Sunday, July 26, 2009

AK '09 - Day 36

The last day of the trip and I over slept. Last night I had forgot to turn my phone service on instead of just powering up the pda portion of the phone. Actually I had gone the past 4 days without cell service and started liking it. Luckily mother-nature kicked in and I woke up at 5:30 and noticed the time. I scrambled out of bed to get a shower while Reagan rushed to pack. Somehow we managed to get everything packed, loaded and walked down to breakfast at 6:05. She was right, I did like the fluffy bed at the Hampton Inn.

Reagan wanted to take the first shift as rider so I hopped on back and we headed out of town on Hwy 62 south. It was early in the morning and the sun was just starting to rise so John kept the pace slow to watch for deer. And deer we saw, too. We even saw a confused calf that was trying to figure out how to get back to the other side of the fence.

One thing about today, it was hot when we started. The wind was blowing and it was already 77 degrees. So much for the cool, refreshing days I had experienced only days before. So we continued down 62 to Hamilton where we stopped for a restroom break. It was a good chance to stretch my legs too. John and I figured the next stop would be just south of Abilene to fuel up and pick up a lost mug of Fred's.

As we rode into Abilene, John's GPS went on the fritz and we had to do a u-turn. In doing so we go separated so Reagan and I resumed the route as it showed on the Zumo. After we passed the airport on Hwy 36 south we started looking for a gas station 7 miles down the road. There was no gas station to be found so we didn't stop. Unfortuntately we didn't have much gas left and we began to wonder if we'd make it to Cross Plains or not. We pushed on, and luckily we made it with 0.8 gallons of gas left. Jphn and Lydia had caught up to us a few miles south of Abilene.

With a full tank of gas and restroom breaks taken, I took the rider seat for a while. The route was simple, from Abilene we were taking Hwy 36 south to Rosenberg. The road was straight and the scenery boring compared the wonders I'd seen over the past month. Plus with the high temperatures it was just a ride to get done.

We stopped along the way for a restroom break and then finally stopped in Cameron for lunch and fuel at the Shell station on the south side of town. There was a BBQ joint attached to it and they actually served pretty decent 'Q. It's not ride worthy like Snow's in Lexington but it's not bad for a person who has been away from Texas BBQ for a month.

Reagan took the rider's seat after lunch so I sat on the back and listen to the Nascar race. By now it was 104 degrees outside. We had 2 hours of riding left and it was just a matter of toughing it out. The seat was truely a pain in my butt, but we were almost home.

In Bellville, John stopped at the Shell to get some fluids and I took the chance to hit the restroom. I didn't realize I had been drinking so much water. But later Reagan informed me that I had drank almost all of the 3 liter camelback on the back of the bike. Ooops, if I had known I would have bought more water at the Shell.

I took over for the last stretch to the house as Reagan was hot and wanted to share the driving duties with me. She had pretty much driven more than half the day already. So I hopped in the rider seat and we took off on 36. I'm not for sure if we got bad gas in Cameron or if there's a tuning issue with the lower altitude but I noticed a slight sputter after leaving Bellville. I plan to run some premium through it and talk to the dealership to see if there's any computer changes that are necessary.

So we trudged down Hwy 36 until we got to the Spur 10 and took that over to Hwy 59. Then it was north a short ways before exiting for the house and finally pulling into our driveway again. It took 2 bikes, and 36 days but I had traveled over 13,000 miles of the country with very little back tracking on the same roads.

After figuring out how to fit the Spyder in the garage (will have to clean out more to fit the GS in there too) we unpacked and got our showers. It was nice to pick clothes out of my dresser instead of a bag, and it was nice to take a shower in my own bathroom.

We went to dinner at Gringos and found ourselves in the bar as there was space available and we wanted cold beer. Well the beer wasn't cold enough but the bartender was helpful. After we ordered it sort of started getting crowded with people of african ethnicity and self entitlement issues. Reagan and I both came to the same conclusion, neither one of us like Houston any more. It's too darn crowded and we're talking about the suburbs. Jobs are keeping us here for now but that won't be forever.

In the next few days, after the flood of whailing and requests from my clients subside, I plan to write a recap about what stuff I took, what worked, what didn't, what I will do different next time (yes I'm going back to Prudhoe bay) and general numbers about the trip. At some point in the next month or so I'll also post the resolution of the GS transmission failure and it's outcome. Since Reagan and I are already planning a Big Bend trip in October I'm hoping to have it back before then so I can put things back together. Otherwise, I'm going to really have an iron butt after riding that little Savage out there and back.

It's good to be home, even if it's hot and crowded, my bed, my computer and all my junk is here. I'm home!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

AK '09 - Day 35

The last full day on the road, tomorrow night I'll be sleeping in my own bed. But I'm getting ahead of myself, I need to talk about today.

Since we had 518 miles to go, we decided to get an early start. The plan was to leave by 6am, we were pulling out of the gas station at 6:01. Not bad.

I took the first shift as rider because I was concerned about deer. We left town on Hwy 50 and then turned south onto Hwy 69. The road had plenty of twists and turns in it as we worked our way between mountains. It was also very comfortable as the temperature was in the mid 50s.

We stopped in Westcliffe for breakfast, and although it was 7am no one seemed to be open. Luckily we found a little bakery that was open and enjoyed a great breakfast of baked goods. While eating outside we talked to a few folks and it became apparent that we had chosen the right place to stop as the place was beginning to get busier the longer we stayed.

Reagan took over as the rider after breakfast and we headed out of town on Hwy 69 after making a quick pit stop at the gas station. The temperature was rising, after breakfast we were already into the 70's I knew it was only going to get hotter as we went south. The ride was uneventful except for the Antelope and Bucks that we saw along the road side. The farther south we went the fewer mountains we saw.

At Walsen we hopped on I-25 continuing our journey south. We crossed the New Mexico state line with Reagan in the rider's seat. Then in Raton we took Hwy 64 east and left the interstate behind. We stopped in Clayton at the DQ and had an early lunch. Warning, if you order the crispy chicken wraps for $1.49 be sure to get 2 or 3. One is just a snack.

After lunch I took the rider's seat as we continued on 64. We crossed into Texas at Texline and I was finally back in my home state after 35 days. Woohoo! But then I realized I was in the panhandle area where the roads are straight, the wind is steady and the air smells of feed lots.

We trudged down the road until we got to Vega where we stopped for gas. Then we picked up I-40 east through Amarillo. Then south on 287 toward Childress. In Amarillo it was 100 degrees and when we finally stopped for a break at the rest area 30 miles west of Childress it was 104 degrees.

After a rest room break, bottled water break and soaking up some A/C we headed back out to the bikes. With 30 miles to go we pressed on. The temperature rose to 105 before we rolled into town. The Hampton was easy to spot, we pulled in and found some shade while the girls checked us in.

After unloading the bikes and having a drink, we walked across the street to a Mexican restaurant. It turns out the county just went wet and most places haven't gotten their liquor licenses yet. So there were no cervezas with dinner, but the food was ok and service wasn't bad. Afterwards we returned to our rooms and had another drink while we planned our next trip which is going to be out to Big Bend. Hopefully my GS will be ready by then, otherwise I might be on the little Savage while Reagan is her Spyder.

Today we went 518 miles in 10 hours. Tomorrow is going to be a little farther and there's a chance of rain in Houston. At least 97 degrees for a high doesn't sound as bad as 105. At the end of the day, I will be home and not having to worry about packing up the bike on Monday. That's what I'm looking forward to, but I will miss the adventure of travel that I have enjoyed for more than a month. I have to start figuring out how to do this more often.

Friday, July 24, 2009

AK '09 - Day 34

Last night I slept good and it was the alarm clock that woke me up. By now I'm on my normal morning routine. We were ready to go by 6:30. We went to the front office to check out the continental breakfast. There were no eggs for John so we went down the street to the 7-11 Ranch Restaurant where we had dinner the night before. Breakfast was good. By 7:30 we were ready to leave town.

We stopped for gas on the way out of town and then we left via US 40. Reagan took the rider seat so she could check off Utah and Colorado on her riding map. Temperatures were in the 70s and I knew they were going to rise as we continued south. The cool mornings were now a thing of the past.

We crossed into Colorado and turned south onto Hwy 64 at Dinosaur. The road got a little twisty and made things fun. Just before 10am CDT we pulled over so Reagan could get on a conference call. Unfortunately there was no cell service available so she kept the driver's seat and we continued on down the road. No conference call for her today.

At Meeker, we headed south on Hwy 13. We decided to stop in Rifle for fuel and a mid-morning snack. After getting fuel we went over to the Back Country cafe. Since it was 10:25 local time we could have had breakfast or lunch but I wasn't really that hungry. I had some hot tea and an apple pie a la mode. Yummmm! We met the owner who had made a 28 day motorcycle trip himself. He told us of his trip and how he ended up buying a house in Oregon. On the way out of the restaurant he asked us if we wanted to buy a ranch. It went right along with the story he told us. Before we got our gear on, he was out in the street talking to us some more and gave us some suggestions on our way down to Salida.

It was my turn to be the rider as we left town on I-70 east. We followed the Colorado River along I-70 for many miles. The view was fantastic.

We eventually turned onto Hwy 24 and I took the lead as we were getting into the twisities. Reagan and I got hung up behind a pickup truck for part of the way, until we could finally pass him. We stopped at the Pizza Hut in Leadville for lunch. Unfortunately when I went to the restroom, I found that someone had vomitted in the sink. That was enough for me to decide the place probably wasn't the wisest choice to eat. We went downtown and ate at a nice little cafe before continuing on toward Salida.

We turned onto Hwy 291 for the last 10 miles into Salida. It seemed like we came in the back way or something because we were driving through residential areas but eventually we got on the main drag and found the Super 8. We had arrived early enough to take a nap, the first one of the trip.

After a nap, and a drink, we walked over to the Country Bounty for dinner. Their menu was vast and their food was good. Then it was time to retire to the rooms and have a night cap.

Tomorrow we are planning to leave at 6am. We have 500 miles to cover in order to reach Childress, TX. This will be the longest day with the girls so far. But we have reservations at the Hampton Inn so there's something to look forward to.

BTW: I was successful in uploading my first YouTube video. It's of Reagan riding on Beartooth Highway after we stopped at Top of the World for lunch and gas.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

AK '09 - Day 33

Last night I didn't get to bed until almost midnight and I was up at 5am. I thought it was going to be a long day without much sleep. I did a little work as the internet connection had improved since last night and then we packed the bikes. By 6:30 we were heading out of the parking lot going south on Hwy 33.

Reagan took the rider's seat so I was chief photographer for our bike. Fortunately overnight they had swept the gravel road so travel was much easier and quicker. We stopped for gas in Victor, Idaho and then it seemed like we were across the state line going over the Teton Pass again. Reagan handled the pass with ease. Look out Valentino Rossi.

We rolled through Wilson and Jackson without finding a place for breakfast. We turned south onto US 26 and then US 189. Still nothing for breakfast, I thought our goose had been cooked. Finally in the middle of nowhere we found the Branding Iron cafe just south of Bondurant, WY. The waitress was wonderful and the food was good. We left there an hour and a quarter later with very full stomachs.

The route continued south on 189 with Reagan driving. We headed east on 191 toward Pinedale where we stopped at a Napa Auto Parts. John needed some coolant because he was a little low, thus causing his over-heating problem from the day before. While we were there we talked to local boys who told us about life in Pinedale and quizzed us about the Spyder. They actually leave the keys in their boats and recreational vehicles. It's a different life than in Texas, that's for sure.

We continued on 191 to Rocksprings where we stopped at the Flyin' J for fuel and food. Since I was still stuffed from breakfast I just had a bowl of fruit and several glasses of iced tea. With 200 miles on the trip odometer for the day, Reagan opted to let me drive the last leg of the trip.

We hopped on I-80 west over to 530 south. We were following the west side of the Flaming Gorge Recreational Area. At first it was just some mountains and large hills. Then we turned south on 44 in Manila and we actually entered into the rec area. We found the beauty of the gorge, and we found some great twisties too. There are some fun switchbacks going up and there are some fun switchbacks coming down. Don't forget to take time to see the views at the scenic lookouts.

We picked up 191 going south again and rode through a phospate mining operation. And we found more twisties. The only problem was the large truck that was going less than 10mph but once we got around him it was fun again.

Finally we rolled into Vernal, UT and checked into the Best Western Dinosaur. It's a great place with nice rooms and a maintenance guy who is really into motorcycles. He hooked us up on ice for the beer and told us where to eat dinner that was within walking distance.

After we unloaded the bikes, Reagan and I headed to Walgreens and Radio Shack for some stuff. It was a very pleasant experience to be in a town with familiar stores and friendly people. Maybe this could be our summer home :)

Upon our return, we had a few drinks and then walked to dinner. Service was good and the house special was a great value, it was a Fred dinner.  Afterwards, we waddled back to the hotel and sat around outside the room. Another great day on the road, with great friends.

Tomorrow we're heading to Colorado, then it's Childress, TX on Saturday and home on Sunday. The trip is winding down. The good part though is we are adding places to see on future trips and now future trips involve Reagan on her Spyder. This has really been a great trip.

BTW: I am trying to upload some videos of Reagan on the Spyder to YouTube but I've been bandwidth starved or I'm doing something wrong. If I don't get it done on the road, I'll definitely get it done when I get home.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

AK '09 - Day 32

Waking up at the Old Faithful Inn was a treat. When I looked out my window it appeared as though the ground was on fire with all of the steam rising from the geysers, springs and pools. The temperature had dropped after dark so it was really comfortable sleeping with just a fan.

We got up at 6 and went down to breakfast at 6:30. They offered a buffet and regular menu items. The buffet had French Toast but not much of anything else I wanted so I opted to just order French Toast with bacon and 2 fried eggs. Afterwards, we went back to our rooms to pack.

At 8:15 we met down at the bikes and got everything loaded up. Then we needed to run over to the visitor center for a stamp, and the gift shop for a t-shirt. Once that was done we went back to the bikes and got on the road. It was 9am when we pulled out of the parking lot.

We went up to Grand Prism spring to check it out. Unfortunately the cool morning air and the boiling water didn't make for a good combination. I think a warm breezy day would give you a better view of the spring. But it was amazing to watch as the steam rose in different colors.

We got back on the bikes to head out of the park via the south entrance. We had to back track a ways but eventually left the park. When we did, we found the mother of all construction delays which hung us up for 44 minutes. Welcome to Grand Teton National Park.

When we finally got through the construction we went down the road and stopped at the Jackson Lake Lodge for lunch. We had been told there was an amazing view in the restaurant and the food was great. The view was wonderful and the food was good. Portions were definitely plentiful.

We continued south through the park stopping at 2 other visitor centers to get passport stamps. The route we took basically kept us in the valley of the park. So it was hot, and since we were sort of limited on time we couldn't explore some of the higher elevation roads which would have taken us into the Tetons and back to my childhood memories. After leaving Yellowstone it was really just a travel day on slow roads with a few stops for stamps.

When we got to Jackson, WY we headed west on Hwy 22, the Teton Pass, as the name indicates we went over the mountains. The road was fun but heavily congested so it was just another road for much of it. I did manage to find a few curves devoid of traffic though.

22 took us into Idaho and onto Hwy 33 North toward Tetonia. We ran into more construction, this time they were spraying oil and spreading gravel. What a mess! Reagan and I were being pelted by gravel from the front wheels of the Spyder. But eventually we rode into Tetonia and found our motel. Check-in was easy, Reagan secured some ice, and I headed to do laundry in the RV park.

Dinner was questionable at first. The clerk recommended the only place in town but you never know what they consider to be "actually good food". After doing laundry we headed over to the North End Bar & Grill and had a surprisingly good dinner. There was only one waitress for the entire place but the food was good. If it would have been next door to the motel that would have been even better, but the short drive 3 or 4 blocks wasn't a problem.

Reagan didn't do much of the driving today. She took the seat between 2 visitor centers in the park, then gave it back to me as we were crossing Teton Pass and she wasn't up to trying something like that. Or so she said, I think she was just being nice and let me have the fun twisties of the pass. She's the best!

Tomorrow we have a longer day, 338 miles. That's longer because we've been riding around in parks. I expect the temperature to get warmer over the next 4 days too. I've gotten spoiled of low to mid 70's and that's going to quickly disappear. Today we climbed into the 80's. By Saturday we'll probably be happy to start out in the high 70s.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

AK '09 - Day 31

Note: I'm blogging from a bench in front of Old Faithful. It's a rough life but someone has to do it.

Today was going to be a long day in the park so we got an early start. We were all down at the bikes by 6:45 and at the Town Cafe by 7 with the bikes gassed up. Breakfast was good, we had the same waitress as before.

WAIT! There was some activity on the geyser. Nope.... just a primer I guess.

We finished breakfast and got on the bikes by 7:45. I got to be rider for the first part of the day. Reagan would take over after lunch, since it's her bike I was OK with that. We went through the gate and entered the park. The gate attendant actually examined my id and card carefully. Thank goodness my signature was close enough for her evaluation.

We passed through Mammoth Hot Springs....

HOLD ON THE GEYSER.... nope another false alarm....

so we stopped at the hot springs and walked around for a while. I really should have packed my range boots but I was trying to be weight conscious when packing for the trip. Next time, I'm bringing the hiking boots. So after we walked around the terraces, we realized we could ride to the top so we turned around and went back down.

HOLD ON THE GEYSER... nope another false alarm....

We rode up to the top only to find they had the main terrace loop road closed for maintenance. Really??? Don't they know the Walters are in the park? So we walked down a pathway and I got my first whiff of sulphur. Finally I was in Yellowstone.

We got back on the bikes and continued over to Norris Basin. The land looked like it was on fire. We pulled into park.


"It looks a lot smaller", was what I heard from a young lady in the crowd. Hmmmm, she apparently has some larger standards. It was pretty cool to watch. Hot water came blasting out of the ground for no reason. Cool!

So back to Norris Basin. We parked and walked into the basin. There was a bookstore where we got our passports stamped and then we walked along the trail for a ways. We saw Steamboat Geyser and a few other thermal features before returning to the bikes.

We resumed our ride through the park on the Grand Loop. We eventually stopped for a passport stamp and lunch in Canyon Village. Service was a little disappointing, maybe it was just that the waiter was from New York but he didn't really seem to care about his job or his customers. After lunch Reagan took over the rider duties and I assumed the co-rider seat.

We headed for Inspiration point, what a view. Then we looped back through the Canyon Village to head to Artist Paint Point. There are several other views of the canyon and the amazing falls but those will have to wait for another trip.

On that note, Reagan is really enjoying the rider's seat of her Spyder and there is already talk about future trips on the Spyder. The plan is to ride solo on our respective bikes and then use the Spyder for park touring. Not a bad plan. She certainly seems excited about her new ride.

So after the Yellowstone Canyon we headed over to Mud Volcano. There were so many bison along the way it just got ridiculous. They are as prevalant as cattle are in Texas. I even started calling them cows. Really I don't care to see another Bison. The Mud Volcano was cool as was the Dragons Breath spring. We were getting tired and the day was getting late so opted not to take the long walk around to see the other thermal features in the area.

The next stop was the Fisherman's Bridge visitor center for a passport stamp. We didn't stop at the Fisherman's bridge but the water was amazingly clear. Maybe next time we'll stop for a look.

The final planned stop of the day was at the west thumb basin to check out the thermal features and snag a passport stamp. Well we missed the visitor center by 10 minutes and decided to take the 1/4 mile loop to see some of the features. I found it interesting that some pools were crystal clear with amazing color while others were cloudy.

Reagan continued in the rider's seat all the way to Old Faithful. We stopped at the Continental Divide to snap a picture along the way. While there we ran into a blue and black Spyder. She left before I could snap a picture of the custom paint. It was a nice looking bike though.

We stopped for gas and then rolled up to the Old Faithful Inn to check in. Welcome to tourist hell. But if you are prepared it's a good thing. Check-in was relatively painless as Reagan had booked the rooms. John and Lydia were in an original room which meant they had a shared bathroom but an amazing view of Old Faithful. We were in the newer section which meant we had a bathroom but no great view.

As mentioned above, we saw the 8:01 eruption of Old Faithful. It was a few minutes late. Hot water blasting into the air is pretty cool to watch. Afterwards we walked around to find the visitor center which was closed. We had dinner reservations at 9:15 so I spent the free time writing this blog.

Tomorrow is a travel day, we are leaving the park but heading through the Tetons on our way to the hotel in Idaho. John mentioned something about the road into Idaho going over the Tetons and Reagan chimed in that I could take that part of the driving. But she's been doing so well she might change her mind once we get on the road. We'll see.

Monday, July 20, 2009

AK '09 - Day 30

This morning we slept in and didn't get started until 8 o'clock. Lydia had already gone down to the the lobby to discover that they didn't really have a good breakfast. But she did snag several packets of hot cocoa for our hot cocoa and Crown drinks. We decided to go down town to a cafe for breakfast. Reagan took the driver seat.

Breakfast was good, service was fair. Afterwards we mounted the bikes and I took the rider position as Reagan wanted to get some pictures. The plan was to go to Mammoth Hot Springs and then go east across the top of the Grand Loop to Tower Junction. The first sign of a challenge was when we had to wait in a line to get into the park.

When we got to Tower Junction I needed a bathroom break, then we headed north to Cook City. We ran into road construction along the way which resulted in a 20 minute break. Then we continued along on US 212 to Top of the World. We didn't stop but kept going to the scenic outlook which allowed us to see Beartooth pass before transcending it. Pictures were taken and then it was time to go down the pass. It was decided I'd go first to set the pace.

I pulled out of the overlook behind an SUV and took the first chance to pass them. I wanted to see what the Spyder would do and really pushed it. No matter what I did with the Spyder, it would stick to the road like we were on rails. I was the limiting factor in the corners, not the Spyder. The engine had lots of torque when I wanted to roll on and plenty of compression when I needed some engine breaking. It was great!

When I got to the bottom I found a pull out spot and turned around to wait for John and Lydia. They caught up just a few seconds after we turned around. Then we did the pass again, only this time we were climbing when entering the curves and the pace seemed a lot quicker. When I got to the top I found another pull out and waited. John and Lydia got hung up behind a SUV. Once I saw them, I pulled back out and continued along Beartoothe Highway toward Top of the World where we planned to get gas and lunch.

Reagan and I stopped off at the western summit to get an elevation photo, with a little effort we have a photo of the GPS reporting 11,000 feet on the pass. Woohoo! We continued heading toward Top of the World to catch up with John and Lydia since they passed us while we were getting our photo.

I pulled up to the gas pump and filled up. Then we found out there wasn't an actual restaurant there but they did have a gift shop/copnvenience store so we found crackers, cheese and salami. We went outside, sat down in some chairs and enjoyed a nice lunch with a great view.

After lunch, we geared up and proceeded to leave. Reagan decided she was going to be the rider for a while so I took the co-rider spot. The first thing she had to contend with was a little construction but that didn't slow her down a bit. She managed the construction just as easily as she managed the curves. She was finding her groove with this bike.

Meanwhile I was on the back snapping pictures and taking video. Here she is riding the Beartooth Highway. There's a video, but I can't seem to get it uploaded to YouTube.

We entered into the park again and speeds slowed down due to traffic. The decision was made to go to Tower Falls. We checked out the falls and then Reagan resumed the rider position. I figured I couldn't say much since she let me ride Beartooth pass in both directions and it is her bike. I did get to see some great scenery along the 90 miles of being a co-rider today and even managed to snap several photos along the way.

When we got back into Gardiner, we unmounted and went to the rooms. After a few toties, we walked across the street to a burger joint and enjoyed some really large burgers. I ate so much I was really uncomfortable. Afterwards, I walked to the liquor store to get some Crown and Moose Drool. Then we went back to the room for a little planning of tomorrow before calling it quits.

Reagan is rocking as the rider. I feel really comfortable in the co-rider position and it's nice to be able to swap out with her. Seeing the park on 3 wheels alleviates a few challenges on 2 wheels while still giving us the thrill of being on a motorcycle. I'm not ready to give up my GS, but it's a great way to see National Parks.

Tomorrow night I won't have internet as we are staying at the Old Faithful lodge. It's a small price to pay for getting to see Old Faithful late at night. I hope.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

AK '09 - Day 29

This morning we were supposed to be at the bikes at 7am. What was I thinking? We only had 175 miles to go and even with stops we getting there before noon. For some reason my brain wasn't working, it didn't dawn on me what time we'd get there. John suggested we try out the free breakfast since they had omelets and other breakfast items.

After breakfast we checked out and went to the bikes. It was 7:45 as we pulled out of the parking lot. Due to a GPS user-interface issue, we had a little issue getting out of town. Eventually we got out town on Hwy 287. In the sky there were lots of dark clouds and it looked as though we might get into some rain.

Some how we managed to avoid the rain for the most part as we snaked through the valleys between mountains. Eventually 287 took us to I-90 where we headed east. About 80 miles into the ride, my rear was bugging me so we stopped for a break. Afterwards we resumed our travels until we got to Hwy 89 in Livingston.

We headed south on 89 for the last 50 miles. Since it looked as though we were going to get into town before noon, Reagan and I talked about going into the park to get the park information packet and maybe checkout a visitor center. About 15 miles outside of town the rain briefly caught us as we rode through a mild sprinkle. Reagan noticed the oncoming traffic didn't have their wipers on so it was safe to assume the rain wouldn't last for long and it didn't.

The Super 8 was on the main road into town so it was easy to find. I went in to inquire about check-in time. The clerk said it wasn't until 4pm. We had 4 hours to kill and the rain looked like it was heading right for us. We left the hotel, fueled up, and went looking for a pharmacy. No luck on the pharmacy but since we were at the north gate to Yellowstone we went in to get the park information.

Once inside, we decided to head on into the park to Mammoth Visitor Center. I was hoping there would be a movie or 2 we could watch and pass the time. As luck would have it, the rain caught us before we got to the visitor center. Reagan and I were mostly dry on our top halves but the bottom halves got soaked thanks to the mesh pants. John and Lydia got soaked top and bottom with their mesh gear. We all thought we could beat the rain to the visitor center and we lost.

The visitor center was packed with people since it was raining and it was a free park fee weekend. But we did manage to get into the theatre and watched 2 movies about the park. They weren't the best movies I've seen on this trip, but I did get a little out of them and it helped to pass the time. Fortunately, the air conditioning wasn't doing too well or we might have been uncomfortable in our wet gear.

After the movies, we went outside to find the sky had cleared and the sun was out. We spread out our gear on the bikes and went across the street to the dining hall where we had a great lunch. In fact the service was probably some of the best service of the whole trip.

When we came out of lunch, mother nature had something different in mind. The sky had filled with dark clouds again and the sprinkles had returned. Since it was after 3 we headed back to town, being sure to stop at the 45th parallel for a photo op. John found a pharmacy so we stop so Reagan could get some things. John and Lydia went on to the convenience store for some Moose Drool, while I waited outside. The rain was coming.

With Reagan back on the bike, I hustled through town the 1/2 mile to the hotel. I went in hoping to check in early and the clerk was fine with it. In fact he probably would have let us check in an hour or 2 earlier. As we were checking in, the rain finally came. The girls went to the rooms, while John and I moved the bikes. It wasn't a hard rain but enough that you didn't want to stand out in it for long. Once we got the bikes unpacked it seemed like the rain stopped.

We sat around drinking some afternoon totties and enjoying some Moose Drool. Our totty of choice was hot cocoa and crown. Tip, skimp on the water, and be generous with the Crown. After some time we walked down to a pizza place claiming to be the best pizza in the west. It can keep it's claim, but what really surprised us was the incredible wait staff. While we were their they had several large parties come in and it didn't slow them down. Pretty much every table was full and service remained good.

As luck would have it, when we walked out of the restaurant it was starting to rain again. This was starting to become a theme. We tried to walk back and sought shelter in a nearby building. Finally the rain stopped and we walked to the hotel.

Tomorrow we go to Beartooth pass, and explore some of the northern part of the park. We are planning to start our day a little later, we are meeting downstairs at 8am to try their free breakfast.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

AK '09 - Day 28

Today was a new day because we had the girls, and Reagan and I needed to pack some things in John's trailer. So we were all up early and standing around the bikes at 6:30. It seemed like it took 2 seconds to pack up the trailer and we were done. Breakfast next door didn't start until 7 so we sat around in the hotel lobby drinking tea and coffee.

At 7 o'clock we went over to breakfast. The waitress wasn't used to working the morning service so she didn't really know the menu and almost didn't serve me hot tea. Lydia didn't get her bacon until the meal was almost over. In the grand scheme of service though it wasn't a bad meal, it just wasn't great service.

Afterwards we went back to the motel, checked out, and left the parking lot with lots of people standing outside looking at the bikes. The Spyder seems to be a magnet for questions from bikers and non-bikers alike. We filled up across the street and then headed out of town.

We took US 2 north toward Glacier National Park. As we rolled through Columbia Falls we noticed a few quaint motels that are probably worth staying at next time. They are about the same distance from the Glacier International air port and the town looks a lot more friendly. There might even be better places to eat.

Entering the park was a snap as this was a free weekend. We pulled into the visitor center to look for information, snap a few pictures and look for stickers. No stickers but we did get an idea about the road we were about to ride. So after talking to a few other riders about possible future improvements that Can Am can make to the Spyder we mounted up and took off on the Road to the Sun.

Going up the road was beautiful. At first we were riding along the lake and temps remained in the low 60s. Past the lake we stopped to look at a beautiful water fall.

After taking a few photos we continued on our way. The road began to climb as it snaked along the edge of the mountains. There were magnificent waterfalls and views. We saw mountain sheep and tourists trying taking pictures of them. But as we climbed in elevation, so did the temperatures climb. It was 71 degrees when we got to the Logan visitor center.

Glacier NP doesn't really have any large glaciers like I've seen at other parks. But the views are beautiful and the ride is worthwhile. After visiting the visitor center we headed out of the park going west. We stopped at the St. Mary Vistor Center, watched the videos, looked through the telescope at an Osprey nest. Then we left the park and stopped at a lodge for lunch and some shopping where I found some stickers.

We followed Hwy 89 south. We stopped for fuel in Browning and a quick break. After the stop we resumed our ride on 89.

About 10 miles later, Reagan keyed up the mike and told me she wanted to be the rider instead of the passenger. We pulled over and swapped positions. She took the lead and did an outstanding job at setting the pace. As any good rider should do, she started out nice and slow going into the corners. As her confidence grew so did the speeds. Before long she was ripping through corners at speeds above posted limits.

We rode through a few small towns without issue. I would read the GPS over her shoulder and John would call directions over the CB. There were no problems navigating through the towns.

Just before we got to I-15, Reagan pulled off the road to switch places with me. I was thankful for the change in seating. The pillion seat is OK but the footrests are pretty short. I've already seen some extensions that other owners have made, I think I'll be making a set when we get home.

The first part of I-15 had plenty of twisties and a zesty 75mph speed limit. Once out of the mountains and on the flat straight road it seemed as if there wouldn't be any further excitement. That was until the deer decided to cross the highway in front of John and Lydia. It looked like the deer was going to stay in the median but at the last minute she sprung out in front of them. John managed to dramatically slow the trike without hitting the deer. It was definitely an andrenaline pumping event for all.

After that, I was scanning for deer even more than before. Fortunately we rolled into Helena without any further excitement. We checked into our hotel and unpacked. Then after a post-ride totty, we walked next door for food and spirits. They served Moose Drool beer which is a brown ale. It's definitely a beer to drink if you like darker beers. When dinner was over we went back to the rooms and retired for the evening.

Tomorrow we have a short day of riding, only 175 miles. We are going to Gardiner which will act as our base camp for 2 days while we explore Bear tooth pass and the northern part of Yellowstone. Hopefully Reagan will be nice enough to let me drive across Bear tooth at least in one direction.

Friday, July 17, 2009

AK '09 - Day 27

The girls arrived today. Hooray!

Today was a rest day, a chance to clean up the bikes, rest and await the arrival of the girls. As it always seems to happens, I woke up around 4am this morning and couldn't get back to sleep. So I completed some work that a client needed. Around 5:30 I decided I needed to get some sleep so I turned off the laptop and went to sleep.

A little after 8, John's phone started ringing while he was in the shower. That was enough to get me to waking up. A short time later I got out of bed, took a shower and got dressed. Then we went in search of breakfast.

There was a restaurant/casino at a nearby hotel so we tried it. I'm pretty sure the place is going out of business and they just don't realize it, or new owners have taken over and they are slow to revive the property. None the less, they were serving breakfast so we thought we'd give it a try. The waitress was new and hadn't figured out the art of multi-tasking but she had a good attitude and the menu looked good. Breakfast turned out to be good.

After breakfast we went to Wal-Mart for some bolts and a pink ribbon. On the way back we stopped at the car wash to clean up the bikes. I wanted to present Reagan with a clean bike when she arrived. I sprayed, I scrubbed, I wiped, I sprayed some more. It took about $9 to get the bike cleaned up. I even found an Armour All pad for $1 so I did the tires and control arms. Then it was back to the hotel to move into our separate rooms.

The staff was very helpful and allowed us to leave our stuff in last night's room until the new rooms were available. Then we had the choice of rooms so we took 2 rooms on the first floor near the lobby.

After moving into the new room, I took care of a reservation issue in Gardiner. I made some calls and then took a nap. It was a rest day after all.

At 3pm the alarm clock went off so I got up. It was time to go to the liquor store. A short walk down the street and we had our bottles. I went back to the room to work on the pink bow I planned to make for Reagan's bike. With scissors borrowed from the front desk I managed to make something that looked like a bow. Then I took it outside to put on the bike. It turned out pretty good.

The last thing to do was to call a cab to take us to the airport. The front desk gave me 2 numbers. Both went to voicemail but I left my name and number for the second one as they sounded like a professional operation. After 30 minutes there was no callback and it was after 4pm. We were running out of time. I got a third number from Columbia Falls and when I called the guy he had an attitude so I just said to heck with it. We'd pick the girls up on the bikes. So we took off for the airport.

We arrived about 10 minutes before the flight landed. Finally after 4 weeks I was reunited with my sweet and supportive wife. I was very happy to see her again. Skype helps but it's nice to see a person for real. We walked out of the airport and there was the bike, with the bow. Reagan was very surprised, she was expecting the bike but not the bow. He he he he. I surprised her :)

We went back to the hotel and then went down to a steakhouse for a nice dinner. Well, I've decided Kalispell doesn't have a nice restaurant anywhere in town. They claimed to be a steakhouse but they only had 3 steaks on the menu and one of them was a sandwich. It was really just a burger joint with a casino. The place was a disappointment but we were with our wives and that made things better.

After dinner we rode back to the hotel. Reagan wanted to take the Spyder for a spin around the parking lot so I gave her a quick orientation of the controls and then it was hers. She started it up, backed up then rode around the parking lot before parking it for the night. I think she liked it.

Tomorrow we are heading to Glacier National Park and staying in Helena. Then it's over to Gardiner so we can ride Bear Tooth Pass, then we are heading into Yellowstone for 2 days. Hopefully I'll be able to get some good pictures now that I have the throttle lock, and Reagan brought her camera too.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

AK '09 - Day 26

One more day until the girls get here and today was the day we returned to the US. Hooray!!!!

I had some work to do so when I woke up, I turned on the laptop and started working. An hour and a half later I was done so I hustled to get dressed and packed so we could get our day started. We stopped for gas and food before leaving town, then headed south on 93 around 9am. Even so we were going to be in Kalispell by 12:30.

93 took us south to Hwy 3 where we headed east. Then picked up 93 south again. That took us to the border and we crossed without issue. They were interested why a person from Texas had a bike with Alaska plates. It was a good story to tell.

We got into Kalispell around 1:30 and decided to stop for lunch since it was probably too early to check in. We ate at famous Dave's BBQ which wasn't bad for a chain BBQ joint. They had sweet iced tea so I was in heaven. I had 3 glasses before getting filled up.

We got over to the hotel around 3:00 and checked in. When I got there my packages were waiting for me. So I carried them to the room and then unloaded the bike. Since we'll be here for 2 nights I took a few extra things off the bike.

Once it cooled off a little we went outside and installed the highway pegs and throttle lock. The pegs took about 1.5 hours and the throttle lock took 10 minutes. The 2" extensions may be a little too short for Reagan but I can fabricate some 3 or 4 inch extensions for her. They are just 1/4 inch plate with 1/2 inch holes drilled.

Tomorrow we are going to clean up the bikes, move into new rooms and pick up the girls. It'll be a great day to relax and get a little work done.

NOTE: I've neglected uploading pictures lately. That's being taken care of tonight. Here's the link

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

AK '09 - Day 25

The trip is taking a little different dynamic now that it's just John and I. The pace is more relaxed and we leave when we leave. We agree on a time to leave but it's more of a suggestion than any thing.

This morning we were both up before 6am, working on our laptops. After showers and packing we were on the bikes by 7. There was a gas station next door so we went over there to top off. As luck would have it my American Express didn't want to work so I had to deal with that. Luckily the attendant was very understanding and I left after paying for the gas with my Visa.

John took us into the huge town of Valemount and almost immediately we found a restaurant for breakfast. Once our orders were placed I called American Express to resolve their issue. I informed the lady I spoke with that this was the second time they shut my card down on this trip and that I had a new slogan for them to use in Canada, "American Express, LEAVE home with out, it's useless". She was very apologetic for the continued inconvenience, thanked me for being a customer and said she noted the account so  I would not have any more problems. I'll bet I have to call at least once more before I get home. Amex really isn't the traveller's card any more. Mastercard seems to be the best card to carry, at least when going to the northern parts of North America.

After breakfast we headed north back to Hwy 16 which went to Jasper. There was no reason to go into Jasper so we took 93 south into Jasper National Park. Remember when you ride in National Parks the speed limit is slower, and this park was no different. Plus we had to face idiotic RV'ers towing trailers they had no business towing and hogging the left lane in passing lane areas. Really, there should be a different licensing program for RV'ers.

After an hour and half we made it down to the Ice Fields visitor center and pulled in. At first glance it appeared there was a road leading up onto the glacier. We both thought it would be too cool to have the bikes on the glacier. We inquired at the information counter and discovered that we had to take the bus tour to get on the glacier and that our bikes would not be allowed. Bummer. I had already decided that I wanted to do the bus tour if it didn't cost as much as a small car (or a new Spyder) and when I found out is was only $49/person I knew I had to do it. So I went over to the ticket counter and bought us both tickets. We were going to stand on the glacier.

(The terrabus, with 4 foot tall tires)

A short while later and 1 transfer from a regular tour bus to a Terra Bus, and we were on the glacier, walking around, taking pictures, and John was even tasting the glacier melt water. It was really amazing, we were standing on almost 1000 feet of ice below our feet. Standing on all that ice was a little cold, especially with the steady wind. Our guide told us that it snowed 365 days a year on the Ice Fields and that's what kept the glacier going. It was an incredible place to be, and we were lucky to have great weather.

(sitting down on the glacier)

After the ride back down, we decided to get away from all the tourists and continue our southward track to the gas stop 30 miles down the road. The stop included $1.349/Liter CAN full service gas without service, overpriced cafeteria style prepackaged food, and an encounter with a traveller we had met in Fairbanks. Good stop but a little expenisive.

Once we were done with the stop we rolled on down Hwy 93 toward Banf. At one point I regretted packing up my liner because it was getting a little cold as we climbed in elevation. The chilli was making me sleepy too. If I had seen a park bench I probably would have stopped for a nap.

We turned off for Radium Hot Springs and found some great twisties. John was riding his peaceful pace and I decided it was best not to pass him since I didn't know where the hotel was. The ride going into Radium was invigerating and scenic. The hotel turned out to be a great find. Dinner was had just down the street at a German restaurant.

All in all today was a great day with 300 miles of riding. Tomorrow will be a shorter day with only 216 miles planned on the GPS. We are going to leave a little later so I can get some work done before we leave. Since we are now in Mountain time I'm only 1 hour behind home, which make life a little easier.

Tomorrow night I'll be back in the USA and hopefully far enough south to see a sun set. It's the little things in life that you look forward to.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

AK '09 - Day 24

Today's route was from Burns Lake, BC to Valemount, BC along Hwy 16. Not much of an adventure but a big day none the less.

Things started out this morning around 5:30 when Jerry started talking through the window to tell us he was leaving. He had decided to head for Calgary today and wanted to get an early start. By the time John crawled out of bed he was long gone. So we went ahead and got up and got ready to leave too. The weather didn't want to cooperate with us as it was raining while we were packing the bikes.

About 6:45 the remaining four of us pulled onto Hwy 16 heading for Prince George. Since it was raining we decided to get 50 miles or so down the road before eating breakfast. It was lighter in the direction we were heading, we hoped we could ride out of the rain and that's what we did.

We stopped in Fraser Lake for breakfast at Tony's Restaurant. Tony is the cook and after fixing a great breakfast he came out to talk with us about our collection of motorcycles. He was fascinated with Dick's Stallion. He didn't believe us when we told him it had heat and air conditioning.

After breakfast I went next door to fill up because I didn't think I could make it to Prince George. As I was filling up the rain was just starting to sprinkle. Apparently it was chasing us as we went east. It didn't take long though and we got away from the rain and enjoyed a very beautiful sunny day.

We stopped in Prince George at the Chevron to fill up and say our good byes. Fred and Dick were heading south into Idaho, while John and I were continuing east toward Jasper National Park. My group of fellow riders was dwindling.

After the stop, John and I resumed our travels on Hwy 16 east. We stopped around 2pm in McBride for lunch and met a few riders at the liquor store. They were also heading to Valemount for the night, but staying in the Best Western. One of them had a bright, new, shiny Olympia jacket like mine. After seeing it, I'm even more encouraged to fix my jacket instead of getting a new one. It's sort of a badge of honor, just how much I've worn it. It's really just getting broken in with around 60,000 miles. I'll bet I can keep it together for another 40,000 or so.

After lunch we continued our travels on Hwy 16 until we got to Hwy 5 where we went south to Valemont. This town is like most small Canadian towns along the highway in that it's tucked off to the side but a few hotels and gas stations have built up along side the road. We found our hotel and checked in without trouble. I have a hard time believing their real room rate is $189/night, at least not while they are remodeling. John had negotiated a better rate over the phone and they didn't try to change it on us. After taxes we had the room for $139CAN.

Once I got the bike unloaded and checked out the internet it was time to take care of laundry. Since I didn't do it in Hyder, I was down to my last day of clothes tomorrow so it seemed like a good time to get it done.

Total mileage today was 330 miles. It's the longest ride we've got for quite a few days to come. Tomorrow we're going into Jasper National Park and working our way south. Thursday evening we will be in Kalispell, MT awaiting the girls who will arrive on Friday. The extra day in Kalispell should give me a little time to install some things that I'm having shipped in along with getting the Spyder cleaned up for Reagan.

So how about the Spyder? It's really a fun machine. The acceleration for passing vehicles is amazingly quick. No downshifting needed. Probably the best way to describe it is as a 3 wheeled Corvette, or maybe a 3 wheeled Mustang. It has plenty of get up and go for a 990cc machine. Ergonomics still bother me a little because I can't fully stretch out my legs but the highway pegs should take care of that. The handle bars are a little low but managable, Reagan may want to get risers. I suspect the windshield will get replaced once she sees the poor wind protection of the current one. The Spyder is a really fun ride, and with a little tweaking I think it's going to make a fun touring ride for her as well.

Monday, July 13, 2009

AK '09 - Day 23

I awoke this morning to a gorgeous view of the mountain. The clouds had come in and covered the peak of the mountain so it felt like we had a blanket overhead.  I wanted to get a picture of the Bus where I had dinner last night so after packing the bike I road down there to snap a picture.

For anyone who kept a count of the drinks from yesterday. I felt great when I woke up. It must have been the high quality Alaskan beer.

We ate at the Glacier Inn and then headed through customs. They didn't want to delay us so the questions were very brief and the agents were courteous. Then we went on down the road back tracking up 37 to 37a. With the low hanging clouds it wasn't as beautiful as it was the day before but it was still nice to see some of the water falls and take a look at Bear glacier.

37a took us down to 16 where we headed east. The farther we went, the more traffic we encountered and the more civilization we riding into. Finally we stopped in Smithers for gas and lunch at Tim Horton's. I can now say I've eaten at Tim Hortons and I don't plan to do it again. Maybe it's just the fact that they don't take any credit accept mastercard, but I wasn't impressed.

From Smithers to Burns Lake is only 80 miles so we mounted up again and road the final stretch.  Other than the rain we had to ride through it was an uneventful ride into town. We pulled into a motel next to a restaurant and got some rooms. It was early enough I almost took a nap but decided not in hopes that I would get to sleep earlier.

Another great day of riding. Tomorrow we are going to be splitting from Dick and Fred, but it puts us one day closer to the girls.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

AK '09 - Day 22

Today I was bound and determined that I was not going to be on the bike before 7am. It took some effort but I managed to almost make it. We were on the road by 6:57.

The planned route was 37 down to Hyder, Alaska. Since we left early we were going to eat along the way. The only problem with that plan was that on Sundays there really isn't anything open early in the morning. We did manage to find a great little Fred Motel/Restaurant in Istuk called the Iskut Motor Inn and Restaurant. We walked in and one of the owners told us the regular cook wasn't working but he could cook the basic stuff like eggs and toast. Just nothing fancy like french toast. Breakfast turned out to be really good. We visited with the owner and learned a lot about the area and his operation. His motel is the only one in the area with private showers, wi-fi and TVs in the room. Last summer he was closed to the public since a mining operation rented the whole place for the weekend. If you want to stay at this place it's probably best to call ahead when planning, 250-234-3141. The rates started at $60/night.

We resumed our ride and found some really great road surfaces south of the motel. Speeds picked up a little but so did the scenery. We sort of spread out and everyone stopped whenever they wanted to take a photo. This worked out well and I can't wait to see all the pictures. The ride down was so scenic, it's definitely a great ride.

We stopped to see Bear glacier and I was a little disappointed as tt was smaller than I expected. It was cool to see the water falls nearby though. I changed over to the mesh pants because it was getting a little warm. Then we continued into Hyder.

Woohoo!!! I made it to Hyder. Once I arrived I had an agenda. I started talking to the locals to find out where the big glacier was and they said it was up the road 21 miles. Since all the roads in Hyder are dirt, I was a little reluctant to go on the Spyder but I really wanted to see the glacier. So I took off and kept it slow. No one else wanted to ride on a dirt road for that distance.

It took about 45 minutes to get up to the overlook where I could see the entire glacier. Wow! It was huge. I was hoping to get to a point where I could touch the glacier but this wasn't possible. Maybe I'll find a route down to it the next time. I visited with some fellow motorcyclists and then decided to head back down the road. I stopped at the ranger station to get my park passport stamped and then headed into Stewart, BC to top off the tank.

I went back to the Sealaska and parked the bike. The next plan was to get Hyeder-ized. I checked with the guys and found they had already been to the bar and were done. So I went to the bar by myself and told the bartender I needed to get hyderized. She poored the shot and signed the card once I took the shot. Then I had 2 Coors Lights while visiting with 2 motorcyclists who were heading north.

After the shot and the beer, I was hungry so I wrangled up the guys. Jerry, John and I went to the Bus for seafood. Fred doesn't eat seafood so he and Dick went over to the Glacier Inn. I ordered the Dungeoness crab and an Alaskan Summer brew. The beer was good but the crab was great! I don't think it could get any fresher. I was still a little hungry so I tried to order some shrimp scampi but Diane (the owner/cook) said she was all out of shrimp. So we paid our bills and headed back to the hotel. But I wasn't done, I still wanted to try the Alaskan Amber brew so John and I went to the bar. After ordering the Amber, I found out there was also White and Oatmeal Stout brews. So I ordered the Stout and John ordered the White. The stout was great. The white was a heffevisen and the bartender served it with lemon. John remembered to keep the bottles for the pool hall.

Some time during the drinking Dick came down to get a better internet connection and sat with us. John settled up with the bartender and left to get some sleep. I still wanted to try the White so I ordered it while Dick worked on the computer. While talking to the bartender, I found out that she was from California and had a boyfriend from Hyder so she moved up here a year and a half ago. Her potential future mother-in-law is Diane over at the Bus. It is a very small town.

Well after trying all of the Alaskan beers they had, I decided to call it quits and go up to the room. Jerry and I ended up talking for a couple of hours until I finally wound down. What a great time in Hyder. I've gotta go back.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

AK '09 - Day 21

WARNING: I'm in a mood.

I am begining to hate western Canada. I'm tired of places wanting to charge me for iced tea refills, for goodness sake $2.50 should buy more than one glass of tea. I'm tired of crappy internet service. I'm tired of the people working in hospitality who are too dang stupid to remember more than 2 words when taking an order. I think I see why Canadians are known to be poor tippers, if I grew up with crummy service like this I wouldn't tip either. If you are from Canada, I'm sorry but your country isn't doing much to impress me right now.

So what about the ride? We were supposed to start at 6:30 but everyone was on the bikes a little after 6 so we were on the road at 6:10. The plan was to ride down the road until we found a place to eat breakfast. There's not much between Teslin and Watson Lake on the Alcan. But after an hour and a half of riding we found a little road side motel/gas station/restaurant that was open so we pulled in. You ordered at the kitchen and they cooked orders one at a time but they good and hearty. It was self serve on the tea and coffee, which was a good thing as I was sort of cold since it was in the low 50s for the first part of the morning.

Just west of Watson Lake we stopped at the Junction 37 gas station for a fill up. The Spyder doesn't have the range of the GS so I start worrying about gas after 150 miles. At 200 miles I'm probably going to be pushing. The bike has a 6.6 gallon tank and gets about 32.5 to 35mpg. The gas station was a treat, they had a sign on the door that said they didn't take Amex or Discover, they didn't accept checks, they didn't exchange US currency. So basically they were saying pay us in cash or Visa/MC or don't stop. Gotta love these friendly Canadains.

After the fill up we turned south onto 37 and left the Alcan. We were on a new road again. This road was about on par with a Texas farm to market road. Chip seal in some spots, hard packed dirty in others with a lot of gravel along the way. We went through one section where they had a sign identifying it as a Canadian roadway project. The road didn't really seem to be under construction through that stretch. It just seemed to be in complete chaos. Once we got past the sign, however it improved considerably.

We stopped at one rest stop to take a break. The mosquitos were bad enough that we didn't stay long. I was happy for the stop though, as it allowed me to stretch my legs for a bit.

As we got closer to Dease Lake we saw lots of beautiful scenery. There were georgous views of the Dease River along the road. It's amazing how clear the water is up here.

Finally we arrived in Dease Lake and stopped for gas. By that point my right hip was killing me. The spyder is fun but it's a little too cramped for my legs and it causes some real discomfort toward the end of a 300 mile day.

We stopped at the gas station to fill up and get some liquor. We were too early to check into the motel so we went next door to the restaurant, Mama Z's. It was decorated to be an upscale place and the menu tried to reflect that a little but in the end it wasn't really much more than a road house cafe. No free tea refills, grrrrr...

After lunch it was after 3 o'clock so we could check into our rooms. It went like any other check in and then we pulled the bikes around to the side and started to unload. Having just finished a late lunch it was too early to go eat dinner so we all passed the time on the internet and such. At first the Net was ok but as the day progressed it got worse.

Tomorrow we are riding down to Hyder and have reservations at the Sea Alaska Inn. This place is somewhat of an icon in the long distance and adventure riding groups. It's also very close to the bar so we can safely get "Hyder-ized" without worrying about the bikes. The road isn't going to be any better than today so it'll be slow going but it should be fun.

Friday, July 10, 2009

AK '09 - Day 20

We were heading south today. We've reached the peak of the trip and now it's time to start moving back toward home. Not immediately but we need to point ourselves in the general direction.

We were up and packed before the restaurant opened. We had breakfast in Destruction Bay. I had to send my egg back because it wasn't cooked as ordered, over hard is really simple, burn it! The second egg was great and the cinnamon roll was yummy.  I managed to do a little work during breakfast while everyone visited.

The route was simple, we were travelling approximately 300 miles down the Alcan from Destruction Bay to Teslin. We stopped for lunch at the McDonalds in Whitehorse because Fred needed some oil for the bike and there was a Wal-Mart and Tire Canada right next to each other. I found a CanAm dealership nearby but didn't stop to see if there were any must have accessories. After lunch and a fill up we continued south. The pace was slow except the occassional vehicle passing moments, the spyder likes to accelerate. We were making such good time that we had plenty of time at the rest stops.

We got to our motel south of Teslin, Dawson Peaks Lodge, just after 4pm. I unloaded the bike and completed some computer work that needed to be done. Then it was time for dinner at the lodge. The waitress.... well she really should find another line of work. She couldn't remember an order long enough to write it down correctly. We did manage to get our food and $22CAN later I walked out having eating a bacon, cheeseburger with potatoes and 2 coors light. Gotta love Canada. Eeh!

We won't be staying here for breakfast, instead we are going to get on the road between 6:30 and 7 and eat down the way.

Jerry just walked out of the bathroom saying they turned off the water. What sort of place is this? No air conditioning, no fans, piss poor room ventilation, misquitos big enough to carry off the new bike and now there's no running water? Oh what an adventure.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

AK '09 - Day 19

I woke up before the alarm clock today. It was a good night's sleep. I think it was the fan that made sleep so good and easy.

We were supposed to be on the bikes by 7am but we were all ready to go before then. I took the lead today and didn't see much of the guys in the rear view mirror. That little Spyder can boogie.

The first part of the morning was wet but once we crossed the border the sky seemed to clear and the sun started to shine. Unfortunately there was too much smoke from the brush fires in Alaska.

The route was simple, we went from Delta Junction to Destruction Bay. We stopped in Tok for breakfast. Unfortunately that was a little late for breakfast so we didn't have lunch. By the time we made it to Destruction Bay I was pretty hungry.

Tomorrow we are supposed to head to Teslin, but we may ride farther depending on the room situation.

So what about the Spyder. It hauls butt! It sticks to the road really well, you just have to have faith. The distance between the seat and the foot pegs is a little short so my hips cramp up quickly. There's no throttle lock yet, so the wrist gets a little sore after a while. And the handle bars are a little long to reach. All of these things are fixable, but I want to let Reagan check out the bike before we start adding the goodies. It really is a fun machine. And of course, it needs some paint for Reagan.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

AK '09 - Day 18

Back on the road again!

It was too dang hot to sleep last night. Without a fan I couldn't get the room comfortable enough to sleep in. I probably managed to get a few hours of sleep though. I rose early and got my shower then watched a little hulu. I took care some of business stuff and packed up. By 9am I was checked out of the room and headed to the Can Am dealership.

I took care of some paperwork and the Spyder was mine. The salesman went down to the DMV office to transfer the title while we started working on the GS. The plan was to strip the GS and then start putting everything on the Spyder. John and Jerry started working on the rear end while I started working on the front end. Eventually I got every off, even the gas tank. At first I was just going to pull apart the stuff I needed for the Spyder but then it just made sense to go ahead and pull all the wires so it doesn't have to be done when it  gets to Wild West in a month.

After everything was off and we put the bike back together, then we moved the Can Am up onto pavement  and started taking it apart. I took all the plastics off on the righthand side and the rear. Jerry started working on the antenna for the CB, John started to work on the J&M Radio mount and I starte working on the GPS mount. I'm pretty sure I had the easier item to mount. Jerry left for some hardware and then John realized he needed some parts for the radio. Finally Jerry returned and we sent him out again. Meanwhile I started working on running the cabling.

Finally the radio was mounted, the antenna was mounted and the gps was done. Jerry soldered up the cigarrette plug and we had to do a little troubleshooting since the dealership didn't bother to troubleshoot their work. It turned out they didn't plug a fuse into the accessory spot. Once we added the fuse we had power and everything worked.

The only thing left to do was button things up and install the tank bag and the tank paniers. It took a little effort to get the tank bag positioned correctly so it didn't interferre with the seat or the steering. Finally the bike was ready to roll.

I settled up with the dealership and for $1,390 my GS will get to Texas in about 4 weeks. Then the fun begins. I'll have to fix a broken gas tank connector, add some fuel and connect the battery. Then it'll be ready for Wild West to tear apart and fix the transmission. It's probably going to be 2 months before I'm riding it again. That's sad.

So we left the BMW shop and went to Wendy's for a late lunch. Then we pulled out of town and went down Highway 2 toward Delta Junction. It was only a hundred miles but it gave me some real time in the saddle with the new ride. It's different, steering works different. But it accelerates like crazy. It's a fun bike. The seat isn't very comfortable and it needs bar risers to put the rider in a more upright position. But the bike is FUN.

Tomorrow we are headed to Destruction Bay for the night. A grilled cinamon bun for breakfast will be great! I already know the road is gonna be crappy tomorrow because it's lots of construction but with the trike it shouldn't be a problem.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

AK '09 - Day 17

What a wild day. I've had disappointment, excitement, frustration and more. I'll start at the beginning.

I awoke around 6:30 after a decent night's sleep. No A/C made it a little warm but I slept fine none the less. I discovered I could log onto and stream Ice Road truckers on the computer just like turning on the TV. So that's what I fell asleep to and it did the trick just fine.

After I awoke I watched a few episodes of Kings on Hulu then showered and ate breakfast. I was trying to give the shop a few hours to look at the bike and call me. Well they didn't open until 9 and by 10 I was really ready to go up there. Finally I got up there just after 11am.

When I arrived there were lots of people in the service area all trying to get service. One fellow, his name was Rich, who I met on Sunday evening at the Super 8 had gone to the Arctic Circle after hearing me talk about the road. On the way back his bike's transmission failed to run in 4th or 5th gear. No it was not a BMW but a Sporty. I overheard the service manager tell him that they didn't have the staff to tear transmissions apart and rebuild them. Crap! I new that's what my transmission needed. Why didn't he tell me that yesterday. Grrrr.

The mechanic hadn't ridden my bike when I got there but the mechanic and my bike were no where to be found so we figured he was out test riding it. A little bit later Scooter called me from Trails End to say he had checked out the bike. I told him I was in the service department so he came on up and we talked. He's a pretty cool guy from Waco, TX and seemed to be pretty genuine. He told me he simply didn't have the time or man power in the shop to tear down my transmission until the winter and doing so would take weeks even if he could. So my choices were to ride the bike until the tranny locked up or ship it home. I was sick to my stomach. I called Reagan to give her the bad news and being the wonderfully supportive wife she mentioned if there was a GS on the showroom floor that I could always buy it and ride it home then sell one of them. That was tempting but a stock GS for 6,000 miles just didn't seem like something I wanted. So I was going to get the quote on the shipping and Reagan would help me with the flight home.

Since it was going to take the rest of the afternoon and maybe tomorrow morning before I knew what the shipping cost would be I decided to leave and possibly go get drunk waiting on the guys to come into town. Of on a whim I went across the street to the Can-Am dealership to see if they had any Spyders. As luck would have it they had an '08 demo unit with 2,100 miles in silver. It had a larger windshield and the passenger backrest. And it was priced to sell. At first I blew off the salesman but then I got to thinking that in it's stock form it could probably work for the rest of the trip. Maybe...

I left the dealership and called Reagan while I was in the car. She seemed genuinely excited about the prospect although it wasn't the automatic version. She was going to check on the prices while I went back to look at the storage trunk and talk the salesman again. While I was talking with Rodney, Reagan messaged me with prices and it was clear I was getting a fair deal. I told him I needed to be able to get through Canada and back into the US on my way home without issue and he agreed to investigate how to go about doing that. Then he told me he would call me back by 4pm with an answer. This was the sort of can-do attitude I was missing in Alaska.

Just after leaving the dealership I got a call from Fred saying they were in town and having lunch at a taco place. I drove over and had lunch with them while talking about the state of the GS and the possible new acquisition. Afterwards we ran to the grocery store for alcohol and tried to check them into the dive they were going to stay at. I should have taken pictures, it was pretty bad. Things didn't go so well and the clerk tried to rip Fred off with an extra room charge. I'm sorry $129 for a double was ludicrous. You could get a Super 8 room for that and that's what they did in the end.

Just about 4 o'clock I got the call from Rodney saying he had things figured out. So I went over to test ride it and complete the sale. After the ride I knew I didn't have much bargaining power since I was grinning from ear to ear but I casually asked if he could install a power outlet on the bike before I got it. He said he could if I'd pick it up in the morning. So we did the paperwork and he knocked off a few hundred dollars and included the installation of the outlet to boot. I felt like it was a good deal over all. It turned out he was from Wisconsin and even after 10 years it still bugged him that people in Alaska didn't have a Can Do attitude when it came to things getting done.

I went back to the Super 8 to visit with the guys and go to dinner. The Denny's next to the Super 8 in Fairbanks.... STAY AWAY!!! Piss poor service and that was with the manager waiting on us. After dinner we went back to Fred's room for some libations and a little route planning. It was decided that John and Jerry will stay behind to help me pull some things off the GS and mount them on the Spyder so I have GPS and comms. Fred and Dick will ride down the road to Delta Junction and secure some rooms. Then we'll ride down tomorrow evening when we are done with the bike and have the GS crated up.

So by Thurday morning when I wake up we'll be right on schedule just as if this whole debacle had never occured. Except I'll be on 3 wheels instead of 2 and I won't have my comfortable Russel Day Long seat. But I'll be riding again and Reagan is getting a new bike out of the deal. In trip presents, I think this just might beat the Rolex she got when we went to Germany. At least in size it will.

It's not bright yellow as I would have liked but the black and silver combination should lend itself nicely to some pink accents. Maybe some ralley stripes down the middle or something. One thing for sure, there is a massive aftermarket for this thing. It's almost as bad as a Harley.

Monday, July 6, 2009

AK '09 - Day 16

Today I was up early with a headache, so I took the bike to the car wash to get a layer of dirt off. $11 dollars later I had a semblance of a normally dirty bike. It was clean enough to work on but not too clean. Then it was back to the hotel for breakfast. I was really surprised to see the pitiful "Super Start" breakfast at this Super 8. It was as bad as the hotel in St. Petersburg. I got some oatmeal and 2 little muffins and went to the room.

I wanted to get to the dealership before they opened so I could hopefully get them to look at it today. A rider rode up on a Harley that had a high idle. The place was still closed and this guy was in a bad mood. Then a tech walked out, asked if it was carberated and grabbed a screw driver. A few minutes later he had the bike loping along like a Harley is supposed to. I thought this was a good sign. Then Jerry, the guy, walked over and surveyed the line of folks waiting. He went inside and got everyone to open a little early and got us taken care of. I thought this was a good sign.

Since my problem was big, they shuffled me to the back so they could get the tiny problems written up and out of the way. While waiting I discovered Jerry was transitioning from Service Manager to Finance Manager due to some medical issues and that his replacement Demetrius wasn't very qualified at his new job just yet. This was the first bad sign.

Finally, Demetrius wrote me up and took my key. I asked how far it was to the airport and if it was in walking distance. Demetrius started telling me how to get there when Jerry stepped in and said he would be happy to take me over there as it was too far to walk. Another great sign for Jerry, bad sign for Demetrius. I asked when I might get a diagnosis and when they wanted me back to remove the wiring work I had done. Demetrius said he would call me this afternoon so I left with Jerry and went to the airport for a rental car.

With rental car acquired, the next step was to get out of the Super 8 and into some more affordable housing so I called up the university and took advantage of their summer guest housing. It turned out to be $36/night since I was staying for at least a week. For that rate I can put up with the community bathrooms, no A/C, and no TV. It does include a fast Internet connection so I was happy. I found out later that I needed a parking pass which costs $15 a week but I'm still ahead of the game. Heck, the rental car cost me more than my lodging for the same period.

I checked into my new digs and started catching up on picture uploads. Pictures have been posted through today. As it got closer to 5pm I decided to go pop-in on the dealership to see how things were going. Just before I got there I realized I didn't have the keys to my bike so I couldn't get into my top case which I needed to do. So I called instead and Demetrius told me he was so busy today and short staffed that he didn't even get a tech to ride the bike. That didn't set well with me but instead of blowing up at him, I just explained that I'm sitting in his city alone, spending money that I had worked hard to save to make this trip and see parts of the country I haven't seen before. Not to sit in a room waiting on people to fix a bike that they are too busy to worry about. He was genuinely apologetic and promised that he would have it test ridden in the morning so they could start diagnosing the problem. That's all I can hope for now. He's really my only option for saving the trip, otherwise I end up contacting a shipping company and have the bike shipped home so it can be fixed locally. That too will take time so I'm hopeful I've made the better decision.

Since I was almost to the dealership when I called I stopped in at the Fred Meyer instead. This is equivalent to a Wal-Mart, Rice Epicruian, Circuit City, Home Depot all rolled into one. OMG! It was huge and  there were so many people. I got some bottle water, bagels and peanut butter for breakfast along with some snacks. I figured I'd eat breakfast in the room each morning and then I only had to figure out lunch and dinner. The total grocery bill for 6 days of breakfast plus water and snacks was $19. $3 a day for 1 meal will work. If I can find the microwave and kitchen I'll pick up some soup and crackers and that will take care of another daily meal. There just isn't much in the way of decent dining establishments here and I don't see any reason to waste money when I can save a few bucks while sitting around waiting for the bike. I make check out the Alaskan Salmon Bake one evening though, that looked interesting.

Hopefully, they'll do as promised and the bike will get looked at tomorrow morning. Then the tear down process can begin and I can do my part. That should free up Wednesday and Thursday for site seeing. I'd like to drive down to Denali and maybe run back down to the little town where Northern Exposure was filmed. If I'm really lucky and it's just a bearing then they can get it back together by Friday so I could rewire things and leave on Saturday. That would be great. I'll cross my fingers.

Well, I guess I'd better catch up on my Internet shows some more, I've got a few of them in my Hulu queue.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

AK '09 - Day 15

I didn't get much sleep last night. The sun doesn't set above the arctic circle and the shades in the room weren't very good at blocking out the sun. I awoke at one point in the night to look outside and it didn't look any different than when I had arrived. My alarm clock was set for 7:30 but I was up before then. I took some time to work on my blog and upload some pictures. I'm still behind on the pictures but should be able to catch up in the coming days.

My mind was preoccupied with one thing, getting back down the Dalton Highway. The transmission was obviously failing and it was unclear if I would actually make it back to Fairbanks or if I'd be stranded on the side of the road. Then there was that horrible gravel and the slick mud to worry about. There was a lot on my mind and nothing looked good at breakfast. I had some oatmeal and bacon. Then I took some banana nut bread for the road, I figured it could be a snack when I started getting hungry from the small breakfast.

Fred called to give me a recommendation from his mechanic buddy so I went in search of some special grease. The idea was that the extra thick grease would help to hold the bearing together. I checked 2 different mechanic shops and neither had what I was looking for so I went to Napa and told them what my problem was. They sold me a small tube of grease and said it would probably get me to Fairbanks if the bearing wasn't too far gone. They took my money and wished me luck.

In my focus to get the bike back I forgot to stop by the gift shop and to mail a post card home. At least I got a picture of me and my bike in Deadhorse. Even with my slow start I was back on the Dalton by 8am and hoping for the best. The first 10 miles didn't seem so bad, the gravel seemed thinner and there were even hard packed sections. Then I got to the deep gravel, but it didn't seem so bad either. Apparently getting some rest made the road seem a little easier.

Around 50 miles out, I reached the hard packed surface again where I could relax a little. As I went south I would come up on sections of the road that had been watered the previous afternoon or evening which helped to keep the dust down. And since it had time to soak in things weren't slick at all.

I reached my first road construction just south of Ice Cut and it was on an uphill section. They had watered it down really well and started dumping gravel for the grader to spread. I moved as far over to the right as I could and just crawled up the hill in 2nd gear trying to keep the throttle steady and not strain the transmission any more than necessary. One of the crew made a comment about the motorcycle probably not liking this work. I quickly came on the radio and said that indeed I didn't like the work but they were doing a fine job of it none the less.

That was really the only nasty wet construction I faced the whole day. I got stopped for some construction north of Atigun Pass where they were spraying oil and dropping gravel. The section I was riding on had already been packed down so it wasn't bad, it was just annoying to sit there and wait for 10 minutes because the pilot truck was at the other end goofing off.

Because of the construction hold up, I ended up with an 18 wheeler behind me going toward Atigun Pass. I put some distance between us as I went up the pass but I knew he would be on my tail coming back down so I pulled over and took a break. The transmission was getting a little noisier but it was still working. I ate some of the banana nut bread and looked over a ledge to see a small creek caused by the snow melt. It was sort of calming to just listen to the running water. Then it was back on the bike to get down the other side.

The south side of the pass is 2 miles long and pretty steep. I kept it slower than I normally would and tried to use the rear brake occasionaly to keep the transmission loaded. When the transmission was loaded in a forward manner the noise went away, but when I put slack in the driveline or introduced engine braking the noise was very pronounced. My reasoning was that if I heard the noise I was accelerating the demise of the bearing so the goal was to minimize the noise.

On the south side of the pass the road got better. The gravel was less and there was more stretches of a sandy hard packed surface. The challenge was to keep my speed steady and smooth. I could easily go 60mph on such a surface but I wanted to keep the rpms at 3,000 or less. Again, I figured lower rpms meant longer bearing life. Even with the reduced speed I ended up passing a fellow rider on an older GS R80. The guy seemed totally in control but comfortable to take it at a slower pace.

Finally I arrived at ColdFoot. I only had 172 miles of the highway left. I went in the store to get the pump turned on and visited with a fellow rider on a Honda dirt bike that he had made street legal for doing dual sport rides. He was contemplating whether or not he would go up to Deadhorse or not. He wasn't impressed with the $200/night rooms in ColdFoot. I suggested he could try Wiseman just up the road or that he could make Deadhorse in 6 hours or so from the conditions that I had experienced. But I told him that up to ColdFoot the road was really pristine compared to what he would find north. After filling up the bike and getting my receipt, the R80 GS rider had arrived. Apparently he gave a similar report and the Honda rider decided he'd just head back south. The GS rider was a British gentleman. We talked about the challenges of traveling the road alone and he told me about a guy who had wrecked on Friday and had to be evacuated by air. Ouch! He also had a tip over when pulling off to take a break. His handlebars got turned in the gravel and down he went. No harm to him but it broke his windshield. Bummer.

Time was ticking so I got back on the bike and asked it to hold together just a little bit longer. The GPS had a mileage count down to the next turn which happened to be the end of the Dalton. I kept doing math in my head to figure out just how long it would be until I was off the road. I was also trying to figure out what it would cost to get a tow and how close I was to the 100 mile tow with AAA. The Honda rider and I passed each other along the way as we each took our respective breaks. It was sort of reassuring to know there was another rider out there that I could waive down if things went wrong.

Once I got passed the Artic Circle I was certain the transmission would just give up. The road had progressively gone from long straight flats to rolling hills. It sounded like I was really stressing the tranmission every time I would go down a hill. Before I knew it I was down to the Yukon River and crossing the bridge. Just before the Yukon I crossed paths with 2 Harleys wearing half helmets and wife beater shirts. I felt sorry for them because the first time a big truck blew by them they were going to learn the benefit of propper gear. It was late enough in the day that I figured they were just going up to the Artic Circle.

South of the Yukon I was back on some decent pavement but with the rolling hills I had to work to keep the speeds in check. And then it was the last 20 miles which is small gravel. I passed the Honda rider as he was loading his bike into the back of his truck. That's how he managed to pack so light on that bike.

Just before I got off the road, I passed 2 riders on Beemers. One of them was happily riding along in a T shirt and ball cap with his helmet strapped to the back of the bike. I couldn't believe someone could be so foolish. Forget about falling down or crashing, it's those big flying rocks that can put a hurt on you.

Finally I began the mile long descent to the beginning of the Dalton. I knew the end was in sight. When I reached Highway 2 I pulled off the road to rejoice over my accomplishment. I had gone up and come back down the Dalton Highway without dropping the bike or having an accident. And now if I needed to call for a tow it would be free. I took some pictures of the road signs, dusted off my tail lights and headed toward Fairbanks. I had 80 miles to go and my only concern was whether the rear wheel might lock up if the transmission decided to croak.

I arrived in Fairbanks and went straight to the BMW shop to see what time they opened. Secretly I was hoping they might still be open but they weren't. I looked at a nearby motel for $69/night but decided better of it. As a rule, I won't stay in a motel near a strip club and there was one just around the corner from the motel. So, although it was next to the dealership I passed. If there had been a place to eat and if they had Internet I might have reconsidered though.

I checked into the Super 8 and visited with some riders out in the parking lot. Seeing a motorcycle that was totally covered in mud it was pretty evident where I had been. There were all sorts of questions about road conditions and such. I told them all they would be fine going to the Artic Circle and even up to Cold Foot but they needed to realize their bikes could still get missed up with flying rocks and all the dirt. Go slow and be careful was my advice.

I called Reagan and then Fred and John. I was really happy to be off the road and 'home' so to speak. The past 2 days seemed like a really big adventure. The bike was still running and the transmission hadn't really worsened much since getting off the Dalton.

It took me 11 and a half hours to go from Deadhorse to Fairbanks (500 miles). If I didn't have the transmission worries I probably could have saved an hour or so but maybe not as I could have enjoyed the road a little better. Going from Tok to Deadhorse the day before took 17 and a half hours (700 miles). Going up I took a slower pace because the road was an unknown, coming back it was easier because I knew what to expect. I think I want to break up the ride into 4 days the next time I go up to Deadhorse to get that sticker I forgot.

In the morning I will take the bike over to a car wash before I go to the dealership. I really wasn't planning on spending a week in Fairbanks so I'll have to wait and see what the dealership comes up with. If I'm able to get on the road by late Tuesday (7/14) or early Wednesday then I should be able to salvage the portition of the trip with Reagan. Otherwise this vavaction, which has been in planning for the past year, will be a disaster.

Obviously there won't be any daily ride reports for the next several days but I'll still try to make some entries. I think I might go down to Denali National Park and check out the bus ride tour. It's an easy day trip and it's not like I have much else to do. I'm going to have to do something about lodging too as the Super 8 is costing me $141/night and I could be here for a week or more.

And I'm not ready to sell my bike for another brand just yet either. The GS has a feature set that just fits me. The shaft drive, heated grips, great torque and dual sport nature are things that I like. It's my do anything bike. I just thave to work out these kinks so I can take a long trip without interruption.

Time for some rest

Saturday, July 4, 2009

AK '09 - Day 14

Today was the day, I would finally complete the Ultimate Coast to Coast ride. Since it was going to be a long 700 mile day I set the alarm clock for 3:30 but thanks to my anticipation and Dick's alarm on the Stallion I was awake at 2:45. After laying in bed for a few minutes I decided to get up and leave. I was on the road by 3:37 local time with a send off from John and Fred.

My plan was to fill up in Fairbanks and then again in Cold Foot. I thought I remembered reading about a truckstop just before the Dalton that was a good place to get the latest road conditions. When I got into Fairbanks, Hwy 2 basically took me around the outskirts of town and the only gas station I found wasn't accepting credit cards so I didn't stop. When I got to Fox I found a 24hr unattended pay at the pump station so I filled up and kept going. A little farther up the road I found the Hilltop gas station and cafe so I pulled in for breakfast. There weren't any truckers to query about the road so I just ate my breakfast and continued up the road.

By 9am I reached the Dalton Highway. I pulled over to get a picture of the sign and then air down my tires. Then I was finally on the Dalton highway heading for Deadhorse. I was hoping to be in Coldfoot by 12 and Deadhorse by 5. Well I didn't make it to Coldfoot until 12:30 because I stopped at the Artic Circle for a photo and a break. I visited with 2 riders at Cold Foot, they were coming down from Deadhorse. They mentioned 2 problems, the wet roads because the water trucks, and the deep gravel stretch near Deadhorse.

Well I found the slippery mud caused by the maintenance crews. That stuff is slick. And I found the deep gravel, it was the last 50 miles of roadway going into Deadhorse. The best I could do was 35mph so it took me an hour and a half to get through it.

Atigun pass was a little disappointing to me, as I really expected a dramatic climate change when I cross it. Nope, it was 67 degrees at the top of the pass and no snow on the ground of course. I think it was when I got to Atigun Pass that I noticed a bad sound coming from the clutch and transmission. When the bike is in Neutral and I let out the clutch I hear a gravel like sound. Not really a grinding, more like a clattering coming from the front of the transmission area where the clutch is. The same noise is noticeable if I'm in the lower gears and close the throttle with the clutch out. Since I was closer to Deadhorse than Fairbanks I decided to risk it and ride on. If the bike died in Deadhorse I figured I could get it loaded on a flatbed back to Fairbanks.

The transmission noise didn't worsen and I made it into Deadhorse at 7pm. I got my final gas receipt and checked in at the Prudhoe Bay Hotel. After unloading the bike, I called Reagan to let her know I made it and then hussled down to the cafeteria for dinner before they stopped serving at 8pm.

The day was really long, I spent 10 hours on the Dalton and 5 hours getting there. In hind sight it probably would have been better to have launched from Fairbanks, but I completed the ride and kept the rubber side down so it's not so bad. I'm not looking forward to the first 50 miles of the ride tomorrow as it's back through the deep gravel but at least I know how far it is so I'll know just how long I'll be on it. Plus the wind should be at my back which might make things a little easier.

Hopefully the transmission will hold up and get me back to Fairbanks without issue. Riding back tomorrow I may also be able to pay more attention to the scenery and enjoy some of it. Then I can give a more detailed description of the ride on the Dalton. Right now at least it's just a blur.