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squonker 09-28-2008 12:17 PM

1 cylinder, 13,000 kms
This is the story of a wee trip I made this summer. Ostensibly it's a trip up the Dempster to Inuvik, then to D2D (although I then went on to Vancouver Island), and because it isn't exactly an original trip I wasn't going to do a RR, but as Hecktoglider mentioned in his recent report we all get so much out of this site that it's only fair to put something back in. So here goes (and you can blame Hecko if this is a lousy ride report!)

In all likelihood it's going to take a while to do this report 'cos I took so many pics and made so many notes...not only that but I'm fairly busy in general right now but I'll make a special effort to do this in as short a time as I can.

So, I spent the winter working on the bike in my buddy Larry's shop. Many evenings we spent there with him working on his plane (he's building one from scratch) and me working on the bike until we'd drunk so much beer that we had stop work and just continue drinking for the rest of the evening. It was fun. He has a wonderfully equipped shop, and a big beer fridge. Perfect. Once the bike was ready and the snow and ice had gone from the roads I got the bike out and put it in my living room for a few weeks until the off.

The off came on May 31st, when I left Fort Smith, Northwest Territories (which is where I'd been living for the previous 2 years) and rode the 300 kms to Hay River, NWT. It was a shitty ride, with a strong cold wind, and rain. I'd bought an electric vest and put it on just a couple of hours out of my door. And the bike began acting up - I'd be cruising at 100 km/h when suddenly it would start to cough and splutter as though it had ran out of gas. I'd let off the throttle for a second or two, change down if neccessary, wind the throttle open again and the bike would take off as if nothing had ever happened. Although this problem persisted for the entire trip, it came and went in stages and I never have been able to find out the source of the problem. I do have an idea, though - I just can't be arsed to look into it.

I spent the weekend in Hay River with my friends Ash and Steve. We went to Lobsterfest and had a riot, staying up far too late and drinking far too much, which are generally ingredients for a good time. Plus I'd never eaten a whole lobster before - usually I find the shells pretty hard on my teeth. They ribbed me mercilessly for having an electric vest but man, it saved my butt on more than one occasion, turning a thoroughly unpleasant ride into a moderately comfortable one.

I didn't take many pics until I'd left the NWT because to me it's nothing new - I've lived there for 7 years - but I did snap a couple of the ice retreating on Great Slave Lake.

On the Monday morning I set out on what I considered to be the real beginning of the trip, in perfect conditions. My next destination was Fort Simpson, NWT, where Larry was teaching a course that week but I would have had to go there anyway for gas. The highways up there look like this:

and you can go for a long way without seeing...well, anything at all. Having gassed up before I left Hay River, I topped up at Enterprise 40 km up the road, and even took a 25ish km detour into Kakisa to do the same again. I knew that the one stop along the 'Simpson Highway' no longer had gas, and had I not gone into Kakisa I'd have had to use my spare gas before reaching Simpson.

Although I'd planned on making Simpson that night, I was tired and, quite frankly, bored - the roads in that part of the world aren't very scenic once you've travelled them over and over again, on bikes, in cars and big rigs as I have. So I stopped in for the night at the Sombe Ke campground.

Abenteuerfahrer 09-28-2008 12:24 PM

Fantastic pictures....please continue your RR. Planning on the same route next year. :lurk

obsidian 09-28-2008 12:28 PM

I love seeing loaded up KLR's! Keep it coming!

squonker 09-28-2008 02:54 PM

Thanks guys! I'm happy to help anyone who is travelling the same route - particularly the NWT 'cos that's the area I know the best - and don't worry, there are plenty (and I mean plenty!) of pics of the KLR loaded to the balls.<o:p></o:p>
I was just checking my journal and another reason that I pulled into the Sombe Ke campground is that they were grading the road and had wetted it down, making it a little unpleasant to ride on. All through the trip, (a fair amount of which was off road) when talking to non-riders they'd talk about roads being graded being a good thing and I'd have to put them right. If you're in a four wheeler, sure, graders are a good thing, but on a bike they're a bitch and I learned to dread them. One more pic of the highway up there.<o:p></o:p>
The next morning I woke up listening to the squirrells chirping, and one of them just kept jabbering away for about a minute straight. I figured he was trying to tell me something so I got up, and sure enough just then felt the first few drops of rain. Not wanting to pack up in the wet I forwent breakfast and loaded the bike asap. As it turns out it didn't really rain and I was only a couple of hours from Simpson anyway. The road between Checkpoint and Simpson was quite pretty, and on the ferry across the Liard River I spoke to a Scottish engineer who told me that the only good thing to come out of England was the road to Scotland - that had me chuckling to myself for several days afterwards. Lousy northern bastard!<o:p></o:p>
I guess it's here that I should introduce the Liard Highway, which runs from Checkpoint on the Simpson Highway to Fort Liard, NWT and across the B.C. border to the Alaska Highway about 20 kms north of Fort Nelson, B.C. I had been hearing reports for the previous few days that the highway was closed, but had checked the GNWT (Govt of the NWT) website the morning I left Hay River, and it said that the road was indeed open. Not only that, the previous week I'd driven from Fort Smith to Yellowknife in my car, and at that time there had been signs at the beginning of the Simpson Highway saying that it was closed. When I went past on the bike, those signs were gone. <o:p></o:p>
But the woman at the Sombe Ke campground also said that it was closed, and told me some horror stories about 4WD trucks being axle deep in mud - and she showed me the pics in the paper. Yikes. When I rode 'through' Checkoint there were indeed barriers up across the entrance to the Liard Hwy, and I was confused. There is another way around, but it would have been a 4 day detour on the Grande Prairie road, which is just about the most boring country I've ever driven through. Dead straight roads, nothing to look at other than fields for 1500 kms or so. I have a farming background, but that area just kills me. More on the Liard Hwy soon...<o:p></o:p>
Anyway, so I wasn't happy about the possibility of having to turn around and retrace my steps as far as Enterprise, but at this stage I needed to get to Simpson anyway for gas, and Larry would have been expecting me the previous day so I hoped he wasn't concerned.<o:p></o:p>
No need to worry, I grabbed a spot at the Campground, called Larry and spent the day sightseeing in Simpson, a place I hadn't been before. Ten minutes later I was done (!), and that evening Larry took me out for Chinese food, then pinned me to the floor and forced beer down my throat, despite my pleading for compassion and mercy. Heartless, Larry persisted and it's fair to say that that night, back in my tent, I slept pretty damn well.<o:p></o:p>
Earlier in the day I'd gone to the RCMP station in Simpson to try and find out whether this damn Liard Hwy was open or not. The cops said that no, it wasn't, but they also said that they thought it was likely going to do so the following morning, that they'd be getting a fax on it's status from Highways at 9am, and I should check back then. In hindsight, that would have been a sensible thing to do...<o:p></o:p>
You'll have noticed that I took very few pics to this point, and that doesn't bother me 'cos I know only too well what it looks like. But I do regret not having taken a pic of my bike on the other side of the 'Road Closed' barriers at the start of the Liard Hwy. I knew the problem had been a drainage one - all the snow had for some reason drained into, rather than to the side of, the road during break up, and this being a dirt road that caused problems. On a bike, I thought, I don't have to worry.<o:p></o:p>
And so I didn't. I rode the first 100 kms wondering what all the fuss was about and congratulating myself on taking the chance. The road was great, the weather was great, my mood was great...all systems peachy. I stopped for lunch at the beautiful Blackstone Park where I lay in the grass in the sun and snoozed, as well as meditating for a while.<o:p></o:p>
Blackstone Park:<o:p></o:p>

Moraflex 09-28-2008 03:15 PM

Wanting more please.

GB 09-28-2008 03:30 PM

Fantastic ride, report and pics! You've gotta the first rider from the North West Territories to post a report on here! :clap :clap


squonker 09-28-2008 07:15 PM

Well, I took off again after maybe an hour at Blackstone, and within 10 kms had begun to come across little bogs in the road. They weren't bad at first, but they started to get bigger and more numerous, and before I knew it the road just disappeared. I'm not kidding, the road just ceased to exist, and in its place was mud. Nothing but mud.

There was a dozer working there, and a dump truck. The truck was stopped and the driver was waiting on the dozer operator, so he came to talk to me. Yes, the road was closed he said. Had I seen the signs? "Oh yeah!" I told him! But he was a nice guy and this is the NWT after all. How casual is the NWT? Well, I've lived there for 7 years and never worn a suit once. I did wear a tie one day at work just to see if I still remembered how to tie one. Everyone made fun of me for it (I was a substitute teacher that particular day so it wasn't exactly unsuitable attire). It's a pretty casual place and I knew no-one would mind my being there.

The mud was so bad that I wasn't going to make it through until the dozer made a pass for me, and I was scared. I had never ridden my bike all loaded up like this before other than a one night test run a week or so before-hand, where the biggest threat was the buffalo grazing the same patch of grass I was tenting on, and now I wasn't sure whether or not I'd make it through. Only one thing to do...I wanted to get into 2nd for some speed but the goo was so sticky that that wasn't going to happen, so first gear it was. Stand on the pegs, clench butt cheeks tightly together, pick your line and hang on for dear life. Approaching the other side of the bog (which was about 0.5 kms long) I couldn't even risk taking a hand off the bars to wave a 'thank you' to the dozer guy who, watching me with a look of amusement on his face.

The road didn't get a whole lot better for the next 10 km or so, but at least it was a road. And then I came across the next non-road section. No dozer here, and no way of seeing how long this shitty bit lasted. To turn around would mean looking pretty pathetic to the big burly truck driver and dozer dude, so I really had no choice but to carry on. This next section lasted about a kilometer, and the road was so bad for the next hour that I knew if I stopped I'd either drop the bike or never get moving again. I hated it! Man, I was cursing myself for having taken that road, but at the same time was already writing the story I'd tell my friends in my head. (The story was in my head, not the friends...)

Man, I was miserable and the road didn't actually improve much for quite a while. At last I managed to stop somewhere where I could stay standing and be assured of getting going again, and then it began to rain! Not badly at first, but by the time I got to Fort Liard it was just pissing down. The 300 kms from Fort Simpson had taken six hours and I was tired and wet. Glad to have made it through, but buggered if I was going to go any further that day. As it happens, just inside town there is the Hay Lake campground. It's free and they supply drinking water, outhouses and firewood. There's even a shelter with a wood stove in it. Throughout the trip, which lasted about 6 weeks, I spent a total of two nights in motels (but i did spend time at friends' houses) and I soon discovered that the less you are charged for camping, the nicer the spot will be.

There is a Fort Liard story in my 'Yellowknife Ice Trucking' thread in the Canada regional forum if you're interested in finding more out about it. I didn't take any pics of the road that day 'cos I was pissed off, but I did snap some shots of Hay Lake the following morning.

Chanderjeet 09-28-2008 07:35 PM

:clap, Thats a very long distance and im sure your enjoyed every minute of it. I have never seen snowed out lakes but the pics tell me it must be quite a view.

olebiker 09-28-2008 09:33 PM

That is a loaded KLR
To run through a bog with. Great pics and report. Look forward to the rest.:clap

Klay 09-28-2008 10:47 PM

Great pictures, and it sounds like a real adventure ride.


Spicy McHaggis 09-28-2008 11:10 PM

Allright Ben, it's about darn time!!! :lol3:beer

squonker 09-29-2008 06:40 AM


Originally Posted by Spicy McHaggis
Allright Ben, it's about darn time!!! :lol3:beer

You're right, it is - and thanks everyone for your kind words. Chanderjeet, it's especially cool to have you post in this thread, 'cos your ride report pics are the kind of thing that inspires me. Thanks, man.

My boss isn't in today so I'll try and post another installment up later....

Bigger Al 09-29-2008 06:53 AM

:lurk :thumb

numbernine 09-29-2008 06:55 AM


Thanks for the awesome pics and description.

gsd4me 09-29-2008 07:15 AM

I`m along for the ride on this one as well mate. I can tell already that it will be up to your usual standard.

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