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Thread: Chasing Winter and the Midnight Sun 2009

  1. #31
    Registered User Beemer01's Avatar
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    Day 12 Deadhorse (Prudhoe Bay) on the Arctic Ocean to Fairbanks May 31

    We rolled early eating breakfast with some of the oilfield crews cafeteria style.



    Dave suggested we grab some treats for our British bicyclist friend - he wouldn't be too hard to find - two bags of Crackerjacks found their way into my tankbag.

    Topping off our tanks and gas cans we headed South again.




    Interesting note - on the way up my Garmin didn't show the Haul road - I was just blazing a path across an electronic void on the screen. When I turned on the Garmin in the morning, it now identified the Haul Road and showed Deadhorse as a town at the apex. Strange.

    We rolled South slowly gaining altitude off the swampy Tundra, reaching the high Tundra and Caribou herds. A couple sprinted across the road in front of Dave's bike, but a quick grab of the brakes averted disaster. A pair of Musk Oxen watched us ride past - dusty clouds behind our bikes.

    Just before a small bridge, I saw the our British biker, just breaking camp down by the stream.. We pulled off the road, gave him our 'gifts' and chatted for a while more - I think he was happy for the conversation and break from his routine. ' Not sure if he knew what Crackerjacks were.

    We warned him about Atigun, riding a bicycle over this pass - even if it weren't snowing and blowing - stuck me as nearly impossible. The muck and steep grades would probably stop even Lance Armstrong. I've since checked - he pedaled over the range. He proved everyone wrong.

    We parted company - I looked to the South - the Brooks Range was again shrouded in low clouds?”?‡ª and a front was blowing in hard.



    Once again we crossed the Pass, and once again I could see nothing. Flashing lights on a sign told us to check channel 19 on our CB for current road conditions - not very helpful since we were not so equipped. I cranked up the heated grips and gear and headed back up the grade.

    'Don't use the front brake, Don't use the front brake' I kept repeating to myself as my rear tire slipped and slid on the slick, mucky road surface. The snow started in earnest at about 2000', and started to accumulate on my windscreen and helmet, slicing visibility to a few yards.

    I dropped down a gear and bumped the revs and we ground up the pass. An eighteen wheeler appeared and vanished in the blowing snow ahead of me setting my pace - passing is certainly not an option here, regardless of the weather. I would wind up standing on my pegs for extended stretches to negotiate the muddy ruts.

    What can I say - we made it through without incident - no pictures - too tense.

    We stopped for fuel at Coldfoot, and were happy to be able to tell the waitress that for the moment, all was passable on the pass.



    The rest of the ride back actually improved dramatically - the slick calcium chloride roads had hardened up perfectly, to almost paved quality. I bumped my speed making sure that I saw Dave in my review mirror at every rise - he was hanging back a bit.

    I got to the start/end of the Dalton and waited about ten minutes for Dave - puzzled that he hadn't showed up.



    I turned the Beemer around and started back - and Dave appeared. It turns out that the radiator of his Kawasaki had completely clogged with the mud of the Haul Road, leaving his bike to overheat. The on-board computer, sensing the temperature rising cleverly shifted the bike to a limp home mode. This is actually a neat feature, you are slowed down to where a chasing wolf could catch you, but you keep sputtering and moving. And we hoped that the temps were contained to a point where the engine would sustain no damage.

    The grades on the South end of the Dalton are steep - even when pavement is reached - for the run into Fairbanks, there are a lot of grade changes.

    I let Dave ride ahead - but he was moving slowly - I trailed with my flashers on. We eventually reached a restaurant and I was able to wheedle some buckets and access to their outside faucet - Dave tossed 6 or so buckets of water into the radiator trying to flush out some of the baked in mud, but this was really a job for a high pressure washer. And a stack of quarters. The water did however cool the bike sufficiently so regular riding speeds were regained. We reached Fairbanks, found a car wash and he blew his clogged radiator clean.

    The BMW was a bit dirty and benefited from being hosed down as well.

    Dinner that evening was eaten out of a gas station - it's always fun to people watch at a BP mini mart at 11:00PM - kinda like living in an episode of Cops as we ate our chips, sodas and sandwiches of uncertain vintage.
    Last edited by Beemer01; 02-05-2014 at 09:34 PM.

  2. #32
    Registered User Beemer01's Avatar
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    Day 13 Fairbanks to the Denali Highway to Valdez June 1

    Rolled out early and rolled on the throttle and headed South on 3 to Cantwell to take the Denali Highway East.

    We gassed up in Cantwell and saw things we'd been able to avoid to this point. Tour busses discharged throngs of soft, plump tourists (mostly Asian and European) at trinket shops selling authentic Denali Park Tee shirts (bright signs screaming 50% OFF!) (and presumably rubber tomahawks made in China) and dreck. Dave observed that few seemed to be buying - I just couldn't wait to escape so I could breathe again. Must be suppressed memories.

    The Denali Highway is a 135 mile gravel and dirt road - mislabeled a highway. (You'd have thought I'd have learned that by now…) The vistas were stunning - this dusty and occasionally snowy, pot holed road was classic Alaska - stunted pine trees, distant snowy mountains, crystal clear rivers - did I say pot holed? The Denali has pot holes that could swallow a KIA. No people, few vehicles, almost no man made structures.








    Ahead I saw something on the road - a mother Moose and her calf were walking along the road - they kindly waited for me to get some maternal pictures.



    We stopped for gas after the Denali and met a German couple who had taken many months off to ride their Dual Sport machines in Alaska and Canada. They seemed to be having a great time and were in no hurry. How do young couples get 6 months off? I need to study the European systems more.



    We, on the other hand, had to make Valdez, the end of this amazing pipeline.

    As we rode South the temperatures got warmer… until we reached the range of mountains, hard against the coast, that surrounded Valdez. Up and up we went, cresting the top of the pass amidst snow fields, and then down, down down through scenery that looked more like Switzerland than the USA. Fantastic grades, tight corners and dramatic scenery at every turn - plunging waterfalls seemed almost commonplace after a while.



    We camped at an RV park in Valdez, had dinner and I headed off to my sleeping bag.



    Last edited by Beemer01; 01-15-2010 at 09:53 PM.

  3. #33
    Registered User Beemer01's Avatar
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    Day 14 - Valdez to Burwash Landing - Burwash YT. June 2

    Up, up and out we left Valdez, and onto the Alaska Highway again. This stretch was littered with closed and for sale resorts and gas stations - fuel was scarce for long stretches. There were extensive sections of road which were gravel covered and dusty - when you seen a sign warning of extreme dusty conditions - believe it.

    In some respects these sections were more difficult to ride than the Haul road had been - lots of rear tire squirming and sliding - oncoming trucks created dusty zero visibility for hundreds of meters after they passed.



    We reached Burwash Landing and Lodge and were grateful to see a log cabin gas station, we pulled off and up to the pumps.

    The owner, Paddy, came out kvetching good naturedly about everything - he helped us refuel. I asked about the Provincial campground on the map a ways down the road - "Closed" Paddy said.. "Damn bears were ripping it up last week". "You can camp down by the lodge" he motioned towards the still frozen lake - "No charge for tents in the meadow - not so many bears either" he chuckled.



    We rode down the grade, found the meadow and pitched our tents.



    The Lodge had a restaurant! We were all set - we went in and found a nice dining room.... with a single occupant - a burly guy in coveralls with a beer in front of him. "Come on - join me" he said motioning to the empty table.



    What followed was a very strange conversation.

    The gentleman told us he had a towing business in the summer months - he and Dave swapped technical pointers on GM transmissions - but in the winter months…. he travelled to Africa and performed arms training to support his employer in their sales of AK-47s to various governments, agencies and dictators across the continent. He seemed to know his manufacturers - the best AKs are being made in China, some are now chambered to accommodate .223 US Military rounds.(why?) He knew the good dictators and the bad dictators by name. He had two business cards - one for the towing business and the other for the arms business. If you look at Dave's hand you'll see the arms dealer business card.

    I glanced at Dave and shrugged. The gentleman then went on to say that he'd been diagnosed as mentally ill and saw a shrink once a month. Just when we'd confirmed that we were talking to an amiable 'end of the road' crackpot, he reached into his pocket and produced 20 rounds of live NATO ammunition.

    At the end, he offered to sell us individual AK-47s - "There are militias starting up all over America" he encouraged. We declined - our bikes were pretty heavily loaded as it was, and I'm not sure how I'd explain an automatic Chinese rifle strapped to my back.

    I wandered out to the frozen lake as the sun was setting - an amazing county.

    Last edited by Beemer01; 01-15-2010 at 06:21 PM.

  4. #34
    Registered User Beemer01's Avatar
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    Day 15 Burwash Landing to Haines, AK to Skagway AK. June 3




    A short day, perhaps 300 miles, we lost a lot of elevation as we went down to the fishing village of Haines, arriving around midday.




    The ferry schedules had changed, rather than departing at 1:00PM, it was leaving at 10:00PM - which was fine by me. I washed the bike, washed my clothes, had a few beers and wandered the harbor area and picture book town ringed by towering mountains.

    Unfortunately I spent too much of the day tethered to my Blackberry - trying to solve client problems back in Chicago by phone and email. This was not good - we had teams working 60 and 70 hours a week on a sudden crisis.

    By 9:00 we were down by the ferry landing where we met with two brothers riding BMWs, one on a 1150GS and the other on a 650GS.






    All of us were Skagway bound - a short ferry ride, but one not to be missed.



    Eventually the ferry discharged the departing passengers and vehicles and we were the first to load. The expanded metal ramp sloped steeply down into the hold of the ship - we were soon all aboard with the bikes backed up and chocked against the wall. (Note - they expect you to have your own tie down straps - none of us did, but the water was glassy smooth that evening as there was little worry).

    We wandered the ship for the several hour ride, getting into Skagway after dark. The brothers had gotten the location of a campground near the terminal - we rode up and off the ship - took two hard rights and into a dark sleeping campground. Tents were quickly set up and lights out.

  5. #35
    Registered User Beemer01's Avatar
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    Day 16 Skagway AK to Watson Lake and a change in plans, Bryan to Liard Hot Springs

    Up and out at dawn, we rode up, up and up out of Skagway heading to Watson Lake to swap out our tires. A long ride before coffee and a muffin we arrived in Watson Lake around 2:00 in the afternoon.

    I'd decided that due to work related issues that I had to cut my end of the trip short here. Dave had crafted an intricate and incredible trip agenda - one that I would never ever have attempted or ever tried without his urging - but the realities of the accounting and consulting world made it important for me to 'jump ship' at Watson Lake and program my GPS for Chicago.

    I had to be back pronto.

    I assisted in Dave changing his worn out TCK-80s for the Tourances, aimed East and headed for home.

    Dave - one of the most capable guys I know - would finish his agenda solo, sorry, Dave. This was a trip of a lifetime for me.

    As my sons have said - I'll have great stories to tell in the nursing home.

    I rode to Liard Hot Springs that evening, and camped in the Provincial campground - soaking off some road dust in the steaming forest springs.

    Last edited by Beemer01; 02-05-2014 at 09:39 PM.

  6. #36
    Registered User Beemer01's Avatar
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    Day 17, 18 and 19 Liard Hot Springs to Chicago - essentially Yukon Territory to Chic

    Solo riding is liberating in its own way - I covered a lot of miles (kilometers) in a hurry.

    The Alaska Highway was intermittently closed due to raging forest fires - they had just been reopened when I passed thru. Ash fell from the sky like snow at times.



    Interestingly, the Woods Bison were utterly unaffected by the fires that were burning just a few hundred feet from where they were grazing. I had feared that they'd be panicked - nope. Just another day in paradise for them.

    I discovered the Northern prairies of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Montana and North Dakota- flat - utterly flat.



    I met some wonderful people refueling and at night. I traversed these endless prairies, crossed the border at an entry that sees very few people and even fewer bikers. I faced blowing 42 degree rain virtually all of one day and the final day rode 925 miles from Minot, ND to Chicago. (almost Iron Butt!)

    Lessons learned -

    XM Radio is a godsend for bikers, until you get above British Columbia. Once past that point there is no coverage. I listened to a lot of Jazz, Public Radio and even an occasional Baseball game.

    Padded spandex biking shorts make a huge difference. I had the stock GS seat augmented with a bead rider, but the biking shorts make routine 15 hour days possible and comfortable.

    TCK-80s are a great tire - with predictably short tread life. I wore out a rear tire in a week of riding on Canadian and Alaskan 'highways'.

    The 1150-GS is an outstanding purpose built machine for a trip like this. Durable with solid torque, able to run effortlessly for days at 85 MPH, and then run onto dreadful roads without a whimper. I doubt I could have done this trip as easily on my street bike. The GS also has dozens of small design elements that make it literally bombproof in adverse environments - of course the Germans have had decades to perfect this boxer design. Overall I got around 45 MPG, fully loaded.
    Used not a drop of oil in 11,000 miles.

    Heated vests work great, but my arms got cold. I have since bought an Aerostich heated jacket liner.

    The Aerostich Roadcrafter was a solid choice for this trip. I never once got wet and we saw every type of weather.

    The Cee Bailey windscreen was a big help, much quieter and warmer behind its protection, I could still easily see over the top.

    Dave will finish this trip report in time - he was headed off down the Cassair Highway for even more beautiful country.
    Last edited by Beemer01; 02-05-2014 at 09:41 PM.

  7. #37
    Registered User careycsg's Avatar
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    Super Ride Report

    A very nice ride report. You should become a writer and travel journalist. That windshield on the GS sure looks familiar! How about a presentation of this at the monthly Chicago region meeting? Thanks for taking the time to put this together, Bryan.

  8. #38
    Registered User Beemer01's Avatar
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    Happy to present -

    September 10 meeting right? Who do I coodinate with?

    Yep, great windscreen - Saw you briefly at Da Moon the other Sunday, your GS seems to be wearing it well!

  9. #39
    It is what it is. Bud's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by careycsg View Post
    A very nice ride report. You should become a writer and travel journalist. That windshield on the GS sure looks familiar! How about a presentation of this at the monthly Chicago region meeting? Thanks for taking the time to put this together, Bryan.
    Meeting place and time?
    Ride Well, Ride Often, Ride to

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  10. #40
    Registered User Beemer01's Avatar
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  11. #41
    "Road Worthy" LRider's Avatar
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    Superb report!!! Many thanks.......
    Cheers............Rod
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  12. #42
    look out!!! Visian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Beemer01 View Post
    The 1150-GS is an outstanding purpose built machine for a trip like this. Durable with solid torque, able to run effortlessly for days at 85 MPH, and then run onto dreadful roads without a whimper. I doubt I could have done this trip as easily on my street bike. The GS also has dozens of small design elements that make it literally bombproof in adverse environments - of course the Germans have had decades to perfect this boxer design.
    i must say i wholeheartedly agree with you here. i did this trip in 98 with an R11GS and was thinking the same thing all the way.

    (i also had the same problem as you... client-fire wise. unfortunately, in 1998 there was no such thing as tethering, and internet access was pretty much limited to an aol account and dial-up speeds. therefore, i spent too much time on the phone!)

    outstanding report... thank you very much for posting this here.

    ian.

    ps => oh, and um... tatt pics?
    Go soothingly through the grease mud, as there lurks the skid demon.
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  13. #43
    Registered User Beemer01's Avatar
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    Sorry - no tat pics

    She was cute though.

    To her credit she was at least wearing a leather jacket and chaps with her shorty helmet (though I think for some HD riders these are more fashion statements than protective gear).

    The curse of technology is that sometimes we get too much information. Being able to access my BB was a case in point.

    All worked out well, however...

    Cheers!

  14. #44
    "Road Worthy" LRider's Avatar
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    Fabulous report!!! Love your pics........

    Many thanks......
    Cheers............Rod
    BMWMOA# 114168 IBA# 19606
    "Road Worthy": http://www.trafford.com/Bookstore/Bo...=SKU-000167680

  15. #45
    2wheelsround-The Rider
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    Great report

    Thanks for the great report. You did a great job of organizing your thoughts so we could follow your trip as you took it.

    I hope you have no regrets on choosing to leave the trip and head for work. Also, it sounds like this will be one of many more "trips of a lifetime".

    Make it happen

    Dave

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