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