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Old 09-06-2011, 09:17 PM   #1
Nickywind OP
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CurbJumper and BigGirl sog up to the Arctic Circle

We just got home a few days ago, so now it's time to relive everything by writing the report. We don't travel with computers or anything, so it all has to wait until we get home. No problem - nothing like going back over all the details once you're home. It's pretty necessary for me right now anyways because I'm still trying to get my head around the fact that I effing made it......
This was our trip of a lifetime: as soon as I actually started riding, my husband was like, 'We're going to Alaska.' Two years later and a few minor changes, and we were seriously planning a trip to the Arctic Circle. Our starting point was Bellingham, WA, so the trip in its entirety was actually feasible in the limited time we could take off from work (17 days).
Basic outline: Get into British Columbia, highways up to the Cassiar, the Al-Can, the Dempster, and then who-knows-where: we left our plan for getting home open to inspiration.
Our office and basement were staging areas for maps, lists, gear, you name it. Sort of wish I had taken a picture of the chaos that became our support system..... Anyways.
Few notes:
I've been riding for about 3 years now, on a BMW F650GS. My first bike, my only bike, she takes such good care of me.
My husband Ryan has been riding for 20 years or so, and this ride was on his BMW 1150GSA. It's one of several (I'm a very understanding wife, and I remind him of that every day )
Even though we planned for over a year, it always seemed so far off, and then suddenly we were leaving in 2 weeks. A last minute work trip had my husband scrambling to do all the maintenance in time, but luck was on our side and we got everything together. As the days kept passing, my apprehension grew. I should point out that our 'biggest' part of the trip was riding the Dempster Highway up to Inuvik. At the beginning of the summer, I had only been on gravel / dirt / not pavement about 3 times, never for longer than 2 minutes. Our entire summer was full of planned weekend camping trips on the forest service roads that we are so blessed with in this area, but because of rain, work, and random life surprises, I only really rode gravel about 3 times.


My first gravel: East Chewuch Rd to FR 37, in between Concunully and Winthrop, WA.



Random tidbit: was successful in trying out and falling in love with a camp chair that was light enough for the bike: say hello to the Monarch Elite Camp Chair - takes a bit of practice, but it's glorious!


So yeah, nervous about suddenly jumping on the Dempster.
Whatever - I can do this shit.



Day 1 : 55 miles; Bellingham, WA to Chiliwack, British Columbia
I know that might look like a joke, but we left after work on Thursday with the intention of just getting through the border so we could officially start the trip in the morning without having to deal with some stupid inspection.


All ready to go, looking so clean... for the moment.


So of course, what happens when you plan for the worst situation going through a border? Easiest crossing ever - the guy asked me if I had a gun, I said no, he said move along.


Day 2: 496 miles; Chiliwack, BC to Vanderhoof, BC
Today was a day to get some miles, so we were just on interstate. I will say this though - Highway 1 is freaking gorgeous. Maybe it was the lesser amount of vehicles or narrower road, but several times I almost forgot I was on interstate. Wtf am I saying - no I never forgot, I'm on a thumper! BUT I actually enjoyed part of it. The weather was great too, so it was pretty easy going. We found some random campground with nice bathrooms (always a plus), and were set to enjoy our first camp of the trip.

Our system usually involves unloading all of our stuff and then Ryan goes to get firewood

and beer

while I get the tent set up, get our water figured out, blah blah blah. I was hanging out in my amazing camp chair when the rain showed up. I was quite optimistic as the sprinkle continued for a while, but it eventually turned into full on rain. I set up our tarp as best I could and waited for Ryan to get back. When he returned we were able to use both bikes to get a better dry area with the tarp, and that's pretty much where we stayed all night. Ryan fought to start a fire, we stared at it as long as we could, and then the rain picked back up and kept up all night.

She's so happy in her natural habitat.....



I couldn't get a decent tarp set up until both bikes were there...



At least rain makes everything uber green!

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Nickywind screwed with this post 09-13-2011 at 07:02 AM Reason: forgot two pics...
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Old 09-06-2011, 09:32 PM   #2
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I really like your firewood and beer transport method. Sounds like a great trip.
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Old 09-07-2011, 10:24 PM   #3
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And more...

Day 3: 381 miles; Vanderhoof, BC to Stewart, BC
Morning was uneventful - cliff bars and via and we were off.
I'm going to digress here for a bit....
There are definitely two faces to motorcycling, as with most things: the good side and the bad side. There are the trips you have when things work out and you're exhilarated every day, and those that don't. I guess I'm lucky in that most of my trips have been on the good side. Don't get me wrong - I've dropped my bike, I've been cold, wet, hungry; but I'm usually an optimist and can see something good even in the worst of storms. I'm still sort of noobish, so if nothing else I see those situations as a learning experience. This day got even my optimistic ass down. Why? An entire day of feeling like I was totally being ripped off. For about 30 minutes in the morning we had good weather. I remember looking at the sky and thinking the clouds looked like rivers - like Bob Ross himself had stroked his paintbrushes in long zigzagging strokes all over the place. Then the rain set in. I have lived in the Pacific Northwest for 4 years now, and grew up in the Midwest. I am no stranger to thunder storms, rain storms, and constant rain. Stewart rain takes all prizes. The raindrops were the size of pennies, and unlike most rain, we couldn't ride our way out of it. Accompanying the rain was fog. Again, I'm no stranger to fog - I spend half my year in it. But this was low, thick fog that never changed consistency and never broke. If I was on some road at home, who cares, but this was supposed to be our trip of a lifetime - we were supposed to be seeing amazing views and I was looking forward to some serious cathartic speechlessness that I can really only seem to find on my bike. I did see bears, but only when they were on the road. Also a lot of bear shit, I might add. That old saying, 'Does a bear shit in the woods?' Actually no - they prefer the road. Riding past the glaciers was terrifying. It was raining so hard, then suddenly got so cold that I couldn't keep my faceshield from fogging. I tried riding with it open (I wear an Arai XD3 with goggles under the faceshield), but the combo rain and small hail was killing my face. So my compromise was to ride with it cracked about an inch, and every 15 seconds or so, I had to wipe out as much of the inside as I could. Normally, I'd say hey - great lesson in how quickly the elements can turn on you and how you have to adapt. But I was riding by GLACIERS and couldn't see shit! The fog was ridiculous and the RVs just seem to get stupider once they're around 'attractions.'
I guess I should stop bitching. We finally made it to Stewart and the Ripley Creek Inn. The guy at the counter was totally fine with the fact that Ryan and I were making ever-growing puddles every second that we stood in the lobby. The tourists behind us weren't so understanding - as if we could do anything about it. The room was great though - the entire thing was filled with our gear from the day along with our tent and camp stuff that was still wet from the night before. I managed to snap two pictures out of our window, and that was it.



The grass was so wet you really HAD to stay on the boardwalks. Would have been a nice place to stroll if the weather had been nicer.



We had dinner at the Bittercreek Cafe - great food, but pricey (everything in Canada is though). Fish portions were pretty small, but I had a chicken breast that was to die for. OK beer selection too, which was paramount that night.
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Old 09-08-2011, 08:30 PM   #4
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Day 4

Day 4: 246 miles; Stewart to Dease Lake
After talking to some locals about typical Stewart rain, we decided that staying an extra day to fully dry would be pointless. Apparently their rain starts and then continues (steadily) for about a week. Although we had planned on spending an entire day there to see Salmon Glacier, they were looking at 2 more days of rain, so it seemed pointless to stay. On our way out we were hoping for a break so we could at least stop at Bear Glacier - no such luck. It was raining so hard I didn't want to ruin my camera for the rest of the trip, and I was fighting fog again pretty bad.
After having a bit of a meltdown in my helmet, I decided to quit being so negative and figure out a way to enjoy myself. I spent the next 30 minutes figuring out precisely which angle at which to hold my head so my cracked visor would allow in enough air to prevent fogging while maximizing the amount of my face that was still protected from the rain.
Suddenly all the oncoming traffic started flashing their lights at us - never good. Then we started seeing 'Road Flooded' and 'Water Over Roadway' signs. But hey - maybe it was just in one lane, maybe it was nothing.... then we saw it - no such luck. Both lanes were covered and you could see movement in the water. Whatever - I can do this shit. I slowed way down to watch Ryan's line and give myself time to correct (or stop) if necessary. The wake he left was massive, but his line stayed steady, so I followed. I am not exaggerating at all here - the water was easily 12 inches deep, but probably closer to 18. I just remember feeling the water hitting my shins and holding on for dear life. I said a prayer for CJ and plowed through. Suddenly I was exhilarated again. Not like crossing the rivers in LWR or anything but it still felt significant. Spirits lifted a bit, we continued on, and I was convinced things had to get better. Then out of nowhere the rain stopped and the sky lightened a bit. Never an official break in the clouds, but enough that I started screaming the lyrics to 'Good Day Sunshine' in my helmet (another reason I don't want helmet comms with Ryan). By the time we stopped for lunch I was freezing, but starting to dry off so I didn't really care.



We stopped at The Tatogga Lodge for lunch. Let me just say that the burger I had there is one of the top 5 I have ever eaten! After lunch we ended up talking with a guy that worked there. He gave us some info on the roads ahead and about some of the towns that we were going to ride through. Meeting people is one of my favorite things about motorbike trips - I feel like people are so much more willing to talk to you and give you good local info once they know you're on a bike.



I was pretty excited for our moment of blue in our day of grey. Lots of minor construction on the roads with sporadic gravel patches - one of which I hit and held 60 mph on so that was a first. The Dempster was still looming in the back of my mind, so every second that I was successful on gravel was a minute affirmation that I could make it.



We stopped for the night at The Arctic Divide Inn & Motel in Dease Lake. Great place, nice people. Ryan was checking the bikes at night and discovered that my counter shaft sprocket was loose - WTF?! Ryan had never seen a counter shaft sprocket nut back off - it usually takes a lot of force just to loosen it. Whatever - challenge accepted. In the midst of parking lot maintenance, we met Mike - he was also staying in the Inn and offered us the use of any tool he had in his truck. He travels between Alaska and the US quite often, and is one of those guys that has pretty much any tool you could ever need all packed into his truck box (it was really nice to use full size tools instead of compact ones). Great guy and great conversation. Turns out he was traveling on the Cassiar for a while too, so we ended up running into him along the way for the next 2 days.
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Old 09-09-2011, 07:55 AM   #5
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Old 09-09-2011, 09:06 AM   #6
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Can I ask what jackets you were using and if they kept you dry?
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Old 09-11-2011, 08:19 AM   #7
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Jackets

Quote:
Originally Posted by GO_OUTSIDE! View Post
Can I ask what jackets you were using and if they kept you dry?
I was wearing the BMW Rallye 2 Pro jacket with Gore Tex liner, and Ryan wore the Klim Traverse jacket. We both stayed dry through everything. I had a minor stupid moment and forgot to tuck my glove cuffs IN the the jacket and my hands got wet, but that was noob operator error , not gear failure.
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Old 09-11-2011, 11:59 AM   #8
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Thanks for sharing...

I'm enjoying your writing style. There's something about your perspective that stands out! Honest, funny, and not predictable at all.
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Old 09-11-2011, 09:21 PM   #9
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yo big girl.... we are following your trip... my wife is three years into riding and has a 03 BMW 650GS. We did a southern route to AZ and back with as much back roads as we can. She has also done the Lolo trail and multiple routes in the Blue Mountains)...Anyway her challenges are being short in the inseam and not enough confidence in her riding ability (on our AZ trip she went down, one time over the bars, riding in the desert, SHE HATES SAND!)... anyway 2012 is our year for going to the top of the World and it is my hope she takes on your "git er done" attitude. We will be leaving from the dry side of Washington. Hopefully you share essential equipment (we were just tonight talking about different gear to take on the rain and cold)... so anyway... excited to see the rest of your trip.. also I LOVE your writing style.
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Old 09-12-2011, 05:16 AM   #10
GO_OUTSIDE!
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Glad you had a great trip and thanks for the info.
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Old 09-12-2011, 08:11 AM   #11
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Thanks

Thanks for the comments. I wonder sometimes if I sound like I complain too much, but that's just how the beginning of the trip was - it gets better as it goes along, I promise ....

Phoenix - like your wife, my confidence is probably the biggest challenge I have as well. Are you headed to the top of the world highway? We really wanted to, but some mechanical problems had us stuck in Whithorse for a couple days and then time restraints wouldn't allow us to go back up. I hope you guys have a great trip - and I really think there is something to say for determination.
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Old 09-12-2011, 08:33 AM   #12
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Day 5

Day 5: 415 miles; Dease Lake to Whitehorse

The day started off great - spots of rain, but equal spots of gorgeous clouds and really neat looking fog.
Our first stop found us at Jade City.



Looking forward...



Looking back...





Ryan's first impulse was to check my bike; nut was loose again. F! The only thing we could really do was hope to get to Whitehorse and find a shop where we could get it torqued down properly. Ryan went inside to see if the owner knew of any shops, and he (Robin) was ridiculously helpful - he pulled out a map and showed us the two different shops he knew of. So we headed back outside, started putting our gear on, and the Robin comes running out to see what exactly we need. Ryan explained the situation and Robin immediately offered to torque the nut with his impact wrench! Rode the bike into his shop, he torqued it down, talked for a bit, and then off we were! Did I mention how nice he was? I got to walk around their shop for a bit - their family mines all of their own jade and it's carved on site - pretty amazing.



We ended up crossing paths with a couple fellow riders from Seattle who were also heading north - one of which was on a newer version of my bike. He was awesome enough to let us look at his counter shaft sprocket so we could see just how bad mine was - Robin had already solved the loose nut problem, and the newer 650 also had a bit of lateral movement like me. We decided that meant CJ was great and no need to get her looked at in Whitehorse (or me AND a fellow 650 rider would be walking to Whitehorse).
The rest of the ride that day was pretty uneventful - got to Whitehorse and had cell reception for the first time in 5 days. I checked on our dog, let my parents know we were still alive, and then the phone was back off again (one of the best parts about this trip!). We had dinner at 'The Deck,' and started to fall in love with Yukon Brewing Co.


This mounty is holding a hockey stick - interesting advertising gimick. We saw a bunch of Royal Canadian Mounted Police while were out and about in Canada, but they all looked like normal cops - none of these flashy fellows!
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Old 09-12-2011, 10:18 AM   #13
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Yukon Red and lead dog Liking the trip so far

Did you try the midnight sun, now there's a beer that's an acquired taste espresso stout
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Old 09-12-2011, 02:20 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rc mad View Post
Yukon Red and lead dog Liking the trip so far

Did you try the midnight sun, now there's a beer that's an acquired taste espresso stout
My husband is all about the stouts, but I like to drink my beer, not chew it . Their red is fantastic - reminds me of Stone Brewing's Arrogant Bastard Ale, which has near holy-status in our house.
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Old 09-12-2011, 03:46 PM   #15
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Nice!!
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