If you want to see how the rooming arrangements are set up each night, click this link.
Beginning the evening of July 1, trip progress and pictures will be posted depending on internet connection from now until end of trip later in July. Check back each evening!
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Met Bob Marcinko at Village Inn in St. Augustine. After breakfast, we left at 8:15 a.m. and took state road 16 and 100 to Lake City and took Interstate 10 to Marianna, FL then up through Dothan, Alabama, then Brundidge, thru Montgomery and finally to Talladega. The temperature spiked at 100 degrees but with the low humidity, the trip was very pleasant. We enjoyed the majestic rolling hills of west central Alabama.
Covered 514 miles and met up with Bryant Mixon, Russ Kubik, and Doug Tirpak. We went to a local Mexican restaurant.
A really nice bunch of guys the first day! We plan on breakfast at 5:30 and kickstands up at 6:30 a.m. and on to Ft. Smith, Arkansas.
Thursday, July 2, 2009
We five left ... Bryant by himself and the other four together ... in the pleasant coolness of an Alabama morning. The fun part was taking about a hundred miles of farm roads ... going over hill crests and down into valleys, smelling fresh cut hay and feeling temperatures in the 60s one second and in the 70s another second as we dipped up and down on the hills.
Hitting the interstate, we entered Tennessee and crossed the majestic Mississippi River and admired the gleaming pyramid in Memphis. Entering Arkansas, the temperature warmed up into the upper 80s and lower 90s. We had a nice cloud cover to keep the temperature down. Our iron steeds glided effortlessly over the Ozarks of Arkansas and we entered Fort Smith at about 5 p.m.
I have an ice chest on my passenger floor board. It sure is nice to be able to reach down and pull up a nice cold bottle of water ... I did four bottles today.
We hooked up with Steve Schiff.
Tomorrow it is off to Kansas! We guys are in a great mood and are shrugging off the 500-mile days ... we did 520 miles today. North to Alaska with enthusiasm!
Friday, July 3, 2009
The seven of us left Ft. Smith, Arkansas at sunrise and proceeded to Tulsa, Oklahoma where we lost each other. Lyle Doverspike and I took the highway 412 through the panhandle because if we took I-40 or another interstate, it would be so boring. US 412 was partly 4-lane and 2-lane highway passing through many small towns. We were treated with a vista of some nice bluffs with amazing weathered strata.
The temperature stayed between 100 and 103 for most of the day but Lyle and I took the heat well. I sure am glad I fastened the ice chest to my bike at the last moment as it is so easy to reach down and pull up an ice cold bottle of water.
Bikers ... please! On long trips, you want to stay hydrated. Bring along a small cooler and drink plenty of water!
Lyle and I covered 520 miles and arrived in Garden City, KS and met Mo Gakemeier. The other bikers haven't arrived yet as of 6:20 p.m.
Wooo hooooo! We are in the mountains tomorrow in Colorado and hopefully cool weather. By the way, three days so far and no rain!
NEWS FLASH ... Bob M. arrived at around 7 p.m. We are all here.
Saturday, July 4, 2009
Woke up my three sleeping room-mates with a cheery "Good morning with enthusiasm! We will be in the mountains today!" and I got a thumbs-up. A great group of guys!
Here's a group picture of all of us itching to hit the road for Colorado.
I deliberately planned this trip to avoid interstates so we can make each day a destination in itself. Our happy iron horses purred down the two lane highway at a 70 MPH pace. The flat plains gave away to rolling foothills. We followed the Arkansas River for several hundred miles, with the river playing leap frog, jumping to our right and then to our left.
Several times we were greeted with smiling faces of Kansas sunflowers. They more than made up for the stench of Kansas and Colorado feeding/stockyards.
After the 103 degree heat of yesterday, today was a pure delight. The highest it got was 88 degrees with a low of 55 degrees.
We took a two-lane twisty with 180 degree switchbacks at 20 MPH in Colorado. In the early afternoon, we spotted some rain clouds so we pulled off to put on our rain gear. It rained on and off for about a couple of hours.
The fun began when we were driving to Steamboat Springs and all of a sudden the pavement ended and we drove about five miles through broken pavement and wet gravel. After we got back on the pavement, all the bikers pulled off. I was amused to see their wild eyed looks which caused me to break out in hysterical laughter. I told them they haven't seen anything yet ... wait until Alaska! That three-hour spot in Colorado with rain, twisties and broken pavement is a nice dry run for the real McCoy ... wait until they see Destruction Bay!
We arrived at Craig, Colorado and were met with Tom Crawford and Wayne Cox.
Tomorrow should be a pleasant drive as we have less than 300 miles to Bear Lake, Utah where the Logan bikers will meet us between 4:30 and 5:00 and escort us to Logan for the SKI-HI festivies.
After 520 miles, we are all a bit exhausted but we all are still able to give us a cheery "Thumbs-Up".
I heard from Dave Stufflebeam, my companion for the past two years. He is on his way to Nova Scotia on his Silver Wing trike.
North to Alaska with enthusiasm still!
Saturday, July 5, 2009
We slept in relatively late... until 5:30 a.m. when I gave my cheerful "Good Morning" to my slumbering room-mates. At 7:30 a.m. we hit the highway west and entered into Utah.
One fascinating thing is that two or three times in the same hour, we would be roaring past desert vegetation such as sagebrush and then we would be carefully cornering twisties at mountain crests, admiring majestic fir and spruce trees and then roaring back on the desert floor. I noticed that the north side of peaks may be splendidly decked with majestic trees and on the south side of the same peak, it would be desolate. It is amazing how the temperature change has a dramatic effect on vegetation in only a few thousand feet.
When we were at the mountain crests, it sure was cool! Can you imagine two or three times the same hour seeing such different views?
We certainly enjoyed pulling over to admire some splendid views!
Again, avoiding interstates, we took a myriad of two-lane roads across Utah into Wyoming and back into Utah. The temperatures were in the 50s, 60s and 70s giving us an invigorating ride. Reason for two-lane roads? You can really see the region and much less traffic!
We arrived in Bear Lake an hour early (we made better than expected time) ... the SKI-HI mini-run group rumbled into the gas station where we were resting and we followed them to a nice reception.
The SKI-HI folks put out great food and music for us. We enjoyed their hospitality and wish them all the best in their mission to deaf and blind babies. While you are reading this, why not make a donation to them?
After less than 400 miles today, we have covered a total of 2,400 miles.
Tomorrow morning it is off to Montana
Monday, July 6, 2009
We all left right on time at 7:30 a.m. from Logan, Utah and took Interstate 15 North. Entering Montana in cool 68 degree weather, we joyously glided along at 70 MPH.
Here's Bob M. with his glorious trike!
At our lunch stop, I took this picture of a snowmobile!
Speaking of meal stops, why stop at chain restaurants? If there are plenty of cars parked out front, it must be a great place!
After lunch, we saw gathering clouds so we pulled off to put on our rain gear. It then started to hail. We drove in intermittent rain for about 70 miles and then pulled off when we saw really dark clouds ahead. At the gas station, we were told that further North, people were pulling under overpasses because of GOLF BALL SIZED hail.
Since we knew storm systems moved from west to east, we figured out that if we wait an hour or so, it would clear up. Sure enough, we had relatively dry pavement all the way to Great Falls, Montana.
Four more bikers are with us! Herb Pitzman, Kevin Sand Bill S and Carl Haas. One ore will join us in Canada .. Paul Glunt. We will all have a group meeting tomrrow morning at 6:30.
Tomorrow morning we are entering Canada! Hope we all got our passports! Three thousand miles covered so far ... only eight thousand left.
No more YEE HAWS! Bob M. told me to shout GERONIMO! North to Alaska with enthusiasm still!
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Wow! We took off on I-15 North in Montana and went through Lethbridge, Alberta and then got on Highway 2 -- a four lane divided highway up to Edmonton. It was in the pleasant 60s all day. After 520 miles, we arrived at Grove Motor Inn and are ready to attack the buffet.
A couple of things I forgot to add ... July 3 and 4, as we were driving, we were met often with the tantalizing scent of steaks being cooked by thousands of families near our route. Talk about torture.
You know the smell you get when you crush between your fingers a bough of a fresh Christmas tree? Since that hail storm, for an hour, we had that strong smell .. apparently, the hail crushed lots of leaves, causing this beautiful scent to freshen the air. Ahhhhh
Anyway, Alberta has lots of canola fields ... beautiful yellow stuff.
Tomorrow it is off to the Alaska Higway! I see the bikers are becoming more and more excited.
Here's a couple of emails I received from Paul Glunt:
I left this morning and crossed into Canada at Sumas, Wa around 9am. Overcast and cool today, quite a change from the sunshine and blue skys of the last two weeks. The sun finally came out around 10:30 in Hope BC and stayed long enough to convince me to take off the rain gear. Murphy's law prevailed and the sun was replaced by clouds once again. I stopped for lunch at Subway in 100 Mile House, and phoned Chase to unfreeze my credit card. The rain came back in buckets. I managed to stay fairly dry and stopped for the night in Williams Lake BC. Total of 380 miles today. Tommorrow I can either stop at Prince George or continue to Dawson Creek and have a day of rest until the rest of the group arrives on the 8th.
Well I made it. I feel half drowned. Lots oof rain today, which I don't have a problem with, but today it came with lots of gusty wind. No pictures, too wet. I'm booked in at the Super 8, and got a hot shower and some food. I think I'll take a nap then see the town. I gained one hour by crossing into Mountain Time. 400 miles today. See you all tomorrow!
News flash! "Hi Mike,Hope you are having a good trip. I am Kevin Slagg's wife and he asked me to email you to let you know that he and Bill S. will meet the group tomorrow in Dawson's Creek. Bill has his blackberry but they didn't seem to have good internet service.Have a safe trip." Sue Slagg
Wednesday, July 7, 2009
By now, bikers have formed their riding groups .. some solo, most in two or three groups. We all left Edmonton, AB at 7:30 a.m. under a light drizzle and 50 degrees. For those unfamiliar with motorcycling, if you have the proper boots, gloves and rain clothes, rain is not a problem at all.
Going Northwest through Alberta, we enjoyed splendid views of canola fields and fields dotted with hay rolls and content Canadian cattle. To our left, we kept seeing the Rocky Mountains.
As we drove in the morning, the weather improved and the sun came out by the time we arrived in British Columbia with temperatures in the 70s.
We (Bob M. and myself) arrived here at Mile 0 City -- Dawson Creek at 12:30 p.m. Pacific Time and were greeted by Paul Glunt.
There are four bikers who didn't arrive in Edmonton last night. Mo had called my wife and she told me that they would catch up with us but later bad weather caused them to stop early for the night. They arrived here at 5:30 p.m. and they all look great! A biker from Edmonton, Alberta --Jenny -- joined group so when the two from New York join us, there will be sixteen of us!
With lots of rest this afternoon, we all should be invigorated for the Alaska Highway. The first thing I am going to show the guys is this old wooden bridge from the original highway. This picture was taken last year.
I can't wait to see their facial expressions (93% of communication is non-verbal) as they approach their first serious metal grate bridge tomorrow. As long as you relax, you are all right. About 15 miles past this bridge is a world famous Annie Salmon Bake. Don't you wish you were with us? They have an open pit where they cook salmon and ribs right in the dining room.
As of 6:15 p.m. the weather is gorgeous! The weather channel shows clear skies to the Northwest. Good thing we are not in Edmonton as they are under a tornado watch now.
NORTH TO ALASKA WITH ENTHUSIASM! I sure hope my two motorcycling sons Paul and Mark join me, along with my daughter Katie really soon.
NO UPDATES THURSDAY BECAUSE OF NO INTERNET CONNECTION IN MUNCHO LAKE, YUKON TERRITORY
Thursday, July 9, 2009
After a group photo, we left Dawson Creek in crisp 45 degree weather and took the Alaska Highway. Our first stop was the old wooden bridge (see above). Driving happily Northwest, we arrived at the majestic Northern Rockies Lodge, a magnficicent 14,000 square foot log structure. Only 376 miles today.
Always expect construction! We only had two road constructons this year. In past years, I've had had six or seven. We had to follow a guide car past active construction machinery.
Arrived at 2:30 p.m. This 14,000 sq foot log structure has four John Deere generators, its own water treatment plant, float airplanes, helicopters, RV park, etc. They have to truck their food two times a week from lower Canada. They offer two and three day float plane fishing trips with secluded cabins way out in the wilderness.
Friday, July 10, 2009
Some of the bikers left at midnight, others at 4:30, some at 5:30 and Bob and I left at 6:30 and there were still a couple of bikers sleeping. That's the beauty of this set-up ... very loosely organized so anyone can do what they please. We left Muncho Lakes at 55 degrees and a glorious day! As we went Northwest, the temperature increased to 75 degrees.
No road contstruction today! Encounted many black bears and bison.
Snow capped mountains surrounded us at all times. Actually, most of the peaks were quite bare but we still can see snow.
As we arrived at Haines Junction, we could see the original highway to the side of the improved highway. See the snow in the mountains!?? I feel so guilty enjoying this 75 degree weather while my friends are sweltering in the humidity and heat of Florida.
Arrived at Raven Hotel at 5:30 and we are looking forward to a gastronomicalepicureandelight dinner. We did about 550 miles today.
We will be in Alaska tomorrow!
Internet from here until Michigan may be touch and go so updates may not be on schedule.
Saturday, July 11, 2009
Here is a picture of Raven Hotel. It is a four-star hotel and dining room. The other places in Haines Junction are sort of dumpy with mediocre rooms and still quite expensive. The Raven is for the discerning traveller.
Here is a picture of most of us in the dining room. The picture doesn't do it justice as the table is nicely set up. Home-made bread and butter. Ahhhhh I had the soup du jour and salmon. Aren't they a happy bunch? The guy sitting to the right of the woman (Jenny) is Tom Crawford, a retired deaf rancher from Colorado.
Here is a picture of my tiramisu made by Chef Victor Bongo himself. This guy is quite a chef ... had been a chef on some of the better cruise lines and hotels. Oooooo such decadence in the middle of the Yukon!
Now, for the trip itself ... My worst fears were confirmed. The highway between Destruction Bay (which is about 70 miles North from Raven Hotel) and Tok, Alaska is still bad. At least at Destruction Bay, it is much better than last year. The highway from there to Tok has a lot of damage and you have to constantly scan the road for breaks. The worst part are the breaks parallel to the road with one side about two inches higher than the other which cause the bike to jump to one side.
Another thing I noticed over the past several years ... I would say about 3/4 of the gas stations and lodges are now closed. There are only two lodges open on the Alaska Highway in the winter ... Northern Rockies Lodge and Beaver Lake Lodge. Please be assured that when you travel, you want to fill up on gas when you reach half empty. A few bikers "ignored" that warning and survived, thanks to our spare gas cans.
When we left Raven Hotel after a German breakfast, it was raining very lightly but after five miles, it cleared up and stayed clear the rest of the way. The temperature for most of the day was between 70 and 77 degrees. Ahhhhhhh!!!!!
Oh, did I say? There's no red carpet treatment like you see on I-95 rest stops. Here is a Alaska highway bathroom! Behind Bob's trike is what we affectionally call a "rocket launcher" ... a nice set-up to carry luggage in.
The Canadian customs and American customs are separated by 20 kilometers. The first time I did this segment, it was all gravel. The last two times, it was all paved. Now, about 7 miles is relatively loose gravel and we all felt we were "losing it" but we all made it unscathed.
Sure enough, when we arrived at Alaska, the bikers took lots of pictures and hammed it up at this Alaska sign. That is one good reason why I am still leading groups after all these years... it is so invigorating to me to see other guys really enjoying themselves ... such a great group of guys!!! If you look closely at the photo, you can see I still have lots of enthusiasm! My 95 year old Dad would be proud of me taking after him!
At the end of the Alaska Highway at Delta Junction, the guys took lots of photos of the Milepost 1422 where, in World War II, the Army started going south from that point.
Arrived at Fairbanks and about seven of us are staying at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks. I have this room for four days and will use this as a base. I haven't heard from the other guys yet but I feel we all will cruise up to the Arctic Circle tomorrow morning at 8. Some will turn around at Arctic Circle, some will continue to Wiseman, and maybe to Prudhoe Bay (Paul Glunt and Wayne Cox made it!). As for me, I got myself a couple of 10-hour energy drinks. If I go the distance, I will still be able to come back to the dormitory and sleep 24 hours before we leave July 15 for our homeward bound segment.
Five thousand three hundred miles completed. My bike now has 137,000 miles on it and I'm getting around 42 MPG. Wooo hooooo .... nice way to see the USA and Canada.
Already thinking about future trips... for the most part, I will stick to Florida up through Michigan up into Ontario and then across Canada to Hyder, Alaska, then back down thru North Dakota/Minnesota. That will allow bikers who have jobs to be able to join on future trips as this can be done in two and a half to three weeks easily. This will save two thousand miles and four to five days.
Again, if I do go North to Prudhoe Bay, there won't be an update for a day or so.
Sunday, July 12, 2009
As of 6 a.m. it looks as if seven of us will go up north to the Arctic Circle and we will decide what to do after that point. Others are going to Denali Park, etc.
Splendid morning! It was bright all night.
Nice dormitory ... free internet, laundry, phone, etc. and just $36 per night. I sent in an inquiry about being a summer visiting faculty teaching "The World's Most Exciting Foreign Language -- ASL" here ... just an inquiry! I saw on their course listing that they do have ASL!
More updates later! Signing off at 6:08 a.m. Alaska Time.
Signing on again at midnight.
We drove 400 miles round trip to Arctic Circle. Weather was brilliant blue skies and a warm, friendly sun bringing the temperature up to 78 degrees.
Can you imagine seeing signs like this on a regular basis during this trip? The scary part is that the gas station mentioned sometimes is closed or has no gas.
Our first stop was a close-up of the pipeline. This pipeline zig and zagged across the Dalton Highway. It was fascinating to see how it "snakes" up mountain sides in a zig-zag pattern.
Sure enough, one of the bikers took a spill into the ditch on the Dalton Highway. It was shake, rattle and roll for him. He came through relatively unscathed (name with-held) and admitted that I had said to stay in the middle of the road.
The Dalton Road is mostly unpaved and you can see brilliant blue fields of fireweed and the Alaska Pipeline.
Imagine -- the Arctic Circle! I enjoyed watching the bikers take photos of themselves and their bikes next to the sign (I couldn't resist and joined them!)
Same as last year ... one biker didn't have Ride-On Tire Sealant and got a flat tire. That stuff really works ... each year, a biker without that product gets a flat tire! I found a bad cut in my front tire so need to go to the dealer first thing in the morning for a new tire.
From Steve Schiff: "Here is a picture of my Sunday afternoon. After train ride to Denali I took a plane and pilot to us to 1/2 mile of Mt. McKinley summit.... spectacular! I am really enjoying a couple of days playing tourist."
Monday, July 13, 2009
Ahhhh .... I slept until 10:15 a.m. FYI, sunset here in Fairbanks was 12:07 a.m. and sunrise at 3:30 a.m.
It looks as if everyone is out doing their own thing. I went to the Harley/Honda dealership and saw a LONG LINE of worried looking bikers seeking service. Upon asking, I was told to get in line tomorrow morning.
Went to the parts department, and YES!! they have a new front tire. My front tire already has 25,000 miles on it and I was hoping it would hold up but apparently on the trip yesterday, a bad gash was put in my front tire. Thank you, Ride-On Sealant! No flat.
Left a note on Bob M's door letting him know if he has hopes for a new tire, to get there at the dealership first thing in the morning. He told me yesterday he is looking for a welder to fix his luggage carrier.
I have an appoinment at noon Tuesday for a new front tire and oil change.
While all of the other bikers are enjoying themselves riding around to Mt. McKinley, Hot Springs, Valdez, Homer, Sitka, etc. I am going to play it smart and rest, rest, rest! Older but wiser.
My comments so far: It sure is enjoyable watching the other guys and gals experiencing their first-time thrill of reaching their destinations, taking pictures, making plans, etc. As for me, the 2nd time up to Arctic Circle was really tiring ... if you've been there before, what's the point of going again? (My dad says "If you think you can't do it, DO IT!). I admit that twice I was thinking about turning around and going back to Fairbanks but I am glad I stuck to it!
I am constantly amazed about the other bikers taking the Dalton Highway at 40-60 MPH. I am so timid, I keep to 35 MPH (which is better than the 20 MPH I did a few years ago). At least you see old bikers and bold bikers but never old and bold bikers. I rather be old and chicken!
This is a GREAT TRIP! 95% of the bikers are low maintenance, are able to independently read their own maps and arrive at their own destinations, take care of their problems, etc.
Keep in mind that motorcycling is very different from car driving. You have to be able to accept breakdowns, flat tires, bad weather, and be flexible enough to change or adjust your schedule. For instance, a few years ago, I needed a new tire for my Silver Wing in Oregon. I had to wait one day for a tire to be overnighted in. Another time, in New Mexico, my drive belt on my Helix broke and I had to wait three days for the parts to come in. That's the price you have to pay to love motorcycling.
Join us on the 2010 trip! This is specially designed for those of you with sweethearts you'd like to bring. The "bribery" of a bed and breaksfast nightly should convince them to come ... if not ride with you, the follow you in their cars. Maybe some of them can fly into Calgary and enjoy the last few days in spectacular scenery.
NEWS FLASH! Mo told me that Wayne Cox called and he made it to Prudhoe Bay! He will be back here tomorrow night and he is all right. Congratulations, Wayne!
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
It's around 80 degrees and very smoky in Fairlbanks due to all the forest fires in Alaska. Was at the Outpost Harley Davidson for quite a few hours this morning and had a new front tire put on and a well-deserved oil change. My 137,000-mile motor is purring its appreciation and is promising me at least 863,000 more miles of service (there is a documented story of a 1966 Volvo P1800 with 2.4 million miles on it with its original engine so why not me?) as long as I use synthetic oil. Mobil and Chilton documents that you can get 250,000 miles and engine still will be within new specifications. Chilton's says 90% of engine wear and tear occurs during dry start-ups which is what Mobil 1 prevents.
News flash: Russ Kubik: "Made it to the Arctic Circle on my big 'ol Harley. Woohoo! No incidents, but it was no piece of cake by any means. Tires good (thank you Ride-On Sealent). 14 hours in the saddle, but all is fine. Back to Canada and the good old U.S. of A tomorrow with enthusiasm!"
I'm packing up tonight and leaving around 6 a.m. tomorrow and head for the Farthest North Denny's for some good coffee and perhaps some good ole hash browns with onions and then head Southeast towards Haines Junction. I heard from Tom Crawford that we should expect rain. Oh, well, when it rains, the flowers bloom and rainbows adorn the skies!
HOME WITH ENTHUSIASM!!
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
We left Fairbanks after waiting 15 minutes for some bikers who never did show up at Denny's (7:15 a.m.) and drove Southeast through some light rain for about three hours until we arrived at Tok, Alaska where we chowed down for lunch. Just look at this picture of some hungry bikers for some good ole Alaska hamburger with horseradish and cheddar cheese (I only had chicken noodle soup).
Herb on a Glacier Cruise in Valdez, Alaska.
Arrived at Haines Junction under clearing skies and 60 degree weather. Covered almost 500 miles today, total of 6,250 miles.
The four-star Raven Hotel had a gourmet dinner for us. I had Red Snapper and some kind of a soup with caviar.
One biker had this cheesecake ... you can see a raven on a motorcycle!
I bought a book from Chef Victor Bongo. Such an accomplished chef ... worked for a fancy cruise line, great hotels, etc. Now, he is enjoying this change of pace in the middle of the Yukon. His dishes is a gastronomicalepi-cureadelightfully great blend of various cuisines from all over the world. (Yes, I have a beard). Chef Victor is donating some of the proceeds of his book to SKI-HI ... how wonderful that is!
Doesn't this make you want to come on a trip next year? Glacier flights, glacier cruises (and in two more days, bears fishing for salmon, and a mountaintop trip to view one of the largest glaciers in North America), wildlife, gourmet dining, and, oh yes, fresh air and great scenery from a motorcycle seat (all this while you are probably sweltering in 95% humidity and 95 degree heat.
There may not be internet service the next three days so the next update may not be until Edmonton, Alberta.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
It's 6:30 a.m. in the Yukon and it's a glorious, bright morning! Weather forecast is giving us a green light for a splendid few days!
The Raven Hotel will serve us a traditional German breakfast at 7:30.
Only one biker unaccounted for ... Bob M. (1) He has our phone numbers; (2) he has our schedule; (3) twice already on this trip he didn't stay with us and eventually caught up; (4) there is only one highway (Alaska Highway) to take and he knows where it is. Being a 22-year veteran in the military and having driven to Sturgis, SD last year, he should be all right.
Friday, July 17, 2009
Good news! Bob M. showed up at Watson Lakes and he looks great! We bikers left in various groups ... Tom Crawford and I was the 2nd group to leave at 6 a.m. We took Canadian Highway 37 south to Hyder, Alaska and drove happily for 415 miles. The weather was in the 40s at first and warmed up to about 65 by the time we arrived in Hyder.
Highway 37 (also known as Stewart-Cassiar Highway) is so isolated that it was over one hour before we saw our first vehicle. Only two or three service stations the entire 300-mile length of this road.
It is in much better shape than when I drove on it four or five years ago. Just three spots of construction.
37A to Hyder is one of the only places in the world where you can see glaciers really close-up from your vehicle. We will be driving 25 miles up a mountain tomorrow to view a truly magnificent glacier ... one of the largest in North America. This is called the Stewart-Cassiar Highway.
We are going to the bear observation deck at 7 p.m. That is when the locals say it is the best time to see the bears in action!
Woo hooo! We have a full day of rest and relaxation tomorrow in this area! Magnificent coastal mountains capped with snow and decorated with impressive waterfalls.
Saturday, July 18, 2009
We went to the bear observation deck and about 7:30 a lonely looking medium sized black bear half-heartedly tried to catch the fat salmon but didn't succeed.
Bob M. arrived and he looks fine!
A group of ten of us are going to take the 25-mile dirt road to see Salmon Glacier. Hope to have photos if the internet is still working here at the King Edward Hotel.
We all are planning on eating tonight at the Bitter Water Cafe ... a restored hotel with a dining room full of antiques and an old car in the dining room. FYI, the whole hotel... 7 furnished rooms, managers apartment, and the dining room is for sale for only $300,000. You can buy a NEW HOUSE in Stewart (town adjacent to Hyder) for only $38,900 ---- three bedrooms and a bathroom and a basement!
Hyder will be our destination for the 2010 trip. As for the 2010 trip, I am thinking of changing the date to the second or third week of July so we will arrive at the peak time of salmon and bear feeding frenzy.
As of 7 p.m. ... I checked out Ripley Creek Inn. This absolutely will be our accommodations in 2010.
So, we went up this road about 25 miles past Fish Creek to to the summit overlooking Salmon Glacier.
We came across this abandoned mine. Can you imagine the tough life of miners way up here? This area has the world record of snowfall in one year, ONE HUNDRED FEET.
Here's the International Border between Alaska and British Columbia. No kidding! It was so odd to see clear cutting of the forest at this point.
Saw Salmon Glacier. Isn't it majestic? You will see this in 2010 when you join me again! I was able to lip-read many of the bikers' comments .. "Wow"!
Ate at Bitter Creek Cafe. This is a restored hotel from the 1930s. You read elsewhere this place is for sale for only $300,000. I can't imagine why the chamber of commerce does't play up this place in the USA travel magazines. There are no gravel roads leading to Hyder and it is thousands of miles closer than taking the Alaska Highway and it is much more scenic and authentic without fake Old West buidlings some cities have.
I'm telling you ... other than getting home, this is one of the highest point each year. The food indeed is gastronomicalepicureandelightfully great. I had a smoked salmon as an appetizer.
and then I had this halibut. They also have steaks from famed Alberta Province of Canada. You can't go wrong here. The topping on the halibut was a fascinating mixture of textures, tastes, etc. including cherry tomatoes, capers, and other tasty stuff.
This group of hungry bikers can't be wrong. You can't see in this photo but behind the bikers on the left is a splendid 1930 car.
Sunday, July 19, 2009 at 5 a.m.
My room-mate Tom Crawford left already and I'm not far behind him. I imagine other bikers will wait until after 7 a.m. when breakfast is being served. The weather seems great for ridiing!
There may or may not be internet at Prince George, our next stop.
Monday, July 20 at 6 p.m.
Prince George, northern capital of British Columbia, did not have internet access. Anyway, when we left Hyder, we had a good break in weather as Hyder is in a rainforest area with Pacific winds coming in through the mountain passes. We had perfect weather in the 60s! I woke up and asked Tom Crawford if he wanted to ride with me but he had other plans. So, I headed out ... it was over 200 kilometers until the next service station. Met several bikers at the gas station and we had a nice breakfast.
Tom Crawford was to ride with Paul Glunt into Washington State. He mentioned to me he wanted to take some backwoods way so he must have gotten lost.
Headed East on Highway 16 and had a gorgeous ride. I arrived at Prince George at 2:30 p.m. and only two bikers were there. As of 10 p.m., most of the bikers had not shown up. Took a nap and at 11:30 they had finally arrived -- all but Tom. One biker's Harley wouldn't start for two hours so that's why they were late.
Monday morning, a few of us early birds hit the road at 6:30 a.m. and had an extremely pleasant drive through British Columbia into Alberta, through Jasper (look at this scenery!) and I arrived in Edmonton at about 5:30 p.m. ... first one. Guess most of the bikers are sleeping in this morning.
I broke one of my rules and didn't get gas the night before so when thefourof us left Prince George, I had only a 1/4 of a tank of gas. We headed East and when I saw the sign NEXT FUEL 212 KILOMETERS, I thought "Uh oh" but it is a "guy thing" and I didn't want to say I needed gas so I kept on going. I already had 191 miles since last fill up. Well, believe it or not, as in the Old Testament, the widow's cruse of oil stayed full, the Lord must have kept some gas in my tank as by the time we arrived at the next gas station, I had 317 miles! In the past, I would have been out of gas after 250 miles!
Wow ... a week of driving through the Northern Rockies! Temperatures in the 60s and 70s and snow capped mountains every day!
Now that we are in the plains, we are picking up the pace and doing 500+ miles days.
8,000 miles completed. Based on what I read elsewhere, we may qualify for the LONGEST GROUP CHARITY RIDE IN THE WORLD!
No guarantee of internet access tomorrow.
NEWS FLASH -- received from Tom Crawford: " Iam ahead south see you guy next year ride safe thunder "
Four of us ... Herb, Mo, Carl and I left Edmonton at 6 a.m. while everyone else was sleeping in (Bob M. got in at midnight). Under brilliant skies and 60 degree weather, the four of us headed East on Yellowhead Trail through Alberta. I noticed that in eastern Alberta, there were oil wells and storage tanks in the middle of brilliant yellow Canola fields.
They reminded me of dominoes ... bright yellow squares with bus-sized black tanks scattered.
Entering Saskachewan, it warmed up to 75 degrees and we enjoyed the 549-mile drive and arrived in Yorkton.
Herb Pitzman is leaving us in the morning, going home to Illinois. A great travelling companion!
Tomorrow and Thursday, it will be Ontario. We are looking for a canyon about 15 miles east of Thunder Bay where there is a suspension bridge. I think it is Eagle Canyon. Highlight of Thursday is the White Fang Motel, a family-owned place with a Polish restaurant across the street ... a classy establishment in the middle of no where.
From Russ: "Mike, unfortunately, I'm leaving the group this morning am headed south. What a great adventure. Thanks so very much for the opportunity of a lifetime. Let's do it again in 2011 with even more enthusiam. Best regards and ride safe, Russ Kubik. P.S. Don't forget you said I could be your "assistant tour guide" the next time we go; with a little name tag and everything ."
The bikers and I were chatting about making future trips better. Here are my ideas: I will take the same route from now on so we can develop better relationships with hotels for pricing for benefit runs. Perhaps I can work with Registry of Interpreters of the Deaf, National Association of the Deaf affiliates, and schools for the deaf to sponsor cookouts at various locations.
After 8 years, this event is getting credibility and most likely it will be authenticated as the world's longest group benefit motorcycle run and as thus, perhaps we can get some serious sponsors. I want to fine tune this to an average of 450 miles a day ... to allow people who have jobs to be able to take a motorcycle trip to Alaska.
No guarantee of internet access the next two days ....
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Bob M and most of the bikers arrived in Yorkton at 10:30 p.m. and promptly went out to eat. Steve S. didn't get in until 3 a.m. as he had to get his bike fixed.
I was the first one out of Yorkton at 5 a.m. and arrived in Ignace, Ontatrio at 4 p.m. at White Otter Inn. Such a splendid drive! You have to see a detailed map of Ontario to see the spectacular number of lakes that dot this area. The drive (580 miles) was splendid! The temperature was 75 degrees all day. The highway from Saskatchewan, through Manitoba and into Ontario was mostly two-lane and rather twisty, dodging the many lakes and streams.
Bikers still with me include Wayne Cox, Bryant Mixon, Lyle Doverspike, Mo Gakemeier, Robert M, Kevin S and Bill S.
Tomorrow's drive should be something to shout about! Thunder Bay has a magnificent waterfall (Kakabeka) and Eagle Canyon has an exciting suspension bridge!
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Left Ignace, Ontario at 4:50 a.m. under a starry sky (for days before, it had been so light at night we couldn't see stars) and an invigorating 60 degree greeting. Headed my 2005 Gold Wing with 140,000 miles southeast and drove through some light mist and fog for about three hours until Thunder Bay, Ontario where the sun dissipated the fog.
The splendid smooth asphalt made my bike feel it was gliding on ice (just days before, it was jouncing all over washboards and potholes and gravel of the Dalton and Cassiair Highways) and I admired the vistas of Lake Superior to my right as the highway darted in and out of the coastline.
Arrived in Wawa, Ontario at 2 p.m. with excellent 75 degree weather (Reason why I like early starts is that I can arrive at destinations before afternoon thunderstorms develop).
Message from Steve Schiff: "Mike, It's Thursday morning (early) and I'm in Winnipeg after a tow truck dropped me off. My bike saga continues as yesterday in Edmonton I finally had new starter installed and finally arrived at 2:30 in Yorkton. This morning at the Yorkton Harley Davidson I had new rear tire installed and the technican also did a weld (properly??) to secure a loose pipe.
Lyle and I were making great time when my bike just shuts down and the electrical system stops the flow of gas. Problem may be with the weld and not disconnection of battery. Harley sent a truck to get me (3 hour wait) about 2 hours west of Winnipeg and I said goodbye to Lyle as he headed to Ignace. (long ride and I hope he is ok as of 11:15 he had not arrived)
I have to head to the Winnipeg Harley in morning and I'm too far behind to catch up. That being said I want to thank you for a wonderful ride that will always be in permanent memory. I think that turning the corner and seeing Bear Glacier was my biggest 'Wow!" as it was my first glacier although almost everything on the ride was a first. Please say good-bye to Wayne, Bryant, Bob, Mo and Lyle for me as well as Kevin and Bill. (the hotel clerk said they were still on the way when I called after eleven) I think that is all that is left of this years "spectacular 16"."
Bob M. told me that after 22 years in the air force and being all over the world, the trip through Canada is the most spectacular. I think you will agree with this when you join us in future trips.
Tomorrow it is back in the good ole USA. It sure will take a while to get used to all the American traffic and impatient drivers.
One last thing I want to say ... you simply have to stop at White Otter Inn in Ignace, Ontario. When I asked the motel operator if they had a laundry, she smiled and said "Just give the clothes to me and I'll throw them into the washer." Lo and behold, in one hour, they were brought into my room all folded and the socks matched!
Canada is one great place! It sure is different than the USA because there were several times that gas stations were over 200 kilometers apart. Where else can you be admiring the mountains for several days? Take three days to cross the prairies? Moose, black bears, elk, bobcats, porcupines, etc. crossing the road in front of you? Drive for over one hour several times without seeing other traffic?
HOME WITH ENTHUSIASM!!
Friday, July 24, 2009
As usual, I was first on the road at 4:45 a.m. My rationale for this is to arrive at destinations before the atmosphere becomes unstable in mid to late afternoon (translation: thunderstorms). So far, it as worked well on this trip!
Leaving Wawa, Ontario, I hugged the coast of Lake Superior and drove about 120 miles to the Canadian/Michigan border. Up until then, the temperature was an invigorating 55 to 60 degrees. (Note to Dave Stufflebeam ... this is the exact spot where you ran out of gas two years ago!)
Crossing two stupendous bridges over Lake Superior and Lake Erie, I hit the first interstate in weeks. Crusing happily at 70 MPH, the sun warmed up the air to a perfect 80 degrees (my rationale for this route is that the Great Lakes would have a cooling effect and it worked!). After 570 miles, I arrived in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, 3 p.m., covering a total of 10,100 miles.
Heard from Steve: I'm still in Winnipeg Thursday evening and they can't get it running. I drove off and it quit again about 7 miles from dealer and they towed me back. I am still planning to visit Virginia so Ft. Wayne was my last stop with the group. My wife is working on plan B to get trailer up here to get me if problem not solved tomorrow. I will email you upon completion of my ride so you'll know when last biker got to Florida. Steve (Mike's comments ... based on comments by a few bikers, he is the favorite in the bunch. He had caps made for all of us with our names on it with Florida/Alaska 2009 Motorcycle Run on the front. Our best wishes are with you, Steve!)
Message from Jenny: Hey guys! Just dropping a note to say hi. I had a blast the last couple of weeks and the great friends were a big part of that.
I've put up a select few pictures. OK, so there are like 70. But they are all good and I couldn't get the count down any more. Besides, it's my site and I can. :)
Last comment from Mike: Everyday when I see the bikers, I have to smile to myself as they really look shell shocked ... after all, most covered 10,000 miles in three weeks and they probably didn't realize how tiring this all can be. I am sure SKI-HI appreciates the funds raised on this trip. If you, as a reader, would like to help SKI-HI in their work with deaf babies, please click this link and make a donation as little as $10.
SOUTH TO FLORIDA WITH ENTHUSIASM!
Saturday, July 25, 2009
I arrived so early at Ft. Wayne (2 p.m.) that I figured if I left at 2 a.m. I could get home. It was a 1,069 mile drive ... from Indianapolis through Ohio and into Kentucky, it was a steady rain but my FirstGear one-piece rain suit kept me dry. The sun came out in Kentucky and I had a splendid drive through Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and into Florida (this route avoids the hideous congestion of Atlanta, GA). Arrived home at 8 p.m. and covered 11,125 miles.
"Made it home last nite... beat out a storm Thursday nite to my brother's house by 10 minutes.... had a great time with all and let's stay in touch by sharing our top photos." C. Haas