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Old 05-20-2014, 07:17 PM   #61
Hunter-Douglas OP
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Location: Truckee-Tahoe Int.
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I rode one more day to get from Yukon Territory to Fairbanks. I had a class to get to and was hoping like hell nothing on my bike would break before I got there. I kept the speed down and entered Alaska with an exciting whump sound coming from my chain. The border guards there seemed a bit more laid back then in Canada, but maybe it was because I wasn't a foreigner this time?
There was a 20km dirt section and some windy roads right before crossing over onto asphalt. The only strange thing I noticed was a lot less wildlife once I entered AK, but it might have also been the earlier time of day. I made it to Fairbanks intact and took up residence at the Glacier House Hostel. I opted to setup at tent instead of spend $10 more a night on a bed. If I have showers, laundry and wifi who needs the bed?

I took my Wilderness First Responder recertification over the next three days at University of Alaska, Fairbanks. My instructors were great and the class had a special dose of AK flavor for the scenarios. I also used the evenings to get some work done on the bike and get my drivetrain in working order. I found a new K60 rear tire in town at The Outpost, and my sprocket from Anchorage was found lurking in the back of "the other" Fairbanks post office. I also ordered up new front and rear EBC pads to the post office in Anchorage for a lot less than the cost of one BMW brand set. Maybe one day I'll stop being offended by how much BMW parts cost, but not anytime soon.

The end of the Canada section of the AL-CAN.




Getting some work done in the backyard of Glacier House.


This pup is cool. You should check him out.


Three days of reviewing all the ways you can kill yourself in the backcountry. Certified for another 3 years!


I bought a new spare tube at The Outpost and had a chat with Justin there about the Dalton Highway. He gave me a great mileage printout with all the important stops along with some advice. He hadn't heard of anyone going up on a bike yet, which probably should have been more of a red flag than I thought it was at the time. No matter what happened I told him I'd give him a full report once I made back to Fairbanks. Maybe I've seen too many California summers where even the mountains are warm and inviting by May to think it could still be too cold North of the Arctic circle, but either way I figured I was good to go and I'd turn back if I had to.
Trial and error right?
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Old 05-20-2014, 07:31 PM   #62
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The Fool's Progress: Onwards-Upwards-Global on a 650gs

Hi Hunter.



Safe travels.



Be safe!!
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Old 05-21-2014, 12:21 AM   #63
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I almost got to Deadhorse

After prepping the bike and finishing up my class, I was ready to give the Dalton Highway a go. I gauged my fuel carry needs at an extra two gallons to make the 240 miles from Coldfoot to Deadhorse with some room to spare. Instead of shelling out $20 for a jerry I bought two one gallon waters from Safeway, filled my drom and strapped the empty plastic on for later. I mean, for one time use why spend $20 instead of $2.50?

I left Fairbanks in the afternoon aiming for the halfway point of Coldfoot a little ways above the arctic circle. Any sign of civilization started to disappear as soon as I started rolling North of Fairbanks. I had about an hour on Highway 2 before I took the right turn onto the Dalton. I got the old and new Elliot Highway confused for a quick minute and did a detour down a random track before figuring out I effed up. At least it was some nice dirt, but the guys at the work station I rolled up on seemed surprise to see me.


Right down the road I found the real Dalton Highway entrance and reset my odometer. It was 56 miles to the Yukon River and next gas, another 120 miles to Coldfoot. I saw the sign saying that the pavement ended for the next 400+ miles and rode right into a swampy mess. This was exactly what I was afraid of- Having to ride four days at 15mph through muck to get to Deadhorse and back. Why can't I just listen to people when they tell me I'm too early? Because I have to start work in a week, that's why!
Thankfully, the 10 miles of mud at the beginning were just a psyche out and the road transitioned to a mix of beautiful hard pack, gravel and patchy pavement. Just like in Yukon I was riding at the best part of day, as the sun was low but with plenty of light. It probably sounds crazy but the spruce trees, the sun and the dirt reminded me of pictures I've seen from tracks in Africa. I was hollering in my helmet about how great this road was, tracing a never ending pipeline into the distance and admiring the ability of the truckers to haul ass on the dirt with way bigger than normal loads. I was stoked, and I think at one point I might have even had flashbacks to a rally racing game I used to play when I was younger.








After a bit I came upon the Yukon River. I scanned the road in both directions, ignored the sign and stopped on the bridge for a bit to check out the view. I was pretty blown away by how big that river is. I've guided whitewater rafts a bunch of seasons on the American River in California, a smaller but more technical run that normally flows at about 2k cubic feet/ second. The Yukon River averages about 225k cubic feet/ second, and that was at lower flows. People I've talked to who have canoed sections of it talk about being in the middle and not seeing the banks sometimes.




I filled up at Yukon River Camp where the two hoses in front of the tank were labeled Diesel and Unleaded. It was just another time I was stoked that my little 650 runs on 87 without a care in the world . Seriously though, what do you do if your bike only takes Premium? Again I heard something about being the first bike they "remembered" seeing so far this summer. Chalk up red flag #2. I went across the road to check out the little interpretive center next to the pipeline for a bit and admired a pretty awesome bit of engineering.






I knew it was another 60 miles or so to the Arctic Circle and the mandatory sign photo. I rode 30 miles of nice dirt before the I saw the mountains in the distance and the road turned to dicey asphalt. The pavement was almost harder in a way because you could come around a corner fast and find yourself on washboard gravel without even thinking about it. I climbed up the road to a spot called Finger Mountain and got my first real taste of Arctic Tundra. Cold blasts were ripping across the landscape and not a tree was in sight. Photos were in order


The ten second timer on my Fuji took about 10 tries to get this one right. I'm not trying to look serious, I just was trying not to fall.






I rode on another hour before seeing the turnoff for the Arctic Circle. I busted out the tripod and snapped a few shots before going on to Coldfoot. It took another hour to get there but I found a great spot to camp along a dirt loop through the back woods behind the station. I was fired up on getting to Deadhorse the next day, but kind of unsure about what I would do if I got there. I packed light, so no beer on this stretch but I went to sleep after a few sips from a small bottle of Jim Beam I brought for the road. I mean it was still pretty cold up there, so do what you gotta do. Too bad the sunny weather wouldn't last.

Most photographed sign with a moto in frame?


Check out these big boys.


I love taunting these guys from inside the mesh.
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Old 05-21-2014, 12:31 AM   #64
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Moto One View Post
Hey Hunter, we will be following you, Safe travels. By the way I was a firefighter/ski instructor/guide at the Star. Started there the first year they were open running the rental shop.

Mark.
I hear it was quite a different place back in those days

It was still a blast to work there. Thanks for following.
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Old 05-21-2014, 12:35 AM   #65
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gangplank View Post
Hi Hunter.



Safe travels.



Be safe!!
Gangplank!
Thanks again for all the tech info you sent me on the bike. Seems like your Dakar is working out pretty well?
I'm planning on cranking out the fork swap this October before I head down to South America. We should snag Justin and do some riding when I come through Reno on the way back down.
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Old 05-21-2014, 06:24 AM   #66
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Originally Posted by Hunter-Douglas View Post
Gangplank!

Thanks again for all the tech info you sent me on the bike. Seems like your Dakar is working out pretty well?

I'm planning on cranking out the fork swap this October before I head down to South America. We should snag Justin and do some riding when I come through Reno on the way back down.

The GS'YZ'D bike came out pretty nice when all said & done. I migrated to Las Vegas in Jan. and in a twist of bike fate traded up to an F8GS. Bike-life repeating itself. Let me know if you come through this way on your travels.


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Old 05-21-2014, 02:18 PM   #67
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Originally Posted by Gangplank View Post
The GS'YZ'D bike came out pretty nice when all said & done. I migrated to Las Vegas in Jan. and in a twist of bike fate traded up to an F8GS. Bike-life repeating itself. Let me know if you come through this way on your travels.


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No kidding! Hope they didn't look at you funny when they saw the front end of what you were trading in. I should be coming through your way in November on the way to the border, I'll let you know.
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Old 05-21-2014, 02:45 PM   #68
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No kidding! Hope they didn't look at you funny when they saw the front end of what you were trading in. I should be coming through your way in November on the way to the border, I'll let you know.
Oh, no... I tried to trade it at the dealer. They gave a look like and declined. The repair tech told them to take it but the sales guy wasn't interested. I did a private party trade with another inmate.
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Old 05-21-2014, 03:45 PM   #69
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I woke up the next morning to the sound of rain on my tent and endless clouds over Coldfoot and the surrounding mountains. I figured my biggest issue would be a muddy track that would kill my speed and I didn't look forward to trying to cover 240 miles at 20mph through muck two days in a row. I filled up my tank and both 1gal containers as I watched the rain fall harder and the parking lot turn into soup. The truckers were giving me pretty interesting looks and the gals inside the restaurant wished me good luck in that voice that trails off at the end. I had 35 miles of prime asphalt before the dirt started and who knows what after that. I was happily surprised when the dirt I found was wet but well packed, maybe because of the turf sealer the graders lay down that has a way of sticking to everything on the bike and drying into cement.






I was making good progress and looking ahead towards the pass riding up and over the Brooks Range. It had been raining off and on, but nothing too bad to ride through and I was hoping that the weather would hold through the mountains and into the tundra. Instead, the road deteriorated and the rain turned to biting snow flakes as I started climbing. I was first and second gearing it and it was getting harder to see, but even through the whiteout and I could make out the harsh feel of the mountains around me as I rode.






I was cresting the pass and the snow was coming down harder as I passed a sign warning of avy danger for the next five miles. At one point I'd see clear across the valley, then the next I couldn't see more than 100 yards and was closed in by rising snowfields on both sides of the road, not realizing the slope was going up instead of down until I got right next to it. At one point I came across a trucker stopped in the road who flagged me down as I road by. I thought he would warn me about road conditions and tell me to turn back, but instead he pointed out the three grizzly bears on the ridge about 100 yards up from the highway. I grabbed my camera and he warned me to not get too close before taking off. I checked the wind direction and covered about a 1/3 of the distance to a small bluff. One of them looked at me and stood up for a second, but they ignored me for the most part. I didn't feel alright getting any closer since it was a gap they could close in less than 10 seconds if they wanted to.




The weather went downhill quick as I rode down the North side of the pass. Visibility was becoming a major issue as I couldn't see with my shield down but my face would take a pounding from the snow and wind if it was up. I tried keeping it up and using my sunglasses, but they kept getting covered by mud and water. I made it down to where I should have been able to see the expanse of flat land below the Brooks Range and all I could see was a whiteout and driving winds. This was starting to just get plain stupid. I was losing feeling in my hands and feet and saw some blue streaks start making their way back into my palms. I swapped for my second pair of dry gloves and called it. I took one more photo of my turn around spot as gusts howled down on me form the North.


I was ok turning back. I was too early. Everyone had told me that and I figured I'd try my luck anyway. But there was no point in going on, as I wouldn't be able to get to the ocean or even see it. The weather would be getting worse and I'd be paying the motel $150+ every night I was stuck in town since it would be too dicey to camp (if they even had open rooms). I figured at least I had made it the Arctic Circle, the Brooks Range and had seen a lot that I was pretty excited about.

I rode back up and over the pass but this time I was just in go mode. Once I made it back to the flats the weather eased up a bit and some blue sky started making its way out. I snapped more photos on the return ride as I picked up the tarmac again and retreated to Coldfoot for one more night. Nobody at the station seemed surprised to see me and the gal at the counter pointed to the new forecast calling for 6-12" of snow over the pass the next day. One of the truckers even saw me and smiled, saying "So you must be the bike I heard about on the radio".
I laughed.






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Old 05-21-2014, 09:41 PM   #70
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I'm really enjoying your report! You've got a really good way with narrative, and your images are fantastic. Thanks for taking us along!

Safe travels!
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Old 05-22-2014, 03:43 PM   #71
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I'm really enjoying your report! You've got a really good way with narrative, and your images are fantastic. Thanks for taking us along!

Safe travels!
Glad to have you along! Keep on enjoying that great riding out there.
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Old 05-22-2014, 03:43 PM   #72
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Oh, no... I tried to trade it at the dealer. They gave a look like and declined.


Wait

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Old 05-22-2014, 04:50 PM   #73
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Time to head South.

I woke up at my pretty awesome Coldfoot campsite for the second morning in a row, this time to very cold sun and blue skies. It was weird because there were no mosquitos I could see anywhere. I toyed with the idea of giving Deadhorse another go, but then I remembered the foot of snow that was inbound later in the day. I packed up and figured I should get to Fairbanks before I stranded myself somewhere.

I was feeling like I'd been cutting it a little too close with my luck the last few weeks, especially after the two day jaunt from Whitehorse to Fairbanks with a toasted sprocket and chain. I had to ride a few more days around town to get to class while I waited for the parts to come in, and my chain jumped off the rear sprocket two times before I could put on new parts. It wasn't really a question of safety (minus chain failure), but of money I'd have to spend to get myself out of a bad fix. When I was in Fairbanks I heard a similar story of a guy who's bike didn't make it far past the AK border on the Al-Can. His fees for getting a ride to town and coming back in a truck for the bike were well over $500, and I've heard on the Dalton in can be triple that. I'm not starting my trip with a big chunk of savings, more like a few grand in the bank and a plan to work seasonally to sustain the trip as I go. Having a chunk of money disappear like that simply to get back to square 1 would be a steel pipe through the my heart and the trip. So instead of sticking around, I got a move on and went South.

Yes.


I have never seen my temp warning light flash on in the 1.5 years I've owned the Beemer, so it was a pretty good shock when I saw the red bulb pop up while the temp was clear and cold in the mid thirties. I had some suspicions about what was going on and as soon as I pulled over I saw I was right. My radiator was buried under about a 1/2" of nitrate cement. I was out of water, so I pulled out the screwdriver on my knife and hacked away at it for about twenty minutes until it was cleared up.

Before.


After.


I was pretty whacked out after the long day in the crappy weather so I ended up pulling over for a bit and just passed out for a few hours in the sun. I got closer to the start of the Dalton and spied some spots where the pipeline dived a little lower to the ground. I'm a climber, so when I see a unique opportunity and a sign telling me NOT to climb on something, well you can guess what I usually do

I saw the sign.


This dirt sticks everywhere once it dries out. I'm pretty sure the lenses on my shades and face shield are both trash at this point.


From Yukon River camp on the dirt was back to great hard pack and I felt like I was in top form on the bike. I was averaging about 60-70mph and loving the freedom. I was starting to finally figure out the concept of looking further ahead on the dirt at high speed- If I don't look down at the weird grooves as I cross breaks in the dirt, I sure don't feel them as much. I slowed down for the 10 miles of mysterious swamp at the start of the Dalton and spied two slow moving figures in the distance. As I got closer, I couldn't believe I was seeing two bike tourers, right in the mud and on this road that was in the final stage of spitting me out. I pulled right on over to get their stories and take a photo.

Jacob (front) is American, and Gerry (back) is German. I think they teamed up while riding across Europe/Asia/Russia over the last year or so. Apparently I had caught them right at the start of their AK to Argentina ride. I was pretty stoked and inspired by their stories, so I got their web info and told them I would probably catch them somewhere in Mexico after working up here the next four months
If you guys are interested you can check out their journey here:
Jacob- http://aroundontwowheels.blogspot.com/
Gerry- http://gerrythetramp.wordpress.com/

There's something awesome about Gerry's setup that I just can't pinpoint.


I made it back to Fairbanks and checked back into the Glacier House. I made sure to spend money for ten minutes of pressure wash time downtown to get all the damn mud out from everywhere I could. I've heard horror stories of people forgetting to do that until they get back to the lower 48, and it's a big no-no. Now the steed is clean again. For now.


I'm rolling towards Anchorage at this point where I have to report to meet the guide crew on the 26th. I'm not sure about how I'll spend the next three days, but I'm currently in Healy and considering hiking the Stampede trail to the Chris McCandless bus today and tomorrow. I'm not sure about the river crossing but hopefully the water's low enough (I'm not going to do anything stupid). If it is, maybe I can see some more mountains and bears somewhere.
Who knows? Onward.
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Old 05-24-2014, 07:23 PM   #74
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I spent a few days on the Stampede Trail with thoughts of getting out to Bus 142.
There was a little too much water in the area to make it happen, but I got 20 miles of some entertaining ATV trails and a big chunk of pothole practice.
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Old 06-04-2014, 12:49 PM   #75
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Really enjoying the ride man keep it up! Great pics

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