July 31, 2014
Day 13 - Travelers
On the road, the wisdom flows from the mouths of strangers. Every person I see wearing riding gear is subject to the most comprehensive, invasive interrogation imaginable.
"Who are you buddy? Where'd you come from? Where you heading? Have you ever been up the Dalton Highway? The Dease Like Road? Have you ever been to Deadhorse, Alaska?"
And, from these impromptu meetings, all of the information I need flows to me. From the mouths of strangers. The Alaska Marine Highway System routes, fairs, and rules. The gas stations on the Dalton Highway. Road conditions. The best riding routes, paths, and trails. Dirt roads and paved roads. Secret favorite routes and short cuts.
"There's a KTM dealership in Fairbanks....
At a campsite in Tok, Alaska, someone mentions that there's a KTM dealership in Fairbanks. There is? Woohoo!!!
Like...I mean...I've been rolling through some of the most desolate places on earth. Beautiful, but isolated beyond belief. Now, I'm rolling into the first decent sized town in a while. I forgot there there were such things as motorcycle dealerships. So excited to learn this.
My tires are bald. The rear tire is as smooth as a baby's ass. It's showing bands. Beyond it's service life. Set the GPS to the address of the KTM dealership and just head straight there.
I roll into the KTM dealership in Fairbanks about 4:00 p.m. Alaska Time on a Thursday. Like....I'm hoping for a lot of things here. Hoping that they have tires to fit my bike. Hoping they have time to mount them for me. Hoping all of this happens today so I can keep rolling.
But, they show me their tires...they ask what size tires I have on the bike and I'm like "Dude...trust me I don't know. I'm not even sure what day it is. I certainly am not in a position to know what size the tires are....I think the front is a 21 and the rear is an 18. That's all I know.
We go outside, and the guy at the KTM dealership that's assigned to help me is pointing to the tires he has in stock. They're outside the building out back on a rack in the open air.
"This is your warehouse?" I ask.
"Yeah....we used to have a bunch of tires, but the travelers take them all..." His voice tapers off. The damned travelers.
"What are travelers?" I ask.
"People that come through...they're just traveling through....they just buy everything we have. We can't keep anything in stock..."
Damned those fucking travelers. Like...they talk about them like they're not even human. Like mosquitos that come through riding motorcycles. A true pestilence on the land.
"Damn them...." I say. Not sure if I'm joking or not.
After several trips out to the bike, we make notes on what the tire sizes are. Then, we go back to the warehouse outside and talk about what tires might fit on my bike. The first guy that was helping me leaves without saying goodbye, so now another guy is helping me look at tires. It's a lot of pressure...probably like a woman shopping for a purse. I'm looking at the tires...I don't know a lot about them. I want something that's like 70/30 or 80/20 street vs. dirt. I have to have some knobbiest if I'm going to make it up to the Arctic Circle. I'm not going up a 100 mile dirt road on smooth, bare, bald tires. I'm not that stupid.
My one buddy went up there, crashed, and had to fly back to Connecticut to heal for 5 weeks, only to fly back and drive his bike home. I don't want my little adventure to include a trip to the hospital.
So, I'm at the KTM dealership....a traveler...I'm the lowest form of life on the planet.
"Can y'all put these on today?" I ask optimistically.
"Nah. We can't do it today. All my technicians are covered up. They're all swamped. We don't have time to do this. We could do it tomorrow morning.." His voice trails off. He looks at me suspiciously....I'm a traveler after all...lower than a snake's belly.
I don't complain. I don't say anything really. I just sort of want to keep the deal open. Don't want to recognize the fact that I've just been told my little pointless adventure has reached a stopping point, or a snag.
I feel like someone's pulling a string and unraveling my sweater.
We keep looking at tires. Finally, I settle on one that I kind of like. It looks manly enough. But, as it turns out, they have that one on hold for another person. Someone who planned their trip, pre-ordered the tires, and had them in stock for the day when they roll into town and need them. A traveler capable of planning. Why didn't I think of that?
Finally, we agree on a front and a rear tire. Now, for whatever reason, boss changes his mind and decides that they can take a guy off of what he's working on so that he can change a couple of tires for a traveler. Woohoo!
At the same time, a customer comes into the store and recognizes my inspection sticker on the bike from Guatemala. No one has ever commented on it before. But this kid recognizes it, and comments on it.
"You took this KTM through Guatemala?" he asks.
"Yeah....drove it alone through every country in Central America last year," I reply. "You been down there?"
"Yeah....I drove around down there...went all through Central America and South America for about 6 months last year. I was down there in August."
"How long are you going to be in Alaska," he asks.
"I'm not really sure. I don't have a plan, really," I offer.
We talk for a while. "Look...I live in Anchorage...if you need a place to crash when you're in town, look me up. I've got a place you can get a shower and crash for a night. I can also put you onto some very cool rides in the area."
"OK dude...way cool. Many thanks...I'll give you a shout when I get down there."
Day 13 - Tok, Alaska to the Arctic Circle (Thr 7/31/14)
So, today I plan to make a run for the Arctic Circle, time permitting. I'll drive from Tok, Alaska to Fairbanks, AK and check in at the KTM dealership there. Might possibly to a tire switch, time permitting.
Then, north up the Dalton Highway (AK 11) to the Arctic Circle, about 200 miles north of Fairbanks.
Odometer - Town
0 - Tok, Alaska - Mile 1314
107 - Delta junction - Mile 1422
202 - Fairbanks, AK
337 - Yukon Crossing, AK - MP 56
407 - Arctic Circle - MP 115
Then, I plan to drive back to Yukon Crossing, AK (MP 56) or 5 mile (MP 60) for gas/lodging for the night.
July 30, 2014
Day 12 - Teslin, Yukon to Tok, Alaska (Wed 7/30/14)
Update: I am alive and well and resting peacefully in Tok (pronounced Toke), Alaska.
Starting Odometer: 18,314
Ending Odometer: 18,860
Miles Driven Today: 546
Miles Driven This Trip: 4,207
Here's a map of where we drove today.
So, Ben got up early this morning and took off. He was up at something crazy like 6:30 a.m. and I was like..."have fun dude...keep the bottom side down" and he disappeared on his KLR. I think he said he was going down to Skagway to check it out.
I get up at some point and start packing up all my gear. The forecast calls for a 90% chance of rain in Whitehorse, and I hate riding in the rain, plus...it's freezing cold outside. I don't know how cold because people in this country don't understand Fahrenheit for whatever reason. And you can't convert Celcius to Fahrenheit...it's just not possible. Scientists have tried for years without success. But is cold. Colder than a witch's tit in a steel bra doing pushups in the snow.
I put together a little plan for where I'll get gas for the day:
Yukon Motel - Mile 772
Whitehorse - Mile 880
Destruction Bay - Mile 1046
Buckshot Betty's - Mile 1162
Alaska Border - Mile 1182
Northway Junction - Mile 1264
So, I drag my feet as long as I can and finally, some time after 10:00 a.m., it can be put on no longer and I climb on my bike and head out of town going the wrong way. This time though, I realize my mistake immediately. The new plan is to always have a town in the GPS so it's sending in the right general direction at all times.
I put on pretty much everything I have except my rain gear, and I'm still somewhat cold while riding. The gloves are not good. Holes in several places, and I bought them new for this trip. I have on my Wal-mart-grade fleece and I'm still cold enough that I have to do a sort of Zen mind control to stay on the bike and convince myself I'm having fun. At least it's not raining.
Drive the first 110 miles to Whitehorse, and I've got to do something about my hands. They're too cold. This is ridiculous. Who knew it was this cold up here in July?
Roll through town...find some store called something like Canadian Warehouse/Superstore - No Membership Required. Pull up out front, park on the sidewalk, and these girls are standing out front...
"Do you own this place?" they ask, condescendingly.
"Do you work here?"
Turns out they're just panhandling out front.
"Where can I get some gloves?" They point me to Wal-mart, so I run into Wal-mart, but they don't have cold-weather gloves in July for whatever reason. A kind woman in the parking lot takes pity on me, and directs me to a pair of sporting goods stores on 4th and Main, which I manage to locate.
The first store is Coast Mountain Sports I think....they only have like little gay thin gloves that are useless. The next store is next door. They don't really have any gloves in stock for reasons one can only imagine.
But then, one girl that works there insists that they have a box of winter gloves leftover from ski season that didn't sell. So, I follow her deep into the bowels of this store...underground to where the ugly people type away in obscurity at subterranean keyboards.
She pulls out a box of gloves...some of them are absurd...like boxing gloves...."I want these," I offer, holding up a pair of gloves that weighs about 14 pounds.
"Those are for climbing Mt. Everest...you don't want those..."
Finally, we find a pair of North Face gloves that look like they'll work. They're waterproof, cold-weather, winter gloves. Then, I tell her I need something for my neck...and she finds me a synthetic thingy that goes around your neck.
Now, I'm rolling north and west out of Whitehorse as it begins to rain. Stop and put on my rain gear and now, this is it. This is all that I have. If I get too cold, then I'm royally screwed at this point, and I roll back out into the wilds of the Yukon Territory.
It's really hard to describe how primitive and raw the Yukon Territory truly is. Like...I don't pass anyone else on the road. There are no other vehicles out here. You see another vehicle about ever 10 minutes or so, maybe.
It's raining on me, but I'm staying dry and warm. My Frogg Toggs were beat up pretty badly in the wind yesterday, so I repaired them with duct tape in the room this morning.
Surprisingly, I'm not cold anywhere. I do feel some cold air around my left boot, but other than that, I'm in pretty good shape.
The Yukon scrolls past me, as I duck down low on the bike and run through the cold summer rain. Basically, I run at about 80 -90 mph - "confiscation speeds", as they call it here. But, I don't really care. Like, if the pigs want to stop me and take my bike, at least it will get me out of the rain.
I imagine driving out of the rain. What a great moment that would be. If the deep grey skies would ever part, and allow a ray of sunshine through, then I'd be able to drive out of the freezing rain and into a warm sunny day. What a dream that would be.
But just nothing but dark grey clouds, of course.
About 160 miles later, as I roll into Destruction Bay, the skies part and the rains cease.
Destruction Bay is just stunning. Maybe more so because it's where the rain ended on my ride. But the rain stops and now I'm staring across this bay...it looks like an oil painting...and now the road follows the bay, hugging the shore. Breathtaking.
Now begins the road construction.
Basically, at this point, the paved road deteriorates into loose gravel at sporadic and poorly marked intervals. So that, one minute I'm rolling through the mountains at 85 mph, and then suddenly, I'm on loose-pea-gravel, fighting to keep the bike from going down.
The rain returns occasionally, but not nearly as steady or persistent. Eventually, I just blow through the pea gravel without slowing down. I go through it like the world is on fire. Like, if I crash, I crash, but I've got to get these pineapples through to Hawaii. I'm tired of dilly-dallying around. I can drive further in a day than I have been doing. Much further.
The guys in the Hoka Hey were very clear on this point.
And suddenly, this dawns on me. I got away this morning at something like 10:15 a.m., which is a near record for me. And, I was able to get in my first 100 miles before noon...or by 12:15 p.m. anyway.
Now, I'm blowing through all of this soaking wet pea gravel and road construction nightmare that is the Yukon. The Alaska Highway really does suck here. Really bad. Like, even where it's paved, you're thrown up in the air by invisible swells in the pavement. It's not a good road.
And, I'm looking for this place where I'm supposed to fill up. But I'm not seeing it. I think it's supposed to be here when my odometer hits 140 miles, but it's still nowhere to be seen at 160 miles and my fuel light is on and this is scary. Like...the mind plays all sorts of tricks on you. "Why isn't the gas station here? It was supposed to be here. Where is it? Maybe you passed it. Maybe you're driving off into a black hole where there's no gas for 300 miles...."
All of this runs through your head as you're blowing through this 3rd World Country of Canada in the Yukon. Finally, in the middle of a very gnarly construction project, the KTM comes to a grinding halt.
No problem. It's out of gas. I hop off the bike, untie the 2 gallon gas can, and promptly pour the gas into the left KTM gas tank. Now, I can go 80 more miles. But how far to the next gas station? Who knows?
The construction men are walking around, they get in a truck...I want to ask them "How far to the next gas station?" I'm guessing it's probably 900 miles or so. The men drive away before I can ask them where the next gas station is. But I drive about 5 km and there's the gas station I was looking for all along. Now...why was it 30 miles past where I thought it was? I'm not clear. I have no clue.
Now, I get gas, and there's a motel. She wants something insane like $130 CAD for the night.
"How far to the border?"
"Are there rooms there?"
"I don't know."
That's a lie. Of course she knows where the next hotel is. My guess is that a) she knows there are rooms there and b) she's lying about it.
I decide to push on and go ahead and cross back into the U.S. I need to start pushing myself more. I should be driving 500 miles a day instead of 300 miles a day.
One way to cut costs is to look for cheaper rooms, but the other way to cut costs is to drive further every day so this adventure doesn't drag on until November.
I decide to make a mad dash for the border.
Now that the rain has stopped, and I have a full tank of gas, the sun gets low on the horizon. But the days are so much longer up here you just can't imagine. Right now, it's 11:00 p.m. and broad daylight outside.
Finally, I come to the border. I leave Canada by going through Canadian customs, and on the other side is just nothing. I drive for maybe 20 km before I come to the U.S. customs agency, but there is no Immigration office. It is, essentially, an open border. Only you have to go through customs.
"Where are you heading?"
"I"m driving to the Arctic Circle."
"When will you be leaving?"
"I'm not sure. I've been on the road for about two weeks. What day is it?"
"Today is Wednesday."
"OK. You can go."
"Are there any motels up ahead?"
"There's a motel about 3 miles up the road. Other than that, you have to drive into Tok. About 90 miles."
I decide to bee-line into Tok. I've got to start getting some miles behind me or I'll never make it to the Arctic Circle.
Finally, I roll into Tok at about 10:00 p.m. Broad daylight, of course. If you can believe it.
And I immediately start talking to every motorcyclist I see. I'm got to glean all of the information from these people I can.
Apparently, I have to go to Fairbanks first - there's a KTM dealership there....get new tires...then take Highway 11 the Dalton Highway north to the Arctic Circle. There's a little town near there. Cold something or other.
If it's wet, I'll be in trouble. I'll need knobbies for sure. The one guy I'm talking to went down and had to fly back east for 5 weeks while his broken ribs healed back in Connecticut. Now, he's back to continue his adventure.
Also, some guys are having their bikes shipped back from Anchorage. They ship the bikes to Bellingham on the Marine Highway, and from there, they're driven overland in trucks to the final destination. So this is also an option. They're getting the bikes shipped back to Atlanta for $1,700.00.
Every biker I talk to puts another piece of the puzzle into place.
Go out for dinner, now I'm going back to try to get some rest so I can get up and do it all over again tomorrow.
Photos in the Extended Entry.
Day 12 - Teslin, Yukon to Alaskan Border
I will try to drive through the Yukon Province today and cross into Alaska. Driving up the Alaskan Highway today will look like this:
Mile 772 - Yukon Motel
Mile 880 - Whitehorse
Mile 1046 - Destruction Bay
Mile 1162 - Beaver Creek
Mile 1182 - Alaskan Border
Mile 1264 - Northway Junction
Looks like I may get wet in Whitehorse, but it should clear up at Destruction Bay.
July 29, 2014
Day 11 - Toad River, B.C. to Teslin, Yukon Province of Canada (Tue 7/29/14)
Above: Driving up the Alaska (ALCAN) Highway from Toad River, B.C. to Teslin, Yukon Territory, we saw this Black Bear eating berries on the side of the road.
Update: I am alive and well and resting peacefully on the banks of the Nisutlin Bay at Km 1293/Mile 804 on the Alaska Highway in Teslin, Yukon Territory Canada.
Starting Odometer: 17,923
Ending Odometer: 18,314
Miles Driven Today: 391
Miles Driven This Trip: 3,661
Map of where we drove today.
So, tomorrow, I'll get up early and try to do a long ride of 460 miles to Whitehorse (Mile 880). However, the forecast for Whitehorse looks wet. So, if the weather is bad, I'll stop at 370 miles in the Yukon Motel at Mile 772.
My gas list looks like this:
Mile 417 Toad River Lodge
Mile 566 Contact Creek Lodge
Mile 623 Nugget City
Mile 772 Yukon Motel
Mile 880 Whitehorse
Today, I get up and clear out of the Toad River Lodge. Rolling north and west slowly up the Alaskan Highway. Somehow, I'm on a KTM 990 Adventure and barely able to outrun a 30 foot Mountaineer Trailer.
I keep pulling over to take photos, and this slow lumbering trailer keeps catching up to me. And I'm shooting, and pulling out in front of him to race a few kilometers down the ALCAN highway before I stop to shoot again.
Eventually, the terrain changes enough that I don't have to shoot as much. There's so many animals you just can't know. Road construction. I meet a guy named Ben on a KLR, and we decide to ride together. We're dodging stone sheep, bears, caribou, birds, chipmunks, buffalo.
We' re winding up the Alaska Highway. I should mention here the comraderie of the road. Every motorcycle you pass waves at you. We always stop to offer assistance to any biker that's stopped. It's almost like a cult. It's so cool to be a part of this rolling community.
And part of it is that we're all on vacation, I think. Having the time of our lives. But honestly, the scariest biker guys are really the nicest people you could ever meet.
We passed this guy today. This is the first one I've seen since Yellowstone.
Photos in the Extended Entry.
July 28, 2014
Day 10 - Fort St John (Mile 40) to Toad River Lodge (Mile 402) (Mon 7/28/14)
Above: McDonald Creek in Stone Mountain Provincial Park.
Update: I am alive and well and resting peacefully at the Toad River Lodge at Mile 402 on the Alaska (ALCAN) Highway.
Starting Odometer: 17,532
Ending Odometer: 17,923
Miles Driven Today: 391
Miles Driven This Trip: 3,270
Map of where I went today.
Current Location: Mile Marker 402
Today, I'll drive up the ALCAN Highway, through Fort Nelson, and on to the Toad River Lodge at Mile 402. Fuel stop along the way:
Mile 40 Fort St John
Mile 173 Bucking Horse River Lodge
Mile 280 Fort Nelson
Mile 402 Toad River Lodge
Alaska highwayToad River Lodge km 647.4/mile 402.2 (HM 422). Cabins with kitchenettes are available, reservations recommended. A very nice RV Park, that has full hookups, free satellite TV and Wi-fi. This is an excellent restaurant with home cooked meals. Service station with fuel & repairs. 250-232-5401 855-878-8623
Weather forecast for the ride: Clear and sunny, high of 80 degrees F. Party cloudy in some places.
Revolution Honda 250-263-0334
Fast Tracks 250-787-1930
High Performance (250)785-8125
Artec welding leaving fort st john...last set of lights before charlie lake.
Mile 50 Alaska Highway
OK. So, where to begin. It's 10:00 p.m. and it's still broad daylight outside. So, we'll start with that.
This morning I woke up in Fort St John. I've learned that, if you want to get some distance, you've got to get an early start. That's the key to covering any ground at all. Get your ass out of bed and get rolling. At 8:00 a.m., I'm moving.
I figure out where I'll spend the night. Today, I'll drive 360 miles.
Make a reservation at the Toad River Inn. Plan each of my fuel stops for the day. Check the weather along the route.
Packing my gear. Roll out for breakfast.
The thing that's odd about traveling like this is that you actually spend most of your time in remote, desolate areas, and then occasionally you pass through civilization. So, I think this is different than how most people spend their time. I'd argue most people cling together in these little population clusters for whatever reason.
And when you're back in civilization, you inevitably have this little wish list of things you'd like to pick up. Food. Gas. ChapStik. Things like this. But then, something happens like...you need a new rear-view mirror. (I dropped my bike yesterday and broke one of my rear-view mirrors.)
So now, you have to deal with the mirror issue. Now, I'm through with the whole "task avoidance" issue. I'm way beyond that. Ignoring the problem isn't going to make it go away, and driving without functioning mirrors is so dangerous there aren't words. I'm not that stupid.
So, you go for the shotgun approach. Go online...start searching for motorcycle dealerships. Call them all. No one stocks rear view mirrors, of any kind. So, now I need to find a welding shop. Yesterday, I asked someone and they told me that ArcTech Welding was at the north end of town, so I drive up there and show them my problem.
Like...OK...so we're far enough from civilization that we don't stock parts. For anything. But these guys have the tools to make or repair anything.
Dude welds up my rear-view mirror like a champ. Only problem is that now, it's so loose, it's practically useless. It wobbles all over the place. We try crimping down on it, but nothing works.
Like...I'm fixing to be driving through some of the most desolate forests on the planet. I need to get everything fixed right now and hit the road. Procrastinating gets you nowhere.
One of the things that I've struggled with, all of my life, is that I don't like to impose my will on others. I'm shy, and grew up in the South where you don't want to be rude, no matter what happens. It's all about being polite.
But, the truth is that, you need to tell people what you want them to do. This is never something I've been comfortable with. But now, I'm getting better at it. Normally, I'd just leave there without communicating to the people what I wanted. Or I wouldn't even go there to begin with. But not now. I need him to fix it exactly the way I want it. I'm paying for it.
"Look, dude....it doesn't matter. This is what I want you to do. Just weld it. I don't care."
He tacks the mirror in place so it won't move.
I drive up and down the road a few times to get the mirror where I want it, and he welds it in place. It will never move again, but at least I have a functioning rear-view mirror. The stock KTM mirror on the left has not been behaving well either, so I have him weld it also, just for good measure.
The guy is as cool as the other side of the pillow. Used to live in Colorado Springs. Cuts me some slack on the weld time so when I check out, I only owe like $30 CAD.
Now, I'm rolling up the "Alaskan Highway" as they call it. We're not in the mountains here. More just flat plains and occasionally some mountains off in the distance. Still pretty, but not as striking as the mountains.
Rolling north, I see three guys gassing up as I pass through some little town. Pull in to ask them where they're going, and it's my old buddy Brian...he's the guy that I pissed off back at the hotel in Prince George. I asked him where he was heading and he said "to bed", but then felt bad and left me candy on my motorcycle in the morning.
So, it's Brian and his two sons.
"This is the first time we've ever ridden together," he explains. His two boys are doing a fine job as the 3 of them head down the road. I follow them for a while, but then drop off to take photos and lose them.
At some point during the day, Rachel, one of my head-hunters calls me, but I'm not really into answering phone calls in Canada. A) I'm not really looking for work and 2) It's probably going to cost me eleven hundred dollars to talk on my cell phone from Canada so I just ignore it. Probably, she's calling to say the last client won't pay my invoices and that my phone lines are going to be disconnected and recycled to prevent global warming and feed the starving pygmies in Biafra.
The next group of cyclists I ride with I meet up at some point, and we ride for a bit. Then pull in for gas. We eat lunch at a gas station in Fort Nelson.
There are four bikes in this group. Three guys, and a chick. The chick's name is "Te-Ta". I ask her who's bike she's riding on the back of, but apparently, they've trained her to operate a Harley on her own, somehow.
So, we're sitting out back of this gas station at Fort Nelson. We've all been on the road about 10 days. Only I started in Denver 10 days ago, and these guys started in Key West. I'm like..."Holy Shit! You made it here from Key West in 10 days? WTF?"
Like, here, I think I'm Joe bad-ass, and these guys are schooling me. I'm driving 300 miles a day and they're driving a thousand. They consider 750 miles to be a slow/bad day.
They're on this race, apparently...called the Hoka Hey. It's supposed to raise awareness for some Indian tribe, apparently. I dunno. I'd never heard of it before. But it's a race from Key West, Florida to Homer, Alaska. The first year they did it, some Indian guy put up a $500,000.00 cash prize, and there were something like 600 entrants that paid $1,000.00 entry fee. This year, there is no cash prize, apparently.
Apparently, you can track their location online by their rider numbers here. I was riding with rider numbers 720, 685, 342, and 78. (Update: I just checked...it looks to me like their locations are shown about a day behind. Also, number 78 has had problems with his location tracking since crossing into Canada, for whatever reason.)
The riders all have some time of tracking device mounted on their bike. I suspect it works off of cell towers. They say it works off of satellite. I'm not certain how it works. But, it allows them to track the bikes remotely, somehow.
"Jim....I can't ride a thousand miles in one day," I whine.
"Sure you can," he replies. And, I'm sure that he's right. It would be nice to put up some bigger numbers. I'm going to try riding up to 500 miles a day, or this trip will never end, I'm afraid. But, the problem is that, when you ride too long, you start getting sort of punch drunk. I fall into dull stupor and sort of zone out. It would actually be easy to fall asleep on the bike, I think, if one didn't get enough sleep.
In any event, so I end up riding with 4 people who are in this endurance race. Jim is sort of the unofficial lead, it seems. We're all riding together, and I'm bringing up the rear.
The Alaska Highway is in pretty rough shape. They say there are two seasons up here...winter and road construction. The roads are all torn up, so that you're perpetually waiting at a work crew stop sign or rolling on through clouds of dust from vehicles up ahead stirring things up.
Finally, the Alaska Highway gets to a section that isn't under construction and winds through some really nice scenic mountains, so I wave them off to stop and shoot photos.
Take a few pics of the mountains and the valleys. Some of these shots I just can't pass up. Can't let myself do it.
Then, I race off to catch up with Jim and company. Suddenly, off to my right, a see an animal I've never even seen before. Not clear what it is, but I stop and get some shots of this animal. it looks something like a deer/elk/moose type of creature, but I'm not sure what it is.
Pull up to the Toad River Lodge to find Jim and company getting gas. Everyone is pretty shaken up though because Jim apparently left the road and went down into a ditch. So, I missed this. This happened while I was taking photos of the Sasquatch down the road. I show my photos to some guys standing around. Apparently, it's a Caribou. Neat. I've never seen one with my own eyes before.
So, Jim and company pull out, leaving me alone at the Toad River Inn. There's another guy on a bike here though, and I ask him where he's going.
"To the Arctic Circle," he offers.
"Good. How many miles you ride in a day?" I ask.
"OK. What time do we leave in the morning?"
"We ride at 8:00 a.m."
"Good deal. See you then."
So, this is good to finally be close enough to my destination that other people are going there and people don't seem shocked when I say "I'm driving to Alaska". Now, instead, they say "Where in Alaska are you going?"
And that's a pretty good feeling. To know that, finally, I'm closing in on my goal.
Photos in the Extended Entry.
July 27, 2014
ALCAN Highway Mile-By-Mile Description
Tomorrow, I'm staying at the Toad River Lodge.
Day 9 - Prince George to Fort St John - The ALCAN Highway (Sun 7/27/14)
Above: Bijoux Falls, at Bijoux Falls Provincial Park on the John Hart Highway north of Lake McLeod Lake and south of Pine Le Moray Provincial Park.
Additional Photos in the Extended Entry
Update: I am alive and well and resting peacefully in the town of Fort St John, at Milepost 47 on the "Alaskan Highway", aka the "Alaska Highway", aka the "ALCAN Highway".
My plan is today to drive to Dawson Creek, Mile Marker 0 on the ALCAN Highway. Distance is about 400 km (300 miles). Forecast is clear and sunny. Should be a nice ride today.
Here's a map of where I went today.
Starting Odometer: 17,204
Ending Odometer: 17,532
Miles Driven Today: 328.0
Miles Driven This Trip: 2,880
This morning, I go out and, in the parking lot I find a note on my motorcycle and some candies also. This has never happened before, to the best of my recollection. I grab my iPhone to take a picture, unsure of what I've found.
Back in Kalispell, they'd brought us a bucket of warm soapy water to wash the bikes, and also a hose and some rags. But putting candy on a motorcycle? This is a first for me.
But when I read the note, I see it's from my neighbor. Last night, I pulled in, not realizing it was 9:30 p.m. at night. Because my battery has been disconnected several times and I forget how to set the clock on my KTM and I'm too lazy to read the manual and my little digital clock display took a dirt nap on me. So, I don't really have a good handle on what time it is. Or what day it is, for that matter. I just sort of drive and sleep and I'm not sure what day or time it is, or if it even matters.
In any event, I saw their bikes last night in the parking lot and knocked on their door to ask "where y'all going?" and he, in his underwear said "to bed". And I was like..."OH...OK. Sorry to bother you." And I left them alone.
Apparently, he found bad for being such a dick to me and left me a note saying as much and a few pieces of candy as well.
I install my new freshly charged battery from Wal-mart in the parking lot. I'm sure people in hotels dread seeing me coming. I'm reasonably sure I drive down the real-estate values wherever I wander.
I'm trying to decide if I should go west and up the Dease Lake Road, or go back east and backtrack some to get to the ALCAN Highway at Dawson Creek.
The more direct route appears to be The Dease Lake Road, but I can't find that there are any hotels there. And there isn't any place to stay in Kitwanga.
One of the guys I was talking to in the Wal-mart Parking lot yesterday was adamant that I should take the ALCAN Highway instead of the Dease Lake Road, as it's "paved", and will have more touristy things along the way, (presumably gas and hotels).
And I can't really figure out what to do on the Dease Lake Road if there isn't a place to stay. I mean, if it means I have to drive another 300 miles in the dark, then that's not safe.
So I decide to head to Dawson Creek and pick up the ALCAN Highway. He's mentioned that there's a Mile Marker 0 in the center of town with 3 flags on it, which sounds kinda neet.
He's explained all of the places to me that will sell gas along the route to Dawson Creek...where to stop, how far between gas stations, etc. This is very good info ration, as what you see on the internet may or may not be accurate.
I roll out of town, heading roughly north and then east. It's nice, but we're not really in the Rocky Mountains any more. More like elevated plains of green fields. Lots of farmers growing hay. We follow some rivers now and again. I don't really shoot a lot because I've seen such inconceivably beautiful terrain for the last week, that this doesn't quite seem to measure up.
Eventually, I see a motorcycle pull over on the shoulder. I stop to check on him.
"Are you OK, buddy?"
"Yeah. Thanks. Just going back to take a picture of that waterfall."
So, we go back to see the waterfall that I'd missed. He lives in the area and always drives by it. It's not even like you have to hike into it. It's 50 yards from the road, at the edge of the parking lot.
We stop to take some shots, and I find out he's also going to Dawson Creek. So Iask if he minds if i ride with him. He doesn't mind, so the two of us ride together, heading towards Dawson Creek.
I'm so tired I can hardly keep my eyes open. I stayed up until 3:00 a.m. this morning working on tracking my expenses, copying over photos, etc.
We wind through mountains and fields and, at some point, an elk comes up to the edge of the road and I wonder if he's going to hit the elk. He slows down a great deal, and at the last second, the elk turns and runs back away from the road, towards the way he came.
An elk is a large creature. Much larger than a deer. That would have sucked.
Eventually, we come to the town of Chetwynd, and we stop for gas. I stop for gas, and manage to let the bike fall over, trapping my leg. It wasn't hurting my leg, but I couldn't lift the bike alone, so I was waiting for Chris to come over and realize what was going on. Eventually, he did and yanked the bike up off of me.
We stood the bike back up. No damage, except for my right mirror broke.
Eventually, Chris turns off right before we get to Dawson Creek. He says "safe travels" and goes on his own way. At Dawson Creek, I ask some people where Mile Marker 0 is. Two people on a motorcycle send me to the general vicinity, but it's sort of tricky because they've set up this place where they want you to take your touristy photos, but it's not really the actual Mile Marker 0...that's a block up and a block over. I know this because some little girl came walking by and told us.
I've now met this couple from Alexandria Louisiana in a rented Dodge Charger. So, we all 3 go to the correct location in town of the original Mile Marker 0 and go stand in the street illegally to get out photos.
Chris told me there aren't any motorcycle dealers in town, but that I could probably get someone to weld my mirror for me. I ask some guys I see in a shop, but they say the next town has motorcycle shops, and will have welding shops that will be open also, since tomorrow is Monday, apparently.
I'm not sure where to spend the night, but I feel like I should be able to make the next town which is only like 60 km up the ALCAN Highway at Fort St John.
At Fort St John, I'm exhausted. So tired there aren't words. But this is where you have to be your sharpest. I've given up on the internet reservations because I think they're a scam - a racket. Instead, I've learned to walk into a hotel, ask for their cheapest room, and then ask them for a cheaper motel. They'll keep sending you to cheaper and cheaper motels until it gets into the federally-subsidized-housing-type of situation.
So, when you're at your most tired is when you need to be your sharpest. I've learned this when I roll into town.
Photos in the Extended Entry.
Day 8 - Great Divide Lodge, Yoho National Forest, B.C., Canada to Prince George, B.C., Canada (Sat 7/26/14)
Above: Driving to Jasper National Park from Yoho National Park on BC 97.
Additional Photos in the Extended Entry.
Update: I am alive and well and resting peacefully in Prince George, British Columbia, Canada, at the confluence of the Nechako River and the Fraser River.
Starting Odometer: 16,748
Ending Odometer: 17,204
Miles Driven Today: 456 miles
Miles Driven This Trip: 2,552
Here's a map of where I went today.
So, although my post for day 6/7 say I was in Banff, probably technically, that's not not correct. Apparently, I was in the Yoho National Forest in British Columbia. I was only about 15 km from Lake Louise, but Lake Louise and the town of Banff are both technically in Alberta. And, although I went through Alberta, I was technically staying in British Columbia, at the Great Divide Lodge, which technically isn't in a town, but is in the Yoho National Forest in the province of British Columbia. Just for the record.
Last night, I brought my battery inside the room and put it about 3 feet from the heater so it wouldn't get so cold that it wouldn't start my bike in the morning. It's really hard to say how demoralizing it is to push the starter on your motorcycle when you're 2,000+ miles from home with no cell coverage in a foreign country and just hear this "click...click...click". Not a goof feeling, I can assure you.
So, this morning, i walk outside and install my warm battery and the bike fires right up and Lord God I'm glad this god-forsaken vehicle is acting like it's going to run today.
Ted, John and I all get up at about 8:30 a.m. One of the things I've learned on this trip is that, if you're going to get any miles in, you've got to get up early. So we go down to breakfast. Yesterday, 5 barn swallows sat in their nest, patiently waiting to be fed. Today, they've fledged, and are flying around, trying out their new wings, and then resting on the roof of the lodge, begging for food from mom and dad.
Ted, my one roommate leaves, and now it's just me and John. John is from China. Ted is from the UK...up on the north somewhere near the Scottish border.
I'm getting everything packed up for a big bike ride. The weather outside is spectacular. Mostly sunny. Still cool, but not raining. I roll down the hill and give Nigel a $20.00 bill for saving my ass yesterday. He was nice enough to help me get my bike jumpstarted when I wasn't even sure it was possible, or even where the battery was located, really.
I go ahead and fill up at Nige's little gas station there at the Great Divide Inn. I tell him I'm off to Jasper and promptly head out going the wrong direction. I head west for 7.5 miles until I get to Field, B.C., at which point I realize that I'm going the wrong directions. Now, I head back east, then get on the Canada 1 road heading north towards Jasper. Probably, it's a good idea not to leave in the morning without programming in a destination into the Garmin Montana 600.
Get back on track, drive into the Jasper National Park entrance. Now, rolling north. Beautiful valley through the Rocky Mountains. Really indescribable. Probably the nicest place I've been, but then it seems I always like the last place I went the most. Who can compare RMNP, Yellowstone, Glacier, Kootenai, Yoho, Banff, Jasper, and Mount Robson? It would be foolish to try.
Here's short a video I shot today hand-holding the GoPro Hero3 Black Edition with a 128 GB MicroSD card rolling through Jasper National Park.
I find the little cabin Michelle and I spent our honeymoon in 21 years ago. How odd to return to this place 21 years later. Now, I roll into the exquisite town of Jasper. A train station here. I go in and ask them if we can put my bike on a train and ship it to Kitwanga or Prince Rupert. "No motorized vehicles allowed on any trains in Canada," the guy belts out.
Like, trust me...I'm not above changing this adventure up a bit. When I came back from Cabo, we loaded my bike into the back of a truck and I slept for 500 miles. When I went up to Alaska last time, I took a ferry north for 12 hours from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert. So, I'm all for loading up the bike on some other platform so I can rest for a bit. But, it's not in the cards.
Lunch at Smitty's Family Restaurant, and now west towards Prince George. As soon as I leave Jasper, I just open the bike up and let it breathe. I run about 93 mph in a speed limit 62 zone for hours. Until suddenly, I see a bear.
A black bear on the side of the road just sitting there minding his own business. I loop back to get a shot of him. He lets me take my pictures, and then I go on my way. I'm totally blown away by the bear. Suddenly, I'm not going 92 mph any more. Or passing campers on double yellow lines. Now, I'm watching very closely for bears, and hardly even driving. And now, a cop is coming at me and turns on his blue lights. Oh shit shit shit. I can't believe it. What made me think this road wasn't patrolled? Am I retarded? But wait...I can't believe my luck. He pulls over the truck behind me. Man...that was close.
If he'd stopped me 10 miles back when I was going 93 in a 62, he would have taken my bike on the spot. B.C. has a policy (maybe all of Canada, I'm not clear)...but they will confiscate/impound your vehicle for speeding on the spot. Like...they'll write you a ticket AND they'll take your vehicle away from you.
So, I got lucky on that one.
Now, as it turns out, the distance between Jasper and Prince George is roughly 374 km, or about 233 miles. Which turns out to be further than I can go on a tank of gas. I get about 30 miles from Prince George, and the bike just shuts down. Flat out of gas. Fortunately, I'm carrying 2 gallons of extra fuel in case of just such an emergency. Stop on the side of the road, gas up the bike, and continue on my way.
But, it does get me thinking. If the gas stations are this far apart down here, I can only imagine what it will be like on the Deese Lake Road from Kitwanga up to the Yukon.
I roll on into Prince George...I've actually been here before...and pass a motorcycle dealership. But, they're closing. Somehow, I'm in the last big town in Canada for thousands of kilometers, and it's closing time on a Saturday. The motorcycle dealerships will all be closed Sunday and Monday. All of this because I took a day of rest yesterday to dodge the rain. Man. I should buy a calendar or something.
Buy some gloves at the motorcycle dealership, hoping they're warmer than the ones I have.
Now, off to Wal-Mart to buy some things I need for the trip like:
1) a new motorcycle battery
2) a motorcycle battery charger
3) some warm (not-cotton) long underwear
4) a replacement for my melted power adapter
5) some food for the bike (trail mix)
6) a cigarette lighter
7) a tarp
8) duct tape
This bad weather has really got me thinking about survival. Like, if I get caught out in the rain, I need to be able to build a fire, and get out of the rain. So, the tarp and the cigarette lighters are my plan. And the duct tape. You always need duct tape.
In the parking lot, people flock around me like a rock star. I'm not joking. Somehow, they figure out that I'm on a serious motorcycle trip, and they come up to offer advice. What they want me to do is go back and pick up the Al-Can Highway at Dawson Creek. But that would mean I have to go back east, and I'm not going east.
Instead, I'll take the road to Kitwanga, and follow that road north into the Yukon and pick up the AlCan Highway there.
It is sort of odd to have people flocking around me, asking where I'm going and what I'm doing. The fact that people are still shocked when I say I'm going to Alaska is a pretty good indication that I'm probably biting off more than I can chew. Like...if you've already been on the road for a week and driven over 2,500 miles and people are still shocked when you tell them your final destination, then you've probably made a poor life choice.
But this is where we are.
Now, off to the Cycle North Honda...closed. Off to the KTM dealership across the river that isn't listed on KTM's website. Closed.
So, I've missed everything. Looks like I'll be leaving in the morning with what I have. (But I did get a serious amount of gear at Wal-Mart. And the new battery is charging in the bathroom right now.)
Photos in the Extended Entry.
July 25, 2014
Day 7 - The bike truly is cursed
So, I go out to get on the bike to ride into Lake Louise for a late lunch or early dinner. And the battery is dead again. You just can't know the fears that roil my body when I turn the key and push the button to start the engine. I have very little confidence in the bike at this point. And it's nothing that I'm doing wrong. My theory is now that either a) the battery is bad or b) I have an alternator issue or c) both the battery is bad and the alternator is bad.
Fortunately, I'm at the top of a hill because to get to room 29, you've got to climb a steep gravel road. So, I start rolling the bike downhill sitting in the saddle. The plan is to pop the clutch in 1st (or some people say 2nd), and the bike will roll start. Only, in the gravel, the rear tire just slides and the bike doesn't turn over at all. Now, I decide to go the rest of the way down the hill, gaining speed like a madman, and then pop the clutch in 1st in the parking lot as I simultaneously slam down into the seat at the same time, forcing the rear tire to roll start the engine.
But instead, the bike just skids to a halt, and now I've exhausted all of my potential energy. Now, I'm sitting in the parking lot. All alone. Everyone else has left the hotel, save one lone minivan in the parking lot. Just beside the hotel is a very small gas station.
I walk over to the gas station.
"Say, bud...I don't suppose you have a battery charger do you?"
I mean...you have to understand....I'm in the middle of the Canadian Rockies. There's nothing else around here. There's a lake across the street. Mountain covered in fresh snow from last night.
We rummage through the garage, but he doesn't come up with a battery charger, but he does come up with a set of jumper cables.
"Let's go ask that guy driving the minivan if he'll give us a boost, eh?" he asks.
So, we approach the driver of the minivan, an old man with a frayed wife nipping at his heels.
My buddgy....Nige is the guy's name...asks the old man, "Can you give us a boost, eh?" he asks.
Now, they're lifting the hood of the minivan, and I dive into action. Because it's a KTM, you know that the battery will be in the least accessible place on the bike, by design. You should expect that there will be at least 3 access doors that must be removed to get to it. You'll need 7 different types of tools to get near the battery...a torx wrench, a hex wrench, and three different size of metric sockets. Each bolt will be a different length. This is how KTM designs things because they're fucking morons.
I know where the battery is because I read my manual back at the eastern entrance to Glacier when I was stranded a day or two ago.
I dive into the rear Givi case, pull out my tools, and immediately drop the rear access panel on the bottom of the bike. 4 x 8mm bolts. Only two different lengths to deal with. I quickly have the battery exposed, and now they're handing me the cables. I have no idea if this will work, or if it will explode or create a tear in the fabric of the space-time continuum. But I'm all for trying.
Get the cables hooked up, and the bike will turn over, but not start.
"You have to start your engine," I explain to the old man. The old lady looks like she's in pain.
He starts his engine. But still nothing.
"You have to give it some gas," I explain to him.
Like, if it was a real vehicle instead of a mini-van, we wouldn't be having this conversation.
So, finally, he gets into the minivan and gives it some gas like it matters. The bike roars to life, but the battery is so dead it won't idle. So I balance one of the tool bags on the hand throttle so it idles higher than normal, and doesn't die.
Nigel rolls up his battery cables and fades away. The old man folds his nagging cocklebur into the crook of his arm, drags her into the battered minivan, and strangles her loudly in the back of the van. He drives away.
And now it's just me in the parking lot. All alone again.
At some point though, it does die, but I hit the starter and it fires right back up. I start to think that I might live through the day.
I drive over to Nigel's little garage. I'd give him $100 USD for those battery cables. How nice that would be to have them.
Lord God only knows where I could find jumper cables for sale in the middle of the Rocky Mountains.
"Hey Nige...where can I get some battery cables?"
"I can sell you a set..." he starts.
"Yes. 44 Canadian dollars."
"Ring 'em up."
So now, I have a set of jumper cables. It's not the ideal solution, but it's part of the equation for now. The cables will help me get to Prince George, B.C. In Prince George, I can buy a new battery and/or a battery charger.
I feel like I need to go for a ride, to try to charge the battery. Somehow, it's got to make it through another night.
Drive down the highway to Lake Louise Village. Now, up to Lake Louise for some photos of the lake. Now up to Lake Morraine for some more lake photos. Now, back down towards Lake Louise village.
A man stopped alone on the side of the road on a Harley. I stop to ask if he needs help. All fear is gone now. Every fear everyone ever sold me or pumped into me is long gone.
"Are you OK? Do you need help?"
His English is not great. Turns out, he's from Canne, France. On the road from Arizona, to here, then east to Edmonton to see his nephew. Not sure where from there. He's 8,000 miles into the trip so far. Very cool guy. I wish him well and ride off.
Walk into a gas station in Lake Louise Village, and there are the same two people I saw yesterday. Yesterday, these two Harley riders were standing here, warming up from a long ride in the rain. Clasping cold hands around a cup of warm tea. Today, the exact same thing. Walk in...the same two people...standing in the same gas station...clutching a cup of tea.
"What happened to you two? You should be long gone from here. Are you afraid of a little rain?"
"We lost a bag somewhere...one of the saddlebags was open and a bag fell out. We went back and looked for it but couldn't find it."
Outside, it looks like it's starting to rain.
Another group of bikers and I stop to talk to the four of them. They ask my destination and I say Alaska and it impresses them in a way that should scare me if I had any sense. Everyone wants to know how I'll get back. But the truth is, I don't know. But I have been formulating a loose sort of a contingency plan. Should I make it to the arctic circle, the plan is to beat a hasty retreat south to Fairbanks, and hop on a ferry. This guy is saying that there's probably a ferry through the inland passage from Fairbanks to Port Hardee. How sweet would that be?
It's looking like rain, so I head back to the hotel. Lord God I don't want to have to go through drying all of my clothes again.
I loop through Lake Louise Village, checking out the Sporting Goods store the guy in the gas station told me about. A smarter man would go in there and buy some under-armor for the ride to Prince George. I decide to risk and try to pick something up at a Wal-Mart in Prince George.
Make it back to the Great Divide Inn and I'm just so exhausted there aren't words. I haven't even really done anything today. Haven't driven but a few kilometers...maybe 50 km at most.
Eat dinner at the lodge. Put back a couple of Kokanee's. Now, I have to figure out what to do with the bike. I can't get it into my room. I already tried that. I asked them to move me to room 25, which I could easily roll the bike into. But it's booked up, apparently.
I asked Nige if I could put it in his garage. But he said no dice.
Now, that leaves me with the plan of pulling the battery, bringing it inside, and keeping it on the heater all night. It's not much, but it's the best plan I have at this point for getting the bike to start in the morning.
Now, I've got to walk back to my room somehow. I"m so tired there just aren't words. My bike is around here somewhere. I can't remember if I parked it down the hill or up the hill. But I've got to find it, pull the battery, and bring the battery inside and let it rest on the heater all night, praying it won't die.
I see that there's not a KTM dealer in Prince George, but there is a Wal-Mart and a Canadian Tire in Prince George and both of them carry motorcycle batteries. So, maybe that's my best plan at this point.
So tired there just aren't words.
Day 7 - Sick Day - Doug Leaves for Salmon Arm (Fri 7/25/14)
I decided to take a "sick day" today. Called the boss....told him I was sick and couldn't come in today.
OK. So, what really happened is that the weather is really bad today. Cold and rainy from here to Jasper, and I'm just not up for another 200 mile ride in a soaking rain today. Yesterday was plenty enough for me. Tomorrow, it's supposed to be warm and cloudy, but not nearly as wet. So, I'm going to take a sick day and stay in Banff for another day.
My hotel is pretty expensive. It's $38.00 a night, but I decided that I can afford it.
My thought is that I've been getting behind on my photos. I've been shooting like mad, uploading them to my laptop, and culling out the moderately decent ones, but then not having time to upload any pics along the way. So I'm thinking that today will give me an opportunity to upload some photos, and maybe document some other esoterica points that may have otherwise been lost to the sands of time.
My buddy Doug just left. Doug is riding a Harley, and heading west into Salmon Arm, British Columbia.
He grew up in Vancouver, and has been living more recently in Alberta...Edmonton, I believe. He's heading to the coast for a fishing trip and had a choice to make..."Do I take the Harley, or do I take the car?" He knuckled down and took he Harley, and I had to work to convince him he'd made the right decision.
"You did the right thing man...if it were clear and sunny, we wouldn't be having this conversation. You'd be feeling like a rock star right about now."
So, I sent him on his way this morning. Another wanderer on this planet. Searching for something.
What's nice is to find these people...to learn from them and talk to them about their adventures and where they like to go. He used to live at Hickman Airforce base on Oahu. Very cool guy. Used to run a charter business out of the "thousand islands" in the gulf between Vancouver Island and British Columbia.
All of my old stories come back to me now.
"Yeah, man...I was coming into Hundred Mile House one time and blew around this truck on a double yellow..." I offer.
"You were at 100 mile house? I know exactly where that is."
"Yeah, and then, at Cache Creek, I turned and came down the Sea to Sky Highway 99 through Whistler...."
"My sister lives up there," he says.
And this is fun, of course, To reminisce with strangers. But it's good, in a way. It's reassuring to meet these strangers on the road. The guys you see on Harleys that look so tough...most of them aren't really bad people. Most of them are pretty cool. Just lost, wandering souls like the rest of us. Desperately seeking something, but not sure what.
We eat breakfast together...coffee and toast in the "breakfast buffet", and swap war stories. It's kinda fun because, I've been a lot of places, so when people talk about where they like, lots of times I know the places they're describing. So it's fun, really. Better than watching TV and brushing the cats' fur off the couch, anyway.
Yesterday, Doug asked me "Can you search on your computer and tell me how far it is to 'Salmon Arm'?"
And I'm like..."Can you spell that?" Like...it sounds like you just said 'Salmon Arm', and last time I checked, Salmon don't have arms. But this is in a country that names things 'HaHaHa Creek' so, maybe there is a Salmon Arm. Sure enough. It exists. Due west of here. Unfortunately, the distance is in kilometers, so there's no way to know how far it really is. I guess you just have to start driving and watch for a sign that says "Welcome to Salmon Arm".
I mean...could I drive today? Sure. I could. But it's supposed to warm up tomorrow, and it's not supposed to be as wet, and I really, really don't feel like driving 400 miles in a cold rain tomorrow. It was raining when I woke up, and I wanted to hang myself. But, keep in mind...these mountains are green for a reason. I'm sure that they get a lot of precipitation. It's just depressing to look around and realize that it's been warm and sunny all week, and will be warm and sunny all next week, only these storm clouds seem to be following me across this crazy journey to nowhere.
But there's worse places to be stuck for a day. And then, when I get to Prince George tomorrow, I'll buy some additional clothing for the trip. I've got to get some high-tech long underwear (not cotton), and I've got to come up with a better system for the gloves. I'm not above just waterproofing the neoprene gloves I'm wearing, or even putting a pair of dishwashing gloves on over my current ones. Anything to keep this ball rolling. I've got a LONG way to go still, somehow.
But once I get past Prince George, I'm really going to try to open it up and start doing 500 mile days. Try to get up to AK before the winter sets in.
July 24, 2014
Day 6 - Kalispell, MT to Great Divide Inn, Yoho National Park, BC (Thr 7/24/14)
Today, I will try to make it to Banff, B.C. in Canada.
Update: I am alive and well and resting peacefully at the Great Divide Inn in Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada.
Starting Odometer: 16,357
Ending Odometer: 16,705
Miles Driven Today: 348.0
Miles Driven This Trip: 2,053.7
Here's a rough map of where I drove today.
In the morning, I'm awake. I set an alarm now. I've learned so much from riding with these guys for just 2 days there aren't words. One of the main thing is to get up and get your ass out of bed and get rolling before 10:00 a.m. If you can get in 100 miles before noon, your day looks so much better.
So, I'm awake...moving about...when Nick knocks on my door. "Come on, Rob...you riding with us today?"
"I can't man. I'm going to break north for Banff. But you guys have fun. I loved riding with y'al . Keep the bottom side down."
And with that, Nick and the rest of the gang ride away into the sunset. They were so cool, there just aren't words. It's so nice to not have to lead, for a change. Riding with them was so nice. All you have to do is follow, and that's big when you've been on the road for a while. To just sort of not worry about the GPS, the maps....to just say "You guys go ahead...I'll bring up the rear."
So much fun. Such a beautiful ride with these guys. So happy to have met them on the road. And, maybe it seems like I didn't know them well, but you have to understand that friendships forged on the road are most closely like those formed in battle. We became very close, very quickly.
So that, after 2 days of riding with them, I was truly sad to see them ride away. But I've decided to turn north and head up into Banff. I want to hit Banff, Jasper, and then get over to Prince George...it gets fuzzy after that.
So, they take off, and now I'm on my own again.
Mail. I've got to mail these letters I've been carrying around in my gear for the last week.
This life lesson is all about task avoidance. I'm through with it. I'm solving problems now. I'm taking the reigns of my life back.
Find the Post Office...go down there and buy some stamps and envelopes. Come back into the room, get all my bills ready to be paid...they're all ready to go, except for that one letter to Canada. I've still got to pay this bill for $109 for crossing a double yellow line in Hundred Mile House 3 years ago. And I've never paid it. I'm deathly afraid of crossing into Canada and being tossed into prison like the Midnight Express.
That would suck so bad. I haven't been to jail once this year, and I think about getting thrown back into the pokey. It's a bad feeling. A very bad feeling.
So I call the number on the ticket from Canada and pay the bill over the phone. "Now...this will take a few days to process, but I'll just make a note in here so Mary will see that you've already paid."
And I'm thinking..."Mary? Like there's only one lady in Canada that handles these things? Lord God."
"Look....when I get to Canada today...when I cross the border....I'm concerned about this ticket that I've just paid...It's been outstanding for like 3 years....Is there going to be a warrant for my arrest?"
"Oh no. We don't do things like that up here. We handle things very differently than you do in the U.S."
"Oh. OK. Thanks."
So, this is a big weight off of my shoulders. I've paid all of my tickets...and I probably won't go to jail when I get to Canada.
When I go outside, everyone has left except for one other bike in the parking lot. I hop on my bike, swing by the Post Office in Kalispell, MT to mail my letters, and then take off out of town heading roughly north.
I made a reservation last night/this morning at about 1:00 a.m. for a room near Banff, and I figure the ride will take me about 250 miles today, sot it won't be a crazy long day or anything. This will be my shortest day of the trip so far, and I'm ready for it, honestly.
The problem with being on the road every day is that there's never enough time to get everything done. There's just too much to do in one day, and not enough hours in the day to get it all done. I'd love to just take a day and relax and catch up, but I won't afford myself this simple luxury. Must keep marching onward or I won't make it to my destination.
So nice of the lady at the hotel last night to give us rags, a bucket of hot soapy water, and a hose. Like, we all washed our bikes in the parking lot in the shade of the Liar Tree, with a ceramic face going "shhhhh". I've never had anyone greet me so warmly on a bike. The Hilltop Hotel (sic) is what it was called. Excellent place.
Now, rolling out of town towards Whitefish. Roughly north. It's roughly an hour to the Canadian border. Now, Montana is a beautiful state. Indescribably beautiful. Up here, there's more gently rolling green hills. Of course, always the stunning Rocky Mountains backdrop. But rolling north now towards the border. Every so often, I stop to shoot a picture or twelve. Rolling north....trying to get up to Banff now.
The radar detector won't work, and this is deeply troubling to me. Oddly, it quit working the same time that my bike failed to start yesterday. So, it doesn't make sense really. I try to piece together what would explain the fact that the DC outlet on the bike appears to have ceased functioning. A fuse? A bad socket? A bad radar detector? I can't really figure out how to isolate what the issue is. Finally, I decide that what I could do is ask a total stranger to plug my radar detector into their car and tell me if it works.
But before I go that far, I decide to try turning it on. Now, as long as I've had it, I've never turned it own. I didn't know how to change the volume on it until after I got a speeding ticket. Now, I turn it on, and it works. That's what the problem was. Doh!
Robert M. Pirsig actually talks about this in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Don't trick yourself into believing you know something to be true, when it isn't true.
So, the reason the bike would' start is because I left my headlight on. The reason the radar detector quit working is because it probably turned itself off when the battery died. Or I turned it off in my panic to start the bike.
As I get to the border, the line to cross into Canada is insanely long, and a bike comes by me, goes down a frontage road, bypassing this long line of cars, and pulls into a package liquor store on the U.S. side of the border. I follow, hoping to cut ahead in the line.
"How'd you get behind us? You left ahead of us?"
"I think maybe I stopped to take some pictures?" I'm not sure who these people are, or how they think they know me. It's very confusing. I just just stay home and not venture out unaccompanied like this.
"Do you think I could pull out there and cut in line?" I ask.
"I'm sure you could. They wouldn't mind." They're canucks. Peg and Gary.
"I've never seen the line this long," he offers. "They must only have one lane open."
"You left the parking lot before us this morning. How did we get ahead of you?"
Slowly, it dawns on me...we stayed at the same hotel last night. They were the last bike the parking lot when I left.
Now, we're talking about our little adventures. I re-leaned on this trip not to brag about my little adventure. Because I've met people on this trip on bikes from Texas, Florida, New Jersey, Washington...you name it. You learn not to brag, because someone will point out that they're been on the road WAYYY longer than you have. And that's embarrassing. So, mostly I just tell people I'm driving to Alaska, and let them make of it what they will.
Peg and Gary have been riding around down in Glacier, and I forget where else, but they live in Canada somewhere. They're telling me roads to take, and I'm listening...."Advice on the road are pearls of wisdom or gifts from heaven" Something like that. Gary tells me to turn right at the Radon Hot Springs and go into Banff via the "Kootenay" park, whatever that is.
So, we sit in line together, very slowing inching forward towards the Canadian border. We're talking the whole time. He's telling me I can follow them and they'll show me when to turn off, which is nice. I mean, I have a GPS, but it's always nice to have some locals help you out with directions, planning,....anything really.
Before we get to Immigration into Canada, I panic.
"What do I need to show him? Just my passport?"
"Yeah...just give him your passport. He'll ask you some simple questions. That's all."
I present him with my passport.
"When's the last time you were in Canada?"
"About 3 years ago."
"Where did you go then?"
"I drove up from SF to Alaska and back."
"Do you have anything on you to defend yourself? Pepper spray, mace, guns?"
"No. My only form of defense is to outrun whoever is after me."
And with that, he waves me into the country. Doesn't put me in jail. Doesn't ask to see my driver's license, insurance, registration, title, etc. Just waves me on through.
I wait on the other side for Gary and Peggy. They come up, and I'll follow them through British Columbia until they show me where to turn. But, about 12:00 noon or so, we pass this little coffee shop and they motion for me to pull over.
"We want to buy you lunch," they offer.
"Well you twisted my arm," I laugh.
Now, we're in this quainty little coffee shop, eating lunch, and swapping war stories about being on the road. Apparently, there was a ruling last week on some native tribe living in Canada. Unlike all of the other Indian tribes, this tribe never signed any treaties with the Canadians. Now, they're claiming their ancestral tribal lands as their own. And the Canadian Supreme Court just sided with them. Which is pretty cool, it seems.
Also, the Keystone Pipeline is supposed to carry oil from the Oil Sands up in Alberta. They're waiting on that to get built, obviously.
After lunch, I foliow them a bit, and they wave me off at my turn. I follow their advice and, after driving north for an hour or two, turn right at the Radon Hot Springs, into the Kootenay National Park.
The park is amazing but, as soon as I get into it, it starts to rain on me.
I'm driving through a blinding, freezing July rain in Kootenay National Park. The speed limit is 90 km/hr (56 mph). I'm going 86 mph in a bone-chilling rain. The lady in the box said that It would take "at least an hour and a half" to get through the park. I'd wager money I made i through in less time than that.
The scenery is just amazing...I'm trying to think of what the mist rising off the water reminds me of....I think it was the "High Mother of the Gods" River in Peru. I finally emerge from the Kootenay Park (COOT' n AY) and I'm on some major interstate now, headed roughly north towards Lake Louise.
I'm not sure what the name of the hotel I'm booked in is called. Or where it is, exactly. This is the curse of the age of technology. All of these details escape me, but they're in my phone, of course.
The problem with technology is that you come to rely on it. And the iPhone has a brain. It knows when I really need it to work. And, in these times, it shuts down.
I know that, generally speaking, the hotel room I booked is somewhere past Lake Louise. But I'm not sure what the name of it is. Or the address. Or the phone number. But I can't call, because my phone is bricked again. So, I can't see any of this info I need to find a place to get out of the rain.
Now, I've spent a lot of time beating up on my Garmin Montana 600, but I will say this for it. That thing is rock solid. It's waterproof, and it will run all day on a single charge. If I could just put the address of my hotel room into that Garmin, then I'd be on my way to a warm hotel room. But instead, I'm driving down the interstate in a driving rain, looking for anything to get me off of the interstate. A gas station would be nice. But no...all I see are signs for rest stops. Scenic overlooks. Even a "Temple". Like...thank God the Hindu's have a place to worship. How about a fucking gas station, people?
I'm afraid I might lose my hands. I imagine explaining to my grandkids why I don't have hands. "No...I wasn't born this way...it's just that Canada doesn't have any places to buy gas in their country."
Finally, a sign for Lake Louise. And there's a gas station. I pull off, pull into the gas station, and get out of the rain. I drop all of my shit and walk into the gas station like an insane man, on escape from the mental ward.
But I'm in good company. Two other Harley riders did the same thing as me. Abandon their bike at an open pump. Fuck the rest of the world. People are pulling up, buying gas, and going on about their lives. We are 3 frightened lambs, commiserating around a coffee put, cursing the rain, the gods, and the Dimocrats.
I ask them to charge my iPhone, but it's dead and not working. So I go to a hotel in Lake Louise, open my laptop to discover a name and address for my hotel reservation. Now rolling north in the driving rain again towards my hotel. I pass a hotel called the
Stage Coach Great Divide Inn with a Vacancy sign out front. The GPS takes me 5 miles up the road in a steady dull cold rain and an empty town of Field, British Columbia. And a closed Information Center.
Slowly, I realize that the
Stage Coach Great Divide Inn I just passed in the driving rain 5 miles back was, in fact, my hotel. Race back to the hotel in the freezing cold rain, tired, exhausted. So glad to be out of the rain. But there' some confusion over the reservation. Somehow, I made it for tomorrow night. I hate Hotels.com so much there aren't words. 30 minutes later, they've finally changed my reservation to tonight. I'm sipping hot coffee, trying to save my hands in the next room.
A guy comes in on a Harley and asks me how far it is to "Salmon Arm", but does't like my answer. "Dude...it's about 3 hours from here."
He's anxious to get out of the rain also. And he ends up being my roommate for the night, as I've rented a "shared room" for the night for $38 a night, which I'm pleased to do so I don't burn through my cash so fast.
Tomorrow, the forecast is for more rain, so I'm skipping Jasper, and heading west across the plains towards Prince George. I plan now to take Highway 37 (I think) up from Prince George, through Kitwanga, and up the Deese Lake Highway.
I get a scalding hot shower and it's so nice to have a hot shower after riding all day in the freezing rain there aren't words. You'll never know how nice it is.
Starting tomorrow, I'll start trying to put up some bigger numbers. I'll be riding 400 and 500 miles a day instead of 300 miles a day. I've got to get moving or I'll never make it to the North Pole.
July 23, 2014
Day 5 - Great Falls, MT to Kalispell, MT (Wed 7/23/14)
Above: Going-to-the-Sun Road, Glacier National Park, Montana.
Additional Photos in the Extended Entry.
Update: I am alive and well and resting peacefully just outside the west gate of Glacier National Park in Kalispell, Montana with my riding friends Mark(aka Daryl), Nick, Jim, and Eddie.
Starting Odometer: 16,086
Ending Odometer 16,357
Miles Driven Today 271.0
Miles Driven This Trip: 1,705.7
This map shows basically where we went today.
Max Speed today: 105 mph
Times stopped by police today: 0
Tickets Received today: 0
Injuries: No additional injuries today.
Incidents/Accidents: Jim managed to lay his bike down today. We were heading north on 49 outside of Glacier. I had stopped to shoot photos of a grizzly bear, and I missed it. But apparently, they all pulled over at a turn out. And the shoulder was dirt and dropped somewhat. Jim tried to stop with his back tire on the pavement and his front tire off the pavement and his foot wouldn't reach the ground, so he fell over. He was also apparently moving when this happened, though probably very slowly. Everyone helped him up. I arrived just as they were standing up his bike. He seems to be no worse for the wear.
Animals spotted: Grizzling bear, free range horses and cows inside of Glacier park.
The East Entrance to Glacier
So, we stop at the east entrance to glacier. I swear these guys stop all the freaking time. For nothing. But, the thing they taught me was to get away early. I set an alarm, got up, and we were ready to leave by 9:00 a.m. However, because it was pouring down rain at 9:00 a.m., we left at 10:00 a.m. which was fine by me. Normally, I'd still be asleep at 10:00 a.m.
Instead, we were rolling at 10:00 a.m. . So, you get to stop more.
Now, we're stopping. We just gassed up something crazy like 60 miles ago. I can't imagine why we're stopping. I go in and get ice cream. Everyone gets a drink, goes to the bathroom. Whatever. I just sit in the shade on the bench, waiting for permission to keep riding.
The word comes back. No rooms available at the west entrance to Glacier. Instead, they have one reservation, with 2 beds. For 5 people (counting me). Ugh.. Not good.
"I'll probably go out the North entrance anyway...find a room up there..."
"Are you still riding with us...for part of the way?" Mark clarifies.
"Uh...yeah...as far as I can..."
They all call "All Clear!" and hop on their bikes and disappear.
I hop on my bike, turn the key, and nothing. Just some clicks. Sucks.
So, it won't start now. My assumption is that the problem is the battery. But I'm not sure. I panic. Stranded, at a gas station, surrounded by people. Sounds silly, but this is where I am.
I panic. I sit in the shade. Maybe....maybe I turned my lights off and wait a minute, it will start. But it won't start. I really don't want to deal with this situation. I really don't like to deal with this reality. But this is my new reality. I have a bike that won't start. My friends all just left, and I have no clue what to do. Like...should I call Triple-A? Should I call KTM? Why won't it start? Why am I here, in the middle of nowhere, with a bike that won't start. Maybe I could ask a stranger for a "jump", if only I knew where the battery was on this thing. It's a KTM, which means that the battery will be buried deep inside the bike where it's inaccessible.
I pull the seat. Nope. Not under there. Get out the manual...scan for battery charging...OK...Remove the Under-ride Guard. Easy enough. So, at least I know where the battery is now. Now, if only I had jumper cables. Or a battery charger. What a nightmare.
What I want to do is quit the ride and go home. People would understand. The bike has been too difficult. In my mind, all of the little problems I've had with the bike lately combine into this maelstrom of confusion. The bike isn't fit for the trip. It's cursed. This is somehow tied into that problem I've had before were it dies when I put it into gear. Now, the entire electrical system has completely melted down and, if I called KTM, they'd admit that there was some terrible defect that everyone knows about but no one mentions and if I could bring it to the KTM dealer in Seattle thew could fix it for me but it would take 4 days before they could get to it.
But this is all madness, really. Honestly, the best explanation is that I left my headlight on for 30 minutes while we all sat in the shade eating ice cream and now the battery is dead and it won't start. That's probably all that happened.
What I really need to do is to interact with these people around me and ask them to help me push-start the bike. It's too heavy for me to push-start on my own, and it's hot and sunny in the middle of the day. But if the only problem is that my battery ran down, then a push start is exactly what I need to get going. No KTM dealer. No tow trucks. No battery charger. Just a push start.
Just then, a bunch of Harley Riders walk by and I lay it out for them...
"Hey, Harley Riders...I don't supposed you'd be willing to give a fellow biker a push start, would you?"
They all laugh and I climb on my bike and they push me across the parking lot....I pop the clutch in first and the bike roars to life. Now, the trick is not to let it die. Roll up to the ice-cream-eating-bench and let it sit there idling while I pack up all my gear..."Please don't die...please don't die...please don't die..."
Thank the Harley Riders profusely, and pack up my gear, and now heading into Glacier. I have a reservation about 50 miles north of the East Entrance to Glacier. But, I want to see Glacier National Park.
Granted, my bike is, in all probability, not reliable enough to drive across the street, much less across the continent. But I want to see Glacier National Park. I've wanted to see it for 10-15 years. And by God I'm going to see it. I don't care if the bike collapses beneath my weight. I'm going there. Right now.
To me, this is the same as thinking about when I burned my hand. Yes, the burn hurts, but all it is is pain. And, I just push the pain out of my mind. It's just a signal to the brain saying "hey, we've got a problem down here". But, I know what the problem is. It's been resolved. I push the pain out of my mind. So what if it hurts? I can still keep riding. I'm not that worried about the hand. It's just a distraction.
The same as when the pig wrote me a ticket. It doesn't matter. It only matters if you let it matter. So, it doesn't matter. The bike problems are, for me, the same way. They're a nuisance. I don't understand for certain what is going on with the bike. If it's because I left the light on too long in the parking lot and drained the battery, or something less obvious. But, it doesn't matter. I'm going to drive across Glacier today. Nothing will stop me. That is the best approach, it seems to me.
Essentially, my plan is to end up North of Glacier, and the North Entrance to Glacier is closed, so there's only an East and a West entrance, essentially. As I drive into the park, I pay my $12.00 entrance fee.
"How long does it take to get across the park?" I ask the female ranger rich type at the booth.
"At least 2 hours..."
It's about 4:30 p.m., so that means I'll get into Fort MacLeod at about 9:30 p.m. Great. I plan to drive across the park on the Driving to the Sun Road, return back along the same, then head north for 50 miles into Canada to Fort MacLeod. On a motorcycle that won't start. And, if it dies, I'm royally screwed.
Pay the park entrance fee. Drive into the park, and immediately I'm at a 15 minute wait due to road construction. But I can't kill the bike. So I sit in the shade while the bike idles for 15 minutes. The bike gets warmer and warmer until eventually, the oil light comes on and the temperature bars on the digital display indicate max temperature reached. Realizing that 1) I can't kill the bike and 2) if the bike idles, it will overheat and possibly seize up, I hop on the bike and start to go.
The moron with the stop sign indicates I can't go yet.
"Dude...get the fuck out of my way...I have to go...my engine is about to seize up..."
And I do a quick U-turn and go back down the hill, then another U-turn and now, the engine starts to cool and he lets us go up the mountain. So, I'm rolling up the mountain on a bike that 1) I can't kill and 2) I can't stop. This is a very bad situation. Insanely bad.
As we climb the mountain, the dust is unbelievable. This happens every year, apparently. Fresh rock falls, always the road is in a torpid state of disrepair.
None of my DC adapters are working. Normally, I have 3 USB ports running off of the 12V cigarette lighter on the bike. I power the Garmin, the GoPro, and my iPhone with USB from the cigarette lighter. But, I test it, and there's nothing. No juice at all. This leads me to believe that there is something seriously wrong with the bike. Like...yes...I got it started, but the electrical system is royally hosed.
So, I have a bike that won't start, and won't stop. And no DC power, so I can't charge my GoPro, and I can't charge my Garmin. And no cell coverage. So, this is not a good day. I'm driving over the continental divide, and the view is just stunning. Unbelievable. But I really can't even enjoy it that much, because my situation is just so precarious.
As I cross the continental divide for the umpteenth time, my Garmin indicates low power. Great. I'm about to lose my Garmin. No cell coverage. No GoPro. The bike runs, but can't be stopped, because it won't restart. What a nightmare.
Now, down the other side of the continental divide. I don't really care about the scenery. It's spectacular. I take a few pics. But I'm sick because my situation is so bleak. I want to roll the KTM into the lake and hitch-hike home.
I want to find the nearest KTM dealer, drive the bike there, drop it off, and say "call me when it's working right", but I have no cell coverage. So, I can't contact KTM. I decide to keep going down to the West entrance where I'll have cell coverage, then I'll call and find out the nearest KTM dealer an head for that. I imagine refilling the bike with gas while the engine is running...praying it won't overheat.
I decide to plug in my Passport Radar detector again to see if it will power up. This time, there are two lights that do appear to glow, though very dimly. But that gives me hope. Hope that the problem is all related to a dead battery. Maybe all I need is a battery charger. I'll buy a battery charger, a new motorcycle battery at O'Rieleys or NAPA, and wire it all into the bike's electrical system.
I pass the slow people going downhill, illegally, over double yellow lines. And as I pass one woman, a large doe crosses the road in front of her and I almost hit the deer going about 30 mph. Somehow, I miss it.
Now, finally, 2 hours later, nearing the West Entrance to Glacier, and guess who I see? My buddies! All four of them lined up , on the side of the road, and I come rolling by. I flip them all off. "You left me, you fuckers."
"We thought you were going up north to Fort MacLeod in B.C...."
"I was, but I had some trouble with my bike...it won't start..won't even turn over...I had to have some Harley guys push start me..."
But really, I'm just so glad to see them there aren't words. So glad to have friends who can help me. Now, if we can just find a walmart, I can buy a trickle charger, put it on a charge over night. Buy a new battery if I need to. All things seem possible now.
We're rolling south out of Glacier towards Kalispell, MT where they have a single room reserved. Mark makes it clear to me that I don't have a room and can't stay with them, as they only have 1 room for 4 people at this point. I don't really care. I don't have a plan. I'm just so glad to be around people who can help me to push start the bike if it dies.
So, we're rolling south, and now, we see this large storm front moving in towards us. Not looking good. But, the funny thing is, I don't even care. We're rolling south...I'm on a bike that I can't stop...with no USB power to any of my instruments....into a massive storm...with no place to stay. And I don't even care. I'm as happy as a pig in shit. Grinning from ear to ear.
When we get into Kalispell, Nick sends me to find a room. Go down that way..ride through town...look for Vacancy signs. If ind a place with a vacancy sign. Get a room. A single...and take it. Done.
I kill the bike in the parking lot, and then it starts right back up. The only thing that I can assume is that I drained the battery by leaving the headlight on, and now it's recharged. So now, I have a bike that runs, a place to stay, and the stop dissipates and never rains on us anyway.
I've learned so much from riding with these guys there just aren't words. In the parking lot, Nick explains to me how to mount the bike properly.
"Why don't you stand on the left foot peg, and then swing your weight over?" He asks.
I try it, for the first time ever. Works perfectly, and my boot doesn't hit the seat now.
I love riding with these guys. So much fun. So glad to have friends on the road.
Additional Photos in the Extended Entry.
July 22, 2014
Day 4 - Wapiti, WY to Great Falls, MT (Tue 7/22/14)
Above: Yellowstone Lake, in Yellowstone National Park.
Additional Photos in the Extended Entry.
I am alive and well and eating dinner with new biker friends in Great Falls, MT.
Starting Odometer: 15,720
Ending Odometer 16,086
Miles Driven Today 366.0
Miles Driven This Trip: 1,434.7
This is roughly the path that I took today. I believe met my new biker friends in Livingston, MT, if I'm not mistaken.
Max Speed: 126 mph
Times stopped by police: 1
Tickets Received: 1 - Wyoming pigs - Speeding - 65 in a 25.
Injuries: Managed to touch the exhaust with my left hand today. Clear water blister about the size of a quarter on my left palm/thumb area. Very painful at first. Now, just mainly uncomfortable, and unattractive.
Near accidents: Drifted across the enter line a few times, once when a car was coming.
Here's a video I shot with the GoPro Hero 3 Black Edition. It came out OK. Gives you some idea of what my insane little adventure is all about.
In the morning, I wake up at something crazy like 9:00 a.m.
That's unusually early for me. But I wake up and see that check out time is 10:00 a.m. and I don't have the wifi id/password. She left me a note and let me in the room last night and the key was in the room. So, that was good. But no wifi id/password is not quite so good. Now, I walk into the office and ask her for the id/password which she reluctantly gives me. But she's ornery. She doesn't like me. She makes this clear. Check out time is 10:00 a.m. And I can't get a later checkout time. So, this sucks because it means that I only get about an hour before I have to hit the road, which doesn't really give me time to catch up on my notes, at all. Then, her husband comes out in the parking lot and confronts me, wanting to know what the problem is. Apparently, he wants to fight me. This is their idea of hospitality, I assume.
I clear out and head up the canyon to the east entrance to yellowstone. It's not raining or cloudy or anything. It's a gorgeous day out. And I'm shooting like mad, climbing up the canyon heading west into Yellowstone. We're following the Shoshone River. This is apparently the home of Buffalo Bill? I'm not clear. But everything here is named after him.
My First Ticket of the Trip
As I'm coming into the East entrance to the park, I notice that theres a pig behind me as I pull in to show the woman in the Yellowstone entrance box that I'd already paid yesterday. And, of course, the pig is there for me. And when I pull into the park, she pulls me over and promptly gives me a ticket. She said I was going 65 in a 25. Who knows what the truth is. I'm sure she sits in that little place where the speed limit changes and writes tickets all day long. It's her little honey hole. But I decide not to let it get me down.
You can't let the pigs get you down. They're just a nuisance like a bee sting. That's all they can do is sting you. You still have your life. Your time. Your day. Don't let the pigs ruin it. Don't give them that power.
Sitting in the shade
So, I pull over on the north end of Yellowstone somewhere to make an adjustment. I finally figured out how to use the GoPro. If you want to use the GoPro, then you need to plug in the USB cable. And then you can use it all you want. As soon as you unplug the USB cable, then the game is over. The thing runs out of juice and dies in two shakes of a sheep's tail.
Yesterday, I had convinced myself that this was not the case. That it couldn't be used with the USB cable plugged in. I was mistaken.
So, I decide to set up the iPhone to work with the GoPro app again, only this time, I'll hold the GoPro in my hand and keep the USB cable attached so it won't die on me every 3 minutes.
Get it all set up, and now the bike won't run again. And, my iPhone makes that alarming display where it just shows you an apple logo...instead of acting like a phone. I could smash this P.O.S. into a trillion pieces.
I've noticed this about it though. Additionally, the symptom is that it won't start while the bike is in gear, even if I have the clutch handle pulled in all the way. It should start in any gear at all, so long as the clutch is pulled in. But when it acts this way, it won't start at all unless I put it in neutral. Then, when I put it in neutral, it will start, but dies as soon as I put it in gear. Which sucks, really.
I happen to be just north of some little convenience store up on the north west side of Yellowstone. I decide to wait and see if letting the bike cool down for a minute will help. This seemed to work yesterday. However, my bike is in the scorching sun. I climb beneath the shade of a tree just off the parking lot. I'm reasonably sure that, if a ranger rick guy comes by, he will stop and chastise me for being on the hill beneath the shade of the tree.
I check the oil. It has plenty of oil. The engine is not overheating, according to the heat indicators. So, I'm not clear what is going on. Something is wrong, obviously.
Its' getting to the point where the motorcycle is holding me back, which sucks. Now, I'm afraid to turn of the engine for fear that it will do this again. I have no internet service. And, when I try to call or post on the internet, I see that I have no service. So, yeah. This pretty much sucks.
I swear if I ever get this bike running again I'll never turn it off if I'm not at a gas station again.
After about 30 minutes, I get on the bike, and it starts right up. I'm not clear what the issue is. Sam points out that it may be because I have my kickstand down. He may be right about that. That would explain it. And I have noticed that it dies when I put the kickstand down. So...
I'm blowing north through Yellowstone. I'm trying to remember how many times I've been to Yellowstone, and when I first came here. I think I've been here twice. Once was when I used to work in Idaho Falls. But I think I came once before that also. It's been so long since I was on this side of the park. Not much of it sticks, really.
I'm rolling through the park, shooting like crazy. Just beautiful. Spectacular. Yellowstone is truly a singular place. I'm glad now that I came here. Like, when you're sitting at home, you spend a lot of time second-guessing yourself. "Why did I really want to drive to Alaska? Why hit RMNP, Yellowstone, Glacier, etc.? Mainly, I copied Doug's route. Only, I reversed it. But when he and I were driving up the Skeena River in Alaska to Kitwanga a while back, he told me about how he was going back through Jasper, Banff, Glacier, Yellowstone, and RMNP...it just stuck. I was like..."sheer genius". And then, you start thinking "why don't I do that"?
Probably because no sane person would do that, of course. Mostly, I just ride and shoot from the saddle. I'm not stopping to get a lot of close ups in Yellowstone. But, understand, we have all of the same animals in Colorado. So, I don't get real excited when I see an elk, deer, or buffalo. My neighbor raises buffalo, and every time they escape (frequently), they put the elementary school on lockdown. So, I just tend to blow past the people in Yellowstone when they stop to shoot the deer.
At the north entrance, I'm hungry. Haven't eaten in so long I can't remember. But I just blow out of town, heading for Livingston, MT. Basically, my thought is this..."I need to go North to get to cooler weather, and that's basically where Glacier is".
So, I roll north, following Highway 89.
At times, it threatens to rain. At Livingston, it seems like I will be drowned. So I stop, gas up, and put on all of my rain gear. But then, I roll north on 89, and somehow I sort of outrun the rain by going 90 for a while.
Eventually, I come to another storm front, and see a few motorcyclists huddled beneath a gas station shelter, waiting out the storm. So I pull in and ask if they can make room for one more. My general plan for dealing with rain is more throttle. And if that doesn't work, then try to go faster still. But running 90 mph through a driving rain isn't fun or safe. These guys seem to have a plan, so I stop to talk to them.
They're very cool guys. 4 guys from St Louis. 3 on Harleys. One on a BMW 1200. I point out to the Harley guys "Hey...y'll realize his bike isn't made in the United States, right?"
They just laugh at me. And we sit under the awning for maybe 30 minutes while the storm passes. The one guy has a cell phone and shows me how the cell is supposed to move over head.
"What app is that?"
It seems like, no matter how smart you are, if you're not out interacting with other people, you're going to miss these tricks. It seems everyone I talk to has tricks to share with me. lessons to be learned.
They're going the same place I am, as it turns to...to Great Falls. I picked it by throwing a dart at the map. They picked it by weeks of careful planning. Either way. And then they're going to Glacier.
So, I ask if I can ride with them, and they adopt me.
After the storm passes, we take off, hell bent for leather. North on 89. I'm riding last. Shooting like crazy. Glad to be alive. Glad to be on the road. Glad to have people to ride with, less anything go wrong with my bike. It's nice to have a few friends watching out for you when you're so far from home.
We pull over at some scenic turnout, and I ask if their hotel has any rooms left. Now, they're calling and handing me a cell phone. Now I have a reservation at their hotel in Great Falls. Now, rolling back north through gently rolling fields. Montana is so beautiful. I never knew. I'd sort of cut across a corner of Montana many years ago, so technically, I'd seen it. But now, I'm really driving through the heart of up...up by the Crazy Mountain Range (no joke). So stunning. Captivating. Not nearly as arid as Wyoming was. More verdant. Lush. Inviting.
Now, I ride by each of my new friends, shooting them with the GoPro. And we get into a little race of sorts. Now...it's only me and the BMW 1200. The Harley's have no chance. And we're running balls out. I know I am. I assume Mark is. I'm running 126 mph. He's doing about the same, but behind me. Cars are approaching us and passing us by (going the other direction). And, if they're cops...then I'll go to jail for sure. But I don't care, really. Right now, it's all about KTM vs BMW. And the cops can't take this race away from us.
We all roll into Great Falls. Find the hotel. Check in. Go to dinner in a local diner that Jim knows about somehow. Great company. Good dinner. Then back to the hotel. They tell me that we leave by 8:00 a.m. and I laugh because I thought they were joking.
They were not.
Photos in the Extended Entry.
July 21, 2014
Day 3 - Diamondville, WY to Wapiti, WY (Mon 7/21/14)
Update: i am alive and well and resting peacefully in the riverside town of Wapiti, WY.
Starting Odometer: 15,295
Ending Odometer 15,720
Miles Driven Today 425.0
Miles Driven This Trip: 1,068.7
This is roughly the route I have planned out for today.
So, yesterday morning, I started out with my iPhone completely bricking on me at the gas station in Diamondville. You don't realize how dependent you are on that silly thing until it quits working, but when it shut down, it meant that I couldn't navigate, so I left town heading the wrong way and depending on my useless Garmin Montana for navigation. I got about 16 miles outside of town heading due east when I realized I was going the wrong way.
Turned around, drove back to town, and stopped at the first gas station and asked for a paper map. Lady was friendly and handed me a paper map. Old school. It works.
"To get to the Star Valley, you follow US 89 and US 30..." she explains. Now, I have a map.
So, i drove 32 miles for no reason. Not a great way to start the day.
Now, rolling north through the Star Valley. Slowly, the desert becomes these lush green irrigated fields on both sides of the highway. The sprinklers lower the temperature and the green makes you feel like you want to live again.
Farmers mowing hay and baling it into great fields of hay bales.
Now, I decided to learn how to use the Garmin GPS. I go though every single setting that the silly thing has. (While I'm driving, no less) I figure out how to change it from Metric to US. Figure out how to tell it to follow roads, not just go in a straight line through the mountains. It actually becomes fairly useful. now, the only problem is that the orientation keeps shifting from horizontal to vertical nonstop as I'm driving.
Now, up and over some pass. Signs indicate this is some sort of a continental divide. South, the water flows into the Great Salt Lake. North, and it flows into the Snake river and out to the Pacific North West. This was a cutoff to the oregon trail.
Very cool to be following the Oregon trail. Hard to believe that it was real.
Now, down into the Star Valley, and up to Alpine, and the Nordic Inn. This is where cousin Lisa used to work. I stop in for lunch, but they're closed and only open for dinner.
Now, turning at Alpine to follow the Snake River up the canyon. Beautiful canyon with lots of rafters. Steep cliffs. Tight turns. Pop out at the top of the canyon and you're in Jackson, Wyoming. Stop to gas up in Wyoming. It seems like my fuel tank is working now, but my gas mileage is not as good as it once was, with all the extra weight, I assume.
At Jackson, huge storm is blowing in. Pull over to a gas station and put on all of the rain gear. The rain isn't so bad once you have your gear on.
At Jackson, a quick shot of the elk antler arches around the park in the center of town. Now, north out of Jackson.
Now, rolling north before the fabled Teton mountain range. It's raining, but somehow I'm surfing the front of the storm. So that, if I stop to shoot, I get wet. The storm is chasing me north. So, I'm rolling north. Snap a few pics of the tetons, and they disappear into a massive rainstorm.
Now, some road construction. Replacing a guard rail so we have to stop. I drove to the front of the line, and stop. The man has a stop sign. The wind is blowing so hard he can't hold it up. It's raining so hard we can hardly talk. Now, the hail comes. Great waves of hail and rain.
Finally, he lets me go. I roll north, it rains. It stops. It rains more. Get into Yellowstone National Park. Now, I stop to shoot this creek/river. Beautiful shot. But when I get back on my bike, the bike starts, but dies when I put it in gear. It's done this to me once before. I don't know what to make of it. The bike starts and runs fine, but when I put it in gear, even with the clutch still in, it immediately dies. Oh...and my iPhone isn't working.
So, basicaly, I'm stranded. And the storm is catching up to me. Not a good feeling. Why do I put myself out here. What made me want to do this trip?
I decide to let the bike sit and cool for a bit. Not sure why, but it's not like I have any other choice/course of action.
Leave the bike sitting,a nd in a few minutes, I'm up and running and off to the races. Something is wrong to cause this to happen, but I'm not clear what that is.
Now, rolling north through Yellowstone. I have a reservation at the East entrance to Yellowstone, primarily because I've never been to that entrance, and I'd lake to see it.
Rolling through Yellowstone, shooting like mad. Ignoring the elk, deer, and buffalo. I have those at my house.
Now, along the north shore of Lake Yellowstone. The lake is massive. Insanely large. Indescribable. Unique, in this area, obviously.
Stop to shoot in fading light and light rain. On the drive through Yellowstone, it rained on me on and off the whole time. But the advantages is that no one else was in the park hardly. Plus it's monday, I think.
Now, rolling east out of Yellowstone. But I'm not sure where I'm staying. I made a reservation on the internet this morning, but I now have no internet access. I'm cut off from the world. So, I'm not sure where I'll spend the night. My plan is to get into town of Cody, Wyoming...find electricity and internet...connect to my home servers..and hope there's an email there with my reservation info. Because my phone had a test message, but it's dead. Useless.
So, roll east out of Yellowstone. Another 50 miles east to Cody. Slight oversight on my part there. And I find a hotel. Pull in...set up my laptop...get connected to internet...RDP into my home servers to check my emails...and there it is....The Green Creek Inn in Wapiti, WY. I need to go back up the canyon for about 18 miles...then I'm home for the night.
Except that checkin time is by 10:00 p.m. And it's already 10:10 pm. And they don't answer. On a wing and a prayer...race back up the canyon west into Wapiti...the envelope is taped to the door. "KISER". And I have a room for the night.
Photos in the Extended Entry.
July 20, 2014
Day 2 - Craig, CO to Diamondville, WY (Sun 7/20/14)
(Additional Photos in the Extended Entry.)
I am alive and well and resting peacefully in Diamondville, WY.
Starting Odometer: 14,969.0
Ending Odometer 15,295.0
Miles Driven Today 326.0
Miles Driven This Trip: 643.7
Max Speed: 112 mph
Times stopped by police: 0
Near accidents: Drifted across the enter line a few times. Drove 90 mph through a rainstorm outside of Diamondville on a road covered in tar snakes. Going 80 though a 50 mph curve, my additional 2 gallon gas tank slid off the seat, nearly melting against the muffler.
Here's a map of roughly where I drove today. Basically west along US Highway 40 to Vernal Utah, then right in Vernal to the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area. Then north to I-80 on US 191 to I 80. Then West on I-80 to exit 66 to Diamondville, WY. The reason I came this way is that I want to go up the Star Valley tomorrow. Haven't seen it in a long time.
In the morning, I wake up madder at the motorcycle than a wet hen. Why won't the fucking gas tank work?
I've never really tried to do anything in this life. I've been very fortunate in that, my life has been very easy, and I've never really tried to do anything. In school, my teachers used to admonish me. "You're the smartest kid we've ever seen and you won't even make an effort to get good grades. Albert doesn't have near the ability you have, but he works harder and gets better grades."
"Yeah. Good for him."
So, that's sort of always been my life. Just sleep-walking through this world. And I have an issue with task avoidance. I tend to avoid tasks that I don't deem desirable for whatever reason. I suspect that we all do this, but I don't know why. I really don't.
And the odd thing is that doing the things we don't want to makes us better people, somehow. I never thought that Jennifer would be happier working, than not working. But getting up, going into work, talking to other people. It's what we were designed to do, I think.
A sword is forged in a furnace. It doesn't want to go into the furnace, but the furnace changes it into something different. We are this way also. Our experiences forge our character.
And task avoidance just leads us down this meandering stream to nowhere. Yet we all do it. For reasons that aren't clear to me.
Recently, I did try to do one thing. I tried to move my Peenie Wallie web server off of an old XP machine and onto a new Windows 7 server. The task was enormously complicated, and a task I put off for a great amount of time. Let's say 5 years. Because I knew it was going to be a royal pain in the ass and I didn't want to deal with it.
So, finally, I decided to migrate to the new box. I ran into problem after problem after problem, but I kept working at it for a period of several weeks. I worked on it every day for about a month. Each day, I took notes on the progress I made, technical issues I ran into, and how I attempted to solve them. Many times, I went down the wrong path, and had to backtrack. But finally I was successful at the project.
What surprised me about the project was that I realized that making mistakes was part of the process. Making mistakes on a daily basis and backtracking was, in fact, part of the solution to the problem. Because it means that you're trying. I always had felt that, if you didn't know how to do it, then you shouldn't try. And if you made mistakes then you were a moron, and that much more reason to drop the process entirely.
But what I came to see was that testing, experimenting, and backtracking are, in fact, part of the process. They are the forge that makes the sword. This was an enlightening experience for me.
So now, as I'm facing this fucking motorcycle nightmare in the parking lot of the hotel, it occurs to me that I don't know what's wrong with the bike, but there's only one way to fix it. The KTM dealer in Vernal, Utah is closed today, even though it's a Saturday. So I have to solve this problem. Or I have to tuck my tail between my legs and go home crying like a little baby saying it was too hard or something.
And, even though I don't really understand how the fuel system works on a KTM 990 Adventure, the process of solving it looks like this: 1) Tear it all apart in the parking lot 2) Make sure that the tank has gas in it and that it will, in fact, drain out through the fuel petcock. 3) Make sure that there aren't any fuel hoses that you forgot to reattach.
Now, the people that designed the KTM motorcycle should be found, corralled, and hogtied. Their skin should be pulled from their carcasses the way a man skins a catfish. And they should then be soaked in rubbing alcohol. And then the process should be repeated for the people that designed the Owner's Manual.
There is no excuse for the poor attention to design of the bike, or to the documentation in the manual.
The directions are the same for reinstalling the front right side cover and front left side cover. The front Left Side Cover had 2 vent lines to connect. But on the Front Right Side Cover,
So, I can't figure it out, but I to tear it all down, make sure fuel is coming out of the petcock, and reassemble everything. Then, I start brainstorming other solutions: 1) Call a KTM dealership. The one in Vernal, Utah is inexplicably closed. 2) Post on ADVRIder and ask for help with this issue. 3) Buy a gas can and carry extra gas 4) get a siphon hose so I have to siphon the right fuel tank on the road.
So, I took a shotgun approach to solve the problem, and i was very proud of myself for doing this. For not just packing it all in and saying "forget it". Oddly, riding down the road with a 2 gallon gas can behind me didn't really change the ride noticeably. The gas can is far enough back on the seat that I have to scoot back to touch it. And it essentially negates my fuel issue. If I can get the fuel tank working, it actually adds greatly to my range on this trip.
It's 120 miles to Vernal, so that will be a good test of whether the right tank is working or not. I can usually go 120 miles on each tank, roughly.
I picked up a travel-size container of sunscreen at Wal-mart, and put this on at the gas station before I leave town. Too hot to be wearing gloves, and I don't want the skin to peel off the back of my hands. But now, as I'm rolling out of Craig, it's cloudy. I always feel like I'm ready to fight the last war, but never the new one. The sunscreen on my hands is useless as I fight this insane storm coming in. Wind blowing me all over the road so that, I honestly feel as if it might blow me off the road. Very dangerous high winds. I'm running about 80-90 mph. Trying to stay on the road. Drops of rain fall on me occasionally, but you look around and you're like..."seriously? this is a freaking desert...how much rain can they get out here?"
As I roll out of Craig, Colorado, it gets drier and drier as I go west. The trees seem to cling to the river now, as I follow the Yampa River west. Gradually, the land flattens out and becomes more arid, and I realize I'm in the desert again.
Cross over into Utah, and now at the Green River. Suddenly, the mormons have everything irrigated and growing farms again from the Green River, I'm sure. But it's nice. A welcome change. Now rolling into Vernal Utah. Vernal has a main street lined with American Flags and countless pots of flowers hanging from the lamp posts. Really stunning. Stop and talk to a guy on a BMW street bike. He says he has a 7 gallon tank and gets 42-44 mpg.
Now, in Vernal, I notice that my fuel light hasn't come on. I don't really know where to go, but I see signs for the Flaming Gorge. Matt told me to go through the Flaming Gorge. And this is what you live for. Advice from people on the road.
Normally, I don't really talk to strangers, because I figure that the juice isn't worth the squeeze. Like, most people are so stupid that's you don't want to get involved with them, because they're only going to hold you back. But now that I'm on the road, I find that it's nice to talk to people, so I try to strike up conversations with complete strangers. I hand them my little business cards that explains my trip, etc.
And, for people working in the gas stations, some of them really get it. Some of them are completely excited for my little adventure. But it's nice for me because I get to actually speak to someone, which is not something I'd normally do, which brings us back to the task avoidance issue.
At Vernal, I turn right, heading up to the Flaming Gorge, without getting any gas. The road winds uphill, with the scenery getting greener and greener. Now, I see Aspen trees, with shiny green leaves. And I'm thinking...what does this place remind me of? Cripple Creek! This place looks exactly like the mountains around Cripple Creek and Victor back in Colorado.
Beautiful, but makes you wonder why you left, really. Climbing up this hill, now descending into the Flaming Gorge. Beautiful winding road through the green lush mountains. Finally, a turn to the Flaming Gorge Recreation Area and a gas station just as my fuel light comes on at 150 miles.
So, this puzzles me a bit. The fuel light shouldn't come on at 150 miles. It should come on at 200 miles, not 150 miles. But this does clearly mean that I'm getting some fuel from the right tank. At most the left fuel tank would only let me go 125 miles. So, I'm sort of confused by this. But I fill up at the gas station...both tanks are empty. This is a good sign, imho. Although I'm still confused by my gas mileage. It must be much lower due to the extra weight. I'm get 40 mpg instead of 45. Possibly this is right.
Now, rolling along this amazing reservoir, across the spillway day with massive dam. As we take Highway 191 north, away from the reservoir, through this winding beautiful road, and this is the best part of the trip for me, I think. Always, at some part of the day, I think...this is the most amazing ride I'm on and I'm so happy to be here. For me, this is the Flaming Gorge. A beautiful scenic winding road twisting through the mountains, past the reservoir, and through the hills beyond.
Now, the land quickly becomes more arid again. I never really know how to get to Yellowstone from Denver. There's so many ways to go, but always you have to spend a good deal of time int the desert, it seems. Not that the desert is bad. The desert is beautiful in its own way.
I don't have a compass on my bike, per se. I'd like to have a separate compass, like a ship has, so that I can glance and tell which direction I'm heading. The signs point to Rock Springs, Wyoming, but I want to make sure I'm going North and not East. I've been going west for so long, out into the desert, and it keeps getting hotter and hotter. It is July, after all. And it occurs to me that I need to stop going West, and start going North.
Pull over, check my iPhone, taped over my brick/Gamin Montana 600 P.O.S., and see that 191 does, in fact, run pretty much due North into I-80. So I keep rolling north. I decide to open it up and run triple digits, just to remember how it feels, and now I see some cars pulled over up ahead at an overlook. I'm sure one of them is a pig, but it isn't. That was a close one. I really don't want to go to jail.
Now, I'm driving north in 191, going into a curve going 80 mph. Signs says 50 mph is more advisable, and I feel the back tire slip a little. Noticably. Not a good feeling, but I'm not sure what just happened. The brain is trying to piece it all together. Reach behind me, to find the fuel tank not resting not he seat where it was 4 seconds ago. Turn back to look for the gas can. Big hill where it might have gone over. But can't see it. Turn around to find it hanging on the side of the bike by the strap, against the hot exhaust pipe. If that exhaust pipe melts through the plastic gas tank, I'm going to be fucked in a big way. Riding a meteor of burning gas/motorcycle combination.
Somehow, I get stopped, get the gas tank off of the exhaust pipe. Now, I asses the way I had the gas tank strapped down. Make some adjustments to the rigging, and go along my way.
At some point, I cross back into Wyoming.
At I-80, I see that Rock Springs is east 10 miles (the wrong way). I've always wanted to go to Rock Springs, as that's where Matt and them go ride 4 wheelers in the sand. But I don't want to drive 10 miles the wrong direction. I'm tired. It's nearly dark. I got away so late today from the town of Craig due to my motorcycle tear-down. If I'm going to get in 300 miles today, then I've got to keep moving, and not in the wrong direction.
Head West down I-80 towards Kemmerer, WY.
Now, it's about 8:00 in the evening. Not much saying left. I'll have to ride I-80 west for a short distance...maybe 20 miles or so...to get to my exit 66 for Kremmerer, WY. Rolling west on I-80, I see a massive storm ahead. No chance of driving around it. Stop and put on all of my gear. Pack the cameras away. Pack all of the electronics away...put on my Frogg Toggs...just the cheapest rain gear money can buy, but also very light, thin, and effective.
Now, rolling west on I-80...bring on the storm...take exit 66, rolling west now on US 30. The storm will be upon me at any moment. Cars emerging from the storm clean and shiny. Headlights on. Windshield washers on high. This will be like driving through a car wash for 40 miles. It's going to suck in a big way.
The winds pick up, batting me about on the open highway. I hunker down and watch the odometer on the bike. Only 40 miles to go. I can drive through a 40 mile rainstorm, right? It starts raining on me...raining so hard it's coming inside my visor. Apparently, the visor isn't sealed very good against the helmet. It's a new visor I put on for the trip.
Matt like to take everything out for a shakedown cruise before he goes off on a long adventure. I'm sure that's what smarter people do. I tend to just make all the changes, hit the road, and figure it all out on the highway in the motel parking lots. I'm sure his way is better, but I wanted to get on the road.
So now, water is coming inside my visor, and I'm hunkered down as low as I can get, watching for the road through the blinding rain. Honestly, I can barely see the road. I'm going 90 mph. My theory being that, the faster I go, the sooner I get out of this nightmare.
After about 20 miles, the rain lets up, and I roll into what I think is Kemmerer, WY. Turns out I'm in Diamondville, WY. Close enough. Find a cheap motel for the night and crash. I've got to keep my expenses down on this trip. Can't be staying in fancy places.
Photos in the Extended Entry.
Day 2 - Tear Down in the Parking Lot (Sun 7/20/14)
I can not figure out why my right fuel tank isn't working. Went outside in the motel parking lot, drove it around to the side in the shade. Tore it all down. Pulled the right front side cover. Pulled the right fuel tank. Opened the fuel cock at the bottom. Fuel is running onto the ground. Not sure what's going on. Very frustrating.
I changed the oil in my bike this week at home. And now my Right Fuel Tank is not working.
Changing the oil requires pulling the left left Front Side Cover, the left fuel tank (my left, if I'm sitting on the bike), and the right front side cover.
The directions are the same for reinstalling the front right side cover and front left side cover. The front Left Side Cover had 2 vent lines to connect. But on the Front Right Side Cover, I don't see a hose to hook onto this thing. What am I missing? Why won't the fuel come out of the right fuel tank?
I pulled the right fuel tank and made sure that all of the hoses are connected to the fuel tank (there are three...one at the top..one in the middle...and a drain at the bottom. This has a fuel cock. I've got the fuel cock/valve turned open. I tested it by unhooking the bottom fuel line. Gas runs out onto the ground. Why won't it go into my KTM engine? ARGGGGHHHH.
I think at this point that I'm going to go to Wal-mart and buy a clear plastic hose and a hand pump. That will work. It's not pretty, but it may be the best solution at this point. I called a KTM dealer in Vernal, Utah, and they they're closed until Tuesday for whatever reason. Nice.
I'd like to point out that no one with half a brain should ever buy a KTM. Parts that should the be same, are different. For instance, there are 5 screws holding the front side fairing on. They are two different lengths. The long ones go in certain holes. The short ones go in certain holes. The manual shows them all to be the same length. This shows a problem with the design (why not make them all the same length), and the documentation (why not make the manual show that they are different lengths?)
Pulling the fuel tanks is way more complicated than it needs to be. By the time I got it all put back together, I was sweating like a whore in church. Came back into the hotel room and got another show at about 1:00 p.m. Don't know why they haven't thrown me out yet.
I'd forgotten how good it feels to be roasting hot and take a freezing cold shower.
Now, I'm off to Wal-Mart for a siphon and a hand pump. Then on to Vernal Utah. From there, north towards Yellowstone. Not sure how far I'll get today. This is a crazy late start.
July 19, 2014
Day 1 - Morrison, CO to Craig, CO (Sat 7/19/14)
I am alive and well and resting peacefully in Craig, Colorado.
Starting Odometer: 14,651.3
Ending Odometer 14,969.0
Miles Driven Today 317.7
Miles Driven This Trip: 317.7
Max Speed: 105 mph
Times stopped by police: 0
Injuries: Slight sunburn to the backs of both hands.
Near accidents: Almost hit an elk. One time, shooting through the lens with no hands, I drifted into oncoming traffic accidentally. Also, now that I have the iPhone mounted on top of the Ram mount, I find myself driving with one hand and sending text messages 2 miles above sea level.
Mechanical issues: For some reason, my right gas tank isn't working. Also, I have a small oil leak, apparently.
So, this is the path that I ended up taking today.
I-70 was a complete parking lot, so I doubled back once I got to Floyd Hill. I decided to run back down the hill to Golden, head north on 93 a bit to the Golden Gate Canyon road, then take Golden Gate Canyon up to Peak to Peak Highway. That worked out really well, and I never saw any significant traffic for the rest of the day, really.
The I-70 Parking Lot
I finally leave home at about 12:30 or 1:00 today. Stop by and ask Bud to take some shots of me. They always take pics of me before I take a big trip. They're good that way. Ask them to hold my mail and I'm off.
But I-70 Westbound is just a parking lot, so I roll back down the hill to Golden, and then head north to Golden Gate Canyon. At Golden Gate Canyon, I turn west and climb up into the foothills on a nearly empty road.
I knew that no one would be on this road because it doesn't really go anywhere. But it gets me onto the Peak to Peak Highway, and I like that road, so I follow the Peak to Peak Highway north towards Estes Park.
The last time I was on this road was back in March, and it was crazy cold then, so that I was always watching for ice or snow in the turns. But now, it's an insane 90 F some how.
I don't believe in Global Warming, but I promise you today is the hottest day of the year so far.
Stop in Nederland to shoot the Steam Shovel. It's the only one left in the world that was used to build the Panama Canal. Which is kinda funny because I was at the panama canal roughly a year ago. And it's weird to think how it ended up in the mountains of Colorado.
Then north into Estes Park. I see the shortcut that we took back in March that Ted and Steve knew about, but now I see that it's not really technically a shortcut. There's signs there that say it's the way to Rocky Mountain National Park. I'd just never noticed the signs before.
As I roll up to RMNP, my fuel light comes on. At 108 miles, and I start to panic. How can this be? I can normally go 240 miles on a tank of gas. Why is the fuel light coming on at 108 miles? Is my gas mileage that bad? I'm clearly carrying too much junk. I decide to buy a box and just ship about half of my crap home to save weight. I can feel the extra weight every time I speed up. And every time I hit the brakes. I can feel the difference in how it handles through the turns. What was I thinking?
So, I pay the $10 motorcycle fee to enter RMNP, and promptly turn around and go back down into Estes Park to fill up.
I fill up the left tank, and then I go to fill up the right tank, but the right tank is still full. Suddenly, I realize that I forgot to turn the right fuel tank back on. I turned off both tanks for the oil change, and the right tank never got turned back on. Doh!
So, I buy 2.2 gallons of gas, and go on my way back into the park. Feeling stupid, but glad to know why I only went 108 miles before the fuel light came on.
So, onces I got to Estes Park, I decided that I was going to make my GoPro camera work, probably for the first time ever. I have a GoPro Hero 3 Black Edition that I bought in SF last year, I think. But the nimrods at the TSA stole much of my GoPro related technology, so I've never really used it.
Somewhere on Trail Ridge road, I decide to get the thing out and make it work. It's complaining that there's no SD card in the GoPro. Things like this. But I take out the card, reinsert it, and sync it with my iPhone using the GoPro app.
I tape the iPhone on top of the thousand dollar Garmin brick, and the GPS works well for this...for a base for the iPhone.
So I've taped the iPhone on top of the GPS with black electrical tape. Now, I put the GoPro into my new helmet mount, and sync it up with the iphone. As I drive down the road, I can see what I've filming via WiFi, which is just insane, really.
Only, there's like a 4 second delay. So, when I pass a car, if I'm watching the iphone, 4 seconds later, I see another car coming (in the iPhone), that isn't really there. A very strange feeling.
By the time I summit Trail Ridge Road, the temperature has dropped down to a tolerable 70 degrees. There's not as much traffic as I'd feared. People are stopping to shoot elk and I'm like....puhleeze...I can shoot elk in my yard. Step aside, tourists. Lots of out-of-state plates. Nebraska. Kansas. All the flatlanders come out here to squeeze the life out of our mountains. I wish they'd just go back home and get out of my hills.
This time, I manage to make it through RMNP without getting stopped, having my bike towed, etc. This time, I sort of watch the speed limit and take my time.
Rabbit Ears Pass
Once I get on US 40 heading west, I realize that I've never seen this stretch of road before. And that sort of excites me. I think about the adventure ahead, and how much fun it will be. For the first time, it begins to dawn on me how cool this trip might be.
I've been wanting to see Steamboat Springs for a long time. Never been there. Always wanted to check it out. Never got around to it.
Now, I'm 26 miles from Steamboat Springs and my fuel light comes on and I know that I won't make it. I'll run out of gas before I get there. For some reason, only one of my gas tanks is working.
Why? I have no clue. But this is where we are. I'm climbing Rabbit Ears pass on US 40 heading west and every time we crest a hill I hope to see that we've crossed the continental divide and it will be all downhill from here on out.
But every hill we crest just reveals yet another hill to be conquered. My best guess is that I can go, at max, 125 miles. I finally reach the summit of Rabbit Ears pass just as the engine dies, and now it's all downhill into Steamboat Springs - I think.
Coast for about 5-10 miles...rolling downhill so fast you wouldn't believe it. Runaway truck ramps on the right, but I just keep on rolling down the hill. Shut the engine off. Put it in neurtral, and I'm coasting down the continental divde going 70 mph.
Finally, the road sort of levels out and then climbs slightly, and I roll to a stop beside some random farmhouse.
Fortunately, I put a small fuel bottle in the Givi rear case. It holds one liter of gas I poured out of an old 5 gallon jug I discovered in the garage at home. Lord only knows how old it is. I empty the contents into the left gas tank on the side of the road by the barn. I get most of it into the gast tank. Some on the ground. Some on the bike. Some on me. Probable equal parts to all 3 places.
Bike fires right up. Now, I'm rolling down into Steamboat Springs, Colorado.
I've only got like 6 miles to go, according to my iPhone. Now, the iphone is taped over my Garmin Montana 600 that is mounted to the handlebars of the KTM with a Ram Mount. The mount is amazing. Twist a knob and it will swivel in any imaginable direction. Twist it back and it locks in place and never moves. The Ram mount is the bomb.
The GPS, however, is as useless as tits on a bull.
It didn't come with any maps in it, to speak of. For $600, I mistakenly thought that maybe it should. But, I thought...just buy the maps. Don't be cheap. It will all be worth it in the end. So I shell out another $80 for the City Maps of North America (U.S. including Alaska, and also Canada.) They call them City Maps, but apparently, that's not at all what they are. They're just maps. But the people at Garmin are idiots, so nothing surprises me.
Even after getting a 32 GB MicroSD card and installing it in the GPS unit, and putting the maps on the MicroSD card, the Montana still won't do simple turn by turn directions like even the most basic GPS units. Finally, I figured out how to tell it which city I wanted to go to, and set it to Estes Park, Colorado. Basically, then you could watch it, and it would show you the road ahead, but without suggesting which way you might go. So, if you know where you're going, and don't need directions, then I guess that it shows you the turns up ahead. You can't make it show North at the top. And it does know the speed limits, but shows them in kim/hr, which is useless, of course.
I get into Steamboat Springs, and there are no rooms. My sister finds me a room in the next town to the west...Craig, Colorado. The sun is setting, and now I've got to make a balls out run to the next town and I'm tired and sore. Somehow, I've got to make it another 40 miles or so before I crash for the night. Ugh.
Photos in the Extended Entry.
Day 1 - Morrison to Steamboat Springs
This is roughly my map for today. I'm leaving now (finally).
'Failure To Appear' In Two Countries?
So, I finally got around to opening my mail. I'm finding all of these Christmas cards and stuff, but two letters really catch my attention:
1) One Hundred Mile House - The last time I drove through Canada on a motorcycle, I got a ticket for blowing by an 18 wheeler that was going too slow in town. So, it was a double yellow line and a cop wrote me a ticket. I promptly ignored it, as I was leaving the country shortly. So now, I see that they've been sending me hate mail from north of the border for some time. Might be a warrant for my arrest in Canada. Not a good thing. Crossing the border only to have the Immigration people throw you in the pokey is not a good way to spend the summer. I haven't been to jail all year, and it's been pretty nice so far.
2) Department A - I did get a ticket while speeding going 73 in a 50 in Douglas County on Perry Park Lane back in May. I promised the pig I'd take care of it, and promptly did nothing. Now, as I'm reviewing the ticket, it says if I don't show up for court, then they'll issue a warrant for my arrest for Failure to Appear. Doh! Wow...this really sucks as I'm sure I've already missed my court date. But, I got stopped coming back from Aspen and they didn't say anything to me then. So...Hmmmm. I check the court date. The court date isn't until August 13th! And I can pay it through the mail if I mail a check to:
Colorado Dept of Revenue
Denver CO, 80243
Woohoo! Check's in the mail, baby!
Now...I'm still not clear what my situation is in Canada. I'll call and talk to them before I try to cross over into Canada. Because, if all they want to do is toss me in the pokey, then I'm not going.
The Great White North - Day 0
July 17, 2014
Postcards From Nowhere: Aspen, Vail, Mt. Evans
Above: A shot I took rolling down the highway going north on US Highway 285 somewhere between Buena Vista and Fairplay. Slightly blurred effect by opening the shutter slightly longer than normal.
The photos were all shot in July of 2014 using a Canon EOS 50D with one of the following lenses:
EF-S 17-85mm f/4.5-5.6 IS USM image-stabilized, ultra-sonic telescopic zoom
EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM image-stabilized, ultra-sonic telescopic zoom
EF 600mm f/4 IS USM image-stabilized, ultra-sonic telescopic zoom
The images are compiled into an 5 Meg (3:40) Adobe Flash slideshow (2014_july.swf) that will not work on an iPhone. However, everyone else on the planet should be able to open and view with any browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, etc.). To view the slideshow, just click on the photo above. If you're on a PC and want to view the slideshow as a Windows executable, you can play this version (2014_july.exe), and it allows you to play, pause, skip forward, backwards, etc.
Image post-processing was done in Adobe Photoshop CS5 Extended. The slideshow was created using Imagematics Stillmotion Pro.
Click here to view the other slideshows.
Lyrics in the extended entry..
July 15, 2014
Clearing Files off of iPhone 4S and MacBook Air
Clearing Files off of iPhone 4S and MacBook Air
So, first of all, I hooked my iPhone up to my MacBook. It launches iPhoto. I tell it to import the new photos only into folder "iPhone 2014". Then asks to delete from the iPhone, so I delete from iPHone.
Now, I want to see how much free space I have on the iPhone.
Settings - General - Usage
2.8 gig in messages.
2.4 gig in Photos and Camera
2.3 gig is in the camera roll.
So, now I want to delete these photos, but I'm not clear if I'll lose any photos or not.
OK. Photos - Albums says I have the following:
Camera Roll - 628 photos
My Photo Stream - 93
Videos - 26
So, I want to see if I have these on my Macbook Air:
Under Iphoto - Events, I see a few Events that look relevant:
iPhone 2014 - But this Event has photos and videos in it. Hmmm. They're named something like IMG_9999. Videos and Photos follow the same name format. Hmmmm.
I seem to recall now that I think I have more than one iPhoto Library.
iPhone 420 photos/videos dated 9/24/13 - 12/29/13.
43 videos and 377 photos.
iPhone 2014 There are 73 photos/videos in the Event 'iPhone 2014'.
20 videos and 53 photos. 6/24/14 - 7/10/14.
iPhone 2014a 52 photos. 0 videos. 4/8/14 - 5/13/14.
Then, I unhooked the phone and hooked it back up again. It says all 628 photos have been imported already. They're dated from 9/24/13 - 7/10/14. But, it doesn't show what Event they were imported into. Nice.
[...continued in extended entry]
July 12, 2014
"One of those square states out West"
That's Denver? Really? Might want to check your maps there Discovery Channel. Last time I checked, Denver wasn't in Utah.
July 11, 2014
Exporting iPhoto Library/Events to a Real Computer
It's that time of the year again. I want to move all of my photos off of the MacBook air and onto a real computer. I did this last year at almost the same time.
My notes started off good, but then sort of tapered off.
Here's Apple's response to What is the proper way to transfer those pics/video to a real computer?
1 - select the photo(s) in iPhoto
2 - export (file menu => export) to a desktop folder -- or if you want the event structure to be retained set the subfolder to event names in the export
3 - copy the top folder to the PC
July 10, 2014
Dilbert - Advice to Consultants/Contractors
July 9, 2014
The Alaska Trip - 2014
I've been ordering a fair amount of gear in preparation for my next big motorcycle adventure. So far this is what I have ordered recently for the excursion. Some of it has arrived. Some of it hasn't shown up just yet:
- Garmin Montana 600 Waterproof Hiking GPS
- RAM mount for Garmin Montana 600 GPS
- Escort Passport 9500ix Radar/Laser Detector (Blue Display)
- Red Wing Irish Setter boots (camo)
- Frog Toggs rain gear (khaki)
- Frogg Toggs Neoprene gloves
- Givi E260 Monolock rear case with E650M Adapter plate
- Seagate Backup Plus Slim 1TB Portable External Hard Drive for Mac with Mobile Device Backup USB 3.0 (STDS1000100)
- Canon EOS 50D battery card door cover replacement part
- SanDisk 128GB microSDXC Ultra microSD 128G micro SDXC for GoPro Hero 3 Black Edition camera
- 4 - 32 GB TOPRAM - 300X COMPACT FLASH CF Card fit DSLR Canon EOS 50D
- 4 - BlackRapid FastenR-3 Lowest Profile Connector
- New Camera Helmet Front Adhesive Mount for Gopro Hero 3
- Front Lens Cap For Canon EF 100mm EF-S 17-85mm IS USM
- EyePiece Eye Cup For Canon EOS 50D
- CLEAR ~ Arai Helmet Shield Visor RX7 RR4 Quantum F Astral X Super AdSis L-Type
Of course, the problem is that I'm going to be trying to figure out how to use all of this gear on the road, essentially. I've never even bothered to read the owners manual on my motorcycle, so I only have a very narrow understanding of the digital instrument cluster on the KTM. Throw in a new GPS, radar detector, GoPro setup, new Seagate backup unit for the MacBook Air...I'll just be sort of winging it, I'm sure. We'll see how it goes. I think I have enough gear on order for the adventure to be a success, but whether I make it up there and back or not is anyone's guess. There's a lot that can go wrong, of course. The bike could break down, I could hit a moose, or end up in a Canadian prison. But if I were a betting man, I'd bet that I make it up there.
July 5, 2014
Cross-Species Feeding of Brood
Above: Pygmy Nuthatch (Sitta pygmaea) feeds offspring in a birdhouse near Morrison, Colorado. 7/5/2014. (Click on photo above for larger image.)
Above: Pygmy Nuthatch (Sitta pygmaea) feeds offspring in a birdhouse near Morrison, Colorado. 7/5/2014. (Click on photo above for larger image.)
Above: Male Violet-Green Swallow (Tachycineta thalassina). Appears to be residing in the same physical birdhouse, but one level above the Nuthatches, in a 2-story birdhouse near Morrison, Colorado. 7/5/2014. (Click on photo above for larger image.)
Above: Female Violet-Green Swallow (Tachycineta thalassina). Appears to be residing in the same physical birdhouse, but one level above the Nuthatches, in a 2-story birdhouse near Morrison, Colorado. 7/5/2014. (Click on photo above for larger image.)
Above: Male Violet-Green Swallow (Tachycineta thalassina) feeds immature Pygmy Nuthatch (Sitta pygmaea) offspring in a birdhouse near Morrison, Colorado. As best as I can determine, the swallows live upstairs, and are possibly/probably a nesting pair. Both swallows leave the bird house at the same time, and the male has been observed to repeatedly feed the nuthatch brood in the level below them for reasons that are not clear to me. 7/5/2014. (Click on photo above for larger image.)
July 2, 2014
The Back Way to Aspen
I so didn't want to get on I-70 today...I punched in Google directions for Conifer to Aspen, and this is what it dealt me. I'm all in baby!
Colorado Highway 103
Saw these cars driving up and down Colorado Highway 103 today. This is an experimental prototype from Detroit. Not that unusual to see prototypes driving up the Highest Paved Road in North America to Mt Evans, or up to Pike's Peak. They generally want to see how they'll perform at high altitude, and this is a good place to test them. My understanding is they were checking to see how the turbo performs about 4,000 meters (12,000 ft). So, at 14,265' above sea level, they've got plenty of mountain to play with.
We saw several of these vehicles...at least 6. My understanding is that this is a prototype from Mercedes-AMG. But you didn't hear it from me...