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Old 07-04-2009, 11:27 PM   #1
AKgeekgrrl OP
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Joined: May 2009
Location: Anchorage, Alaska
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AKgeekgrrl Solo: San Jose to Anchorage on a Ducati ST2

How it Started: Near the end of the last riding season - which is near legendary in Alaska for how much it sucked - my riding buddy, Tim, and I were shaking off the rain at Joly's in Seward when he suggested that I ride his Outside bike – an ‘80s BMW RT100 – back to Alaska from its storage place in Los Gatos, CA.

“Ummm, are you sure? ‘Cause I’ll totally do it,” I told him, wondering if he was just having one of those poor impulse control moments. He was serious, sure enough, though. We’d logged some miles together here in state so I could only guess that A) He really didn’t give a shit about this bike, or B) He actually thought I could ride. “It’s a beater. Hell, someone gave it to me in trade for some work. If it falls apart, just leave it by the side of the road and hitchhike home,” he said. So, choice "A" it is. I'm cool with that.

The RT:


Then, in the winter doldrums of February this year I get an email from California where Tim is prepping the RT for my big ride. Apparently he’d found something much more exciting via Craigslist and was getting rid of the RT. “It’ll be much more fun!”

Then he sends a picture of this very, very pretty blue ’00 Ducati ST2.


The RT has been sold, he says, "You no longer have a choice and will have to ride a super cool dude-magnet Ducati hipster rocket bike all the way to Alaska.
Please accept my sincere apologies....."

I email him back: “So, Tim. Remember when you said that if I dropped the RT it’d just tip over onto those big BMW heads and I could just prop it back up? Would you point that part out to me on the Ducati? I don’t see that part.”

Yeah. That’s because Ducatis don’t have that part.

I've got nine Alaska summers of riding to my credit, but it only tots up to about 13,000 miles. Touring is what I got into riding for (OK, touring and crashing around in the dirt), a lifelong dream, and although I'm completely intimidated by this motorcycle - mainly because it's not mine, and who wants to risk a friendship over a chunk of metal and plastic? - I am not going to pass up this opportunity.

Nevertheless, I give Tim about ten more opportunities to change his mind over the next couple of months ... but he doesn’t. Meanwhile, I'm researching the ST2, building my GoogleMap route, messaging with ADV inmates, going to Cycle Center to sit on their ST3, browsing the Milepost, lining up sights from my road trip bible Roadside America , and doing all that obsessive detail stuff you have to do to leave your home, job and pets safely for a couple of weeks. When will a responsible adult show up and do this crap for me?! Who put me in charge?!

Finally(!!), in late May, I leave my boss with a vague, possible return date ("Anything can happen. Who knows?!") throw about fifty pounds of riding gear - most of it intended to actually be worn while riding - into an army duffel and board a plane for San Jose ...

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Old 07-05-2009, 05:32 AM   #2
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Hey, it sounds like you had an offer you couldn't refuse... If your buddy buys any more bikes, I'll fly in and ride it up

Looking forward to the ride updates.
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Old 07-05-2009, 11:50 AM   #3
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Making friends with the Blue Duck

My San Jose hookup, Charles – we’ve been friends for nine years, but never met in person until this moment! - picks me up at the airport in his Sprinter and doesn’t waste any time getting me unpacked and geared up. Within two hours we’re two-up on his wife’s DRZ-400 (I hope she doesn’t read this because he didn’t ask first ), winding our way high and deep and off the pavement into the hills – I’m pretty sure even Californians don’t have the gall to call them mountains – above Los Gatos.

I wish I’d gotten a picture of the unveiling when I whisked the cover off the Blue Duck and we met for the first time, but frankly I was too cranked up. I’d never ridden anything bigger than 800cc, only sport style was on a Ninja 250, and definitely never ridden anything - well – sexy. It fires right up – Staintune pipes! - and here I go, loopy from travel, picking my way down a twisty, narrow, gravel road on what in Italy passes for a “touring bike.” We get lost in the maze of tiny roads but it’s easy to navigate – just keep pointing downhill - and then there are highways with many, many lanes and bewildering mazes of interchanges … and we make it back to Charles’ place alive and I’m a little bit in love with the Blue Duck.

The next day is spent getting the bike ready for the trip. Bad Matt picks us up in his Sprinter (Tim has one, too. Maybe I should put out a personal ad: “Seeking single Alaskan guy with Sprinter van for toting motorcycles. Please send photos of van.” ) and we run the Duck to MotoItaliano for a few tweaks and checks. (Thank you, Maurice and Jeremy!) While the bike’s getting loved up, our party heads to Cycle Gear – “Hey! It’s the place with the catalog I get my gear from!” just in case you had any doubts about my ADV username – for some desperately needed warm-weather gear. Warm weather? I’m dying here! Bag full of stuff for rain and hail I’ve got, but nary a thought did I spare for warm weather. Choices for ladies gear: Pink, turquoise or white, all with curly script logos on the sleeves. I go for white and consider taking it out in the parking lot and running over it with the Sprinter a few times to give it some credibility. Instead I succumb to its girlishness and enjoy the odd feeling of being pretty while simultaneously wearing body armor.

"Slow and Weak" might be more appropriate :


Bad Matt is another person I’ve never met IRL before this trip. He and Charles are spending their Friday running me all over town, hooking me up with the locals and generally being amazing to help me prepare. One of the things I love about traveling solo is that it leaves me open to new friends and experiences. After every long road trip I have a restored belief that most folks are, at heart, pretty darn nice.

Back at the house to unload from shopping, Charles and I suit up and ride his Enfield back to the shop to retrieve the Duck. From there we’re off for a few hours riding in the hills. Charles is wise and determined to make the Duck and I a team before we head out together for ten days and 3500+ miles. No surprise to anyone here: The Duck is much more powerful and responsive than my ’91 CB750, although the weight is comparable. It just tucks in and hangs on tight in the S-curves up Big Basin Way onto Skyline. Each time I decide to ask it for a little bit more, it’s ready and with more to give. Clearly more bike than I know what to do with! I am digging it big time.

Skyline Drive Overlook:


That evening I get my gear sorted out. The 25 liter hard cases are bigger than I’d guessed and I realize that since I’m “credit card camping” I can get everything into them and the tank bag and ditch the 35 liter dry bag I’d brought to strap on the tail. A few unnecessary things like … lol … socks, underwear, maps, tools for far bigger problems than I can handle alone, etc. get pitched into a big box for shipping back to Anchorage.

The day before I’m scheduled to leave, brimming with confidence about my relationship with the sexy Italian bike – we’re getting along so well! - I drop it in the driveway while putting it on the centerstand and break some stuff. Arghhh!!! Now I know where that part is on a Ducati that corresponds to the giant heads on the BMW RT: It’s the brake lever and rear view mirror and front fairing.

It all looks expensive:



Luckily, Charles has a garage full of bikes and everything required to keep them happy. He’s able to patch things up almost as good as new … except for my confidence. I’ve spent enough formative years on horses and bicycles to know to suck it up, get back on and keep riding. I remind myself that the owner of this bike, who willingly offered it to me, has seen me topple over and get pinned under my DR350 because I forgot that I’d already kicked up the sidestand when I picked up my foot to kick it into neutral . He had no illusions about my skills. Still, I hate to disappoint a friend, and after tomorrow Charles won’t be around to pick me up and put me back together.

Yet tomorrow comes, ready or not ...

AKgeekgrrl screwed with this post 07-05-2009 at 03:37 PM
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Old 07-05-2009, 03:47 PM   #4
Mileater
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Cool2 Along for the ride!

This one sounds like a fun trip... all the ingredients are right there already

Waiting to see what develops

Cheers
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Old 07-05-2009, 05:20 PM   #5
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go up the coast much better views.
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Old 07-05-2009, 06:57 PM   #6
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This is a ride I've been wanting to do myself.

Can't wait to see it.
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Old 07-05-2009, 08:54 PM   #7
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Over the Bridge and up the 101

Day One: Charles and his wife, Sara, give me a rolling escort up and into the drifting fog, over the hills, out to the junction of Rte 84 and Hwy 1.

Setting out:


We pause at Alice’s Restaurant for a gear adjustment and the parking lot is like a rolling classic bike museum. Greeves, BSAs, Nortons, etc. stacked three deep. Most of the owners are standing around looking equally well-preserved, clean and expensive. I feel a wave of homesickness for scruffy, Alaskan ADV bikes that actually look like they’ve been ridden to fun places by riders who’ve obviously fallen in the dirt a time or two.

Parking lot at Alice's on a Sunday morning:


At the coast, as Charles and Sara peel off to head back to San Jose, I experience that perfect road trip moment of nervous anticipation followed by sheer elation that, for better or worse, it’s on!

Traffic is heavy, but the Duck and I are cool, ticking along enjoying the thrill of the new. There's a spitting mist here on the coast and the road leads through a series of beach communities that grow ever denser until they become San Franciso.

Beach break at Pacifica so you can get a feel for the weather:


My route through the city is written out in block letters – with distances - in my map case and without a hitch I’m crossing the Golden Gate Bridge in a dense fog. Hell yeah! I've been here several times before, but everything seems new when seen from two wheels. Traffic's heavy and fast and you can't really see the bridge so no photo here. As I roll up and over the hills, the traffic and fog thin out and it’s on to the 101 North under sunny skies.

The Duck is a demon at highway speeds, with a broad, forgiving power band, we negotiate dense traffic and find the magic clear spots where we can settle in and cruise. On the other hand, it is a sad, sad bike in city stop-and go. The dry clutch always sounds broken to me and I have to keep reminding myself that it’s (probably?) fine. The temperature shoots up quickly as well and, ouch, radiates through the seat.

I pick a random exit in wine country and take a break in the shade of a vineyard parking lot:


When I get back onto the 101 it is empty. I am so happy to be out of the bay area traffic! Long sweeping S-curves for miles. I find that the Duck finds cars to get stuck behind very quickly so there’s a lot of “Wheeeee! Awwww. Wheeeee! Awwwww. … (repeat endlessly.)” I quickly learn to hate Priuses (I’m glad you’re saving gas, but get out of my way, I’m on a fucking Ducati!!) and discover that Lexus drivers are psycho and, therefore, make excellent rabbits

Apparently tapping your hand on the top of your helmet means “Cop.” A gentleman in an Iron Pigs vest was unimpressed as I blew past him looking confused while he pointedly banged himself on the top of the head. Whoops! CHP was already busy, though. They scare me. California drivers are more bike aware and on better behavior than Alaska drivers, for sure. I suspect it's the scary CHP that does it.

I drive through a tree!! Wanted to do this since I was a kid and saw pix in National Geographic. The vehicle in front of me is, hilariously, a Toyota Sequoia with a clown-carload of tiny Asian people who spend about ten minutes squeezing it through and then posing for photos. I’m in too good a mood to do anything but laugh.

Tourist:


Eureka, CA for the night. Have a coffee date with a friend in Arcata in the morning. Manage to get the Duck on the centerstand without incident. Fancy Repsol chain lube, a sample can from Bad Matt, is leaving black goo at the front of the chain guard. Use less. One plastic cap from the Heli bars has disappeared so I tape plastic over the hole. Oil, tire pressure, fluids all good. Tim only had about 200 miles on the Duck before turning it over to me for this trip so I’m watching it very carefully.

So far, so very good!
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Old 07-06-2009, 05:13 AM   #8
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Old 07-06-2009, 06:30 AM   #9
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Oh yeah.. i'm in for this one.
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Old 07-06-2009, 06:47 PM   #10
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Hippies and Loggers and Methheads, Oh my!

Day Two: Meet my pal Jilly in Arcata for coffee. She recently moved here from Alaska and – like me – is skeptical about the Humboldt County scene. I know some amazing folks who graduated from Cal State here, but there seem to be a lot of dudes wandering the streets who've been smoking Humboldt's finest and got stuck in their college hippy phase. There are grown men here wearing ponchos. Mexican ponchos. Vandalizing SUVs is a recreational activity. It makes me feel like a yuppie for simply having a job. Jilly has already set a date for her move to Salem, OR.

Decide to try my new iPod – a gift from a friend for this trip. Am very skeptical – dislike personal electronics because they take me out of the moment – but all day yesterday I had Taj Mahal singing Fishin’ Blues playing in my head over and over and over. I need to get new music in my brain! It turns out to be just the ticket. Now there is a soundtrack to accompany the new vistas – crashing waves on rocky shores, fairyland forests - that unravel at every rise and curve. The Redwood Highway is like a dream, everything soft and misty and the Duck and I floating through it in (apparent, not actual) slow-motion.

Later I call my friend and grudgingly admit that the iPod was, yes, a great idea.

Into Oregon (out of California ):


The 101 is slower and less maintained in Oregon. At the gas station in Coos Bay two guys who may or may not work there – hard to tell from appearances – take my credit card and set up the pump for me and then hand me the nozzle and chat me up while I fill the Duck. People who can’t tell immediately what a squid I am seem intimidated by the bike, which is kinda nice at times like this. I make a show of roaring off – love those pipes! – hoping my instant karma doesn’t send me over a berm or something. Nope. That only happens if I think they’re cute.

It’s chilly here along the rugged coast and my Widder vest is not working. Looks as if I damaged the plug. This could be bad. I packed light figuring the vest would substitute for a layer of cold weather gear. Still, the vest is new to me and I always got around Alaska just fine without it before. Send up a prayer for good weather in the Yukon. (Later turns out there was a 3Amp fuse – 3?! WTF?! - that had blown . . . and I had damaged the plug )

Dinosaur loves Italian Motorcycle Porn!


Cut east toward Eugene – and my friend Greg – on Rte 126. It winds into the Cascades along a narrow, pastoral river valley. Road’s rough so between glances at the scenery I’m dodging gravelly asphalt patches and potholes. The air is sweet from recent rain and I get 20+ miles of 2-lane through the woods all to myself. No deer. No farm junk in the road. Haul ass? Check. The tunnel through the summit feels like a scene from a 60s sci-fi movie with the lights winking by and Space Truckin’ in the earphones and those rhythmic vacuum thuds of air when I pass vents.

Straight farm road into Eugene, so I take the Duck up to 100+. It’s a tiny bit of a letdown as I kick it into top gear planning to go all the way, as it doesn’t have a lot of guts past 5th. I hold it around 105 for a bit, but above about 85mph the wind starts knocking me around a lot and it’s not as much fun as I’d hoped. Still, in 5th I can get up to 95 and have enough range on the throttle to play in the twists. Most of the trip ends up being in 5th after this experiment. Apparently Italians don’t think it’s cool to put a redline on their tachs.

Night at chez Greg’s in Eugene. This is where I have to decide which route I’m going to take up to the Alcan. I opt for the straightest shot up 97N through BC, roughly 3500 miles. Since this is my first tour and my night vision sucks, I estimated conservative 350 mile days. I'm dying that I'll miss the Bighorn Highway - this time - but, frankly, there's no where I've been (or will go) that isn't incredibly beautiful so it's all good.

Also, even with the Heli bars, the forward riding position on the Duck is killing my mid-back. I talk to two riding buddies on my cell and both say, “You need to go faster!” I say, “I know! Tell it to the highway patrol and all these Prius drivers!” A hefty dose of ibuprofen becomes part of my morning pre-flight routine and I incorporate onboard calisthenics and more stops to stay limber

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Old 07-06-2009, 07:11 PM   #11
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"I quickly learn to hate Priuses (I’m glad you’re saving gas, but get out of my way, I’m on a fucking Ducati!!)"

BRILLIANT!
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Old 07-06-2009, 07:15 PM   #12
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Nice!
Looking forward to more!
Good luck.

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Old 07-07-2009, 05:11 PM   #13
rcook52459
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i thought i was the only one who didn't like Priuses driver's.
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Old 07-07-2009, 08:43 PM   #14
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Hello Canada ... with your freaky heatwave

Day Three: North from Eugene on the I-5 in a spitting drizzle. 138 miles in less than two hours. Boring but fast. The only thing fun about it - other than the fact that I'm riding - is seeing how fast I can attain launch speed on entrance ramps. Pretty fast, actually!

The 101 west from Olympia is pretty, but dense with speed traps. It kills me that this road is begging to be ridden hard and I'm noodling along at 55-60mph. I've got two more gears I could be using, dammit! I can't wait to get onto the open highways of British Columbia. I’m figuring on getting into Port Townsend early and lounging around there for the night, but when I get there the place is a ghost town: All the coffee shops are closed. Whyyyyy?! It's too horrible. I cannot stay here.

Hoping for coffee shops ahead:


Instead, hit the ferry to Whidbey Island accomplishing twin goals of gorgeous riding and avoiding Seattle madness. Geek moment: I’m on a motorcycle on a fucking boat!! The other rider on the ferry – Risto, on a pristine V-Strom. – tells me to ignore the signs, save some miles and ditch the ferry traffic by cutting left through the park and heading to Coupeville. He’s right on.

This boat is reeeeallll (link):


Night in Oak Harbor. Cleared my first 1000 miles. Talk to Tim. Charles has ratted me out about dropping the bike so that’s one uncomfortable conversation out of the way. I tell Tim the brake fluid looks empty and he informs me that it’s _clear_. Oh. Yep. There it is

Find a self-tapping screw in the rear tire. Damn.

Day Four: Rear tire pressure’s still holding, so I head into Anacortes and start calling bike shops. “Ducati? No.” “Ducati? No.” “Try Rob at WestEdge Cycle.” This becomes a lemons-to-lemonade situation as hanging out in the shop shooting the breeze with Rob - in a Ducati t-shirt. Score - while he patches the tire is a pleasure. He’s a local dirt-riding activist, battling the environmentalists to keep off-road areas open to riders, while kicking the young riders in the butt to not blow it for everyone by riding like dicks. His shop is in an old jail and still has barred cells, warning signs, graffiti, etc. There’s a DVD copy of On Any Sunday for sale on the counter.

Detail of "decor" at WestEdge Cycles:


It’s hot! 90+. Am grateful for my girly hot-weather jacket. Still, only log 272 miles today, partly due to the late start out of Anacortes and partly because I didn’t plan for the heat and got dehydrated after a 140-mile stretch with no water breaks. Cold I was ready for, but I haven’t had to contend with heat dangers while motorcycling. Lesson learned when I dismounted at a gas stop and almost fell over with that weird swarm-of-hornets sound in my ears. Long break, couple of litres of cold water in the shade, but I was still off my game for the rest of the afternoon.

On the other hand, the road through Fraser Canyon – while I was becoming dehydrated – was all rock and roll fun! Whitewater river, high desert cliff walls, well placed passing lanes … Slow traffic stay right. That’s you. And you. All...of...you!! Hope that patch holds

What kind of European speedometer doesn’t have Kph marks on it? This one, baby. It’s an easy conversion to do on the fly, fortunately. My rule is that it's rude to speed in other folks' towns so I do the math and slow down ... until the highway opens up again on the other side and then ... well, you know what then

Speaking of conversions, am deliberately not looking up the dollar exchange rate. The last time I was through Canada was in 2002 and I was rich! Rich, I tell you! Not this year, though.

Night in Cache Creek. News says temps over 33 C today.
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Old 07-07-2009, 08:54 PM   #15
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Awesome trip. I thought the RT was a good idea. The ST.... well that's almost cheating.
Highway 101 north of Ukiah is pretty fun.
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