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Old 07-01-2010, 09:10 PM   #1
Heliox OP
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Victoria-Inuvik and back in 11 days

Victoria-Inuvik-Victoria … 8000km in 11 days (Dempster Highway included)

So while I was still in Afghanistan my friend Paul (ADV: Miguel) started putting together a plan to ride the Dempster Highway crossing the Arctic Circle to Inuvik in the Northwest Territories and back. In typical fashion, the destination was chosen, and then squeezed in to our available leave period, rather than the more conventional method of looking at the time available and choosing a location that could conceivably be done comfortably during that period. Nonetheless, we figured that it was possible to ride from Victoria, on Vancouver Island, to Inuvik and back (as long as we didn’t have any catastrophic breakdowns or crashes .. and we all know those kinds of things aren’t likely to happen when you are in remote locations hundreds of kilometers from the nearest help, right?)

A flurry of planning e-mails and farkle-buying then followed, and a number of people were added to the project or dropped from it due to schedules, crashes, or outbreaks of common sense. In the end, the group consisted of three: me and Paul from Vancouver Island, and our friend Greg (ADV: G-Man2), another bomb-disposal guy from Southern California. I tried unsuccessfully to lobby for trucking our bikes to somewhere like Prince George or Whitehorse and then riding from there, but Paul felt that even suggesting such a thing meant that I wasn’t a true adventure rider (and probably had a penchant for musical theatre and the career of Liza Minelli). Greg, who proved more resistant to peer pressure, shipped his bike to Seattle and rode up to meet us in Vancouver.

The route from Vancouver would take us on about 8000km over 11 or 12 days (depending on how long it took us to do the Dempster). On the way up we would take the Sea-to-Sky Highway and the Cassier Highway, on the way down the Alaska Highway and the Canyon to Hope, so that way we wouldn't be doing the same route the whole time. To put it in perspective, what we were talking about doing was the equivalent of riding from Seattle to Detroit. And back.
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Previously:'04 KTM 950 Adventure, '53 Harley Panhead, '78 XS650, '98 VTR1000, '77 Honda CB 750F, Harley 1200 sportster cafe racer, '96 YZF-600R, '98 TL-1000R
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Old 07-01-2010, 09:27 PM   #2
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Day Zero: Victoria to Vancouver



The first day doesn't really count, as we just rode from Victoria (Vancouver Island) over on the ferry to Vancouver to meet Greg and do some final preps on the bike.

All three of us were on KTM Adv's; my 2004 950 (which is actually Paul's old bike, before his wife bought him a 990R!!!), Greg's 2007 990, and Paul's aformentioned 990R. This made spares and tools easier to share out between us. Although we planned on staying in either hotels or with family the whole way, we did bring a full suite of camping gear and food just in case we had to leave people with the bikes in case of a crash or injury.

We also did a lot of debating about tires. We had originally discussed leaving road tires on the bike and having knobbies shipped up to Whitehorse in the Yukon and fitting them there for the Dempster itself. But after reading a lot about the durability of the Mefo Super Adventurer tire, we decided to run with one of those on the rear, plus a Conti TKC80 on the front, which could theoretically make the whole trip (more about this later...)

Mefo rear tire


Conti TKC80 front

We left from Paul's house, (only about ten minutes from the ferry), and enjoyed a nice late-afternoon ferry ride over to the mainland. Then we met up with Greg and rode into the city where some of the bomb-techs there hosted us for a BBQ, and we did final preps on the bikes. Unfortunately, despite a number of e-mails and phone calls with tech reps from Autocom, the comms sets Paul had painstakingly assembled would not talk to each other. What was worse was that, after all the work he had put into it, it was Paul's setup that wouldn't work with the other two. But he refused to take one of the other sets, and seemed happy to ride without comms (although I think he was convinced that Greg and I would be enjoying sparkling conversation that he would be missing out on ... not the case as it turned out)

Doing final prep work on the bikes and distributing loads at a secret location in Vancouver:
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1978 Honda CB750K8 cafe racer
1994 Harley FXR

Previously:'04 KTM 950 Adventure, '53 Harley Panhead, '78 XS650, '98 VTR1000, '77 Honda CB 750F, Harley 1200 sportster cafe racer, '96 YZF-600R, '98 TL-1000R
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Old 07-01-2010, 09:36 PM   #3
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Old 07-01-2010, 10:10 PM   #4
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Day One: Vancouver to Prince George, British Columbia, via the Sea-to-Sky Highway, 752km (470 miles)


After enjoying an evening in Vancouver and getting the bikes loaded, we woke at 5am and headed out, wanting to avoid the traffic and ensure we were out of the city before the rush.

I figured that I would ease the tension, and any worry that we might have an accident during the trip, by promptly dropping my bike at a gas station before we had even left Vancouver itself. Unfortunately no photos exist (a powerful mix of embarrassment and adrenaline ensured that I had the bike back up in seconds). It turns out that a bike with panniers is wider than a bike without, and you can't just pull away from the pumps if there is a concrete post next to them. I will file that little nugget away for future reference.

From Vancouver we crossed the Ironworkers Bridge over to North Vancouver, and then out past Horseshoe bay to the start of the Sea to Sky Highway (BC Hwy 99), a beautiful twisty highway with a scenic inlet on one side and mountains on the other. The road goes up past Whistler, the site of the Winter Olympics this year, and the road itself was widened and dramatically improved in the lead-up to the Olympics. The ride was also much colder than we expected (not surprising as we went up almost 4000ft in altitude rapidly as we left Vancouver). By the time we reached Whistler for breakfast Greg could hardly feel his fingers and was complaining bitterly (of course, he is a soft nancy-boy from California), and I ended up having to give him my favourite set of insulated gloves, which I then did not see again until the end of the trip 11 days later.

From Whistler, the road actually becomes considerably twistier, and has huge changes in elevation as it passes Pemberton and Lillooet Lake. It is a beautiful motorcycling road, but it can be treacherous, with many turns limiting us to 70kph or below (40mph), and occasional patches of gravel or flooded sections of road. One particular sneaky section involved a long steep decent that suddenly turned from pavement to gravel before pitching right into a off-camber decreasing-radius turn. On the plus side, the 99 from Whistler to Clinto (where it joins the Hwy 97 Northbound) is remarkably free of traffic, and unbelievably scenic.

Near Lillooet Lake, BC:


On Highway 99:


Once we hit Clinton the 99 joined with Highway 97, the main highway North. From there it was a pretty boring additional six hours or so up the highway past 100-Mile House to Prince George, a pulp and lumber city in the middle of British Columbia. We rolled in around 7pm, after 14 hours on the road, and we were very lucky to be staying that night with my Uncle Rob and Aunt Bonnie (retired teacher and nurse, respectively). They put out a great meal for us, and then I think got enormous amusement from watching as three Type-A personality bomb-techs attempted to decide where and how we would ride the next day.
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1978 Honda CB750K8 cafe racer
1994 Harley FXR

Previously:'04 KTM 950 Adventure, '53 Harley Panhead, '78 XS650, '98 VTR1000, '77 Honda CB 750F, Harley 1200 sportster cafe racer, '96 YZF-600R, '98 TL-1000R

Heliox screwed with this post 07-01-2010 at 10:23 PM
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Old 07-01-2010, 10:34 PM   #5
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Great start Rob

"California nancy boy".
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Old 07-01-2010, 11:14 PM   #6
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Princess (Nancy Boy) Comments:

Excellent start Rob.

It's really just semantics, but I might have said:

...and I ended up having to give him my favourite set of insulated gloves, which I then did not see again until the end of the trip 11 days later. Fortunately, as a Navy man, I was prepared with 7 sets of gloves with a variety of insulative properties, and it turned out to be a blessing in disguise - every ounce one can remove from his steed can be valuable when one has otherwise packed like the Queen on holiday.

and later:

One particular sneaky section involved a long steep decent that suddenly turned from pavement to gravel before pitching right into an off-camber decreasing-radius turn - scary enough to make a battle hardened Veteran whimper through his comm-set like a frightened schoolgirl.

Just some minor stuff really...

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Old 07-01-2010, 11:20 PM   #7
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This should be good. Looking forward to this report.
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Old 07-01-2010, 11:53 PM   #8
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Old 07-02-2010, 09:21 AM   #9
Miguel
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I'm glad I didn't have comms. From in my cone of silence the two of you never had a clue I was in tears for that whole Dempster stretch
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Old 07-02-2010, 09:36 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by G-Man2
Excellent start Rob.

It's really just semantics, but I might have said:

...and I ended up having to give him my favourite set of insulated gloves, which I then did not see again until the end of the trip 11 days later. Fortunately, as a Navy man, I was prepared with 7 sets of gloves with a variety of insulative properties, and it turned out to be a blessing in disguise - every ounce one can remove from his steed can be valuable when one has otherwise packed like the Queen on holiday.
.
I only had four sets of gloves with me. Five, tops.
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Previously:'04 KTM 950 Adventure, '53 Harley Panhead, '78 XS650, '98 VTR1000, '77 Honda CB 750F, Harley 1200 sportster cafe racer, '96 YZF-600R, '98 TL-1000R
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Old 07-02-2010, 10:20 AM   #11
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Old 07-02-2010, 12:49 PM   #12
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Got the Pic from the North

Glad to hear everything went great. You in tears Paul...I don't see it....maybe "Man" cramps and then asking to not work the rest of the summer...more like it. Oh, nice plug for your business...love the shots of you riding at work when it was sunny...was there anytime else

Quote:
Originally Posted by Miguel
I'm glad I didn't have comms. From in my cone of silence the two of you never had a clue I was in tears for that whole Dempster stretch
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Old 07-02-2010, 12:54 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by klrhog
Glad to hear everything went great. You in tears Paul...I don't see it....maybe "Man" cramps and then asking to not work the rest of the summer...more like it. Oh, nice plug for your business...love the shots of you riding at work when it was sunny...was there anytime else
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Old 07-02-2010, 05:01 PM   #14
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Day 2 - Prince George to Dease Lake, via the Cassier Highway, 970km (602 miles)



So we slept in until 5:30 am, and then attempted to sneak out of my Uncle Rob's house like thieves in the night (or at least as well as three half-asleep motorcyclists laden with bags and gear could - I am sure we sounded like a herd of grumpy elephants). We headed West from Prince George on the Yellowhead Highway (Hwy 16), and after an hour we stopped for breakfast in a town called Vanderhoof. We ended up in a restaurant run by Mennonites (top tip: you will not go hungry in a restaurant run by Mennonites.) The pies looked amazing, but after the breakfast plate there was no way I could squeeze in a slice of pie. The funniest part of breakfast when when we paid, and the girl (in traditional Mennonite garb) told us to watch out for the Mounties, who liked to give people speeding tickets inside the town limits.

From Vanderhoof we continued West until we reached Kitwanga, and the junction with the start of the Stewart-Cassier Highway (Hwy 37) North.

The start of the Stewart-Cassiar Highway:


I should note at this point that you might notice four yellow cut-out gingerbread men in my windscreen. When we reached my Uncle's house in Prince George, my cousin Dan and his wife Sarah were there, and their daughter Maddy gave me the cut-out men. You might notice them in more photos, looking increasingly worse for wear (but they did make the whole trip to the Arctic and back!)


Mmmmmm ... gas station food:


The Cassiar Highway itself was fantastic. Much of it has only recently been paved (many guidebooks still list it is an unpaved road). It has beautiful high-speed sweeping turns, spectacular scenery (it passes by Mt. Waddington, at 13,176ft the tallest peak in British Columbia), and very little traffic. In the final three hours on the Cassiar I think we saw three vehicles. It was like having our own private racetrack with beautiful scenery on each side. You do have to be careful about gas, as there are several long stretches without gas stops (particularly on either side of the Bell II crossing). This was a concern on the KTM's, which are capable of passing anything on the road except a fuel stop.
Planning out fuel stops:

Scenery on the Cassiar:



The Cassiar highway is also chock full-o-wildlife. We saw no less than 6 bears the first day, including a big brown bear at a river's edge near the road. We didn't get a picture of him, but this black bear obliged us by doing a little show:




We were prepared for the bears though, as I had thoughtfully sent out a video to the others ahead of time, with tips on dealing with bears courtesy of Mike Birbiglia ("Just a few more minutes ... ooh, that's a lot of blood"):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YbsnGVWmI1M

The beautiful road surface of the Cassiar:

OK, another aside here: You may notice that I am wearing some rather, ummm... stylish sunglasses in the above picture. I had a nice set of Oakley M-frames with me for the trip, but within one hour of the first day's ride I realized that they did not work with the narrow Shoei Hornet-DS helmet, and they were pushing on my temples causing me a splitting headache. But after another day riding I realized that squinting all day wasn't working either. So I had to buy a $20 set of gas-station 1970's metal aviator numbers. Yes, they worked with the Hornet, but for the rest of the trip I had to put up with being referred to as Erik Estrada (or even worse, Cher).


After 9 hours on the bikes we were getting a little daffy (and we still had several hours to ride at this point - good thing it doesn't get dark up North)


We rolled into Dease Lake around 10pm after a long (but good) day's ride. We managed to secure a three-bed room at a hotel filled almost entirely with truckers and bikers, and then strolled next door for an enormous homemade burger and a cold beer (or two) at the Tanzilla Pub. Here we are (full of burger) at 11:30pm outside the pub:
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1978 Honda CB750K8 cafe racer
1994 Harley FXR

Previously:'04 KTM 950 Adventure, '53 Harley Panhead, '78 XS650, '98 VTR1000, '77 Honda CB 750F, Harley 1200 sportster cafe racer, '96 YZF-600R, '98 TL-1000R

Heliox screwed with this post 07-02-2010 at 05:20 PM
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Old 07-02-2010, 05:13 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by G-Man2
and later:

One particular sneaky section involved a long steep decent that suddenly turned from pavement to gravel before pitching right into an off-camber decreasing-radius turn - scary enough to make a battle hardened Veteran whimper through his comm-set like a frightened schoolgirl.

Just some minor stuff really...
I didn't think I had the PTT button pushed while I was whimpering...
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1994 Harley FXR

Previously:'04 KTM 950 Adventure, '53 Harley Panhead, '78 XS650, '98 VTR1000, '77 Honda CB 750F, Harley 1200 sportster cafe racer, '96 YZF-600R, '98 TL-1000R

Heliox screwed with this post 07-02-2010 at 05:22 PM
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