Arctic Adventure Day #14

Today was supposed to be a boring day, heading almost 500 miles down a road we just drove up a couple of days ago… By the end of the day, it was probably the most exciting day of the entire trip.

We got an early start out of Inuvik – the weather was supposed to turn soon, so we wanted to get as far down the Dempster as we could while it was still dry.

The road was in great shape, we did get a little bit of rain between the two ferries, but it didn’t slow is that much.

When we were in Montana, we borrowed forks from Kim’s sister and told her we’d take some pictures with them, so we stopped at the Arctic Circle sign.

After lunch at the restaurant at Eagle Plains, we continued South on good roads. We were commenting on how we hadn’t seen any big animals in a few days when we see a fox on the side of the road… Ok, not exactly big. Then just north of Engineer Creek, I catch something out of the corner of my eye, slammed on the brakes, and backed up 50 yards to get a picture.

We never did see Mom around. Probably hung out for 10 minutes or so before he took off.

There is a lake called Two Moose Lake on the north end of tombstone park… We joked that it was called no-moose lake because there was nothing in it on our way north. We wondered if there would be something on the way back. As we approached we were looking at a big rock in the middle of the lake and it lifted it’s head up! We pulled over to a viewing platform to get some good pictures.

It was interesting, the birds were following it around… We watched the for a bit and then went back to the car to get the 360 camera – we were parked back away from the viewing platform because we didn’t want to spook him. Kim stayed at the car while I grabbed a 360 shot from the platform.

While I was getting this picture, a cow and a calf ran into the lake. The cow was looking at the shore and there were noises coming from the bushes. I ran back to the car to get my camera before a second calf came out. Kim tells me to stay near the car… You should ALWAYS listen to your wife (my mother needs to stop reading here). Of course I ignored her and went back to the viewing platform because it was a better camera angle.

(Really mom, stop reading, this is your last chance) Then I heard some huffing noises back towards the Jeep… Apparently the noises in the bushes were not from a second calf… This guy was barrelling down the road as fast as he could.

Kind of a blurry picture, but can you blame me, he was between me and the car (did I mention the bear spray is in the car?)… This is where I stop taking pictures for a bit because there is a very large grizzly bear running towards me (did I ever mention grizzly bears are fast). Well, I start waving my arms and speaking to him as calmly as I could. He decides I am interesting and slows down to check me out, walks up to the entrance of the viewing platform less than ten feet away, and stands up on his hind legs and decides to talk back to me. He was very tall, 7′ maybe. I think he would have been able to stick his nose in the door of the tent on top of my Jeep.

After I thought our conversation was over, he takes a couple of steps away and then stands up to check me out again.

All this time, he keeps looking over at the moose calf, which fortunately for me seems to be good preferred choice for dinner.

After what seems like forever, but probably has only been a minute, he walks down the road away from the Jeep and into the brush. With the best out of sight, I slowly back up towards the Jeep and then do a mad dash for the last 10 feet.

Well, it turns out he was not done checking us out… He had looped around the lake side of the viewing platform and did a lap around the Jeep… Which allowed me to take some more photos from the safety of my car.

All the while he kept his eye on the moose calf. Eventually he started running again, and we watched him run all the way to the other side of the lake.

This was all about a half hour from our campsite. We’re debated driving all the way to Dawson City since I was all amped up on adrenaline at this point. We decided to stick to our original plan of the Tombstone campground. Once we were in a spot, I grabbed a ranger as he was walking by to let him know about the bear in the area.

Here is our hopefully bear free campsite.

We have been in the road for two weeks at this point, and we both have the “getting home disease”. We are going to hot the sights at Dawson City tomorrow and then probably start to push hard for home.


Alaska Ride – June 22nd – Day #28

We woke up to another bright sunny Alaska morning today. Don’t know why we thought it was going to rain every day. We packed up and were pulling out of the site when the old man freaks out and rips his gloves off. Apparently something had made it’s way into his gloves overnight and was now using the back of his hand for breakfast. We never found the bug…I think he just made it up.

Now, his gloves are inside out. He wrestles with them for about 10 minutes and we hit the road again. He goes about 10 feet and decides that the gloves still weren’t fixed, and were impeding his riding. So we pull over in a nice safe spot – or so we thought. The ground was sloped the wrong way and over my bike went…thought I had finally gotten all of those out of my system. My pannier came off again and was all dented up, I managed to jam it back on and we were on our way.

We rode the Glenn Highway today. By far the best “motorcycle road” of the trip. Lots of twists and turns and some spectacular views. We lucked out and caught up to very few cars. We took a quick rest break at the parking lot for an ATV area.


We were off, and then it happened! Remember the pannier that came off? Well it decided to come off again while I was going 60mph down the road. The Zega Pro 2 has this spring mechanism that you use to detach the pannier from your bike. Well, I think I neglected to lock it when I put it back on in the morning, so it launched off the side of my bike. I was fortunate to hear it go because the bike did not perform any differently, and I could have gone a long ways before I figured it out. Well, it was my right pannier, so it launched itself toward the shoulder and skidded to a stop. I found a parking pull out about 100 yards down the road and then walked back to pick up the pannier. The pannier itself is in great shape. I had a water bladder on top that had sprung a leak, but other than that everything was ok. When I get home, I’m going to design a safety strap to prevent this from happening in the future.

Spent the next little bit, banging my pannier straight again (from the fall this morning) and reattaching it to the bike. I added a couple of zip ties as a fail safe – you can’t get the pannier off without scissors now. The view from the repair site was pretty sweet!


We cruised along for a bit and a moose ran out in front of me! The shoulders of the road were cut back pretty far, so I had plenty of warning, but I still had to put on the brakes a bit. I was a little worried that it was going to stop in the middle of the road. I wouldn’t have hit it, but I don’t think I want to be stopped on my motorcycle that close to a moose.

Shortly afterwards we stopped for a quick rest break and my dad took the time to clean up his windscreen and lights.


We finally got to the gas station at Glennallen and it was a total zoo. There is an intersection of two major highways there and it was a Sunday afternoon. Cars coming into the station lined up in both directions. I thought a brawl was going to break out at any time. We decided to grab some lunch to see if the lines would get a bit shorter. They did, but not by much.

Next was a little zigzag up to the Tok cutoff road. Not quite as interesting as Glenn Highway, but still not a bad road. We stopped at a campground just before Tok, and decided to keep going a bit farther. We ended up staying at Tok River Recreation Area right near the river.

Alaska Ride – June 21st – Day #27

Pretty short post today…

The heater in our room was stuck on, so it got really hot. We ended up sleeping with the window open all night. The only nights I have been too hot on this trip.

Our weather luck finally ran out. It was raining outside. We loaded up the motorcycles and started to head home! Of course it is going to take 9 or 10 days to get there…The ride today was not a ton of fun – it was raining for about 3/4 of it, so no good views and we’ve been on a chunk of this road 4 or 5 times with my tire fiasco. The one cool thing we did see – a moose was running along side the road, and it was hauling ass. Couldn’t believe how fast it was running. Went to hit the save button on my video camera, and it hung. Argh!

We are staying at the Eagle River Campground again, in a different site this time. When we pulled in, I noticed that my left driving light was coming a bit loose, so I spent some time pulling it off and using Goop for thread locker. Tightened everything back up, and it looks good! The old man changed the prefilter on his air intake, the old one was still in pretty good shape, so I’m not going to worry about mine (I have to totally disassemble the bike to get at the air filter).

No pictures today…no good views with all the crappy weather and I forgot to take pictures while I was working on the bike :(. Tomorrow should be different – we are heading down the Glenn Highway to Tok, which is supposed to be a great ride. Hopefully we are done with the rain!

Alaska Ride – June 16th – Day #22

We get to ride through the park today! We left about 8:15a to catch our 9a shuttle. We stopped at the store on the way to pick up snacks and drinks since none were provided on our bus. We had opted for the least expensive option – the bus is supposed to shuttle you to various locations in the park, and will stop for wildlife. Well, our driver Craig, was awesome. He narrated the entire ride. I would highly recommend his bus.

This is the only portion of the trip that I wish I had my Canon camera. The 100-400 lens would have been awesome for many of the shots, but as you’ll see, it may not have been wide enough for some of the closer animals.

Taking pictures from the bus was a bit of a challenge. Half the time, the animals were not on your side of the bus, so you are leaning around people and trying not to get any of the window frame in the picture. The windows weren’t exactly clean, so I had to switch to manual focus quite a bit or the camera would focus on the dirty window.. On many of the occasions that the window was clean, there would be reflections on the glass that would show up in the picture. All that being said, it was still and awesome trip and I got a few good pictures.

The first hour or so of the tour was through some fairly thick forest, and we didn’t see any wildlife. At this point, we stopped at a rest area for a bathroom break and I got a picture of our bus.DSC03342-2

Shortly after our rest break, we went past a bunch of Dall Sheep in the hills. All the little white spots on the hill are sheep. I zoomed in on them on the computer and they aren’t that clear.


Our first grizzly! A mom with two cubs. They were pretty far away, this picture is at 200mm and cropped. We figured that this was about as close as we’d get to a bear on the trip…boy were we wrong.


The views from the road were absolutely spectacular for most of the day. Unfortunately Mount McKinley was obscured by clouds most of the day, we only got to see the north peak. The park service claims that only 30% of visitors actually get to see the mountain.


Approaching the next rest area, there was a griz right next to the road. I couldn’t get him to look over at me, so the shots aren’t as good as they could be.


He got so close that I didn’t have to have my lens zoomed all the way.


We also saw quite a few caribou.


Right before our turnaround point at the next visitor center, another Grizzly was right next to the road. This one was a little more camera friendly. There are several shots in this group that I may consider printing and hanging on the wall at home.


Our turnaround point. This is the view of Mount McKinley while we were there.


On the way back there were some Caribou cooling down on some snow.


Passed another Grizzly with a couple of cubs.


Got a little closer to some Dall Sheep – this is a crop of a bigger picture.


Almost all the way done and we finally saw a moose. I didn’t get any good poses from it.


Overall, Denali is a very cool park. I would definitely recommend a visit on an Alaska adventure.

Alaska Ride – June 15th – Day #21

Happy Father’s Day! I got to spend today riding to Denali National Park with my dad…but let’s not jump too far ahead.

There was lots of construction around the dorm that we stayed in last night. As a result, we parked our bikes in a lot across the street. My dad got up this morning to move the bike closer to the building to load it. He tried to get back into the building and his cardkey didn’t work! He stood under our window and yelled till I heard him – I went downstairs and let him in. While we were down there, we gave my key a shot. It didn’t work either! Apparently they didn’t program our keys properly. At least we didn’t go out at the same time – it would have been a bit of a walk to get to the office.

My bike fell over again today – this time I wasn’t even on it! I was rocking it up onto the center stand so I could check the oil. I didn’t quite get enough momentum to get it up on the stand. When it rocked forward, the front wheel was turned away from me, and I slowly let the bike down to the ground. Bummer.

We rode the Parks Highway from Fairbanks to Denali NP today. It was a great day for a motorcycle ride – blue skies and warm. The road had a 65 mph speed limit, and had plenty of corners to keep it interesting. There were a few construction zones but nothing too scary.


There was a big line to register for a campsite. Probably took us 45 minutes to get through it. On our way to the campground after registering, my tire pressure monitor alarm went off. My rear tire was down to 26psi and slowly falling (ok it was at 24 when I stopped a couple of minutes later). Popped the bike on the center stand (didn’t push it over this time). Spun the rear wheel around, and this is what I saw.


That doesn’t look very good. Unloaded my toolkit and grabbed a pair of pliers to pull it out. Well, it kept coming, and coming, and coming. The stupid thing has to be about 4” long. it appears to be some kind of restraining pin.IMG_0474

It also left a pretty gnarly large hole in my tire. Good thing I have tubeless tires – I could repair it in place. I grabbed my handy dandy plug kit and went to work. I’ve never done this before, so it got kinda interesting. Every time I tried to pull the plug tool away from the plug, I kept pulling the plug all the way out…well I read the directions a little better and figured it out after the 3rd or 4th try. This has got to be just about the largest hole I can fix with the plugs that I have. Here is the plug sticking out, before I trimmed it down to the tread. IMG_0477

I took the bike for a short test ride, and the plug seems to be holding ok.

Once we were settled into camp, we went to the store to make bus reservations for tomorrow. You can’t actually drive into the park very far on your own, you have to take some kind of tour bus. They have several different options – we decided on the cheap option. No tour guide, but we can get on and off the busses where ever we like. On the way to making the reservations, a fellow camper pulled us aside and asked if we wanted to see a moose. One was bedded down right near their campsite. I got out my zoom lens and took a picture without getting too close.


Our tour bus departs from the Wilderness Information Center. We didn’t know it’s exact location, so we walked over to check it out. It isn’t too far away, maybe a 10 minute walk from our campsite. While there,  we watched a movie about the construction of the park. Really, I did stay awake for most of it.

Back at the campsite, we have cell service. So, I called the charter boat company in Homer and finalized our halibut trip for Friday. We could go on Thursday, but they didn’t have any openings. We gave them my cell phone number in case they have cancellations.

Alaska Ride – June 14th – Day #20

It rained again last night, however that didn’t stop my dad from forgetting that we were in a new timezone. He was up at 5a breaking camp, around 6:30a or so he started banging on something, maybe he was splitting wood? I dunno, I had to yell at him to be quiet because he was waking up the entire campground.

Rain showers came and went while I was cleaning up my half of the camp. The rain stopped just in time for the ride. I have to say, we have been really lucky with the weather on this trip. Based on previous ride reports, we expected days of nonstop rain. So far, we have only had one day where we rode in the rain all day long. The second worst was probably the day my dad crashed. We’ve been hit by quick showers here and there, but mostly has been dry with a ton of sun. Hopefully I didn’t just jinx us 🙂

We stopped in Delta Junction for fuel. Delta Junction is significant because it is the official end of the Alaska Highway. Not sure why that is…the same road continues on to Fairbanks, it just isn’t called the Alaska Highway anymore.

Just outside Delta Junction a moose ran across the road in front of my dad. My video camera is always going in a rolling loop, so I got it on camera, but it looks pretty small because of the wide angle lens…can you find it in the picture?

Moose Screen Shot

I’ll help you out a bit…

moose zoom

Like I said, not that good. I thought it would come out ok because I could see it crossing the road while I was riding. The camera is mounted lower on the bike (than my head) and I was riding staggered so my dad’s bike blocked the view. I suppose this is a good reason to use a helmet mounted cam. Since my nice new helmet isn’t so nice and new anymore, I may play with that when I get home.

This was one of the shortest days of riding, but it seemed like the longest. I can’t really pin down why…my dad thought the same. I think we were expecting a really short day and it took us close to 2 1/2 hours to get to Fairbanks. The views were so-so today as we moved away from the mountains. The rivers you cross are kinda cool – a lot of them appear to be glacially fed, so they have gigantic gravel channels with small rivers randomly snaking through them.

Our plan for housing in Fairbanks was to stay at the University. They rent out dorm rooms to tourists. They are doing a bit of construction on campus so it took us a bit to find the office. Once we found it, we were presented with several options for rooms. Our first choice was $40 each for single rooms, but they were sold out. Then it was $80 for a double room, which seems kinda lame. $100 for a double suite, or $110 for a quad suite (don’t quote me on these prices, but they are close). So of course we went with the quad suite. The advantage of the quad suite – we end up with 2 different “bedrooms”, a common work area, and a private bathroom.

Sprawled out in my “bedroom”


Common work area


Also included in the price was laundry and showers. Laundry was the first order of business – I wanted clean clothes before I took a shower. The challenge – how do I wash all of my clothes without walking naked down to the laundry room? I put on my swimsuit (that I haven’t used at all yet) under my riding pants and wore my down jacket with no shirt on underneath. Not exactly comfortable, but got the job done.

We spent some time researching Denali and how to go about the busses (we head there tomorrow) as well as various fishing trip options. We walked to a local restaurant for dinner and discussed our end game for the trip. We decided to spend two nights in what looks to be a fairly nice lodge in homer (Land’s End Resort) which is walking distance to a halibut charter. We are going to book our fishing trip for the 20th and start the long road home on the 21st.

Alaska Ride – June 6th – Day #12

It rained a little last night and my tent sweat profusely, so the underside of the rainfly was pretty wet. So even though we woke up early this morning, I kept stalling on packing the bike to give things a little time to dry off. Eventually the sun came over the top of the hill and took care of business fairly quickly.

We missed the gas station while we were heading out of town, so we had to loop back and find it. All of our fuel calculations and extra fuel we carried were based on leaving Dawson City. Well, there is a card lock station (unmanned gas station) at the start of the Dempster. We filled our tanks and extra cans with premium in Dawson City and topped off our tanks with regular (only choice) at the card lock. The switch to turn off the pump had a really strong spring in it, I started to flip it back, and it snapped quickly, pinching the end of my finger. Ouch!IMG_0381

right next to the station is the sign that marks the beginning of the Dempster. We walked over and took some quick pictures.


The road quickly turns to gravel. Our tires are gripping well and we settled into a cruising speed of around 70kph. Up to this point, the day was pretty nice – the sky was gradually getting cloudier as we sped north, but the road was dry. A sprinkle of rain started just as we pulled into the visitor center at Tombstone.


Information on the state of the highway was pretty sparse. The rangers told us that the road was good in the park, but didn’t give us any information about the road beyond. We played tourist for a bit, and then hit the road. The rain stopped while we were bumming around inside.

The Tombstone section of the highway had lots of mountains with snow. Very rugged looking terrain. It was very cool.

Grandpa on mocy with mountains

We started to descend from the mountains and I saw a moose hiding in the bushes! Hooray our first moose sighting! We did a quick u-turn to get some pictures. As we sat there, the moose moved out of the bushed to the little pond, and out came a couple of calves as well!


After we were done taking pictures, I dropped the bike AGAIN. Low speed like always, trying to do a u-turn. I think I’m going to get the bike lowered when I get home. Also, I wish I would have bought the larger pannier set – I would be able to get by without the drybag on top, and the CG of the bike would be lower.

We stopped at Engineer Creek for lunch. The surface in the campground was this nasty sticky black mud that clogged the tread or our tires. I’m surprised we didn’t drop a bike maneuvering around.

About 100k from Eagle Plains, it started to rain. The rain turned the road into a mucky, slippery mess. I felt my front tire skate around a couple of times – it was very scary. I did not air my tires down at all, I’ll probably try that when we continue.

15k from Eagle Plains, I hear “whoa, whoa, whoa!” and “I’m going down!” a bunch of times over the headset. I can see my dad oscillating back and forth in front of me. Then the bike just spun around and there was a cloud of mud and dust. The old man crashed while going down the road.

The first problem was quickly finding a place to park my bike that was not the middle of the road. There is quite a crown and I didn’t want to drop my bike as well. At this point I still did not know the severity of any injuries that may have occurred. Fortunately this was a long straight section of road so approaching traffic had no problem seeing us.

As I’m getting off my bike, my dad is talking over the intercom, letting me know that he is not hurt. The problem now – he is pinned under the bike. The sidestand has his boot locked into the ground. I can’t lift the bike up because his body is where I need to be to lift it. I finally lifted the rear tire high enough that he could wriggle his foot from underneath the bike. Once he was out, we unloaded a few things and easily lifted it.

In this picture, you can see where he spun the bike on the road.


Removing things from the bike before we lift it. The pannier in the air is not supposed to point that direction. He also managed to get both sides of the bike to hit the ground in the same crash…


After some chill time, and making sure the bike was at least somewhat operable, we made our way to Eagle Plains at a very slow pace. We’ve got a hotel room for the night, and there is a shop onsite to work on straightening out the pannier. We’ll likely stay and extra night so we can go over the bike and make sure there really isn’t any other damage and it is ok to continue.

Alaska Ride – May 29th – Day #4

We’ve been gone for four days now, and still have not seen a bear or a moose, but I think we’ve run out of bear and moose jokes.

We knew that today would be a bit shorter ride (~200 mi), so we slept in till 6:45a. It rained a little overnight, but wasn’t terrible (much warmer than the previous night). We had leftover firewood from last night, so breakfast was eaten in front of a nice cozy fire.

The bike struggled a bit starting this morning. I’ve read several reports of cold weather starting issues. I really hope it doesn’t get worse…although I did bring along some motorcycle jumper cables just in case. I may stop by one of the KTM dealers up here and see if there is an easy solution.

The ride was started a bit better today, and started to improve once we got to the town of Houston. We stopped for lunch at Subway again, and used their free WiFi. Out front was a statue of a guy riding a bull. Turns out one of the locals is a champion bull rider (1999, 2000, 2004).


Across the street is a giant fly rod. Not sure why it is here – I took the picture without getting off my bike.


Once you head east from Houston, the views improve with more mountains and snow. We passed through the fairly large town of Smithers. Just on the other side was a rest area with cool mountain and glacier views.DSC02975

At Moricetown, there was a really cool river gorge with a wooden bridge going over it…One of our (irrational?) fears is riding over wooden bridges when they are wet. Fortunately, today was a dry day, so we took the small detour to go over the bridge and take pictures of the gorge.


We ended the day at Seeley Lake Provincial park. The campground is very nice, but it is right next to the highway. Hopefully there won’t be too much traffic tonight. Instead of a picture of our campsite, here is a picture of Seeley Lake itself.

Seeley Lake