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post #1 of 33 Old 09-06-2014, 01:55 PM Thread Starter
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Alaska V Strom ride tips (my opinions… YMMV)

I rode from my home in Arkansas to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska in July of 2014 on my farkled 2009 DL 1000 that had about 40k miles at the start. This is a list of things I would share with someone thinking of making the trip themselves. I know there are several other guys on here that have also made the trip that might have more to share.

1. Be sure to check with insurance that yours meets Canadian minimal requirements.
a. It cost me $8 to get mine increased. I was never asked at any border crossing. I wouldn’t risk being turned away over $8

2. Check to see if your bank card will work at Canadian gas pumps. Mine required that I go in every time, leave the card, have them turn my pump on, and then I had to go back in and give a signature. It would have been much better and faster if I could have paid at the pump.

3. Watch for cars passing you in Canada they are very aggressive passers so check that mirror to make sure no one is passing you before you go to pass.

4. Start on your packing list asap. I had a list on my computer and made many subtractions, additions, and substitutions to it over the year before I left.

5. Banff is a beautiful place and was one of the best parts of my trip. If you can’t make it to AK this is a nice destination in itself.

6. Hyder, AK is also worth the trip and one of the best parts
a. If staying in a hotel stay in Stewart, camping is ok in Hyder but the hotel is crap.
b. In Hyder be sure to ride up to salmon glacier. It is awesome.

7. The east side of Glacier national park is way, way less “touristy” if that’s your thing stay on the west side, if it is not then camp on the east side like we did.

8. Be mindful of your gas stops in Canada. I looked on the gps and if there was one gas stop by its self I didn’t count on it but if there were 2 or 3 close together it is a pretty safe bet one will be open.

9. If you are looking to save money one easy way is to pack more food and eat out less. Meals are expensive along the hwy and only get worse the more north and remote you get.

10. I wish I had brought a spare chain. Mine made the trip ok with only about 2,500 miles on it before I left but it began to wear quickly after all the dirt and riding in the rain. I had the space for it and if I was going again I would pack one.

11. Buy waterproof socks. My boots leaked, everyone had at least one boot leak. One person had rain gators but she was still putting her feet in wet boots if she didn’t pull over right away and get them on. The waterproof socks were kind of pricey but it was worth it to me to have dry feet.

12. Having a riding jacket that was “waterproof” was really nice so that I did not have to pull over and put my rain jacket on and off. I also brought my frog tog jacket for the heavy rain days that I wore over my rain proof jacket.

13. If you are camping with a group many times it is cheaper to pay for an RV site and squeeze the tents in. They had electric to charge things and splitting a $30 site 4 ways was often less expensive than paying the per tent fee in the tent area.

14. Bring a 2 man tent (for one person) you’ll want the space for all your riding gear.

15. Buying the Canadian Annual park pass was worth it for me. It was close in price but you move through the line so much faster than the stop and pay.

16. Be wary of advice from other riders. It’s a good idea to strike up a conversation first… ask “so how do you like your bike? How long have you had it?” And some other questions to get some idea of how long they have been riding. We were warned very heavily against riding a couple “dangerous” routes that turned out to be spectacular.

17. There are several riders you’ll meet traveling the other way that are not having a good time. I didn’t expect that. Many people are ready for the trip to be over and may still be a long ways from home. They will be very negative about the road ahead.

18. The Dalton:
a. It sucks big time when it is wet. Everyone tells you this and they are correct. Light rain will keep the dust down but more rain will make it a mess.
i. Think melted ice cream and oatmeal when imagining this mud
ii. The occasional deep gravel is a pain wet or dry.
b. Road conditions change very quickly. One of the worst sections can become one of the best sections in 2 to 3 hours’ time when it is not raining.
c. After road construction crews wet the dirt sections with whatever chemical they use it is nasty and slippery. But in a couple hours when it is not raining it is great…
d. Avoid the soft shoulders of the Hwy.
e. There are many miles of great road and paved road but everyone talks mainly about the dirt sections
i. The last 80 miles or so to Deadhorse are mostly paved
ii. Transitions from paved to dirt can have a considerable drop off. They are fun to hit going from pavement to dirt but could be a very hard hit if you were going fast from dirt to pavement. So slow down for those.
f. The section from Fairbanks to the Arctic circle was much easier than going north to Deadhorse
i. There is also a lot more traffic on this part
ii. Watch the tight corners on the first section for oncoming trucks
g. I packed 1 extra gallon on my DL 1000, I rolled into Deadhorse on fumes but made it back to Coldfoot with .8 gallons left on the return trip. If I was doing it again I’d pack a little more extra gas to be on the safe side (like a 1.25 gallon tank).
i. My friend packed 2 gallons on his Wee-Strom and had plenty to spare.
ii. The Walmart in Fairbanks had a lot of 1 and 2 gallon gas cans.
h. After you get over the pass heading north to Deadhorse stop at a windy/rocky area and take a leak. It will be hard to imagine at the time but the mosquitoes get way worse from here and (unless it is very windy) you’d probably rather pee your pants than take it out when you get further north.
i. The construction workers will let you use their porta potties if you see one.
i. My experience was that the truck drivers were great. They slowed down so as not to spray us with rocks and moved over to give us plenty of room. I had read other reports to the contrary but that was not our experience. One rider had a driver stop and help him repair his bike.
j. When you are stopped for construction waiting on a pilot car move to the front of the line. It is expected. They want you at the front so they know if you go down to stop for you. After getting through we often pulled over and let the trucks pass us. This goes for all construction in Alaska and Canada.
k. When you are finished with the ride take a moment to tighten up bolts on the bike. I didn’t and I lost 2 later on. I would recommend this after all long sections of dirt and bumps.
l. I had a lot of warnings that the mud from the Dalton will dry to concrete and you’ll never get it off. That was not my experience, it came off easily at the car wash.
m. Check your oil cooler and radiator for mud. They can cake up sometimes
n. If I were doing this ride again (and weather permitted) I’d ride to Coldfoot or day one, then to Prudhoe Bay for day two, and then all the way back to Fairbanks on Day 3. I’d stop and take all my pictures on the way up then haul back to Fairbanks to get in an extra day riding someplace else in AK.
o. There is a detailed weather report at the park visitors center in Coldfoot that breaks it out into several report going north and sometimes a road advisory report at the gas station in Coldfoot. They are across the street from each other.

19. When the road is dry it was good riding with some pot hole dodging, dust eating, and the occasional deep gravel.

20. Denali HWY
a. I rode from Denali going east and it was excellent. It was totally dry and the road was great. (YMMV)
b. There are 2 or 3 gas stations along the way I didn’t need any extra gas (I had already thrown my can after the Dalton because it split and was leaking)
c. There are a lot of side roads and atv trails to explore (you might need extra gas for some of these)
d. I had lunch at The Sluce Box, the food was crap heated up in a microwave. A little further east was what looked to be a nicer place to eat with gas and rooms for rent.
e. This area is overrun with grizzly right now. I didn’t see any but in this area an Alaskan resident can shoot one each year and is not even required to purchase a hunting license.

21. Edgerton Hwy to Kennicott Glacier
a. I didn’t find any gas stations toward the end. I was at 115 miles when I headed back so I suggest packing a little extra gas. I made it by letting it roll on the long downhill sections.
b. This was a beautiful hwy.
c. It is ok to ride (slowly) across the walking bridge toward the end of the road
d. There is a large bridge on the way in and out that I later read has a walking section below the road part. I missed that but I bet it was pretty cool.

22. Top of the World HWY
a. This was also dry and easy going for me (YMMV)
b. The ride from Chicken to Dawson was much better than the ride from Tok to Chicken
c. Chicken has a serious tourist trap shop, restaurant, bar, and gas all connected together.
d. The border crossing closes sometime in the evening so don’t get stuck if you are traveling late. There are signs posted along the Hwy with the time.

23. Don’t skimp on tools (IMHO). Several people told me I was taking too much but there is nothing like the right tool for the job. Some of the group were very glad they brought a good set of tools.

24. If you have a clear view of the taller mountains in AK stop and take a picture right then. The view might not last long and you’ll be like me and miss the photo.

25. My Anakee 3’s made it 10,366 miles with tread to spare.
a. The rear tire was brand new but the front had 600-700 miles on it before I left
b. If doing it again I would like something a little more knobby.

26. Having headsets for the group riding was great. There were many advantages to them and they were worth the $ for sure.

27. I wish I had upgraded to a GoPro Hero 3 or had a verb. Something that I could push a button and take a picture instead of letting it go on a timer would have been better. I had thousands of pictures to sort through when I got home.
a. Helmet mounted photos came out better than the ones from a bike mounted camera.

28. There is a Suzuki motorcycle shop in Prince George, Canada and a place in Fairbanks too. I didn’t see any others but I bet there are a few more along the way.

29. For me this trip was about 2 years of planning and prepping. Most of the details worked themselves out in the last 3 months before leaving. I ran into several riders that bought a bike and headed north with almost no planning. It can be done either way but I think you’ll miss out of some scenic and cool places without some research. Most of my research came from reading other riders blogs/ride reports and from the AK book and map sold by Butler Maps. I never looked at The Milepost that everyone else raves about.

30. I don’t know how much the trip cost me. I didn’t track it or have a budget. If I were to guess I’d say $2-3k not counting the gear I bought before I left or upgrades to the bike in the couple years before. Gasoline was probably half that amount.

I did a ride report with a lot of pictures and you can find it here.
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post #2 of 33 Old 09-06-2014, 06:27 PM
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AWESOME post. As I am going next year after having to cancel this year, this information is much appreciated. As I put into your ride report posting, that was a very enjoyable read as well. Thank you for taking the time!

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post #3 of 33 Old 09-06-2014, 09:33 PM
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Some Canadian and Alaskan thoughts

In Hyder, in mid August, the salmon finish their spawn and the bears come from everywhere to kill them, rip them apart and then eat, to beyond gluttony, in preparation for a very long winter. It is astonishing.

See a glacier and witness them before they melt. They're melting fast: too fast.

But Alaska is very far away from the East Coast, where I live, and the thousands of miles on a wide variety of road surfaces will expose the unprepared.

Like Rogers, Arkansas, I did ok too. I may have been prepared but I was also pretty damn lucky.

Instead of mud, I got massive forest fires. Huge detours on logging roads, unbelievably choking smoke. I saw many RVs die. I saw a couple of motorcycles abandoned.

My chain failed after a couple hundred miles of dirt and gravel. I too thought my semi-used chain would make the trip. We brag on this site about getting 20,000 miles on a chain? Mine didn't live half that long, and it was a good-quality chain. I will carry a spare chain next time. Oh yeah.

I limped into the great Suzuki dealership in Prince George, NV Motors, and they really came though. The sprockets made it home, but just barely.

Build in spare days at every leg. Make sure you have at least a week of wiggle room in your schedule, "just in case."

If you can't do field repairs, ride with a partner.

I killed a brand new Pirelli Scorpion rear tire, but it made 9100 miles. It was the roads, not the tire. You can trust the brand.

You can't carry enough tools, but you have to. Choose your weapons carefully. A fat credit card is equal to a tire-changing tool.

I don't camp. I did that for too many years and now roughing it hurts, but all kudos to those of you who do. Tough does have a price. Inexpensive traveling comes at it's own special price. A well planned route, for anyone, includes phone ahead reservations. You can always cancel them.

I oddly enjoyed the curious drunks and watching the bar fight at The Sealaska Inn though I don't think I slept at all. The place is it's own movie but only for the film noir mentality. But you get a place to shower; hot water if you're first. Sleeping like a baby? Nah. I stayed in a lot of Mom and Pop places, but some don't have wireless, some have hot water issues and all come with an eclectic mix of guests. No lice or bedbugs.

Watch out for bears. They are in places you may not expect them and they come out of the bush so silently and quickly, even with no malice, that you'll lose sleep later reliving the encounter and pondering your own special ending.

Western Canada and Alaska are in their own economies. Be prepared to pay far more than you budget. You want to know what a new chain costs, "way up north?" Everything you buy comes with an amazed, "No shit?" comment when you pay.

I don't know what I spent either, but it was enough. I got more than enough, "bang for the buck." But it was a very big pile of bang, for a very big pile of bucks.

Law enforcement is scattershot in geographic dispersal, but there are no crooked cops and 911 works even in remote areas.

Don't take your wife unless she can skin racoons and pick your riding partner (if you have one) very carefully. This is a tough guy ride. To quote Tarzan, "Ungowa Sabatchi!"

You really need to do this ride.
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post #4 of 33 Old 09-06-2014, 11:02 PM
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1...If one has a drunk driving conviction or other serious misdemeanor on the record, check with the Canada Border Services Agency to see if you will be admitted and allowed to spend money in their country. A many-years-ago conviction has bitten many.

5...Banff is great. The ride from Banff north to Jasper is spectacular.

10...Would a better, tougher chain lube help?

12...Talking with a friend today who has relations in Alaska. She said that this summer has been Fairbanks wettest.

"Older people who are reasonable, good-tempered, and gracious will bear aging well. Those who are mean-spirited and irritable will be unhappy at every period of their lives.

"Let each of use properly whatever strengths he has and strive to use them well. If he does this, he will never find himself lacking."

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post #5 of 33 Old 09-07-2014, 02:52 AM
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I live 30 minutes from the turnoff to Highway 37 at Kitwanga and 2 hours from Hyder so will add some local information.

6. Hyder is definitely worth the detour as both the Bear Glacier (the one in my avatar pic) and the Salmon Glacier are worth viewing and the local tradition is to get "Hyderized" (drink a shot of over-proof grain alcohol) when up there. You will not get stopped crossing from BC to Hyder, Alaska by US border services (as far as I know there is no post there), but will by the Canadian border services when you attempt to return (passport is best, but drivers licence and birth certificate will suffice for ID).

28. In regards to Suzuki dealerships in northern BC, there is NR Motors (where I purchased mine) in Prince George and there is another smaller one, Nordan Equipment in Telkwa which is just outside Smithers on Highway 16. But, as was mentioned, you will pay more as you are going to be paying the literal freight it takes to transport parts north. Cycle North Powersports (Honda/Kawasaki and others dealer) is also located in Prince George and is more easily accessible as you pass it on the way out of Prince George on Highway 16 and they are excellent to deal with.

12 DL 650
00 KLR 650C

Last edited by jurgenk; 09-07-2014 at 02:56 AM.
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post #6 of 33 Old 09-07-2014, 03:13 AM
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Originally Posted by AR-Stromer View Post
30. I don’t know how much the trip cost me. I didn’t track it or have a budget. If I were to guess I’d say $2-3k not counting the gear I bought before I left or upgrades to the bike in the couple years before. Gasoline was probably half that amount.

Originally Posted by Keith View Post
I don't know what I spent either, but it was enough. I got more than enough, "bang for the buck." But it was a very big pile of bang, for a very big pile of bucks.

thank you both for your candid posts

as this is a trip that I have to save for (I have a good handle on what it will take to get my bike prepared)

I am not really a "keep track of budget" person either

from NewEngland, it is a minimum 10k round trip, but I would expect to do more like 15k total , I would probably take a month-6 weeks

sounds like spending $1500-$2000 a week is possible

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post #7 of 33 Old 09-07-2014, 08:46 AM
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I just came back from a 15 day trip from Iowa to Deadhorse. The wife just gave me the damage, my costs were right around $2800. That is motels and eating out.
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post #8 of 33 Old 09-07-2014, 09:23 AM
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Your adventure tales make my arm chair seem very inviting!~
A friend that took a motor home suggested, flying to Alaska, renting a motor home(or bike) do the tour and come back to Seattle on the inland passage boat.
I salute your tenacity to persevere!
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post #9 of 33 Old 09-07-2014, 11:16 AM
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I spent a little over $4k back in '08. Mostly stayed in hotels, and traveled solo so no one to split costs with. 23 days, ~10,400 miles.

Don't know about it being all that tough a ride. Mostly, the roads are fine, gas, food and accommodations are available, people are's really not very different from a long ride in the lower 48.

Rich Desmond
'07 DL650, '01 DR-Z400S, '99 SV650 (race bike), '80 GS1000S, '85 RZ350, '08 Ducati 848

Last edited by RichDesmond; 09-07-2014 at 11:23 AM.
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post #10 of 33 Old 09-07-2014, 11:48 AM
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Originally Posted by PTRider View Post

12...Talking with a friend today who has relations in Alaska. She said that this summer has been Fairbanks wettest.

This sentence made me laugh out loud. Isn't it great how one misspelled word can change the whole meaning of a sentence.:mrgreen:

Lord , if I have to look like a Power Ranger , can it at least be Amy Jo Johnson?

Last edited by Black Rhino; 09-07-2014 at 11:51 AM.
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