This is the only photo I took on this day so I might as well take this opportunity to explain the pirate flag you see in my campground shots.  Kenny Chesney had a hit song about "..trading it all for a whole 'nother world, a pirate flag and an island girl."
                                                                                                                                                                     Somewhat pertinent lines:
"Well my friends back home think I've gone and lost my mind,                                                                           Take a sip of rum and you really would know why,
Jolly Roger flying on the picnic table,
Blender in the kitchen, willin' and able..."  The only island girls were the two decals on my bike and there was no blender and few kitchens but many of my non-riding friends were convinced I'd lost my mind!
Eating the Elephant
 
here is a saying:  "How do you eat an elephant?; one bite at a time."

And that is how one does a motorcycle trip to Alaska and back from Texas, one mile at a time.  So it was that back in the summer of 2012 I started planning what will probably be my last visit to the Big State.  I'm no stranger to long trips having made the trip to Alaska from both Colorado and Arizona.  But that was back in 1994 and 1995.  I've aged a bit since then and sleeping on the ground is not nearly as easy as it was back then.  But back to the planning for 2013. 

I bought a gently used 2004 Suzuki Vstrom DL650 with 29,500 miles on the clock.  It had some of the 'farkles' that I would want but I added more: heated grips, skip plate, highway pegs, Givi racks (I already had the bags on my KLR), and some electrical mods.  The bike came with a Chinese Givi knockoff top box which I mounted to the rack with bolts since I wouldn't be removing it.  I ran wiring to the top box for two power outlets and fitted each with a USB adapter.  These would be used for charging various items while I was on the move.  Turned out to be one of the best things I would do to the bike.  I also installed a 'BMW type' power outlet up by my left knee where I could plug in my electric jacket.  And although I did use the heated jacket on occasion, it turned out that heat was more of an issue than cold!  More on that later.

I upgraded my sleeping bag to down for warmth and obtained a number of small items such as a air pad that it inside the sleeping bag and took up about the same amount of space as a 16oz soft drink and a towel that dries quickly and takes up a very small amount of space.  I also cut back on the amount of clothes I took (too many cold weather items, not enough warm weather shirts).  When I was through 'compacting' things, everything fit into my top box (clothes), my two 35 Liter Givi panniers and two seat bags.  My Helen Two Wheels large bag contained my sleeping bag, pillow, air pad and tent while a small water proof bag held my rain gear and a small camp chair (used only once.)  The small bag was attached to the large one with small Rok straps and the large bag to the pillion area with large Rok straps.  I've never used Rok straps before but I'm a believer now!  Having the rain gear close at hand was a good idea as it was used frequently.  So that is pretty much it for the preliminaries. 

I had lots of folks express a desire to ride along with me but I prefer to travel solo.  As it was I did agree to travel to Denver and then on to Montana with my friend Lee from Pipe Creek.  And my oldest and best riding buddy, Denver Chuck, agreed to ride from Denver into Montana with me.  I would have liked to have had Chuck along for the entire trip as he and I get along really well on the long rides but he was unable to do it this time.  Also, I had a request from a young lady who wanted to ride with me back from Dust to Dawson.  She is from the Bay Area and was going to ride up with some other folks and didn't want to ride alone on the way back.  I was hesitant to agree as I'd never met her let alone ridden with her but we exchanged many emails and had a Skype conversation.  She turned out to be a good rider and we were pretty compatible from a mileage, speed and food (important to both of us) standpoint.  Due to logistics we ended up only riding together about four days but we had no issues.  We both hated the 100 miles of gravel across the Denali Highway and felt that it ruined the beauty of the ride since we had to concentrate so hard on not going down.  And so on to The Ride Report.

I won't do this day by day as several of them had nothing special to report but I'll cover the entire trip in one way or another.
June 8, 2013.  Saturday morning, 5:30 am.  I met my friend Lee at the turnoff to Polly's Peak, not far from Pipe Creek.  We rode to and through Kerrville where I opted to take the Harper Road route to Mason and then head straight north on 385? to Amarillo.  I planned on camping at Lake Meredith Recreation Area, a ride of about 600 miles.  We passed through Harper just as it was getting light, me leading and Lee quite a ways back.  I'd gone probably five miles or so when I realized that I didn't see Lee's light behind me.  I pulled over and waited a few minutes but when he didn't show up, I went back to see if he'd had trouble.  What I found almost put an end to my trip:  Lee was lying in the middle of the highway and his bike was crumpled on it's side on the right shoulder.  There was a man and a woman stopped but Lee already had his helmet off and was on the phone with 911.  I took the phone from him and told them what I could about where we were and his obvious injuries.  He was covered with blood and his left arm was scraped nearly to the bone.  Turns out he hit a deer (which was lying dead nearby.)  Since Lee had called 911, it was only a couple minutes before the First Responders started showing up.  Long story short, they transported him to Harper and then by Airlife to BAMC (Brooks Army Medical Center).  He would spend a week in ICU there as they found he'd broken most of his ribs on his left side and one was 'floating.'  He has a long recovery ahead of him.  Anyway, I was really shook up and didn't know what to do.  I knew he would want me to go on but I felt like I was abandoning him.  Part of this feeling came from the fact that I was not there to help him since I didn't realize he was no longer behind me.  And I suppose part of it was 'Survivor Guilt,' knowing that it was my decision to take the Harper Road and it could have been me instead of him.  But I did what I could; waited for the wrecker to take his bike and called his son to advise him of the wreck and where his dad was.  I motored on then to Lake Meredith where I camped, first night out, first bite of the elephant.  Like several of my days and nights, this one has a story.  I had planned the campsite in advance through the Internet and know right where it was…..I thought.  It was not there but I saw a sign for a trailhead and campground, .9 miles down a gravel road.  First dirt of the trip.  At the end of the gravel I came to the trailhead and about 30 campers with their horses!  As I was surveying the situation, a gentleman approached and asked if I was looking for a quiet camp spot.  I agreed that this did not look like what I wanted and he told me that back a few hundred yards was a road off to the side that would take me to some sheltered sites with toilets and fire pits.  Sounded good so off I went.  And there they were, two metal roofed shelters, each covering two tables on concrete pads.  I selected the closest one to the road and was able to ride up on the concrete at the end of one of the tables and under the shelter.  This turned out to be a good thing as the big storm that had been following me around finally showed up about dark.  Golf ball hail and 40 mph winds.  I stood on the table to get away from as much of the rain and hail as possible and it only lasted about 15 minutes.  My tent was up and stayed that way fortunately.  After the rain and hail quit, I was treated to a wild light show complete with sound effects.  No more problems, I slept well and was up and away about 8:00 am, planning on attending Church in Dumas.  However when I arrived there I was told there would be no services today.  So it was on to Denver via 385 to Limon and I 70 to Chuck's.

June 9th was spent with my daughter and grand kids including my two great grandsons!

June 11, 2013.  Chuck and I headed out to Fort Collins where we met up with a friend of his whom I hadn't seen for several years.  We had breakfast with him before taking off for Sheridan where we had reservations at the KOA.  Nothing of note until the rain came as we started to unpack at the KOA.  It was a 40 day rain and resulted in flooding the campground.  We moved on to a Motel for the night where we tried to dry things out.

June 12, 2013.  We rode Highway 14A through the mountains to Cody, then picked up the Chief Joseph and then the north end of the Beartooth.  I had not ridden any of these three and it was a real treat.  (insert photos here).  We stopped in Red Lodge just as it started to rain and ate lunch while it rained.  It was done when we were so we headed out on Highway 78 to Columbus where we moteled it again, fearful of more rain.  Chuck had planned on riding up to Great Falls and then heading over to Glacier National Park but the Going to the Sun Highway was still closed by snow.

June 13th, nothing of note other than we rode together to White Sulphur Springs where Chuck turned back and I headed on to Sweetgrass, MT, where I crossed into Canada.  I camped that night at Chain Lakes Provincial Park, rained all night.

June 14th, 2013.  I had planned on taking Highway 40, the Kananaskis Trail, but it was not open yet so I stayed on 22 and bypassed Calgary (Plan B).  It was on 22 that my Zumo GPS quit working.  I rely heavily on GPS so I stopped in Canmore and bought a cheap Nuvi that would suffice for the rest of the trip.  My timing was good as weather was OK all the way, including my camp at Whistler Campground outside Jasper.  I seem to recall that it did sprinkle a little during the night but not much.

June 15, 2013.  Some of my worst weather was between Grand Prairie and Dawson Creek, high wind with gusts that threatened to move me either off the road or into oncoming traffic and pea sized hail along with the wind.  I would just pull over and let it blow.  Did this four separate times as gusts hit.  But this would be the last of the weather until Dawson City on June 21st.  I spend the night at a motel in Dawson Creek as planned.  The motel, Traveler's Inn, is owned and operated by a really nice Korean man (I didn't get his name) who was proud of the fact that my HJC helmet is of Korean origin!  I got a very clean, modern room for $84.75 Canadian (tax included) in a town where the Motel 6 is about $125 before tax!  And after a day of horrible weather, $84.75 was well spent.

June 16, 2013.  This day would see my only mechanical problem when my rear TPMS sensor ripped the valve stem off.  I should have replaced the valve stems when I put the new tires on but it didn't even occur to me.  But back to the events of the day, proof to me that my riding is blessed by the Holy Spirit.
In Fort St. John I stopped for breakfast and a WiFi fix at the local McDonalds.  Parked in front were two of the yellowest Goldwings I've ever seen.  I even took a photo of them (and it would not be the last photo of them either) before going inside to meet the riders, Jim Ryan and Rick Kellogg.  They were camped outside town and had just come into town for breakfast.  After eating, I said I'd see them down the road and took off.  I was stopped in Ft. Nelson for a snack when they pulled into the same place (Wendy's?).  We again talked a bit before I took off ahead of them.  Then 15 miles from Fort Nelson I felt the wobble that comes from a flat rear tire.  I was standing there wondering what I would do since a patch was not going to work when Jim and Rick pulled up.  I pulled the tire and wheel and Jim strapped it to the top of his trailer and away then went.  About 30 minutes later they returned with the repaired tire!  They said they found the only tire place in town as the young man was locking the door (Sunday, Father's Day in the US, not sure about Canada) but convinced him to open up and fix my tire.  $20!  I put the tire back on and rode with Jim and Rick for the next two days, camping with them at Muncho Lake. 
We parted ways in Watson Lake; was never able to get them to take any money other than the $20.

June 17, 2013.  Another eventful day.  After riding from Muncho Lake to Watson Lake, where I had planned on spending a lay-over day doing laundry and resting, I learned from the lady at the sign forest that the Campbell Highway was not recommended for travel.  But I got a hammer and some nails from her and nailed up a Texas motorcycle license plate (insert photo).  When I returned the hammer, she asked me what kind of bike I was riding then proceeded to tell me that her husband had just purchased a KLR 650 and didn't know anything about it.  She also wanted to know where I was planning on staying.  When I told her I was planning on the RV park in town, she told me that her husband had a converted school bus that I could stay in.  She said it was "rustic" but was in out of the weather (there was no weather at the time though….).  So she gave me directions to Twilight Services, the local lumberyard, where I was to ask for John.  I did and after taking a look at his KLR, a late model, and telling him about the doohickey, he gave me the nickel tour of the bus.  I was happy to stay there and offered to stay and help him out the next day.  He didn't need any help though and I decided to go on to Whitehorse and then to Dawson City a day early.  I used the WiFi (John's wife gave me the code for the business WiFi) and arranged to share a camp site on Wednesday in Dawson with Tom Simes from Anchorage.

June 18, 2013.  Not much to say about this day.  I rode to Whitehorse and camped at the Robert Service Campground.  I'd used the showers there on one of my previous trips and it seemed like a good place to camp.  It was here that I met two Tiger XC riders, Mike and Gary.  Mike was from Victoria Island and Gary from near Edmonton.  I would end up riding with Mike from Dawson to Tok on Saturday.

June 19th.  I had a heck of a time finding my way out of Whitehorse, even with my new GPS!  Finally had to go back into town and start over.  The road to Dawson City is interesting but in a dreary sort of way.  Once in Dawson I found the Gold Rush Campground and checked in.  Tom had emailed them to expect me so all went smoothly.  Smoothly except for the camp site ground…..it was large, sharp rock, difficult to drive a stake into and not much good for sleeping on, even with my pad. 

June 20, 2013.  I moved into the Triple J Hotel where I would be for the next two nights.  It was nice to be in a hotel again and I enjoyed a good shower.  Not much going on this day but eating.  Oh, and visiting a paddle wheel graveyard!  Tom told us how to find the fabled graveyard of the old steamships that hauled people and supplies up and down the Yukon before there was a road.  We took the ferry across the river and rode to the end of the campground.  Bushwhacking our way along the river for a few hundred yards, we finally ran out of bank and had to turn inland.  It was then that we found the trail that no one had mentioned!  It took us right to the remains of two old paddle wheelers; one that could only be discerned with some imagination and one that was fairly complete (insert photos).  Later I also found that the hotel bar had Guinness in cans.  I had a one….OK, I had several.  They were VERY good and I had been Guinness deprived for far too long. 

June 21, 2013.  Summer Solstice!  Tom talked me into signing up for the poker run even though it was raining and the roads were sure to be muddy.  In retrospect, I would not have gone had I known just how muddy they really would be.  But Tom was riding a 1984 Honda CX500 Silverwing with street tires so I figured it couldn't be TOO bad.  Well, it was.  And to top it off, in addition to sliding all over the place and nearly losing it a time or too, I drew horrible cards!  Not even a little pair!  After we got back to town, and used the pressure washer to wash most of the mud off of both us and the bikes, the rain let up and it turned off great.  The banquet was at 7:00 pm, followed by street games (slow ride, bite the wiener, etc) at 10:00 pm.  Remember, this is the land of the Midnight Sun.  After the obligatory group photo, some of us rode up to the summit of Midnight Dome where the sun was trying to set but not getting the job done.  So I took some photos of the sunset over the Yukon River and called it a day.

June 22, 2013.  Mike and I rode together, taking the ferry across the river and heading up the Top of the World Highway.  We watched gathering storm clouds all the way to the AK border where, while stopped for customs, it began to rain and hail.  We got our rain gear on and then paddled through slop for several miles as torrents of rain ran down the road.  It finally quit before Chicken and we stopped there for lunch.  After lunch we continued on to Tok and Thompson's Eagle's Claw motorcycle campground.  I was to share the teepee with Nancy and did.  But I didn't sleep well, the cot was too narrow or something and I had lots of pain; back, legs and knees, one of the worst nights on the trip.  But to offset the night, I did pick up a 6 pack of Guinness in bottles (not my favorite but will do in a pinch) which Mike and I shared while I chowed down on a dinner of canned soup.  He wasn't hungry yet so just had a couple Guinness.  I saved two of the Guinness and had them the next night after traversing the fabled Denali Highway.

June 23, 2013.  Nancy and I had reservations at the Denali Morning Mountain Hostel just outside the park and we had a long day planned to get there so we left fairly early after saying adios to Mike and Gary.  One thing on my bucket list was to complete the last few miles of the Alaskan Highway from Tok to Delta Junction.  The highway does continue on to Fairbanks but Delta Junction was the terminus of the original war-time highway construction.  So anyway, we rode to the Junction and turned south on the Richardson Highway to Paxon where we picked up the Denali Highway to Cantwell.  Although all the highways in Alaska and Canada have numbers, they are always referred to by name rather than number.  The first 30 miles of the Denali are paved but then comes the fun: one hundred miles of gravel road.  And in some places the gravel was several inches deep, grabbing the front tire and threatening to put us down.  Speed was our friend on the gravel but neither of us could bring ourselves to make friends with it so we putted along, Nancy standing on the pegs most of the 'hundred while I stood only when I felt it absolutely necessary (old legs and knees don't like standing and taking the pounding!)  We stopped at Gracious House Lodge where we found a couple pieces of pretty good pie and a character who flies folks around during the summer in a little bush plane (folks in Alaska have airplanes like folks in Texas have pickup trucks.)  Nancy asked him how it was there in the winter and he laughed and said he has a place in Arizona for the winters!  

June 24, 2013.  Might have been just another day in Alaska except for a couple things that make it stand out.  First of all, you have to hear The Tire Story from the beginning.  About two months before my planned departure from Texas, I began to plan a tire change along the way.  As I mulled it over and computed the mileage and my prospective miles per tire, I decided that the simplest was to purchase new tires in Anchorage at the Suzuki shop.  Then from the various forums I learned that it was not that expensive to mail a tire there.  I asked a friend of mine to check with the Pipe Creek Post Office as to the cost and he came away with $35.00.  Now I had installed a new set of Shinko 705s back in May but they now had about 900 miles on them.  Not knowing exactly how many miles I could get out of a rear, I decided to put new tires all around and mail the rear to Anchorage (they said they would mount and balance the tire for $36.00 off the bike.)  I was pretty sure the front would last the entire trip. So now the rest of the story as Paul Harvey was want to say.  It is difficult for me to get to the Pipe Creek PO from work before they close and I didn't want to haul the tire into town with me.  So once again, friend Shawn said he goes to the PO every day, he would mail it for me.  I put the Suzuki Arctic Cat address on the tire along with my name and Lakehills, TX 78063.  Shawn watched as they put the bar coded postage on the tire and scanned it into the system.  They also provided him with the tracking number which he forwarded to me.  This was on June 3rd and they promised Shawn it would be in Anchorage by June 19th (my plan was to be there to pick it up on the 24th so I wanted to give the USPS some wiggle room.  Little did I know!  Anyhow, on the 4th I put the tracking number back into the system and saw that not only did it get scanned at Pipe Creek and sent to the main mail sort facility in San Antonio, someone in San Antonio decided it must have come from Anchorage and was to be delivered to me in Lakehills!  Never mind that it had a metered postage and a bar code that would have told them where it was going.  So anyway, they sent it back to Pipe Creek for delivery to me.  I hit the ceiling as did Shawn!  He went to the Post Office and in his subtle way, explained just what he thought of them and their stupidity.  I got on the phone and started screaming at anyone who would listen.  Between the two of us, we learned that the Pipe Creek PO realized what had happened, and trusting that it wouldn't happen again, sent it back to San Antonio, hopefully this time to get routed on to Alaska.  My fear was that even if it survived the brilliance of San Antonio, that someone else between there and Alaska would think the same thing and send it back again!  So I signed up for email tracking reports.  When two days passed without an email, I checked the tracking and found a note saying the tire was out for delivery in Lakehills!  I went ballistic for the second time in a week and this time I visited the Pipe Creek Post Office.  I simply told the nice man that I was there to pick up my tire.  When he seemed confused, I explained that I had mailed a tire to Alaska and it had been sent back to me and now was 'out for delivery'.  Since I hadn't received it at home, I figured they must be holding it for me at the PO.  He spluttered and stammered and then said, "we sent it back to San Antonio, it is on its way to Alaska."  When I asked him to explain why then the tracking system didn't show it on its way, he did explain.  Seems the USPS 'tracking' system is only as good as the folks who operate it.  And if we ever had any doubts about that, they had been erased by this fiasco.  It is up to the individual stops along the way to scan the bar code and if they don't, that is not a problem (for the USPS.)  To make a long and potentially sad story shorter and happier, the tire was scanned one more time somewhere in Washington State and then did arrive at the Suzuki shop in plenty of time.  There was a moment of panic when I called the shop from McDonalds (where I was having a cup of coffee and a WiFi fix) to make sure it was there and the shop foreman didn't know what I was talking about.  He came back on the phone in a moment though and said "yes, its here."  Whew!  I hit a car wash and cleaned off the majority of the mud, learned that the shop was only a few blocks from Mickey D's and the car wash, then rolled in and parked in the shade.  Did I mention that it was about 90 degrees in Anchorage?  It was.  I pulled the tire and they mounted and balanced it in short order.  Soon I was on my way to the Alaska Backpacker Hostel.  It was the worst place I would stay for the entire trip; the photo on line was of a little house while the room I had booked was in an old hotel converted into hovels, not hostels!  The bed consisted of a box spring with no mattress over which I placed my sleeping bag and air pad.  I was too hot and tired to complain (it did have TV and AC.) 

June 25, 2013.  I was never so glad to see a city in my rear view mirror as I was to see Anchorage from that viewpoint.  Oh, forgot, there was one very good thing about the layover in Anchorage:  Tom Simes (remember him from Dawson City?) emailed me to tell me that he had a Sena base plate to replace the one I broke in Watson Lake.  He rode over to the Suzuki shop and delivered a 'new in the box' Sena boom mike base plate.  He said it came with his Sena and he only uses the closed face mike.  He would take no payment for it either.  What a guy!  Anyway, I rode north from Alaska to Paxton? and took the Glen Highway to ? where I met Nancy for late breakfast.  She spent the night in Wasilla with someone she met somewhere along the way.  The Glen was one of my favorite roads with gorgeous views of the Suskind river and glacier along with a nicely twisted highway.  After breakfast, we rode on to Glen Ellen for gas and then to Beaver Creek for a camp site.  Tomorrow would take us on into Haines and one mor e night before catching the ferry for Prince Rupert.  It was in Beaver Creek that I left my sun glasses in the bar (I guess) after catching up on my Guinness consumption at ??.

June 26, 2013.  It was a pretty good haul from Beaver Creek to Haines but we hit the construction early enough that we didn't have to sit in line.  I did learn before leaving for AK that motorcycles are expected to go to the front of the line when there is construction and a pilot car.  I guess it is to keep us out of the dust; but for whatever reason, it is nice of them.  Someone had told Nancy about ?? outside Haines and she was determined that we would get there by 2:30 to make the late show.  As it was we arrived early enough, and the early show was late enough, that we made the early show.  It was great, that is all I can say.  We saw a wolf, arctic foxes, brown bear (better known as grizzly), arctic lynx, pine martin, weasel, mooses (meese?), caribou/reindeer, and best of all, a wolverine on a leash!  He played with his handler like a big dog!  (insert photos and link to site).  Lodging that night was Bear Creek Cabins Hostel where I had a four bunk 'house' to myself until a late arrival showed up at midnight.  It rained all night and was raining when we left for the ferry the next morning but our gear was all dry at least.

June 27, 2013.  Arrived at the Ferry at 6:15 am per instructions.  We had already ridden over the night before to find the dock (it is out of town about 5 miles) and get my ticket.  Nancy already had hers since she purchased a round trip on the way up.  We were the fourth and fifth bikes in line and shortly thereafter, more showed up.  We were first on when they finally finished loading some semi-trailers.  They have a unique way of shipping goods to the towns down the peninsula:  a little semi tractor hooks on to a trailer and takes it on to the ferry where it is unhooked and secured.  The tractor then comes back and gets another trailer and so on.  When they get to Juneau or Ketchikan or wherever, another little tractor goes onto the ferry and picks up the trailers left there at the previous docking.  This goes on at each stop, night and day .

There is a saying:  "How do you eat an elephant?; one bite at a time."

And that is how one does a motorcycle trip to Alaska and back from Texas:  one mile at a time.  So it was that back in the summer of 2012 I started planning what will probably be my last visit to the Big State.  I m no stranger to long trips having made the trip to Alaska from both Colorado and Arizona.  But that was back in 1994 and 1995.  I ve aged a bit since then and sleeping on the ground is not nearly as easy as it was back then.  But back to the planning for 2013. 

I bought a gently used 2004 Suzuki Vstrom DL650 with 29,500 miles on the clock.  It had some of the  farkles  that I would want but I added more: heated grips, skid plate, highway pegs, Givi racks (I already had the bags on my KLR), and some electrical mods.  The bike came with a Chinese Givi knockoff top box which I mounted to the rack with bolts since I wouldn t be removing it.  I ran wiring to the top box for two power outlets and fitted each with a USB adapter.  These would be used for charging various items while I was on the move.  Turned out to be one of the best things I would do to the bike.  I also installed a  BMW type  power outlet up by my left knee where I could plug in my electric jacket.  And although I did use the heated jacket on occasion, it turned out that heat was more of an issue than cold!  More on that later.  Here is the bike on day one:
I upgraded my sleeping bag to down for warmth and obtained a number of small items such as an air pad that fits inside the sleeping bag and took up about the same amount of space as a 16oz soft drink and a towel that dries quickly and takes up a very small amount of space.  I also cut back on the amount of clothes I took (too many cold weather items, not enough warm weather shirts).  When I was through  compacting  things, everything fit into my top box (clothes), my two 35 Liter Givi panniers and two seat bags.  My Helen Two Wheels large bag contained my sleeping bag, pillow, air pad and tent while a small water proof bag held my rain gear and a small camp chair (used only once.)  The small bag was attached to the large one with small Rok straps and the large bag to the pillion area with large Rok straps.  I ve never used Rok straps before but I m a believer now!  Having the rain gear close at hand was a good idea as it was used frequently.  So that is pretty much it for the preliminaries. 

I had lots of folks express a desire to ride along with me but I prefer to travel solo.  As it was I did agree to travel to Denver and then on to Montana with my friend Lee from Pipe Creek.  And my oldest and best riding buddy, Denver Chuck, agreed to ride from Denver into Montana with me.  I would have liked to have had Chuck along for the entire trip as he and I get along really well on the long rides but he was unable to do it this time.  Also, I had a request from a young lady who wanted to ride with me back from Dust to Dawson.  She is from the Bay Area and was going to ride up with some other folks and didn t want to ride alone on the way back.  I was hesitant to agree as I d never met her let alone ridden with her but we exchanged many emails and had a Skype conversation.  She turned out to be a good rider and we were pretty compatible from a mileage, speed and food (important to both of us) standpoint.  Due to logistics we ended up only riding together about four days but we had no issues.  We both hated the 100 miles of gravel across the Denali Highway and felt that it ruined the beauty of the ride since we had to concentrate so hard on not going down.  And so on to The Ride Report.
I won t do this precisely day by day as several of them had nothing special to report but I ll cover the entire trip in one way or another.

June 8, 2013.  Saturday morning, 5:30 am.  I met my friend Lee at the turnoff to Polly s Peak, not far from Pipe Creek.  We rode to and through Kerrville where I opted to take the Harper Road route to Mason and then head straight north to Amarillo.  I planned on camping at Lake Meredith Recreation Area, a ride of about 600 miles.  We passed through Harper just as it was getting light, me leading and Lee quite a ways back.  I d gone probably five miles or so when I realized that I didn t see Lee s light behind me.  I pulled over and waited a few minutes but when he didn t show up, I went back to see if he d had trouble.  What I found almost put an end to my trip:  Lee was lying in the middle of the highway and his bike was crumpled on it s side on the right shoulder.  There was a man and a woman stopped but Lee already had his helmet off and was on the phone with 911.  I took the phone from him and told them what I could about where we were and his obvious injuries.  He was covered with blood and his left arm was scraped nearly to the bone.  Turns out he hit a deer (which was lying dead nearby.)  Since Lee had called 911, it was only a couple minutes before the First Responders started showing up.  Long story short, they transported him to Harper and then by Airlife to BAMC (Brooks Army Medical Center).  He would spend a week in ICU there as they found he d broken most of his ribs on his left side and one was  floating.   He has a long recovery ahead of him.  Anyway, I was really shook up and didn t know what to do.  I knew he would want me to go on but I felt like I was abandoning him.  Part of this feeling came from the fact that I was not there to help him since I didn t realize he was no longer behind me.  And I suppose part of it was  Survivor Guilt,  knowing that it was my decision to take the Harper Road and it could have been me instead of him.  But I did what I could; waited for the wrecker to take his bike and called his son to advise him of the wreck and where his dad was.
I motored on then to Lake Meredith where I camped, first night out, first bite of the elephant.  Like several of my days and nights, this one has a story.  I had planned the campsite in advance through the Internet and knew right where it was…..I thought.  It was not there but I saw a sign for a trailhead and campground, 9/10 miles down a gravel road.  First dirt of the trip.  At the end of the gravel I came to the trailhead and about 30 campers with their horses!  As I was surveying the situation, a gentleman approached and asked if I was looking for a quiet camp spot.  I agreed that this did not look like what I wanted and he told me that back a few hundred yards was a road off to the side that would take me to some sheltered sites with toilets and fire pits.  Sounded good so off I went.  And there they were, two metal roofed shelters, each covering two tables on concrete pads.  I selected the closest one to the road and was able to ride up on the concrete at the end of one of the tables and under the shelter.  This turned out to be a good thing as the big storm that had been following me around finally showed up about dark.  Golf ball hail and 40 mph winds.  I stood on the table to get away from as much of the rain and hail as possible and it only lasted about 15 minutes.  My tent was up and stayed that way fortunately.  After the rain and hail quit, I was treated to a wild light show complete with sound effects.  No more problems, I slept well and was up and away about 8:00 am June 10th, planning on attending Church in Dumas.  However when I arrived there I was told there would be no services today.  So it was on to Denver via 385 to Limon and I 70 to Chuck s.
June 10th was spent with my daughter and grand kids including my two great grandsons!

June 11, 2013.  Chuck and I headed out to Fort Collins where we met up with a friend of his whom I hadn t seen for several years.  We had breakfast with him before taking off for Sheridan where we had reservations at the KOA.  Nothing of note until the rain came as we started to unpack at the KOA.  It was a 40 day rain and resulted in flooding the campground.  We moved on to a Motel for the night where we tried to dry things out.
June 12, 2013.  We rode Highway 14A through the mountains to Cody, then picked up the Chief Joseph and then the north end of the Beartooth.  I had not ridden any of these three and it was a real treat.  We stopped in Red Lodge just as it started to rain and ate lunch while it rained.  It was done when we were so we headed out on Highway 78 to Columbus where we moteled it again, fearful of more rain.  Chuck had planned on riding up to Great Falls and then heading over to Glacier National Park but the Going to the Sun Highway was still closed by snow.
June 13th, nothing of note other than we rode together to White Sulphur Springs where Chuck turned back and I headed on to Sweetgrass, MT, where I crossed into Canada.  I camped that night at Chain Lakes Provincial Park where it rained all night, quitting just long enough for me to pack up a wet tent.
June 14th, 2013.  I had planned on taking Highway 40, the Kananaskis Trail, but it was not open yet so I stayed on 22 and bypassed Calgary (Plan B).  It was on 22 that my Zumo GPS quit working.  I rely heavily on GPS so I stopped in Canmore and bought a cheap Nuvi that would suffice for the rest of the trip.  My timing was good as weather was OK all the way, including my camp at Whistler Campground outside Jasper.  I seem to recall that it did sprinkle a little during the night but not much
June 15, 2013.  Some of my worst weather was between Grand Prairie and Dawson Creek, high wind with gusts that threatened to move me either off the road or into oncoming traffic and pea sized hail along with the wind.  I would just pull over and let it blow.  Did this four separate times as gusts hit.  But this would be the last of the weather until Dawson City on June 21st.  I spent the night at a motel in Dawson Creek as planned.  The motel, Traveler's Inn, is owned and operated by a really nice Korean man, Mr. Kim, who was proud of the fact that my HJC helmet is of Korean origin!  I got a very clean, modern room for $84.75 Canadian (tax included) in a town where the Super 8 is about $125 before tax!  And after a day of horrible weather, $84.75 was well spent.
June 16, 2013 (Father's Day and my daughter's birthday, neither of which would be celebrated this day.)  This day would see my only mechanical problem when my rear TPMS sensor ripped the valve stem off.  I should have replaced the valve stems when I put the new tires on but it didn t even occur to me.  But back to the events of the day, proof to me that my riding is blessed by the Holy Spirit.
In Fort St. John I stopped for breakfast and a WiFi fix at the local McDonalds.  Parked in front were two of the yellowest Goldwings I ve ever seen.  I even took a photo of them (and it would not be the last photo of them either) before going inside to meet the riders, Jim Ryan and Rick Kellogg.  They were camped outside town and had just come into town for breakfast.  After eating, I said I d see them down the road and took off.  I was stopped in Ft. Nelson for a snack when they pulled into the same place (Wendy s?).  We again talked a bit before I took off ahead of them.  Then 15 miles from Fort Nelson I felt the wobble that comes from a flat rear tire.  I was standing there wondering what I would do since a patch was not going to work when Jim and Rick pulled up.  I pulled the tire and wheel and Jim strapped it to the top of his trailer and away then went.  And I found a flower and took a photo.  About 30 minutes later they returned with the repaired tire!  They said they found the only tire place in town as the young man was locking the door but convinced him to open up and fix my tire.  $20!  I put the tire back on and rode with Jim and Rick for the next two days, camping with them at Muncho Lake. 
We parted ways in Watson Lake; was never able to get them to take any money other than the $20.
June 17, 2013.  Another eventful day.  After riding from Muncho Lake to Watson Lake, where I had planned on spending a lay-over day doing laundry and resting, I learned from the lady at the sign forest that the Campbell Highway was not recommended for travel.  But I got a hammer and some nails from her and nailed up a Texas motorcycle license plate.  When I returned the hammer, she asked me what kind of bike I was riding then proceeded to tell me that her husband had just purchased a KLR 650 and didn t know anything about it.  She also wanted to know where I was planning on staying.  When I told her I was planning on the RV park in town, she told me that her husband had a converted school bus that I could stay in.  She said it was "rustic" but was in out of the weather (there was no weather at the time though….).  So she gave me directions to Twilight Services, the local lumberyard, where I was to ask for John.  I did and after taking a look at his KLR, a late model, and telling him about the doohickey, he gave me the nickel tour of the bus.  I was happy to stay there and offered to stay and help him out the next day.  He didn t need any help though and I decided to go on to Whitehorse and then to Dawson City a day early.  I used the WiFi (John s wife gave me the code for the business WiFi) and arranged to share a camp site on Wednesday in Dawson with Tom Simes from Anchorage.
June 19, 2003 I had a heck of a time finding my way out of Whitehorse, even with my new GPS!  Finally had to go back into town and start over.  The road to Dawson City is interesting but in a dreary sort of way.  Once in Dawson I found the Gold Rush Campground and checked in.  Tom had emailed them to expect me so all went smoothly.  Smoothly except for the camp site ground…..it was large, sharp rock, difficult to drive a stake into and not much good for sleeping on, even with my pad.
June 20, 2013.  I moved into the Triple J Hotel where I would be for the next two nights.  It was nice to be in a hotel again and I enjoyed a good shower.  Not much going on this day but eating.  Oh, and visiting a paddle wheel graveyard!  Tom told Mike and I how to find the fabled graveyard of the old steamships that hauled people and supplies up and down the Yukon before there was a road.  We took the ferry across the river and rode to the end of the campground.  Bushwhacking our way along the river for a few hundred yards, we finally ran out of bank and had to turn inland.  It was then that we found the trail that no one had mentioned!  It took us right to the remains of two old paddle wheelers; one that could only be discerned with some imagination and one that was fairly complete.  Later I also found that the hotel bar had Guinness in cans.  I had one….OK, I had several.  They were VERY good and I had been Guinness deprived for far too long.
June 21, 2013.  Summer Solstice!  Tom talked me into signing up for the poker run even though it was raining and the roads were sure to be muddy.  In retrospect, I would not have gone had I known just how muddy they really would be.  But Tom was riding a 1984 Honda CX500 Silverwing with street tires so I figured it couldn't be TOO bad.  Well, it was.  And to top it off, in addition to sliding all over the place and nearly losing it a time or too, I drew horrible cards!  Not even a little pair!  After we got back to town, and used the pressure washer to wash most of the mud off of both us and the bikes, the rain let up and it turned out great.  The banquet was at 7:00 pm, followed by street games (slow ride, bite the wiener, etc) at 10:00 pm.  Remember, this is the land of the Midnight Sun.  After the obligatory group photo, some of us rode up to the summit of Midnight Dome where the sun was trying to set but not getting the job done.  So I took some photos of the sunset over the Yukon River and called it a day.
June 22, 2013.  Mike and I rode together, taking the ferry across the river and heading up the Top of the World Highway.  We watched gathering storm clouds all the way to the AK border where, while stopped for customs, it began to rain and hail.  We got our rain gear on and then paddled through slop for several miles as torrents of rain ran down the road.  It finally quit before Chicken and we stopped there for lunch.  After lunch we continued on to Tok and Thompson s Eagle s Claw motorcycle campground.  I was to share the teepee with Nancy and did.  But I didn t sleep well, the cot was too narrow or something and I had lots of pain; back, legs and knees, one of the worst nights on the trip.  But to offset the night, I did pick up a 6 pack of Guinness in bottles (not my favorite method of packaging but will do in a pinch) which Mike and I shared while I chowed down on a dinner of canned soup.  He wasn t hungry yet so just had a couple Guinness.  I saved two of the Guinness and had them the next night after traversing the fabled Denali Highway.


Lake Meredith area, dinner and approaching storm
Tiger down
Tiger up
Spectacular Highways:  US 14; WY 296, Chief Joseph; US 212, The Beartooth.
Chain Lakes Provincial Camp Ground
My favorite Canadian Highway, the Icelands Parkway.  And Athabasca Falls near Jasper.
Left to right:  lonely highway, ooops - where's my wheel?, killing time with nature, my saviors (and a tourist)
June 18, 2013.  Not much to say about this day.  I rode to Whitehorse and camped at the Robert Service Campground.  I d used the showers there on one of my previous trips and it seemed like a good place to camp.  It was here that I met two Tiger XC riders, Mike and Gary.  Mike was from Victoria Island and Gary from near Edmonton.  I would end up riding with Mike from Dawson to Tok on Saturday.
Muncho Lake Provincial Camp Ground (and some shots of the lake, taken about 11:15 at night.)
TX MC plate at the sign forest; 'the wheels on the bus (don't) go round and round...'; views from the interior.
Yukon River, not sure just where; Five Finger Rapids of the Yukon; access to them; Suzuki DL650 'Voyager.'
We could barely make out the name of the ship, "Seattle No 3";  Middle pic is of friend Mike from Victoria, BC.  At one time it is believed there were seven of these old ships in the graveyard.
Poker run photos: the restored dredge, one of many that operated here up into the 50's; mud photos that do not do justice to the 'slop and slip' progress that Tom and I made.
The Midnight Sun from atop Midnnight Dome, Dawson City, Yukon, June 22 (12:20 am), 2013.  It was a big party up there, hard to get a good photo without someone in it!  The rivers in the photos are the Yukon and Klondike at their confluence.
The Dust to Dawson street games started about 10:00 pm, photo 4 shows Tom Simes coming out of the 'slow ride' area after dabing down and disqualifying.  BUT he tried!  And he chastized me for not trying but hey, I was just there for the beer!  (Not really, only had a couple earlier during the banquet.)
Left, the little Catholic church in Dawson City where I attended mass Saturday morning.  I had lots to thank God for!  Middle three are just Top of the World Highway shots and the last shows the gathering storm that got us at the border.
Down town Chicken, AK.  I was last here in 1995 but it has changed little.  Did have a better lunch than last time, and a piece of pretty good blueberry pie.
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