The day will come when I will die. So the only matter of consequence before me is what I will do with my allotted time. I can remain on shore, paralyzed with fear, or I can raise my sails and dip and soar in the breeze.--Richard Bode

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Good Morning from Fairbanks, Alaska

I am still riding with the Indiana/Wisconsin guys. We wanted to go up the Haul Road (Also known as the Depster Highway). It is the one made famous in the Ice Road Trucker TV shows.  It has a reputation for being very hard, so first I had to get new tires for Odysseus. My old tires were worn bare.

I bought my tires at the Harley shop. They won't work on a Suzuki, but they would sell me tires and mount them on the wheel if I would take them off the bike. The other guys did most of the work. Odysseus looks a little strange here with no legs.

But soon we were on the road again, and before long, just north of Fairbanks, we reached the Arctic Circle.

Of course, we stopped and took each others pictures. This one may have to go in a frame and get hung on a wall at home.

The road is dusty and broken in places, rocky in other places, but paved and nice quite often. They don't like this dust, so they run water trucks up and down the road. This turns it into slime which is slick as goose droppings on a hot griddle. The dust coated our bikes and turned into a solid, rock-like substance. And when it rained or when they watered the road, we would slip and slide all over ther place. You just have to let the bike squirm around underneath you and go with the flow. It doesn't do to try and fight it.

After awhile, we had to go up and over the rugged Brooks Mountain Chain. It got foggy and misty up there, and it was hard riding with water and dust over the visor of the helmet, and the road all slick and broken. I dropped down out of the fog once, and right there in front of me was a big mama moose with her young calf. Quite impressive (but moose are not very pretty, I hate to say).

When we dropped down out of the mountains, we were in the famous North Slope -- famous because it is here that they drill for all the oil.

It is cold and frozen up therer on the North Slope, all tundra and Caribou and musk oxen (which did not put in an appearance for us), and tons of mosquitoes (which did apperar in hungry clouds). It is pretty though. The big caribou herd (thousands of animals) is due to arrive next week. They will have missed us. I bet they will be sorry about that.

The gas stations are far apart. We stopped and topped off each time we came to one. Notice the price: $5.39 a gallon. They take all that oil from up there, pump it to Valdez. Truck it to a refinery. Then truck the gas back up the Haul Road to the few gas stations like this one. Whew!

They work on the road all the time. I didn't enjoy standing in the mosquitoes waiting our turn to drive through the rocky, torn-up road. It was quite a challenge.

But after a day and a half or riding, we reached the great industrial complex of Prudhoe Bay. Quite a place it is. Oil well companies every where. They showed us where the oil enters the pipeline. Here I am in this picture standing in the Arctic Ocean.

About that time, my bike got so it wouldn't shift anymore. I had to get it fixed, but I had to do that back in Fairbanks, 500 miles away. So, I got up early in the morning, leaving the other guys in their soft beds, and started my slow, lonely trip back.

Once back in Fairbanks, I went immediately to the Suzuki dealership. Both Odysseus and I were filthy dirty, but the guys in the dealership dropped everything to help us out. In less than an hour, they had fixed my shifter, put on new brake pads, tightened all the bolts and replaced those things that had fallen off on the haul road, and changed my oil.  All for $125.00. I couldn't believe it. I am so appreciative.

Some friends of friends, Phillip and Josie, had been kind enough to store a bunch of our gear for us as we rode the Haul Road. When the Indiana riders finally caught up with me, we went to Phillip's and Josie's home to retrive our gear. Surprise, they had a fantastic meal of caribou appetizers, spaghetti, and moose meatballs waiting for us. What great people.

So, after a good nights sleep, I am typing this, doing some laundry, and getting ready to head for Denali. The sun is coming out. Should be a good day. 

More later,

Sunday, June 24, 2012

posting comments

I have been told that it is difficult to figure out how to post comments or send me email. At the bottom of each post is something that says 0 comments. Click on that and you can send me your comment (email). The comment will not show up on the blog unless I just happen to think it is something that others might want to read.


Fairbanks, Alaska

I have been riding with Ron and Les ever since I met them in British Columbia. We had camped in Whitehorse, the capital of the Yukon Territory, and then we rode up along the Yukon River to Dawson City, the second largest town in the Yukon Territory.

Not many years ago, the only way to get from Whitehorse to Dawson City was by riding the stern wheeler which is now docked in Whitehorse. Back then, the road did not exist.

The boat ran off wood, and they cut down trees all along the river to feed it. When they built the road we traveled up to Dawson City, they started letting the trees grow back. They are still young, though, and the ride is not all that pretty. There is not a lot to recommend it, at least not compared to all the beauty we have been riding through on the rest of this trip up north.

Dawson City was a rip-roaring town back in gold rush days. Today, it only has about 1200 people. It isn't much of a town, but every year bikers from all over North America descend on the place for the Dust 2 Dawson Rally. When that event happens, the population of Dawson City goes up by hundreds of bikers.  It is kind of a famous event, sponsored by the Adventure Rider "Club" which I happen to belong to.

And there is Odysseus, tucked away among the hundreds of motorcycles lined up on both sides of main street.  Do you suppose this is what the horses once looked like back in the day that cowboys came to town?

I really enjoyed Dust 2 Dawson City.One of my favorite activities was the Poker Run. It was the first time I had ever done something like that. The route of the Run went up gravel roads and across mountains and past mining sites. It was a dusty, fun experience.
Here is one of the stops on the Poker Run. Not all the stops were up in the mountain. This one is actually pretty close to town. Can you see the woman on porch of the brothel. She is waving and welcoming us to town.
And this is at one of the Poker Run stops up in the mountains. I was not very lucky drawing my poker cards, but I was lucky to have met these four guys (Actually, I met them much earlier in British Columbia, but I got reacquainted with them here at Dawson City). They are Bob from Wisconsin, and Kevin, Nick and Rusty from Indiana-- four very fine riders and equally fine friends. They were all riding Dual Sport bikes.
The Dust 2 Dawson Rally was filled with activities to do. At midnight, there were contests on main street (riding straight lines and riding blindfolded and so forth. There was also a huge banquet in the town's hocky rink (which was ice-less at this time of year).
This is Ron and Les at the banquet. The food was excellent, but first we needed to polish off a beer or two.

I had planned to stay at a hotel in Dawson City, but that didn't work out. Forunately, there is a nice campground just across the Yukon River. Bob was camping there too. There is a free ferry that takes vehicles across the river.  I took this picture on the ferry as I was going to my campsite about 11 p.m. one night.


It never gets dark here at this time of year. That makes it a little hard to sleep. Here is a picture I took of my tent in the woods at midnight. I did not use a flash.

People seem to stay awake all night long up here. It is so easy to get your hours mixed up when there are 24 hours of daylight. I wonder what people do in the winter when there are 24 hours of darkness. Hibernate, maybe?

The last of the Dust 2 Dawson activities ended long after midnight on the final day, but I was too much of a wimp to stick with them. I went back, got into my tent, covered up my head to block the light, and went to sleep.

Early in the morning, Kevin, Nick and Rusty came over on the ferry. Robert and I were at the entrance to the campground, waiting for them, and the five of us headed over the mountains across the Top of the World Highway toward Alaska. 
The Top of the World Highway is not actually a highway. It is a gravel road. We rode along with our bikes just a-skittering around under us. It is like trying to ride a fish.  But lookie, lookie------------

Odysseus and I are in Alaska. Hooray!

And now I am in Fairbanks.  I get to sleep in tomorrow morning. I wonder if I will be able to.

More later,

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Whitehorse, Yukon Territories, Canada

Hi from Whitehorse, Yukon Territories

The ride across Northern British Columbia was through thickly forested mountains. The forests go as far as the eye can see, a rolling campus of evergreen trees. This is the Taiga, the great pine forest that stretches around the world at this latitude. The mountains here are relaxed little things, more like the Appalachians than the rugged Rockies.

Wildlife was everywhere. I had to be alert. No time for napping allowed because----

Going around a curve you might come face to face with a cute bunch of baby mountain sheep eating salt off the highway.

This little guy (or gal) was very curious about me (What are you up to strange man on a black motorcycle?)

Don't worry, Mama is watching closely. (Yes, mama bighorns have horns, but the daddy bighorns have big daddy horns --- uh, remember that I promised a test later?)

Why do they put up signs like this? They should know that bison are too stubborn to pay attention to them. Do the sign people expect bison to show up just like that? Really now!

Well, what do you know. There they are. Right on cue.  I sat there for a long time, traffic lined up behind me, wondering how I was going to get through this herd. They just kept coming, climbing over the fence. You can see one on the right doing that very thing. Just then, a tanker truck came roaring around me. Those guys stop for no buffalo. I went through very quickly right behind him. Whew!!

There were a lot of these girls also. Wouldn't want to be going very fast and hit one of them. There were foxes, too, and lots of bears, both black and grizzly. All these creatures had their cubs (calves, pups, kits -- whatever).  Springtime is a busy time in the forest maternity ward.  It was like riding through a very busy zoo.

I couldn't resist showing at least one scenery picture.

And then, pretty soon, I was in the Yukon Territory. About that time I met two other riders: Ron from Oregon (I like that name; it is easy to remember) and Les from Texas. Like me, they are headed to Dawson City for a bike rally with Adventure Riders. We hit it off, and have been camping and riding together since.

The three of us are camped at Whitehorse tonight. Whitehorse is the capitol city of the Yukon Territory. This paddle wheeler used to go on the Yukon River up to Dawson City until they built the highway. Since then, this boat just sits there being the major attraction in Whitehorse.

Tomorrow, We are doing the ride along that rather new highway up to Dawson City. It is a long way, but a lot faster than going by a paddle wheeler. 

More later,

Monday, June 18, 2012

Somewhere close to Fort Nelson, British Columbia

I was tired and cold Saturday night. The wind was murderous. I needed a rest. I happened to see a tiny sign for camping, and so I stopped. What a delightful place; a little farm owned by a friendly couple, Tweazle and Robert. Tweazle is from Sussix, England, where until ten years ago, she owned and ran a British pub. Robert was on holiday there. He met her, wooed her, and brought her to British Columbia. She says she loves it dearly here. It seems like paradise to her.

Durng the night the heavens turned on a terrifying pyrotechnique display. The lightning flashed, the thunder rumbled, and the echos bouced off the mountains, going on and on for the longest time after each flash. The wind took hold of my tent and shook it back and forth, and then suddenly stopped. All was quiet for a long moment, and then the rain came down in torrents. What a night.

I woke up to foggy drizzle and, after a fast cup of coffee, Odysseus and I set off.

There was not much to see along the road, I can tell you. This area has little to recommend it. British Columbia is huge, on the map it looks like it is as big as six of Western States, and the road goes on an on. Except for the occasional black bear or two, and here and there a moose, there was little to occupy the mind. There were mountains, I could tell, hulking just behind the fog; and the sun would try to peek-a-boo through the clouds from time to time, but very soon gave up on wasting energy on that sort of thing.

The highway itself is beautiful, however, perfectly manicured with not a hint of trash and never a billboard to spoil the beauty. The speed limits are very low (60 miles per hour), but people drive carefully and within safe speeds despite the fact that there never seems to be any troopers. They certainly seem to do things up right here.

I camped last night next to a lake. A sign warned that there was a bear and her two cubs in the area, but they didn't show up. It rained again during the night, and has been raining off and on all day. The forecast calls for more of the same for the next several days. I hope I am north of it all soon.

I am in a little restaurant in a tiny town somewhere close to Fort Nelson--just 150 miles to go. The TV is playing, and everyone is glued to the Croatia vs Spain soccer match. This is a Russian community, and I am having trouble understanding their accented English.

There are no pictures to show you: there is nothing really to see even if it were not raining. So--

More later,

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Jasper, Alberta, Canada

Odysseus and I drove up the Icefield Parkway From Banff to Jasper. I lost track of how many glaciers we passed. There were a bunch. This one is the Athabasca Glacier (There will be a quiz later kids),

Just joking

The Canadian Rockies just take my breath away; so rugged and beautiful. There is a Kodak Moment around every curve in the highway.

There is still ice on the lakes, and snow on  the mountains. It is quite cold, but I dress warmly.

I camped last night beside a roaring stream. I thought it would make for peaceful sleeping, but it kept waking me up all night.

It was 40 degrees this morning, and it has been misting rain all day. These storms just keep coming from out of the Pacific Ocean. One every other day.  I should be north of them pretty soon. I hope.

The creeks come tumbling down out of the mountains, fed by melting snow. They are teeth-chattering cold. Some of them would be wonderful to kayak. Not this one though.

Here is a wildlife shot for you. These little ground squirrels are thieves. Gotta watch out for them. Even worse are the ravens. I turned around just in time to watch one fly off with my can of pringle chips off the picnic table last night. They also swiped the rolls I had bought for breakfast. How rude. Can't turn your  back a second around here.

I was buzzing down the road when I passed this guy. A grizzly bear!!! A ranger had told me not to get out of my vehicle if I saw one (Ha. Ha. Rangers are so funny). This bear was coming my way, so I snapped off a quick shot and got back on Odysseus really fast. That is why this shot is out of focus.

There are hundreds of bicycle riders along this highway, just puffing along, fully loaded with their camping gear. One rode right past this bear as I was standing there. Brave guy.

One final picture. Yep, its me. I am looking a little grizzly myself, don't you think. How do I look in a beard? (Don't answer that!)

Bye for now.  More later.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

In Southwestern Alberta, Canada

I came up from Yellowstone Park through western Montana. It was a beautiful ride. In my opinion, that part of Montana is much more pretty than the more popular Colorado.  Odysseus and I had the road mostly to ourselves, just the two of us buzzing along with very few towns or cars. Lots of mule deer, though, crossing the highway in twos and threes.

There were many lakes, and vast forests of trees: firs and pines and hemlocks, nodding their heads in the wind; and birch trees and willows along the rivers, and cottonwoods spitting out silky puffs of seeds.

I asked about the crops. They grow timothy hay to feed their cattle, and some wheat, only ankle high now, and that is about it. I stopped for lunch where they were selling huckleberry pie. Hucleberries grow wild, and the kids go out and pick them in buckets, and then sell them to the restaurants. I thought they looked and tasted like blueberries, but I was assured they were not the same.

I had planned to stay in Glacier National Park and then ride the Going to the Sun Highway, but it was raining buckets and snowing in the upper elevations. The Going to the Sun Highway is stilll not open. It is covered with feet and feet of snow which they are working hard to clear.

So Odysseus and I rode around the southern edge of the park and crossed over into Alberta. Not because I was finally in Canada, but rather because of the weather that had followed me up from Montana, I rode in my heated jacket. It felt good. But it was the wind more than the temperature that bothered me. It was crosswise and buffeting, often gusting, the weather report said, to 45 miles an hour. I hate being blown all around the highway and having to fight to stay upright.

I stayed the night in Waterton National Park. It was beautiful. The lake, they tell me, is full of fish just begging to be caught.

The morning dawned bright and clear, still windy, but not as bad as yesterday. I am in a little pastry shop eating scones and drinking coffee as I write this. When I leave, I turn west and cross the mountains into British Columbia.  More later.


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

My grandson, Andrew, was playing in a baseball game and I wanted to see him do that before I got on the road. I don't get to watch him play very often since he lives so far away from me, so I had a lot of fun seeing him make some great plays.

Then, a quick goodbye to my granddaughters Angela and Abigail. I am dressed in my riding gear. I know that vest i'm wearing looks a little wierd, but if it allows car drivers to see me then it is worth looking a little strange.

My son Erin rode with me a little way, and then I was on my way. It was my first time crossing the High Plains through Wyoming on a motorcyle. The winds were super strong and I had to ride leaned way over. But I could see the mountains ahead. It won't be long now.

And finally, at long last, I started up into them, riding up twisting roads, higher and higher. It is wetter and colder up there, and trees can grow along the highway. In this picture, if you look back between the trees, you can see the High Plains, treeless and dry. They slant down lower and lower until, far away, they are 400 feet above sea level in the prairie of Illinois. Bye for now prairie. I am in my beloved mountains. Yey!!

These are the Bighorn Mountains, one of the many branches of the Rocky Mountain chain. It had snowed six inches up here last night, but thankfully the road was cleared. It is beautiful, the snow and mountains, but very cold. I think I must have looked like a polar bear because of all the clothes I put on.

After awhile the road corkscrewed down into a wide valley. I could see the mountains of Yellowstone Park way off in the far distance.

It is dry in the intermountain valley, but there are many streams and rivers flowing down out of the mountains, and the ranchers here use them to water their crops: cattle feed, some corn, and other things. I never knew for sure what they were growing, but it is mowing time. The new-mown grass smelled sweet and clean and the marvelous scents took me back in my memory to my childhood growing up in Southern Missouri. It was just after World War Two, and all the families who lived around our tiny town were very poor.

My dad was good with his hands, and he used to do repair work for the farmers around there. Nobody had money, so it was all done on the barter system. One man might give my dad a calf for welding his plow; another might give him some lumber for sharpening a hay mower's sickles. We had pigs and chickens and four or five milk cows, and about 10 acres of land.

Once, a man traded my father a field of corn stalks left after the ears were harvestd. I was only about 10 years old, but I got to drive the tractor that we borrowed, and pull the wagon a little. I liked that!My dad gave me an old bayonet to cut the corn stalks with, and he and I and my mother cut that field of corn and piled it in the wagon and took it home.

My dad had some lumber from another job, and he built a silo, and we ground up those corn stalks and blew them up into the top of that silo. He put me in a yellow raincoat and some boots, and I walked around and around in the silo, packing the corn down, until the silo was filled. We fed our cows on that corn all winter long.

 I'll never forget that sweet smell of the ground-up corn, exactly like the smell of the valley grass going to Yellowstone.

Once in Yellowstone, my immediate concern was for the bison herds. I've seen videos of what the bulls do to motorcycles. I guess they think a motorcyle looks like another young bull, and they charge and butt and knock the poor riders for a loop. Not for me, thanks. But this guy stayed nice and gentle, just grazing on grass, bless his buffalo heart.
So, there is a bison picture. Check. I won't bore you with pictures of mule deer. Check. And Elk. Check. Or any of the other wildlife. But I can tell you it was fun riding through Yellowstone.

I camped last night, shivering in my tent, and woke up to 34 degrees. Now I am on my way up to Glacier National Park.  More later. Bye

Sunday, June 10, 2012

My Granddaughter's Wedding

It took me two days of hard driving to get to Denver. As I suspected, the traffic was bumper to bumper at break-neck speeds. But as I knew it would, the traffic eased off once I got to Kansas. Along with the traffic, the towns disappeared and the true prairie began, treeless and rolling. I was happy that I had my books on tape to listen to.

My wife, Patrice, arrived at the Denver airport right on time, and we drove the six hour trip up to Gillette, Wyoming. This is High Plains country, a mile higher in elevation than back home in Illinois. The wind blows endlessly here, and it pushes the clouds around the clear, open skies. I love watching the storms as they pass by miles away. It is something I can't do at my home in the Illinois woods.

The air is thin and dry here, and the grass grows short and parched. There are no mosquitoes and blessed little humidity. My Wyoming relatives and in-laws talk about feeling claustrophobic when they come visiting me in Illinois, and they are amazed that they can be drenched in sweat in the evening, just sitting and slapping mosquitoes and sweating in the Illinois humidity.

Once we got to my son, Erin's, house, one of the first items on the agenda was to get my motorcycle off the trailer, and the trailer off the car. Patrice and I were going to need that car to drive around in. This is Odysseus, Erin, Patrice, and two of my grand-kids, Angela and Austin. Cute, aren't they? We are in front of my son's house in Gillette.

My sister, Dena, and brother-in-law Larry, arrived from Indiana. They are planning a big fishing trip in Canada when the wedding is over, but they are having some mechanical problems with their truck so they are thinking about just heading back home. Retired and fancy free, they can do this Canadian trip in the Fall if they need to. Good luck either way to them.

I was so caught up in all the wedding activities that I didn't take any pictures. Sorry. It was a fun wedding though. My son, who is a minister, performed the ceremony to marry Chase and Alyssa. It was moving and tear-filled and funny all at the same time.

After the wedding, I drove Patrice back to Denver to catch her flight home, and Igot back to Gillette in time for a massive party at my daughter-in-law's parents home. Her uncles were there, and they had all been fishing, coming back with a bunch of wall-eye fish.

Today is Sunday, my departure day. Odysseus is packed and ready to go. We will be heading for the Big Horn Mountains soon. I can see their snow-capped peaks from my sun's house. They are calling to beckoning to Odysseus and me. But first, my grandson, is playing in a baseball game and I want to see it. He is a Junior in high school and quite the athlete. I haven't seen him since we were skiing in Colorado several months ago, and I don't want to waste this opportunity to watch him play.

I hear a lot of movement upstairs, and two of my youngest grandchildren just came down here where I am typing this blog. They wantto know what I am doing. Time to get started on the day.

Talk with you later.