Getting used to the idea ....
... both me and the girls. It is going to mean 10 weeks of hard work and we're all bound to miss each other though I'll be in touch daily by GSM or Satellite phone. It seems so distant still with only 3 days to go...
and then off to the airport, this is her palletted and ready for airfreight...
Bike was flown the day before me so as to have it ready for colleaction on my arrival in Toronto.
Getting away wasn't as easy as I thought, early at the airport didn't work - it was 11.00 pm before the bike was finally accepted and prepped for airfreight - 3 trips from home later...
First stop on Sunday is alittle R n R after the bike has been prepped from the air trip - off to Niagara falls.. as you do of a sunday !
Well, I left Dublin a week ago yesterday, so far been away for 7 days, been driving for 5 of those, done 4000km, no bike trouble (touch wood !), no hassles, no rain (almost), 1 time zone crossed, 4 encounters with the police and just 1 speeding ticket ! Internet a real pain to access and finally managed to upload pictures...
Saturday 3 June, reading 14,100
Sean, Gervaise's uncle in Toronto was a great help clearing the bike through customs, Dept. Of Health (no nasty substances in the muck on the tyres ??) and freight - thanks Sean ! (I forgot to pay that ticket too - IOU!) Finally cleared about 10 in the evening.
Sunday 4 June, reading 14,100
R n R and a trip to Niagara Falls and prepped the bike - all looks good. local news was the arrest today of the "bombers" caught by the secret service in Toronto.
Monday 5 June, reading 14,950
28 celsius today, drove 800km to Quebec to meet up with Marc & Dominique. Note to self, pack a little better - 5 minutes down the 16 lane highway in rush hour and I hear a ding, ding ding as my super new alloy flask drops and is crushed by a truck (thankfully it didn't take a windscreen out on the way... also I got a nasty smell as my tankbag straps melted on the exhaust... well that's shortened them... feeling very small among these big trucks.
Stayed in a friend of Marc & Dominique's in Quebec www.hotelboutique.com - not exactly roughing it !!!
Tuesday 6 June, reading 15,658
After heading for the salt water East of Quebec, finallyturned around and heading West ! It officially begins from just east of Quebec !! Good driving until Ottawa rush hour, not exciting territory though, made Deep River and got the last motel bed, lots of moose warnings about and have been told by the cops not to risk driving in the dark as a result, evenings are bright so haven't had to yet...
Wednesday 7 June, reading 16,278
Woke up at 11.30 ! Needed that sleep for a few weeks now since all the wind-up started, job, family and the prep for the trip. Stayed in Sault Ste Marie on lake Huron, great mix of names around here, Murphy road sits beside Marathon, Thessalon, Denmark, Spanish, Wawa, Little river, Old woman lake etc..
I'm the man !
and the little lake beside it is called -
They were here first...
Great people too, had coffee and doughnuts with Erl and his 6 buddies - he's Danish, and can't figure why Americans need V8's to get around !!
Lots of lady construction workers about ! And girl bikers , and cyclists. For me the roads would be too long to cycle, the distance between in teresting points is too far for me. Passed a couple of Indian Reserves too, thought they all seem to me to be just as overweight as the locals and working on the roadworks mostly...Had my first Buffalo burger today - you can keep your horse burgers Matt !!
Finish the burger fast - look what's waiting -
Thursday 8 June, reading 17008
Arrived Thunder Bay after crossing here -
4th stop by the police today, this time for 113kmh in a 60 zone, but he's a nice guy, very friendly and he writes it as a 67kmh ticket for $60
instead of $300 ! The tyres help a lot - carrying the knobblies on the back, they give you that "I'm going a long way" type of look and it starts a conversation and 3 tickets disappear ! Having said that, the cop who said he had to write the ticket said I needn't pay unless I was planning on coming through every year !
Met a french canadian, Sylvain (thanks Sylvain et bon Voyage !!) from Quebec who gave me some good maps and advice for the Alaska leg !
Friday 9 June, reading 18,003
Made Brandon, Manitoba. Paased this en route, first time I've driven over one -
Got bad news this evening that our flight out of Anchorage (the only one to Magadan siberia) is off - MAY be starting on June 30th - will have to think about options over the weekend, likely to head south into the U.S. for a chat in Glacier Park with Mark who was to join me in Alaska about what to do next...
Saturday 10 June, Moose Jaw, reading KM18,478
Surreal start to the day this morning in Brandon with traffic stopped for a parade for 125 years of Brandon (honest to God it could have been built in a month, the way it looks, but... I didn't take any photos of the onlookers which would have been ungenerous but more amusing than this ?
I can honestly say today was the most boring drive - the prsiries as they call them - VAST, I mean VAAASSST and straight and boring - thanks be to god they hiked the limit to 110kmh which meant 140 despite the rain, but check out the 100+ containers on this train - took minutes to overtake...
8 Degrees today and more rain, checked into a motel before the worst of the rain to look at options on the internet if Magadan doesn't work due to the flight being delayed, plus they may now be looking for over $4,000 for me plus the bike, which is too much. We'll have more on that in a few days though.
Sunday 11 June, Speedo KM 19,352, Glacier National Park , U.S.
Left Moose Jaw today to head towards Montana to Glacier National Park to link up with Mark (who will do the Road of Bones section with me on his modified Kawasaki KLR, while simultaneously pushing me on my super-comfy GS !!). Covered over 900 KM of boring Saskatchewan prairie roads to the Montana border before the Glacier came into view...
where I got a ticking for taking photos of a local family reimporting their 5 handguns and rifles from their little holiday trip...
couple of nice pitstops
I've heard of the Montanabahn with no speed limits so I'll take them at their word... this is all she'll do loaded !
Magnificent drive in and through the Glacier over to the west side
before camping up beside Mark in Praigue National Park...
Monday June 12, Speedo KM 19,753, Radium Hot Springs
We decided to head north towards Canada again, towards Anchorage so we can at least explore options - avoiding Calgary and heading for Bannff and Jasper, magnificent Rocky Mountain drives.
Saw 2 black bears today !! Mark drives real slllooowww, not me on these roads, so we'll have to match our styles a little...
Stopped in Radium Hot Springs, Mark's paranoid about the bears so he's bought himself a bear spray, I just lock up all food in the bike boxes and sleep easy.
Tuesday June 13, Speedo KM 20,168, Jasper
Big thunderstorm last night, the tent held up great. Dried up this morning and fantastic drives and weather to Jasper, B.C. Great camp ground with 7 foot ELK, some Carabou and Deer just brushing past your tent - until you go for a camera that is ! Jasper is a great town, but a huge American tourist trap.
Drove the Icefield Parkway past the Glaciers
and through some maginificent mountain drives
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with a little rain thrown in - you get plenty of warning though !!
Wednesday 14 June, Speedo KM 20,748, Lake Fraser
Spotted these wild mountain sheep en route, well camoflaged
Also saw a mother and cub black bear. Couldn't turn in time for a photo though...
Lots of logs too...
And lots of old Forest fires line the Highway - acres of it...
Trying to make it further North to meet up with Laurence Mc Laughlin from Wexford (via Belfast) who is on his way down from Anchorage. Laurence drove the Siberian Highway to Vladivostok last year then over to Korea and shipped his bike from there to San Francisco and then on to Anchorage where it met him last week. We've been talking since last year so it's great to finally meet. We didn't get to meet up but tomorrow we will for lunch... he tells us the road ahead - the Cassiar Highway is closed at times for bridge repair so we need to time our run tomorrow.
Stayed up late to ring Mia and wish her a happy birthday - really miss you guys !
Thursday 15 June, campsite, start of Cassiar, Speedo KM 21,109
Happy Birthday Mia !!
Met laurence for a long lunch in Smithers,
good day and beautiful scenery, saw a wolf and several fox en route. Laurence wrecked his rear end on the Pan European last year and replaced it but seems to have a seal leak - hope it holds up Laurence !!
src="http://www.horizonsunlimited.com/tstories/maher/images/laurenceprob.jpg" width="330" height="248" border="0" />
Camped in a TeePee last night, which was warm and comfy,
only after a dirt ride up the back of the campsite...
Need to start early to make the the bridge before it closes for the day at 10.00
Local employer is all logging - so I guess they take the company car home...
Friday 16 June, Lake Dease, Speedo KM 21,619
Long chat with the girls at home this morning - glad they're enjoying themselves. Made the bridge !
Metal bridges all the way, which make unsure riding, but great views down...
Lot of gravel and dirt sections but easy riding and little traffic.
That's 2 weeks done and KM 8,000 done so far. Motel tonight for some comfort and laundry
Saturday June 17, Teslin, Yukon, Speedo KM 22,117
Beautiful campsite by the Yukon, by the bridge - damn cold though, down to 1 degree celsius, but a beautiful morning
River still rising due to the melted snow, will park further next time !
Next 2 days will be up the Klondike Highway which fed the Gold Rush masses - on we go.... north !!
Sunday 18 June, Pelly Crossing, Yukon, Speedo KM 22,607
On and into the Yukon. Most dramatic scenery since the Icefield Parkway in B.C. - beautiful Canyons and purple sweet pea flowers line the highway.
Stopped in Whitehorse and bought a couple of Cubans to be smoked (after smuggling through Alaska - oh the titillation of it !!) if we successfully cross the Road of Bones. (and if we don't we'll smoke them as a consolation...)
Ate at a super shck run by Penny and Faren from Munich in Pelly Crossing (actually the shack is Pelly Crossing)
- real dusty too...
The truck waters down the dust 5 times a day...
Blending in with the locals...
Had the full camping experience (including the marshmallows) in the woods across from the Shack
and heard the local Indian (First Nation) population was a bit hard on the drink so they made it a dry community - they had kicked in every window in the bank, post office and grocery Store the previous weekend...
Fantastic weather and long long days since we've been heading north every day for 4 days, down to 3 hours partial darkness
Met John from B.C. who's a retired trucker who sold up the house, kept the truck and bought this to pull... been on the road with his wife a year now - you've got to admire these guys !
Monday 19 June, Dawson City, Yukon, Speedo KM 22,878
Dawson City used to be the largest settlement north of San Francisco a hundred years back during the Gold Rush. Gold and tourism are the only industries now. Beautiful old Wild West Town with original wooden sidewalks,
Saloon doors and dirt streets
and off course street hockey...
Met Hans (he's 68 and from Holland) flew his 1989 R 100 over from Holland and is touring for 3 months. He's put up 250,000 on the bike from new - servicing ? A little oil now and then...
Are you branching out Paddy ??
Here comes our ferry to take us over the Yukon to our campsite - runs 24 hours and is the only link to the "Top of the World Highway"
First on first off !
Met Andy (originally Wasington D.C.) and Kate (originally Newfoundland) and both now live in Eagle, Alaska. Eagle is 100km off the "Top of the World Highway" which is a summer only road over to Alaska. That is them and their 18 Huskies and 6 pups. Kate sounds just like an Irish girl though she's never been there. They crew a tourist boat up the yukon for 4 months and just live off the land trapping and eating for the other 8 months. They've invited us up for Salmon and Carabou (if we can fish them and shoot them !!) for the 21st (the longest day of the year since they're just 100 miles short of the Arctic Circle.
Best go to bed so at 2am there's only an hour's twilight before sunrise
Wednesday 21 June, Eagle Alaska, Speedo reading 23,125 KM
I leave Dawson City in the Sunshine and over the Yukon River to the "Top of the World Highway" - a summer-only "highway" towards the Alaskan border.
Beautiful road which crawls the top of the mountains. Weather turns progressively colder and wetter, until it's dumping down - road is dusty and gravelly in the dry but muddy and slick in the wet.
Bike starts sliding unpredictably until I realize I've a puncture (after executing a near -perfect 180 degrees slide on a fully-loaded 350kg bike - much less than good fun !!). I stay upright and get out the footpump - thankfully it's a slow puncture.
Another top-up from Ted whom I stopped in his RV - from his 12V compressor - thanks Ted !
No more incidents until the border - Scott, the border Guard doesn't have any questions for me once he hears I'm going to see Andy from Eagle ! He does, however question going down the Eagle road on 2 wheels in this wet...
Yet another top-up from a compressor I found at this guy's souvenir shack after the border. The guy has a hangover and offers me free coffee and free use of the compressor if I help unpack the souvenirs ! Again I get warned off the Eagle Pass in the wet weather on 2 wheels... what's the big deal ? I just hope the slow puncture holds out for an hour or 2...
Then I push on - the road is slick and muddy and difficult
and I too begin to question whether I should be here or head back after a couple more slides - then it gets narrower and higher, sharper corners... with bigger drop-offs...
If you slide at the wrong place you lose your bike to the valley below...
Lots of forest fires here back in 2004...
Finally a sign that I'm close to Eagle, they don't think much of the Troopers out here !
Arrival at Andy's cabin
and his sauna...
bike held up great - bit gunked-up but good !
The man himself with one of the 18 working dogs, these guys curl up in minus 20 degrees Celsius and sleep through...
and his dogs - 18 huskies and 6 pups !
and my guest cabin...
- with my own fire !
Next morning, as ever, gas and go ! Beautiful views out over the Yukon river from Eagle Village
22 June Thursday, Anchorage, Speedo reading 23,956 KM
Gas in the morning after blueberry pancakes in Andy & Kate's and off I go again. Had a good trip out from Eagle after the roads had dried out a little overnight - made the top of the pass dry despite the low clouds...
when the roads widened, then the weather changed for the worse again...
Despite the slow puncture I drove through to Anchorage without incident, stopping at all the gas stations for an air top-up - a long 800km, half of which was gravel. Found the Hostel I had pre-booked and bedded down. Was originally scheduled to fly out tomorrow - the 23rd but heard that Magadan Airlines had problems - will hear more tomorrow and take a decision then. This is potentially a major screw-up, let's see what happens
23 June Friday, Anchorage, Speedo reading 23,990 KM
Went round to The Motorcycleshop in Anchorage to check re my next set of tyres and service
and to advise that I might have to head south for seattle to check re alternative shipping given that Magadan Airlines may not be flying.
Found the nail causing the slow puncture
- got the kit out and plugged it - me giving lessons in motorcycle maintenance... unlikely, but ...!!
hope it holds!!
Off to Alaskan Leather
.....to get a bum warmer for the seat - hopefully it'll take some numbness out too ! These guys were recommended locally - for a local problem, cold numb bums !
Met these guys from Fairbanks who bought me lunch and were off to Walmart and suggested I follow to invest in a $20 12V compressor - which I did (lesson learnt there ! Thanks guys, I've lost your names, send em on ??
Then I call Igor from Magadan Airlines to hear the bad news - they've gone bust !!
Bad bad news....
Lights on but nobody home
"On Time" - no way !! ! week late maybe 2 or maybe no more...
This is bad news, very bad. Magadan Airlines are the only airline to fly - Magadan - Anchorage and they only do it on Fridays during the summer. They were to start 23rd which I had been counting on. Then I had hoped for the 30th which now is very unlikely. This could mean that the "Road of Bones" from Magadan to Ulan-Ude is out (this is the only way in there). An alternative is Vladivostok to Ulan- Ude and on from there. This route is better and carries more traffic - they are constructing a highway so there is a mapped route and all the bridges are in place, unlike Magadan where there are 4 river crossings which I was really looking forward to. I have spoken to 2 different groups who have done the Magadan run in 2004 and they say it is manageable but slow and hard (and wet!!). Every year there have been 5-6 groups (including the Longwayround guys) (or solo's) that have driven it, incluing a russian girl last year. These are just the ones I've been able to dig up. I hope to join them soon !
If Magadan Air (Mavial) go out of business permanently, that will scupper this northern route for a lot of people - the alternatives are to fly internally up from Vladivostok (which Adrian Scott from Australia did in 2005) or to drive it up and back which 2-3 groups did last year... not sure who's on the route yet this year.
Let's see - Igor says call again tomorrow and let's see day to day.
This puts my schedule behind more and is a risk, but I really want to do the "Road of Bones"
24 June Saturday, Camp Cold Foot, Arctic Circle Speedo reading 25,030 KM
Enough bad news !! I decide to take off up the "Haul Road" - the Dalton Highway - straight north towards the most northerly inhabited place in the arctic circle on this continent - why not ??
It's described as " a primitive route with no medical facilities and only one gas station for 414 miles"
This the route that overlanders take if they want to do the "Pan American Highway" (maybe in 10 years or so for me ??) from Prudhoe Bay to Ushaia, Tierra Del Fuego in the South. This was a big drive - 1000+ KM on bad roads heading into the sun. Past Mt McKinley, the highest mountain in North America at 6,134 m Straight North into the Arctic Circle...
Met BAD BOB on the way...
and his dog Harry...
Past Denali Wildlike Park
so lots of moose en route...
Smelled the forest fire and saw this guy coming out of the brush...
turned out to be Welsh (originally !)
Just keep following the Alaskan pipeline north...
as it snakes it's way ...
Got a good stretch and then was stopped by a lonely cyclist... Dominic from England.
Dom is pushing a tandem from Prudhoe to Ushaia. He's borrowed up to hilt and is making a movie of his experience - looking to pick up hitchers to help him push... Great guy and fair play to him, he's a week in and the roads are tough - "How far is Wellington Creek ?" - "Around the corner - on you go !" Check his website for my photo - www.takeaseat.org and send him some encouragement !
On we go - dusty but the sun helps the energy levels after a long day
Road construction holds me up and I miss the last opportunity to get gas at Yukon River Service, they're closed at 21.00. I can't make it on to Cold Foot without more gas - this is the longest and worst stretch - everyone I'm pondering my dilemma when I meet up with Dave from Seattle on a GS 1200 who offers me his spare gas since he's stopping over for the night and can refill his tanks in the morning. Cash ? - No thanks !
He also gives me a sandwich, which is badly needed !! Dave, I couldn't have pushed on without that help - thanks a million !
On I go... past Gobblers Knob and Finger Mountain - someone with a sense of humour obviuosly got up here to name this stuff first...
Tundra gets prettier...
I the distance I can see herds of Carabou and what turn out to be Muskoxen
The Arctic Circle - not on my Agenda 2 months ago - not on my route plan but here I am around midnight too, not that you'd notice !! Mosquitoes are a bitch though...
Coldfoot - am I happy to be here ! In to the truckers camp at 02.00. "Yes, we're closed but yes I can make you a sandwich - soup with that ?" My hands are shaking I'm that tired and hungry, but I'm here 15 hours in the saddle and over a 1000km later.
A bed is available, but at $160 - supply and demand I guess. I can camp for free, so I do that. Lie there listening to Horslips on the MP3 player with a huge grin on my face, smelly, tired and delighted with myself.
25 June Sunday, Valdez, Speedo reading 26,070
I shower up in the morning and head in for coffee to find my bike has companions...
Turns out two truckers (twins who decline a photo) found this very funny !
Checked out the local junk around this camp...
This caravan is sprayed with foam for minus 40 degree insulation...
I consider pushing on all the way to Deadhorse (the industrial camp south of Prudhoe Bay, the last stop as Prudhoe is owned by the Alaskan Pipeline company and they charge $70 for a guided bus tour of the bay - no bikes), but this is 400km up and 400km back and would cost me a day and some flexibility if Magadan Airlines come back on... so I head south again. I've been told the landscape doesn't change much from here on so I leave reassured !
Today I'm following the Trans-Alaska pipeline all the way to the other coast, down at Valdez (remember the "Spirit of Valdez" that sank in the 80's ?)
Soon meet up with a couple on 650's heading south too from Deadhorse...
Construction work is dirty and slow...
and these guys behind you remind you not to slide and drop your bike !!
This is how the construction workers on the "haul road" get their post...
On to the North Pole village just south of Fairbanks, where Santa is supposed to be from... Here's the Post Office :
And his address :
A big version of him
and his house
What do you think girls ? Is that the real thing ?
On I go, but the weather turns again
But I hit the best road I have ever driven, it's fast (85-90 mph all the way), no traffic, curvy, loopy and with an amazing backdrop all the way. It's the road from Delta Junction to valdez - South. Haven't seen a trooper in 2 days
Through Keystone Canyon (more fast fantastic driving) and Worthington Glacier (2700m and bloody cold and wet) and waterfalls galore...
26 June Monday, Anchored in Anchorage again, Speedo reading 26,613 KM
D Day in terms of a decision. Do I head south now for Seattle (4 x 1000km days) and a guaranteed air transit to Vladivostok or back to Anchorage for flight to Korea where I can travel across Korea to Sok'cho to take a 24 hour ferry (twice a week) to Vlad ? Both routes involve a 72 hour hold by the Americans on their anti-terrorist thing to clear the bike... I might by-pass that with the Shipper in Alaska since I've got to know them, so I opt to head North for Anchorage. In the back of my mind is the outside chance that Igor calls and says that magadan Airlines have got the cash together and are back up and running... Back past the Glacier again so !
I call the motorcycle shop and tell them I'll be in for the service and tyre swap, these ones have given me great service, but the run north on the gravel has wrecked them - my puncture plug did hold up though !
27 June Tuesday, 28 June Wednesday
Anchorage, Speedo reading 26,668
In for the service and tyre change. Guys are helpful and practical. Can they prep - sure. Phil gives the bike a special lookover and gives me back my spare plugs, just in case. Next service I'll have to do myself in Russia somewhere...
In the meantime I confirm a flight out to Seoul in Korea with Panalpin and Fedex as the best route. we may even be able to by-pass the 72 hour rule if we can get the bikes prepped and space confirmed. My new best friend is Ping at China Air who will hold me a flight over Taipei to Korea until I confirm the freight. Back to the Motorcycle Shop - can they pallet the bike, drain the fuel and disconnect the battery for the flight - sure ? How much - no charge ! Thanks Rob, thanks too to Michael and all the team !
On to the truck and out to Fedex to beg space in amoungst the salmon on the next flight...
Local cop comes in for a service, they drive BMW here too - looks very "Chipsy" though
Can I have a loaner to run to the airport - sure ! Take the new triumph Scrambler over there...
unfortunately I run out of fuel, but I freewheel to the guys at Budget car Rental and get some free gas! Maybe my luck is turning ?
These 2 days are useless and frustraing spent chasing freight agents, fedex, garage, airlines, customs and trucking companies, nothing runs to schedule. But It looks like I'm getting out of dodge finally !
29 June Thursday, Anchorage
Bike is going tomorrow, me too - on standby at 04.30 a.m. so fingers crossed for a whole new world of problems in Korea - watch this space !
30 June Friday, Anchorage
Bike went, I didn't... Up all night at the airport on standby for China Air to taipei oand on to Seoul - no joy. I change my tickets as I'm still on standby tomorrow. Now I have a confirmed reservation over Seattle to Seoul - on I go tomorrow!
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