Palm Trees to Tundra- 2009 - Stromtrooper Forum : Suzuki V-Strom Motorcycle Forums
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post #1 of 73 Old 03-25-2010, 01:29 AM Thread Starter
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Palm Trees to Tundra- 2009

I have not worked on my ride report in over 5 months. I had planned to post it in January 2010 but fell behind in my writing. I have most of it done and decided I am going to go ahead and post it now. It is still in a pretty raw form so you may note typos.

I will post a chapter every few days so as not to overload anyone who actually wants to read a report about 2 crazy guys who rode from San Diego to Alaska and back last July.

Anyhow, if you are planning a trip to Alaska you can ignore this report at your peril. It may actually have a few nuggets hidden in it that could make you smile. (People mentioned in this report are fictional and any similarity between actual persons living or dead are purely coincidental)

Chapter One

The purpose of this tour report is to show others who are thinking about a motorcycle trip to Alaska that the only requirements to complete such a trip are 1) having about four weeks of free time, 2) a dependable motorcycle, 3) a credit card, and 4) the will to do it. The report includes the route from San Diego to Alaska and back, a list of items I took along, and suggestions about tires, equipment and prepping your bike before the trip. Also I have included names of helpful motorcycle establishments and people along the way who may come in handy. One of the hurdles a trip of this magnitude entails is the concern about how the bike will perform and the nagging worry about a mechanical breakdown in the middle of nowhere. Hopefully while reading this report you will have a few laughs and learn a few things. If it helps you make some decisions about a similar trip and anticipate potential problems, it will have served its purpose.

You will find in reading this report that I am a humble fellow. Probably one of the most humble people I know, and without any real flaws, too. I am also good at pointing out other people’s flaws so they can improve. It is a curse, but I have learned to live with it. It’s what I do best.

I had always wanted to do a truly epic motorcycle ride after completing over 10 rides encompassing anywhere from 1,000 to 5,000 miles each. I have been riding bikes for 42 years and have almost 300,000 miles logged. I enjoy the lone tour when I can escape the crowded roads of southern California. I especially like the Pacific Northwest states with their combination of mountain scenery, ocean highways, and perfect twisting roads with great summer weather which means no humidity or rain like you find in the southeast or east coast states.

Also in the west you can always find a fire road to take you into a secluded part of a National Forest for a free place to camp. Not only does this allow you to enjoy the wilderness free from RV’s with generators or loud campers who like to light up the world with a Coleman lantern but it also allows you to save money on lodging and feel like a Boy Scout again.

I hatched my plan to ride to Alaska in 2006. I had thought it would be great to do it in minimalist fashion on my 1994 XR600R. It was a dependable bike. It had only a kick start. It averaged about 40 mpg. I had outfitted it with aluminum hard cases, 5 gallon after-market gas tank, rear rack, heated grips and an accessory plug for my heated vest, and even attached a small windshield designed for a cruiser to deflect the wind, rain, bugs and rocks.
I had researched the routes, bought all the necessary rain gear, and prepped the bike. I even had extra tires shipped to Anchorage to change when the first set wore out. I thought I was ready for the trip. I had planned to truck the bike to Seattle to avoid the painful ride on Interstate 5 from San Diego to the Canadian border.

I had given myself a month the do the trip. I planned to leave San Diego June 1, 2007 and leave Seattle June 3rd. It would be 2,500 miles from Seattle to Anchorage. I wanted to do at least one side trip to Hyder, Alaska on the way north.

On the morning I was to depart Seattle, the enormity of the ride began to sink in. It was only after riding 200 miles on the first day in perfect sunny weather that I really began to think I could pull it off. It was not long before my confidence would begin to erode.

I woke to a light rain the next morning. I packed my tent in the rain and rode all day in the rain. The next day I was north of Prince George and had now covered 600 miles on the bike, one quarter of the way to Anchorage. But I was monitoring my tire wear and the Kenda tires that were supposed to be 80% road-20% off road were already 25% worn away. This meant that I would probably make it to Anchorage on bald tires if I did not take any additional side trips. But I would have to switch out my tires and then unless I made arrangements for other tires, I would get back to Seattle on bald tires. The low mileage on the Kendas was annoying.



Besides being covered in mosquitoes, worrying about tire wear, kick starting a bike that at times refused to comply, and riding in constant rain on a long solo trip on a bike that was about 100 pounds over its load limit, I had a new concern. The week before I began my trip there had been record heat in British Columbia. This had produced early snow melting. Combined with the heavy rains this produced flooding. I listened to news reports of flooding 200 miles north of me in Smithers. There were reports of people making panic runs on food supplies, washed out streets, rivers on the rise, etc.

I had endured another night of lighting and rain. The bike was loaded and ready to go. I kicked, and kicked, and kicked it but it refused to start. I was in a sweat. I took off my gear and tried every trick I could to get it start. I finally decided, maybe this was not going to be the year I rode to Alaska. It was the wrong time of year (June instead of July), the wrong tire selection, and on the wrong bike. When I got the bike started, I ate breakfast and pondered my options.

I called my wife who was supportive of my plans. She wisely offered that if I wasn’t having fun, it wasn’t a vacation. I decided to head south and salvage the month by seeing southern British Columbia, visiting a friend in Powell River and touring Vancouver Island. If the XR600 could make it home, I was going to sell it and buy a Suzuki V Strom and outfit it for an eventual trip to Alaska.

I spent two weeks touring southern BC and the Cascades. Even though I put a decent 1,800 miles on the XR600, I felt a bit defeated. When I got home, I sold it for a good price and within a month had purchased a year and a half old V Strom 650. It had 24,000 miles on the clock but was clean and well cared for. I bought it for $3800, about $600 under Blue Book.



I spent $2000 putting on every farkle I needed for a long trip. I added a fork brace, hand guards, heated grips, cruise control, engine guards, skid plate, aluminum hard cases, and a Madstad mount for a Givi windscreen. I made a mount for my Garmin GPS and added a voltmeter to monitor my charging system, and two accessory plugs on the dash. I had a local upholstery shop make me a comfortable seat.

I got to know the bike very well. In addition to using it as one of my daily commuter bikes, I had taken it from San Diego to Taos, New Mexico in April, 2008. It performed flawlessly in 2500 miles. In February 2009 I took it to Death Valley for a few days. Again, it proved to be a worthy sport touring bike. I knew I had found the perfect machine for my Alaska trip. Now I had to get mentally prepared to overcome my previous failed attempt.

Attached Images
File Type: jpg XR600 in Canada.jpg (78.7 KB, 56 views)
File Type: jpg V Strom near Taos, NM.jpg (92.6 KB, 73 views)

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; 03-27-2010 at 02:06 AM.
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post #2 of 73 Old 03-25-2010, 01:29 AM Thread Starter
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Chapter Two

I had put the idea of riding to Alaska on the back burner for a while even though I had the perfect bike and it was ready and prepped for such a ride. With family pressures, work, one child in college and another one graduating high school, I had not thought it would be feasible for a few more years. I had reserved a couple of weeks off work for July 2009. Then I was able to add more time off when others at work had not claimed summer vacations. I suddenly was looking at a block of time I had free from June 26 to July 30, 2009. I had 6 months to ponder the meaning of this.

At first, I stressed over what to do with such a large block of time. Should I tour parts of the north central states that I had not seen? Should I drive to the east coast? How about riding Route 66? Perhaps retrace some nice roads in Oregon, Washington and Idaho I had enjoyed many years back. I had good reasons to eliminate all these ideas. My mind kept going back to riding to Alaska. All the elements were falling into place. It would be in July, the drier part of the year. The days would last 20 or more hours long. I had the perfect bike. Now the big question was could I do it alone or should I consider a partner?

My wife may have been concerned about me trying and failing again. But she only mentioned one thing about the trip. Since she does not ride or enjoy riding two up it was inconceivable that someone would actually want to ride 10,000 miles or more for a relaxing vacation. She could not understand why I would not just fly to Anchorage and rent a bike. Then ride around Alaska for a couple of weeks and fly home. That idea held no appeal for me. The ride is the thing. The challenge is the duration and scope of the ride. Would someone fly to the top of a mountain in a helicopter to say they had conquered it?

I struggled with my decision about what to do on my vacation until one month before the date. However once I made the choice to do Alaska, I was at peace. I had not spent the previous 6 months pouring over The Milepost. I remembered some of the areas and things I wanted to see and do from my research for the trip two years previously. I stopped by AAA to get new maps and made sure I had the right gear. I already knew what to take and how to pack light. (Note: do not bring the entire Milepost along with you, unless you happen to be an anal compulsive type.)

One of the single biggest decisions you can make about a trip of this magnitude is whether to go solo or with a friend. This decision was somewhat easier since I had no riding buddies who could go on a 5 week trip. I had only one buddy with whom I had ever done any long rides. He is a dentist and it is difficult for him to take long periods off work from his practice. Jim and I had been friends for 30 years since we were stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton. He was a Navy dentist and I was the flight surgeon for MAG 39.

We are like brothers. People even say we look alike. We even argue like brothers and never hold it against each other.

Thinking the ride would be better with a buddy, I placed a notice on some motorcycle web sites for anyone interested in tagging along. I had no serious inquiries until about 2 weeks before the departure date. I was at the local bar with my dentist buddy, Jim when I told him my plans to ride to Alaska. He was stunned I had not asked him. I told him, “but you can’t take 5 weeks off from work.”

He wanted to know more. I told him that a lot of people spend their lives planning to do something and never get around to doing it. Then when life’s circumstances take them in a different direction or they or a loved one has a health problem, or any of a thousand other excuses pop up, they regret not having ever done what they had always wanted to do back then, if only……

I told him, everything was on course and all the planets were aligned for me to do it this July and if not now, when? What other life changing event would intervene to thwart my adventure?

I could see the wheels turning in his head. He got that far away look and after a few moments, he said, “I could see if this young dentist working for me would be interested in becoming a partner. I might be able to pull it off.” I had serious doubts and advised him his bike needed some intense prepping for the trip. I could not delay departure a week or two waiting for him to get ready. I immediately gave him a list of items his bike needed and told him where to get them and how to get them installed. I advised him about the proposed itinerary and getting spare tires sent to Anchorage.

We discussed a general plan for the trip that would cover at least 10,000 miles. I had wanted to blast up Interstate 5 to the Canadian border in 2 days. Then take the Canadian Highway 1 to Cache Creek. We took Caribou Highway (97) at cache Creek to Prince George. At this point, we would go west on the Yellowhead Highway (16) and continued to the junction of the Stewart Cassiar Highway (37) at Kitwanga with a planned side trip to Hyder. After a day in Hyder to drive up to see the Salmon Glacier we would resume our ride on the Cassiar to the Alcan just west of Watson Lake, Yukon Territory. We would reenter Alaska at Beaver Creek and proceed to Tok, then head southwest toward Anchorage on the Tok Cutoff to Glenn Highway (1). Depending on how much time it took to get this far, we discussed possible side trips on the Richardson Highway (4) to Valdez and the Kennicott mine in the Wrangell- Saint Elias National Preserve since we knew we would find spectacular mountain views and wildlife there. If we made it to Valdez, we would backtrack to Glennallen and then resume towards Anchorage.

We had shipped knobbie tires to Alaska Rider Tours and I had advised them we would be in Anchorage around July 4 or 5 (eight days ride from San Diego and approximately 3,900 miles of riding) if all worked out. Then after two days in Anchorage to see the city, we planned to spend a few days in the Kenai then backtrack to Anchorage and change into our TKC knobbies for some serious unpaved roads. We planned to head north on the George Parks Highway (3) to Cantwell where we would turn east on the Denali Highway ( toward Paxson 134 miles away and with over 100 miles of unpaved roadway. At Paxson we would turn toward Fairbanks on the Richardson Highway (4). After leaving Fairbanks I factored in 2 days to get to Deadhorse and 2 days to return. Then we would return to Anchorage on the George Parks Highway to see the part we had skipped at Cantwell. This would take us past Denali National Park. We planned to switch back into our street tires in Anchorage since they should have over 50% tread life left and then leave for home via Tok, Chicken, Top of the World Highway (9) and on to Dawson City. From Dawson City we would drive the Klondike Highway (2) south to the Alcan Highway and try to meet up with the Mythical Mandeep at Watson Lake. After Watson Lake we had no further plans. If we had enough time left on our vacation we would try to see Jasper and Banff National Parks in Alberta and decide later on a course to be determined through Montana or Idaho, Oregon, and hopefully the California Coastal Highway 1.

I have never liked to make a ride route too rigid. It is best to stay flexible. This was an ambitious plan to see virtually all of the main highways in Alaska, the Cassiar and the Alcan Highways, roads in my favored Northwestern states and coastal California. As it turned out, the ride followed pretty much this outline with some very cool unplanned changes about which I will report. One side trip that turned out to be particularly nice would be to Skagway, Alaska and the other would be taking the ferry from Valdez to Whittier on the Kenai. This latter decision left us high-fiving ourselves for our brilliance as will become clear when you read about it later in the report on July 5th.

To prep my bike I had already enlisted the help of my friend and superior motorcycle mechanic, Ronnie Lindley who operates Power-Performance- Perfection in San Marcos, California. He has over 20 years experience as a certified mechanic and helps racers build race engines and preps dirt bikes for the Baja 1000. He knows everything about bikes and is patient enough to teach you what you want to know. He had tuned my bike and spent time making sure I knew how to change my tires on the road if I had any problems.

My V Strom was currently sporting Metzler Tourance rubber front and rear. Fortunately they were nearly completely toast by the time I was prepping my bike and I could begin the trip with brand new tires. I had ordered a set of Metzlers and a set of Continental TKCs to be pre-positioned at Alaska Rider Tours in Anchorage. I had spoken to Brenden at AK Riders who assured me we could use their shop to change tires, change oil and clean our bikes. They even offered to lend us any tools we might need.

I had obtained 13,000 miles out of my rear Tourance and expected the new rear tire to last for the whole trip even accounting for the extra weight and rough roads. However I had unknowingly purchased a Tourance EXP instead of the plain vanilla Tourance. To my dismay I saw that halfway through the trip the Tourance EXP was showing serious signs of wear. I could tell it would not get me home and at least hoping it would get me back to a larger city in the states where I could put on a new tire. There is more about this later in the report. Suffice it to say, there is no reason to buy a Tourance EXP unless you want to replace it in 6500 miles instead of 13,000 miles.

Jim began ordering bike and camping gear. I received a response to my inquiry from a fellow V Strom rider who lived about 90 minutes from my house. (This part of the story may be total fiction.) He was definitely interested in going on the trip. I spoke to him on the phone and decided to meet him. I told Jim about the prospect of a third rider and he agreed to go with me to meet him.

We drove to a halfway point between our houses and spent a Sunday afternoon getting to know each other. We discovered first off that he had completed an Iron Butt and a Baby Butt. I immediately let him know in so many words I was not impressed with Iron Butts and may have even let it be known how dumb I think those types of distinctions are. If you have to ride 1,500 miles to attend an important event and you do it in 24 hrs, just do it. But why feel like you have to do it so you can sport a license tag holder that says, “Member of Iron Butt Association” or so you can impress someone with the quality of your butt hide. My opinion is, those rides are inherently unsafe. There are so few people who even know what an Iron Butt Ride is that it is meaningless. When you explain to them what it is, invariably they cannot understand what the fascination is.

On a motorcycle tour the ride is the thing. The ride is when you experience the sights, sounds, smells, and flavors of the road, the people, the cafes, the stops, the roadside attractions and weirdness. You just can’t do this on an Iron Butt ride. Why not just sit on your bike in the garage for 24 hours without falling off it and tell people you did an Iron Butt but didn’t get the paperwork submitted. It is the same thing and a hell of a lot safer. Also you save gas money and wear and tear on the bike. You can even put a HDTV in front of you with travel DVDs playing to make it feel like you are really experiencing something special. An industrial fan in you face would complete the simulation. But I digress. Suffice it to say, the stranger did not make a good first impression.

Next he told us he was retired. Then the information that flowed was like drinking from a fire hose: he could take 2 months to do this trip, he had dreamed about it for years, he was so excited he had not slept in days, every other time he had tried to do the trip with someone they had backed out, he wanted to do Prudhoe Bay and Inuvik, blah, blah, blah.

We looked at his farkles as he explained how his set-up was so well thought out and his statements indicated his set up was superior to any other arrangement. He had been riding his bike around town fully configured for the trip for who knows how long. I noticed his Iron Butt tag holder. Nice. He barely looked at our bikes and accessories. Hmmm.

As we talked, I told him I had not seriously thought about going to Prudhoe Bay, but I was aware of the ride and the conditions needed to prepare for it and pull it off. I told him that sounded like something we could do. That was when I decided to buy knobbies to preposition in Anchorage. However, most reports I have seen on knobbies on the V Strom state 3500 miles is considered about average for tire life. If we switched to knobbies in Anchorage to go to Prudhoe Bay and back, they would have almost 2,000 miles on them. Then trying to use them for the 800 mile round trip from Dawson City to Inuvik and back, not to mention driving on them to Dawson City would mean you would need a tire change in Dawson City to get home. Plus, I was pretty sure that I did not want to do Inuvik after doing Prudhoe Bay. I told him I was definitely not doing Inuvik.

To his credit, he did mention using the Ventura headlight guard to protect the headlight lenses on the dirt roads from rock damage. Jim and I both ordered one. And I liked his large dry duffle he put his sleeping bag and bed roll in to consolidate and protect those items from dust and water. We ordered those, too.

I thought he was a nice enough fellow and I wasn’t sure Jim was going to be able to pull off getting free from work. At the time I thought it would be nice to have a buddy on a long trip. But sinister doubts were creeping into my thoughts.

I had mentioned to Jim that the three of us on a trip would be like having three alpha males. We were all educated, successful, professionals with loads of experience in jobs that commanded respect, authority and responsibility. What could go wrong, right?

We exchanged emails after the meeting. All systems seemed to be on “go”. We reviewed each others pack up lists. Jim set about hiring his partner and ordering gear. Less than a week before we left, Jim’s dental associate agreed to be a partner in his practice. He had collected all his gear and it would be ready for D Day, June 27. June 26 would be our pack up day. We planned to meet Rider 3, let’s call him "Iron Butt" for now, at a spot on Interstate 5 at 2AM on D Day. We wanted to get through the hot central California Valley before it became a furnace.

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 #3 of 73 Old 03-25-2010, 08:20 AM
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Good read....waiting for next chapter!

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post #4 of 73 Old 03-25-2010, 06:08 PM Thread Starter
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Chapter Three
June 27, 2009
Miles 0-686



I finished packing around 7PM and relaxed with the family before going to bed at 10PM. The alarm rang at 1AM. I was out the door at 2AM. I rode to Jim’s house and we were on the road at 2:30AM. We met up with Iron Butt at 4AM at the pre-arranged spot. We were finally on our way to Alaska.

We cranked off the interstate miles as it got lighter and hotter. By 8Am we were fighting heat, boredom, hunger and fatigue. We stopped for breakfast. The clouds of doubt became thicker and darker within a few hours. I had noticed Iron Butt leaving his headlights on when he shut off his bike. I had thought I was being a good riding buddy by pointing out that his ignition was on and his lights were on. No need to ruin a battery in the middle of nowhere on a 10,000 mile ride. The first few times I noticed it, he quietly turned them off. I began to wonder why he continually forgot his lights. Then he explained in a very official safety minded voice that the MSF course teaches that you “should always turn your engine off using the kill switch, that way you have practiced it and know where it is when you need it in an emergency.” I pondered the logic of this particular dogma. At first I dismissed it as narrow minded and not particularly helpful. The more I pondered it and the more I saw him leave his lights on, the more it nagged at my own sense of logic. At some point I was afraid that perhaps during my 42 years of riding motorcycles with nearly 300,000 miles of riding experience, I had perhaps learned it all wrong. I recalled using the kill switch once or twice when I rode dirt bikes. I thought back to all the times I shut off my motorcycle and could not recall routinely using the kill switch when I had a perfectly good key that did the same thing with the added benefit of not allowing me to park my bike and walk away leaving the battery to discharge.

I brought up my concerns many times over the next few days. It may have contributed to some friction between Iron Butt and me. At least I had a new call sign for Iron Butt. From now on, I would think of him as “Captain Kill Switch”.

There is not much to say about riding through I-5 and the areas around Bakersfield, Stockton, and Redding in late June. By the time we got to Redding the outdoor thermometers at banks were reading 107 degrees!

We were ready to have dinner and get out of the heat. After refueling we chose La Conquista Mexican restaurant next door. Captain Kill Switch (CKS) dropped his bike while putting down the side stand. I was next to him and told him hold on and I would help him lift his bike. But CKS couldn’t wait. It must be terribly embarrassing to have one’s bike lying on the ground and the tendency of people is to get it back up as soon as possible. He bent over at the waist using very poor body mechanics, ignoring help from two others nearby. I told him, “Wait, you are going to hurt your back.” Perhaps he had his iPod playing and paid no attention to me. He continued to lift. I reached over and pulled on the closest thing I could grab (the right grip) while still seated on my bike. The bike righted itself without falling over on me. All was again right with the world.


After a mediocre Mexican meal and a beer, we set off to find a camping spot for the day. We found one on the south shore of Lake Shasta. It was hot. We were tired. The camp ground was not pretty and there were small mites and ants invading our tents. Jim struggled with putting up his new tent. He had never used it before. It was quite entertaining. By 9PM we were all snoring in our own tents.

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 #5 of 73 Old 03-25-2010, 06:12 PM Thread Starter
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June 28, 2009
Miles 686-1266


http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?hl=en...186.152344&z=3

We were packed and on our way after a warm night. Daylight showed us the extent of the insect invasion at Jones Campground. The floor of my tent was moving with hordes of mites and ants. It reminded me of computer generated animation scenes from The Mummy when the scarab bugs crawl all over someone before that are devoured.

CKS was most efficient and was packed before Jim and me. Jim is a perfectionist and needs extra time to get all the wrinkles and dirt specks off his tent so he can preserve it for fifty years and pass it down to his great grand children. I have been used to this odd behavior for the thirty years I have been friends with him. It still bothers me. I endure it for as long as I can before I offer my help (about 2 minutes). He ignores me as usual. I then attack his perfectionist tendencies and his manhood. I try everything to get him to move faster and more efficiently. He responds in his usual passive aggressive fashion by packing even slower. It is getting hotter as he fiddles and futzes. CKS decides to go for a ride. I watch him leave the campground and head left toward the dead end road. After 10 minutes of watching Jim, I decide to ride down the dead end and assume Jim has noted each time one of us leaves we go back to the left. It is a clear view of the road about 50 yards away and a simple thing to note which direction we go. However, it goes unnoticed by him.

I meet CKS coming back toward the campground and turn around to follow him to pick up Jim. But there is no “Jim”. Jim has finished packing and remained clueless about the direction we took. He thought we were ahead of him and rode fast to catch us. It would not have been worrisome, except that he had no GPS like CKS and I did. The back roads we took to get to the camp ground were confusing and I was truly worried Jim would get lost. About 15 minutes later we reached the I-5 overpass where Jim was waiting. He was mad that we had taken off without telling him where we went. I was a little upset that he had already begun his usual tactics he does on our motorcycle trips: not paying attention to things going on around him, taking way too long to pack up, futzing around with his gear and clothing, and in general just not having any situational awareness. Did I mention that I expect a lot out of people? Is it too much to ask someone who has 20 years of riding experience and commutes to work daily, who has been on half a dozen road trips to be a little more on the ball? Should I have to continually monitor what he is doing to make sure he is not about to screw up? Yes, I should. And I should have more patience. But I do not have the patience. It is going to be a long ride.

The Interstate is actually beautiful from Lake Shasta into southern Oregon. The day is clear. Mount Shasta looms to the east and is covered in snow. It gets hotter as we drive. Oregon traffic clots up and the two lane traffic is further slowed by slow trucks. South of Tacoma the Sunday afternoon traffic is stifling. The three of us get hopelessly separated in the inter-city traffic. I am further frustrated at the erratic riding of the other two. Perhaps it is because I ride San Diego’s morning commuter traffic on I-15 daily and I have participated in a few group rides (even though I hate group rides). A group ride dynamic is an accident waiting to happen. Bikes ride too close to each other and you never know how incompetent the other guy is around you until he does something stupid. I have seen a lot of dumb riders and they all seem to gravitate to the group ride. That being said, the other two guys in our “group ride” had no clue in taking advantage of lane changes by the lead rider. If I were the lead rider, I would change lanes and slow up to allow the others to change ahead of me. Or if the rear rider changed he could hold up traffic in his lane to allow the others to change ahead of him. In this way three riders could cut through traffic faster than a 50 cent burrito could go though your colon. Alas, it was not to be. Another stop on the side of the road to allow everyone to regroup and cool down.

It was becoming obvious that we would not get to the Canadian border in 2 days as planned. Jim had a friend in the Tacoma area that was ready to feed us and let us stay at his house. Initially I had been opposed to stopping a “friend’s” places on the way up as I thought it would take up a lot of time to “say hello”. But now that we were tired and not wanting to brave this ridiculous traffic past Seattle for another 4 hours, it seemed prudent to stop at Jim’s buddy’s house.

The exit we had taken to gas up was only five minutes from his house. Dinner was on the table when we arrived, turkey with gravy on white bread, mashed potatoes, and vegetables, with ice cream and white cake for desert. We washed it down with some of Wayne’s beers. Afterwards we were able to shower and slept in beds free of mites and ants. We had agreed on a very early start on Monday morning since traffic would be build early through Seattle. We were going to get up at 4AM to leave at 5:00.

The valuable lesson learned today was never turn down a free meal, shower and bed at a friend’s house when on a long motorcycle tour. I went to bed at midnight with Jim playing with his new helmet camera for the first time.


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; 03-26-2010 at 02:30 PM. Reason: Tryting to add photos
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Location: San Diego, CA
Posts: 409
June 29, 2009
Miles 1266-1821


We were up at 4AM. We had coffee and cereal and were packed and out the door by 5AM. Traffic was light through Seattle but the temperature was cold, finally. I had put on the electric vest to take away the chill. But I only had shorts on under my riding pants. We shot up I-5 and took the Highway 532 exit toward Nooksack, which is I believe an Indian word meaning, “scrotum”. The road was nice with gentle sweepers. The local farms were neat. We gassed up on our last cheap fuel in Sumas.

The gas in Canada would average over $5 per gallon. In some places we paid $1.31 Canadian per liter. On average we figured we were paying about a dollar for every 10 miles we drove. We had all switched to 16 tooth front sprockets before we left home. Initially this seemed like a good thing. At 80mph (indicated) the larger sprocket dropped the engine RPM from 5800 to 5200. There was a price to pay on low end grunt. Overall on a long trip like this I suppose it was a good move for lowering the highway RPMs. But fuel economy was not greatly increased for the sacrifice in low end torque.

Going through Canadian Customs never ceases to amaze me. I thought we were friends with Canada. I have been through customs in over 60 countries all over the world and the Canadians always seem to be the most hostile. I went first.

Customs agent, “Sir, turn off your motor. Are you traveling with the other two riders?”
“Yes.”
“Where are you from?”
“San Diego.”
“Where are you going?”
“Alaska.”
“How long is your stay in Canada?”
“However long it takes to get to Alaska, 4 or 5 days.”
“Do you have anything to sell or leave in Canada?”
“No.”
“Do you have any liquor, tobacco, or weapons?”
“No.”
“Do you have any guns on you?”
“No.”
“Have you ever been arrested?”
“No.”
“How many times have you visited Canada?”
“Five or six.”
“OK. Proceed.”

When Jim stopped at the gate, he asked him if he had any guns, if he owned any guns at home, if he was wearing clean underwear, and did he ever speak rudely to his wife. I just made up the last two questions. But what is the relevance of his owning guns at home in the US if he is entering Canada? This type of harassment by border guards is the reason Chuck Norris has never entered Canada. His whole body is a weapon.

The ride into Canada up Highway 1 to Hope and into the Fraser River region is very beautiful. The temperature was ideal. It was sunny. The road is fast and there are many sweepers. The view of the river follows you quite a way. The river is fast and wide with many areas of whitewater. There is a train track that follows it much of the way. We were stopped for 15 minutes south of Cache Creek while a helicopter brought in a long mesh sheet to position over a cliff and help prevent rock slides onto the roadway. It was at least an interesting and different traffic stop.



We were making good time. We rode on through Cache Creek, the site of my previous ride’s end of day one. We passed the oddly named towns of 70 Mile House, 100 Mile House, and got a light rain when we reached Quesnel (Kwin-nel). It was CKS’s turn to pick a place for dinner. We rode through town a few times and settled on Savala’s restaurant.

It didn’t look like much from the outside but the food was good and not expensive. The salad bar was worth the price of the meal alone. After dinner we decided to call it a day. The days were longer the farther north we got. We found a Provincial Park 10 miles north of Quesnel on 10 Mile Lake. It was quite pleasant and cost about $15. We camped by the lake. Jim was no faster putting up his tent the second time.


June 30, 2009
Miles 1822-2358







We rested well. It had dropped to 40 degrees in the night. Captain Kill Switch was up early as usual and was nearly completely packed by the time Jim and I got up. I was packed next and then CKS and I watched Jim fiddle for an extra 45 minutes. It was quite painful to watch him still wiping down his tent as he rolled it. I finally told him to just roll it and not worry about the dirt or dampness. I reminded him we are on a 5 week trip and he would be pitching it wet and dirty a lot. It dries out, it gets dirty, and it gets wet again. Just clean it and pack it carefully when you get home!

Then just as it looks like we are ready to roll. He stops, looks for his gloves. He has to nearly unpack his whole bike before he finds them in his top box. Then he repacks the bike, puts on the gloves, looks for his key, takes off the gloves, etc, etc. I am dying. I sit on my bike and calculate that 30 extra minutes to pack up each day for 30 days, and 10 extra minutes to futz at every gas stop with his sun glasses and gloves means I will spend one whole day of my vacation just watching him futz. I begin to have murderous dark thoughts.

We leave out of the campground and take off north. Captain Kill Switch is out last and lags way behind. When we stop for coffee and pastries at the local café, I try to tactfully remind him about staying a bit closer. He states, “You guys take off before the bikes are warmed up. You have to have three bars showing on the temperature gauge before you get to highway speeds because the oil isn’t circulating yet.”

Yeah……And I don’t use my kill switch properly either. However, I was noticing that he was having trouble maintaining a constant speed on a straight highway. Also, probably because he had been taught in the MSF class that the proper way to take a curve was to brake before the turn, enter the turn, and apply throttle as the curve straightens out he was hell to follow in the sweepers. In tight curves where the exit is not visible this is the proper way to do it. However, he did it on sweepers! Most people define a sweeper as a gentle curve where the entry and exit points are seen in the same view. A line is easily picked, it is easy to gauge your entry and exit speed and see any road hazards along the entire path of the curve. For this reason, a sweeper does not require any radical braking or throttle changes. Sweepers generally do not allow you to scrape foot pegs or require you to drop a knee to help you lean. They are usually designed for faster speeds and do not have any yellow speed warning signs ahead of the curve. He was applying the classroom tactics on sweepers. It was quite infuriating when you were following him.

While I am on the subject of critiquing the riding skills of the group, I have to comment on the way I thought both Jim and Captain Kill Switch passed. I was taught how to pass a vehicle by the greatest and most demanding teacher ever, my father. When I was 16 he would take me out on a curvy rural highway in our 1965 Ford station wagon. He would make me pass by using a certain technique that required timing and skill when driving a clunky underpowered station wagon. The logic behind this method is so elegant and I had never taken any formal driver education course, so I had assumed everyone knew the proper way to pass.

Apparently many people do not know how to pass. So bear with me while I pass on the wisdom of my father for your enjoyment and edification. This is the situation: there is a slow car in front of you and cars are coming your way. You see a possible opening after the last car passes you. You will want to be at your passing speed when the last opposing car passes. You begin working a solution to the problem that involves estimating when the last car will pass, how long it will take for you to spool up the bike to be at passing speed just after it passes, and to begin putting you left blinker on as you are checking on the position of potential knuckleheads behind you who may be trying to pass you (or they may just be well educated people who expect you to know how to pass and want you to get going so they can draft on you, either way, do them the courtesy of the blinker). The fun part begins when the oncoming car is at the front bumper of the car you want to pass. At this point you should be near the left rear bumper of the car ahead of you and start aiming for the left rear bumper of the oncoming car. It is a location you will not be able to hit since the oncoming car is traveling way too fast, but it gives you an aiming point. The sequence is: see an opening to pass, check your rear and put left blinker on, accelerate, opposing car passes, you instantly whip out into the lane, pass car, right blinker on, and back in lane. What could be simpler? Isn’t this how everyone drives?

You will be around the car in front of you in an instant using his draft to whip you around. This technique minimizes the amount of time you spend in the opposing lane and allows you to use your best gear and speed to get around the slow ass hat in front. It is also courteous to the folks behind you who expect you to pass in a skillful manner or else they will need to get around the TWO vehicles in front of them.

Anyhow I had attempted to impart this wisdom on my fellow riders. One did not think he needed it; the other was unable to master it after trying for 5 weeks. It was painful to see an opening to pass, and then have to watch as the rider in front of you waited until the opposing car was 100 yards behind them before he began accelerating. By the time passing speed was reached, the opportunity was lost.

I tried not to think of the limited riding skills of my bike buddies and instead concentrated on the fine music on my iPod and the beautiful British Columbian scenery. The ride to Prince George and beyond onto the Cassiar Highway was spectacular. I was marveling at the difference in weather this was from my earlier trip. The bike was humming along with no problems. This day we had a stiff head wind that at times seemed to be at least 30-40mph. We passed lots of nice mountains, aspen groves and sloughs that looked like beaver ponds. There was a lot of pine beetle destruction noted in this area.

When we arrived in Smithers it was overcast and cold. The electric gear felt good. I had to do a minor repair of the connector for the electric vest. The Leatherman tool was perfect for this. The mountains towered over Smithers and had plenty of snow on them. After leaving Smithers and before the highway split to go to either Prince Rupert or north to Stewart we saw a car parked on the side of the road. As we neared we noticed the car occupants were watching a small bear cub near the side of the road. Another 100 yards further was an adult black bear, probably the mother. Our first bears.

We stopped to take photos of the big road sign at the turn north for Hyder and Stewart. A man from Florida on his way home after 4 or 5 weeks had lost his camera somewhere between Hyder and here. It was 120 miles to Hyder but we told him we would look for it if nothing else to retrieve his chip with all his photos. We got his address. Alas, no camera was seen by either of us.

We also began to notice a phenomenon about asking others about roads and information on the areas to the north. Whenever we would ask about the ride on the Dalton Highway to Deadhorse we found that more often than not the road conditions would be described as horrible to impossible. The closer to Alaska we traveled the reports became more dismal and discouraging. Early on we were told about the mud and off camber of the road that would cause bikes to slide off the edge in spite of any attempts to stop the slide. Later on we would be told the road was so bad that the water filled pot holes would swallow a motorcycle whole.

We headed north for the Stewart junction and saw that the highway was awesome. Heavy forests lined the road with lots of streams and ponds. There were great views of the snow capped mountains on both sides of the highway. We made the junction that turn southwest to Stewart and Hyder and now had only about 30 more miles to go before we stopped for the night, or should I say “day”? Now it was staying light until midnight and twilight lasted until about 2AM. The ride to Stewart was a tight, fast downward run into a narrow canyon. The headwind up the canyon became more furious. It threatened to move you around in the turns. The sweepers were becoming twisties. Right when you thought it couldn’t get any sweeter, the view of Bear Glacier hits you and you are compelled to stop and admire it. It was picture time.

This glacier has retreated in recent years. It used to be next to the road and now is across a wide lake. It was the setting for a scene from the recent movie Insomnia. I was told the scene was not used but I think I remember seeing it. In the scene there is a house with the glacier behind it. They burn down the house in the movie. I resolve to watch the movie again. It actually is a good murder thriller.

We are back on the road and I first notice my GPS is not working. Rats! I will trouble shoot it later.

We arrive at Stewart and ride slowly through the small, neat town of about 300. At the end of a slough, the road winds around until it opens at a wide waterway. In better economic times this waterway was a place where the log rats herded logs into 30 ton bundles and slipped cables around the bundles for a crane to lift them into a ship for export. Logging was down due in part to the pine beetle. They cut down the affected trees to salvage the wood before it rots. Now the mills are turning out a glut of wood. The price is down. Yadda, yadda.

We pass into Hyder, Alaska the world’s friendliest ghost town. It is a town of 100. There are a few businesses; a couple of saloons, a hotel, a gift shop, a post office, a camp ground, a few houses. All the streets are muddy and unpaved. I immediately look for a small bed and breakfast that was recommended but it looks very sketchy. None of us is excited to check in here. We all head out in different directions. I go north to see about the Fish Creek bear observation area. It is a boardwalk built by the National Forest Service for people to view bears catching and eating salmon in the creek when they are running. The bears are just a few feet below the viewers and ignore the people because the fish taste better. Unfortunately, the fish are not running yet. I pick the ranger’s brain about bear safety and where to stay in Hyder or Stewart. He tells me about the camp grounds there. He says the road also goes another 20 miles to the top of the mountain where you will get a nice view of Salmon Glacier.

The main reasons I had wanted to visit Hyder were to get Hyderized (a special powerful drink at the bars) and to see the glaciers. It is touted as a site to not miss.



I turned back toward Hyder and saw a small black bear cross the road 100 yards in front of me. I stopped where he crossed and he was on the hill next to the road about 100 feet away. I was able to get a fuzzy photo of him before he departed. Very cool. I was really enjoying this.

I encountered Jim coming my way as I entered town. He had checked on lodging. His logic made perfect sense. The campground and a pay shower were going to cost almost as much as sharing a room at the Sealaska Hotel. The hotel would get us out the swarms of mosquitoes we had encountered. The hotel was directly over the bar. Everything was falling into place.



Captain Kill Switch had already secured his room. A single. Jim and I shared a double. We unpacked our bikes and noticed a group of boisterous college aged kids near by. They were staying at the hotel too. Jim came to the bar after I had already tried my Hyder drink. I will not spoil it for those who want to try it. Suffice it to say it is overrated. I was seated next to a local character that had probably been drinking several hours before I got there. He had long hair, a beard halfway down his chest and was wearing an old school motorcycle jacket. I started a conversation with him. In the course of the conversation I learned he was a council member of neighboring Stewart. He said he was a councilor. I thought that meant he counseled people like a psychologist. Then he explained he was not that type of counselor. Then he told me how everyone at the Harley dealership in Prince George knew him. That was over 400 miles south. I guess BC is so sparsely populated that 400 miles seems like next door.



He told me he also was a log rat. I spent about an hour learning all about what it takes to do that job and all the special tools and equipment it requires. It is a dangerous job. I was enjoying the conversation with the locals. Then all the tourists started showing up. The kids were all from back east. They were college kids who were working the summer as highly paid tree planters by the wood companies. They had traveled to Hyder from Houston, BC to blow off steam and get Hyderized. Houston was 200 miles south. They added some zest to the bar that was now quickly filling up.

Jim and I met a couple who were from Willow Grove, Pennsylvania. He had retired from the Navy as a chief with VR-52. He was about my age and we both exchanged stories of people we both knew in the wing. The whole time while we are having fun in the bar, CKS orders a pizza and sits at a table alone. In retrospect it was the beginning of the separation.

After a night of revelry, Jim and I retire to sleep. It is still light at 1AM but sleep comes quickly. I wake in the mid morning to the sounds of either a wild animal or what may actually be a young woman who is yelling, “oh, oh, oh, oh…..” which I can easily hear through the thin, cheap walls of the Sealaska Hotel.

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; 05-27-2010 at 11:39 AM.
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post #7 of 73 Old 03-27-2010, 10:59 AM
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I'm hooked! What a great adventure and you certainly have a knack for writing. Thanks for taking the time to post.

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post #8 of 73 Old 03-27-2010, 11:11 AM Thread Starter
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July 1, 2009
Miles 2358-2650



In the morning as we begin carrying our gear down to the bikes, the tree planters are still up and drinking or had awoke before us and were beginning to drink anew. I asked them if they had even gone to bed. I advised one young man that a more nutritious breakfast than beer would be beer and a doughnut. One fellow was standing next to our bikes having a beer and smoking a cigarette. He had his iPod hooked up to external speakers and was playing some lively music. The music fit the mood and I was getting into it. It was an Alberta country band, playing what sounded like rockabilly. The lyrics were very clever. I asked the fellow the name of the group, The Corb Lund Band. I wrote it down because I intended to download it when I got home. Such is the nature of one’s experiences while on a road trip. (Author's note: I have purchased four of Corb Lund Band's albums to date and thoroughly enjoy them. The best is Horse Soldier! Horse Soldier! http://www.amazon.com/Horse-Soldier/...02739&sr=301-5).

A few moments later the harried manager/owner of the Sealaska Hotel yelled at him to stop the music as it was disturbing the guests. Since the only guests were the tree planters and the three of us, I did not understand her concern. Jim and I told her we were enjoying the music. But the kid was nice enough to comply with the manager. After the young man left with his silenced iPod Captain Kill Switch commented on how glad he was that he had to turn off the music because "he didn’t like it". I think I discovered the source of the complaint. Weirdness was beginning to settle in.

I mentioned my strange acoustic encounter last night with the screaming animal or woman near my room. CKS immediately stated, “Well it wasn’t coming from my room!” as if I had said it to accuse him. Well, I couldn’t let that one go by without a comment. I said, “Oh I think it was coming from your room.”

It wasn’t long after that that he took off alone to see Salmon Glacier. It may also have had something to do with Jim and me wanting to write a few postcards before we left so we could mail them in Alaska. Anyhow, we were on the mud trail about 15 minutes later and stopped at the Fish Creek Observation area. CKS had spent time looking over what I had seen the day before so we were ready to leave together. I walked to our where our bikes were parked in a primitive gravel lot and noticed his was parked in front a handicapped sign. I said, “I need to get a photo of you parked illegally in the handicap space.”


I think I was beginning to get on his nerves. He began to instruct me in the legal requirements for designating handicapped parking zones, the double spaced blue painted lines, etc. I smiled at him and snapped the photo. He took off and on the way out of the lot dropped his air cushion for his seat. The ranger yelled to notify him something had dropped off his bike. He stopped to pick it up and I said, “I thought he was going to get a ticket for littering, too.” I am not sure he heard that one.

We took off for the 48 mile round trip to Salmon Glacier. It did not disappoint. The ride was a bit bumpy but doable even on a Harley. The road winds along the river most of the way until it begins to gain altitude. It passes by a copper mine. Parts of the road have a sheer drop off the edge and you would not stop if you went over until you fell over 1,000 feet to the river below. A sign warns of dangerous road conditions and to travel at your own risk.

[IMG][/IMG]


When you are about 3-4 miles from the top, the glacier comes into view. You want to stop many times to take photos, each stop becomes more impressive. One of my favorite photos taken on the entire trip is one on the top of the mountain with the glacier in the background. To see a massive river of ice like that is spectacular. Salmon Glacier is British Columbia’s fourth largest.

[IMG][/IMG]


The short trip up and back gave us a slight warm-up for the Dalton Highway and the Denali Highway. Captain Kill Switch didn’t seem to feel comfortable on the gravel; I was hoping I was wrong. At the top of the mountain where it was coldest, at about 40 degrees, he was concerned because his temperature gauge would only get up to two bars. I guess his engine was being starved for oil.



When we arrive back in beautiful downtown Hyder CKS announced he wanted to “leap frog our way to Alaska.” I thought this was poppycock and knew he had had enough of me or possibly Jim and me, but I was willing to take all the credit. I am a difficult person to get along with, especially when I find a fault in someone. Merely turning off his engine with his key vice his emergency kill switch would not have corrected the fundamental differences between us. There was his need to cover high miles every day at the expense of experiencing the ride, his need to take the requisite road sign photos, his inability to ride well in a group however small, the lack of appreciation for any type of music except Christian praise music, and just the fact that there were too many alpha males riding together. I initially felt bad, as if I had run him off. Then I realized he was happier by himself and we were certainly happier. I kicked myself for not telling him on our first encounter that I had reservations about taking him along. I did worry about several things. I worried that his battery would give up the ghost at a very bad time, what with his penchant for leaving his lights on. I worried about him sleeping out in the bush all alone. I worried that if he had an accident, his wife would blame me for letting him go off alone.

My last view of Captain Kill Switch was just inside the Canadian border after leaving Hyder. He was standing by the side of the road taking a picture of the inlet and slough just before Stewart. I looked back and waved and noticed…..that his headlights were on.

Jim and I were sure he would do a famous Iron Butt ride from Hyder to Anchorage. Heck it was only 1900 miles. Oddly enough we thought about him every day. Jim woke one morning and thought he saw him camping down the trail from us. We wondered if he was already home a few days after we parted, having already traveled to Prudhoe Bay. Ah, the joys of being an Iron Butt.

It is Canada Day and all of Stewart is alive. There are parades and events at the park. Everyone is out. It is like our Fourth of July. Jim and I stop for breakfast at a little pastry shop in Stewart. We head back up to Highway 37 for points farther north. Early in the morning we spot four black bears by the road. The road is one of the best yet with giant sweepers and a beautiful river following us along. We had wanted to make it to a Provincial Park north of Dease Lake but storm clouds ahead make us rethink that.

First we pulled into a generic small RV park. No one was around to take our $20. It had a nice view of the lake, but you would have to camp out in the open between RV’s. I told Jim to trust me and that I would find a free place to camp just north of here on the lake. We left and got back on the highway. We were doing about 70 mph where the speed limit was 60mph (100kph). This was when a RCMP SUV coming our way turned on his red and blues. Damn, not now. I slowed and watched my rear view for that familiar U turn. He kept on going. He just wanted to slow us down a bit.

Less than 10 miles from the camp ground I saw a small gravel road leading toward the lake. We took it.



It began leading down in a steep elevation. I was mildly concerned about taking a gravel road down that was too steep for the V Strom to climb out of. It leveled off about ¼ mile from the highway in a grassy spot by the lake. We pitched our tents and Jim found a six pack of Molson that the previous campers had left for us.

I fired up the stove and we had freeze dried Chili Mac and beer. Later I worked on completing one of my merit badges. This one was for “camp craft”. I used a piece of driftwood for a tent pole for my tarp. Nice to know you can improvise a shelter if the need arises.




We marveled at the late setting sun. The further north we got, the later the sunsets became. It was well past 1AM before twilight set in. The long days produced a sensation of jet lag. You did not feel sleepy or tired and wanted to stay up. We were finding some great campsites and getting some nice rest. Vacation was settling in.

Jim is still struggling with his tent but he is slowly improving. In the next few days I will start to handle my axe more lovingly while admiring the shape of Jim’s skull.

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 #9 of 73 Old 03-27-2010, 11:26 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks. There are several stages of enjoyment in an epic ride: 1) The daydreaming about doing it some day, 2) reading about other's accounts of similar trips, 3) actually planning the ride, 4) doing the ride, 5) keeping notes and photos of the ride and finally 6) writing about it and putting in the photos. It allows you to relive the ride and let other folks enjoy a part of it.

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 #10 of 73 Old 03-28-2010, 12:02 PM Thread Starter
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July 2, 2009
Miles 2663-3029




We woke to a beautiful sunny morning. He had gotten up early and was nearly finished packing by the time I rolled out of bed. I would have to take down my perfect shelter that had earned me my Camp Craft merit badge. But at least I had taken a photo of the shelter.
Jim folded the tarp for me while I packed up my tent and loaded up the bike. He was being nice to me since he knew the steep ride back to the highway would tax all of his off road talent.

I could tell he was anxious about the hill and gravel. He had walked the path to the highway the evening before. Now he wanted me to walk it and point out my planned line. We strolled up the hill, observing the ruts and the camber, kicking away the baby head rocks that could turn a front wheel, trying to foresee any problem. I advised him to stay up on his pegs, off the seat and use the first flat part to get momentum before the hill. I had planned to stay in first gear and go steady. The task actually looked much better in the morning light. Jim had begun doing his weird calisthenics, a combination of arm flapping, forward flexing at the waist and high knee stepping. I called him Fred Astaire. I cranked my bike and reminded him that we needed “three bars on the temperature gauge” before we could ride. Hah! After warming my bike for about 30-45 seconds I surged easily up the hill. I climbed off the bike and walked down the hill to see if he was coming. After a minute he came easily up the hill.

Less than a few miles on the highway we spotted our first moose by the side of the road. About fifteen minutes later we saw people in a stopped car observing a wolf. Then we saw three black bears in quick succession. This was getting good!

Highway 37 was stupendous. The sun was out, the wind was at our backs, and we had great sweeper curves running through magnificent woods. We began to see the highway lined with purple flowers on both sides as if someone had planted them just for us. There were miles and miles of trees, ponds, and rivers. For a boy from arid southern California it was overwhelming.

The interesting part of long rides in the northern latitudes is how you can always find something to observe and occupy your mind. I particularly enjoyed watching the sky turn from sunny to cloudy and back. Or you could watch rain coming down 20 miles away and wonder if the road would take you there. It was always helpful to watch for tell tale signs of wind direction. Usually you can tell when you have a stiff head wind by the way the bike moves. Other times you have to look at the grass or tree leaves to see which way it is moving. I could swear that at times the wind would change from a tail wind to a head wind with only minimal changes in our heading.

Another tactic I found helpful on a hot summer ride was putting Christmas music on the iPod. I like Christmas music in general so when I hear it, it puts me in December mode. You can almost feel the temperature drop as you hear the jingle of the sleigh bells. Of course many times on this trip I had wished I had brought along my cooling vest. But you cannot bring everything.

We stopped at a lonely gas station and refueled. As we were leaving a car full of First Nation folks asked which way we were heading. When they heard we were going north, they said, “Be ready. It is pouring on the pass.” We were ready; we had our rain gear and the sky was still sunny. Maybe the rain would bypass the road.

Everything was going well until we encountered the unpaved sections of the Cassiar Highway. It was at that exact point that the wise Indian's warnings became a reality as a pounding rain began and the road took off over the pass. The road was pot holed and a light surface of mud was especially slick with our street tires. We had to slow down considerably to be safe. Fortunately all of the rain storms we encountered would never last more than 30 minutes to 2 hours during the entire five weeks we were riding. We had only 4-5 total hours of rain on the 33 day trip. However this was a righteous rain to test the rainproof worthiness of Jim’s new riding boots (Tourmaster). Not only did they fail this test miserably but the waterproof membrane had the quality of not allowing his boots to fully dry during the entire trip. After a few days the odor was monstrous. It may have had the unintended benefit of keeping wild animals away from our camp. We never heard or saw any unwanted guests approach our tents after we turned in.

This part of the Cassiar Highway had the most sections of unpaved road. The entire length of the Cassiar contained only 20-30 miles of short sections of gravel and dirt. They were easily navigated by the VStrom with street tires. The biggest annoyance was the enormous cloud of dust launched into the air. Sometimes a line of cars or a single semi coming at you would require you to slow down so the dust could settle enough to see the road ahead of you.

We stopped at Jade City jewelry store near Good Hope Lake. We were searching for a wall of tanzanite that a fellow bar patron at Hyder had told us we could find just south of the store. He had claimed it was right next to the highway and you could hammer a chunk off for yourself. When we stopped at the store the kid working there who was also a gem prospector scoffed at the idea.

We used the restroom to clean up, bought a few trinkets to impress the women in our lives and headed north. We ran through about ten small rain squalls. The rain drops were so large you could feel each one hitting your gloves boots or jacket. There was a bit of lightning near Teslin.

We crossed the river outside of Teslin on the longest bridge in the Yukon. I had a small annoyance at Nisultlin Trading Post where we bought food for our dinner at the evening camp site. The bill was for $11 and when the cashier entered the amount in the cash register, she added an extra one making the credit card bill $111. I noticed the extra $100 charge and questioned it. It may have been an honest mistake but neither she nor the assistant manager in the store could correct it. She wanted to give me $100 cash. However my credit card company adds 2% for charges in foreign countries. So this would have cost me another $2 for the $11 of food items. Yeah, it is not much, but it was the principal of the thing. I would have dismissed it but this particular cashier had ignored me standing in front of her as she checked out 3 other people who came up to the register after I had been waiting. Then she overcharges me $100. It seemed too suspicious. I told her to call her boss so I could have the charges removed. He showed up 10 minutes later. Moral of the story: always look at the charges entered on your credit card receipts before signing.


We continued northward past Teslin. The view of the Teslin River to the west was spectacular. It was over a mile wide and ran for many miles. It was hard to believe there are so many unspoiled lakes and rivers. I wished I had time to boat or fish them all. I wished I knew how to fish.

We refueled at Jake’s Corner and inquired about areas to camp for free. We had seen a number of gravel roads off the highway. The gas station manager said they go to people’s houses even though no houses were evident from the roadway. He said there was an abandoned camp ground about 3 miles up the road. It was next to the creek. Just watch for the creek and turn right. It was perfect. It was a quarter mile off the highway and had grassy flat areas to pitch our tents. The camp ground had probably been abandoned due to heavy bear activity and bear attacks.

Jim continued to struggle with his tent. We cooked one of our few camp meals. We had noted the mosquitoes here were about twice as big as the ones at Dease Lake. If they continued to enlarge the further north we got, they should be about the size of a robin by the time we got to Alaska. I was using 100% DEET on the exposed areas of my body (hands, neck and face). This worked pretty well until you felt something stabbing you in the back through your shirt. I put on a thicker long sleeve jersey. This would have to do until we found mosquitoes with 2 inch suckers.

After we ate we explored the area around camp. I needed to work on my wilderness exploration merit badge. I climbed a hill next to our camp and was rewarded with a nice view of the surrounding mountains. I noted a bear paw print and some bear scat. I thought this could be interesting. I walked into the woods on the plateau about 400 yards to get a feel for the woods. Even though it seemed like wilderness, you could find an empty beer can about every 100 yards. Oh well.


I was admiring the various wild flowers in bloom. There were purple ones, blue ones, yellow ones. The woods were not dense so I felt comfortable that I would not surprise a bear or moose. The mosquitoes were getting thicker. The DEET was wearing off so I headed back to the camp site.



We forced ourselves to turn in at midnight even though it seemed like it was only 6PM. Were pondered the fate of Captain Kill Switch. Had he Iron Butted it to Anchorage? Was he broken down on the highway with a dead battery? Had he turned south? The night passed quickly and we rested very well. Jim’s tent was downwind so I did not smell his boots. I kept my camp hatchet close in case I needed it for a bear attack or to use on Jim.

We had 300 miles until we entered Alaska at Beaver Creek. We should be there easily by tomorrow.

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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