Well, I have done it again! Decided to take another long trip on my trusty Honda Gold Wing.
I had been thinking about this trip long before I even actually started taking it seriously about really doing it. It is a long, long way to the Arctic Circle from my little home here in Lanett, Alabama. A lot farther than my trip to Hyder Alaska that I took in 2003. That one was over 8,000 miles round trip.
I guess I really got serious about it about 3 months before going. I knew I was going to a rally to meet up with a bunch of Gold Wingers that I chat with on the Gold Wing Road Riders Association's message board in August. About 90 of us got together last year in Nebraska for the first time in August and were doing it again this year August 18th through the 21st.
I decided that around that time would be a good time to go to the Circle and then drop back down into the states for the rally. Plus, the weather should not be a problem around then way up north.
I figured that I would be traveling at least 10,000 miles round trip. By far, this would be the longest that I have ever done by motorcycle or any other means of transportation.
In 2003, I had a different Gold Wing than I do now. I had a 1990 1500. I ended up selling it a few months after my trip to Hyder and bought a Cruiser type motorcycle. In short, I only kept it one week and realized that I made a mistake. However, my Gold Wing was gone and I needed another one. I found my current one which is a 1989 1500 in September of 2003, in Rockford, Illinois. With this trip being completed, I have now put over 58,000 miles on it in less than two years.
About two months before leaving for the Circle, I looked at a calendar and started putting days together that I wanted to take off from work. I needed enough time to do the Circle and the Rally in Nebraska.
I have a kinda neat schedule working at the Police Department. We work 4 days on and have 4 days off each week. This way I am able to take a week off (4 days) which gives me a total of 12 days off in a row. I decided to take two weeks off which gave me 20 days to do everything. I figured that would be enough to do all that I wanted to do.
I decided that I would leave the 2nd of August which being that I work night shift, would mean that I would be leaving on my trip after getting off the morning of the 2nd. It also meant riding right after a 12 hour shift.
That did not settle with me too well so about two weeks before leaving, I asked another officer if he would swap a night with me and he said yes.
I got off work the morning of the 1st at 6:30 and tried to get some sleep before taking off on the trip. I was able to get a little sleep. It's always hard to do just before a trip as many of you know.
I ended up leaving at 4:30 in the afternoon. I wanted to ride at night anyway because I was used to being up all night working.
I rode 16 hours and 1,087 miles before stopping for a motel. That put me in Missouri Valley, Iowa. I got a motel room and fell asleep within a few seconds of hitting the bed. I was tired!
I think I slept 8 hours without moving. I got up and got something to eat from Burger King which was next to the motel and went back to the motel and ate. Watched a little TV and went back to sleep. I needed to get on a "awake in the day" schedule so I just stayed there till the next morning. I need the rest anyway. I had not gotten much the past week or so.
The next morning I knew I would be in Canada later that day. I left the motel at 8:00 am and took off again. At 4:20 pm, I was at the North Dakota and Manitoba, Canada border.
I had to go inside to talk to Customs because I did not have my birth certificate with me. Every time I have been to Canada in the past, all I needed was my drivers license. Well, with all the crap going on in the world now, the border folks are a good bit more weary. They have good reason to be! This was the first time I have seen them all wearing bullet proof vests. They wear them on the outside of their clothes.
After talking to Customs and answering a lot of questions like where was I going, what was my reason for coming to Canada, how long was I going to stay, where was I leaving Canada from, did I know anyone in Canada, did I have any alcohol, guns, pepper spray, tobacco, and produce, I was granted access into Canada. I figured they were going to search my bike but they did not. I will say that they were very professional. Two of them were amazed at how big my badge was. Yes, I told them I was a copper in the states. They all had very small badges. They wished that they had larger ones. Theirs look like kids toy badges.
I was there about 30 minutes - mainly because there were other people having to go through the same ordeal I went through who were ahead of me.
After leaving the border crossing, I stopped at the welcome center to get a few pictures of the Manitoba sign. It was the first time I had been there. I always try to get pictures of state signs if I have not already been to one (only one missing now is Hawaii) and the different providence's in Canada. I have now been to Quebec, British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan in Canada.
I rode the rest of the evening and after 703 miles for the day, I stopped in the small town of Russell, Manitoba not too far from the Saskatchewan line. I got gas and then looked for a motel.
I went to two and found them both to be full. The lady at the desk of one called a local Bed and Breakfast to see if they had room and they did. I went over there and met two wonderful people. Joan and Ron Clement turned their home into a B&B about three years ago and have met a lot of people traveling through their town. They were great hosts! There were two Amish couples who had gotten there about the same time as I did. They were Mennonites and were in a big new Chevy truck with some kind of long, large trailer behind it. They all wore traditional Amish clothes and were very polite and quiet. We all slept upstairs in bed rooms and I never heard a sound out of them.
After getting all my stuff off my bike and getting settled in, Ron and I talked about my trip and of his family. Joan came home a little later and we all talked for awhile and then I hit the sack. The next morning, Ron and Joan made me one of the best breakfasts I have had in a long time.
After breakfast and saying our goodbyes and getting a few pictures, I was off again for another long day of riding. I left around 8:10 am EDT.
I knew that sometime during this day that I would get to 100,000 miles on my bike. I was watching it closely and when it finally hit the mark, I stopped and took a few pictures of it and video. I think I was in Saltcoats, Saskatchewan at the time. It was 10:30 am EDT.
After 940 miles for the day, I was in Grand Prairie, Alberta where I met up with Rich and Susan Sopel. We spent the night there and took off the next morning heading for the Circle.
We rode into Dawson, BC where the Alaskan Highway starts. Yes, we had to stop and get pictures and some video of this occasion. We would be on this road for a very long time! Unlike the Interstates of the US and the wide open planes I had been through in Saskatchewan and Manitoba where I could make good time, the Alcan Highway gets up into the mountains with a lot of curves and the dreaded highway construction. I had been told about the construction many times by others who have been through the Alcan.
Today, almost all of the two-lane highway is surfaced with asphalt. But it's no freeway. There still are stretches where the highway is narrow and curvy, where it lacks center lines and ample shoulders. Also, one must watch out for sudden, loose-gravel breaks where the pavement has failed or is under repair. Sometimes the gravel gaps are marked with little, red flags; sometimes they aren't. And that asphalt paving can ripple like a roller coaster track in places where "frost heaves" are caused by seasonal freezing and thawing of the ground.
Maintenance crews do their best to patch the annual outbreak of frost heaves, but it's a never-ending, high-cost job. Long dry spells can make the gravel portions of the road dusty, and if it's extremely dry, you may have washboard and roughness problems. It is recommended that you drive with headlights on at all times as it is easier for oncoming vehicles to see you. There are many signs along the way to remind you to turn them on.
The Alaskan Highway begins in Dawson Creek, in northeastern British Columbia, then winds northwesterly through Canada's Yukon Territory and into the heartland of Alaska.
Delta Junction, Alaska, 98 miles south of Fairbanks, is the official northern end of the highway, but Fairbanks is the destination for most Alaska Highway motorists. Driving distance from Dawson Creek to Fairbanks is 1,488 miles.
After leaving Dawson Creek, we rode 579 miles which put us in Watson Lake which is on the Yukon and BC line. We made 5 gas stops along the way. One thing to remember for those of you who may take this journey one day is that most gas stations close at 9:00 pm local time unless you're in one of the bigger cities. There are many, many miles between those cities with gas stations around every 35 to 90 miles or so. Being that we average around 200 miles per tank on our Gold Wings, we learned quick to watch our fuel and not to go too far before fueling up with only half a tank.
At one time, we thought that we were going to run out of gas because we did not get gas when we went through White Horse and we were down to about a half tank each. After about 90 miles, we finally came across a gas station. We were more than happy to pay the high price for gas.
Oh yeah, the further north you go, the more gas costs. 5 liters was $5.50 Canadian.
We crossed over into the Yukon and back into BC several times because that's just how the road goes. I think it was the second time crossing into the Yukon that we took pictures at a real nice sign.
At our last gas stop of the day, we were at a motel/cabin place and decided to try to get a room there. No dice! I ended up calling 6 motels on up the road trying to find one that had room for us. I finally found the one 135 miles on up the road in Watson Lake.
When we finally arrived, we got our motel room, unloaded our bikes and then started searching for something to eat. It was after 10:00 local time and the only restaurant that was open was a few blocks away in another motel. I tell you now, there was a party going on at this place! There were about 20 or so college age kids there and they were loud. I guess I am getting old thinking that kids are loud now. Well, they were! I guess getting drunk, going to sleep, going to work is all there is to do in that part of the world.
While we were getting our room, there was a young fellow about two times lit standing at the counter asking us about our bikes and how far we had traveled. He was really amazed at how far this ole Bama boy had rode so far and how far we were all going.
There was a bar at our motel but I think it had just closed. Later at the other motel, he came stumbling in and crashed the party over there. Luckily, he was too plastered to notice us and did not bother us anymore. He also got snubbed from everyone else there.
The kids worked in the area doing whatever. There is the road construction going on and a few other things around there but not a whole lot to do. I guess that bar/lounge was the place to be at night for them all.
The only thing good about it was that the food was great. The steak and burgers were cooked as you walk in the place on a large grill. Really smelled good!
The next morning we loaded up, fuled up and took a few pictures at the The World Famous Sign Post Forest. It is Watson Lake’s best known attraction. So famous, it is known - and mimicked - around the world.
The forest was started in 1942 by a homesick U.S. Army G.I., Carl K. Lindley of Danville, Il., Company D, 341st Engineers. While working on the Alaska Highway, he erected a sign here pointing the way and stating the mileage to his hometown. Others followed his lead and are still doing so to this day. On July 20, 1990, Olen and Anita Walker of Bryan, Ohio placed the 10,000th sign. Carl K. Lindley and his wife visited the site in 1992, 50 years after his first post was erected. I saw several signs from Alabama and took a picture of one.
After that interesting site, we continued to head NORTH TO ALASKA. Once again, that song played in my mind as it did the first time I went.
We only made 523 miles that day and stopped in Beaver Creek which is just a few miles from the Alaska line. We got there at 8:45 local time and there were several hotels to choose from so that was not a problem. There were also several other motorcycles there. They were all Harleys and they looked about as pitiful as our bikes did. Lots of dirt and mud all over them. They were heading south to Sturgess in South Dakota for the huge bike rally that is held there every year.
They told us that it was a rough trip up to Fairbanks in some parts of the Alcan. We told them to be ready to catch parts flying from their bikes as they rode through some of the construction that we had already gone through. Rough is really not the word for it. Down right ridiculous is more like it. We also noticed that some of their bikes had little clearance between the bottom of their bike and the road. They would soon be bottoming out if they were going too fast.
We went across the street to Buck Shot Betty's restaurant.
It is a little place with only 5 tables in it but we had the best time in there and made a few friends. We are not shy by any means! We horsed around with everyone in there including the waitress, the owner herself and other customers. A young couple was in there that lived in Alaska in the brush. Their names are Kyle and Lisa. Lisa teaches school. Another couple was there too. Their names are Dennis and Lynette. I told Lynette that I am from Lanett, Alabama. Of course they had never heard of Lanett but I thought it was cool that her name was the same but spelled different.
We also met Eric. He was on a bicycle and was traveling from Fairbanks to Washington State. He had been on the road for several weeks averaging 60 to 70 miles a day and camping in his tent for the most part. We saw a lot of bicycle riders along the way. They would all be packed down with a lot of stuff for their trip. I wish I had the energy that those folks have.
After a good night sleep, we crossed over into Alaska. Yeah baby! Back in the good ole USA! Back to gallons, miles and US currency.
Something I noticed right off the bat was that when you came close to or even a half mile or so (if the road was straight) you could see the oncoming areas of road that were gravel because Alaska uses a yellow clay like mixture. So for the most part, you have time to slow down before hitting the gravel in Alaska. Least till Fairbanks.
BC and the Yukon use a mixture of stuff that is about the same color as the screwed up asphalt.
Just before Fairbanks, we stopped at the North Pole. Yep, there is a North Pole, Alaska and Santa is there everyday along with some Elves taking children's lists of goodies that they must have for Christmas. I bought a few post cards and sent them to various places in the states to friends and family. They all had the PO stamp of the North Pole. Yes, more pictures were taken too!
Some of the businesses in that town like McDonalds, had a Christmas theme. Even the street light poles looked like candy canes.
After that, we went on into Fairbanks and started looking for a hotel. Fairbanks was our cake and the Arctic Circle was to be the icing on the cake.
Being that we made it to Fairbanks, we decided to stay at a real nice 6 or so story hotel for $200.00 bucks a night. This one had two very nice restaurants and we ate at one of them. I think we all had steak. I know I had a New Yorker. Our waitress was cool and entertaining and even took a picture with us. I have to get that one and few others developed.
317 miles for the day. 4350 miles total for the trip so far.
Next morning, we took off for the Circle. About 35 miles north of Fairbanks, the asphalt ends and its nothing but gravel, dirt and mud.
After about 90 miles from Fairbanks, we were at the Yukon River. There is one gas stop/restaurant/motel there.
We got gas and ate breakfast. I had the biggest pancakes I have ever seen in my life. I was unable to eat all of them.
The fellow and his wife that run it live in Cold Foot above the Circle. We would be there in a few hours. They also had a gift shop with trinkets and clothes with Arctic Circle on them. I try to buy hat pins for my leather vest wherever I can when in an area of interest, so I bought a few and a t-shirt.
This restaurant was broken into last winter by a bear. It destroyed just about everything in the place and got into the freezers, refrigerators and anything else that had the smell of food. The restaurant is closed during the winter months. After the bear was done, it decided to hibernate in the restaurant for the winter. When the owners came to open for the season, the bear was still there and was killed. They had a picture book with the story and pictures of the event. I tried to take photo's of it but not all came out too well.
After leaving the restaurant, our next stop would finally be our goal. The Arctic Circle! It was only 60 more miles.
After 36 more miles of dirt, gravel, mud, dust and pot holes, we came across asphalt. (If you want to call it that) It was chipped and worn away in some parts but at least it was not as dusty as what we had been on. Rich and Susan could at least ride closer to me now without getting dust in the face and rocks on their bike.
When we got to the Circle, we were surprised that we were not the only ones there. Seems that there are many others who think visiting this place is something to be done too. There were several vehicles there including a camper and two tour vans loaded with folks from all over the world. There was also one family with 7 kids. They were climbing on the Arctic Circle sign with their parents trying to take pictures of them. We of course had to wait for them to do their thing. We just kept standing next to our bikes waiting and finally got to take some pictures. By the way, it was 65 degrees there and exactly 4,500 miles from Lanett.
The tour guides in the vans would roll out a red carpet with a white line on it right in front of the sign so that their guests could cross over the line however they see fit. Some tip toed across, one did a cart wheel across but most just walked. After everyone did their thing, the guide brought out cake with Cool Whip on it so they all could have their cake and eat it too.
There is nothing around here for 60 miles in any direction. Nothing but wilderness. Yet there were about 20 folks there.
We were finally able to get our turn doing the picture thing and after doing so, we continued to head north to Cold Foot Alaska.
Coldfoot, Alaska, sits at the mouth of Slate Creek on the east bank of the Middle Fork Koyukuk River, at Milepost 175 of the Dalton Highway.
The population of Coldfoot is 13 and is a highway stop on what used to be called the North Slope Haul Road. Most employment is in government and services to road travelers - motels, a restaurant, a gas and service station, RV park and dump station, an Alaska state trooper, a state Fish and Wildlife Protection officer and a U.S. Bureau of Land Management field office.
Coldfoot was originally named Slate Creek and reportedly got its name in 1900 when gold prospectors traveled up the Koyukuk to this point, then got ''cold feet,'' turned around and left. In 1902, Coldfoot had two roadhouses, two stores, seven saloons and a gambling house.
A post office was established in 1902, but discontinued in 1912 when the mine and town was abandoned for other mines in Nolan and Wiseman Creeks to the north.
There is a beautiful Welcome Center there. We went in and bought a few more goodies and got some of the above info from a gentleman who works there. He and his wife live in New York and are both retired. They have a big camper and have been coming up there the past few years working at the center. They head back home for the winter months. Sounds like something I'd like to do one day.
We then went across the road and got gas and headed back south at 3:10 pm local. By the way, I did not know that Alaska has its own time zone. It was 7:10 pm at home in Alabama. It was in Coldfoot that Rich noticed that my front lower fairing under my radiator was hanging by one screw. I attempted to fix it but it was futile. It was about to give up the ghost. At that moment, I knew a new CHROME one was in my bikes future. I have been wanting one anyway.
Right outside of Coldfoot, we stopped and took a few photos of the Alaska Pipeline.
When we got back down to the Circle, we stopped again to try to take a few more pictures figuring that maybe there would be less folks there. We were right, but still were some there.
I picked up two rocks while there to bring home and took more pictures. I also went ahead and ripped off that fairing because it was just a matter of time before it would come off on its own and I did not want that to happen while riding because if it did, it would have gone under my rear tire and probably would have punctured it. That would have been real bad!
We stopped again and got gas at the Yukon River where we ate breakfast on the way up and of course had to deal with all the rough roads again. We also had fires all around us that were set by lightning. They burn without anyone trying to put them out because there is nothing out there for them to threaten. Sometimes the fires were right next to the roads. Lotta smoke up there.
We got back to Fairbanks around 10:15 pm and tried to find a motel. We went to two and they were all booked up. The lady at the last one got out a list of hotels and motels in Fairbanks and called them for us trying to find somewhere for us to stay. There are many of them there, but we just happened to hit Fairbanks during the State Fair so all of them were booked.
I decided to get out my Gold Book which is sent out once a year to all GWRRA members. It has the names and phone numbers of all GWRRA members all around the world. There were 6 in Fairbanks. One of them offered lodging so I called him. His name is James Scott and I told him of our situation. He laughed and said that he had plenty of room for us and it was free! We were only about three blocks away from where he lived.
We arrived at his home and he was outside waiting for us. His wife came out too to meet us and asked us if we wanted something to drink. She said that they had wine, whisky, beer, cokes, and a few other things.
I knew that Rich and Susan liked wine so I told her that they would probably want that and I'd take a beer.
We had not even gotten off our bikes good when she brought out two glasses of wine and a can of beer as we were getting stuff off our bikes.
After getting our junk inside, we sat at the dinner table with James and talked about our adventures and about his Gold Wing. While talking, his wife was in the kitchen whipping up some buritto's for us and then came and joined us when they were done. They were wonderful hosts, especially when not even expecting us to drop in on them.
Next morning we headed toward Kelowna, BC where I would stay with Rich and Susan for a dew days before taking off to Nebraska for the GPR (Great Plains Rally) in St. Libory. It started Thursday the 18th.
We rode 592 miles and that put us in White Horse. James had suggested a motel for us to stay in that was motorcycle friendly. They let you put your motorcycle under the motel where it is secure.
That night, I saw the Northern Lights for the first time in my life. I was in bed and had awaken and was looking out a big window at the sky. I saw what I first thought was smoke but it was a greenish color and it looked to be dancing. I have seen the lights on TV before and thought that they were sped up to show how they moved about. I found out that they really move as fast as they do on TV. It was really interesting and beautiful to watch. I tried to take some video but it was too dark for my crapolia camera.
I remember Susan saying earlier in the day that she sure would like to see them sometime so I woke her and Rich up. I did not know that they had seen them before, but they watched them for awhile too.
After a good nights sleep, we walked around town a little to some of the shops and bought more goodies. I bought another t-shirt.
We hit the road again and stopped that night in Watson Lake again and stayed in the same motel we did going up. We only rode 276 miles that day because we did not leave White Horse till 11:00 am. We got to Watson lake at 5:20 pm.
We got something to eat at the restaurant in the motel (another steak for me) and a few drinks. NO, we did not go to that other place to eat that we had to go to last time while there.
Watson Lake has the Northern Lights Space And Science Centre. It's an "A" unique facility built in 1996, to feature the amazing phenomena known as the 'Northern Lights' or 'Aurora borealis', the Northern Lights Centre boasts state-of-the-art panoramic video and surround-sound systems. The Northern Lights Centre also incorporates interactive displays that explain the science and folklore of the Northern Lights with the latest information about the Canadian space program. Canadian rocket technology played an important part in early Northern Lights research.
We went there and watched the show and then went back to the motel.
Next day would put us in Smithers BC. 6,348 miles so far for the trip and 535 miles for the day. After getting our room, I took off to wash my bike. It was so nasty with globs of dirt and mud packed all over and under it. I was at the car wash for about 20 minutes knocking all the crap off. Rich said to leave it dirty as a badge to be proud of for the trip. I could not stand my honey being that dirty.
While there, I saw a biker that we had talked to several times during the past week. We first saw him in North Pole, Alaska and ran into him several times. He was on a 1100 Gold Wing and was hauling a trailer. He said that he was not getting a motel and that he had been sleeping in a tent for most of his trip.
I got back to the motel and told Rich and Susan that he was at the car wash and they said to go ask him if he would like to spend the night with us. There was plenty of room on the floor for his air mattress and he was happy to join us. His name is Brad and he was headed to Washington to pick up his wife at an airport and then they were going to ride the bike back home to Minnesota.
Next morning we said our goodbyes to Brad and took off to Kelowna. We decided that we were going to make it all the way there this day. We pulled in their home at 10:30 pm Friday night.
Rick and Susan lost their home in a wild fire in 2003.
I met them a few months before the fire on my last Alaska trip. They are currently rebuilding another home on the same site.
They had a beautiful home and yard. It was all destroyed along with about 150 other homes in Kelowna.
I stayed with them till Tuesday morning and left at 8:00 am and headed to GPR. I got to Grand Island where the hotel was Thursday afternoon around 1:30 pm, took a nap and then busted in on the folks that were already at GPR which was about 10 miles away.
I stayed in Nebraska till Friday night and had a great time with the Hickmans who hosted the rally and all the folks that showed up. I think we had about 80 message board members attend. I will be going again next year no doubt. Maybe I can collect more of these!
I will not attempt to explain why this happened. Ya just had to be there! We all had a wonderful time!
I headed home at 10:30 pm Friday and rode all the way home without stopping other than for gas and eats. 1,177 miles later, I pulled in my drive way at 7:30 pm Saturday evening.
I have more pictures and some videos here.
Email questions or comments.
Total miles for the trip was 10,063 in 19 days.
Total Gas = 276 gallons (including liters converted into gallons)
Total money spent in gas = $855.00 US. (including Canadian converted into US currency)
Note: These firgures are as close as I can get to true figures. I forgot to write down miles and gallons 3 or 4 times. I tried to write this information down every time I stopped for gas.
Lowest temperature seen = 46 degrees in rain somewhere in the Yukon.
Highest temperature seen = 103 degrees in Nashville TN my last day.
Guest Book added 04-18-12