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  1. #1
    Active Member Joerolwing's Avatar
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    May 2016
    Nashville, TN
    Spyder Garage

    Default May, June 2019 Alaska Trip Narrative

    May 1, 2019 to June 12, 2019 Adventure to Alaska-unfortunately I couldn't copy and paste pictures
    My brother Otto and I go on long trips together once a year. We’ve done this for seventeen years, 16 on motorcycles, 1 on his houseboat. Following is the list:
    2003-tour of 7 national parks/monuments in Arizona and Utah, borrowed Otto’s peaches and cream colored Honda 1100 ACE motorcycle. These parks included the Grand Canyon, Zion, Capital Reef, Bryce Canyon, Arches, Monument Valley and Canyon De Chelly. There is a picture of us “Standing on the Corner in Winslow, AZ” on my desk.
    2004-tour of Ohio, on my own yellow and black Honda 1000 ACE
    2005-circle tour of Colorado
    2006-tour of Glacier National Park on a rented Harley Davidson motorcycle out of Rapid City, IA
    2007-followed the Mississippi River from Lake Itasca, MN down to Cairo, IL. Our family farmed right next to this river and has always seemed to hold a special place in my mind.
    2008-followed the Mississippi River from Cairo, IL to New Orleans, LA. We were allowed to camp “under the bank” in downtown Natchez and woke the next morning to see a “Beware of Alligators” right next to our tents.
    2009-Key West, FL
    2010-Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island back through Sault Saint Marie on my Honda ST1100. The trip across the bridge across the Mackinac Straits is likely the most memorable of my riding career, heavy 5pm traffic, in rain, a metal grid flooring, a stiff wind that several times blew me out of my traffic lane. This is my favorite trip of all.
    2011-tour of Arkansas on my Honda NT700
    2012-tour of New Mexico, the highlight being the 16-mile sand and rock road into Chaco Culture National Historical Park, the 30-degree temperature when we awoke camping the next morning, and the 22 miles of sand/rock road out. Pietown on Hwy 60 west of Socorro has been a routine stop.
    2013-circle Lake Superior, the highlights being happening upon a Finnish Festival in the Houghton, MI area, and the wooden boat building school in Grand Marias
    2014-tour of West Virginia
    2015-tour of Virginia and North Carolina, including a factory tour of Mt. Olive Pickle Company in North Carolina.
    2016- attend Bonneville Speed Week, Salt Flats of Utah on my Can Am Spyder RT-S SE6
    2017-attended Experimental Aircraft Association’s meeting in Oshkosh, WI and Niagara Falls
    2018-spend several days with Otto as he repositioned his 31’ houseboat from the Pittsburgh, PA area to near Nashville
    2019-to Alaska and back
    I left Nashville on May 1, linking up a with Otto 4 hours northwest from Nashville in our hometown of Charleston, MO where a sister lives. I usually spend several months planning these trips on a turn by turn detail, sending off for state prepared touring brochures and maps. Otto is retired and travels extensively, but I still work part-time so this planning is done so I know when I will be returning. We don’t necessarily follow this plan exactly but do keep it as a general guide. I had four objectives specifically in mind, to visit the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD, to tour Alaska, to visit Oregon, completing my visit to all 50 US states, to visit a niece and her family in Casper, WY, to view Devil’s Tower in NE Wyoming, and finally, for both of us to return home safely. I’m happy to tell you that I succeeded in achieving each of these in addition to the following highlights.
    Taking a trip by motorcycle is different than traveling by car, the destination at times can merely be the excuse for a new adventure. You are limited in what you can bring, you are exposed to the elements, and even if you are extremely careful, there is always the increased risk of accidents, but being out on this edge is what makes this an adventure.
    This was Otto’s second trip by bike to Alaska, the first following our 2006 trip to the Glacier National Park. I had been there several times in the late 1960’s, flying into Eielson Air Force Base near Fairbanks while serving in the Navy as an aircraft navigator. More recently I had flown into Juneau with my brother-in-law, taking the Alaska Ferry to Skagway, Haines, Sitka and flying back from Ketchikan.
    We had made no reservations for overnight stays in that we would be about 3 weeks early in the season for this part of the world. We also carry camping gear for no room in the inn or if there is no accommodation for where we want to spend the night. The season in Alberta and British Columbia provinces mostly starts with Canada’s Victoria Day, falling this year on May 20.
    We angled across Missouri into Iowa, then South Dakota, a corner of North Dakota and into Montana.

    Corn Palace, Mitchell, SD, the outside is refreshed every year
    We easily crossed over into the Alberta province of Canada through the Port of Wild Horse, going through Medicine Hat, Edmonton, Grande Prairie to the start of the Alaska Highway in Dawson Creek, BC.

    We came across “Salem Sue” in New Salem, ND.

    Sign Post Village, Watson Lake, BC. I didn’t count them, but read there are more than 60,000 signs

    A couple of Grizzly bear cubs wrestling on the Alaska Highway, under the watchful eye of their mother. We saw a total of 14 bears, 7 black and 7 grizzlies, all but 2 in Canada.

    The Alaska Highway was constructed in 1942 during World War II to connect the contiguous United States to Alaska. This highway was initially called the Alcan Highway and is now fully paved. It was built as a way to get US troops quickly to Alaska in the event of a mainland attack by Japan during this war. Pictures of building it indicates this was a monumental task and was completed in about 8 months. Over the years this highway was improved to the point that it is now 40+ miles shorter. It begins in Dawson Creek, BC, Canada, and ends at Delta Junction, Alaska, and is just under 1,400 miles long.

    The last remaining original bridge on the Alaska Highway, no longer a part of the current highway but just a short distance from it.

    We first made a short diversion with a stop in Chetwynd, home of an international chain saw carving contest. Carvers come from all over the world, with each year’s winner’s work displayed at locations all over the town.

    Chetwynd chain saw carving winner
    While in Whitehorse, YT, we learned that the George Black Ferry in Dawson City, YT was not operating due to the low water level in the Yukon River. Our initial plan had us going up the Klondike Highway, so we instead continued up the Alaska Highway to where ended at Delta Junction. We continued in the same general direction, with a stay in Fairbanks. We had seriously debated going up the 500 miles of gravel/dirt Dalton Highway to Deadhorse/Prudhoe Bay but decided earning the bragging rights for this just wasn’t worth the risk (heavy truck traffic, sharp rocks, extremely slick after a rain, etc).
    From Fairbanks, we travelled south down the paved Parks Highway to Denali National Park and Preserve, which includes the highest mountain in North America, formerly known as Mount McKinley. We watched the season’s first sled dog program, which visually and auditorily demonstrated each of the dog’s high excitement at the prospect of being hooked up and to be pulling the sled.
    From Denali, reversed track a little way on a side road for a trip to Talkeetna, an original gold mining establishment, now more of a base camp for wilderness treks. We then proceeded to Anchorage for a scheduled rear tire change for Otto’s Suzuki 650 V Strom, and to meet up with Gary P (F650624 on SpyderLovers), a new-found friend I had connected with over the SpyderLover’s Internet group. Gary is retired and spends the summer with his wife in the Anchorage area. He has extensively traveled Alaska and was a valued source of advice in preparing me for this trip.
    The Kenai Peninsula was our next destination, with stops in Girdwood (center for snow skiing), Hope, Soldotna, Homer, and Seward. I had been forewarned multiple times about the few gasoline stations in Alaska, to the point that we had debated carrying extra, with the suggestion that you fill up at almost every station you pass. I could normally travel 200 miles with my 6-gallon tank, averaging about 40 mpg. Otto’s 6 gallons and 57 mpg gave him a range of over 300 miles. The point in mentioning this is that I had to pay much closer attention to this issue, and I failed after an overnight stay in Girdwood by passing a gas station on the way out of town. We diverted off the main road towards Hope, a small community on the Turnaround Bay upon advice from a friend we had met in Talkeetna. He specifically mentioned Milepost 13, a frequently used scenic site for weddings. We also took advantage of a bar/restaurant there for a late morning coffee and pie stop. With no available gas in Hope, my concern for running out started elevating, with the restaurant owners assuring me I would find some back on the main road. They were correct, but my tank took 5.945 gallons, with the scary thought of only having 2+ miles of available gasoline remaining.

    Me, Milepost 13, near Hope (in rain)
    Homer is primarily a fishing village but with a surprising number of year-round housing built on the hillside above the town. It has a 4+ spit of land extending out into the bay, providing a base for the large marina plus multiple tourist shops and the “Salty Dog Saloon”. This is another of the few bars where customers tack $1 bills and hats on the ceiling.

    Otto on the hill overlooking Homer

    Looking over the alter at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Homer

    Salty Dog Saloon, Homer
    Seward is also a small fishing village but had more general industry than Homer.

    Seward Library

    Gray whale near Girdwood that appears to have died after being trapped in a tidal pool
    We exited the Kenai Peninsula by going through the 3-mile tunnel, initially built for rail, now joint auto and rail tunnel to Whittier. Whittier was built by the US military as a deep-water port during WWII, the 10+ story apartment building is still standing but vacant. Whittier is also the Anchorage area port for the Alaska State Ferry which we boarded for transit for the overwater trip to Valdez.

    The ride out of Valdez through the Keystone Canyon/Thompson Pass on the Richardson Highway to Glen Allen was the scenic highlight of the trip.
    After checking to make certain the George Black Ferry outside of Dawson City was open, we rode up the Tok Cut-off and the Taylor Highway to Chicken. We were assured that if the ferry was open, the Port of Entry into Canada would also be open. Chicken has to be seen to be believed, it is at the end of the paved road. For the full story, check out Chicken, AK on the Internet. The only power is by generator, and potable water has to be trucked in.

    The Chicken outhouse, it is a genuine outhouse, with no running water, with no indoor facilities in the whole town

    Ask about the use of the cannon when you get here.
    From Chicken, you either go back the way you came on the paved road or travel 90 miles of the dirt/gravel Top of the World Highway towards Canada. The road was in better shape than I had expected. We did have a couple spots of light rain, and I think I averaged about 30 mph. Next is 10 miles of excellent pavement between the US/Canada border and the Canadian port of entry. Entry here was just as easy and pleasant as our initial at the Port of Wild Horse. Next was 10 more miles of gravel road to Dawson City, but in better condition than the 90, with my averaging about 45 mph.

    Top of the World road, with snow on May 25th

    Dawson City appears to be a mecca for adventurous travelers, complete with a casino. There is also a dredge formerly used to mine gold during the gold rush, reportedly costing $350,000 to build in the late 1800’s and returned 50 pounds of gold a week in its heyday.

    Dredge, approximately 80 feet high, operated with electrically powered cables

    Outline of dredge operation

    This area was filled with piles of the darker “spoil” pictured above

    Dawson City, original building showing frost heave movement and their dirt streets

    We departed Dawson City on the Klondike Highway to White Horse, repeating our path on the Alaska Highway to almost Watson Lake, turning south on the Cassiar Highway. The Alaska Highway goes up the east side of the Rocky Mountains, the Cassiar on the west. We camped for the first time due to the cool weather in Canada’s Boya Lake. We were warned not to camp on the Cassiar, but were later told the Canadian parks were safe as long as food was put in a bear-proof container, which we did.
    Our next stop was at Meziadin Junction, staying overnight at a private logging and road building camp. They allowed travelers when they had room. Next was the Yellowhead Highway into Prince George, then the Cariboo Highway. Otto has numerous friends due to his extensive travel and stayed with two of them in 100 Mile House and had a very enjoyable time.
    Next was an oil change for my Spyder in Vancouver, which included a sorely need washing. From there it was the ferry to Vancouver Island for a 2-night stay at more of Otto’s friends, then to another friend’s houseboat located in the downtown Seattle harbor. Given that Seattle is the home of Starbucks, I was disappointed that I had to walk 3 full city blocks before I found one. On our second day in Seattle, we rode over to Wenatchee and visited the man and his wife who used to live in Prescott and taught Otto how to play Squash.

    Our temporary home in Seattle (it is for sale if you are interested)

    From Seattle, we took a ferry across to the Olympic National Park area and rode down the west coast of Washington State. It was a very nice and relaxing ride, with the Pacific on the right, and massive old growth cedar trees on the left.
    As previously mentioned, I have previously visited every US state with the exception of Oregon, so starting with a ride down Historic Highway 30 through the Hood River Gorge made for a memorable time. Unfortunately, I left my only item for the entire trip in a restaurant here, my Naval Flight Officer hat.

    Hood River Gorge overlook
    Otto and I separated at The Dalles, OR, him heading south for a visit with his daughter and grandchildren in Salt Lake City, me heading east.
    My initial plan was to ride every scenic highway that was in my path, and Hell’s Canyon in eastern Oregon was the first.

    Arco, ID. From a distance, I thought this may be Native American built caves, as I got closer, I saw it was numbers and initials painted by the areas high school graduates
    My visit with Jen, Aaron, Lexi and Devon in Casper was short but a good visit

    My second to last goal for this trip, seeing Devil’s Tower, rising 571’ above the surrounding countryside. It was all that I imagined, but absolutely no interest in attempting a climb.
    From NE Wyoming I rode almost directly south, intersection with Highway 20 which I rode across Nebraska. From a prior trip not taken research, I remembered a former Catholic convent in Steinauer, Nebraska that had been converted into a bed and breakfast. It was roughly in my path towards Nashville, so I called and made a reservation. I had attended Catholic kindergarten through high school, thus my fascination with convents. This B and B is managed completely by local volunteers, and one of them took the time to give me a personal tour of the convent and attached school and the nearby St. Anthony Catholic Church. This picture doesn’t do justice to the actual window, but the range of colors should help.

    From Steinauer in the corner of SE Nebraska, it took about 3 hours to get to close to my growing up state of Missouri. I had to go a little further south to Leavenworth, KS because of Missouri River flooding.

    Missouri River flooding in the Elwood, KS/St. Joseph, MO area

    Federal Penitentiary, Leavenworth, KS, impressive looking but foreboding
    My second last day was a long one, 14 hours, 578 miles from the Convent B and B to my sister’s home in SE Missouri. After a four hour ride the next day I was happily home with my family, 42 days, 11,978 miles, a trip of a lifetime but one that likely won’t be repeated.
    I had carried a 12 volt mini compressor, a battery pack capable of starting a bike, a replacement drive belt, extra tools, and various tire plugs, including larger ones that would require tire removal. None of these were needed. We did not have or need bear spray. I read that you cannot take this though Canada. One thing I should have brought is a couple cans of Fix a flat spray sealer.

  2. #2
    Active Member Scotts8826's Avatar
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    Jun 2014
    Spyder Garage


    I hope you figure out how to post pictures.

    So, how many days did you end up camping compared to hotel stays?

  3. #3
    Very Active Member PW2013STL's Avatar
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    Mar 2013
    ST Bonifacius, MN
    Spyder Garage


    "The Chicken outhouse, it is a genuine outhouse, with no running water, with no indoor facilities in the whole town"

    In 2016 during our North to Alaska trip we stayed in Chicken over night and the hotel did have a bathroom attached to the room with a shower, but the water was labeled NON Potable. Chicken had changed quite a bit since our first motorcycle trip in 2006. That trip we stopped for breakfast in Chicken and then there was only 4 buildings with a long row of outhouses. The restaurant did have a washroom that only had a sink in it so you could wash your hands.

    Chicken is our favorited town in Alaska
    2015 F3S, 2018 F3L

    Isn't it weird that in AMERICA our flag and our culture offend so many people......
    but our benefits don't?

  4. #4
    Active Member Raprider's Avatar
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    Oct 2017
    Central NJ
    Spyder Garage


    Awesome! Looking forward to seeing some of the pics.
    Raprider (Rich)

    2016 Can-Am Spyder ST-S SE5 Steel Black Metallic (Blackbird)
    BRP Audio, Heated Grips, Fog Lights, Passenger Backrest, Givi Saddlebags/Top Case
    BajaRon Swaybar, Wide-Vu Mirrors, Lamonster Ram mount and X-grip, Sena 20S Evo Dual

    1996 Yamaha Virago 750 (Vera) - still riding
    1987 Honda Shadow 500 (Shady) - sold
    1982 Honda Rebel 250 (Little Reb) - sold

  5. #5
    Active Member Joerolwing's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2016
    Nashville, TN
    Spyder Garage


    Just one night camping on the way back, Boya park on the Cassiar on the way back. temps too cool. Very nice facility but lots of mosquitoes before the sun heated up the area.

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