I decided to move pretty fast thru California, Oregon and Washington since I had already seen all that from the Harley and was anxious to get to Canada and that famed scenery. I left on Monday May 29th about 8:30 after making a nice breakfast for my sweetheart (needed to be extra nice since she will be taking care of things at my house while I am gone). :=) I made it to Redding the first day then Walla Walla, Washington on the 30th. I was using Highway 99 in California and Highway 97 thru Oregon and Washington. High-speed cruising on the KLR is NOTHING like my Harley's but I have a nice backrest and "highway" pegs fitted and with the Corbin seat, a 500 mile day is doable, but I sure don't plan on them regularly.
I entered Canada at Osoyoos and spent my first night in Canada in Peachland at nice motel right on Okanagan Lake . I don't think the border crossing was indicative of the ones to come in Central and South America since it only took about 3 minutes total. On June 2nd I cruised (slowed down to enjoy the fantastic scenery) thru Merritt and Cache Creek on Hwy 97C and Hwy. 1 into Prince George. The town seemed very full and I noticed all the motel signs said "No Vacancy". I asked a gas station attendant what was going on. Turns out the Forest Festival was in progress. I described it to the folks back home as "like Sturgis, only for lumber jacks". :=) Fortunately, I met a Harley rider while at the gas station who was in town on business and had a motel room with double beds. Invited me to share it with him, which of course I did. I had originally planned to take the Cassiar Highway but I HAD to go to Dawson Creek to get the obligatory picture of me at the start of the Alcan Highway so I continued on up Hwy 97 to Dawson Creek,
got the pictures and rode on to Fort St. John. Found a nice motel with free internet access, breakfast and a laundry. Going to stay here for a couple of nights.
Hit the road again on June 4th, and cruised thru Pink Mountain, Prophet River, Fort Nelson, Toad River, Laird River, Coal River (did I mention that there a LOT of rivers up here). Entered the Yukon Territory (another one of those "I always wanted to do that moments"). I took this great picture
and didn't notice till later when I was looking at them on the camera, the big pole in the background that says "Welcome to North of Go!" I think that must be a play on the "Do Not Pass Go" thing. Thought it was very funny. Got to Watson Lake after a fairly long riding day. It is impossible to describe the great scenery let
alone trying to capture it on the camera but I have it "locked" in the old (and I mean old) memory banks. I left the Alcan and cruised Hwy. 2 thru Carmacks and Stewart Crossing into Dawson City. Planned to stay here for a couple of days also. Parked the KLR in front of the Downtown Hotel http://www.downtown.yk.net/index.html
and was immediately greeted by the owner, Dick Van Nostrand, well know Downtown Dick, who is also a rider. Very friendly fellow. And before you ask, "No", I am not a member of the Sourtoe Society (you will just have to look that up for yourself). I took a room that was across the street in the annex. There is a VERY nice spa there that I put it to good use. Dawson City is a great little town with dirt roads and board sidewalks. Has a very "Old West" atmosphere to it. Very cool internet access (it is in a bar and you can drink while typing). I had to go back a LOT and re-read stuff I think I typed :=) LOTS of travelers from around the world here and at night a very "party" attitude. I am too old for this :=) I received a weather report that says Fairbanks and Prudhoe Bay will both be good for the next three days which is exactly what I was hoping for so I am out of here for the Artic Ocean.
Well, THAT was an adventure. Left Dawson City (via ferry over the Yukon River) and headed down Hwy. 9, the very aptly named "Top of the World Highway". Good gravel and absolutely outstanding scenery. Entered Alaska at Poker Creek,
the "most northerly land border port in the USA" (cool, another point in the braggin rights contests) and made my way to Chicken, Alaska.
I had seen many travel pictures of the place and now I had some of my very own. Pushed ahead to Tok, then Delta Junction. I of course, HAD to get the picture of the "end" of the Alcan Highway marker for the "bookend set".
Looking at the map, I was aiming for a town that was shown as Livengood. Thought I would get a hotel there since I was trying to make that three day window of "good" weather for the run to Prudhoe. I shot right on thru Fairbanks heading to Livengood. Anybody that has ever been to Livengood and is reading this right now is rolling on the floor laughing because THERE AIN'T NOTHIN IN LIVENGOOD!! At least I was only looking for a hotel. I met a fellow that had planned on getting gas there and ran out later on. I looked at the map and saw that Yukon River Crossing was another 60 miles along. It was not so good gravel and it had started to rain so it was going to be exciting. Here is an article I wrote for my Harley Owner's group. It is sort of "tongue in cheek" but it is accurate.
-- About 50 miles north of Fairbanks, Alaska the James Dalton Highway, locally known as the Haul Road (cause that's what they do, big trucks haul huge things to and from the oil fields) starts it's way toward the Arctic Ocean. The name Haul Road is much more appropriate than James Dalton Highway because THERE IS NO HIGHWAY! The little red line on the map for the Haul Road is the same size and color as the rest of the lines on the map I got with my Alaska Milepost (I'm still thinking about filing a law suit for misrepresentation) and the roads getting up to Fairbanks were fine. I figured the ride to Prudhoe Bay was going to be a piece of cake, that is until I picked up the official BLM visitor's guide for the James Dalton Highway (AFTER I had already ridden 60 miles of gravel, dirt and mud and was wondering about the lack of highway). Here is the actual description from the guide. "The 414 mile road is narrow, has soft shoulders, high embankments, and steep hills. It is mostly gravel surface with sharp rocks, potholes, washboard, and depending on the weather, clouds of dust or slick mud. Watch out for dangerous curves, loose gravel and mud on the entire highway". I picked up this information while at Yukon River Crossing where I had stopped for the night (night being a whole other story since there IS NO NIGHT up there) because I was tired of riding in the rain and mud. The next morning it was still raining but I was feeling good so I continued on the 60 miles (and two hours) to the Arctic Circle turnoff, and got the picture. While there I talked to a couple of fellows on motorcycles that said they were turning back after getting their pictures (obviously much smarter than I). Another 60 miles and two hours (you do the math) brought me to Coldfoot Camp. This is the last place with ANY kind of services for the next 240 miles to Prudhoe Bay. As I was paying for my gas, I mentioned that I was heading for Prudhoe Bay. The kind lady said that I should look at the weather report they had just received from the Alaska Department of Transportation. Remember the part in the road description about "depending on the weather"? The paper she handed me had the following boxes checked: (1) High/Gusting Winds (2) Poor/NO Visibility (3) Blowing Snow/Drifting snow and (4) One Lane. There was also an additional information section that read "The Dalton Highway road conditions are very difficult due to gusting winds, heavy snow fall creating drifts, slick roads and low to zero visibility. Travel only if absolutely necessary." HUH? I had told all my friends that I was riding to the farthest north spot you could get to by highway so it was ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY that I travel (try NOT to figure out my logic)! At 12:00 noon I left Coldfoot Camp (I arrived there at 10:00 AM so I DID think about the situation for a couple of hours) and finally made it to Prudhoe Bay at 8:00 PM (again, you can do the math)! I had done it!!!! The Haul Road "braggin rights" were mine. The next day I took the guided tour so that I could get the picture of me standing in the Arctic Ocean (don't ask why, because I don't know). About 1:00PM I started back down the Haul Road which had dried out a bit over night, and the trip that had taken 12 hours coming north only required 7 hours to return south. --
I stopped at Coldfoot for the night (again night being relative), and secured a very expensive room (based on it's size, it may have once been a closet). Made it to Fairbanks about noon and straight to the car wash (of which there are a LOT) and then to the Kawasaki dealer for a service. Another expensive motel room but very appreciated.
Rested up in Fairbanks and then headed down the Parks Highway to Talkeetna. Got stopped in Nenana for an hour or so by forest fire that had jumped the highway. When they let us go there were still flames on both sides of the road. Stopped in Denali National National Park for a look around. Couldn't find that mountain everyone talks about. :=) I was hoping for a sight seeing flight that would let me get a picture of Denali Mountain and that would land on a glacier. Waited around for two days for the weather to clear the mountain top. Talkeetna isn't a bad place to spend time.
Great little town with lots to do and see. The Talkeetna Air Taxi company finally said that there were flights that would get pictures of Denali but wouldn't land on the glacier. I didn't know how long it might be for a glacier landing so accepted their reduced fair and went for the mountain picture ride.
Very cool. It was an old DeHaviland Beaver with skis (that we didn't use). I owned a Cessna 182 for 6 years and had always wanted a ride in a DeHaviland so this ride would be doubly exciting.
Got the pictures and moved on down the road thru Anchorage to Cooper Landing on the Kenai Peninsula. From there on to Homer.
A few days down here eating more fresh halibut and salmon than I thought I ever could.
Headed back up north. To get to Whittier, AK, you have to pass thru a VERY long (2.5 miles) ONE WAY tunnel used both for auto and train traffic (you'll just have to figure it out). It is the longest highway tunnel in North America (the points just keep adding up) Not much in Whittier unless a cruise ship is in port, then it is overrun with tourists looking for gift shops that don't seem to be there. Back thru the tunnel (there is NO other alternative except ferry) and north to Palmer. Stayed here for a couple of days while attending the Alaska State Harley Owner's Group Rally (hey just because I am on my KLR doesn't mean I can't attend -- does it?)
I left Palmer and headed up Hwy. 1, the Glenn Highway and the Tok Cutoff back to the Alcan and south to Haines Junction.
A very nice little place to stop (as long as the wildelife is still on the salad course) after some more fantastic scenery and great roads (you getting tired of hearing that?). I was on my way to Haines to catch the ferry back to Bellingham, Washington (figured I deserved the rest and relaxation after a lot of riding). It was a great ferry ride with lots of scenery (sorry), but about two days too long. I met two fellow riders, Cody (BMW GS) and Gary (Harley) and they, along with the adult beverages we brought aboard made the trip seem a little less long.
It was actually a really nice cruise (the parts I remember). :=)
Got to Bellingham around 9:00 AM and made it to Spokane on some great motorcycling roads with great scenery (again sorry). I told several people that the only thing missing were the snow covered mountains.
Making my way toward Billings Montana, and the National H.O.G. Rally.
Got to Billings. I left Spokane and toured around the Lake Coeur d'Alene area. Yes, more beautiful scenery and great roads. :=)
Spent three days getting over Lolo Pass on Hwy 12 (enjoying the area),
one of my all time favorite roads, to Missoula. I found the Kawasaki dealer and rode there to get the bike serviced. When I rode up in front I felt that I had been there before and when I went inside, I was even more sure. I asked if this shop used to be the Harley dealership and sure enough. Got the bike serviced and headed out for Helena. One night there and then made it to Billings and the H.O.G. Rally. Got some funny looks (being at a H.O.G. Rally on a KLR)
but after people ask me what the "deal" was they became VERY interested in my Alaska trip. I think everyone that rides wants to go to Alaska but most just don't have the time, motivation, or courage, to actually take off and do it. Too bad, they don't know what they are missing.
I had the required credentials to ride in the "official" H.O.G. parade but thought better of it (didn't want to push my luck too far). :=) Finally time to turn south and "head for home".
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