Day 18 – Beaver Creek, YT to Fairbanks, AK

Day 18 – Beaver Creek, YT to Fairbanks, AK     09/07/10     Mileage: 319  

Today was all about crossing into Alaska and getting to Fairbanks. The weather was the same as it has been since leaving Colorado….cool to cold…some sun, lots of rain.  

Here's what $68 gets you in Beaver Creek, YT...half a single wide trailer.

 

Back in the U S, back in the U S...back in the U S (S) A!

 

 The scenery was good, but mostly obscured by clouds so I hardly took any pictures. I did see a female moose walking around in a shallow lake, so I stopped to watch for a while. It seems they also eat aquatic plants…who knew?  

Roadside moose...

 

Roadside moose...

 

Anyway, what I lack in pictures I will make up for in a harrowing tale. I stopped for lunch in Tok, AK and had lunch at the Grumpy Grizz. Being cold and wet, I ordered coffee…4 cups of coffee in fact to try and warm up. Now, those of you who know me well know I don’t drink much coffee and no other caffeinated drinks for sure. You might see where this is going. So, I got back on the bike and started making miles for Fairbanks. Just about the time I was sufficient distance from Tok to be in the middle of  f—ing no ware, the urge to have to go numero dos snuck up and became, umm, rather urgent. Now, in the wilds of Alaska, if a bear shits in the woods and nobody hears it, will anybody know? Well, if I shit in the woods, I don’t think anyone would know either, but what’s stopping me from pulling over is the hummingbird size misquotes that would use my bare ass for a pin cushion. Rather than suffer that fate, with gritted teeth and clinched cheeks (of the rear end variety), I pressed on. But that is not the harrowing tale I am speaking of, but merely what I was thinking at the time that I hit an unmarked section of loose grave doing 85 mph. The rear tire as you may recall is half bald and offered little grip on the ball bearings they use for gravel up here. The sensation was that the front of the bike was in a race with the rear, and the rear was winning. In fact, I waved to it on its way by and thought, boy, those side bags are filthy, someone should really clean those up. So in the end, I would have shit myself for sure were it not for those 4 cups of coffee….

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Day 17 – Teslin, YT to Beaver Creek, YT

Day  17 – Teslin, YT to Beaver Creek, YT     09/06/10     Mileage: 394  

Morning came and of course it was raining. The forecast was for clearing mid-morning so I decided to wait and make use of the internet connection while I had it. I also did some maintenance on the KLR and noticed the rear tire is wearing down much faster than I had planned. It was brand new right before the trip, and I was hoping it would make it to Seattle. At this point it will be lucky to see Fairbanks…and I hope it does as that’s the only town I can get a replacement at this point! So, at the crack of 11 I started making my way out of town…with one last stop for gas. As I pulled up to the pump, there were two other riders there…one on a Kawasaki and the other on a Honda Goldwing. We got to talking and they are both from Fairbanks making their way down to Vancouver. Pete, the big guy on the Gold Wing has put 45,000 miles on it in two years…including a cross-country trip to the Jersey Shore….pretty cool!  

Fellow bike travelers...

 

So after the standard telling of stories and lies, I was off and making tracks towards Whitehorse. The weather was overcast with spots of rain, but I’ll take that over the total soakers of the last 2 days.  

On the road to Whitehorse...

 

In Whitehorse, I ran some errands, had a quick bite and met a great group of riders while topping up the tank. They were on their way back from Inuvik, the farthest town accessible by road in Canada. The couple on the left is from Nederland, CO…very close to my friends Paul and Kim in Golden. I had breakfast two minutes from their house just over a week ago…small world. The gal in the middle is from Georgia and rode up from Colorado also. The other couple was riding two-up with luggage on an old model KLR from Seattle….and I thought my bike was weighed down!  

L to R: Couple from Nederland, gal from Georgia, couple from Seattle

 

After wishing each other a safe journey, I was off again…this time to try and make it to Beaver Creek, YT close to the Alaska border. I don’t have many pictures as the weather was dreary, the light flat and I wanted to make up for the late departure this morning. The scenery around Haines Junction all the way to Beaver Creek was outstanding, it’s too bad the clouds obscured the peaks of the mountain range or I would have some great photos!  

Mountains near Haines Junction, YT

 

Gas stop near Destruction Bay, YT

 

At least it's not raining!

 

The weather did clear and the sun came out for the last hour into Beaver Creek…so that was a welcome change.  

Sun at last!

 

Dinner was at Buckshot Betty’s and I found a reasonable room at the “1202” motel. Tomorrow, it’s on to Fairbanks, AK where the KLR will get a new pair of shoes and some much needed maintenance.

Day 16 – Tetsa River, BC to Teslin, YT

Day 16 – Tetsa River, BC to Teslin, YT     09/05/10     MIleage: 419 

The cabin was chilled by morning as the wood stove had long since burned out. I quickly packed up, said farewell to Ben and hit the road. The ground was still wet and the weather dank and overcast, but at least it wasn’t raining….so I consider that an improvement. The climb over the next pass was cold and the mountains all around had a fresh dusting of snow from the night before. The snow line at the top of the pass was perhaps only only 500-1000 feet above the road…not a good sign. 

Snow just above the mountain pass...

 

Fresh dusting of snow from the night before...

 

And more snow...

 

As I descended the pass the weather began to improve and the roads were now dry. 

Sun at last!

 

 The scenery around Muncho Lake was spectacular and the lake itself crystal clear….reminiscent of Lake Tahoe. The sun was now out and the temperature had inched its way into the low 60’s…perfect! 

Scenery in the Munch Lake area...

 

Scenery near Muncho Lake...

 

There is a picture at every bend in the road up here...

 

The KLR taking a break...with a view.

 

Muncho Lake, BC

 

Muncho Lake, BC

 

Next stop was the Liard River Hot Springs and…WOW…what a find that was! The hot springs themselves were kept rustic and natural…and it was only $5 to enter the park. I soaked in the hot springs for over an hour which was a treat after all the cold and rain. 

Liard Hot Springs

 

Liard Hot Springs

 

Liard Hot Springs

 

Liard Hot Springs

 

Soaking it all in....

 

After the soak it was time to make some tracks as the clock is ticking louder by the minute. I spoke with a local at the springs and they confirmed, at least in my mind, that winter is indeed coming early and this unseasonably cold weather is not just a fluke. They got their information not from some PHD meteorologist, but from the caribou and geese…both of whom departed the area 2 weeks earlier than normal…a sure sign of an early winter.  For now though, the weather was perfect and I was on the throttle making time. 

Roadside buffalo...

 

More roadside buffalo...

 

Welcome to the Yukon!

 

The famous Signpost Forest in Watson Lake

 

It would take weeks to look at all the signs!

 

It wasn’t meant to last though, as the clouds began to form on the horizon and the temperature was dropping as I rode north and west. 

Clouds again...and soon more rain and cold...

 

Soon my old friend returned and I was again wet and cold. I hunkered down behind the KLR’s meager fairing and pressed on into the Yukon Territory to Teslin. Cold and wet like the night before, I found refuge in the Yukon Motel in Teslin which is quite a nice place by my recent standards. My room came complete with heat, running water and even a flush toilet…luxurious!

Day 15 Dawson Creek, BC to Tetsa River, BC

Day 15 Dawson Creek, BC to Tetsa River, BC     09/04/10     Mileage: 353 

It was a bit warmer sleeping last night but not by much. It rained on an off all night but thankfully had stopped in time for me to pack up and get on the road. The KLR seems to thrive on the cool dense morning air which is good because I was on the throttle hard trying to make time. I don’t have any deadlines on this trip save for one…and that is the goal of getting to Deadhorse before winter comes to the north slope of Alaska. Ever present in the back of my mind now is the ticking of the clock. It is definitely a calculated risk to push so far north this late in the season, and I will need some luck and good weather to make it. So far the temperatures have been unseasonable cold, and I’m hoping that is just a cold snap and not the early arrival of winter. After 40 minutes of riding, the rain started so I had to back off the pace a bit. I topped off the tank in Buckinghorse, the last gas (or anything else for that matter!) for  100+ miles until the town of Fort Nelson. This area is dominated by logging and it seems some gas and oil drilling also. As such, the services are rather industrial in this area and cater more towards field workers than overland travelers. 

The "restaurant" in Buckinghorse

 

The "motel"

 

The "gas station"

 

 The “motel” is a series of self contained rooms on skids that they slid of the back of trucks and presto..instant motel! In Fort Nelson I topped up the tank and had a quick bite to eat. It was still raining and the forecast was bleak until tomorrow late morning. Camping was out so I called up the road and tracked down a reasonable “rustic” cabin at Tetsa River Lodge…about 80 miles farther. Just outside of town, the road turned toward some ominous looking weather. The smart thing to do would have been to turn around and head back to Fort Nelson, but apparently I’m not that bright. So with gritted teeth, I steered the KLR into the dark clouds and met the full force of the cold driving rain. It’s at this point that I began to wonder what the f-ck is wrong with me to want to do trips like this. Why can’t I be like most people and just bugger off to the Caribbean, lay on the warm sand and drink fruity rum drinks or take a cruise? At the moment that seems infinitely more appealing than the abject misery of the moment….cold, wet and riding on an out of balance washing machine. Then, up ahead from behind my fogged up face shield, I could see the sign for Tetra River and it could not have come soon enough. 

Tetra River Lodge

 

Inside Tetra River

 

In through the front door I stumble sopping wet but spirits lifted. I’m greeted by the owner Ben who immediately offers up some hot coffee and one of his fresh out of the oven “best cinnamon buns on the highway”. It lived up to the billing, all 3000 calories of it. 

"Best buns on the highway."

 

Just then the door swung open and in walks another biker dripping wet and looking as miserable as I did 20 minutes ago. He looked at me and said something to the effect of being a beautiful day for riding, to which I responded that at least we’re entertaining our masochistic side. We both laughed, because if we weren’t laughing we’d be crying. He grabbed a coffee as well and we got to talking. John is from Vancouver and owns 1% of 10% of an energy company that makes fuel cells, and is out riding his Harley Fat Boy up to the Arctic Circle for “something to do”. I know what he means; I’m flogging my KLR clear up to Deadhorse just to take a picture. Both are meaningless ends, the goal is the journey itself. John found a room a bit farther up the road, so he continued on while I retired to my rustic cabin. 

Me and John

 

 And rustic it was, a wood stove for heat, plywood bunk beds, no electric after 10pm and no running water. Oh well, even at $60 it still beats a tent in this weather. 

My cabin for the night...

 

Inside my cabin...

 

Inside my cabin...

 

"Chopping" wood for the stove...with my Leatherman...

Day 14 – Jasper National Park to Dawson Creek, BC

Day 14 – Jasper National Park to Dawson Creek, BC     05/03/10     Mileage: 364  

It was a cold night’s sleep as I only have a lightweight summer sleeping bag to keep the weight down and save space. I had on all my thermal clothing and my riding jacket draped over my sleeping bag. Hopefully tonight will be warmer…at least the forecast looks better. The couple next store to me offered me a cup of coffee which I gladly accepted as my camp stove is giving me trouble. After 20 years of service it finally gave up the ghost…I can’t complain I guess. After packing up I continued north towards the town of Jasper and passed more unbelievable scenery.  

Athabasca Falls

 

Athabasca Falls

 

Below Athabasca Falls

 

Jasper National Park

 

Prong horn sheep? ......anyone?

 

 I had breakfast in Jasper and went shopping for a new camp stove, but no luck there.  

Town of Jasper

 

I continued on heading for Dawson Creek via Grand Prairie. The scenery was getting more ordinary, but that was inevitable given the immense grandeur of Jasper National Park and Banff. I was pushing the KLR hard to try and make time because the clock is ticking…winter is drawing near and it doesn’t play nice with motorcycles.  

Welcome to BC!

 

Mile 0 of the Alaska Highway....Dawson Creek, BC

 

I rolled into Dawson Creek and settled into the Mile “0” Campground. Just after getting settled, a storm front came in with a fury and wind gusts over 50mph! It nearly flattened my lightweight backpacking tent and threaten to tip the KLR over(again!). I had to tie them both to trees until the storm past. The campground gets its name from the fact that Dawson Creek is the official start, or mile “0” of the Alaska-Canada Highway( AlCan for short). The other end of the highway is roughly 1400 miles northwest in Delta Junction, Alaska just south of Fairbanks. Tomorrow I start my run up the famous AlCan.

Day 13 Banff, Alberta to Jasper National Park

Day 13 Banff, Alberta to Jasper National Park     09/02/10     Mileage: 327 

After putting the KLR’s rear end back together, we packed up and went to meet Webble for breakfast. He suggested, in fact, everyone suggested Melissa’s…and specifically the french toast. Well, it lived up to the billing and was really delicious.  

Breakfast at Melissa's

 

Melissa's famous french toast...

 

Paul, Webble, and I in front of Mellisa's...

 

After that Paul and I shot over to the Banff information kiosk…he in search of a map and me to see what the area has to offer besides the town itself. With that done, our ride together had come to an end. Paul was turning the Beemer south back towards Colorado. He was going to try and make it home by Saturday for his son Lance’s first football game. I would continue northwest towards Lake Louise, Jasper an onward to Alaska. So with a final farewell, we parted ways and I was on my own once again. We had such a great time on the road…I miss riding with him already.  

Parting shot...

 

So long my friend, it was great riding with you!

 

My first stop was to check out the Fairmont Banff Springs hotel…and wow is that place spectacular.  

Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel...wow!

 

Fairmont Banff Springs

 

Banff Springs Hotel gold course...quite a setting for a course...

 

   

Downtown Banff...

 

Downtown Banff

 

Next I rode up to an overlook where you could see all of Banff and the surrounding mountains and valley’s…quite a view for sure.  

Banff and the surrounding mountains

 

On my way to my next stop, Morraine Lake and the Valley of the Ten Peaks, I saw a huge elk feeding right by the side of the road!  

Roadside elk...

 

He never gave me a second look as I sat there on the bike for 10 minutes watching and taking pictures.  

Along the way to Lake Louise...

 

Mountains on the way to Lake Louise...

 

The ride to Morraine Lake was great and the lake itself is stunning (thanks to Andria for the suggestion!).  

Morraine Lake and the Valley of the 10 Peaks...

 

Morriane Lake

 

Next stop was the Chateau Lake Louise which is a hotel set on the edge of an alpine lake of the same name that is nearly as stunning as Morraine Lake. The hotel itself is nice, but not in the same league as the Fairmont Banff Springs.  

Lake Louise

 

 After a quick PB and honey on flat bread, it was off to Jasper National Park. On my way I saw my first bear of the trip! Just as the elk did earlier in the day, he could care less that I was there watching and didn’t even look my way.  

Roadside Bear!

 

The scenery as I rode north was unbelievable. My jaw would have dropped to the ground had my helmet chin strap not been there to catch it.  

Jasper National Park along the Icefields Parkway

 

Jasper National Park

 

Jasper National Park

 

Jasper National Park

 

Jasper National Park

 

Jasper National Park

 

Glacier in Jasper National Park

 

Home for the night would be the Honeymoon campground about 30 miles south of Jasper where I got some great twilight pictures of the mountains reflecting in the lake.  

Honeymoon Lake, Jasper National Park

 

Now that seat has a view for sure...

 

Could be one of the best pictures I've ever taken...

 

Yep, that's a good pic for sure...

 

Tomorrow it’s on to the town of Jasper, then Dawson Creek.

Poker in the rear….

So, after yesterdays second tip over, the right side rear sub-frame and side bag rack were bent inwards requiring a little backyard ingenuity. We had to bend the rear rack back out, and we needed to apply some brute force…and what we needed was a strong lever, say, like a steel fireplace poker! 

Poker inserted into the rear....subframe rack that is.

 

After the poker was inserted, it was time to apply some brute force, or at least as much force as a doughy IT desk jokey can apply. 

Applying some pressure...

 

The top rack had also been tweaked upward, so we strapped the poker across the back rack and bent it back downward. 

Mission accomplished!

 

OK, so it ain’t perfect, but its way better than it was. The only casualty was a severely bent poker, but at least her rear looks great!