|03-16-2012, 03:35 PM||#31|
Joined: Jan 2007
Alaskan Highway, part 1
The Alaska Highway was built back in the 40s as a route to get American stuff to Alaska through Canada. It starts in the south at Dawson Creek, where there is a nice large sign (two, actually) for pictures, and runs north to a place called Delta junction where there are two gas stations and a campground. Well, and a decent place to eat, to be honest.
I had mixed feelings about Dawson Creek and the sign, so when a local told me the road sucked and I needed to ride through the Peace River Valley, I was immediately interested. When I found out the Peace River was going to be dammed, and the valley was going away forever, I decided I had my route.
The extra day in Prince George meant I had excellent weather as I headed north.
The river had some nice views too.
I passed through the town of Chetwynd, which was the last gas for a while and the lines were very long. Luck for me they were mostly big RV's and Semis, so I just filtered in to a free pump that was being blocked. Once the fueling was done I took a moment to look at Chetwynd's civic art.
There were these wooden cravings all over the place.
Back on the road, I entered the valley proper. I knew I was there because of all the “Save the Peace River Valley” signs.
I could see their point.
I camped near Charlie Lake, then got onto the ALCAN proper the next day. At my first fuel stop I met this guy -
Jeremy, from the Isle of Man. He shipped the bike to New York, and rode across Canada to Dawson Creek. I had seen his bike back in Banff, but hadn't thought about it much. Little did either of us know that we would be seeing each other all the way south. (I guess those VFR's aren't actually all that fast, since Curiosity could keep up).
I met these people and their totally awesome retro RV
I got a brief tour and learned the owner had 4 or 5, which he used to keep one running. He was with his wife and sister-in-law, and despite that seemed to be have a really good time. So much so that I met them again about 30 minutes out of town. He had forgotten to get gas and had run out. The mounties were already on the way with gas.
One thing about the ALCAN, it really is the only road. Since everyone travels at different speeds, sometimes you need people once, and sometimes you keep running into them over and over. These RVer's I did run into again, further north. The Mounties had brought 5 gallons of gas for their RV, which got them half way back to town. Another trip was needed. If there was a cost he didn't tell me.
That is Stone Mountain, where I was headed. The road went not quite over it, and I had heard there was camping at the top. This turned out to be less than perfect, since it was also cold at the top (it was August, and it wasn't supposed to be cold as far as I was concerned). I ended up passing on the mountain top view, and went down the far side to a place called Toad River.
No, there weren't any toads. It was a swallow place in the river that require boats to be pulled along with ropes from the shore. It seems the locals at the time had some spelling issues. At least, that is what the article in the menu of the lodge said.
Toad river was typical of a town on the ALCAN. There was somewhere to camp, gas, a small store, a couple of buildings. The larger ones had an airstrip. Since turning onto the road I had been on chipseal, tar with gravel pressed into it. I saw a couple of cars and trucks a day, and the distance between fuel stops was around 100-150 miles.
And it was all amazingly beautiful.
Back on the road and headed North and West, it was getting cooler, especially at night, but the days were still perfect.
I set my destination for the day as Watson Lake, which was only a short ride. I felt like I had been pushing myself and the bike too hard the last few days, partly stunned at how big Canada was. I could ride for hours and it seemed like I hadn't moved on the map at all, which can be a little depressing. So, the short day. Oh, and Watson Lake does have something else to attract attention -
I went to the visitor center to ask about camping and eating choices. While the ladies there were more than happy to suggest a campground, they wouldn't give any hints on where to eat. I was a little annoyed by this, but got over it when they gave me detailed fuel locations for the two routes north from Watson Lake. I had been thinking about the Robert Campbell Highway, but the fuel stop I had on my map had, in fact, closed. That meant I would be just about on fumes before reaching the next fuel stop unless I packed extra fuel.
At the campground they immediately directed to a restaurant which had excellent food. They were also able to tell me the places that sold gas cans, but as it turned out the smallest I could get was 3 gallons. That was more gas than I carried in my tank, and the can was so big there wasn't a good place to secure it on the bike. So I decided to stay on the ALCAN. Then I spend some time in the signpost forest.
In the morning I packed back up and got back on the road. Alaska was still far away.
|03-20-2012, 12:33 PM||#32|
Joined: Jan 2007
Whitehorse, Dawson, and Top of the World
I left Watson Lake still heading north on the Alaskan Highway. There was road art of a sort
words on the side of the road.
The views were nice too.
When I got to Whitehorse I headed right to the visitor's center to ask about camping options.
There were only a couple, and they suggested Robert Service, which was more of a tent hostal than campground. And there was a housing shortage in Whitehorse when I was there, so the campground was almost full with long term residents. They had all the good campsites too.
The Whitehorse visitor center wasn't afraid to recommend somewhere to eat, and when I got there I ran into Jeremy (VFR, Isle of Man) again. He was in town looking for a new tire. I needed an oil change, but I was going to the Yamaha dealer, and he was planning on the Honda shop, so we had dinner than said we would see each other later.
The next morning I rode over to the Yamaha dealer and asked if I could do my own oil change, if I bought their oil and paid an environmental fee for disposing the old oil. The guys there just laughed, surprised I wasn't just going to dump the oil somewhere. I didn't think about it until later, but I have to hope they didn't just dump the oil somewhere themselves.
I did make a bit of a mess on the cement, which bothered me but no one else. Jeremy showed up, the Honda dealer didn't have a tire for his VFR (which really isn't their fault – how many VFR's are going to Alaska?). The Yamaha place did, and stopped other work in the shop to get his bike sorted. We also got coffee, cookies, little folding knives, and free internet. Nice place, if you are in the area and need something.
With the bike sorted I got lunch
then went to look at a paddlewheeler-turned-museum, the Klondike
It was the last paddlewheeler to work the Yukon river, and the biggest. I took the walking tour.
After dinner in the campground and another night sleep I was back on road. The Alaskan Highway kept heading to Fairbanks. That was the direction Jeremy was headed, but I wanted to go to Dawson City and the Top of the World Highway.
On the road north, the Klondike Highway, the weather turned against me. Cold and rain. I stopped in the city (store, hotel, gas station and a couple houses) of Carmaks for fuel and to warm up. There were a couple of fellow American's headed south after a speed run up the Dempster. They apparently did it in a day, which is impressive and didn't sound like much fun. Once I was ready to go, the bike was dead.
I decided this was the bike telling me to stop, so I got a room in the hotel, took a long hot shower, then poked around to try and figure out what happened with the bike. This didn't really work. After bump starting the bike ran fine, the right amount of power going to the battery, the battery seemed to be holding the charge. I had turned on my heated liner on the road to Carmaks, and thought something was wrong there, but it was still charging even with the liner turned all the way up.
With a mental shrug I spent some time online, eat an above average meal in the one restaurant, and went to sleep.
In the morning the bike needed to be bump started, but after running for a while it was fine again. And the weather was much nicer.
I can understand the charm of Dawson, with wooden sidewalks and dirt streets, fascades on some of the buildings, it does a much better job of capturing the feel of a rugged frontier town than the ones in the lower 48 like Dodge City. It was small too. There was no bridge over the river, so you had to take a ferry to cross, and all the tent-friendly camping was on the other side. So I was off to the boat.
At least it was free.
There were two camping options, private and public. The Private campground, a tent hostal, claimed wifi and hot showers for $2 more, so I went there. The wifi router was broken, and the hot showers were actually heat-the-water-yourself hot sponge baths. I was still tempted, but passed.
I did spend some time walking around Dawson. Unfortunately most of the stuff was closed. There was a museum still open and other odd sights to look at.
One hundred year old wall
Eventually I headed back across on the ferry and to my tent. The sun was setting very late, and I could still read outside at 1030pm. Still, falling asleep was easy enough.
The morning was chilly, but the sun was out and I was pretty sure it would warm up.
Top of the World Highway is entirely gravel, which is why Jeremy had passed on it. But the gravel is in excellent condition, at least on the Canadian side, and I made good time.
With lots of stops for pictures, of course.
I stopped for lunch in a small pull out
after after my spaghettios the bike was, again, dead. No idea why, again, and no convenient hill for bump starting. Still, I tried it a few times, then decided to flag down passersby until I got a jump.
A got a lot of people to stop, but no one actually had jumper cables. But eventually we all managed to get the bike running again with the help of some Australians, and I was back on the road, determined not to turn the bike off again until I got to Chicken, the night's destination.
Back in the USA. Cranky border guards ruined any joy and being 'home.'
One of Chicken's dozen or so buildings. If you get gas here, you get to camp for free. The pavement returned not long after Chicken, and it is a popular place to stop.
I camped with two other motorcyclists, and a bicyclist. The pedaler had a cracked rim, and was worried about how far he would have to go to get to Tok, the closest place he had a chance at a repair. It was only 70 miles or so, but that was pretty far for a bicycle.
In case you ever wonder why the place is called Chicken-
And the cafe had excellent food.
We made an earnest attempt to burn all the free firewood, then called it a night.
|03-22-2012, 01:25 PM||#33|
Joined: Jan 2007
Fairbanks and Way Up North stuff
I left Chicken headed towards Fairbanks. The gravel road ended and the pavement (chipseal) returned.
Curiosity was a little dirty, but not too bad. Since it looked like it was going to rain I decided to immortalize the dirt with a couple of pictures.
The rain didn't appear for hours, but the skies remained overcast and it was chilly. Not the best riding weather, but I was in Alaska.
My plan was to get to Fairbanks, find a hotel for two nights, and try to ride up to the Arctic Circle without all my luggage. I got to town and went to the visitor center. There I found out all the hotels were full. Tour groups arrive in Fairbanks on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and they fill all the hotels on those days. After a while I asked about the University of Alaska Dorms, which I had heard allowed people to stay when school wasn't in session. I didn't know when school started, but a phone call found out there was one night left. Not ideal, but I took it and headed over. It was a dorm room, reminded me of college, and not really the good parts. But free internet and laundry, so I have to recommend it, if you are there at the right time.
With the first night's lodging secured I asked around about night number 2. All the hotels were open now, and I found the super 8 was more than happy to watch my luggage during the day.
With all that out of the way, I settled in to back up some pictures online and sleep.
In the morning I adjusted the valves in the dorm parking lot. Students could start moving in later in the day, so they were eager to get rid of me. I found the connection to my heated gear was worn and grounding to the frame. I figured this was the cause for the battery issues, and I even had a spare.
I checked out of the dorm and went to the Super 8. I checked in, sort of, and dumped my stuff, then went next door for breakfast. I had actually made something at the dorm, but couldn't resist when I saw the sign
After this I finally hit the road.
It had been raining the past few days, which is bad news for trying to get to the arctic circle, but Curiosity was light and even with road tires I was feeling pretty confident.
I actually rode into a cloud a few times, which was cool,
But eventually the pavement went away again and I was riding on mud. Worse, my spare gas can fell off and got a hole, which meant I was going to be pushing my max range again.
Finally I gave up and headed back to fairbanks. I was starting to get really concerned about hurting myself or the bike in a fall, and I had a long way to go. It didn't seem worth it for a picture of a sign.
I got back to Fairbanks and took a shower. My riding stuff, and Curiosity, was covered in mud. I brushed some of it off, but figured it added character. Even though I hadn't made it to the Arctic, it was still late in the day by the time I got back to the hotel and I ended up just making dinner.
The next morning was bright and sunny, mocking me a little I thought. The general plan was to ride to Denali National Park, but I had seen one of those little pamphlets in the hotel that I wanted to investigate- an auto museum. I didn't really expect much of anything, but the ride was going to be short and I thought it would be a fun way to kill an hour or so.
The building looks like a warehouse, and is in the parking lot of a hotel. It was even a little tricky to get too, despite the map on the pamphlet. But inside it was awesome.
Not the largest collection, but one of the staffers pointed out every car has been selected based on something unique about that particular model. There isn't the lines of gradual changes, but dramatic and amazing innovations, some of which caught on, and some that didn't.
A direct friction drive, for example.
A woman's car, with the driver in the back and the seats arranged so everyone faced each other...so it was easier to chat. This car, a 1912 Rauch and Lang, was electric as well. So the motor didn't have to be shouted over.
I took a couple of hundred pictures, and spent hours and hours there. If you are in Fairbanks I would highly recommend it...they only have one motorcycle but that isn't the point, it was like a shrine to mechanical movement.
But staying another night in Fairbanks wasn't going to work, so I got on the road heading south. I would be heading south for months, so I thought I better get used to it.
The day was warm and pleasant. It wasn't far until I reached Denali.
I got a campsite, but was told I had to park somewhere else (about a half hour walk from the camping area). I did think about putting Curiosity into the tent and hiding it there, but decided to be a good, law abiding sort and just unpacked it.
The walk back was actually nice.
|03-30-2012, 10:25 AM||#34|
Joined: Jan 2007
Denali and Anchorage
Denali was cold. I don't know it was altitude or the approaching winter, but I woke around 3am, curled up in the bottom of my sleeping bag. I was already in my thermals, so I added another pair of socks and tried to get back to sleep with poor results.
As dawn crept in I realized I could see it through hundreds of little holes in my sleeping bag. My bag was twenty years old, I used it when I was in boy scouts. But I don't recall ever being cold before. I had woke up chilled a few times, but this night was different. And my water froze.
I had wanted to be at the visitor's center around eight. You can't ride into the park, but have to take a bus. They leave on a schedule, and to get deep into the park you have to leave early. But I was defeated by the chill and didn't really stir from the depths of my bag until after ten. I wasn't sleeping, I just couldn't get warm. Even tea (with water from the restroom, since mine was still ice) didn't help. I did find some compatriots in my misery with others filling small pots and kettles from the sinks.
Once the sun had gotten some warmth into the day, and into me, I got up and walked over to the visitor center. There I found out the night had been below freezing, and the next night was going to be the same.
I spent some time in the visitor's center with Blue. He didn't complain about the cold at all.
I didn't know it yet, but this would be the only bull moose I saw the whole trip.
After a warm lunch I decided to wimp out and head for Anchorage. It wasn't far, and once there I could replace my sleeping bag. I hadn't much liked being cold. So I rode Curiosity back to my site and packed up, then hit the road heading south.
If any of you are looking for a new business venture up north (way up north) I found this -
An igloo hotel. I might have been tempted to stay there, if it had been open. At least it was getting warmer as I got closer to Anchorage.
Once in town I headed for the Harley Davidson dealer. They offer free camping for riders, and that includes showers and coffee. I passed on the coffee, but the shower was nice. Anchorage also has an REI (which shouldn't be a surprise), where I hoped to find a replacement sleeping bag.
After my tent was up I rode over to the REI and looked at what they had in stock. I intended to spend the night researching which bag I should be getting from the available models and getting one the next day. I was also tempted by smaller tents. The Nomad really was comfortable, but it was also huge. I mean, really huge.
After browsing for a while I headed for dinner. I had gotten a couple of suggestions on where to go, and one was right across the street from where I camped, so I went there. It had a standard up north décor.
In the morning I did an oil change with the help of the Harley Dealer
I wonder if this will make Curiosity louder? More of a rumble?
I adjusted the valves too, then headed out for some shopping. I had ridden past Alaska Leather on the way to REI, but it was closed then. Today it was open and I stopped to get a replacement strap for my seat pad, which had stopped be elastic a long time ago. After looking at my pad the ladies in the store immediately recommended a replacement. I guess they do wear out over time and miles.
Blue liked the new pad much better.
And, of course, he was a hit with the ladies.
After I pried him away we went to REI and got a Lost Ranger Big Agnes bag, which also meant a new sleeping bad, since Big Agnes designs their pads and bags as a unit. My old sleeping bag and air mattress I shipped home, and the compressor I had been using with the airmattress I gave to another rider camping at the Harley dealer who was blowing his up with his mouth.
With the shopping done I wandered around Anchorage for a while, eating lunch at Bear Tooth theatrepub and grill, another recommended spot. It wasn't cheap, but was good. I wasn't interested in either of the movies that were playing.
After lunch I wandered around Anchorages museum, which had an excellent Mammoth exhibit.
Blue says he is related to this guy so I needed to be nicer. I had my doubts.
After the museum I headed back to the campsite and made myself dinner. As the sun set I crawled into my new bag.
When I woke in the morning I was amazed at the difference. I hadn't felt so rested in the morning in weeks, and it opened my eyes to the fact I was probably always cold at night when I was sleeping and Denali was just worse. Even the rain in the morning didn't hurt my spirits.
I packed up my stuff and headed for my next location. Anchorage was nice, and free camping always good, but I was ready to get out of the city and head back into the woods. I was headed for the Kenai.
|12-11-2012, 09:52 AM||#35|
Por La Tierra
Joined: Mar 2012
Location: Madrid, the coolest city on the planet.
Where ya at?
I was digging the report. I just bought an early 80s SR250 and Ive taken a few small trips on it. I love it, ive had a few 650s in the past but I think this thing is my new favorite touring bike. Will you be continuing the report? How far did you make it? I want more!
Bellingham to Brazil (eventually)
|12-17-2012, 04:33 PM||#36|
Joined: Jan 2007
I did write more, on other forums which had more activity. Everything got all busy and stuff. I will find more of the posts and add them on, just give me some time.
|12-18-2012, 08:16 AM||#37|
Joined: Jul 2009
Location: Canoodia, eh?
Please post some more! As a fellow Paramedic, who has done his fair share of Interfacility, Hospice and Heart Wrenching calls, I can certainly understand why you took off to follow your dreams. While I can't do it myself at the present time, I thoroughly enjoyed your posts. I hope to see some more...
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