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Thread: Teaser- "Adventure is taking inappropriate Equipment to out of the way places"

  1. #16
    Registered User Beemer01's Avatar
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    Mar 2007
    Chicago, Ill

    Day Three - Red Lodge to Flathead Lake MT.

    We got ready early. Fran suddenly realized that the Famous Beartooth Pass had opened for the season yesterday... that he'd never ridden it and that it was just a few miles away! Thomas, nursing a sore back from an old war injury opted to lounge around morning camp and Fran and I headed off to take a run to the summit. I removed some of the already packed gear from my panniers to reduce weight and laid it to the side to warm and dry off in the sun.

    As we rolled through Red Lodge, they were advertising a mini marathon- sure enough there were runners of all ages, genders and shapes running and slogging up the road out of town towards the pass road. Serious respect for these folks, running (or walking in some cases) at these altitudes can take it out of you quickly. We rode past cautiously until it was evident that the race was not actually to the summit, we amped up the speed when the last runner (first runner?) disappeared in our rear view mirrors.

    What a magnificent morning, sunlight peeked thru the trees only occasionally as we rode up the West side of the mountain... winding our way up to the 11,000 foot top. The sunlight was blindingly bright - cross country skiers were out and having early morning fun in the deep snows at the summit this morning. We turned around and headed back down the mountain, Fran had activated a borrowed Go-Pro camera rig he'd borrowed to film our way down. However he neglected to check the lens and there was a large very dead bug splattered across the plastic shield. No footage. (See earlier comment about practicing with new technology BEFORE leaving on the trip!).

    Fran loves to play racerboy sometimes, this time he switched off his ignition and started to coast the entire 20+ miles down the mountain. I slipped into neutral and tried to follow. It was immediately evident that my GS has the aerodynamic profile of a garden shed as Fran's sleek sportbike disappeared around a curve far ahead of me. I eventually shifted into gear so I could catch up before we reached Red Lodge.

    I'm a really organized guy most of the time. When we got back to the campsite I went to repack and could not for the life of me find my inflatable sleeping pad. Years of camping has taught me that everything has its place -and it was not in its place. I searched the campsite, and even rechecked my panniers - gone. And of course neither Fran nor Thomas had packed it in error. Damn. It must have been stolen while I was up at the Pass?!? Sure didn't seem likely. I shrugged and wondered if I'd be passing a camping store this day where I could buy a replacement.

    We rolled out of the campground towards the Absarokee Cutoff (78) and as I turned left onto the two lane highway I glanced down... there was my rolled up pad (10" x 5" rolled up) lying in the weeds alongside the road, barely even visible. I must have placed it on my bike when heading off with Fran and it had fallen off when we left for Beartooth Pass. What a lucky fluke that I even saw it! Hell, it's a miracle. I pulled over, put it in the proper place in the right side pannier and we resumed our trip.

    78 is a magnificent road on a Spring Morning and, as per usual, I never slow down to get any pictures. We did stop for gas at the only station on this stretch of 78 (Absarokee cutoff), and as the leader of this merry bunch I promptly took the wrong road out of the station and led them on a 20 mile trip up a dead end only possible excuse was a lack of coffee... and that this was a really scenic sidetrip. You would think that me with the $600 GPS shouldn't be digging for excuses.

    We reached Columbus MT, and picked up 90 for the long ride to Missoula and then to Flathead Lake (The largest lake West of the Mississippi), so this would be a 590 mile day... we were slacking! We pulled into Polson, MT, looking for a place to eat.. at this point were still in the Breakfast and dinner only mode. This would later degrade to dinner only and later to just almonds, five hour energy drinks and beef jerky)

    There isn't much to Polson, so the quick pass through didn't surface any interesting local type restaurants. I did see a Pizza Hut and a quick conference on the headsets confirmed that that would have to do. I pulled a U turn, availing myself to an adjacent parking lot. The town's only working hooker was standing there... convinced that all three of us had turned around just for the chance to meet her! She mustered her best smile and showed me some leg..and we motored right past her.

    I was the only guy who even noticed her business development efforts this late afternoon.

    The Pizza was adequate (guys from Chicago are tough customers when it comes to pizza), but the beer was cold and the service was engaging.

    We rode a bit further North to the State Campground which was, of course, packed with Memorial Day campers. We snagged one of the last spots, paid our $20 and pitched our tents. Fran was getting incrementally faster in setting up his kit, though I still couldn't figure out how that noisy electric pump would still take ten minutes to inflate his pool toy sleeping pad?

    Thomas and I enjoyed a cigar and a scotch before retiring for the evening. Scotch now critically low. Must remember to buy more in the USA before we cross into Canada tomorrow!
    Last edited by Beemer01; 11-25-2014 at 02:52 PM.

  2. #17
    Registered User Beemer01's Avatar
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    Mar 2007
    Chicago, Ill

    Day Four Flathead Lake to McBride BC via the Icefields Parkway

    During the previous night I discovered that I now have a leak in my 'serious top of the line' inflatable sleeping pad. Fran's $3 pool toy was holding up just fine. Fortunately I remembered that my pad comes with a leak repair kit and I had a perfectly calm lake just a few feet away. Fran assisted as I stood in the cold lake in my actually waterproof Boots and I found the hole without too much hassle..a leak had developed at a seam on the end, I carefully put rubber cement on the seam and hoped for the best!

    A harbinger of things to come?

    Future trips will include packing cans, not tubes, of rubber cement.

    A side note here, Thomas is Army, so he packs heavy by my standards. His frame of reference has always seemed to be that a M35 Cargo Truck is always the default way to carry gear, so more is better. Nearly a decade of occasionally riding with me has caused him to lighten this load quite a bit, but old habits die hard. Fran on the other hand is only an occasional camper, so things that roll right off my back sometimes bother him. Like packing up wet gear. I assured him that packing a wet tent and fly was fine, it'll dry out the next day, he remained unconvinced for the entire trip, always looking for mold and mildew on his nylon tent.

    We rolled out and rolled North heading towards the Icefields Parkway. While gassing up enroute Fran chatted up a Solo Female rider with Alaska plates on her bike. She had new friends whether she wanted us or not, as she was heading the same direction as we were. A sign of things to come?

    I'm pretty sure she proceeded to do her level best to loose us for the rest of the day, finally succeeding a few hundred miles later.

    As we took the turnoff to the Icefields Parkway the clouds lowered as we gained altitude and the wind and rain howled around us. The Icefields Parkway is simply stunning as is the approach road. (I noted that since my last trip in 2009 the authorities had erected elaborate tall fences and built fantastic overhead migratory pathways for the local Fauna to be protected from the likes of cars, trucks and motorcycles. I also have to wonder how many collisions there had been to find the money to build out this level of wildlife protection!) Thomas speaking with some German Tourists at the Icefields visitor Center in perfect German. I think.

    Fran was cold riding the Parkway, which given that he was wearing shorts under his riding suit shouldn't have been too surprising. He commented that I hadn't warned him in advance about the cold, I asked what in the name 'Icefields Parkway' had confused him? Anyhow we passed our first Glacier and the ambient temps dipped down to 35F. I cranked up my heated everything and was comfortable as the dizzying mountain views swirled in and out of sight.

    We passed through Jasper and made it as far as McBride, BC where we stopped for dinner at a Chinese/Western restaurant.

    There are a lot of Chinese/Western Restaurants up there. A lot. And don't get your hopes up, neither variety of food is very good. Fran abhors Chinese food, so ordered something "Western" and Thomas and I ordered Chinese. Same Kitchen, same cook = same food. There may have been chicken in our dishes, but it was very, very hard to find. And may have died from old age...and may not have been chicken.

    We camped that night in a local campground, nice grassy areas. I'd previously ridden through this area at night. I would never repeat that night riding experience, daylight is better. In 2009 there were wandering Moose, Deer and Bears, illuminated only by my headlight, on the Yellowhead Highway............ and in 2014 I got to see them by's better by day, your survival odds improve a bit.

    I forgot to buy Scotch back Stateside, so killed a bottle of Jack Daniels by the fire. Not a great idea after a bad meal.
    Last edited by Beemer01; 12-03-2014 at 08:07 PM.

  3. #18

  4. #19
    Registered User Beemer01's Avatar
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    Mar 2007
    Chicago, Ill

    Day Five

    My pounding hangover was exacerbated by the sound of steel on steel and wheels spinning not far from my head. I was also sleeping on a deflated sleeping pad, as the fix had either not held or I had a new hole. I think there was frost on the seat of my patiently waiting bike.

    I staggered out of my tent and set about making coffee on my campstove. VIA! from Starbucks long ago replaced my ground coffee and coffee press for camping. It's certainly good enough, and saves space and weight in my packs and panniers. The spinning tires that woke me were from a Nissan Truck that was sporting a "USN retired" plate on the front bumper. The retired Navy guy was in an embarrassing situation, quietly trying to figure out what to do after he ran over a bright orange painted truck wheel that had been placed to demarcate a RV camping spot and high centered his Nissan. We drank our coffee and decided to go over and offer assistance before he ruined his transfer case and woke up the rest of the still slumbering campground. His wife, dressed in a housecoat had emerged from their parked trailer, and was offering unhelpful advice.

    Thomas, turned out in a gray ARMY Tee-shirt had the line of the day "Sir... I realize it's very rare for the Army to offer to help out the Navy, but can we lend a hand?" We were soon jacking up the truck and pulled the offending orange truck wheel out from the undercarriage. We lowered the vehicle back down and once all four wheels had contact with terra firma, all was good.

    We had another cup of coffee and I discovered that my bike battery was dead. Again.

    Our new friend in the Nissan was summoned, he soon docked his truck and trailer next to my somnolent Beemer, someone produced the requisite jumper cables and my bike was sparked to life. OK, this was not good and I'd have to find a new battery. Crap.

    We rode out of Town, and my memory had not failed me. This stretch of the Yellowhead Highway is crowded with wildlife. I recall seeing Black Bears, a herd of Caribou and a Mother Moose with her adorable calf, which couldn't have been more than a few hours old based on the wobbly legs. I stopped to observe not more than 15 feet from this new family. Mom was not amused and dealing with a protective Moose with post-partum issues was not on our agenda for the day. When she snorted and advanced towards us we got the message and left post haste.

    Not only had my battery been dead that frosty morning, I now realized that I was now sucking fumes, bingo on fuel. No worries, my $700 Garmin assured me that there was fuel just a few miles ahead. RANT. Garmin's fuel finder is essentially useless, telling you that there is fuel available in stations that shut down 20 years ago, and telling you that there is no fuel for hundreds of miles ahead when you are sitting at the operating pumps of a station that had been in business since 1970. It might work fine in cities, where you don't need it, but don't bet your trip on in where you do need it. In this case there was no fuel in the location they had directed me to. And I was out. And, of course, had not yet filled my aux fuel cans. This was serious... that moody moose was just a few miles back!

    Fran to the rescue, he did have a couple of gallons in his Auxiliary fuel rig, he disconnected the fuel line, turned a valve and he filled my 1 liter fuel container in a matter of a minute or so. Epic save, and not for the last time on this trip.

    I was able to gas up down the road a piece and we made it to Prince George, BC for breakfast, 120 or so miles. We stopped at another Chinese/Western restaurant that seemed to have a few locals there for their daily coffee. We trooped in and Fran, in his usual style entertained the local boys with his banter and antics.

    Fran then discovered that the reason he'd been so cold this morning is that he'd broken a wire on his electric vest and shorted out the system. Which would necessitate a visit to an auto parts store, which was fortunately just around the corner (with directions provided by Fran's audience.) We were also assured that it would be literally impossible to reach Ft. Nelson on a motorcycle in a day. Right. Game on, we'd show these boys how Americans do it.

    Fran went to the auto parts store, bought fuses, repaired his shorted system and placed the extra fuses in his luggage where they vanished into the chaos of his luggage never to be seen again.

    We topped off and were soon on the legendary Alaska Highway heading North by Northwest. I had recalled that this stretch of the Alcan was fast and wide. My memory proved to be accurate... we burned up the miles running at 75+MPH. Have I noted that my loaded bike has the aerodynamic profile of a barn door.... I don't think I get better than 40MPG in stretches like this.

    We pulled into Fort Nelson, again on fumes. We stopped at a combination gas station/motel/Cstore run by a Chinese family, and after fueling up asked where there was a camp ground in town. One family member who was better with her English paused and then directed us to the other end of town. Her older sister interjected that THEY ran a campground right behind the store and it was only $10, a special deal for us!

    Yeah, a vacant lot with weeds...but you gotta admire her entrepreneurial moxy. We dined on A&W burgers and fries, Fran got his precious Root Beer and we headed to the other edge of town. Which took all of five minutes.

    There, on the left, was the same campground I'd stayed at a few years back. A bit more worn around the edges, but it'll work just fine. We found the ubiquitous grassy section to the back which bordered on a creek. We pitched our tents, swatting away the first mosquitos we'd seen on this trip. Oh, yeah there were to be more. This was close to a 700 mile day.

    Things were running right and tight - tomorrow Watson Lake, new knobbies and off into the endless gravel, mud and dirt of the Yukon!

    The Yukon can kick your butt. Ask Sargent Preston.
    Last edited by Beemer01; 12-03-2014 at 08:12 PM.

  5. #20
    Registered User Beemer01's Avatar
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    Mar 2007
    Chicago, Ill

    Day Six - Watson Lake Yukon

    On to Watson Lake. Short day, gotta allow for tire changes to knobbies! The Alcan from Fort Nelson to Watson Lake is WAAAY more interesting, lots of grade changes, still frozen lakes, Toad River, wooden bridges and looming mountains.

    Somewhere on this stretch of road we passed and then met a bunch of guys who were headed off to a secret location for Gold Mining. They had purchased an old school bus and outfitted it with a wood stove, swinging hammocks, canned goods and a half a dozen or so chickens...which were riding in an old cattle trough in the back of the bus.... clucking and laying eggs as we stood there. The other vehicle in their decidedly ragtag caravan was a pickup truck, hauling a trailer with a small dozer. Yep, this looked like an adventure! We chatted for a while, wished them the best and pushed off.

    I offered Fran and Thomas a chance to stop at the Hot Springs off the Alcan to wash off road dust, but they were hot to get to Watson Lake and start slinging rubber.

    We pulled into the parking lot of the soon to be Famous Air Force Lodge just after lunchtime, quickly found Thomas' tires that were sent in advance and the process of changing tires in gravel and dust began. Michael, who runs the Lodge, wasn't there so we commandeered his picnic table for the job and generally spread our stuff out across several parking spots. Neither Thomas nor I had ever changed a tire before i.e. deflating the actual tire and dismounting from the wheel assembly, with hand levers, reversing the procedure with new stiff tires and reinflating the tire with portable electric air compressors. This is at least a two man job, three is better. Lots of dish soap or KY to lube everything up is a great idea too.

    Somewhere during this process I rode down the street to an industrial supply store to get a replacement bolt for my front brake caliper (which had mysteriously vanished causing the left front rotor to shift to an odd angle) and to see if by some miracle, they would have a replacement 12V motorcycle battery. I was stunned to find that they had both, though I think I paid dearly for them. I'll never cross check those prices. But both items worked just fine.

    You can't put a price on peace of mind..and tomorrow we were going to head out of civilization where there would be no bolts and batteries. Or Gasoline. At any price.

    Anyhow, five hours later we declared victory, and after pre-washing up OUTSIDE as per Michael's instructions, we then removed our boots and really washed and showered up before going out to dinner at one of the two options for dinners in Watson Lake.

    They didn't serve beer. OMG... so we just headed back to the AF Lodge to get some sleep, pulling the shades down to get a little darkness in the land of the Midnight Sun.

    Things felt good ... we were ready for the Campbell Highway! We thought. We were completely wrong.

    Last edited by Beemer01; 08-13-2019 at 06:20 PM.

  6. #21
    Registered User Beemer01's Avatar
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    Mar 2007
    Chicago, Ill

    Day Seven - Watson Lake to Carmacks, or Chaos on the Campbell

    We rolled out of bed early, Fran earlier than the rest of us. We repacked our bikes, storing the removed street rubber in one of the out buildings at the Air Force Lodge. We grabbed a cup of coffee and went to gas up everything, now including all auxiliary gas tanks and empty gas cans. 350 miles to Ross River and a whole lot of wilderness to cover.

    I offered up that a common practice was to air down your tires to 25 psi or so for improved traction and handling, at the risk of tire or rim damage in really bad stuff. Every man for himself - we all took some air out of our respective tires, fingers crossed.

    The Campbell starts out paved as we roll past the Sign Forest, but quickly collapses after that. The first stretch of construction, we have no idea what the 'to-be' road was going to look like, but they sure had it torn up getting there, it was not motorcycle friendly,though the sign girl, suitably bribed by Fran's charm and Jolly Ranchers was.

    We followed a pilot truck through the ten mile stretch of road work, which included extended stretches of wet Calcium Chloride treated road bed. (Given that the Campbell is usually deserted I wonder why this huge effort?).

    The road work in our rear view mirrors, we began to get our gravel legs and got used to the knobbies. I ran a Conti TCK-80 front and a Heidi rear, Fran ran a TCK-80 front and a car tire on the rear, and Thomas rode Conti TCKs front and back.

    The road turned into a pretty darned good gravel road! Nicely packed and graded for early season, we found ourselves running at a pretty steady 60 with occasional bursts up to 70. We stopped for a break and Fran and I high fived ourselves over how great the roads were and how well the bikes were behaving! Thomas, notably, did not join our premature celebration.

    And then it all turned to crap. Really bad crap. Deep freshly mined gravel that was about fist sized with razor sharp edges, the kind that wants to rip the handlebars out of your grip, the kind that wants to lead you off the narrow paths that appear occasionally and hurl you off the road at speed when your front tire hits the softer stuff at the edge of the road. The kind that leaves dense dust hanging in the air for ten minutes after you pass thru. The kind with holes and washouts despite the gravel.

    Yeah, like that.

    Speeds dropped to 35-40 MPH and there were miles and miles where I think I simply stopped breathing. Fran believes stopping only at wide spots on the road to take a break or refuel. I no longer saw wide spots, I just saw it getting worse and worse.

    We stopped in the middle of the narrow road, emptied our fuel cans into the tanks and compared notes. This was doable, but taking a toll mentally, physically and mechanically. Fran's sport suspension was taking a beating, the kind that can result in failed shocks and cracked frames. WTF was the point of dumping loads of gravel like this and not grading or compacting it?

    We retightened our loads and got back at it. Remember this is a 350 mile stretch with zero options other than stay at it and carry on.
    I took point and hoped for the best, my friends headlights reappearing occasionally in my mirrors.

    Until they didn't appear.

    I braked to a stop and waited and waited. When they didn't catch up, I knew there has been a problem. The headsets are line of sight only, so of no use here. Groaning, I turned my bike around on the narrow and unforgiving road and headed back.

    Thomas had experienced a flat. His bike had been wrestled up onto the center stand and he and Fran were working on the rear tire. The tire had under 100 miles on it. The 'hole' was a gash in between two of the knobs on the rear tire, the problem was the size of the gash easily 1/2 inch.

    That must have been a really fast loss of air. But no worries, we had the requisite tire repair kits and electric pumps. Fran coated a tire repair worm with some of the rubber cement and put it in. And added another. And added another trying to fill this gash. The moment of truth.. we aired up the tire and the patch seemed to hold.

    For perhaps five miles.

    It began to leak, presumably at the same spot, again. Holding our collective breath we added still another worm coated with rubber cement.
    BTW.. for all of you who blissfully believe you have a tire repair kit on your bike, be advised that even unopened tubes of rubber cement dry up in a couple of years. And you don't know this until you open said tube in your moment of dire need.

    Fortunately we had one or two tubes that actually had liquid rubber cement.

    To make a long story short, this ritual was repeated seven times in 50 miles, finally the worms blew out completely and vanished in the gravel. I had some BMW issued plugs that seemed better suited for a gash like this.. we used the last of our rubber cement and jammed them in. We had very low confidence in any repair we could do holding up in these punishing conditions.

    We held a caucus in the road. We were out of gummy worms, BMW issued plugs and rubber cement. It was perhaps 6:00PM and we were at least another 40 miles to Ross River. The decision was made for me to ride ahead to Ross River and try and buy more tire repair stuff, they'd have to have it there. Unless they were sold out. A distinct possibility. I was also open to any alternative technology to this situation.

    I went ahead, my GS was now designated our official support vehicle for this trip, and got to Ross River. This town is essentially a Reservation town, a bunch of shuttered auto repair shops, the mandatory Gas/Grocery store perhaps a hundred houses, dusty streets and a bunch of mangy dogs lying around in this early evening.

    Gas was a pretty high priority for me so I stopped at the pumps behind the grocery store and topped off all my containers. A local riding a 4X4 pulled in behind me. I put on my best 'American Tourist in need of help' face and explained my dilemma. 'Turns out he is a mechanic and works for the only other profitable business in town, a heavy equipment operation. He gives me fairly general directions to the home/business and told me to knock on the door of the house in front of a large yard of equipment and a huge outbuilding and ask for Dennis. With a decidedly non-mangy German Shepherd chained to the front porch.

    Shift focus back to my intrepid fellow motorcyclists back on the Campbell, the BMW plugs had blown out, amazingly enough nearly in front of a side road leading back to an actual inhabited cabin! The owners of this cabin had offered assistance in the form of driving the flattened tire and wheel 30 miles (there was a back route that was even rougher than the Campbell) into town to a guy they knew. Removing the rear wheel from an RT requires removal of the muffler and other stuff, but Fran and Thomas got 'er done and Thomas took off in a pick-up truck with two absolute strangers. Fran swears he heard banjo music as they left. The guys left their huge mongrel dog to watch over Fran.

    Shift back to me, I persuaded the attentive German Shepherd that I was no imminent threat and I knocked loudly on the front door... trying to overcome the din of a television tuned to the NHL playoffs. Dennis answered and said he'd try to help. SUCCESS! I hoped. 'Turns out Dennis is the owner, but not one of the heavy line mechanics, who were gone for the day. We wandered back to the Work Shed and he rummaged around in the tire repair area. For $20 he sold me more gummy worms, more rubber cement and a really cool German made truck tire patch, which I had no idea how to use.

    I headed back, eyes peeled, hoping against hope that I'd find my buddies riding cheerfully and fully inflated into town. No such luck. I found Fran dozing on the side of the road, Tom's bike up on the center stand and no rear wheel and no Tom.

    Fran awoke and filled me in. 'Sounded a lot more hopeful than any plan I had been able to concoct.

    Thomas eventually returned with the tire fully inflated and a repair of a truck tire patch internally mounted in the tire - professionally done by someone else back in Ross River. I think he said it was a Priest who did the repair, I'm not sure. We all thanked these 'Angels of the Campbell' and slipped them some currency to cover their gas costs. Anyhow the presumably now blessed tire and wheel went back onto his bike - this takes a few minutes - and we are off again, fingers crossed!

    We all rode together back into Ross River, topped off our tanks and took stock of our situation. The last few miles leading into Ross River were perfectly civilized gravel, and the map indicated pavement ahead. There was really no official place to camp in town, it was obviously still daylight at 9:30PM (Check your calendar and latitude) so we decided to ride on to Carmacks.

    The road ahead was indeed paved and the evening bright and lovely. We sped along hoping never to hear Tom on the Bluetooth reporting another blowout.

    Midnight in Carmacks, YT


    Anyhow we made Carmacks around midnight, and found the only operating camp ground along the Yukon River. The entire operation is for sale - as is about everything else we saw in the Yukon- but the owner accepted $20 cash and allowed us to park our bikes in a 'camping' area down by the river. I broke out some freeze dried backpacker's meals and we all dined quite well. We would actually have eaten anything and been happy that night, but backpacker's meals have progressed and developed over the years and are quite now edible, so few of the old side effects seen (and heard) back 30 years ago they they were first introduced.

    Tom and I pitched our respective tents and we noted that Fran had opted to set his tent up on top of a picnic table. We didn't ask why, just pulled our baseball caps down over our eyes and went to sleep praying that the Dempster would be easier riding tomorrow.

    Oh Boy. We were seriously wrong. Again.

    Last edited by Beemer01; 08-13-2019 at 06:25 PM.

  7. #22
    Registered User Beemer01's Avatar
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    Mar 2007
    Chicago, Ill

    Mag Wheels

    Quote Originally Posted by Pauls1150 View Post
    More More More!

    Yeah, I'll vouch for the mountain lion caution - if you're slow and look like food, you can have a problem. SoCal has had many instances of adults, kids, and pets being stalked. (Bears just go through the garbage and lounge in the pool.)

    Question - On the Trump and the RT, how did the mag wheels hold up?
    The mags on the Triumph got bent, and were hammered back into shape as needed with the flat end of a camp hatchet. The RT had other issues, but no bent rims.

  8. #23
    Registered User Beemer01's Avatar
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    Day Eight ? Carmacks to... somewhere on the Dempster

    We got an early start even though we had a late night previously. We rode over into town and took a quick pass through the small grocery store looking for replacement food for what we fixed the night before, nothing looked right. Thomas and I went down the steps to the restaurant next door and had breakfast, getting the life story from our waitress... endless trauma and heartbreak, she coulda written a Country and Western song off of her problems.

    Anyhow the eggs were good and the coffee hot. Fran was doing some minor repairs on his bike in the parking lot and joined us a few minutes into our breakfast. I laid out the map - we had about 75 miles of paved road before we were to turn North onto the Canadian Dempster - Canada's version of the American Haul Road.... it was built on ancient trails following rivers and ridges and leads to the Arctic Ocean and the valuable mineral deposits that lie up there.

    We tightened up our loads and headed out. I remembered that there was a gas station/car repair shop at the bottom of the Dempster..when we got there, the car repair shop was long vacated, but there was an automated 24 hr fuel station. We topped off everything, checked tire pressures, crossed our fingers and headed up.

    The scenery on most of the Dempster is just stunning, and it just goes on and on and on. You really and truly get a sense of the vast emptiness of Yukon when on this road. (Yukon is larger than the State of California, but has fewer than 35,000 citizens. The Government seems to have opened the visa process and today there are way more Asians living up there than in 2009. They operate the small businesses, run and usually own the gas stations, they are the Doctors and shop keepers.... and are taking root in their new country)

    Not that we saw much of anyone on the Dempster. Of any variety or complexion.

    Gravel for the entire length to Inuvik, NT, when I rode it in 2009 it was more memorable for its length than actual bad riding conditions. In 2014 we will remember it for a lot more. And once again, I never made it to Inuvik.

    The first half was average gravel roads, nicely maintained and rideable at a good clip, but as we got further and further North it all went to crap...but the scenery....

    This was a replay of the Campbell from yesterday, loose uncompacted gravel, washouts, and whole sections that stretched for eight or more miles that were simply and literally a chore. The freshly cut gravel was deeper here, thank god there was little traffic because getting out of a gravel path and over the berms of looser gravel is an religious experience. Some of these sections ran for eight or more miles in length.

    We needed to keep our speed up but all we could manage was 35-40 MPH.

    We stopped and refueled on the side of the road, looking like refugees from a Mad Max movie. I looked at Fran's Auxillary fuel tank and pointed out that it was taking a beating, two of the aluminum tabs were broken and the platform mount looked like it was hanging on by a couple of bolts. He noted this and said it would be fine.

    I checked over my bike, she was holding up better than was I. Thomas must have been wrestling with the RT, but as always, he never complains.
    I grabbed another Five Hour energy and the road goes on. In 2009 I observed that the Dempster is a Sisyphean task, when you think you've got the boulder to the top of the hill, it just rolls down to another hill. And another. And another.

    Cameras can't capture the vistas and scenery. I know, I've tried.

    Crossing high ridges, I saw the remains of dead Caribou, either killed by wolves or vehicles, scattered along the roadside.

    The Sena came to life. Thomas was reporting another blowout just as we were exiting still another vicious stretch of gravel.
    Oh ****.

    I, of course, was probably a quarter mile ahead, but pulled over and then tried to turn around. And stuck my foot in a hole. And dropped my bike. There was no assistance, I started pulling off panniers and leaking gas cans and got 'er upright and facing the right direction. I just left my panniers and gas cans on the side of the dusty road.

    I rode back, Thomas and Fran once again had the RT up on the center stand and Fran was sprawled out in the gravel looking for the leak. After repeatedly refilling the tire with air, he determined that the original hole, repaired yesterday in Ross River was again leaking. Which seemed to mean to us that there was no hope for a gummy worm fix.

    Which meant what? Bryan's GS as a support vehicle again. Thomas removed the pannier, muffler, case guard and wheel assembly (he was getting pretty fast at this task) and I strapped the tire and wheel assembly on the back of the GS and headed North to Eagle Plains, YT. Eagle Plains is NOT a town, it's just a gas station/heavy line repair shop/restaurant/bar/motel. I'm not even sure it shows up on the Garmin GPS. I just knew it was there from the previous trip. And I just knew it was only 5-10 miles ahead. And I hoped it was still open - retail is a fragile business model up here on the Arctic Circle.


    It was just over 40 miles of bad road. I was riding the ridges with fantastic and endless valleys on either side- running out to the horizon. Except that I was riding fast, or as fast as I could trying to beat the clock, hoping that the fuel/repair depot would still be open when I got there. Whenever I got there. If I got there. I wasn't viewing the scenery.

    I was riding the inside lane trying to stay on a compacted area when I saw the cloud of dust and a pickup truck heading South. I was in her lane. Closing speed was probably 80MPH. I don't know what happened, but suddenly it was over, the lady driving the truck laid on her horn and moved over to the other lane, missing me.. and a head-on by a matter of feet.

    And it would have completely been my fault. And there are zero medical options on the Dempster.

    I skidded into the pump area at 8:15PM - the sign on the door said the shop was open until 9:00PM. Except that it wasn't. Lights off and door locked.

    There is literally no place to go if you're in Eagle Plains but the bar. I suspect that the folks who live there grow to have a drinking problem, if they didn't already when they arrived.

    I kicked the dust off my boots and walked into the bar. The pretty waitress listened to my tale of woe and jerked her thumb over her shoulder towards an older gent who was pretty obviously really into watching the NHL playoffs and pretty much into his fourth beer. Or sixth.

    I sat down next to him, introduced myself and explained the situation. We needed a serious flat repair, the kind that involved dismounting the tire from the rim and laying on a truck tire patch from the inside. Stan listened, nodded and informed me that nothing was going to happen tonight. But, I pointed out, the sign says you?re open until 9:00!. Stan informed me that the road is closed and all his guys had gone home. (WTF could home be?).

    I played the dire straights card.. we are literally in the middle of a narrow Dempster, on a curve, 40 miles to the South, it's now 8:45, we've got no food or water or beer! "And what exactly do you mean the Road is closed, we've been on it all day!". "Ferries aren't running on the Peel or McKinzie rivers" he retorted, "that's why you probably didn't see any semis on the road today."

    Right. And I thought we'd just been kinda lucky on the traffic front.

    Stan took another swig and asked what we'd been doing nights to this point? "Camping" ... "Great", he said, "you can do it again tonight."

    So, Customer Service and general Yukon tourism isn't a really big thing at his repair shop.

    I pleaded to at least be able to buy gas, he grudgingly told one of the other patrons, who must have worked for him, to go unlock the office and let me buy some gas.

    As I left the bar, he told me to leave the tire/wheel out front and he'd get to it the next morning. I got my gas, left the tire/wheel leaning up against the door of the shop and headed South.

    This round trip had probably taken me over three hours, I eventually came on my panniers and spare gas cans on the side of the road, stopped and bolted them back on and rode down to my waiting Partners. I told them that I had good news and bad news, and that the bad news would involve camping somewhere around here.

    The guys took this all in stride, after all if we didn't want an adventure, we'd have gone golfing in Hilton Head or something.

    I walked down from the road... all roads are elevated at least 5 feet above the Tundra due to permafrost... and promptly sank down into deep moss. Like thigh deep moss. OK, no camping there. I scrambled back up to the road and suggested that we just pitch our tents in the Northbound lane. In the gravel. In what was of course, still broad daylight. We'd only seen a couple of vehicles all day, we'd just have to take our chances.

    Thomas and I went to work and soon had our stuff pitched and laid out, Fran, on the other hand, decided that this would be the night to sleep in his riding outfit in the road. In the Iron Butt circles this is known as the Iron Butt Motel. Whatever.. he laid down on the gravel, flipped his visor down and was soon dead to the world.

    Never one to pass a chance at a celebration of the moment, Thomas and I got our camping chairs out, lit cigars and watched the Midnight sun move laterally above the horizon, all the while working on our tans.

    Tomorrow I'd get the repaired tire back, mount it, we'd get breakfast in Eagle Plains and figure out what to do since the plans to get to Inuvik were dashed, by the fact that the ferries weren't running due to house sized ice floes floating down river and out to the Arctic Ocean.

    Wrong again. Things were to get really, really pear shaped, really, really soon.

    Last edited by Beemer01; 08-13-2019 at 06:30 PM.

  9. #24
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  10. #25
    Registered User Beemer01's Avatar
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    Chicago, Ill

    Day Nine ? Disaster on the Dempster

    Sleeping on pointy gravel with an air mattress that either was still leaking, or had developed new holes just isn't a great idea. I rolled over on the gravel, unzipped my tent and crawled out onto the Dempster.


    Fran was decidedly cranky, evidently sleeping directly on the gravel, even in your riding suit and helmet is an even worse idea. I checked my watch and suited up, may as well get heading back to Eagle Plains and hope against hope that Stan had gotten to the flat and had been able to repair it.

    Thomas rolled out of his tent and commented on the constant wind that had picked up during the night... especially evident on this high ridge. Dust and grit blew up from the gravel as I pointed myself North for the 42 mile ride.

    I arrived in Eagle Plain and was pleased to find that the tire was fixed and remounted - Stan indicated that a second hole was punched through the TCK 80 tire and that he'd fixed it with an internal truck tire patch. I paid him, topped off my tank, strapped the tire and wheel assembly to the back of my bike and rode back to my stranded colleagues. When I arrived, I saw that they had optimistically packed up their tents and gear. I unstrapped the repaired tire and Thomas took it over to install it on his bike.

    I packed up my kit and pointed my bike back North as Thomas finished the reassembly of his bike. We all thumbed our starters and resumed our trek North on the unforgiving Dempster Highway. Today's gusty prevailing wind picked up and up and made riding in the gravel even more fun, but at least the dust that we kicked up was almost immediately blown off to the stunted forests to the East so we didn't have to breath it in.

    We pulled into Eagle Plains in the late morning and went directly to the restaurant, since we hadn't eaten much beyond almonds and dried fruit for a day or so. Surprisingly the food there is really good, the head chef is a master at working with what he has at hand to create appealing meals... quite an improvement over the Chinese-Western restaurants we'd encountered earlier.

    Our schedule had picked up a day with Inuvik being inaccessible, so we went over to the camping area at the North end of the parking area and pitched our tents. The wind had risen to probably 40-50 MPH.. the tattered flags that flew from the Eagle Plains main building were snapping in the gale. Tent pitching was challenging.. everything had to be double staked and anchored by additional weight. I noted very large bear footprints around the area I'd selected for my tent. We walked back to the Lodge at Eagle Plains and paid a few bucks to use their hot showers... what a luxury... the dust and grit washed off and I felt almost human again.

    I noted that the Lodge dogs worked as a team in trying to hunt to Snowshoe Hares that hung around the edges of the property.. they had a Golden Retriever mix and a large German Shepherd that unsuccessfully tried to double team the rabbits, with no success that I observed. One of the workers at the Lodge commented that they lose dogs to bears every year when they get excited and head deep into the bush chasing these Hares.


    It was probably late afternoon when we decided to ride the 20 or so miles up to the Canadian Arctic Circle for the requisite photo ops. We headed North and within eight miles or so Thomas radioed that his bike felt odd.

    Fran and I rode back to do a check.. another flat? Cracked frame?

    We worked together and put Thomas' bike up on the center stand and immediately found the problem. And we were stunned he'd made it this far. When he had replaced the wheel assembly back South on the Dempster the threaded holes in the mounting flange had evidently collected some of the stone grit and dust that had been blowing for the past 24 hours. (We hadn't put the mounting bolts back in place, leaving them in a magnetic dish next to the bike). The grit and dust created a situation where the bolts when threaded in wouldn't go all the way... Tom hadn't realized this, cranked 'em in to what felt like the normal torque specs and had ridden, with the bolts only 2/3 of the way in. That rear wheel probably had 3/4" of play as it rocked on these firmly torqued, but only partially installed bolts. The threads were shot on the back half of each bolt and the threads on the front end weren't much better.

    And while we weren't quite at the end of the world, we could nearly see it from this spot on the dusty road.

    We futzed and tried to clean the holes in the flange, tried to lubricate our way in, tried about everything we could think of. No way... and if we tried any more pressure with a cheater bar, Fran was concerned that we'd break off a bolt.... then our fate would be sealed.

    I rode back to Eagle Plains and found Stan back in his shop and tried to explain the situation. What I really needed was a NAPA store or a Snap-On Truck to buy a metric tap and die set to try and correct the threads and clean the flange holes. The repair shop at Eagle Plains here caters to the occasional errant tourist and mostly the heavy trucks that ply this highway when the ferries are open or the rivers are frozen. Not a good place to find metric stuff in general. Stan was helpful, kinda, and we did go thru his mechanic's tool boxes, but nothing even close was found.

    We are now officially F***ed.

    I rode back with a handful of washers that I thought might be useful in filling the gap created by the buggered threads. Fran took over this problem and using the washers tried to fix the wheel firmly enough to the mounting flange that Thomas could at least ride it back to the safety of our tents staked, and hopefully still there, on that high Eagle Plains Ridge.

    Thomas turned around and Fran and I went on to the Arctic Circle marker for the requisite photo ops and for Fran to spread the ashes of some loved ones. Of course I dropped my bike on the severely off camber parking lot area and broke my turn signal lens. Grrr.

    I got the pictures and we turned around and headed back, hopefully to catch up with Thomas back in our parking lot camp.

    No such luck.

    Perhaps a mile beyond where we had left him, we found his RT lying on its side, the rear wheel had fallen off, he sensed the imminent disaster and brought his already low speed down before the wheel separated from the mount, the bolts went flying and he slewed to a stop and dropped the bike on its side in the deep gravel.

    His Satellite phone was out and deployed as he tried to think of what possible combination of solutions actually existed for him at this point. There weren't that many.

    Fran and I stopped and we all got his bike up on the center stand in the middle of the dusty road. We walked back and retrieved what bolts we could find in the gravel and dust... when we got to three I declared victory.

    Fran drew the short straw and was sent back to Eagle Plains to find Stan, presumably in the bar. Within an hour we saw the dust plume of Fran returning in Stan's pickup truck. Fran explained that tomorrow we could use Stan's truck and trailer to bring the bike back, but currently the trailer was full of debris and junk and we?d have to drive it to the dump in the morning, so it could be used to accept the bike.

    Stan told us to just leave the bike where it was, it'd be fine.

    Is anyone following this? This is not exactly AAA service. I felt like we were becoming citizens of Eagle Plains Lodge and would soon be in a Northern Exposure episode.

    We left Thomas' bike in the middle of the gravel road for the evening and Fran and Tom rode back in silence. WTF were our options right now?
    I rode back trying to think of what options there actually were to consider? We had an unridable bike requiring parts that were probably not available anywhere outside of the Big Cities of the US...and we were hundreds of miles from the nearest paved road.

    Of course to make this more interesting, land line phone service at Eagle Plains now mysteriously vanished, though their internet signal continued. Thomas went to work, texting his wife who was down in Florida... she in turn called the RCMP (The Mounties), AAA, the BMW Roadside Assistance team and did Google searches for assistance.

    I, on the other hand went to find a cold beer.

    This circus went on for the afternoon, with Carolyn trying to explain to potential service providers where Eagle Plains actually was.. the only ones who knew were the Mounties.. and predictably they were of no help. They might always get their man, but a dead bike, forget about it.

    After several beers I found Thomas and we began to list our options. All were bad. Absent the right tools to actually fix the threads on the bolts, they were toast. Given the conditions we'd faced on the way up, I didn't think a non-BMW, non-hardened bolt could be trusted to take the battering, so that option was out. We'd have to get new bolts and perhaps a new mounting flange.

    Calls to the BMW Dealer in Alaska were pretty much useless, they didn't have these parts and would have to order them.

    Thomas called a BMW shop back in the States, and the best they could do would be to overnight the pieces.. but there were essentially no options to get them from the nearest town, Dawson City, 300 miles up the Dempster to Eagle Plains. The Manager at the restaurant thought that if we were lucky it'd take a week to arrive.

    Tom's wife in the meantime had found a towing service in Dawson City... but he'd only consider the job if paid cash... and we're talking $1200.

    More beer seemed to be a good answer at this point...we wound up drinking in the bar, chatting up some South Africans on an adventure, making friends with the dogs who had the run of the place and watching the midnight sun. At some point I made my way back to my tent, only to find it hanging on by a single tent stake as the gusty winds continued unabated.

    What to do?
    Last edited by Beemer01; 08-13-2019 at 06:43 PM.

  11. #26
    Registered User Beemer01's Avatar
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    Chicago, Ill

    Day Ten Decisions

    We rolled out of our tents early and walked over for breakfast and food. Fran found Stan and was given the keys to his truck and the open bed trailer loaded with debris and trash.. we piled into the truck and went off to find the dump he'd mentioned so we could unload the trailer, so we could retrieve the bike. The dump was located eventually and we found the center of it surrounded by a high voltage fence to keep the bears at bay. Somehow Fran backed the rig up and we proceeded to add to the piles of trash and junk, being careful not to get close to that fence!

    Mission accomplished, we drove back to the waiting Beemer. I suggested that we find at least a couple of the bolts in the gravel and remount the rear wheel onto the bike so we could at least power it up onto the trailer. That seemed to be the best idea, so we got that done and strapped the RT down for the rough ride back.

    I was worried enough about our strapping job that I rode shotgun with the bike on the trailer back to the repair shop.

    We unloaded the bike and I was able to get it into the empty shop, rear wheel flopping around.

    We then returned to the restaurant to discuss our options. Thomas had decided to call this guy in Dawson City to drive up, get the bike and to drive back down to the land of paved roads. I thought he'd be better off ordering the parts, getting them up here by hook or crook - and replacing them himself.

    Thomas is quite deadly with a wide variety of scary military weapons, but at this point he had lost any self confidence in repairing the bike. And none of us thought the Stan had any interest, period.

    As I said early on, we'd decided that in the event of an unridable bike or a serious injury the obligation of the surviving riders would be to get the unlucky guy to a safe place where he had options and the ride would go on.

    So we did. And it was a tough and emotional decision to leave Tom and his bike at the Arctic Circle.

    As far as we all knew, Tom's ride back to civilization would be arriving later that afternoon to get him down to Dawson City, where his driver knew a guy with a motorcycle shop who might be able to help. We all promised to stay in touch via text and phone and reconnect somehow in a few days if at all possible.

    Little of that proved to be true.

    For Fran and me, the ride down the Dempster was easier than the ride up. For whatever reason the gravel had settled and even compacted and the ride was less hair raising. The scenery Southbound is even more breathtaking than it was Northbound.

    Earlier I mentioned that there were Caribou remains on the sides of the road on some of the high ridges we rode, I stopped and picked up a passenger, Cari-Boo, and strapped her to my side pannier. The Caribou was probably a victim of a wolf pack or a Semi. The wind and weather had done a pretty good job of curing this hide, and Carri seemed to enjoy the change of scenery.

    We hooked up at the bottom of the road, refueled and rode into Dawson City. Up here words like 'Highway' and 'City' need to be taken with a grain of salt, Dawson City is an old gold mining town with authentic structures and genuine piles of rock left over from the first gold rush up here. Perhaps 800 people actually live here.

    The streets aren't paved with gold, actually they aren't paved at all. We found a cute touristy cafe and had dinner and regaled the couple next to us with our stories of daring exploits. Eventually we departed and took our completely filthy bikes to the ferry boat across the Yukon River. The Yukon River runs so fast that they keep giant piles of gravel and Cat dozers on each side so they can rebuild the gravel ramps to the ferry several times each day. It's a never ending battle with the rushing waters of the river.

    We camped in the public campground on the other side where I succeeded in dropping my bike not once but twice on the soft dirt in our campsite. I eventually gave up and parked it on the access road.

    I checked my texts... no word from Thomas.

    As I went down to my bike, a guy in a huge Ford pickup slowed down to chat. He'd just come from Alaska across the road we'd be on tomorrow morning. He warned that the gravel on the West side of the Customs station was really bad, and that there were quite a few cars and trucks with flats. I nodded, assured in the knowledge that we'd already been through the worst possible roads.

    Last edited by Beemer01; 08-25-2015 at 05:29 PM.

  12. #27
    Registered User Beemer01's Avatar
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    Chicago, Ill

    Day Eleven. Top of the World to Fairbanks AK.

    Believe it or not we were still on schedule because parts of our trip had been clipped due to the non-running ferries to Inuvik. We rolled early, sans coffee, and rode across the famous Top of the World highway. Up, up and up we rode into the swirling clouds and muddy gravelly roads. unlike my 2009 trip, I was actually able to occasionally see some of the legendary views this time. No guard rails, no pavement for the most part, this road demands your full attention.

    Soon enough we showed up at the Poker Creek Customs office, only to find it not open yet. Yep, I'd forgotten that we are now entering the Alaska Time Zone. We chilled out for 25 minutes or so, I mentioned to Fran that he should ask for the Passport stamp pictured below. I've had fun with my stamp in other parts of the world, famously stoic European Customs Agents crack a smile whenever they see it.

    We crossed into Alaska and the road that the guy had mentioned last night was before us. There was a rental motorhome on the side of the road with a blown front tire, and the driver looking pretty distressed as he surveyed the damage. The gravel this time was indeed big.. mostly fist sized... and freshly dynamited out of whatever mountain was being mined. My bike bounced around and my arms and legs took a beating as we hammered our way through this mess...I honestly think it ran for five miles or so. I observed another pickup abandoned on the North side of the road with not one but two shredded tires.

    I'll bet the Alaska DOT got a few calls and letters about this 'road'. And any help was gonna be a long ways away.

    We arrived in Chicken, Alaska and had our rather delayed morning coffee... I deviated from my normal pattern and had a frosted roll from the shop with my coffee. Mmmmm. For those who have not been there, Chicken, Alaska consists of three ramshackle buildings with an outhouse at the end. Famous for their coffee and baked goods, for many of the foreign and elderly tour bus tourists this is the very height of their Alaska adventure... kinda the end of the road up from Fairbanks for busses. We just pass thru.

    I've always liked this little sign they have posted on the wall. The dog is long gone, but the rest stays pretty true.

    No further drama as we went down to Fairbanks, we did encounter a local rider who guided us right to the University of Alaska Student Housing Building where I got us registered. We thought we'd be three at this point, so I had reserved a Student Housing Condo that comfortably slept four people, as always I appreciated the hot showers and free laundry. The rate is competitive or lower than commercial lodging options.. and did I mention the free laundry?

    Fran and I ordered in a pizza and washed it down with Root Beer. No word from Thomas.

    We had unpacked our gear from the bikes as tomorrow we'd be doing a two day round trip on the Dalton Highway, also known as the Haul Road to Deadhorse where we'd be lodging in one of the commercial establishments there... extra weight on the Haul Road is a bad thing at every level. We stowed the gear in a closet, taking only the bare minimum needed to survive the 1000 mile trip on the gravel and crap on the Dalton. The last time I headed over I encountered a serious blizzard on the Atigun pass over the Brooks Range with calf deep snow over the gravel, and avalanche warnings, so you can be sure that I packed every bit of heated gear in my kit.

    In early June, you just don't know what to expect up changes day by day and even hour by hour.

    I did assure Fran that the Haul road is over rated, and except for the blizzards on Atigun Pass, is usually easier that the Dempster. Fingers crossed. Someone had asked if the cast alloy wheels stood up to the beating - here is a picture of Fran repairing a bent rim incurred after that stretch West of the Custom's office at Poker Creek... the flat end of a hatchet worked pretty well.

    I did note when Fran was pounding out that bent rim that his Auxillary Fuel Cell seemed to have taken some further damage on that last stretch of highway. He still didn't seem concerned.

    Oh Boy.
    Last edited by Beemer01; 11-25-2014 at 06:37 PM.

  13. #28
    Registered User Beemer01's Avatar
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    Day Twelve, The Haul Road aka The Dalton Highway

    We rolled out of bed early, rebalanced our bikes, now freed of a lot of weight, and headed North. I will note that it gets pretty hard for even me to get lost here as the number of options for roads is decreasing steadily as we gained latitude.

    Eventually it gets down to one road.. The Dalton Highway.

    I did muff the refueling on the way up requiring that we double back about 15 miles to the gas station/cafe on the paved road heading up. There the credit card reader was out, so we paid cash for our fuel...while standing around we noticed a RV full of Japanese businessmen that was getting their propane tank topped off.

    (REMEMBER, if heading up the Dalton, stop at Hilltop Gas/Truckstop for fuel, the next fuel option is in Coldfoot- quite a ways up the road!)
    Fran did a wonderful job of engaging the Japanese guys in limited conversation and gestures; they loved getting their pictures taken with us with our filthy and bedraggled motorcycles. I think. Or perhaps they were just humoring us.

    One thing I noted, compared to 2009, there were a LOT more motorcycles on the Haul Road. In 2009 at roughly the same time of year I saw three bikes, including mine. This trip I saw literally dozens as everyone puts the Dalton on their bucket list. The truckers feel, justifiably, that THEY own this road... not the motorcyclists. This occasionally leads to 'discussions' on road etiquette.

    When an oncoming truck approaches I slow to a near walking pace if I can. If the trucker does the same - and they often do - this saves a lot of shattered lights, visors and so forth since these trucks tend to throw up stones. These folks are paid by the load, so doing this costs them time. I always appreciated the gesture and waved my thanks.

    The Southern end of the Dalton is loaded with long steep grades, if recently treated with Calcium Chloride these grades become torturous runs... wet freshly treated roads are as slick as whale snot. You don't stop, you don't turn and just try to pick your line and pray that your good tires will work to keep you upright. And that the treated section ends quickly.

    A few weeks after we went through I understand that a father and son team on a HD had a pretty serious accident on the Dalton that involved a Medivac extraction. Any bike can be ridden anywhere, but please think twice before taking a street bike with street tires onto any of these roads. You are endangering yourself and when you crash, you snarl up everything. It's not like there is a lot of traffic up there, but there are heavy trucks with schedules to keep.

    End of lecture.

    We rode through to Coldfoot, refueled and topped off our tanks and fuel cans and headed over Atigun Pass. Clear and easy this time, we made great time onto the high plateau to the North. There the road conditions started to degrade... the road crews were obviously working hard to repair the winter damage, but we were pretty early in the season. There were more than a few areas of severely washboarded and pot holed road, where everything was shaken and stirred. Those parts were fine, it was the downhill grades with fresh Calcium Chloride where it got interesting. At one section, I slowed down gradually and over the Sena Bluetooth I heard Fran screaming "Don't Stop, Don't Stop!!" Evidently that rear car tire didn't offer much on stopping ability on slick surfaces.

    I let him go ahead and he kept up a good pace. Until I came over a ride and found him with his bike on the side of the road...his Auxillary fuel container had ripped itself off and fallen to the gravel road, splitting wide open in the process and spilling three gallons of gasoline. Yep, these are rough roads.

    Fran put the ruined cell back onto the rack (that was still being held in place by magical forces beyond my comprehension) and tied it down with rope or duct tape or something and we continued.

    I thought he'd have enough fuel to make Deadhorse, but I wasn't sure. 'Turns out he was in better shape than I was in this category.

    As we rode North following the pipeline the road conditions varied from great to awful and back again. We finally arrived in Deadhorse enshrouded in ice fog blowing in off the Beaumont Sea. 29 Degrees F felt really, really cold. Normally you can see Deadhorse from 25 miles away ... not this day.

    I looked for the Arctic Caribou Inn - run by the very capable Isabella - but discovered it was no more. We wound up taking rooms in another establishment with identical architecture (Prefab sections placed on elevated platforms and bolted together).

    We had a very late makeshift dinner in the cafeteria, looked like we just missed the 'formal' dinner hour...but no worries. They ALWAYS have food available 24/7. Something can be found.

    When we had checked we noticed two women who had obviously ridden up, probably just after we arrived. When we wandered into the cafeteria Fran immediately saw them and sat us down next to them. Remember my earlier comments about Fran being an improbable Chick Magnet? Within a few minutes we were all best friends... Nancy and her friend had ridden up from Fairbanks - Nancy and her husband operate a motorcycle rental/Alaska Tours business out of Anchorage called Rent Alaska - where they rent a range of motorcycles to folks for their Alaska adventures. Nancy's friend agreed to accompany Nancy for this mini-adventure ... Nancy was taking stock of the Haul Road and taking hundreds of pictures that will eventually wind up on their website.

    We recounted our misadventures on the Dempster and Nancy said that Rent Alaska has the caveat on their website;

    ** Absolutely no riding or travel on our rental motorcycles on or to:
    ~~~ DEMPSTER Highway to Inuvik, Northwest Territories
    ~~~ CANOL Road in Northwest Territories

    Yep. They'd had a customer crash on the Dempster and it took her personally driving the 700 or so miles up from Anchorage to retrieve the ruined bike and injured rider. Anyone want to guess her actual costs per mile? A lot. As we had discovered there are few options for repair up there.

    Since there is no alcohol served up in Deadhorse, I decided to call it a night, leaving those two lovely ladies to Fran's diabolical schemes. No actually, he means no harm. Really.
    Last edited by Beemer01; 11-25-2014 at 06:44 PM.

  14. #29
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    Day Thirteen ? Deadhorse back to Fairbanks

    We rolled early, but with round the clock daylight it's always a little hard to tell. We had a good grease laden breakfast something involving eggs, cheese and hashbrowns served with a ladle and washed it down with coffee.

    Everything in Deadhorse is always either mud, snow or dust. There must be moments when you can walk outside without getting your feet filthy, but as in life, timing is everything. Fran wanted to get a picture of us in front of the Hotel's sign, so we positioned our bikes and asked strangers to get our posed pictures. Along comes the lone policeman in Deadhorse in his 4x4 cruiser, amused by our antics and frankly intrigued by the fact that we'd ridden so far.

    Fran's daughter is a police officer with the Illinois Highway Patrol, and he carries a number of her picture cards - kinda like baseball cards for situations just like this. He traded this card for one of the officer's cards.... the policeman had some great stories about the types of people he winds up dealing with up here. There are a few every year who seem to wind up here with no money, no vehicle and no prospects.

    He told a story about an older guy who rode his Harley up and by the time he made Deadhorse he was so freaked after repeatedly dropping and crashing the bike, that he spent days trying to find anyone who would strap the bike to a trailer so he could fly back to the land of paved roads.

    We got our pictures and asked the policeman if there was a store where we could buy a few things, like replacement batteries for my Spot transponder. He started giving directions... roads in Deadhorse are poorly marked and confusing... he eventually just gave up and told us to follow him over to the store. Which has about everything. We got our batteries, I got a few more five hour energy drinks and we left, only to find a whole group of riders from California outside also looking to top off their kits.
    Darn Motorcyclists... they seem to be everywhere! Note - in 2009 I saw very few women up here - and the women I saw looked pretty rough around the edges - -70 and high winds will do that to your face. This time I saw quite a few attractive young ladies working in the trades. Evidently attempts at establishing a more diverse population and the fact that the pay is very, very good is working....for the better!

    I was amused by some of the local tradespeople taking OUR pictures.... they just fly in, they can't imagine riding a motorcycle up. (Reality check, there are people who ride their bicycles up and back ... what we did was nothing) Some of the guys told me that under one of the buildings there a Grizzly bear had built a den and would be seen around town occasionally.


    An Oil Field service boat in dry dock - probably a few weeks from being launched for its summer chores

    Fran headed out to find gas, and my bike wouldn't start. Bingo on fuel. Nothing. The irony of being out of fuel in the oil capital of Alaska isn't lost on me. I drained the final drops from one of my extra fuel cans and was directed off to one of two refueling stations up there open to the public. These are darned hard to find, in what is essentially just a large dusty/muddy/snowy industrial park at the end of the world. I did find it... only to discover that I'd completely lost Fran.

    'Took me probably 30 minutes to find him, you wouldn't think it'd be that hard.

    He'd gone to the other fueling station. Anyhow, we headed out, a little late and he told me over the Bluetooth that the ladies we met last night would be spending the night at our U of A Condo. 'Works for me ... not like I had any cleaning to do before they arrived.

    As always, the road back was seemingly a different road than the ride up. But it was still 500 miles, and it was still darned cold. I wore both my heated jacket liner and my heated gloves AND cranked the heated grips up to stun.

    Surprisingly, and disappointingly, I didn't see as many Caribou as in 2009 and saw no Musk Oxen... which are by themselves worth the trip! No unusual drama, sections that yesterday were flooded with slippery Calcium Chloride were today set up and dry, some severely potholed parts were regraded and some were recently flooded over and slick, but thankfully not on extreme grades (Some of the Haul Road grades are close to 8% - which is quite steep).

    I didn't see Fran's girlfriends either, so who knows?

    We eventually arrived back in Fairbanks, our bikes and riding gear suitably coated with mud and calcium chloride. I think we ordered in a pizza again... Nancy and her friend called about 11:00... and asked if the deal to share the condo was still on? I assured them that they were welcome and started to provide directions, but Nancy's daughter had lived in these condos when she was in college, so she knew the spot.

    I don't think we'd left any pizza for them, but they came with beer (note for any non-motorcycing readers, stopping to buy beer and then carrying said beer on your fully loaded motorcycle is a neat trick.)

    We spent an hour or so chatting about the ride, the road and the Motorcycle rental company Nancy and her Husband operate. 'Seems like an interesting business, but they have to make 12 months revenue in just four months.

    I suggested that Nancy and her husband do a write-up on how to ride gravel roads and then publish it on their website, since I've never seen a good one...and that's what their customers are renting the bikes for in most cases.

    We turned in, pulled the room darkening shades down and dozed off. For Fran and me tomorrow would include riding the famous Denali Highway and then following the rest of the Pipeline down to Valdez!

    Well, that was the plan anyhow.

    Still no word from Thomas. I tried to call his cell - no answer, or the call didn't go thru............ where was he?
    Last edited by Beemer01; 08-28-2014 at 02:42 PM.

  15. #30
    Registered User Beemer01's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Chicago, Ill

    Just a reach out?

    Is anyone reading this? Should I keep writing it??

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