This was my first trip with a travelling companion! Patrick Henry was such a delight! I knew his 250 cc Suzuki would make it. I admired Patrick's meticulous way of checking his bike everyday ... adjusting the chain, checking the oil, etc.
The bottom photo is our picture of Salmon Glacier. WHAT AN INSPIRATION for us to make it up this unimproved road for such a majestic view?
Friday evening, July 1:
Left St. Augustine at 8 a.m. with some light rain. Went down State Road 16 and it started to clear up in about 30 minutes. Met Mr. Steel on his gorgeous red Reflex on the highway. Continued on SR 16, then SR 100 to Lake City, then US 90. Gorgeous crape myrtle trees in full bloom about 20 miles west of Tallahassee. Took backroads north to Bainbridge, GA then Dothan AL, Montgomery AL and finally arrived at Tuscaloosa AL. 505 miles the first day, got about 46 MPG averaging 63 MPH pulling a trailer.
Met with Patrick Henry from Vanderbilt University. He is going to ride with me to Alaska and back to Mississippi then take off for home in Tennessee.
We are going to make some adjustments to stop at Chestnut Lakes Retirement Home for Deaf Senior Citizens in Oregon so you will see some changes in the trip itinery.
My tips to you long distance drivers: Please don't wait until you get sunburned ... put on suntan lotion immediately at the beginning of the trip. Use skin cream each night. Everytime you stop at a traffic light, reach behind you, and do isometric exercises with your arms so as to counteract the pull of the muscles on your shoulders. If you wait until you get stabbing pains in your back, you won't be able to work it out!
Saturday evening, July 2:
Patrick Henry on his 250 cc Suzuki and I left at 8 a.m. this morning from Tuscaloosa, AL and stayed on US 82 all the way to Texarkana, Texas. The weather was in the 90s and became overcast in the afternoon, offering us welcome shade and cooler temperature in the 80s. This will be by far the easiest drive of the whole trip ... covered just 435 miles. This should help Patrick get acclimatized to some serious mile crunching later on.
Found out he also uses Mobil 1 synthetic oil so I feel better about his bike holding up on this trip.
We love the country roads as we can admire stately southern plantations, lovely whitewashed fences, friendly cattle, and see stately geese waddling down the road. You wouldn't be able to observe all this on the interstate!
We watched a firework display given by the City of Texarkana in honor of our arrival. The firework display went on for a continuous 20 minutes. There must have been 3,000 rockets! It was simply spectacular!
Sunday , July 3: Patrick and I left Texarkana at 8 a.m. with clear skies and temperatures in the 70s. We tooled West on US 82. US 82 is trying to grow up to become an interstate highway and is mostly four lane with controlled access entrances and exits although it becomes a two lane road in places. It quickly became hot, with 106 degrees in the shade. We stopped every hour and a half to drink plenty of water. US 82 has many picnic areas with nice shade.
I assured Patrick that we are getting into higher elevations and tomorrow will be great! We drove about 485 miles and arrived in Lubbock, TX at 7 p.m. Central Time at a balmy 102 degrees.
If you are wondering why I chose this route, I figured out if you are about 300 or more miles from the gulf, you will avoid some storms. So far, so good.
For those of you with 250 cc bikes, Patrick is riding a Suzuki 250 and it is performing flawlessly with 36,000 miles on it. I assure you, you should come with me next year! Due to the global warming, if you wait even five years, many of Alaska's splendid landmark glaciers will be a shadow of their former selves. All of you Helix, Reflex and small motorcycle owners, plan on next year!
Monday morning, July 4: Checked the weather channel and there's a storm system going through Oklahoma. I suspect we may see some scattered showers after we leave Lubbock, TX at 8 a.m. going into New Mexico (NM 209, NM 469 and eventually US 64 to Farmington. Pat and I spent some time last night looking at New Mexico maps and the suggestions from another biker (Darryl Petrack) and it should be a beautiful route! Wish you bikers were with us ... and we hope you will tentatively put down June 30 2006 as your vacation time next year and join us so you can enjoy the splendors of Alaska before all this warm weather melts it ... your kids and grand kids won't believe your stories of walking on glaciers, being in snow in July and the majestic midnight sun!
Monday evening, July 4: Well, it happened again! Just as we were rolling into Farmington, New Mexico, the whole town turned out! The highway leading into the town was lined with thousands of folks cheering the firework display the city had in our honor!
We covered 590 miles today for a grand total of 2,008 miles. My Swing is averaging 45 MPG pulling a trailer going at an average speed of 62 MPH. The weather was gorgeous with temperature in the 80s. We took historic Route 66 from the Texas border and went North on 66 towards Taos. After we passed Taos, we went through two mountain passes of 11,000 feet with temperatures in the 70s.
It was so scenic with topography changing every 30 or so minutes with desert shrubs and then conifers and other fir trees dominating the mountain side.
My Swing passed the 106,000 mile mark and the oil level is still full. Patrick Henry is also pleased with the performance of his bike. I really hope his experience encourages you to join us in 2006 and future years. Why stay home and swelter when you can enjoy the cool Pacific Northwest?
Tuesday morning, July 5: It is a glorious sunny dry day 55 degrees! We are anxious to view the canyonlands of Utah!
Tuesday evening, July 5: With enthusiasm, we set off at 7 a.m. for our adventure and did we have a blast! For starters, we took US 64 out of New Mexico and visited the Navajo Reservation and took US 191 North into Utah from Arizona.
Our first surprise was when we took Utah 261. As we headed North, we saw a cliff stretching across the horizon from west to east. No break anywhere and we soon found out why ... a 12-foot wide gravel road with 5 MPH switchbacks climbing up the vertical side of a 1,100 foot cliff with no guardrails! Patrick Henry and I grinned at each other and gunned our bikes up and up and up ... a 1,100 foot drop awaits a bad decision! (see photos at Patrick Henry's website!)
Needless to say, we survived that frightingly beautiful experience and tooled into Natural Bridges. We took a hike to the Natural Bridge where we posed for photos. We then checked out Mexican Hat ... a rock tower with a huge round flat rock balanced on top of it.
Tooling North on Utah 95, then West on Utah 24 through Capital Reef, then Utah 12 west through Grand Staircase Escalante Monument, we must have gone through three 10,000 foot passes. Finally, we reached the snow line at the last pass ... snow up to the edge of the highway.
After 526 miles, for a total of 2,533 miles, we arrived tired but excited about tomorrow's run through the "the most lonesome highway" US 50 all across Nevada. We will stock up on water bottles tomorrow when we leave Cedar City, Utah.
A TV station reporter from Coos Bay emailed me and hopefully an interview will be set up in Coos Bay in a couple of days.
C'mon ... admit it! You want to join us in 2006 to the majestic state of Alaska!
Wednesday, July 6: 520 miles for a total of 3,052 miles completed today. We rolled into Reno awestruck at the isolation of the "loneliest road in the USA" US Highway 50. From the Utah border until Sparks, Nevada, there were just two towns with 140 miles separating them. Hours and hours of nothing but desert scrubs and breathtaking views from mountain crests.
The weather was sunny and dry with some late afternoon cloud cover giving welcoming shade. Low was 61 degrees with a high of 95.
At a Nevada gas stop, many bikers were amazed at Patrick Henry's 250cc Suzuki bravely chugging its way from Tennessee to Alaska. He is getting gas mileage in the high 60s while I am getting the mid 40s which is great because of pulling a trailer and constant head winds.
Our route tomorrow and Friday will be changed so you need to check the other pages.
Thursday, July 7: 518 miles for a total of 3,571 miles completed today. We arrived into Coos Bay, Oregon under brilliant sunlit skies. This morning we left Reno, Nevada and made our way through the Great Basin of California.
Unfortunately, there was a mix up with the dates and times with the deaf Corvette club so it looks we are out of a pizza. We are expected to be interviewed by a TV anchorwoman at 8 p.m. tonight.
Patrick Henry's 250 cc Suzuki is really doing well ... so is my Silver Wing. We have had many favorable comments from other bikers at gas stations.
Tomorrow, it is on to Chestnut Lanes in Gresham Oregon, one of our donor recepients. If you would like to make a donation (tax deductible, 100% goes to recepients), just log on www.DrSign.com and make a contribution!
Friday, July 8: 420 miles for a total of 3,971 miles completed today. We had an interview by a TV anchorwoman and the local newspapers in Coos Bay, Oregon! We saw the news this morning and it looks great, with mention of our sponsors and charity recipients.
We dressed prepared for rain and left the motel and headed North on Pacific Coast Highway 101 and saw the spectacular sand dunes and then the Pacific Ocean from the cliffs. We then headed inland towards I-5 and drove through intermittent rain to Gresham, Oregon where we visited one of our charity recipients, Chestnut Lanes, an assisitive facility for the deaf and deaf/blind. I was really impressed with the facilities, the energetic residents and the competent staff.
We then arrived in Seattle and was met by Jon, someone that Patrick had corresponded with on the Suzuki forum. Jon graciously treated us to a steak and rib dinner!
Bruce Schulz from Enid, Oklahoma has graciously invited us to stop by July 17 and he will grill some steaks. He is hoping his schedule will permit him to meet us in Colby, Kansas and ride with us to Enid.
Day 9: Saturday, July 9: After being treated to a fantastic steak dinner by one of Patrick Henry’s on-line motorcycle buddies last night, we left Seattle anxious to get into British Columbia. The Fraser River gorge didn’t disappoint us with its several tunnels and a stunning view of the river way down in the gorge. After covering 440 miles, we arrived in beautiful weather in the 70s in Williams Lake, British Columbia. By the way, Canadian customs require more than just a picture ID … they also want proof of citizenship.
Day 10: Sunday, July 10: We headed West on Canadian route 16 west, a nice two lane road and met several bikers at a diner. We finally arrived at Canadian Route 37 North, a nicely maintained two lane road lined by evergreens. After a few hours of nice winding roads, we saw snow capped mountains … lots of ‘em! Since I’ve been here before, I was paying more attention to Patrick’s reactions. He loved it! Finally, we got into 37A towards Stewart. Talk about towering mountains to both sides! All the peaks were adorned with shimmering white snow! The temperature dropped down into the 50s but we were warm and toasty in our riding suits. The moment I was waiting for … we swept around a bend and there was Bear Glacier in all of its glory with icebergs calving into the water! Patrick’s jaw dropped as I thought it would!
In about 30 minutes, we rolled into Stewart, BC covering 580 miles that day. After checking into The King Edward Hotel and eating that halibut I’ve been waiting for 5,300 miles (you Americans think the fish you eat is fresh but it has been handled and shipped frozen for at least a week … this is FRESH), we eagerly jumped onto our willing steeds and headed into Hyder, Alaska. After the obligatory tourist photo shots of the border, we stopped into a charming gift shop where the proprietor makes hand made items. She temped us into some home made fudge.
Day 11: Monday, July 11: After 10 hours of sleep, we headed towards Fish Creek, one of the few places in the world where you can see wild black bears and grizzlies close up … unfortunately, the salmon run hadn’t begun (last year at this time, the creek was wall to wall salmon). I did photo a couple of loons and a bald eagle.
We then went up a mountain gravel road made years ago by gold miners. As you know, there are old bikers and bold bikers, but you don’t see old and bold bikers …. I drove just 15 MPH over the rocks, washboards and gravel for over one hour. We then came to a crest 500 feet ABOVE the Salmon Glacier (see photo at top). What a stunning view … filling the valley from west to east was the glacier in its multi-colored glory.
I came to the first real problem of the trip. Honda Silver Wings clutch disengages at 2500 RPM which means NO engine braking below 15 MPH. Loose gravel is like ball bearings … and there is no guard railing. Rock slides had rocks from the size of baseballs to as large as a washing machine on the road. From bitter experience years ago, if you brake on gravel going downhill too fast, all is lost. I had my brakes on constantly for one hour, keeping my speed to 10 MPH.
As we went pass a turnoff, a SUV with six Canadians was parked there. The woman shouted LOCKED OUT …so we kindly figured out a way to unlock their SUV. We now have six friends in British Columbia!
Rolling back into Hyder, Alaska, we stopped at a well maintained gift shop (FYI, the population of Hyder is 100 people) and I got some stuff to bring back home.
In the past three years, I tended to lose 15 pounds on these trips so I promised my wife I would be kind to myself, so that evening, we went to Bitter Creek Café (a restored hotel) with on-premise chocolate maker. I had the salmon special and, wow, wild salmon is a taste treat!
Day 12: Tuesday, July 12 … We left Alaska at 8 a.m. under clear skies, 49 degrees filled with hot fresh miner’s coffee. Retracing our route, we almost ran over a big black bear crossing Highway 37. I was glad that Patrick finally got to see a bear! The drive was relaxing while we enjoyed views of mountains, rushing streams, fir trees, and the occasional village. After 430 miles, we arrived into Prince George, British Columbia.
I got a teasing email from one Silver Wing group member asking why 10 whole days to get to Alaska? Well, I figured out if I took only four to five days to get there, no one would want to ride with me. Now that I am nice, doing just 500 miles a day taking back roads, only one Suzuki biker joined me.
Hopefully y’all will make plans for a tentative June 30 2006 start with points you can join us in Tennessee, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, etc. as we head into Alaska via Dawson Creek BC, the wild Yukon, into Fairbanks with two side trips (one to Homer and one to Prudhoe Bay) planned. More details will be posed in August on the website www.AlaskaBikeRun.com
We arrived in Prince George, BC after just 435 miles. There were just a few rain drops this segment. Tomorrow is on to Calgary, Alberta where they have their wild west Calgary Stampede event.
Day 13: Wednesday, July 13, 2005: We covered 482 miles for a total of 5910 miles. Left Prince George BC in invigorating 45 degrees sunny weather, had a spectacular drive thru Banff Icefield Parkway with just 2 gas stations in 250 miles, saw 2 moose, almost hit large black bear. Oh, those twisties~ It is so much fun to keep leaning to the left and right! By the time we arrived in Calgary Alberta, it warmed up to 70 degrees. Don't you wish you were with us? Plan on 2006!
Day 14: Thursday, July 14, 2005: After 487 miles for a total of 6,395 miles, we arrived at Bozeman, Montana. Was 45 degrees this morning .. whole 435 miles had the Rocky Mountains as a spectacular backdrop to our West. Temperature rose into the low 80s when we arrived. At every gas stop, you should have seen those Harley bikers' jaws drop when they saw Pat's small 250 cc Suzuki and my 110,500-mile Silver Wing pull in!
Again, more twisties in the mountains. It was amazing that in the space of 15 minutes, we can be in the flat sage brush country, then start climbing and see aspens, then stately fir trees, back to aspens and then flat sage brush country.
We're looking forward to that steak/tuna/prk dinner and maybe some homemade ice cream in Oklahoma this Sunday with Bruce Schulz, an e-mail buddy of Patrick Henry!
Patrick and I were chatting about next year's itinery. It will be posted formally later this summer but it looks like leaving June 30 from St. Augustine, with pick up points in Tennessee, Illinois, Minnesota, North Dakota, etc. up thru Sasketchewan, Alberta then onto Alaska Highway in Dawson Creek, BC. Arriving in Fairbanks by day 8, we would have four full days in Alaska ... with some going North to Prudhoe Bay (I am going to try to use my contact there to get a volunteer to follow us in a truck for breakdowns or those who simply can't endure the gravel highway) and some going South to Homer and Kenai. By day 13, we would leave Fairbanks and take a parallel route from South Dakota back southeast. This would be 20 days total.
So, now you all have proof ... Patrick Henry's 250 cc Suzuki has over 40,000 miles and can handle this. My '02 Swing has 110,500 miles and is doing this pulling a trailer. No more excuses!
Now, the glaciers ARE retreating slowly but surely. If you wait too long, there won't be much to see. Make plans! I am going to try to get a major sponsor to help with part of your expenses and perhaps by 2007 get a motorcycle as a grand prize as a poker run. I would like to make a permanent charity recipient early intervention to help deaf and blind babies get the best possible start in life by helping parents communicate with these babies.
Tomorrow it is off to Yellowstone National Park and Old Faithful, then Wyoming!
Day 15: July 15, 2005: At 45 degrees, we were invigorated and left Bozeman, Montana and headed towards Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. It was so exciting to see close up several geyser and bubblng mudpots, and to see Old Faithful erupt in all of its glory. We also saw some wild bison and several moose.
Leaving, we criss crossed the Continental Divide four times and finally started heading East by putting the snow capped Rockies in our rear view mirrors.
At about 6 p.m., just 30 miles West of Casper, I noticed my tach and speedo fluctuating between zero and normal reading. I immediately shut down the bike and coasted to a stop, expecting a loose connection to the battery. Well, when I took off the battery cover, the connections were tight but the battery was smoking hot. Patrick said he heard a humming sound from it.
Took the battery out after waiting 15 minutes to make sure it wouldn't explode. It stayed hot and kept humming.
Trying to look back over the past few days, my Garmin GPS had been phantomly switching from one screen to another. Perhaps the battery was starting to go bad four or five days ago ... who knows?
Triple A came and put my bike on a flat bed truck and now the bike is at the Honda place in Casper, Wyoming. I will be going there at 8:30 a.m. tomorrow (Saturday) to get the service department to look at it. Luckily, the dealership is open seven days a week and it is a huge place so I am cautiously hopeful that it will be fixed and we will be on the road again by noon to Colby, Kansas. I told Pat that if I have to wait for parts, for him to go ahead without me.
Three things: 1. The battery is definitely shot. 2. Could it have been caused by a faulty voltage regulator? 3. Is the alternator going bad? Well, being an enthusiatic postive thinking sort of guy, I am thinking it is just a defective battery (by the time, a life time warranty covered by Honda of Jacksonville!)
Anyway, what a splendid ride! From the 70s in Grand Teton then into the 80s and finally 103 degrees dropping down in elevation to 5500 feet in the flatlands of Wyoming. Many brilliant blue and yellow flowers, topaz blue skies, and miles and miles of twisties!
Day 16: July 16, 2005: Good morning! Will be going to the Honda of Casper with Patrick Henry to see what the service department can do. Next update will be tonight.
TV station in Tulsa, OK will be doing a story on our trip! Good way to spread the good news about the reliability of Swings on long trips (as well as Suzukis). Again, the battery isn't made by Honda and it doesn't count against them!
Day 16: July 16, 2005: It was the battery. They had one battery in stock, hooray! We were on our way again at 11 a.m. in 92 degrees heat in Casper, Wyoming. By the time we went through Colorado, it was an official 102 degrees. We arrived in Colby, KS after 499 miles with the temperature dropping to 82 degrees. We got into Village Inn restaurant right before they closed at 10:40 p.m. What a magnificent Western sunset!
One good thing about back roads ... you can really see America close up. For example, mom and pop shops, cheaper restaurants that locals support, etc. We enjoyed taking the farm roads in Colorado today and smelling the fresh harvested hay, the cattle, the earthy smells from various farms, etc.
Thinking about the 5th Alaska Run, I want to get us to Alaska as quickly as possible without tiring out anyone, leaving several days to explore places, and back home, all within 20 days. Keep checking this website later in September for new updates on the 2005 trip. We have two bikers already wanting to go!
Silver Wing has over 111,000 miles and has used just 1/2 quart of oil the entire trip. Patrick's Suzuki is humming along merrily too.
Day 17: July 17, 2005: After 508 miles of Kansas and Oklahoma, we arrived in Tulsa. The scenery was mostly prairie. We saw where Annie Oakley legend was born. We saw more cows and bulls in these two states combined than the entire trip.
Weather was in the middle 90s. For two days, we had this stiff south wind which slowed Pat's Suzuki to 57 MPH. When we were going East, we looked like the Leaning Tower of Pisa ... constant leaning into the wind!
The steak dinner by Bruce Schulz was superb! He and his family were lovely hosts and it was a relief to sit for a while.
Channel 6 in Tulsa did an interview with us when we arrived at 8 p.m.
My comment so far: Use Ride-On Tire Sealants for peace of mind. Normally, my front tires go 15,000 miles but since I started using it, I got 30,000 miles on my front tire and I don't worry about flats any more. Second thing ... Mobil 1 may not be the final word in oil but I honestly believe that their engineers are serious when they say they've run engines 250,000 miles and after tear down, the parts were within new specifications. I use Mobil 1 in my bike and it passed 112,000 miles today. If you have a 250 cc or larger bike, you should plan on joining us for the 5th trip next June 30!
Day 18: July 18, 2005: We did 505 miles today with a nice drive through the Ozarks in Arkansas. The weather was great again today, mostly cloudy in the morning which kept the temperature down in the low 80s then became more sunny. Crossed the Mississippi River at Memphis, TN and arrived in Tupelo, Mississipi where another TV station did an interview of our trip.
Patrick Henry and I will go our separate ways tomorrow morning. He was a great travelling companion, full of enthusiasm and energy each and every day.
His Suzuki 250 gave him no problems. He did maintenance on his bike every day, making sure the chain tension is just right. I watched him check oil level, adjust chain, make sure his front forks are clean, etc. I felt a bit guilty as with my bike, all I had to do was to check oil level. It has used less than a quart of oil the entire trip and the engine is humming along nicely at 113,000+ miles.
Tomorrow is the last 700 miles and I should be home! The last update should be posted July 20 or so.
Day 19: July 19, 2005: After 670 miles from Tupelo, MS and on the Applachian Parkway in Alabama, I arrived home at 8 p.m. after 677 final miles. Again, the weather was awesome. I went through a couple of brief showers around Tallahassee. Went to dealer the following morning for my regular maintenance and the bike is good to go again to Alaska with 113,500 miles on it. Patrick Henry made it home safely and he also enjoyed himself.