Sunday, June 29, 2014

Preparation (Mental and Otherwise) for the Dalton

While we waited out the rain there that seemed to incessantly fall in Fairbanks, we prepared the bikes, our gear and ourselves for the Dalton Highway ride to Deadhorse, Prudhoe Bay. 415 miles. 25% paved. 75% dirt.

We stripped every unnecessary bit of gear and weight off of the bikes and repacked anything heavy as low to the ground as we could. We would bring only a spare change of clothes each and whatever cold-weather gear we wouldn’t already be wearing.
On the ride up to Alaska, we had been warned about the Dalton by many riders. And one encouraged us to read Phil Freeman of MotoQuest’s “Do’s and Don’t’s for the Dalton Highway.”

So I did. This was perhaps as bad of an idea as it was a good idea.

“Some say knobbies, and some say 70/30 tires. Both work and have their limitations, and to be honest, much of it comes down to rider skill.”

Hm, I’ve got 85/15. Al least they’re new.

(I was ready to street race before, but now I have a sweet new Kenda K761 15/85 to ride the Dalton with)

“When you cross a truck on dirt: Hunker down behind your windscreen. These trucks are throwing rock – sometimes the size of baseballs – and you need to protect yourself. Do not ride with your face shield open. Keep as much of your body behind protective surfaces as possible.”

Sounds like fun!

“If you did not grow up on dirt bikes, race competitively, or take an off-road course and practice, then this road can be over your head. If you do not know to get on the pegs and give it the gas when things get creamy, then you should not be on the Dalton at all.”

For those of you just joining us, as of July 1, 2014 I will have been riding for 1 year (with a 4 month break to make wine), so I did not grow up on the dirt, nor have I done any of the above. I DID spend a 1/2 day with the stellar Shawn Thomas from RawHyde, so that should count for a lot. I’ve got standing on the pegs down.

(Shawn Thomas trying to get me to look down during our Beginners Off-Road morning course at the Overland Expo.)

But have about a 50/50 success rate with gassing-it when things have gotten dodgy in the past. Hopefully mud is kinder to me (and my poor panniers) than sand has been.

“On the Dalton, no matter how you plan and what weather the weather, you can always have a mile of terror.”

Well, at least I know what to expect, now. Thanks Phil :)

We made a final grocery run for food for the next 3-4 days and in the parking lot, met a Dutch couple going around the world in a Toyota Land Cruiser.

(Bernadette, Ad and their Land Cruiser)

They had just come from Prudhoe Bay and told us the story of watching a motorcyclist in front of them crash his bike about 20 miles from Prudhoe Bay. He sustained only minor injuries, thank goodness, but his bike was another story. Fortunately for him,  both he and his bike were picked up by a truck coming from Prudhoe Bay and delivered back to Fairbanks. Poor guy, only 20 miles to go.

(A photo that Ad and Bernadette took of the bike that crashed in front of them. Fortunately, the rider was OK.

Roel and I discussed strategy and decided if things got too hairy with the weather/mud, we would adjust our plan accordingly. Whether this would mean leaving my bike somewhere and doing the ride 2-up on the Africa Twin or turning back altogether, we would have to wait and see.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Bear Drill in a Town Called Chicken.

We were all cozy in our sleeping bags and had just drifted off to sleep when we heard a sudden “THUMP” and loud huffing mere meters from our tent. 

And in an instant we were wide awake, and thinking the same thing:


The thumping and huffing was EXACTLY what Nevil told us bears do when they’re about to charge.


To Roel’s credit, he barely fumbled the bear banger and had it sticking out of the tent within moments, ready to discharge. Fortunately, he stuck his head out of the tent to actually see what was there and instead of a bear, he was shocked and relieved to see that our moose friend had returned. She ambled off and we eventually fell back asleep. 

Amusing Outhouse
We wandered around Chicken the next morning, taking a few touristy snaps and laughing at some of the local jokes. For such a small place, they certainly have created an image and have made it work. 

'Downtown' Chicken
Mushing Chickens
We rode out of Chicken and headed in the direction of Fairbanks, keen to tackle the next chapter in our adventure: The Dalton Highway to Prudhoe Bay, the most Northern Point of North America that can be reached by road.

However, mother nature had other plans as she proceeded to dump a record amount of rain over the region, causing flood warnings to pop up on every local weather site. Fortunately for us, we had a nice place to ride out the storm (i.e. not ride at all) and got to help our new friends Ramey and Karin with their amazing forested property/retreat.

AND, Christmas came early for me: Lee at Racer Gloves USA gauged my size in the weatherproof Racer Queen’s gloves based off of my Racer Short Sport glove that I’ve been loving for the past 6 months, and he had shipped a pair of the Queen’s ahead of us to Fairbanks. Up until this point, I’d been riding in cold weather in an ill-fitting pair of men’s winter gloves and was not at all keen on riding to Prudhoe Bay with minimal tactile grip. I ripped open the Priority Mail package and held my breath as I slipped the gloves on: PERFECT fit… and oh so comfortable with their fleecy lining. Mmmmmmmm.

Not-so-nice weather.  But, oh-so-nice Racer gloves :)

So, we spent time with our new friends, made use of having an oven (read: nachos and chocolate chip cookie baking :) ) and caught up on some blogging as we watched the rain come down.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Roel's view from "On top of the World"

Given that Roel has been dreaming of arriving in Alaska for years, it was only fair that he got to be the one to write about it :) 

On "Top of the World"

The town of Dawson City was busy as we rode off the little ferry that took us back into town after camping at the other side of the river. We decided to spend some time in town to relax. We parked the bikes and noticed Jerry, Jay and Mike sipping their coffee in the sun. After a chat we took off to brew our own. It was great to see so many travelers, especially on motorcycles, out here in the middle of nowhere. But the rustic old mining town had a great feel to it. People walking around in traditional clothing, taking their hat off as they greet you and stop for a chat. What happened to these days where people were just nice to each other and had time to talk to one another? It was like stepping back in time and we loved it. In the afternoon, we took a final ride through town, said our goodbyes to everyone we had met and took the ferry back over the river to start our long ride on the “Top Of The World Highway”.

Pretty good dirt to match the stunning views on "Top of the World" Highway
 After a few miles the road turns into rough dirt and slowly starts to climb.  Sometimes it seems as if we are riding towards the sun, which at 7pm, is still high in the sky. The vistas are becoming broader and more and more beautiful as snow capped mountains start shaping the horizon. It’s one of these moments that you would love to capture on camera but you just can’t.

Most of the road is good, apart from some spots with loose gravel that get our blood pumping. Azure is getting better and better on dirt but I can hear her breathing deeper and faster when the going gets tough. 

A bit more gravel, foretelling of what was to come on the other side of the border, barely visible in the distance
One and a half hours later we ride over a beautiful road that winds up and down snow covered hills. Coming around a bend we see a little shed on the road. The Alaskan border! Where we thought that the border guards in Glacier National Park had worked it out, these guys really seemed to have found the most beautiful border crossing into the States.

Azure considers the views and prepares herself to ride what we've heard are pretty awful conditions on the US side of the "Top of the World Highway"
However many border crossing I have done in my travels, they still tend to get me nervous. As the light goes green I ride forward and a nice older man asks for my passport. After giving it a quick look over he asks where the bike is from, writes down the license number and off I go into Alaska! Azure follows 30 seconds later. For a minute I can’t believe that we are here. I’ve dreamed of this for a long time and after traveling for over five years now, we are here!

With crossing the border the views get more beautiful. The road however, gets instantly worse. We were warned for this in Dawson City. The Americans are working on the road and they are at the stage where the top layer consists of big sharp rocks that are trying to have a go at the tires as the tires are trying to find their way through. The breathing on the other side of our communication system gets deeper again and a few OMG’s follow. There is no end in sight, yet, and the layer of sharp rocks seems to be getting thicker. I can here Azure crying now. I encourage her to keep going and try to coach her through as good as I can. At a turn off we take a little break and take in the views before getting on the bikes again and get over the last bit of rough road. I am so proud of her to just keep going especially knowing that she is hardly able to touch the ground whenever the bike skids.

As the road improves the breathing goes back to normal again and before long we ride through beautiful pine and birch forest with the smell of new leaves filling our nostrils. The sun is doing its job and for me, if this road went on forever, I would be happy. Then it turns and we roll down a hill into the gold-mining town of Chicken. An ATV is parked along the road and I pull over to check if everything is OK. A 16 year old girl with a pistol on her belt assures me that they are alright end we roll into town. “That was a 16 year old girl with a cowboy style pistol on her side!”, I shout through the intercom. Welcome to Alaska!


We pull over in Chicken and cook our meal. Mashed potatoes, peas and organic pork cutlets. After a long ride it was a real feast. Our search for a nice spot to camp lasted about 2 minutes as we rode into Old Town Chicken, consisting of a bar, a cafe and a giftshop. 

Downtown Chicken - note the "Free Camping" sign on the right :)

The “Chickens” are very nice and offer us a free camp spot next to the cafe. (Very good business practice.) As I park the bike next to our neighbor for the night, I spot a moose in the bushes. We did not see any in Canada again but as soon as we cross the border... Bingo! We watch the cow graciously move through the forest stripping the new leaves of the trees as she goes. What a sight! It’s 12:30am and with the last rays of sun we set up our home for the night.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Carmacks to Dawson City. Bring a fuel can.

We knew that we were out of shape and that squatting 1000s of times in one day to pick morels would lead to a few sore days, but 
we had NO IDEA.

This quote hit home with us as we sorely hobbled around Dawson City after our day out picking mushrooms for money

We woke up late the morning after picking Morels and both whined upon rolling over. Laying on our quads, touching our thighs, HURT. We somehow maneuvered ourselves back onto the Africa Twin and headed back to Jon and Jenna’s to wash off yesterday’s hard-earned filth (yes, we slept like that - I know) and pack up the bikes.
We headed for Dawson City, intent to make it there by evening. We were a bit worried about the distance and the amount of daytime we had left, but when it became apparent that it was more painful to get off of the bikes than to keep riding, we had no trouble making it there in two go’s.

We stopped to refuel in Pelly Crossing. (I hate to say this in case it was a fluke, but maybe avoid refueling here if you can… my bike ran out of fuel 20% sooner than she should have. There was a bit of wind on the way to Dawson City, but nothing that would have counted for that much consumption.)

Dawson City was charming and quaint, and felt authentic in a way these old gold-rush towns often don’t. We treated ourselves to a bit of a splurge and had a nice dinner out (okay, okay, I had to have poutine at least once before we left Canada!) and ran into Jay, Mike and Jerry who we had met in Carmacks. 
Nevil's favorite bar: The Pit

There was live music pouring out of several bars and venues in town, but we had to check out The Pit, a bar Nevil had told us about in Canmore… Like everything Nevil has recommended, it didn’t disappoint :)

Finally ready to settle in for the evening, we took the ferry over to
the other side of the river (for free :) ) and checked out the lovely Yukon River Campground. While it was quite affordable, we still opted to ride a little further up the road and into the forest for some free camping.

View of the Yukon from the deck of the ferry

Friday, June 20, 2014

Mushroom Mania

A few of you have asked how we manage to get around the world, given that neither of our massive top-boxes have sprouted a money tree... well, here is an example of how we work to make it work:

Since leaving Canmore, Roel and I had been toying with the idea of taking the ferry from Haines to Prince Rupert, which would save us 3-4 days of riding back along the same road we had already ridden, about $350 in fuel and $60 in oil (for my bike, of course). Plus, it was supposed to be a stunning way to see the coast (really the only way, actually) and there would be a possibility of seeing whales, and resting our bodies and the bikes for a couple of days would be a given.

However, it would still be about $400 in addition to take the ferry, a cost we simply couldn’t swallow. Plain and simple, we did not have enough money in our budget and so we kept putting it out of our minds.

When we got to Carmacks and heard about the morel pick, which was being likened to a modern-day gold-rush, we started day-dreaming again about whale-watching from our perch on the top-deck of a ferry. We went out to check out the situation and get some information.

Baskets of fresh-picked morels, waiting to go into the mushroom-drier

Not surprising, perhaps, were the number of similarities between gold rushes of the past and the morel pick… there was oodles of money to be made, but greed was also a serious hazard, with stories of cars/tents being burglarized, and with everyone wanting their share of the action: boats to take you across the river to where the decent picking was were charging $20/head each way and ATVs to take you up into the forrest to where the REALLY good picking was were charging $60-$80/head, each way.

Roel and I decided cautiously to go out for a day, with a reasonable and attainable goal: make enough money to take the ferry.

So we returned to Carmacks, left all of our belongings, but for the tent, pads and bags at Jon and Jenna’s and returned to the picking site with only Roel’s bike. 

Loading up the Africa Twin with empty baskets

By 6am, we were picking up our empty picking baskets and strapping them to the Africa Twin.
By 7am, we were across the river and hiking, sharing the already heavy load of the empty baskets and our supplies for the day.
By 8am, we were covered in deet and had gotten about 7 kilometers into the forest. You had to at least get past the 3k mark, because land within 3k of the river was owned by the First Nation and was un-harvestable.
We began to find some small mushrooms and slowly, slowly, filled our baskets. We tried different sides of the road, different areas, different levels of vegetation versus burn. But we could only find morels that were between the size of a Champagne cork and a tulip, and we were determined not to pay to be taken deep into/out of the forest where the larger morels could be found. So we picked, and picked and picked.
By 11am, we were covered in soot from the burned trees and sap from the still-live trees we had crouched under to unearth elusive little morels.

At noon, we realized we had forgotten to transfer our lunch from the bike to the backpack, but not to worry, we had 15 granola bars to share between us.
By 1pm, we realized we had not brought enough water as the sun had suddenly appeared and was beating down on us.
And by 8pm, we determined that by filling the 7 baskets we had brought up with us, we would earn enough money to pay for the ferry.

And so onto our next dilemma… how to carry the heavy and bulky load the 7+ kilometers back to the boat launch. BY MIDNIGHT when the last ferry would leave. (And don’t worry, we are so far North now that the sun hardly sets… so it is never really dark.)

We had a tarp, some zip-ties, some bungies, all of the wood we could ask for, and our semi-strong backs. We tried a variety of methods, from a one-pole-one-shoulder carry, to a two-pole-two-shoulder carry (which caused near strangulation), to dragging the load and finally settled on a stretcher type construction. This was the best option, but we were exhausted, dehydrated, and after squatting perhaps literally 1000s of times that day to pick annoying ground-dwelling mushrooms, our legs were spent. We were only able to make it a couple hundred meters at a time, at best.

As ATVs full of paying customers and their mushrooms sped past us, we realized we had been walking back for 3.5 hours and we began to fear that we would not make the last boat to the other side. This would mean being stranded on the fire burned side of the river, with only our tarp and some sweaty clothing to pass the night in/under.

Roel ran ahead with a smaller load of mushrooms to talk to the boat guys and see if he could arrange to have a guy wait for us, and I continued to slowly drag the rest of the load of mushrooms and leftover supplies over the sandy, root-filled path to the boat.
We made it, and a nice boat driver took us across the river, offering a cold Pepsi from his stash to quench our thirst.

We took everything out of the massive top box of the Africa Twin and I waiting with our stuff spread out on the ground of the boat launch parking lot, while Roel made two trips to our mushroom buyer down the road with his top box overloaded with Morels.

Thank goodness for the midnight sun - loading 16-hours worth of mushrooms on to the Africa Twin

I cannot remember a time when I was so utterly exhausted and dehydrated and dirty, but I will enjoy every blessed moment of that ferry ride.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Yukon Wilderness & The Longest Bridge of My Life

A Caribbean-colored lake along the Stewart-Cassiar

The brightly shining sun that greeted us as we resumed our ride on the Stewart-Cassiar brightened our spirits and also helped to make the massive pot holes that dot the Cassiar more visible. We were especially grateful for this in sections where it seemed that some potholes had just gone and claimed the entire lane. (And warning to riders behind us: those spots are not necessarily marked, so ride cautiously.)

At a gas stop in Dease Lake, we met a Swiss couple on a trip from Argentina to Alaska who happen to know Roel’s friend Chris and his girlfriend, Jolanda. Jolanda and Chris met 3 years ago as a result of Roel dragging Chris to the hostel I was staying at when we first met one another, and now Jolanda and Chris are planning their next trip abroad together from their home base in Switzerland. The minimal degrees of separation in this community never cease to amaze me.

The Signpost Forest in Watson Lake was our next stop and was worth the the little detour we took to check it out. In 1942 a Private in the Army of Engineers who was injured while working on the ALCAN (Alaska-Canada) Highway near Watson Lake, became homesick while recuperating from his injury and posted a sign from his hometown of Danville, Illinois. Since then, more than 72,000 signs from all over the world have been posted in Watson Lake and it is indeed quite a sight to see. 

Signpost Forest, Watson Lake, Yukon

However nice a town Watson once was, we found the inhabitants to be unfriendly and unhelpful and continued on in the direction of Whitehorse. (And a note to those coming up the Alaska Highway, or Stewart-Cassiar, for that matter, behind us… don’t count on there being vacant accommodation in Watson Lake and don’t count on getting any help to find a room once you get there… Not an issue for us, since we camp all of the time, but we felt bad for the brother-in-laws on Harley’s who looked like they needed to stop for the day.)

After finding a riverside camp spot, and getting a good nights rest, I geared myself up for crossing the 584 meter long, steel grate Nisutlin Bridge. I'd been warned back in Canmore that depending on the profile of your tires, your bike could "jump around" a fair bit while crossing the bridge (the more knobby the tread, the worse). For any "new rider" who has not yet learned to accept that their bike will "find it's way" if left to it's own devices, the term "jump around" and "motorcycle" in the same sentence is disconcerting. Fortunately, my tire profile was street-enough that my ride across the Nisutlin was made without too much wayward motion, but now Roel is fairly convinced that if we are ever to have children, I won't need him to remind me to breath as all he heard for half a kilometer was a consistent wooshing of breath
from my microphone and an occasional hissed "shut up" whenever he would try to distract me from my mission ("Calm down - look how beautiful the river is!). All I heard was my mantra over-and-over in my head: "Loose arms. Your bike doesn't want to go swimming." 

Nisutlin Bay Bridge. Half-a-kilometer of heavy breathing.
No kidding!!
I caught my breath while munching on a PB&J in Teslin and a little while later we made it to Whitehorse where we took advantage of once again being in a town where fresh produce was “affordable” and we could stock up on more oil for my bike.

There is a nice hot spring just out of town which also has camping.
There is also plenty of forested area around there that you can navigate with two wheels and find some pretty magical spots to set up your tent for free. Guess what we did? :)

Camping "off the beaten path" near Whitehorse, Yukon


A beautiful stretch of Fireweed lined highway between Whitehorse and Carmacks
And on to Carmacks, Yukon, where we were hosted by Jon and Jenna, who had loads of travel stories to share and whose relationship was also solidified while riding 2-up. Carmacks is made up of 503 locals and at this time, several hundred migrant mushroom pickers. We’d seen several extremely filthy people walking around Whitehorse, but didn’t have a clue as per why. Well, morel mushrooms pop up about a year after a forest fire blazes through an area, and since they command such a high price on the market they are highly sought-after. And though you couldn't tell by their filthy clothes and faces, these pickers we had come across were loaded after a stint in the woods... with cash.

For two riders who have just spent 4 days riding through the Yukon wilderness in the rain, and have dreamed about taking the scenic (but costly) ferry for part of the return trip to BC… this mushroom picking thing seemed interesting…

While we contemplated it, we swapped out my old rear brakes with the new set that Russ had sent along with me when I bought my bike 20,000 miles ago... thanks Russ :)

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Into the wild: Stewart Cassiar Highway

Just as we left Smithers, it began to rain and it would do so on and off for much of our ride up the Stewart Cassiar Highway. Along the way, when we took advantages of openings in the clouds to make quick stops, we met some really interesting riders, both coming from and on their way to the most Northerly Points of the continent: Inuvik, Northwest Territories and Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. The ones we encountered who were returning from Prudhoe Bay via the Dalton Highway had varied stories to tell. Some said it was their best EVER (in true American fashion), yet and others warned that we would hear the former, but to be warned that it could at times be a dangerous and terrifying ride to Prudhoe Bay. “Everyone tells you in retrospect that it was the greatest, but that is because they are still alive and feel exhilarated. They have forgotten the moments along the Dalton where they questioned if they would make it home alive.” Hmmmmm. Ok. 

Bear Glacier

We continued on, unthwarted by the ugly weather or the ominous stories. We rode to Stewart hoping to see bears feasting on Salmon and disappointed to find out that it was far too early in the season for such an occurrence. We admired Bear Glacier through our fogged up face shields and continued on, determined that we would get some miles under our belts since that sense of accomplishment would be the only thing to enjoy in such dismal weather. At the turn back onto the Cassiar Highway, we met a couple of interesting fellows and stopped for a chat. Determined not to have to change a tire while on his ride from Chicago to Alaska and back, Fran had swapped his rear tire for a car tire. A CAR TIRE!!!!! Sure, the cornering was a little different, but it hardly showed any wear and was on it’s way back from the tire-shredding northern highways. 

Some ask "Why"? Others, "Why not?"
The closer it got to quitting time for the day, the more our concerns about the bear population and more importantly, the hunger of said bears was growing. We had seen a half-dozen bears feeding along the side of the road and they didn’t seem to be too fussed by the noise our motorcycles made as we rode by. We pulled off at a rest stop to cook, figuring that at least we would cook in a different place from where we would camp. While we were eating, another couple of riders pulled up and we had a conversation about bear safety and they said they would be riding on to Belll II to camp in the campground so that at least they weren’t the only food for the bears around. We decided this was wise and pulled into the Bell II lot just as they were heading up the drive to occupy their site.
After fueling up, we inquired within about campsite pricing and were told that it was $23/night but all sites were sold out for the evening. We looked around at all of the empty space and wooded areas, scratching our heads… No problem lady: if you don’t know how to make money, we’re not going to waste our time telling you how.

Nonetheless, happy to save the $23 we rode a few kilometers down the road and pulled off onto one of the many logging road turnouts. We tried our best to ward off any nearby bears by making tons of noise, banging rocks and sticks (a la the step-mom wannabe in the Parent Trap), and Roel even “marked” our perimeter. Where my girlie items (lip balm, hand lotion, wipes, etc) usually sit in the roof pockets of our tent, now we stowed a loaded bear banger, bear spray, a fog horn, ax and a knife. 

Goodbye: lip-balm and lotion... hello: bear bangers, blow horns, bear spray and knives!

It was not a restful evening, but we woke up to the sun shining on the snow capped mountains behind our tent and on we rode.

Camping along the Stewart-Cassiar Highway

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Who doesn't like Eyecandy? Customs, that is ;)

Sometime you're the windshield. Sometimes you're the bug. But you're always grateful to have a visor when you hit a bee at 100kph.

We’d had our first truly cold morning ride between Pincher Creek and Canmore, Alberta, and knew that our thin blood was still hoping we would return to 45 degree Australia and was dragging it’s feet with the whole thickening process.

Well, between Jasper National Park and Prince George, British Columbia, we had our second truly cold day and it kicked the pants off of the first one. We had reached out to an ADV Rider offering tent space, and by the time we rolled into Kelly’s driveway, our feet were so numb we were hesitant to trust them as we got off of the
bikes. And dear sweet Kelly, came to greet us and was all like “If you’re dead set on camping, you can put your tent up in the carport, but it’s pretty cold, and you’re welcome to stay inside.” So within the hour, we were showered, less numb and cozily chatting with Kelly while his verrrry friendly cat, Tickles, went to work thawing the rest of us.

We stocked up on food, oil and other necessities as we’d been told this would be the last “big town” (i.e., town with both a Walmart and a Canadian Tire) for a while.

And on to Smithers, BC where we had heard about Sam, mechanic extraordinnaire, who would likely have anything we were in need of (i.e., a rear tire) at his shop, Eyecandy Custom Cycles, which he owns with his wife, Sara. Eyecandy, specializes in customizing any motorcycle you can imagine, but Sam does everything else, too, and is friendly and helpful to anyone on the road. He makes clear to his regular customers that if a traveler arrives and needs a hand, everything else gets put on hold so he can get the traveler back on the road. One might think the regular customers might mind, but I think anyone who has ever done any real touring can appreciate a shop that will drop everything to make sure that someones “Dream Ride” to Alaska isn’t threatened by having to wait for a talented and trustworthy mechanic in a small town to get through the half-dozen tire changes and multi-month restoration jobs that are sitting in his shop awaiting attention.

Sam @ Eyecandy Custom Cycles having a look at the Transalp
Although Sam rides a sweet Harley that he, of course, customized
Checking the TA's compression
himself, he really likes the Africa Twin and Transalp, so naturally, we got to talking about our bikes and Roel mentioned my wee little oil consumption issue. After rehashing all of the quirks and stats on my bike, Sam blew us away and offered that if we wanted to take one of his two lifts in his shop and put my bike up on it, strip her down and to a top end job under his supervision, it would be his pleasure to help us out.


This was an offer not to be refused, so the next morning we got into part sourcing… not so easy in a country where my bike was never imported, and is only next to a country where it was only imported in the late 80s. At the end of the day, we determined we wouldn’t be able to get the parts for about a week and half, which would put a lot of time pressure on the rest of our ride to Prudhoe Bay. So, the decision we faced was wait a week or more, do the top end job and risk not getting up to Alaska at all if sourcing parts became an issue or if my little old Honda threw us a curve ball. OR make a run for it now and beeline to Prudhoe Bay, ordering the parts ahead so when we come back through Smithers, they are there waiting for us.

Option #2 seemed like the way to go, and so we’re off… fingers crossed that everything holds the same as we make the journey to Prudhoe Bay without any major issues. At this point, we’re riding on a prayer and a serious stockpile of 20-50.

Oh, and a stockpile of visor cleaner. Cleaning our visors has become as regular an activity as refueling due to the insane number of bugs that clutter the area between our windscreens and eyes. 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Banff to Jasper. WOW.

The ride from Banff to Jasper National Park was everything we’d expected and yielded views that far surpassed what we had hoped for. In fact, the ride between the two parks on Icefields Parkway was even better than our ride around Jasper National Park, itself, as the mountains surrounding Maligne Lake were totally socked in.
Icefields Parkway
Nevil & Michelle's friend, Mike, who rode with his son and wife to Argentina, generously guided us on the Icefields Parkway, pointing out one stunning feature after another.

Some of the local wildlife, a.k.a. roadside hazards.
(Maligne Canyon, Jasper National Park. The most extensive Karst (above and below ground cave) System in the world.)
A completely socked in Maligne Lake. You win some, you lose some :/
Got to watch this guy fishing for his breakfast

Malaysians love us as much as we love them :)