Motorcycle Trip to Alaska

Date 2013-06-28
Distance 0 km0 mi
Duration 0h:0m
Photos 77

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I departed Evergreen, Colorado on July 15, 2013 for a solo motorcycle ride to Alaska on a 2008 BMW R1200 GSA.  I had no specific itinerary, but planned to ride most of the common motorcycle routes.  I carried my camping gear and planned to make an occasional motel stop for a shower, laundry, etc.Towing my motorcycle to Boise, ID for the start of the ride saved some tire wear and allowed a visit with good friends Mark and Tracey.Since I had never visited SE Alaska, the plan included boarding the Alaska ferry in Haines, AK and returning to the road in Prince Rupert, BC.The trip took about 4 weeks, including 4 days in the Anchorage area.  The weather turned out to be warmer and drier than normal.  I experienced only 4 rainy days during the 4 week period.  The route included most of the Icefields Parkway from Lake Louise to Jasper, the Cassiar highway,  the Top of the World highway from Dawson City, YK to Chicken, AK, the Dalton highway to Deadhorse (Prudhoe Bay), the Denali highway, as well as the 60 mile dirt road to McCarthy, AK.I joined two friends from Anchorage to complete the ride to Deadhorse and back.  That part of the trip was everything we expected - blue skies, sun, warm temps, rain, 40 mph crosswinds, 40 degree temps, pavement, dirt, gravel, potholes, dust, mud, and mosquitos.  We all agreed it was challenging, but spectacular. The highlight  of the trip was obviously the scenery.  Vast is the word that best described the terrain through which I was riding.  I'm sure I mumbled "Wow!" to myself at least a half dozen times a day.  The normal Alaskan/Canadian wildlife included bear, caribou, moose, deer, bald eagles, trumpeter swans, humpback whales and salmon.The personal connections along the way are probably what I will remember most about the trip:Matt, a great friend of 15 years, made the trip to Deadhorse possible by juggling his schedule and seeing that all the pieces fell into place.  His adventurous spirit continues to ignite a fire under my aging bones.Kent, a lifelong Alaska resident, spent 28 years working at Prudhoe Bay, but had never ridden the Dalton highway up and back.  There were no whiners on the trip north!Peri, Matt's friend from Guam, a cross country runner, kept us on our toes during the "rest" period in Eagle River.Eric, another GS rider I had breakfast with in Chicken, who camped in Matt's yard after we stumbled into him at the Anchorage BMW shop.  He was on a solo trip from New York City.Troy, Matt's adventurer friend from Eagle River who volunteered his cabin for our return from Deadhorse.Two unnamed bicycle riders who camped with us at Lake Galbraith.  They were on day two of an 18 month bicycle ride from Prudhoe Bay to Tierra del Fuego, Argentina.Two native friends, Art and Shot, who shared their breakfast table in Haines.  Art's story of a sled dog trip across northern Alaska in 1950 while in the Army is one to remember. On the ferry ride:Matthew, a professor of sculpture who entertained me with his knowledge of the art world and his interest in the native Alaskan art and design.Ben, a high school science teacher in Juneau, who provided much first hand motorcycle knowledge.  His description of the trip he and his son made on a motorcycle (two up) to Inuvik, NT was impressive.Nolan, a Juneau dentist, moving his BMW to Seattle for a future trip across the US.Gus, Viet Nam vet and business owner from Arizona, enjoying a solo ride through Alaska and Canada.Bjoern and Sigrid, on the last leg of a 15 month motorcycle tour that covered everything from the southern tip of South America to the end of the road on the north slope of Alaska.And Sid and JP, my campground neighbors in Smithers, BC, a young couple who live on Haida Gwaii, a 6 hour ferry ride west of Prince Rupert.  Their description of life on their remote island raised my interest in a future visit.  They shared their smoked and dried salmon (sorry, can't remember the native name for dried salmon), and gladly provided more when I returned for seconds.  

My 2008 BMW R1200 GSA was perfectly suited for this trip.  The only modifications were a bigger windshield (ZTechnik V Stream), handlebar risers to create a more comfortable standing position, and a headlight cover from Touratech.  I experienced absolutely zero motorcycle problems for the entire trip.I used Heidanau K60's for the trip.  They are knobbies that are known for their relatively high mileage.  I installed a new rear tire in Anchorage and gave my used rear to my riding partner who did not have to make the return trip south.  As a result, I'm not sure one set of tires would have lasted 7500 miles.  Maybe, but it would have been close.Metzler Tourances tires would have handled everything I encountered, with the possible exception of a couple of soft, muddy sections on the Dalton highway.A headlight cover is strongly recommended to protect from rocks and gravel from oncoming trucks on the Dalton highway.  We experienced one broken headlight out of three bikes.The condition of the dirt roads is determined by the weather and road construction.  If the road construction included recent grading, followed by rain, the muddy conditions can get ugly.  Road construction frequently includes wetting the road with water or calcium chloride to reduce the dust.Truckers on the Dalton highway were generally courteous, moving as far to the side of the road as they could, and usually slowing their speed.  We did the same, but that did not prevent the occasional dousing of mud, water and rocks.  The longest leg without a fuel stop on this trip was Coldfoot, AK to Deadhorse, AK.  About 250 miles.  This was no problem for the 8 gallon tank on the GSA.The Canadian Provincial Park campgrounds were much cleaner and better maintained than the US Forest Service campgrounds.