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Old 01-01-2015, 04:37 PM   #1
pwh OP
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Poor Decision Paul's Northern Tour

I know, I know. Plenty of dumb people have wandered from somewhere else to Alaska's Prudhoe Bay. It's not necessarily impressive, difficult, dangerous nor new. But like so many others before me, I had the itch to explore "America's Last Frontier."



Sometime in the spring of 2014, after a job site visit, while I was throwing back an absurd quantity of overpriced drinks at a company dinner in Indianapolis, I brazenly mentioned to one of my several bosses that I was thinking about riding to Alaska in the summer. He was actually my boss's boss, and we were part of a 4-wheeling group of dudes who had a Moab trip planned with some other co-workers for Memorial Day.

While the other bros were one-upping themselves with talk of guaranteed rig upgrades like Dana 60 axles, $2,000 LED lightbars and 37" tires, the Boss and I were discussing various aspects of my planned trip, including:

Handguns: "How are you going to outrun the Yukon bears without a Magnum .44?"

Bike selection: "You're going to ride that pussy crotch rocket all the way there?"

All of the Canadian weirdos, as featured on the various reality TV shows: "Seriously, you're not bringing a gun?"

And the celebrities: "What if one of Sarah Palin's family members knocks you out?"

Anyway, you get the idea. Lots of questions. I hadn't even really thought about much of the details. I just needed some time off from work.
It had been over a year since I had taken any sort of real trip (a 3 week bender of surfing, drinking, and crashing mopeds in Indonesia), and I had been stuck in my cubicle cage on the 9th floor of a dreary office building in Omaha.
When I say dreary, I mean that it closely resembled a Soviet-era government compound, complete with gray walls and ceilings, minimal windows (none visible from my dark closet corner), and fully stocked with nerds who had neither a sense of humor nor an appetite for alcohol.
I was clearly outnumbered and the entire situation was rapidly depleting my sanity.

Once I returned from Indy, I hypothetically lobbied the question to my other boss in mid-April.

Me: "Hey, uhh, do you think it would be OK if I took the month of June off?"

Boss: "How much PTO do you have? Wait, what for?"

Me: "I want to ride my bike to Alaska."

Boss: "Your bicycle? (Thinking I'm an idiot, but for other reasons) Sure, I don't care."

So for the next month at work, there was nothing else I could think about, except what kind of Keurig coffee I would drink (Starbuck's), how many cups I would drink each day before 10am (typically 8-12), what I would eat for lunch (meat of some sort), and the 4-wheeling trip I had scheduled for Memorial Day weekend in Moab, Utah (which, by the way, was awesome).



But anyways, back to the motorcycle:

I had originally wanted to ride my beloved 2006 Yamaha R6. It had taken me all over the West Coast (the Best Coast) and on a short 2,600 mile indirect trip from Portland to Omaha when I moved back in October.



Really, I loved that bike. Like the other 9 I had bought and promptly sold after riding the piss out of them for a year or 8 months or however long it took for me to rack up 20k miles and want something else.

But what better way to suppress the impending internal meltdown that comes with the realization that I'm about to be 30 years old, than to do something impulsive and buy a brand new motorcycle.



Again, I can hear the calls of disgrace bellowing. I don't give a shit. I bought it. I got it for a screaming deal from a mom-and-pop dirt bike dealership in Iowa. I had my girlfriend at the time drive me there to pick it up 2 days after putting down a deposit over the phone. We broke up immediately afterwards.

I rode it all over the cornfields of the hell-hole that is the MidWest.



I ignored the break-in schedule, constantly bounced the tach off the rev-limiter, did lots of shitty wheelies, changed the oil, added some shit that I probably didn't need, and counted down the days. I was like Charlie the night before he met Mr. Wonka.

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Old 01-01-2015, 04:44 PM   #2
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Again, I can hear the calls of disgrace bellowing. I don't give a shit. I bought it. I got it for a screaming deal from a mom-and-pop dirt bike dealership in Iowa. I had my girlfriend at the time drive me there to pick it up 2 days after putting down a deposit over the phone. We broke up immediately afterwards.



In
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Old 01-01-2015, 04:49 PM   #3
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Sounds like fun I'm subscribed.
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Old 01-01-2015, 04:52 PM   #4
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Old 01-01-2015, 05:07 PM   #5
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Day 1: Omaha, NE to Casper, WY. Friday, June 6th. 620 miles

Ready to Leave



Tent, sleeping bag, spare tire, gas can, tools, yee haw!



The day I left Nebraska. Also the first of many photos taken using the 10 second timer feature on my camera. My expression seems to lie between, “Is that homeless guy on the sidewalk going to run up and steal my camera?” and “Did I remember to take a poop?”

I have a great hatred for the interstate while riding motorcycles, so I tried to avoid them at all costs. Inevitably, I find myself on them at some point or another, be it making up time, meeting a girl at the bar, or trying to outrun the rain.



As I bee-lined my way across the terribly boring state enjoying the 85 sunshine, I actually wondered if I brought too much cold-weather clothing. That all changed around 2:30pm, as the temperature dropped to the mid 40s (verified by KTM's dashboard meteorologist) and the skies got ugly. I stopped to close all the vents in my suit and prepared for a light rain shower. Time to test out the new jacket.



Marble-sized hail, sideways rain, INSANE lightning: everything you could wish for from a good ‘ol Great Plains summer storm. My raisin hands are the only proof I even got wet, but when I stopped in the gas station to dry off, no one could believe I had just ridden through the first tornado of the season. I hadn’t seen any twisters, but admittedly I was more concerned about getting blown off the road, becoming a human lightning rod, avoiding the standing water that had turned Highway 20 into a river and staying away from the semi-truck wake zones. This was also when I realized that the electric heated grips I installed on my handlebars would turn out to be one of the best investments I've ever made.



These old guys apparently hang out at the local gas station. They were pretty funny.

“You mean ta tell meh, that you done rode dat ther thang, in this here weather? Dincha hear tha sirens goin’ off??”

Me: “Uhh no, dude, I guess I didn’t really hear anything but thunder.”

I got back on my horse after 2 cups of coffee and headed west.



An hour later I finally make it to Wyoming and reach the worst fog I have ever seen. This is even worse than the fog in San Francisco. I crept along the shoulder at 25 mph for twenty minutes, waiting to get rear-ended by a truck or hurdled by a deer. Eventually the fog clears up but the rain comes back. I make my way to Casper, WY.

Ok, call me a pussy – this was supposed to be a camping trip. I was just too damn cold and wet to give a shit at this point. I get to the first overpriced hotel I see and unload everything to air out. I burn the motor out in the hairdryer trying to dry out my boots. At least I have a warm and dry bed.



A day on a bike in a tornado is still better than a day at work. Tomorrow should be better.

pwh screwed with this post 01-03-2015 at 02:39 PM
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Old 01-01-2015, 05:09 PM   #6
tominboise
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I'm in....
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Old 01-01-2015, 05:11 PM   #7
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Old 01-01-2015, 05:46 PM   #8
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Day 2: Casper, WY to Salmon Lake, MT: 670 miles

Tetons, tourists and a ticket.

And a small disclaimer for anyone questioning the accuracy of the route:

Keep in mind these are approximate Google Maps routes. They were made long after the actual dates traveled, aided by a few Porters, Stouts or IPAs; or with the help of Jameson, Blanton's or Jack Daniels. The main purpose is to help me remember where I had been and to give names to mountain peaks, look-out points, roads and campsites. 20 straight days of some of the best landscapes in North America have blended into one continuous film reel. Your understanding is not appreciated.

At the time, I traveled using a new GPS ("pussy!") with rough way points embedded along a track, only to keep me on schedule. I knew I wanted to see Yellowstone, Banff and Prudhoe Bay. Everything else was a decision made whenever I encountered a fork in the road.

After getting on the road about 9AM, my stupid GPS took me to a meth lab as a way point. I didn't know it at the time, but programming "city-center" into my routes would direct me to the geographic center of the town, city, or zip code. This scenario would repeat itself over the next few days as I struggled to be smarter than an electronic piece of plastic made in China.

After almost dropping my heavy, fully loaded bike in the sand behind a trailer park in the nicest part of Casper, I finally get out on some nice roads. The mountains begin to pop up on the horizon.


So there I am enjoying some lovely brown rocks and sunny blue skies.


Until...


Shit! Got caught going waaaaay too fast in the middle of nowhere.

Cop: "Son, where the hell ya headed with all that stuff on the back?"
Me: "Um, Alaska, hopefully, sir."
Cop: "Well you're not gonna get there going that F-n fast"
Me: "Sorry sir, I was just enjoying these beautiful country roads, courtesy of the great state of Wyoming"
Or something like that. To be honest, I was pissed. I didn't want yet another speeding ticket (I collect them, along with motorcycles and short relationships with girls with daddy issues), and it would put me in a bad mood for at least the next 30 minutes.

It was my lucky day, however. The nice WY State Troopah' who clocked me at jail-time, impound-your-bike speeds happened to have a couple of KTM dirt bikes at home. He even grabbed my handlebars and stopped my bike from falling over on top of me since I had pulled off onto a steep section of the shoulder.

After 20 minutes of sitting in his vehicle, apparently checking to make sure I wasn't on the TSA's no-fly list, that I had no connections to ISIS, that I paid my taxes last year and that I had no overdue books at any public libraries, he let me go with a non-moving violation (no points)! I can't help but think that this situation would have ended differently if I was on my previous bike.

I stayed closer to the speed limit after that until I got to the MT border. Today was turning out to be fookin awesome! Next, the scenery got better.

And better:

Moran Overlook, Grand Teton National Park.

And closer:

Jackson Lake, MT.

I paid $20 to ride through Yellowstone and I immediately became agitated. There were thousands of tourists, stopped in the middle of the goddamn road, to take pictures of bears, deer, and moose. These morons would stop in the road to lean out the window with a fookin' iPhone and take a picture of a deer that was approximately 3 miles away.
Why not pull off on the side of the road, onto the shoulder? Oh, cuz it was already jam packed full of other assholes, taking pictures from their cars. What I had looked forward to turned out to be a huge let down. Oh well.

Here's 1 of the 4 pictures I took inside Yellowstone:

I snuck off and ate some jerky next to a river.

I kept on going, almost glad to get out of the park, and blow right past West Yellowstone (which is a really cool little town).

I wonder if they're hiring?


I kept going until the sun suddenly dropped out of the sky behind some mountains.

And then, it was dark. I was nowhere near anywhere, and I was getting low on fuel.

I thought about just camping in the field, but there were some sketchy looking empty pick up trucks scattered all around. Reminded me of the scene in "No Country for Old Men."

I got fuel at an empty but automated gas station and kept going north. I saw the brown campground "tent" sign and pulled into Salmon Lake after 10:30. There was no one around and no drop box. I mistake a poor guy having a nice quiet campfire with his girl for the camp host.

(ear plugs still in)
"HEY MAN DO YOU HAVE ANY SPOTS OPEN TONIGHT?"

He mumbles something and points in the other direction.

"WHAT?"

He's trying to point and tell me he's not the guy I'm looking for.

I waddle over to an 85-year old man who tells me he's got one spot left - ok buddy, this place is empty. "It's an RV site with hook-ups, so I'll have to charge you $28."
$28 to pitch a tent? Are you busting my balls cuz I woke you up from your Viagra dreams? Fine, whatever.

As I'm setting up my tent with my headlamp on, a 50 year old Junior Park Ranger, "Ron", comes over in his golf cart and shining his flashlight. He asks me where I'm from, where I'm headed, how old I am, what my middle name is, what my social security number is...

Then goes off about a girl named Tammie who works at some shit hole bar called Boondockers in North Pole, Alaska. She's the one that got away for my new best friend Ron. He makes me promise I'll go there and tell her that he said hi.

I'm half ignoring him, half "mhmm-ing" him while I get ready to pass out. I'm exhausted and I think he was still talking when I climbed inside my tent.

pwh screwed with this post 01-03-2015 at 02:44 PM
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Old 01-01-2015, 06:10 PM   #9
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Old 01-01-2015, 07:09 PM   #10
NKOrange
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Happy new year!

Keep it coming
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Old 01-01-2015, 10:52 PM   #11
larrylarry75
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Yippee another Deadhorse saga!

I'm in, this looks like it will be good. I rode my Ninja 650R on my first trip to AK but only went to Homer & Delta Junction. It was brand spankin' new at the time, an '06 and it turned out to be a perfect ride for me. Next time up I did the Deadhorse gig in 2008 on an Aprilia dragging a Sputnik hack and that was a real blast. Neither bikes suffered terminal issues although the Aprilia looked a bit aged afterwards and no longer carries a hack around. Anyone who gets the chance to see Deadhorse from the back of a bike and doesn't do it will eventually come to regret it, I feel that for certain. Enjoying your report and look forward to hearing more. Hell, maybe I'll go it again before I get too long in tooth!

Best - LL75
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Old 01-02-2015, 06:21 AM   #12
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Yellowstone can be a big disappointment. On balance, Teton can be a delightful surprise. Waiting to hear more about you trip.
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Old 01-02-2015, 08:09 AM   #13
lakecntyrider
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I had a similar experience in Yellowstone this year. It's a beautiful park, but the crowds kept me from taking more than a handful of pictures. I love the Jackson Lake photo. Looking forward to more updates. Keep it coming.
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Old 01-02-2015, 08:11 AM   #14
borscht zanetti
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Originally Posted by pwh View Post

Jackson Lake, MT.

.


An earlier version, my former 2006, of the KTM Adventure in exactly the same spot. Enjoying your ride report
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Old 01-02-2015, 08:22 AM   #15
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Count me in
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