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Old 09-09-2005, 01:59 PM   #31
worldrider OP
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Onward to Watson Lake

Hey Guys - Sorry for the delay in the latest travelogue posts here, but I'll update quite a bit over the weekend. Enjoy the reading! And send me a note or comments here. Love to hear from you. Will be headed down baja next week!
------ allan


--------------------
Onward To Watson Lake

My phone rings. It's George at Trail's End BMW in Fairbanks returning my call. I called George at Trail's End BMW this morning and inquired if I could use his shop as a shipping address for my computer coming from Apple.

"Now read it back to me," George insisted after giving me his address. "No that's two one two," interrupting me as I was following orders. "Now, when's it going to be here? Wedinesay?"

"No, George, I think it'll get there Monday." I assured him.

"Well, okay. I'll hold it here until you arrive."

Feeling comfortable about my next three days riding the Alaskan Highway, or Alcan as it's also known, I woke up the next morning with plans to make it to Watson Lake by evening.


To Watson Lake



With an early start I was more than anxious to get out of that dump of a motel which quite possibly is a haven for drug dealing Alaskan Highway workers, travelers or transients. I just don't know.

THe ride out of Fort St. John going North slowly climbs and transcends from boreal forest to more mountainous. It starts getting nippy and I try to bear the cold with the gear I ahve on because every second counts. It's funny how I'll put myself through some unbearable pain just because I'm too lazy to stop or simply I don't want to lose time since now I've set myself an appointment to meet George at Trail's End BMW to claim my computer before the cose of business on Monday.

I spot a couple motorcycles pulled off at a gas station/general store and decide that I gotta get my winter gloves and consider another layer.

"I rode it about five years ago," Gene admitted, as he was hard-wiring an electric vest connection to his friends Suzuki. Tall and stocky with salt and pepper hair Gene rode with his friend Dave from Minnesota. I pulled my electric vest out of my dry bag.

Gene was riding a BMW RT1100 and Dave on a Suzuki TDM 850. We exchanged topics of motorcycle, gear, accessories and the road ahead when I looked down at Dave's rear tire.

"You might want to pick up a new tire when you get to Anchorage," I said concerned by the lack of tread. You're not going to make it back to Minnesota on that.

Dave looked at this tire and contemplated the thought. "We'll see," he said.

These guys were on a tight schedule and they said they hoped to make it to Whitehorse or the border by that evening. I ran the calculation through my head and figured that would be anywhere from 750 to 1,100 miles or more.

"You guys are on a much more agressive schedule than me. I take my time, take pictures and take in the experience." I explain my riding philosopohy.

Some riders calculate the success of their ride by the number of miles covered. And while there are some areas where it's best to let the miles tick by so that you can get to the part of the ride you wish to slow down and enjoy. But we're sitting at the most scenic part of the wilderness area that surrounds the Alaskan Highway. I hoped to get to Watson Lake which at nearly 600 miles was already a bit agressive for my riding.

Already new friends I bid them farewell figuring I'd see them on the road North somewhere.





With my electric vest on and connected I figured best to fill the tank with gas and do a quick restroom pit stop before riding North. With my business done I threw my leg over the motorcycle and did a quick check. That's when I realized my wallet was missing. You're probably thinking this trip is about Allan's absent mindedness. But fearing full panick I carefully checked all my pockets, the ground beneath the bike and on top of the luggage. Nothing.

Perhaps I left it at the counter inside. I hobbled my way back into the store. No luck. Then I cruised into the bathroom. I looked by the sink, on the floor. Nothing.

Then I looked into the toilet. Floating proud and clean was my wallet. Good god. I had paid for my gas and used the bathroom while wearing my helmet. In my panicked 'look for my wallet' state I removed the helmet and that's when I discovered my wallet as a floaty in the john.

I do have a set place for the wallet. But sometimes it hangs a out a bit so I have to be careful to make sure the velcro clsoures on my jacket secure the wallet in place. This time I was a bit lax.

With all my receipts, cash, credit cards and idea soaking wet, I quickly pulled the important papers out and set them in a mash bag to dry as I rode north.

Yeah. Like that did any good. Just a few miles up and the rain started coming down. And down.

Stats:
Fort St. John, BC to Watson Lake, YT

Moving Average: 56.4 mph
maximum Speed: 81.6 mph
Moving Time: 9:48:15
Miles Traveled: 552.9
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Old 09-10-2005, 10:23 AM   #32
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Late Nights In Watson Lake

Late Nights In Watson Lake

Committed to making it to Watson Lake I blew through the town of Fort Nelson stopping only for refueling. Happy to be adorning my electric vest, I looked at the map and quickly realized that I had another 325 miles to Watson Lake.

But here's where the riding got better. Just a few hours from the legendary Yukon Territory (YT), I was graced with majestic views of the Northern Canadian Rockies with its mountain peaks, glacier lakes, mountain streams and provincial park after provincial park I soon found myself scooting along the legendary Liard River. I have to admit that riding past Summit Lake, Muncho Lake and the Liard River Hot Springs I was blown away by the vast wilderness, and scenery straight out of a picture book. With the bike riding smooth and a nice pace, my long journey to Watson Lake was rewarding and exciting.

The brooding clouds created drama and accentuated the massive peaks of the northern Rockies. The rain kept hammering me though. Rain, rain and more rain.





But I was rewarded once again by wildlife roaming the rocky cliffs of Summit Lake. Stone sheep practically fearless roaming the highway and as I made the last stretch toward Watson Lake a massive herd of buffalo including one of the biggest bulls I'd ever seen just huddled together on both sides of the road just North of Muncho Lake. Even with the rain that peppered my ride and caused a bit of anxiety, just hanging out with the goats, elk and buffalo made the trip worthwhile. I could turn around now. But I won't.

When I arrived in Watson Lake after nearly twelve hours and 552.9 miles I was dismayed when the restaurant staff told me they ran out of food. I had already unpacked my bike, adorned myself in civilian clothes and exchanged my thigh high boots for casual shoes. "You should go to the Watson Lake Hotel, they've got a barbecue special tonight," the waitress strongly urged.

Great. The last thing I want to do is hop back on that motorcycle and ride to another hotel for a beer and dinner. I contemplated calling a taxi but resolved my insane thinking and rode to the hotel.

Halfway into my beer and dinner an estranged motorcyclists walks in. It's Dave, the guy with the Suzuki I met just north of Fort St. John. He tells me that he and Gene had pulled over just north of town to get out of the downpour that I caught myself in and upon returning to their bikes realized that his rear tire had worn all the way through to the threads and belt. If it weren't for the rain this guy might have tried to go on to Whitehorse risking a disastrous chance of a blow out.Dave laments his bad tire.

"You were right about my tire," Dave said. "I can't go on and it's Saturday night in Watson Lake and the chances of finding a tire are practically none. Soon Gene shows up and it's all business. Either Gene will need to run to Whitehorse, find a tire and return. Or they wait until Monday and find a mechanic in town who can find a tire. Perhaps there's a junkyard in town where they could find a tire that would at least get them to Whitehorse that night or the next day.

I suggest finding someone to throw the bike on the back of a truck and getting a ride to Whitehorse. Soon Gene is at the local gas station and convinces a trucker to throw the bike on. He'll even take it to Anchorage. After finishing our beers the two went in search of tie downs and a plan to make it to Anchorage to find a dealer to install a new tire. They'd spend a few days in Anchorage and then turn around and head back to Minnesota.

I woke up the next morning wondering what happened to my new friends. I hope they made it to Alaska and home safely.

Photos: (1) Buffalo roaming Alcan south of Watson Lake, YT; (2) Brooding skies packed big rain for me today. (3) Dave contemplating rubber deficiencies and getting to Anchorage; (4) Legendary Gene from Minn. quick to solve problems and find a truck to haul Dave's bike north.
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Old 09-10-2005, 05:54 PM   #33
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Welcome To The Yukon





I've never been so moved by natural scenery in my life, but as I followed the road to Beaver Creek with the massive Southwestern Yukon Mountain Range that creates the border for the massive Kluane National Park.

Less than an hour outside Haines Junction I climbed a long hill and when I reached the top the sun beamed down columns of light through the light grey clouds that hung tight to the mountain peaks and lit up the stage of Kluane Lake. I had to lock up the tires, pull to the side of the road and gape in wonder. The shining shafts of light streamed through the clouds and created patches of deep dark blue like a fresh coat of paint, shiny, wet and awe inspiring on the surface of this serene lake.

Named the UNESCO Heritage List in 1979, Kluane National Park in Yukon Territory Canada along with its adjacent neighbor in the United States, the Wrangell-St. Elias National Monument are recognized for the spectacular natural ecosystem, unique vegetation and wild animal population including the largest single concentration of Dall Sheep, grizzly bears and the largest non-polar icefield sitting proudly among the world's most spectacular glaciers.






I tried to capture this scene through the lens of my camera, but nothing could capture the feeling rushing through my body as I sat on my silent motorcycle at the top of this hill watching mother nature light up the most amazing natural stage I've ever seen. Soon I was shuddering in excitement as the peak of Mt. Logan, Canada's largest mountain towered above me amid a mass of snow-capped peaks.

I slowly putted around the lake being careful to pilot my bike around the cliffs that dropped steeply into the lake. As I moved toward the northern part of the lake and with the glaciers to my back I was greeted by the eastern mountains of this park glowing in the sun as it peaked out from behind the ominous clouds.

There are no roads into this massive wilderness park, but not only does the Alaskan Highway wind its way around the park, but next week I will ride along the southern perimeter of this park as I make my way to Haines to take the ferry to Prince Rupert.

I rode my way through the Northeastern wilderness area of Kluane and thanks to longer Yukon days managed to roll into the tiny, tiny settlement of White River Crossing just after 11pm as the last of the sunlight hid its face.

"Could I buy a beer," I asked wandering through the dark gift shop. I was sure I woke the woman, but when I guy needs to sleep, he needs to sleep. She showed me the showers, laundry and finally my meek cabin which had two beds, extra blankets a small refrigerator but no bathroom.

"Nope. Sorry we have no restaurant and don't sell beer. Where you coming from?"

"Watson Lake."

"Wow. That's a long ride."

As I performed the nightly ritual of unpacking the necessities for the evening the bike the woman returned with a cold can of Budweiser in her hand.

"Here," she said as she handed me the frosty can, "this one's on me."

Never was a can of Budweiser so tasty.

Stats:
Watson Lake, YT to White River Crossing, YT

Moving Average: 55.9 mph
Maximum Speed: 81.1 mph
Moving Time: 9:26:53
Miles Traveled: 528.2
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Old 09-10-2005, 07:02 PM   #34
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Motor on, Allan

I'm enjoying your trip
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Old 09-10-2005, 10:06 PM   #35
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Go Allan Go

I was starting to wonder where you were.

Those are stunning landscape pics. Makes you wonder what it would feel like to be there in person. I did a coast to coast in August, now your trip has me thinking about Alaska next summer.
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Old 09-12-2005, 10:50 AM   #36
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Here I Am!

Yeah. I'm out here...still! Just catching up on my journals. Glad you guys are enjoying the ride. Stay tuned. It's going to get REAL interesting...

The Alaskan and Yukon landscapes are truly breathtaking. As you can tell by the photos, the dramatic effect provided by the clouds frames the scenery just manfifiscently... smiles...
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Old 09-12-2005, 10:51 AM   #37
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Bugs, Daylight and RVs

It's time to chime in about a few perceptions, pet peeves and overall feelings I'm having as I make my way through the Great White North and into the Last Frontier.





First? Bugs. Yeah. Those pesky flying or otherwise space invading creatures that can make life very uncomfortable for a WorldRider (any motorcyclist actually). The romance of riding a motorcycle to so you can feel the ultimate freedom with the wind blowing in your face. Not happening here in BC, the Yukon or Alaska. I love to ride with the face shield of my helmet open. THe cool breeze makes me feel alive and the fresh air stimulates the senses. That is until a bug comes in between me and the wind. A bug hitting your cheek, forehead, nose or eye at 50mph feels like some just hurled a good sized pebble at your face. Ouch.

Resolving to keeping the face shield down except during those bouts with major scenery, every 100 miles or so I quickly become blinded by the smattering of dead bugs cemented to the face shield. xNothing less than an abrasive cleanser can bring the light back to my eyes. After a while I find myself pulling into gas stations and grabbing the windshield cleaner/squeegee and running across my helmet without taking it off.

Next? Size matters. Good god British Columbia is huge. After more than a thousand miles I wondered if I'd ever find the border. It seemed to go on and on and on and on. Bigger than California, Oregon and Washington combined British Columbia is relentless in its expanse. Love this place, but will it ever end?






Next? Daylight. Wow. I'm so happy for the extended hours of daylight. I can ride more than 500 miles, still have time for photo stops, conversations and relaxing and not worry about traveling at night. Doesn't get dark until midnight. Love this.

More? RVs and Trailers. God love the US and Canadian economy. With gas prices pushing more than $3 a gallon or $1.11 a liter (Canadian dollars) I'm continually amazed at the massive RVs pulling extra large SUVs - two gas guzzlers for those fossil fuel worshippers. It costs me about $!0 to fill up my motorcycle. My smile widens when the RV next to me is paying a few hundred -- and I wonder how far will that get him. British Columbia is huge, you know. I've met a number of RVing, fifth-wheeling and trailering travelers. For the most part they've been friendly, interested and cordial. I just could never travel that way. To each his/her own. But some of these drivers should be given a course in etiquette, common sense and smiling.






When I finally made it through British Columbia and The Yukon Territory I was poised and excited to take the ubiquitous photo of my motorcycle next to the "Welcome To Alaska" sign. With a bathroom, information kiosk, RV sized parking lot and a sign welcoming me to Alaska I was happy to find that I was the only person crossing the border at this time of day. I propped the bike, positioned it accordingly and proceeded to step away to take the aforementioned ubiquitous shot. With the sign and bike neatly framed in my viewfinder I was just ready to pull the trigger when this massive RV trailer thing pulls up and gets so close to my motorcycle he nearly grazes it as he pulls into the empty parking lot. But even worse, then he stops. Right there. Right next to my motorcycle. With my anxious head eager to trigger the shutter of my digital playmate, I'm flabbergasted as I watch the guy hop out of the RV with his wife and her yippee lapdog in town. She stands in front of the sign while the clueless goof (and that's being nice) barks directions to her. AFter more than 10 minutes he walks over to me and says "I hope I didn't get in your shot."

If I had a mean bone in my body I'm afraid what I might have done. I just let my thoughts do the damage and then rolled onward into the Last Frontier.
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Old 09-13-2005, 10:08 AM   #38
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Leaving Watson Lake (trying to)

Goodbye Watson

For the last two days I've been cruising my motorcycle across forests, muskeg, mountains and waterways on the Alaskan Highway -- also referred to as the Alcan. This road was built by two teams of U.S. Army engineers starting in both the North and the South on March 9, 1942. The road was built largely as a result of the Japanese occupation of the Aleutian Islands and designed to connect the Alaskan Territory with the lower 48 states. Two months later a small pilot road was open to Army vehicles and within a year a permanent all-weather road -- then called the Alcan Military Highway - was completed between Dawson Creek in British Columbia and Fairbanks Alaska. After the Canadian portion of the Alcan was handed over to CAnada in 1946, the Alaska highway was graded, widened and opened to unrestricted traffic in 1947.






The early days of the Alaskan Highway were legendary for the toll it took on those travelers brave enough to tackle it. Today, the road is largely paved and many of the crooked parts and to take on the Highway today is not such the task. However that doesn't discount the immense beauty, amazing wildlife and the vast wilderness that stretches for more than 1,500 miles to Fairbanks.

Leaving Watson Lake I got caught by a few fellow drivers outside the Gateway Motel looking to strike up conversation about the road and about my WorldRider journey. Then a quick tour of Watson Lake's infamous Signpost Forest. This is a massive collection of town signs - perhaps the largest collection in the world.






Apparently a G.I. on the crew responsible for building the great Alaskan Highway in 1942 was given the responsibility for repainting the road's directional sign. He added the direction and mileage to his hometown of Danville, Illinois. And since then more than 40,000 other signs have been added to the collection with town signs, license plates, posters, pie tins, gold-panning pans, mufflers, driftwood and even flywheels stating where the contributor is from and who he or she is. And the forest keeps growing.






"I really admire what you're doing," he said while gnawing on a toothpick. After fueling I took a brake to down a hot cup of coffee.

Then Dick Van Dyke approached me. "Do you work?" he asked curiously.

"This is my job," I replied with all seriousness. "I write, photograph and am an ambassador of good will."

Not the Dick Van Dyke famous from television's early days. Nope. This was Dick Van Dyke from Reno.

"That's really great... good for you."

Over the next 500 miles Dick and I would exchange smiles and waves as we both meandered down the Alcan. Driving a powerful pick up and carrying a "fifth wheel" trailer, I ran into him and his son at the Yukon River several hours later. Walking over to me with his camera he took a picture. "I gotta tell people what you're doing."

A mile or so outside of Watson Lake I realized I was riding without my earplugs. On the side of the road I pulled my helmet off and realized oil was running down the side of my tank, onto my panniers, pants and boots. You might want to call me the absent minded rider with the several bonehead moves I've made over the last week or so (wallet in toilet, broken foot, keys rattled off my ignition key ring, etc.) but this time must get the jackpot: I forgot to tighten the oil cap after checking the oil. Fortunately, I pulled over to put my earplugs in otherwise I might have ridden more miles and created more mess. Yet another delay trying to get out of Watson Lake.

Several hours later arriving in Whitehorse, the capital of the Yukon, I buzzed by the old riverboat the Klondike, toured the center of town, grabbed a quick espresso and filled up my tank. Compared to everything I experienced today, Whitehorse wasn't appealing to me. Just a town along the Yukon with tourist offices, restaurants, coffee shops and I'm certain a rich history. But I was focused on moving on to the more exciting Yukon and Alaskan experience. So onward to Haines Junction.

A Harley rider from Ohio packing up his gear outside my hotel room this morning warned me to "Watch the construction outside Haines Junction," I could sense the fear and anger in his voice. "It's real steep and they wet the roads. I told the flag girl I don't think I could make it. I just went real slow... she told me one or two bikes go down every day. The mud is two or three inches deep and it goes on for several miles."

I was apprehensive about this all day, but arriving after the construction crew had punched out for the day, the steep hill was still wet but I just waded through the mud and kept my speed and my nerves in check and at the end of the construction zone, I pulled over to gander at the vista unfolding before my eyes and to just relax and breathe. It wasn't that bad.

That is until I tried to start my motorcycle. You see I turned the bike off at the end of the long stretch of construction. But throughout the several miles of construction I had my electric vest on high, my heated hand grips cranked up and my PIAA auxiliary lights on and of course my GPS. And without the high RPMs of my motor my generator failed to deliver enough juice to my accessories that it started to drain the battery. Top that off with the fact when I hit the kill switch at the end of the construction I failed to turn the key off so for several minutes my accessories were rapidly draining the minute battery of my GS.

The solenoid just rapidly clicked. There was no juice to crank over the started. And the section of road before me was a slight incline. So I stood fifty miles from Haines Junction with a dead battery and a broken foot.

Just than Dick Van Dyke pulled up. "You okay?" I yelled to him my problem. He pulled ahead and he jumped out as I was just starting to paddle my motorcycle up the slight incline. The 60 + year old man from Reno got behind my bike and pushed me until I popped the clutch and engine purred. "I'll follow you to make sure you're okay."

We waved goodbye in Haines Junction as I pressed on toward Beaver Creek and Kluane National Park.
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Old 09-13-2005, 01:49 PM   #39
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This is getting really interesting.
Enjoying your trip!
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Old 09-13-2005, 04:59 PM   #40
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Quote:
Originally Posted by worldrider
Top that off with the fact when I hit the kill switch at the end of the construction I failed to turn the key off so for several minutes my accessories were rapidly draining the minute battery of my GS.
That's one reason I never use my kill switch. Emergency use only kids
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Old 09-14-2005, 02:49 PM   #41
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Pushing It In Delta.

Pushing It In Delta


"Gas?" the young lad yelled as he rode his John Deere lawnmower in my direction.

I was just 300 yards from the Texaco Station in Delta Junction when my bike puttered to a stop. And the only gas I carried at the time was some remaining white gas (camp stove fuel) for my MSR stove. I'm sure the Dakar would have run on this more refined fuel, but a good samaritan was cruising my way.

"Yeah. I almost made it," pointing to the Texaco station as I tried to hide my embarrassment. Just an hour earlier I blew through the town of Tok opting to test the fuel endurance of my bike than stop. You see, I needed to make it to Fairbanks before 5pm so I could connect with George at Trail's End BMW and pick up my computer.

Ezra, a tall skinny boy with reddish hair is the grounds keeper at the Delta Junction Visitor's Center. "I was in San Diego not long ago," he quipped after getting the download on me and where I rode in from. I stuffed a $10 in his hand.

Minutes later I was filling up at the Texaco.

"Just pump it in and pay," the native girl told the woman riding in the pick up truck toting a boat, boyfriend and his two children.

"Everywhere is different, I just never know," she tried to explain her motives and not appear too much a tourist.

"You're in Delta-- where we still trust people," said the man in the back of the store by the rotating hotdog cooker wearing a greasy mesh baseball cap and sporting a golf ball size of chew which protruded from his lower lip.

I jotted the mileage and fuel consumption when the woman complained to her boyfriend, "they ignore me. I asked if they wanted anything. They don't even look at me. I'll just get us something," she ran back into the station to pay for her fuel and grab soft drinks and snacks.

Separation and divorce is never easy on kids. Not easy on anyone. I feel for her -- and the kids.

But not my problem, which is simply getting to Fairbanks and finding George's place before he closes up for the evening.
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Old 09-15-2005, 11:45 AM   #42
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Trails End & Stormy Nights In Fairbanks

Trail's End & Stormy Nights In Fairbanks

I was so close. I could nearly taste the Yukon River and the biting cold of those infamous winters that put Fairbanks on the map as the coldest in the country in the deep dark winter. But with virtually endless daylight, I press on pass Eilson Air Force Base, the town of North Pole and finally Fairbanks. It's half-past four and I've got no clue where George's shop can be found. The street doesn't register on my GPS and the hotel clerk I asked didn't know.





The guy at the custom chopper shop pointed me in the right direction. "And if you need something simple done like an oil change, we'll do it for you." He looked the part, long untrimmed beard, big belly, black t-shirt and plenty of tatoos. "You know sometimes George just doesn't want to do oil changes, change tires or the other tedious stuff. No. I don't mean to take away any of his business, just if you get shut down, let me know. We'll help you out."

Riding down Westwood Way in Fairbanks you'd never expect to find a BMW dealer. Maybe you'd find your long lost missing uncle, Grizzly Adams or the loner from high school that disappeared just after graduation. But ride to the end of the narrow tree lined street with a few houses and a hostel and you'll come to a plastic BMW sign leaning against a wooden post that props up an aging mail box and a hand written sign on a broken piece of board with an arrow and the words "200 yards".







I pilot my bike past a barn with empty shipping cartons, old tires and a few motorcycles covered with canvas. A new maroon Royal Enfield sits toward the end of the drive at the intersection of path that leads to an house which seems to have been enlarged using some sort of mobile home as a bay window or room annex. My boots stomp up the three wooden steps and through the screen I see a man in his 60's, slightly disheveled and wearing a leather apron that sits slightly cockeyed around the rough leathery skin of his neck. He peers at me through his glasses as I pull the door open.






"Hey George, I think you're holding a Fed Ex package for me?" I scan the room. There's an old motorcycle with its rear wheel removed, its engine case balanced on a wooden box, piles of papers scattered throughout. Half-opened boxes and spare parts and debris seemingly strewn everywhere.

"Karl? Yeah, right here," we move into the annex and he looks through the dirty lenses of his glasses at a calendar hanging on the wall and points to my name. "Allan Karl. Yeah. You're right here. But I don't think anything came in today. Fed Ex would leave it here." His eyes roam the floor, he grabs a box with a UPS label. "Nope. Don't see anything."

We gather outside as I call for a tracking number. George disappears and returns with an envelope in his hand. "I like to use old junk mail to keep notes. When I'm done I throw it away." Judging by his yard and office, George never throws anything away. There's an old 50-something Dodge covered with moss, leaves and a tree growing through its bumper. A stack of empty plastic oil containers makes a nice mount on the side of the walking trail to his shop which sits about 200 feet deeper into the woods from his office.

"Here you are. Allan Karl." He reads my telephone number. Despite the cluttered and seeming unorganized appearance, George knows where everything is. Later in the day he returns with a BMW model update notice detailing the difference in specs between model years of my Dakar. But this doesn't look like your average BMW dealer. It looks more like a home mechanic's shop. A perfect Alaskan back yard garage where one could earn a few extra bucks moonlighting. A far cry from the clean, pristine, and BMW logo-clad merchandising of a typical BMW motorcycle dealer. But perhaps nobody knows more about BMW motorcycles, how to keep them running and the various engine designs over the last 40 years than George. I wish he wasn't so far away. He's the kind of mechanic long lost in the world of big business, profit margins and residual sales quotas. No, George has been selling and servicing BMW'S since 1961 -- years before BMW of North America existed. He tells me if he moves he must bring it up to BMW's latest dealer requirements. "And that's going to cost a lot," he assures me.

We learn that Apple shipped my computer via DHL and it didn't make it to Fairbanks overnight. It's on a truck from Anchorage and will be here tomorrow. George arranges for me to pick it up at the DHL office which sits on the outskirts of town just off the road that will take me to The Arctic Circle and to the top of the world -- Deadhorse in Prudhoe Bay.

A big GMC pickup comes rumbling down his dirt driveway. A tall man with straight salt and pepper hair steps out. He's looking for a battery for his motorcycle. There are three boxes sitting in the grass. "Those two are sold, but you can have that one if you like. It probably needs electrolyte, I'll have to check."

"I'll come back next week George, but I want that one," the man turns to me and asks, "where you from?"

"I'm sorry," he laments after I divulge my Southern California home.

"Actually, I'm homeless," I tell him, "I'm on a long trip and rented my home."

"I'm still sorry," he says. "But if you need a place to stay tonight you can stay with me. I've got a big house right down town with a spare bedroom, internet access and a cold beer... actually, if you stay, you bring the beer."

I follow Rick "Stormy" to his home downtown. I negotiate my bike through a narrow opening between a fence and his house and park it next to his new 1200 RS. "I know how it is being on the road on your motorcycle. You can stay here as long as you like. "

Over dinner Stormy tells me of his jaded past as a road racing motorcyclists (the fifth fastest in the world at the time), a line man for the power company, soldier during the Viet Nam War and a stint he spent in jail as a juvenile just turning 18. Then we hop in his big GMC and he takes me on a wildlife tour down Fairbanks infamous Chena Hot Springs Road.

As we race down the road at nearly 100mph he keeps rattling off the stories interrupted only by his constant spitting on the floor between his door and the front seat. "I'd love to stop chewing," he looks at me as we careen around the corner. I lift my arm to grab the wheel but he catches it before we go flying off the road into the wilderness. "But I just can't." Spit.

"You're lucky we're not in my Volvo," he comforts me, "it cruises nice at 145." Spit.

"I see moose out here all the time." Spit. He nearly locks the brakes and we come screaming to a stop and sure enough sitting in the wetland is a huge bull moose just picking his head up out of the water with green plant material falling from his massive antlers.

Spit. A beaver crosses the road. Then a porcupine. Spit. A couple more moose. It was amazed at how much wildlife we saw in just over an hour cruising up and down the road.

"I've had it with the lower 48," he tells me. "Never going back." He's got a great job with one of the big contractor's in the state, and like most Alaskan companies luring talent from the lower 48, he's well taken care of.

Stormy has been in Fairbanks for just over three months. The best three months out of any year. He hasn't spent a winter here, yet. "I'm not worried. It's fine. Just get your work done and take care of business." He makes it sound simpler than I'm sure it is.

The story unfolds further and he soon reveals other reasons he's in Fairbanks. And his honesty, commitment and heart are all in the right place. Spit.

Pondering my thoughts over a thank you note the next morning, I'm anxious to get on the road to Prudhoe. So I blow off visiting him at his job site and decide against spending a few days canoeing down any of the amazing rivers and streams that paint Alaska so picturesque any time of the year.

Spit.

Today's Ride Stats: White River Crossing, YT to Fairbanks, AK
Moving Average: 57.4 mph
Maximum Speed: 87.3 mph
Moving Time: 6:14:11
Total Miles: 358.1


Photos:

(1) Sign directing me to Fairbanks BMW dealer; (2) My 2005 Dakar road worn; (3) George proprietor of Trails End BMW since 1961; (4) My host in Fairbanks: Stormy
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Old 09-15-2005, 12:34 PM   #43
DoctorIt
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excellent story with some great photos. I'm in for this one!
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Old 09-15-2005, 01:30 PM   #44
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Me too, I totally agree.

I was up there in July, when George did my 18k service and put on a new rear TKC. Awesome guy and great mechanic. My bike left there running better than ever. I stayed at the hostel down the street while I negotiated with him to do the job on a Saturday! Never had so much fun getting a bike serviced.

Looking forward to more of your report...even thought you're guilting me as I haven't done one from my trip.
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Old 09-15-2005, 01:40 PM   #45
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George is da man...but he don't know shit about KTM's.
Glad to see the eld fella's doing well.
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Choose Life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family.
Choose a fucking big television.
Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing, spirit-crushing game shows,
stuffing fucking junk food into your mouth.
Choose rotting away at the end of it all, pishing your last in a miserable home,
nothing more than an embarrasment to the selfish, fucked up brats you spawned to replace yourself.
Choose your future. Choose life.
I chose not to choose life, I chose something else instead.
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