June 21st - July 15th, 2012
Alaska! This had been a dream of mine for years. I've mulled over maps and plotted routes there and back many times. But when I've crunched the numbers, one fact remains. It's a really long ways up there and back from Arizona. I know I'll need at least 3 weeks to do a decent trip, and even that time is probably too short. If I went alone I could probably do several 800-1000 mile days while in the lower 48 to allow a more leisurely pace while there, but still. I'm married with 2 kids. It would be incredibly selfish to use all of my vacation on such a trip. Taking one of the kids has been discussed, but in reality I know they wouldn't enjoy such a brutal schedule, especially in bad weather. So like so many other dreams, Alaska Dreams were supressed. I told myself I preferred exploring backcountry on gravel roads and that my extended weekend trips were enough. Afterall I wouldn't really enjoy all of those boring highway miles anyway. Alaska was something put on the back burner. Someday... Maybe when I retire...
Summer 2012. I hoped to get away alone for at least a week for a nice ride. The kids were now old enough for Helen, my wonderful wife, to return to work after many years of being an awesome stay-at-home mother. I didn't want the kids sitting around the house alone all summer. So we arranged for the kids to fly to Europe for 28 days where they would spend time with family. I made plans to take 10 days for a 4600 mile solo ride up the west coast on the Aprilia. I was getting excited for this trip and even had new tires delivered. Then suddenly Helen informed me she would not be working afterall. I was really bummed as I was really anticipating the solo trip. The solution we both agreed to was for me to go ahead with the solo trip. I would then return to work for a week before leaving together for a casual ride on the KTM for a second week of vacation. I planned to show her around to some of my favorite places at the Grand Canyon and Southern Utah. Sounds like the perfect summer, right?
Then some jerk started posted awesome photos from Alaska... I realized my Alaska Dream was still alive. I had the vacation time. I just needed to take one additional week off work. This week included July 4th, a paid holiday, so it would only cost 32 hours... Hmmmm.
So I hurriedly put together a route. Then I took the proposal to Helen. I know she's not gonna want me to disappear alone that long. Would she be interested in going along? To my surprise she didn't immediately reject the idea. She wants to go to Alaska, but like most sane people I'm sure she'd prefer to go by plane, or take a cruise (She rarely rides and has only been on one multiple day motorcycle tour). I made a strong case. Let's do it! We're not likely to get the chance without the kids around for many years. I'm a long way from retirement, and may never live to see the day. Maybe I'll not be able to ride then anyway. Carpe Diem! Let's do something spontaneous! Can you believe it? She ultimately approved and wanted to come along! We've been successfully lured to Alaska!
When the decision was finally made we had only 31 days until departure to prepare for a trip many spend a year or more planning for. I got busy ordering all of the stuff needed. The next few weeks the Fedex and UPS deliverymen were showing up with new goodies almost daily.
The route I planned included riding up the west coast, through the Olympic peninsula, Vancouver, and up the Cassier. I didn't have much of a plan in Alaska, but knew I wanted to ride up the Dalton Highway to Prudhoe Bay. The return route would be through Dawson, Jasper, Icefields Parkway, Glacier NP, Yellowstone NP etc. It was more than 10,000 miles. With only 25 days to ride it we need to average more than 400 miles a day... each day.
I'm lucky enough to own 2 bikes. The 2007 990 Adventure was the obvious choice of the two. But it's not really ready for such a long trip yet. The water pump shaft seal needs replacing, I need a new front tire, and all of the maintenance done. So a few long nights in a scorching hot shop are in order.
The second time replacing the water pump shaft seal was much easier. I replaced the OEM shaft with a super-hardened part from CJDesigns. The old one hadn't failed yet, but after about 12,000 miles, it was overdue. The new one is guaranteed to last almost forever.
We are riding 2up for this trip. (This means Helen rides on the back, as I wouldn't dare ride behind her.) Packing for 25 days of varying climates on the road and camping is hard enough for one. For 2 on on 1 bike it's nearly impossible. I spent alot of time stressing over what we had to bring, and what must be left behind. How will it ever all fit?
The packing list wasn't finalized until the last day.
Believe it or not. This all fits.