power Performance Perfection and he said it should work. I called the guy back and told him I would take it. He asked me when I would be in for the tire. I said at least two days. “Oh well. If you will be two days, I can get you any tire you want from Edmonton in two days.” I ordered a Metzler 150-70 x 17, the exact tire I wanted. We would be in Grand Prairie in two days.

Mandeep was busy helping Jim track down a wiring gremlin when I returned with the good news. He refused to let me pay him for the calls or used tire. He showed us a BMW car project he was working on in the garage. He was going to put a Z-28 350c.i. engine in an older BMW 3 series. It will have a Hurst shifter in it too. He was also working on restoring his father’s 1974 Yamaha 125 enduro motorcycle. He finished showing us his projects and helped Jim get his fairings back on after fixing the wiring problem. We gave him a 1.5L bottle of Mondavi Shiraz wine.



While we were talking to Mandeep we met Chad (seewhite1) and his wife. They were on a 1 year trip from Washington DC to Alaska then down to South America. I thought his wife was a famous movie star and asked her for her autograph. You can read their incredible story at www.blazingsaddlebags.blogspot.com



Our journey had reached its peak. We had met with Mandeep and he was everything Greywolf and had said. We had exchanged friendship, stories and gifts. We were now off to visit Laird Hot Springs. Mandeep had said it something we must do. I thought he might be trying to tell us we needed a bath (we did) but he was really saying how neat it was. There was a definite concern about bears at the hot springs so he advised us to follow all the rules. This was the spot where a few years ago a man had been attacked in full view of others in the springs. The bear dragged him out and commenced eating him while the others cowered in the springs.



The ride south was warm, sunny and spectacular. We had to keep our eyes peeled for wildlife. We passed herds of bison, stone sheep, many elk, and a mule deer. We pulled into the park and paid to go to Laird Hot Springs. We walked on an elevated boardwalk through the marshy area to the springs. There was a changing area and pier like structure built next to the springs. You walked down wooden steps into the warm water. It was delicious. By wading further upstream or down stream you could find just the right temperature. It ranged from 115 to 80 degrees within 40 yards of stream.



After the hot soaking we headed south again. The ride along Muncho Lake was very scenic. The road curves around the lake with very little separating you from the water so you must stay alert on the turns. We stopped at the Double G Restaurant for lunch.

We gassed up at Toad River and then endured some of the dustiest road work we had encountered the whole trip for over 15 miles. We called it a day at the Provencial Park by the Tetsla River. We found a site not far from the river’s edge. We could hear the massive roaring of the river all night long. We are now finding that twilight comes on much earlier. It is 10:10PM and getting dark. The thermometer reads 60 degrees. We reflect on the awesome day of riding and all the wildlife we saw. We had met the Mandeep and made a new friendship.

I had only 400 miles to go on a bald tire to get my new tire in Grand Prairie, Alberta. Sleep came on quickly.

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)

[SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

Last edited by docsabre; 04-10-2010 at 03:01 AM.
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post #37 of 73 Old 04-10-2010, 03:00 AM Thread Starter
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July 21, 2009
Miles 7983-8476





We woke at 6:30 with a light rain falling on the tent. I felt a sense of dread at the thought of a day of riding on wet roads with a bald tire. I decided to go back to sleep and worry about it later. When I re-woke at 8:00 the rain had stopped. We were packed and on the road by 9:15. The sun had come out once again. We stopped in Fort Nelson at Mel and Meg’s Chicken Café for our usual breakfast and coffee.





After breakfast we made good time with a stiff tailwind and some interesting roads. There were more large animals out. We saw several more moose and two black bears. I road over 30-40 miles by cantilevering the bike over on the side with me doing a “flying outrigger” position. When we crossed into mountain daylight time we lost an hour. The Alberta prairie land opened up and the yellow flowers of the rape seed plant was everywhere. Farmers use this plant to make canola oil. We went straight to Windsor Suzuki in Grand Prairie but we were 30 minutes late and they had closed.

We backtracked through town and ate at Original Joe’s and then backtracked some more to find a cheap campground. The Provincial Park near town was not nice. We headed further back to the north and looked for other campgrounds. In all the riding through the farm lands, Jim somehow got lost. (Or either I was not watching that he was turning around slowly). At any rate there was only one road back to the highway and I was not going fast. He would be behind me soon. I wanted to find a camp site before dark so I was hurrying along to the next place to check out.

When I turned off the highway to the Pipestone Campground I waited at the side of the road for a long time but no Jim. Maybe he would follow me to the campground. I found a good site to set up my tent. It was very dark now and still no Jim. I took a nice hot shower and walked back to the tent. It was getting late and time to go to bed. I figured Jim had found a good place to camp. He knew I was going to be at Windsor Suzuki in the morning when they opened. Plus, we had our cell phones.

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)

[SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]
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post #38 of 73 Old 04-10-2010, 03:07 AM Thread Starter
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Posts: 409
July 22, 2009
Miles 8476-8813



Last night a screech owl about 100 feet away from my tent woke me. At first I wondered if some monster had come and killed someone. What a racket! It went on for over 2-3 minutes. I woke in the morning and packed up in 45 minutes. When I got to Windsor Suzuki Jim was already there. I found out my tire was not in but it was expected to be there by 10 AM. I went off to find breakfast.

I was back at the shop at 10:15 and the tire was in. The parts man assumed I wanted him to mount the tire and asked for my key. I asked it how much it would cost. He said, “$120”.

Say what? I told him to just give me the tire and I would mount it myself. He seemed surprised at this. I paid for the tire and went outside to do the job. He walked out to watch. I struck up a conversation with him and said that $120 was an excessive amount for a tire mounting. He defended it by saying, “Well you have to take off the mufflers or headers on a lot of bikes…..”

I stopped him and said, “I can take my tire off in about 2 minutes and the headers are not a problem. Watch.” After less than 2 minutes the tire is off. I then ask him to go ask his mechanic how much they would charge me to mount the tire if I gave the wheel to them.



He came back in a few minutes and said it would cost me $30 plus tax. Booyah! I gave him the tire and waited for about 45 minutes. After this I thought what is taking so long? I ask about the tire and the tire boy comes out to say they cannot set the bead because their compressor is broken. I tell him to bring me the tire and I will set the bead. He says, “You can do that?”

“Yeah. I have my own compressor under my seat. Watch.” I take out my Slime compressor that will fit in the palm of the hand and hook up the hose and electrical cable. I start my bike and turn on the compressor. The tire slowly fills and after 2-3 minutes the bead pops twice. Voila! I then note that the white dot on the tire is not lined up with the valve stem and point this out to the kid. He says, “Only some tires are made with the lightest part of the tire at the white dot.

I wonder why Metzler had wasted the time putting a white dot on my tire if not to show me where to line up the valve. Oh well. At least I had a new skin on the rear wheel. I will never again buy a Metzler EXP as it just does not give me long wear like the standard Metzler Tourance. Jim’s rear Tourance is still going strong and he will get at least another 1,000 miles out of it.

After the two hour stop to change the tire we are on the road south again, heading to Jasper and Banff National Parks. We head south on Highway 40, the Bighorn Parkway.The road was clear and mostly straight with a few mild curves. The sky was deep blue with enormous fluffy clouds as far as the eye could see. It was hot and about 75-80 degrees.

I would assume my “flying squirrel” position to cool off and stretch my legs. It was fun to lean into the wind when standing on the foot pegs. My handlebar risers allow me to hold onto the bars while standing so it does not cause me to have to crouch. We both ran out of gas a few miles outside of Grand Cache. We added our 1 gallon reserve and drove into Grand Cache to refuel and have a snack. After leaving Grand Cache we dealt with strong headwinds one minute and then tailwinds the next. The mountains were causing the winds to come from all different directions.


A few miles outside of Hinton we stopped by a river to stretch and relax. I catch a 10 minute combat nap and keep being awakened by little spiders playing on my face. Jim and I play around with rocks and he builds his first Inunchuk.

We made it to Hinton and had a full on early dinner in air conditioned comfort. Another refuel and we are off for Jasper. The ride into Jasper is just indescribable. Parts of the huge mountains had large areas of exposed granite and sheer cliffs. There were numerous patches of evergreen trees that would grow out of the vertical rock face. We passed by countless ponds an dsmall lakes. Some people would park by the road and go swimming.

We stopped at the Jasper Park Lodge and Convention Center. It was nice if you enjoyed opulent lodges and rice folks wandering around spending money on overpriced food, spas, rooms, etc. There were children playing in the lodge swimming pool without even being aware of the beautiful scenery around them. They could have had just as much fun in a Holiday Inn in Des Moines that had a pool for much less expense. How sad. We took a quick look and were on our way.

On the way into the town of Jasper we see a tour bus stopped by the road. Near the bus is a gigantic male elk just grazing on grass by the road. Jim and I wheel in front of the bus and whip out our cameras. We are about 30 feet away from the majestic creature and he allows us to calmly take his picture. We laugh as we discuss how all the big bottomed folks on the bus are all probably leaning over to the right side of the bus to catch a photo of him through the tinted glass of the bus. “And there behind your Aunt Winnie’s blue hair you can just see the rear end of this big elk.”



While in Jasper we buy some ice cream and soda. We fill out some post cards to send home. I notice a 1984 VW Vanagon that is all pimped out with hand painted Smurf figures. I talk to the owner, a young father who said he did it for his daughter. It really is smurfilicious and smurftastic.

We head out of Jasper to look for a campsite. We find the campground nearest to Jasper is full so we head further south to Wabasso Camp Ground. We missed the turn and had to make a turn further south to pick up the road to Wabasso by heading back north. It is getting dark and we are trying to hurry to the campground before it is completely dark. I know this is the worst time for deer running out in front of you so I am scanning the road for deer activity. We press on and find the park. There are sites available. We even have free wood at the camp ground. Jim builds a fire as we enjoy our evening glass of wine and write in the journals. What a fine day of riding it has been today. Alberta has offered us even more wildlife than we saw in 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)

[SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]
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post #39 of 73 Old 04-10-2010, 10:15 AM
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I'm enjoying your ride report very much! It brings back many memories of my trip up that way.

Well done

~TR~
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post #40 of 73 Old 04-10-2010, 10:58 AM Thread Starter
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Thank you very much. I hope you were not offended by my comments about getting through Canadian customs.

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)

[SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]
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