TWO THUMPERS and a TWIN: NORTH CAROLINA to ALASKA (June, July 2008)
My wife Ruth and I have taken two cruises to Alaska. We loved the cruising, and we loved the week-long land portion of the trip that the Princess Cruise Lines offered. Ever since those trips, I’ve wanted to return to Alaska to explore it in more depth.
As I planned the trip (in large part by trying to read every single Alaska trip account posted on ADVrider.com), I made special note of the route taken by each individual. I recorded all unique routes in MapSource. After copying about fifty routes, I created a master route which includes everyone’s highlights (at least those which are do-able for me!) A couple friends heard about my plan. Ray had planned on taking a 4-wheel trip to Alaska this summer with his wife, but he’d always wanted to do a motorcycle trip to the 49th
state. His wife gave him permission to postpone their joint trip for a year, so he joined me. Later Doug heard about the trip planning. He had planned on three separate occasions to ride to Alaska, but on each occasion plans had fallen through. He’s hoping that the fourth time is a charm!
We’ve discussed things that have been known to cause problems between travelers – finances, camping vs. staying in motels, meals, how long we’re going to ride each day, etc., etc. We’ve decided that our priorities are to enjoy the trip and enjoy ourselves. Thus, our goal will be to ride about 300 miles a day, eat in restaurants, sleep in motels, stop as often as we want for pictures, and in the event of the likelihood of all day rain we’ll declare a day of rest! We will probably rotate roommates – with a different fellow each night enjoying a room to himself. Each of us has committed sufficient financial resources so that trip decisions shouldn’t have to be based on monetary concerns. Doug is a motorcycle mechanic, so his knowledge will be extremely valuable, I’m a medical doctor and I hope that my knowledge will be completely wasted, and Ray (the most experienced motorcycle tourer of the three of us) loves to find Mom and Pop restaurants in which to eat, so he’s in charge of that! We have CB radios with which to communicate. We’ve discussed what we might do if one or two of us want to do a side trip (feel free to do so, and I’ll meet you in a few days at the next stop). There’s a possibility that I may decide to stay a few weeks longer in Alaska than Ray and Doug, and everyone’s fine with that. I snore, Ray doesn’t, and I don’t know about Doug (but I guess we’ll all find out!)
We will leave the Charlotte, NC area on June 14, 2008, trailering the bikes across the Midwest to Denver. We’ll begin the riding portion of our trip in Denver on the morning of June 17, 2008.
Our planned route will take us north to Glacier National Park
. We’ll continue through Waterton Lakes National Park
and Kananaskis County, AB
to Banff National Park
. We will ride up the Icefields Parkway
to Jasper National Park
, then turn west on Highway 16 and ride through Prince George
to Kitwanga, BC
. Here our route will turn north on Highway 37 (the Cassair Highway
) to Meziadin Lake
where we’ll turn west to visit Stewart, BC and Hyder, AK. When we return to the Cassair Highway
, we ride north to Dease Lake
, where we’ll make a southwesterly side trip to visit Telegraph Creek. Once again returning to the Cassair Highway
, we’ll ride north to Watson Lake, YT
From Watson Lake
in the Yukon
, we’ll ride northwest on the Robert Campbell Highway
( Highway 4) to Ross River
. At Ross River
we turn north for a day on the North Canol Road
(listed as Highway 6, but more of a trail than a road, I’m told). Returning to the Robert Campbell highway, we’ll continue northwest to Carmacks where we’ll join Highway 2 to Dawson City
. Along the way, we may take a side trip north to Mayo and Keno Hill, and we’ll certainly take a side trip up the Dempster Highway
(Highway 5) to Chapman Lake
, and possibly up to Inuvik
. Leaving Dawson, we’ll ride over the Top of the World Highway (Highway 9) to Tetlin Junction, AK, with a possible side trip up the Taylor Highway (Highway 5) to Eagle, AK. From Tetlin Junction, we’ll continue on the Alaska Highway
(Highway 2) to Tok, Delta Junction and Fairbanks.
, we’ll ride the Elliott Highway
(Highway 2) north to the Dalton Highway
(Highway 11) and to the Arctic Circle
for the obligatory pictures. We may continue on to Deadhorse. Returning to Fairbanks
, we may ride to the various hot springs before heading southwest on the Parks Highway
(Highway 3) to Denali National Park
. We will continue south to Cantwell, where we’ll turn east and ride the Denali Highway
(Highway 8) to Paxon. There we’ll turn south on the Richardson Highway
(Highway 4) to Gakona Junction and continue on to Chitina, finally arriving at McCarthy in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park
. Returning to the Richardson Highway
, we’ll continue to Valdez
, where we’ll board a ferry for Seward.
From Seward, we ride north on Highway 9 until it joins the Sterling Highway
(Highway 1). We’ll ride west to Kenai and south to Homer before retracing our steps and riding to Anchorage
. From Anchorage
we plan to visit Friar Mike at Abbey Auto in Wasilla (he’s holding some tires for me). We plan to ride the Fishhook Road
to Hatcher Pass
and Independence Mine, and we also plan to ride up the Parks Highway
, at least as far as Talkeetna.
Finally, leaving Anchorage
on our return trip, we’ll ride the Glenn Highway
to Glennallen, and continue on Highway 1 (the Tok Cutoff) to Tok. From there, we’ll ride southeast on Highway 2 which will become Highway 1 which will become Highway 3 which will become Highway 7 to Haines, AK. The ferry will take us to Skagway, AK
. We’ll leave Skagway
traveling north on Highway 98 which becomes Highway 2. We’ll join the Alaska Highway
(Highway 1), traveling north through Whitehorse
, joining Highway 2 to Carmacks. We will travel east on the Robert Campbell Highway
to Ross River
, where we’ll turn south on the South Canol Road
(Highway 6) until it joins the Alaska Highway
at Johnsons Crossing. We may consider an optional side trip to Atlin, BC
at this juncture.
Ultimately, we will continue east and south on the Alaska Highway
until we reach its origin in Dawson Creek, BC
. We will return to Jasper National Park via Grande Prairie and Grande Cache, retracing our route down the Icefields Parkway, but south of Lake Louise turning west on Highway 93 through Kootenay National Park to Radium Hot Springs. We’ll continue on Highway 93 to Elko, BC
where we’ll join Highway 3 east through Crowsnest Pass
and the location of the Frank Slide. We’ll return to the US
via Waterton Lakes National Park
and Glacier National Park
, riding the Going to the Sun Road one last time. We’ll pick a scenic route to return to Denver
, where we’ll load the bikes in the trailer and return to North Carolina
I was born in 1943. My parents, although both college graduates, were very poor. I remember our family receiving boxes of used clothing from various friends and relatives several times a year. What we couldn’t use, we gave away. My parents did instill in us children a confidence that despite a lack of money we could complete college. When I left home after my senior year in high school to go to college, my father gave me $600 cash. That’s as much as he had. I paid for my college education by working while in school, and through receiving scholarships, grants and loans. I started college in 1961, started Medical School in 1964, started my year-long rotating Internship in 1968, went on active duty with the US Navy in 1969, was fortunate to receive my specialty training in the field of Anesthesiology at the US Naval Hospital, Philadelphia from 1969 through 1972, and was assigned to the US Naval Regional Medical Center, Agana, Guam from 1972 through 1975. I took my last test as a student in 1974, at the age of 31, when I was certified as a specialist by the American Board of Anesthesiology. In 1975 my wife and three sons and an exchange student from the Micronesian nation of Palau
came to the Charlotte
area, where we have lived ever since.
I practiced Anesthesiology in Charlotte
until I was forced to retire in the spring of 2002 due to a sudden, unexpected and complete hearing loss in my right ear. (If one can’t hear properly, one cannot function safely in the operating room). My “adventure” hobby up to this point had been scuba diving with a special interest in underwater photography. However, diving is potentially hazardous to one’s ears, and if one has only a single functioning ear, ENT doctors strongly recommend that one not dive. I had logged 1037 dives over the years, diving in many of the world’s best diving destinations, so I didn’t feel too badly when I needed to find another “adventure” hobby.
In June, 2002, I took a Motorcycle Safety Foundation basic course and obtained a motorcycle endorsement on my NC drivers license. I rode Honda cruisers for a while but found their seating position to be uncomfortable. I bought a 2003 Honda Gold Wing, and I’ve ridden it 50,000 miles over the past 4 years. I bought a 2003 Honda ST1300 (my favorite bike) and I’ve ridden that 12,000+ miles over the past several years. For this Alaska
trip, I bought a 2005 BMW F50GS Dakar (with 680 miles on the odometer – it now has 4612 miles). I’ve added protective equipment for the bike from Touratech. I have Pelican side cases and a 74 liter Kaoko “Big Traveller” tail bag. I have an extremely comfortable “Day-long” seat from Russell. I have tank panniers that will hold jerry cans with 1.3 gallons of gasoline on each side. I’m going to be running on MEFO Explorer tires.
All of my bikes have modulating headlights, modulating tail lights and mounts for a Garmin 2730 GPS. I believe in and compulsively practice ATGATT. I never touch one drop of alcohol before the bike is permanently parked for the night. I always wear highly visible riding jackets. For the Alaska
trip, I have Aerostich Darien
clothing – black pants and a fluorescent yellow-green jacket, a white Arai helmet, a Gerbing heated vest and gloves and my comfortable and waterproof Cruiserworks boots.
In December of 2004 my internist advised me to take a stress test. Unfortunately, this showed one main artery completely blocked and the other two main arteries 85% blocked. Fortunately, the doctors also found that my heart muscle had not been significantly damaged. I had a quadruple bypass in December of 2004, and I’ve been on blood-pressure and cholesterol-lowering medication ever since. Additionally, all the males on my father’s side of the family have developed osteoarthritis in their knees, and unfortunately, I received my father’s knee-genes. I’m going to be faced with a decision regarding replacing both knee joints sooner rather than later. All of this to say that I am feeling a sense of urgency to do the activities I desire while my health still allows me that option. In preparation for this trip, I had another stress test (unchanged from the post bypass good one) and had both knees injected with cortisone. I’ve bought a three month supply of medications and I’ve purchased MedJet Assist air evacuation insurance for both myself and my motorcycle. My Medicare Part F supplemental health insurance policy will cover up to $50,000 of medical expenses in a foreign country. I don’t know whether to be sad and ashamed that I have to do these extra health-related things or proud that I’m 65 and still living life the way I want to. I think that the latter sentiment predominates.
My wife (since 1966) and I have five grandchildren in the Charlotte
area. Actually, the older two girls are the daughters of the Palauan exchange student mentioned above and her deceased husband. The 21-year-old just graduated from college and has been accepted into medical school.
Sisters - college graduate with soon-to-be high school graduate!
College grad showing her superiority over me, with my wife looking on in total agreement!
The 18-year-old, who has lived with us for the past year and a half, just graduated from high school and has been accepted into college. Our middle son lives in Charlotte and has three children – a 6-year-old girl who will be starting first grade in the fall, a 3-year-old boy who will continue in nursery school and a 4 1/2-month-old baby girl who probably will be sitting up by the time I get back from my trip!
Cousins on Prom night just before high school graduation; HS grad with kindergarten grad and nursery schooler!
Sister and brother...
Sister and brother and sister...
I dearly love these children and I am very involved in their lives.
Ray was born (1942) in Hickory, NC, one of six children to a single mother. He grew up in the Belmont/Mt. Holly, NC area. His family was likewise very poor, and he had to fend for himself to a considerable degree while growing up. He didn’t have anything like the same support and encouragement I had regarding his education. Fortunately, despite his lack of mentoring, he graduated from Belmont High School in 1961. In 1962, Ray joined the US Navy, though with some difficulty (initially the Navy wouldn't accept him because he was too thin!) and trained at the Aircraft Mechanical School for Reciprocating Engines. He served on the aircraft carrier USS Essex in the VS-34 anti-submarine squadron as an aircraft mechanic. He flew as an air crewman on S2F Submarine Tracking Aircraft. A highlight of his naval flying was his "barricade" landing on the carrier, necessitated by a dead aircraft engine! After 52 months of employment with Uncle Sam, having reached the rank of E-4/Third Class Petty Officer, in 1966 Ray returned to civilian life. "Sparky" (Ray's nickname, as he as been struck by lightning on three separate occasions!) has an artistic bent, but he could not figure out how to make a living in the art field. However, one thing led to another, and in time he formed his own company which, from 1971 through 2006, designed, built and installed displays for large corporations at trade shows. This proved to be a reasonably profitable business, and Ray proved to be a very savvy money manager and investor. Ray and his wife JoAnn (since 1965) are now happily and comfortably retired.
They have two sons
and three granddaughters (ages 10, 6 and 20 months),
and they are likewise very involved in the lives of their grandchildren. Ray will be riding a fully equipped Suzuki V-Strom DL1000 to Alaska.
I have really enjoyed getting to know Ray. Except for the poverty, our backgrounds could not be more different. Our education and our careers have been very different. However, I’ve found that Ray and I have a lot in common. What we have in common is that we’ve both been successful in our chosen fields. And I believe that individuals who have genuinely earned
success share a lot of common traits – traits such as the ability/discipline to organize, to prioritize, to delay gratification, to plan for the future, to work hard and to have integrity. In my view, a small part of success is being in the right place at the right time, but a much larger component is using the aforementioned traits to build a successful life. That’s what Ray has done. That’s what I have done. I have a lot of respect for Ray and I genuinely enjoy his companionship.
Doug grew up in Matthews, NC and his wife in nearby Monroe, NC. They first met when LouAnn was a high school student and Doug was on leave from the Army. LouAnn asked Doug to install an 8-track tape player in her 1967 Rambler. After completing the job, Doug refused monetary payment, instead asking LouAnn for a date! It must have gone well, because Doug took her to her Junior-Senior prom. Interestingly, Doug picked out the pattern for her dress, Doug’s Mom made her dress, and to this day she still has the red orchid he bought for that occasion. Shortly after LouAnn graduated from high school and while Doug’s parents were on vacation at the beach, Doug and LouAnn were married, with her wearing her prom dress. The newlyweds moved into Doug’s parent’s house prior to the unsuspecting parents arriving back home! LouAnn remembers that she was cooking chicken pot pies when the parents arrived home – and she remembers that she burned the food!
However, once again things must have gone well, because the young couple lived in his parents’ house for two years. In 1978 they moved into their first house. About this time LouAnn developed type 2 diabetes, and for this reason she was advised by her doctor to not have children. So she tended to their home as well as working outside the home, cleaning eight houses each week. Doug worked setting tile, topping trees, and then for eleven years as a truck driver.
In 1983 LouAnn’s father gave them 10 acres of land. They put a double wide trailer on the property. Doug needed a shop to work on his truck, so they built a shop. However, the shop proved to be useful for more than just the truck! In this shop he put a Champion sidecar on their Honda Gold Wing GL 1500. Shortly thereafter, he became a dealer for Champion products.
Doug grew up surrounded by motorcycles. As a matter of fact, his mother grew up surrounded by motorcycles! Here's a picture of Doug's mother as a small child!
When Champion started manufacturing trike kits for Honda Gold Wings and Harley Davidson motorcycles, Doug sold his truck and opened a full time business (www.AWingAndAChair.com
) as a motorcycle mechanic in which he converts 2-wheelers into 3-wheelers
and where he also works extensively with the disabled, fabricating mechanical devices which allow them to ride. Doug and LouAnn have recently built a massive new shop.
Doug and LouAnn run their business as a husband and wife team.
Doug is always surrounded by bikes and he rides whatever is available. However, for this trip he’s purchased a 2008 Kawasaki KLR 650 to which he’s added protective equipment, aluminum panniers, a CB radio, a regular radio and an ultra-loud horn! This picture shows him riding into the trailer we're going to use to get us across the Midwest.
LouAnn rides a John-Deere-green Harley trike, with a reverse gear!
For years Doug has thought about taking a motorcycle trip to Alaska. On three separate occasions he had concrete plans for a trip, but on each occasion, those plans fell through. Here’s hoping they don’t fall through a fourth time!
THE TRIP REPORT
I plan to write a daily journal and post trip pictures on a daily basis. I know that there will be occasions where the Internet will not be available; when that occurs I will still write the journal and prepare the pictures for upload so that when Internet access is regained, I’ll be able to post the accounts of multiple days in one session. On all my previous motorcycle trips I’ve created trip reports, sending them out to family and friends by email. I hope that posting them on ADVrider.com will ensure wider availability and that forum members and lurkers will enjoy our trip with us. You can view all the pictures at http://JohnMSnyder.smugmug.com