Monday, August 25

Bugs, dust and mud...oh MY!

Just a a small follow up.
We spend quite some time cleaning the bikes and it's amazing how those little bugs get into every nook and cranny on the front end of the bikes!
We were transporting about a pound of bug guts all over the place along with some kind of tenacious mud from a construction site in the Yukon.
Much soap and water combined with elbow grease and the bikes look clean and shiny once more.
No major technical problems to report and we can now actually turn our necks as we have both had a professional massage.
The phone is ringing with work and schedules for school need to be made.
It's funny how quickly life returns to normal.
Oh yes, and the home roasted coffee...................ahhhhhh!

All good things come to an end...

We had considered going to Manitoulin Island for a couple of days camping (just to say we used the stuff...) but decided to just head home instead.
Now this doesn't mean a rush along the major highways but rather a nice easy pace down 69 (coffee break at French River) to 169, through Bala and down a tiny side road #13 (coffee break here too)witch is one of the best kept secret roads in the near north.
This winding, twisting stretch of pavement runs through the woods and really allows the rider to test all their skills!
169 takes us around lake Simcoe (coffee break by the lake) and eventually down the 404.
We deviated from the DVP and took Don Mills in and 49 stop lights later, parked in the underground.
There was much rejoicing!
Cost of fuel...much!
cost of rooms...much more!
Trip of a life time...PRICELESS!
Thanks to everyone we met along the way for helping to make this a fantastic event...:)
We bid you farewell and hope to be able to post a new adventure next year.

The Big Nickel and the flu...

So we blasted off from TBay around noon and made good time along hwy 11/17 to Wawa.
I must say that even after the awesome scenery in Alaska and the Yukon, the trip along the shore of Lake Superior still holds up as a great road with some fantastic views!
The Sportsman Motor Inn (Spend a night not a fortune) was the stopover in Wawa and a trip made to the General Store for the famous Summer sausage.
The next morning was sunny and not too hot as we set out for Sudbury.
Arrival at Kat's brothers place was conveniently timed to catch a supper of home grown produce and fresh caught fish.
Unfortunately, Kats nephew was under the weather with a touch of flu and we hardly were able to spend much time with him.
As it was, I was able to do a small welding repair job on Kats bike with the help of brother Doug.
A nights rest at no charge was welcome...:)

Tuesday, August 19

T Bay stopover

As Kat indicated, we have had to stay an extra day in Thunder Bay to get a new back tire for the Virago.
It's difficult to estimate tire wear and considering we have traveled 14,000km, the estimate was only off by 1500km.
A local bike shop has ordered a good quality Perelli tire up from Toronto and , in the end, hasn't cost much more than if we bought it at home.
They have a 30% discount on Pirelli which offset the air shipping.
All in all, it has been as convenient as could be expected and we were able to book much needed massages.
The motel room in Kekabeca Falls in nice and inexpensive.
A good day off, considering that we might have been stuck out on the highway somewhere looking for a tow truck!
Now we are getting ready to head down to the shop and get the tire installed then try and cover 1000km by mid afternoon Wednesday and visit family in Sudbury.

Monday, August 18

In Ontari-ari-o

Hit our home province yesterday, coming in at Rainy River. Perfect riding conditions yesterday; sunny, warm, good curving pavement, killer tailwind.

Well, perfect except for one thing.

At breakfast yesterday we happened to look at our tires and saw a small spot of wear on my back tire. Wear right to the cord.

So it was a careful ride to Thunder Bay, and we're now waiting for local bike shops to call us back and let us know if they have one available.

Update: No they don't. And since it's not safe to ride on at all, looks like we're waiting for one to be shipped from Toronto.

Saturday, August 16

The End is the Beginning

Dawson creek is "mile 0"of the Alaskan Highway.
Of course, we had to stop and take a photo of the bikes at the sign.
We have traveled the Alaska Highway and most of the paved roads available.
This marks the official end of the Alaskan Adventure and the completion of a "trip of a lifetime"!
The remainder of the ride will be back across to Ontario via the Canadian route rather than going into the US.
After an overnight in Grand Prairie Alberta we stopped for a complete day off at our friends place in Edmonton.
Jim and Heathers hospitality allowed for a relaxing day for Kat to float around in the pool while I tinkered with the bikes.
An oil change and good clean-up were in order.
Big High Five to our friends for a nice time to chat and catch up...:)
We have found out that Kats nephew , whom we don't see very often, is going to be in Sudbury next week so we have planned a "sprint" across the country to meet up.
It looks like 4 days of roughly 800km (500miles) a day will be required.
As it is,the weather is excellent for that time and the roads are smooth and flat...VERY flat!
There are no stunning views around the corners and no challenging road conditions so it,s in with the iPods and just roll the distance by listening to music.

Tuesday, August 12

Puffins and Whales and Bison...Oh My!


This is a sign not to be taken lightly.
We have seen different animals along the roadside but the road out of Watson lake provided the best viewing.
There had evidently been an accident as 2 Bison carcases and some car trim parts were laying on the shoulder.
Sure enough, a heard of about 25 or 30 Bison were grazing on the fresh grass along the roadside.
The cars slow down somewhat but on a bike, you take it VERY slowly and watch carefully.
As proven by the suicidal Red Squirrels, you can't predict what animals will do around vehicles.
Bumping into a Moose or Bison could put a crimp in the day!
For the most part they seem unimpressed and continue to dine while we watch.
Just to prove a point,further on down the road, a pair of deer that almost certainly are running off the left side suddenly turn and cross back to the other side!
Taking lessons from the squirrels I think.
The rest of the ride into the 2 mountain passes is punctuated by sightings of more deer and a Porcupine.
The way through the Muncho and Summit Lake passes provided some incredible views.
Sunny day, decent roads and great sights!
It doesn't get any better...:)
It must have been quite difficult to build the road through these mountains and across the vast expanses of bog.
While in some other places, the original highway has been bypasses with a better, straighter road, it's clear that this strip of stone and tar through the passes is the original route.
It's Ft Nelson for a night and on to mile 0 in Dawson Creek tomorrow.

Here is a list of the animals we have seen so far...
Bald Eagles,Bison, Moose,Deer, Caribou,Black Bear, Grizzly Bear,Whales,Puffins,Porpoises, Sea Lions,Ermine,Ruffled Grouse,Red Fox (not that one Ya Dummy!) and a variety of bugs, most of which end up on the windshield.

Monday, August 11

Loooong post

Today was amazing, the kind of good, sunny day we needed. This good:

This was taken at a pullout along Muncho Lake. I've never seen a body of water so large with hardly a ripple on it. Surreal.

But I feel like I'm getting ahead of much has happened, and I need to get it down before I lose it.

Day 18: Anchorage to Delta Junction
For some reason we had a brain fart and thought that Anchorage was the end of the Alaska Highway. Nope. Delta Junction is, so off we go. Yes, it's way out of the way and yes, it adds to our
saddle time, but hey, we've ridden farther for less.

It was a good start to the day, sunny and cool, and even the construction wasn't horrible to get through. It was weird, every time we stopped for a bite, the weather changed. After lunch at a mountaintop cafe, the weather cooled down drastically, and then the rain started turning it into another crappy day. We made it to Paxson, and couldn't take it anymore so stopped for soup and tea at the Paxson Lodge. Right after that the sky cleared up, and we had a great run along Summit Lake and down to Delta Junction.

Day 19: Delta Junction - Dawson City
OMG, what an awful day. Keith has touched on the ride a bit from his perspective. Here's mine:


The road from Tok to Dawson City is a variety of surfaces traversing a variety of terrains. Potholes. Loose gravel. Hard packed dirt. Loose dirt. Switchbacks. Steep hills. Soft shoulders. No shoulders. Rain. Cold. Fog. All of this experienced on tires and machine meant for asphalt, not off-road conditions.

You all know how much I love riding, love what it gives me. I told Keith at one point, that if I was told I could never ride again unless I did that road again, I would hand over my keys and walk away. I think he thinks I was kidding.

We hit Dawson City finally, and checked into the Whitehouse Cabins. Doug, the owner, recommended Klondike Kate's for dinner.... beer has never tasted so good!

Day 20: Dawson City
We decided to stay a day in Dawson City, and spent a drizzly but interesting day exploring the town and a steamboat graveyard that's slightly downriver. We managed to get one night in Whitehouse's restored Gold Rush cabin, which was heaven.

Day 21: Dawson City - Whitehorse
It was grey and misty when we left Dawson (quel surprise), but at some point the weather started to break, and by the time we were a few hours from Whitehorse the sky was blue and clear. We pulled into the Braeburn Lodge as we'd read about their world famous cinnamon buns. The thing was freaking huge:

Between the sugar rush, the warm sun, and the presence of smooth new blacktop, I was pretty giddy when we got into Whitehorse.

To be honest, I'm a bit sad to have gotten there and left when we did. My nephew, who lives in Halifax, is actually in the north for a canoe trip with his girlfriend, and we have just missed seeing them in Whitehorse by a few days. D'oh!

Day 22: Whitehorse - Watson Lake
The sun continued to shine as we did a highway run to Watson Lake, and got to the home of the Sign Post Forest just in time to find a hotel and go for a quick look around. It's kind of mind-boggling how many signs are there from all over the world. We actually found one from Punkeydoodle's Corners, a small spot near Keith's hometown:

Day 23: Watson Lake - Fort Nelson
Today was as perfect as the day to Dawson City was foul. Sunny, warm (the wool socks and long underwear have been packed!), it was a great day for riding. There was one stretch of highway where we saw buffalo grazing along the side of the road, calmly ignoring us as we passed oh so slowly.

We stopped for a bit at the Liard Hot Springs for a while to soak away some road twinges. It was surprisingly empty:

Actually, everywhere we've gone seems to be mostly empty. According to a lot of local we've talked to, the rising gas prices are really affecting tourism. On the one hand, we've felt that we've had a lot of places to ourselves, which is pretty cool. On the other, there are so many closed and closing businesses along the highway that it's very saddening.

Tomorrow sees us finishing the Alaska Highway, and we will likely stay in or around Dawson Creek, aka Mile 0.

We must be on our way home, gas is getting cheaper

The most we've paid for gas on this trip was $1.89 (that's about $7.55 a gallon for you Yanks). Last night's price for a fill up was $1.54 so the ride home (and to cheaper gas) is underway.

We rolled into Watson Lake around 6-ish last night. the first thing that caught our eye was the Sign Post Forest - over 66,000 and counting.

So much to tell; the Ride From Hell, Dawson City, how punchy riding on smooth pavement with sunshine made me.

But it's getting on in the morning, and we're off soon to Fort Nelson. Going to try for another Internet location tonight, and will update then. There are more pics posted on Flickr.

Hope everyone is doing well!

Sunday, August 10

Top O' The World To Ya!

The next day was, as you can guess, overcast and rainy as we set out south to Tok (all roads lead to Tok).
The road is of passable paved quality and reminds me a lot of Newfoundland.
Pavement bordered by a cleared section of brush then some dense woods off to the sides.
And just as in NFLD, Moose would come out to the road to wave to us!
They were just young ones but still commanded some respect as they are still MUCH larger than a bike and rider!
We paused in Tok for fuel and tried to get some info on the route to Dawson city via Chicken.
Of the 2 routes to choose from, south was the construction mess we negotiated a week ago or across the Top of the World Highway.
We chose the unknown route and off to Dawson we go.
The Taylor Highway is a "paved" road that stretches the description "Highway"just a tad.
Back road, more like!
The 100 or so km to Chicken passed through, what we later found out, was about 2 million acres of burned out forest.
That's SOME campfire!
It was clear from the map that the road from Chicken to the border was "unpaved secondary" but the rain had made it, shall I say, challenging!
There is an amusing egg shaped sign just off the highway at Chicken saying...
"I got laid in Chicken"
But after that amusement...80km of narrow, twisting, turning ,climbing and diving slickness!!!!
The ST1100 seemed to work well at about 65KMH but Kats bike was a bit more of a handful and required a more conservative pace.
There were few places to pull over so the ride became not as much a short term technical trial but a long term marathon!
You could not really let your concentration laps for a second so we were a bit wrecked by the time we reached the border.
After a long up hill grade to the customs post, we had become cloaked in thick , thick fog!
"The road is better from here on" was the encouragement from the guard
What road?
I had to concentrate on a patch of yellow lined pavement about 10' ahead of me.
I'm sure the view was outstanding but the visibility left that to the imagination.
This is where I find riding the hardest and my hope was as we descended, things would clear up.
Finally we drove out of the fog and began to enjoy the pavement, and the view.
The road wound between large rolling hills and the rain had stopped and the sun was attempting a coup.
Then, more gravel! Not the worst kind, just hard packed surface with a sprinkle of small stones.
Eventually we were treated to a sign welcoming us to Dawson City and the final downgrade to the ferry.
Doug, the guy we had booked a cabin in Dawson from, had said "see you in 6 hrs" when we called from Tok.
6 hrs?!It can't take THAT long!
But it did and then some!
Kat was very pleased to see that the cabin with the old style claw foot tub was available so we stayed in a room for the first night and moved to the cabin for the second.
Unlike the polished well heeled Skagway, Dawson City has more of the authentic frontier feel.
A lot of the original buildings have been brought up to modern standards and still stand as a salute to the past.
As a small diversion from riding, we hiked out into the bush on a little traveled path to have a look at 6 1800's paddle wheel boats that had been pulled ashore at the beginning of the 1900's.
It was very strange to pick and poke around the hulls and boiler bits that remained of the hard working vessels from the past.
The forest was slowly taking the broken hulls back to their origins.
Rear wheel paddle boats were perfect for work on the fairly shallow Yukon River, just like on the Mississippi.
There is a beautifully restored boat at the foot of Front Street.
Pics will be provided.
Back to the cabin and it's steak and mushrooms on the barbi as we see another 11pm sunset.

Back to the beginning...

Even though we have decided not to go to the Kenai or Denali, we thought that if we have come this far, we should go t the start or end of he Alaskan highway.
So it's off to Delta Junction on a reasonably dry and partly clear day.
It's a fairly uneventful trip with the usual rain as we head into the hills.
There was one stop at a roughly built "lodge" in the middle of nowhere for a bowl of the best homemade beef noodle soup.
Ahhhhhhh...nice and warm too!
We stopped in Delta for the usual tourist photos at the highway marker.
Met a French family that were traveling in a European camper style trailer and had traveled through Europe,South America, Australia, North America and more,
The camper is shipped by boat and they meet it and continue on.
Accommodations were found about 15km south of Delta at the Silver Fox.
Nice cozy cabin with a kitchen and sleeping "loft"'s basically a hunters cabin but well priced and quiet.

Tuesday, August 5

Hark! What light through yonder window breaks?

We're in our room in Anchorage, and look outside the window to see something we've not seen for a few days:


Since we left Tok, it's been rather gray and gloomy. There's been some rain, but thankfully it's not really been when we've been riding. The worst it's been was on the ride through Thompson Pass into Valdez.

I cannot begin to tell you how much that sucked. Cold. Wet. Misty. And then foggy. Pea soup foggy, so bad that my visor misted up. I lost Keith's taillights in the fog, and had to pull over. The reptile brain started a minor (ok, ok, major) freak out, but the rest of my brain had no time for it. I turned on the four ways, and headed down. It felt like forever until it cleared up enough for me to see Keith up ahead. From there it was an easy descent past a lovely waterfall into Valdez and a warm shower.

Soooo tired of being cold. Right after the warm shower, we headed to a local outfitters and bought long underwear and wool socks. Now I still get cold, but it takes longer.

We stayed in Valdez two nights, giving us the day to go on a cruise around Prince William Sound. Even the gray chill of the day could not take away from how gorgeous that spot is. Captain Amanda got us in quite close to the terminal moraine of the Columbia's quite a feeling to be going that slow among ice chunks that big, feeling them thump against the side of the boat as it edged it's way closer. The blue of the ice is quite startling, and the sound of the ice popping is like hearing the snap crackle pop of your morning cereal.

After the glacier, the cruise took us around an island where Stellar sea lions congregate and puffins nest. A pair of humpback whales, a cow and her calf, surfaced a few times and gave us a show. A quartet of Dalls porpoises played with the boat, racing out along the bow, crisscrossing and surfacing.

A pretty damn good day.

I was a bit nervous leaving through the pass the next morning (Monday, I think, the days are running together), having decided i don't like fog AT ALL, but it wasn't too bad. It was a pretty uneventful run to Anchorage...cold, grey, gloomy but with amazing scenery.

We stopped for lunch at a cafe in Glenallen that had some pretty funny tee shirts:
Alaskan Men: the odds are good but the goods are odd.

Alaskan Highway Survivor. Out Drive. Out Bump. Out Spend.
Out bump indeed. Frost heaves and thaw bulbs do some pretty interesting things to asphalt, let me tell you. And out spend...good lord, we'll be paying for this trip longer than we anticipated. It's weird though; it's a place where a grilled cheese sandwich will set you back eight bucks (!) and yet my specialized hair product is two thirds the cost compared to home.

File it under life mystery.

Anchorage is bigger than we expected, and we took an extra day here to explore a bit. Today we went to the Ulu Factory and picked up one to take home, then we went to see the guys at AK Rider Motorcycle Tours for a bit. They have tours planned for next year that look intriguing...two weeks in Peru or India sound pretty damn interesting.

The highlight for the day was a visit to Ravens Brew Coffee. Keith called them in the morning, and even though we were informed that they were not retail, Nate, the Alaskan district manager, told us to come on down for a tour. He took about an hour out of his day and not only made us a killer cup of joe, but showed us around the roastery and loaded us up with coffee and swag. He's our new best friend *grin.

I am now the very proud owner of a Deadmans Reach Coffee tee shirt. The tag line is “served in bed, wakes the dead”. Oh so appropriate.

Tomorrow is supposed to be sunny, and we're off to Delta Junction to Mile 0 of the Alaska Highway. There will be a small stop at a musk ox farm in Palmer so I can buy a ball of what will likely be the most expensive yarn I will ever knit with, but after having felt how soft qiviut is, I have to have some. I have no idea what I'll make with it. Yet.

Route Maps:
Day 14: Tok, AK - Valdez, AK
Day 16: Valdez, AK - Anchorage, AK

Sunday, August 3

What day IS it?

I must apologize for the confusion with the dates and tour "days".
We don't get internet access every day and sometimes it's 2 or 3 days until we post.
By that time there is the usual confusion about what was seen where and when.
The fact is that I don't wear my watch because , who cares what day it is?
So we will try to keep the posts in consecutive order of time but the dates may be a bit off.
Today, we are still in Valdez and have booked a tour by boat to see the Prince Rupert Sound.
I want to see what all the fuss is about concerning these bits of ice falling into the water...:)

Saturday, August 2

Valdez...Is that you Juan?

The morning of August 2 and is sunny and mostly clear!
Joy of joys....SUNSHINE!
We have heard that this is the oldest and wettest summer in decades so we feel quite privileged to see the sun.
The breakfast of Belgian waffles sets our mood as we head out of Tok.
The road is unusually flat, smooth and straight and we bask in the comfort of the warm sunshine.
I can even see my own shadow!
One must enjoy what one can get as ,off in the distance the mountains coax us along, and we know that with mountains comes change.
Change in temperature, change in the view, change in the weather and change in the road surface.
There will be 2 passes to negotiate before landing in Valdez, terminus of the Alaskan oil pipeline.
The route to the first pass takes us passed Mount Drum.
This is a 12,000' high, snow covered peak that really says "No,no...I'm a mountain. The rest are just hills"
Can't wait to see Danali!
The first pass is , again, one of the gentle passages through the mountains and doesn't offer much drama.
That's OK by me!
However, the next pass is somewhat different.
The steady up hill climb leads us ,once again, into a cold, wet and deeply overcast world.
No sweat!
Done it before.
Cakewalk! this time.
Just as we top the pass and I realize that the snow is beside me, not above me, the clouds consume us in a thick blanket of gray.
It's very difficult to see the lines on the road and Kat's headlight is swallowed up by the gloom.
I have no idea what's ahead but the road is now on a fairly sharp downgrade and stopping is probably a bad idea.
Taking it easy but keeping a reasonable pace,I pick my way down through the fog hoping Kat can see my brake lights.
Not so smart now are we?
Finally, as expected, the fog starts to clear as I come into lower altitude and I safely pull off onto the verge.
Kat is nowhere to be seen!
The thought of turning back up into the pass is not comforting she comes now.
All good!
Seems that not only the fog was causing problems but her face shield had fogged up as well compounding the problem.
The rest of the way was a clear if not dry ride through a beautiful canyon with the "Bridal veil Falls" was our reward.
So here we are in Valdez and no Juan in sight.

All roads lead to Tok.

August 1...
The morning finds the weather the same...gray after day!
In an unusual turn of events we have actually called ahead to Valdez and booked accommodations and a boat tour.
The 800+ km distance will be covered in a casual 2 days.
Tok will be the half way stop.
We make a short stop off the highway at a place called Silver City.
At one time, this community housed workers for a local silver mine around beginning of the 1900's.
Now, all that is left are a group of tumbled down log cabins,animal shelters and utility shed.
These guys must have been one tough bunch.
The only heat to bee seen was the stove in the cook house and no other stoves could be seen in the other dwellings.
I guess yo ate well, worked hard and hoped you didn't get sick.
The Alaska Highway around the lake was under construction but didn't pose any difficulty as it was hard packed dirt.
An uneventful hour or so found us having a soup and sandwich at a gas station/cafe.
We struck up a conversation with a Belgian couple who had their camper shipped to Baltimore and were part way through a year long tour of North America starting at the east coast of Canada and continuing down through the "lower 48" and back to where they started.
Some trip!
He did say the road ahead was a bit rough but how bad could it be?
Later, along the route, a sign announcing..."construction next 47 miles" made it clear.
If we thought the last construction zone was a challenge, this one was the test.
The road surface was gone and replaced by a thick ,wet mat of mud that provided the most challenging bike control I have ever experienced.
The convoy of pickups, trailers and cars slipped, slided and pushed it's way through the muck.
Only the tracks of the preceding vehicle left a small , negotiable right of way but to stray even a few inches would result in a mud fest.
Constant concentration and tweaking and jinking the bike was required to keep it upright.
I watched Kat's headlight in my mirror and was distressed to see it veer off the track!
Thoughts of running back through the mud were quickly dismissed as the light began to move closer.
While Kat had been captured by the ankle deep mud, she had maintained control of the bike and kept it upright despite the added weight of the gear.
A testament to the skill she has acquired over the thousands of km's of travel.
Dinner time found is in Tok and we managed to get the last Cabin at the Burnt Paw Resort.
Very nice!

How big is it?

Rolling out of Haines finds us on a nice gently curving streach of 2 lane along the side of the Chillkat river flood plane.
It's a scenic and uneventful trip with the usual overcast skies but absent of rain.
Kat has voiced some reticence about the upcoming pass through the mountains but instead of the awesome grandure and tension,of the trip into Skagway, we are treated to a gentle and effortless climb to the top.
As usual, the altitude provides some very low cloud cover and the smooth roadway crests the top of he pass and heads down into ...a wall of gray!
Fog, or clouds, thick enough to require us to slow down obscure the mountains for the next few km's.
But soon enough, the air is clear again and we descend into a place that can only be described as BIG wilderness.
And I mean BIG!
The road lifts, drops and winds it's way through the valley offering glimpses of your future as it cures around mountains way,way off in the distance.
This is a vast and empty place and while the view is stunning, the overcast sky and low clouds lead to to ponder just how small a spec you are in this world.
The front of your mind is saying "cooooool" while the back is saying "bike don't fail me now".
Most certainly a cell phone call to CAA is not an option.
This terrain is akin to the grand Canyon or Monument Valley in it's scope.
There are few words that can do justice as a descriptor.
Even a picture can't capture the feel of this vastness.
The road leads on and on while the flora slowly changes from low scrub to Boreal forest.
I'm sure the mountains are watching us with some amusement as we forge along.
The bears certainly are...:)

We finally arrived at Haines Junction and check into the kluane Park Inn.
Sounds better than it is but we have all we need for an nights rest.
Even after not covering a lot of distance,a stay overnight here was in order to ponder the significance of life.
OK...well... to get some sleep anyway!
At this time I should mention his "midnight sun" thing.
It's hard to assess the time of day as the sun never really gets up high in the sky but rather swings around through the day at what we would consider 9am azimuth.
Even at 11pm, there is still enough light out to read a book!

Skagway..or..."What's in your wallet?"

Skagway is a neat little town wedged between the mountains with a rugged pass out to the north and port to the south.
In times passed the adventurous prospectors would arrive by ship and after spending their cash on over priced goods and services , would head out and up the mountain pass to their fortunes...or not.
These days, the cruise ships, sometimes 3 deep, unload their "adventurous" passengers who head into town and, well, spend their cash on overpriced goods and services!
Up to 3000 walking wallets every day!

The 1 hour ferry ride to Haines is uneventful but does provide a different view of the rugged terrain and a chance to let someone else do the driving for a while...:)
A short ride along the coast brings us to Haines where we fuel up and check tires and such.
I stopped our exit from town at a NAPA auto parts store in search of some oil for Kats bike.
Not an emergency issue but it was a touch lower than I like.
Buddy there says he doesn't have motorcycle oil but says if I go to the "Pioneer" there is an AMSOIL dealer.
Turns out the Pioneer is the local bar and a guy named Bob Fowler is dealing AMSOIL from the side door.
So I walk in to this dark, old, seedy building and slide up to the bar and say,
"I'm here to see Bob Fowler"
"Is that so?"
The barkeep hustles away to the back room and a second later Bob appears.
"What can I do for you?"
"I need a quart of your best"
He sizes me up and walks away.Moments later he hands me a quart of the very oil I'm running in both bikes.
"What do I owe you?"
"It's on the house"
High fives to Big Bob Fowler from Haines AK for helping a brotha out...:)
I thanks him very much and we are on our way to the Chillkat Mountain Pass.

Greetings from Tok, Alaska

This is our cabin for the night. So pretty and quiet, and comes with a home made belgian waffle breakfast in the morning.

It's been a very long few days, with much to report. However, I am so very tired right now that a short post is all I'm up to.

Some truly amazing roads. The weather gods have declined to favour us with their grace, and so most of the time is spent riding in brutal windchill (12 degrees at 100 kmh = brrrr) and sometimes rain.

But I'm happy as hell. The ride has been challenging, and while I haven't permanently eradicated some of my fears (i.e. heights), I've at least been able to overcome them long enough to avoid doing something stupid.

We're off to Valdez, AK, tomorrow for a few nights, and hopefully I'll be able to get some of the stuff out of my head and onto the blog. In the meantime, I've uploaded some more pictures to Flickr (no editing other than resizing), and have updated the route maps on MapMyRide:

Day 9: Telkwa, BC - Stewart, BC
Day 10: Stewart, BC - Dease River Crossing, BC
Day 11: Dease River Crossing, BC - Skagway, AK
Day 12: Skagway, AK - Haines Junction, YK
Day 13: Haines Junction YK to Tok, AK

Wednesday, July 30

Monday July 27...
So, the law in BC is that all gas sales must be prepaid or by “pay at the pump”
Apparently, the more outlying areas don't have credit card readers on the pumps so you need to pay cash in advance or let them hold a card.
We fueled up at the bottom of the Stewart Cassiar highway and had a bite to eat.
Food and fuel are getting progressively more expensive.
Well, as it turns out, I didn't remember my card until some 45km up the highway!
With some well chosen words muttered in my helmet, we returned to the gas station and retrieved the card.
Now you must understand that gas stations are not as close together as in most urban centres so the fact that we has “used up”70km of fuel and the fact that we didn't top up led to a shortfall to the next fuel stop on the main highway.
No problem.
According to the signs, the town of Stewart was within easy reach...OFF the main highway!
Oh well...gotta do what ya gotta do.
Oh yes, and did I mention it has been raining now for some 2 hours or so?
Rain proof riding gear?!?!
i don't think so but that's another post.
They don't show you those pictures in the travel brochures!
As it turns out, the road was a stellar paved winding trail through some spectacular canyons and past the Bear glacier!
Sometimes mistakes can work out for the best.
Stewart is a small mining town nestled in the mountains at the end of a fjord.
The motel room was a bit pricey but I guess you pay extra for the view...:)

Tuesday July 6...
The drive out of Stewart was an even greater treat for the eyes as the rain had stopped and while the skies were not clear, the view was lit by patches of dry light.
This is a drive that we wouldn't have chosen but has been one of the highlights so far.
we connected with some guys riding street/trail bikes and traded addresses for further contact.
Big laffs were had when I asked if any of them had seen “The Long Way 'Round”
One guy named Rob is returning to Anchorage and is running a bike tour outfit and has offered to show us his shop and bikes.
I am interested in the Suzuki V Strom bikes as it is a “hybrid” and better suited for this type of environment.
Now I must clarify that while this Stewart Cassiar Highway is called a “highway” you must appreciate that this isn't what we would normally consider more than a side road.
Oh yes ,it's paved, mostly, and there is at least 12” of run off on the shoulder and yes, the vegetation is cut back enough to see just what kind of bear is about to try to ride your bike. But “Highway”...not so much!
This is why you make sure tires and suspension are in good shape.
So all is going along just as good as can be expected,not much rain and some dry, unpaved sections leading down to a river crossing and back up.
A bit pf a pain but not as bad as we had heard.
Ahh, but that wasn't the section people meant!
Nay, nay!
The REAL challenge was the 30km of unpaved, soggy, slippery ,muddy and downright unpleasant part of the “highway” that was yet to come.
i did find that it worked out better to get up a bit of speed, say around 70KPH and the bike handled as well as could be expected.
Those guys on the hybrid bikes passing with a wave...smug *&%!
By the time we arrived in Dease Lake for fuel, it was tough to tell what kind of bikes they were!
It wasn't so bad with the wet mud splashing up on the bikes and clothes because at least it wasn't raining...yet...
Just as we made paved land, the rain began and what was just manageable mud splatter on the pants became a dripping mess!
The pay off , though, was a stay at a “camping” cabin at Dease Lake Crossing that was clean, quiet and had a stellar view.

Wednesday July 7
After a good nights sleep ,we wake up to, yes, MORE RAIN!
But despair not as the weather turned in our favour as we went west.
The view is fantastic as we roll through hills and valleys.
Soon now we are riding in the warm sunlight and eventually connected to the actual Alaskan Highway.
Now THIS is more like it!
Wide road with a good surface and easily allows for a 110KPH cruising speed.
The view is right out of the brochures.A long sweeping ribbon of road cutting through the mountains and Boreal forest.
We have arrived!
Things are running well and the world is good, well at least until Kat starts having trouble shifting the gears on her bike.
I'm thinking things like "dogs are shot" and 'transmission work" but after a quick inspection and some WD40 (don't leave home without it) on the shifter linkage, it's all good with the world again!
But this vista didn't even hint as to the stunning landscape we would see in just a few hours.
We decided on a detour from the main road into the town of Carcross, a quaint rail terminus with no accommodations.
With some help from the local Tourist Info people,a room was secured in Skagway and we set off south along the edge of an inland lake.
They said it would take about 90 miutes but at 100 km distance, it seemed we would do much better.
Ahhh, but they didn't mention the mountain pass!
Now Kat and I have travelled through some nice passes in the Colorado Rockies and the Canadian Rockies but this one is in a league of it's own!
As steady climbing roadway took us into the clouds, rain and ever colder temperature.
I was sure the rain would turn to sleet at any moment.
Familiar mountain terrain gave way to snow line tundra that looked like something from another planet.
Cold? yes...Desolate? yes...Wet? yes...but OUTSTANDING!!!!!
Finally, the road leveled off then tipped down to the exit of the pass.
I can't really thing of the best word to describe it but "holy s^&*" comes to mind.
The pavement is pasted to the side of a canyon that plunges some considerable distance down to the river.
As the two lane threads it's way downward, we are treated to absolutely jaw dropping, and at the same time unnerving, glimpses of the brutal land that the gold miners of '49 had to contend with.
A couple of stops were made for pics.Hope you like them.
After the dizzying decent, and a quick chat with an ever so friendly US Customs guard,we have landed in Skagway, home of the gold rush.
Ferry tickets booked and a bite of Thai food, it's off to snooze.

Monday, July 28

McBride BC - Telkwa BC, Day 8

Not bad, eh? This is the northward view along the Bulkley River in Telkwa, British Columbia.

We started off the day looking at overcast skies, and had to suit up for rain within minutes of leaving the motel. We didn't hit a lot of rain, and the fact that my weatherproof pants AREN'T didn't stop me from enjoying the day. Saw a black bear on the side of the road, a few deer in a field and lots of ravens and crows. Just outside of Prince George, I saw a sign that had me giggling for kilometers: it was for a towing company called Give It A Yank. No kidding.

The weather cleared just after lunch, and the ride got that much better.

We ended the day in Telkwa at a place called Two Rivers Lodge. This is the view from our cabin:

This plus a walk into town for ice cream, and it was a perfect end to the day!

From Keith....

So here we are on what we consider the "real" part of our trip.
To get to Calgary was just another ride across the country on boring 4 lane highways but now we are on 2 lane pavement that winds through beautiful rolling hills and climbs mountain passes.
Well worth the "super slabbing'"to get here!
The choice is to take the western route into the interior of BC and then up to the Alaska Highway near Watson.
It's roughly 3400km from Calgary to Anchorage but the scenery helps the time and distance go by easily.
Today is day 10 and by lunch time we will no longer be going west but will start the northward trek to Anchorage. The weather promises to be sunny and warm but as always, the mountains can throw different weather at you at a moments notice.
I estimate we should arrive there somewhere around next Friday.
This is all dependent on what we see and where we might decide to stop.
Our only real deadline is to be back in Toronto by August 24th.
I would like to take this time for a call out to a few people "along the way"
Scotty and Paul at Ontario Cycle salvage who help keep the bikes running smoothly.
Tessa (an old friend )from Cosy Critters who is making sure our cat stays fit and sane.
Tim and Brenda who put up some strange Canadian people for the night in Wisconsin Minnesota.
To all the people that gave tips on what to do and see and finally to mom and dad who gave me the desire to travel and see new places.
Mom,the late adopter computer user, is following the blog as we go :)
And my buddy Burns who is keeping the petro industry alive with his "new" vehicle!

Sunday, July 27

Calgary AB to McBride BC - Day 7

Banff and Jasper are pretty little towns that have turned into well-heeled tourist traps; not where we want to be on this trip. But the road in between the two points are pretty spectacular.

So hard to describe the colour of the water in the lakes and rivers; the silt coming down from the glaciers gives the water an opaque turquoise cast.

You know why your bike fell over? It was two tired.
~ Bill, Keith's dad
Yeah, I had a small oopsie with the bike. We'd just gone up a small switchback, no biggie, but it was the first where our lane was on the outside. My fear of heights kicked in and I had to pull over at a small viewing area at the top for the adrenaline rush to subside. I was still a bit shakey when we went to leave, and, well, the bike fell over. Nothing hurt, nothing damaged, just me feeling like a bit of a goof as I waited for Keith to come back and help me pick it up. D'oh!

As gorgeous as the Banff-Jasper run was, I was a bit glad to move on past Jasper. The views are all so perfectly framed with the conveniently placed pullouts where everyone stops, piles out of the bus or van and snaps the requisite photos, it starts to seem almost contrived after a while.

The majority of the tourist traffic was left behind at Jasper, and the rest of the day's ride to McBride was a good one, as we ran along the Fraser River for a while.

Friday, July 25

Calgary! Days 5-6

Finally made it to Calgary, and my brothers house. It was a day of more of the same, although there's a certain feeling to coming around a curve and seeing the mountains again off in the distance. I can't tell you how good it is to see Brain and his family again – I've missed them a lot since they moved from S. Ontrio, and my nieces have grown so much.

And it's also great to know that I don't have to get back on the bike for a few days, and when we do continue on our way, there will be no more grueling long days of highway riding.

We spent today catching up and some chores like a bit of laundry, bike washing, re-organizing he pack a little bit, and a lot of relaxing. I got to play with their Wii, and now I really want one (like I didn't before), especially since my Wii Fit age is only 34. Right now their new dog, Lily, is licking my foot while Molly and I hang out on the couch watching cartoons. Keith and I will be heading out in a bit to meet up with Joanada for dinner and then back to play more Wii with the family.

Tomorrow we'll be back on the road and cruising through Banff National Park. we're ridden this route before, and I can't wait to revisit a nice road after 5 days of boring interstates and the Transcanada.

Day Four - yet more super slabbing

Keith's take:
We laughed. We cried. We sweated. It was all about the Git Er Done. Today proved that riding just to cover miles is not fun.

We've traveled some boring roads, but riding four lane highway over the prairies takes the cake.

Kat's take:
  • pleut.
  • Mmmmmmm....chicken fried steak! alas not as good as Okie.
  • Oh good, it's stopped sky!
  • Wow. Is Northern North Dakota ever flat.
  • OMG is that sun ever hot!
  • Sitting at the border in this gear = sweating in unpleasant places. Almost wish is would rain again,
  • (An hour or so later) I need to be careful what I wish for. Wet again.
  • Saskatchewan's new tourism tag line cracks me up: Hard to spell. Easy to draw.
  • Is it just me, or did it get FLATTER? Saw a sign for a town 15 kms away and I can already see the grain elevator in the distance. The bonus is that you can see oncoming weather in plenty of time to suit up.
  • Moose Jaw!
  • It's surprising just how tired highway riding makes you. In bed by 9...good grief.

Day Three

We left the Oh Captain household at about 8:30 this morning. I really wish we could have stayed longer to hang out with them a bit more, so I could have looked at more of his photos and listen to Oh Countess tell stories with that lovely Minnesotan accent of hers. Oh, and to play with the girls a bit with their merry brown eyes and giggles.

But a lovely day of interstate travel was ahead of us. More ipod. In a not unrelated sidenote, WHAT was I thinking, putting the full-length 15-minute long version of Nick Cave's I'm On Fire on a traveling playlist?? It went on and on and on and on, much like I-94.

I have a new version of hell. Being stuck behind a full livestock truck on a sunny, warm day, Extra hell points if the livestock in question is pigs.

But the ride was good. We only hit construction in a few places, there were no major slowdowns, and the weather gods were kind enough to make it sunny and in the mid 20's. t was a good day of watching the rolling cornfields of Minnesota change to the rolling grasslands of North Dakota.

We finally called it a day around 8, rolling into a small town called Medina, just off I-94. And before you ask, it's neither funky nor cold *grin. It's one of those little towns with one main street, and 6 or 7 little cross streets running off it. at 8 pm, the only thing open was the Dairy Freeze and the bars.

Tuesday, July 22

Days One and Two continued

Well Blogger does not seem to like the MapMyRide maps, so I'll just link to them from now on.

Last night we were able to meet up with Oh Captain and his family. They were generous enough to let us stay the night and it was a very welcome break to meet the family. They are very fun and friendly, and their two kid are bright and spritely - THANK YOU again for letting two Invisible Internet Friends to hang out!

Days one and two

Day One:

We left Toronto pretty much on schedule, but in the middle of a rainstorm that was torrential in places.

This is where we learned that the manufacturers of motorcycle gear define "waterproof" a bit differently than we do.

The weather cleared up around London, and the rest of the day was fairly sunny. There was about an hour backup at the border crossing in Sarnia, most of it spent ON TOP of the bridge. Yay.

The rest of the day was fairly uneventful; there's not much you can say about highway travel. We made it in to Ludington around 8, and had an interesting dinner at the Hunan Palace before crashing at the Nova Motel.

Day Two:

Today was a light riding day, due to taking the Badger ferry across Lake Michigan. It's a far nicer to sit and play Scrabble rather than fighting the traffic around Chicago.

Then is was plug in the ipod and super slab it across to Rochester to meet up with

Saturday, July 19


We have finally finished the jigsaw puzzle that is packing a month's worth of gear on two motorcycles.

And even the shoes have fit in.

We're aiming to hit the road for around 8am, crossing the border around lunch time, and hitting out motel in Ludington at about dinner time.

Of the whole adventure we have planned, there are really only two parts that give me the willies when I think about them and both of them are tomorrow.
  1. The highways getting out of the city (I know how oblivious drivers can be)
  2. Riding over the bridge between Sarnia and Port Huron (both fears in one: heights and bridges).
Tomorrow is going to be fun. Oh yes, and the weatherman says 60% chance of showers or thunderstorms, just to make it that much better. Good time to check out the new gear.

Wednesday, July 16

T Minus 4 Days

After about 6 months of talking about and planning, we're about four days from departure. We have a basic idea how we're going to get there, and a basic idea of how we're going to get back. There's a pile of stuff on the floor and another on the dining room table waiting to be packed. The pet sitter has been organized, and the reservation have been made for the ferry across Lake Michigan (I think). Keith prepped the bikes last week while I was in Oklahoma, giving them an oil change, new brakes and a general once-over.

We've had to re-evaluate our packing situation. Originally we'd planned on splitting up the huge hockey bag that contained the tent/sleeping bags/air mattress bag and spreading it out over both bikes, eliminating the T-Bag for clothing. But after reviewing the weather, we realize that we need to bring some warmer clothing. Plus when we came up with the original plan we didn't take into account the new laptop, a game or cards, books, etc.

The packing list is a long one. Somehow we get everything needed for this:

on these:

We take:
  • coffee kit with camp stove, 2 cans of propane, stovetop espresso maker (we'll give up a lot, just not good coffee), coffee and sugar, 2 cups
  • 2x litre water bottles
  • dry food: soup, KD, oatmeal, raisins, trail mix, pasta, etc.
  • cooler: cream cheese, smoked fish, sausage, cheese, apples, etc.
  • pots, pans, cutlery, cutting board, grill, collapsible hot dog skewers
  • bin with misc camping stuff: rope, hatchet, repair kits
  • clothing, enough for a week or so, good for both hot (could get up to 90 during the day) and cold (snow overnight in July is not unheard of)
  • toiletries
  • first aid kit
  • rain gear
  • shoes for hiking, shower shoes - it's packing the shoes that drives Keith crazy; they take up too much space and not much will fit inside them
  • camelback for hiking
  • tent, sleeping bags, pillows, air mattresses, and inflator
  • 2 small cheap folding chairs
  • laptop, AC cord and USB cable
  • 2 ipods and AC charging cord
  • phone and AC cord
  • 2 cameras and AC charging cords
  • deck of cards, euchre board, travel Scrabble, books, knitting
  • maps, documents
  • the kids - these are two bean bag toys that we travel with, stuck through a loop in the T-Bag. The cat has lost all of it's whiskers to the winds, the penguin is #2, as we lost the original during our travels. I know it's a bit silly, but they have meaning for us.