Update Fall 2014 – Now with book recommendations

I haven’t blogged since returning from our trip, and even though we haven’t done much worth blogging about in the last two months (mostly just work and a few moto-tag day rides), I want to post that first post-trip entry, as sort of an official acknowledgement that life has returned to normal.

In the past, returning to the obligations of “normal” life after a long trip felt like a big let-down. Being at home paying the bills and getting the groceries and going to work is obviously not nearly as fun as riding to exciting new destinations for weeks on end. I couldn’t wait to leave on another adventure, and planning future trips provided some of my motivation to get up and go to work every day. Not as much this time. While I was briefly disappointed that our grand Alaska motorcycle adventure was coming to a close, we otherwise have a lot to look forward to. While work is called work for a reason, the drudgery is outweighed by several projects ahead of us that are really exciting. We’re also making real progress on our new house, which we may someday get to actually build. Plus, while I love traveling, I also really like being at home, and its nice to be able to spend time with family and friends after not seeing those people for two months. In short, I am grateful that awesome motorcycle adventures aren’t the only thing I have to look forward to.

That said, life right now is pretty quiet, and mostly involves work. So, here are a couple of books I’ve really enjoyed recently:

Far Pastures – by R.M. Patterson

Far Pastures by R.M. Patterson

Far Pastures by R.M. Patterson

About the author (copied from google books): “R.M. Patterson (1898-1984) moved to Canada when he realized that working in a London bank would never bring him happiness. He spent the remaining years of his life pursuing adventure in the Canadian West and was a delightfully evocative writer and an intrepid explorer. Authoring a total of five books about his excursions into the Canadian wilderness and his life on a southern Alberta ranch, Raymond Murray Patterson earned himself legions of fans and made Canada’s wilderness famous. “

It hadn’t occurred to me until we were traveling through the area how little history I really knew about the Canadian West. Virtually none probably covers it. Gold rush, harsh weather, and mosquitoes. While not a history book, Far Pastures is a collection of true stories of life in Canada’s west from the early 1900s through the 1950s, or from “horse to helicopter” as the author puts it. Both Kevin and I really enjoyed this book, which at times had us laughing out loud. I did not have any expectations of the north-country before traveling there; my views were a blank canvas, but we discovered that we both might like the Yukon and northern BC better than Alaska itself. Patterson’s descriptions of the landscape are full of beauty, wonder, and adventure, and allowed me to appreciate why he was so attracted to this part of the world.

Far Pastures was a gift to us from a friend we met on the trip who lives in Canada’s northwest, and who really nailed it by giving this book to us. We especially appreciated that so many of the places the author writes about were places we had actually been during this summer’s epic motorcycle adventure.

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, and Other Lessons from the Crematory – by Caitlin Doughty

smokegetsinyoureyesAbout the author (copied from Amazon): “Caitlin Doughty is a licensed mortician and the host and creator of the “Ask a Mortician” web series. She founded the death acceptance collective The Order of the Good Death and cofounded Death Salon. She lives in Los Angeles. “

Basically, I love the author’s “ask a mortician” web series; aside from just shedding light on the difficult topic of death and modern postmortem practices, she’s smart, funny, and entirely right about the problems of modern death denial. For sure, modern American society does not do a good job of dealing with death. Her book is mostly a memoir that’s both illuminating and definitely entertaining.

Also, I added a link to my Goodreads “read” shelf (*points to right of page–>*), the “What I’ve been reading” link (under the Random category of links). I’ve mostly been remembering to add any books I’ve read to that Goodreads list, so if you are interested in what I’ve been reading, look there. What I am currently reading still shows up in the widget on the right called “currently reading.” (As long as I remember to update it).

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2014 Moto Alaska Photo Gallery

This gallery contains 126 photos.

There are too many photos to put the entire trip into one gallery (hundreds just seems too many to me), but I still like having a photo gallery as an easy way to scroll through the photos without combing through … Continue reading

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Moto AK – Trip Stats

As an aspiring map geek, you know I love to post maps of our trip routes. However, I’m annoyed, because GeoCommons, the usual service I use, is totally non-functional right now, and won’t let me upload any data. So here’s the trip route plotted using UMap, but I don’t know how to highlight the states and provinces we went through like I do on my GeoCommons map. It shouldn’t be that hard to make a simple map (like my usual Moto Tour Map), but I can’t find any other services that do what I want (even paid services). Maybe I need to look at desktop applications? But I don’t know where to start.

Anyway, this is our 2014 Moto Alaska Adventure: (click for larger image).

2014 Moto AK Route

2014 Moto Alaska Adventure Totals:

58 Days
13404 Miles
16 States
5 Canadian Provinces/Territories

Average miles per riding day (excluding <5 mi days): 274
Most miles in a day: 596 (This was a really big day for me)

Lodging:
Tent Camping: 32 nights
Hotels: 17 nights
Hosted: 8 nights

 

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Moto AK – Back Home!

8/22/2014 – 464 mi – NE to IA
Iowa is the last new moto state for the trip, and makes the 44th state overall we’ve ridden in.

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Moto AK – Black Hills SD

8/20/2014 – 346 mi – MT,  SD
Maybe every trip needs bunnies. They’re pretty cute. They wander somewhat fearlessly (for rabbits) around the campground in Hardin, MT.

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Moto AK – Glacier National Park MT

8/18/2014 – 184 mi
The “Going to the Sun Road” through Glacier National Park in Montana is another famous road on the “must ride” list, and since I’ve never been to GNP, it seemed like a nice place to explore on our way back home. The problem was I’d forgotten just how crowded some of the more famous national parks can be. Before climbing up over the pass, the road is a beautiful piece of curvy tarmac through the evergreen woods along the lake. We had an absolutely perfect day, and even had a few people pull over for us so we could enjoy the road at a (slightly) more fun pace. We were so happy to finally enjoy some curves again.

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Moto AK – South to the Lower 48

8/15/2014 – 340 mi south on the Alcan to Pink Mountain
The Alcan north of Fort Nelson is very scenic, and makes for fairly fast traveling (excluding any construction zones obviously). South of Fort Nelson is oil country, and the road is pretty boring. The construction zones we encountered in this section sometimes took quite a while to get through, and generally slowed the overall pace down. Despite essentially riding all day, two days in a row we rode less than 400 miles per day due to time spend getting through the construction. Also, don’t land at the end of your day at Pink Mountain, or anywhere within 100 miles of there. It’s all oil country; busy, expensive, noisy, industrial. The hotel was terrible, but the restaurant was good. They wanted $25 to set up a tent at the campground across the road.

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Moto AK – So long for now Alaska, South on the Alcan to Liard Hot Springs BC

8/12/2014 – 385 mi – So Long for Now Alaska, Ride from Valdez to Alcan, headed south
Once again, 50 Miles north of Valdez, the weather was dry and sunny. Valdez was the last hurrah for this trip. It’s a long way home to NC from here. We certainly didn’t get to do everything on our list for Alaska, but we’re both pretty happy with how much we were able to see and do.

Our fuel stop in Glenallen makes three times we’ve stopped at that service station this trip. After a quick stop in Tok, we made it over the border, and found a campsite a bit further south just off the road.

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Moto AK – Valdez Kayak Tour

8/11/2014 – Valdez Kayak Tour
I really, really wanted to do some kayaking while in Alaska, and Valdez was my last chance. We signed up for a tour with Anadyr Adventures to fresh water kayak in the glacial lake created by Valdez Glacier, with promises of kayaking around ice bergs and into ice caves. Despite the on and off drizzling cold rain, this is definitely one of the (many) highlights of the trip for me.

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Moto AK – Flight seeing to Talkeetna

8/9/2014 – Flight seeing to Talkeetna
The Alaskan way to see Alaska is by air, so when we were offered a flight seeing trip from one of our awesome hosts, of course we said yes (we actually had multiple offers from different people to go up, it was amazing). Since moving to Alaska, Teresa has been bitten by the flying bug, and now has a pilot’s license, and belongs to an aero-club (as far as I can tell, I should never take flying lessons. It seems to be as addicting as motorcycling, only more expensive). Thus, we hopped in a very spacious Cessna 182 (seriously, most spacious back seats of any four-seater I’ve been in, and I’m always in the back) on Saturday morning and took off in search of views of Denali.

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Moto AK – Anchorage Aviation Museum and Moto Maintenance

8/7/2014 – 213 mi
Tomorrow is a scheduled moto maintenance day, so we needed to be close to the Anchorage area so we could get to the shop and do some oil changes and put new tires on Kevin’s bike (we were unsure if his TKC80s would make it back to Whitehorse, and we didn’t want to get stuck in between). Thus, we ended up near Anchorage with time to go see the very entertaining Anchorage Aviation Museum.

The Museum is dedicated to all that makes aviation unique in Alaska, which has a culture of flying unlike anywhere else I’ve seen. Alaska is geographically huge, and there aren’t really that many roads. Access to most of it is by plane, and the stories of bush pilots, float planes, ski planes, and all manner of daring helicopter feats are endlessly amazing. I’ve never seen so much general aviation anywhere; the skies are full of small planes. The guide to the museum said that when he was young, the statistic was that 1 in 6 people in Alaska was a pilot (not necessarily licensed of course), and the statistic today is still as high as 1 in 46. Everything is a runway and a potential place to land a plane; a small lake, a gravel bar, a mostly level and clear strip in the forest, a glacier; they aren’t very picky about having prepared runways.

This first photo is not showing a helicopter accident; it captures a helicopter towing a barge through the break up ice. In the summer, the barges provide transport for the oil companies. In the winter, transport is hauled by truck over the ice road. In between seasons presents a problem, as the ice blocks the barges, but can no longer support the trucks. Specially designed boats with thick hulls are often the answer, but they also use twin rotor helicopters to tug barges through the break up ice. Mind = blown.

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Moto Ak – Seward SeaLife Center to Homer

8/6/2014 – 209 mi – Seward to Homer
The Alaska SeaLife Center made a nice stop in the morning before heading out of town. The aquarium and rehabilitation and research center was built after the tsunami that took out much of coastal Alaska in 1964 (the Good Friday earthquake). The bird exhibit might be our favorite. After you pass through the double doors, you are directly in the enclosure with the birds. We could have reached out and touched them, except the signs explicitly asked you not to. We really liked the puffins (everybody likes the puffins), as their ability to both fly and swim underwater is amazing (also they are cute).

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Moto AK – Seward Day Cruise, Kenai Fjords National Park

8/5/2014 – Seward Day Cruise Kenai Fjords National Park
Both Kevin and I had the Gilligan’s Island theme song stuck in our heads the entire ride back down to Seward on Tuesday morning. We didn’t talk about it until we got there, and when we found out the other was thinking the same thing, we laughed and said “You too?!?, No way! What a dork!.” Since our tour is 6.5 hours long and not a 3 hour tour, we figure we’ll be ok.

We boarded around 11am, and were under way around 11:30. It wasn’t 10 minutes after leaving that we started seeing wildlife. The tour was designed to travel out of Resurrection Bay (where Seward is located), out into the gulf of Alaska, en route to view the Holgate glacier in Aialik Bay. We saw so much wildlife in the first part of Resurrection Bay, we actually had to start skipping viewings of animals we’d seen before so we could make the entire 100 mi trip on time.

Right out of the gate, this sea otter was just hanging out in the bay, floating on its back, and didn’t seem to care about the giant boat full of people excitedly trying to get pictures of him.

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Moto AK – Seward, Exit Glacier, Anchorage

8/2/2014 – 354 mi – Anchorage to Seward and back
The ride south from Anchorage to Seward on a sunny day is just beautiful. I really don’t have words for the section through the Turnagain Arm, and wish we’d stopped for more photos, as there just haven’t been many days as nice as this.

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Moto AK – Hatcher Pass

7/31/2014 – 54 mi – Hatcher Pass Lodge
Feeling a bit under the weather today. Figures, as we finally have good conditions for riding or doing things outside. Left our comfortable guest quarters to take a short ride up to the very neat Hatcher Pass Lodge.

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Moto AK – Denali Highway

7/29/2014 – 131 mi – Denali Highway!
If you are not familiar, the Denali Highway is not in Denali national park, but is 130 mi of dirt road that runs through amazingly scenic country between Cantwell and Paxson AK, neither of which are actual places with services (ok not true, Cantwell has fuel, places to stay, and a Café. Paxson is just an intersection).

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After a leisurely breakfast in The Perch’s restaurant (amazing food by the way, entirely worth the fairly steep price), we didn’t actually get on the road until 11am. Then we stopped for gas in Cantwell, and then again not much later to re-layer because we had too many on, having forgotten what it’s like to ride when it’s not 40s and raining. Then there was much stopping for picture taking, and time spent behind slow vehicles (I was passing people on a dirt road, so you know they were slow). Basically, we spent the day on vacation time, and loved it (except for the brief construction).

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The weather today is warm and sunny, and we have a blast riding over the Denali highway. It feels good to be on the bikes again, after almost a week of very little riding.

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Moto AK – Denali National Park

7/25/2014 – 123 mi – Moto AK Denali National Park
The sun was mostly out when we reached our campsite in Denali, and got to set up in the dry (and not too cold) between light showers. I guess we got lucky to be able to get a campsite; we had not reserved one, but there was a walk in site available. Not ideal, as the bikes were parked over ¼ mi from our campsite, and we had to shuttle stuff back and forth, but the campground itself was really nice. We also bought bus tickets for tomorrow to ride in and see the park (vehicles are only allowed in the first 15 mi or so of the 90 mile unpaved park road, you have to take a park bus to go any further).

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Moto AK – Chena Hot Springs

7/23/2014 – 14 mi – Chena Hot Springs
First on the agenda for Chena Hot Springs was to leave the resort and ride a few miles back down the road to the Angel Rocks trail head. The weather was a bit dicey, but mostly held for the 3.75 mi hike. The trail goes up to the Angel Rocks, or granite outcroppings, or tors. It’s always nice to enjoy a picnic lunch with excellent views.

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Moto AK – Fairbanks, LARS

7/22/2014 – 176 mi – Moto Ak Fairbanks

On the way into Fairbanks, we caught our first oil pipeline sighting, and tried to estimate in dollars how much oil was in the pipeline at any given time. We figure it must be on the order of half a billion dollars.

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The view from a little further up the road:

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Moto Ak – Dawson City and Top of the World Highway to Alaska!

7/20/2014 – 2 mi – Dawson City, YK, CN
We spent a cold and rainy day in Dawson city. Packed up camp in the morning in on and off drizzle, then went back over the river on the ferry to the visitor center to find information on the weather. Learned that is was supposed to be cold and rainy all day, but sunny tomorrow. Decided to ride the unpaved top of the world highway into Alaska in sunny weather tomorrow, and spend the day checking out Dawson City, and staying inside. The guide at the visitor center called the El Dorado Hotel for us, and we supposedly got a discount, and paid $99 for the room, less than the reported $125 others had paid. So heads up; maybe that’s a secret way to save a few dollars. We had told her we were considering staying the day, but would maybe leave, and she offered up the discount to stay. The El Dorado supposedly has metered internet with a 250MB limit, but we were never cut off.

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Moto AK – Bonus Dempster Content

I edited the previous post on the Dempster, but since I don’t want you to miss  SINGLE MOMENT (not really) of our awesome adventure, I’m including the best part of the editing here in this bonus post so you don’t miss it, and because we find it amusing:

So, we buy a lot of eggs to have for breakfast in camp, because hard boiling eggs is easy to do, and its cheap and delicious (with a little salt and pepper) protein that sticks with you awhile. We bought a dozen eggs in Whitehorse, and then for some reason that escapes us now, rode the up the entire dempster without cooking them. Thus, we have created:

THE DEMPSTER CHALLENGE

Can you ride to Inuvik with a dozen raw eggs? We only lost two, can you beat our record?

Pro tip: Do not store them in your topbox underneath your laptop (which is still preferable to on top of your laptop), without adding additional packaging. Plastic bags (without holes in the bottom) are your friend.

Also, eggs are really expensive in Inuvik, they were about $4/dozen.

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Moto AK – Dempster Highway to Inuvik

The Dempster Highway is 450 miles of unpaved road that starts from the Klondike Highway east of Dawson City, and travels through the mountains north and east into the Arctic Circle, then into Canada’s Northwest Territories, and ends (for now) at the town of Inuvik. Inuvik, pronounced i-NOO-vik, is a town of about 3500 or so people, and was our destination after two days of riding up the Dempster.

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7/14/2014 – 313 miles, Whitehorse, YK to start of Dempster
After having tires changed at Yukon Honda in the morning, we left our comfortable guest accommodations in Whitehorse and headed north on the Klondike highway towards the turn off to Inuvik. Our research said that there isn’t always fuel at the start of the Dempster, and that we would probably have to go into Dawson. When we arrived, there was an unmanned pump that had a small portable building made from quarter of a container that you entered to pay, take the safety training, and start the pump. We filled both bikes and the extra 3 gallon rotopax on the back of my bike. It would be 230 miles from the start of the Dempster to the first available fuel in Eagle Plains, a distance that is at the very limit of fuel range for our bikes. That night we camped for free behind the gas station right at the start of the Dempster, in what used to be an active campground.

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The street tires that got us here would not do for the Dempster, so on went some Continental TKC80s. The bikes look completely bad-ass now, but naturally, compared to the street tires, they handle like complete crap on the road. Better than actual knobbies, but geez, they kinda suck the fun out of road riding. It’s worth it, however, for the long stretches off pavement.

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Moto AK – Cabins by the Lake

7/11/2014 – 7/13/2014

We left Whitehorse in the morning and rode toward to the coast to meet our new “hydro buddy” and catch a boat ride out to his property. The timing couldn’t be better; he was already picking up some other friends that morning, and we were going to stay near Whitehorse one way or another because we couldn’t get the tires changed on the bikes until Monday. Jim would make another trip back into town on Sunday morning to pick up another friend, so our visit didn’t even create an extra trip. After lunch in town, we managed to rendezvous with the entire group and set out across the lake, leaving the bikes on the beach. (My bike was locked inside Jim’s shed, but Kevin’s didn’t fit. Kevin wasn’t concerned, but since the art/music festival was in town, there were an unusually high number of (drunk) people around. It wasn’t a problem). The boat trip involves crossing one lake, then navigating a somewhat exciting river section with 40 feet of differential between lakes, through to the next lake, and traveling across it some ways before you arrive.

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Moto AK – Whitehorse, Yukon

7/8/2014 – 374 mi – Into the Yukon
Crossing into the Yukon feels like a big milestone for riding this far north, and we’re crossing off new states and provinces quickly.

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We made the mistake of having lunch at the first real stop after the border, and felt ripped off by our low quality $15 burgers. There was gas, a small motel, and the restaurant at this intersection, and nothing else for miles. Welcome to the Yukon I guess.

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Moto AK – Canadian Rockies and Cassiar Hwy

7/5/2014 – 326 mi – Alberta, CN
Its about 150 mi from our campsite to Banff and the Canadian Rockies, and the end of the plains (finally). We rode through Calgary in the morning, past Olympic park, and could see the mountains in the distance. Calgary Stampede is happening right now, and it would be opportune to stop and check it out. We decide against it. Kevin doesn’t want to go at all. I would like to at some point, but it’s a bit of a hassle on the bikes, and not having reservations to stay somewhere. Once west of Calgary, the land changes quickly from prairie to mountains, without much in the way of foothills. Stopped for a quick lunch in Banff, which was all we needed to know that Banff wasn’t for us. It’s just like Tahoe, an overpriced, overcrowded tourist trap. I don’t get it. Despite the plethora of amazing food, we ate lunch at subway because we didn’t feel like paying $15 for a burger.

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