[Below is a copy of a real time Ride Report I wrote on the website ADVrider.com. Now, it’s been over a year since this trip and I wanted to capture it here because I think a lot of people missed it and it’s easier to read all in one place. It’s interesting how much being in the middle of the Pandemic impacted our travels. We had constant food and lodging problems. Because of Pandemic restrictions we rode too late in the season and encountered bad weather including snow and ice. Still, I though it was a really good story and worth repeating here. I hope you enjoy it. Donn and Deby]
Posted August 2, 20021.
The border is scheduled to open August 9th. We plan to be in line with our adventure bikes loaded and ready to cross. Will it happen???
Ok, the skinny… Once we heard the border with Canada was going to open my wife (her idea actually) and I decided why not – let’s try a run north. Here’s the rub, we only have a week to get us and the bikes ready. Not to mention the logistics of the border crossing, but more on that later.
We just returned home (Seattle area) from a 3,000+ mile on/off road trip through ID, OR, NV and CA three weeks ago. Our normal bikes, my 2018 Honda ATAS and Deby’s 2020 F750GS were tired from the trip and would need tires, chains, sprockets, filters…. and you get the idea. It wasn’t going to happen in one week and we have a time window that has mostly to do with weather.
However – in my shop are two high mileage bikes, a 2011 F800GS and a 2012 F650GS that have been sitting for over a full year. Ride those?? Well…. maybe?
There is an interesting story about those two bikes that I’ll share for background on this trip. In 2020 we planned on riding those bikes across Russia then East to Germany where they would live as our “Europe” bikes. I spent months getting them ready replacing most of the wear items and upgrading the suspension and other parts. In February 2020 we loaded them in a container for Vladivostok, bad timing. The bikes made it to Russia but we never did thanks to the start of the pandemic. We did manage to get them back, fortunately. The container returned in the middle of May so we rode them home and parked them while we rode out the pandemic.
My F800 has an even more interesting story. I bought the bike used in 2012 from a guy that purchased it new to ride to Alaska, he didn’t make it due to a fuel pump failure (strike 1). Had it shipped back to Seattle and sold it to me with only a couple thousand miles on the odo. I had the bike for a handful of years and added over 50,000 miles riding it from Seattle to Patagonia and on many other adventures in Mexico and the US. I sold it to a guy who wanted to ride it to Alaska, and he didn’t make due to a stator failure and had it shipped back (strike 2). It sat in his garage for a year until he offered to sell it back to me for much less than he bought it for. How could I refuse? I immediately went to work getting it ready for Europe, which of course went bust. Now…. I want to try to ride it to Alaska for a third try???
Deby’s F650GS? We’ve had it since almost new and it’s been a most reliable bike despite plenty of gentle abuse over it’s 50,000+ mile life.
So yes… we’ll take the two “classic” ADV bikes north to Alaska. Why not?
Camping…. Not really time to go buy a bunch of stuff but we own pretty good gear (I think). I realize now that the last time we camped was at the Horizons Unlimited Canada meetup in 2019. Yesterday, I dug out our tent and Big Agnes double bag and set it up on the back year. Seemed ok…
Can we really get across the border on the 9th? We have our VAC card, scheduled a test for the 6th and we downloaded the app they require. We booked a hotel for August 8th in Lynden, WA a short ride from two border crossings. Will there be long lines? Nobody? Now there is rumor of a strike by border workers on the Canadian side. What if that delays us and our 72 hour window for the Covid test expires? Jeez, what it we test positive for Covid? I suppose that could happen, who knows.
What will we find in Canada? Will hotels be open? Restaurants? Will they be full? Empty? With the lack of tourists from the US did they all survive? Travelling last month we found about half of the restaurants were permanently closed and the open ones were short staffed with long waits. Hotels were full and national parks were a mess. The same in Canada?
Ok, in summary: A last minute trip, old untested motorcycles, uncertainty at the border and oh, one of the worst fire seasons in memory. Might be fun…
Donn and Deby
Posted August 5, 2021 Gearing Up. True Story.
Don’t worry, the actual riding part of this RR will start soon. Ummm, maybe… For the next couple of days we are still getting ready.
Here is a picture of Deby from last year’s CDR ride.
She’s had those ancient KLIM riding pants for over 100K miles and doesn’t want to get rid of them because it’s hard to find women’s riding gear that fits. I mean, these things have seen waaaay better days.. Seriously, I’ve been trying to get her to upgrade those pants for years but she wouldn’t budge. Crazy thing… those pants have zip-off bottoms just below the knee. There is no way I see the logic in that, she didn’t either but that’s probably another story.
Finally I twisted her arm and convinced her to come with me to the local KLIM dealer and just see what they had. I also reminded her that it is probable that we would be riding in cold, wind, rain, mud, snow or all of the above at the same time! She finally relented. The shop had a new pair of KLIM women’s Latitude pants in her size so I gladly purchased them. I BS’d with the guys behind the counter about our trip and as I was heading out the door he joked that I would be back for more.
I wasn’t home for an hour when I was on to my next task, I had the idea to snow seal my boots for an extra layer of waterproofness. That’s when I noticed this:
No worries… I had a great solution:
Just then Deby came out and busted a gut. Really! She laughed. You’re going to wear those boots! What about the rain, snow, cold wet mud???
Twenty minutes later I was back at the motorcycle store listening to a bunch of “I told you so” from the guys.
So now I have a new pair of Alpinestar Toucan Gore-Tex boots to keep me warm and dry.
Posted August 7, 2021 It’s been a busy 24 hours.
Deby and I went for our scheduled Covid PCR test yesterday and received our results this morning – negative. Since we are now within the 72 hour crossing window we both went to the ArriveCAN app and submitted our information. We needed to let them know when and where we would be crossing. I picked Aldergrove and guessed at 8:00AM Monday. I needed to upload a picture of my Covid vaccination card. Interestingly, it required me to list a hotel for my quarantine plan. I picked one at sort of random in Abbotsford since it wouldn’t let me complete the form with that section blank. I wasn’t required to show proof of booking. The ArriveCAN app has a receipt with a code I’m supposed to show at the border. So in summary this is what I’m bringing with me to the border:
- Covid vaccination card
- Document with negative PCR test result
- ArriveCAN App with approval code.
In addition to the normal motorcycle registration and declaration page from my insurance policy.
Just this morning it dawned on me that at some point we will need to leave Alaska and cross back into Canada…. Think I can get a Covid test in Tok??
So, how far to ride on Monday…. if and when we get through? A quick look at Google Maps and it looks like Cache Creek might be a good distance for the day. I clicked the Google option to search for nearby hotels to get an idea of prices and availability and this came up.
Sunset Motel $7,372!! Wow, this is going to be a more expensive trip than I thought! It’s funny that it says “DEAL 41% less than usual. Hmmm, maybe we’ll just camp.
Otherwise, I spent the day fussing with the bikes, packing, unpacking, getting rid of stuff, re-packing. Deby and I even got out for a short shake down ride. We’ll leave tomorrow afternoon.
Posted August 8, 2021 On our way….
We made it to Lyndon WA today, nice weather and the bikes are doing great. Booked a luxury room at the Windmill Inn.
Bikes tucked in.
Walked to Bob’s restaurant nearby for a Squirrel Sandwich.
Oh yea.. full travel mode now.
Tomorrow we’ll try to cross early. Got a PM from inmate Steve who let us know the border opens at 8:00AM. He offered to need us at the other side. Cool, yes we’ll be there.
August 9, 2021
Whoo Hoo! Yes, we are in!
We woke up too early and found some coffee at a nearby Starbucks to get us going. The border opened at 8:00 and we were there promptly at 6:45!!! Crazy! I don’t know… would there be a long line? Lots of questions??? Didn’t matter, we were second in line behind an RV from Texas.
Took a couple of pictures at the CLOSED shop where we could have purchased some much needed coffee.
Promptly at 0800 PST the guards raised the gate and let us through. We were through in 10 minutes after they reviewed our passports, vaccination document and PCR test (yes that was required). They didn’t want to see the APP at all but said it was in their system. After that it was the usual questions about guns, drugs, alcohol and various food items. When they asked where we were going I said Alaska and that seemed to cause some consternation and a few calls on their radios. Not sure what that was about.
On the other side of the gate we had a welcoming committee! How cool was that!!
ADV inmate eaglescan lives nearby and got up early to greet us… Thanks buddy, it really meant a lot to have you there. Eaglescan rides a cool BMW X-Challenge and guided us around traffic on some nice back roads. We smiled about it all day.
From there it was mile munching through some beautiful country. We stopped for a well needed brunch in Hope and sat on the outside patio with some other local ADV riders bs’ing about riding and our trip. Wow, I forgot how friendly everyone is in Canada, very refreshing.
We thought we might stop at Cache Creek but we actually arrived around noon, way to early to stop so we topped off our tanks and kept riding. When we got to Lytton we were told the whole town was burned down, yikes! The highway actually goes around the town so we could get through but the road into town was closed and there was extensive evidence of the fierce fire that went through that area recently. What a bummer. FYI, We thought of taking the side route through Llliooet but that road was closed so we stayed on 1.
The miles were coming easy with sustained 120kph speeds and we were still being passed occasionally. We arrived in Williams Lake close to 4:00 PM after riding almost 300 miles. It was early but we were both tired after getting up at 5:00 AM.
We checked into the very nice Coast Hotel and made the short walk to the nearby Fox Mountain Brewing for a couple of pints and good food.
Ahhh, perfect… When we “strolled” back to the hotel they had these massage chairs in the lobby – of course we had to give those a whirl after the rough day on the bikes.
Who said this ADV riding stuff is that hard?
The weather today was about perfect, no rain, mostly overcast, cool in the morning and pleasant in the afternoon. Tomorrow should be more of the same. We did find out that most of the hotels were almost full in Williams Lake. I asked about it at the desk and was told there were construction workers, Canadians on vacation and firefighters booking all the rooms. I joked that now they can add the US tourists to that list and made special note that I was probably the first US tourist they’ve had in 18 months or so. The woman looked at me, and thought about it, and said probably, with an uncertain look. Note to self… call ahead tomorrow for a reservation. Where?? We’ll see…
More tomorrow, thanks for following.
August 10, 2020 Day 2, we made it to Dawson Creek, ~ 400 miles….
Ok, we rerouted to the Alcan due to weather on the Cassiar. We started this morning in Williams Lake and rode to Prince George before stopping for breakfast about 11:00 AM. It was a cool overcast morning with temps in the 50’s (F) and light drizzle. By the time we got to Prince George it started raining harder but not really anything a Seattle person would be worried about.
That’s when I saw the message from Bigbob1 (thanks) about the weather and after checking on my Dark Sky app we agreed and decided to head north to Dawson Creek. Hopefully we can catch the Cassiar on the way back.
Traffic was light and we were riding fast all day, 120Kph (70mph+) most of the day in the cool overcast. I took one picture at a gas station.
Finally a ways past Prince George we came to a construction site with one lane traffic. Per my usual MO we skipped to the front of the line of about a dozen cars. Usually we get away with this without too much grief but man I got the stink-eye from the BC flagger woman. I tried to sweet talk her but she would have none of it. Whatever, I think it’s a safety thing. I don’t want to be behind a bunch of cars in a construction site kicking up rocks and then I have to pass them one by one which has danger in every car passed. Besides, we were riding fast enough that soon we didn’t see anyone behind us and we certainly weren’t slowing anyone down. The added benefit of being the lead dog is the opportunity to see wildlife in the road…
Mom and cubs were just hanging out in the road. It took a minute to get my helmet cam on with my left hand as I slowed down without shifting. They looked at me for a minute before rambling across the road and over the barrier.
Loved watchin the cubs jump the wall.
So, that was the big excitement for the day. It was cloudy all the way into Dawson Creek and the temps finally got into the 60’s. After checking into the Super 8 the clouds parted and the sun came out. A good omen for tomorrow.
Tomorrow? Not sure, Deby is voting for another 400 mile day…. I’m not as sure. We decided to just ride and see how we feel and what the weather is. Stay tuned.
Quick check in from my phone. After 400+ miles we didn’t feel like camping. Toad River was full so we continued to the lodge at Muncho Lake and booked the last room. Quirky place but we got beer and food.
Saw another bear today on the side of the road and a bull elk standing in the middle of the road watching us stop and have a stare down contest.
Sorry not enough BW for pics tonight.
August 14, 2021
Whoo hoo, we made it to Anchorage! The mighty F800 finally made it on the third try and served me well with no problems. Sorry it’s been a few days so here are the highlights.
We started out Wednesday morning in Dawson Creek, no Alaska Ride Report would be complete without the following picture. I used the one with Deby because she is much more photogenic than I am.
There is a nearby sign that has become the repository for all stickers…. of course I needed to add ours – Dos Motos un Mundo!
I made that sticker because “X” marks the spot with the notation “you are here”. With that sticker you will never be lost because you will know where you are!
If you turn it upside down it works in Latin America where you would say Estas Aqui…
A little ways down the road we saw this guy crossing the road.
The rest of the day was just putting in the miles to the very nice lodge at Muncho Lake, 442 miles – moving time 7 hours 24 minutes and average moving speed of just under 60mph. It was a long day. I’m learning that it’s a loooonnnnggg way to Alaska and this seems to be the norm. The speed limit is 100kph and we kept ours about 120. The F800 gets a little buzzy between 4K and 4.5K rpm but smooths out at 5K which is where we ran.
Crazy thing… we saw a few of these guys along the road…
Who would have guessed. They seemed to ignore us but I was told later to be careful riding next to them because they can abruptly turn and run into us. Good to know.
Here is a pic I took of the Northern Rockies Lodge at Muncho Lake.
Thursday it was up early and a full breakfast in the dining room, it would have to last us all day so we didn’t mind spending the time. I took a picture of the bikes ready to go.
Soon we were on our way, had to take a picture when we entered Yukon.
But crossing into Yukon meant it was only a short ride to Watson Lake and the famous sign forest. Of course I needed a few pictures.
I didn’t have a sign but left a sticker.
The rest of the day was riding hard and fast to Johnson’s Crossing. 359 miles for the day, elapsed time 7:12 and average moving speed a whopping 65.5 mph.
We stayed at the only hotel and gas stop, they have three rooms.
No restaurant but they sold hot sandwiches and beer. Thankfully, beer.
Yes, the sign said World Famous Cinnamon Buns but we didn’t try any, I never developed the taste for that much sugar…..
Friday (the 13th) we woke up to rain. There was no way around it, we were going to get wet. The further north we had ridden the temperatures had steadily dropped and mostly it was in the 50’s to maybe low 60’s every day. We switched into our Gerbing heated gear and warmer gloves. On Friday I put an extra layer under my Klim gear and grabbed by warm gloves before riding off into the cool rain.
We rode 362 hard earned miles mostly in the rain with a brief stop in Haines Junction for lunch. We decided to stay at Beaver Creek for the night and cross into Alaska Saturday morning.
I took one picture at a visitor center along the way.
Oh, we did see a grizzly bear. I managed a short video but it didn’t really come out that well. I can’t seem to embed the video but here is the link: https://donnh.smugmug.com/Motorcycles/Alaska-2021/i-B9DVD6p/A
I searched online and only found one hotel in Beaver Creek at the Fas Gas, yikes. I called and they had one room left so I reserved it so we would be guaranteed a dry place to sleep for the night. FYI, there is another hotel across the street that looked like it had a bunch of rooms but we were committed.
We arrived about 6:00 PM tired and wet. From the front the place looked like a decent lodge type log building, not bad. But, when we got the key to our room we had to ride the bikes around back to a single wide trailer that was converted into two hotel rooms, very depressing. Not that we’re picky but a nice room would have felt good after a day in the rain. I went inside and it was cold. I mean really cold. I checked the thermostat and it was on full but there was no heat. Arrrg. Deby started to unpack her bike and I stomped around in my full gear back to the main office. I’ll save the details but my pleasant demeanor with the desk girl resulted in an apology and an upgrade to the second floor of the main building. We went from depression to wow in 5 minutes. That room was crazy, I think it was meant for a family of 6 or more with two king size beds, a single bed, a futon, full kitchen, living room, fireplace, big screen TV and two theater style recliner chairs. Ha…
Oh yea, I wasn’t moving until my share of the IPAs were finished!
Crazy thing, not long after we took that big room three Harleys pulled in, two of them were two up and they were looking for a room. Dang, that big room would have been perfect for them but they were turned away in the rain and checked into the hotel across the street. We ran into them the next day at Fast Eddies in Tok and I fessed up, they didn’t seem to mind.
So, once again food was an issue. There was no restaurant so we had be satisfied with sandwiches from the store on the first floor. We had a full kitchen but nothing to cook. Deby was hoping for any kind of vegetable or even some fruit, nothing. Beer, chips and roast beef sandwiches. I managed to get the fireplace to work (electric with fancy colored flames) and we fell asleep to the sound of a downpour on the metal roof. The pounding rain woke me a few times in the night which I thought was a bad omen for the next day.
Saturday – On to ALASKA!
Another long day – 432 miles. We started in the rain with the 45 degrees temp. I added yet another layer and we headed off in a light rain that soon turned into a heavy rain. That was the story of the ride. Light rain, heavy rain and a couple of brief sun breaks. Our border crossing was uneventful with only one vehicle in front of us, the last of the Harleys from the night before.
We stopped to take pictures at the Alaska sign but had to be quick because we were getting swarmed with mosquitos… really bad.
We stopped for a well deserved big breakfast at Fast Eddies where we sat next to a guy on a big 1250GS (David) who was trying to ride home to Colorado. He said he had been waiting in Tok for three days for his Covid test and still didn’t receive it. The Canadians require a test within 72 hours so I think he was out of luck but he said he was going to try. Good luck. Nonetheless, he was full of good information. He had been in Alaska for a few weeks by taking the ferry from WA to Alaska and skipping Canada altogether. He said he had great weather the whole time. We were jealous, the forecast for us seems to have rain almost every day.
Tok was a decision point for us – North of Fairbanks and the Artic Circle or south to Anchorage. We checked the weather and decided to ride south and explore Kenai and hope the weather would improve north later in the week. Tonight we are in a non descript hotel in a shady part of town, tomorrow we ride south to Homer which should be a good day.
I’ll close out with a nice shot of our first glacier sighting on this trip the Matanuska Glacier from the Glen Highway.
Posted August 22, 2021 The story continues….
They say it’s the challenges in an adventure ride you remember. I believe that’s true, more on that later. Ok, let’s get caught up a little. I might do this is more than one post.
From Beaver Creek YT we crossed into Alaska with no problems at all except for the weather. We were getting used to the cold temps in the 40s and off and on rain but that didn’t make it much fun. We decided to ride to Anchorage to take advantage of generally better weather in the south and spend some time on the Kenai Peninsula before riding north. Checking online we found almost all the hotels were full so we somewhat randomly picked a place called Aptel Studio Hotel in …. Mountain View. Dang, should have noticed the comments here before booking. Nice hotel but ultimately sketchy neighborhood. Even worse, the hotel didn’t have a restaurant or a bar. After a 400+ mile day in cold and rain the smell of beer at our destination is what keeps me going the last few miles.
Before taking off my gear I went in search of beer. Stopped at a gas station – no. Stopped at a grocery store – no. Finally learned you can only buy alcohol in a liquor store. I found one nearby that was well armored against robberies and looked through their limited selection for the highest potency IPA they had. Out at the bike one of the “locals” was admiring my BMW so we struck up a conversation. I felt like a moron, probably because I was tired and thirsty, he was super nice and truly interested in the motorcycle and our travels.
While I was gone Deby walked a few blocks to the only food place – a Subway. We spent the rest of the night on fine dining and planning the next part of our trip. Interesting side note: We lived here 39 years ago when I came up for a summer job in Anchorage. At that time we bunked with some friends who now live in CA so we messaged them and asked for the address of the old house so we could do a drive by. It was only a few blocks away from our hotel! Ha, and it was a sketchy neighborhood back then but we were the sketchy ones! Here is a pic of the house now – love it.
Ok, enough of that. On with the ride.
The next day was clear but cool as we headed south. We were amazed how much Anchorage has changed in 40 years, now there are actual 4 lane freeways full of cars. Soon enough we were south of town along the Turnagain Arm which thankfully was as beautiful as ever. Suddenly memories of our previous trips in the early 80s came back. I remembered the Bird House Tavern on the way to Girdwood. We were some of the low life bums who made it a stop on our way to camp on “The Spit”. Here is a picture I took back in the day.
The following is from an online article I found HERE.
Prankster-turned-bar-owner Dick Delak took over the place in 1968 (he died in a plane crash in 1993) and made the tavern into a must-do for pipeliners, hippies, skiers, tourists and anybody who wanted a unique Alaska experience.
The Bird House went up in smoke in 1996; faulty wiring, the fire inspectors said. It’s a wonder it took that long. Its walls were covered — literally covered, inches thick in some places — with business cards and women’s panties. The tilted wooden floor was always thick with sawdust or peanut shells, and people were packed elbow to elbow in the tiny one-room establishment.
Oh well, more salty Alaska history gone. I don’t remember if Deby had some panties on those walls and she’s not admitting to anything.
Next stop the Portage glacier. We took the short cutoff road and rode down to the viewing area and, um.. I mean, what? Where did it go???
Evidently now you need to pay to take a boat out to see it around the corner. Not what I remembered. I dug around in my online archives and found this picture from 1982.
The same spot. You can see the glacier back to the right and it was calving huge icebergs that filled the lake. A truly awesome sight.
Continuing on we detoured to the other side of the Turnagin Arm to visit Hope where we camped on the beach like bums almost 40 years ago. Again, now it looked more developed but perhaps because it was far enough off the highway still had some of that old Alaska charm. We stopped for a nice lunch before continuing south.
Next stop Homer, wondering how much that place has changed. Oh boy, we didn’t expect what we saw. Seriously, none of that was there 40 years ago. We did find one landmark that we remembered.
Just had to go in for old time sake.
Now it’s crawling with tourists. Back in the day it was just us Spit Rats camping on the “beach” we were a motley crew of cannery workers and hippies exploring the last frontier. I found another pic from the day, Deby walking in the door with our friend Connie.
This was our campsite then.
Not many tents these days, just RVs and condos. Weird..
We booked a room for the night at this place and had a great meal at the Kannery Restaurant. Like most places it was crowded and they were short staffed. We waited almost an hour for a table and about as long for our food. They finally locked the doors about halfway through our meal because they said they ran out of food. We dealt with some sort of Covid weirdness everyday of the trip.
For some reason I took this picture of the table in our hotel room. It seemed like every ingredient for an ADV ride was on display.
Helmets, hydration pack, coffee, beer, technology and a rock for Deby (a recurring theme for anyone who has followed our blog).
The next day we needed to start north if we were going to make the Haul Road before our tires were all the way worn down. The morning was cool and damp as we headed out, we decided to ride a few miles before detouring to the city of Kenai for a hearty breakfast and break from the cold.
I had one more place I wanted to visit – Whittier. Only because when we lived there, you could only get there by train. Now, they alternate traffic in the train tunnel between eastbound, westbound and the train schedule. Motorcycles ride between the rails through the 2.5 mile long tunnel. How cool does that sound?
We caught a little glimpse of one of the glaciers near the tunnel entrance.
Here is the tunnel entrance, interesting thing, motorcycles go last so we had to wait for all the cars and trucks to go and we brought up the rear.
We rode through and of course, we weren’t bumping along on the railroad ties. Dang, I always wanted to do that. Oh wait, I used to as a kid on my dirt bike but that’s another story… This tunnel had nice concrete between and on each side of the rails, ho hum.
We reached Whittier and rode into town in the rain. Looked the old abandoned high rise building and a new condo structure and turned around to catch the return run through the tunnel. I don’t care, it was fun.
So now I have to make a confession. I always wanted to visit the Alyeska Lodge when we lived there but they would have none of our type of long hair bums. This time I said screw it, let’s spend the money and stay a night. It ended up not being the most expensive place we stayed but wasn’t that great either. Bla, bla, bla, could have been a resort anywhere full of whiney patrons. And to make matters worse the bar was closed! How could that be? Staffing issues. They sold wine at the gift shop but there were signs everywhere that no alcohol consumption was allowed in public places. WTF? Didn’t care, we bought a bottle of wine and talked the restaurant wait staff out of two plastic cups and we sat outside in some comfy chairs for our evening drink. We felt out of place, we were and we didn’t care.
Ok, I’ll break here. Things got real as we headed north shooting for Deadhorse.
Posted August 22, 2021 North in the rain…
There we were loading the bikes parked in front of the swanky Alyeska Lodge under a downpour. The well healed travelers scurried onto their tour buses with sideways glances at the two crazy people on filthy motorcycles adjusting their “luggage” and cinching their jackets. I shouldn’t judge, a warm tour bus sounded pretty good to me at that moment. Rain or shine we were on a mission – NORTH!
Our panniers were lighter because we were wearing almost all our clothes. Deby and I both learned that one of those puffy type jackets layered between a heated liner and our Klim jackets was the way to go as it filled in all the air pockets and kept the cool from circulating. Off we went.
The account of this day will be short, it was too cold and wet for pictures and there wasn’t really anything to see anyhow. We did stop at Denali National Park, another place with fond memories of backpacking 40 years ago. Not so great this time. We started to wait in line at the visitor center to show our National Parks pass when we found out the actual visitors center was closed due to Covid. So why were we in line? I did get a good picture of the mountain.
Deby posted the picture on her Instagram account (debyharvey). The response to the beautiful picture was gushing with lots of likes. I must admit it’s a phenomenal photo for just using an iPhone.
The next day I told her we had to fess-up so she posted this picture.
Yea, that was the only view of the mountain we saw the whole trip. Nothing but rain and clouds…. We left the park disappointed but ok because we’ve seen Denali in all it’s glory and actually hiked and camped at the base. This trip was about the ride and we had miles to go.
We hoped to get to Fairbanks but literally every hotel in Fairbanks is full, has been full and will continue to be full. We spent an inordinate amount of time online trying to find a hotel room but none could be found. This would haunt us on our way south again.
The best we could come up with was a booking at a place called The Fireweed Roadhouse just south of Nenana. When we arrived my spirits dropped, it looked abandoned. This wouldn’t be the first time Booking.com booked a room at a closed establishment. I was hoping this wasn’t another time.
The sign was big enough so it was hard to miss.
Didn’t we just spend the previous night at one of the most expensive resorts in Alaska? The gods were laughing at us now.
When we arrived there was no car in front, the door was locked and the lights were off. Great. I pressed the buzzer, nothing. It was raining and we were cold, wet, tired and at a low point for the trip. I finally tried calling the number on the Booking app and someone answered. A woman in a gruff smokers voice told us “ride around back”. Arrg, I was expecting the worst as she opened the back door to show us down the skinny hall towards a small room. We seemed to be the only ones there. Hmmm, “can I get a beer?” “We don’t sell beer here, you have to go down the road 5 miles to the next lodge and they have off sales.” Do you have food? “Well, our fridge is broke and we don’t have much.” I asked if I should pick anything up but she said she was ok.
Ok, before taking off my wet gear I emptied a pannier and ride south to the Clear View lodge. They’re closed due to staff shortages. Dang, and it starts raining harder. I pull out Google Maps, there is a campground a few miles further south with a camp store… off I go. Nice place, pleasant woman but no beer. Geesh, I’m starting to wonder if I have a drinking problem… just one I promise.
Back to Google – 10 miles back north, past the FireWeed and 15 more miles into Nenana where there is a grocery store. Arrg, I zip up and suck up the miles. Yes they were open so I secured a 6 pack of the most potent IPA I could find from the liquor store and went in the main store where I bought a prepackaged Cesar salad mix to go with dinner and a couple of bananas for breakfast.
Finally, back at the FireWeed.
Armed with beer and salad mix I wandered into the bar/restaurant where Deby was conversing with our hostess, Robin. There was hope, it was warm and cozy and our first impression of Robin morphed with the realization that she was a true Alaska sourdough, crusty on the outside and warm on the inside. Soon she had us well fed and we spent the evening at the bar BS’ing with Robin and the local contractor/construction workers who were her regular clients. Those guys were working at the nearby Air Force Base – wait, they corrected themselves with a laugh… it’s now the Space Force Base. Same mission, new name.
Somewhere along the way I checked the weather on my phone.
Looked like we were in for some more cool riding as we continued north.
This time it was Deby’s turn to find a hotel room further north. Not easy… fortunately she came across Coldfoot Camp in the town of Coldfoot of all places. That would be our destination. It didn’t look like much but cost $210 for one night, ha.
We skipped Robin’s breakfast offer and rode to Fairbanks to get some miles in before eating. Robin recommended this place.
Dang, what’s wrong with that picture? Oh great, now I learn that the new iPhone12s have moving parts in the camera and vibrating on a handlebar for 3,000 miles ruins them. I’m using a Quadlock system with built in charger which I like but evidently it transfers too much vibration to the phone. Bummer. Good thing I have my trusty Nikon CoolPix.
We made it to the start of the Dalton as the rain let up and there were a few sun breaks. A good sign?
Of course there were a few slick sections testing our worn TKC70s.
But mostly it was smooth going, we finally started following the pipeline that would be our constant companion for the next few days.
I picked up an extra 2 gallon jug in Fairbanks just in case… We never had to use it even though we cruised into a few fuel stops with our gas lights glowing at 190 miles.
We stopped at the visitor center at Yukon Crossing and the nice lady that runs it took our picture. We don’t get many with the both of us together.
We stopped and hiked around a place called Finger Rock. Two guesses why it’s called that.
Next… The Arctic Circle!
Ok, this was an accomplishment and any further north would be gravy. The sun was shining and we were happy. We made it and so did the bikes. Third try for the F800 was turning out to be the charm after all.
We continued north to Coldfoot, happy and looking forward to a celebratory beer (we hoped).
So, this is probably in other ride reports but I didn’t know what to expect, this is it. First impressions?
I found out that these were the trailers used for pipeline workers in the 70’s. When they finished the pipeline an entrepreneur bought them and moved them across the street to make a hotel of sort for travelers and workers.
Nice rooms, they only had rooms with two single beds – mancamp style at it best. We didn’t care.
Helicopter landing pad out the door that was busy shuttling hunters.
Overall not bad but expensive. Dinner was cafeteria style and with food and a couple of beers was over $100. I was getting numb to some of the prices. Breakfast was over $50.
We actually had a relatively good nights sleep until a tour bus arrived at midnight and somebody from that group checked in next door. Clearly they didn’t realize how thin the walls were as they were celebrating being north of the Arctic Circle in a mile high sort of way. Huh, maybe that’s a thing 🙂
One more push north.
We woke up and checked the weather.
Burrrr, but no rain in the forecast for the day. We had a decision to make. It looked like we could make it to Deadhorse with dry weather but the the next three days for forecast rain, rain and more rain. So if we rode up to Prudhoe Bay and spent the night it would be back south on the Dalton in the rain. I could tell from riding north and from all the advice I heard here and other places, stay off the Dalton if it’s raining. We decided to leave early ride to the top of Atigun Pass and return to Cooldfoot for breakfast before riding to Fairbanks. It would be a long day but fun.
Wow, we are glad we did. I should have more pictures but managed a few with my thick gloves and a few stops. The Brooks Range is phenomenal and there was just enough new snow to make them look extra special.
It was below freezing when we reached the top of the 4,739 foot pass but the road was mostly ok.
Some snow from the day before here and there.
We got off and took a few pictures but never unplugged our electric liners.
We chatted in our helmet radios…. about how fantastic it was and debated continuing north. We almost did….
Finally I made the call, let’s turn around and call the trip a success. And it was, by every measure in my book.
So, I’m going to stop here. The rest of the day was a challenge and the hardest part of the trip so far so I’ll save it for the next post.
Posted August 29, 2021 The Ride South….
We were at the top of Atigun Pass on the morning of August 19, 2021. A full 10 days after crossing into Canada near Vancouver, BC. It was close to freezing at the 4,739 foot high point even at 11:00 AM. We got a late start waiting for the temps to rise into the 40’s but we would learn to regret that decision later. It was cold, but the clear sky made for beautiful scenery. The road was fairly easy to ride on but became frozen towards the top. Not super slippery, but we needed to pay attention on the loaded bikes with worn TKC70s.
We took a few more pictures and officially started our journey home.
We rode the 70 miles back to Coldfoot to fill our tanks and get breakfast before continuing 250 miles to Fairbanks. We would have liked to continue on to Prudhoe Bay but the weather forecast was for continuous rain for the next few days. We didn’t like the idea of crossing the pass again going south in rain and certain snow. Before leaving Coldfoot we searched online for a hotel in Fairbanks. Yikes, everything was full… Google – nothing, Booking- nothing, Hotels.com – nothing. Finally I tried to take advantage of my IHG membership and search for a Holiday Inn and bingo. There was a hotel in a Fairbanks suburb called Fort Wainwright – yes! We booked it online and I didn’t have to worry all day about where we would spend the night. After the last few days at the Coldfoot camp and the FireWeed a Holiday Inn sounded like just the ticket.
We left Coldfoot in good spirits with clear skies and looking forward to the ride.
Had to leave a sticker above the window at the Coldfoot restaurant.
Once again, our constant companion was the pipeline, we stopped for a few pictures.
Took a few helmet cam pictures, nice road and just a few clouds forming.
When we got to Yukon Crossing we fueled up, left a sticker on the tank and I downed a Rockstar drink, it was going to be a long day.
Note…Deby and I have been off and on watching a famous YouTube motorcycle traveler, Itchy Boots. A single woman travelling the globe. In one of her “epic” episodes she had this picture. Hey! There’s my sticker! Does that make ME famous??
(back to my story)
The bikes were dirty but all in all not too bad, we’ve seen worse…
That was the last picture I took for the day because it started raining and things got tough…..
We arrived in Fairbanks after riding 400 miles with the last 200 in steadily increasing rain. It was cold, in the 40’s and the wind was picking up. Once I was within cell range I directed Google Maps to take me to the Holiday Inn in the suburb of Ft. Wainwright. Yea, right….. Why did the road have a military style gate with armed guards? We stopped and double checked, yes, this was the right road so cold, tired, and not knowing what else to do we rode to the gate to ask about the Holiday Inn. We were told the hotel was on the base and we would need permission to enter. To get that, we would need to go to the visitor center and apply for a pass. Hmmm, ok. So back on the bikes in a pretty steady rain for a detour to the other side of the base in Fairbanks traffic. We found the “visitor center”, it looked like a converted shipping container with a door and one desk inside. We both went in with our required masks on to plead our case. We stood inside dripping wet and leaving puddles on the floor while the guard made a bunch of phone calls. I’ll skip the details but after about a half hour of trying we couldn’t get in.
We both pulled out our cell phones and started calling and searching for a room, trying every angle. Nothing, nothing and more nothing. By this time it was 7:30PM, we hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast at Coldfoot, we were cold and wet and tired after 400+ miles of riding. For some reason about that time a thought popped into my foggy mind… the warmth of the crazy Fireweed Roadhouse in Nenana. I checked, it was 70 miles away. About another hour in the rain if we rode fast. I asked Deby and she shrugged, we didn’t seem to have a choice so I called our friend Robin at the Fireweed… yes, she had one room left!
Screw it, lets ride! It was almost funny as we zipped up our soaked gear and put on our foggy helmets for another run in the rain. About halfway we passed a liquor store – oh yea, beer! Deby volunteered to run in while I stayed with the bikes. She came out with a 6 pack of potent IPA and a big bottle of Whisky! Oh yea, love that girl.
It was almost 9:30 when we arrived, tired, cold, wet and hungry. Robin had dinner waiting for us and we drank beer and shared the Whisky with Robin and a few other patrons at the bar. Yea, I’m not sure why there is a bar but you have to bring your own booze… I didn’t ask.
Robin cooked up a nice hot meal with what she could find in the kitchen. There was a couple sitting next to us getting the same meal, I noticed all the plates had Caesar salad as a side. Funny, that was the same premix bag of salad I bought when we were there a few days ago that she didn’t use. Ha, glad to have it.
Total miles for the day: 485
On to Wasilla.
I sort of hoped we could have ridden the Old Denali Highway (8) from Cantwell to Paxson and then to Tok but we needed to stop in Wasilla for a Covid test in order to get back into Canada. At the Fireweed I was back on my phone looking for lodging in Wasilla, and guess what… nothing. Everything was full, and I mean everything. One place kept popping up, the Meier Lake Resort normally about a $200 place but the last minute price was over $400…. arrrg. Screw it, I booked it online to have a place to stay.
South we rode… in the rain.
More wet and cold, we were getting used to it.
We got to Wasilla early enough to get in line at the Covid test place, an old abandoned Sears parking lot. The rain let up for a few minutes as we waited in line.
It actually only took about 45 minutes before we were subjected to swabs up our nostrils.
With that done we rode the short distance to the swanky Meier Lake Resort. Nice place but…. no restaurant. Dang.
Dinner consisted of trail mix and a couple of fig bars washed down with an IPA we had left over and whisky in plastic cups. Oh, yea, true ADV style for us.
We had a patch of sun to enjoy the property before the rain came back with a vengeance and we retreated to the lodge where we sipped our drinks next to a big wood fire in the fireplace.
On to Tok Junction…..
Strange thing, we woke up to clear skies! I went online and easily found lodging for the night at the Tok RV Village where we booked a cabin for two nights. Soon we were on the Glenn Highway for a spectacular day of riding. On our way into Alaska we rode the same highway in the rain and didn’t see a thing because of the clouds but this day was different. Clear and dry with glacier views all along the way.
Nice roads, beautiful mountain views.
Even the mighty F800GS was happy.
The Tok Cutoff road was just as spectacular with the Wrangell mountains on our right.
We stopped for a snack along the way.
Finally arriving under clear skies at our cabin for two nights while we waited for our Covid results.
Crazy thing….. Tok was almost a ghost town. The Tok RV Village is a HUGE campground with about 100 sites, there were about 4 campers. We were the only people in the cabins. The other places in town looked about as empty. I talked to the owner of the place and he said the road is his lifeblood but with the border closures and Covid nobody is going through Tok. I haven’t been to Tok in 40 years but I’m guessing it’s usually a lot busier.
We stayed two days and had our first day off the bikes in nearly two weeks, it felt great. I got caught up on this Ride Report and we rested and did a desperately needed load of laundry. We walked to Fast Eddies restaurant for all our meals – there were people there but it wasn’t very busy. The food was – hoo hum. It didn’t matter, we got our Covid test results that showed we were healthy and soon headed to the border. Oh, we found out the day before someone setup a mobile Covid test trailer with a suitable test for Canada. If I would have known we would have skipped Wasilla but then we would have missed the nice ride on the Glenn Highway. Hmmm, it all worked out.
On August 23rd we crossed the border without incident and were starting to feel get-home-itus. We decided to ride 393 miles to Whitehorse. I searched online for hotels and everything was pretty full but I managed to score a room using Hotels.com at the Canadas Best Value Inn River Hotel. I also called ahead and had some tires reserved at the Honda dealer.
The weather was cool with on and off sprinkles and clouds, by this time we were just putting in miles.
We took a break at a place called Destruction Bay so Deby could search for more rocks.
When we arrived in Whitehorse it started raining and we went to check into Canadas Best hotel…. ummm. WHAT A DUMP.
Look, we’ve travelled extensively in Latin America on motorcycles and I’m not that picky about hotels, really. One of my favorite stays was a mud hut in Bolivia. This place looked super sketchy. Homeless people were all over the parking lot, the lobby was a mess with warning signs about “no guests in rooms”, and the place looked in general disrepair. We went into “Mexico mode” where one stays with the bikes while the other goes in to secure the room. Interestingly I was told there was a problem with our reservation and they didn’t have a room. What? I had my paid reservation and confirmation number but she wouldn’t budge. There was no room. Geesh, so we got on the bikes and rode to a safer location and started calling. Deby went inside one nearby hotel and chatted up the clerk who called ahead to the Casa Loma hotel, yes they had rooms. She gave me a number to call and a gruff woman answered, “yea we have a room, check in at the bar, oh and there is a $300 deposit required.” Ok…
The bar was hopping with locals and a few Harley bikers which was actually fine with me. We got checked in and found the room appeared to be recently remodeled and not too bad. I did get some time to hang out with the Harley guys and talk about motorcycles, always fun and since I’ve owned a few Harleys in the day and grew up near the Harley plant in Milwaukee I had some street cred. Universally bikers are bikers and there is always a certain brotherhood. I love it. Odd thing, I talked to another guest who said he got the last room. Really? It didn’t look full, I wonder what was going on.
We asked about food but were told the kitchen had a fire and was closed down, try the gas station down the street. We went for a walk, fortunately, the gas station restaurant was closed so we hiked down the road a little further to Whiskey Jacks Pub and Grill. Oh yea! We had the best burger of the trip and a couple of local beers. We came back happy and settled in for an early night. We had appointments at 8:30 for new tires.
We had a plan. Tires in the morning and then on to Watson Lake. I went online for yet another search for hotels and everything was full. Really? Again? Nothing? I finally gave up, the weather was getting a little warmer so if we had to we could camp.
As expected, I would be faster to get four tires installed if I removed the wheels myself. No problem just point me to a corner of the parking lot.
It’s funny with all the weight on the back, the rear wheel was off the ground when on the center stand so I started with the back tires.
When it came time for the fronts I found an ingenious way to prop up the bikes.
Sooo, because I know everyone wants to know. I took off the TKC70s that had just over 5,000 miles. I forgot to take a picture of the rear tires but they had huge flat spots and were getting pretty thin. Here is what the fronts looked like.
We still had 2,000 miles of hard riding to go and I wanted to hit the Cassiar highway. More than a few people told me the road was in rough shape and tears up tires. So, the Honda shop had two sets of MotoZ tires in our size so I decided to be safe and go with it.
I’ve used MotoZ tires before on my WR250 and liked the Mountain Hybrids. I tried another version of theirs on my Africa Twin and loved the rear but hated the front. These are called Tractionators GPS, and they seem ok.
Soon we were on our way to Watson Lake, hoping for a place to stay……
Ok, this entry is getting a little long so I’ll stop here and wrap up the trip soon. Thanks for following!
Donn and Deby
Posted August 30, 2021
New tires on the bikes and by noon we were blasting East on the Alaska Highway towards Watson Lake wondering if we would finally give the camping gear a workout since all the hotels seemed to be full. We were planning to ride the Cassier Highway south so as we approached the turnoff before Watson Lake we started looking for gas and a place to stay. That’s when we came across this place.
Let’s see… gas – check, food – check, 4-star cabins – double check!
We parked in front of a “Harleys Only” parking sign. There was an older gentleman sitting by the sign having a smoke. We took off our helmets and I made some smart-ass jokes about the Harley parking zone and asked if we should move. Deby, who is much more diplomatic than I caught something and asked if this was his place. “Yep, 27 years” he responded. Great, would he have room for some wise ass ADV riders? He said he would check and made a phone call. “Yep, we can fit you into cabin number 1.” Whoo hoo!
Do you have beer? “Yep, not much of a selection though.” Found out they only sell 8-packs, ok we would rough it.
Do you have food? “Yep, what time do you want to eat?” Ummm, how about 6:30? The restaurant looked closed but maybe it opened later? We arrived on time at 6:30 and our host, David, instructed us to have a seat anywhere. We weren’t in the restaurant but in the lobby where there were a couple of tables. Ok, we sat by the window while he sat at the table next to us watching the Discovery Channel on the big TV behind our backs. “What would you like?” he said without getting up. It seemed like the best response was a question, – “what do you have?” “Well, the ribs are good.” “Ok, we’ll have the ribs.” David slowly got up and made his way to the kitchen where we heard some clanging and beeping of what sounded like a microwave oven. Deby and I looked at each other not sure what to expect. A short while later he came out with two plates of ribs with sauce and mashed potatoes and gravy. No beverages. I probably should have ran back for two of the Molsons but asked for water instead. “We don’t have water.” Huh? “You can buy a bottle from the fridge.” Ok then, I got up and grabbed a bottle of water that we shared with dinner.
What happened next was not expected. Wow, the ribs were fantastic! We looked at each other in amazement, the sauce was perfect. We tasted the mashed potatoes and they were just as good with the best gravy we’ve had in a while. We turned and looked at David at the next table watching TV. We let him know how amazed we were and he went into a story that people come from all around for his ribs and is often complimented. Deby commented that it may have been the best meal on the trip, it just might have been. I was full but noticed some homemade pie in the cooler. I thought if the ribs are that good the pie must be even better – and it was!
So, interesting place. A couple more cars came in during the evening so by my count three cabins were used. I’m pretty sure we were the only restaurant guests that night. We went for a walk around the campground and it looked empty. I saw this interesting thing.
On the way out we noticed a for-sale sign by the road. It looked to me like the one-man operation was looking for some new life. There was no WiFi or cell service so we were cut off from outside world communications. I thought maybe that is why this place didn’t show up in any of my searches. Who knows. The lack of internet access meant no looking for hotel reservations further down the road, that would prove to be a problem.
The restaurant/lobby wasn’t open for breakfast so we made coffee in the room and then used the coffee pot to make hot water for our camp oatmeal we brought. It was ok. We didn’t drink all the beer so we found room for it in our panniers along with the diminishing bottle of Whisky. We were on the bikes early and ready for the Cassier we heard so much about. It started to rain.
So, it’s probably a nice ride if there was something to look at but all we saw was clouds. We did stop at this place.
As usual Deby loved the rocks but these were just too big to add to her already large pannier rock collection.
This was our only bear sighting for the day.
I didn’t take too many pictures but here is one that pretty much summed it up.
We stopped at a gas station/grocery store that had a “deli” in the back. Had the worst grilled ham and cheese sandwich ever…
We decided to skip Stewart because if the increasing rain and just kept going south wondering where to stay. We had been out of cell service for almost two days so there was no way to do an online hotel search. We came into cell range in Kitwanga and I started making calls and searching – nothing. We drove past hotels looking for ones that might not be online and they were either closed or had no-vacancy signs. We finally stopped in Hazleton at the only open restaurant we could find. We went in and they only had take-out. Arrg. Deby ordered a sandwich and I ordered fish and chips, trying to order something that would travel in our panniers. While inside, Deby talked with a local who said we would not have any luck with hotels due to all the construction workers in town. She recommended riding 5 miles into Old Hazleton which is on the reservation, she said there was a city campground.
So, there we were, after riding 487 miles in the rain, standing in the parking lot, in the rain, waiting for another crummy meal, nowhere to stay… when… my phone messages came to life. My family had been trying to reach me for days – my father died.
Every ride has it’s high a low points, clearly that was a low point. We jammed the soggy food into our wet panniers and went in search of the campground. We arrived and it didn’t look too bad and maybe half full. Nobody was around for us to register so we set up out tent, in the rain and climbed in with our soggy meal.
As campsites go, this wasn’t bad. We purposely camped near the wash house so we could easily run out for water if needed. Inside our tent we took inventory. We had four left over beers and about a fifth of Whisky. We sat inside and finished it all off toasting my dad.
I thought we had some get-home-itus before, but it was in full swing now. I checked the map and it was 424 miles to Williams Lake, we called ahead and got a room at the same hotel where we stayed on our way north. It rained the whole time.
Williams Lake – across the border and home, another 430 miles. On and off rain in the morning and then started to clear. We were in full speed riding mode, thankful for the good tires as we passed semis in the rain. A miracle happened just after we crossed into the US at the Blaine border crossing, the sun came out, and for the first time in the whole trip my motorcycle thermometer clicked above 70 degrees.
The mighty BMWs made it home and so did we…..
Total trip 6742 miles, 19 days. Whew!
So, we’re home and will be spending the next weeks dealing with family issues. I hope to have an epilogue post to this ride report when I get a chance. It’s been fun, I haven’t done an advrider RR in ages and I loved having the feedback and suggestions. Thanks to everyone for following and I hope maybe this RR was informative for anyone wanting to ride to Alaska!
Donn and Deby