This is not a trip for everyone, but with proper planning, the right people, and the right attitude, anyone can do it. I am writing this report to share with you, our experiences, what we did right, what we did wrong, what worked, and what didn't.
NOTE: This was my first time doing any sort of road trip longer than 1.5 weeks (on a car or bike).
The word Epic doesn't even do what we experienced on this trip justice. Some say it was the trip of a lifetime, but i disagree with that statement/label, this was a trip that triggered what is now going to be a lifetime doing these types of adventures! I Hope you enjoy this and get outside and ride your motorcycle!
I bought my 1200GSA with the intention of doing a month long moto camping trip just because, and planned on selling it when i was done simply because it is something i have always wanted to do.
I have always wanted to see Alaska, but the thought of riding a motorcycle all the way there just didn't sound fun, or even doable with my neck surgery 2 years ago. Boy how that all changed.....
My good friend Long, who i have known and traveled via moto with for several years suggested it one day, and i kind of laughed it off. And then i got to thinking about it, reading about it, and doing research about it. Oh hell yes, i wanted to do this NOW! :)
We set the dates, determined a full month would be the appropriate amount of time, put the day off requests in at our jobs, and started planning for almost an entire year!
I am the over planning type, borderline OCD. I read damn near every blog and forum post that i could find on the intrawebs about this. Got lots of great ideas, to the point of too many. It was brain damaging trying to determine what we could fit into a month.
After about 5,000 iterations and edits, i came up with an itinerary that i thought would give us the most bang for the mile so to speak, divided into 25 days of riding, and 5 days of nothing in case of mechanical failure, unplanned things we wanted to see, or if we just needed to rest! That entire itinerary went right out the window on Day 1 (more on that later) and the entire trip was done on the fly with zero pre planning, destinations and routes planned mainly from chatting with other travelers we met along the way and such! This ended up making our trip absolutely awesome, and the zero stress of needing to follow a schedule really helped me enjoy it. The total opposite of what i envisioned, but couldn't do it any other way now!
About 6 months before the trip, my good friend Brent was over, saw my GS and asked about it. When i told him about the Alaska trip, his eyes lit up, and he expressed interest in maybe joining. I've known, camped, and traveled with Brent almost 15 years, and although several people expressed interest in joining, and coming along, i politely told them two was enough. But Brent is a good friend, and i knew with his personality, riding ability, and prior travel experience, he would fit in perfectly with Long and I. He also somehow managed to get the month off (how we all got this time off is still pretty unbelievable) and the collaborating begin.
I'll stop boring you with the planning details, and get down to the trip now. I will cover what we did right, what we did wrong, what gear worked, what gear didn't and what we would of done different at the end of the report.
Day 0 as i call it, Long, Brent, and I all met up in Big Bear with a group of good friends that have their annual camping/riding trip up there on this weekend. Chef Deb and Chef Tracy cooked amazing food, we feasted like kings, had a great bonfire, and swapped stories for hours on end about last years Big Bear Trip, and this year Alaska adventure we were about to embark on. Absolutely amazing way to start off a trip!
My original plan was just to muscle up the freeway to get up north. Brent is from Sacramento and didn't care for that idea much, and said he knew a much better moto route with ample scenery. This is about when my entire itinerary idea when out the window and i am very much glad it did! Brent's dad lives in Sacramento and we were staying with him that night. Brent led the entire route there from Big Bear and took us up the 395 to the 89 to the 88 to the 49 to the 16. We rode through Mammoth, Tahoe, Avenue of the Giants,and the Sequoias. The heat was pretty brutal, but the riding and scenery was amazing! We arrived at Brent's dads house a little before sunset and were greeted with delicious steaks and cold beer. We were off to a great start, and i was digging the non planned approached.
We got into the habit of giving the bikes a good "go over" each morning checking oil and tires and such. I noticed my Touratech oil container i had mounted to my panniers had a leak in it and was dropping oil on the ground. I was pretty bummed but properly disposed of it at a local gas station. The 1200GS is known to burn a little oil, its normal, now i was a bit paranoid. This is really where the itinerary out the window started. We left Sacramento with the intentions of getting into Oregon. But again, we just took the most scenic route (the 16 to the 20 to the 101 to the 199),took our time going up the coast, stopped in Eureka to have lunch with Brent's sister and enjoyed the ride. We rode until it got dark out and then started looking for camp. We came across a great campground called Panther Flats in Six Rivers National Forest. Setting up camp in the dark is kind of a drag, so we just setup our hammocks and crashed pretty early!
This was a nice relaxing ride up the Oregon Coast (which none of us had been to before) up the 101. We met our good friend Scott from San Diego in Florence OR who happened to be up in Florence, also on vacation, for a delicious lunch and an adult beverage. After lunch, we just enjoyed the coast, and rode until we were tired, and ended up in Pacific City OR at a nice campground.
We all woke up pretty early, and packed up to get on the road. We knew our destination was Anacortes Washington, to visit and stay with a good friend of ours named Darby that retired a few years back and moved up there from San Diego. At this point we hadn't really mapped out how to get there and didn't even look. We broke out the paper maps and decided Routes 6 and 47 looked fun and windy, and since we were up early we could take our time and check them out.
The weather was a perfect 60-70 degrees the entire day, and all 3 of us agreed these roads were absolutely epic and made for motorcycles! We barely saw any traffic the entire day and were treated to rivers, bridges, and trees for the entire ride. Absolutely amazing. I was 100% convinced now, i did not want to follow my itinerary that took me 6 pain staking months to create. I wanted to do this entire trip playing everything by ear and doing it on the fly.
While in Washington, we stopped by the headquarters of the famous Touratech motorcycle outfitting company. I have been a satisfied customer of them for years, and have many of their products on my bike for this trip. We planned on stopping by there regardless, but now i wanted to get another oil jug.
I told them about the hole in my oil jug, and that i had to trash it in CA. They pulled up my account, saw that i had ordered one, and handed me a new one on the spot without asking any more questions. FREE, i didn't even have the old one with me. This is what i call great customer service, and why i am a happy loyal customer!
After Touratech, we went to the REI headquarters in Seattle to get some last minute stuff. Brent got a slick chair, and i got some climbing gear to redo the attachment setup of my hammock. Stopping at REI was cool, but ended up being a bad decision. The traffic leaving Seattle at 3pm was insanity and took us forever to get out of there. We eventually gpt to Darby's house in Anacortes and were greeted with an amazing steak dinner with his family, were able to do Laundry and take showers. His property is absolutely amazing, and he is doing retirement proper! Darby is also a martial arts and crossfit instructor, and Long was brave enough to participate in one of his early morning workouts. I was too busy eating the delicious breakfast he made for us. Was absolutely awesome catching up with him. Before we left, he told us about Deception Pass and that it was right down the street from his place. We checked it out on the way out and it was absolutely amazing! Great time spent with an old friend!
Today was the day we cross into Canada. Long and I have a friend Randy, that lives in Chilliwack British Columbia just over the border. He suggested the Sumas crossing, due to it being a fairly quiet and quick crossing. It sure was, all 3 of us crossed within 20 minutes, almost zero wait, unlike the Mexico crossing we were used to. Randy was waiting for us just over the border on his bike. He brought us to his local bank and helped us get some Canadian money and explained it all to us. Then we went to his house, hung out, swapped some stories, and he joined us for some riding for awhile. The weather was almost 100 degrees for the entire time and zero breeze. It was brutal and we just motored through it. We just kept riding to get out of the heat. We ended up coming across a lake with a great campground right on it with showers and such. A shower was much needed after riding in 100 degree weather all day. Slept like a baby right on the edge of the lake!
We packed up pretty early, and headed to Smithers BC. A San Diego friend Ken, introduced me to his friend Jim online that lives in Smithers, and offered to host us for the night. I had never met Jim in person, but our email correspondence was solid, and we planned to take him up on his offer. The ride was pretty uneventful, and just as we pulled into Smithers it started to rain just as we arrived at Jim's place.
For some reason, i was under the impression Jim was an older retired guy that lived alone, hahahaha. We arrived to Jim's place, and pleasantly greeted by him, his kids, and his wife. Jim was about my age, ha. Jim shifted things around in his garage, made room for all of our bikes and gear, and we sat in the garage, and talked shop for awhile. I noticed Jim had several Rotopax fuel containers. I had been looking for one since we left and was unable to find any. We needed a solid container for Long to get him up the Dalton since he only had a 150 mile range. I had a 1.5 gallon Rotopax for water with me and Jim offered to trade me a fuel one for it. Worked out perfect.
We then sat down to a nice home cooked meal of delicious pork chops with all the fixings and talked for hours with Jim and his family. Very much enjoyed our conversations with them, and their hospitality. Jim also suggested a very cool bridge in a town called New Hazleton about 45 mins north of him, and said it was a must see. This is not on the main road, is a ridiculous engineering feat, and insanely intricate for what it is. It has about 1000ft drop from the bridge to the river below, its single lane (need to wait for traffic visually, no signals) and has a metal open grate for a floor. I made the mistake of looking down while crossing it.. Wohhhh.
Smithers is where Canada really started getting beautiful, and it didn't stop! We left Smithers with the intent of making it to Watson Lake Yukon. As soon as we left Smithers it started raining. It continued to rain lightly the entire day. Many people strongly suggested we check out the Glaciers in Stewart, and we made the decision to take a quick detour to see them. Stewart is about 30 miles each way off of the main road, but we made the decision to do it. About 16 miles (a tad more than half way, hahaha), it REALLY started raining, cold rain, damn near snow. We were already committed so we continued on once we got to the Glaciers, it was amazing, the rain and fog actually made it more impressive, it felt like we were in a movie. The rain didn't let up, so we snapped some photos, and headed out of there back enroute to Watson Lake.
We were all soaked and cold. I was doing ok, not ideal but was dealing with it. As we continued up the Cassier Highway, we stopped to get Long gas in Bell. We noticed some tents some up at the nice fancy lodge called Bell 2 Lodge. It's a Heli Skiing resort and was pretty fancy and assumed expensive. I asked the woman there how much the camping was and she replied, "For the 3 of you, $20, and you have access to everything here." Um what? SOLD! We got quick break in the rain, and set our tents up with the quickness. Right next to us were two other moto travelers doing the same trip we were on their return route. Both of them also from California, Craig and Ian Craig on an older 1150GS and Ian on the same bike as me. Chatted with them for a bit, and we all headed to the Lodge for dinner and beverage to to warm up a bit. This place was amazing, can tell those Heli Ski folks spend some serious money here.
My "layers" were all basically soaked through at this time. My Klim Badlands jacket was not as waterproof as i thought. I picked up a windbreaker in their gift shop to hold in the heat and protect from the wind, and it ended up proving to be an invaluable purchase the entire trip!
The food was top notch, the service was great, and everything about this place was awesome! Hot tub, showers, laundry, etc... $20! Highly recommended if you are in the area or passing through. AGAIN, another great place we just found randomly! After a night of heavy rain, we woke up to a quick break in the rain, packed up our stuff, wet (not fun or ideal) and moved on. Were very glad we decided to check out Stewart, it was worth it, and very glad we found Bell 2 Lodge.
We got decent enough weather today, we decided to make up some of our lost time, and just motor as far as we could. It rained lightly off and on all day, but nothing extreme and it wasn't that cold. We got to the town of Teslin, and came across another nice camp right along the river. Got lucky with a break in the rain, and set up camp again with the quickness.
Right as we finished setting up camp, 2 more moto travelers came along and asked if they could share our spot, of course! Dallas and Greg were both from Colorado traveling to Alaska to spread Gregs fathers remain (carrying the Urn on his bike). Greg was on a BMW LT and Dallas was on a Goldwing. Stayed up for quite awhile swapping stories with them about their travels. Woke up in the middle of the night to another downpour, and very much appreciating the fact i spent the $ on a heavy duty 4 season tent.
More of the same, majority of the day was light on and off rain, nothing extreme. The scenery, the people, the food, and the vibe of the Yukon is just awesome, really everything is just perfect. We saw so many side trails leading off the road, we decided that it how we were going to camp that night. Just outside of Dawson City, we stopped at grocery store, grabbed some steaks, ice, and beverages, and decided to pull of the side of the road and see what we could find. The entire road was running alongside a river, so i knew we would eventually get lucky.
The first trail we took, led us down about a 1/4 dirt path and it opened up right to a perfect clearing, right on the river, complete with a fire ring already. Absolutely perfect, and what we were hoping for. By now the rain had cleared up, so after we pitched our tents, i setup a clothesline to dry everything out.
Long whipped up an amazing steak dinner complete with garlic bread, was a much needed feast! We made a fire, sat along the river and mutually decided THIS is in fact, what this trip was all about and what we were waiting for! This was by far, my favorite camp spot of the entire trip!
Dawson City is a really neat old city, that still very much represents the days of mining, we spent a bit of time being tourists, checking it out, and then took the quick ferry over the river to ride the Top of the World Highway into Alaska. The top of the world highway was fairly uneventful, but we found some off shoot trails off the main road, and explored those a bit. And then.... We FINALLY made it to ALASKA! Had no idea what to expect at the crossing, but it was quite funny. In the middle of no where, one person, show him my passport, smiles at me and says enjoy... Wow, that was simple! Hahaha! Got off our bikes, snapped some photos, and gave the celebratory high 5s! Stopped at the first town we came across, Chicken Alaska, to fuel up and grab some snacks, and then continued on to Delta Junction where we found a nice state park campground for $10.
Today was the day we were finally going to do it! Get to the Arctic Circle! This was MY personal goal i had set for this trip. Something about riding a motorcycle from San Diego to the Arctic Circle was very appealing to me. One of those, "Yeah I did that" type of things. We left Delta Junction pretty early in the morning and got on the road quick. Brent's bike had just hit the 12k mile mark and to keep his warranty, he needed it serviced. We went to the Trails End BMW dealer in Fairbanks to inquire about getting it done. They advised him he would need to leave the bike with them for a day or 2 to get it done. He decided he would deal with it after we did the Arctic Circle.
We got to the Dalton Highway, took the obligatory pictures at the sign, and got ready for the gnarly dirt road that everyone on the intrawebs talks about. Riding to Deadhorse (the end of the Dalton) is a lot of motorcyclists goal because its about as remote as you can get, and the furthest point north in Alaska most people can go.
I wasn't to set on going all the way to Deadhorse, i just wanted to make it to the Arctic Circle sign, and get our picture taken there! :)
We fueled up at the Yukon River Crossing, which is the last fuel for awhile, and headed north! Everything i read about this makes it out to be this treacherous road with pot holes the size of VW bugs and such and truckers driving 100mph around blind corners.
Well, we got underway of the famous Dalton Highway, and quite a bit of it is actually paved, nice pavement, we got to the dirt sections, and even the dirt was nice. Dusty, but nice. Rode for a few hours, and pulled into a little hole in the wall with a BBQ sign out front. Place was called the HOT SPOT CAFE. Was just going to grab a snack, but saw another guy eating a burger, and it looked pretty darn good. Our quick stop for a snack, ended up being one of the literally the best burgers i have ever eaten in my life. The owner Theresea was quite entertaining also.
We got back on the bikes and kept going. Clear skies, clear road, all going well.. We got to the Arctic Circle and it was 74 degrees with not a cloud in the sky! Just seemed weird, hehehehe.. Long had got me a bottle of limited edition black label Jameson for my birthday, which i brought along the trip, and had kept it sealed until we got to the Arctic Circle, we each did a small celebratory shot! :)
We tried to take the must do photos at the sign, but the sun was directly behind it and we couldn't. At this point we had planned out that nights sleeping spot, so we just kept heading north towards Coldfoot which i had read is a cool place to stay. We got to Coldfoot, but the accomodations were we a large group of trailers packed together and already had quite a few people there. Not my idea of relaxing camping.
I had read about a town a bit further north called Wiseman, that looked really cool and had some nice cabins for rent. We didn't have cell service to see if any were available, but we went anyways, and figured if they were full we would just pulled off the side of the road somewhere and backcountry it.
We pulled into Wiseman, and i immediately thought, THIS is what i pictured Alaska to be like. All very old rustic cabins, right on the river, no signs of commercialism or anything modern. I was pretty stoked to see this. Wiseman is about 10 minutes off of the Dalton Highway along a winding dirt road, so we had no idea what it would be like, a pleasant surprise for sure.
We rode around for a bit and checked out various places. The Gold Rush Bed and Breakfast had the most character and their sign said they had vacancy. Was greeted by the owner Jim, aka Clutch, that had been there since the 70s and was a gold miner for years. He told us he had a nice cabin available with a shower and it would be $100 for the 3 of us, and that included breakfast and all the firewood we wanted to use in his firepit! SOLD! We got settled, made a quick dinner, took showers and started up the fire.
Jim joined us at the firepit all night and shared lots of great stories of his gold mining days and such. This was one of the big highlights of the trips for me. I loved this entire experience, and Jim was an awesome guy!
After having breakfast with Jim and talking with him some more. We were still debating on whether or not to go all the way to Deadhorse or not. Even Jim said its a very long boring road with not much to see. He advised to to keep going north to see the Brooks Mountain range, and after that, there is nothing to see all the way to Deadhorse. We took his advice, checked out the Brooks Range and headed back south, Destination Denali National Park! On the way back down, when we stopped at the Arctic Circle sign, the lighting was perfect, so we got a bunch of nice mandatory pictures! :)
One of my online friends Rich, is a fireman that lives right near Denali and we had coordinated with him to meetup when we got close at camp and enjoy some beverages and he would show us around Denali.
The ride down was a long one, but fairly uneventful. There was quite a big of smoke from currently burning fires, and visibility was poor.
We ended up stopping in a town called Anderson near Rich, and Rich met us at camp, just as we finished setting up. We had a great time meeting a new friend, and he was nice enough to bring our laundry back and wash it for us since we hadn't had a chance to do laundry in several days.
Rich met back up with us in the morning on his bike, luckily had the day off, and offered to show us around Denali, a place he is very familiar with.
We had a great time hanging out and riding with Rich and seeing Denali. The smoke was pretty thick, and we were unable to see McKinley, but was still great to see the park with a local that knows the history and details! We said our goodbyes, and hope to ride with him again soon, great guy!
After checking out Denali we headed to Anchorage. This was almost exactly the 5000 mile mark, so we all needed to change our oil, and Brent still needed to get his service done. The ride was fairly uneventful, and we rode directly to the Motorcycle Shop (actually name of the BMW dealership in Anchorage) and inquired about oil changes and getting Brent's bike serviced. Their website advertises them as catering to the traveler and meeting all of the travelers needs, etc... Well.... Yeah.... They were not only less than helpful, they were borderline rude about it. They wouldn't let Long and I change our own oil, as many other places would, and even though Brent had called ahead of time, they weren't sure they could fit him in for the service.
Brent had a friend named Adam in Anchorage that he used to work with years ago that was going to host us for that night. Brent called Adam for directions to his place from the dealership, and literally lived right around the block from it, a 2 minute walk! What are the chances! We went to Adam's parked the bikes, and hung out for a bit.
Brent got a call that he had a family emergency and needed to head home immediately. He contemplated flying, and then decided he was just going to muscle it out, and ride straight home, for most people i would think this is insane. But knowing Brent, i knew he could do it, and safely.
Long had been craving Alaskan seafood since we left from Big Bear, and he was finally about to get some in Anchorage. Adam brought us to his favorite seafood place in Anchorage and we gorged on food heavily! I don't even eat seafood, but since we were in Alaska i ordered the Salmon. I got pretty sick after eating it, but i will leave the details out on that.
The next day, we all went back to the dealership. Brent dropped his bike off for service, and i had noticed i had a large slice in my rear tire and needed to replace it. They had a set of TKC70s in stock, which are more street oriented and i bought them wanting a smoother ride home since we were mostly done with the dirt.
Again with the catering to the traveler thing.. They were evasive and wouldn't give me a straight answer about how long a tire swap and oil change would take. I got frustrated and said to hell with them.
We said our goodbyes to Brent wished him a safe trip, and headed to the Harley House, also in Anchorage. Yes, a Harley Dealership. I had read about this place on many blogs and forums. I called them, and spoke to Sam in service and told him our situation. He was MOST helpful, and told us to come on down, and they would take care of us.
We headed directly there, met Sam, very nice and polite, told them i needed to swap my tires, and he asked me if i wanted to remove the wheels or them. I asked if it was ok, for us to work on the bikes in the parking lot, and he said, "Of Course" and directed us to an area. I removed my wheels, brought them in and while they were swapping my tires, Long and i both changed our oil. While we were working on the bikes, we even had one of their mechanics, Trevor, come out and check on us and see if we needed anything. Amazing folks there.
My tires were done within an hour, we both changed our oil, and they even disposed of our old oil. I was so impressed with this place i even bought 2 Harley tshirts!
They also had a big grass area where anyone traveling on ANY type of moto can camp for free! Now THIS is a place that caters to travelers and i strongly recommend you visit them if you are in the area:
After finishing up there, and thanking them repeatedly, we headed over to Motoquest, because they basically share a parking lot. Met the owners, chatted with them a bit, and enjoyed the visit! Oh, and the Harley folks even shipped my old front tire (which was still in great shape) back to my house for me!
After visiting Motoquest, we got back on the road enroute to Valdez. This was another destination that we hadn't originally planned on visiting, but after talking to so many people that highly recommended it, we had to! And we were very glad we did.
We got there fairly late, and pulled into the first camp we saw, and basically passed out as soon as the tents were set up!
The Glaciers and waterfalls in Valdez were simply amazing! What made it even more enjoyable is that we were able to explore the backcountry of that area quite a bit. There are hundreds and hundreds of dirt roads around the Glaciers and we explored quite a few of them. One of them was absolutely epic and put us right on top of one of them on the back side. Was freaking amazing! After spending quite a bit of the day exploring random dirt roads, we motored on back to the Yukon crossing back into Canada again. It was a long ride and by the time we crossed the border we were whooped and stopped at the first campground we saw. It was $7 a night, and we should of known that we were going to get what we paid for. At this point it didn't matter, we passed out early, and slept like babies. Woke up and got the hell out of there!
Right as we left our worst campground of the trip, it was all worth it. First thing in the morning, we saw 2 massive grizzly bears eating the hell out of something! Glad it wasn't us! One of the goals on the trip, was to not ride the same road twice, and not stay at the same place twice. But the way things worked out, we ended up stopping in Teslin again for camp. More rain, hard rain. Not a big deal, tent kept me drive. The Teslin camp has a nice diner in it, and we had a delicious meal of Caribou Sausage and Pierogis! Delicious! After dinner, a older gentleman name Vick rolled in on a Harley with a side car and a dog in it. The rain had just let up, so we made a fire, and stayed up all night chatting with Vick. He was heading up to the Arctic Circle, where we had just come from, dog and all! Was a great guy, and we exchanged emails, and enjoyed the conversation and beverages!
It rained pretty hard throughout the night, so when we woke up we had to pack up wet again, but luckily by the time we woke up, the rain had stopped. Luckily all of my clothes and gear were in my tent with me and nice and dry! We got lucky and from this point on during the rest of the trip, we were rain free! Our destination for today was the famous Liard Hot Springs. After 2.5 weeks on a moto soaking in some hot springs sure sounded pretty good. While enroute to the hot springs we stopped at Watson Lake to check out the famous Sign Post Forest. Met some fellow BMW moto travelers there all the way from Chicago! Fpr the entire trip, we saw hundreds of various "Watch of Animals" signs. Didn't see any animals anywhere near them. EXCEPT FOR BUFFALO!!! It was really bizarre, on the way to the hot springs, any time we saw a buffalo sign, there was at least one buffalo standing almost right next to it, every single time! If you haven't seen a buffalo up close and personal, they are really bizarre creatures! We got to the Liard Hot Springs lodge, and got a cabin for the night, unloaded, and headed right for the hot springs. As expected, it felt absolutely amazing! I didn't want to get out of them! After about an hour soak we went back to the lodge, had some buffalo burgers, as we watched buffalo walk by (true story), and passed out for one of the best night sleep of the entire trip!
We woke up to perfect weather pretty early, and decided to get a jump start ahead of the construction. After talking to some locals the night before, they advised us there was a lot of construction heading south from here and they didn't start until 8am. We were on the road around 530. Yeah, we got lucky, we saw all the construction, a lot of it, but didn't have to stop, or even slow down, because no one was there.
This portion of the Alaskan Highway was gorgeous! Due to the nice weather, we had a LONG, almost 500 mile day, and rode straight to Dawson Creek where the Alaska Highway starts. Pulled into "Mile 0 Campground" and passed out within minutes of setting up our tents, still great weather!
The ride from Dawson Creek to Jasper was brutally boring. 350 Miles of nothing but empty plains as far as the eye can see. But once we got to Jasper, the scenery was some of the best on the trip. We started getting nervous because all of the campgrounds were full, and almost 2/3 of the way through the park, we stumbled across a primitive one, that had plenty of open spots right on the river, $15/night with all the free nice fresh cut firewood you could want. There we met 3 new friends, Frann and Chloe from the UK that just quit their jobs and were traveling the world, and Yanna from Germany that had just done the same. We ended up hanging out all night with them by the fire swapping stories, planning the next trips, and just having a great time. This was another one of the highlights of this trip for me. Great conversation, and total strangers felt like family within an hour. Hope to see them again someday in our travels!
We woke up early, had coffee with Frann, Chloe, and Yanna, and headed for the famous Icefields Highway between Jasper National Park and Banff National Park. It is advertised as the most Beautiful Road in the World. I am now sure about that statement, but it sure was amazing! Pristine glaciers, one after another for almost 100 miles. Absolutely breathtaking the entire stretch! When in Banff, we decided to check out Lake Louise, a popular attraction, and noted as a must see. This was probably the most congested and crowded attraction of our entire trip. We rode in real dodged the 1000s of people, snapped a few pics, and got the hell out of there. Our destination for the day was to make it to Glacier National Park in Montana. The heat got brutal and was close to 100 degrees for a majority of the day. We rolled into Waterton National Park, which is the southern most area of Alberta, on the border of Montana, and just stopped at the first campground we saw and passed out.
We got on the road early again, and crossed back into the US at the port of Chief Mountain Crossing. Again, a very quick and painless crossing. From there we headed straight to Glacier National Park to beat the rush. We arrived early, we got our maps at the visitors center and were on our way. We took the "Going to the Sun Road" through the park, up and over the famous Logans Pass. This was a very nice, scenic road, that would through the park through natural tunnels, and cliffs on one side or another giving breathtaking views. We got lots of pictures on this road, but the pictures don't even do it justice. Definitely doing another trip back there to spend more time exploring the area. As soon as we left the park, it was like an oven door opened. The temps were over 100 degrees, and felt like they kept climbing. We came upon the Swan Lake Trading post, that had signs for camping mentioning showers and laundry. We were whooped so we stopped right away. This was probably the shortest of our days mileage wise, but was also the hottest. The price was $20 to pitch a tent, or $25 to sleep in one of their Yurts (canvas circular tent with wooden floor, and cot). We opted for the Yurts based on the pending thunderstorm, and not wanting to deal with packing up in the rain again. We got settled, went to the trading post for dinner, and have some great food. When we returned to camp, 2 more travelers had arrived, Joe in a car, and Dale, on his Honda ST1100. We did the laundry and took nice hot showers. Then, we stayed up for a bit swapping stories and chatting with them, but again, passed out early. During all of this Long swapped out his chain and sprockets for piece of mind in under an hour like a pro!
We set out early again, and the original destination for today was Yellowstone. The heat didn't let up all day, and the ride was very uneventful. We ended up stopping at a butcher shop in Livingston, grabbing some fresh cut flat iron steaks, and finding a nice camp along the river a few hours north of Yellowstone.
We woke up to some nice weather, had a nice relaxing breakfast, and got on the road to Yellowstone. We took the very indirect and much longer route to enter Yellowstone from the Northeast Entrance, as opposed to the main entrance. Butler maps, and several fellow travelers we met strongly suggested we ride Bear Tooth Pass to enter the park. Following our string of luck listening to fellow travelers and adjusting everything as we go, we did just that and loved it! Beartooth Pass is a must ride road for any type of motorcyclist! Great twisties, great weather, great scenery, no traffic!
Yellowstone was cool, not what i expected but cool none the less. We had one legit oh shit moment were were got surrounded by a herd of angry buffalo and had no where to go because idiots in the rented RVs parked them in the middle of the road, and got out to take pictures. We got out safely, but were both pretty nervous. Some people just don't understand etiquette. Yellowstone was FILLED with those rented RVs blocking the road at many points in the park. Zero enforcement. Really took away from the experience. After passing through Yellowstone, we continued straight to the Grand Tetons. Found a nice camp spot (Headwater) on the very north end of the park, had elk meatloaf at the lodge nearby, passed out, woke up, and headed to the Tetons.
This was a marathon day! We covered 4 states and almost 500 miles. Wyoming to Idaho to Utah to Colorado. We decided on our based on all of the G1 rated (Highest) roads from Butler Maps. We covered the Teton Pass, Flaming Gorge, and the 191 right into Rangely Colorado. Great day of riding some very scenic backroads! Same thing, found camp when we were beat, setup, and passed out fast. Just before pulling into Rangely we met a father and son, John and Tom traveling from Tennessee and Missouri that we ended up spend a good amount time with later on, more on that later.
Up until this point, we had been on the road, go go go camping and staying in a couple very rustic cabins. I decided to splurge here and got us a nice fancy cabin at the Red Cliff Lodge. This place is absolutely gorgeous 5 stars. Swimming pool, hot tub, meals included, etc... The ride from Rangely to Moab was just gorgeous the entire way. Pretty hot, but gorgeous nonetheless. Just as we will about in the middle of Utah we bumped into John and Tom again, and rode with them for a little bit. We rolled into the lodge, set down our stuff, did our laundry, grabbed a delicious lunch, swam in the pool to cool down, and then headed out to Arches National Park to catch is before sunset. Arches was short ride from the lodge, and we hit is just at the right time. The weather and lighting were perfect, no crowds either. Arches was probably the second most impressive of the National Parks we visited, just beautiful! And again, we bumped into John and Tom and hung out with them for awhile taking pictures and now became friends. At this point, we told them we were meeting back up with Brent at Bryce Canyon RV park the next day and told them they should join us. After the day was done, we went back to the lodge, and slept like hibernating bears!
We got up early, had nice weather, and got a good start to the day. Before we actually got into Moab proper, the crowds of Jeeps, side by sides, and lifted trucks of various brands were already turning me off from the idea of going. We stopped at the visitor center and while looking at a map determined we wanted to get to Bryce via the Canyonland, which several other travelers advised us to check out. I asked one of the employees of the visitor is there was a dirt road by chance that would cut over to the Canyonlands from Moab. Sure enough there was. She advised me it was a 32 mile un-maintained road, that may have some steep terrain and loose rocks. Sounded fun!
The name of the road was Potash Road and about 2/3 of the way in it changed to Shafer Trail when you enter the Canyonlands (only marked with a small wooden sign that you are entering the National Park, no gate or anything).
This was hands down my favorite part of this entire trip. It was challenging, not to the point of scary, we only saw 3 other people the entire 3 hours it took us, and the photos from this road were some of the best we got all trip. This 100% solidified that designing your trip on the fly by talking to locals is the ONLY way to travel! After seeing the Canyonlands we started to make our way to the Bryce RV park to meet up with Brent. We had been texting back and forth throughout the day relaying information.
After the crazy detours we took, and all that, we ended up arriving at the camp literally withing FIVE MINUTES of him! Hilarious! We caught up, swapped stories, drank some beverages, and his wife Val and him treated us with dinner of amazing steaks! Just before dinner was ready, John and Tom rolled up to join us. The site was huge, so they setup their tents, threw some pork chops on the grill, and we stayed up all night BSing becoming good friends.
Come morning time, John and Tom had to take off to continue their trip. Long, Brent, Val, and I took Brent's truck to see Bryce Canyon. It was our first day not riding motos, and it felt very weird, but very good!
Bryce was definitely the most impressive of the National Parks in my opinion. The scenery was just downright amazing, but also the park was run well (unlike most) and there were people there, but its setup where they disperse well, unlike other where there are huge bottlenecks and complete clusters. We did a few short hikes, and then went back to camp and made another feast! I passed out EARLY that night and slept like a champ!
We got an early start to beat the heat and the crowds to Zion. it didn't even matter. Zion was a complete zoo. Rental RVs everywhere stopping in the middle of the road blocking everything to get pictures. It was pretty ridiculous. Took away from the whole experience, and we were quite disappointed! We got out of there pretty quick and headed straight to Vegas to stay with one of Longs friends before finishing the trek home.
It's no secret, i don't like the heat, nor do i like the hoopla of Vegas. It was 106 degrees when we rolled in around 5 in the afternoon. Luckily they had AC, it was fully cranked up, and my cranky ass got a lot less cranky after a nap and we went out to dinner for delicious greek food!
Woke up at 3am and beat the heat and traffic and rode non stop (except for gas home).
This is beyond the trip of a lifetime, this trip was a life changer, I have totally found a new passion, and look forward to planning the next one and many more to come.
Day 1: 541 Miles: Big Bear to Sacramento
Day 2: 408 Miles: Sacramento to Cal/OR Border
Day 3: 330 Miles: CA/OR Border to Pacific City OR
Day 4 :355 Mile:s Pacific City OR to Anacortes WA
Day 5: 340 Miles: Anacortes Wa to Lake Lac La Hache British Columbia
Day 6: 417 Miles: Lake Lac La Hache British Columbia to Smithers BC
Day 7: 299 Miles: Smithers BC to Bell 2 Lodge BC
Day 8: 443 Miles: Bell 2 Lodge BC to Teslin Lake Yukon
Day 9: 420 Miles: Teslin Lake Yukon to Dawson City Yukon
Day 10: 329 Miles: Dawson City to Delta Junction Alaska
Day 11: 382 Miles: Delta Junction Alaska to Wiseman Alaska
Day 12: 407 Miles: Wiseman Alaska to Anderson Alaska
Day 13: 324 Miles: Anderson Alaska to Anchorage Alaska
Day 14: 304 Miles: Anchorage Alaska to Valdez Alaska
Day 15: 382 Miles: Valdez Alaska to Beaver Creek Yukon
Day 16: 394 Miles: Beaver Creek Yukon to Teslin Yukon
Day 17: 292 Miles: Teslin Yukon to Liard Hot Springs BC
Day 18: 477 Miles: Liard Hot Springs BC to Dawson Creek BC
Day 19: 351 Miles: Dawson Creek BC to Jasper National Park
Day 20: 416 Miles: Jasper National Park to Waterton National Park
Day 21: 151 Miles: Waterton National Park to Swan Lake Montana
Day 22: 307 Miles: Swan Lake Montana to Livingston Montana
Day 23: 329 Miles: Livingston Montana to Grand Tetons National Park
Day 24: 479 Miles: Grand Tetons National Park to Rangeley Colorado
Day 25: 242 Miles: Rangeley Colorado to Moab Utah
Day 26: 340 Miles: Moab Utah to Bryce Canyon
Day 27: 244 Miles: Bryce Canyon to Las Vegas
Day 28: 323 Miles: Las Vegas to Home