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Old 11-04-2010, 09:55 PM   #1
trackpete OP
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Joined: Aug 2010
Location: Washington DC
Oddometer: 188
Washington DC to Deadhorse AK on a 106cc Scooter

I just finished a video showcasing some of the roads I encountered on my 95 day, 16k+ mile ride from Washington DC to Deadhorse AK and back on a scooter (with a top speed of around 45MPH). You can see the video here or here. Highlight photos from my trip (and other photos) are available on Facebook here. During this ride I raised just over $2,000 for charity, which was short of my goal but still showed the generous spirit of many people.

General Ride Report:

I started in mid July from Washington DC, heading northbound towards Canada on a Genuine Rattler 110 with less than 50 miles on it (I took delivery, registered, and insured it the day before leaving). The first day was a brutal 19 hour 520 mile ride to Boston, staying in city traffic from DC to Baltimore to Philadelphia to NYC. With the engine finally broken in I hit the interstate north of NYC only to get pulled over for going 37MPH in a minimum 45MPH in Connecticut. The officer let me off with a warning and I was barely able to maintain 45MPH while he followed me to make sure. An auspicious beginning...

Crossing into Quebec brought equally unexpected hassle - the local border police had a hard time understanding what I was doing. One officer kept asking me "Why don't you just fly to Alaska?" over and over again. They held me for over two hours while they searched all my gear before finally letting me in with a limited entrance record, requiring me to leave Canada within 60 days.

Once inside Canada, my goal was to head towards the west coast on the northernmost roads I could. I transitioned a bit but spent most of the time on the Yellowhead Highway as it was my only option for most of this leg of the trip. I passed through the majority of Canada in a blur, pulling over on the side of the road around 10PM to set up my tent in the forests or campgrounds when possible. Most of this country was very beautiful.

When I made it onto the great plains (around 2500 miles in) I started to run into mechanical problems. I blew through two spark plugs very rapidly and both came out impacted, at one point I had to push my scooter seven miles to Canadian Tire for a replacement plug (thankfully I broke down in a big town). On arrival in Edmonton I was told by the mechanics at three different shops that my engine was toast and a full rebuild was needed and they wouldn't be able to look at it for a week due to a holiday.

I worked with the main mechanic of Genuine Scooter Company back home and we came to the conclusion that the engine was all right but was suffering from some massive carbon buildup issues. To be sure, I nursed it 600 miles the wrong way down to the closest scooter dealer in Montana, where they sorted me all out and got the engine back to normal.

I tore up north towards Alaska in what would turn out to be normal weather for the rest of the trip - wet. Apparently this summer was one of the worst in awhile according to most locals, and I spent day after day on the Alaska Highway riding, eating, and camping in endless wet. The clouds would sometimes part for moments or the rain would stop allowing me to experience the intense beauty of the road, but mostly I just kept my head down and rode as much as I could each day, often averaging less than 35MPH due to the conditions and hills.

Along the way, I met two gentlemen who had shipped Vespas from Italy to NYC and were riding to Anchorage from there - an impressive feat. We chatted for awhile and agreed to meet for lunch later, except within moments on the road I found I could not keep up with them at all. Their 200cc two-strokes were capable of 65MPH flat out while my 106cc two-stroke with slipping belts in the CVT was having a hard time getting over 40MPH. I was jealous for sure!

In the far north, the weather finally became better for a few days and I was able to fork off the Alaska Highway and head towards the Top of the World Highway, a long gravel road that leads into Alaska. The Taylor Highway on the Alaska side had been closed due to fatalities but thankfully opened the day I arrived at the fairy (though I had no idea of this at the time). The road was beautiful, hours of dirt and gravel with plenty of scenery, but shortly after crossing into Alaska I found out that the Taylor Highway was only open at 10AM and 2PM behind a pilot car.

I camped nearby (what an experience that was, learning to pan for gold from a local miner) for the night and got to enjoy the most intense experience of the entire trip the next day: two hours at full speed in extreme dust, dirt, and gravel behind a pilot truck. There were three awesome Canadian bikers there as well and we all suffered horribly, becoming caked with dust and nearly wiping out many times while trying to keep pace. I was very thankful for my scooter's low weight and center of gravity as the small tires often had me bouncing off rocks and sliding through gravel for meters.

Eventually I made it to Fairbanks, where I took a few days to recover and prepare for the "final" challenge of the trip, the Dalton Highway, considered the most "remote road in the USA."

The Dalton was an epic experience in a lot of ways. The road itself was not nearly as harsh as I expected: maybe 50 miles were harsh gravel, 200 or so miles were well packed mud or dirt, 50 miles were bad mud/dirt, and 100 or so were pristine tarmac. Heading north, however, the weather was absolutely crazy - I spent nearly two days straight in a rainy fog so deep that I couldn't see what was beside the road. I was astonished on the way south to discover that I rode north past mountains, streams, and forests without even noticing. (if you want to read more about the Dalton Highway in detail, check out my blog post here)

One of the coolest things about this portion of the trip was all the motorcycle guys I met and talked to. It seemed like every time I stopped to warm up, eat, fuel up, or whatever someone was getting off and talking to me. Nick Sanders and Ben & Matty are two that I remember, but it seemed like the Dalton Highway was saturated with adventure motorcyclists. It was actually really amazing though, as you felt like shared in the experience with everyone. I really recommend doing this just for that sharing.

After a quick stop in Deadhorse I turned around and went back south, enjoying a bit of sun. By the time I arrived back in Fairbanks I had put over 8,000 miles on my scooter and the scooter company was worried about the condition of my belts and rollers (they were shot). Unfortunately I couldn't find anyone in Fairbanks willing to work on it or even let me borrow their tools, so after nearly a week of begging around town I decided to limp southbound on a scooter that could fall apart at any moment.

Finally, 100 miles south of Whitehorse YT, with 9950 miles on the odometer, I was left stranded on the side of the Alaska Highway with what appeared to be a seized piston. The little two-stroke had amazingly survived nearly 10k miles of abuse before giving up the ghost... I was able to flag down a local in a pickup truck and get a ride back to the capital city of the Yukon and spent the next ten days in town waiting for parts to arrive via Next Day UPS.

With a new engine to break in and new belts and rollers improving my top end to nearly 50MPH, I had five days to make it the ~1,700 miles to Vancouver in order to meet a friend. I tore down towards 37 in BC driving literally dawn 'til dusk (an impressive feat when it gets dark at 11PM and light at 5AM) as fast as my little scooter could make it and rolled into Vancouver along the Sea to Sky Highway in a towering thunderstorm which nearly ripped me off the mountainside many times - but I made it to the hotel in time to meet her as she arrived from the airport.

37, incidentally, is an excellent road that definitely does not get enough traffic. A lot of it is not very scenic because it's in deep forest, but the road itself is worth riding because it has very few straight boring sections - and as of this fall, it is almost completely covered in good quality fairly fresh tarmac (hundreds of miles have no lines at all).

After a week in Vancouver it was time to get back on the scooter and hit the USA. My plan was to head down the west coast on the Pacific Coast Highway until San Francisco (I had previously ridden up this far from San Diego), then head east towards Chicago and home. I stopped in Seattle for a quick checkup with an experienced mechanic only to find out that the repair work done in the Yukon was insufficient.

We had rebuilt the top end, but they had either not noticed or not told me that the crank was also bent. As a result, the brand new top end was shot after 2k miles and the entire engine needed a rebuild. Worse, the scooter company was out of cylinder replacements and didn't know how long until they could get a replacement. We were calling around the country to find if anyone had one when they found a returned one that had been shipped out incorrectly and within a couple days my scooter was back on the road with an entirely rebuilt engine.

I rode through Oregon in a blur of coastal storms, then tore down the PCH in California. At a rest stop I was looking at a map and noticed there was a section of the coast where the coastal highway cuts sharply inland for a bit before heading back to the coast. Curiousity got the best of me, and before long I found out this was considered "the lost coast" and that the terrain was too rough to build a highway through. More research found me the Usal Road, possibly the coolest road of my entire trip - a 26 mile mud track through primeval forest, snaking its way up, down, and around the mountains of the lost coast. It took me over four hours to traverse, during which I fell over in the mud once and slid backwards down a hill under full throttle a couple times (had to jump off and push the bike up while gunning it). There were a number of cobwebs and trees across the road and not once did I see another vehicle - aside from the five abandoned vehicles off in the trees on the side of the mountain.

After Usal I went inland and started heading east, ending up on Highway 50 through Nevada. Shortly before cutting off onto Highway 50 I was pulled over by a Nevada Sheriff (who was merely curious about my ride) and when I told him my plan to go eastbound on 50 he said "that's a desolate f'ing road, man." When a Nevada Sheriff says this, it must be true, right? It is indeed, as I found out, with massive stretches of crushing emptiness and bizarre open valleys punctuated by twisty mountain passages. I cut through on the old highway to make it better and often went hours without seeing another person - all on what the locals call "The Loneliest Road in America."

One morning I woke up to find my tire, which was nearly bald after 12k miles, to be completely flat. Idiotically I had not tested my 12v air pump yet, and it turned out to draw too many amps and blew my fuse. Luckily, a kind hunter named Steve gave me and my scooter a ride back to the closest town where we tried without luck to find a new tire. Eventually I slimed up and filled the tire with a newly purchased bike pump and started the 300 mile ride to Salt Lake City where the closest scooter dealer was.

I made it to SLC without further problems other than a bad vibration (normal with slime, right?) and the knowledge that my belt and rollers were completely shot again. A great scooter shop there helped me replace everything and I was back on my way across the endless midwest. Each day out of SLC I noticed the vibration in the rear getting worse and a grinding noise coming into play, but I thought it was my mud flap rubbing against the new tire (it had been bent months ago when a U-Haul backed over my scooter in a parking lot at Banff).

Then, in the middle of Nebraska, my gearbox started tearing itself to shreds. I was able to limp into the next town where my gear oil came out black with shards all through it and I knew it wouldn't make it far. At this point I was only 600 miles from my little brother's house in the middle of Illinois and yet was still effectively in the middle of nowhere - I was able to hitchhike forty miles back to a bigger town that had the only rental truck within 300 miles, a 17' U-Haul. I loaded my scooter into the back and drove it 600 miles to my little brother's in Illinois where I then loaded it onto his truck and drove it into Chicago to have it rebuilt at the Genuine Scooter dealer there.

Thankfully, it turned out the gears were fine and the problem was actually a bearing pack in the gearbox with one bearing that had popped out and been crunched up. Scooterworks Chicago completely cleaned out my trans and cleaned up the bike and by the end of the week I was ready for the last few days towards home.

I've done the ~700 mile drive from Chicago to DC or vice versa a few times now and it's endlessly boring across Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio, so I decided to do something different this time - I got lost. Without a map I started randomly picking farm roads that took me south or east until I finally ended up in Kentucky, where I found out there aren't any straight roads in Kentucky (awesome). As I limped into West Virginia I found out there aren't even any roads that go east-west there, they all seem to be at an angle thanks to the mountains. The scenery in the fall was awesome and the back roads were tons of fun, and before long I had ridden through all the preserves and forests in the area and arrived at my best friend's in Virginia. I had turned a 700 mile trip into a 1500 mile trip and loved every day of it.

The hardest part was the final day into DC, dealing with all the traffic on the local roads of a big urban area. Eventually, I made it home and walked into my apartment for the first time in over three months, not even sure what it all meant.

Perhaps ironically, after three months and 16k+ miles on the road, riding my scooter across tough roads and endless wastelands, sleeping in a tent on the side of the road, and scarfing food wherever I could... I got a parking ticket. I had the hardest time remembering that there are still rules in civilization.

Thanks to everyone I met along the way who was awesome - a bunch of the guys I met pointed me to ADVrider and that's why I'm posting this here. I hope a few of you see this! I wish I could remember everyone's name.

One of the best experiences I had on this trip was meeting all of the amazing adventure motorcyclists out there... keep on riding!

To anyone considering the Dalton Highway run: do it. It's not tough but it's an intense experience.

Thanks for reading!

Adventurer. Photographer. Writer.

trackpete screwed with this post 11-04-2010 at 10:26 PM
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Old 11-05-2010, 05:30 AM   #2
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I think I can get away with a one word reply here that sums up what I
have to say about this:

"Damn! "

You, Sir.. are on the right forum alright!
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Old 11-05-2010, 07:14 AM   #3
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@ Trackpete: DC to the Artic Circle...on a Genuine Rattler 110...I have problems getting out to Manassas without breaking a drive belt

Took a look at your blog; from the pix, it looks as though the Rattler you first got (and had immediate issues with) was the silver model (?) - at what point was it switched for Red?
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Old 11-05-2010, 07:15 AM   #4
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Wow what a great adventure!! Thanks for the detailed intro and pics

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Old 11-05-2010, 07:29 AM   #5
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now that was an adventure ride.
really enjoyed the story
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Old 11-05-2010, 08:10 AM   #6
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Yea, what he said.

Originally Posted by Cortez
I think I can get away with a one word reply here that sums up what I
have to say about this:

"Damn! "

You, Sir.. are on the right forum alright!
Yea, what he said.!
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Old 11-05-2010, 08:40 AM   #7
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my mini ride reports
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Old 11-05-2010, 09:35 AM   #8
trackpete OP
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Originally Posted by redhandmoto
Took a look at your blog; from the pix, it looks as though the Rattler you first got (and had immediate issues with) was the silver model (?) - at what point was it switched for Red?
My first silver Rattler blew the top end at 400 miles after having a "mystery" engine problem at 100 miles... hence the reason I had the new one the day before leaving. The first one I bought (a week earlier) was a demo unit and we think it had been flogged inappropriately without a break-in and that's why it popped so fast, but Genuine was really cool and replaced it without any hassle.

Two strokes, what can you do eh? ;o
Ride Reports:
2011 - South America on Three Wheels
2010 - DC to AK and back on a 106cc scooter (mini-report)
Check out my 2009-2010 Adventure Highlight Video on Vimeo!
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Old 11-05-2010, 10:32 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by trackpete
My first silver Rattler blew the top end at 400 miles after having a "mystery" engine problem at 100 miles... hence the reason I had the new one the day before leaving. The first one I bought (a week earlier) was a demo unit and we think it had been flogged inappropriately without a break-in and that's why it popped so fast, but Genuine was really cool and replaced it without any hassle.

Two strokes, what can you do eh? ;o
Looked at the Rattler hard (also at Arlington) before I went with the Zuma 125...

Sseriously ballsy of you to do that trek on a little 2-smoke...
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Old 11-05-2010, 10:58 AM   #10
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Hey trackpete, what was the fuel bill for this epic outing ? Well done !
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Old 11-05-2010, 11:12 AM   #11
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Eek Daaaayyyyyuuuuummmmmm

what an incredible journey, and on a 106cc two troke to boot.

Have you read about the guys that went up to Alaska and then down to Terra del Fuego on 2 stroke Vino 50s???

you're redefining adventure here
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Old 11-05-2010, 12:30 PM   #12
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Not my first choice of steeds but a pretty awesome trip. I think the 45 mph thing would have annoyed the f out of me ;)

I was picturing you crossing the boarder into Canada and them throwing a hissyfit... Good stuff.
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Old 11-05-2010, 12:42 PM   #13
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This is the true spirit of ADV!
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Old 11-05-2010, 01:47 PM   #14
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admire your guts!...Nice Site too!

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Old 11-05-2010, 02:26 PM   #15
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Hey Pete!!!

Glad to see ya here. It was a pleasure meeting you on the TOW and to have had to eat dust with you.

I am sorry didn't know of your mishap in Whitehorse. You would have had a dry and warm place.

In my RR you will find a couple of pics of you.


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