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ruffntuff 10-02-2012 07:50 PM

Virginia to Alaska and back on an '86 Yamaha Radian

I hadn’t ridden a motorcycle in eight years. But after my brother was struck and killed by a drunk driver on his motorcycle during my first semester of college in 2010, I could think of nothing else but to do the ride we always talked about - to Alaska. I started my extensive research on ADV Rider in February of 2012, after a friend of my brothers mentioned it to me when I told him about my crazy idea. I asked about bikes and gear and GPS’ vs. Smartphones, and routes and ferries, you name it. Graduation was just around the corner and I was going to get a bike and ride to Alaska no matter what.

I spent endless nights throughout my last semester of school studying maps and routes to Alaska when I should have been studying for exams. I had heard of “The Milepost” on ADV rider forums and used it extensively to plan my mileage. I ordered free catalogs on British Columbia and Alaska but the Milepost had way more information. It was an imperative asset to my trip for navigating, finding campgrounds, and most importantly, gas stations.

Probably the longest thread on ADV I got contrasting information from was on GPS’ and Smartphones. I found people are either for GPS or they are for Smartphone when it comes to their navigating powers but never for both. So yes, I’ll proudly admit now that I got a Droid although it took about a month of getting used to. This was definitely the most expensive accessory to the trip but more than crucial.

I found the GPS on the Smartphone just as reliable as any other plain GPS, except in Canada where it didn’t matter to me anyway because I was using “The Milepost”. What it came down to, was I needed something more than just a GPS. With the Droid I could search for campgrounds, hostels, gas stations, and addresses as well as send emails and take a ton of photos and videos and listen to music. The only downside was the roaming charges in Canada which is something I could have prevented had I paid more attention to my contract.

It wasn’t until April I got the bike that would take me 17252 miles in one summer. Another friend of my brothers, bike mechanic and builder, emailed me the link on Craigslist. I’ll admit I was skeptical when I saw the picture of an ’86 Yamaha Radian, although it was in mint condition with only 13,500 miles and it came with a tailcase. But I trusted the swearing advice of my mentor that it was the bike that would get me to Alaska and back (in my price-range) in comparison to all the other reviews I had read that only a BMW GS would be the bike to do such a trip on. Unfortunately I had only $1000 to spend on a bike so the Radian was it. I didn’t even have a helmet yet.
(This was after my first ride on the Radian...I even had to borrow a helmet.)

On just a student budget to work with and no local stores to try stuff, I got my outfit online after thorough review comparisons. I went with the cheaper middle-of-the-line gear: Tourmaster jacket and pants from MotorcycleSuperstore, and Nelson Rigg sidecases and tankcase from MotorcycleGear. Thankfully my birthday is in May so my mom bought me the best part of my gear, my Sidi Jasmine boots.

Like I said, I hadn’t ridden in eight years, so I spent the next month putting as many miles on my new wheels as possible. I rode it to school, I rode it up the Blue Ridge parkway, I rode it to the barn where I kept my horse. I managed to put about 1000 miles on it before graduation came and it was time to leave for Alaska but I never rode more than 200 miles at once and had never experienced riding in rain. You could say I was a bit nervous about loading it down with 100+lbs of gear and taking off to the Pacific Northwest.

Of course the day I woke up to leave Virginia and head west on my Radian with shiny new gear, it was raining. I didn’t let it stop me though, nor could I have possibly imagined the worst of conditions I would see ahead.

This is the beginning of my journey to Alaska. It was a journey of loss, a journey of love, and a journey of healing. I feel privileged to be able to share it with whoever is adventurous enough to read it one day at a time. This is in loving memory of my brother, Dan Neumeister.
Dan at track days on his Suzuki TL1000R

1Man2Wheels 10-02-2012 08:05 PM

Condolences on your loss. You are doing a great thing for your brother, and I look forward to reading the rest of your ride

longtallsally 10-02-2012 10:40 PM

I was privileged enough to get to meet the hero of this story. It is truly amazing and defines what many have lost in the definition of being an Adventure Rider. It's not about farkles or box checking. It's about having an adventure and experiencing life in a more visceral manner than 99% of the rest of the population.

Oh yeah and of course... :lurk

MizzouRider 10-03-2012 02:06 AM

I'm in. I love reading Alaska reports.
This one sounds exceptional. Very sorry for your loss. I've tried for years to get my brothers to ride.. No takers.
My youngest just graduated from college, now he's job hunting. He should do an Alaska trip. I'll send him the link to this RR.
Thanks for sharing.

one2ride 10-03-2012 03:03 AM

Wow what a way to look inward. Hope you find the answers youíre looking for. Iím in

bobw 10-03-2012 03:06 AM

I'll add my condolences and your introduction has me hooked. We do need some photos though :beer

mikegc 10-03-2012 03:07 AM

Virginia to Alaska and back on an '86 Yamaha Radian
Ruff, what a great way to honor your brother, Dan! You know he's got to be smiling..


reticent rooster 10-03-2012 08:53 AM

Allright! Finally! Can't wait to see some pictures..... '86 Radian! I guess you don't have to have a ton of fancy gear to be an ADVriding badass. RIP Dan, 2 years tomorrow.

Here's a picture of ruffntuff warming up a few days before the ride.

tslaw 10-04-2012 07:03 AM

Good luck on your trip. I hope you get the closure you need from it.

ruffntuff 10-04-2012 09:52 AM

Day 1: VA - IN
Day One:
May 21, 2012
Crozet, VA - Lanesville, IN: 524miles

I woke up to a rainy overcast morning in Crozet. I was planning on leaving by 9am with the intentions of getting to my first destination and ADV tentspace host in Lanesville, ID. It was going to be about 500 miles which may have been a bit extreme for my first day on the road loaded up with gear and unfortunate weather. But I had estimated with the time constraints involved, I needed to average 500 miles/day in the states until I reached Canada. Then I could slow down to average 300miles/day for more technical riding. I needed to get to Alaska in time for me to tour around, hop on a ferry, and then get down to Vancouver for an externship I was offered for two weeks at the aquarium. I had four weeks until I had to be there.

I took my time packing the bike hoping the rain would go away. It was an emotional morning and I procrastinated struggling to say goodbye to my family and friends. With tears in my eyes I gave my hugs and final kisses until I put on my helmet and was ready for takeoff. I was shaking as I put on my gloves thinking, “Oh my God, holy shit, this is happening, what the fuck am I doing? I’ve never ridden in rain….I’ve never felt this much weight on a bike….oh God, everyone is watching me….I’m gonna drop the fucking bike.” I think my mentor and friend could see me panicking and I’ll never forget him stopping me while I was trembling to holding my hand to say, “Don’t worry. Take your time, go slow, you’ll get comfortable with the weight. No one will be watching just around the corner. “

I took a deep breath and rolled out of Crozet by 11am. I was skeptical I was going to make it to my destination but was determined to get as far as possible. It wasn’t raining hard but sprinkling and the roads were wet. I went slow and easy and within ten minutes of being on the highway I felt comfortable with the bike and all the extra weight. Suddenly I started to feel the excitement of being on the road headed to Alaska. I thought of Dan and knew he was watching.

It was a beautiful drive through West Virginia, very mountainous and a windy highway. I drove through Charlestown, the town of bridges, and thankfully it had stopped raining at this point.

I was shocked when after just 80 miles my tank ran out of gas and I had to switch it to reserve. Riding before without all my gear I could get 120 miles on my little 3 gallon tank. But now with the extra load I realized I might have a problem in remote areas (like Alaska) with having enough gas. I ended up stopping six times total that day in 500 miles.

When I got to Lexington, KY I hit more hard rain. It rained so hard I could hardly see the lines on the road through my visor. But I slowed down and managed to keep going. My hands got soaked since I was just wearing some leather Olympia insulated gloves. I had neglected to spend money on ordering new waterproof ones. After a couple hours of rain it finally stopped and my hands managed to dry out some. I checked my gear when I stopped at a gas station and thankfully everything was still dry.

As I headed towards Louisville I could see another isolated storm just ahead. The sky was black and the wind picked up hard. I decided this looked nasty enough I should get off the road. As soon as I pulled into a gas station the sky opened up and it poured sideways with strong gusts of wind. It only lasted for ten minutes or so, but I was thankful I got off the road for that one. I started thinking I didn’t have to worry about experiencing rain on the bike anymore. This was a great break-in to the trip.

I road through Louisville over the Ohio river as the sun was setting. It was a pretty pink sky after the rain and I made it to my ADV tentspace host’s house in Lanesville, IN just before dark. I couldn’t believe I actually made it. After a late start, stopping six times for gas, and lots of rain, I actually made it more than 500 miles before dark. It was an epic first day.
Thanks to TooTallRacing for putting me up on my first night out.

Quote of the day:
A man at a gas station came up to me and said, “You’re one of ‘em adventure girls aren’t you. I bet no one can keep you around. “

limeymike 10-04-2012 12:03 PM

Yamaha power, ADV Spirit, Tough Chick, Alaska . . . . Damn I'm in :clap

1955BIKER 10-04-2012 01:08 PM

Sorry for the loss of your brother. This is one trip you will remember all your life. I live in VA also and there are alot of miles between here and Alaska. Alot of advertures also.

B50Paul 10-04-2012 05:25 PM

A great first day , Adventure Girl :clap:clap:clap


vtwin 10-04-2012 05:49 PM

Sorry for your loss. I am looking forward to your ride. I'm sure your brother is tagging along and keeping you safe. Maybe you could stop by Duluth MN at the Aerostich factory and pick up some goodies?

mnesci 10-04-2012 05:49 PM

Im in as well........glad your riding for your brother.........he wishes he was with you on this adventure.....

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