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Route Planning Where to go, when, what are the interesting places to see
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Old 30 Mar 2005
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Alaska or Panama?

Hello everyone - I'm fairly sure that I'm going to do the Panama Canal this summer. But I have also been considering Alaska. Am taking the month of August off from work (God, do I have a great job or what? They're even gonna pay me while I'm gone... go figure!)

I went out out bought the latest edition of Milepost (ww.milepost.com), which is *the* guide to use if you are considering an Alaskan trip. And I also went out and bought a bunch of ITM maps for Mexico and Central America. Although I haven't even decided upon the desination, I figure I've already invested $200 or so in maps... Of course that means I *am* going to take a trip.

The interesting thing about this is that I have previously visited both Panama and Alaska - thanks to Uncle Sam when I was in my 20's. So... which way? North or South? Hmmm. I figure that any old fool can point an RV north (or maybe even a motorcycle... a joke, of course, am taking my GS). But what about south? While I've visited Mexico, it's always been border towns. Mexico proper, Guatemala, El Savador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. Hmmm. Sure sounds a lot more exciting than the US, Canada, and back to the US - Alaska.

Make no bones about it, of course. I'm going to do them both. The issue is which one will I do this year. I'm literally taking the entire month off - figure 35 days. What do you think? Alaska or Panama?

Is 35 days enough time to do Chicago to Panama and back? I think I could probably do it if I went balls to the wall. But I also think I'm gonna want to stop and smell the roses along the way. There's no doubt that I could do 10,000+ miles (or Alaska) in the same timeframe - but Mexico and Central America? Not sure.

My moto experience is limited to US coast to coast trips, and everywhere in between - with a bit of Canada thrown in. While I don't have off the beaten track experience, I do have the right attitude and a smile.

A few folks on other boards have suggested that I would want to look at 45-60 days for a Panama Canal and back trip. What do you think about the timing?

Comments/suggestions/tips/routes/etc. appreciated.

thanks - danbrew

[This message has been edited by danbrew (edited 30 March 2005).]
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Old 31 Mar 2005
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Well, south is going to be a lot more interesting. Just a pity they put Chicago up the top of the US.

35 days is far too brief a time to go to Panama and back. You can do it, but only if you drive all day and don't see much, and what's the point of that. Plus, all the border crossings are tedious and occasionaly expensive.

How about limiting yourself to Mexico? Do a bit of Baja, see the Copper Canyon, sit on a beach, check out some old cities, ride the mountains and visit ancient jungle temples. Enough for you?

Mexico is a great place. 35 days and you'll have been there just long enough to want to come back.

Simon Kennedy
Around the world 2000-2004, on a 1993 Honda Transalp
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Old 31 Mar 2005
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I agree wholeheartedly with Simon - 35 days to Panama and back is too fast. Just do Mexico, or perhaps a dip into Guatemala, and that's it. That will give you a taste of the border crossings, you will have done a Central American country. And had a great time in Mexico - it's a big country, the roads as a rule are much slower than you're used to in the US, so it takes more time. After a bit you'll find you have slowed down to Mexican time - and then you'll really start to enjoy it.

North to Alaska is a good trip too, the first part to BC can be done in a couple of days if you want, and once in BC slow down again, and take your time and have a good look around. There's a ton to see in BC and the Yukon, without even getting to Alaska.

Two very different trips, both good.

Toss a coin, and get on the bike and go.
Grant Johnson

Seek, and ye shall find.


Inspiring, Informing and Connecting travellers since 1997!
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Old 31 Mar 2005
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Just to be different, I disagree with both of my predecessors. It's true that "any fool can go up to Alaska," even in a motorhome, but not any fool can go up to the Arctic Circle, or to Prudhoe Bay on a motorcycle. North of Fairbanks the pavement stops, and you're on gravel. Would grandpa and granny take their shiny Winnebago on rough gravel? I doubt it. Who can show pictures of "me in front of signpost forrest, Watson Lake," or "me in front of sign, Arctic Circle?" Has granddad and granny ever dipped their toes into the Arctic Ocean?
On the other hand, any fool can drive down to Panama. Road is paved all the way. Border crossings are a challenge, but no big deal. True there are great sights along the way: Chichen Itza, Palenque, Tikal, Bridge of the Americas, Panama Canal Lock, but all no big deal, easily accessible by Winnebago. So I say: Do both trips by all means, but start of with Alaska, and August is the perfect time to do it; very little snow, relatively warm, and no blizzards. And who knows if they'll ever let you into Canada at a later date, the Canucks being almost as paranoid with "homeland security" as their American cousins. Go for it, tiger!!!
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Old 1 Apr 2005
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What a dilema! Head north to yellowknife then across the Liard highway. North on the campbell highway to Dawson city. North up the dempster to Inuvik. Back down to the top of the world then up to Prudoe. South on the Cassiar to Hyder then across thru B.C. On the other hand watching the sun rise at Isla Mujeres is not to be missed.
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Old 1 Apr 2005
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You have another option. But the bike and you on a plane, fly to Panama and ride back. Seems to me that 35 days ought to be enough time if you are only going one way.

Either way you have an awsome adventure ahead of you, good luck.

Yankee Dog
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Old 1 Apr 2005
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Interesting dilema. I am debating my own trip, with Panama as one of the possibilities. My dilema is for a month over the Christmas holiday. Details are on another post but my options are: Ride to panama, fly me and bike back. Fly me and bike to panama, ride back. Ride to panama, leave bike and next year hop over to SA. Buy a bike in SA and ride there for a month, leaving bike for next trip. Probably do the last.

Anyway, I have been to Alaska from the East coast. A month is enough, depends on what you want to do, how adventerous you want to be. You caould always ship your bike up and ride back, gives you more time there, less in the comute. August is the perfect time to do it.

Central America. Hmmm. I can say I made it from Belize City to New Hampshire in April in 5 days, even stopped At Chichen Itza. But then, I rode a 1,000 mile day and even in Mexico I did big miles, 280 miles the first half day. 410 the day I stopped at Chichen Itza. It is hard to make great time, but if you are an Ironbutt type rider, you can get to Panama and back and still see some things, but not much. I took 24 days in December 2003 to go through Mexico, Guatamala and Belize, leaving my bike in Belize. I saw some stuff and spent a little time on the beach but really would have liked more time, and I didn't even ride home.

My advice, for what it is worth: Go to Alaska. Do Panama some time when you can take the time off in the winter. Good contrast to Chicago in the winter. I would have to agree with some of the other posters, ship one way if possible or leave your bike somewhere.

It is hard to find stories on this site of people like you and I that have to see the world while maintaining some sort of full time job. Check out my web site for more details on my trip:

Bob Lyskowski

Bob L.
New Hampshire
WEB: www.angelfire.com/trek/ct_bob
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Old 2 Apr 2005
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Hi Bob,

I enjoyed your story on your site about the Labrador trip, I'd like to go to Labrador again sometime.

Like you said, our plane from Calgary to the UK had to land there for refueling a couple of years ago, in February, at around 1am, they had the door open for a whole hour while refuelling. I know, I was sat in the row next-but-one to the f***ing door. Incredible.

Anyway, my interest started many years ago after reding 'The Land Gave to Cain' by Hammond Innes. Apparently that was what Jaques Cartier, one of the first explorers in the region called it. Actually, it does sound horrible, and I don't really understand why I want to go there. Crazy, I know.

With apologies to Dan brew for a quick hijack of his thread,



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Old 2 Apr 2005
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...and there is, of course, Prudhoe Bay during the Christmas holidays on a motorcycle. You'd be the first, I think.
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Old 2 Apr 2005
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Thanks to all for the great comments. I hadn't thought too much about staging the bike or flying one way.

Werner - thanks for the thoughts about Alaska as well. I've enjoyed all of your books, btw. Had a chance to say hello to you briefly in Seneca last year at the Finger Lakes rally

Grant - it may very well come down to a coin toss...!

I'll make a decision in the next month or so and then will detail my planning and all that. Not a great website, but some local travels: http://www.twentyninewest.com/roadtrip/.

thanks all!!

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Old 31 Mar 2006
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Hi Dan, Just a few ideas the interior of Alaska is often rainy in the summer. It might be a good idea to check a long range forcast before you plan your trip. Also you can't ride to Alaska in the winter so go north in the summer and go south in the winter. The birds aren't all dumb. I've seen lots of bears on the alaska hiway so be carefull. You can't carry a sidearm in canada, but you can carry pepper spray if it is marked for "bear repelent use only" check the regulations on it before you buy it, and have a good ride
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Old 31 Mar 2006
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I just recently (feb) went from Canada to arizona(towing bike) then through mexico's west coast, and inland to Guatamala. I went as far as Acupolco and had roughly the same 40 days or so. I have also a few years ago taken a van as far as nicaragua were we gave up dreams of Panama due to lack of time and extreme corruption by officials. it would be near impossible to drive to Panama unless you R leaving the bike there you would have no time to enjoy, the roads arent great and borders take many hours of frustration each, dont get me wrong im not saying dont go it was a wonderful experience just go when you have more time. Also I live on the way to Alaska and although I have not made the trip I have heard wonderful things about alaska as well as the Northwest Territories. Also I have driven up the west coast from the alasska border to as far as Nicaragua and there are many other wonderful places to visit. For instance If you go to Alaska make sure you visit Banff?jasper national parks, Maybe try and work in The trip down the Beautiful British Colombia Coast, truley inspiring.
Whichever you choose happy travels
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