Monthly Archives: July 2017

Back at it

After a solid 3 weeks in Canada, it’s time to start heading east again. Here in a bit I’m heading out to Drumheller, AB to check out the Royal Tyrell Museum which is loaded with dinosaur artifacts. The Alberta Badlands are one of those rare places loaded with fossils of all kinds that I can’t wait to check out. Camping out in a ghost town called Sorry then tomorrow heading back into the states to hit the Missouri River breaks in Montana. And check my texts. With zero cellular up here I imagine a few have piled up in the last while. Unless I’m just deluded about my general popularity among friends. Either way.

I can’t thank Brad and Becky enough for their exceptional generosity and friendship. In the past decade, whenever I’ve done a big stupid thing it’s usually been in the company of Brad. We do dumb well together.

Need to thank Ian (ianincalgary on AdvRider) for bringing by a couple tools that saves me a ton of cash and allowed me to get Thumper back up and running for the next leg.

Since leaving Canada a decade ago it remains one of my favorite places on Earth full of excellent and well loved friends. I’ll be back.

Now it’s time to roll east and see what’s in store that direction.

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A Short Breather

After 8 straight days of popping awake, grabbing a quick cup of coffee while packing, crawling into horrifically stinky riding gear and hammering down the road for 4-500 miles, it’s delightful to be sitting in a Starbucks in shorts sipping coffee and typing.

The northern detour part of the east/west trip was mind blowing and exhausting. Having done a lot of travel in remote areas of the US, I’d have to say the run up through BC to Yellowknife and back takes the cake for middle of fucking nowhere. Gloriously so. Through much of the interior western US you still get frequent signs of civilization: power lines, fences, a small homestead now and again. Once we got north of Ft Nelson it was easily 500 miles of nothing but a sketchy gravel road between tiny little settlements you hoped had gas. The north is so verdant and lush it was often difficult to see much beyond the tight edge of the “road”. Now and again a break would open up and treat me to views that blew my mind. Endless miles of stunted black spruce, lodgepole pine, mixed conifer forest and marshy lakes highlighted with an endless blue sky. Signs of past massive wildfires were everywhere, often miles of burned black spruce lined the road and ran back to the edge of the horizon.

Much of the haul is jumbled in my head as there was little time to chill and take it in. Brad had a limited window for the trip and covering 3500 miles (half gravel) in 8 days necessitated hard riding and very long days. I’m looking forward to easing back to the flow previously set in the beginning of the ride. So much to see that I don’t want to miss. Road trips as a kid were the classic look out the window while dad hauled ass to get wherever the hell it was that needed to be gotten to, destination travel. Being a journey type in my adulthood has paid off, allowing me to experience a great deal even on short trips.

Yellowknife was a great surprise as a few of the remote towns we had hit along the way were methy and a little gross. Well, mainly Prince George, BC. Total shithole. Ft Nelson was a delightful surprise much like YK. It’s a very culturally diverse, open minded, and rather sophisticated little city for being a long way from anywhere. Of course we couldn’t stop at hitting the city and took a day to run out the Ingraham Trail which goes 50 miles out into the boonies and stops at a lake. During the warmer months, anyway. In the winter it is one of the many Ice Roads utilized to reach very remote villages and settlements only accessible by plane otherwise. This particular spot was made famous by being the featured road in the first season of the “reality” show Ice Road Truckers.

Spent the rest of the day checking out the tourist sites, coffee shops and a spendy, but worth it, funky restaurant for crazy good fish and chips. Then a chill evening at camp followed by the long hard grind back to Calgary.

Signs and warnings about wildlife were abundant, actual wildlife, not so much. Saw a few deer, a black wolf, 3-4 black bears, a few dozen bison and a cute little red fox trotting down the side of the Ingraham Trail with a muskrat half it’s size in it’s mouth. Didn’t get photos of much of it as it was either seen on the side of the road while blasting by or, well, only dumbass retard tourists stop in the middle of the road to take photos of bears, bison and other things that can kill you. Besides, mental images and memories are better than photos. Wanna see a wood bison? Go to where they live. Vicarious experience is OK in little doses, but if that’s all you get a change in priorities is needed. That being said, a couple shots got taken:

Being poor white trash, I headed out initially accepting I couldn’t get the bike to 100% before the trip without spending too much cash, so some replacing would need to be done along the way. Get my money’s worth out of everything. Tires were done in Calgary and it became apparent halfway through the YK haul that the drive train would be next. Had a year and over 10k miles on it so no surprise, but still stressful to watch your rear sprocket degrade at an ever increasing pace knowing it was still a long way back. Thankfully, a little adjusting of the chain and begging the gods of moto travel for mercy paid off and I rolled in with little nubbies for sprocket teeth.

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Parts were ordered from the road and should show up today or tomorrow so I can get Thumper fixed up and head out on the next phase of the haul.

Weather tended to be pretty good with occasional rain for the run up, then got very mixed and funky on the way back down. Got drenched and hammered with hail by this asshole storm cell:

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Then as we finally rolled into Edmonton the clouds looked ominous, but I figured we could swing by and be OK, but that soon proved in error and we dove under an overpass within seconds of a rain/hail/wind squall slammed into the area causing traffic to go bonkers:

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The image doesn’t do it justice. Cars just stopped in the middle of the freeway and semis dodged them with an artful skill. Amazing that no one got hit. Ended up grabbing a hotel as we had ridden 600 miles already, Calgary was 3 hours away and we were soaked and exhausted. Good call.

Lack of sleep was a constant thing as we were rather north and it never got dark. This is 2330 about 800 miles south of our furthest north location

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6-7 hours a night with regular little wake-ups kept the brain foggy, but wasn’t too hard on the mood. Mosquitoes were a concern going in and while dense everywhere, they weren’t very aggressive. Got plenty bites, but the bug shirt and hat were unnecessary. A good spritz of bug dope kept them at bay and allowed for plenty outdoor time. Only once camp in BC was bad so we hunkered in the tents after dinner and stared at phones and read.

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Time to get my butt in gear, looks like my parts will be in today. I’ll be trying to do more frequent, shorter posts to get the stuff out of my head in a more coherent manner. Honestly, this is done for me. I’m glad the few people who read this seem to enjoy it, but it is done mainly for sanity maintenance.

Hope y’all are getting the most out of your summer.

North, so far north.

Kinda missed the boat by not finding time to post while in Calgary so it’ll be getting done from here in Ft. Nelson, BC. As in a stone’s throw from the NWT and really really far north. 

Calgary was a blast as usual. It’s impossible not too be active there, the place calls me to get out and play. Got in some good runs, a day on bikes with Mike Bee doing some urban touring topped off with a brisk swim in the Bow River and a fun hike up Ha Ling peak above Canmore with Leslie B. Come to think of it, a lot of the folks I hung out with had last names starting with a B. Random thought. Dinner with Adam, Charlotte and their kid was fun, but I got violently ill and was down for 2 days sweating, sleeping, and blowing out both ends. 

After that ball of fun I was back at it getting to attend a couple BBQs and finally getting to see friend Misty and her awesome hubby, Howard. 

Managed to get some maintenance done on the bike for leg 2 of the Big Trek: Yellowknife, NWT. Took off last Sunday with a first leg involving 400 miles of gravel road. Freshly graded for the most part which is nice in a car, but sucks ass on a bike. The next couple days were mostly places, but big miles to get north as quickly as possible. 4-500 mile days pushing hard through some of the most stunning county imaginable. I’ve said that before and I’ll say it again on this trip, so many wonderful sights. Found an excellent coffee shop here in Ft Nelson from which I’m typing this out on me little phone. Today is mellowish, 200 miles paved, 200 gravel up to Ft Simpson. Tomorrow is Yellowknife and beyond to go camp out in the true middle of nowhere. If we’re lucky the northern lights will put on an appearance. 

Wildlife has been sparse, but i have seen a wolf and a couple black bears. How to see some bison in northern Alberta on the way back.

Quick and dirt, sorry no links, they’re a pain to do on a phone. Please feel free to like or share this blog if you like it, much appreciated.

More to come sooner than later.

A Good Start

Why, howdy!

After the initial first day clusterfuck start typical of such an undertaking, things have rolled along smoothly. Not that day 1 was terrible, just a too long day ending at a poor camping spot due to the damn sun going down. Actually saw some sweet country and got to ride some sketch Forest Service roads to get the whole thing kicked off.

The rest of week one saw me roll through some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve seen. NE Oregon and eastern Washington are places that have passed me by as destinations to explore up to this point. So glad I chose to run through the area on this trip, it did not disappoint. From the Painted Hills, Ponderosa stands in huge meadows to dense mixed conifer west-side style forest, it was all there. Plus plenty standard desert. Well, except in WA. They seem to have whacked most of the native sage steppe and replaced it with a metric shitton of dry-land wheat. As in as far as the eye can see Kansas cornfield style.

I knew there was some, but not that much. Didn’t take away from the reason I went that way in the first place: Palouse Falls and Dry Falls. Remnants of the Missoula Floods, or if you are into emerging hypotheses, an astroidal impact on the North American and European ice sheets which may have kicked off the Younger Dryas ice age, these features are massive and impressive. Trying to imagine kilometer high walls of water full of huge boulders stripped from the very bedrock and washing over the terrain leaving behind such features as an after effect is truly mind blowing.

Much of the first week was on dirt and gravel USFS and county roads with a few stretches of pavement on little remote ‘highways’ and 25 miles on I-84 to connect it all up. Rolled through a postage stamp sized community called Troy on the OR/WA border deep in the Grande Ronde river canyon then lots of twisty dirt to a sweet camp spot ruined by a good ol’ boy hauling water in a semi all night long in the sticks running his Jake brake. Fucker.

Hit Winthrop, WA where I worked my first season back in fire in 2011 after my massage business collapse with the economy and finding decent work hard to come by. Crowded as hell, but still beautiful and found an old camping site with a creek and good hike far from the masses.

On to Republic WA to spend a day with friends from the USFS in Bend and got in another sweet day swimming to help keep the oppressive heat and road stench from getting bad. So far on this trek I’ve gone swimming more times than in the previous 2 years and it’s all been a hoot. Good to see dear old friends and their kids, share some stories and just hang out.

Returned to my favourite (see what I did there?) country on the planet to visit friends Mike and Dale (and bonus friend Katie who was also visiting) in Revelstoke, one of the most beautiful spots for a town you can imagine. Showed up a day earlier than planned to be able to hit up Skydive Salmon Arm to celebrate the 150th Canada Day by hucking out of a Cessna 182 at 10k feet with buddy Rob strapped to my back. Skydiving is one of those “gonna do” things I’ve always imagined I’d get to. The time came and it was all I could hope for. Going to have to go a few more times to see if it’ll be the next activity to pursue since ice climbing isn’t really a thing in Oregon.

Mike has been at it for a while so he was jumping for fun, the girls had each done a tandem so opted for the First Jump course which has you control your own chute and land yourself. Wanting to do it, but get in freefall, the tandem seemed a good starting place and was soooooo worth it. Canada Day was the best day I’ve had in a long time combining the jump, good food, swimming, a sweet small town fireworks display, and awesome friends to do it all with.

 

Finished up my time in Revie playing cribbage, spending a day on the Columbia swimming and kicking it, watching Letterkenny (a Canadian show that is one of the funniest things you’ll ever see) and generally enjoying time spent in the company of friends. You may notice a theme with my visits. After a year and a half in Silicon Valley practically friendless, it was time to be among my people and I’m getting my money’s worth on this trek.

 

Currently I’m in Calgary tapping this out at friends B-Rad and Beckie’s place. Oh, and Neve, Jane and Emma the Wonder Schnauzer. ┬áThe run over Roger’s Pass was stunning, but hard to pay attention to as the road was packed with less than skilled drivers. Parks Canada made all federal parks free for the 150th celebration this year so the woods are packed with tourons. Did get to see a smoking semi trailer full of meat that had caught fire and some other nifty stuff, however.

 

This trip has been a blast and is as I had hoped, plenty new beautiful sights seen and time with well loved friends. Kicking it here to visit folks and get in some local playing before heading out to Yellowknife, NWT the 16th. Plan to post again before, then after, that run. Then east……….

For The Moto Nerds

So, the KLR has taken everything I’ve thrown at it without complaint. Well, excepting running really low on gas yesterday and clogging up my fuel intake. Acted like it was out of gas with a 3/4 tank after filling up so I fussed with the switch and got it to take fuel down the reserve tube, but I’ll have to pull the thing and clean it tomorrow. That was the only hitch, nothing mechanical, just thumping along.

The Giant Loop Great Basin Saddlebag has been good for the most part, but is a little awkward for such a trek. Not a bad item, just difficult to access some of my kit the way it needs to be packed. It’s a small complaint for a great piece of gear as I’ve got my system down well enough. The Fandango Pro Tank Bag is awesome, plenty room and not in the way. The down bag, sleeping pad and other goodies I’m testing out for Next Adventure are doing well and a full review of much of my gear will be forthcoming. Figure it’ll help new folks make better gear choices if they can see how they work in real world moto conditions.

My Kenda 761 tires have been doing well considering they are mostly for road and I’ve beaten the shit out of them off road over the last few months. Nearly dead, there was a small leak in the rear I pump up each day for pavement, was fine for dirt. New tires were ordered ahead of time and sent to B-Rad’s so this weekend I’ll be slinging a new set of Shinko 700s on and doing the oil. Used them before and like ’em, we’ll see how they do on the forestry trunk roads heading north. Should be fine.

So far, mine is the only Gen 1 KLR I’ve seen traveling, plenty around for local use. A few Gen 2, plenty BMWs/Tigers/V-Stroms and a smattering of Africa Twins and KTMs. HDs, lots of HDs, holy Christ.

Feel free to ask questions about route, gear, conditions. If I’m going to be in your neck of the woods and you wanna grab a cup of joe and bullshit, I’m game as well. It’s all about the folks you meet on a trek like this.