Monday, June 25, 2012

Tar Pits, Bears, and Broken Down on the Alcan

The day started out pretty slow. We got a late start from the Kluane B and B (rustic) on account that the owner doesn’t serve breakfast until 8am. The weather was marginal this morning so we didn’t do the fly over the Kluane Glacier. The morning was a little nippy, and I had to stop and add an extra layer. The road conditions gradually declined until they became downright dicey, even frightening.

We passed a couple up from Colorado, they were both on BMWs – 1200s, which surprised me…. It’s rare to see a woman on a 1200. She was a little frightened about the road. It was dicey in Canada, but when you crossed the US border it got right into “Oh My God” moments several times.  There were large areas that came up quickly where the asphalt was pulverized… it was like someone had laid down a sandbox of loose gravel asphalt but never rolled or pressed it down. Because it was the same color as the rest of the road, you didn’t see it until you were right on top of it.  The day was tiring because you had to pay extra attention for these tar pits.

We also passed a series of “hover-ers.” Hoverers are outhouse along the road that you have to use… or the mosquitos bite your ass… but they are in such poor condition that you don’t want to actually sit on them.. so you hover.  Wow! Talk about some nasty potties… I opted to actual tangle with the bugs in one case. I gave it the “Nastiest Bathroom on this Trip” award. Just outside of Beaver Creek, Yukon Territory, Canada.

 Nasty bathroom of this trip..

We saw bears today. Although we have seen moose, squirrels, rabbits, marmots, and beavers, we have only seen lots of bear poop (I renamed the Haines Highway the Chillskat Road). I have been riding with my Go Pro (movie camera) on for about 4 hours a day… to play with film when I get back home.  I happened to catch them on the side of the road today. They were black bear, a mom and her cub. I passed by so fast, they will probably be specks.

Barbie is sporting a new “do” she also has been nailed a few times on her breasts and arms with bugs..  she seems to be enjoying the ride.

Barbie, after 1800 miles tied to my motorcycle!

I broke down on the side of the road somewhere in Canada.  We stopped at the Nastiest Bathroom, and we noted that the Canadians have covered many of their road and regulation signs with black garbage signs. We pondered when a sign no longer says anything important. It sort of falls into the same place of how much does the road have to be falling apart before you call it a gravel road versus… a paved road with bad spots? I mean when is bad.. bad enough? When does road sign not have meaning? At any rate, Jaz wanted a picture of the non-signs… so we stopped.  I shut my bike off… it wouldn’t start again. At first I thought I hit the kill switch, but no. Then I thought I blew a fuse, so I checked it, and it was fine, but when I seated the fuse back, I had power... so I thought it must have come loose (The road was bumpy and filled with tar pits remember). Then it wouldn't start again.. no power. So I figured it was the battery. It took me 1 minute to tighten the loose cable, but 29 minutes to unpack the saddle bags, take them off, take off both side guards, and the seat... to get to the cable, (and then put it all back together again... ). I got 3 sets of men stop and ask if I needed help, and most were surprised when I waved them on.  But my favorite was when two fellow dual sport riders with Northwestern Territory license plates stopped to see what the problem was and if they could help me with it. I explained that I figured it out and repaired it and was putting the bike back together again. He smiled and said… “Alaskan women are jewels”… waved off and headed down the road.  Grinning sheepishly… I’m a jewel.

Is that Water Safe to Drink?

So we are drinking tonight. We are watching the floaties in the drinks,… and talking about giardia. The “Rustic” B and B.. woman said we could safely drink the water… but still… will the vodka kill everything in the floaties? Will we be stopping the bikes every mile to hit the lou.. Alaskan style tomorrow? Beaver Fever in Beaver?

 That is a clear glass... can you see the lamp behind it?

We got cool pastries in the Village Bakery in Haines Junction.. must do! Cherry strudel.. giardia or not!
We pulled out of Haines this morning after having breakfast at the Bamboo Room.. a local heart attack on a plate kinda joint (they even had an AED – Automatic External Defibrillator on the wall). We wandered around subdivision streets for a bit before we recognized we were lost… yes I know.. in Haines… but nonetheless… it took us a bit to get righted. Once on the road the scenery changed to the Chilkat River. Thousands of eagles congregate on this river every fall/winter to feed of the dead fish (from spawning). Of course, this time of year is not the time to see that, but we happened on a couple of local Alaskan fisherman that were going for sockeye… they spent some time explaining to me that there was a Canadian bar code stamped on the Canadian fish swimming upstream… as opposed to the amerikan fish that were more natural. Listen in.. covert filming.

(By the way, in the time that it took me to type this much of my blog, the floaties have become sediment in my drink… much easier to handle).

B and B woman warned us of a bear in the area last night.  All day I thought about my motorcycle being trashed by a bear on the account that it could smell the protein bars buried deep in my panniers.  Should I take the protein bars into the “rustic” cabin made of flimsy screens and plywood? I think not! I will call a tow truck to recover the bite/slash job to my tires and cables… should that occur.  We are staying right on the beach of Kluane Lake in the middle of a ghost town… Silver City. Although the place is rustic (this meant we slept in the equivalent of Jaz’s plywood shed last night), and the water is questionable, the view was absolutely amazing! I would stay here again.

 Does this not look like a shed?

In the evening we wandered on the beach which is covered with an impressive field of dwarf fireweed before the sand, and then of course there is the teal colored water. I got stuck in the silty clay mud on the beach and nearly had to dig for my shoe (no laughing family members). We walked the entire beach and ghost town area and only came across one pile of bear scat.. as opposed to what Jaz was calling the “Shit Highway” on account of all the bear poop we saw from Haines to the summit. We explored the ruins of Silver City, many of which are on their final leg before they collapse. We didn’t dare go any of the structures but one.
 Me shooting the dwarf fireweed just outside my door on the banks of Kluane Lake.

The ride over the top on the Haines Highway was impressive, although not as impressive as the Klondike… if you can only do one.. do the Klondike. I tried filming the ride, but I forgot to turn the camera on. Keeping up with the Go Pro is more complicated than one would think.

 At the top of Haines Summit - Haines Highway

Here are the things that passed through my crooked mind as I enjoyed this spectacular scenery:
  • My Ipod blew out on the trip. Equipment failure! Unrecoverable.
  • I think it is a good thing to keep the little plastic deodorant protector in place for motor cycle trips… the vibration destroys deodorants.
  • The last hotel (Hisingsomething or rather)had plenty of outlets in it’s rooms.. a first! I could charge everything and not feel guilty for steeling the plugs.
  • It doesn’t take much to make us happy: sunny days, lots of outlets, good coffee, and safe water.
  • I smashed my hand on the ferry… I hope I can drive.. it was my throttle hand. Worse case scenario – I will cut off two fingers on my gloves to accommodate a make shift splint. (Note* My two fingers are stiff and painful, but I can drive – no splint needed).
  • While near Dawson, we stopped for gas. I opened my tank lid and had just finished filling the gas. The level was very high. I was putting the nozzle back and had not closed the tank lid yet, when a big fat fly flew into the open lid. It fell in a stunned stupor.. into the tank. I’m watching it struggle in the deadly fuel,. It dies. My Buddhist mind takes a back seat as I worried what impacts this will have on my motor. I decided that the impact would be great on my motor if I don’t get that fly out soon. I search for a stick (always a first option for women).. I find no suitable stick.. I decide to reach in with my fingers and grab the sucker… this is a big step for me… I grab the fly.. and then throw it out on  the sidewalk,, and don’t look back. My Buddhist tendencies to try to save the fly do not kick in.. my logical self tells me it is too late for the fly…  I move on.
I am sipping my drink down to the sediment line…

This morning we are contemplating a small flight over Kluane Glacier. Kluaine and Wrangell St. Ellias together make the largest park/natural area in the world.  If the weather holds we are going to do it.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Emerald Waters, Prostitution and Pizza, and Jazisms

Today was one of the most beautiful drives! I give the Klondike Highway a 5 star rating in roads I have driven. The road had spectacular scenery that was constantly changing. It had windy turns and curve after curve with lots of pull outs to take pictures.  There were beautiful lakes that are the gorgeous teal green color on account of marl, there was snow, and there was the world’s smallest desert.

Emerald Lake on the Klondike Highway - note the teal colored water

 The headwaters of the mighty Yukon River (almost 2000 miles - 3rd largest river in North amerika)

The day started with Jaz cooking my breakfast. We stayed in a “B and Cook your own Breakfast” last night in Dawson. It was a decent place within walking distance of downtown Whitehorse. We opted for Sanchez’s Cantina for Mexican and a margarita. The food was the best two borders north of the border! Amazing that Whitehorse would have such a gem. We learned later that the women that runs the place spends winters in Mexico with her family.

We hit the grocery store on the way out of town and our observations on Canadian’s still hold true… they only have two speeds: slow and very slow. The Canadian guy next two us overheard us talking about this and added this was the case unless you were from Vancouver or Toronto, and then you were a little faster. He said folks from smaller parts of Canada go to the city for a vacation to speed up temporarily. He was frustrated too.

We headed out of town with a Canadian Mountie on our tail… we were very careful not to speed! The last thing I wanted was a ticket in Canada – he lost interest. Not too far down the road we tuned south and left the Yukon Territory. There were no “Oh Crap” or “Oh My God” moments on this road… nice chipseal all the way. There were less bugs, but also less flowers.  Yesterday on the road from Dawson to Whitehorse the roads were lined on both sides for a couple of hundred miles with wildflowers… purple lines of dwarf fireweed. I failed to get pictures of that.  Next time.

We passed into amerika and into the town of Skagway, Alaska. We rolled right up to the Red Onion, parked and walked in and ordered pizza. For those of you that do not know the Red Onion, it is a must see while visiting Skagway. It is a historic brothel turned pizza place… you can still tour the cribs upstairs for $5, apparently what a client paid in 1898 for 15 minutes.  I picked up a couple of garter belts for souvenirs and we headed out the door to walk the town. The Soapy Smith parlor was sporting a new roof, but the building has a long way to go before it’s finished.

 Inside the Red Onion, Skagway

We caught the early evening ferry for Haines and were checked into the historic Halsingland Hotel at Fort Seward for the evening. We spent the evening dining on lamb and sipping cosmos. Afterwords we walked the National Historic Landmark Fort Seward and took photographs. I took one in particular that made me chuckle. Here is the photo… can you guess why I chuckled? 

 Why is this photo ironic? (Hint: it is a photo of one of the old officer's housing buildings at Historic Fort Seward)

 Ferry approaching Haines dock

 Parked on the sidewalk at the historic Halsingland Hotel in Fort Seward

The Halsingland has historic plumbing too. I messy shower got the floor wet… then Jaz walked in and we almost had a “women down”! It would be a shame to travel as far as we have and her slip in the bathroom and hurt herself. Most accidents occur in the bathroom. I think I will increase my motorcycle mileage and decrease my baths.

Some of my more favorite Jaz (Jazisms) quotes this trip:
“Do right but lean left”
“It’s not what you ride, but how you ride”
“I’m going to reach through the phone and down your throat and rip your lungs out Jim… if my credit card doesn’t work tomorrow” (overhead while she was on the phone)

Off to someplace near Kluane National Park and Preserve… we reserved a place out there… the proprietor  said it was “rustic”… if we want to eat food we should pack it in. Hmmm. Rustic as defined by a Canadian could be interesting! I’ll let you know in Tok.. the day after tomorrow. Chances are that if he doesn’t have food… he doesn’t have wifi.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Barbie Dodges Dragonflys on the Way to Whitehorse...

What a long day! What a long SUNNY day. I got a bit of sun today. We got up early and snuck out of town. We weren't the only ones.  There were several motorcycle riders that felt the town was too crowded and need to hit the road. We had a long day of about 350 miles to do. The road is not like a freeway... to drive in the car takes about 6.5-7 hours. The road is chip-seal with constant construction. The scenery is gorgeous but stays constant. It is easy to start day dreaming or even get sleepy when the scenery is constant. Add to that the fact that I didn't get to bed until midnight last night on account that I had conversations with fellow motorcyclists that were too interesting to cut short. Finally, the B and B (5th Avenue) sent us out the door with full tummies... I was a food coma waiting to happen.  (I highly recommend the good folks at 5th Avenue B and B - the best place to stay in Dawson). We were originally going to take a crack at Keno, but being tired and the long day worked against us. I packed all my stuff into my saddle bags... I slimmed down on the underwear so I could pack more beer.

All my supplies for the week..

I secured mini-barbie to my handlebars today.... Jaz had a couple of ties and I could get her out front so she could experience the wind blowing through her hair (and bugs sticking to her cheeks). She was riding on the side of my rear pannier earlier. She is happy up front where she can take the dragon flys head on.

Barbie in her new station in life..

Out on the road for long stretches like today allow me to think. I spent a lot of time thinking about the men I met this weekend. Eric road his dual sport up from Anchorage via Fairbanks with his daughter... his eyes twinkled when he talked about going to South America in 5 years. His wife doesn't share his passion for riding, so he is hoping his daughter will... she was about 13.

Then I talked with Gary. He and his wife road up from Eagle River. They have been coming to do D2D for many years. He talked about a time when the ride was small and the banquet was held on the patio. He thought this might be his last year.  He shared my passion of photography, and we spent some time chatting about good photos.

On the road I as sitting off waiting for Jaz..she was in the weeds shooting photos of industrial things and rusty stuff... when Dave pulled up.  Dave was another Brit on the road solo. He planned to ride from Houston, TX to Seattle, but at the last minute flew into Seattle and bought a brand new bike. From there he headed north to Anchorage via the Cassier, then on to Fairbanks, Prudhoe Bay, Inuvik, and then to Dawson. He was on his way to Calgary when he pulled up. Dave was cool! He didn't know what day it was... he thought it was Tuesday..,.. when it was really Friday, and he had no idea what the date was (June 22), nor did he have any idea on when he would get where he was going. He to wanted to head down to South America. He made an attempt last year starting at the southern tip and headed North, but disaster struck in Bolivia and he broke his leg.  He said his wife is Colombian and he has family in Argentina that could be contacts. My wheels were turning while talking to Dave. Dave news bike in 9 days had 8500 km on the speedometer!

Dave from the UK

Michael and I need two more riders to come with us when we go... any takers?

So today I drove some of the most remote roads in Canada and Alaska with my friend Jaz... we passed maybe 20 cars in 350 miles... and I was thinking about South America.... nuts.  I did have a rude awakening when my autopilot US-to-metric-conversion-on-the-fly tool failed me ... the sign said turn at a speed of 40 (that was 40 km) which converts to 25 mph.... it was a tight corner!

Beautiful country today... and the sky... was gorgeous

I needed coffee to wake me up out of the stupor so we stopped at Moose Creek... some person went crazy with the antlers here.. the building, doghouse, and truck were all sporting racks... but the baked goods were just what I needed.

Moose truck?

By the time we stopped for gas, the credit card people had locked down Jaz's account.  She pre-called to let them know she would be out of the country, but yet again (this happened last year), they locked her card down. She was spitting fire at the petro station...  we relaxed and reflected on how everyone we knew was working... and we were out in the sunshine being pelted by bugs.. what lucky gals we are!

I dozed once on the bike... I snapped to attention when I realized I was doing that... which created enough adrenaline to get me all the way to Whitehorse. No more late nights! The road from Dawson was long, tiring and a little boring to Whitehorse... pay attention!

We rolled into Whitehorse and checked in at Casey's B and B. Jaz had a very heated conversation with the credit card company... at some point I heard her tell the guy on the line she was going to reach through the phone, down his throat and rip out his F*cking lungs... if her credit card didn't work tomorrow.

Just two gals having fun....  let me get her a beer and Mexican food... my credit card still works in a foreign country.

Note* I kept checking my bike for leaking beer all day... none was present.
Note** My shampoo bottle exploded from the vibration..  : (

No leaking bottles! Yay

Lunch: Bannocks and Chili - Aboriginal Day in Canada

We are resting in Dawson City today. We putzed around this grand city of the gold rush era, chatting with folks, listening to music, watched more riders roll in for the start of D2D tomorrow, and enjoyed the music at the tr'ondek hwech'in heritage center in celebration of Aboriginal Day. We sat on the lawn and ate bannocks; very similar to Navajo fry bread in the southwest. The music was pretty decent, and I kept commenting how more contemporary the native music is in Dawson than in Alaska.

 Native pride in Dawson

Bannock and chili

Canadians recognize National Aboriginal Day (well..most do) as a day to honor the First Nations. amerika does not have a nationally recognized day set aside as a Federal holiday for natives, however the second Monday of October annually marks Columbus Day in many parts of amerika but not all states follow this observance. Instead, they celebrate other events on the day. For example, South Dakota's official holiday on this date is Native Americans' Day (also known as Native American Day), while people in Berkeley, California, celebrate Indigenous People's Day.

We met Wee, a dual-sporter up from California doing a solo trek to Anchorage round trip. He was sporting a nice jury-rigged hand guard set he rigged up along the way to protect his hands from the bugs. He was a nice fellow whose wife was tracking him using his spot. Aside from spot he was technology free, and I got the feeling that allow this was not ideal, he was enjoying the break. We also met a fellow that put a Texas flag on his bike when he left Dallas, his flag was shredded to less than half it's original size from the wind... we wondered if it would make it to Prudhoe Bay.. his final destination. He informed us that he had a second flag for the return trip. Got to love that wind drag from Texas!

A proud texan..

 Wee's modification... laundry soap containers turned hand guards..

The sun shone all day and we had to fight the urge to just sit still and soak in the rays. Don't get me wrong... we did a lot of that too. I also booked a Thai massage tonight, and we plan on getting dinner at the Drunken Goat Taverna... a left over must due from our last trip in Dawson. We sat around and drank cappuccinos at Riverwest Coffee and noted how timid the dogs in Dawson seem to be. They shy away from us... course it could be the road stench?

Bike after bike rolled in to town filling up the street sides with geared up diehards congregating underneath the Downtown Hotel. I looked around and saw maybe two women present so far in about 150+ men. Dual sporting seems to be one of those areas that women are still crossing into.

 Bikes line up on 2nd street as part of the Dust2Dawson 2012 event

We can't help but feel like we haven't stumbled into a British movie... there seem to be a lot of Brits in town. Everywhere you go you see a Brit (not the usual German). While having dinner at the Drunken Goat, we sat at the bar and were soon joined by 2 older British couples. Dottie ("call me Dot" for short) stuck to us like a magnet; she thought we were "lovely biker women" and wanted to know all the details of our adventure.  At some point her hubby came over and warned Jazz not to corrupt his wife... I think Dot wanted to be corrupted.

Tomorrow we hit the road for Whitehorse with a possible detour to Keno. Another British couple staying in at the b and b with us.. warned us to not go to Keno. We were told the road was too dangerous to do by motorbike and that it was only passable by 4-wheel drive. We both decided they were stuffy brits.. and we needed to check out for ourselves to see if it's true. I'm good with dirt.. let's leave the call to Jazz tomorrow.

Pups in Canada are shy, unless peeps are in cars... then it's okay. We watched this pup divert traffic for over 20 minutes before it got bored.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Making Mud - Showering Off the Dust 2 Dawson (D2D)

Whew! Let me start out by saying I had way too much Black Death tonight,,, so you have to give me more leeway than usual for typos and such (giggling). What a day! I am so tired I can't see straight. We pulled out of Chistochina this am to a gorgeous day and a gorgeous ride. I stopped to take a picture at the boundary of Wrangell- St. Elias National Park and Preserve. The we headed into Tok for a brief gas stop. The whole day we pushed because we didn't know what the day was going to be like. The mileage for the day was not that long (280 miles), but there was a lot of dirt. We were worried if the weather went bad it would be a very long day.  We wanted to stay ahead of the game.
Dust was thick in the air - I had dirt in places dirt should not be! Later when I took a shower at the b and b, all that dust became a river of mud!

Me at the start of the day in Chistochina, Alaska

2 things kept passing through my thoughts today: flowers and potholes.  Lupine were everywhere and the air was saturated with the smell of wildflowers. Potholes, they were everywhere too! I especially loved zigging and zagging around them. There were lots of dual sports on the road.  Dual sports are a different breed. We generally travel alone or in very small groups. We don't like crowds, rallys, or big cities. For this reason, it is rare to see so many peeps on dual sports in one place at one time,. D2D is an exception for Alaskan and Canadian riders. A small number of lower 48'ers show up, but it's still a local event.

Today I spent some time rubbernecking at all the dual sports. Holding true to their taste, they trickled in to Dawson all day one or two by twos.  The big dinner is Friday. Because I'm not a big crowd person, we are going to head out Friday morning...

When we reached the end of the road of the road, literally, we boarded a ferry to cross the mighty Yukon. I really like this river. I have spent a lot of time getting to know this river... I think we are on an intimate basis! The Yukon is nearly 2000 miles long. I have crossed it countless times, I have canoed it for 11 days, I have fallen into it at her banks in Eagle. I have read about it, and I have dreamed about pedaling here entire length in the dead of winter. Today, I crossed her again by ferry boat.

Ferry crossing

We chuckled at Zumo trickster GPS of the Raven clan... Zumo had us riding our motorcycles across the Yukon river,,,, we tread water.

Zumo shows my motorbike in the middle of the Yukon river...

At the end of that ferry stood Klondike Kate with the coveted Black Death... enuff said!

The end of a long day...

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

North to the Klondike

I have been negligent in my blogging duties... I have done some really cool trips recently that I have failed to share. I went mushing in Fairbanks and wore my Go Pro for the first time... and managed to film my crash... nice. I went to Minnesota and Seattle and saw the land of 10,000 rubber duckies... and last weekend I went to Talkeetna by way of the Burma road.. rode with a few new friends and had a blast... all without a peep.  Perhaps they can serve as fillers for a slow time?

But today... I headed North to the Klondike!
Jazz and I are back on the road doing a tour in our own backyard - The Klondike Loop.
I have the spot tracker running on this trip - click on "Huckleberry" link to the right, or click here:
Our Klondike dreams are not inspired by the search for gold however... we are in search of Black Death.  I have dreamed of Black Death since I first sipped this porter last year. The Russell Black Death Porter is a little higher in alcohol at 6.5% and it’s based off a wee heavy, with a blend of Canadian and Scottish malts. Problem is you can't seem to get it in the US, so off to Canada for the death, eh?

In addition to searching for death, this mini-epic trip rolls a touch of the Dust 2 Dawson into the mix - we will be in Dawson on Friday.

We rolled out of Anchorage in the afternoon today with the sun shining and the tunes playing. We pulled into Palmer, Alaska to the welcome of a single protester demanding Obama be impeached.  We topped off our tanks and then went over and chatted the man up. He had some grand ideas on how to run the country. We praised him for his passion and and sign his petition to run against Yon Dung, our only congressman. More power to him.

 A passionate Palmer-ite...

 shares his thoughts...

The view coming into the Matsu Valley was spectacular and it was very tempting to try out the new zipline by the Matanuska Glacier. We passed this time, but maybe on the way back. We spent a bit of time photographing the glacier. I discovered the first item I forgot to pack (this is Erin's fault) - the camera clip for the tripod.  I brought the camera and the tripod, but without the clip I can't use them together...sigh. This means I'm packing around an useable tripod for about 1600 miles.

Matanuska Glacier

The weather turned ugly at MEureka and we hunkered down for torrential rain all the way to Glennallen. We needed a break and food, but unfortunately there is no where to eat in the City of God except the Caribou. Against our better judgement, we did it.... and no sooner did our food arrive before we both realized what a stupid idea that was. We figured if the food didn't kill us, the christian's would. I hope we sleep tonight!

More rain to Gakona, then a nice rainbow popped out at the end of the ride. We are holed up in Chistochina... I'm going to go put an ice pack on my arm. By the end of the day holding the handle bars, my arm is tender right at the place I broke it.

Tomorrow we hope for a dryer road over the Top of the World Highway into Canada. Well... Jazz wants dryer roads.... I like the mud!

A motorcycle at the end of the rainbow...