Sunday, June 21, 2009

SPOT Trip Map

I thought you might enjoy a trip map from my SPOT messenger. The map is interactive and you can zoom in and out on the map.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


Now that I've been back for a week, I'd like to make some final comments about the trip before I close it out.


We had a great time riding together. We did a pace that allowed us to take lots of pictures (something in excess of 4,000 between the 4 of us). The game of bear bingo was really fun and allowed each of us to lead for some portion of the the ride.


The weather was simply fabulous! It was over 75 degrees on most days and was in the 80's on several days. It was hard to believe that I would don my vented clothing and ride to the Yukon, Alaska and beyond.


We were able to see quite a number of bears, moose, bison, goats, caribou, one ugly deer and a number of pretty ones, one squirrel, some undocumented foxes, & a lynx or bobcat. The critters generally didn't want to have anything to do with us with the exception of the deer. I would have liked to see a bull moose.


Hands down, the fox and 3 grizzlies account on day 5 remains as the most memorable story of the trip.


The Haines Highway, hands down. Yukon 8 between Jakes Corner and Carcross was second and the Frazier River Canyon road in BC came in 3rd. Of honorable mention was the last 15 miles of the road into Skagway.


The 1 mile bridge repair between Liard River and Ft. Nelson. Second place was the marble sized gravel on the ALCAN highway west of Watson Lake.


For me the biggest surprise was the sheer quantity of pavement. We only had about 50 miles of gravel in over 4,000 miles of riding. The second biggest surprise was the weather that I noted above. In third place was the Woodlands Hotel manager's kindness in putting us up in the conference room when there was no room in the inn.


Neil did a fabulous job of creating the route and giving us very doable daily distances to ride. Doing the Cassiar Highway for the route up, the Skagway/Haines/Whitehorse loop and the ALCAN highway for the return was an excellent routing.


My FirstGear Kilamanjaro vented jacket and Tourmaster Convertible pants worked very well as did my vented gloves. In the few instances of rain showers, the Frogg Toggs and the Aerostitch Lobster Claw gloves performed well. My Cruiserworks boots kept my feet dry and my riding socks from worked very well.


Using the satellite messenging service (SPOT) was possibly the best piece of technology we brought along. It allowed those at home to follow our every move (that can be bad as well)!

Having SKYPE to phone home was really special. SKYPE is an internet based telephone service that provides inexpensive calls throughout the world. WIFI was readily available throughout the ride.

The GPS' came in 3rd as the roads are pretty predictable and there really aren't a lot of options. It was good, however, to save the track and judge riding distances.

I used my new player for the first long ride. It is a device that plugs into the GL1800's audio system and allows one to play music from SD cards through the Wing's audio system. It worked flawless. My only drawback was that I didn't load enough music on it.

For me, I really liked my XM Satellite Radio when we were not in canyons or in the far north. During the ride south I especially liked listening to the coverage of Music Fest in Nashville.


The lack of card readers at gasoline pumps in much of BC coupled with a legal requirement to walk in and give them a credit card before pumping was a huge annoyance.


I'd really like to take my wife with me and take a bit more time to visit some of the museums that we didn't have time to visit. Our Escapade trailer would come with us. The balance of camping and motelling it was perfect. I'd also extend the trip to include at least Anchorage, Homer, Portage, Seward, and the Kenai Peninsula. Adding Fairbanks would be a real treat. I'd also bring a bit more Canadian currency. I'd bring my small camera tripod to make it easier to do self pictures.


I'd leave my thermos bottle behind along with my thermals. I'd probably leave one of my 4 pairs of gloves behind.


Live the dream. I'd been seriously dreaming about riding to Alaska for 3 plus years. There's really something about living the dream that makes it very special. To do it with Neil, Tom, and Tim2 made it extra special. Thanks for the memories, guys.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Day 11 - Final Run from 100 Mile House to Home

It's hard to believe but our great Alaskan / Yukon adventure came to a close today with our safe arrival at home. I'm composing this on my home computer which is considerably easier than the little netbook I packed with me. But before that occurred we had a terrific 389 mile ride south from 100 Mile House.

After a very good night's sleep at the Red Coach Inn, we departed 100 Mile House at just after 7am. We fell into our regular routine of Bear Bingo, stops every 50 miles; and for the whole day only saw one deer in the early morning and one eagle after we arrived back in the states.

At one of our rest stops in Clinton, BC, there was a nice sculpture of a cowboy bathing and a little rubber ducky with him.

Tim2 remembered that he had acquired 4 rubber duckies at a trade show (2 yellow and 2 red), so we all installed them on our radio antennas. Of course Tom led us in a chorus or two of the Rubber Duckie song.

We took on fuel at Cache Creek and noted that the terrain had changed dramatically from the alpine forests we were used to to dry sagebrush.

There was also a major car show just beginning, so we were treated with all sorts of cool custom cars coming towards us much like several days ago outside of Watson Lake.

The next part of the ride was one of the real treats: Riding down the Thompson and Frazier River Canyons. Traffic was light and Tom rolled on the throttle.

Not another waterfall:

One of our goals was to stop at the Hells Gate Tram on the Frazier River which we did and rode the tram to the bottom, took pictures, had a nice lunch (2 salmon burgers and two regular burgers).

While down there a fellow approached us and complimented us on our bikes. He was riding a GL1800 like 3 of us, but his had a turbo installed on it. Here are a few pictures of that bike.

Then it was more riding down the canyon and through many tunnels.

There were also lots of rapids and water movement.

We also observed lots of bikers out for their Saturday ride, and little did they know our grizzled pack of 4 had just returned from The Great Land.

Arriving at the US Border around 2pm, we cleared customs and took a break to call our respective loved ones.

And we got our "ducks in a row" if you know what I mean.

We then decided to not ride the super slab home; rather take WA9 south. While it was twisty, some traffic tended to hold us up. But we stuck with it and eventually connected with WA522 and then I405, I90 and our eventual destination of the Mercer Island Lid Park for a little end of ride celebration. My wife, Angela, and Tim2's wife, Cindy, showed up to photograph us coming in and that was very special and moving. After taking a few pictures to commemorate the end, we enjoyed some cold drinks that Cindy had brought.

Neil, Tom, and I then rode south on 405 to our respective homes.

It was a great 10 nights and 11 days with 4 friends. We all learned more about each other, worked through the challenges of each of us being "wired" differently, appreciated each person's contribution to the ride, and even dreamed about doing something in the future. Who would have thought that I could don mesh vented clothing in Seattle and ride to Alaska, BC, and the Yukon and be totally comfortable. I didn't wear my thermals or electric clothing that I brought.

And now to one of the last steps:

But that will have to wait for another day.

I'll post an epilogue in a day or so before signing off this blog. Suffice it to say, it was a fabulous trip, a dream of mine to be able to visit my native state on the 50th Anniversary of statehood. Doing it with 3 friends using our respective motorcycles was just icing on the cake. Like we said many times during the trip, "We're living the dream!" We just didn't stop with the dream. I would encourage you to live your own dream whatever that may be.

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about a ride of this sort.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Day 10 - Chetwyn to 100 Mile House

We had an early morning departure at 6:50 (10 minutes before helmet time). It was a heavy dew overnight so our tenting gear is a bit damp. We got to experience a bobbed cat.

Heading down CA97 we launched into our game of Bear Bingo. Soon we spotted 3 deer and later on we scored a great moose encounter.

The moose was especially curious towards Neil which was a great disappointment to Tom (you'll have to get that story directly from Tom as it won't be on the blog). After taking a copious quantity of pictures, it's was Tom's turn to lead and not over 1/4 mile later we encountered a bear.

Tom has really developed a new calling as our official announcer of Bear Bingo. It's really really funny to hear him go into announcer mode. After seeing the bear, we didn't see any further critters for the day.

We also encountered a very long coal train. Here's a photograph of one of the cars.

For the rest of the day, it was pretty much a ride to put on miles and get us closer to home. The horses are smelling the barn.

At Quesnel we stopped at the park to take some photos of the artifacts.

Here I am on the old bridge over the Quesnel River.

At our last gas stop in Williams Lake there was a large carved cowboy and a VERY large wheel chair.

We did take a break at a nice little roadside chocolate stand and at least one of our group decided it was time for a short siesta.

Later we encountered the threat of rain and we elected to don our rain gear which turned out to only be needed for a few miles.

While we thought we would camp at Cache Creek, we decided to get a motel at 100 mile house and enjoy a nice rest, hot tub, and pool. This was all for about $40 each. A nice dinner was enjoyed by all followed by a trip to DQ for a chocolate dipped ice cream cone.

Tomorrow is the push home with a stop at a very special place in the Frazier River Canyon. We're anxious to see the effects of all the water we've seen upstream of the canyon now flowing through the canyon.

Stay tuned.

Some of you may be asking yourself how many miles per day are we riding? We have been generally getting at least 300 plus miles per day and many days have been 400 miles. We stop every 50 miles for a stretch break and more often if needed. The Wings are performing flawlessly and our gas range is around 200 miles for the 1500 and 270 for the 1800's. The bear bingo game has really broken up the monotony of just riding in formation for these many miles which will be well beyond 4,000 for those of us in Seattle and much more for Neil who still needs to ride to Arizona.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Day 9 - Riding the ALCAN to Mile 0

This morning at 7am we departed in the rain from Ft. Nelson with a goal of somewhere past Dawson Creek, the start of the Alcan. Today's ride was filled with lots of long, long straight stretches.

Our game of "Bear Bingo" didn't yield a single hit until 99.9 miles into the day's ride. After that it was a very sparse critter count.

We stopped a Milepost 101 on the original ALCAN for fuel and decided to eat there. They have homemade sandwitches on scrumptuous homemade bread. We then headed out once again on long fairly boring roads. Arriving in Ft. Nelson, we pulled into a Catholic church parking lot and took a 20 minute or so siesta. It was very refreshing.

We came across the only remaining serviceable bridge from the original ALCAN at Kiskatinaw. Besides being a wooden bridge, it has a 9 degree curve in it.

It's clearly marked off the present Alcan and worth the ride down to see and photograph.

Pressing on the Dawson Creek, we found the marking point for the start of the ALCAN highway. We took a few pictures of it and acquired pins that say we drove the ALCAN and they have a picture of a GL1800 Gold Wing like mine on it.

From there we continued on to Chetwyn with a slight scare at the possibility of rain showers, so we Frogg Togged up. At Chetwyn we refueled and found a camping spot at the West Wynn motel and RV park where I'm composing this.

All but Neil went in to town to see the Woodcarving Championships that were being held and we took a few pictures.

We're now around 800 miles from home and are beginning to smell the barn. We're all getting anxious to see our loved ones, but there's a part of me that wants to turn around and head on back up with all of the motorcycles we've been seeing heading north.

Day 8 - Teslin to Ft. Nelson

Everyone strap on your adventure boots for today's blog is going to be unlike any that I've experienced.

We camped the night at Teslin, Yukon Territories at the Yukon Motel. The campsite was literally 3 feet from the water's edge and about 6" higher than the lake level, but woke up to rain. We decided to delay our departure and have breakfast at the Motel as it opened at 7am. Mistake. We were there at 7am and I had a feeling that it wasn't going to go well when the waitress wiped Neil's fork off with her fingers. Then it went from bad to worse. Every order was wrong and the hash browns weren't even cooked. Sorry there's no picture of those bad boys.

We headed on out for Watson Lake and that part of the trip was pretty uneventful except that we began seeing vintage British touring cars from the 30's, 40's and 50's. It was way cool to see them heading north. Arriving in Watson Lake, we noted that the Cassiar Highway was closed due to a culvert washout (fortunately we made it through that area several days ago. We refueled the bikes and grabbed a quick burger, and took pictures of Yukon animals so that we would at least have some pictures of the animals we weren't seeing. We enjoyed a great laugh over that one. Neil and I also picked up an appropriate bumper sticker with wording to the effect, "Yukon mosquitoes are not single, they are all married and have large families." Is that ever true! Here's a UNIMOG that refueled with us. I've always thought they looked pretty cool.

Leaving Watson Lake we started playing "Bear or Critter Bingo" once again. We started seeing bears along side the highway and the road was really good. By the way, Tom became a pretty fair announcer to our little game.

However, the smoke was getting worse and worse from a forest fire of some type. Then we rode by an area that was burning along side the road. We stopped for some pictures, but we were buzzed by a helicopter that flashed lights at us to get out of there.

Just as we arrived at Llaird Hot Springs, they closed the road behind us. So we motored on to the Northern Rocky Lodge for refueling (and very poor customer service). Just after refueling, we saw a couple of small herds of mountain sheep and watched one come down a 75% rocky slope to the edge. It was impressive.

Riding on, we started to see a weather change, so we stopped to don our raingear. Good thing we did as we rode through a hailstorm with near zero visibility. Fortunately we did ride out of it to then encounter a very nasty road construction project that presented some harrowing riding on a Wing. Leaving that challenge we went back into Bear Bingo mode and proceeded to see several bears including one that just wouldn't leave its spot along side the road. It was then only a 45 minute ride into Ft. Nelson.

Arriving in town, it was packed for two reasons: the road was closed going north because of the fire and the local oil plant was shut down for a tri-annual inspection and all the workers were in Ft. Nelson. Not good news for getting a room. We stopped along a frontage road and a couple of ladies (Judy in particular) tried calling B&B's for us which was a kind gesture. But we really were blessed when David Moore the manager of the local hotel, Woodland Inn, pulled up and said he was a motorcycle enthusiast and were we looking for a room. His hotel was full but he had a meeting room and 4 hide-a-beds available and would we like it. We didn't hesitate and said "YES!". He called ahead and arranged for Yvonne to receive us which she did.

Below is a picture of our accommodations. Nice and cozy and it's the first time we've slept in a conference room!

Our total miles for the day were about 487. We experienced a forest fire up close and personal. We saw 2 new species of critters in 2 1/2 rounds of "Bear Bingo". We rode the knarly roads. We experienced some of the best in human kindness. And we slept in a conference room. Yes, we're living the dream!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Day 6 - Nugget City to Skagway

Up in the Yukon, the sun is pretty much up 23 hours a day now. Below is a picture taken at 4:30am with no flash.

It was an early rise at 4:30am for a 6am departure up Yukon 1 with a final destination of Skagway, Alaska. It seems strange to say "We are riding down to Alaska", but that's truly what we were doing.

Much of the day was spent slogging it out on long paved sections with big sweepers and BIG scenery. There were a few gravel sections, but nothing we couldn't handle. We had one confirmed moose sighting, one eagle sighting and an unconfirmed wolf or cyote sighting. Leaving highway 1, we took CA 8 from Jake's Crossing to Caircross (a fabulous road). We then rode CA 2 back into BC and eventually Alaska. The temperatures were much more moderate today and became quite chilly coming over the pass.

Arriving at the "Welcome to Alaska" sign, there were a number of foreign tourists from the cruise ships, and they were immediately enamored with Tim's Gold Wing. They immediately forgot about the fact that they were in Alaska and it was all about getting their pictures taken with the Wing. Tim graciously obliged.

We had several such encounters as we made our way down the mountain and finally crossed back into Alaska once again. Here's a picture of a cool bridge just before border check station.

In Skagway, we first went to the ferry terminal and bought our passage for the Tuesday 7am sailing, We noted there were 3 cruise ships in port today (9,000) tourists in a town of probably less than a couple thousand people. We saw a schedule and 5 ships are due tomorrow which will probably be 15,000 people. Then we found rooms at the Sargeant Preston motel (very friendly), and walked around Skagway, took lots of pictures including some of a couple of Welsh ladies who were thrilled to have their pictures taken. We also watched the departure of the 4:30 train that goes up the grade to the mine area ($108) and we watched the arrival of the Alaska State Ferry Columbia.

Eventually we ended up at the Starfire restaurant for some good Thai food for the Tim's, a GIANT burrito for Tom, and a fish platter for Neil. Neil reported that Rich and Dave from Minnesota (Tim's internet buddies from made it to Skagway and were planning to take the ferry as well. Neil and Tom then went out to find some grizzly bears that had been reported, while the Tim's decided to head back to the motel for an early bedtime.

Tomorrow we take the ferry to Haines and then plan to ride north on Yukon 3 and east to Whitehorse and someplace east before Watson Lake.