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Old 08-03-2009, 06:49 AM   #46
One day at a time!
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Originally Posted by waterlilly
This is a great report, your photos are great, thanks for your daily update.


This has been a great report for me since I'm pushing 66 pretty hard along with enough health issues to wonder how much more riding I'll be doing.....I can still go places though thanks to reports like yours....Thanks much.....
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Old 08-03-2009, 07:39 AM   #47
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That was really a great report. It just goes to show my wife that I need a better camera.
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Old 08-03-2009, 09:49 AM   #48
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Day 17

The summer -- no sweeter was ever;
The sunshiny woods all athrill;
The grayling aleap in the river,
The bighorn asleep on the hill.
The strong life that never knows harness;
The wilds where the caribou call;
The freshness, the freedom, the farness --
O God! how I'm stuck on it all.

Verse 5, “The Spell of the Yukon

~ Robert Service ~

Day 17 – June 28
Eagle Plains, Northwest Territories > Dawson City, Yukon (Downtown Hotel)
Today’s mileage: 424.3 km, Trip to date: 9663.9 km

Deja vous…..

The morning sky is overcast and gray with a light drizzle starting to fall. Oh no, here we go again! Me and mud don’t get along so well. I pack my bike in haste. I’m feeling very anxious because I don’t want to experience a repeat of yesterday’s festivities. I recall the lower portion of the Dempster, from Eagle Plains south, had much better surface conditions. You could easily ride 90 - 100 kilometers per hour or more and I did! There were sections of road that looked like it could get very muddy and treacherous, but not today. The rain would not amount to anything, thankfully!

The Dempster Highway did have one more joke to play on me. My rear tire went flat just north of the Tombstone Mountain Campground. I had heard that the crushed shale gravel on this roadway could wreak havoc on tires. The tire shop at Eagle Plains is a busy place! My flat was caused by a nail of all things! And to add insult, my “ADV” credentials had blown off!

I did see wildlife along the way; a bear, caribou, foxes and a wolf. I didn’t get a decent picture of one of them. I suck at wildlife photography! At least landscapes sit still long enough for me to compose the shot.

Eventually the gravel gave way to pavement and I knew my Dempster Highway experience would be complete. I was elated! Now I understood the big thumbs up I received from that passing motorcyclist days earlier when I had begun my journey north. I stopped at the sign and briefly talked with a cyclist who was preparing to ride up to Inuvik. I gassed up over at the Klondike River Lodge. I left my fuel can behind with a note, “free to good home” I hoped that another motorcyclist headed up the Dempster would put it to good use. I would later learn that a friend from home on a very similar trip to mine would take it up to Inuvik again! The “family of 4” eventually showed up for gas as well. I had passed them earlier in the day. We talked for a bit then said our goodbyes. They were heading south for home. I was going to DawsonCity, and I was in a celebratory mood! I had a sense as to how the miners of the Gold Rush days must have felt as they came into town with their pockets full of gold after spending months in the wilderness!

My home for the next two nights would be the Downtown Hotel.

So, let’s get the evening celebrations started on the right foot (or was that from the left?) and have the infamous “Sourtoe Cocktail”!

Twistn'roads screwed with this post 08-03-2009 at 10:03 AM
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Old 08-04-2009, 06:09 AM   #49
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Day 18

The winter! the brightness that blinds you,
The white land locked tight as a drum,
The cold fear that follows and finds you,
The silence that bludgeons you dumb.
The snows that are older than history,
The woods where the weird shadows slant;
The stillness, the moonlight, the mystery,
I've bade 'em good-by - but I can't.

Verse 6, “The Spell of the Yukon

~ Robert Service ~

Day 18 – June 29
Dawson City, Yukon (Downtown Hotel)
Today’s mileage: not very much, Trip to date: 9663.9 km and holding

The celebrating continues…..

Because I found myself a day ahead of my original plan, I would spend another night in Dawson City. The atmosphere was festive. I had a very enjoyable stay here. The historical nature of this place is very well preserved.

I was a little slow getting up this morning but nothing a few cups of coffee and some bacon couldn’t cure! I took a long walk around town to clear my head, checking out a number of the historical sites, taking numerous photographs as I went.

Later, I would take a ride up Bonanza Creek Road to the Dredge No. 4 historical site where I took a very informative tour of this mammoth machine.

After the tour I went up to the top of Midnight Dome again to take in the spectacular view of Dawson and the Yukon River below. I talked with some travelers from California who told me of their Great Grandfather who mined gold during the rush.

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Old 08-04-2009, 06:10 AM   #50
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Day 18, More!

Day 18 – June 29 Continued……..

Late in the afternoon it was time for some cocktails! I took my computer over to Bombay Peggy’s Pub to use their free wifi. I sat and uploaded photographs to my picture site while enjoying several Rickards Whites & orange.

I was also able to video chat online with my children. It was my son’s 18th birthday today. The pub was a very lively and fun spot. I met a nice young couple, Derek and Catherine from Alberta, who were doing pretty much the same trip route north as me with their camper truck. I would meet up with them later on in the evening.

No trip to Dawson is complete without a visit to Diamond Tooth Gerties. I shared a front and center table with a couple from Calgary who were touring the area on their motorcycle. They told me of a scenic route I should take when I get over to Calgary later in my trip. Something to keep in mind when sitting in the front row at the show is often the unsuspecting audience is called upon to participate. “Gertie” was half way into her first song when she stepped off the stage towards me. The spotlight was on us as she placed her hand behind my head and forcibly pulled me face first into her ample breasts! Later, other audience members would have to get up and dance. My dancing skills suck so I’m glad I got to show off my “motor boating” prowess! I enjoyed the show so much that I hung around for the more “risqué” midnight performance. I met a number of new friends, locals and fellow travelers alike this evening. I would not retire until the wee hours of the morning. What a fantastic way to celebrate my trip so far!

After seeing my “motorboat” performance, this elderly couple later came up to talk with me. They said I looked exactly like their son! I'm not so sure about the demon behind me though!

New friends…..

The photographer’s self portrait…. Keep an eye on your camera at all times!

Derek & Catherine

Twistn'roads screwed with this post 08-04-2009 at 10:51 AM
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Old 08-04-2009, 10:42 AM   #51
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Day 19

There's a land where the mountains are nameless,
And the rivers all run God knows where;
There are lives that are erring and aimless,
And deaths that just hang by a hair;
There are hardships that nobody reckons;
There are valleys unpeopled and still;
There's a land - oh, it beckons and beckons,
And I want to go back - and I will.

Verse 7, “The Spell of the Yukon

~ Robert Service ~

Day 19 – June 30
Dawson City, Yukon > Tangle Lakes, Denali Highway, Alaska
Today’s mileage: 694.3 km, Trip to date: 10,358.1 km

Not surprisingly, I did not leave Dawson as early as I thought I might! I boarded the ferry for the short ride across the Yukon River at the crack of 9:30AM. Ahead lay the Top of the World Highway and the Alaskan border. Sunny skies and breathtaking scenery would eventually fade away my morning grogginess.

As I approached the Alaskan border, I had a grin from ear to ear. I could not contain my smile as I spoke with the border official. I think he may have thought me a bit “touched”! After 2 years and thousands of kilometers I finally made to the great land I’ve been dreaming about, “the Last Frontier”. The road conditions on the US side deteriorated. I was making a game of dodging the pot holes! Eventually, I would have to plow through some grading ahead, but nothing as difficult as the mud days ago. I stopped in Chicken for gas and a bite to eat at the Café.

My plan today was to see the marker at the end of the Alaska Highway then head south to the Denali Highway where I would camp for the night. The scenery continued to overwhelm me. Every bend in the road revealed a new wonder. I stopped for gas and water near Paxton at the start of the Denali Highway and who should I bump into again but Billy. He was looking to camp in the area too but didn’t like the open terrain of the Tangle Lakes Campground and was going to head further south along the Richardson Highway. I didn’t mind the openness of the land. The breeze out there kept the mosquitoes at bay! After setting up camp I went over to the Tangle Lakes Inn for dinner and a few beers. I met a group of lady riders who were all motorcycle guides out doing an orientation ride in preparation for the summer riding season. I chatted with a few of them before heading back to my tent for the night.

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Old 08-05-2009, 11:18 AM   #52
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Day 20

". . . the open road is a beckoning, a strangeness, a place where a man can lose himself."

~ William Least Heat Moon (William Trogdon)

Day 20 – July 1
Tangle Lakes, Denali Highway, Alaska > Wasilla, Alaska
Today’s mileage: 581.9 km, Trip to date: 10,940.1 km

Memorable moments from today…..

Sunshine and clear skies were predominant. The Denali Highway, which is really just a gravel road, did not fail to inspire me with continuous scenic vistas. The road itself was in reasonable condition. There were some extremely pot holed sections that needed my undivided attention. Towards the western end, freshly graded gravel and dust past the Susitna River slowed me down a little. I had decided to ride this road in a westerly direction hoping to see Mt McKinley (Denali, “the great one”) in the distance as I neared Cantwell. I was not to be disappointed; Mt McKinley would remain virtually cloud free all day. I understand that is not the norm. The mountain is enshrouded in cloud much of the time. I managed to see a number of great views along the George Parks Highway.

Mt McKinley; Denali, “the great one”

Denali in the distance

Upon completing the ride across the Denali Highway, I fueled up in Cantwell and headed north up to the Denali National Park Visitor center. I did not have time this trip to take the tour into the park. Next time, I would like to try and camp there.

Riding back down south along the Parks Highway I headed towards Willow. I had previously read about Hatcher Pass in other ride reports and thought I would like to give it a go. Earlier in my trip someone had mentioned to me that Hatcher pass may not be open the day I planned to ride it. I turned unto Willow Fishhook Rd and followed it until it turned to gravel. The gravel was very dusty and loose from recent grading. In the distance I saw an approaching pickup truck that I would try and flag down to see if he had any info on the pass closure. I was moving along at a good speed, perhaps faster than I intended when I realized I was not going to stop in time to get the other drivers attention. I applied probably too much front brake as I was coming to a stop and the front wheel washed out sending me and the bike for a “nap” on the road. Shit, that’s embarrassing! This happened rather slowly and was more the result of me loosing my balance. It was pretty comical actually but the look of shock on the faces of the occupants of the pickup was priceless. They immediately jumped out of their truck and ran over to see if I was OK. I assured them that all was well and I was merely trying to get their attention. I guess my ploy worked! They helped me stand the bike back up and informed me that in fact, Hatcher Pass was open for travel.

Hatcher Pass GPS tracks

Hatcher Pass GPS tracks

I found Hatcher Pass to be an incredible road. The scenery was outstanding. It was a very technical road for me due to the weight I was carrying and my limited off-road experience. The pass was quite narrow, pot holed and rough in spots with fresh coarse rock recently laid down. There was a fair amount of traffic up there as I was going over and had to be quite careful in the tight blind switch back turns. I recall one rather steep curving turn where melting snow had made it very muddy, upping the pucker rating to a 7.5! Oh, and to make this crossing even more of an adventure, I was being chased by a local thunderstorm with heavy rain!

Summit Lake, Hatcher pass

Back in Hyder I had made arrangements with my new friend Phil to stay at his place in Wasilla. The afternoon was getting late so I thought it best to forgo the visit to Independence Mine up on Hatcher Pass and try and find his house. Wasilla Fishhook Rd coming into Wasilla was a twisting joy. After riding right by it, I eventually found Phil’s place, a beautiful log home on the edge of town. Phil and the guys weren’t there but I was cheerfully greeted by Barb, Phil’s wife and their friendly dog Izzy. Barb, who just recently returned from a salmon fishing trip, was busily preparing a feast for dinner and went out of her way to make me welcome in their home. Not long after I settled in, Phil, John and Dean returned from a shopping expedition. I felt like I was reuniting with life long friends and it had only been 9 days since we last saw one another. We had traveled far. A fantastic evening of food, drink, laughter and story telling ensued. I also learned a new game known as “Moose Farkle”; it’s an Alaskan thing!

My friends Phil, Laurie, John, Dean and Barb

Twistn'roads screwed with this post 08-05-2009 at 11:47 AM
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Old 08-05-2009, 11:51 AM   #53
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Thumb Slow death

Originally Posted by Twistn'roads
Something is missing. I have never felt such discontent and restlessness. Why? I have a wonderful wife and children whom love me very much. I have a nice home. I have a good job that pays pretty well. I have my health. But still, I’m not content. I am tired of the daily routine. I find that I have fallen into a rut of repetitious existence. My spirit is dieing a bit more every day. There is much more to living than this.
Here is a poem for you:
Slowly dies the one who becomes a slave of his habits
and let the days become alike,
the one who doesn't change direction,
the one who doesn't change the colour of his cloths,
the one who doesn't talk to strangers.

Slowly dies the one who doesn't turn the table
and doesn't find pleasure in his work,
the ones who doesn't dare to risk his safety
to reach a dream,
the one who doesn't at least once discard all
good advice.

Slowly dies the one who doesn't travel,
the one who doesn't read,
the one who doesn't listen to music,
and find pleasure in these things.

Slowly dies the one who let the days go by
without searching for happiness,
the ones that complain about their bad luck
or the rain,
the one that abandon his projects before they start.

We avoid slow death because we do not forget that
to live demands more than merely breathing.

Only immense patience will lead to immense happiness.
Translated from Italian to English by a Norwegian (so don't flame me for language issues, please)
You find the whole story in my RR here.

Keep up your good work!

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My Riding in Tuscany-thread is here.
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Proud contributor to Wisdom and GSpot FAQ and European Ride Report Index.
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Old 08-05-2009, 12:02 PM   #54
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Thank you for posting the poem. It is very relevant to my ride report. It sums up very well my plight!

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Old 08-05-2009, 12:10 PM   #55
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Thanks for sharing. Did a similar trip in 2005 and it's great to be reminded of how scenic it is up there.
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Old 08-05-2009, 04:55 PM   #56
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Epic report, the trip, the photos, the writing - all fantastic, Thanks for taking me along
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Old 08-06-2009, 05:25 PM   #57
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Day 21

"The use of travelling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are."

~ Samuel Johnson

Day 21 – July 2
Wasilla, Alaska > Homer Spit, Alaska (Homer Spit Campground)
Today’s mileage: 499.2 km, Trip to date: 11,439.3 km

Sometime the previous evening while I was downloading all my pictures and video to my computer, I mentioned to Barb my lack of wildlife photographs so far. Barb fetched her Kodak camera and said I’ve got something to show you. She had taken a picture of pair of eagles while on her Sitka fishing trip. I thought the picture was absolutely fantastic and asked her to email it to me so I could show my wife who is very much an animal fanatic! Barb, I hope you don’t mind but I thought I would post it here as part of my ride report and show every one the lesson in wildlife photography you gave me!

Barb’s Eagles

As we parted for the evening, I recall everyone saying they were going to get up early in the morning. Phil was going to show John and Dean around parts of Alaska, Talkeetna I think, and I had plans to drive as far west as I could go, down to Homer. When I got up around 6:30AM, there wasn’t a peep from anyone, not even Izzy the dog. I dressed and packed up my things quietly. Still, no one was awake. I went outside and spent a good 45 minutes washing bug goo and mud off my bike using Phil’s garden hose. It was so crusty yesterday afternoon, Izzy actually started to lick my side cases while I was unpacking! More time went by and still no one stirred. I did not want to wake anyone up so I decide to pack up and try and slip quietly away like a “one night stand”. I would leave a thank you note with all my contact info. As I was gearing up, Dean stumbled out of the camper and abruptly said “you can’t go yet, they’re making breakfast especially for you”! I stayed and am very glad I did. Yes, the breakfast of fresh biscuits and gravy, eggs, sausage, and home fries hit the spot, but my delayed departure was more so I could spend a bit more time with these fine folks. Eventually it was time to say goodbye. I had enjoyed getting to know them. I felt sadness inside as I rode away, wondering if we would ever meet again. Even though I was a stranger, these people had invited me into their home and treated me as family. Perhaps it was the unspoken bond that exists between motorcycle travelers.

“Phil, Barb, John and Dean, again I would like to convey my heartfelt thanks for your kindness and hospitality. This journey of mine was far more than just a motorcycle trip. Even if for a short time, you touched my life and contributed immensely to this experience. You all possess the true northern spirit!”

On to Homer…...

Perhaps because of my developing melancholy mood, I did not have an enjoyable day. Traffic started to get more and more congested south of Anchorage. Certainly, the ride out Turnagain Arm is very scenic but I was becoming increasingly impatient with the abundance of slow moving RV and camper traffic. Had I been aware of time and date, I would have realized that the July 4th weekend was only days away and the highways were going to be busy, especially the way I was headed. I did take a welcome break from this stress and took a short but fun ride out to Hope. The traffic would continue to deteriorate as I got closer to Cooper Landing and the Kenai River. There were fishermen, fishing-boats and fisher-campers & fisher-RV’s frickin’ everywhere!

Random shots from Hope, AK

Near the Seward Highway cutoff

Around Clam Gulch, the Sterling Highway gave me a slight break, sort of, until the onshore ocean wind coming off Cook Inlet started to howl sending a chill deep to my core. Homer Spit greeted me with very high winds, thick haze, noisy crowds, and hordes of RV’s. It was a f**king circus! I was so disappointed. I had read ride reports where others had camped on the beach surrounded by the scenic mountain vistas. There was no way I was going to be able to keep my tent nailed down in this wind let alone get it up at all and I couldn’t see a single mountain peak for the foggy haze. I would have to retreat to a campsite surrounded by my noisy RV friends to block the wind.

Once my camp was secure and I was certain everything wasn’t going to blow out to sea, I headed down to the Salty Dawg for a few beers to drown my sorrows. It wasn’t all bad. The bar was crowded yet festive and I made small talk with some of the bar patrons. My spirits started to lift it seemed. Or was it euphoria caused by the beer. It didn’t matter, I was winding down. I had a very enjoyable dinner of fresh Halibut at Captain Pattie’s Fish House and I did manage to find wifi at the Land’s End Resort where I promptly made a ferry reservation for the next day’s crossing from Whittier to Valdez. There was no way in hell I was going to ride all the way back up to Anchorage again!

A “must do” when in Homer

Catch of the day

The haze is clearing but the wind is still howling. These hardy campers must have filled their tents with rocks!

Land’s end

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Old 08-07-2009, 02:16 AM   #58
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Thanks for sharing your journey! Great pic's, great ride report....thanks
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Old 08-07-2009, 10:18 AM   #59
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Day 22

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be."

~ Douglas Adams

Day 22 – July 3
Homer, Alaska > Whittier, Alaska > Valdez, Alaska
Today’s mileage: 306.6 km, Trip to date: 11,745.9 km

Homer would be the farthest west and the greatest distance from home I’d travel. From now on it was time to work my way back southeast.

I find most crowded, congested campgrounds undesirable due to the lack of consideration for others by a few so called “campers”. That night I happened to be right across from a group of such “campers” who decided to have a drunken family dispute well into the early hours of the morning. Good thing I had my earplugs handy. Even though the ferry Aurora wasn’t to depart Whittier until 2:45PM, I was up early again. I packed up quickly and didn’t even bother to make breakfast or coffee. I made certain to thoroughly warm up my bike; checking to make sure the throttle assembly wasn’t sticking before I left…. wink, wink. Payback can be so sweet! I wanted to be out on the highway headed north long before most holiday weekend travelers had even given thought to how they wanted their eggs done!

The ride back up the Sterling Highway was much more enjoyable this morning than what I experienced the day before. The only traffic I encountered were sport fishermen hauling their boats in the opposite direction. I saw several Moose but again was unsuccessful in capturing their digital images! I stopped for gas in Cooper Landing. I had a chill so I went across the road to a quaint little coffee shop. Inside, I chatted with a very friendly young lady as she poured me a much needed java. She asked if I was with the group of bikers that just left town. They were headed to Whittier to catch a ferry this afternoon. “No, I’m riding alone but I’m sure I’ll catch up with them.” I did catch them at the tunnel to Whittier. These folks had ridden their Harleys from Florida to Pennsylvania where they hooked up with another couple and then on up to Alaska. 3 of the group were lady riders and were having quite the adventure! I would get to know these folks better throughout the day. We were all on the same ferry and Whittier is not that big a place.

The tunnel to Whittier can be an interesting and intimidating challenge on a motorcycle. It is 4 km long, dimly lit, single lane, with intermittent jet fans and a wet concrete surface between railroad rails! The traffic direction in the tunnel changes every half hour and motorcycles are allowed to go through last. If you have a ferry to catch and you’re cutting it close, this could be a concern. The ladies in the group riding ahead of me were pretty ecstatic once they got through. We all stopped for a quick photo op on the other side.

With several hours to wait, I took a walk around Whittier, checking out the shops and sights. I kept bumping into the other group of motorcyclist here and there and gradually got to know them all. The weather was perfect; the setting and scenery was perfect and I felt much better than I did the day before. I was so glad I had decided to make this change in plans and take the ferry. This more than made up for my disappointment of yesterday. Not only was the voyage itself spectacular but I got to share it with new friends Mike & Cathy, Joe & Ella and Patti.

After our arrival in Valdez, I had to search for a place to stay. It was getting on in the day and I didn’t feel like camping. I was having difficulty securing accommodations. The first couple of places I checked were booked up. Someone had recommended the Downtown B&B. When I got there I met up with my friends from the ferry unpacking their bikes out front. They were staying here the night. As I waited to talk to the proprietor, the group talked amongst themselves and decided to offer me the spare bunk in their room. Again, I was most appreciative of the generosity and thoughtfulness shown to me, a complete stranger, by my fellow travelers.

Ella, Cathy & Mike, and Mike too!

Say “cheese” Patti!

Ella & Joe

Mike and I debating distillation methods

Valdez oil terminal at the end of the pipeline

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Old 08-07-2009, 06:22 PM   #60
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Awesome ride report and pics. I have been following with rapt attention. I have done some of the ride in BC and hope to make the Alaska loop next year. The report is definately inspiring. Photography is beautiful and only strengthens my desire to head north.

Keep the pics and storyline flowing!!
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