My trip to the north.
Well here's my story.
I went on my vacation to the north. I thought I did pretty good planning most of the trip but got tired of planning and thought I could just wing the rest of it.
The first day started out dark but thatÔÇÖs because it was so early. I remember just hoping it wasn't going to be raining when I left. Just didn't want to leave in the rain. Well, it was close but no rain for the first two hours of the ride. I got hit with a light 10 minute rain which got me completely wet. I wasn't wearing the rain suit portion of my outfit but I was thinking I have been in torrential rain storms on the highway with the same outfit and didn't get wet so it should be cool. After I felt a cold stream of water I figured out that the luggage on the back of the bike was causing all the rain to blow right to my waist, soaking my pants. At every stop I made I knew I should of changed my pants but I was too lazy to dig into the luggage. It was packed perfectly. Other than the quick rain it was such a beautiful day to ride. I did get to my campsite in time to setup the tent in the light and yes I was paying for not getting out of the wet clothes. That was 803 miles the first day. That evening the sky turned pitch black. It was really windy but luckily it just spit a little rain. The people next to me found refuge in their vehicles after their tent was blown down.
The second day I thought it would be hard because of dealing with repacking then getting on the road late but I was wrong. I woke up early, without an alarm and I was able to repack the tent completely. The worst part was crossing the border. They got 5 lanes but only one open. I sat there for about twenty minutes in the heat with no breeze breathing fumes because nobody was shutting down their engines. Once across the border it really felt like my vacation was starting. Another beautiful riding day except the powerful crosswind. Yeah thatÔÇÖs right, no wind in the States but once into Canada they turned on the wind until I got to Winnipeg. I did notice that the right lane was for slower vehicles and the left lane was actually for passing vehicles. I made it to the campsite in Saskatoon a little after 9:00pm. Day two was also exactly 803 miles but I didnÔÇÖt plan it
An awesome day to ride, day 3. This was an easy day, 600+ miles. I stopped alot, enjoyed the scenery, just did my thing. A few miles before Grande Prairie I stopped to look at a river along the road side, I really wanted to ride a couple of hours more and then look for a campsite since it was still daylight, what I found was really nice people that invited me to camp next to them. I thought it to be odd when there was miles of camping just about anywhere but they insisted and invited me to dinner. What was I to do? They had a fire, a clean bathroom, food and beer. They were a married couple from Edmonton and his parents from Quebec. We sat down to the dinner table they had setup and ate a bunch of chicken that they were cooking over a fire and talked until dark. After getting my tent set up they came out of their RV with cushions from the seats so I could sleep more comfortably. This was probably the most relaxing ride and evening I had on the trip. The next morning was perfect. That was the end to my vacation, now on to the rest.
Day 4 below is the picture to sum up the riding day. This leg was about 700 miles. I noticed that the roads are getting a little rougher and had my first experience riding on a gravel in a couple of small sections of road. I also saw the most wildlife along the roads in BC compared to the rest of the trip. I pulled into Watson Lake around ten o'clock and things were closing down but had just enough time to get gas and walk around before leaving to find a place to spend the night. I went north out of Watson Lake for my first gravel road. I figured if I couldnÔÇÖt handle it I could turn around and take a different route with pavement. Well, the gravel wasnÔÇÖt so bad but the section with the excavators was the worst. On part of that section I wasnÔÇÖt sure if I was even on the actual road. It wasnÔÇÖt even compacted. Felt like I was riding on a wave runner in the water. Yes, I was glad it didnÔÇÖt rain and found a place to camp along the road about 2:00am as it was getting dark.
Day 5 All sorts of surfaces on this road, mostly just a gravel road and not too difficult. Another section had gravel but it was like river rock where the shape was smooth like marbles. That was very uncomfortable for me to ride in and really had very little control. It felt like the back end wandered left and right while the front wheel could be turned and you would still be going in straight line. The roughest part of the road is where they used the big river rock. This rock was anywhere from softball size to football size rocks and embedded half way into the road. Very rough to ride on and there was no ability to weave to miss because they were everywhere. That is where I lost my aux lighting mounted to front fender. The wires held the light from hitting the road but the mounting bolts were gone so I cut the wire and thru the light in the tool kit. This route was a little more than I anticipated, not the gravel as much as the sheer length. I made almost 600 miles before setting up my tent and collapsing. After a full day out on the water fishing, when I lay still I can still feel the rocking of the boat. I got the same type of feeling as I lay but itÔÇÖs from the motorcycle. I could feel the back end wandering and the vibration of the route as I rested. Mosquitoes are beginning to increase in numbers but for me they are still tolerable.
Day 6 A little more rock road and I crossed the border then arrived in Chicken to pan for gold. Yes, pan for gold. It was a touristy thing but you get a shovel full of dirt and rock, take it too the stream and look for gold. There was usually a flake in each shovel full but you had to find it. Stayed in a nice and new cabin. It was a hostel setup up but had no roommate, very comfortable.
Sounds like you took the Campbell Hwy from Watson Lake to Carmacks? I was going to go that way, but didn't because we decided to stop in Whitehorse and have knobby tires mounted.
Winging it sounds like a good plan, leaves plenty of flexibility. Was Top of the World Hwy open? I heard it was closed recently after some heavy rain. It was pretty rough when we went thru there a month ago.
If you get to Fairbanks, cheap lodging available at the Univ. of Alaska, about $36/night in the dorms. (phone: 907-474-5846). If you are headed up the Dalton Hwy, it was in pretty good shape when we did it in late June, with the exception of several construction zones. Have FUN! Be safe!
When I was on TOW it was dry. The next day it started to rain but I was heading west. Talking to some people in Fairbanks that said the same thing about closing but I wasn't going back that way. I must have made it before all the rain.
Day seven, Started out rainy but this time after the rain I changed clothes and was extremely comfortable for the rest of the ride. Well....
After the rain ended the rest of the day was picture perfect. This was another great day to ride and ride. Felt so good to ride on 600+ miles of pavement. I continued north of Fairbanks hoping to make Coldfoot to camp near. About a hundred miles north of
Fairbanks the road turns to gravel again. This section to Coldfoot I averaged about 60mph! This gravel was easy compared to what I have been thru or maybe IÔÇÖm getting used to it. I stopped to get gas and discovered that the road would be closed just north of Coldfoot, no thru traffic. Uh-oh, I had appointment for a tour so I had better camp just north of Coldfoot. I stopped in the Ranger building near Coldfoot to look around and talked to a Ranger for awhile. He recommended a camping spot on the other side of Atigun Pass. He also said that the road would be open to one way traffic. After, filling the gas tank and my extra can I took off to search for a campsite. I just felt so good and there was still daylight so I just kept going. When I did stop it had to be a quick one because of the mosquitoes. About twenty seconds after you stop they find you!!!!!!!!! I did some quick calculations in my head and found their collective wingspan area could pick me up if they would beat them in sync. It was daylight at night which was the best time to see wildlife so I just slowed my pace looking at the scenery and a place to chill for awhile. Before you know it you are at Atigun Pass, now I'm getting tired. Not sleepy tired, fatigued tired.
OK, this is where things changed...
I thought about camping at that recommended site but it started to get a little foggy going thru the Pass then it started to rain, I missed the turn off for the campsite. It just got miserable, the wind picked up, the temperature dropped but the road condition wasn't real bad. Wet but not super slippery just a wet gravel road. Then it happened. The little alert showed my rear tire went flat. Argh. Tire was wet and muddy and just didn't see anything so I filled with the air pump I mounted under the front panel. Went for a couple of miles and it went flat again. Decision time....turn around, 100miles back or go ahead 150miles. Like I would turn around, I got three plugs. After about fifty miles and several fillings I finally found the hole. I plugged it for the most part and hoped I would make Deadhorse. I have a confession. Before I left Fairbanks I thought about buying a new tire.. I didn't. I know, no wagging fingers! I know, there wasn't ANY tread on this tire but.....Anyway. By this point IÔÇÖm starting to get tired and it was still raining. I happened across an abandoned flat bed trailer and stood there staring at it to see if I could set my tent under it. It was so windy I gave up on that idea. Next to the rear axles was some piled up 4x4 wood, not for a fire but for a wind break. I crawled under the trailer and rolled up in my tarp and took a nap for about an hour. I woke up shivering, man I was cold but I was ready for the road. Plugged my suit in and warmed up enough to continue. The scenery was amazing. Far better than I could ever describe. Vast.
This is when I screamed like a little girl.
I'm thinking this road really isn't as bad as what I have heard. That route 4 north out of Watson Lake was whack compared to this road. Then.......I am following tire ruts from other vehicles and all of a sudden the tracks veer to the other side of the road. Wait a minute the road condition changed, I can't follow those tracks. They veered too quick. All this happened as I was going about 40mph. In a heartbeat the road turned to a thick rock/mud mixture. Think wet cement. I don't know exactly what I did besides scream but I have never been at that type of angle before on a motorcycle. It fish tailed to the left, thats when my heart sunk. Then fishtailed to the right, OMG. When it went back to the left again I saw a faceplant in my near future. I just gripped the bike with all I had left. Luckily, I was going slow enough after a few oscillations and I was pointed right to the dry shoulder. The shoulder was dry but at a steep angle and you wouldn't want to go off the shoulder at that section either. Now I'm stopped at an angle. No way to put down the kick stand and my heart beating rapidly. Thinking that maybe the truck veered because he lost control for a moment in the mud. Now, I'm stopped in a position that may not be in the greatest place If another truck came thru. I thought about riding the shoulder but looked too difficult because of the angle and how narrow it was. I tried the mud but it was too much of a struggle. Again, luckily, there was a little roadway off the highway that I pulled off onto. After calming down for a bit I look down the road and I see some slow moving vehicles. I get out the binoculars and see that itÔÇÖs a grader and rollers but they are way down there. I figured why not just stay here for awhile. So I took a two hour nap leaning against my warm bike. The temperature was in the mid 30's. When I woke up I filled the rear tire and rode to town. That wet section turned out to be about two miles long then it turned into a real nice rock road. No way I could have made that two mile section without dropping it. The trip from Coldfoot to Deadhorse took me 12 hours, I did have my naps, and a little over a tank of gas.
Day eight. I left Deadhorse at 10:30pm and the tire held pressure for the time I was there so I was hoping it could make it to Coldfoot which was just a little closer to a place to get a tire. The road conditions could not have been better. I probably should have gone slower but I was just enjoying the ride. Then it happened again. This flat was not in a good area. No place to pull over, tire completely flat and the road was curved to the point that with the kickstand down the bike was nearly vertical. No good place to do this. So, I find the new hole in the tire and plug it. I look for my hose to fill tire and I can't find it. Look all over, getting frustrated and thinking I left it behind in the hotel room. I check the side bag again, I FIND IT ! Shut the bag with my leg, like I always do, and there goes the bike. Tipped over, tank bag opened and contents scatter down the embankment. ThatÔÇÖs where the first mark on my helmet came from. When I threw a tantrum in the middle of nowhere. I had to unpack the bike then pick it up and repack everything. ThatÔÇÖs the first point when I saw the belts of the tire. I did slow down just hoping to make it to Coldfoot. However, the road was in great condition and I was making such good time that I was stopped at the construction area which actually closed completely the last few hours of stated time. So I took another two hour nap before making it to Coldfoot. The trip from Deadhorse to Coldfoot took me 9 and a half hours with a forced two hour nap and a gallon of gas to spare in the tank.
Well, I'm in Coldfoot and the tire is holding pressure. I think if I can make it 60 miles to the Artic Circle line and there I'll be able to get a lift back to Fairbanks from some tourist. So off I go. Yes, I know it wasn't my brightest idea. About 30 miles out of Coldfoot I get another flat. I got one plug left, and about 100 miles of gravel road and 100 miles of paved before I get to Fairbanks. What to do? I cut the plug in half, fixed flat and still had one plug left, sort of. By this time I was getting worried because I could see about a half an inch wide of belting in the center on the tire. This last plug went into tire real easy like plugging a butterstick. The only help is in Fairbanks so I figured the closer I could get to Fairbanks the easier I could get help. Well, good news, I made it to Fairbanks. It was nothing but a headache at Harley dealer. Extremely poor service! One guy behind the counter said they didn't carry any tires that would fit a BMW. Anyway, I finally got a couple of tires and called a guy who said he could change them. Rode over to his shop and got them changed. I left in the direction of Anchorage and found a place to camp just south of Fairbanks. No more gravel roads on my route. I survived.
Day nine. I totally deviated from my route because I wanted to go home. I saw a sign that said Denali Highway so I turned to take that road. It happened to be a gravel road but this time I had brand new tires and I was really ready for what the road had to give to me. That turned out to be another flat. Used my last half of the plug and started to worry again. Got thru the highway and almost to the border when it went flat again. Luckily, the guy that I was just talking to stopped and gave me three plugs from his kit. I started looking for some place to fix the tire but it was getting late. Maybe I was too picky but I didn't want to pay Bill $75 to put another plug in the tire. I really wanted a patch.
Day ten in British Columbia, route 37 was the best riding other than my tire woes. I found a place to patch my tire but then they werenÔÇÖt going to charge me so I slipped the dude some cash and left. Finally I donÔÇÖt have to worry about my wheels and I can concentrate on important things. I tried to fish in the Yukon but all the rivers were in flood so I started to look in BC. Went exploring down a side road looking for the posted rest stop. The rest stop turned out to be a good fishing spot where two rivers converge. On the third cast I got a nice hit but before I could do anything it snapped my line. It took my favorite lure because the drag was set way too high. I didnÔÇÖt get my scale out for this one but I guessed the weight to be over twenty pounds. ThatÔÇÖs just a guess. Yes, I released it. (Forgot my filet knife)
Day 11 I had the best time riding thru BC. After a couple of loud train whistles I finally figured out they were actually for me. They toot their whistle to get you to wave. One train tooted twice as another motorcycle passed me. I wanted so bad to ride back thru Fraser Canyon but as usual not enough time. I reached Vancouver in the afternoon and drove thru town. I wish I had more time to ride around, it looked like a cool place to hang for awhile, but I must move on. I pull up to the line waiting to cross the border and just like in the grocery store I get into the slowest possible lane. After I sweet talk my way back into the States I see where all those cars went. I guess they got a more personal interview parked off to the side. Glad it wasnÔÇÖt me. I filled up the gas tank in Seattle and thatÔÇÖs where it first happened. I pulled out of the station and pulled the clutch in as I approached the red light. The engine started to sputter then died. Started right up, but sometimes when I was in traffic and low RPM the engine would sputter and die.
Gosh, Tourist, I never heard of someone having so many flat tires on a tour!:sick
We did about 2500 miles of gravel roads on our tour this summer, and none of us (3 riders) had any tire issues.
I rode the Denali road also, from Paxon to Cantell. Camped along the way. It was a nice road, I liked it. I was solo going thru there.
Thanks for sharing!