Saturday, January 02, 2016

Mobile Bay to Deadhorse AK

Its a pretty crazy thought.

I'd start the trip by snapping a selfie with my toe in water of the Gulf of Mexico...  and about a week later... get another selfie... with my toe in the water of the Artic Ocean. 

There are several routes to choose from... 2 eastern routes through Minnesota... and one western route through Colorado and Montana.   The western route is a lot more interesting...  but it adds a couple hundred miles.  But lets be honest... 200 miles isn't that important when you're talking about a 5000 mile ride.  Each way.

Now for the record JAC and I have done some crazy stuff.  But this is on another level.  That's not to say we can't do it.  We can.  But there are very serious logistical questions to answer.  Previously it looks liked a month long trip.... But now it looks like it will be more like 3 weeks.  And even that would be allowing for rest days.

We;re talking about 700 miles a day for 7 days... which really isn't difficult.  10 hours a day on the bike averaging 70 mph.    That pace, which is modest, would leave plenty of time to take it slow and easy in the rough parts. 

But what bike to take?

See normally this isn't a question.  Hey dummy... there is a BMW 1150 RT sitting in the garage.

But that's a big heavy bike.  Do I want to take it up the Dalton Highway?   Don't get me wrong... I know its has some hype about it but in the summer the Dalton isn't a big deal.  Its a long straight road that switches between asphalt, gravel, and hard packed dirt.   None of which is a problem.

The problem would be rain.

The Dalton can get pretty nasty if it rains...  and on a big heavy bike like the RT... that could be...  interesting.

For something like this ideally you'd want a lightweight bike with a low seat.  

Ok but who wants to ride that lightweight bike at 75 to 85 mph on the interstate for 4000 miles on the way to and from the Dalton?

Maybe something in between?  Like a Weestrom? 

But a new bike would be unproven...  do I really wanna trust it that much to take on a trip like this?  The RT is set up for the long haul.

And what about me?  Can I physically still do this?  I'd like to say that's a no brainer... but I have to face some facts... I'm still in good shape.. but my eyes are deteriorating... and I've had two back surgeries.

There are a lot of things that go into planning something like this.  Hell... there are a lot of things that go into evaluating the Go - No Go prospects of this.  But here we are.  

It appears its time to start that process.

Wanna come along?


Ben said...

Its simple really, ya just need another bike. Something lighter like a Tiger 800 or an F700GS that still has power for fast highways but is light enough to have occasional off roady fun.

Ben said...

...or what I'm leaning towards--the KLR650. It's a mule, it's cheap, and lots of mods available for making it shorter, suspension upgrades, better subframes, et cetera.

Bill said...

Not that I'm volunteering, but for that kind of a trip you may want to consider enlisting a support vehicle. Something like a F-250 or similar. You're right about Alaskan roads, they can be brutal if the weather doesn't cooperate. My brother drove up there and lived for two years, using an E-350 diesel (2WD) as his main base-camp. We had his rig at my house for two months modifying it to live in. He spent most of his time between Eagle, Delta Junction, and Fort Yukon - in that triangle.

You're gonna need more gas than you think, and you'd better pack a lunch. Having a supply vehicle within a days drive would be a good idea. Arranging depots almost means a professional logistics guy. And, where are you going to sleep? If you have a problem, you're going to be sleeping in Grizzly country - which is why my brother picked a E-350 instead of an F-350 (he had to have diesel for the winter).

farmer Tom said...

Looks like you will be going through Giraffe's back yard.

I kind of agree with the idea of a support vehicle.

farmer Tom said...

You want to adjust your route a bit. Take Avenue of the Saints North out of Saint Louis, and you are within 15 miles my house.

Your welcome to stop and stay here for the night.

I'll provide the steaks.

Nate said...

Bill... we'll be camping. Which will be fun because that far north in the summer the sun will still be up at like 10pm.

Nate said...

in terms of gas... our bikes have a range of about 250 miles. so I think we're ok there. Plus we can always strap a gallon of gas to rack.

Nate said...

The smaller bike thing sounds great... except what am I really gaining? My bike weighs about 560. The 700 gs was 460.

100 pounds really that important? Not so sure. We're not talking about a KLX250s here.

Ben said...

Is 100 pounds important, well I guess it depends on the roads. I bet that 1150 is awesome on the open roads where it's not too bad.

But I think you gain one other thing with a midside bike. For example the G650GS... 74mpg highway cruising + aftermarket touratech tank = 717 mile theoretical range. And still has enough power, ABS i think, and there are lots of parts out there to modify suspension and seat to get your desired height.

daddynichol said...

That's a trip. I can't offer much but if you would like, you can stay at either of my son's homes in Leavenworth, right close to your route by Kansas City. Sleep, food and drink courtesy of the Nichol clan.

JACIII said...

This trip has been done a million times, in fact there is a group of local retirees who do it every othere year. One did it on an ancient gl1200 gold wing that was only marginally charging whend they departed.

Chase vehicles are for pussies. The major factors are time expense, cash expense, tire and service logistics. And mosquitoes.

The oldsters compete to see who can make the trip on least $. The first time they divided responsibilities. One guy (the gold wing ) volunteered to be in charge of food. One saddlebag full of beans. One saddlebag full of rice.

They are still mad at him.

Susan said...

I'm with Bill regarding a support vehicle. Some of the stretches of highway up there redefine the meaning of the word desolate. I know you are capable and all, but you have to think about the reality of this trip.
One of them is going into some seriously desolate areas woefully unprepared. How will you carry the extra supplies you would need to carry due to the desolation? Won't the weight of that eat up your fuel supply?

Regarding your back surgeries. What I would do is take a brutally honest look at how you felt after one of your longer road trips in the lower 48. How did you feel at the end? I mean seriously, honestly feel?
If it was bad, but bearable, multiply that by a factor of whatever. Because you have a 10K mile round trip excursion you are contemplating here. Plus, how is JACIII's health? You have to take that into consideration too.
If he got into trouble on one of those desolate areas, how would you help him?

This road trip sounds like a total blast for you both, but there are elements you have to look at honestly and evaluate before you go.

A satellite phone would be a safe precaution too. That way you would not have to depend on cell phone service in those desolate areas.

Before you start with the "women always worry too much" routine, I have relatives up in Anchorage who have driven the AlCan highway to come down and visit. It does indeed give a new meaning to the word desolate.

I am both thumbs up for you two going on this trip, but my advice would be to be brutally honest in evaluating your capabilities. A support vehicle would still be your best bet to carry extra supplies to avoid the weight on your bikes. Not to mention a tool box for emergency bike repairs.

Bill said...

Traveling with a group of five or six is the same thing as having a support vehicle. But tent camping in a group of two, in bear country, is not for the inexperienced. If you can stay in Coldfoot, that may work, as long as things go well on the road. I don't have any idea about tent camping in Coldfoot, just from a quick Google search it looks like there's a place to stay. And south of Fairbanks shouldn't be any trouble. So, yeah, a stretch but doable.

JACIII said...

There are two others 'planning' to go. Both are experienced motorcycle travelers, but have zero off road experience. There are Plusses and minuses to a large group. My preference is two riders. Three max.

Susan is correct to urge caution. Nathan has been out of the saddle for quite some time, he's fat, his back is suspect, his beloved RT is covered in cobwebs, and he has small children whose well being is rightly priority prime. Anything can happen at any time. There is time to plan and prepare contingencies though. We are looking at mid to late July; lots of time to get back in the saddle, catch up on maintenance, ?buy a new bike??? get some exercise, take a few tuneup camping rides, pick the brains of those who have gone before, plot, and plan.

Ben said...

Dude. i want to do a trip like this so bad. Ive wanted to do a trip west across canada and then up the coastal regions to AK since I first had a bike. I'm hoping i can scrape together the cash for a KLR or older BMW650 and build it up myself, maybe this coming fall and winter. Assuming my wife and I can figure out how to make children for cheaper than this last one ended up being...

Ben said...

@JACIII re: Gold Wing.

Those old gold wings are cool imho. Specially the GL1000's the first few years. Just an absolute pain to work on, but they can be really cool. Theres a guy in the local VJMC chapter (I'm the youngest member by probably 15 years) that has a custom built supercharged GL1000. It is so so so cool. And it is scary fast...

JACIII said...

Yeah, those old wings are cool. I followed that oldster up a pretty steep dirt trail on a dual sort ride. No drama, just chugged right up it.

It would never occur to me to take a gl into the woods.

JACIII said...

The klr is pretty much good to go as is. There used to be a cam chain tensioner that was commonly preemptively addressed.
I've had two, rock solid.

Jemison Thorsby said...

If you don't already know about it, the "Milepost" publication is an essential guide for anyone traveling the North Country highway systems. Lets you know precisely where and how often you can find facilities (gas, etc). You'll particularly want to know where to find stuff along the Dalton Highway. Good luck!

cheddarman said...

Nate I take a couple of grams of omega 3 fish oil per day along with sam-e and it does wonders for my back.

I would enjoy buying you guys lunch on you trip. I am in central iowa

I would also enjoy meeting farmer tom

cheddarman said...

Nate I take a couple of grams of omega 3 fish oil per day along with sam-e and it does wonders for my back.

I would enjoy buying you guys lunch on you trip. I am in central iowa

I would also enjoy meeting farmer tom

JACIII said...

@Jemison, Aware of the publication but had prematurely dismissed it. Will re-evaluate.

Nate said...

a new bike is a possibility. I'm not ruling it out. Its barely january. Plenty of time to get the bike to the dealer in p'cola and get it worked over.

It ain't like kentucky.

It will be 70 and sunny in two weeks. i have plenty time to get some riding done.

enjoy winter.

Nate said...

poor JAC apparently still has his feelings hurt because I went to ilk moot instead of riding to montana with him last year. oh well.

Fact is he's right though. It was early 2015 the last time I was actually on the bike. What I have to come to grips with is... I just didn't want to get on it. I was over it.

I was still into bikes and read about riding and such... I just didn't actually want to ride the RT.

I don't know if I need a new bike or what. There's no doubt the RT is perfect for these giant trips like this... but around town every day stuff I just don't ride it.

I want something smaller... simpler... lighter....

Damn.. I want like... a honda Ruckus or something... or a tw200.. but neither of those would be going to alaska.

LL said...

If you take the route north on I90 thru WI, you both have beds & a hot shower at my place, plus I can park in the driveway, so your bikes can go in the garage, for safety

Res Ipsa said...

Wanna come along?

With all my heart, but it ain't gonna happen.

Sorry to hear about your back, Nate. Something that has helped me out was doing squats. By helped I mean all my back pain is gone and I feel great. Do em on a Smith machine if you need to start, but move to the free weights ASAP.

WaterBoy said...

There's food and lodging here if you end up coming through Colorado. Just let me know if and when.

And Nate, I'm going to be in Alabama mid-May. Not sure if the schedule is going to have room for a side trip or not, yet, but I'm looking forward to trying some of the local brews if you have any recommendations.

JACIII said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JACIII said...

I have known other guys who rode regularly and then just quit, Kept their bikes, love motorcycles, just don't ride. They are always talking about that next trip they are never going to take.

Sometimes a new bike gets them going again. Sometimes they give up or come to the realization the joy from being on the bike is outweighed by fear of injury, or they bought an uncomfortable bike because it was sparkly or loud rather than capable.

Two back surgeries would have me looking into alternative rides, too. I have had one surgery because sciatica was interfering with sleep, which I realized would eventually interfere with my ability to make a living, which would then interfere with my ability to have excess funds for riding.

There are options to explore, given a physical limitation:

Option one, don't drop the bike and you won't have to pick the heavy thing up.
Option two, don't try to stop a low speed tip over - let it go and get clear. This one is my personal foible and I endeavor to cure it.
Option three, CanAm Spyder with snow tires!

Ergos look correct, and it looks like it could haul a lot of beer.

Susan said...

Nate, Res is right about the squats. Strengthening your pelvic girdle helps to keep the rest of your back lined up correctly, and reduces your risk of further injury.

My own hubby swears by them too.

jml1911a1 said...

+1 on the squats, and I'll add deadlifts.

cheddarman said...

Fish oil keeps the inflammation in check. since your wife is an MD she can get the high purity Rx stuff for you. Keeping the inflammation in check helps prevent calcification of the joints

John Williams said...

There are parts of the ALCAN that are 20 miles of dirt road and if it's wet, it's mud.

Solemn Sentinel said...

Sounds like an awesome trip, I've been wanting to move into street bikes for a while now, but finances have stopped me. Hondas new Africa twin looks interesting especially with the dirt bike wheels on it. It definitely leans more to the off road side but with the automatic trans would be nice on long trips.

Solemn Sentinel said...

My phone just tried to capitalize 'trans'. May be burning this damn thing...

Bill said...

My phone just tried to capitalize 'trans'.

Well, I guess the first thing after a period might apply in some circumstances. Definitely not proper.

Wendy said...

Little note: Even in MI it's light till 10pm and past. Up into Canada and Alaska, you're looking at light till Midnight or beyond. We were near Anchorage in August and it was dusk at midnight. This may make it harder to sleep if you're not a restful sleeper.

Bill said...

By sheer coincidence, a friend of mine just sent me this:

(I put it in imgur, he sent it to me on Facebook)

RC said...

Looks like an awesome trip, but one that will have you wishing it were over 1/3 of the way back. I've done those. The memories are worth it. I drove 12 hours each way just to spend a day going through Gore Canyon on a raft, stupid, but the memories are for a lifetime.

Interesting that Nate's bike has been down a year. I have an old wing, GL 1100, been in the family thirty years, and I manage to ride it often enough to keep it limbered up, but I would never think about taking it on a trip like this. But my XR650R hasn't been started in at least three years just because I haven't felt like riding it. I'm just getting old because I used to love racing on dirt and hill climbing. Heck, I'm sure I'll have have to go through the complete fuel system to even get 'er going. I don't know that I ever will.

Bill said...

Have you guys been following this thread?

Bill said...

My buddy sent me his AK journal. It's TL;DR They rode north separately and met in Fairbanks. My friend's bike dropped the tranny. So he rented another BMW, two other members of their group flew into Fairbanks and rented Kawa KLR650's. Last days:

Day 14 (Coldfoot to Deadhorse):
- I hit the road to Deadhorse at 0620. Super Jim decided to leave his R1200GS at Coldfoot and joined Don in the Jeep. The road is paved the first 20 to 30 miles, it’s a beautiful day and I see not a single vehicle on the road the for the first hour. And I don’t see any Walmarts, gas stations, or restaurants. there are none for the 250 miles between Coldfoot and Deadhorse. Take plenty of gas.
- I take lots of photos as I ascend to the Antigun Pass over the Brook Range and Continental Divide. Our photos do not do Alaska justice, the beauty of the scenery cannot be captured. There’s more and more snow and the temperature begins to drop as we climb to Antigun Pass and northward.
- Kevin, Nick and I hit road maintenance and have to follow a guide truck 15 miles. It’s all mud and super slippery in some areas. After that the road continues to deteriorate – more mud, rocks and pea gravel. Thick fog settles in and the temperature is in the high 30’s. Then the fog is replaced by thick dust, very high cross-winds and lower temperatures. Danny and I are running about 70 mph when it feels like I have a flat. I check but both tires are fine. I figure out the problem: motorcyclists have to steer and lean slightly into the wind when riding through a strong cross wind. Normally you’re riding on paved roads with good traction. We’re riding on very slippery surfaces with high cross winds. we’re being blown sideways, and have to steer harder into the wind. Danny and I are tired and cold but enjoying a pretty good pace in crappy conditions. Danny stopped to inspect his bike. He’d bent a rim on a big rock or pot hole. Temperature is down to 35 degrees, wind continues to blow 30 to 40 mph and terrain is flat tundra as we approach Deadhorse.
- We reach Deadhorse and search for gas. We’re freezing and worn out, and have a hard time figuring out the unattended gas station. The Deadhorse motel is not quite as fancy as Coldfoot – Deadhorse has communal bathrooms.
- Our whole crew unloads in time to catch the shuttle to the Arctic Ocean. The area along the shore is controlled by the oil companies and they control access for security purposes. The whole Prudhoe Bay oil operation and pipeline are a marvel of engineering, free enterprise and capitalism collaboration.
- Danny, Don, Jim and I are doing the “blue bootie can-can”. The mud is so thick in Coldfoot and Deadhorse that the motels ask you to remove your boots or put on surgical booties.
- It was only 250 miles to Deadhorse. The paved and better dirt sections of the road, beautiful scenery in the mountains, and warm temps early in the day were nice, but the miles and miles of super slippery mud, gravel, rocks, bumps, potholes, dust, fog and cold took their toil – we’re all beat.

Day 15 (Deadhorse to Coldfoot):
- Blinds are closed but the sun still shines through so I tie a cravat over my eyes. Saturday morning I leave Deadhorse about 0730. It’s 34 degrees, foggy and raining but I’m wearing all my gear so I cruise comfortably waterproofed and insulated against the foul weather.
- I see caribou, a mouse and fox as I motor south. The rain slowly subsides and the temperature creeps up to high 50’s and the world is good.
- Stopped to gas the bike from the spare gas can. Kevin and Nick catch up and we all cruise into Coldfoot around 1400. The others come in shortly afterwards and we have time to relax and swap tall tales and big lies.
The adventure is over for most of the crew. Nick and Kevin head to Fairbanks to return their rental KLR650's. Don flew out and Jim and Danny start their return trip. Danny is riding to Key West for bragging rights. I flew back home. Great trip but it's great to get back home, just wish I could have ridden with Jim and Danny.

Res Ipsa said...


Gore Cannon is definitely worth it. It's one of the best trips Waterboy and I have taken.

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