Sunday, July 29, 2007

The gear report

Well, I was asked prior to he trip many times what gear I was taking and how I would tour on a Sporty. I didn't report much on my gear before or during the trip, but figured I would now post a follow-up on what worked, what didn't work, what I would take again and what would stay at home. This might be of interest to other riders looking to take longer trips or looking to buy new gear (how many people post reports after 11,000 miles of using gear?).


4 Coolmax Short Sleeve T-Shirts - Highly recommended. They were extremely comfortable and dried quickly when washing them. I bought them at a discount place online, that I wouldn't particularly recommend, but you can get these at any camping/outdoor store.

4 pairs REI CoolMax Multisport II Crew Socks - Highly recommended. Pretty much the same as the Coolmax shirts, comfortable and quick drying. My feet sweat a lot inside my Gortex boots, and these did an excellent job at keeping my feet comfortable. If you'll be in really cold weather you may want a heavier pair.

4 pairs REI Midweight MTS Boxer Briefs - Recommended. If your butt gets hot and sweaty your not going to be comfortable sitting on it. These did an excellent job of keeping me cool and comfortable. They dry quicker then cotton undies, but not as quick as the CoolMax socks or shirts.

2 pairs of regular jeans - They worked. They were jeans, nothing fancy here just comfortable. If I was doing it again, I would probably just wear one pair and leave the other pair at home.

2 long sleeve Henley shirts - Wanted long sleeve shirt for another layer. Doing it again, I would just take one shirt.

1 REI Heavyweight MTS Long-Sleeve Crew - Recommended. This one shirt could have replaced the two henley shirts. Comfortable and dried quick.

1 North Face lightweight jacket (not sure of exact model) - Maybe would have left this at home. It was cool some evenings in camp and I did wear it a few times, but really my long sleeve shirts or electric jacket liner could have been used instead of this.

1 WarmGear Electric Jacket liner - Highly recommended. I only plugged it in a couple of evenings (for those that don't know, this is a 12 volt heated jacket that is powered off your bike while riding). It makes a nice enough "casual" jacket it can be worn along when off the bike. Besides the heated part, it blocks the wind like nothing else. So, I wear it fairly often as a liner to my regular jacket just to stop the wind. It also has a nice and cozy neck (heated) that makes this just the thing.

1 pair WarmGear Electric Leather Gloves - Take them if you have them. I didn't use them at all, it just never got cold enough (needs to get into the 30's for me to need them). But, I felt better having them along.

1 pair Regular unlined Leather Gloves - Recommended. I wear these all the time. I don't care for lined gloves unless it's really cold. I wore these through the rain MANY times without over-gloves. Yeah, I had wet hands, no biggie.

1 pair Lightweight Perforated Leather Gloves - Recommended. These are my favorite gloves. They feel like nothing on my hands. It was really nice on hot days to have lightweight gloves.

1 pair Lightweight HD Men's Air Flow Full-Finger Gloves - I bought these on the trip because at the time my other gloves were soaking wet (but it had stopped raining). They aren't bad gloves with mesh backs and leather palms and thumbs. Fairly comfortable (no liner) and cool. Easy on and off (most of the time I don't bother undoing the velcro strap). They aren't replacing my leather gloves, but I'm not disappointed in them.

1 Pair of River Road Taos Cold Weather Gloves - Recommended. I've been using these for a while. Good for 38 - 50 degree temperatures. Waterproof (kinda - hands usually sweat so much that they are wet anyway). I did use these a few times as rain gloves. There were a few evening when I road that it was cool enough to appreciate a gauntlet/insulated glove.

1 Tour Master Pivot 2 ballistic jacket - Highly recommended. I'm a leather guy. I struggled for a while before getting this jacket, but got it literally days before the trip. It remained fairly cool in hot weather and the did a good job of keeping me warm in cooler weather. Lots of air vents, most of which can be opened or closed while riding. Has a decent removable liner. The jacket is supposed to be rain resistant. It doesn't replace real rain gear, but did adequately well for brief showers. I was very happy wearing this instead of a leather jacket for the trip. Even if I didn't look as cool. Update 7/30/07 - The jacket was extremely dusty and dirty. I threw it in the washing machine with cold water (no detergent) and air dried it. I wore it today and noticed it had faded slightly. Not bad, and I'd probably be the only one to notice it, but I figured I would mention it.

1 HD Rain Jacket w/reflective skulls - You need good rain gear for touring. HD's probably isn't the best, but it isn't bad. It kept me completely dry the entire trip when it was worn. The model I have isn't available everywhere (I was told that this model with the skulls is only a trial). I didn't care for he skulls, but when I bought it, it's what they had. The HD Bar and Shield on the back is starting to peel. Whatever.

1 pair HD Highland Rain Pant - Recommended. I had been wearing my pair for a while prior to this trip. The zipper on the thigh pocket busted and my crotch started to get wet in rain storms (previously had never gotten wet). I probably could have sealed the seems and figured out a way to fix the zipper, but they were really dirty and had taken a beating, so halfway through the trip I replaced them with the same exact model. Also realize, I wore my rain pants a VERY good portion of the trip even when it wasn't raining. It kept my jeans a lot cleaner, and up north it was cool enough it didn't matter.

1 pair of shorts/1 pair of swimming trunks - Recommended to take something else along to wear while you wash you jeans. I would have gotten by with just the swimming trunks and I did go swimming once at a hotel pool.

1 Fulmer AFM Modus Helmet - Recommended. I'm not in love with this helmet, but it's a reasonably priced modular style helmet. I do recommend a full face helmet for a trip like this, makes rain so much easier to ride in. Also bugs and stones won't be as much of a problem. The modular part is nice as you can flip it up to have a quick conversation or take a sip of a drink while still riding. The faceshield broke on me during the trip, which is not a big deal other then I couldn't find a replacement (not too many places carry Fulmer).

1 pair of Old Navy $9 Flip-Flops - Indispensable. Really. I wore these every day at camp or around the motel room. After a long day of riding it's so nice to get your boots off, but I often didn't want to walk around bare foot. These packed extremely small. If I had more room or was doing destination traveling I would have taken a pair of sneakers, but I road everyday and didn't have room. These also worked really well as shower shoes (you DON'T want to go bare foot in some of the camp showers, trust me). For ten bucks, these were probably the best investment of all my gear. Really.

1 pair Danner Black Duty Acadia Uninsulated Boots - Recommended. I like Gortex boots. They kept my feet dry as long as I got my rain pants on (your socks will wick right into your boots if your jeans get wet...ask me how I know!). The only issue with Gortex boots is they won't dry out if your feet do get wet. But these held up well. They provide good traction, ankle protection, and were comfortable. Good comfortable boots are a must.

Camping Gear

Tent, Sleeping Bag, and Therm-a-Rest packed up:

Kelty Trail Dome tent - Recommended. This is a fairly lightweight tent meant for backpacking. Kelty doesn't list them on their website, I got it from REI as a special purchase as I remember. It goes up and comes down easy enough. At times I would have liked a even smaller tent (when I was packing stuff) but when camp was setup I wanted a slightly larger tent. So I figured it was about the perfect size. Although they list it as a 2 man tent, those 2 men would have to be awfully intimate. I'm not sure I'd even want to share it with a small female companion...well yeah I would, just not for a month.

Kelty Shuksan Sleeping Bag +20F - Recommended. (I believe this was another special buy or discontinued item) This is a mummy style, the first one I've had. It took a little getting used to, but worked out. It's fairly lightweight, but plenty warm. I slept comfortably in mid 40's/50's degree temperatures. I might look for a down sleeping bag in the future to motorcycle camp with as I understand they pack smaller yet (this does pack fairly small) as size (small) does matter when packing. And your sleeping bag and tent will be two of the larger items, so choose wisely.

Jet Boil PCS Cooking Stove - Recommended. I didn't use it much, but it didn't take up much space. I'm not sure I would take a stove again. There was only one night were I actually used it because I needed to eat. There was one other time that I made hot chocolate in the morning. Most of my meals were at diners. But this is one slick setup if your taking a stove.

Titanium Camping Cup - Recommended. If your camping, you'll need a cup of some sort. I used this as a bowl to eat soup out of and a plate also as needed. It's lightweight. Even if your not planning on cooking a whole lot in camp, this was useful.

Therm-a-Rest Trail Lite Sleeping Pad - Regular - Recommended. You'll need a sleeping pad if you'll be camping for any length of time. The Therm-a-Rest worked well. It's not really self inflating, but you don't need to huff and puff too much to get it fairly firm. My only complaint would be is the regular size might be a little small. I could barely lay on my back and stay on the pad. A couple more inches may have been nice, but it does pack small enough. I slept great every night camping (better then most of the motel beds).

Walmart Fleece Blanket - Recommended. I had intended to use this as a blanket if I didn't want to crawl into my sleeping bag, and did that a few times. But, mostly I used it as a pillow stuffed into a pillow case. Having a blanket is handy sometimes. Having one that doubles as a comfy pillow is great. It also squeezed down rather small so it took virtually no room in my compression sack.


Cabela's Waterproof Compression Stuff Sacks 16" X 30" - Recommended. This was my main bag (instead of a T-Bag or anything like that). It was 100% water and dust proof the entire trip. I kept all my clothes and camping gear in it. The only issue with keeping everything in the same bag was when I stayed at a motel I needed to unload everything every night. But it worked out. I thought the bag was leaking towards the end of the trip (the air was being let out of it after a day of riding). I discovered I was being lazy with how I was rolling the top of the compression bag down and not keeping it tight as I rolled it. Once I was more careful this kept it air tight. For $38 this is a bargain when it comes to luggage. I just used a couple of straps around the bag to hold it to my luggage rack, no problems. Several others in my groups used the same bag, and appeared to have good luck with it as well.

Otterbox PC case - Highly recommended. As you all probably figured out by me posting on my trip I had my laptop with me. I looked at Pelican cases (the defacto standard rugged case), but they were significantly more money and the Otterbox was closer in size to my personal laptop. It kept my laptop safely dry and dust free the entire trip. Not much to attach the case to the luggage rack, but a couple straps around it did the trick. It was kinda a pain to carry a laptop (especially one as large as mine) on this trip and even more of a pain to post to the blog. I'm not sure I would carry a laptop again. Maybe I would look for a smaller one that would fit in my saddle bags. But, I have no doubts that the Otterbox would keep my laptop safe and dry, so it's highly recommended.

Leatherlyke Saddlebags - Highly Recommended. These aren't the cheapest solution, but I still highly recommend them. They worked flawlessly. I had 15 - 20 lbs of gear in each saddle bag at any time (20 lbs is what they are rated for). I dropped the bike a few times on the trip...the saddle bags got a few minor scratches, but help up very well otherwise. Remember these are Alaskan roads, there was lots of bumps and rough spots and I had the bags fully loaded with gear. No signs of wear or cracking. They are not 100% waterproof/dustproof. I never had anything wet (a couple drops of water was it) but the dust did get into them a little (there was TONS of dusty roads, though).

Cortech Super Mini Tank Bag - Recommended. Tank bags look dorky, there's no doubt. But there is no getting around there usefulness when touring. I got this bag used (in nearly new condition) and wasn't disappointed at all. It was a handy place to keep my wallet, mp3 player, directions, journal, etc. If you'll be doing lots of miles, do yourself a favor get a tank bag.

2 camera bags - Recommended. These were zip tied to my handlebars and proved indispensable. I did keep my camera in the one bag (in a ziploc bag when it rained), but there's always something that needs to be put somewhere handy. I used the one as a trash bag several times (National parks are pretty serious about no littering.)

Bike Gear

Memphis Shades El Paso 19" Sport Shield - Recommended. I personally like a windshield for touring. For no other reason on this trip to keep the bugs off of you. There were days it was literally just black with bug guts. The El Paso works for me and seems to fit the bike well. The mounting brackets got a little tweaked one of the times I dropped the bike, but I was easily able to adjust everything so it was straight again. The plastic is showing some wear, but nothing unexpected.

Iron City Cycles Adjustable Highway Pegs - If you have mid controls, I highly recommend these. They saved my bike several times (when dropped). They saved my knees several times (by being able to stretch). These look just like the Harley ones, but are much less $$ and come with foot pegs. Lifesavers for me.

Mustang Wide Vintage Seat - Highly Recommended. This is a real butt saver. Everyone wonders how I could do this trip on a Sporty...this is how. A couple days into the trip I was getting a pinched nerve or something in my left butt cheek. My toes were going numb. I changed my seating position slightly and everything was good. It's not sleek and sexy looking, but when your butt is on it you don't really care.

2 - MSR Camp Stove 32 oz Fuel Bottles - Recommended. If you don't have much of a gas tank as most Sportsters don't, seriously consider a way to carry extra fuel. I had this extra 1/2 gallon with me. It was good piece of mind. I could make it 130 miles (without out the bottles) which was about the furthest any of the gas stations were apart. But, you just never know. I strapped these out of the way on the bottom of my luggage rack and most of the time didn't even think about them...until I was running low.


Well, It would be pretty hard to list everything, so a picture is worth a thousand words:

The highlights:

Full ratchet set including typical standard sizes, torx drivers, and hex drives.
Torx folding wrench.
Hex Drive folding wrench.
Motopump Air pump (if you ride, you NEED one of these kits).
Zip ties and straps out the whazoo.
First aid kit (not really a tool, but essential).
Extra large slip joint pliers.
Extra large phillips screw driver.
Extra larrge standard screw driver.
Strap wrench
Loctite (I didn't get my name Screw Loose for any old reason)
Electrical tape

I'm sure I had more gear with me, but this gives you a pretty good idea of what I carried along. I didn't have much room for souvenirs, but everything fit on the bike.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Made it in one piece

Well, I made it home at 7:00 PM on 7/27/07. I left on 6/28/07. So I'd call that a month of traveling. A lot happened in that month, some of it I remember and some of it is already gone from my memory.

My last day was fairly uneventful, except stopping by my Grandmother's on the way past. She was extremely happy to see me...and kept making reference to the fact that I was alive. She worries too much.

I hadn't ridden in the rain since I was in Washington (Opa's rain). It rained while I was in Cheyenne, WY, but not while I was riding. Yesterday's ride home made up for it. Once I got on the PA T-Pike in Carlisle it started. It lasted a good 40 miles. It was the kind of rain that most people in cars pulled over for. I kept trucking. When I stopped for gas, there was a couple motorist that came over and commented on the rain and they had seen me pass them...

My baby all unloaded under her favorite tree at home:

This trip is the first like this I've taken. I had many fears going into this trip. Some fears were realized, but most were just unfounded. Along the way I ran into many people that would say "man, your doing what I've always dreamed of", then they would continue on with some lame excuse why they couldn't. At first I took those excuses at face value, but well into the trip I started to recognize those excuses as fear. There are many unknowns on a trip like this, and most people are paralyzed by the fear they have of the unknown. Don't let fear stand in the way of your dreams. As Nike says, just do it.

Now, this trip isn't for everyone. I wouldn't tell my friend George that's just learning to ride to go to Alaska next month. Traveling to Alaska on a motorcycle requires that you absolutely LOVE riding it. Other then my day in Anchorage, I rode at least a couple hundred miles everyday. I probably averaged 300 - 400 miles per day. The other requirement for doing this on a motorcycle is a love/hate relationship with your machine. You have to love your bike to death, as you will be sitting on it a LONG time. Everything needs to be in the right spot, nothing should be annoying you. However, you need to get past worrying about scratches and such. You will have scratches, you will likely have some dings from rocks, and you will likely never see you bike dirtier. If these things bother you, this ride isn't for you.

Notice the paint missing from the fender where one of my spare gas bottle rubbed the fender:

I honestly wouldn't change much about my trip. It was what it was. It is the journey not the destination for me. I didn't make it to the Arctic Circle, but who really cares? Not me. It just gives me an excuse to go again. I feel bad that I broke off from my group, but it was the right thing for me to do. I couldn't have done this trip without the group (going back to overcoming fears), so I'm still very thankful to each and everyone of them.

I'm sure everyone wants to know what my favorite part was...well, I can't really say. It's all so different, it's like comparing apples to oranges. I was blown away by the Canadian Rockies. Just awesome views. Trust me, my pictures do it NO justice. It's just massive. Seeing all the wildlife was really cool. Buffalo in the street? Wild. Seeing the salmon jumping in Anchorage was spectacular. I've seen it on TV, but this was right there in front of me. Hell's Canyon was pretty, and probably the best riding of the trip (boy do I love curvy roads). Seeing friends like Opa and Cindy along the way were icing on the cake.

Now for some of the facts--

Odometer beginning of the trip: 11842
Odometer end of the trip: 23030
Total Miles traveled: 11188

Miles on gravel: couple hundred?
Miles in mud: 15 miles

Number of times I was airborne on the Alaska Hwy (due to heaves in the road): at least 3 times that I recall

Number of Caribou seen: Way to many to count, dozens if not hundreds
Number of Elk seen: A handful
Number of Moose seen: A handful
Number of Grizzly Bears: 1
Number Black Bears: At least a dozen...probably more (I'm guessing which were grizzly and which were black, I didn't stop to ask them)
Number of Wolverine seen: 2
Some sheep and rams were also seen.

I didn't keep track of how much gas or oil I used, because quite frankly it's more work to keep track of then it's worth to me.

Would I do this trip again...IN A HEARTBEAT!!!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

On the east side

Well, it's been a few days. I've covered a few miles since I last posted. I left Cheyenne and headed towards the Geographical center of the lower 48 states. FYI, there's not much in Nebraska or Kansas besides corn fields. Well, except the soy bean fields.

At the Geographical Center of the States I met up with Cindy Dietz, a friend and fellow Harley Sportster enthusiast. For those that don't know who Cindy is, she is a VERY accomplished long distance rider, having won of H.O.G.'s ABC competetion last year and covering 47,000 (!!) miles last year on here Sportster.

Cindy and her Sporty at the Geographical Center of the US

From the Geographical Center of the USA we headed to Kansas City and Cindy was kind enough to put me up for the night (or is that put up with me). In the morning we headed over to Central Harley-Davidson South. My rear brakes had been squeaking for some time now and the pads were ultra thin. Central HD South was VERY quick in getting me in and out. No problems.

Then we headed over to the Harley-Davidson factory in Kansas City. This is were they make the Sportster, along with the Dyna and V-Rod. Took the free plant tour. It was cool. They don't allow pictures, so none of that.

Cindy and I then headed to a little BBQ place and had good KC BBQ (Cindy - what was the name of the place?). It was delicious. Maybe not quite as good as Texas or North Carolina (Cindy's fav) BBQ, but still very yummy.

It was late afternoon and I decided to head out. Until I got the bike packed most of rush hour traffic was gone. I rode until late (1:00 AM or so), got a hotel just on the east side of St. Louis.

From St. Louis I headed to Louisville. Didn't do any site seeing (more corn fields). Stayed at a nice little campground at Shelby Lake. Not a flat spot to setup a tent. The bathrooms/showers did have flushing toilets and warm showers, but were otherwise not very nice/clean. But, it was a perfect place to camp for the night. The little lake was neat and I had a really nice campfire going.

Today, I made it to Morgantown, WV. Again no site seeing. But, the ride through Kentucky and West Virginia was beautiful. Probably my two favorite states in the east to ride through. Not really any pictures because I was just enjoying the ride. Of course, being back on the east side of the continent has it's pitfalls. I was dramatically reminded when I damn near got run over by a Ford Explorer that decided to change lanes, not caring that I was already in the lane he changed into. He had no doubt in his mind as to what I thought of him when it was all done.

Then I was going to stop by the Triple S HD shop in Morgantown this evening. Just 5 miles down the interstate from there I saw a Sportster on the other side of the road, with the rider walking down the road trying to hitch hike. I spun back around, because I don't ever leave another rider stranded (when they are by themselves). There was a ton of bikes going by (I'll explain why in a few moments). I just don't understand why none of them couldn't stop to help him, but everyone just went right on by. As it turned out, he was out of gas. Well, it was his lucky day as I had 1/2 gallon in two little camp stove bottles strapped to my bike. We dumped them in. He then ran his battery down trying to start the bike. Long story short, it took a good 20-30 minutes to get him back running. Well, by the time I got to the HD dealer they had just closed. What did I say about no good deed goes unpunished...

What I really couldn't believe at the Triple S HD dealership was that they weren't open. There is some sort of biker weekend going on in Morgantown. There had to be 50 bikes/bikers in their parking lot. And they were closed!!! Somebody at dinner said that there was expecting 50,000 bikes in Morgantown this weekend. And the Harley shop was closed. Morons.

I was in a pretty pissy mood after nearly being killed and then getting to the shop after they closed. All the hotels in Morgantown were completely booked. I was tired and irritable. If you know me, you know how I get...

But, it all worked out for the best. I went a few exits down the interstate and found a quaint hotel (read cheap and small) that has Internet. Went to the local restaurant for dinner and had an excellent meal served by the cutest/friendliest waitress. The dinner and desert totaled $11. I left a huge tip. She was damn cute...

So anyway, I'm nearly home. I suspect I'll get home late tomorrow without problems. The engine at one point today did misbehave. One time it knocked on start up. Knocked as in bearings or wrist pin type problems. It went away at anything above idle, so I drove on. I'll pretend like I didn't hear it and worry about it once I get home (presuming I do).

Probably won't be much to report from here on out but I will send out an email letting everyone know I'm home and also a conclusion to my journey.

More pictures:

7/23/07 - Cheyenne, WY to Kansas City
7/24/07 - Kansas City to St Louis
7/25/07 - St Louis to Louisville, KY
7/26/07 - Louisville, KY to Morgantown, WV

Monday, July 23, 2007

Another day...

So, I left Ogden, UT this morning. Silly me went and found the local Harley dealership...only to realize it's Sunday and they are closed. Duh.

Got back on the Interstate (I-84 -> I-80) and busted out 400+ miles today. Not a bad day to ride. The weather was nice in the morning. It got hot for a while in the early afternoon. Then it cooled down as the clouds settled in. Since there was a nasty storm brewing I bunked up at a hotel. I decided to go with a nicer chain hotel (one that I'm a "member" of) in Cheyenne, WY. It was probably a mistake, as I got raped. This is the most I have EVER paid for a hotel. Ever. Insane. But, it's apparently "Frontier Days" in Cheyenne (some big rodeo thing). For what I paid there should have been a cow girl waiting for me in the room! ;)

The ride today was quite enjoyable. The landscape was beautiful (especially for an interstate). Only one little "incident" to report; I dropped the bike, again. I was really pissed this time. No damage (those highway pegs have been life savers). There was a young women pulled off on the side of the road and as I road past she waved and indicated she needed help. I'm not much of a gentlemen, but I am a sucker for a damsel in distress. As it turned out she had run out of gas and had children in the car. She had called the local gas station, but felt like they were taking too long. I told her I would dump the spare gas (1/2 gallon) that I had and if that didn't work I would fetch her more. I had stopped a quarter of a mile ahead of her. So, I spun my bike around on the interstate and head down the shoulder back to her car. As I got to her car, I went to turn back around on the shoulder. I saw the gravel, and since I'm so used to riding on gravel, didn't even think about it when I pulled onto it. Unfortunately, with the speed I was going (slow) and turning real hard down went the bike. About that same time, the guy from the gas station pulled up with 5 gallons of gas for her.... Errrr. Oh well, no good deed goes unpunished. Nothing broke as I said. I needed to tighten my mirror and high way peg (probably needed to be tightened anyway, right?).

Anyway, I have a long day ahead of me tomorrow. Planning on making one of my longest legs yet. Planning on meeting a friend (Cindy) in Kansas City (some 600+ miles).

I took lots of pictures today:

7/22/07 - Ogden, UT to Cheyenne, WY

A little tidbit, if I EVER have a daughter (and that's so far fetched for so many reasons), I think I would name here Cheyenne. I think it's a really pretty girl's name. Maybe I'll get a dog and name her that (sorry, Mom).

Me smiling at 80 mph:

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Hey boss, I think I need another month off!

Well, it's been going absolutely fantastic! I was outside Pendleton, OR last I reported. Everyone's been complaining that I don't give updates often enough, so here you are.

I left Pendleton, OR on the I-84. But, I wanted to do a little exploring. I rode a little while on the old Oregon Trail for a while. Nothing to exciting, but it wasn't the interstate and was kinda cool. But, it dumped me back onto the highway again. I got off and took Rt 82 into Hell's Canyon National Recreational area. WOW!! The sign said it was the deepest gorge in North America. I've never seen the Grand Canyon, so I can't compare. But, I can tell you was gorgeous! The morning had started out cool, but pretty quickly it got REALLY hot. Which I thought appropriate for a place called Hell's Canyon. And the canyon roads were AWESOME!!! Nothing like scraping exhaust at 70+ with a fully loaded bike. :) The roads aren't quite like the Dragon in NC, but still an exhilarating ride. I'm not sure exactly how long the canyon roads were, but I can tell you there was MILES of them. Almost no RV's and a couple guys pulling boats. Everyone quickly (safely) pulled over to let me by. It was really cool.

You wanna ride along, click video below:


Me at Hell's Canyon with a fire in the backgorund:

Every forest sign I passed stated that the fire danger was "Extremely High". And part of the mountains there were already on fire. There was plenty of fire damage evident from prior years. It is amazing how well mother nature takes care of herself if we don't muck it up.

From Hell's Canyon I headed over the Oxbow Reservoir (I think?) into Idaho. Oh, did I mention it was hotter then a witch's stew?? Different then the heat back east. Fairly dry, but damn hot. Anyway, as I headed into the Payette Forest to find a camping site, it cooled off quite nicely for sleeping. I stayed at the "Last Chance" camp site in the Payette Forest. I think it had about 25-40 sites. Nothing special. The dirtiest pit toilet I've seen on the entire trip. A pump well for water. The sites were clean and flat. They had tent sites with grass to setup on...I got the last site in the place which was an RV site. But, I'm ok with sleeping on gravel, it was fairly level anyway. There's a 2 mile road to get back to the camp ground. One lane, traffic both ways. The gravel was deep and loose in spots. And, there's a good drop off on one side (I didn't have time to see how far down because I was too busy just trying not to find out the hard way...but it was pretty far, as in a a couple hundred feet). So, if you go back there on a bike, be careful. I was also told some logging trucks use that same gravel road...and they always have the right-of-way. Could make for an interesting moment.

The reservoir I crossed into Idaho at:

Anyway, it was cool again this morning when I headed off and took Rt 55 thru the Boise National Forest. I was hoping for a nice morning jaunt through a pretty setting...yeah, it didn't work out that way. It was a miserably busy road with lots of little towns and very little forest. The bastards didn't understand what the "Slow Vehicle Pull-out" was for. Dumb asses. Today was the first time I was REALLY aggravated at other drivers on this whole trip. But, this too passed.

Jumped back on the Interstate (I-84) in Boise after not being able to find the Boise HD shop. I really didn't need anything, just wanted to stop in. They have apparently moved recently. Oh well.

Today was hotter then yesterday. I seriously considered (momentarily) riding without my shirt and helmet for a while. Anyone that knows me, knows I NEVER ride without my helmet. And NO ONE wants to see me without a shirt one, much less on a motorcycle! So you can imagine the heat I was feeling to even have that thought cross my mind. I did ride gloveless, which is another one of my never-ever do things. I almost envied the Goldwing riders I saw that had shorts on. Then I had a cold bottle of water and came to my senses. Damn, I can't drink enough water.

Some more fire (this time in Utah I think):

This is what my speedometer looked like most of the day (and note, I was doing the speed limit!):

Also, note the mileage on my 2007 Sporty!

I've bunked down for the night somewhere near the Great Salt Lake in Utah. It's still hot outside. The three requirements for a hotel tonight were (in this order); AC?, Laundry?, Internet?, yes...ok I'll take it. The added bonus was the pool they have. It was quite refreshing while I was doing laundry. I'll be raring to go in the morning with clean jeans and underwear!! I got a lot of ground to cover.

Also, thanks to all those that have left comments for me on this blog. I've been reading them and they do encourage me to keep this up.

For all the pictures from the last two days:

7/20/07 - Pendleton to Payette Forest
7/21/07 - Payette to Ogden

Monday, July 16, 2007

Back in the Good Ole US of A

Well, I realize it's been a while since I updated everyone. It's not that there hasn't been anything to report, just that I've been busy enjoying myself and a lack of Internet connectivity.

Last time I wrote to you was from Dease Lake, BC, Canada on Rt 37 (Cassair Hwy). When I got up that day the skies had cleared and the roads dried out. There was a bit more construction to go through which consisted of mainly gravel roads. I didn't think it was that bad. Once the construction was over, the road was great. And the lower portion of the road turned out to be a really nice paved (real pavement!) road.

Gas was again a little tight. Actually really tight. I went this stretch alone. Ran into some bikers (fortunately) that advised me that I would need to go to Stewart (off of Rt 37 by about 40 miles) just to get gas. Going out of your way by 80 miles just to get gas seems counterintuitive, but it worked out. As a side benefit the road to Stewart is just awesome. I saw some really cool glaciers (these things just don't get old):

The bad part about Stewart is that it was raining nearly the whole way there and back to Rt 37. Oh well. I barely made it to the next gas station after Stewart. I went 132 miles and pulled into the gas station with the bike literally sputtering for the last mile...but I made it. Whew!

The Cassair Hwy is a great road and I saw more black bears along the roadway then I've seen in my entire life (including zoos).

This little fellow was one of the few that wasn't too camera shy (taken with engine running and in gear!):

This is one of my favorite photos of the day (on the Cassair):

I stayed in a little state park campground, Seeley Lake. This is what I woke up to:

From Seeley lake I headed to Lac La Hache and camped in another (larger) state park which had flushing toilets. Unfortunately, it rained (or threatened to rain) nearly all day. The good news was it had stopped well before stopping for the night and didn't rain at all over night. But, it prevented me from taking many pictures.

From Lac La Hache I road thru to Seattle where I visited/stayed with my friend Opa. He had originally thought of going on the trip with the group to Alaska (but thought better). Opa couldn't come up and meet me along the way, but he sent his rain up to meet me. It rained again damn near all day. It was a shame because there were some really pretty passes through the mountains, but I didn't want to take the camera out in the pouring rain.

I had a good visit with Opa and his wife. I changed my oil and washed the bike (then it rained some more). I left fairly late in the afternoon, but felt like I needed to make a little bit of progress today. It rained fairly heavy as I left the Seattle area, but I found it fitting. Once I cleared the mountain passes, the skies cleared up and I had a good ride for a while. I didn't ride very late because it was quite obvious by looking at the clouds that I was about to ride into it. Since I really had enough rain the last few days I stopped before reaching Pendleton, OR.

Somewhere in Washington:

Washington or Oregon:

I haven't seen the sun set in awhile, so I was kinda excited about it:

I'm not sure what tomorrow will bring. I'm thinking of doing a little exploring in the mountains just down the road. Some locals were telling me of some curvy roads...might just have to see if I can't straighten them out...

For all the pictures of the last few days:

Dease Lake to Seeley
Seeley Lake to Lac La Hache
Seattle to Pendleton
Seattle to Pendleton

Going south

Well, I got a late start out of Whitehorse, but I got clean underwear. Was riding for a bit and stopped at a rest area. A Suzuki touring bike pulled in. Got talking with the rider, a fellow from Alaska. He's heading south to Montana. He took off a few minutes before me but got held up at a construction zone. We kept meeting up along the way. Eventually we just started riding together rather then passing one another back and forth since we were taking breaks around the same time and such.

I had been contemplating taking Rt 37 from Watson Lake south (Cassiar Hwy). I talked to some folks back in Anchorage that discouraged it because it was all stone (they said). Talked to another rider along the way that said it wasn't nearly that bad. When we got to the junction of the Alaska Hwy and Rt 37 I spoke with the old lady running the gas station. She told me it wasn't nearly that bad, but it is a secondary road and is no interstate. She also advised it was 147 miles to the next gas stop. Hmmm. I'm getting 45 - 49 mpg, a 3.3 gallon tank. In theory I would have enough. I have 1/2 gallon extra in some camping stove fuel bottles. I should make it, I think. I discuss it with this guy Chuck I've been riding with. He says he's going Rt 37 and he has a 2 gallon gas can strapped to the back of his bike (on top of the 5+ gallon tank his bike has). He says he'd more then gladly let me use it. So, down the Cassiar Highway I go.

Rt 37 is an awesome ride so far. It's exactly what I was looking for. Not a tourist trap road like the Alcan. Just a simple road. It's a bit bumpy at spots (FYI, "bumps" has a new meaning to me. Imagine the absolute worst road in PA, that's what I mean by a bit bumpy). Where it's "improved" it's just chip and tar.

We ended up stopping around 100 miles down Rt 37 and putting the gas from Chuck's can in my tank. He said he was tired of feeling it slosh around and I was more then glad not to run dry. While filling the gas tank up my kickstand broke (the one that was just welded to be made appropriate length). A few moments of getting the bike back upright and all was good as I had a spare (don't ask why I had a spare, it's a long story probably not worth telling). So within a few minutes I had a kickstand and was good to go (although this one is a bit short).

The last 10 - 20 miles we road was mud/dirt. Well, it was all mud because just as we got to that section it decided to POUR on us. Shit. I've never ridden in mud before. This is a little extreme. And I won't tell you how fast I was going (way faster then my Mom would approve of in mud). And even though a few times I thought for sure I was going down, I stuck to it and kept things up right. It's certainly a new challenge. And before I get email telling me to slow down, the problem with going any slower is I didn't have traction to get up the hills if I was going to slow. I love having all that V-twin torque, EXCEPT when riding on slippery substances.

I'm staying at a great little motel. I was really looking forward to camping, but it's pouring outside, and it looks like it will be for a while here. I stayed mostly dry, excpet that I forgot (like an idiot) to completely close my rain paints. By the time I realized it I was in the mud and wasn't going to stop or worry about it at that point. Everything is drying out quite nicely now.

I'm in the process of uploading a TON of photos. Here's what I've got so far (again, there is a TON of photos, some good, some not, view at your leisure):

7/7/07 - Dawson Creek to Muncho Lake

7/8/07 - Muncho Lake to Whitehorse

7/9/07 - Whitehorse to Tok

7/10/07 - Tok to Anchorage

There might be a few more photo's by morning (the motel has Internet Access, but it's painfully slow).

Sunday, July 15, 2007

My way on the highway...

Ok, so I believe where I left off was I was in Whitehorse by myself contemplating whether I really wanted to do this or not. Sorry it's been so long, I've been busy having fun! Also, "THANKS!" to all those that sent me words of encouragement.

I rode towards Tok from Whitehorse by myself. It was a really refreshing ride. The Alaska Hwy gets a bit rough and has some construction along these parts, but I made good time and REALLY enjoyed the ride. I caught up to the group right before we entered into Alaska (they had at least a 3 hour lead on me!). I rode with them into Tok, Alaska. We stayed at the Thompson's Eagle Claw motorcycle campground. It's primitive, but I do highly recommend it. They have tents with cots for those not wanting to setup a tent.

Anyway, once I caught up with the group I remembered why I wasn't having a good time before. The time alone had brought back what I truly love about motorcycling. Freedom. Free to do what I want. Free to stop where I want. Free to see what I want. All that is lost in a group. The group was supposed to have meetings in the morning to go over the days plans. I was planning on telling the group I was officially dropping out of the group prior to leaving Tok. But, the group was never disciplined about these meetings and didn't have one that morning. So, with everyone else already loaded up on their bikes I walked around and told them all individually I wouldn't be riding with them any further.

I felt bad. A little like I was letting the group down. And very disappointed in myself. I'm not a quitter and it just doesn't sit well with me that I dropped out of the group. But, this is my vacation and I should enjoy it.

So, I have been enjoying it. I rode from Tok, AK to to Fairbanks. I was hoping to catch the dealer before they closed, I missed them. So, I took off and headed towards Anchorage. I made it to Anchorage in the early morning (rush hour traffic). Anchorage is a nice city. I camped at the Harley dealership in Anchorage. Yes, they actually have FREE motorcycling camping. Really nice washroom facilities and all. Free coffee in the morning too.

Since I had been riding all night to get to Anchorage (I took a couple naps along the way), I setup camp and slept. In the evening I went to the resturaunt across the street from the dealer and met the cool dude, Brit. We got talking and he told me all the scenic spots in Anchorage. I tried to remember a few of them and was planning on heading out after diner and finding them. As I was preparing to hop on the bike, Brit stopped over and told me to get in his truck, we would go explore together. This was freaking awesome, I had a guided tour of Anchorage.

The next day I headed down to Homer from Anchorage. For those not familiar, it is the most westerly point you can drive to in the USA from the lower 48 states. I went to the Salty Dawg Saloon. It's kinda a famous old time saloon. I NEVER drink when I ride, I made an exception and had a drink. It was pretty cool.

From Homer I headed back to Anchorage. Stayed another night there. Then headed back to Tok. It was a beautiful ride up Rt 1 from Anchorage. Maybe one of my favorites.

Now I'm in Whitehorse (doing laundry again). About ready to head out to the road again. Not sure of my exact path or itinerary and pretty happy about it.

It's been a lot of fun traveling by myself. One thing I noticed is I'm a lot more likely to talk to strangers when I'm by myself. When I'm with a group I stick within the group. Now that I'm by myself, I find myself talking to ALL SORTS of people. Some good, some not...but always interesting. And, I love hearing everyone else's stories.

I'm tried posting pictures, but no luck. I promise next time I'm near civilization...

Update on the other riders...Cris and Leroy made it to the Artic Circle. Erica's throttle cable broke so her, Bruce, and Ron turned around prior to making it to the Circle. Bruce, Erica, and Ron went down to Anchorage. Ron and Erica went down to Seward (towards Homer) as I understand. Bruce got his bike worked on. Cris and Leroy decided to skip Anchorage. Cris' drive belt broke near the Canadian customs check point. I spoke with him briefly yesterday. He was doing just fine. He was expecting a tow truck at any moment. He's planing on having one of the dealerships fix it on Monday morning and get back on his way. Leroy was off to meet some friends as I understand, once he made sure Cris was set.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Down and Out...

This is an email I sent out to my mailing list:

Well, yesterday was about worst day ever. I'm not sure where I posted last, and I'm not updating the blog (I only have a few minutes while I wait for laundry).

My bike has been giving my problems. Over the last several days the idle has been not right. At one point the codes on the computer indicated the IAC was bad (the module that controls the idle air flow). No biggie. The bike ran mostly fine. Two evenings ago before stopping for the night the bike started running really poorly, even at speed. The idle was all over the place (high-low-high-low). We'll the group has been having a hard time putting the miles in and so we pushed forward. And I didn't want to be the one holding everyone up (mistake).

So yesterday we covered 400ish miles. The entire time my bike was fighting me. The power was surging all the time. At speed, 60+, it was manageable. At slow speeds it just plain sucked. And pulling over as many times as we do with the group, it became kinda hairy more then once. To say the least, I was in a rather pissy mood all day and didn't enjoy myself at all.

When the group finally got to a hotel here in Whitehorse (Yukon, Canada), I worked on the bike all evening and then again first thing this morning. I believe I have now found the culprit. The O2 sensor module's power supply connection was poor. The computer interprets no O2 sensor as rich, so it was trying to adjust by going way lean momentarily. When that wouldn't work it would go back to it's normal base map briefly. Hence the surging and high-low idle.

I fixed the bad connection this morning (Chuck - Remember the stupid connector that went on the fuse? Can I say I told you so? Well, it's now soldered on there). I don't have much faith in it at this point.

Also, there is VERY few gas stations with premium gas. Bruce (road captain) and I were talking this morning and we had both figured there would be a only handful of gas stations that wouldn't have premium gas. Why is this a problem you may be wondering... My engine has extremely high compression (>10.5:1), so I actually NEED premium gas. I've been adding octane booster, and at one point thought that was my problem yesterday.

So, I'll be stopping quite frequently today while on the road to check things over. I sent the group on ahead. I really wanted clean laundry and the group doesn't do well with stops. So, I'm on my own at this point. I have to make it to Tok, Alaska at some point because I had my cell phone shipped there (another stupid story). At this point I am seriously considering turning around once I get to Tok. I really am not having any fun and don't want to kill my bike just to say I made it to the Arctic Circle.

Sorry I don't have any cool pictures to share. I'm sure I took some (Buffalo in the street!). I'll keep everyone posted.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

More miles...

Well, it's late here in Dawson Creek, BC Canada. But, the sun just set moments ago at 9:44 PM. Weird.

Yesterday, 7/5/07, we rode from Cranbrook (where my last post was from) to Jasper. Weather was hot, in the high 80's (maybe low 90's) and sunny skies all day. We road on the Icefield Parkway. Any words I would use to try to describe it would fall flat. The pictures I took don't even come close to showing the size and beauty of the scenery. Mountains, mountains everywhere you look. And no little hills, these are big ass mountains. The guys on the trip that have toured the US Rockies say they are nothing in comparison to the Canadian Rockies. The little I've seen of the Rockies in Colorado, they just don't compare.

For those that know Leroy or Ron:

To see all the pictures for 7/5/07, go here.

Today, 7/6/07, we road from Jasper to Dawson Creek. The weather was a bit cooler, mid 60's maybe a high of low 70's. A couple of brief showers. Nothing too bad, but we didn't stop to put gear on so my feet were soaking wet all day (and will likely be for the next couple days until my boots dry). Oh well. As we left Jasper the views were real nice. Once we got to Grande Prairie there wasn't much to look at. There was some discussion about continuing on for a little further this evening, but everyone was tired and cranky. I think the long days are taking there toll.

I only got a few pictures of the wild life, but we've seen some. Elk, dear, wolf (or maybe coyote), and a few things I can't think of right now. This morning we got "visitors" at our campsite...

To see all the pictures for 7/6/07, go here.

We've lost a few more things to the road. Bruce lost one of his shoes that he had under his bungee net on his trailer. Ron lost his hat (that was in his unzippered tank bag). Bruce also lost a few keys off his keychain, including the spare keys for the trailer lock, gun lock (hopefully we really won't need it!), and Erica's spare bike keys.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Glacier National Park

So after a night of camping in the KOA outside Glacier, we got up and got on the road this morning kind of late. The ride through the park was slow and we took many breaks. But, to me it couldn't have been any better. Ok, maybe about 10 degrees cooler. It got pretty hot this afternoon.

The sights in the park are UNBELIEVABLE. I've never seen topology like this. It was awesome. Most of the day I was following Bruce around the twisty mountain roads. Bruce is towing a trailer, so normally following a bike pulling a trailer in twisties would have really bothered me. But not today, the sights were that good that I wanted to be driving those that know me, that should tell you something.

Unfortunately, we lost one of our riders today. Tom decided this trip wasn't for him. He is one of the elder (and wiser) riders, but he just didn't feel comfortable with the number of miles we were putting in everyday. Tom has many years riding experience and has done many long trips. But this was his first group ride. We were all sad to see Tom leave us and will definitely miss his company on the trip. He's going to do some visiting of family/friends out west here before heading home (to Ohio). So, it's down to 6 riders.

We had another ride drop their bike today. Nothing serious (again). We stopped in a gravel parking lot because Ron lost his hat off his bike (with his new Glacier pin). Ron decided not to go back to get the hat. As we turned around on the gravel, Leroy dropped his bike. Later down the road Leroy also lost one of his stuff sacks off his bike...nobody dropped their bike picking it up. Just for a tally on dropped bikes, I've dropped mine 3 times total (so far), Tom 1, and Leroy 1 since the beginning of this journey.

Well, after a 220 mile ride today we are now in Canada. We had no issues crossing the border. It took a couple extra minutes for Bruce (has the heat). Had a really cute waitress serving us diner. I'm beginning to like Canada...

If you would like to look at all the pictures I took at Glacier go here.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Long days...

Well, today was probably one of the harder days for me personally. It was another ~ 400 mile day. I don't have enough energy or time for a lot of details. The good news we have reached Glacier National park today. The scenery changed so drastically. It is rather breath taking.

We did have a few issues today. First was we didn't get gas first thing in the morning. We decided to goto the gas station that there was a sign advertising was 30 miles away. Well, it was 30 miles away. Unfortunately, there was some confusion and most of us didn't see that they had gas pumps. Bruce said he saw them around back. We road on because he was the only one that had that bit of information. We made it another 15 or 20 miles until folks started running out of gas. And to everyone's surprise it wasn't me. Tom ran out first. When Bruce turned around to see what the problem was he ran out. I never actually ran out (but I did cheat and used my 2 camping bottle of gas, not sure if I really needed it).

At a later point, Bruce's sweatshirt that he had bungeed to the trailer came loose. I came to a stop to tell him before he lost it and promptly dropped my bike over before I got it onto the kickstand. Oh, I should mention this is the third time I've done this or something similar in the last week. Nothing broke each time. I have no ego to get bruised so it's all good. Everyone is enjoying poking fun at me, and that's fine I deserve it.

Later down the road, Bruce did loose his sweatshirt and leather jacket off the back of the trailer. We spun around and picked it up...

Anyway, I think we are still having fun. It should be a beautiful day tomorrow. We'll probably see some great sites. I'll try to post pictures when I get a chance (the connection I have now is painfully slow).

Sunday, July 1, 2007

On the road...

Well, it's been 4 days now that I've been on the road. A total of 1465 miles since I left last Thursday from Pennsylvania. Honestly, some of it's already getting blurry.

Below, I'll give a run down by day. But, overall everything is going well. We seem to have put together a good group to ride with. Everyone is playing together nicely. We are taking lots of breaks and riding safely. Most of the time we are doing 68 mph (even in the 75 mph zones). It's been fun seeing folks responses when we tell them we are riding to Alaska. Most just shake their heads...

I haven't been taking many pictures yet. We haven't been doing much yet besides riding. I'm sure the scenery will change within the next few days. Stay tuned

6/28/07 - Warm, humid, and cloudy
Cris (aka Brooklyn) and I met up in White Haven, Pa on Thursday around 10:30. From there we had a relatively easy 400 mile ride to Bruce's (Bootie's) house in Ohio. It was mostly pleasant, just little humid. It rained twice for about 10 minutes. No biggie, we got our gear on in time.

6/29/07 - Clear skies and in the 70's
Ron met us at Bruce's and we rolled out around 9:00 am. Met Tom and Leroy on the Ohio T-pike an hour or so later. This was the 6 out of the 7 of us now together. We made it to Luddington, MI without any major incident. It was a total of 405 miles for the folks leaving from Bruce's.

6/30/07 - Clear Skies, morning was chilly. Afternoon was warm (80's?)
Got up early and got on the ferry that ran to Manitowoc, WI. It was 4 hours to get to WI on the boat. Everyone seemed to enjoy the break (already) from riding and taking the ferry probably saved us a day's worth of riding.

We still had to meet Erica (aka Red) in Hudson, WI. Once we met her, that was the last of the group to meet up with. We camped in Sand Dunes State Forrest near Zimmerman, MN. Had a campfire and enjoyed ourselves.

7/1/07 - Mostly clear skies, warm temps (70-80) 30 mph winds (gusty)
Got on the road in the morning, despite a few wrong turns. Road another full day from Minnesota and into North Dakota. It was a nice ride this morning. But, lots of wind this afternoon. We all had quite a work out keeping everything on the road.