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Old 07-01-2006, 09:51 PM   #1
MooseKiller OP
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Joined: Sep 2004
Location: New Spokananian, DrySide WA
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Talking Dust 2 Dawson 2006: A Rider's Dream

Dust 2 Dawson 2006:
A Rider's Dream


Foreword:
Author's Note


As riders, we all must understand and accept the risks we take as we live our lives on two wheels. While we may not consciously think about it, deep down we know that every time we throw a leg over our trusty steed, that ride into the sunset may truly be that. On Sunday, June 4th, Claire Berry was tragically lost in a motorcycle accident near Seward, Alaska. While I personally did not know her I knew I would have met her eventually, there were many on this ride loved her tremendously, shared many miles riding along side her, and called her “friend.” We all shared in her passion for living life through riding.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to her family and friends, and this year's Dust 2 Dawson was ridden in memory of Claire; A rider taken from us all too soon...

This report is a continuation of the ride.




(Edit: It is with a heavy heart that I am updating this ride report as one of our brothers that rode the Dust to Dawson run was tragically lost on June 24th while riding in Canada. More can be learned about Kevin Jennings here... Our thoughts and prayers go out to Kevin's friend's and family...)

Preface:
Planting the seed


Several years ago, I rode to Beluga Point to take pictures of the sun setting over the Alaska Range. This is a good spot as there is a “point” of land that sticks out into Turnagain Arm as the name indicates, which allows for a nice view and excellent photographic opportunities. As I am snapping away, this rider comes zipping into the parking lot on a motorcycle which escapes me at the moment as it is the rider who gathers my attention. A brick wall parks the bike next to mine, hops off and peels his helmet from his head. He fires up a cigarette and makes a bee-line straight for me. I never knew that brick walls could ride, but little did I know that this chance encounter would change my life.

“The name's Fighter,” says the brick wall. “This your bike?” I am able to squeak out an affirmation. “Nice. Clean. I like that.” I impressed Mr. Brick Wall with the name Fighter, which seemed like a good thing to do at the time. After some discussion, it was revealed that despite Fighter's impressive size and commanding presence, he was a passionate rider at heart and loved to talk about it with anyone who shares his dream. In parting, he flips out a little comment. “You need to go to www.advrider.com. Good stuff there.” If only I had known what this fateful snippet would cost me, but payback exponentially.

I eventually learned that Fighter founded the Dust 2 Dawson run. Adventure Rider became more and more part of my life. I lurked at first, eventually giving in and posting reports, mouthing off in Jo Momma, meeting inmates, and being a general “nOOb” in the strictest sense. I found myself dreaming of a GS, as I have a passion for four-legged BMWs. I learned that there is a much bigger world to motorcycling than just what you find on the street. Following Striking Viking's thread, reading “Two Wheels Through Terror” kept me busy for days. Then “Long Way Round” was like crack to an addict. I wanted more, and I had to have it. I had picked up my German redhead, an 1100 GS, and began to explore what riding truly was beyond anything my cruiser could show me.

On March 3rd, 2006, I went to work like I do any other day. Little did I realize that day my life would be changed again. As I went through my morning routine, entering passwords, checking email, loading applications, I hit advrider.com for my morning adventure fix while I waited for everything to get up and running. With coffee in hand, I noticed that I had a PM...

“Ah,” I think to myself as I sip my coffee. “A message from Kodiakfrank. 'D2D this summer' is the subject!” I start to get a little excited. See, last winter I had met Frank when he was in town. We had dinner at Roscoe's as we discussed riding and what trips we wanted to take. We had discussed a Dust 2 Dawson run, but I never gave it much thought as I felt that my riding skills wouldn't be sufficient for another few years. But Frank had other ideas...

To sum it up, Kodiakfrank lays out a plan to ride to Dawson, eight days of riding bliss via many waypoints through Alaska, to meet up with everyone for the 2006 D2D in Dawson City, Yukon Territory, Canada. I no longer need my morning cuppa, as it takes me about 3.1415 milliseconds to decide on putting in for some vacation time to take my dream ride. I had no real plan, no idea of what was to come, nor any concept of the skills it would take on some of the roads we planned on taking to the middle of nowhere. But none of that mattered that morning. All I knew was that I was going!

Now, prior to this trip, I had about two season of riding experience, mainly on my Yamaha Silverado cruiser. I picked up my 1996 BMW R 1100 GS summer 2005, and had about 1,200 miles on it before the rear tire went flat and basically ended my season with it early. I had ridden over Hatcher Pass and up to Arctic Valley one time each, and that was the total amount of dirt riding experience I had in my life. Yet now, I was going to go ride in a harsh, inhospitable environment on dirt roads for hundreds of miles.

Over time, I began to formulate a plan of attack. I asked a lot of people a lot of questions. I gleaned as much information and knowledge from as many inmates as possible on advrider.com as I could. I asked about how to ride on dirt. I asked about what equipment, tools, and spares I might need. I talked to the Gruvers who have done this trip many times, one of whom founded the ride. The more I learned, the more confident I became. But I knew that my skills would still be challenged to their extreme as it came time to ride.

Everyone I talked to was very helpful and patient with my questions. I also did as much maintenance on my bike as I could, not only to make certain that the beast was up to the task I was going to put it to, but to make sure I knew my way around the bike just in case. I added additional goodies and farkles like driving lamps, which some may think superfluous in a land where the sun never sets during the riding season, as well as a “necessary” toy: GPS. I also added Fastway pegs and a Centech auxiliary fuse box. All of these items I figured would have a significant impact on the overall quality of my trip. And they did...

(Note: All small photos are links to the larger image...)





As the time for the trip drew closer and closer, I found myself more and more preoccupied with all the little details in my preparations. I stuck with my cardio routine to make sure that I was in the best shape possible to fight off fatigue. I kept poring over the bike, attending to all the little things to stave of preventable malfunctions. I rode as much and as often as I was able to, even doing a ride to Matanuska Glacier State Park fully loaded to see how the bike reacted with all my gear. I kept up my questions and fact finding missions by reading Ride Reports, Face Plant, and Gspot, learning all I could about all I could. I found out that there is life outside Jo Momma!



Luckily, my daughter was my assistant on many occasions, helping me do the work on my bike. She helped me wire up the Centech and driving lamps, and in return for her help, she learned about electricity and wiring. Although, looking back, I think it was the heat shrink tubing that she enjoyed the most. I suffered a minor set back when the adjustment bolt sheared at the head for my Fastways, but Barb at Alaska Leather was awesome with a quick fix. I was also a bit shocked when I found out that my GPS was back ordered until the week prior to my departure, which caused concern about having time to install it as well as to learn about using it properly. Luckily it shipped earlier than expected and worked out great. Soon, the day the adventure started would be upon me, and I would set forth on the ride of a lifetime...
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Old 07-01-2006, 09:59 PM   #2
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JUNE 10th
Arrival and Departure

The plan was simple: Catch the ferry from Kodiak to Homer. Ride to MooseKiller's in Anchorage, and then head to Cabin d'Gusgus in Big Lake. Kodiakfrank, Jack, and Tom would start their adventure the day before and get a nearly 300 mile jump on me. They were to arrive in early afternoon before attending to some maintenance such as new tires. However, with ferry issues and shopping sprees that made Tom ask “Do I look fat?” pushed their arrival to early evening. Battling hunger and crazy squids, they make their way to Anchorage.



The hardware would consist of my 96 1100 GS, Frank's 04 1150 GSA, Jack's 93 R100 GS, and Tom's 89 Harley something or other – It is black and orange, and there is no place that Tom would take it. They all decide to dump unneeded gear such as tie down straps, a decision which would come back to haunt some of us in the future. A bit of wrenching was done while introductions were made, items strapped down, and it was off to top off the tanks, grab some grub, and end the day with a ride out to the valley.

After filling up with gas, a rogue cager in an SUV nearly takes out Tom in the parking lot. Then Tom gets dinked again at Applebees when a steak ordered “medium moo” comes back as “extra charcoal,” Never ask what's next, as you will be answered soon enough, and it may not be an answer you'd like to hear.

We head off to the highway with me taking point. Apparently I am the only one who has the directions to Gusgus's place, which I conveniently added to my GPS. Gusgus warned me that the GPS is not always infallible, which I learned while riding with it for a few weeks. It'll get you close, and generally spot on in most cases. But there are the odd things here and there that can really confuse it's micro-circuit pea-brain. The ride out was pretty straight forward, with a quick stop to pick a few supplies for the evening.

Everyone gets a nice sized bottle of water, and a cold six pack for Jack and Tom. It was then that I noticed a nice shine of oil coursing down Jack's beemer's center stand. Upon inspection, it is determined that the oil sensor is the culprit. We hoped an easy repair could be implemented at Gusgus's digs. Luckily, all three of my fellow riders are mechanics. And while all types of aircraft are their specialty, their extensive knowledge would play a large part in this adventure.

A few more miles down the road, we make it to our first evening's stop. Gusgus meets us in the driveway with a huge smile, camera in hand. Introductions are made and the biker discussions begin. Jack's oil leak is mentioned, and Gusgus immediately offers up his garage, tools, and anything else needed to get the bike back in top form. We would come to find that nearly every rider on this trip adhered to the unspoken rider's code of never leaving a rider behind or always stopping to lend a helping hand.









The garage held many stories which were diligently passed around in detail. Gusgus's record Ironbutt run to Prudhoe and back was an amazing tale of personal triumph. And the mechanical jive was freely handed out as suggestions and ideas to make sure our iron horses could make the trek. When the repair Jack attempted on his oil sensor didn't seem to do the trick, Gusgus suggested using the one off his old Yamaha he was rebuilding. After some electrical mods, it worked like a charm. It is this type of selflessness that permeates the dedicated riders that lurk these halls.

While all this was going on, Tom put on the new seat cover he picked up from Barb at Alaska Leather, only to eventually realize that his Harley was having a few electrical issues. It wouldn't fire. Some poking around, shedding of blood, gnashing of teeth and tearing of clothes, it came down to thinking it was a bad regulator. Plans were made to hit the Wasilla Hog Shop to get new goodies. The bike was placed on a charger, Gusgus crawled into bed to get at least a few hours sleep prior to his 5 a.m. departure, and we headed down to the wonderful cabin with the lake front view.







That night included discussions of “powdered chocolate treats, butt fungus, and dill/vinegar items” which are seemed to have some relation to each other through convoluted thought processes of the adventure rider mind. More information on the ferry trip was presented, and could have offered a small clue s to perhaps the truth behind why it was behind schedule. Eventually, through crooked pictures and riotous laughter, all became quiet as we eventually made our way to bed, where the excitement of my dream ride to come would make for a pleasantly restless night.





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Old 07-01-2006, 10:11 PM   #3
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June 11th
My Adventure Begins


When morning finally arrived in the cabin, it quickly came to a fever pitch as everyone packed up. First order of business was to head to the local Harley Davidson dealer to get a new regulator for Tom's steed. I was able to grab a few pictures of some birds that were around the cabin, keep a close eye on all this strange activity. Fortunately, I didn't miss the woodpecker working hard for his breakfast, but wasn't fast enough to get the zoom lens on for a good picture. That was reserved for the robin munching contentedly away on an unfortunate moth.





We hit the road at 9 a.m. to find out when wed be able to get Tom's part, only to arrive and find out they don't open until 1 in the afternoon. We decide to get some breakfast at The Windbreak Cafe. I started thinking of Spinal Tap's “Break like the Wind” and wonder if they turn the beans up to 11. Fortunately, no one order beans for breakfast, and everyone ends up with a good breakfast. We wisely decide to trade cell phone numbers, which ends up coming in handy. Luckily, the local HOG Chapter Road Captain decided to have breakfast in the same cafe we did that morning, and helped get Tom taking to the right people to track down his part. We eventually decide that Frank and I would head north to Fairbanks, while Jack and Tom would hang back to get the Harley fixed. While in the parking lot getting ready to roll, I have some camera problems which puts a bit of a scare in me. I spent a lot of time and effort finding a packing scheme that would allow me to take my nice digital SLR on this trip. It would be highly irritating to have it go tango uniform before the real riding begins. I reseated the lens, and that luckily resolved the problem. Greatly relieved, I take some pictures before we grab some throttle.







It was a cool and overcast day as we began to make our way north. The fresh morning air was invigorating as the miles began to drift by us in a blur of trees and tarmac. The traffic was generally going the other way as it was Sunday, and the weekend warriors that spent their Saturdays hauling in fish or hiking in some remote area were heading back into town to prepare for the upcoming work-week. I noticed my thoughts were focused on the task ahead, eagerly anticipating the adventure which was no longer a dream. The humming bike below me gave direct evidence that this was it! My dream is now reality! I flew headlong into the abyss, lusting for the unknown, drinking in the zen-like state. For years I spent my life in a dizzying spin of work-a-day busy-ness, doing what was required of me. I only hope that I never complained too loudly, I pride myself in taking care of whet is expected of me, and as we all must attend to our responsibilities. But now, all the hard work and focus on what was expected of me culminated in the ability to pursue my dream ride with (not too) reckless abandon. With every mile that I flung myself farther from home and work, I felt the stress melt away and my head lift higher. The weight of the world was leaving me, and I was free to fly, breaking the shackles of tedium and repetition.

Frank and I arrive at a scenic park overlooking the majesty of Denali: The Great One. While the thick gray veil of clouds hides this massive king of mountains from us this day, the stunning beauty continues to radiate through mist. Jagged mountains straining to pierce the heavens thrust upwards, refusing to relent in their task. Nothing would keep us from enjoying the amazing vista spread out before us. The experience was heightened by the trusty BMWs that brought us here. While sipping water and taking in snacks, we chatted about this and that, and then stepped out context by checking our voicemail. While at the time it seemed apropos, looking back it seems absurd and almost alien to be at the feet of natural majesty only to break out our electronic leashes. Upon completing this action, we learn that Jack and Tom had to head to Anchorage to get the part to fix the Harley. As it was backtracking for them, it would be a while before we learned their fate, and agreed to stay in touch to help with planning due to the unforeseen mechanical problems.














*Note: Some may rudely ask “What's with the potato?” Astute viewers will determine that the “potato” is in fact a stuffed hamster whose name is Mr. Scruffy. Mr. Scruffy is a cute little critter which was given to me to take on my travels. He has been to The Bahamas, St. Thomas, Puerto Rico, and has now made his way farther north. He is very adventuresome, but will take exception to anyone that refers to him as a “potato.” He would also like to go on record to say that just because he is a hamster, he is in no way affiliated with the motorcycle group known as “The Hamsters.” Thank you.

After we take our fill of what Denali was able to offer, we gear up and head back out on the road. Sweeping vistas and twisty roads meet with twisting throttles and leaning curves. The drone of the bike is like muffled music through earplugs. (I have learned that many more miles can be racked up every day when the noise is attenuated. I will eventually pick up a nice set of electronic noise reducing earbuds so I can listen to music on longer trips. I prefer going earplugless while in town so I have yet another sense working in my favor.) We pass by the Denali Princess Lodge and over Hurricane Bridge, which lives up to it's name. The wind gusts were extreme, and it was a long way down, so prudent speed is dictated through these parts.

Shortly past the bridge there is a nice downhill right hand sweeping turn, which is a perfect spot to park your car and run out in front of motorcycles traveling at 60 miles per hour. Or at least this is what the three tourists had to have been thinking. Why exactly they were thinking this is beyond me at the moment, but they were kind enough to share this experience with me. Ironically, I expected more trouble like this from the best wildlife Alaska has to offer, and not people. Luckily, this was my closest run in with any form of warm blooded creature. The three tourists were focused more on the large moose that had taken up lunch in the river that was meandering by on the opposite side of the highway. While my focus was maintained on riding the bike and not splattering a tourist or two all over the road, Frank witnessed the whole incident, and was able to verbalize and gesticulate what I was unable to successfully emote at the time.

Some time past and the miles wiled away. Trees seemed to thin out allowing the mountainscapes to make their presence known. We came to an intriguing place to rest and snap a few photos. A giant foam igloo reminiscent of some 1960's deep space base popped up along side the road. An old gas station was to it's left, long since abandoned. Someone had thought that this edifice would be a major tourist destination, only to have their entrepreneurial dreams dashed. You can also tell that you are in the middle of nowhere when your GPS zooms out to 120 mile resolution.







After our quick stop at the igloo, we take advantage of the next gas station somewhere near Healy to top of the now thirsty bikes. Franks GS Adventure has a much longer range than my GS, but I carried an extra gallon of fuel as precaution. We also had a siphon tube stashed away for emergency situations in which we could transfer gas from his super tanker to anyone with smaller tanks. There we grab another quick bite to eat, and Mr. Scruffy partakes with us.





We crank on up again, dancing in and out of the high country trying remember every valley, every crook and cranny in every mountain peak the slowly fades in the rear view mirrors. I am sure that silently we both know that it is a futile effort, but take comfort in knowing that the great memory of embarking on this adventure will remain with us for the rest of our lives. Two riders who have only known each other for a short time are now creating the stories you tell your great-grand kids about. We press on always keeping in mind what lies ahead: Fire.

Earlier in the week, a large forest fire began consuming everything it could feed on near the Nenana area. There was talk of evacuating the town. Firefighters from all over the state were battling the flames. Even the road had been closed at times. We were all at the mercy of the wind. The closer we got, the more and more we would start to smell the smoke, taste the embers. We had promised Jack and Tom that we would call them at a given time, and that time was near. Frank flashed his high beams as a signal to pull over at the next turn off, which was about 10 miles south of Nenana. At was here that we learned the part that Harley had was bad, and that they had to wait around for another one. They would hang out with some local friends until they could get back on the road safely. Once business was concluded, I took a few more pictures, some looking forward to where we'd shortly be. The pillar of smoke appeared to be an anvil cloud, signaling destruction below.



We pressed on to see what was left of Nenana. People at the previous stopped said to expect one to two hour delays as they let traffic through by escort only. As we dropped out of the highlands, the temperature began to rise and the air began to dry out. Breathing was almost as if inhaling through a hairdryer. Flakes of ash began to fall sporadically here and there. Then without warning, the evidence of the fire was right in front of us. Blackened remnants of trees and brush stood like ghosts in a graveyard. It appeared that the devil sprang forth from the depths of Hell and spat brimstone like cherry-pits. Red slurry stained the pavement. Yet despite the devastation, islands of life stood as beacons of hope. The landscape was dotted with houses left unmolested by fire. This is a testament to the valor and courage of the many firefighters as they stood their ground. Due to the comings and goings of emergency vehicles, and the unknown nature of the column of traffic, I did not stop to pull out the camera to take photos as I wanted to be able to move at a moment's notice.

After passing through Nenana, we moved back into the hills, darting in and out of small valleys, shooting up one side and floating down the other. It was about this time that started to put more and more effort in to counter-steering. While it comes naturally to riders scooting around town, it takes a little more thought when hopping into a high speed turn. To steer a little more left in a fast right-hander. Who knew that little adjustment would make riding all that much more fun and exciting! Every time I thought “OK, let's try this again... Throttle up and puuuuuuush.... Weeeeeeeeeeeeeee!” I knew I would learn more about riding while on this trip, it never really occurred to me that counter-steering would be where I made significant progress. The miles went by too fast before Fairbanks made it's presence known all too soon.

All we knew is that we were to be at the Turtle Club around six. It was now almost eight. The GPS gave one of it's odd readings, so we decided to take the next exit and stop to see if we could find where we were supposed to be going. As luck would have it, a wonderful gentleman on a R100 happened to pull in just after us and was kind enough to point us in the right direction. We took what must have been the main road through Fairbanks, took a left toward Fox, and were quickly on our way to dinner. Once in Fox, we passed the turn we were supposed to take and made a quick u-turn. Two blocks down on the left is right where the Turtle Club was supposed to be, and it was very hard to miss the herd of dual sport bikes lined up. We knew we were at the right spot. Friar Mike greeted us and lead us inside. A rowdy bunch of riders had already finished eating, but were kind enough to stick around to hear our story of the day's ride. They made some menu suggestions and told us where they were staying for the night. “Just across the highway and over the hill on the right. Can't miss it.” Frank and I order the SMALL steak, grab some exceptional vittles and dig in.







In a way we were lucky that Tom wasn't around to order “medium moo” and our steaks came done to perfection. You could almost cut them with a fork. After I was attacked by the ranch dressing at the salad bar, dinner was hastily consumed and we geared up quickly so we could get to our place of rest before the after-meal sleepies found us. The directions were spot on, but I think I misinterpreted the scale. Almost 20 miles later, we had found the F.E. Mining Camp hotel and hostel. This became a bit of a concern for me as I did not fill up in town, and I was quickly getting close to 200 miles on the clock. I learned this concern was for naught as there was a gas station just back at the intersection by the Turtle Club, I had just overlooked it. We stop and hop off the bikes to hear many people out on the back deck talking. We mosey on over and make the introductions. We chat for a while as the sky gets lightly darker. We then each set up our individual tents and other associated gear to prepare to rest after many miles. After some rude comments were passed around by the other campers about inflating my sleeping pad, blissful rest overtook me as the first day to my adventure came to a close.







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Old 07-01-2006, 10:23 PM   #4
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June 12th
An Imaginary Line

The next morning broke to clear skies and warmer temperatures. We took our sweet, lazy, relaxed, “it's my damn vacation, and if you don't like it, go away” time getting packed and ready for the main activity of the day: Riding. We planned on a run up to the Arctic Circle and then back again, while others were pressing on to Wiseman and up to Antigun Pass. After being honest in assessing our riding skills, we felt it better to set a more prudent pace so that we wouldn't become a burden, or worse, a liability. Never were we pressed to take a certain road, but always made welcome to tag along. The crew headed to Wiseman headed out early, and said they'd be at the Hilltop Truckstop getting some chow, and that we could meet them there if we'd like. We said sure as we anticipated getting on the road a bit sooner than we actually did. We finished packing, had breakfast at the F.E. Mining Company, and while Frank took care of a few final things, I took a handful of pictures around the place. Carol is the proprietor of this rustic and cozy facility, which used to be an old mining camp that would house and feed the workers. She and her staff have done an excellent job of bringing the grounds and buildings up to being able to operate as a hotel. It is located near Goldstream Creek, and the kitchen is home to the largest wood stove in Alaska. Alejandro is the resident chef, and did an exceptional job in keeping this crew well fed.











As we head up to the Hilltop Truckstop, after getting some much need go-go juice for the thirsty beast, we quickly realize that we missed everyone. They headed up north and we were already quite a ways behind them. We attempt to get in touch with Jack and Tom, but there is no cell service where we are at. Communication gets spotty in remote Alaska, even though we are only 20 miles outside of Fairbanks at the moment. We finally get all the lallygagging finished with and get to twisting that throttle again. Frank takes lead, and off we go. We are running through rolling hills similar to what we experienced when we arrived in Fairbanks. Lush greenery is to ether side, and we are vigilant in looking out for the suicidal critter that is wanting to make a final stand. We make good time on the paved road, though later I find that Frank isn't as confident at the moment. He said that he couldn't hold a line. “Not a problem,” I would end up saying, as safety is everyone's primary concern. He had brought along a new TKC-80 for the rear as he was concerned about his current tire wearing out.

We eventually make it to the beginning of the Dalton Highway. This is the road that connects the rest of the world to Deadhorse, and up to Prudhoe Bay. However, there is no access to the Arctic Ocean due to the reservation being closed to everyone but authorized personnel. The highway is primarily dirt, with an odd section of pavement sprinkled randomly here and there. Most paved sections aren't too much better than dirt, with frost heaves or potholes large enough to hide a moose in. At first we take our time, especially considering that I have next to nothing in terms of dirt experience. We take many breaks to relax and help keep fatigue down. But we slowly gain more confidence, and we eventually find ourselves keeping a decent pace of around 50 miles per hour. We would occasionally come upon a truck, kicking up white out conditions due to the extreme dust. There were times when Frank would just disappear, which can be quite dangerous if there is a sudden stop. I kept focused on his tail light, and everything worked out fine. It was times like these that I became very happy about installing the driving lamps on the bike. I generally keep them on all the time regardless to assist with making me as visible as possible. During the challenging visibility, I kept my high beams on as well. I refused to become a hood ornament on some large truck headed the other way.

One thing that began to strike me as the miles ticked by is that no matter where you looked, there was nothing there. Endless miles of rolling hills. Millions of trees that have never felt the touch of human hands. The vast emptiness of virginal land devoid of all human presence. No one for what seemed like an eternity. All you had was a stretch of road ahead of you, a stretch of road behind you, and you. That's it. No cell towers or billboards. No hidden cagers lurking in the shadows with your number on it. No hum of the highway or screeching sirens. Absolute silence would deafen you. I never felt so alone, but so alive. Sanity was slowly regained after every passing corner.







Just before 4 p.m., we enter into a long section of construction. We patiently await the pilot car as we are tucked into a long line of large trucks and other intrepid souls. One of the advantages to riding a motorcycle is that you get to cut to the front of the line in constructions zones. Nice! Perhaps that is why so many cagers have you marked. Once the pilot car arrived, we set forth not exactly sure of what to expect in this construction zone. For the most part the road was packed dirt, which is great, but after a short wait to allow some equipment to pass, we threaded through a single lane hazard with a large excavator working just feet from us on one side, to a steep 10 foot drop off on the other. The road surface was course crushed rocks, packed by a steam roller. The surface was fine for cars and trucks, but would sink and shift under narrow bike tires. Looking back, this would be the most challenging portion of road I would cover, aside from a short surprise in Canada. But I digress.



We ride over the seemingly miles-wide Yukon River on a bridge that is paved with wood planking. I hear a couple of loud pops and fear that I punctured both tires on a nail that could have been sticking out of the road bed. We pull into the restaurant/gas station/hotel/repair shop and decide to get some food and to top off the tanks. Gas is scarce out in this netherworld, so you never pass an opportunity. Despite the scarcity, you pay for gas on an honor system: You fill up using the pump connected to above ground tanks, and then go inside and tell them how much. However, anyone out this way would have a strong ethical and moral attitude, as any bad karma points racked up out here could easily cost you your life. The unwritten rule in this part of the world is: Stop and help the person in need, as they would do the same for you.



Under sky that seemed bluer, with puffy cotton-ball clouds wisping gently overhead, we continued on toward that imaginary line around the world. Fresh air greeted us with every breath, save for the occasional passing vehicle. Despite the precautions we took by wearing protective breathing gear, I am certain that I inhaled at least a pound of dust over the course of this trip. Almost instantly the turn off was in front of us: We had reached the Arctic Circle! An accomplishment I have dreamed of for so long has finally become a reality! I was there. Frank had slowed and we both rode in at the same time. This wasn't a time for bragging, this was a time to savor the moment. We parked the bikes and congratulated each other on a safe journey. There were four others there who we had seen earlier in the day. They were a group of tourists from England and Poland. Of all the people you meet at the Circle, who would expect this crowd? They were a great bunch of people, and we took turns taking each other's pictures to commemorate the moment.









It is with perhaps a slight touch of irony that once we got to the Arctic Circle, it finally hit us that we were only half way home. The time came and gone all too quickly, and now it is time for us to head home. One thing I must say is that the camp ground and associated facilities are probably the most pristine and immaculate of their kind. This is attributed directly to mosquitoes. Being caught in this wilderness without appropriate protection from these pesky critters, and it could honestly be a death sentence. While they were pretty bad during the warm evening, we'd soon find out that they would come out in force when the temperatures dropped. Since these little vampires came out at “night,” any camping would probably not be a good idea for tent dwellers, as any nocturnal run to use the facilities would be an exercise in futility. So, it was a very good chance that not many people have actually camped at this campground.

We quickly got situated and pointed the bikes south toward home. We had a long journey still to complete, though our confidence on the dirt was growing by the mile. I had mentioned to Frank a few places I would like to take pictures of prior to our leaving, and he was quite agreeable to that idea, so off we went with him in lead again. About 20 miles or so into our return trip, Frank motions to a location where he thinks I want to stop for photos. I motion for him to keep going as this was not the place I had in mind. He continues to slow, so I decide to pass him and take lead so there is no questions where I would like to snap off a few frames. The first location I wanted to stop was a place called Finger Mountain, which is more of a series of large finger shaped rocks, and less of a mountain though they are on the top of a very large hill so we will give them the benefit of the doubt. I go to pull into the parking area that is close to the formations, at which point I have the following conversation with my motorcycle within about 42 milliseconds:

“Hello bike! It's me, your operator. I would like to place an order for a small amount of rear brakes, please.” I say.

“Mmmmph murr mumph humma fromma?” replies the bike.

A bit taken aback, I state, “Um, excuse me. I didn't quite catch that. Would you mind repeating that for me?”

“Mmmmph murr mumph humma fromma?” the bike states again.

All the while the turn is coming upon us at a spirited pace. So I ask again, yet this time with a bit more urgency...

“Greetings again, it is me, your operator. I would like a larger helping of rear brakes, and I am in a bit of a hurry.”

Once again, I get the same reply. “Mmmmph murr mumph humma fromma?”

“See here, old chap. There is a turn coming up quite soon and I am in need of some rear brakes. If you don't mind, I would most certainly appreciate them being sent forth at once!” I truly expected to get through to the bike with that request. And to my surprise, I did receive a different response!

“Would you like fries with that?” was the resounding and final reply that the bike gave to me.

It was about this time that I realized that any additional requests for a suitable application of rear brakes would be met with the same ugly squish as the previous requests received. While many of you inmates out there in advrider-land know that it is he rear brake that does most of the work off road, I had read it many times, but it was the practical application of which that I needed practice with. So to suddenly be without rear brakes left me in a bit of a lurch. Luckily, I was able to scrub off quite a bit of speed prior to making the turn, so there was no dramatic get-off or mutt-parking that took place. Frank pulled in beside me once I came to a stop, and he instantly knew there was something wrong. Looking at my rear tire, there was a stream of fluid that had been thrown around the rim, packed with dust and dirt. His first reaction was the final drive going out, but I knew better. I told him I had no rear brakes, basically summing up the afore mentioned conversation I had with the bike in five words. Probably six in reality, but I will save those words for the sailors.



We shut the bikes down and hop off. I am fearing the worst and begin wondering how to proceed from here. I am thinking blown seals or a caliper gone crazy. As we poke around, the malfunction is immediately evident, and easily dealt with: The banjo bolt backed out far enough to allow fluid to escape, but was still where it belonged. I give a brief sigh of relief, but panic quickly returns as I run through the list of spares I packed. I brought duct tape, zip ties, gasoline, and even heat shrink tubing. I had two pair of locking pliers, hex drivers from here to next year, a bazillion fuses, and even RTV sealer. But right now I lacked the one thing that would save my bacon. Brake fluid. Of all the things I did not bring, the one thing I needed was brake fluid.


Frank immediately starts wrenching on the bike. It was at this time he noticed that the cannister is all cattywhampus as well. He dives for the zip ties as I spray bug repellent on my hands. We are both wearing head nets by this time as an entire squadron of mosquitoes are trying desperately to make our acquaintances. After I pop the right side pannier off, he starts to secure the cannister as I tighten the banjo bolt. There is still a small amount of fluid left in the system, but nothing that would provide any solid braking performance.

A quick glance at the time shows that we have about 50 minutes to go the 48 miles back to the Yukon River restaurant/gas station/hotel/repair shop where we hope that they have some brake fluid. Frank trades his head net for a helmet and rockets off to reach the store before the 9 p.m. deadline. We both agree that I should maintain a prudent pace to avoid making the situation any worse than it already is. While it would take exponentially longer to get back to Fairbanks without any rear brakes, it could still be accomplished if need be. I get geared up and follow Frank's trail of dust.

It isn't long before Frank blasts so far ahead that I cannot see him anymore. My wounded bike foremost in my mind makes me take things nice and easy. My lack of dirt experience is no consolation as using the front brake is not very appealing, but might become more urgent as velocity increases. I try to keep up the steady pace as I do not want to be too far behind Frank so additional plans could be made if things don't go our way.

At about 9:05 I pull into the parking lot next too the Yukon River. I made it safely. I see Frank topping off his bike at which point it hits me that I too need to fill up the tank. He waves me in, and I waste no time in shoving the gasoline into the beemer's tank. Frank was already inside politely stalling the cashier as I go flying in to pay for the gas I just took. It is then that I notice the brake fluid bottles that Frank has found, and he offered to put my gas on his tab in an effort to now get out of the staff's hair and let them go home.

We take our loot out into the lot where an impromptu brake job is soon in full swing. We end up with an audience, who starts in with a few questions about our predicament and then asks about what it is like heading toward Deadhorse. We find out the gentleman's name is Dick, and he had just ridden his KLR 650 30,000 miles from New Hampshire to Tierra del Fuego, ending up here in Alaska. Apparently he had purchased the bike one week before he started his trip, which was stock until he added some grips and pegs, as well as a set of Triumph bags if memory serves correctly. While on his trip in South America, he ended up bending the rear rim rather significantly. He ended up having it welded by a local welder so he would at least be able to get back to the U.S. He said he had to keep tightening the spokes as about half of them had loosened, and would slowly work themselves out of true as time went on. Apparently now the spokes are staying tight, and he has decided to hold off on getting a new rim until he gets home. Dick also said that some of his previous motorcycle journeys had taken him through Vietnam and Thailand, and that he had ridden inland the day before the massive tsunami tragedy had struck.





He allowed us a few pictures, and I gave him my screen name and the advrider.com website before he started his trip north, so hopefully he will drop in and share his stories with us some day. It was about this time that the brakes had been bled, and it was time to get back on the road. We had to do a dance to get our gear back on without trapping any of the million or so mosquitoes that were constantly making their presence known. We finally get back on the road around 9:30, which isn't too bad considering the situation we just came through.

We make it through the same construction zone as before, which was still in full swing despite the later hours. Given the short summer season, it goes without saying that it is better to go 24/7 during the summer, than to attempt any type of maintenance in the winter. Shortly after leaving the heavy equipment behind up, scattered light sprinkles weave their way through the rolling hills, doing what it can to help suppress the oppressive dust.

As we begin to near the end of the Dalton Highway, we come across a large van towing a trailer parked on the side of the road. The unfortunate driver is bundled up like a sheik with a turban in a meager effort to keep the blood-suckers at bay. We stop and offer some assistance, which is readily accepted. As Frank grabs a tool and starts helping to disengage the trailer so the van can be jacked up, I roll a bit further on to put my bike just past the nearest corner and turn on the emergency flashers. Any additional warning to the trucks that come barreling through is a great idea. As I do this, I see a trucker stopping to help another vehicle stopped further up, again due to a flat tire.

I get back to our rescue mission in time to hear that the gentleman in the van with a trailer was attempting to drive from Anchorage to Deadhorse in one day, to pick up a BMW 1200GS that had done somersaults earlier. Apparently the rider was medivac'd out safely, and will be OK aside from a few broken bones, but the bike was pretty much totaled. During this discussion, the driver was attempting to loosen the lug nuts on the flattened tire, only to strip out the socket he was using. After some more colorful sailor language, he assures us that he has a spare somewhere in the van, and that we could go ahead and continue our journey. Frank and I shoot each other a comical glance, wondering if we would be reading the newspaper about this guy and how he was later found dessicated by mosquitoes. We offer him some food, a head net, and some bug repellent, all of which was politely declined. We wished him well and continued on our way.

The sky grew darker, but as we all know, this is the land of the midnight sun. Perpetual twilight sets in come the witching hour, and we pressed on. Eventually we reach the paved roads, and tiredly celebrate having survived one of the most challenging and remote highways in Alaska. A brief stop at the sign, a quick photo snapped, and a request from Frank to have me take lead on the way home. He was tired and admitted again to having trouble holding a line, so he wanted me to help watch for road hazards. I again have no problem, as he had taken point all day and helped me avoid obstacles the dirt threw at us all day.



We learned that Frank is a more aggressive dirt rider, and that I am a more aggressive road rider. I had to keep from getting too eager to back to the homestead, and make certain that Frank was still visible in the mirrors. “Never leave your wingman” I kept thinking. And with the incessant threat of hares and moose that kept making appearances, decreased reaction times due to fatigue, safety was becoming more and more critical. A panicked mother moose and calf, while running parallel to the road, kept enough zig-zag in their gate to keep your right hand and foot at the ready in case they turned kamikaze. I have had more than enough experience with kamikaze moose, and I would prefer not to gain any more.

Turning onto the road that leads to the F.E. Mining Company, my mind is racing over the events of the day. I am still mentally alert, and feel like I could do another 500 miles. But the quiet voice in the back of my head kept whispering to me, telling me that I was more tired than I thought, and that soon sleep would no longer be an option. A lone porcupine waddled across the road, and determine that it provides no threat to Frank trailing in the distance. We pull into the parking lot and shut the bikes down. The silence is a reward in it's own right, and at that very moment, I realize exactly how tired I truly am. We decide to forgo any attempt to camp for the night, and find the first empty rooms in the hostel, thinking that it is better to ask forgiveness than permission as the front desk was long closed. It wouldn't be until morning that I learned we arrived well past 2 a.m., the end of a 15 hour and 440 mile day of riding.





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Old 07-01-2006, 10:39 PM   #5
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June 13th
Mr. Scruffy's Wild Ride


After previous discussions, we decided that today would be a general bum around day while some things would be attended to. Frank planned on swinging by the local BMW shop and having his rear tire swapped out, while also planning on doing some laundry. I took advantage of the day by riding around the Fairbanks metro area, and taking Mr. Scruffy for a wild ride. Mr. Scruffy had a rather quiet ride for the most part so far, and he was starting to demand more face time. The last thing I wanted was for Mr. Scruffy to get grumpy, so I promised him that today would be his special day. After a wonderful breakfast of biscuits and gravy, we suited up and headed into town.

Our first order of business was to stop by the local nation wide general purpose store that sucks the life out of you every time you visit. However, it was convenient, and I knew it would have the goodies I was looking for: lip balm, water, and brake fluid. Everything a growing biker needs. I quickly find my stuff and hit the self check out lanes, only to have the stupid machine give me attitude with the bottled water. Fine by me, as that was less money they would get from me, and since I left it sitting on the machine. Nyeah.

I stowed the bounty from my shopping spree and grab a sip of water from what I had remaining, only to realize that the new store my company is building was right on the other side of the parking lot! So, being the nerd that I am, Mr. Scruffy and I scoot on over where he strikes a pose...



Next, Mr. Scruffy wanted to head over to the local institution of higher learning, the University of Alaska Fairbanks. So we hit the main drag through town, and head in a westerly direction toward the main campus. Traffic is amenable, and the cagers are actually rather kind to us this day, and we make it safely across town. We stop for pictures at the main entrance, as well as at a few choice spots near the hallowed halls of learning. A wise man once sad “Knowledge is good.” Who am I to disagree? We also find that those who ride and park their bikes at UAF tend to favor the BMW over any other make, as we saw more beemers than anything else. Those Fairbanksians have better taste in bikes than I would have guessed!















Mr. Scruffy then suggests that we swing by the Alaska Pipeline for some great photo ops. I agree, suit up, and we then hit the main roads again and head back toward home base, as the pipeline is on the way. In about 15 minutes we pull up to a parking spot that is right next to the pipeline. It is entirely possible that the oil and gasoline coursing through the beemer's veins had meandered through this very spot. Mr. Scruffy is a bit hungry, and we both enjoy a lunch of trail mix, beef jerky, and a power bar, chased with a chug of cool water. We then proceed to take many pictures over the next 30 minutes or so, enjoying the other tourists make fools of themselves.

















While getting ready to head back to the hostel, a pair of riders pull into the parking lot and make a beeline straight for me. One is on a BMW F 650, and the other is on an 1100 GS. The shut down, hop off, and the F 650 rider says, “Adventure rider, huh? What's your screen name?” So I tell him that I am known as MooseKiller. He introduces himself as NextRider, and he is on a ride from Tennessee with his dad. We sit around and chat about bikes and the ride, this and that. All the things that adventure riders tend to talk about. They ask about the Dalton, so I tell him what it is like and about the adventure we had the prior day. As we are chatting, AKRider and Globie make a quick pit stop, almost as if to check in on their way to the F.E. Mining camp. As is the norm, NextRide and father are exceptionally nice guys, and I certainly hope to run into them on the road again.

Eventually we pack up and hit the highway, but not before Mr. Scruffy notices a giant golf ball and pair of massive ice cubes on the other side of the road. I snap off a few pictures of what must only be a Fairbanks thing, put the camera back in the pannier, and cruise away. As I make my way down the road, I see a bike in the mirrors rapidly catching up to me. I figure it is another adventure rider, and learn that it is Kodiakfrank as he pulls along side. He was done with his running around in town and was heading back to camp.



We pull into park, when Frank mentions that there is a dredge just a mile up the road, and wonders if I want to go see it. Mr. Scruffy is all for it, so we head a bit further up the road for a little hike back to the old dredge. When we get there, I am stunned a the massive size of this rust hulk that once served as the livelihood for this area. What appears to be a six story building is really a boat. It would dredge the bottom out of a large lake, moving the lake with it as it searched for it's quarry: Gold. We walked along the old tailing piles toward this behemoth. An old plank of wood and tired ladder allowed us access to the decks of the dredge.

Once aboard, we were stunned at how massive this thing really was. The rust and tin color was highlighted with splashed of graffiti from the local teenagers. For some odd reason, it almost seemed to compliment this surreal setting, as urban tags pock marked this steel boodling like it was placed in downtown New York City. We had to keep in mind that we were on the edge of millions of acres of pristine wilderness, and not in some project or ghetto. We carefully ventured inside what was a giant tetanus shot waiting to happen, but the lure was too great. Even the air smelled of rust. Old drill presses and bench grinders stood frozen in time, once run by belt drive as evidenced by old belts and drive shafts still looming 30 feet overhead. Dynamos from yesteryear were still thrown about like children's play things. Massive wheels and connecting rods jutted out at odd angles from everywhere. Cables wound their way around massive drums, through pulleys, and out holes in the walls to eventually soar skyward to the dredge's tower. Hatches in the floor that would never pass in today's safety oriented world opened to a black abyss below decks were randomly sprinkled about. Steel staircases lead upward at steep angles to wooden walkways that criss-crossed overhead. We imagined the din the machinery and rocks created back when this giant would feed on the lake bottom. It seems almost a crime to have this beauty rot away without it's story to be told.

























We get back in time for 50 cent taco Tuesday that the crew was putting on, so I hook myself up with $2 worth of grub and an ice cold ice tea. By this time the rest of the Gruvers had made their return from the run up to Anitgun Pass, and a large crowd of bikers passed around tales of their adventures from the day's ride. While we were busy talking, a gentleman named George walked up and took a seat with us. We came to learn that he rode his Screamin' Eagle Harley Davidson up from southern California for the Dust 2 Dawson ride. He just had some knobby tires put on it for the run over the Taylor Highway, and was planning to run up to Inuvik from Dawson. This guy is the definition of a rider. He would do the ride right along side us for the remainder of the trip, and he never backed down. He is a great guy, and I look forward to hearing more of his story when he gets home. As the evening moved on, some maintenance needed to be done on Katoomer's 1200 GSA after it melted a turn signal. Yeah, these boys run hard. The quote of the day came from this episode:

Parts: $1.49
Labor: $786
Field fix for D2D: Priceless

We continued talking, laughing and bragging well into the night. I continued to pick the brains of the more experienced riders, and listened in on other conversations to continue learning as much as I could. We reviewed the plans on the following day's ride, so now everyone was aware of what was going on, and was invited to tag along as they saw fit. The morning would be lazy, with everyone free to do as they pleased, and those that wanted to ride as a group to Tok would meet at Santa's in North Pole. What a cool way to start the next leg of this adventure! With dreams of sugarplums dancing in our heads, Mr. Scruffy and I nestled snugly in our beds.



















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Old 07-01-2006, 10:51 PM   #6
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June 14th
Santa Claus is coming to town


A wonderful morning is punctuated by a stunning breakfast of bacon, sausages, fritatta and home made rhubarb bread. Enough to feed an army! Alejandro out did himself this time, and we certainly were well fueled for the upcoming high-speed road run to Tok. The ride was discussed the night before, and many sections of highway from Fairbanks to Tok are arrow straight, and rather boring according to some riders. We had the morning to do as we wished, and anyone who wanted to group up needed to be at Santa's by noon. So we all gorged ourselves on the amazing feast laid out before us, packed up, said goodbye to Carol, and then headed out to take care of a few things in town. In all the eagerness to head out, Frank got over-excited and decided that he just had to throw his GSA to the ground. Our man Globie was kind enough to pick the bike up for him as well, considering the distance that Frank was ejected when the bike went flying over.








Frank and I decided to do a little more sightseeing as we had taken care of all bike-related business the previous day. We easily motor over to UAF so Frank could take a look and see what Mr. Scruffy and I had seen the previous day. A quick top off with some gas and we then swing by the railroad depot for a few more shots, and then it is time to make headway to Santa's house. We head to North Pole and arrive shortly after noon. Around eight others have already showed up, and were milling around the parking lot, scaring all the kiddies. OK, so, they were being the true gentleman that they all are, but sometimes you have to play up the biker image. It is decided that we will wait around until 12:30, and then start to mosey regardless of who shows up. This gives me enough time to take a few pictures of Rudolph, and to double check with the man himself that I am actually on the “good list” this year. Despite being 34, I still believe in Santa, and I have a few items still left on my Christmas wish list!













The time to depart is quickly upon us, and a few other riders have showed up. The order is given to gear up, bring life to our trusty steeds, and to twist those throttles. What a site it must have been to others, watching a group of adventure riders depart from Santa's in North Pole, heading wherever our bars point. It is times like these that I enjoy the attention. Kids are rapt with fascination. My favorite is the kid in the back seat of the car in front of me who turns around and just peeks over the rear seat to stare at this odd beast following them. I always give a wave, which is invariably and eagerly returned, faces shining brightly. If only they could see my face from behind the tinted visor of my helmet, they too would see me smiling brightly, feeling like a child about ready to ride his favorite roller coaster as I glide past.

The weather this day is warm and slightly overcast. We stay grouped up while still in town as traffic is still thick. We dodge through a few construction zones as we come upon Eielson Air Force Base. What is interesting about this portion of highway is that the highway runs parallel to the flight line. Earlier in the trip I noticed several A-10 Warthogs making passes over Fairbanks, and some F-15 Strike Eagles following suit. As we were riding past the runway, several F-15s were landing. It was difficult to keep focused on the road with these amazing birds of prey were less than 100 yards away, in all their glory. Every part of me wanted to stop and take pictures, but the signs posted along side the road stating, in bold red letters, “No Stopping, No Standing, No Pictures, No Riff Raff, No Nothing, This means YOU, MooseKiller!” I may have embellished the signs a bit, but I got the point. But it is a scene that I will never forget, quite akin to Top Gun, but on cooler bikes.

It was shortly after this when traffic started to fade and the highway became a little more curvy. The pace began to steadily increase, and it was evident that many of the others have already been this way before and were familiar with the road and it's condition. The carved through the corners like the were on a mission. The overcast skies gently sprinkled from time to time, but the pavement never became truly wet. It was mentioned that this part of the trip would provide the least entertaining riding, as most of it was arrow straight. I would find this held true for the most part, but short sections did throw some fun in there once in a while.

My goal for today was to play “follow the leader.” I wanted to watch the experienced riders take corners, shift their weight, and get their machines to perform while loaded. I would take their lines, while generally not at equivalent velocities, in an effort to feel what the bike would do in those situations. While perhaps other riders were bored, my mind was racing as it was assimilating as much information as possible, while not missing out on the amazing scenery streaming by. Since the expectations of the day were light, an easy run from Fairbanks to Tok on high quality tarmac, I felt comfortable that Frank would show up at camp, having ridden his own ride.

The group eventually pulls off the road for a snack break, and to stretch our legs. The thought was also to allow everyone else to catch up. It eventually strikes our rather astute bunch that we are too far off the road to be seen by any others. We are also chastised by a tour guide because our bikes were apparently in the way of the bus, despite the fact that we were pulled off the road and out of the way of traffic. Apparently, not everyone likes motorcycles. We kindly explain that we are only here for a few minutes and will be leaving shortly. I take advantage of the opportunity to take pictures of the stop, to include some of a bridge we just crossed, which framed the pipeline that hung silently above a gently meandering river. After we all grabbed a bite of Alejandro's rhubarb bread Ace took along with him, we mounted up for a short ride to the day's lunch stop.









About ten minutes up the road, most of the group pulls into a sandwich shop, and then swings by the local gas station to top the bikes off. We mosey down another few blocks and stop at the end of the Alaska Highway, mile marker 1,422, to rest and down the munchies. Globie decided to break the table we were sitting at, and we gently suggested that perhaps he consider losing a few pounds once the trip was over. We chatted with some tourists who were interested in the bikes as we finished lunch. We pondered the differing life styles of those who venture down the roads in million dollar motor homes with small vehicles in tow, as compared to those of us who seek the same taste of the road, but more intimately on two wheels. After a nice rest, we hit the road again.








We didn't make it too far before we were stopped by a construction crew. As we had a 10 minute wait, we watched as a few other riders caught up and chatted with the flag person. When the pilot truck showed up, a few of thought the flag person had said we could go now, and took off, but ahead of the pilot truck. As they shoot off into the distance, we are all cracking up in our helmets. Even the flag person was laughing. As the rest of us dutifully followed the pilot truck, we eventually caught up to the pair that had tried to cut their way through. They rejoined the group, and I am sure they were thinking of all the razzing the rest of us would give them at the next stop. Mukluk Land is what I was told. Yeah, I thought the same thing.

After some more high speed strafing runs down the highway, the road rolled out straight as a ruler. The trees in their multitude peeled off in every direction, standing silent vigil as guardians over the wilderness, attempting to hold back this alien black ribbon that cut like a knife through their domain. The hills would offer vantage points for these ancient stoic warriors, as they waged war against the ravages of time. I started thinking about my place in this world, and how far out of it I was. As these trees stood in one single, solitary place for generations, watching the sun rise and set, the icy hell of winter and burning loneliness of summer, here I was hurdling myself through time and space, completely out of my natural element. My life was awash in the ebb and flow responsibilities that demanded movement. Yet each tree, in the billions around me, would stand rooted in one spot for eternity, embracing without complaint their responsibility, as I struggled against that very concept by straddling a technological marvel of man's ingenuity. While the minutes of my life ticked away, pressing the keys on my keyboard, those very trees would continue to stand watch over that alien black ribbon, watching travelers come and go.

As the others wound their machines out, I held back slightly, keeping my experience and limitations fully in mind. Eventually Mukluk Land appeared on the side of the road. The others had already pulled up and dismounted. I grabbed a handful of brakes, and pulled the beast down from speed. I lined up with the rest and took my place. I was then told the disturbing story of forgotten toys, and creepy dolls that littered the remains of Santa's Rocket Ship. I shoot a quizzical glance as I am lead to what had to have been someone's idea of fun. In the 60's. Why this creation was ever built, and why it was left here in the wilds of Alaska shall continue to escape me. But here, larger than life, is Santa's Rocket Ship. In an interesting twist, an amazing ladder truck from the Lansing, Michigan Fire Department slept quietly next to this bad acid trip. The things you find when living your life on the back of a motorcycle. Mukluk Land itself will remain as much of a mystery to me as the rocket ship, yet it begs to offer a rousing round of “bush golf,” whatever that may be. This stop's deep discussion revolved around Mukluk Land's cunning use of both real and artificial flowers, planted at the entrance.











A few others that had not made it through the earlier construction zone had finally caught up with us. The metallic buzz of their brakes announced their arrival. As the evening was starting to approach, the night's arrangements were being discussed. Some had rooms at a local hotel and eatery, while some of us were planning on rolling out the tents. We headed out to Fast Eddy's where most of us would be staying. We were warned to keep our speeds in check as apparently the local Tok LEO's enjoyed bringing in revenue to the city through citations. I did note that the posted limits did seem quite low for the kind of road we were on, so I paid close attention to the pace of my progression through town.

We gathered at Fast Eddy's and mulled around a bit. It was about this time that Kodiakfrank made his appearance. We had thought that he had passed us when we stopped for our break before lunch, but apparently that may not have been the case. He did state that he stopped and mailed home some unneeded gear, so that could also to have lead to us arriving so much earlier than he did. We learn that there is a tent friendly RV park adjacent to Fast Eddy's, so after grabbing a splash of gas, we head over to set up camp before trotting off to dinner.

The camp site is very nice as we are able to set up right behind the main building, close to the facilities. Luckily, it includes showers as well! Can't beat that for only $10 per night. Kodiakfrank and I were joined by AKTroy, AKPhotog, as well as BeachBusker, AKA George on the Screamin' Eagle Harley. We get set up quickly, and head off to dinner. We take over the back room of Fast Eddy's, and quickly the place is alive with the day's recap, and plans of tomorrow's run on the Top of the World Highway. The food was exceptional, and after the feeding frenzy, we all head back to attend to a few things before the evening's maintenance/gab session. While we are setting up camp, we learn that the other two members in our party that had mechanical problems early on have them taken care of, and will actually be in Dawson a day before us. It is great news to hear that they are back on the road and enjoying the ride, rather than wrenching.

After cleaning up and changing, I head back to the main gathering area and wander through all the bikes, talking here and there with all who have arrived. Apparently Dawson Dick came over from Dawson City to ride back with many of us. He is the owner of the hotel that we would be staying in for the next few nights while in Dawson. He is quite the character, as well as an outstanding gentleman. More road tales and maintenance suggestions are thrown around for the duration of the evening. It eventually becomes known that BeachBusker pulled an impromptu jam session with some live musicians at the campground that night. He is an exceptional banjo player, and had brought one along on the trip. (More of his story can be read here: http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=142364 ) As the evening wears on, we slowly head our own way. The threatening thunderstorm that had loomed nearby has since moved along, and the silence of the evening began to embrace the campsite. I comfortably drift off to sleep in my tent, eagerly anticipating the challenge of tomorrow.













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Old 07-01-2006, 11:14 PM   #7
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June 15th
Top of the World, Ma!


The morning starts out in what has become the standard, expected weather for the trip: Warm and mildly overcast. First order of business is to get packed up and ready for the day. Kodiakfrank has been having some trouble with the light at night, and had been up since around 4 a.m. However, he put the time to good use by doing a valve adjustment on his GSA. I get everything situated on my bike and ride the back route over to Fast Eddy's for the morning's meal. As usual, a hearty breakfast is ordered up, but the waitress is in less than a chipper mood and gets rather perturbed when we move from one table to another as some of the other riders filter in. It wasn't our intention to irritate her, but the customer is always right. After her outburst at the waitress station, they apparently worked it out and things were fine from that point forward. Food was good, and we did leave a good tip in hopes to brighten her day. Perhaps she just needed to take some time off and go riding for a while.

Again asking around about what to expect for the upcoming road conditions, the answer you received would vary based on the advice giver's experience and preference. The first section was to be paved up until a bit before Chicken. But from that point forward, it was to be a varying mix of dirt, gravel, narrow and twisty, punctuated by steep drops here and there. We start off in a group of around eight riders, and make our cautious way out of Tok, before we break left to head to the border. Silty hills lazily wander skyward around us as the roads rises and falls, twisting it's way forward. Other riders pass us, and we pass others. The last bit of pavement is savored with the twist of the throttle, and deep lean, and a dose of counter steering as before we know it the road would change from manicured to unkempt.

The gravel is met with initial trepidation as it had been many times before. This time comfort is more quickly achieved, though due to the limited view and narrowness of the road, speeds are kept in check. Oncoming traffic is much more in your face, and any wide corners could be met with an personal introduction to the grill of a large truck, something I was personally attempting to avoid at all costs. By now, the trees are a bit further back from the road, and the terrain is more rolling hills than large mountains. The riders are a bit more spread out by the time we reach Chicken. I pull off at what I figure to be the only gas station to pick up the required sticker when Hackymoto, MotoMamma, and Jake pull in. A quick chat educates me that most of the other riders are actually back a road, and that there is more to Chicken than meets the eye. I head back about 100 feet, take a left, and about 500 feet down there is a biker convention in the middle of nowhere. There is another gas pump, and bikers are milling about, picking up knick-knacks, some food, and discussing the plan.











Back on the road, we start heading up into the mountains. They are becoming more pronounced as we slowly gain altitude. Soft shoulders abound as our path becomes more serpentine in nature. A truck laying down calcium chloride is eagerly overtaken as the chemical that helps keep the dust down is hazardous to the finish of your bike. The occasional oncoming vehicles cause you to move as far right as possible, and the campers that inch their way up long grades give you adrenaline rushes as you pass in a cloud of dust. Many drivers are kind enough to slow and wave you by when it is safe, so a friendly wave is given to all those who help keep everyone safe.

After passing an RV on a long up hill battle, I see many riders pulled of the side of the road near the intersection that takes you to Border, or up to Eagle. Most were planning a side trip up to Eagle, though after some discussion, I felt that the pace I was keeping would put me at the border dangerously close to the 8 p.m. closing time. I decided that it would be most prudent to continue on toward Dawson with Kodiakfrank. Despite becoming more comfortable on dirt, my skills are not enough to run with the big dogs, though I look forward to the day when I can safely keep up. They make their way to Eagle, and we make way toward Canada.















With better luck than a local member of the wilderness, we make it safely back toward our destination for the day. The clouds have rolled in a bit more, and the wind begins to pick up, but the temperature is still on the warm side. The scenery is changing to what you would find in higher elevations, but due to how far north we are, the tree line is much lower as we are only at a few thousand feet at best. Every corner greets us with the rolling view as hills extend into infinity. We would never reach the end of our journey if we stopped to take pictures of every amazing vista. The mind's eye would have to suffice.

Eventually we make it to the small “town” of Border, aptly named due to it's proximity to the border. Here is the final fuel until you reach Dawson, and is nothing more than a collection of about three wood buildings, one of which looks like an old log cabin. We grab some candy bars and Gatorade as we chat with a few other bikers on their way through. An RV or two meanders slowly by, trailing clouds of dust, and the flags atop a 40 foot pole flaps lazily in the breeze. A proud statement located just miles from where American soil ends, and the expanse of norther Canada begins. It strikes me as entertaining as I almost expect things to radically change once we cross the border. I expect the views to differ, the flora and fauna to change, the air to smell and taste different. I knew that these were absurd ideas, and that the only difference would that I am standing on the other side of an imaginary line, just like I did at the Arctic Circle.















A short way past Border, I crest a sweeping left hand up hill turn to see AKPhotog standing at the side of the road, waving his arms. Instantly panic sets in and I think that a rider is down. Frank has set off just before me, and I start running through my CPR training, hoping I can remember what to do. I look around only to see a pair of bikes parked in a rest area, and I begin to relax. AKPhotog just wanted to share in an amazing view, and to snap off a few pictures. Now this is something that I can easily handle. I too park the bike and break out the camera. The pictures of the view we take here repeat themselves endlessly through this portion of our trip.







After our photo break, we hop back on the road only to find that the U.S. / Canadian border is just around the next hill. An odd teal green steel building was placed on a hillside in the middle of a million dollar view. There were no fences, only a gate. I laughed in my helmet at how strange this seemed. Perhaps my crossing from West to East Germany through checkpoint Alpha has jaded me. How easy would it be to walk around this gate if were closed. We slow down as we pull onto the paved area and ease the bikes to a stop. There is a serious tone to the whole area, despite being in the middle of the sub-arctic plain. Here is the other imaginary line, but this one divides countries and ideologies; it separates people. The mountain that we are traversing doesn't change. There is no difference between the dirt five feet in front of me or the dirt five feet behind me. Even though I have crossed borders many times before, this one seemed unique for a reason I still cannot grasp or understand. Perhaps it is because I have tried to use the bike I am riding as a tool to bring people together, to meet and understand others, and to gain a different perspective on life, and that here I was crossing from one political structure to another which seemed almost absurd in a landscape where survival was the primary focus. I hope that eventually I will gain an understanding as to why I felt that this moment was one of introspection.

The Canadian border officer was polite but official in her presentation. The consummate professional asked her questions as I presented my ID. I start to wonder if the knife on my Leatherman would be considered as a weapon in this case, but answer the question as a negative. Without much further ado, I am allowed to continue on into Canada. The second major event I had been looking forward to on this trip was upon me before I knew it. I pulled forward and changed the setting on the GPS to metric so I would easily be able to check my speed. I would find it difficult to maintain a speed of 70 kph, as it seemed to be between comfortable cruising speeds. I take a quick picture of the border and begin on my way.





As I pull away from the border, the road is continuing on as pavement. The wind fiercely picks up and I struggle to hold a proper line through the corners. I see AKPhotog ahead taking pictures of riders rounding a nice sweeper, but I am so thrown by the wind that I lose confidence and take the corner gingerly. No solid leans for this picture. I am hoping that this pavement holds out, but I quickly learn that the pavement is broken by long sections of loose gravel. Every warning signed seemed to warn of 10 kilometers of marbles. This is aggravated by the winds that want to push you off the road. Occasional mounds of snow still hide in the shadows near the road despite being mid-June.

As the day begins to wear on, I start to tire, and think that my decision to not head to Eagle was the appropriate choice. Nearly all of my concentration is just on staying on the road. I come upon a series of slow moving trucks hauling fifth-wheel trailers. Visibility is low as the dust is kicked up, and the wind is blowing it right back in my face. I am able to pass the vehicle pulling up the rear of this caravan and tenderly make my way toward the next one. Visibility is so low that I struggle to see exactly where the vehicle ends and the road surface begins. All of a sudden my bike is thrust upward and to the left. I yank the bars right and keep the rubber side down. I feel the back end slide to the left, and I give the bike some gas. I gather that I hit a large frost heave, and that the road surface is primarily sand and very loose gravel. It seems like an eternity before I am able to make it through this section of road.

Eventually things settle down. A section of pavement is just ahead, and I take advantage of the mellow surface to quickly pass the rest of the slow moving trucks, so if the dirt roads began again as I knew they would, I would be well away from their trails of dust. I see a nice place to pull off the road coming up, and decide to take some time off the bike, grab some snacks, and drink in the view. The winds have died down, and the clouds have changed back to a scattered overcast. The coolness near the border has now changed back to increasing heat as we are slowly making our way back down to lower elevations. Eventually Kodiakfrank plays catch up. I take a few pictures of the Canadian wilderness and wait a while to try and grab some pictures of other bikers passing by. Frank eventually pulls up stakes and heads on toward Dawson.



















Once I relax a bit, I gear up for the final push toward Dawson. Little did I know that the final descent into Dawson was just a few miles down the road. The Yukon River etched it's way through the valley below and kept hiding from view. The road was now a smooth dirt road relatively clear of gravel, and I became excited to be close to successfully reaching another milestone on my dream ride. A nice right hander brought me down to the ferry crossing, our final adventure of the day, taking us into Dawson. Many cars, campers, and bikers were queued up already, waiting for their turn to cross the massive river. This would be the third time I crossed over the powerful Yukon River, but the first time in decades I would travel by ferry, and the first time ever on a motorcycle.

After some time waiting for a truck and trailer to disembark from the ferry, it was our turn to board. Riders were not allowed from dismounting due to safety reasons. The deck was metal, and I was initially concerned about it being slippery. I had more traction that I thought I would, but I could see that the ferry would not be a biker's friend if it were wet. The sensation of being on the ferry as it cut a wide arc through the swift river was odd. To look forward and see the far shore moving felt like you were dropping into a fast right hand corner. I was not the only one who felt like leaning into it. But perhaps the strangest view was to look back through the boarding ramp and see a torrent of water churning by, not feet from your rear tire. Once the ferry docked at the dirt ramps, we made our way to main street Dawson, and eventually found our way to the Downtown Hotel, owned by Dawson Dick, and the place where we would rest for the next few days.













We check in at the front desk and get our room assignment. The mercury is pressing nearly 90 degrees, and of course there are few places in this part of the world that has air conditioning. The front desk puts us in an upstairs room in the annex across the street. While it is going to be a bit warmer, at least we will be away from all the other riff raff and noise. We haul our stuff up from the bikes and get somewhat situated. The first order of business is to open all the windows and get the fan going. Luckily, we are in the last room on the floor, and have a window to the outside right by the door to the room. We leave the door open to bring in some cooler air. After a shower and change of clothes, we wander off to get some dinner. We finally see Jack and Tom after nearly a week on the road. They are staying at the same place, and got the last room in the place the previous day. We make our way to the Jack London Grill in the hotel and order up some great chef's salads. After days of burgers, steaks, biscuits and gravy, some greens were perfect. The wait staff was exceptionally friendly and helpful, and dare I say tolerant of all the bikers and accompanying idiosyncrasies. Sarah, Heather, and Angela were all very helpful ,and even gave some great suggestions on what to do and see during our stay in Dawson. Angela even invited us on a hike the hotel staff would be hosting the following day from Midnight Dome down to Dawson, through the large landslide, Dawson City's icon.







Right before dinner, the wind picked up and a thunderstorm rolled in. Many in the area were concerned about wildfires that the lightning could cause as it had been quite dry recently. The torrential downpour got itself out of the way while we were eating, and it settled down a bit shortly thereafter. We finished off, and went to wander around town. It was suggested that we eventually head over to Diamond Tooth Gerties Gambling Hall for the midnight show. I took advantage of this time to take many pictures of downtown as possible. The old “western” style architecture abounded. What I found interesting is that all the buildings in the area were built up on cribbing due to the flooding potential. The sidewalks around town were all elevated wooden board walkways. As the roads are not paved, they can get quite muddy and slippery when wet. I witnessed many people nearly falling as they crossed the street.















The small town atmosphere was pervasive throughout all of Dawson. Dogs wold follow their owners around without leashes, and wait dutifully outside the bars until it was time to go home. A dog would even lie down in the middle of the street, and the only car around would go around rather than honk, both dog and driver unphased. Loud music from Gerties and other clubs punctuated the night. The occasional staccato laugh and loud conversation would carry for blocks. The RCMP attended to their patrol, quietly and unobtrusively. While this was a tourist town, and everyone was encouraged to have fun, order and security was still to be kept. I wandered into the hotel's Sourdough Saloon to watch the “Sourtoe” ritual be enacted by those tourists brave enough to try. To those not in the know, the “Sourtoe” is a shot of your poison that has a severed toe as garnish. You down your drink, and if the toe touches your lips, you get a certificate. Not my cup of tea, but fun to watch anyway. While in the bar, a picture on the wall reminds me of our resident Shoganai who was at that very moment making her way north on her dream ride. I am confident that Gwen is everyone's heroine here, though she is “just a girl on a motorcycle.” I snap a photo and promise myself to post it here in the ride report. You can read more about where in the world Gwen is here: http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=142933







I leave the tourist crowd and their pickled toes to earn their certificate and adoration of the teeming throngs. Kodiakfrank was getting more information about Dawson from an Alaskan tour guide Sarah, primarily on suggestions on where else is a good place to eat. The thunderstorm kept is presence well known as downpours kept wandering through town. A few final riders were making their way into town, and with them tales of sideways rain, hail, and lightning strikes close enough to make everyone nervous. However, despite the challenges and weather, every rider makes it home without injury.







The witching hour is nearly upon us, so we head off to Diamond Tooth Gerties. The casino is jumping, but is lightly populated as it is a Thursday night. Many card tables are strewn about, The doormen say that it is OK for me to take pictures while inside, so I do what I can to make sure the pictures turn out in a very challenging lighting environment, especially without using the flash. We grab some ice teas and a slice of pizza and make our way to the balcony while waiting for the show. Eventually the ladies and gentleman make their way to the stage. “Gertie” is an exceptional vocalist, and the dancers were spectacular, so I highly suggest catching the shows if you are ever in Dawson. After an energetic show, it was time to head back to the room and call it yet another exciting and successful day. Tomorrow would be a poker run, banquet, and the biker games.















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Old 07-01-2006, 11:32 PM   #8
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Location: New Spokananian, DrySide WA
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June 16th
What happens in Dawson, Stays in Dawson


This morning starts unlike most others. It is very rainy, and the streets are soaked. The water was running high enough to go over the rims of the bikes backed into the gutter. While it was nice to have a break from the heat, we were looking forward to some nice riding this afternoon. We squish our way over to the Jack London Grill again for some breakfast. Jamie and Dominique were kind enough to take our orders and ensure that the food was to out liking. We eventually figure out that most everyone here in Dawson is exceedingly friendly, unlike the major city we come from. If you were to walk down the sidewalk here in Dawson and say hi to a passing stranger, they would say hi back. Good mornings were met with smiles. If you attempted this in Anchorage, you would be met with consternation or blank faces. While I am not saying Anchorage is not friendly, Dawson was genuine and sincere. After breakfast we went across the street to look for some shoes for Frank, and perhaps the touristy bauble or doodad. The Raven Nook Store is a great little place to pick up nearly anything that you may need. While we didn't quite find any shoes that Frank was looking for, Andrea and her helpful staff did everything they could to ensure that we were happy customer's. They were far from the typical tourist trap pushy vendors that I have come across in my travels. This part of the appeal of Dawson. They make you feel like family and not a meal ticket.







We eventually leave the Raven Nook and head over to the local coffee shop to grab a hot drink and sit out front, chatting the morning away with some of the other riders that were there. While getting our drinks, we ran into Heather from the Jack London Grill. She apparently is quite the busy person, holding down two jobs at least. We sit out front, wondering what the plan was going to be since the rain was still coming down. After a few hours of talk, the rain began to give way to partly cloudy skies. The roads began to dry out. Frank and I head back to the hotel and see what goings-on were there. I ran into Angela who was attempting to put together the hike as mentioned at dinner last night, however there were many staff members missing. As the poker run was going to be abbreviated, I decide to tag along on the hike and go and change into my riding boots as my slip on shoes were definitely not up to a hike of this magnitude. Back at the front desk, Angela found one other hotel employee and a ride up to the top of Midnight Dome.









The ride up to the top of Midnight Dome was a short five minute drive. The driver was Matt, who is wanting to get a bike and ride through South America. I gave him some suggestions and my limited advice on the kinds of bikes that may be suited to the task. I also gave him the site information and suggested reading Glen's book Two Wheels Through Terror. He drops the three of us off at the top of the mountain, and we start the trek down. The view is breathtaking as the gentle slope of the mountain gives the illusion that the ground rolls away into nothingness. Vertigo is an easy condition to get up here. Even with my climbing experience, I am awed at how the sensation of falling quickly takes over. I snap off a few photos, and off we go.







I come to learn that Angela is Dawson Dick's daughter, and that Eric is from China. No matter where we went in Dawson, the international flavor was around every corner. We kept a lively conversation going in an attempt to notify any local bears that we were in the area, and that would prefer not to become dinner. Everywhere we looked, beauty surrounded us. As we descended the occasionally steep slopes, we were able to slowly work our way through the season of spring to summer. At the higher altitudes, the flowers were few and far between, still keeping their tender blooms safe. But lower it was much warmer, and the flowers were out in force. We kept ducking in and out of the trees, with Dawson slowly growing larger. We eventually made it across to the landslide. It was stunning at how different it was when you were face to face with this monster. From the city, it looked small. Here is was 200 yards across, with boulders the size of cars. As it happened nearly 100 years ago, it has become quite stable. Legend has it that it buried a tribe of native people who were cannibalizing a neighboring tribe. The shaman of the victim tribe warned the aggressors that if they did not desist with their attacks, they would be destroyed. As the attacks persisted, the shaman called upon the gods for help, and the landslide was the result, destroying their enemies.. We eventually make our way to the bottom of the mountain through an old cemetery. I thank Angela and Eric for their kindness and the educational hike, and head back to the room to shower up before the evening festivities.















The afternoon had passed quickly, and it was time for the Dust 2 Dawson banquet. All the riders participating in the event were in attendance. It was held in the banquet room of the Downtown Hotel, and an exceptional spread was laid out by Dick. Many awards were handed out, to include door prizes for everyone. Before we began the fun, words were spoken about Claire Berry that reminded us all of the brother- and sisterhood we share in following our passion, and that we need to savor and cherish the friendships we make as fellow riders. The Gruvers each spoke, detailing the origins of the Dust 2 Dawson ride, as well as giving out awards for those who traveled the farthest to get there, amongst others. Everyone had a great time, enjoyed great food and drink, and welcomed many new riders to the advrider.com community. The poker run was completed, and then everyone was sent outside for the biker games. I assisted in getting a few things set up, and then took my place a the best place possible to peel off as many pictures of the events as possible. The competitions held were: Slow Race, Ball Drop, Slalom, Balloon Toss, Blind-fold race, and Weenie Bite. Luckily the rain stopped that afternoon, and the streets had dried out enough to not be slippery, but damp enough to keep any potential dust issues at bay.





























































After all is said and done with the games, all of the winners are announced and prizes are given out. Everyone that participated were exceptional riders, and the crowds of tourists that gathered were given an excellent show. The stories that they get tell once the get home of the bike games the happened across in the wilds of Canada's Yukon Territory will hold their friends and family captivated. Their stories are our lives. Perhaps next year I will put the camera down, fire up the bike, and put my skills to the test. It wasn't until after the games were over that I realized I had not ridden the bike all day, the first time in nearly a week, and that even after a thousand miles, I was still eager to throw a leg over and go where ever I decided. And now that the games are over, the traditional posting was upon us. Those that wanted, and had earned the right, were honored with a sticker that states “Dust To Dawson 2006.” The count was 63 bikes, a record year. Something tells me that next year, there will be even more. While the official Dust 2 Dawson run was coming to a close, many riders were still planning on further rides to Inuvik, back south, or home to Alaska. Some were considering an alternate path home through Whitehorse in case the weather turns bad again. While it would add an additional thousand miles to the ride, it would be smooth pavement all the way. We end the night's festivities with pictures, stickers, laughs and smiles all around. Oh, and the traditional “Hackymoto Wheelie”, no one can forget that...











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Old 07-01-2006, 11:40 PM   #9
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June 17th
Goodbye, Farewell, Amen

The morning breaks way into a mostly sunny day, so the plans to Whitehorse are quickly scrubbed. Despite the lure of extending the run to add more miles, I think most of us are relieved to be heading back across the river to make our way over the Taylor Highway again. While the gravel is looming over us, it is additional experience that hold the fascination, as well as the “never give up, never give in” attitude that is the hallmark of an adventure rider that urges us to head back on the road less traveled. Our final meal in Dawson is once again provided by Jamie and Dominique, and after a brief discussion with Frank about not being able to exchange loonies and twonies for U.S. dollars at the restaurant, we mount the packed steeds, and head off to fuel up before we cross the Yukon for the final time. Despite the warnings, we are still stunned at the price of fuel, taking nearly $25 to fill up with around 5 gallons.

We get back to the ferry where a rather long line has already formed. We take our place and settle in for a long morning of waiting. After about 30 minutes, a pair of bikers scoot by us and take their place at the front of the line. Frank and I look at each other, and walk up to talk to them. Apparently bikers go to the front of the line, just like in a construction zone. We smack ourselves in the head, grab the bikes, and are soon to make our way across the river. Jack and Tom are on the same ride over, so we are about to do some riding as a group last done a week prior upon their arrival in Anchorage.

As expected, the ferry across was smooth and just as entertaining as the first ride. We disembark and immediately hit the road. We take a short break a few miles in as the morning coffee made it's presence known. We then take full advantage of the damp road as there was no dust anywhere, thanks to the ravaging storms the previous two days held. It was a nice break not to be needing the masks, not to have gritty teeth, and to have amazing visibility no matter where we were. Passing slower moving vehicles was easy and much safer. I always wondered what those drivers were thinking as a group of four or five riders passed them, going twice their speed, on motorcycles. Did they think it foolish? Or did they know that the machines we were on were designed exactly for this? Regardless, we were stunned at how fast we were able to make the border. I thought we had another hour of riding to go before we were to be there, but there it was in front of us, larger than life.

While I was preparing to enter back into the U.S., the officer asked Frank a few questions that I couldn't quite make out. He smiled and then waved both of us through. It was easier to get in than out. This simplified things tremendously as I didn't have to go digging for any additional paperwork. I left it all secure in my pocket, and we began our ride back to Chicken. Luckily there was no wind, so we were able to keep on a strong pace. The weather was perfect and in our favor. All the places we stopped before served as reminders of the challenges we had already faced, giving us encouragement. While we were perhaps sullen that the trip was in it's final stages, we savored and drank in every passing moment, knowing that this is the trip of a lifetime, and that were still living it. Opposing traffic was considerably lighter than before, for reasons we were about to find out.

As we rounded a corner, we see a line of traffic, and a group of heavy machinery in the distance. At first I think it is a construction zone, one that had cropped up in the previous day. So we mosey our way to the front of the line as is normal for construction. However, I soon realize how wrong I was. A large motor home had gotten too close to the soft shoulder and was now hanging precariously off the side of the road. We determined that the only thing holding it up was a truck that the motor home was towing. The heavy equipment had showed up in an effort to drag the motor home back onto the road. Workers were doing everything they could in an effort to keep the motor home from going over. We had parked the bikes and began watching and photographing the event. We anticipated a long wait given the seriousness of the situation. Then, the chain attached to the front of the motor home snapped. Apparently the dozer that was attached to the chain pulled just a little too hard. This brought the work to a dead stop as everyone began to wonder what to do next. A quick discussion with the “foreman” yielded us riders some relief from what surely would have been hours of needless wait.

There was just enough room to thread our way between the backhoe and the motor home, and now with there being no chain connecting the dozer to the motor home, the road itself was clear. By now there were four riders at the front of the pack, and we all run back to our bikes to get through as quickly as possible, in case anyone decided to change their mind. While there was enough room to barely squeak by, it was tight enough that we could hit our heads on the bucket of the backhoe, and scrape the panniers on the dozer. Frank almost slipped and fell into the dozer, but kept it shiny side up and made it through unscathed. I must say that was a very entertaining, and oddly satisfying, moment of the trip knowing that for once, being a small vehicle in a tense situation had a serious advantage over the cages that surrounded us. While they had to wait, we continued on our way.









We made it through Chicken where we stopped again so Kodiakfrank could get his Chicken sticker, and we were then back on the road. We were again making good time due to the lack of dust and abundance of fair weather. We got back onto the tarmac, and the overflowing sense of accomplishment once again took hold, knowing that the worst roads were behind us, and now we could relax and just wind out the rest of the miles enjoying the ride, watching the landscape roll by, and by reflecting upon what we have just done. We swing by the campground in Tok where Frank had ditched a few things that he didn't need to drag to Dawson. He loads them back up, and we off toward Glenallen. We had to stop for another construction zone where we caught up with the other two riders from the motor home incident. We were then shortly joined by Legion and his daughter. This was the second longest wait for construction of the trip, the first being back at the Dalton. The pilot truck shows up and leads us through. Part way through this one, the pilot truck stops and waves us all on. Apparently it was quitting time for the workers, and when that bell rang, it was done regardless of where they were. So we continue on, though it was about this time that we realized that we were heading toward some dark and ominous clouds. If only we knew how ominous.





We stop shortly after the construction zone for Kodiakfrank to put his liners in. I snap a few pictures not thinking too much of what lies ahead. We saddle back up and head into the unknown, hoping that the road threads it's way between the black clouds. Eventually, Frank takes a turn into Mentasta looking for a nice place to eat, only to find that we had passed the last restaurant many miles back. I decide to don my heated gear at this time, knowing that if things get worse, I am going to get cold. We chat with the owner of an RV park and find out that we are smack dab in the middle of the location of the Denali Quake of November 2002. She said that everything was shaking in every direction, and that it last for what seemed to be hours. I guess at 7.9, time loses all relevance. She went on to say that while she suffered major damage to the items i her house, the house itself remained relatively undamaged. We bid farewell and head back to the main road. I take a few quick photos of the area, and we are off. It isn't too much further down the road when the skies completely open up and we are in the midst of a torrential downpour. The rain is hitting me so hard that it feels like pin pricks through my riding gear. Despite the onslaught, I remain dry and quite warm thanks to the heated vest and gloves.







We make it all the way into Glenallen with just one more quick break. The storm is relentless in it's abuse. The wind smashing us about, changing directions so we can't get comfortable. The rain kept beating us, trying to find any way into our suits it could. For the most part, things were fine and I stayed mostly dry. Frank pulled into the gas station looking for a hotel, and I gassed up. He comes back from his mission and says there is a hotel with restaurant just up the road on the left. I toy with the idea of pressing on home as it is only 8 p.m. And we have around 230 miles to go. The weather was starting to break, and we had done so well today, I thought it would be a nice cap to the trip to go from Dawson to Anchorage in one day. However, once sitting in the warm dining room of the restaurant, I quickly decide that was foolhardy at best, and that a good night's rest was needed for a safe trip home tomorrow. Frank and I have dinner with a fellow ADVRider, and chat a bit with another set of riders who were heading south as far as they could go, before time told them they had to return. Frank and I think that sounds like a plan for next year's D2D run and discuss it over the remainder of our dinner. We head back to the room and watch a little bit of TV before calling it a night. This was the first time any TV had been watched in over a week, and it was never missed. No news. No movies. Nothing to detract from the here and now. And now it was time to sleep.





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Old 07-01-2006, 11:41 PM   #10
Tindjin
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How did you find every single good looking woman in AK?

Amazing ride and report, just amazing. Thank you!
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Old 07-01-2006, 11:46 PM   #11
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June 18th
Into every life a little rain must fall


The morning of our final day on the road is an improvement over the previous evening. The rain has ceased, so it appears that today is going to be an easy ride back home. I already start to plan on the things I need to get done: Shower, unpack, laundry, air out the tent, etc. I get the bike loaded up as we are going to bring them out front near the restaurant while we eat. I go to start the bike, and it takes a few times to get it going. She is sputtering and generally not in a chipper mood. Eventually she seems to settle down, and I get her parked out front. We grab some grub as a few of the Gruvers wander in. We told the host to tell them that they don't serve their kind here, though once he caught sight of Fighter, I think he lost his nerve as they were seated quite rapidly. It only makes sense as he doesn't know them like we do. We finish off and bid the others a safe ride.






Once again, the bike complains about starting, but after a few minutes of warming up, the idle settles down, and we hit the road. Speeds are picking up and we wind our way past slower vehicles. Kodiakfrank is running point and setting the pace. We are about 20 miles out of Glenallen when my bike finally throws in the towel. The beast begins to sputter and buck. Luckily my BRC training kicks in and I grab the clutch. The bike dies, and I am coasting down the road at 60 mph. I hit the starter, and she fails to fire. I hit the signal and slowly ease over to the side of the road while attempting to get Frank's attention. I roll to a stop and turn the bike off as I turn on the hazard lights.

While attempting to restart the bike, Franks had swung around and pulled along side. It does fire but is extremely unhappy. We pull it into the parking lot of a gift shop that is right alongside the highway. We immediately dig into it while trying to find out what is causing the problem. We pull the plugs and they are black as pitch, so it becomes quite obvious it is running really rich. We clean the plug the best we can and put them back in, but no dice. We then pull the tank to remove the hot lead and try to reset the bike while checking the air filter. It was about this time that Hackymoto, MotoMamma, and Jake come by. The turn around and pull in to lend a hand. Hacky is quite knowledgeable in the world of the GS, and offers up some suggestions. We pull the TPS plug and dump out a few gallons of water. We look around and see no other cause, so I button it back up thinking that the the TPS issue would fix it. It started right up and appeared fine. So the three heroes pack up and head off.

While at idle, the bike stalled out, but it had done that on the odd occasion while cold. And after sitting there for nearly an hour while we putzed around with it, I figured it had cooled off enough for this to be normal. But after packing everything back up, the bike didn't fire at all when attempting to restart. By now my frustration level is running extremely high as one could easily understand. Frank suggests that we leave the bike here, two up it back to town to get my truck, and then return to pick up my wounded bike. As the afternoon was beginning to slip away, we didn't have much choice. Frank's wife would be flying in to Anchorage that evening, and they had to pick up a bike by 5 p.m. Seeing that it was now after 1 p.m., and we still had nearly 200 miles to go, a command decision had to be made. I had to ride pillion.

The owner of the gift store was kind enough to allow us to push the bike behind the store and out of sight. Frank had rearranged things on his bike so I could sit on the passenger seat, or what BMW calls a passenger seat on an 1150 GS Adventure. I never really noticed the difference up until I had to ride on it. Riders make the worst passengers. For the first 40 miles I was terrified, and not because of Franks' skills. He was an AMA instructor, so he can obviously ride. But since I was not able to control the bike, and that my style of riding was so much different than his, it took me a long time to get comfortable. Eventually, I was able to relax, and even shoot waves to the kids as we passed them.

The stress level was high as we came back into town. I could see the clock on the bike's RID, and I knew we'd be cutting it close. I suggested at a stop light that he drop the bike at my house and that I drive him to the airport so that way he didn't have to worry about parking the bike and getting to the counter late. We cruise back to town at speeds that I am glad I couldn't read for the passenger position, and get to my house just in time. We peel off the gear and grab my truck. We get to the airport about 10 minutes past 5, and Frank runs in to get the car while I head back home to get everything ready to go pick up the bike. As it stood, we had another 420 miles to go before the trip would come to a close. As there was no way I could load the bike myself, Frank offered to run back to help me get it loaded and strapped down safely. By the time he and his wife Gloria showed up, it was well past 8 p.m., and we headed straight back. Leave no man behind.





All said and done, we got back into town at nearly 4 a.m. Exhausted, we finally brought a close to the trip. While this was not the way I wanted my trip of a lifetime to end, I refused to allow this challenge to rain on the entire trip. After a few hours of sleep, I woke up to take care of those details I had planned nearly 24 hours prior, thinking that the day would end up with a nice ride home, and not leaving my bike hiding behind an obscure gift shop near Glenallen. Once we had the bike unloaded, I was able to poke around and find out what caused this inconvenience. I tried to start it, and as Murphy would have it, it started fine and ran perfectly. Being out in the sun all day lead me to believe that water must have gotten into the computer plug and shorted it out. I did a bunch of maintenance on the bike, and have put many miles on it since. I believe that the problems have been resolved, and steps have been taken to reduce the probability of this event from happening again. Without hestitation I thank Frank and Gloria for their help, and for Hackymoto, MotoMamma, and Jake stopping to lend a hand. You all are great people!

Would I do this again? Absolutely. No question. Would I change a few things, perhaps. But despite the brake issues and the bike leaving me high and dry, I learned a lot. Not just about the bike, but about the people that make this sport great. People share a passion for riding. And when we share this passion, we grow to realize that our rides and plans don't always go the way we hope them to. And that is when we see a rider down, we stop and lend a hand. We send in a couple bucks, or ride the parts needed to our stranded brother. We offer to call the people who can help. Or if the worst happens, we pick up the pieces and do everything we can to get our fellow rider back on two wheels. I also learned that life is that much sweeter knowing that towns like Dawson are out there. That people like that are out there. That something as simple as hopping on a motorcycle and riding down the road can change your life forever.

Thank you for sharing my life with me. Ride safe, and share your life with us.










The end.

















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Old 07-01-2006, 11:47 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tindjin
How did you find every single good looking woman in AK?

Amazing ride and report, just amazing. Thank you!

That's because they were all Canadian...

Glad you liked it!
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Old 07-02-2006, 12:49 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MooseKiller
That's because they were all Canadian...

Glad you liked it!


MK......nice report. You captured the moment(s) perfectly.




"brick wall" ????????????
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Old 07-02-2006, 03:19 AM   #14
AKTroy
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Dude. Just spend about an hour reliving what turned out to be the best trip Ive ever been on with a motorcycle! It was great sharing the expierence with you and Frank. Nice job! Looking forward to sharing many more miles in your company.
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Old 07-02-2006, 03:34 AM   #15
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Excellent report of a great ride!
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