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Old 07-21-2007, 08:34 AM   #1
H-Jay OP
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Wandering Around Alaska and Northern Canada in June 2007

Loosely the “Plan” is to take 4-6 weeks and wander around Alaska. I do have some specific destinations in mind. I recognize my weakness from my TV watching habit of flipping through channels with the remote wondering what else is on. I invariably miss all the good stuff. It seems to me that Alaska’s scale can be overwhelming. So without a few “must see” and “must do”, I’d likely just ride right by Telegraph Creek, The Kennicott Mines, and more. Two “must dos” are the Haul Road up to the Prudhoe Bay and Inuvik in the Northwest Territories of Canada.

My initial plan was to go it alone and maybe hook up with riders on the way. I got an e-mail from the GSNerd through the Adventure Rider web site about a month before leaving. We met and decided to hook up. I think we were both a little apprehensive but that turned out to be completely unwarranted. My daughters were shocked that I would agree to hook up with someone I met on the internet. They referred to him as “Dad’s My Space Buddy”. I told them I was shocked that he actually turned out to be a middle-aged man and not some underage female.

As it turned out GSNerd lives only 5 miles from me and recently got his GS. We probable would have met in person soon since the population of BMW GS riders in the area is small and we normally stop to meet each other. Anyway, GSNerd turned out to be a great road companion and I enjoyed his company.

… because its there, its close to the top of the world, and I want to see it. Its also a good excuse for getting up each morning and doing what I love… riding! That’s all the reason I needed for taking a Motorcycle trip to Alaska. Seems no matter how I explain “why” I would want to ride a Motorcycle to Alaska, the response would be either a faint smile or that distant look. You’ve seen the distant look. It’s the one where the person is trying to hide any facial expressions that might disclose what they are really thinking. Well that’s not entirely true. Some people were thrilled about the adventure.

When I took an early retirement last year I got 2 copies of the popular “1000 Places To See Before You Die”. I checked all 2000 places in both books. None of them included a Motorcycle trip to the Arctic Ocean or Inuvik in Canada’s Northwest Territory. Maybe that explains the distant looks.

The ride is a R1200GS, my first BMW. Its aesthetic ugliness and functional beauty attracted me. Its often called the SUV of motorcycles. Its functionality and performance made it easy to abandon my slick, menacing looking, loud and underpowered previous ride. Now I have a Motorcycle, not a bike, that only a Moose would give a second look. I think its sort of “Cool as a Moose”, to borrow the Maine store’s name.

Track l – Getting to Fairbanks

So after walking my youngest daughter down the aisle, handing her off to new husband and I’ll add a wonderful son –in-law, saying good by to friends and family in town for the wedding, I kissed my wife goodbye and headed off with my new “My Space Buddy” GSNerd.

Up early ready to ride

Waiting for my buddy

He's arrived...

Bye to the wife ...

and we are off!

We headed up through the Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and spent our first night in a nice little campground just past Duluth, Minnesota. It was hard to believe after about 12 months planning the trip was finally underway.

Well on day 2 we decided to take a 200 miles detour and drop down to Minneapolis so GS Nerd could get some new tires.

That night we got several recommendations to stay in the campground in Fargo. Flooding from the recent rains so it wasn’t meant to be… off to the local KOA.

We blasted across I-94 until we got a local recommendation to take 200s/200 across Montana. Turned out to be a good recommendation for us but not for the rabbit that managed to get sliced in 2 by my front tire. The route is scenic, mostly straight with a lot of ups and downs for some good whoops. I didn’t know Montana had its own “Bad Lands” moonscape. It was beautiful in the eerie Badlands landscape look. There’s few towns and people on the road. You can do 90 – 100 mph all day long if you wanted. It was all good till we ran in to a downpour. As we rode, we could see serious storms north and south of us. As it got dark, the rain closed in on us.

We were told about a truck stop off 200 that had a little campground out back. The truck stop turned out to be a bar … straight out of a scene from the Blues Brother’s country western gig. We took a pass and rode on to the next town, Lewiston.

As we got in to little town of Lewiston we started looking for a place to camp, as the rain continued. We came up with only 2 choices, a vacant pad in a trailer park for $15 or the local Rotary club’s free camp space. So, we decided to get out of the rain and grab some food at the local pizza shop named LBM Pizza and consider our lousy options.

As we finished gobbling down a pizza and beer, a couple came in to the restaurant and sat down near us. They overheard us joking about our lousy choices and offered to put us up for the night. We no thanked them and headed out into the rain. As we were suiting up, John, the restaurant owner came out to the parking lot and told us the couple sincerely wanted us to stay with them. John explained that they were good people, they have a finished basement with its own bathroom, etc. Long story short we took them up on their generosity. Meet Dr Dale and Sandy.

Dale even pulled his truck out of the garage and turned his garage heater on so we could get our motorcycles and gear in out of the rain to dry. Before we went to bed, they told us that they both had to get up early and for us to pull the door shut as we leave. … I could not believe it. This would never happen in Detroit…. Dale’s only explanation was we tend to trust people ‘till they give us a reason not to.

Again, thanks Dale and Sandy and Dale I hope you enjoy your “Fly In” this summer to the Midwest.

After a big western breakfast and a look around Lewiston, we headed up to Great Falls, Babb, the Blackfoot Indian Reservation (route 17) and in to the eastern tip of Glacier National Park. We entered Canada at the Chief Mountain boarder crossing. Here’s some pictures of the ride from Lewiston to the boarder.

Entering Glacier National

Lotsa fire damage

The animals in the foreground give a sense of the mountain's scale

...and finally in to Canada

It was an easy entry. We should thank the young kid that had a car full of electronic stuff. I guess he thought he’d get less of a hassle at one of the isolated crossings. The agents had a field day on him. We got asked a few questions. They wanted to see my Bear spray and welcomed us to Canada.

On good advice from AdvRider we went up through Pincher creek to 22North to avoid Calgary traffic. That night we found a nice campground at the Chain of Lakes Park. It had a food concession on the grounds that took care of our desire not to cook. I struck up a conversation with the woman running the concession. I was curious how she ended up in she described it.. the middle of nowhere. Turns out she was from Trinidad. She and her husband moved there to raise horses. They have a ranch across the road from the park. She invited us over to see the ranch and meet her husband, son and nephew. We had a good time looking around and having a beer with the “Wild Cowboy” as he called himself. I forgot how many acres they had but it was in the thousands and the number of horses was in the hundreds. Their closes neighbor is 5 miles away. The wild cowboy was building a huge stable and guesthouse. His plan is to start a dude ranch for those wanting to do the “City Slicker” thing. Unfortunately, my battery ran down so I only got a couple of pictures. She made the same comment as Dale in Lewiston… “Out here you tend to trust people more”. She knew since she previously lived in Miami and NYC.

The Wild Cowboy told us about a scenic dirt/gravel road that runs parallel to Route 22 between the Rockies and the foothills. It turned out to be a wonderful road that followed a little river. GSNerd and I boned up on dirt roads before tackle the Dalton and Dempster. Here's some shots from the road.

Here comes GSNerd kicking up the gravel....

gotta be a magazine cover shot for the sport!

These guys must have a death wish as they dart across the road at the wrong time!

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Old 07-21-2007, 08:45 AM   #2
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Old 07-21-2007, 09:03 AM   #3
Viel Spass, Vato!
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Originally Posted by H-Jay
gotta be a magazine cover shot for the sport!

Gracie's Gold
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Old 07-21-2007, 09:07 AM   #4
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Wandering Around Alaska and Northern Canada in June 2007


The road ended at the beginning of the road to Kananaskis Village and the mountain pass to Banff. Unfortunately the pass didn’t open till June 15. That caused us to take a 3 ½ hour ride to Banff vs. 1 ½ hours over the pass.

We stopped in Banff to eat. I found Banff too touristy for my taste. It was recommended that we get off the autobahn section of the Ice Parkway as soon as we leave Banff and take 1A. 1A is a great little 2 laner that runs parallel to the divided highway portion of the Parkway. It took us to the Johnson Canyon Campground where we spent the night. We found a spot next to a couple on a GS.

The couple on the GS was from Switzerland and, as it turns out, has been on the road for the past 26 months. We talked well in to the evening as they told us about their journey. They rode to Russia, Turkey, down though Iran, Pakistan, India, Thailand, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, Seattle and up to where we met them. Interestingly, Ivo said it was cheaper to fly his motorcycle across the oceans. They would just show up at the airport with their bike. Jacqueline had me rolling on the ground as she described riding through India beating on the hoods of cars with a stick to keep them back. Next up is South America. Their story would be familiar to others we would hear. “…Had the dream to do it, sold everything and went for it. Will figure out what’s next when we get to that bridge…”

Met Ivo and Jacqueline and their GS 80 with 120k + miles on the odo.

Continuing up the 1A.

Close enough to a bear for me....

And stopped at Lake Louise to take pictures of the tourist taking their obligatory Lake Louise photo.

GSNerd was an instant Asian chick magnet. They all wanted to climb aboard GS, the Motorcycle that is, for a photo opt.

Here’s another shot from the Ice Parkway as we headed up to Jasper and the start of the Alaska Highway

We saw our first bear at an appropriate distance of about 2 miles away.

Snow in June?

This puddle is not what you think….

This was the melting remains of a little parking lot excursion through a snow bank … in June!

On the Alaska Highway – finally!

We made it to Fort Nelson for the night and pulled in to the West End Campground. The Christmas lights on the PVC drain pipe should have been a warning. Caution: Venting to follow!

I made my self a promise that while on the trip I would not let anything bother me. But I gotta push the promise pause button for a second. Fort Nelson’s West End Campground was the absolute worse campground and dinner experience of the entire trip.

Here is GSNerd trying to set up his tent and get in to it without exposing any skin.

The Mosquitoes were atrocious because of the campground’s lack of ground maintenance, including regular grass cutting and adequate drainage. We might as well have stayed in a swamp. The overgrown grass was freshly cut and laid there in large moisture holding clumps.

The campground had a restaurant/bar on the grounds that advertised a dinner special. We decided to treat ourselves to a big dinner indoors.

Here is the saloon restaurant where we ate.

I had an unbelievably, overpriced Prime Rib and lousy service at this restaurant. It was advertised as the “Not Ready for Prime Time Prime Rib Special” and I should have believed them.

Here are the 2 Paris Nicol wannabes that need help on bar tending and waiting tables. Looks can only make up for so much.

When the cashier asked how was everything I bit my lip and calmly explained that I didn’t think beef rind qualified as prime rib. A little jerk sitting on the bar stool next to the cashier offered that they gave me the best part. Again with blood running down my bit lip and remembering my promise, I told him calmly I had 2 words for him and they aren’t “happy motoring!”. He just looked at me with a stupid looking grin.

Enough venting …. I’d will avoid this place at all cost in the future.

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Old 07-21-2007, 10:05 AM   #5
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Wandering Around Alaska and Northern Canada in June 2007


Traveling to Whitehorse, the next day made up for the shoe leather dinner and night in the swamp!

Here is a guy from Germany we met at a fuel stop that is on his 13th trip to Northern Canada and Alaska on his Thumper.

The name of this little Restaurant made more sense after traveling up the road further. I got some wildlife and scenic landscape pictures. Saw a lot more.

Muncho Lake

I had heard a lot of grumbling that the Alaska Highway was boring. I thought some of it was. But the section between Summit Lake and Muncho was magnificent. It also had an unbelievable amount of wildlife along the road and breathtaking landscapes.

A stop at Sally's at the 37 Junction was well worth it. Also we signed the AdvRider log book.

One of the few places that didn't serve dogs --- not that I eat them.

At Whitehorse we stayed at the highly recommended at Robert Service Tent campground just outside of town. The recommendation was spot on. Clean, well kept, can pull your bike right up to a nice tent pad and best of all no big RV generators running all night.

We camped next to 3 guys from Juneau that were bicycling a big triangle from Juneau to Whitehorse to Skagway. I’ve got a lot of respect for the people that pedal up some of those mountain passes.

Here is Jean, his brother and a friend.

The next day we were off to Fairbanks.
He's how to ruin your day. The trailer included a motorcycle, maybe a Harley and an ATV. Both burned beyond recognition.

This Mile Marker is well protected

I made my first gas mistake. As we crossed the boarder, I figured gas stations would be more frequent and passed up the stations just north of the boarder. I assumed there would be a station at the Dawson City junction, well within our range. Well there was a station but it was closed. I made it to about ¼ mile from the first station in Tok, the next town. Incidently for any 1200 riders my miles-to-empty was a zero for about 15 more miles. My little MSR bottle of fuel saved the day. After gassing we eat at the highly recommended Fast Eddies.

This is an interesting story. This bridge was dedicated to the black veterans of the Army Corp of Engineers that helped built the Alaska Highway during WW2. They were mostly from the south so the weather had to be a shock. They were segregated, of course, and proved equally capable of constructing the road as their white counterparts. They initially engineered and built a wood bridge over this river, much to the surprise of the officers. Its since been replaced by this steel structure.

About 3 weeks before we departed I had made arrangements with The Outpost Harley dealership to get us fixed up with some knobby tires. I had initially called the famous George Rahn of Trails End BMW. He told me he was turning his business over to the Outpost Harley Dealership and a guy name Scooter, from the dealership, was handling customers. I talked to Scooter and of course, he wanted to know when I would be arriving to schedule an appointment! I’ll be traveling 4000 miles - Duh! he insisted. I figured it would take us a week to get to Fairbanks so I told them June 11. We were a little behind our schedule because of the extra dirt road trip we took in Canada. So I was worried that we would have to wait several days before getting our knobbies and being able to take off to Prudhoe Bay.
Fairbanks Finally
We arrived in Fairbanks late evening and checked in to the River Edge Campground out near the Airport and right on the river that runs through Fairbanks. It’s a really nice full service campground. It also happens to be right across the highway from the Outpost dealership. I did notice a state park campground close in the area. We needed showers and laundry so River Edge worked.

Our view from the Campsite.

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Old 07-21-2007, 10:28 AM   #6
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Wow, awesome trip guys!!

I can't wait to do that trip! (It's like porn for ADV Riders!)
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Old 07-21-2007, 10:45 AM   #7
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Thumb Hello, from the Great White North

Hey H-Jay & GSnerd..

It's the skid plate guy saying HI.

It was nice meeting you at the junction to Mannley.
Did you two make it to Deadhorse?

More pictures and keep it coming.
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Old 07-21-2007, 12:45 PM   #8
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Today is prep day for the trip up the Dalton Highway to Deadhorse. First order of business was Tires at Outpost Harley.

We were a couple of days late for our appointment so we didn’t know what to expect at the dealership. When we got there, we discovered what looked like at least 50 out of state Harleys in line for service. My first reaction was... we are soooo screwed. We found that the row of motorcycles were there for the start of an Iron Butt Charity ride. Whew! We got right in, got our tires and oil changes completed and were all set.

We did have an issue with the tire price. Scooter, who is handling the BMW/George transition told me they would charge list for the TKC80s. Well when the bill was added up the Scooter charged us way over Continental’s MSRP. Thanks to Jerry, the dealer’s service manage, we were able to get the pricing straightened out.

My Motorcycle all set with new meat posing with Jerry, the service manage.

We met the guy with the beard later at the campground. He’s from Australia and has an incredible story I’ll get to later.

Scooter was just getting the BMW dealership set up. They had only one new BMW motorcycle on the floor.

Prudhoe Bay? 50 Harley’s? Let the carnage begin! And it did!
Here is the row of Charity Ride Motorcycles. From my count there were 46 in all. I saw a couple GSs and a Honda Sport Touring Bike. The rest Harleys dripping with perfect chrome and paint jobs. Its an interesting story with a personal surprise for me.

The Charity Group's plan was to ride up to Prudhoe Bay on June 19 and then down to Key West by July 7. They were raising money for the Special Olympics. The motorcycles were all shipped up from Georgia and Tennessee and delivered to the Outpost Dealership for the start of the ride. Jerry, the service manager told me that the company unloading the bikes dropped one. I spit coffee out laughing when he told me about the riders closely combing over their motorcycles looking for scratches after the word got around. Jerry, and other local Harley riders tried to dicourage them.

I later talked to the ride organizer. He seemed unaware of what was ahead of him. For those not familiar with BMW GSs, they are off road/road motorcycles that were made to fall over and not get damaged .. and we know that from experience. I couldn’t image taking a chrome beauty cruiser on to the Haul Road.

Fortunately they have a chase vehicle and trailer to collect up the pieces.

AKDuc posted an article from the Fairbanks paper. Here is the headline and the first paragraph.

Bikes take a beating on the Haul Road

By Robinson Duffy
Staff Writer
Published June 22, 2007

The group of Lower 48 motorcyclists was told again and again that the Dalton Highway would be murder on bikes and bodies. Truck drivers experienced with the Haul Road’s merciless gravel surface urged the group not to make the trip. Local Harley-Davidson owners warned of the damage that bikes would take from flying rocks and the unavoidable spills.

The naysayers were right.

A big surprise was the female rider from Atlanta interviewed in the article is an old childhood friend. We grew up on the same street. I had not seen her in 20+ years and didn’t know she was riding. We’ve since connected. Found out she made it to Key West and we plan to connect up in Atlanta this fall.

Big congratulations to her for the accomplishment!

OK, more pictures from Rivers Edge Campground.

Here is the Australian’s Motorcycle and the tent. Interesting tent. Sort of looks like a catherdral? Don’t recall his name but he had the familiar story, had a dream, quit the job and took off to do it.

He’s got a Paris Dakar and 1150 GS back in Australia. However he wanted to experience North America on a Harley. So he flew to the states and bought himself a big bagger and trailer. The Harley had a cool custom paint job complete, of course, with Kangaroos. Since October of last year he has put over 40,000 miles on his rig as he has traveled throughout the lower 48, Canada, Mexico and now Alaska. I later found out he took a number of prizes at the local Fairbanks Harley Rally over the weekend.

Another interesting couple we met was from Zanesville, Ohio. His name is Van and he left his big RV back in Zanesville and drove his CJ Jeep with a trailer up from Zanesville. We first met them at a construction delay at Kluane Park. Then ran in to them at a gas stop/restaurant. Then they showed up at the same campground in Fairbanks. What a coincidence?

Van use to live in Fairbanks. He and his wife won some real estate in a state lottery some time ago. So now he and his wife have convinced some friends to join him for the summer to help them build a summer home on the lot out in the suburbs of Fairbanks.

Here is Van his wife and their attack dog we dubbed “killer”. I hope to get an update on the house he is building. (Van---hint, hint!)

Here is Van his wife and another couple we met at the campground. I think they were from Iowa.

Never been to a city where the classic car's cruise the local campgrounds. Quite a show. Maybe 20 cars came through.

While in Fairbanks we picked up a few things we needed for the trip to the Arctic including 1 gallon gas cans from Home Depot to use as an additional reserve. Darn Chinese gas cans! Had to return it for one that didn’t leak.

The Rivers Edge Campground let us store our excess luggage in their store room. I left my 2 side cases and compression bags since we did not plan to camp. The reduced weight made a big difference as I got use to handling the road conditions. A very good tip from others AdvRider ride reports.

After being done with the dealership, I rode around Fairbanks a bit. Disappointing to see how the big box stores, including Walmart and Home Depot, have decimated old downtown Fairbanks. You have to look at old black and white photos to get a sense of what it use to look like just 25 years ago.

OK so we got to Alaska in one piece. Now the trick is to stay in one piece – us and the motorcycles.

Next: On to the Haul Road (Dalton Highway) to Prudhoe Bay and the Dumpster (Dempster Highway) to Inuvik, Northwest Territories, Canada.
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Old 07-21-2007, 01:02 PM   #9
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Old 07-21-2007, 01:24 PM   #10
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I remember enjoying at least one other of your RRs H-Jay, this is a great one. Interesting take by the Australian guy to get a Harley. I've never pictured myself with one but after a friend just got one, it makes me ponder it a bit.

Carry on please.
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Old 07-21-2007, 01:27 PM   #11
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Old 07-21-2007, 03:18 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by kildala2000
Hey H-Jay & GSnerd..

It was nice meeting you at the junction to Mannley.
Did you two make it to Deadhorse?

It was nice meeting you and your crew. Yes we made it to Deadhorse and Inuvik. Big fun. Pictures to come.

How was Manley Springs?

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Old 07-21-2007, 03:26 PM   #13
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Fantastic!! Certainly an adventure of a lifetime.

Thanks for posting

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Old 07-21-2007, 04:24 PM   #14
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Hey H-Jay,

How was Manley Springs? The ride was a good one & the town of 45 was very interesting (locals) We really needed a bath so the hot pools was great. We even gave the bikes a bath in the local river, really we washed the bike's at a boat launch in the river. Don't let the locals know just incase that was the drinking water.

Don't want to hi-jack your post.
Take Care,
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Old 07-21-2007, 04:33 PM   #15
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Groovy... really nice stuff.

I've decided to ride into Canada too, just makes sense.... having come up via Georgia and the infamous Deals Gap, and following the BRP & Skyline Drive up to Pennsylvania from Virginia it just made solid sense to cross into Canada at Niagra, ride the Great Lakes and drop back into the US via the Dakotas.
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