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Old 09-27-2012, 07:37 PM   #1
hyperboarder OP
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Alaska Shakedown Trip

I'll preface this by saying that I'm going to need my riding buddies help in putting together the ride. He did the planning and put together a hell of a ride, so I'll start with a quick overview, throw up some pics, and let him add his piece. Also I suck at remembering to take pictures, but I did my best on this ride. My camera decided to tint things blue, I've done my best to correct that.

Something like a year ago I decided that an AK ride was in my future. I posted this up on a car forum that I had stuck around on despite having sold the requisite car about 2 years prior. For whatever reason, this forum has become a great part of my internet life and I've made some legitimate friends off of it. Within just a few hours I had another couple guys wanting to join on the AK ride. As of today and we have 4 that are almost certainly riding with me and another few who will if they can swing it. Awesome community to say the least.

Flash to a couple months ago (sorry, all my flashing will certainly get annoying), I bought my 92 E250 moto-van after a couple years of flirting with the idea and proposed a trip out to Moab to ride and hang out. Over a week or so this morphed into a ride through a good portion of Colorado. Unfortunately one of the interested parties had to drop out, but there were still two of us, so we pushed forward. Mike (who I'm sure will chime in here soon) started routing and I did, well, not much. I will add that he's got me by a few years and knows his way around the state, and thus, he planned an awesome ride. By about 9/1 we had the route more or less nailed down.

At the risk of sharing too much, I've had a shitty summer. After my best efforts to visit my grandfather this summer and introduce him to his great-granddaughter, he passed away before getting to meet her, which really sucks. I'm sure they would have gotten along well. My Great Dane, Tag, needed emergency surgery which has given him the financially appropriate nickname "Kia" (despite having pet insurance on him, we're still recovering from the ordeal). And to cap it off, two days prior to departure, I got a call from my dad informing me he has Metastatic Carcinoma. It appears to be early enough to treat, but he's going into surgery next Tuesday to see how bad it really is, we're driving out there Saturday. My head's a mess and luckily, this ride was a much needed break from the day to day.

So anyway, back to the important stuff, the ride. I bogued out of work early on Friday and finished up packing. I intentionally overpacked to understand how my relatively new Vee (bought in December) would handle on dirt. Note that the packing definitely needs work, the duffel just didn't do well for me. Started lengthwise on the seat, interfered a lot with the camelback, and continued to do so when I spun it 90 degrees.






Kissed the wife and daughter goodbye and panniers loaded, Rotopax full, duffel strapped down, I headed West. As expected, Denver traffic sucked, but I-70 was fine. We timed this well, the views were great and the weather wasn't bad. I stopped near Vail pass to put on my thicker gloves, but otherwise all was well. Glad I went through Glenwood instead of over Indy, got to Aspen around 8:30. Pulled the bike into the heated garage (nice!) and went upstairs to have dinner with Mike and his lady friend. A couple beers and a good chat and I crashed hard on the couch.


Woke up at about 6:30, our first stop was the Maroon Bells. Very worthwhile stop, here's Mike and I in the parking lot:




And the peaks over the lake:



Back to Aspen to get a great breakfast at The Hickory House (awesome breakfast burrito but I forgot to take a pic) and meet up with Mike's buddy Lee. Lee was having battery issues but got the bike running in time to join us. I should mention he was on a Sportster 1200 but rode that thing like a true dual sport. Neat guy. Departed Aspen and headed towards Independence Pass, wonderful stretch of road, I'm sure Mike will add a pic.

Quick stop in Buena Vista (IIRC) for gas and up towards Cottonwood pass. The crew:



Artsy time:



The way down was our first taste of dirt. We were feeling mighty adventurous...until a TL1000R rode past us on the pass and cruised on down the trail. Took the wind out of our sails a bit, but on we went. It was a great ride, smooth oiled dirt, quite a treat. Spit us out at a lake/reservoir whose name escapes me:



A little more bonus dirt in the construction zones following said lake and over to Crested Butte for lunch. Pretty solid sandwiches at a grocery store, then up towards Kebler Pass. A bit too much leaf traffic up here, so slow going. At one point we got stuck behind a semi towing out a large truck and 5th wheel camper, ugh. Traffic finally cleared a bit and after trailing a Ural for the remainder of the dirt, we got open highway and made up some of the time we lost. Felt awful nice.

Continued over McClure Pass and up to Glenwood for gas. We had planned some dirt on the way to our campsite for the night, but the sun was sinking so we slabbed it on I-70 to Rifle and headed north. Quick stop in Meeker to figure out where we were going and off to the South Fork Campground. At this point we were all a bit tired and it was getting dark, but luckily Mike was able to figure out the route in. About 12 miles of dirt (crappy at the time, fine the next morning) and luckily they had a spot available. Too dark and too tired to take pics that night, but it was a nice relaxing evening with brews, stories, and questionable freeze dried meals.

Woke up early to a crisp morning breeze and packed up. Note, the Mountain House Granola and Blueberries has a distinct vodka flavor to it, but it worked out fine :). We staggered our departures a bit to let Lee get a head start on the dirt. This is the only picture I grabbed on the way out, but it was beautiful:



Stopped at the end of the dirt to get a few more pics. Mike swears the farm on the right used to belong to John Delorean:



Another fartsy pic:



Then off to the Flat Top Scenic Byway. Deep gravel up here, had one too many tank slappers, as did Mike. Lee rode through like a maniac, I had trouble keeping up with him. We hit one road block:



One of the few scenic pics I snapped:



I learned on this stretch that the Sportster has a tiny gas tank, Lee needed to use my spare 1.75 gallons over Flat Top. Here's a shot Mike took of Lee and I cruising by:



We made it out unscathed and cruised up to Steamboat for lunch. I remembered to take a food pic!



Stopped by the black sulfur spring, bade farewell to Lee (he headed back to Aspen) and took 40 and 14 back to Fort Collins. Bumper to bumper through the canyon, got a bit old, so we snuck through Stove Prairie to finish up the ride. All in all solid time. Cleaned up the bikes, made some hearty Reubens, drank some homebrew, and called it a weekend.

Great ride, glad we did it. My luggage solutions need some work, the duffel is just too big. Suggestions? Thinking about something like Mike's setup with dry bags on top of the boxes. I had my Polar bear 12 pack cooler, tent, bag, pad, Kermit chair, and a handful of heated gear in there, but I should be able to tie the cooler on top of the Rotopax and put the other gear in the dry bags. Should clear up a lot of pillion room.
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Old 09-27-2012, 08:39 PM   #2
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Nice report, Geoff!

I had no idea about your dad... hope it goes well. Rough few months indeed!

Here's the quick list of all the passes we rode. on Sat: Independence, Cottonwood, (that's Taylor Reservoir, BTW), Kebler, McClure. Both Indy and Cottonwood are over 12,000 ft, and were both part of the "Queen's Stage" of the US Pro Cycling tour this year.
Sun: Ripple Creek, Rabbit Ears, Cameron.

On Monday morning, I left Geoff's house about 6:30 as he and his lovely wife Christine were headed for work. I turned west on US34 towards Estes Park, and within five minutes had to stop to let a giant bull elk amble across the highway. He startled when I blipped the throttle of the Versys' massive parallel twin 650 and he effortlessly cleared the barbed wire fence at the side of the road. Barely light enough to see him...
I've never ridden Big Thompson Canyon on a motorcycle. Bicycle, yes- 41 years ago. I also lost a high-school classmate in the famous flood in 1976. Regardless, what a great road for the nimble Versys, and there was very little traffic. Zoom!
Arrived at Estes Park about 7:20-


Headed out of Estes with very little ceremony and entered Rocky Mt. National Park. VERY breezy and pretty chilly. Didn't stop to take many pictures, and I had to crank up the electric liner to stay warm. Probably upper thirties, wind blowing 30-40 mph, and a fine misty rain in the breeze by the time I hit the summit of the road- also over 12,000 feet! Quickly headed over the other side and on to Grand Lake. Saw more elk including another giant bull with a harem of 6-8 females... lucky guy- and a very large coyote that several people were taking photos of- I bet they couldn't wait to show their friends back home the pictures of the "Wolf" they saw in Colorado! Stopped at the Western entrance visitors center and chatted with a dude on a massive K1200lt that had been on the bike for several weeks and thousands of miles. Here's Grand Lake:


From Grand Lake, I headed for US40 and Kremmling, and a road known as the "Trough Road", also CO 1, that parallels the Colorado River and ends up at State Bridge. About 27 miles of well-oiled dirt... way more fun than the deep gravel of Sunday's ride. Sad to see the number of "For Sale" signs on businesses and homes in Kremmling and Hot Sulphur Springs... that area is still really depressed. Not that many folks travelling US40 these days...
State Bridge to Wolcott, and then on a whim, stayed on US6 instead of getting on I-70, all the way to Gypsum, along the Eagle River. Nice. Then, I-70 to Glenwood, a quick lunch at May Palace, and then home up CO 82. Surprised how much snow had fallen in the Roaring Fork Valley since leaving Saturday, and feel lucky not to have hit any on TrailRidge.
Here's what Independence Pass looked like, not that I rode it on Monday-


All in all, a pretty fine way to wind up the fall riding... hard to know if we'll get much more in before ski season. Thanks to Lee and Geoff for being such great riding partners!
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Old 09-27-2012, 09:05 PM   #3
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More pics:




What I headed into on TrailRidge...
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Old 09-28-2012, 10:47 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hyperboarder View Post
Great ride, glad we did it. My luggage solutions need some work, the duffel is just too big. Suggestions? Thinking about something like Mike's setup with dry bags on top of the boxes. I had my Polar bear 12 pack cooler, tent, bag, pad, Kermit chair, and a handful of heated gear in there, but I should be able to tie the cooler on top of the Rotopax and put the other gear in the dry bags. Should clear up a lot of pillion room.
I too am 'gearing up' for a ride to AK next year and trying to cut back on 'stuff' in my large duffle. I took my KLR to Colorado last year and had the duffle (Helen TwoWheels large bag) across the seat behind me. It worked ok, gave me something to lean against, and is the way I'll probably do it next year on my Wee. My HTW bag has the following: tent, sleeping bag, Artiac pad, cot, pillow, bag liner (I'm too old to sleep on the ground anymore and need comfort!) Right now I'm trying to decide what kind of chair to get; the Kermit is great but a bit more expense and trouble than I want. I don't intend to carry extra gas and I've found that a soft side 6 pack cooler works great (I stop at a store before getting to my camp site, unfold and load it up with a couple adult bevs, a roll and some soup for dinner.) Going from Texas to AK in June means having to dress for temps from hi to lo and in between so I'll pack the heated gear.

PS, I like your Adventure decals, did the same on my Wee.
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Old 09-28-2012, 10:52 AM   #5
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PS, about taking on four riding partners for a trip to AK.....I'd try to do a few days ride with them first. I started for AK a few years back with a friend whom I'm only ridden short rides with. I nearly killed him before we got back. Same thing happened in '95 with another friend. Long days on the road with guys that start out as friends can severely test the friendship. And I gather these are guys you met online....

Just sayin'
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Old 09-28-2012, 05:40 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by AspentureRider View Post
I had no idea about your dad... hope it goes well. Rough few months indeed!
I've been playing that one pretty close to the chest. As of now looks ok, I'll know more next week. I wish I had the hitch and carrier set up on the van, I'd love to have the DR with me as a stress reliever.

Quote:
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PS, about taking on four riding partners for a trip to AK.....I'd try to do a few days ride with them first. I started for AK a few years back with a friend whom I'm only ridden short rides with. I nearly killed him before we got back. Same thing happened in '95 with another friend. Long days on the road with guys that start out as friends can severely test the friendship. And I gather these are guys you met online....

Just sayin'
Yeah, I've thought about that. Based on this trip with Mike I'm not worried about him, though I'll admit I don't know the other 3 that well. Right now I don't expect any issues, but I doubt we'll have time before hand to ride, so it'll be a coin flip. I'm still optimistic.
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Old 09-30-2012, 08:21 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by McRuss View Post
PS, about taking on four riding partners for a trip to AK.....I'd try to do a few days ride with them first. I started for AK a few years back with a friend whom I'm only ridden short rides with. I nearly killed him before we got back. Same thing happened in '95 with another friend. Long days on the road with guys that start out as friends can severely test the friendship. And I gather these are guys you met online....

Just sayin'
That's a entirely valid point. I'm one of those 4 guys going to AK and the one that backed out of this trip due to work. We're all adults and are well aware that we are required to pack and equip our bikes as if we had to depend on solely ourselves. So far, everyone is a-okay with that, as it takes a lot of unspoken pressure off the group - We ALL know this is an "epic" adventure and that it will test all of us in different ways.

I think it's safe to say we're planning on having the mental/physical/mechanical capacity to happily do this trip on our own, it's just that we're choosing each other for the camaraderie and the feeling you get doing something you love with someone else who "gets it".

Anyone notice Geoff and Mike are so good together that they decided to buy the same jackets?
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Old 10-01-2012, 06:44 AM   #8
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Anyone notice Geoff and Mike are so good together that they decided to buy the same jackets?
Mike was going to wear the high vis over his, but that disappeared early Saturday morning. For the record, I had mine first :). Also, if I can find an extra $900 in the next 9 months, I'll be wearing a Klim Badlands Pro instead.
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Old 10-02-2012, 09:20 AM   #9
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Jackets- I bought mine because I got to try Geoff's on last summer- so impressed I bought one. The brown was on sale...
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