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Old 06-23-2008, 11:51 PM   #46
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2008_06_23 Smither, BC to Hyder, AK

We left Smithers, BC this morning under mostly overcast skies. Our route called for us to continue riding west on Highway 16 towards Prince Rupert.

Within a few hours, we came to the intersection with Highway 37, the Stewart-Cassiar Highway (commonly known as the Cassiar Highway)

This is a highway in north central British Columbia that leads from Kitwanga to the now nonexistent town of Cassiar. Many motorcyclists who travel to Alaska either don’t know of the existence of this highway or are frightened to travel on it. For many years it was a totally gravel road. More recently about half of it has been paved, and as of this year, nearly all of it has been paved. Despite all this, it is a remote and isolated road, with very few towns and very few services, and the timid choose not to apply.

After turning onto the Cassair Highway, we rode in a valley between two mountain ranges. Traffic was extremely sparse, but we met the occasional logging truck and motor home. There were isolated houses and settlements and businesses, . Very gradually the mountain ranges disappeared, and we continued riding in hills covered with trees and the occasional meadow. We crossed over rivers, once on a single-lane wooden bridge.

Service stations were infrequent, but with planning, one shouldn’t have trouble obtaining fuel. After about an hour and a half, we came to the intersection with Highway 39A. We turned left (west) onto 39A, heading toward Stewart, BC and Hyder, AK.

This road was somewhat narrower and more twisty. We enjoyed riding, although the road was wet in places from intermittent rain showers. As we neared Stewart, BC we passed the Bear Glacier. Any motorcyclist that rides to Stewart or Hyder gets his/her picture taken at the Bear Glacier. We were no exception!

We continued down 37A into Stewart, a little town of 500 inhabitants. We passed through Stewart, and without going through a border crossing found ourselves in Hyder, AK. It’s obvious when one passes from Stewart to Hyder: the pavement stops! One abruptly transitions from nicely maintained hardtop to muddy, pot-holey dirt! Hyder boats 100 citizens. We found our way to the Sealaska Inn where we had made reservations (because they were $30 cheaper than any other motel we could find).

View from Sealaska Inn...

After checking in to our rooms, we asked where we could find some lunch. It turns out that there’s a place called “The Bus”.

“The Bus” is exactly that – a white school bus that serves as a kitchen, with a little covered area in front serving as a dining room.

Although the sign said, “OPEN”, there was no one there. We had to go next door the seafood market to find the cook/owner. She came to “The Bus”, recommending her fish and chips. We took her advice and had a rather unique lunch!

And as a side note, this was the first time the mosquitoes came after us in force. I can’t wait to get to locations where they are really bad!

After lunch, we went on a side trip to Salmon Glacier. I believe I am accurate in saying that this glacier is not widely known. Nor is it particularly easily accessible. The directions we had were to follow the road out of town until it became blocked by snow. We might or might not be able to travel far enough up the road to see the glacier. For the past year I have searched for a map that shows the road to Salmon Glacier, and I’ve not found one. Consequently, I am including my GPS tracks in this posting.

We were able to go 21 miles before having to turn back.

Those of you who read my first introductory post know that I am a fairly new motorcycle rider. I have ridden motorcycles for the past six years, and my riding has been exclusively on pavement. I bought the F650S Dakar knowing I would be riding on dirt and gravel roads, but I have next to no experience with this type of riding. This was my first experience off pavement on this trip. And I was pretty pleased. I would have freaked out trying to ride on this road with my Gold Wing, but with the F650GS it was a piece of cake. We rode through some construction areas where the road deteriorated, and even that was OK.

We rode through a barricade where cars are to stop,

and continued for another mile or more, finally stopping when the snow and mud became more than we wanted to contend with. The final impetus to turning around was Ray’s getting stuck in the snow!

Ray successfully riding in a rut through the snow...

He thought that knobby tires on a V-Strom 1000 would let him do anything he wanted! Guess what – they don’t!

Doug politely requesting that Ray not pull a similar stunt again!

As we rode, we passed waterfalls, ponds,

streams, mining equipment, road construction equipment and a few tourist facilities before getting to the first Salmon Glacier overlook.

When we got to this overlook, there was an old car parked there with a sign on the door advertising DVDs and postcards of the glacier. We met the man behind the sign. He is up on this mountain, living in a tent beside his car, following the road as it opens up higher and higher. He is there right now, and he will be there 24 hours a day until September, trying to sell DVDs and postcards to the very occasional tourist who ventures 20+ miles up this dirt road to see the glacier!

Salmon River, eminating from the Salmon Glacier...

On the way back down from the Salmon Glacier...

Once we came back to the Sealaska Inn, I decided to put some air in my tires. When I left Charlotte, I had 30 psi in the front tire and 34 psi in the rear tire, and the temperature was 92 degrees. Now we're starting out in the morning with the temperature in the high 30s or low 40s, and my tire pressure has fallen! I’ve added air once already on the trip, and now I’m adding air again to both tires.

Fuel mileage today was 56.7 and 57.3 miles per gallon.

Our trip is going very well. We have had absolutely no interpersonal conflicts and we’ve enjoyed each other’s company. We anticipated mosquitoes and we haven’t been disappointed. About the only surprise for all of us is how cold it’s been. For the last two days Ray and I have worn our heated Gerbing jackets and gloves. We knew it would be chilly, but it is outright cold!

Tomorrow we go to Dease Lake, BC.
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JohnSnyder screwed with this post 06-24-2008 at 10:54 PM
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Old 06-24-2008, 01:02 PM   #47
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Thumb Great Report !

I am really enjoying your trip, traveling with you vicariously! The detailed intros were great.

Thanks so much for sharing your trip. Ride safe!
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Old 06-24-2008, 03:51 PM   #48
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Great report!! and amazing pictures. If all goes well, I'll be riding to Alaska next summer. Have fun and God's speed.
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Old 06-24-2008, 04:28 PM   #49
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stunning pictures! Great read!
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Old 06-24-2008, 11:59 PM   #50
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2008_06_24 Hyder, AK to Dease Lake, BC

This morning we awoke to find an outside temperature of 42 F, rain, dark gray clouds from horizon to horizon,

and a weather report that showed this weather system covering pretty much our entire route for the day. Furthermore, the forecast called for 80% chance of rain the following day and 70% chance of rain for two days hence. When we started the trip we had agreed that we didn’t really want to start out a day’s riding in the rain. We would prefer to declare a day of rest! However, with the forecast calling for rain for the next three days, we felt that three days of rest might be stretching it! So, with considerable reluctance, we packed our bikes and decided to venture as far as Stewart, BC (2 miles away) to eat breakfast! After breakfast the rain had stopped momentarily, so we took this as a good sign and decided to venture forth on our day’s journey.

The road was wet for much of the day, and the rain came and went for much of the day. Through the overcast and fog and low clouds, we caught glimpses of mountains and forests and rivers and lakes, and we could only imagine what we were missing.

For me, it was a hard day in that respect. On this trip, I really want to take photographs of the scenic highlights of our travels. When potential scenic highlights are hidden, I know I’m missing them and that upsets me! I’m spastic – I know it!!

We stopped at a rest stop to stretch our legs. I walked over to a bridge to see if there was a photographic opportunity available.

While on the bridge, a truck came and pulled into the rest stop. On my way back to my bike, I walked by the truck driver. He looked up and said, “You scared the **** out of me!” What??? It turns out that DOT (Department of Transportation) inspectors wear the exact same color of fluorescent lime green jacket that Doug and I are wearing, and this is the second truck driver that has commented on how glad they were to learn that Doug and I were tourists and not DOT inspectors!

At that same rest stop, I saw something I’ve never seen before. It appears that British Columbia must have a unique crime problem. I think that the picture will be self explanatory.

We encountered a 25 mile stretch of road construction. There was a lot of gravel and mud, detours and stopping for flagmen. We commented more than once to each other how stressful this would have been on a Gold Wing, but how with our bikes it was a non-issue. My bike got the dirtiest –

and not just my bike, but my helmet, my face shield, my jacket and especially my pants legs and boots.

The sun did finally show itself...

We have seen no wildlife on the Cassiar Highway until this morning when we saw a black bear just beside the road. We did not stop and take pictures of him! A motorcycle doesn't offer much protection! Later in the day we saw a herd of large animals on the road. We hoped they were elk or cariboo, but instead they were horses - domestic horses no less! One had a bell around his neck!

I’ve really appreciated how Ray and Doug have put up with my stops to take pictures. I may not have previously mentioned that I had planned this as a solo trip, then Ray expressed an interest and signed on and finally Doug did the same. By the time the two of them expressed their interest, my route planning had reached a near final stage, so the two of them really didn’t have much input into the route. And I told them both well ahead of time that taking pictures was a priority of mine. They have repeatedly said that this is my trip, and that they are very willing to let me do pretty much what I want with regard to the route and the pictures. They have never even frowned when we’ve stopped repeatedly to take pictures, and I really admire and appreciate them for their forbearance!

We met another rider this morning who had just come from where we are going. It was good to talk with him, and he passed on some significant information. Our route tomorrow called for us to leave Dease Lake and go to the Alaska Highway, turning east to Watson Lake and then north on the (gravel) Robert Campbell Highway. This rider said that last week he had tried to go on the Robert Campbell highway, and he hadn’t even gotten 2 kilometers up the road from Watson Lake before turning around due to the atrocious road conditions. It seems that overweight mining trucks have used that road, and the combination of truck traffic and rain has turned it into something nearly impassable for motorcycles. This evening I called three or four businesses on the Robert Campbell highway trying to confirm this information. They said that the first hundred kilometers out of Watson Lake are “pretty rough”. So we are changing our route; we’ll evaluate the possibility of riding on the Robert Campbell highway on our return trip.

One of Doug’s characteristics that I’m learning about is his deliberate attempts to say things to you for the specific purpose of eliciting a reaction. When we’re riding and see mountains or glaciers, he refers to them as “rocks and ice”. However, despite his not even bringing a camera on the trip, he will make comments like “That could be on a postcard” indicating that he finds something attractive and wants someone else to take a picture of it!

We had planned to ride on a dirt/gravel road from Dease Lake southeast to Telegraph Creek. However, although mildly adventurous, we’re not adventurous enough to ride 60 miles each way on a rain-soaked, slippery, sloppy, isolated dirt road. Also, it is really COLD!! Without question, the biggest surprise of this trip is how COLD it has been!!!

After stopping at our motel for the evening, another rider joined us in conversation. As he left, he said to me, “I’d rather ride with those guys (meaning Ray and Doug) than with my crowd. They’d be a lot more fun!” Indeed, Ray and Doug do spend a lot of time joking and laughing. Doug commented tonight that I’ve even been laughing on this trip! I thought that I laughed a sufficient amount as a general rule, but certainly it’s not as often as Doug laughs! So maybe I’m loosening up in my old age!

My fuel consumption today was 65.3 and 57.4 miles per gallon.

Tomorrow, due to our change in route because of the conditions of the Robert Campbell highway, we’ll ride on the Alaska Highway to Teslin, YT.
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Old 06-25-2008, 01:29 AM   #51
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What an amazing write-up! All the best in your journey, and WELCOME to North of 60* country! You'll be amazed I'm sure!
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Old 06-25-2008, 01:51 AM   #52
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John and co

I'm enjoying your report on this trip - superb scenery even from someone living in Godzone, and an interesting perspective on the three bikes.

I'm interested in the Vstrom - how's is going on those tyres ? TKC's I think. Are they handling the sealed road touring OK ?

I'm sure you're pleased with your fuel consumption - goes to show that the latest ain't necessarily the best.

When you're finished your trip, and at home thinking what to do next, have a look at the South Island of New Zealand - got it all here in a tidy small package.

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Old 06-25-2008, 07:13 AM   #53
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I am really enjoying your thread! It brings back fond memories of our tour from DFW up there last summer. We took a very similar overall route to yours. You have a lot to look forward to!

One word of caution and not to put a damper on things but John's comment "Those of you who read my first introductory post know that I am a fairly new motorcycle rider. I have ridden motorcycles for the past six years, and my riding has been exclusively on pavement. I bought the F650S Dakar knowing I would be riding on dirt and gravel roads, but I have next to no experience with this type of riding" made me think of the roads ahead of you. The Haul Road, especially the stretch from Coldfoot to Prudhoe Bay can be a lot more challenging. A rider on a KLR ran off the road and was killed a few weeks ago south of Coldfoot around Gobblers please take your time, be careful and enjoy!

BTW, will you all be switching to knobbies further north?

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Old 06-25-2008, 05:17 PM   #54
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Hyder on a touring bike

Thanks for the info on the camera. The composition of your photos is excellent. I'm also really impressed with the quality of the image for a relatively inexpensive camera (much less expensive than a DSLR). Are you using the "auto" features (auto exposure, etc.) or are you manually adjusting the camera.

I'm looking at a making a run to Hyder on my R1200RT over the same route you took sometime in mid-August. From Milepost and your RR, it looks like it's paved all the way the edge of Hyder and wouldn't be any problem on a street bike. Would that be accurate?

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Old 06-25-2008, 05:39 PM   #55
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Great Ride Report

Let me predict you're soon going to get those new shiney bikes's coming. And remember don't make fun of pickup's and KLR's.
And remember: life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer it gets to the end, the faster it goes.
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Old 06-25-2008, 07:17 PM   #56
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Answers to specific questions...

Thanks to everyone for the comments! We enjoy reading your input!

Howiezowie: Ray has Continental Conti's on his bike. His comment is that although they handle adequately on the highway, he's disappointed that the tread on the rear tire is half gone after about 3000 miles. And as far as touring New Zealand - I spent 21 days on a tour with Ian and John of based in Nelson, NZ. That was one terrific trip!

myblubeemer: Thanks for the word of caution. Believe me, we're riding cautiously! We have yet to decide whether we'll do the Haul Road. If it's raining, absolutely no way are we riding to Deadhorse; if it isn't, maybe. We'll certainly ride to the Arctic Circle; maybe we'll get a better idea from riding that far. Since we don't know our exact plans, neither do we know our exact tire choice!

alzyck: Yes, the road is paved all the way to Hyder. A street bike would have no problem with the roads to Hyder. As far as the camera goes, I use the built in light meter, BUT I use the sky to set my exposure. I set the exposure by focusing on the top edge of the mountain and the lower part of the adjacent sky. Generally that properly exposes the sky. Then I compose the picture and take the shot. This results in a picture that has the sky properly exposed and the foreground (usually) underexposed. I use Microsoft Live Photo Gallery to lighten the shadows to the point where the scene looks natural.

EdOriginal: The bikes have gotten dirty! We've crossed over miles and miles of road construction in the rain. We might be overweighting the bikes due to the dirt!
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Old 06-25-2008, 07:58 PM   #57
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JohnSnyder, Awson pictures and report. Keep it coming. It's as if I am riding with youall. I am enjoying it. Ride safe. Bobby95
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Old 06-25-2008, 08:28 PM   #58
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Stunning pics!! Awesome ride!! thanks for the updates and detailed report

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Old 06-25-2008, 09:52 PM   #59
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2008_06_25 Dease Lake, BC to Teslin, YT

NEWSFLASH: Travelers in northern British Columbia have conclusively demonstrated that global warming is no longer problem! Global cooling is now a growing concern. Temperatures in the 30s and 40s have supplanted the usual norms. Motorcycle travelers are advised to wear winter clothing while riding in June and July!

When we left Dease Lake this morning, the sun was shining brightly and the temperature felt moderate – maybe low 50s. We debated as to whether we should wear our heated gear and decided against it. It appeared that the rain of the last several days was over and good weather was about to reappear.

How foolish could three adult men be?? Within a mile it was obvious that the high temperature of the day had already been reached! The sky become ominously overcast and raindrops began to fall. The temperature plummeted to the very low 40s. Pictures were out of the question. Hypothermia was a growing concern.

When we reached Jade City we stopped at a tourist shop to hook up our heated gear and to put on rain clothes. We continued on, only somewhat more comfortable. However, good fortune smiled upon us! We quickly forgot about how cold we were due to the long stretch of muddy, sloppy road construction that we had to ride through! Occasionally we would have to stop and wait indeterminate amounts of time for the Pilot Car to come. Those were fun – we were cold and getting wet without getting any place!

We finally reached the intersection of the Cassiar Highway and the Alaska Highway. After filling up with gas, we went to a tiny little dive called Sally’s for some lunch. There we met a fellow motorcyclist – a woman named Margaret J. Peart ( who is in the midst of a six year ride around the world. She is riding a BMW F650GS (not Dakar). She’s a long distance motorcyclist, riding a lot more than I would care to do. But that’s her thing, and it’s obvious that she enjoys it.

We rode west on the Alaska Highway,

stopping for the evening in Teslin, YT. Along the way, we saw a female bear with two cubs

and a moose that didn’t want her picture taken.

However, the highlight of the day was getting into a warm room! Undoubtedly our biggest surprise is how COLD it’s been!

My fuel mileage today was 57.9 miles per gallon.

We’re in Teslin, YT,

View from my motel room...

120 miles away from Whitehorse, YT. We’ve been traveling nonstop for a while, so we’re going to go to Whitehorse tomorrow and call it a day. We’ll do some laundry, check around for a new face shield for Doug’s helmet and check on some tires for Ray.
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Old 06-26-2008, 06:47 AM   #60
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Great report and beautiful pictures....Thanks for the inspiration!
"If you're going through hell.......Keep going!"

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