07-21-2007, 08:34 AM
Mo 2 C
Joined: Jan 2006
Wandering Around Alaska and Northern Canada in June 2007
Loosely the “Plan” is to take 4-6 weeks and wander around Alaska. I do have some specific destinations in mind. I recognize my weakness from my TV watching habit of flipping through channels with the remote wondering what else is on. I invariably miss all the good stuff. It seems to me that Alaska’s scale can be overwhelming. So without a few “must see” and “must do”, I’d likely just ride right by Telegraph Creek, The Kennicott Mines, and more. Two “must dos” are the Haul Road up to the Prudhoe Bay and Inuvik in the Northwest Territories of Canada.
My initial plan was to go it alone and maybe hook up with riders on the way. I got an e-mail from the GSNerd through the Adventure Rider web site about a month before leaving. We met and decided to hook up. I think we were both a little apprehensive but that turned out to be completely unwarranted. My daughters were shocked that I would agree to hook up with someone I met on the internet. They referred to him as “Dad’s My Space Buddy”. I told them I was shocked that he actually turned out to be a middle-aged man and not some underage female.
As it turned out GSNerd lives only 5 miles from me and recently got his GS. We probable would have met in person soon since the population of BMW GS riders in the area is small and we normally stop to meet each other. Anyway, GSNerd turned out to be a great road companion and I enjoyed his company.
THE REASON TAKING A MOTORCYCLE TRIP TO ALASKA?
… because its there, its close to the top of the world, and I want to see it. Its also a good excuse for getting up each morning and doing what I love… riding! That’s all the reason I needed for taking a Motorcycle trip to Alaska. Seems no matter how I explain “why” I would want to ride a Motorcycle to Alaska, the response would be either a faint smile or that distant look. You’ve seen the distant look. It’s the one where the person is trying to hide any facial expressions that might disclose what they are really thinking. Well that’s not entirely true. Some people were thrilled about the adventure.
When I took an early retirement last year I got 2 copies of the popular “1000 Places To See Before You Die”. I checked all 2000 places in both books. None of them included a Motorcycle trip to the Arctic Ocean or Inuvik in Canada’s Northwest Territory. Maybe that explains the distant looks.
The ride is a R1200GS, my first BMW. Its aesthetic ugliness and functional beauty attracted me. Its often called the SUV of motorcycles. Its functionality and performance made it easy to abandon my slick, menacing looking, loud and underpowered previous ride. Now I have a Motorcycle, not a bike, that only a Moose would give a second look. I think its sort of “Cool as a Moose”, to borrow the Maine store’s name.
Track l – Getting to Fairbanks
So after walking my youngest daughter down the aisle, handing her off to new husband and I’ll add a wonderful son –in-law, saying good by to friends and family in town for the wedding, I kissed my wife goodbye and headed off with my new “My Space Buddy” GSNerd.
Up early ready to ride
Waiting for my buddy
Bye to the wife ...
and we are off!
We headed up through the Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and spent our first night in a nice little campground just past Duluth, Minnesota. It was hard to believe after about 12 months planning the trip was finally underway.
Well on day 2 we decided to take a 200 miles detour and drop down to Minneapolis so GS Nerd could get some new tires.
That night we got several recommendations to stay in the campground in Fargo. Flooding from the recent rains so it wasn’t meant to be… off to the local KOA.
We blasted across I-94 until we got a local recommendation to take 200s/200 across Montana. Turned out to be a good recommendation for us but not for the rabbit that managed to get sliced in 2 by my front tire. The route is scenic, mostly straight with a lot of ups and downs for some good whoops. I didn’t know Montana had its own “Bad Lands” moonscape. It was beautiful in the eerie Badlands landscape look. There’s few towns and people on the road. You can do 90 – 100 mph all day long if you wanted. It was all good till we ran in to a downpour. As we rode, we could see serious storms north and south of us. As it got dark, the rain closed in on us.
We were told about a truck stop off 200 that had a little campground out back. The truck stop turned out to be a bar … straight out of a scene from the Blues Brother’s country western gig. We took a pass and rode on to the next town, Lewiston.
As we got in to little town of Lewiston we started looking for a place to camp, as the rain continued. We came up with only 2 choices, a vacant pad in a trailer park for $15 or the local Rotary club’s free camp space. So, we decided to get out of the rain and grab some food at the local pizza shop named LBM Pizza and consider our lousy options.
As we finished gobbling down a pizza and beer, a couple came in to the restaurant and sat down near us. They overheard us joking about our lousy choices and offered to put us up for the night. We no thanked them and headed out into the rain. As we were suiting up, John, the restaurant owner came out to the parking lot and told us the couple sincerely wanted us to stay with them. John explained that they were good people, they have a finished basement with its own bathroom, etc. Long story short we took them up on their generosity. Meet Dr Dale and Sandy.
Dale even pulled his truck out of the garage and turned his garage heater on so we could get our motorcycles and gear in out of the rain to dry. Before we went to bed, they told us that they both had to get up early and for us to pull the door shut as we leave. … I could not believe it. This would never happen in Detroit…. Dale’s only explanation was we tend to trust people ‘till they give us a reason not to.
Again, thanks Dale and Sandy and Dale I hope you enjoy your “Fly In” this summer to the Midwest.
After a big western breakfast and a look around Lewiston, we headed up to Great Falls, Babb, the Blackfoot Indian Reservation (route 17) and in to the eastern tip of Glacier National Park. We entered Canada at the Chief Mountain boarder crossing. Here’s some pictures of the ride from Lewiston to the boarder.
Entering Glacier National
Lotsa fire damage
The animals in the foreground give a sense of the mountain's scale
...and finally in to Canada
It was an easy entry. We should thank the young kid that had a car full of electronic stuff. I guess he thought he’d get less of a hassle at one of the isolated crossings. The agents had a field day on him. We got asked a few questions. They wanted to see my Bear spray and welcomed us to Canada.
On good advice from AdvRider we went up through Pincher creek to 22North to avoid Calgary traffic. That night we found a nice campground at the Chain of Lakes Park. It had a food concession on the grounds that took care of our desire not to cook. I struck up a conversation with the woman running the concession. I was curious how she ended up in ..as she described it.. the middle of nowhere. Turns out she was from Trinidad. She and her husband moved there to raise horses. They have a ranch across the road from the park. She invited us over to see the ranch and meet her husband, son and nephew. We had a good time looking around and having a beer with the “Wild Cowboy” as he called himself. I forgot how many acres they had but it was in the thousands and the number of horses was in the hundreds. Their closes neighbor is 5 miles away. The wild cowboy was building a huge stable and guesthouse. His plan is to start a dude ranch for those wanting to do the “City Slicker” thing. Unfortunately, my battery ran down so I only got a couple of pictures. She made the same comment as Dale in Lewiston… “Out here you tend to trust people more”. She knew since she previously lived in Miami and NYC.
The Wild Cowboy told us about a scenic dirt/gravel road that runs parallel to Route 22 between the Rockies and the foothills. It turned out to be a wonderful road that followed a little river. GSNerd and I boned up on dirt roads before tackle the Dalton and Dempster. Here's some shots from the road.
Here comes GSNerd kicking up the gravel....
gotta be a magazine cover shot for the sport!
These guys must have a death wish as they dart across the road at the wrong time!