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Old 12-13-2010, 08:34 PM   #1
CCjon OP
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Joined: Apr 2007
Location: Under the Texas Sun
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How late is too late to ride the Haul Road?

That was the question I posted on the Alaska regional forum back in early July. The original departure date for this ride was later that month. Reality (read “work” here) was playing havoc with my travel plans, delaying the departure. Since I am self-employed, everyone thinks I can go whatever whenever I want. They have never worked for themselves. There is no booked vacation time, if any. There is no one to cover for you when you’re gone. Events/issues at work delay the riding plans, then slowly evolved a window of opportunity in late August or early September, not July as hoped. But was this too late? How late was too late??

A fellow AdvRider who offered assistance and friendship on this ride, is no longer with us. A farewell is posted on Page 16. AKNimrod, we will miss you.

I had spend the past year preparing the bike for this adventure, planning routes, setting up with family members to visit, selecting which parks to see, which roads to ride and how the return route should not be same road already ridden, if possible.

The adventure was to get to Prudhoe Bay, turn around and ride to Key West, Florida. Zigzagging across the country, visiting relatives, national parks and interesting sights, with the trip goal to complete the IBA Ultimate Coast To Coast Challenge within the 30 day limit while gathering as many good photographs as possible. But now with the start date delayed again, better ask the Alaska AdvRiders in Regional forums what they think.

One of the many responses, from AKBeemer, was this…



Alcan Rider, DrCrash and others freely gave their advice, offered help.

That makes for some late night second thoughts about attempting a Fall departure. Counting the days on the calender back from September 10th, selected a Go/No Go date. Marked a big red X on August 28th. If I wanted to be in Prudhoe Bay by the 10th as they recommended, this would be the final departure date for this year.

August 28th came. . . and went. Still in Houston.

It’s now September first, dejected but still wanting to go. The possibility had dimmed like the battery in an old cordless drill. Grinding to a halt. So all this planning and preparation will be shelved until next year? And who knows what next year will bring.

Hmmmm, after doing some serious soul searching, looking at AKBeemers photograph for the twenty millionth time, I told myself the same thing Texans say at times like this, Oh what the H@LL, you only live once. Let’s ride!

Forty-eight hours later, I ease out of the garage in the wee hours, trying not to wake the neighbors.



What follows is my tale, the truth, wholly true, with flights from reality. After all, reality is what the mind perceives it to be.

Ride Day One follows shortly ...

CCjon screwed with this post 02-12-2011 at 03:34 PM Reason: add eulogy
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Old 12-13-2010, 08:54 PM   #2
atrisk5
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I am in.

Doing this ride next June from Houston. Can't wait to see how this goes.
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Old 12-13-2010, 08:59 PM   #3
juliaschrenkler
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This ought to be good! /subscribed
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Old 12-13-2010, 09:14 PM   #4
CCjon OP
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How late is too late (HLTL) Day One

Friday, Sept 3, 2010. 4:30am Leave house in dark, wife and dog see me off.
Temp 86 humid, VERY humid, hit slight drizzle north of Houston on I-45. Original plan was to head west then north, Just before leaving, checked the weather forecast on the internet. Reports indicated heavy storms in the Austin/Waco area, so decided to go north on I-45 to Dallas then northwest to Amarillo. It is a 600 mile ride to Amarillo from Houston. First day’s goal is just to get out of Texas. Hit the super slab and roll. Being a Friday, the traffic should not be too bad if I can avoid the rush hour mess in the Dallas – Fort Worth metroplex.

My ride of choice is a 2002 BMW R1150GS Adventure that I acquired last year in Minnesota after seeing an ad on AdvRider Flea Market. Looks like this bike has been to Alaska before, maybe several times. It had 41,000 miles when I got it. Have spent the last year modifying and prepping HighHorse.

Some people name their rides, some don’t. I do. Why HighHorse? Because this GSA sits taller than most, seat at 40 inches, four inch rise to the handlebars and lowered foot pegs. Several people have tried to swing a leg over this animal and failed. Yet, she is surprisingly balanced, even agile and easy to handle once under motion. And hell, this is Texas. All our mounts have names.

Just before leaving, horned on Anakee 2's front and rear balanced with airsoft pellets. Changed the engine, tranny and final drive oils with fresh synthetics and made sure the wiring for the electric jacket was working. Tightened the GPS mount and added a mount for the iPhone.

Heading north out of Houston in the early hours, ended up following an older couple traveling to Wichita Falls for a Harley rally. We both chose the same gas stop to rain suit up. Yeah, it was raining here, but not like the storms in Austin. More of a misting drizzle.

They also had checked the internet weather reports and changed their route at the last minute. Changing routes and being flexible will be a recurring theme of this ride. Stay loose and flexible, not locked into any time schedule or route other than the IBA 30 day restriction for the UCC. What was to be a leisurely IBA Ultimate Coast to Coast Challenge (UCC) ride evolved into an Insanity Run, but more about that later.

There are no hotel reservations waiting or people counting on my being anywhere on a particular day. Good thing as weather would determined how many miles I could ride each day. Yes, I rode in the rain, just not as fast as on dry days. Daily mileage would vary from a low of 200 to over 800 miles. Traveling solo allows one to change plans on the spur of the moment and go, or not go, depends.

No matter which road you take, there you are.

Hit a high of 94 degrees in Amarillo by 3:30, making good time. Just gas, snack and ride. Other than the misting rain south of Dallas, it turned out to be a dry sunny day. Didn’t get many photos of the west Texas flat lands.



Pretty much the same vista all day.

In Amarillo, it’s decision time: to continue west to Albuquerque then turn north, OR,
Go northwest through Clayton and Raton, NM, then north, OR,
Head straight north to Lamar, Colorado and then west to Denver.

What would become even more closely watched than the GPS, are the weather/rain radar apps on the iPhone. Even when there was no wifi, I could still use the iPhone weather maps. The three main apps I used were Rain Radar, Weather and The Weather Channel. All free apps.

The bike mount for the iPhone worked great, but the 12v charger quit after the two weeks. Had ton use a backup wall charger at night. Am carrying three electronic devices on this trip: a Garmin 450 GPS, the iPhone and a SPOT. All three were invaluable for communicating my location to a concerned spouse, finding new routes around and through cities, and getting the latest weather information.

My wife got more involved with the ride as she posted the twice daily SPOT links to family and friends on her web page.

Reading weather forecasts is like reading palms, you never know. So go with your best hunch with the information at hand. North it is then, Lamar, Colorado, the stockyards of the western plains. Breath deep, that ain't stench, that smells like money.

Tried to reach Colorado, but plumb ran out of daylight and energy in the Oklahoma panhandle.

There are only a few riding safety rules I try to follow:
One, don’t ride at night;
Two, if wet at the end of the day, get a room and dry out. Nothing worse than putting on cold wet riding gear in the morning;
Three, don’t ride faster than what you can see to stop;
Four, go with your gut feeling about any situation. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t. Mental attitude is a more determinate of success than physical effort. If you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.

Found a country airport with open hangers north of Boise City. Looked for a plane that would not be flying early the next morning to camp under. Didn't bother with a tent, the back wall of the hanger was a great wind block and the wing/roof covered me. Just made the bed and rolled out the sleeping bag. Slept soundly.



Rode 798 miles (1284km) this day. Feeling good. Could be the start of a beautiful adventure.

Your reality may vary from mine, but to me, mine is real.


More and better photos once the scenery gets interesting.

CCjon screwed with this post 12-21-2010 at 08:36 AM Reason: add km's
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Old 12-13-2010, 09:37 PM   #5
CCjon OP
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HLTL Day Two

Day Two: Saturday, Sept 4th
iPhone alarm wakes me at 6 am. 64 deg, still dark. Pack up, load the bike and am on the road by 6:45, just as the sun peaks over the horizon. Love the smell of fresh cut hay in the morning dew. Not much traffic at this hour in western Oklahoma/eastern Colorado.



Ah, another rule of the road, try to ride at least an hour or 100 miles, whichever comes first, before stopping for breakfast.

The lights are on at McDonald’s in Lamar, Colorado. A hot sausage McGriddle and coffee tastes good at this hour. Arrived a few minutes before a busload of high school cheerleaders walked in. Made for a noisy, yet visually stimulating breakfast. Go Tigers.

Until one travels, one cannot appreciate the therapeutic value of a warm clean restroom. A medicinal cure to relieve sore muscles, blurry red eyes and stomach cramps. To all those who maintain these oasis of refuge, a hearty Thank You.

Hot, hot, hot. Hit 98 and dry heat north of Denver on the interstate heading to Fort Collins. Saturday traffic on I-25 is worse than Houston rush hour. And this was a Saturday afternoon.

Stopped at the BMW dealer in Fort Collins because the cruise control was not holding over 45 mph and the main zipper on the BMW Santiago jacket was giving me problems. They didn’t have another throttlelock for the GSA and the jacket was out of warranty. Bummer.

Finally, left most of the Colorado traffic behind and could pick up the speed once north of Cheyenne, Wy. Rolled on the throttle to Casper, racking up the miles.



In Lodge Grass, Montana was searching for gas and lodging when the rains hit. Discovered that Lodge Grass is on an Indian reservation and no lodging is available. The only gas was at a closed grocery store with one working self serve pump, but it accepted the credit card, Yes!



Rode on to Hardin, Montana for the night. Was wet and just after dusk, so decided to get a room and clean up, ready for another hot day tomorrow.

To understand the mental state during this ride, I bought a Scala to listen to iPod music, but never used it. Staying alert and lost in thought at the same time passed the many hours of saddletime. Had time to reflect on life, death, family and relationships, the future and the past.

Here is an appropriate quote from Thomas Jefferson: “One travels more usefully when alone, because he reflects more” There are many reflects attached to the ride report. Some new, some old, some borrowed and some...

Reflected for 859 miles (1382km) this day, sound asleep by 8:45 pm.

If you’re right, argue the facts. Otherwise bang on the table and yell louder.

CCjon screwed with this post 12-21-2010 at 08:36 AM Reason: spell check, add kms
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Old 12-13-2010, 09:51 PM   #6
FLARider1
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subscribed!! this could get very interesting!!
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Old 12-13-2010, 09:52 PM   #7
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In for the ride..... Subscribed!
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Old 12-13-2010, 09:55 PM   #8
CCjon OP
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HLTL Day Three

Day Three: Sunday Sept 5th

Again up at 6, coffee from the front desk and hit the road. 64 degrees out with a riding wind chill in the 40’s. Time to plug in the electric jacket.

Boots and jacket dried out overnight. Found out the MX riding boots leak, big time! Felt like an inch of water in the left boot when I took it off last night. Remembered reading somewhere about using old newspapers to dry out wet boot and shoes. Tried it, it works great, boots are dry in the morning.

The rain was warm yesterday, so we’ll see what it is going to be like in cold rain. Temps today ranged from a high of 64 to 58 and back to 64. Today would be the first of many days riding in heavy downpours, and more! The cheap LED thermometer on the dash stopped working. What, too cold??

Early Sunday morning coming down through Billings, west on I-90 to Big Timber. Missed the Route 3 turn off in Billings, so headed north on 191.

Glad I did as got to see a mature 3 X 3 Mule Deer buck in the brush along a stream crossing. His antlers were a bright red, almost florescent orange red. It’s too late in the year to be shedding as someone suggested. What do they rub their antlers on up there to get that color? Anybody know? Am curious.

Before the first day of rain set in, spotted a bald eagle, then a herd of buffalo grazing in the morning. Had to stop for photos.



Have owned a rain suit for 4 years and never used it. Today made up for that lack of experience. Rode in rain, then more rain, and even more rain.

Slid into Great Falls looking for gas. If the weather was nicer would have loved to explore this interesting looking city.



At the gas pumps, another two riders pulled in. Surprised to see a Texas license plate on one. Was a San Antonio rider and his friend from Utah. They started in Flagstaff, went first to the Grand Canyon then rode down from Glacier National Park this morning. Said they saw some light snow, but really cold temps. Glacier Nat is on my list of places to visit on the southbound side of this trip so was interested in hearing their experiences.

Started raining again when I pulled out of the gas station heading north on I-15. That wasn't too bad. But the 3 inches of hail on the road and marble sized hail hitting my body south of Sunburst near the Canadian border, was scary. Trucks and RV’s were sliding around like a toboggan run. Stuck both feet straight out to the side like outriggers on a catamaran. First it was rain, then rain and fog, then rain, fog and hail. Dropped the speed to 10 and prayed. Turned on the flashers as was concerned someone might rear end me. Slowly worked my way along. The nice thing about hail, it doesn’t last long. (Damn I’m an optimist, “the NICE thing about hail”, What the ****) Hail was scary as hell when you’re riding in several inches of it.



Stopped under an overpass to rest a minute. An elderly couple pulls up to see if I’m okay. They don’t even get off the freeway, but are stopped in the right hand lane of traffic. I’m now scared for them as cars and trucks were sliding around in the Icy mixture, unable to stop fast if need be.

By the time I reach Sunburst MT, the rains and hail are behind me. The sun has burst out. The border crossing is sunny and bright.



Left the US water and ice behind as I crossed into Canada. Tried to make Calgary, but hit more rain just a few miles north the border. After another 100 miles of cold rain and slush, I was exhausted, mentally and physically. Found a warm dry room in Nanton, Alberta, 50 miles (+/-) south of Calgary.

The lady at the front desk asked if I liked Chinese food, suggesting a restaurant her sister owns a block away. Tried it and was great. First real meal in several days.



While I stayed hydrated with the camelbak, sitting alone to eat in a sit down restaurant is the pits. So quick snacks, candy bars and nuts were the daily nourishment. Lost an unwanted ten pounds on this trip. Several months later now, have been able to keep them off.

After days of granola bars and coffee, even a change to coffee and granola bars is good.

The electric jacket warms but the wind comes in faster than it can heat. A losing battle. Stopped at Walmart in Leftbridge Alberta to buy a fleece jacket for added insulation. Now I am bundle up with four large zippers to open and close the front. Over a long sleeve Armor shirt, a Safe-n-Warm electric jacket, the Walmart fleece jacket, the rain liner and finally the protective outer Santiago coat; then plug in the electric gloves. This combination worked great. Keeps the wind out and inside warm. Bulky it is. Sounds like a lot stuff, but later in the trip I was able to ride in 20 degree weather, toasty warm in the inside while ice built up on the sleeves.

Today were the first heavy and worst rain of the trip! All the outer riding gear is soaked. The wet black leather riding gloves stained my hands black, the boots had filled with water, then discovered my clothes bag and the panniers leak, if not closed properly. Tonight we try to dry everything out. The room looks like wash day at a migrant camp.

Sloshed through 600 miles (965km) today.

There is no time to rest when there’s riding to be done. Eat standing by the bike, rehydrate often and gas up when on the last quarter of a tank.

CCjon screwed with this post 12-21-2010 at 08:37 AM Reason: edit reflects and repost day 3, add kms
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Old 12-13-2010, 10:41 PM   #9
Rob.G
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Wow, 700- and 800-mile days!!! Subbed for sure!

Rob
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Old 12-14-2010, 06:56 AM   #10
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I'm in......
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Old 12-14-2010, 07:03 AM   #11
SR1
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in!!!
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Old 12-14-2010, 07:19 AM   #12
Serge LeMay
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lots of miles/day.....in hard conditions.....makes for an IronMan on a steel horse!!!!

You got it right Man!!! I'm in for sure
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Old 12-14-2010, 07:34 AM   #13
fatherof4
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I'm in.

Had a friend from Texas come up for a visit a couple weeks ago and plant the seed for an Alaska trip. He wants to go but wanted someone to go with him of course I commented that sounds like a blast. And have been trying to figure how to pull it off ever since.
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Old 12-14-2010, 07:42 AM   #14
achesley
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Loving it. Close to my mode of travel. Except, now day's , I just don't do the miles like I use to using Interstates. But, I love No Plans concrete, Solo, No reservations cause you don't have a clue where you're going to stop.
Bring it on
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Old 12-14-2010, 09:49 AM   #15
txbear55
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Definitely IN with a fellow Texan! I really NEED to ride to Alaska...definitely understand the self employed problem.
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