August 31, 2014
To Hell and Back - The Dalton Highway
OK. New video. This shows us riding up the Dalton Highway, aka the Haul Road, from Coldfoot, to Deadhorse, Alaska, and back. Riders shown are Rob Kiser (KTM 990 Adventure), Remus Capota (BMW GS1200R), Gabriel Elprimo (BMW GS1150R), Erol Aynacı (KLR650) , Tyson Brust (KLR650), and Tom Smith (KLR650).
iMovie 11 Sucks
So, I've got this stupid MacBook Air, and I'm trying to make a movie in iMovie (I know...I'm an idiot, right?) I thought Apple was supposed to be better. I was wrong, obviously. My project crashed on me. It won't let me created a movie, or "finalize" the project. Or anything really.
Instead, what I get is this: "Unable to prepare project for publishing. The project could not be prepared because an error occurred. (ParamErr: error in user parameter list)".
What a complete piece of shit. Like, do you think you could make the error message any more vague. Maybe try changing the message to "something went wrong". Fucking morons.
So, here's the deal
MacBook Air running OS X 10.9.4.
500 Gig Flash Drive.
217 Gig free out of 500 Gig. (So, storage shouldn't be an issue.)
I get this same message no matter what I try to do to the project. If I try to use "File - Finalize Project", same thing. It says "Preparing project" very briefly, and then, the dreaded message:
"Unable to prepare project for publishing. The project could not be prepared because an error occurred. (ParamErr: error in user parameter list)".
Nice. So, I can't do the following:
1) File - Finalize Project
2) Share - Export Movies. Size to export = HD 1080p (1920x1080). Click on Export. (Same error.)
3) Share - Export Movies. Size to export = Mobile (480x272). Click on Export. (Same error.)
4) Share - Export using QuickTime. Save exported file as "apple_sucks.mov". Export "Movie to QuickTime Movie". Save. This one actually didn't give me an error? But I also don't see that a file was created either.
OK. So, Icopied the Project from 'Project 2' to 'Project 4', and deleted about 2/3 of the video. Then, it would let me go to "Share - Export Movie - Mobile (480 x 272). Nice. So, my guess is that the video is too long or too large for this P.O.S. to handle? Not sure, but seems that way.
OK. So the video is cut down to 2:07 now. But I was able to do File - Export Movie - HD 1080p, and named it Apple_Sucks_207_1080p. Good job, Apple. Way to go. P.O.S.
Now, it says "Preparing project..., "Creating the HD 1080p movie...Time remaining about 13 years..."
Apple sucks. So. Hard.
OK. It appears to have exported successfully. Took about 10 minutes. File created is a 329 MB file named Apple_Sucks_207_1080p.mov. So, that's a start. I got something out of it, anyway.
So, we'll say "New Project 4" will be part one of the miserable video. Thanks, Apple. Thanks for that.
Now, I copied New Project 2 again...this time to New Project 6. Try to export it again... File - Export Movie - HD 1080p...same bullshit error message. Argh.
I'll try to make this one longer....3:28....name it Apple_Sucks_328_1080p. Preparing project - Unable to prepare project for publishing. Nice.
OK. Now, I'm trying Apple_Sucks_320_1080p. Seems to be working. Started at 3:57 a.m. Says it will take 13 minutes. So, should finish at 4:10 a.m.
I checked it at 4:18 am, and it was finished. This time, it made a file named Apple_Sucks_320_1080p.mov. This looks good.
Now, I copied Project 2 again, this time, as Project 7. Now, I'll delete the first 3:20 from the movie....So now, I try to export it as 3:21 - the end of the project. Says it needs more memory and to quit/exit out of iMovie and try again. So, I shut down iMovie, come back in, and it starts. So, this is Project 7 that I'm exporting. So, it looks like it will work, by breaking it into 2 pieces. Now, I'll try to import the 2 pieces into iMovie, mute the soundtrack, add a new sound track, and join the two videos together. That worked. Oh, the joys of using a P.O.S. like iMovie 11.
August 29, 2014
The Haul Road
Here's a video I shot returning down the Dalton Highway from Deadhorse, Alaska. We drove 180 miles in a light rain in 37 degree F temperatures. In this video, I pass 4 other riders.
If I'm not mistaken, that's Gabriel Elprimo on the BMW GS1200R and Erol Aynacı on the green Kawasaki KLR 650.
It was so cold that Remus stopped at a closed camp to warm up his hands. They made him a pot of coffee, and after he'd warmed up enough to where he thought he wouldn't lose his hands, we road off again, into the dull cold misery of Northern Alaska.
The rain didn't let up until we got to Atigun Pass, at which point the sun came out and I realized we were going to live.
August 28, 2014
Stabilizing Clips with iMovie 11
So, I'm using iMovie 11 on my MacBook Air to try to make a video. It's pretty painful, mainly because I've never used iMovie before. OK. I used it once before, but that was last year, and yeah.
I now have red squiggly lines on my video clip, so I think that means I successfully analyzed the video for image stabilization. The inspector says "Analyzed. Add clip to project to apply."
So, I drag the "Event" (the video at the bottom) to the "Project" (the top left part of the screen).
Now, I do see, in the far upper left-hand corner of the video in the project, an orange hand.
Hand with orange background: The clip is partially stabilized and required extra zooming, so some areas of your video may be cropped out.
Yeah, and it's zoomed in so far that the video is pretty much pointless. Nice.
Now, I select the clip in the Project, and double click it to open the inspector. Now, I turn off the stabilization in the inspector.
So, last night, I was trying to record my video for the Kickstarter Campaign to send Marilyn Hartman to Hawaii, and my GoPro crashed. Never had any real problems like this with it before. I mean, it's a nightmare to work with....it's ornery, and curmudgeonly. Like, I never know what the thing is doing. It's impossible to keep the battery charged, so I basically keep it tethered via a USB cable. It needs its own power grid. They should make the things gas powered, for Christ's sake.
Like, it just seizes up and I have to open it and pop the battery out while I'm driving through a canyon with no hands. It's not ready for prime time, I can promise you that. And then, you try to see it up to work via WiFi and be controlled by the GoPro App in the iPhone, and now it's a bridge too far. Like, it works for about 11 seconds and then the whole nightmare melts down on you.
So, last night, it finally full-on crashed. Not sure what happened. It actually showed a little crash icon on the LCD display of the GoPro. Not sure if it's the MicroSD card that's the issue, or if it's the GoPro unit, or what. Now for some testing.
Update: So, I'm not sure what happened. It's working fine now. My best guess is that the battery died.
August 27, 2014
My First Kickstarter Campaign
"The world is but a canvas to our imagination" -- Henry David Thoreau
iMovie video of 2014 Alaska Trip
I've been playing around with iMovie some tonight. I've got 12,000 photos and hours of GoPro video that I have no clue what to do with so...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2vN-sbjlbig This video covers only my first few days of the trip....from Denver to Yellowstone.
August 26, 2014
Our Greatest Fear - Marianne Williamson
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
Our Greatest Fear --Marianne Williamson
August 25, 2014
Sic Transit Gloria
It looks like I need to order a larger map. I have a lot of maps up in the master bedroom. I pin them up and trace out my silly little motorcycle rides on them. But it looks like I need a map of all of North America at this point to trace out all my absurd little peregrinations. So, I'm thinking about ordering this beast and putting it up on the wall (along with the others, of course.)
http://www.allposters.com/-sp/1964-North-America-Map-Posters_i5157817_.htm as a 48" x 64" print.
Sic Transit Gloria - (Glory Fades)
One of the reasons I trace out my rides on maps and hang them on the wall is that there's a part of me that doesn't believe it happened. In a way, it's hard to believe that I even made these trips. I mean...I did make them...this wasn't all an exercise in Photoshp. The trips happened. But they're so far removed from work and my normal life that, in a way, it's hard to believe that they did happen. Tracing out my route on a map and pinning it up on the wall reminds me that I did do these things. That we are in control of our own destiny. That we can really do great things, if only we dare to try.
Here Be Dragons
Something struck me recently...someone said that we were born in the wrong time. That everything had already been discovered. That there was nothing left to explore. Meaning, as I understood it, that we don't have the opportunity to discover, as did Columbus, Balboa, or Magellan. But this point seems trivial to me. Maybe even contrite. So what if someone else discovered it first? As Hilary said, "what difference, at this point, does it make?" So what if we can't be the the first to discover Vancouver Island, the Arctic Ocean, or the Straits of Magellan? What of it? We still can discover the world for ourselves. The fact that others came before us is irrelevant. Go discover it now. For yourself. Don't worry that others found it first. Be glad that they've already been there, conquered the dragons, and paved the way for your arrival. Don't be silly. Get out and explore the world...if you've never discovered it, then, for all intents and purposes, it never has been discovered. It may not exist for all you know. May be a lie drawn on a map, like a mermaid or a dragon. Go explore it for yourself.
"Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don't need to escape from." - Seth Godin
Rocket Explodes on Launch at KLC on Kodiak Island, AK
This just in...a rocket exploded on takeoff at Kodiak Launch Complex (KLC) on Kodiak Island, Alaska.
Eyewitnesses reporting a rocket at KLC (Kodiak Launch Complex) failed and exploded on takeoff. This happened just now (at approximately 12:28 a.m. Alaska Time on Aug 25, 2014).
Last week the Army announced it will conduct the second test of one of its hypersonic missiles in August.
Lt. Gen. David L. Mann, commander, U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command, told Congress last week that in August the Army expects to conduct the second Advanced Hypersonic Weapon Technology Demonstration. The results of this second test will determine the future of the program, which could include the U.S. Navy utilizing the new missile, according to Lt. Gen. Mann.
The Advanced Hypersonic Weapon (AWH) is part of the U.S. military's conventional prompt global strike (CPGS) program, which aims to give Washington the ability to strike any target on earth with a conventional warhead within an hour's time. According to the U.S. Army, "The AHW can be launched from the United States and can hit a target anywhere in the world. It can travel at speeds of Mach 5, about 3,600 mph, or higher."
Photo credit: Eric Dawson - Kodiak, Alaska - 2014
Photo credit: Eric Dawson - Kodiak, Alaska - 2014
Photo credit: Eric Dawson - Kodiak, Alaska - 2014
Photo credit: Eric Dawson - Kodiak, Alaska - 2014
August 24, 2014
Into The Light - Michael Samsen
This is one of the guys we met on the trip. Apparently, his brother committed suicide a few years back, so he was riding to raise awareness for suicide prevention. He crashed his bike on the Dalton Highway as I recall, broke 5 ribs, flew back to Connecticut and recuperated for 5 months, then flew back out to continue his journey. I have a lot of respect for someone that has the tenacity, the chutzpah to fly back out to Alaska from the east coast to get back on a bike that has thrown them like a rented mule on the Dalton highway. Well done, Michael Samsen.
August 23, 2014
US Motorcycle Rider Disappears In Canada
Update: Looks like he turned up.
I have to tell you this...if this ole' trooper turned up at the Alaska Border on the Alaska Highway after crossing Alberta, B.C., and the Yukon on a 3-wheeled motorcycle, he is a trooper. He made it from the Port of Coutts, Alberta, Canada to the Alaska Border on the Alaska Highway, a distance of 1,890 miles, if he took the shortest route possible. (You have to take the Alaska Highway, at some point, it's the only way to get there). The Alaska Highway through the Yukon is pretty much a joke. Just one busted up section after another...constantly following a Pilot Truck for several kilometers at a time, always waiting for the sign turner to switch from "Stop" to "Slow". If he went up the Cassiar (BC 37), the gas stations are 150 miles apart, and there's very limited lodging options.
Saturday August 16th 2014 - Friday, August 22, 2014 11:52AM MDT
OK. So, I just did the math on his trip. In 6 days, he went AT LEAST 1,890 miles. This puts him at 315 miles per day, again, assuming that he didn't take the scenic route (I have no idea what route he took between the two ports of entry/exit between the US/Canada.) So, yeah...dude is doing just fine. No shame in 300 mile days. Just means he's taking lots of pictures is all.
The reason he wasn't in touch with anyone is probably because he turned his cell phone off to prevent the phone companies from raping him for being in a foreign country...I turned mine off of this reason. So, that's probably why he wasn't in touch with his family.
How he made this trip alone is anyone's guess, but he's a tough old bird. I'll give him that. I've got money he finished the trip just fine an shows back up in TN in 2-4 weeks.
Update: This web page says he left Mount Juliet, Tennessee on August 12, 2014, and made it to Coutts, Alberta on August 16, 2014.
This means that he went 1,927 miles in roughly 5 days (I'm assuming here he crossed into Coutts at dusk/dark on the 16th.) That would make the most sense, I think. That he had 5 solid days of riding (12th, 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th) to make to into Canada from TN. This means he was driving, on average, 385 miles a day.
Then, once he's in Canada, I'd say he drove like this....part of the 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th, 20th, 21st, 22nd. So, this gave him about 5-6 days for the driving roughly the same distance across Canada. I'd say his speed across Canada was pretty much the same as it was in the U.S. He only slowed down for the road construction, so far as I can tell. Glad he's safe.
August 21, 2014
When I was staying in the Yoho National Forest in British Columbia, Canada a few weeks ago, I stumbled across a safe that the employees said had never been opened.
August 20, 2014
Lost With Mike
This is the blog of some guy that drove a 49cc Honda Ruckus from Key West to Alaska. Not sure where he's he's heading next. He actually has a BMW R1200GS at home in the garage, if you can believe it.
This is the blog of some chick(s) touring South America on motorbikes.
Conifer Honors Chemistry 2014-2015
Welcome to our Honors Chemistry website. You can use this website to download notes, course assignments and view helpful links.
Thanks for visiting, Mrs. Anderson
Contact instructor: email@example.com
August 18, 2014
More pictures trickle in...
Remus and I rode together from Coldfoot, AK to Deadhorse, AK, back to Coldfoot, and then to Fairbanks. Apparently, he's made it back safely to Romania, and came through with some photos. Very cool that he was able to share these. We may have more coming from him, also, I think.
Above: The Brooks Range on the Dalton Highway (Alaska Route 11).
Above: The Brooks Range on the Dalton Highway (Alaska Route 11).
Above: The Dalton Highway north of the Brooks Range - Basically, a wet, sloppy mess.
Above: The Dalton Highway north of the Brooks Range - Basically, a wet, sloppy mess.
Above: A shot of me on the shores of the Arctic Ocean. In this shot, I believe I'm trying to get my boots back on and praying I won't lose my feet for walking into the ocean.
Above: After driving 180 miles in the rain down a mud road in 37 degree F temperatures, we stopped at this "closed camp" to warm up for a bit. Although the camp was private, and not open to the public, they allowed us to warm up, and even made us a pot of coffee. In this picture, I believe I was pouring some gas into the gas tank, as it's 250 miles from Deadhorse, AK to the next gas station (at Coldfoot, AK).
August 17, 2014
I'm going back and putting some text with my photos, and resorting them into the correct order, where possible. Usually, when I posted them, I just sort of uploaded them and then passed out from exhaustion. Often, they weren't in the correct order, due to the fact that I was shooting with 3-5 different cameras on most days. So, some of the pics were out of order (within a given day). Most photos did not have any labels under them. Now, they're being resorted and labeled. So, this process will probably take a few days, but I'll get them straightened out as best as I can, while it's still somewhat fresh in my memory.
Basically, at this point, I've resorted and labeled the photos from McLeese Lake, B.C., to Denver on the return part of the trip.
August 16, 2014
Lost Photos of Northern Alaska
So, Enrico pointed out that some days didn't have photos posted, which I'd sort of conveniently forgotten. I'm now copying my images off of the MacBook Air and onto the home networks 12 Terabyte RAID Level 5 NAS Array. It appears that I shot roughly 12,000 photos on the trip. So, I'm copying these files over now. As soon as the files are migrated onto the network, I'll start going through and seeing what images are missing. The shots up in the very northern-most part of Alaska probably won't be all that great, as it was raining most of the time I was there, if memory serves correctly. I do have some shots of reindeer, swans, the Arctic Ocean, and Prudhoe Bay National Forest. The Brooks Range was pretty impressive though, and I may have some additional images of that. So we'll get those images up here shortly. :)
The truth about Angus
Angus is a guy I ran into on the ferry from Port Angeles, Washington to Victoria, British Columbia, Canada on Vancouver Island three years ago. He's a very cool guy, and downplays his role as an adventure traveler, but he gave me advice when I was on the road, struggling with the demons that haunt people on the road.
When I met him, he was returning from a road trip on his motorcycle. And, as I recall it, he'd planned on doing this grand trip, but somewhere along the way, he pulled up somewhat short of his initial goal. And I'm not casting aspersions on him for this. The truth is that you spend a lot of time inside your own head on the road. All you hear going down the highway is the deafening wind, howling inside your helmet, and the voices of sanity speaking to you...."Why are you doing this? Where are you going? For what reason? What are you running from? Why are you going to this place? Why not just turn back now? Your bed is warm and soft and dry. Let's just turn back. It makes no sense to go on."
So, when I ran into Angus, I was sort of like..."Dude...I have no idea what I'm doing....I told everyone I was going to Alaska...I honestly don't even know if this will work...I'm trying to get to Alaska by driving up Vancouver Island...I heard there's a ferry from Port Hardee and..."
Angus says this..."Dude...you have to follow through with your initial plan. Don't question it. I fyou said you were going to Alaska, then you need to go to Alaska. Some part of you wanted to go there, or you wouldn't have dreamed of going there. Whatever plan you had in your head when you left San Francisco....wherever you told people you were going....that's where you need to go. Don't question your plan on the road. Just do it. Make it happen. Otherwise, you'll regret not going there once you get home."
"But Angus...I don't even know if I can get to Alaska this way...." I whined. Like...there are demons on the road. Don't think there are not. Anxiety, fear, bears...all sorts of things can conspire against you. Like...at this point, I'm leaving the United States on a boat at night with my motorcycle chained into the belly of this beast with tie-downs so it won't fall over. Like...there's not a lot of people standing around saying...."You got this. you can do it. everything will be fine."
But there is Angus.
"You can make it. The ferry goes from Port Hardee to Prince Rupert. Then, up the Skeena River to Kitwanga, then turn left and you're in Hyder, Alaska. It is possible. Just keep going. Don't turn back. Don't stop. Never surrender."
So, I took his advice. I made it to Alaska. Took my photos at the state line, and then found my way back to San Francisco, and eventually, across the Great American Desert back to Denver.
But really, the advice he gave me is very powerful. Don't second guess yourself, especially once you get on the open road. You have to just keep going at it, hammer and tong, and put all the voices out of your head that say "turn back...no one else is doing this...why are you?" Once you get rid of the self-doubt, then it's all downhill from there. All of the obstacles...a burned hand, a dead battery, a fuel tank that won't work, bald tires, worn sprockets and chain, flat tires, a 180 mile drive down a mud road in the pouring rain at 37 degrees F....it's all just part of the adventure at that point. Once you decide that turning back is not an option, then success in inevitable - it's only a matter of time.
Here's the story from when I ran into Angus, almost exactly 3 years ago to the day. Since then, I've driven from the Panama Canal to the Arctic Ocean.
August 15, 2014
Consolidated Map(s) of the 2014 Alaska Trip
I'm trying to do a better job of mapping out my trip so I can put it into perspective. Google Maps only allows me to do 9 stops, so I've broken the trip into 3 maps.
The Open Road
One of the things I'll miss the most about being on the open road is rolling into some small town on a filthy adventure bike, walking around in riding gear like a soldier-of-fortune, and having people come up to me and say "Christ, man...where are you coming from? Where have you been?"
Like, I used to have to tell people my destination. Like, when you're starting out, and still in Colorado, saying "I'm driving to Alaska" shocks people. But it's hard for them to objectively evaluate whether you're truly suicidal, or just a pathological liar.
When you're coming back from a trip to the Arctic Ocean, you don't have to say anything. Total strangers approach me, look at the mud-caked bike and gear, and they say...."Lord God, son...where are you coming from? Where have you been?"
I had total strangers buying me dinner on the road. Buying me drinks. And high-fiving me in the parking lot.
"My friends would never do this. I want them to go with me, but they won't go," they say.
"Just go. No one else can take a month off from work. And if they could, they wouldn't do this. Just go. You'll meet people on the road. There's nothing wrong with your friends. They just have different demons."
I miss mostly riding up to Harley riders and saying "which way you ladies heading?" and having them all bust out laughing and then ride with me for days. That's so crazy fun. Because you're forming these intense bonds with total strangers because, you can see, they're all chasing the same dragon. They're all haunted by the same demons, or they wouldn't be out here.
I was so fortunate to run into my friends doing the Hoka Hey cross-country endurance motorcycle race from Key West, Florida to Homer, Alaska. Learned so much about cross country riding from them that there just aren't words. They taught me how to get on my motorcycle (using the pegs). How to put my bike on the center stand. How to drive a thousand miles in one day.
So crazy fun to think back on all the beautiful places I went. Like eating the heart out of a melon.
Motorcycle Maintenance Issues
Motorcycle maintenance on the road:
Maintenance before I left home:
Before I left home, I put 2 new ties on the bike, changed the oil and filter. Bled the rear brakes. Tightened the steering-head bearings (to eliminate the head-shake at 50 mph). Put a new rear view mirror on the bike.
At the east side of Glacier National Park, my battery began to fail. I replaced it with a battery from Wal-Mart in Prince George, B.C. Poured the electrolytes into it in my motel room and charged it over night with a trickle charger. Also replaced my cigarette lighter adapter, as I melted my old one on the heater in the Yoho National Forest. Picked up a new one at the same Wal-Mart. This allows me to run multiple devices off of the alternator, like USB cables to charge the Garmin Montana 600, the iPhone, and the GoPro.
When I first rolled into Fairbanks, Alaska, I replaced both tires, as they were street tires, smooth, and showing the wear bands after 5,000 miles of hard riding. (The ALCAN Highway EATS tires.)
Then, I drove from Fairbanks, to Deadhorse, AK, to Fairbanks, to Anchorage, and then back to Fairbanks.At this point, I replaced chain & sprockets, rear brakes, changed oil, replaced air filter...all at the KTM shop in Fairbanks.
Eventually, I realized that one problem I was experiencing was related to my kick stand. Sam pointed this out to m. (Many thanks, Sam!) The bike is designed not to run if the kickstand is not up. So, in theory, this makes sense. In practice, not so much. There is no "kickstand light" on the instrument cluster, to my knowledge. So, all you know is that the bike is "on", and should start up, but it won't turn over. Or do anything at all. So, pushing the starter does nothing. Unless it's in neutral. Then, it will start, but die as soon as you put it in gear. This is very confusing if you're on the road, and say...the kick stand is about 1mm from being all the way "up". So, thanks to Sam for pointing this out. Whenever I experienced this, I'd just kick the kickstand up a little harder, and ride on.
I blew a front tire on the Sea-to-Sky Highway. This was a harrowing experience. Something that's never happened to me in 30 years of riding. The guy at the KAL Tire store said that it "rubbed a hole in the tube". His assertion was that a grain of sand was left inside the tire, with the tube. It had to be something like this, because the tire was not punctured, and still has plenty of tread on it. Have never heard of this happening before.
Day 27/28 - Boise, Idaho to Morrison, Colorado (Home) (Thr/Fri 8/14-15)
Update: I am alive and well and resting peacefully in my own bed in Morrison, Colorado.
Starting Odometer: 24,225
Ending Odometer: 25,106
Miles Driven Today: 881
Miles Driven This Trip: 10,453
Miles from Home: 0
Here's a map of roughly where I drove today.
I ran into some guy at a gas station in Utah. He was really impressed with my trip to Alaska on the KTM. He has a KTM 990R, apparently. In any event, he said "Finish Strong", so I went ahead and drove all the way home. 881 miles is my longest ride in one day ever. Wouldn't necessarily recommend it, as I had to drive across Colorado in the dark, but it feels good to be home.
Technically, I got in at about 1:00 a.m. on the 28th day.
August 14, 2014
Second Place is the First Loser
Ran through little town called "Mountain Home", Idaho this morning, and I remember it from the last time I came across Idaho, about 3 years ago, when I ran out of gas in the Owyhee Desert of Idaho. This, to me, is the most fun part of traveling. Running back over the same tracks you made when you were younger another crazy adventure to nowhere. I'm sort of retracing my steps, perpetually wandering across this lonely planet, rolling around with other lost souls. So crazy fun there aren't words.
Right now, I'm shooing flies off my food in a restaurant in Perry, Utah. Made it 300 miles, from Boise, Idaho to Perry, Utah by 1:30 p.m. I'm taking mostly interstates on the way home at this point, only because I've been on the road so long I'm actually ready to wrap this trip up. I'd like to be able to say "I drove to the Arctic Ocean and back on a KTM 990 Adventure", but somehow, there's still about 550 miles between me and my double-wide. See if we can't get something done about that today. 2nd place is the first loser.
August 13, 2014
Day 26 - Coeur d'Alene, Idaho - Boise, Idaho (Wed 8/13/14)
Above: Lake Coeur d'Alene in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.
Additional photos in the Extended Entry.
Update: I am alive and well and resting peacefully on the banks of the Boise River in Boise, Idaho.
Starting Odometer: 23,784
Ending Odometer: 24,225
Miles Driven Today: 441
Miles Driven This Trip: 9,572
Miles from Home: 843
Here's my planned route for today.
Looks like thunderstorms everywhere. I'm going for it, hell-bent-for-leather.
Here's a map of roughly where I drove today.
Photos in the Extended Entry.
August 12, 2014
Day 25 - Vancouver, B.C. to Coeur d'Alene, Idaho (Tue 8/12/14)
Update: I am alive and well and resting peacefully in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.
Starting Odometer: 23,333
Ending Odometer: 23,784
Miles Driven Today: 451 miles
Miles Driven This Trip: 9,131
Miles from Home: 1,072
Here's a map of roughly where I drove today.
In the morning, I wake up and look outside, and it's raining. Like, we had such spectacular weather for the last 3-4 days, that I'd forgotten about rain. But the parking lot looks like a suicide hotline of pain and dull grey days. This is the Pacific Northwest. The most dreary weather on the planet.
Check the forecast for Vancouver, Seattle, and Spokane. Everything says rain, rain, rain. But the forecast is the same for the rest of the week. The nice thing about riding a bike all day in the rain is that you realize it can be done. Depending on how hard it's raining, of course. But in a light rain, sure....you can drive in it all day if you have to. Plus, at least it's warm now. It's not 37 degrees F like in Coldfoot, Wiseman, Deadhorse, and Prudhoe Bay.
This is sort of a warm, damp Pacific Northwest type of day. Like...ok....I'll get wet, but I won't melt, and I won't freeze to death.
I program my GPS before I leave the parking lot. I've learned this little trick. Once you drive 15 miles the wrong way right out of the gate, you learn to set the GPS before you even start the engine.
Roll out of the parking lot in a light rain, gas up at the corner, and now rolling towards the USA border. Smoking hot chick with a blonde pony on a little Suzuki motorcycle pulls up beside me at a light. Smoking hot. It's a little Harley clone I've never seen before. I compliment her on it. She's clearly not interested, but you miss 100% of the shots you don't take, right?
So now we're rolling south towards the U.S. border...there's signs that we can cross at the Pacific Crossing, or one further west. The delay at the Pacific Crossing is 40 minutes. The other one is an hour.
"We should take this crossing, right? The wait is shorter, it says?" I offer.
"Oh...well....I don't have to wait. I'm a 'Trusted Traveler', so I drive right across," she explains.
Just my luck, of course. I'll have to wait for 40 minutes in the rain. That's going to suck. But it is what it is. It will be nice to be back in the USA, where you can actually pay at the pumps again.
The border guard tells me to take off my helmet. Asks me my plate number. Like...trust me I have no clue what my license plate number is. Like...you're telling me you don't have a camera that shows it to you? That's hard to believe.
"Why did you go to Canada?"
"I drove up to Deadhorse, Alaska."
"Why did you do that?" he wants to know.
"Because I could?" Like, I get this question a lot. It's not like there's any real reason that I did it, but it was something I felt like doing, so I did it. That's the best reason I can come up with.
He laughs, and waves me through. Now that I'm back in the USA, gas won't cost an arm-and-a-leg anymore. So that will be nice.
I really don't know where to go next. Part of me wants to wander down the Pacific Coast to San Francisco. I've done this ride many times. It's beautiful, but also, part of me feels that I need to wrap up this endless road show. I feel like it's time to go home. I talked to Ben about this. He's sort of of the same opinion. We've both been on the road for about 3 weeks. It seems like it's time to wrap this thing up.
I consider eating lunch in Seattle, but I really don't know Seattle. Like, I couldn't find the waterfront without a compass, and the traffic on I-5 is a nightmare, so I make an audible and decide to shut this nightmare down, set the Garmin Montana 600 GPS for Morrison, Colorado and start making tracks. My best estimate is that I'm about 1,300 miles from home, meaning I can be home in 3 days if I run 500 miles a day.
The guys I met on the road convinced me that I should be able to drive 500-600 miles a day without much difficulty, and now it's time to make tracks.
I'm wandering east across Washington on I-90, through the Cascades. I don't even take any pictures. I've packed away all of my cameras except for my iPhone and my GoPro. Now, we're rolling down out of the Cascades and down into the arid deserts of the Columbia basin.
This is where my buddy Mark was buried...in Wilbur, Washington. He was a good guy. Knew his wife and kids. Then, he was working out at a gym about 20 years ago and he had an aneurism just let go, and that was that. One minute he was pumping iron, and the next minute, they were saying he "couldn't have any visitors at this time", which is code, apparently, for "the dude you're asking about it deceased". So, Fritz and I flew out here for his funeral. We watched his kids let balloons go in the sky when they buried him...as a way of releasing their father...of letting go. It was the saddest thing I've ever seen.
Fritz and I drove to the Grand Coulee Dam. But that was 20 years ago. And now, I'm back, driving across the deserts of eastern Washington, amped up on a shot of 5-Hour Energy, making audio recordings on my iPhone in the "KTM Studio". I stick my iPhone inside my helmet, and record voice memos while I'm driving down the road. I hold it against my helmet with my chin. So, I'm making these recordings, driving across the desert, when I look behind me and see the most massive storm approaching that I've ever witnessed in my life. An enormous thunderhead climbs 10,000 feet into the sky - dark, ominous grey wall rises into the stratosphere, and before the storm, a massive cloud of dust races across the desert like a scene from the rapture. I'm expecting the 4 horses of the apocalypse to come riding down at any point. It's bearing down on me at an unbelievable speed, and I'm trapped before it....pinned to the desert like a laboratory insect. I'm going to have to outrun this thing if I'm going to live. I put away my cell phone and get ready to make a run for my life. Fuck the police. I want to live. And I open the throttle, running triple digits up the interstate, surfing the storm's winds across the desert.
Interstate 90 runs north-east into Spokane. For some reason, the storm is coming in from the south, which is hard to understand. Their weather should go from west to east. I checked the forecast for today, but everywhere I looked said rain. So, when I made it out of Canada with only a very light rainy mist, and got through Seattle without a drop, I started to think I was home free.
I'm driving down I-90 heading east across the Columbia Basin when I first noticed the storm forming to the south. I'm stopping, and taking pictures of it at first, not realizing that my life is in grave danger, initially. At first, it just sort of looked like a rain storm, but I'm thinking that I'll skirt it to the north. Storms move east here. I'm fine. But, as I continue across the Columbia Basin, I realize that, for reasons I'm having a hard time understanding, the storm is, in fact, bearing down on me at something like 70 mph.
Now, probably you've never been caught out in a massive storm on a motorcycle, but it's not fun. I mean, sure...I have rain gear, but if it's raining so hard you can't see, then you can't drive down the road.
So I pack away all of my electronics, and then start racing down I-90 east-bound like a low-flying plane. Like....seriously...fuck this....this storm is death on a hairy biscuit. If the cops want to write me a ticket, then I'll demand he let me in the back seat to ride out the storm. This is survival at this point. I'm not joking. This is the worst storm I've ever seen in my life with my own eyes. Like something out of a Hollywood blockbuster movie.
As I'm racing north-east down I-90, it starts to rain. Somehow, it's overtaking me ever an 100 mph. I pull under a bridge/overpass to collect my thoughts. I really don't want to die today. I've had 2 near-death experiences in the last 2 days. It's starting to look less-and-less likely that I'll ever live to see my home again.
I dunno how I get myself into these situations....I really don't. I checked the forecast. I set the GPS straight for home...take me home to Morrison, Colorado. I got up early....got rolling at about 10:30 a.m. Got 100 miles in before noon. I'm doing everything right.
I stop every 100 miles for gas, and to stretch my legs. This is what you're supposed to do. I am, in theory, a seasoned motorcycle adventure rider, if such a thing exists. And yet, here I am, stuck under a bridge, riding out a massive storm.
The safe play is to sit tight, wait for the storm to pass, and then limp into Spokane like a whipped dog in the night.
Then I have another thought. I'm think I'm still ahead of the storm, but just temporarily under a very light band of rain. I think I can still outrun it. So I break out from under the bridge, hell-bent-for-leather. Running like a scalded dog up the interstate towards Spokane.
After I've gone about a mile or so, the rain lets up and I drive out of the rain band. I was right about the storm. I am still ahead of it. I'm so excited to be alive. I'm shaking my fist at the sky, and the guy in the truck beside me doesn't get it. He looks at me like a lunatic. Fuck him. Like I give a crap what he thinks. Freaking moron.
Now, I roll into Spokane, glad to be alive. Stop for gas. Gas up. So nice to be back in the United States where you can pay at the pumps, without having to go inside 14 times to sign your life away, guessing at how much the gas will be, and then praying that the pump refunds your money they way they claim it works. All lies and scams I'm sure.
Now, some guys here at the gas station are pouring gas into little red fire extinguisher-looking canisters.
"What are y'all doing there?"
"We're taking samples of the gas they're selling for Conoco," they reply.
"Aha. Sort of an audit of the process. Let's see what it is that they're selling here. Clever."
It's only like 30 miles to Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, which is sort of arguably my goal. I want to get as far down the road as I can today. And if it's still daylight, and it's not raining, then I'm moving on.
Back out onto I-90 heading east...ever east...Now rolling across the border into Idaho. So strange to be back in the United States. To be back in civilization with Wal-Marts and motorcycle dealers and car dealerships and urban sprawl. I really don't like riding on the interstates, but I've been on the road for so long. And the speed limit is 70 mph on the interstates so...
Now, as I come into Coeur d'Alene, it's about dusk-thirty. Ahead of me looks like something...rain? I can't say for sure. Looks like the same storm might be coming up from the south. I really, really, really don't want to drive into that storm. Pass by a few hotels, and a Motel 6 with a rate posted outside. I pass a few other hotels, and now the rain starts. Do a quick exit, cross over interstate, now backtracking west-bound...running from the rain again. Roll into the Motel 6 parking lot as the rain starts. The winds blow my gear off the bike. I struggle to get it all out of the rain and on a bench under the overhang.
Check in for the night. I get the last room in the place. The next people that pull up are turned away. She says that she was on the same interstate as me, and got caught in the storm. She couldn't even see outside her car windows once the haboob hit.
"I was trying to pull over...to get off the interstate and just park....but I couldn't tell if I was off the road or not. I couldn't see outside the car windows. I was afraid we'd get hit from behind. Once it cleared though, I realized I was off the interstate at an exit ramp. We couldn't see outside the car. There were a ton of wrecks all up and down the road."
Somehow, I came through this nightmare smelling like a rose. We'll call this "Near Death Experience #3", in as many days. I really don't like how this return trip is shaping up. I clearly should have just shipped the bike home from Alaska, and flown back to Denver. But no...I wanted to be tough and drive it back.
I feel like someone up there doesn't want me to make it back home. The trip back has been harrowing.
Every time I stop, I check my tire pressure with my hands, scared to death that my tires will fail again and send me careening all over the road. I cringe every time I drive through an intersection, deathly afraid some housewife will turn in front of me. And if I never see a haboob again, it will be too soon.
Eat dinner next door at JB's. After the storm passes, I'm walking around like a rape-crime victims. Like a soldier with PTSD. I still can't believe what happened. I'm walking around wearing my riding gear, because that's who I am. I'm a motorcycle soldier. I should carry my helmet with me also, for the full effect. I love the riding gear because, it makes you feel like the most bad-ass dude to ever walk the planet. You're wearing all this gear with pads in it...you can't help but puff out your chest and walk around like a pigeon. Dressed like an astronaut, of course. It gets attention, for sure.
Instead of people thinking you have gas, they see the riding gear and ask "which bike is yours?"
"Mine's the little pink one hiding under the stairs there in the corner."
It's becoming increasingly difficult to see these last 3 days as a series of disconnected events. That's 3 days in a row that I had a near death experience. Like...this storm...you really can't imagine what it was like, and how close I came to getting caught up in it. I shot video with my GoPro while I was running from it. I'll post the video after I quit shaking.
I'm wandering aimlessly around in the parking lot. Shaken. Stirred. Grieving. Lost. Gnawing on my fingers like a psychopath.
A church group pulls up in two buses, spilling kids into the parking lot. They were in the storm, camping, near Ritzville, when it hit. Blew away all their tents. Put a 40 foot tree down on their campsite. It's a miracle no one was killed. They packed up their shit and rolled into Coeur d'Alene looking for shelter.
I'm just wandering around like a meth addict. I seriously question whether I'll survive this journey. I feel like this one is a bridge too far. Every day seems to hold another catastrophe. I'm not sure I want to know what's behind door number 4.
August 11, 2014
Day 24 - Cache Creek, B.C. to Vancouver, B.C. (Mon 8/11/14)
Above: Driving down BC Highway 99, the "Sea-to-Sky Highway".
Additional photos in the Extended Entry.
Update: I am alive and well and resting peacefully in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Starting Odometer: 23,051
Ending Odometer: 23,333
Miles Driven Today: 282
Miles Driven This Trip: 8,680
Here's a map of roughly where I drove today.
The light turns yellow and I open the throttle...you don't want to give those red light cameras any reason to be snapping pics. I've just got my 3rd citation for the trip by some woman motorcycle cop with a radar gun....So I'm blowing through the intersection when the guy coming at me decides to make a left turn in front of me, not realizing that I was going for it. Now, I'm going to smoke the side of this car hard, and it's going to suck in a big way. I stand on both brakes, brace for impact, and sort of aim for the tail end of the car, hoping he'll floor it and get out of the way. By the grace of God, I miss hitting him broadside by a few inches.
But I should back up a bit.
In the morning, my alarm goes off at 7:00 a.m. Last night, I figured out when the tire store opened (7:30 a.m.) I set my alarm for 7:00 a.m. At 7:15 a.m., I'm walking across the street to see what's up. At 7:20 a.m., I realize the building is open, walk inside, and plead my case.
At first, there is some confusion. He thinks I'm a driver for some business.
"No...I have a motorcycle with a flat tire. Can y'all help me? I had it towed here yesterday. It's out back."
We go outside to look at the bike. I've never changed a tube on a bike in my life. I tried once. It's not easy.
"Dude...here's the thing...we work on car tires...we don't work on motorcycle tires. And if we do, then the customer has to pull the tire. We just don't do motorcycle tires...."
"Who does?" I ask innocently.
"Well, we don't stock tires or tubes for motorcycles. We'd have to go to Kamloops to get anything done..." His voice kind of trails off.
I've learned that, in these situations, silence is golden. Just shut your mouth, and try to keep moving the ball forward.
But the help shows up, and we roll the bike into the service bay number 3. The small one.
He's apparently injured his back, so he's not moving like a spy teenager.
They're trying to figure out how to get the bike's tire up in the air.
"It has a center stand...hang on...." and I proceed to roll the bike up onto the center stand, a trick Nick showed me. Now, I did get it up on the center stand, but it's insanely hard to perform this feat on this bike. On the later models, it was radically changed, and much easier to accomplish.
So now, the front tire is in the air. The mechanic starts fiddling with tools, and acting like he's going to pull it off. I've mentioned before that I'm trying to be more assertive in voicing my needs, and this is not a joke. I tell them this:
"I'm going to go next door. Here's my cell phone number. Call me."
Like, I mean, it is what it is, right? If we've got to fly in a tire or a tube from Austria, then so be it. But I'm going back to the motel to get in bed.
So, I go back, lie down in bed, and crash in a big way. I wake up at 9:00 a.m., and theres a missed call from KAL Tire. I call them back.
"Dude...what's up with the bike?"
Like, I have no idea if this is something inherently flawed in the bike that will require it to be dismantled and shipped back to Austria in boxes, or something he can fix in 30 minutes.
"You're all ready to go. I tried to call you...."
"I'm on my way."
I walk across the street from the Bonaparte Motel to the KAL-Tire place.
"What was wrong with the tire?" I ask the guy with a bad back.
"It rubbed a hole in the tube," he offers.
"There wasn't a nail or anything?"
"No. Probably just a little piece of sand in between the tire and the tube finally rubbed a hole in the tube..." he offers.
Like, I really don't know how these things work. I really have no clue. But he's sitting there telling me the bike is ready to go. I pay the bill...it's like $50.00 Canadian, which is like three U.S. dollars.
I eye the bike suspiciously. I put it off the center stand, and drive it back to the Bonaparte Motel, on the banks of the Bonaparte River.
Now, it's time to get rolling. I've got to make it down to Vancouver today to catch up to Ben. Pack up all my gear, and roll across the street for gas, gatorade, and food. Without these things, one won't survive long in the arid canyons.
For clarification, "Hell's Gate" is just south of Cache Creek. I never technically went through Hell's Gate. I head back north to Highway 99. This is the same path I took last time I came through, in 2011, exactly 3 years ago.
Only now, I have the bike all loaded up, and we're rolling down into the canyons. But now, the bike has shown me its true colors. It's like if a woman has cheated on you, and you catch her, it's hard to trust her again.
The bike is the same way. This bike scared the living daylights out of me yesterday. And now, every time I go into a curve, that's what I'm thinking...I wonder if the patch will hold...I wonder if I'll make it through the turn. And I'm afraid of the bike. For the first time in my life.
I tell myself that I don't need the front tire. I can make it through the curve without leaning over. And, in truth, I'm scared to lean into the curves any more. You just can't know what that feeling was like. There aren't words.
Now, I make it past the Marble Lake Park, where my trip ended yesterday. Now, I'm rolling through the canyons, taking pictures, and trying to keep it together.
Trying not to fear the machine. Trying to take in the view. Shooting like mad with the Canons and the GoPro.
The nice thing about the incident yesterday is that I stopped, and swam across Marble Lake. And there's no chance I would have done that otherwise. So, something good did come of it.
Now, I'm at the town of Lillooet B.C., "Guaranteed Rugged". It's this sort of hard-scrablle indian village in the desert, with a little river running through town. I pull over, and roll down to a suspension bridge across the river. They're down there beating the drums in some Indian ceremony. Remembering our experience from yesterday, I decide to not get involved.
I head back down into the canyon. One of the best parts of traveling, IMHO, is going to places you've been before, and sort of filling in the gaps of what you recall, and what's actually there.
Parts of this I remember. Parts I don't recall at all. But it's a spectacular drive, with narrow little one-lane wooden bridges, railroad trestles, desperate canyons, and then I'm in Pemberton. Stop for gas in Pemberton, and now the road leads to verdant mountains, and eventually to the ski resort of Whistler.
Just before Whistler, I remember the mountains here from the last time through. It seems like I always remember the places where I took pictures. I'm not sure if it's because the places are so stunning, or if it's because I'm remembering the picture that I took. It's hard to know.
Eventually, I roll down the coast and on into Vancouver.
Vancouver is funny because, just like the last time I was here, I enter town the same way, and follow the exact same path I took last time. Only this time, I'm shooting with my GoPro. Trying to capture some of the mystery of the city. When I roll into town this time, however, it's not at sunset. So, the high-rises aren't all lit up like they were last time. But it's still a magnificent city, of course.
I find Granville Street, the major artery/pedestrian mall. And I drive around for a bit. Stop to eat dinner down at the marina.
I'm looking all over for a place to spend the night that won't cost a fortune, but eventually, I decide that I'll go to a place in the suburbs...a little place called the Hurricane Grill.
I'm rolling south out of Vancouver when this battered old house-wife runs into the street right in front of me. "Christ what's wrong with these psychotic housewives? only now, I realize that she's a pig, and is motioning for me to pull over. Great. They wanted equal rights, and this is what we got. Serves us right. Women flock to the public sector like bears on black berries.
She's clocked me with a hand-held radar-gun for whatever reason. So I pull over, and she writes me a ticket for doing something in a something. It's all just kilometers, so I have no idea what she's talking about. For some reason, my radar detector wasn't even plugged in.
At the next intersection, when the light turns yellow, I open the throttle, and some jackass turns left in front of me. Now, I'm going to hit him going about 50 mph and it's going to suck in a big way. I lock up both brakes, and he floors it. How I missed him, I'll never know. But I miss him by inches. Maybe the purpose of this adventure was to make me glad to be alive and, after the last two days, I am.
Photos in Extended Entry.
Day 24 - Rolling on to Vancouver down the Sea-to-Sky Highway (99)
KAL Tire got my front tire fixed and I'm rolling. Should make it to Vancouver today, God willing and the river don't rise.
Some quick observations about being broken down:
- It's all fun and games until the bike fails to proceed. Then things like food, water, and shelter come into focus.
- When you're wearing your riding gear, you can walk up to the meanest most-bad-ass looking men on Harleys and they will talk to you like a long lost brother. When you're not wearing your riding gear, they will shun you like an orphan.
- When you go into a curve in a remote canyon in a foreign country and your front tire loses pressure, no matter how tough you think you are, you'll be as scared as a little girl checking for monsters under her bed, because you've just found a shiny new nightmare.
- When you need cell coverage, you won't have it.
- Everything you take onto the road will fail. It's only a matter of time.
- Nothing gets better on its own. Everything that bothers you requires time, attention, and effort to correct.
- Sleeping more will not make you less tired.
- Your motorcycle requires more attention than a woman. Every time you stop for gas, you should spend every free second checking the oil, tire pressure, or cleaning the bike. Inattention to the slightest detail will cause the bike to toss you into a desert canyon alone in an area with no cell coverage.
- If you have something, but don't know where it is, then you don't have it.
- If you think you have something, but it's not where you think it is, then you don't have it.
- Anything you need at any point in time will be in the least accessible part of your packed gear.
- Even if you don't have a plan, you're going to end up somewhere. But without a plan, you may not like where you end up.
- If you need food and water, you'll only have it if you had the sense to buy it at the last gas station.
- If you're traveling through a foreign country without local currency, you're an idiot
- If you're not sure what country you're in, you probably shouldn't be traveling at all, much less alone.
- If you're riding with a friend, you'll be better off in so many ways there aren't words
- The friendships formed on the road are more intense than the friendships you form at home. They're forged in the furnace of the open road, similar to friendships forged in combat. It's not like a being at home. It's very much different than that.
Thanks, Ben, for turning back to save my ass. :)
A rider last night here at the Bonaparte Motel told me about these guys that created Destination Highways. They go around and rate every road in B.C., measuring each curve, evaluating the asphalt, the scenery, etc. Sort of like the MilePost for the ALCAN Highway.
After they rated all of the roads in B.C., they published a book. Now, they're making so much money from it, that they're doing/have done all of the roads in Washington, Oregon, and California. They quit their day jobs and are pursuing this full time.
August 10, 2014
Day 23 - McLeese Lake Resort, B.C. to Cache Creek, B.C. (Sun 8/10/14)
Above: Tow truck driver getting the bike ready to tow back to Cache Creek from Marble Canyon Park.
Additional photos in the Extended Entry.
Update: I am alive and well and resting peacefully in Cache Creek, British Columbia, Canada, on the Cariboo Highway (97).
Starting Odometer: 22,869
Ending Odometer: 23,051
Miles Driven Today: 182
Miles Driven This Trip: 8,398
Here's a map of roughly where I drove today.
So, today. Wow. Wake up in the morning and I start getting ready to move. Packing up the gear. Getting ready to hit the road shortly. Ben will be here soon. But at 9:00 a.m., he still hasn't shown up. Decide that I'll run down there to his campsite and make sure he's still alive. He's only about 10 km up the road.
Go outside, climb on the bike, and now I hear his motorcycle coming. I can seriously identify his bike from the sound it makes, after riding for several days together. Now, I hear him coming up the highway, but he's coming from the wrong direction for some reason.
He pulls in and rolls up.
"I was just coming to look for you. I figured the bears had got you. Did you get lost?"
"I went past it, but I found it...."
"Are you hungry?"
"Yeah. Let's eat, eh?"
So I check out and we roll around the lake to a restaurant on the other side of the lake.
Over breakfast, we have some talks about why it's important to travel with food and water. Last night, he ended up going to sleep without supper, essentially. So, we talk about this. You should have food and water on your bike at all times. Not chocolate bars, not salty snacks, not spicy foods, but stuff like trail mix or granola bars. And gatorade or water. So, if you have these things on your bike at all times, then it will save you on the road if you break down, and, if you're in a situation where you roll into town and all the restaurants are closed, you'll have something to eat for dinner. So, we talk about this.
"Is that your bike outside?" A girl across the restaurant want to know. I feel like a rock star.
"Yes it is, why do you ask?"
"You left your turn signal on. And your lights...."
"Oh...that's his bike. But I'll go turn off his lights. Thanks."
So, I go outside and turn off my headlight. Maybe I'm not quite as cool as I thought. But when I come back in, they both have plenty of questions for us about the bikes.
Now, a couple wearing riding gear walks in and sits down at the table behind us. We start talking, so that they forget where they are. Forget to look at the menus. And the waitress keeps coming back to take their order, but they keep shooing her away like a fly.
He saw that my bike had Colorado plates on it, and now, we're deeply involved in a conversation with total strangers. We don't even know their names. But it doesn't matter. They've sensed that we're onto something. That we're not just rolling down the Cariboo highway....we're on a grand adventure across the continent, and they want in.
It's sort of fun to see how other people get excited by our adventure. Like, I'm happy to share it with them. It makes the ride that much more enjoyable. To no be traveling around the world in an isolated bubble, but to race from town to town, from restaurant to gas station, enthralling everyone we meet with our crazed stories from the road.
"You're from Colorado?" he asks.
"Yeah...I'm about 7,000 miles into the journey at this point...or maybe 11,000 kilometers. It's kind of funny because, after I go on these adventures, I always drive home to Colorado and I think 'it's so pretty here, why do I even leave?"' "
He says, "I know what you mean... I went to Colorado a while back. I was down there, and I met this man...we were both in Colorado Springs, as I recall. And he ask me where I came from, and I said 'Canada', and he says 'where in Canada', and I said 'British Columbia", and he says 'where in B.C." and I told him and he said 'well why in the world did you come here?' He spends every summer up here west of Williams Lake. And, it's funny because, I was spending my summer in his area, and he was spending his summers in my area. And we were each envious of the other's home. Isn't that funny?"
"It's certainly enlightening," I offered.
We finish eating, and go outside to leave. We cross the street to buy some snacks and drinks for the road - Emergency Preparedness 101. When we return, the man comes out from the restaurant to meet us.
"You know...just down the road here....a few kilometers south of here is an old indian village. They used to build these special places to live in the winter. They'd dig down into the ground, and then make a sort of top to it, and they lived in these in the winter. It's an open camp. You should go check it out."
So, we thank him and ride off. A while later, Ben spots the sign, and we turn in. We follow a dusty alkaline dirt road down into the Fraser River gorge, and do, in fact, discover the Indian camp he had described to us. As we pull up , we see several Tee-Pee's, and a bunch of people under a pavilion. My assumption is that they're eating lunch, and I go up and start peeking into the Tee-Pee's, only to discover that they're occupied.
And that the people in the pavilion are praying in a ceremony that we've inadvertently crashed.
Now, we're trying to figure out how to leave. I'm sure starting the bikes will interrupt their sacred ceremony, but eventually we just start our bikes and drive away.
Probably, we set back Canadian-Indian Relations back a millennia.
As we're leaving, we pass the man and his wife coming down to the indian camp on their bike...a Honda Shadow, I think.
We start heading south. At this point, it's about noon, and we still haven't really gone anywhere, and we haven't even got gas, and we're both on empty.
At the next gas station, we stop to fill up. I'm still feeling pretty superior for having my gas can. Ben's is empty, at this point, is my understanding. But as we roll south, we're seeing more and more signs of civilization, and as the sun comes up, I realize that I'm roasting.
"I put on all of my riding gear...did you?" I ask Ben.
"No..because I'm not an idiot," is his reply.
So now, we've gone nowhere today, really. I'm wearing way too much gear. Feel like I could faint.
We start rolling south. The plan is to go to Cache Creek, but now, he's starting to crawfish on me.
"We really don't have to go to Cache Creek, do we? I mean...the map shows that 99 cuts off about 9 km north of Cache Creek and..."
"And you don't like to backtrack. OK. Fair enough. You've made your point. We'll see what it's like when we get there."
At the last stop before our turn onto 99, I signal to pull over, and we stop for gas. Ostensibly, this eliminates our need to go to Cache Creek.
"Now, we won't have to go to Cache Creek. Are you happy now?"
"Well...why do you want to go there? I don't understand..."
"Because I went there last time. That's all. It's not a big deal. I'm just a creature of habit, I think."
Then we roll south. At Highway 99, the Sea-To-Sky Highway, we turn west for the journey down past Whistler into Vancouver.
It starts off very arid. Almost like a desert. Think Moab. Then, the canyon gets greener and greener as you get deeper into it. I remember the places I stop and took photos last time. The cabins. The mountains. He was here. He came through here.
Now, Ben isn't behind me, so I turn and go back. I'm not leaving him out here to die. We're in this together. I find him adjusting his clothing or some such nonsense. I decide that I'll remove a layer of clothing, and strip down to remove all of my under-armor. I remove my gloves, one of my jackets, and my riding pants. So now, I'm not wearing gloves. Or any riding pants....just jeans..bare hands...boots...no gloves...and my outer riding jacket shell only.
As we continue riding, I'm finally cool enough that I feel like I won't die. The canyon is still an oven, but I'm not as hot as I was before. So we're riding through this canyon down a narrow winding 2-lane black-topped road.
I wave Ben around me.
Now, it's just me and the canyon. A beautiful ride through this gorge. I decide to reprogram my GPS to go to Whistler. Now, you should know that, as I drive, very little attention is required by the bike. Mostly, I'm taking pictures, programming my GPS, fiddling with the GoPro, or filming while I'm riding with one hand. So, I go into a curve at about 60 mph (100 km/hr), while I'm reprogramming my Garmin Montana 600, and suddenly I inexplicably lose control of the bike. I'm about to crash, and I'm not even sure why or what's happening. I wasn't going too fast through the curve...that's not the issue. I've just lost control of the bike.
The bike starts to go down, and I think..."Oh Lord God this is not fucking happening". Like...it's hard to believe I'm about to crash. And I don't even know what went wrong. The brain doesn't have time to think. I manage to get the bike upright somehow, but now it's about to crash again, and the bike starts to go down again. I have on no gloves. No riding pants. Just jeans. Bare hands. And my riding jacket shell. Not a good time to go down. This is going to suck in a big way.
I've got both hands on the handlebars now. Forget the GPS, of course. I'm struggling to regain control of the bike. To make it through the curve. And somehow, by the grace of God, I manage to get the bike under control. The whole time, I'm just slowing down by coasting. No brakes. I just let off the throttle.
The bike coasts to a stop, and as it does, I turn off to the left, down into the gorge. I'm so shaken by my near death experience that I'm shaking uncontrollably. When I take off my helmet, I'm shaking like a lunatic. I'm seriously freaking out. That's never happened to me before in my life. The experience is shattering. I imagine shipping the bike back to Denver, or just selling it and flying home.
As I look around, I realize that, by chance, I've stumbled into the most stunning lake park you've ever seen, at Marble Canyon Park. I look at the front tire. It's completely flat. So, that's what happened....my front tire blew out. Now...why did this happen? I'm not clear. It has plenty of tread left on it. I just put the front tire on a few thousand miles again. It's brand new.
I have no cell coverage at the park, so that sucks. But, I do have shade, water, and some food. And there are lots of other people at the park. So I've got that going for me. I've certainly broken down in worse places.
Basically, my plan at this point is to just sit and wait for Ben to come back. He's gone on ahead, which is how we ride, but he should come back for me eventually.
I leave the bike by the side of the road so that he won't have any trouble spotting it when he comes back. That's the secret. The bike is what he'll be looking for. If he can't see the bike, he'll never find me.
Now, I wander down to the lake. I would say that it's a river, but somehow it's a lake. Fair enough.
People are down, swimming in the lake. Rowing across on those ridiculous paddle boards. Kids swimming and splashing in the lake. Only I don't have a swimsuit. This was an oversight on this trip.
I'm roasting, and would like nothing more than to swim in the lake, but I don't want to miss Ben when he returns.
Somehow, I strike up a conversation with a couple, and now they're offering me an ice-cold beer, which I graciously accept. He lives in B.C., she lives in Tahoe. They're traveling around B.C. on vacation, taking their beer cooler everywhere they go.
Eventually, Ben shows up, and I'm so grateful to see him. Like...it's so hard to be out here, all alone, thousands of miles from home, without even cell coverage. It's a bad thing to be stranded like this.
"Dude...what can we do? I'm thinking...drive to Cache Creek...find a tow truck...tow the bike back to Cache Creek and get the tire fixed?"
"Yeah...sounds like a plan." So, Ben takes off towards Cache Creek. But he returns shortly.
"Here's the thing....I drove a little distance...found a place, and asked them if they had a towing company they preferred...they gave me the number of a tow company...I called them, and they're coming to pick you up. Be here in less than an hour."
We agreed that he would head on down to Whistler or Vancouver, and I'll try to catch up with him in a day or two.
I was so happy that he came back to help me out. So good to have a friend on the road. I send him on his way.
Now, I'm waiting for the tow truck, but I want to swim across this like in a big way. I check that there's no tow truck, strip down to my underwear, and wade into the lake. Now, I start to swim across the lake. By the time I'm in the middle, I realize that the lake is much larger than I'd realized, and I'll be lucky to survive the swim across. Somehow, I make it across, glad to be alive, now only to realize that I have to swim back across the lake, and quickly, if I'm to meet the tow truck driver.
So I start back across. My arms are like noodles. I'm about 2/3 of the way back across when the tow truck driver shows up and starts honking his horn. Now, instead of the back stroke and the breast stroke, I'm doing the American crawl, swimming as fast as possible, praying to God he doesn't leave me to die out here in this remote canyon.
As soon as I reach the shore, I race through the woods, up the hill to the tow truck driver in my underwear, dripping wet, gasping for breath, and begging him not to leave me to die in the remote canyon.
Once I realize he's not going to abandon me an drive back to Cache Creek alone, I put on my clothes, and we load the KTM up onto the truck. I climb in the cab, and we start back up the canyon, in the direction of Cache Creek.
The plan is that we'll tow it to Cache Creek, I'll get a motel room for the night, and in the morning, the tire place Kal-Tire will get me rolling. That's the plan anyway.
Photos in the Extended Entry.
Maybe in the morning
And maybe in the morning, the sun climbs above McLeese Lake. The birds hop through the trees carefully calling out to someone. Anyone.
Cars roll by on the highway, heading other places than this. Trout jump in the lake.
Maybe some kids come down to walk along the shore. They were swimming in this lake last night. This freezing cold body of water that no sane human would wade into.
The trees drip sap that runs down their bark in great white streaks.
Maybe this is summer. Maybe it's the end of summer. Only a few weeks left until school starts it seems.
I checked my website....the last time I came through he was only 3 years ago. But it seems like such a long time ago. How could it only have been three years?
I feel like our days are so precious and we just toss them away like candy wrappers. I don't really know what to do with my time any more. Maybe it's time to hit the road.
I want to get down to Cache Creek, ride through Hell's Gates, and down the Sea-to-Sky Highway. But Ben isn't here yet. I dunno where that genius is. Maybe he left me. That's fine. It's not a big deal. But now I have to go back 9 km to check and see if he's at his campsite along the Fraser River. See if a bear mauled him during the night.
August 9, 2014
Day 22 - New Hazelton, B.C. to McLeese Lake Resort, B.C. (Sat 8/9/14)
Above: A cow moose in a flooded field along the Dease Lake/Stewart Cassiar Highway (BC 37).
Additional photos in the Extended Entry.
Driving to Cache Creek, B.C. today.
Update: I am alive and well and resting peacefully in a small cabin on the banks of McLeese Lake, a lake in the Cariboo region of British Columbia, Canada, on the Cariboo Highway (BC 97).
Starting Odometer: 22,429
Ending Odometer: 22,869
Miles Driven Today: 440
Miles Driven This Trip: 8,216
Here's a map of roughly where we drove today.
Wow. What was today like? Hmmmm.
OK. So, we wake up in New Hazelton, B.C. Ben gets up before 8:00 a.m....before my alarm goes off. We've agreed to get up at 8:00 a.m. and then leave at 8:30 a.m. or 9:00 a.m. But he's already up, dressed, has his bike packed up, and is threatening to leave.
"Dude...are you up already? It's not even 8:00 a.m. I was up until 3:00 a.m. working on my website."
"I think I'm just going to go ahead an go..." he offers. Like...I'm not clear where this is coming from. Maybe I did somethiing to piss him off. I'm not clear.
"Well don't do that, homo. Give me a second. I'll get up. I'll be ready to go in 30 minutes. Cool your jets."
"OK. While you get ready, I'll go look at Old Hazelton. Check that place out, eh?"
"Yeah. Sure. You go do that, genius."
So, he rolls out on his bike. I'm not clear if he's really coming back or not. Maybe he's mad at me. It's hard to know with Canuks.
I jump up, pack up all my gear. Now, I'm washing my bike out in the parking lot. Like, if you're not working on your bike, you should be cleaning it. That's about how it goes. When you're riding it all day, it's constantly getting covered in bugs and mud. The bugs make the must foul smell you could ever imagine.
I'm washing my bike, when Ben pulls up.
"Old Hazleton is nothing great. You're not missing anything."
Now, we're rolling south out of New Hazleton towards Prince George. The weather is nice. This is our third day of riding with no significant amount of rain, which is great.
The general plan is to run 150 miles at a time, stopping for meals and gas every 150 miles. That's sort of the general, high-level plan. So we roll south for 150 miles, then stop for breakfast.
It's nice to get up early, hit the road, drive 150 miles, then stop and eat breakfast. This way, you feel like you've gotten somewhere. You've made some progress before noon. You really need to put in 100-150 miles before noon. Otherwise, your day is completely shot.
The problem is that, when you drive a motorcycle for an hour or so, you tend to sort of fall into a tunnel-vision mode. So, you end up just watching this point on the horizon and driving towards it. Not so much noticing the environment you're driving through. So, it's good to take breaks, get gas, get food, whatever you need to do to break up the driving, so that you're refreshed when you start driving again.
As we drive south, the days get shorter, and the air gets warmer.
We come to the town of Smithers. It's a town with some commercial buildings and it's really shocking, I think, to come rolling back into civilization again. Like...I don't feel any particular affinity for it. For this commercialized real estate with these stores and parking lots. It's really shocking. Not anything I want any part of, really. So we just roll through.
At Burns Lake, we stop fort breakfast, and then end up talking to the cook and one of his friends out back.
They're asking where we've been, where we're going, etc.
This is really the most enjoyable part of the trip. People look at us and can tell we're on a pretty serious adventure ride. They always want to know where we came from. Where we're going. Where we've been.
This part is just pretty much a joy ride because, they can see that we're out here having the time of our lives. And everyone wants in. They've all got their suggestions of where we should go. What we should see. Which is greatly appreciated, of course. It's sort of contagious...this cross-country adrenaline-fueled joy ride.
The oook says that there's a Grizzly Bear back at the airport in Smithers that's the largest one ever killed on planet earth. That it was so big, it was eating a cow a day when they killed it. But we've already passed Smithers. And I'm not going to start backtracking.
After breakfast, we stop at a gas station. Ben is doing this trick where he's pouring gas out of his gas can and into his gas tank on the bike. His theory is that we don't need the extra gas any more because we're back in civilization. Which is fine. That's his deal. But I'm not giving up my extra gas. I've still got thousands of miles to go before I'm home. And I've run out of gas in the deserts of Idaho before. It's not a good feeling. We ride on.
As we roll south, towards Prince George, I don't really see anything that looks familiar. Like...I have been this way before...but nothing really sticks, apparently. I don't recall any of this terrain.
Somewhere, along the way, a moose on the side of the road standing in a flooded field. I stop to shoot a few pics with the big lens.
By the time we roll into the town of Quesnell, we've gone 340 miles. We've been on the road for hours. I only got 5 hours of sleep last night. And I'm starting to fall asleep on the bike. That would be a bad thing. A very bad thing
Suddenly, we roll into downtown Quesnel, and it looks familiar. I remember the place.
"Here's the Tim Hortons where I stopped last time. And I remember this bridge. I took pictures of this bridge last time."
Like..OK...great...my brain isn't completely fried. I do remember SOME things from last time I was here.
"Dude...let's stop here at Tim Horton's and get a cup of coffee and a donut. I'm about to fall asleep."
So we grab a donut and some coffee. Sit and chat for a bit to try to wake up.
Out in the parking lot, a guy stops by to ask us some questions. We really are treated like rock stars. Like...seriously...I've never gotten this much attention in my life. Everyone wants to know who we are and where we're going. The guy has come out to work on some project in the oil fields up in Alberta, apparently. He's living out of his truck. Wants pics of us with the bikes. It's pretty fun being treated like a celebrity.
Now, rolling south again. We're gunning for Cache Creek, which is still 150 miles away. I don't say anything to Ben. I've been pushing him pretty hard these last few days. Now, we're following this spectacular river...the Fraser River...this is where they found gold back in the 1800's. They found it in the Fraser River, in the Yukon, and it one other places. After those three areas were worked over, everyone packed up and left. But the river is just spectacular.
Ben pulls over at a scenic overlook, looking out over the Fraser River. It's a stunning view. I think he's fixing to propose to me.
"Look...dude....I think I'm going to crash here tonight...in the tent....Is that OK? Would you be pissed?"
"No, dude. That's totally fine. I'll probably just roll down to 100 Mile House and crash there in a hostel or something. No sweat. Where are you going to camp?"
"I saw a road back there a bit...."
"Come on...I'll follow you..."
So, douche-bag turns around and backtracks about a mile or so. Now, we're driving down this gravel road towards the river-bed, about a hundred meters below us. Now, driving through a herd of open-range goats. Now, down a long, narrow gravel road. Finally, we stumble onto a little quasi-legal campsite on the banks of the Fraser River.
The place is spectacular. Stunning.
"Shit. I wish I had a tent...." I offer. I think about running back up to Quesnel, buying a tent at Wal-mart, and camping out. But, this isn't really my thing. I need internet, a shower, a wall outlet to recharge my Garmin, my GoPro, my Canons, my Macbook, my iPad, etc. Finally, I just bid him farewell.
"I hope you get eaten by a bear, homo. Look for me in 100 Mile House in the morning. I'll have my bike by the side of the road so you won't miss it."
Like you can't count on having cell coverage in these places, of course. So you have to go back to the old-school way of doing things.
"Don't come by before 8:00 a.m., because I'll still be in bed."
So, I leave his gay ass down there by this spectacular winding gold-rush-era river, and head towards 100 mile house to climb into my urban squalor asphalt-parking-lot shit-hole, and 5 miles down the road, I stumble across Lake McLeese. Lake McLeese has private cabins looking out over a stunning lake, with people swimming in it, water skiing, grilling out, etc. It's just spectacular. And it has showers, bathrooms, electrical outlets in the cabins, and WiFi. "SCORE!"
So, I leave the homo down by the river, and check in for the night. I may not have the best
view, but I'll settle for 2nd best view with WiFi and a hot shower.
I sit outside on my little font porch facing the lake, but someone's music is distracting me. Like...that's so annoying. I didn't come to a like in B.C. to listen to your shitty music.
I'm seriously working on communicating to other people what I need them to do for me, so, I walk down there, identify the source, and ask them to turn it down.
"Can you please turn your music down?"
"Where are you staying?" She wants to know. As if that's somehow relevant.
"I'm two cabins down..." I offer.
"But there's only two more cabins down there," she counters.
Like...yeah....there are 2 cabins down there, so when I say I'm two cabins down, that means I'm the second one. I can imagine how this must be confusing for you, being retarded and all.
"I can understand that this must be difficult for you. But if I were you, I'd focus less on where I'm staying, and more on turning the music down. Either you can turn it down, or I can go tell the people that run the park to have you turn it down."
The days really are getting shorter I can't believe it's already dark at 10:30 at night. Ridiculous.
Now, I'm going to go for a swim in my lake by the light of the full moon.
OK. That lake was freezing. Almost as cold as the Arctic Ocean. I got in up to my knees and said "forget it".
Tomorrow, we'll get up and drive down to Cache Creek, eat lunch,
then drive through Hell's Gates, and down the Sea-to-Sky Highway (99) into Vancouver. This should be about 365 miles, and the weather forecast looks clear and sunny.
Update: We never went through Hell's Gate. This was something I learned about on the road. I thought that the entrance to the Sea-to-Sky Highway (BC 99) was referred to as "Hell's Gates". In fact, Hell's Gate is south of Lytton, B.C. on the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 1).
Photos in the Extended Entry.
Day 21 - Watson Lake, Yukon Territory to New Hazleton, B.C. (Fri 8/8/14)
Above: Black bear fishing in the river along the Cassiar Highway (BC 37) just north of Kitwanga, B.C.
Additional Photos in Extended Entry.
Update: I am alive and well and resting peacefully in the town of New Hazleton, British Columbia, on the banks of the Skeena River, just off of the Yellowhead Highway (Canada Highway 16).
Starting Odometer: 21,910
Ending Odometer: 22,429
Miles Driven Today: 519
Miles Driven This Trip: 7,776
Here's a map of roughly where we drove today.
I'm so tired there just aren't words. Trying to get out of B.C. BC is an enormous province. Larger than California, Oregon, and Washington combine. So I've been pushing Ben to ride 500 miles a day. Tomorrow, we'll do our third day of 500+ mile days, and should make it down to Cache Creek. Then, down the Sea-to-Sky Highway (Canada Highway 99), through Whistler down to Vancouver. It's an amazing road....I drove it last time I was up here.
Today, we got away about 9:30 a.m., and went down the Cassier Highway. Stopped for gas every 150 miles. Saw lots of bears. Got some decent pics of them.
Some woman came in after us at one place where we got gas. She was fat, ugly, and loud. Complaining about a pass that Ben made back down the road. She kept on and on until I finally looked at her and said "Would you please shut the fuck up?" And she did.
So we rolled on. Finally got down to Kitwanga, but I couldn't find the gas station. I got confused and thought 37 was 16, and got turned around. Finally found the gas station about a mile south of where I thought it was.
Then, rolled into New Hazleton for the night.
The hotel manager totaled his car 2 weeks ago. Says he fell asleep at the wheel. I wonder how people do this, when we come up here itching for trouble and somehow we don't crash. Hard to fathom.
In the parking lot, Ben starts changing his oil. Nothing is more fun than working on your bike in a motel parking lot 5,000 miles from home. So, I start to work on repairing my dysfunctional cigarette lighter.
Ask the motel manager for some speaker wire and he comes out with beers and some 220v electrical conduit wiring. Close enough. Pull open the battery tray...start hooking up the wire. I plan on running a direct line to my radar detector so I don't get arrested. And I'm making good progress, but it's getting dark now.
The days get shorter as you go south, which sucks, of course. And I can't find my flashlight somehow. So, I'm using a cigarette lighter to see, and I look at the cigarette lighter fixture on my Wal-mart cigarette lighter adapter contraption, and finally I understand where the extra parts came from. My KTM cigarette lighter socket is not he problem. It's the piece of junk I bought from wal-mart that came apart. Once I understand what the problem is, I fix it in about 3 seconds in the parking lot. Unhook the wires. Finish the beer. And now it's time to sleep for a few hours, then get up and do it again tomorrow.
I tell Ben that we'll do one more 500 mile day tomorrow, then we'll sleep in Cache Creek. The next day, (Sunday), we'll go down the Sea-to-Sky Highway (99), through Hell's Gates. A beautiful ride.
Photos in the Extended Entry.
August 8, 2014
Day 20 - Beaver Creek, YT to Watson Lake, YT (Thr 8/7/14)
Above: My tent at Discovery Yukon Lodging just south of Beaver Creek, in the Yukon Territory of Canada.
Additional photos in the Extended Entry.
Update: I am alive and well and resting peacefully in the Air Force Lodge at Watson Lake, Yukon Territory, on the Alaska (ALCAN) Highway.
Starting Odometer: 21,370
Ending Odometer: 21,910
Miles Driven Today: 540
Miles Driven This Trip: 7.257
Here's a map of roughly where I drove today.
I'm riding with my good friend Ben again today. We were trying to meet up yesterday. He went to Valdez while I was getting my bike repaired in Fairbanks. We tried texting, but the coverage is so spotty. So, we both ended up crossing into Canada last night, but not certain where the other was. This morning, I get up and leave the commune late...at about 10:30 a.m. I'm driving down the ALCAN Highway, and I'm not sure if Ben is ahead of me or behind me. But I sort of guess he's ahead of me, so I speed up, and I come up behind this motorcycle. Dude has panniers, a black helmet...orange jacket. Riding about the same speed as Ben. And I'm like...could that be him?
I speed up, and sure enough, it's Ben. Rolling down the ALCAN Highway. Who else?
He got a late start also, for some reason. And had spent the night in Beaver Creek. By chance, we ran into each other on a road that's 1,500 miles long. Pretty funny.
So, we rode together all day. Ended up driving 520 miles. Tomorrow, we take the Cassier Highway south to Kitwanga, B.C.
Photos in the Extended Entry.
August 7, 2014
Day 19 - Fairbanks, AK to Beaver Creek, Yukon Territory, Canada (Wed 8/6/14)
Above: Sunset at Pickhandle Lake, Yukon Territory, Canada.
Additional photos in the Extended Entry.
Update: I am alive and well and resting peacefully in a cool little commune called Discovery Yukon Lodging just south of Beaver Creek in the Yukon Territory of Canada, at MilePost 1133.5 on the Alaska (ALCAN) Highway.
Starting Odometer: 20,931
Ending Odometer: 21,370
Miles Driven Today: 439
Miles Driven This Trip: 6,717
Here's a map of roughly where I drove today.
Deb's Cafe - Fairbanks, AK
Herrre Kom Ze Traks!!!!
Every night, I wake up in a cold sweat. Always, Remus is telling me we have to get moving. The trucks are coming. I'm stopping, taking pictures, and these insane trucks are barreling down on us. If it's dry, they're bringing in their wake great clouds of dust that blot out the sun. When they blow past, enormous fields of rocks shower the hapless cyclists. Shattering headlights, visors, and raining painful missiles into the motorists' clothing.
A truck tosses a rock into my my left arm up near the shoulder. It feels like I've been shot.
"I'm hit! I'm hit! I scream out at Remus. But he can't hear me. Only he's battling his own demons on his rented BMW GS1200R.
But then, I wake up, and I'm not on the Dalton Highway any more. That time is gone. That's behind us now. It's all just PTSD in the rear-view mirror now. The Dalton is gone. Remus is gone. Everything's gone.
Only I'm awake in a tent in a hostel in Fairbanks, Alaska.
Waves of mosquitos threaten to lift the tent off the ground. I'm covered in Deet. Deep Woods Off is only 30% Deet. They eat that stuff for breakfast. Up here in Alaska, they sure pure Deet. It's the only place in the country you can get it. They sell it in 55 gallon drums and apply it with a drive-through car wash when you cross the border from Canada.
But the Deet doesn't help that much. Only I swat at the mozzies like a lunatic. You think about the people that came before you. Why would people live here? When man first crossed the land bridge from Europe, he probably needed transfusions to feed the swarms. It's hard to imagine people migrating here and thinking, "This....this is where we'll live."
But this is where we are. And I came here. For reasons that we struggle with, obviously.
There was a man up in Deadhorse, AK that wondered aloud why we'd come up this way. He picks us up in our little modular housing unit in Deadhorse, Alaska. (When man colonizes Mars, it will look exactly like the camps at Deadhorse, Alaska.)
He picks us up in front of the colony and drive us in a shuttle, past the BP Terrorists into their Death Kamp at Prudhoe Bay. We stop for a photo-op at the Prudhoe Bay National Forest.
"Where did you come from on your little scooter?" he asks.
"Why would you come up here on that motorcycle," he wants to know.
"Because I can," I reply.
Like, first of all, you don't need to be getting down on me and my scooter when you're driving a shuttle across the turndra at the North Pole. You're about 36 months away from being replaced by a self-driving shuttle. So, it's not like you've got the world by the tail, necessarily.
But, I think his question is a fairly common one. People do wonder why, if one could travel, one might end up here, at barren tundra fields of Deadhorse, Alaska.
So, I think that I'll try to answer this question, to the best of my ability, for the sake of posterity, if nothing else.
And, to be somewhat circumspect, I'll answer as a guy from Hamtramck told it to me this morning in a little commune
The waitress just said "I'm from Georgia, and we used to kill hogs, and we can tell the difference." So, I'm not clear what this was in response to. It's hard to imagine what would lead to this response.
So, there's a guy that I slept in a tent with last night. He's from Hamtramck, Michigan, a miserable little enclave in the heart of Detroit so desperately poor there just aren't words. I lived there for a year one weekend, and when I left, I swore I'd never return, not even to fly through that miserable city of Detroit. And I've kept my promise for 19 years and counting. But this guy...this gentleman...is, as I said, sleeping in what they generouse describe as a "cabin". Basically, a large tent, with 6 beds inside and precious little else.
"I've been on the road for 2 months now. How could I go back. I mean....after you've seen the Brooks Range, how could I go back to Hamtramck and sit behind my fence at my little house in Hamtramck....how could you go back to that?" He asks. It's a fair question. It's a very deep question. A debilitating pontification that can not easily be dismissed.
"I could never go back to Hamtramck," I offered. Not that it helped. Not that it mattered. Only that it filled the gaps in the diatribe. In the sort of rehtorical soliloquy that one gets drawn into in the communes of the Pacific Northwest.
"Where did you work in Hamtramck?" He asks.
"American Axle and Manufacturing," I offer. As if that even makes any sense. It's true, in a sense. I did technically work at that organization, a spin-off of GM.
"They tore it down last year," he offers, without remorse or empathy. Just sort of matter-of-fact like.
"Oh," I reply. Like, it's really weird to learn that a place you used to work has been reduced to dust. Erased from the surface of the planet. Scraped off lthe earth's back like a dried scab. When I left American Axle, I remember when the same thing happened to Total Petroleum. I worked there for a year immediately after I left Detroit, and they shut that place down as soon as I left. Total Petroleum did this trick where, they used to hedge their oil prices. Basically, the bean counters placed bets on the price of petroleum so that they weren't gambling on the price of gas. Basically, their hedge guaranteed them a price that they could sell their gas for on the open market. But the price of gas kept going up. So, their hedge was basicaly a wasted cost, in the eyes of the CEO. So, they scrapped the hedge. They quit hedging their bets, and as soon as they did, the market went the other way, they were bankrupt in 6 months. And they got bought out and ripped out all the work I'd done for the last year.
So, you do sort of get this feeling of "what and I doing here" and "what difference does it make" and "what's it all for anyway." One certainly does has these feelings. It's not unusual, I think.
But I am deeping/truly surprised the extent of the wandering that I've tapped into. I think that most people spend their lives in their living rooms, around the dining room table, and in the basement shaving their cats or strangling their neighbors over friendly games of croquet and boccee ball. But then, you sort of drop out, tune in, and turn on, you realize that there's this whole wandering community of restless nomads out there, drifting through life, like Saragasso weed on the tide.
Everyone has their own idea about what to do, of course. But a lot of things you see in common...the desire to get on the open road....to throw caution to the wind....to sever the ties that bind, to break free from the known, and cross over into the unknown because, it's got to be better than this. Anything but this.
"I was living in Florida, and it was too hot. I was like, 'fuck this'. I sold everything I owned and bought a one way ticket to Anchorage."
That's what this guy tells me in the commune.
Another guy has a KLR650 with a sidecar the size of a long-haul trailer. It's easily the largest sidecar I've ever seen in my life. Imagine a motorcycle with a sidecar the size of a commercial freezer rolling down the tundra with a little wheel on it the size of a Western Flyer Christmas morning bicycle.
Lunacy, of course. But beautiful also. This is his dream. His idea of escape. Your idea doesn't have to agree with/meld with his ideas. We all have suffered through different experiences to get here. Everyone comes here from a different place for their own reasons. But they all come here. They all wander up to the campfire, and start swapping stories.
Around the campfires, the stories meld and fuse and bifurcate over drunk, stoned hippie kids, disillusioned truck drivers, and farmers who lost the call to farm. The left green fields of winter wheat to go and find something else. Something different.
I have seen pictures of a guy that came up from Mexico on a 50cc Honda Rukus. I met people that traveled from Washington State to Rocky Mountain National Park on 70cc Honda Passport and a 90cc Honda Trail 90. I've met people that drove or flew here from Florida.
Now, it's not like there's necessarily anything grand to discover here. It is beautiful, no doubt about that. We can't dismiss that. Alaska is stunningly beautiful. And I say that as someone that might know beauty. Allow me to point out that I've just travled through Rocky Mountain National Park, Yellowstone, Glacier, Kootenay, Banff, Yoho, Jasper, Denali, the Brooks Range, etc. I've been to Yosemite, Moab, Arches, Badlands, Flaming Gorge, Smoky Mountains, the Catskills. And this place is nice. Insanely nice. There's plenty to fall in love with about Alaska, at least in the summer anyway.
I think that I could never stay in a regular motel again beacuse it isolates you from the community that is on the road. It's sort of like the suburbs for travelers. Like...imagine putting up a wall between everyone sitting around a campfire. And then dousing the campfire. That's what staying in a hotel is like. it sort of isolates people into their individual cells, stifling the communication, so that your ideas are neither shared no improved or honed. Only you practice your mind-soliloquy to an audience of no one. Like babbling before a mirror to feel the vibes of your own ideas bouncing back in you like that child's echo chamber in the public park in boulder.
After you've been on the road for some time, the question comes and eats at you from the inside. The wound that won't heal. Should I turn back? Can I go back? Is there anything worth going back to?
And, it's not that Alaska is so unique. I'm sure that this is going on all over the planet. Only I'm more in tune to it now than I've ever been before. And, I take that back...it's much more common here than in other places I've been. It certainly wasn't like this in Central America. There were 0 people doing this in Central America. On bikes anyway. I'd have seen them. I saw the one guy at the old Tocumen Cargo Airport in Panama City, but other than that, I might have seen 1 person a day where I looked at them closely and thought "Is that guy a local, or is he wandering like me?"
Plenty of people never go back. They sort of wander out here and just stay. The sever whatever ties might have bound them at some point in time. But now, like seeds into the wind, they've scattered irretrievably so that no one might ever know how to get them all back to where they came from.
When we were pheastant hunting in Pierre, South Dakota, we spied a trail of seeds down the road - illegal food to attract the pheasants. You put out seed for the pheasants?" I asked innocently. Like...wow...that's patently illegal.
"No...what happened was...I was pulling a wagon of seed and didn't realize that I had a hole in my trailer. I got all the way down here, and realized it had a hole in it, and then turned around and drove back."
And that's how these people are scattered, I think. Like seeds across the planet.
Now...I'm eating a scrambled Alaskan breakfast with reindeer sausage, and two other road warriors wander into the restaurant. They've got on riding gear, and I start drowning myself in coffee. Like...Lord God this is fun. I'm like adrenaline junkie.
They drove up from Kodiak, an island south of Anchorage on a ferry. Like...I just can't help myself, right?
"Where you guys headed?"
"We're riding up to Deadhorse..."
This is the best. Right, the absolute fucking best. I get to regale them with all of the dangers of the Dalton Highway. You try to paint the fucking fear of God into them so that they won't get up there unprepared. Like, I'm going to send them up there, but I'm going to warn them of all the dangers so that they'll know they're not walking into a little sunday afternoon jaunt.
One dude's on a CRF230. The other guy is on another dirt bike. Yamaha XT250.
CT90's in anchorage. Been around the world. Now doing it in reverse. he saw them in anchorage.
Guy on a 49cc Rukus came up from key west.
So, you hear these stories over the campfires and over the greasy diner tables.
"If you're down there in Anchorage again, you have to do Hatcher's pass," he says.
This is what we live for. These little gems shared between travelers. These pearls of wisdom dispense eagerly over campfires and greasy sinder tables. This is where we are. What drives us.
"We're going to head back over to the KTM dealership," he offers.
"Yes. I'll see you over there. If you leave before I get there, keep the dirty side down. Watch out for those truckers, they'll crush you and your XT and never stop. They drive these massive dual trailers...a "fifty three - fifty threes" and they kill people for a living. They keep an Ace of Spades clipped ot their sun visor and every time they run a bike off the road, they mark it with a sharpie. Their cards are all black after their first summer on the road. Then, they compare cards at the truck stops and laugh about how many biker's they've run off of road at Adigan Pass."
I've scared them sufficiently that they'll be careful on the road. That's the goal, I think. A lot of these kids are on their first big ride. The first time they've ever been 3,000 miles away from home on a little dirt bike. Just feeling the pull of the open road. Slipping into the bottomless pit of freedom and yearning for the world out there. SOmething beyond the island they live on. You can see it in their eyes. Shiny black marbles staring into the face of strangers.
Who knows what they'll run into out here. This vast wandering planet of crazy mixed up nightamres. A cocktail of gasoline, hostels, tents, campfires. Insane stories of adventure, travel, and failure.
Now, I'll head back over to check on the bike. It's almost noon and I've not heard anything from the cycle shop except that my rear brakes were gone also.
Part of me wants the adventure to be over. Part of me wants it to never end. But i have to go back. Always, we know that we have to go back, as sure as the tide pulls the oceans back from the beaches. Some people won't return to where they came from, but I suspect most will Most will retreat to the suburbs, warm cozy couches and around the fireplace this winter, they'll regale their friends and neighbors about the road....Deadhorse Alaska, The Tope of the World Road, the Sea to SKy Highway, Vancouver, Tok, and Hatcher's Pass.
Hit the Road
About noon, I wander over to the KTM dealership. They have the bike all ready to go. Apparently they just rolled it out. They did the following - new air filter, new rear brake pads, changed the oil/oil-filter, and replaced the chain and both sprockets.
Now, my bike is ready to roll.
So I say goodbye to my 3 buddies at the dealership, and head out of town. Plan is to try to make some distance down the Alaska Highway. The cutoff for B.C. 37 (Dease Lake Road aka Stewart Cassiar Highway). I try to text Ben a few times to see where he is. I believe he's in Canada somewhere, but cell phone coverage is sketchy.
I didn't realize how far it was to the cutoff for Stewart Cassiar Highway, but it's east of Whitehorse, apparently. Just before Matson Lake. So, maybe I'll meet up with Ben along the way tomorrow. Having a hard time getting text messages through.
I got about 30 miles south of here tonight and ran into a big storm. It was heading east, but very slowly, so eventually, I just turned about and backtracked about 30 miles to his little commune.
Cool little place. It's really the only way that I can do the trip for $100 a day...by staying in hostels. Which I don't mind, really. Keeps costs down...lets me stay on the road longer...meet more people. It's all good.
I think that I could never stay in a real hotel again. You sort of tune into these wandering lost people, and what's odd is how many people are out there doing this. Like, probably you don't realize what's going on, maybe. Maybe you're not in a place where you'd see these people. But there are countless souls out there wandering the globe in perpetuity.
Here's some shots from today. Really, the Yukon is just staggeringly beautiful.
Photos in the Extended Entry.
August 5, 2014
Day 18 - Anchorage, AK to Fairbanks, AK (Tue 8/5/14)
Above: Driving north from Anchorage to Fairbanks on Alaska Highway 3.
Additional Photos in the Extended Entry.
Update: I am alive and well and resting peacefully in Fairbanks, Alaska, on the banks of the Chena River, in the interior section of the state.
Starting Odometer: 20,544
Ending Odometer: 20,931
Miles Driven Today: 387
Miles Driven This Trip: 6,278
Here's a map of my ride today.
Hmmm. Today. Today went like this. Ben and i stayed in a hostel in Anchorage last night. Anchorage is a dreamy little town with mountains, parks, and rivers flowing into the bay.
We checked in, and then went rolling around, looking for the old downtown Anchorage. We found the port, and lots of people fishing for silver salmon. This is also where the rail line ends. They have this train with a glass ceiling that probably takes people on a tour through Alaska. This would probably be a better way to see the state, as you don't have to worry about moose, mosquitos, rain, cold, snow, etc.
This morning, Ben and I are in the parking lot of the hostel getting ready to leave when I
notice that my cigarette lighter on the bike has come apart. There are little pieces inside of there. I gingerly extract them, only to drop a piece which I can never locate. I think it was some type of a spring. Great. So now, this means that I don't have any way to recharge my electronics while on the bike.
Now, I start up the bike, and the digital instrument cluster isn't functioning. So, I don't have a speedometer, a tachometer, a odometer, a temperature gauge....all of that is gone. Poof.
I'm majorly disappointed. I'm starting to think that KTM is not ready for prime time. I see a BMW GSA1200R in my future.
We drive down to the KTM dealership in Anchorage, but they don't have my chain and sprockets in stock.
This is not good, but they do have them in stock back in Fairbanks. I'm really not sure what to do at this point. Like, I never really had a plan for what to do if I actually made it to the Arctic Circle, because I wasn't sure that I'd even make it. I figured I'd probably hit a moose, or be run down by a trucker on the Dalton Highway.
But none of that happened. So, I'm really not sure what to do. I think that I'll probably just drive the bike back, but the chain and sprockets are ruined. I'm not even sure I can make it back to Fairbanks. Plus, now that I lost my instrument cluster, I can't tell how fast I'm going, or how far I've gone.
I decide to tackle the problem of the instrument cluster failure. It has to be a fuse. That's the only thing that makes sense. The fuses are in a little glove compartment on the bike that are easily accessible without tools. There are two rows of fuses. I figure out that the one row of fuses is just spares. They're not plugged into anything. The row of fuses that seems to be in use has two labeled ACC something or other. "C" might be cluster. So I pull the first one, no dice. It's fine. I pull the 2nd one. it's blown. Bingo. So, I replace the fuse, start the bike, and my instrument cluster returns. So, that's a huge improvement. The bike is now drivable, at this point. As long as my chain/sprockets don't give out on me, I should be able to make it to Fairbanks.
So, I tell Ben to head on. He's going on a ferry to the Kenai peninsula, I think. I'll try to meet up with him in a day or so. Ideally, the plan is to meet up and drive back down 37, the Stewart Cassier Highway/Dease Lake Road. Then, down through Prince George to Cache Creek, then through Hell's Gates, down Canada Highway 99, the Sea-to-Sky Highway to Vancouver. From there, it gets kind of sketchy, but cross back into the United States and wander back to Colorado.
So I take off, hell-bent-for-leather at about 11:30 a.m., heading north back to Fairbanks. The drive is something like 360 miles, and it seems like, in theory, I can get there before they close at 6:00 p.m.
I stop at the same gas stations we stopped at yesterday. The general plan is to drive 100 miles or so, get gas, and move on. At Cantwell, I stop, and it's kind of cold, so I roll back to where I washed the mud off the rims yesterday so I can add on some riding gear. As luck would have it, some guy was refilling the underground gas tanks when I pulled back there. He started freaking out like you can't imagine. He's screaming at me at the top of his lungs about what an idiot I am to be near the gas fumes while he's refilling the tanks. But, it's not like my bike is running. It's dead. So, it's not likely to spark a Hollywood-type of explosion. But, this idiot is screaming at me at the top of his lungs.
When I leave, I just flip him off.
I drive like a bat out of hell, and get a ticket for going 93 in a 65. I made it into the KTM dealership just about closing time, but they tell me to come back at 9:00 a.m. and they'll set me up.
Also, I managed to leave my credit card at the gas station in Coldfoot, and they flew it in to Fairbanks, if you can believe it. So I'll go pick that up also.
Hopefully, I'll be able to start winding this adventure down tomorrow.
Photos in the Extended Entry
Day 17 - Denali National Park, AK to Anchorage, AK (Mon 8/4/14)
Above: View of the Chugach Mountains looking SouthEast from Margaret Eagan Sullivan Park.
Additional photos in the Extended Entry.
Update: I am alive and well and resting peacefully in Anchorage, Alaska, a large city on the southern coast of Alaska.
Starting Odometer: 20,267
Ending Odometer: 20,544
Miles Driven Today: 277
Miles Driven This Trip: 5,891
Here's a map of our ride today.
I'm riding with my buddy Ben again. We're trying to find chain/sprockets for the KTM, as it is having a major issue with the chain, which is currently at its service limit.
Ben showed up at my little Denali RV Park and Motel, and asked for a hose to clean his bike. I pointed him to a "non-potable" water hose, and he started washing down his bike. he commented on how the mud on the rims could throw the wheel out of balance. So, I sprayed the hose on my rims, and noticed that quite a bit of mud was caked on the back rims.
Then, we take off, and now I'm driving down the highway, and it feels like the bike is going to come apart. This is because I got the rear wheel out of balance by washing the mud of 1/2 of the rear rim. 30 miles later, we stop for gas, and they have a hose, so I was the rear wheel better so that there's no mud on it. Now, it rides smooth again.
August 3, 2014
Day 16 - Coldfoot, AK to Denali National Park, AK (Sun 8/3/14)
Above: Remus and I pause for a photo op at the Arctic Circle sign as we pass it going south. I set the camera on something...probably my helmet and used a timer for this shot.
Additional Photos in the Extended Entry.
Update: I am alive and well and resting peacefully in Denali National Park Alaska, a national park between Anchorage and Fairbanks on AK Highway 3.
Starting Odometer: 19,874
Ending Odometer: 20,267
Miles Driven Today: 391
Miles Driven This Trip: 5,614
Here's a rough map of where I drove today.
3820 Universtiy Ave south
Wow...so this is wild...I'm sitting here eating dinner at the 49th State Brewing Company, Denali Park, Alaska. It's just the coolest place I've ever been. Inside is a packed brewpub. I'm outside in gorgeous weather. They have a campfire, bocceball, other types of games I'm not familiar with. Zero mosquitos somehow. So, I'm sitting outside, eating pork bbq sandwich and drinking an Augtoberfest Beer.
Girls are playing with hula-hoops. There's this old school bus on the compound. It's just the dreamiest little place I've ever found, more like a commune in Eugene than something near Fairbanks, Alaska.
And this asian guy shows up and starts shooting the bus like it matters. Only, it's a cheap camera on a cheap tripod, but he's shooting it like mad. Finally, it dawns on me....this is Chris McCandless's bus from Krakauer's book "Into The Wild." And it's not like it's a replica. This is his bus. Pretty wild.
And it's not like anyone told me about it. I just sort of stumbled across it. Pretty crazy.
But I should back up....
This morning, I wake up at something crazy like 5:30 a.m. I've been waking up this early because the sun never sets up here. Well, OK...it does technically go below the horizon, but it never gets dark at night. It looks like dusk at 1:00 a.m., and then gets lighter again. So, it's never truly dark. You'd never see any stars or anything.
So, I've been waking up crazy early and, the funny thing is, I find myself wanting to get up and start getting ready. The trick to putting in a lot of miles in one day is to get up and get away as early as possible. So, I'm up in the parking lot, tightening my chain, oiling, the chain, gassing up the bike, and getting ready to ride.
I don't want for Remus to have to wait on me. I don't like being the last one ready. We're supposed to me at 8:30 a.m. for breakfast.
So, we meet for breakfast. Two other guys were supposed to meet us here for breakfast also...they stayed in Wiseman last night. They were on KLR's. They said they were going over the "top of the world" pass, a dirt road over into the Yukon, and then on up to Inuik. I was like..."you can have it...I've seen enough of the arctic ocean."
But they didn't ever show up.
So we blow out at about 9:00 a.m.
Today, the weather is gorgeous. Spectacular. Clear blue skies. Kind of cool, but not nearly as bad as yesterday. And no rain.
Blow out heading south on the Dalton Highway. Such a beautiful ride. Mostly, the road is paved today, it seems. Parts are dirt and somewhat wet/muddy, but nothing like yesterday.
We stop for gas at Yukon Crossing, and I'm talking to some dudes heading north. Explaining to them what to watch out for on the Dalton Highway.
After Remus gasses up, they gas up, then I gas up, and then I go inside to pay.
At this point, I realize I've left my credit card at the place back in Coldfoot. Like, these places don't have pay-at-the-pump gas pumps like you're used to. They have above-ground tanks, and nothing is automated, so you have to go inside and leave your credit card, and apparently in my haste to get away, I drove off and left my card there.
This is not a huge problem, as I have a few grand in my pocket.
Now, I join him inside. We discuss eating lunch. Then, he starts in on me for not filling up my gas tank fast enough, because I ended up behind the other riders.
I didn't say anything to him then, but I'm like..."there's a reason I'm not married dude...I sure as fuck don't need another man nagging me." So, that pretty much sealed the end of our riding together.
We ride, and he keeps wanting me to take pictures of him, so he keeps handing me his Nikon, but it won't autofocus for some reason. So, he keeps trying to explain to me how to make it focus correctly. And I'm like..."dude...when you hand someone a camera to take a picture, you have to set it up so all they do is push a button. I'm not a Nikon guy. These cameras are for women and children. I shoot Canon."
We rode on together to Fairbanks, where he had a room in some gay cottage on a river. I was like..."ah...yeah...I'm not staying here because 1) I'm not gay and b) It's $150 a night.
I really don't know where to go next, but Fairbanks doesn't hold any charms for me. Anchorage is too far for me to make today, but Denali is only 114 miles south, so I decide to make a reservation there and bolt.
"Good luck in all your travels, my friend. Keep the dirty side down..."
We shake hands, and I roll south.
There really are not any highway patrol officers in this state, it seems. I drive pretty fast, but hardly even pass anyone. Now, the road construction begins. I swear that half of the state must be employed in road construction. They're all either holding stop signs, driving pilot trucks, or pavers.
The woman spinning the hand-held stop-sign looks at my bike. "Lord God where have you been?" she asks. The bike is coated in mud.
"Guess," I reply.
"Prudhoe Bay?" she replies.
"Let's go. Give it up."
She puts down her sign and high-fives me. I've driven to the front of the line, around a line of cars.
OK. I'm now corrected on the bus. It is, in fact, a replica. The original bus is still down there in the woods, apparently.
I call the woman at Coldfoot Camp, and apparently they do, in fact, have my credit card. They're going to fly it into Fairbanks tomorrow.
I'm honestly not sure what to do at this point. I want to explore all of my options, and then try to come up with a plan. My current options, as I see them, look something like this:
1) Drive to Whittier/Anchorage/Valdez, and put the boat on a ferry. The ferries are run by the Alaska Marine Highway System, and they'll ship the bike as far south as Bellview, WA. If they have rooms, you can get a room. Otherwise, you can sleep in a tent on the open deck of the ship/ferry.
2) Drive to Anchorage, pay to have the bike shipped back to CO, and then fly back to CO.
3) Drive back down Highway 37 Stewart/Cassier Highway (Dease lake Road), and go down the coast to SF. Meet Carol and Jack and go to Burning Man in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada.
So, I'm not really sure which way I want to go at this point.
Ben texts me...he's about an hour north of here. Wants to meet up in Anchorage or Valdez. I'm not really sure what to do at this point. I've technically accomplished my objective(s). I made it to the Arctic Circle. Waded into the Arctic Ocean. I dunno what to do at this point, really.
Additional Photos in the Extended Entry.
Day 15 - Deadhorse, AK to Coldfoot, AK - Atigun Pass (Sat 8/2/14)
Above: Deadhorse, Alaska - the northern terminus of the Dalton Highway.
Additional photos in the Extended Entry.
Update: I am alive and well and resting peacefully in Coldfoot, Alaska, a stopping point on the Dalton Highway (AK Highway 11).
Starting Odometer: 19,604
Ending Odometer: 19,874
Miles Driven Today: 270
Miles Driven This Trip: 5,221
This is a rough map of where I drove today.
This morning, we wake up in a modular housing unit in Deadhorse, Alaska. It's raining, and cold. Temp about 37 degrees F. We meet for breakfast, then catch shuttle to the Arctic Ocean. BP has everything locked down tighter than a frog's ass. You have to clear a military-style checkpoint, Then, the bus driver takes us to the shore of the Arctic Ocean.
"OK...You can get in the ocean, but no swimming today. They're doing seismic testing."
Now, keep in mind, it's nearly cold enough to snow. And the water is so cold it's beyond comprehension. I can't even get near the oceans without freezing. But, I take my boots off and waddle into the ocean for a shot.
Remus taks a few pics of me. I feel like I will surely lose my hands and feet.
Get back on the bus, now back to our little modular housing unit in Deadhorse. Now, we leave to gas up.
There are 6 of us that will be riding bikes back south on the Dalton Highway today.
We leave to gas up the bikes. Only, I forget to gas up my extra 2 gallon gas tank. As we roll out of town, I realize my mistake and turn back. Rush back and fill up the 2 gallon gas tank. I'll need it to make it into Coldfoot, 250 miles south.
Now, Remus comes back for me. He sees that I'm missing. We touch base, and ride south.
It's 37 degrees F (cold), and raining. The Dalton Highway is not a paved road. Well, sections of it are paved, but most of it is a dirt road, on a good day. On a wet day, it deteriorates into a muddy nightmare.
We're blowing south on the Dalton Highway, and you just can't know how bad this is. It's freezing cold, Wet. And slippery. So, you're sliding all over the road. Every time the road changes texture, you need to be aware. Some sections are paved. And we'll be running along at 80 mph, and then suddenly, you're in the slippery clay morass that sends you sliding hither and yon.
Mostly, in the wet clay sections, you're just following wherever the road wants to take you. It will push you left or right. In the curves, you want to lean to make the turn, but you can't lean in this goop at all. You just hang on and pray and see where the road wants to send you.
Now, we come to one of the many passes. These passes are so steep you can't know. Normally, a railroad grade is no more than 3%. A highway is normally not more than 6% grade. These passes are 12% grades. Straight up and straight down. You're looking up the pass and thinking "I don't think I can make this, and then you get to the top, and stand on the brakes and think "i'll never make it down this hill."
That's how steep the roads are. Then, they change from pavement to mud without warning. And, there's trucks coming at you head on in your late with no plan of slowing down. So, we're riding down this death trap at 37 degrees F all morning in a light rain, and it sucks. There just aren't words of dhow bad it sucks.
Remus stops to put on more gear. I put on all my gear before we left. So, whether I'm cold or not makes no difference. I'm not stopping, because I'm already wearing everything I have.
After about 70 iles, we pull over not a private camp. Remus is too cold to go on, and wants to warm up. This is a private (closed) camp. It's not open to the public. But, we walk in and I just explain that Remus needs to warm up. They're very nice, and even make us a pot of coffee.
Now, we head on again.
Like, the worst ride ever. The coldest, most difficult terrain you've ever been on in the rain. For 250 miles. I feel like I could lose my hands, but we keep going on. The rain never lets up. So that I'm constantly clearing my visor for hours. Down a muddy road. Full of trucks going the other way that flip us off, each and every one.
We all just count the miles.
My left hand hardly works any more. Normally, he shifts for me...he does the clutch. But the last two days, he's not been happy. I order him...grab than handle-bar grip and hang onto it. But my left hand no longer works. Only, it just lays there. Too tired to comply.
This goes on for about 5-6 hours, and then we climb Atigun Pass.
As we cross the summit of Atigun pass, I notice the sky looks lighter.
As we roll down Atigun Pass, we realize that we're out of the storm. We're going to live.
Remus and I stop and kiss the ground. Glad to be alive. Now, I'm taking photos again.
We're riding and so happy to be in the warm sun again. Such a beautiful day.
I start taking photos, and Remus slows down to conserve fuel. I pass the group of 4 other bikes were were at the Arctic Ocean with this morning. Now, it's nothing but me and a BMW and we're racing. He thinks he can take a KTM, but I disabuse him of that notion.
Finally, I roll back into Coldfoot, but Remus isn't here. Where is he? I thought he was ahead of me.
I fill up with gas, and then turn back north to go look for him. I find his bike 3 miles north of town. Return to gas station, find Remus. He's pissed that I left him. I finally figured out that he was with the group of 4 riders when I passed them, and one of the Beamers had gone on ahead. So, I passed him without reaizling it.
We pour two gallons of gas into Remus's tank and roll back into Coldfoot, glad to be alive.
Photos in the Extended Entry.
August 1, 2014
Day 14 - Coldfoot, AK to Deadhorse, AK (Fri 8/1/14)
Above: The 500 mile mud road makes the license plate illegible, but it's not like the road is patrolled anyway. The pigs are scared to go on it. Sections of it are paved, but most of it is unpaved.
Additional Photos in the Extended Entry.
Update: I am alive and well and resting peacefully on the shores of the Arctic Ocean in Deadhorse, Alaska.
Starting Odometer: 19,354
Ending Odometer: 19,604
Miles Driven Today: 250
Miles Driven This Trip: 4,951
Here's a rough map of where we went today.
So, this morning, I wake up. Get out of bed at something reasonable like 8:30. Go for breakfast, and to refuel the bike.
I surf the internet in the cafeteria for an hour, as you have to pay for vouchers to use the internet, and it's only via satellite. The bandwidth is indescribably slow. Like breathing through a straw.
Then I decide to go deal with my chain. Task avoidance, again. I've been putting it off for days, and now there are metal shards on my chain guard. My chain hangs so low that women and children point out that it needs to be addressed.
So I get out there in the parking lot to deal with the issue. It's cool, cloudy, and the mosquitos are not as bad as they have been, but as soon as I start work on the bike, they find me, of course. This wave of mosquitos comes over and I'm wearing all of my motorcycle gear, including a helmet, and I spray myself with Deep Woods Off from head to toe, but it doesn't make any difference. They're all fighting over me, tooth and nail. Feuds are starting between long-time-friendly klans of mosquitos. "We found him first...he's ours."
I loosen the rear axel, and adjust the chain tension fairly quickly. Probably it takes 10 minutes. Why did I put that off for so long?
Now that the chain is fixed, it dawns on me that there's no real rush to get back to...anywhere really. I don't have a job. It's not like I have a whole lot to go home to. Part of me wants to see Deadhorse, the Brooks Range, Prudhoe Bay, and the Arctic Circle.
Not that it's anything worth seeing, mind you. More of the point that I'm here, so may as well look around a bit.
The sticker the guys gave me yesterday says "Ride North".
I look around the restaurant, and see another person I'd not seen before. He's on a GS1200R (not the GSA with the 8 gallon tank).
"Where you headed, boss?"
"How fast you go?"
He just laughs and smiles.
"We're riding together," I say, and leave to pack my bike.
His name is Remus and he's from Romania. As it turns out, he normally rides a Harley. He rented the BMW GS1200R from a company out of Anchorage. Later he tells me that it's a large motorcycle renting outfit. I forget the name of the place. They're all over the world, apparently. I'm learning so much on the trip. I'm just so clueless, really. Update: I think the company he rented from is MotoQuest.
I pack up my bike while he eats lunch/breakfast or whatever meal it is for him. I have no clue. (Later, I learn that he's already driven up from Fairbanks this morning. So, he drove 1/2 of the Dalton Highway while I was asleep in bed. Not that that's hard to do, because I'm pretty lazy. But when he was eating lunch at Coldfoot Camp after driving 250 miles for 6 hours, I was just rolling out of bed and eating breakfast.)
He's filled a plastic anti-freeze bottle/jug with gasoline and I give him duct tape to tape it to his rear rack on the bike. It's going to be 250 miles to the next gas station, so we're both going to have to carry extra fuel. I have a 2 gallon gas container on the back of my bike. He has an anti-freeze jug of gas. Good enough.
By the time we leave, it's 11:45 a.m.
I ask a few people, and they all say it's 240 miles to Deadhorse. There is no gas on the way. The only place to get gas is in Coldfoot and Deadhorse. I have no reservation in Deadhorse, and am just hoping to find a room in the "town" of Deadhorse.
We start out rolling north on a paved stretch of the Dalton Highway, and quickly enter into the Brooks Range. The mountains are stunning. It's clear, warm, and sunny. A beautiful day for a motorcycle ride to the north coast.
After about 40 miles, the pavement disappears, and we're relegated to riding on dirt. But I have no problem with this. We're rolling about 60 mph - 80 mph, no problem. So, even though the road isn't paved, I have no problem going across a dirt road at 85 mph. It's not a problem.
Then, we come to some road construction. And have to stop and wait our turn. While we're waiting, Remus empties his container of gas into his tank. I missed this, because I was busy fending off swarms of mosquitos.
We had been taking lots of pictures up to this point..both of us stopping frequently. But about now, it begins to rain. So, we're shooting less, and driving as the road conditions deteriorate.
Eventually, I can no longer keep up with Remus and I pretty much lose him. Not that it's a big deal. But the road really sucks. It's just this clay-muddy-slippery nightmare that makes it nearly impossible to keep a bike up. Like...the bike has a mind of it's own and it just sort of slides left to right, as I try to keep it going straight down the road.
My buddy dumped his bike and flew back to Connecticut to allow his ribs to heal. I can see now how it happened. I'm sure he went down on the wet clay roads. They're slippery as eels.
We're heading north, and coming south are these trucks going twice the speed limit. The speed limit is 50 mph, and these trucks are coming by at 70 mph, throwing rocks into my helmet, my visor, and my left shoulder. And, they're flipping us off also, for whatever reason.
I slow down some and lose sight of Remus. He's gone ahead of me for whatever reason. Not really what I was expecting to happen, but it is what it is. It's sort of intimidating riding alone across the arctic tundra on sloppy rainy wet clay roads with 18 wheelers screaming down on you with those enormous "Elk Pushers" on the front of the cabs.
Eventually, my bike shuts down, and I pull over to pour my 2 gallon gas can into the left tank. I've driven 224 miles when it grinds to a halt. Pour in the 2 gallons, and now I should be able to go another 80 miles.
Fire up the bike and keep rolling north towards Deadhorse, AK. It's not really raining at this point, per se, it's just miserable. Just cold, wet, sloppy driving down a 100 mile muddy slippery road.
Of course, as I near the town, I'm not really sure what to expect. Maybe I'll find Remus. Maybe I won't. And it's not like I have a reservation or anything.
Now, as I get into town, I see Remus parked out in front of the place, waiting on me. I pull into the parking lot. He's talking to someone that works here. As it turns out, he has two rooms already reserved and paid for. And his buddy didn't show up.
"Why don't we just split one room so we can save money?" I ask.
"We have two rooms that are already paid for. You can have one of them," he offers.
I'm like...fair enough.
Dinner is in an hour. See you there.
Photos in the Extended Entry.
Day 13 - Tok, Alaska to the Arctic Circle - Ride North (Thr 7/31/14)
Above: 3 miles west of Tok, Alaska on Alaska Highway (AK 2), at the entrance to "Mukluk Land", we passed the remnants of a Land Train. This is the only time that I've ever seen one (aside from photos).
Additional photos in Extended Entry.
Update: I am alive and well and resting peacefully in Coldfoot, Alaska. Last night, at about 11:30 p.m. Alaska Time, I reached the Arctic Circle on a 2010 KTM 990 Adventure.
Starting Odometer: 18,860
Ending Odometer: 19,354
Miles Driven Today: 494
Miles Driven This Trip: 4,701
Here's a map of where I drove today.
The ride has been a dream. Not really sure what to do at this point. I could continue north to Deadhorse, and the Arctic Ocean, but my chain and sprockets are completely shot. I'm going to try to limp back into Fairbanks at the KTM dealership and ask them if they can replace my chain and sprockets. They were nice enough to set me up with a new set of tires yesterday when I showed up at their door at 4:00 p.m.
It never really did get dark at all last night. It got to like...dusk...like...the sun did technically go beyond the horizon, but not by much. Then, after about 1:00 a.m., it starts to get lighter again. Pretty wild really.
Here's what I wrote about the ride last night:
In the morning, I roll out late...about 11:00 a.m. I think.
Gas up. Now, there's a guy here at the pumps. He's shipped his bike over from Japan. He's been on the road for a year. Drove from Germany to east asia.
So, we ride together for a bit. Heading towards Fairbanks. We're both going there. So, that's easy enough. He's slow, but I stop to take photos, so it works out. I stop and shoot, then I catch up to him. We drive like this for some time. From Tok, Alaska to the next town of Delta Junction. This is the end of the Alaska Highway, so we stop to pause for photos here.
All of the gear they used to build the Alaska Highway they just parked right there in a field and left it to rust away. Kinda sad, really.
Now, I leave for Fairbanks, but he's going to stay in this town. I roll out for Fairbanks. Set my GPS for the KTM shop.
Just outside of Fairbanks, there's a Air Force base (Eielson Air Force Base) and these jets are doing fly-bys over the air force base. Just insane. Team America, Fuck Yeah!!!
Presently, I'm rolling through town, following my GPS to the KTM dealership.
Now, this is odd...this GPS...because it make it so you know where to go even though you've never been here before. So, I feel like I'm faking it. Like I'm a phony, but I drive right to the Motor Sports North place. Walk in and ask them what I can do to get going.
The find me some tires, and start installing them. About 2 hours later, I leave the store. Now, my plan is to go north to the Arctic Circle. But, when I get on the Dalton Highway (11), I know that food, gas, and lodging will be hard to find. So, I've marked the mile markers for the gas stations and hotels along the way.
I fill up with gas, and take off.
The first thing I notice is that it's a lot further to the Dalton Highway (11), than I had estimated. I thought it would be about 30 miles away, but instead, it was more like 60 miles away. Then, I figured I'd drive to the Yukon Crossing, get gas, and spend the night. I left town without any food. Only I had 2 bottles of gatorade. And some trail mix.
As I drive, slowly it dawns on me that the place I'm looking for will be much further than I had estimated. Also, it's very late when I leave town, so it's going to be dark by the time I get to the hotel. And, I didn't bother to check to see if they had any vacancies.
And, as it turns out, the road isn't paved.
So, pretty soon, I find myself rolling north on a dirt road through Alaska, and slowly it dawns on me that I'm in a life-or-death-survival type of situation. If I stop, the mosquitoes swarm me in a way you can only imagine. I have no bug spray. No mosquito netting. No food. No reservation. And I'm driving on one of the least traveled dirt roads in the state.
By the time I get to where Yukon Crossing should be, I realize I'm in trouble. I don't see any gas stations or motels, and the sign says "Next Service 120 miles". I'm like...."Oh wow..>I'm really screwed now." I've gone about 150 miles at this point. So, I can't go back. I won't make it. My only chance is to keep pushing north and hope that somehow I make it on the gas I have with me. It's going to be close though. I figure that, if I an make it to 190 miles on the current gas in the tank, then my 2 gallons in the gas can will get me another 80 miles. So, that means that I have to get to 190 miles on the gas in the tank, plus 80 miles for the gas in the can, gets me to 270 miles, which is 120 miles past 150.
It's going to be very close. Also, it's getting late. So, I'm assuming that I'll be dodging animals, driving in the dark. But as I drive, it doesn't get any darker.
Finally, I find two other motorcycle riders parked atop a hill taking photos. I'm rolling North. They're heading South. I pull over.
"Ladies....how's it going?" I ask.
They just laugh. I explain my predicament.
"Where is Yukon Crossing anyway?" I ask.
"Oh....it's about 40 miles back the way you came from. It's easy to miss. There's no sign or anything."
"But, if you keep going, you can make it to ColdFoot." It's 80 miles from here. Can you make that? Do you have enough gas?"
"Yeah...I think so. I'll make it."
"That's where you should go then. It's the only town that has gas between the river and Deadhorse."
They flag everything as #RideNorth and give me one of their stickers, which is pretty cool I think.
Update: These are the guys I ran into. I thought about doing something similar to this...they funded their trip through KickStarter. Nice.
So now, I'm rolling north. At each hill, I just pull in the throttle and coast down the hills to save fuel.
Presently, I come to the Arctic Circle sign. Stop and get a few pics using the timer on the DSLR.
Now, rolling on towards Coldfoot. The thing that concerns me is that a) will I make it there before I run out of gas and b) even if I do make it there, will it still be open? It's now after midnight, and still daylight somehow, but I'm not clear that they're selling gas all night and c) even if they are open and do sell me gas, will they have a room? I was so stupid I didn't bother to ask. If they don't have a room, and they're all locked up, and they're closed, I think I'll have to break into a room to get away from the mosquitos. That would be insufferable.
The bike runs out of gas, I pull over to fill the left tank from my gas can on the seat. It puts about 2 gallons into the tank, which should get me to Coldfoot. The mosquitos are so bad here there are no words. They will carry you away.
Now, rolling toward Coldfoot, coasting down hills. Trying to stretch it. Finally roll into Coldfoot on reserve with the fuel light lit up. Get in at 12:15 a.m. They have a room for me. It's $200. It's the best money I ever spent.
Photos in Extended Entry.