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Old 09-13-2011, 01:43 PM   #1
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Default Alaska by sea and by three

From late July to late August I took my Triumph Scrambler sidecar rig on a four week tour of the north. My wife joined me for the first two and a half weeks, and my dad joined the two of us for 10 days of that. This ride report will be divided up into three sections: Kim and I going north, then the section when my dad joined us, then the final part after they flew home and I rode home solo.

Part one

All last minute stuff taken care of, we dropped our cat off at our vet for boarding and we strapped everything to the outfit.

Construction hit us after the second gas stop.

It was toasty on our way to the Grand Coulee Dam, but seeing water is a nice change of pace.

It didn't take us long to figure out the sidecar rig doesn't get great gas mileage when fighting a 15 MPH headwind. As good of a time as any to make sure the fuel can works!

We ended up staying in a "plan c" campground since our original destination was full up. Shucks, we have to ride more around this beautiful lake?

Camping, smokin' and campfires near Kelowna, BC:

We met up with a group of riders going north from somewhere in South America, heading to Alaska:

They got a big kick out of the outfit and took a lot of photos. Sadly, only one of their group spoke much English and neither my wife nor I speak much Spanish.

Campin' later:

This kind of weather and scenery was common:

When we finally made it through hours of pouring rain to Prince Rupert, BC, we hit up an eatery to get some much needed dinner. Looking at the menu, I decided getting a warm coffee with some booze in it would be a good start to the evening. Little did I know it was super froo-froo, only missing an umbrella:

The wife had a beer:

Prince Rupert, from our hotel parking lot:

Other motorcycles waiting to get on the ferry, with me in the background attempting to explain how three wheelers steer:

More bike and me still explaining:

At last, we were off and on the ferry to our layover in Juneau:

After a lot of sleeping and reading on the vessel, we disembarked and rode around the state capitol for a bit.

Then back onto a different, faster vessel for the run to Haines, AK:

Still cloudy in Haines:

The view from our camp site in Haines:

It was nifty to see a cruise ship roll through in the evening.

The next day we scooted up to Deadman Lake. Primitive camping, pit toilets, a common theme to most of our camping. However, this one was free! Score one for the travelers.

(Footage missing here. It was so wet and cold the cameras didn't make it out much, so the bits from Tok, AK to Anchorage, AK to meet my dad are up to your imagination.)

Next up: 10 days riding around Alaska, including better, actually sunny weather!
"Riding will scratch the clearcoat. Every mileage-acquired scratch, rub, gouge and chip is a badge of honor..." -Spike
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Old 09-13-2011, 01:58 PM   #2
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Default Re: Alaska by sea and by three

Very cool .. Alaska is on my visit list.
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Old 09-13-2011, 03:46 PM   #3
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Default Re: Alaska by sea and by three

Part two

My old man flew in and rented a bike. Putting in decades upon decades of hard work has paid off for him and he's enjoying retirement. Here he is, on the right, looking at his rental VStrom 650:

And on the move!

The first order of business is to start riding. Due to weather concerns we went east towards Glenallen, then south to Valdez.

Bridal Veil Falls:

We made it to Valdez between cold and wet weather cells. Kim snapped this photo:

Zoom enhance

The eagle was eating well that night!

There was a fish hatchery near the end of the oil pipeline. Here's some shots of the area:

Fish ladder:

Camping at Squirrel Creek, back near Glenallen:

The outer heatshield was rattling a bit due to a rivet getting loose, so the Triumph turned me into a field mechanic:

We mosied up to Fairbanks, then over to Chena Hot Springs to enjoy some time off the bikes and out of the rain.

On the way:

Fairbanks visitor center:

Just before we got to the hot springs, traffic was interrupted for a dog sled. On wheels. Huskies doing what they do:

We had a visitor outside our yurt:

Coming back from buying firewood, I kept up on my workouts by banging out some pull-ups:

Up next: going through Denali. Weather: cold, wet, more wet.
"Riding will scratch the clearcoat. Every mileage-acquired scratch, rub, gouge and chip is a badge of honor..." -Spike
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Old 09-13-2011, 07:49 PM   #4
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Default Re: Alaska by sea and by three

Some awesome pics in here.
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Old 09-14-2011, 09:11 AM   #5
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Default Re: Alaska by sea and by three

More footage missing, as the weather was really, really bad. My dad has some photos of this part of the trip but I haven't gotten a copy of them yet. Here's what we do have:

Famous Salmon Bake:

The cloud cover was bad and we didn't see much of Mt. Denali. We spent a good amount of time in the visitor's center and had fun there.

Next destination: Homer Spit.

We wanted to hit up Whittier, AK since you can actually get there by road now, but it was going to be $12 and a 45 minute wait to get through the tunnel. No thanks, we were already running late.

We stopped off at Seward, AK on the way to Homer. Here's Marathon Mountain, as viewed from our camp site:

Later that evening:

The next morning, breakfast:

We wandered through the Alaska Sea Life Center after breakfast. Great experience! Here's a big 'un who kept giving my dad the stinkeye:

Packed up and ready to head south:

And towards Homer! Redoubt Volcano:

More mountains:

A sun dog and a bird:

And the spit itself:

The Time Bandit store, for all you World's Boatliest Catch fans:

They weren't open when we rolled through town to get breakfast.

After a nice night at a campground with laundry and showers, we headed back towards Anchorage. Camping along the way:

I picked up a new rear tire at Alaska Leather since my Avon Gripster was wearing faster than anticipated.

We swung by the rental shop to see if they could give me a hand changing my tire if I needed it. Sure enough, no problem, as long as they weren't doing all the work. Score!

Met this dude there. He was changing his rear tire and doing other work on his first bike, this nice lookin' Transalp:

The next day we had breakfast, broke camp and figured out how to orchestrate getting the bike back to the rental shop and getting a hotel room. We figured it out, but our plans of getting the rental folks to give my dad a lift back to the hotel didn't pan out since they were busy and short a person.

We have a solution for that:

After that it was easy: the hotel had a shuttle to the airport. The next morning we had some food, said our goodbyes and I was freeeeeee!

Next up: riding home solo with a little detour to check off my bucket list.
"Riding will scratch the clearcoat. Every mileage-acquired scratch, rub, gouge and chip is a badge of honor..." -Spike
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Old 09-14-2011, 09:30 AM   #6
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Default Re: Alaska by sea and by three

Wow, that's awesome.

Now I want to go to Alaska!
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Old 09-14-2011, 10:09 AM   #7
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Default Re: Alaska by sea and by three

Triumph should sponsor a ride like that. Looks like fun.
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Old 09-15-2011, 08:17 AM   #8
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Default Re: Alaska by sea and by three

alaska is on my bucket list as well... At some point, I want to ride in all 50 states...
"the 919, a practical solution to the real-world problem of imperfect roads and traffic" ~Cycle World~

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Originally Posted by Clapracer View Post
Let me introduce you to my taint. It's all sweaty and nasty from having a fever and chills all day yesterday, so it's just about prime for your enjoyment.
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Old 09-15-2011, 08:39 AM   #9
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Default Re: Alaska by sea and by three

Part three: the long trek home

First goal: the Denali Highway. Passing through the same area we went through a week or so earlier, this time I had reasonable weather! Here's Mt. Denali:

Then through the highway. I think this one is from the Denali Highway:

From there, through Chicken, AK and over the Top of the World Highway to Dawson City. Here I am on the Canada side of the border crossing:

At Dawson City I invited myself in to these two guys' party:

Brock, Mike and I had a good evening with a big ol' campfire, fair amount of booze and some good conversation. You meet the coolest folks on the road!

The next morning was game time. But first, a detour to the Dome:

Here's what the view was like on my previous Alaska trip, same spot:

Way better view of Dawson City this time!

With that out of the way, it's go time.

Everything I read about the Dempster was true: beautiful, remote, road conditions vary by the mile but worth it all. Spectacular scenery up there, and I was so caught up in seeing it from a moving motorcycle I didn't take many photos. I did commemorate the 10,000 mile mark on my Triumph:

Stopped here for a little rest:

I ended up missing the fuel stop in Fort MacPherson since they close at 8 PM. Stupidly I tried pushing it harder than I should have and aimed for the next fuel stop, which was over a ferry. The stretch that should have taken me an hour took me closer to two. I was fatigued, wearing a tinted visor when the sun was setting and worried about hitting wildlife.

The night ended up with me pitching the tent on the shoulder of the Dempster a quarter mile from the ferry. This is where a big difference between the Dempster and the Dalton (Haul Road) in Alaska became apparent: when I camped on the Dalton, trucks were rolling by all hours of the night, every 20 minutes or so. There were only two vehicles that passed by me in the eight hours my tent was on the Dempster.

When I finally woke up and got my stuff together and on the ferry, one of the deckhands invited me in for coffee. Man, I could have hugged him!

With my jerry can and the slow speeds the Dempster commanded, I made it all the way to Inuvik without issue.

After a little resupplying there, I headed back south. Where I saw what I think was the same grizzly I saw on the way up:

The first time I saw it, it was trundling up the side of the highway. As I'm sliding to a stop with maximum braking, trying to position my outfit so I can turn around quickly if it sees me as food, the bear pays me no notice as it completes its jog over the road.

For the above photo, it was a much more comfortable distance from the grub-seeking bear.

Finishing the Dempster was a big relief. It was a tough road on both motorcycle and rider. The calcium chloride they spray on the road to keep the dust down bonds like cement when it's wet and on your bike. More than once I had to clean an inch of it off my oil cooler.

I wrangled the same campsite in the same campground near Teslin as my last trip to Alaska:

And son of a gun, another Triumph!

Obligatory Signpost Forest shot:

One of the longer stretches without fuel had me pulling over in a town with two gas stations. One was closed, out of business, and the other had no gas. Dang. This group was in the same fuel-lacking boat:

From the "next services" sign I calculated I could make it without using my jerry can, so I donated my gas to the group of solo bikers who were really, really worried they wouldn't make it. They wouldn't take no for an answer when giving me cash for helping them out. Well, that $20 filled the can and gave me a little more for a lunch. Thanks guys!

My next camping spot I assessed the damage to the outfit, mostly caused by the Dempster. First, the fender was really loose, as three out of the five mounting bolts had eaten through the fiberglass:

The Progressive shock on the sidecar had blown:

(That's shock oil, not water)

I spent some time alternating spraying WD-40 in the oil cooler and poking through the fins with baling wire to get some airflow. Also, the bike had picked up a rattling sound and an occasional exhaust leak, but was still running strong.

Last camp of the trip, in Osoyoos, just north of the US border:

A hard sprint home and the trip was done! A real bed and a real shower felt incredible for the first week home. Four weeks on the road was a long time!

In the end, I put on just under 8,000 miles for the trip. Once home, I split the sidecar from the bike so I could put them in the garage for work. Then it was the overdue 12,000 mile maintenance on the Triumph and the sidecar needed the fender repaired and modifications made. I'm still working on the sidecar, but the bike should be fine for another season!

Turns out the rattling sound was rocks trapped in the bash plate. The occasional exhaust leak? Caused by the Dempster vibrating the header bolts loose. A quick check on those showed them to be a full turn or more loose. Glad I didn't lose them on the road!
"Riding will scratch the clearcoat. Every mileage-acquired scratch, rub, gouge and chip is a badge of honor..." -Spike
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Old 09-15-2011, 10:57 AM   #10
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Default Re: Alaska by sea and by three

Just,...damn. Really amazing trip. Thanks for sharing the pics.

I daydream of a month long trek on the bike, but I'm not sure my back and shoulders could handle it. Hat's off.
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Old 09-15-2011, 12:36 PM   #11
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Default Re: Alaska by sea and by three

As always Skier, incredible trip and great write-up. Thanks from an armchair tourist!
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Old 09-15-2011, 06:00 PM   #12
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Default Re: Alaska by sea and by three

Thanks for sharing, really enjoyed it. I was starting to wonder if you were connected by living a life of adventure with a hottie wife then I saw the pic of your dad. You're Richard Branson's son.
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Old 09-15-2011, 06:19 PM   #13
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Default Re: Alaska by sea and by three

Loved the photos, a lot of these places were my old stomping grounds for the first 24 years of my life (Juneau, Fairbanks, Valdez), makes me really nostalgic to see them. I haven't had the time to sit down and read the whole thing yet, just looked at the photos, I'm sure I'll have some more comments and questions when I do.

I can't figure out how to get to Alaska on a motorcycle seeing as I am living among the eastcoasters these days, and that kills me. I can't afford to rent a BMW for the amount of time I would want to spend, and riding 4500+ miles to get there from here would eat up all my time. Oh well. I guess I'll have to live vicariously through your photos for now.
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Old 09-15-2011, 08:30 PM   #14
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Default Re: Alaska by sea and by three

wow man, that looks like an amazing trip. Great pictures as well. That scrambler is purty sweet
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