Monday, June 30, 2008
I left Billings and headed for the Dakotas. Just a lot of prairie riding. I did see quite a few antelope in southeastern Montana. I started singing “Home, Home on the Range” in my helmet. I cut through the northeast corner of Wyoming and into South Dakota. I finally made it to Sturgis, site of the (in)famous Black Hills Rally. There is not much to Sturgis when the rally is not in town. It is just a lot of Harley Davidson souvenir shops. I did ride down Main Street, though. Afterwards I rode on Highway 385 through the Black Hills National Forest to Rapid City, South Dakota. Tomorrow I plan on seeing Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse. Believe it or not, I visited Mount Rushmore with my mom and dad when I was only about four years old and I sort of remember it. The area around Mt. Rushmore sort of reminds me of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge in Tennessee. A lot of tourist trap type attractions.
Sunday, June 29, 2008
Today was arguably the best day of the trip so far. The weather was great! Not a cloud in this big ol’ Montana sky. I rode to Beartooth Pass and what a ride! There were times I was riding between two walls of snow that were about 10 feet tall! The scenery was the best I have seen on my trip. I then rode the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway and then back to the KOA. The pictures do not do today justice. I just could not capture the beauty of this place. Tomorrow I will be heading for a campground near Mount Rushmore. Check back then!
Saturday, June 28, 2008
I reentered the US today. It feels good to be back “home”. By the way the sky was cloudless and I actually rode without fleece or my heated grips today! I rode through Montana to Billings where I am staying in North America’s first KOA. I love history! Tomorrow I will ride the famed Beartooth Pass in Wyoming. Then on to Mount Rushmore. From the photos you will see why Montana is call the Big Sky country. One interesting item of note is that I passed several defunct missile silos. It sort of reminded me of my trip a few years ago to the former DDR where I saw several old East German bases slowly deteriorating. I guess the Cold War really is over.
Today I left Liard Hot Springs in a cold rain. Other than my continuing weather problems, the ride was ling and uneventful. I ended up in a hotel in Grand Prairie, Alberta. The photo is of my tent drying out in my room. I hope to reach the States tomorrow.
Well, I found a tire at Yukon Honda. Those guys were great! They moved me to the head of the line and I was in and out in less that one hour. Thanks guys. I rode on (in a cold rain of course) to Liard Hot Springs Provincial Park. Along the way I ran into a fellow had flown to Alaska, bought a used 1150 GS and went to the Arctic Circle on the Dempster. He decided to ride the bike back to Toronto with knobbies. Needless to say the chip seal pavement on the Alaska Highway ate his front knobbie. He was very concerned. I told him he could probably make it to Dawson Creek where he could find a new tire. Later some friends of his with a trailer arrived! End of his worries. I went to sleep to the sound of rain falling on the tent. I am getting tired of this!!!!
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
I left Tok, AK in a cold rain, but by noon the sun finally came out and my spirits were lifted. After a lot of construction I crossed the border back into Canada. I am really beginning to need a rear tire. I will try to find one in Whithorse tomorrow. For the next few days I will be backtracking my trip up the Alaska Highway. The ride reports for the next few days will probably just be mileage and staring and ending points. That’s all today.
What can I say? Today sucked! First two good things happened. I changed my oil at Alaska Leather and I cannot say enough about Barb, the owner. I had forgotten my filter wrench at home and she did not have one at the shop. She drove to her house, tot her wrench for me to use and returned to the store. Not many people would do that for a customer. Thanks, Barb!! The second good thing was that I saw my first glacier. It was truly magnificent, a river of ice. Can you guess how the weather was today? That’s right! Cold and rainy. My worst weather so far. I had 285 miles of cold rain. Alaska’s weather has whipped my butt. I am going home. Tonight I am in Tok, but not at the campground. I am am hotelling it again. Tomorrow I will head for Whithorse. Hopefully I will be able to camp at the Robert Service Campground again.
Monday, June 23, 2008
Last night in Fairbanks they had the annual Midnight Sun Fun Run. The race went right by the campground I was stay at. These photos were taken at about 11:00PM. Today I left Fairbanks with fairly decent weather. The ride through Denali National Park was very nice. After that (you guessed it) the weather turned cold and rainy. So much so I found a hotel for the night. Tomorrow I will give Brunhilde a well deserved oil change. I wanted to have a new rear tire mounted, but Barb’s tire guy broke down in Dawson and will not be able to mount the tire until after 6:00PM. I am getting a case of get-home-it is so I will skip the tire change. It really doesn’t need to be changed I just wanted new rubber for the trip home. I know this tire will last until I reach the lower 48, but I’ll have to see after that. Oh well, enjoying the luxury of a Super 8 tonight, tomorrow I will be homeward bound!
Sunday, June 22, 2008
Today I made my assault on the Arctic Circle. June 21, 2008, the summer solstice. The Haul (Dalton Highway) Road was not as bad as I was expecting. But I had perfect weather. In the rain I think this road would have killed me. But I still feel like I have been beaten like a rental mule. It was so jiggly that I think some of my organs have been rearranged. I had a little rain on the way back, but not too much. After I visited the Arctic Circle Wayside I saw Jim on the way up to Prudhoe. He flagged me down and told me that he had seen a family of four on bicycles that were going from Alaska to South America. Their water filter had broke and he sold them his for $40.00. He felt bad about this and asked if when I passed them I would give them the $40.00 back. Boy, were they surprised when Brunhilde and I pulled up beside them and gave them the 40 bucks. Hey, we travelers have got to stick together!
Saturday, June 21, 2008
In about one hour I will be leaving for the Arctic Circle. Jim slept in, but it is not like I have to worry about riding in the dark on the way back. I don't really know what to expect of the Haul Road. Some folks say you can do it at 80 MPH and others say no way over 40. The weather is liiking good. According to my GPS it is a 12 hour rond trip to the Circle, but only 157 miles?!? We'll see, it is kind of screwy sometimes. Check back later today or tomorrow for my report.
Friday, June 20, 2008
I can’t believe it!! Finally a day without rain. After breakfast I left Tok and headed for Fairbanks. No fleece, no heated grips and no rain. The weather was beautiful. The most remarkable event of the day was eating lunch at a Taco Bell in North Pole, AK. Tonight I am camped at Chena River Wayside. Tomorrow… the Arctic Circle. Jim and I will also part way tomorrow, he is headed all the way to Prudhoe Bay. Hopefully by this time tomorrow I will be writing my report on the Arctic Circle.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
Today I left the Yukon on the Top of the World Highway. What a ride! When the sun was out the vistas were beautiful. The road is partly paved on the Canadian side, but mostly mud on the American side. I reentered the U.S. at Poker Creek, the most northern land port of the United Stated. I rode to Boundary for coffee and proceeded to display my riding skills by dropping my bike in the parking lot. How embarrassing! Anyway, I continued on the highway to Chicken, AK where I had breakfast at noon. After Chicken the road conditions improved and I camped at the Sourdough Campground in Tok, AK. Tomorrow I will be heading for Fairbanks!
When I woke up this morning it was raining, of course. As soon as the weather broke, I headed out on the Klondike Highway to Dawson City, Yukon. The riding was pretty good considering the weather. I had my first real experience with northern road construction. After passing through a construction site just beyond Stewart’s Crossing, Brunhilde was filthy. But, she wears the dirt well. After arriving in Dawson I set up camp on the other side of the Yukon River. A short ferry ride back to town got me back to Dawson. First we (Jim, a fellow traveler) went to the Downtown Hotel for beer and wings. Then we had dinner at the Drunken Goat, a Greek restaurant. Afterwards we met some locals and let’s just say the evening got weird. The cast of characters for the evening was a bar owner, retired bar owner, a suspected meth addict, and one other guy who just shoed up. That’s all I’ll say about that because I really don’t know how the evening went down, but somehow by the end of the evening Jim got his beard shaved. Anyway, we went back to the campground (via ferry) about midnight to get ready for the Top of the World Highway tomorrow!
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Today I left Liard Hot Springs Provincial Park and rod to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada. The weather was again on again and off again. I did see two bear, one black and one grizzly. Of course, I stopped at Watson Lake to see the signpost forest. I met Jim again on the road and we rode together to Robert Service Campground in Whitehorse. This is sort of a hippy campground…coffee shop, old sofas set up under an awning, etc. Really cool, man. At 51 I may be the oldest person here. Lots of Europeans judging from the languages I am hearing. It reminds me of the European youth hostels, but with tents. The plan for tomorrow is to ride to Dawson City Yukon and then to Alaska on Thursday. I made it to the Yukon!
I left Beatton Provincial Park about 8:00AM The sun, however, was up about 3:30AM. These northern latitudes are going to take some getting use to. I looked forward to my first full day on the Alaska Highway. What a day it was to be! The weather was on again then off again. The pattern seemed to be 1 hour of beautiful weather and then one hour of cold rain. The same with the Alaska Highway, one hour of smooth road, one hour of road that made the GS earn its name. I finally saw a moose, four in fact. I also saw buffalo on the road. No bears, yet. Tonight I am staying in Liard Hot Springs Provincial Park. I have the tent set up under a shelter so I do not have to worry about rain tonight. To my surprise I ran into a third grade class on a field trip. They were from the Chalo School in Ft. Nelson, British Columbia. I wound up talking shop with the teacher and they offered to feed me hot dogs and cookies for dinner. It seems like teaching is teaching no matter where you do it. Their teacher has the same problems and headaches as we do in North Carolina. It was kind of neat being surrounded by eight-year-olds after being mostly alone for a week. I also met a guy named Jim that is also on a GS headed north. I am stating to have problems with the light. It never gets dark here! I think you may be able to say that I am out of my comfort zone. Later I will take a soak in the Hot Springs. Ahhhh! This is the life!
Today started just like the rest…cold and rainy. But during the afternoon the clouds began to break and the sun appeared. I felt something that resembled warmth. The highlight of the day was reaching the Alaska Highway. I took the usual photos at the marker in Dawson Creek and rode on to Beatton Provincial Park on Charlie Lake. As I write this in my tent showers are falling. Oh yeah, finally some scenery. It can only get better from here (I hope)!
Saturday, June 14, 2008
Another bad day. It started out OK, but the temperature dropped and it began to rain outside the Battlefords. Again I had to put on all my clothes and use my heated grips to stay warm. I decided to hotel it again. I pulled into the Ventura Motel in Vermilion, Alberta, Canada. The weather was so bad that the receptionist took pity on me and let me have a room free for the night! I don’t think that would ever happen in the states. I am about one hundred miles from where I wanted to stay tonight. I have just checked the weather for tomorrow and it does not look much better. As far as the riding goes, the worst part is the wind! At times the wind gets under may helmet and it feels like it is trying to yank it off my head. I am starting to wonder how many more days of weather like this I can endure. Since I got tonight free in a hotel, I am going to press on westward tomorrow and if the weather does not improve I may hotel it again tomorrow. I think I can justify the cost of the hotel as a safety factor. I have already experienced hypothermia twice on this trip and the object is to see Alaska, not injure myself for foolish pride.
Today was a hard one. I left Winnipeg about 7:00AM and it was very cold (remember I am from the South). I put on all the clothes I had and rode westward. Then it began to rain. I don’t mind being cold and I don’t mind being wet. But, I hate being cold AND wet. The low point of the day was heavy rain in Neepawa, Manitoba. I stopped at a McDonald’s and drank two large coffees to warm up and wait for the rain to end. Once I got back on the road the weather got better… and then it got worse. I actually contemplated getting another hotel room, but I did not want to get in that habit. Brunhilde and I pushed on to Good Spirit Lake Provincial Park in Saskatchewan. God bless Brunhilde. She has done everything I have asked of her and more. She has run on premium, ethanol, and regular. I have not seen premium gas in Canada. But 87 octane seems to suit her fine. Just long, straight roads with farm field on either side. The weather has to change sometime. Right? Onward to Alaska! Oh yeah! I just remembered… today is Friday the 13th!
Friday, June 13, 2008
What a difference a day makes! When I awoke this morning there was not a cloud in the sky! The temperature was still a little on the cool side, but it was dry. The only thing not great about this day were the roads. Looooooooong and straight. Brunhilde could have driven this by herself. I crossed the border into Canada at the Tolstoi crossing. I was asked the usual questions about occupation, alcohol, and of course weapons. When I stated that I had no weapons the border guard asked about a little container I had hanging from on of the zippers on my riding suit. I told him they were for my earplugs. I had to open the container and prove that they were indeed earplugs and not pepper spray, mace, or an AK-47. Being satisfied that I was one of Americas best, he let me pass. Back in Canada again! The road to Winnipeg was, you guessed it, long and straight. I camped for the night at Birds Hill Provincial Park with beautiful skies and perfect temperature. I am in the Central Time zone and at 6:00PM it would be 7:00PM at home. I thought of my fellow Western North Carolina ADV rider buddies dining at Green River BBQ in Saluda, NC. I was eating Laura Lynn (store brand) double stuffed ravioli out of a can. Oh, well. Tomorrow the goal is Good Spirit Lake Provincial Park in Saskatchewan. Sorry no pictures today.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Today’s big story is the weather. I began by riding through the Iowa farmland. This is real hometown America. The photo of Clarence is typical of the towns I rode through. Riding through Cedar Rapids and Waterloo, IA. I witnessed devastating flood damage. My heart goes out to the citizens of this area. The photos of the car underwater are in Waterloo. I learned from TV that Waterloo is now under a mandatory evacuation order. I have left Iowa and I am now in Milaca, Minnesota. Two cold fronts came through bringing heavy winds and rain. The temperature also dropped about 20 degrees. For the first time in my life I am staying in a hotel on a motorcycle trip. Mother Nature had beaten me! I am now in Milaca, MN at a Super 8 hotel. There was extremely high winds and rain that resulted in me hydroplaning the front wheel several times. I decided to surrender and spend the night in a hotel. Oh well, that allows me to catch up on some email, pay some bills, and take a hot shower and sleep in a bed. It only cost me $10.00 more thanks to my AARP discount. There are some good things about being old. Tomorrow I will head for Winnipeg, Canada. Let’s hope the weather is better. WiFi may be sporadic from this point, but check back often to keep up with me. Alaska or Bust!!!!!!
There is more to report today. First of all, I did not sleep that well last night. I was one of only three campers at the campground. Martin State Forest is quite secluded. The other campers spent the evening intoxicating themselves and then one of them decides to introduce himself. He tells me that he and his significant other are broke and are just bumming around looking for money to buy gas. Well, like I said he was three-quarters drunk and broke. Here I sit with a BMW fully loaded with Touratech stuff. I must seem as rich as barnyard dirt to this fellow. My over active imagination played all sorts of scenarios in my head, one of which ended with him saying something about “squealing like a pig”. Needless to say they did not rob me, but probably passed out on a picnic table. It was too wet for thievery anyway. We got three inches of rain during the night.
That brings me to my next problem. After packing up and leaving I found out that I could not use my intended routes. Southern Indiana and parts of Illinois were in the midst of a hundred-year flood. Roads east were closed. I had to make a one hundred mile detour, most of it on the interstate. I spent the rest of the day driving through the Illinois cornfields. It did get a bit more exciting when I reached Iowa. The Scott County Sheriffs Department thought I was trying to get through their county a little fast. However, once I explained that I was merely looking for the Scott County Campground he decided to let me off with a warning. Thank you Saint Christopher! And that is where I am writing this, the Scott County Campground in Iowa. It is much nicer than last night’s campground.
Well I need to get my tent up and have a meal before some much needed sack time.
I left Asheville, NC at about 7:00AM. My wife, Tine (pronounced “Tina”, don’t ask, it’s a German thing) gave me a Saint Christopher medal before I left. For all you heathens and non-believers he is the patron saint of travelers. He just may come in handy on this trip. Nothing really remarkable happened on the first day. The feature of this day was the HEAT. I did make it to Martin State Forest in Shoals, Indiana. No WiFi, maybe tomorrow. Today I covered North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Indiana.
Sunday, June 8, 2008
I have just about finished all the final preparations for my trip. I will leave in the morning. I may have to change my plans, though. I had planned on being in Shoals, Indiana tomorrow night, but I have heard they are having heavy flooding right now. I refuse to change my plans before I even leave my driveway. I will just ride there tomorrow and see what the deal is! Well, all the batteries are charged and only a few small items remain to be packed. I will update this blog from the road whenever I find a WiFi connection. That may be a few days as I will be camping in state parks and forests. Check back often to view my progress (or lack thereof!).
Sunday, June 1, 2008
This weekend I am at Cruso practicing my wilderness computing skills. No WiFi! I have a feeling this is going to happen a lot on my trip to Alaska, so what better place to practice than in the wilds of North Carolina. The process will go something like this: type daily entries into a Word document and then cut and paste them into the blog whenever I can find a connection. If you are reading this the process works. I am on a shakedown cruise to perform one final check of my equipment before I leave next week. Also, I had a new front tire put on and will ride about one hundred miles to scuff in the tire before I leave.
This week I will clean and pack the bike for the trip. My next entry will probably be next Sunday. After that, check back often for entries from the road!
This week I will clean and pack the bike for the trip. My next entry will probably be next Sunday. After that, check back often for entries from the road!