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Old 05-06-2014, 12:31 PM   #31
Hunter-Douglas OP
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Location: Truckee-Tahoe Int.
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Another brisk morning today on the Stewart-Cassier Highway. I counted 11 black bears roadside yesterday and one near miss involving a bald eagle and my helmet. I think we both made it through alright, but I'm not sure who was scarred more
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Old 05-06-2014, 01:24 PM   #32
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Hardcore

I met Jake this morning at the cafe. He's going the opposite way from Anchorage to Yosemite for the summer season. Turns out we have a few mutual friends working in the park. He had some great stories about being stuck behind moose and pedaling through some April snow in AK. That's crazy.


On to Whitehorse. From there I'm going to take a look and see if Top of the World Highway is rideable as a way to get to Fairbanks. If anyone has any thoughts they want to share on that, feel free.
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Old 05-08-2014, 10:31 AM   #33
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I'm really regretting not carrying a spare sprocket right now. I'm stuck in Whitehorse an extra day waiting for a new one to ride the greyhound up from Vancouver. I'm a little too paranoid to try and push on 600 miles to Fairbanks not knowing if the one I have on there will last or if might even blow the chain on the way

Oh well. Time to get photos up to date I guess.
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Old 05-08-2014, 03:19 PM   #34
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Vancouver and Lillooet

I started the process of getting everything dialed in for moving across the border into Canada. The bike had a new set of rubber and seemed like it was running smoothly, for now at least. The people at the local post office gave me some weird looks when they saw me pulling dirty clothes out of my dry bag and cramming them into a flat rate box to ship ahead to McCarthy, AK. Before I left, I made a point of hanging out and having dinner one last time with my friend Lindsay. She's a pretty incredible gal who's an olympic class rower training and working in Seattle. I made sure to bring nice bottles of beer and wine and she fed me some great homemade pizza. Certainly no complaints from me.


The next morning I went through my pack and repack routine with the duffel. I'm starting to figure out better ways to save space in there, since the backpack, tent, sleeping bag and pad barely leave much room for anything else. I crammed everything in and took off up I-5 that evening towards the border and Vancouver. I answered the usual questions about how I was a gun smuggler bringing weapons into Canada and found my way downtown to the Cambie hostel in Gastown. I was pretty impressed by the downstairs bar that looked like it couldn't stop being a happening spot if it tried, even on a weeknight. I met the guys in the dorm including Sandor and Josh, a French guy and an Aussie studying and working abroad. We went downstairs for just one beer that turned into a few pitchers and a few people on the floor laughing instead. No regrets.






Josh hit the floor cracking up after Sandor described with a French accent that he couldn't use the bus in Vancouver to get to school because he wasn't homeless enough.


After rehydrating the next morning I took off in the direction of Squamish and Whistler. Squamish is a pretty well known climbing spot and the granite walls and waterfalls jutting up in the distance were a sight. I cursed the fact that all my climbing gear is in snail mail to AK and admired the lakes and glaciers next to the highway. The road to Whistler is just twisty enough to be exciting with the views to complete the experience.


I gassed up in Whistler, got lost on a random lake road for a bit and prepared to head up and over the mountain highway to Lillooet. I stopped at a parts store and made sure my patch kit was up to date in case my tubes decided to act up. Route 99 out of Pemberton was one of the best paved roads I've been on so far. Very tight and super windy, it climbs quickly out of the flatlands through a few reservations and jagged, glaciated terrain for nearly a hundred miles. I counted more deer than cars over the next three hours and was stopping to admire the roadside peaks about every 15 minutes. When I made it down the pass, every store in Lillooet was closed up by 7PM so I grabbed a sandwich for dinner and went out in search of a camp site. It took a few misses and another chunk of miles out of town before I found a suitable logging road. I followed it up aways, checking out the pretty wild downhill track some local bikers had carved into the banks of the road. I set up camp and crashed out for my first night out in BC. I thought about bears and how much I appreciated the darkness I would be losing as I continued North.












Look real close and you can spot the deer in the grass. Luckily they seemed like they knew not to jump out in front of bikes in a hairpin.








Spot the jump on the left? Definitely for the MTB crew, not for loaded Beemers


Camp was in a nice clearing not too far off a diversion road. Definitely a quiet and lonely night thinking about the local animals.
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Old 05-08-2014, 07:06 PM   #35
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Quesnel, Prince George and Smithers

Just like every other morning this past week, I packed up and prepared to move North. My morning wakeup rides are great because they usually involve riding back down some nice dirt track to the highway. Firing up the bike, bushwhacking and some gravel are a nice way to get the day rolling. I rode some more twisties towards Cache Creek where I would pick up highway 97 to Prince George. There were some cool lakes along the road to stop at going up to the town of Clinton. I set up camp at the coffee shop to catch up with the family and do some editing. The owner was a nice guy and sure helped me out by keeping the mug full at all times.




A full tank and I was on the road heading to Quesnel, BC. The landscape changed dramatically after picking up highway 97N. Mountains and lakes were replaced by rolling farmlands and timber stands. I started seeing a bunch of wildlife signs warning me about caribou and moose, but I saw none of them the entire day. While it was great to see some new terrain, it was really a bummer that the highway turned straight and windy. I was back into crouch mode and letting just about every car on the highway pass me in an effort to get knocked around less. I eventually pinned it all the way to Quesnel as the weather started to chill out. I took refuge in another coffee shop to scope out the road to Prince George and look at logging roads on google maps. While I was there I had a long talk with a local resident who saw my bike and used to ride a R100. He was pretty encouraging after hearing about the trip, even though he stopped riding after surviving a month long coma as a result of a left turner in Minnesota some years earlier.

A few less mountains in the area. It really reminded me a lot of Montana and big sky country.


Baseball sure isn't the national sport up here, eh?


I usually try to ride the highway a few miles past town to find a spot to sleep after stocking up on supplies. Dusk was on me and I didn't want my first experience with a moose to end up with me being clotheslined. I got the surprise of my life when the second dirt road I turned down was housing a bobcat about 50 yards in. It took me a moment to understand what I was seeing as it bounded away. Finally a few miles down the road I found my coveted "watch for logging trucks" sign and found a spot in some new growth forest. Those types of areas are my favorite go to spot since they're easy to ride into but have enough vegetation to easily hide my tent and the bike from view. It was still light at 10PM when I called it a night.


I woke up to mist and much colder temperatures on the road up to Prince George. I hung out there and contemplated an upcoming oil change I needed to do for the bike. I'd been carrying a spare filter for a while and figured I might as well do the change in Smithers the next day once the temperatures had warmed up a bit. I made it a good chunk of the way there and called it outside of a town called Burns Lake for the night. Yet another logging road and a ride into the trees yielded a great spot for the tent. I tried to take a few photos of the sunset and climbed inside for some movie time.


When I'm in town I try to find shows or movies I can cache on my hard drive for the night when I camp out. I love a lot of areas I'm camping in but I've started to feel how isolating it can be alone in the woods every night. Having the ghetto blaster for music and some laptop time helps me a lot with that. That night I was watching Hatfields and McCoys from History Channel when I stumbled out of my tent near midnight to grab some gear. I was not expecting to look up at the sky and see the Northern Lights for the first time the moment I stuck my head out. I froze for a minute and watched in awe before I grabbed my camera and the tripod to snag a quick 30 second exposure. I got one photo in the bank before they started to fade away. I was blown away at my luck.
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Old 05-08-2014, 08:00 PM   #36
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Joined: Jul 2013
Location: Truckee-Tahoe Int.
Oddometer: 348
In the spirit of more poor planning, I rode into the ski town of Smithers on a Sunday to do my oil change. No open bike shop, no open auto parts store, nothing. Luckily I found a few quarts of 10w40 at a gas station and went to town on the bike in a lot behind a closed down pizza shop. A battle ensued when I couldn't get my drain plug to crack loose. I wrestled with it thinking about how easily I could strip it and be toast. It's a standard 24mm hex plug but I couldn't get enough force on it in a way that the socket didn't want to pop off. Eventually I tried my tire iron that has a 24mm hex on one side for the nut on the rear axle. I wedged that against it, put a foot on the back of one of my panniers and pulled on a tie down I had looped around the iron. It finally popped loose with a bang and I ended up hitting the dirt, but I was too stoked to even care at that point. I also found the source of an odd noise I'd been hearing the last few days when I saw a stiff link in the chain. Nothing I tried was making it better so I made sure to keep an eye on it over the next few days, figuring I could grab a new setup at the moto shops in Whitehorse.


Apparently the abandoned bench right behind where I was working on the bike was the village smoke spot for the high school crowd. They just let me be while I did my work and some of the stories I couldn't help but overhear were pretty ridiculous. Ski town entertainment at its finest for sure.


It was late in the day by the time I finished working on the bike. I rode a few miles out and followed a dirt track past some farms and up into a quarry. It said no entry but the gate was open and there was no equipment on site, so I said screw it and went for it. I don't want to trespass and disrespect homeowners, but government or company property is something I usually feel better about pushing my luck with. Especially since I'm gone after one night and other than tracks, nobody would know that I've been there.

The quarry looked like it might be a local hangout spot and there were some Budweiser cans tossed around near some donut tracks. Pretty standard in a lot of free camp spots, but I figured I might be better off if I could reach the bluff at the top of the quarry. I saw a tractor road going up to the plateau overlooking the area and had a go at it. The bike charged the hill climb pretty well with the front end coming up a few times to get my blood pumping.






I managed to finally fix the tent pole I broke on Rainier that night. Unfortunately the pole sleeve had split open right at the top center where the two poles come together, so it was making for a really awkward lean angle in the setup. The solution ended up being simpler than I originally thought- I took the mini hacksaw on my Swiss army knife and cut off the inch or so of cracked sleeving on the pole down to where it was solid again. The real pain was feeding the elastic cord back through the poles and tying it off again, but now the tent is back to ship shape and the 1" difference in pole length is completely unnoticeable in the geometry of the setup. No need to contact NEMO for warranty issues now

Celebration was in order...


The nightly burning of the TP. Not sure why I had to take a photo of it, but I did.
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Old 05-08-2014, 09:38 PM   #37
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Up the Stewart-Cassier

Everyone I'd met in Canada had told me how much things would change once I took the right turn onto the Stewart-Cassier Highway. "You'll see animals. Lots of animals. A lot less people. No center line. Moose. Bears. Slides. You got a warm sleeping bag?". But before I could even get there, I had to ride back down the hill climb in the quarry I had plowed up the day before to my camp. I managed to make it down with only a few near lay downs and back out through the open gate. I turned out onto the main highway again and counted the miles until I finally got the chance to get back into the mountains. I was completely over the straights and the high speeds that were taking a toll on my mental energy. I knew I'd be getting into more remote territory soon and the Cassier was my first stop-at-every-gas-station kind of highway I'd be riding through. Even the farmland started to phase out the closer I got to the junction.


I saw the sign and the corresponding Petro-Canada where I stopped to top off the tank. I was pretty excited at how much the environment was about to change. Maybe it was because I had been riding west instead of north the last few days, something felt great about pointing the bike skyward towards the Yukon again. Immediately I noticed the lack of cars as the road became narrow and windy. Ten miles in I saw my first black bear of the trip. I have the milepost digital edition loaded on my laptop, and as I rode along I understood why they kept making notations to look out for bears on the route. I passed 11 of the little guys over 150 miles that were within 20 feet of the road. I tried to get a picture every time, but only bear #9 hung around long enough for me to snap a pic after pulling over. After spending time in Yosemite, it's refreshing to see black bears that will bolt at the first sign of an approaching human.


More great lunch spots than you can count.


A few miles down the road I had my first close call involving myself, road kill and a large bird of prey. Rounding a corner at about 100k/ph I saw a dead squirrel near the center marker. As I closed in on it I saw something resembling a small fighter jet coming in hot in front me on a similar trajectory. The bird was banking ground to sky with it's wingtips as it reached the squirrel, but then noticed me blazing in behind and pulled up fast. Only when I saw the white head and the white tail feathers clipping my visor did it register than I was a split second away from having a face full of bald eagle. What are the odds? The Stewart-Cassier doesn't disappoint. I just wish I had a goPro rolling to record it.

When I reached the junction leading to the town of Stewart and the highway's namesake, I couldn't help but want to ride the 120km out and back detour. I had seen photos of Bear Glacier on the interwebs and it looked incredible, so I banked left instead of right and rode 37A to Stewart and the nearby town of Hyder, AK. The road was the fun kind of asphalt where the only traffic were the local rigs delivering supplies to town. Bear Glacier is a Canadian provincial park, but there was no sign on the highway indicating where it was even though it was clearly marked on the map. After looking around I found out pretty quick that there was no need for a sign.




I considered crossing the banks of the lake to get closer, but what would I do? The ice was thin enough already and there wasn't an easy way up the side of the glacier for solo travel, so I rode on into Stewart. Didn't seem like there was a lot going on there, so why not go to Hyder and into AK for the first time? I was surprised there was no border patrol reentering the US into Hyder. Maybe it's because there was nowhere to go once you got there?
Hyder had even less building on Main St then Stewart. I stopped off at the general store and had a chat with Gus, the owner and a real mountain man type. I originally grew up near San Francisco, California, Gus a few hours south in Santa Barbara. We talked a bit about how we ended up where we were at that point in time. He even reminded me that SF was "crazy bitch Pelosi land", and the funny thing is even democrats in the Bay Area don't usually disagree that she's an effing nutcase. We had a good laugh over that one.

Hopefully it's my first of more international experiences on the bike (heading to SA this fall), but it's already easy to see that politics are pretty similar across the border here. Every rural town I rode through in BC had the same billboards we have back in the US-
-YES on the pipeline, create jobs. It's time to put BC back to work.
-NO on the pipeline, save the wildlife and preserve the beauty of BC.
Maybe I was just spending too much time reading billboards, but at least pondering what it all meant and how it compared to back home sure made the straight stretches seem a lot shorter.

Back in front of Wes' general store I had a moment of panic. I went to start the bike but as soon as I hit the button, everything on the dash went black and the bike was dead. I unscrewed the plastic and got a jump from Wes' 350 diesel and the bike fired right up. I let it idle for a few minutes while he went back inside. After I killed the motor and tried starting it again, the same thing happened. I started wondering about the implications of what it would be like to be stranded in Hyder, AK with a non-ops bike while I disconnected the battery to check the levels. Even though the bike had been over a few times, the battery looked like it didn't need a top off. I cleaned the terminals as best as I could and tightened everything down. This time, the magic happened and the bike fired right up. Another inmate on the 650gs thread pointed out that BMW isn't installing lock nuts on the battery terminal hook ups anymore. It seemed mine had rattled loose and all I had to do was give them a quick tightening up, which would also explain the bike cutting out a few times earlier in the day. I left AK and rode around a few guys riding Main St on quads to get back to Stewart. More questions by border patrol about guns. What is it with these guys? They think we all own guns and can't stand traveling two miles without a .357? Whatever, they're just doing their jobs. At least leaving Hyder behind was a relief. And it really was the only and/or friendliest ghost town I've been to.
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Old 05-09-2014, 10:21 AM   #38
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A new sprocket for the 650 was supposedly shipped up from a BMW shop near Vancouver on greyhound freight yesterday. It was supposed to be here this morning, but no luck so far at the station. Sitting by the phone right now waiting for a call back from Greyhound since the tracking number I was given never made it into their system. I have to be 600 miles away in Fairbanks by Monday for a medical re-cert class that I definitely can't miss.

This could get interesting.

Edit- Turns out there was a mixup on the freight times. The sprocket is coming into Whitehorse Monday morning. I phoned Anchorage BMW and they shipped a new one out today to the post office in Fairbanks for me. Jon at Yukon Honda here (who rides a KLR) gave me some good pointers on making the setup last to Fairbanks as is. Right now it seems like it will hold up with a lot of lube and adjusting throughout.

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Old 05-09-2014, 02:10 PM   #39
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Further up the Cassier

I found the one open gas station in Stewart and filled up, knowing it was about 200km or more to the next gas at Bell II. Back up 37A, back past Bear Glacier while skipping the photo opportunities on the way out. I wasn't entirely sure that my bike would start again if I cut the motor, so I didn't risk it until I was at the next station. Bell II gas happens to be run out of the same lodge for Last Frontier Heli Skiing operation. I hung out and drank some coffee in the lodge that the nice folks working the counter gave me for free since I had my own cup. Their photos from this season were plastered all over the walls and I felt some jealousy seeing how much better their winter had treated them than back in the Sierras. I also got a nice lesson in supply and demand when I found out beer was $17 a six pack.

The bike was starting like a champ now and my confidence in it was starting to return. I followed the highway as it dived up and down through a valley surrounded by beautiful peaks, many of them still with a good chunk of snow above tree line. The temperature difference between the sun and the shade was an instantaneous drop as you rode through it. It was eye opening to see how high some of the avalanche slides had piled over and covered the road before they were bulldozed out again.






It seemed like I was in logging road heaven and the choices to bed down were everywhere. I chose a spot that looked like the future home for a new power line support structure. The path getting up to it was pretty chewed up by the snowmelt but the bike made it through to the clearing with no trouble. The 360 degree view from the lot was great and there was no equipment on site like the other spots I had checked out earlier. I set everything up, tried my first Mountain House dinner and watched the sunset behind the peaks across the valley.






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Old 05-09-2014, 07:30 PM   #40
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Loving this, Hunter......
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Old 05-09-2014, 08:33 PM   #41
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Subscribed. Great stuff so far, man.
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Old 05-10-2014, 07:09 PM   #42
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Loving this, Hunter......
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Subscribed. Great stuff so far, man.
Thanks! Glad you all are liking it. It's great incentive for me to keep the posts and the photos coming. I passed a lot of time at the desk reading RR on here and it feels nice to be be able to return the favor
It's also helping me make sure I keep a record, I'm not the best at writing things down.
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Old 05-10-2014, 07:26 PM   #43
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I went to Yukon Honda yesterday and had a talk with Jon, who rides a pretty awesome KLR. He reckoned maybe if I sacrificed a lamb and kept a careful eye on things the sprocket and chain would make it to Fairbanks, where the Moto Shop in Anchorage has shipped a new sprocket to the post office for me. Well, he was right. I rode the 600 miles over yesterday afternoon and this morning without the drivetrain biting the dust on me.

The 100 mile stretch right at sunset leaving Yukon Territory seemed like I had found my way into a David Attenborough shoot. More photos of the Yukon and Alaska in the works, but I'll start out for now with the only black bear to try and and have a go at me.
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Old 05-11-2014, 06:00 AM   #44
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You give good report, young man! Thanks for all the work.
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Old 05-11-2014, 07:03 AM   #45
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Glad the sprocket and chain are holding out....How about your rear brake pads.

Thanks for the update
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