Stopping in Slana


We managed to get my GS back up after unloading the majority of luggage off of it and a lot of concerted pulling and dragging. That done, we pulled her KLR out of the mud. In my fogged memory, I don’t even remember how we got the bikes back down to the bridge.

We finally called the hostel and the folks said they’d come out at once to come get us. We unloaded what essentials we needed for the night. I hated to leave the bike there and not have all my stuff with me, but there was no way to carrry everything with us.

Finally a green van came down the hill and a man who introduced himself as Steve got out and helped us with our luggage. We dumped our tank bags, packs and riding gear into the back and clambered into the front with him as we set off back up the hill. Even his four wheel drive vehicles kept sliding around alarmingly and I didn’t feel so bad about not making it on the bike after all.

By the time we rolled into Steve’s front yard, I was tired, hungry, cranky and just wanted to get clean and dry and sleep for a good ten hours. We parked a little distance away from a two storey house with the windows lit up, as if someone was waiting up for us. This looked promising.

We got out and unloaded our gear, but instead of walking to the house he led us in the opposite direction, down a narrow, dark path. Before long we saw a little house down below us with a woman standing outside it, carrying a lamp. We treaded carefully down some rough, wrought steps that appeared to be carved out of mud. He introduced the woman to us as his wife.



They took us inside the little house and after he had set down our stuff, I looked around to get my bearings. We were in a little room about 12 feet by 10. We were standing in the little kitchen area . There was a stove in the center of the room with a little pail of water standing next to it. To the far side of the room were four little bunk beds. High up on the wall between the beds were two small windows that looked out onto the night sky and an enormous bear skin – head and all – stretched out between them.

At the back of the room was a little makeshift shower area that used a solar panel to heat water. It turned out that there was no running water or electricity in the place. The fire was going on the stove, which warmed the place up somewhat, but it would need to be stoked throughout the night if we wanted to stay warm. There was no bathroom – just an outhouse a little way down the path.

They told us to come over to the main house for coffee in the morning and with those words they departed.

By this time my crankiness had led to disgust and disgruntlement. There was to be no hot dinner or shower. At this point all I wanted to do was eat the sorry remnants of whatever food I had left and curl up into bed.

Sarah was quite a bit more enthusiastic than I was – does nothing dampen her spirits? She told me that I was behaving like a spoilt brat and that this was the real adventure – out here in the wild in a cabin made by someone with their own two hands and a skinned bear hanging up on the wall!

“I’m tired,” I mumble before climbing under the covers and pulling them over my head. Thank heavens for a real bed, at least! Let’s just hope that the mosquitoes don’t decide to lay seige tonight.

I woke up the next morning to see the light streaming in through the windows. It was cold after the last of the fire had died out. I got out of bed and padded softly across the floor. There was just light enough to see around the cabin. I turned the doorknob – made out of a real animal’s horn and stepped outside. And my jaw dropped open.

It had been pitch black outside when we had arrived the previous night, so I hadn’t had much of a chance to peruse the surroundings. I don’t know exactly what I had expected but I stood there gaping at the foggy morning that shrouded the forest in the distance. I felt like I had been transported back through time and across a universe into a fairy tale world. The mist that hung in the air gave it an even more convincing aura of unreality. It was like being in a dreamlike state.

The air was so unbelievably still that you were afraid of breathing too loudly for fear of shattering the silence. There were none of the sounds one associates with civilization – no birds chirping, no sounds of traffic, no hum of machinery, no comfortable clinking and clattering of everyday objects. Out here it was silent – a quiet, muffled silence like as if the land was wrapped in cotton wool. Is this what the first visitors to Alaska had felt? Had they fallen silent in turn, forced to be in turns respectful and awe-stricken?

After a while I tore my eyes away from the hypnotic sight of the trees in the distance and looked around to my immediate surroundings. All the trees and leaves and grasses were impossibly green. I didn’t know if it was dew or rain drops, but every blade of grass, every flower petal, every twig that lay on the ground was covered in tiny water droplets that caught and reflected the daylight. I have lived in rainy places, but I’d never seen anything like this. I marvelled at the form nature could take if left undisturbed.

There was a stream on the other side of the cabin – one that Huck had engineered to bring water over from a nearby river. And that ultimately was the charm of this place. After spending a lifetime in apartments and houses and office spaces created by some nameless, faceless construction crews, it startling to be faced with a place where someone had built every part of a house, built the paths and stairs and streams, rigged up the water supply and energy conduits, sewed the curtains and bed spreads, killed the animal that would yield the bones and skin towards decorating the place – all with their bare hands. This truly was a spectacle of the pioneering spirit of humankind – the kind that said that if there were raw materials to be had, humans would persevere and survive.
















Sarah made some coffee – as per usual – which we sipped as we walked around and explored our surroundings some more. Following it up with a poor breakfast of protein bars  and nuts, we decided to head over to the main house to say goodbye to our hosts, pay them and get a ride back to our bikes.

In the light of day, their house looked even cheerier, made entirely of wood, with a clothes line hanging outside it demonstrating a fine spirit of optimism, I thought wryly. We mounted the stairs and knocked and waited and Steve answered the door. He welcomed us inside and as we walked in, I had another jaw dropping moment. This time it was at the sight of the interior of the house – in many ways like any regular suburban house altough entirely constructed with logs, with comfortable looking fuirniture, photographs lining the walls, an old computer and stairs leading up to the second level, except that there were animal skins and animal heads of every kind hanging up on the walls. The couch and all the chairs were draped with soft animal fur of some kind. Even the stairs were lined with fur. The vicious bear skin hanging in our cabin must have been one that didn’t fit in with the decor, or possibly something they had gotten tired of.  

I remember Steve having mentioned something about being a hunter trapper the previous evening and now I realized to the fullest what that meant.

We sat down with them and grateful accepted their offer of coffee. On being asked, we told them more about our ride and how we ended up there. I tried my best to not be rude, but it was impossible to not gape at the dead fox skin hanging a few inches away from my head and running my hands over the soft skin of the chair I was sitting on. On the table were various hats made of animal heads, one of which he identified as a lynx. I was almost scared to touch them because they were so real. I imagined that not a few months ago, these animals must have been alive and vicious and free to roam the wild.

You would think that the animal lover in me would have been revolted by this experience and indeed hunting for sport does provoke a certain  reaction in me. However, out here in the back woods of this primal land, it felt right. These were humans living as they did hundreds of years ago – on the land and making the best they could of it. They hunted the animals like our ancestors did – for food rather than sport, and they did it with a profound respect for the creatures. They used every part of the animal – skin, bones, meat. Every kill went toward feeding families and stocking up for the harsh winters. Out here it felt right.

And I cannot deny that I still felt like I was caught in a spell. I took the fox skin off of the nail it was hanging on and stroked it, feeling its fine soft fur underneath my hands. The head and paws were still intact so that it wasn’t a disembodied piece of material added to some fashionable garment.



 They showed us around their greenhouse attached to the house where they grew vegetables and flowers. The flowers exuded a strange perfume that made you want to breathe in deeply.



We had intended to stop for a few minutes, but we ended up staying and talking for many long hours. As lunch was being prepard, I peeked into the backyard to look at the baby moose that had wandered in, while Steve and Sara took turns jamming on his guitar.

Lunch was a delicious meal of salmon patties made out of fish caught from the river the previous evening and vegetables grown in their garden. This was the first time I ever had a meal that comprised entirely of materials grown in and around the land. It might have been this or the fact that I hadn’t eaten a good meal for two days, but I devoured it and finished every last morsel. 




 Meals done and goodbyes said, we were driven back out to the muddy road where our bikes waited for us. It was quick work to saddle up and get going. As we rode over the Slana river and made our way out towards the Alaskan Highway, I thought to myself how very fortunate we had been in making the choice to get off the beaten track and ended up there. Adventures do seem to happen to you when you least expect them.


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The Richardson Highway

The Richardson Highway stretches from Valdez, AK in the south to Fairbanks, AK in the north. We got onto it fairly late in the day. Our ferry from Whittier docked at Valdez at around 4:00PM. We descended down to the deck, unhitched our bikes and departed tooting our horns and waving at the sailors who disappeared from view as we rode out of the ferry docks and into the little town of Valdez, AK.

In 1964, Valdez acquired notoriety when the Enron tanker spilled oil into its waters causing massive destruction of wildlife and rendering the destroying the economy of the fishing town – an incident that the residents are fighting for damages to this day.

The town was quiet and sleepy. We needed to drop off Sarah’s oil from her oil change before we took off and hit the road. The Port of Valdez harbor toxic waste dump was where we got pointed to. The deed done and the light already starting to fail on us, we left Valdez to turn onto the Richardson Highway, intending to end the day at Slana, AK.

The day was gray and listless with not a shred of sun to brighten the way. We were still going pretty slow because we were both tired from a long day’s riding. About 20 miles down the road, we stopped at some waterfalls to take pictures. It seemed to be a bit of a tourist hotspot with a big tour bus parked outside it and throngs of people in and around the area.

That was the last we were to see of a crowd of people for the next few days though. As we left the waterfalls far behind, and entered deeper into the heart of wilderness, we rarely saw more than a couple of vehicles an hour.





The mountains thronging the Richardson Highway were unbelievably huge and green and lush – again reminding me of the Scottish highlands – and the highway snaked through them in isolation. As I rode, I had this feeling of being the only person on the planet carving my way through unknown territory. It was a strange feeling with mixed emotions – there was triumph, freedom, excitement, fatigue with the slightest hint of danger and fear of the unknown. One thing I did know is that we had to keep going forward and onward.

…until a hundred miles later when we hit a wall of fog.



Visibility suddenly went plummeted so that we could barely see 30 feet in front of us and we were forced to slow down and crawl along. Suddenly the beautiful valley seemed hostile and dangerous. After about fifteen minutes of slow inching along, I pulled over and Sarah stopped behind me. I was feeling a little frustrated. We had almost a hundred miles to go before we hit any civilization but there was no way I could ride at that pace for too much longer. It was too late to turn around and go to Valdez though. As we discussed our options, as if out of nowhere a bicyclist rode past. We stopped him and asked him how much further the fog was and he told us it would end in just five miles.

Five miles – that didn’t sound too bad. I was relieved and we got back on again. The fog was still bad and I didn’t care for it very much but at least it was a known enemy now. Pretty soon as predicted we broke out into sunshine and the world was a warm, friendly place again.

And that was my first experience of riding through a cloud – at times cold and clammy and almost consistently unnerving.


The road now seemed almost a little rural with little settlements whizzing past as we made good speed. Pretty soon we started seeing glimpses of the famed Alaskan Pipeline. By now we were both tired and in need of rest and nourishment.

We pulled over into the gravel parkway of a little roadside shop. The owner was an older lady who welcomed us with a warm smile. Her little store was full of little knick-knacks. At the back though, there was food – we helped ourselves to frozen burritos and pizzas and heated them up in the microwave and wolfed them down. Some hot cocoa to go with it and we started feeling human again.

Now we finally felt able to look around and talk to the owner. She was a sweet woman who told us how she had come out to Alaska twenty years with her three children before to escape from an abusive marriage because she knew that her husband would never find her there. She told us a bit about her life there and about her kids who had all grown up and left Alaska but had returned within a couple of years. I could understand that. Live here long enough and it gets in your blood. As someone who grew up in a big urban city, I couldn’t imagine making my home in such a place, there was no denying the thrall of the complete isolation and the appeal to a certain spirit of hardiness.

She showed us a little blanket she was making from seal skin – caught fresh by an Indian hunter friend. It was the softest thing I had ever touched!


Sarah and I went outside to the back of the shop to look at the numerous antlers for sale – they gather them from the forests after the deer shed them – and got one each to mount on the backs of our bikes. I picked mine out for a friend back in Seattle who was fond of collecting skeletons and dead things.


We finally said our goodbyes and took off, but not before she had told us how to find a good spot to get a closer look at the pipeline. We had to ride a couple of miles down the road before hanging a left down a gravel road which led to the pipeline.

Out came the cameras again as we walked below the pipeline. It was a curious thing – to see stark, clean technology here amidst wild nature. The pipeline stretched all the way north to Prudhoe Bay up in the Arctic. We wouldn’t be able to go that far north on this journey but we would follow it at least for a little while further.



Pictures taken, we got back on to finish the last leg of our journey – to Tok – back where we had come from.

It was really late in the day though and it didn’t seem possible to make it as far north as we wanted. We pulled out the list of hostels and found that there was a stop a little earlier than Tok that seemed like a likely possibility – a place called Slana at a hostel called “Huck Hobbit’s Homestead”. We had to stop at a place called Huck Hobbit’s Homestead! It seemed like the thing to do.

From here on it was about 50 more miles before we went through the cursed town of GlennAllen. Not too many happy memories attached to this place after the horrendous rains we had encountered there the previous week!Slana was about 60 miles north of here. We knew we were going to be pushing the limits of energy what with the gathering darkness and the rain that was starting to fall, not to mention our own flagging energy at the end of a long day, but we wanted to get in those extra miles and get to Slana.

At the gas station in Glenn Allen, we stopped and got a rude meal – a cold sandwich, some fruit and protein bars along with the old familiar gas station coffee. I sat outside on a bench eating and trying to get warm while Sarah called the hostel to find out if it was okay for us to show up. They did have room and told us that they’d be expecting us. The lady on the phone gave us directions – off the main highway for about 10 miles – although the last five were a bit muddy. She told us to call them when we got there so that they could come and pick us up in their truck.

“Oh don’t worry about it,” Sarah said, “We’re on dirt bikes.”

And as it so often happens, those words would come back to haunt us.


The sixty miles between GlennAllen and Slana were an ode to willpower. That particular stretch of highway hadn’t been fun the last time we had ridden through it five days ago and it still didn’t have very much to commend it. We went a steady clip of 70mph on a lacklustre road where everything looked gray and blurry, punctuated with gravel patches – gravel not bothering me anymore as we rolled straight on through it. It was raining profusely now.

We took turns leading. At one point she pulled over and pointed at my headlamp as I came up close to her and said – “Did you know that your lamp is dead? I had to keep turning around to assure myself that you were still there!”

Uh-oh. Not the greatest news. But I wasn’t too worried because I had enough light to see by and we weren’t exactly in the most trafficked place in the world. I figured I’d replace the bulb the next time we were stopped for the night.

And so we kept going until finally we saw the turnoff in the distance and we got off the main highway to go toward the little Slavic sounding town called Slana. Just a few more miles – I thought to myself – before we can stop, peel off our soaking wet clothes, get warm, eat, get a hot shower, and curl up in a warm bed with thick blankets and know that we earned it.

The smooth tarmac road soon turned into uneven gravel which wasn’t much fun, which soon turned into mud – yet more non-fun. I wasn’t very happy at the way things were going anymore. It was a struggle to keep the bike going in a straight line. We eventually reached a little bridge with signs that said “Bad road ahead. Do not drive unless you are on a high clearance vehicle”.



This sounded ominous and I didn’t care to disobey the sign. I hated to quit but I’d rather have called them and have them pick us up as they had offered.

“C’mon! It’s only two more miles! We’re almost there!” Sarah yelled.

Two more miles of this sticky, gooey shit along tight little turns that led into who the hell knew where? No can do. I didn’t have much of a choice though as she kept going.

The next few minutes were some of the most hellish moments I’ve had on any motorcycle as the bike kept sliding around no matter what I did until it finally slid halfway into a ditch and I landed on my side caked in mud and furious. A few yards away, Sarah’s KLR was completely stuck in the mud and refused to move.




And there we were, two bikes stuck in the middle of nowhere, one of them literally so. As muddy, tired and near to tears I was at that moment, little did I know that just around the corner was the best part of our adventure yet, and a story that we would remember and recount for the rest of our lives.


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Heading North


It appeared that I had spent a good part of the past two months doing nothing but obsessing about the trip, planning, shopping, packing, and all at once the day was here – the day I had penciled into my calendar as the day of departure.

Sarah had ridden down from Portland the day before. We had spent the afternoon exchanging notes, showing each other our purchases, and finishing up last minute errands. That evening we got together with Jasen and drank to the success of our journey.

On the day of our departure – June 21st, 2008 – I spent a good couple of hours sorting through all my stuff and setting aside at least half of it.Nothing like last minute unpacking and repacking? My bike was still unbelievably heavy. All of the bike’s movements were exaggerated by the heavier load. I knew that I would get used to the weight after a few hours, but at the time I fervently went through every single item I had thought was “indispensable” and tossed whatever I thought I could live without. The trouble with going to a remote place like Alaska was that a lot of things that you could live without in the lower 48 you really wanted to have with you “just in case”.

I finally declared the packing done at noon and we decided to get lunch before taking off. We rode down to a little Moroccan restaurant close by – the B&O.

One would expect that I would have been excited beyond words and chomping at the bit to get out on the road, but the reality is that I was feeling not a little nauseous and stressed out as I always do when I am on the cusp of a new adventure. It finally dawned on me that this was it, I was on my way and there was no backing out. My body reacts to stress in extreme ways so that I was feeling physically sick and wanting to lay down and curl up in bed for the rest of the day. The extreme heat of that afternoon wasn’t helping either. The food tasted like ashes in my mouth and I ate more for the sake of eating than out of any real hunger.

Lunch eaten and paid for, it was time to gear up and hit the road!


Within minutes were on I-5 north headed towards Vancouver BC. As we g0t on the freeway, I cast one last wistful look at Capitol Hill, my home and all the comfort and familiarity of the place, missing it already. Leaving home is always gut-wrenching.

Still, part of me was itching to get out of the country. After the first 50 miles or so, it dawned on me – 0ur adventure had begun! We were truly on our way! Alaska, here we come!!

Traffic on I-5N at 2:00PM was what we had expected. It moved quickly and pretty soon we were nearing the border. We had decided to cross into Canada at Sumas rather than Vancouver in the interest of saving time. The route from I-9 to Sumas was along a narrow, winding, charming rural road – the kind of road that I would think longingly of up in the Yukon and Alaska. The sight of a police car along the way made me curb my enthusiasm just enough to ride a sensible pace. No sense tempting fate and picking up a ticket on the very first leg of the journey!


Crossing the border at Sumas

Crossing the border at Sumas

The border crossing was fairly uneventful. We parked our bikes outside and went inside with our paperw0rk. The official gave my passport and visa a cursory look and stamped it with the date of entry.

From here on it was about a hundred miles (I hadn’t begun to think in kilometers yet) to our first stop. Even though the scenery and surroundings weren’t very different from Washington, I was acutely aware of being in a different country and I could feel a part of me trying to come to terms with the lack of familiarity. Little things like the measurements of distance and gas seemed far more important now than they should have been.

Every time we stopped at a restaurant or gas station, people came over to talk to us and to admire Sarah’s gorgeous new KLR. I felt a little bummed that nobody remarked at my 0ld crummy bike.

After riding for about a hundred miles from the border, I started feeling really tired from the stress of the day and my flagging efforts in trying to coax some amount of acceleration out of my heavy bike. We stopped at the first RV park sign I saw. Our spot was a rather scenic one overlooking a river. We didn’t have very much time to enjoy the view though as night fell speedily. We cooked a small dinner from our dehydrated meals over a small camp stove and sipped some of Sarah’s home brewed bourbon.

Finally we retired for the night. I crawled into my tent and snuggled inside my sleeping bag for the first of many nights. It was comforting to be able to see the profile of my bike a few feet away from my tent. A motorcycle, a warm place to sleep, enough money for food and gas, and endless days and nights of adventure on the horizon. What more could a girl ask for? In this, my little microcosm of the world, where all my needs had been stripped to these bare essentials, and all my belongings could be socked away into my panniers, life was simple, life was grand, life was intense, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.



I woke up early the next morning with the first rays of sunshine coming through the clear dome of my dent. I got up and crawled out blinking at the light. I had been periodically awoken during the night by the sounds of freight trains in the distance, but outside of that I had slept well and felt refreshed. Sarah was still asleep. I called out to her and she grunted in response. Taking that to be a sign that she wasn’t ready to stir yet, I started breaking down camp and putting things away. That done, I walked down the gravel path to the center of the campground to find the bathrooms and clean up.

Morning ablutions done, I filled up my camelback with water from a tap. The people in the RVs were now awake and sitting in camp chairs, cooking breakfast and making coffee. Fresh coffee, I thought ruefully as I walked back to camp thinking of the espresso shots we had brought to mix with hot water – our version of coffee. Not nearly the same thing, but it would have to do. I’m not the biggest caffeine addict compared to the general populace of Seattle, but coffee and cigarettes is something I closely associate with motorcycle rides.

By the time I got back to camp, I found Sarah awake and lighting up her stove. I pulled mine out too and together we made some hot water for “coffee” and cooked eggs – the first of our dehydrated meals.

First night camping

Breakfast time!

Breakfast things done and put away, we were ready to saddle up and take off. We hoped to make it to Cache Creek by that afternoon.

The riding up Highway 1 was brilliant. It was a crisp, clear morning and the bike handled really well. I found that accelerating was no problem and soon I was ripping down the highway reveling in the beautiful scenery. Sarah was doing a more relaxed pace and taking time to stop and take photos – a trend that would continue throughout the journey. Some parts of this ride were gorgeous and unusual enough that I finally felt that we had indeed left the United States far behind.



We reached Cache Creek that afternoon as predicted, rolling into town and pulling into the first gas station we saw. We were greeted by a bunch of bikers who sat outside the station and waved at us as we went past and stopped to fuel up. I filled my tank to the top, parked and went inside to get some protein bars and get water. When I came outside, I chatted with the bikers who said that one of them was having engine trouble and was waiting for a tow truck. There were four of them who had ridden across the country, up through Alaska and back and now three of them would continue on down while the one with the downed bike would fly home.

Before we got back on the road, Sarah and I made a stop at the local bank. Even though American money was generally accepted in the area, I had been a bit troubled by the fact that I had no Canadian money. I soon remedied that and got about $200 in Canadian money which I stashed away, hoping it would be enough for the rest of the week.

On we rode now, passing through 70 Mile House, 100 Mile House, 150 Mile House, Williams Lake. The weather continued to be brilliant and we were delayed only once by s0me construction.



We were hoping to make it to Prince George by the end of the day but that hope turned out to be a bit ambitious. After doing a particularly long stretch of road after the last gas stop, I realized that I was in danger of running out. The next gas station was almost fifty miles away and I knew I wouldn’t be able to hold out until then. We decided to pull over and siphon gas from Sarah’s tank into mine. We pulled off of the main highway and took a little side road to where we saw some houses and a sign announcing cherries for sale.

The transfer of gas was easily done and we set off to search for cherries. The owner of the house we were parked outside sold us some mighty fine cherries – I bought two bagfuls, one for each of us, and some apples.

We heard sounds of song from the house and on inquiry found that it was a church group that had gathered to sing hymns. Sarah looked delighted – “I know those songs! I grew up signing them.” The old man invited us to come in and join in the singing. She looked hesitantly at me and said that we should probably get on our way.

I looked at her with disbelief and said – “This is what we are out here for. To meet people and have these experiences. If you want to sing, we should go join them. It’s more imp0rtant than clocking miles.”

She didn’t need much convincing and we headed over to the house, stopping to take off our boots as requested and into the living room where were greeted by the sight of almost 30 people – men, women, boys and girls – some with hymn books in their laps, all of them smiling and singing. They paused briefly to welcome us into their home and hand out a hymn book to us which we shared.

Sarah was raised in the Southern Baptist church and she had most of the hymns memorized. I found that it wasn’t too difficult for me to follow along either. While I am by no means religious, I was struck by how happy everyone in the room looked and how joyously they sang out. How often does one encounter family members of such varied ages gathering together and sharing such happy moments?  There were husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, teenagers and toddlers alike sitting close, some holding hands or with their arms around each other, some with their heads on the others’ shoulders, the little children crawling on the floor or playing with each other. They all seemed to know most of the songs, and every time one hymn was done, someone called out a request for the next one to the man playing the piano.



We must have spent a good hour there. When we were finally ready to leave, we said our goodbyes quietly and left with the strains of music still leaving the house.

As we got ready to get on the bikes, I asked Sarah – “So – do you think they all voted for Bush?”

She replied – “They can’t. They’re Canadian.”


We laughed all the way back to the road.


That night we stopped at an RV camp and set up our tents in the midst of a big, open, windy field.




Day3: 97N, Prince George, 16W, Vanderhoof, New Hazelton

We made good progress on our third day. We reached Prince George by mid-morning where we made an uneventful gas stop and reached  Burns Lake by mid-day. Parked outside a pizza place we saw a group of BMW motorcycles parked. We pulled into the parking lot and as we got off our bikes, the riders walked out of the restaurant. This time it was my turn to have my bike admired and talked about as none of them so much as glanced at Sarah’s bike. Typical BMW riders!

They told us that they had come down from riding to Inuvik up the Dempster Highway. The ride had been rainy and miserable and the road had been so muddy that it had been like riding on grease. One of their group had had a bad crash with his bike landing on him and he had broken his back and had to be flown to a hospital in Fairbanks. This was very sobering news and for the first time the dangerous nature of some of the routes we had planned on dawned on us. Sarah hadn’t been very keen on riding the Dempster, but I was very intent on at least attempting to get to the Arctic Circle. It would be very tough going if the weather continued to be rainy though and we were going to have to make a decision as to whether to continue going north towards the Dempster or turn west towards Alaska. Still, we didn’t have to decide today. We still had Hyder to look forward to, which we hoped to reach by the end of the day.





We spent more time in Burns Lake than we had intended to, glad to find a place with good food and able to stretch out and relax for a little bit. This cost us dearly however and when evening started to fall we realized that we wouldn’t be able to reach Hyder that day after all. We stopped at a little town called New Hazelton.








Sarah found us lodging in the backyard of a lady’s house who said that we could camp there. As an afterthought, she told us to be careful about the bear.

“The bear?” – we asked politely. She told us that a particular bear visited there every other night and we should be careful about not leaving any food lying around. Oh, good to know, we replied.

We set up our tents under the shelter of the barn and proceeded to eat some sandwiches that we had picked up earlier in the day.



It had been a good day but unfortunately this was where we had our first fight. Spending hours together with one other person can take its toll and the frustrations and disgruntlements that had been building up between us finally spilled out. I had been particularly exasperated at her wanting to go off on gravel roads at the end of a long, tiring day to find places to camp at.

My idea of touring had always been to put in long hours in the saddle and finally stop someplace comfortable to wind down. I was content with stopping anywhere for the night, even an RV park, as long as we stopped riding and had some daylight hours left to kick back and relax. I had toured long enough to know that I would regret it if I did nothing but ride without spending some time off the bike and really experiencing what the place had to offer. While I obviously enjoy riding, the best part of touring is the time off the bike with meeeting people and talking to them, roaming around little towns, finding secret spots and having a quiet smoke while looking out at the water. Thus far we hadn’t done very much of that and I had felt pressured to keep riding until the light started to fail. I have stated before that I was not into  camping and I was even less a fan of riding off-road, having little to no experience with it. The last thing I wanted to do at the end of a long day was to ride my overloaded heavy bike up and down unpaved paths, trying to find a spot that she felt satisfied with. We had done that a couple of times now and I was pissed off about having to do that again tonight.

Sarah on the other hand had started riding with an off-road bike and was far more comfortable on that kind of terrain. She had been steadily frustrated at the fact that we had been doing nothing but tarmac and that I got cranky every time she even suggested going off on a trail. She liked the idea of finding a nice, cosy grassy spot by a river to camp on and she was willing to hunt around for a while to find the perfect spot. She was also intent on riding long hours every day until she felt that she was far enough away from home. She had spent a great deal of money on her bike and equipment, not to mention all her vacation for the next two years, and she felt like the ride was turning out to be a terrible disappointment.

We proceeded to have a heated conversation, neither one trying to find a middle ground. I had the sinking feeling that the adventure was not turning out to be quite as idyllic as I had thought it would be. Here then was the danger in riding with a complete stranger. For all that we had been friends, good acquaintances rather in the past few years, we had never once ridden together and had never discussed what kind of riding we liked to do or what pace we liked to keep. Now it turned out that our ideas of what would make this a ride worth it to each of us were so poles apart that there wasn’t very much we could do to salvage it. We talked briefly about separating and going our own ways, each to finish the ride the way she best wanted.

Neither of us really wanted to separate though, and considering the trials of the road ahead of us, it would have been the worst possible solution to our problems. We didn’t reach any conclusions that night. I half-heartedly said that I would try to do more off-road riding as long as it wasn’t at the end of the day when I was tired.

We finally went to bed without reaching any conclusion. The next morning would see us riding a hundred miles west to reach Hyder, AK. Maybe things would seem different then and we’d be better able to decide where we wanted to go from there.



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I would like to say that my ride to Alaska came about from an impulsive desire where I woke up one morning, got on my motorcycle and took off. The reality though is that it came about as the result of a few months of calculated planning and preparation. While I knew a few things about motorcycle touring, having spent most weekends in the past year on short road trips in my native Washington state, I realized that doing a three week road trip in the wilderness would call for a lot of research and preparation.


The first step was acquiring the right bike. While my naked sv650 had tided me over many thousand miles on tarmac, I wanted something that was comfortable for longer rides and capable of being ridden on rough terrain. My choice of bike is limited by my height and short inseam and I shortly zeroed in on a BMW F650GS. It was a popular bike among women due to its low ride height and it had proven credentials for being a good adventure riding machine. I scouted around on the local classifieds to find a likely candidate and after a couple of months of looking, found one that was in the right price range and was already rigged out to be a touring bike, so that the work I’d need to do on it was minimal. I bought the bike a week after I first went and inspected it.

In the following weeks, I proceeded to customize the bike for me. I swapped the seat for the BMW low seat and lowered the handlebars.

The bike rode very different from my sportsbike and it took me a little getting used to. In spite of the low seat, it was still a tall bike and it took me quite a bit of riding and a few drops before I got somewhat used to it. I brought it to a dirtbike class where I practiced riding standing up on dirt and gravel. For someone who had never ridden dirt before, this was really challenging and I found myself wondering a few times exactly why I was doing this and how anyone could call this fun. I was stubborn though and I had a goal in mind. Riding on dirt was just one of the survival skills I would need to have in my pocket if I wanted to achieve my dream.

[As the plans for the Alaska ride got more concrete, I realized that my naked SV650 would not be the ideal bike to bring on the journey. While it has been done before, I discounted the idea for a number of reasons.

The lack of fairings and the lightness of the bike meant that I got easily tired out on longer rides. I found myself needing to stop and take a break every 60 miles.

The smaller gas tank meant a smaller range, which would not be very safe in Alaska and the Yukon where the riding distances between gas stations were occasionally more than 150 miles.

There would be a lot of construction areas meaning unpaved roads with gravel and grade slurry, mud if it had been raining, and a few off-road highways. Even the paved roads were known to have a lot of frost heaves and potholes.

It appeared that I would be much better off on a bike that had off-road abilities, had a larger gas tank and had an established reputation as an adventure bike. I decided on purchasing a BMW F650GS, a bike that I had fallen in love when I sat on it at the dealership. It had everything I would want in an adventure bike – German engineering, a fuel range of 150 miles, fuel injection, dual-sport abilities etc.

I ended up purchasing a 2002 F650GS, which came with all the possible farkles one might need for a trip like this – 40liter Touratech panniers, extra exhaust storage, Fatbar handlebars.

I wasn’t very pleased at its power in comparison to my SV650, but it more than made up for it in terms of comfort. The seating position was comfortable enough that I felt like I was sitting on my couch at home rather than riding 70mph on the freeway on a two wheeler. It chomped up miles and I found myself being able to go longer and longer distances before I needed to stop for a break. The fuel injection meant no need to warm the bike up – start it up and it was ready to go! Initially I had some trouble with it because it handled very differently from my sportsbike.]


My planned route was intentionally routed to go through territories least populated by humans and far from the tourist hubs. In my rides, I’d been used to living cheap and staying at the seediest, cheapest places I could find on the road, but it seemed like even this would be a luxury in some of the places I would be riding to. I was also trying to keep the overall costs of the trip down. All of this pointed towards motorcycle camping – a phrase that until then had made me shudder a little for a multitude of reasons – my camping experience was limited to the point of being non-existent, and the thought of loading the bike down with all sorts of extra equipment was a little contrary to my philosophy of riding light with just a toothbrush and a change of shirts and underwear.

It was time to change all that though and so back I went online to read up on what equipment I needed and the following week found me at my local overpriced sporting goods store, clutching a list of everything you need to have while camping out in the backcountry where I proceeded to spend an entire paycheck. My list of essential purchases that I absolutely had to have to emerge alive from the wilderness included an ultralight tent, a sub-zero rated sleeping bag, a cartridge stove, dry bags, a saw, a headlamp, rope, emergency mirror, a water filter, water carrier…

My biggest fear of being out on the road was having to deal with a emergency like a flat tire and being able to handle and fix it on my own. This is a desirable skill for motorcyclists in the best of conditions, and an essential life and death skill in a place like Alaska. While I had tinkered a little with my bike in doing basic maintenance, due to lack of time, knowledge and a place to work on, my bikes had always been serviced by experienced mechanics.

This is where my friend Jasen came in. An experienced mechanic who had worked on bikes for twenty years, there was very little about motorcycles that he didn’t know or couldn’t figure out. He proceeded to coach me on working with my bike and I slowly started learning basic maintenance like changing the oil, adjusting the chain etc. and proceeded to learning how to change and patch tire tubes in case of a flat.


I am by nature a loner. I found an instant affinity with motorcycling because it allowed me to spend long stretches of time by myself. It allowed me to decide when I was ready to interact with people and be social. A short stint of riding never fails to rejuvenate my sense of self and validation. After a few years of riding though, I have often found myself wishing I had a like-minded companion. Someone like myself who needed their own space but with whom I could share the wonders of travel and kick back at the end of the day with a beer and a cigarette, resting and thinking back to a good day’s riding. I didn’t like the prospect of riding with a group of riders very much, but a couple of other people to go with would be perfect.

Finding a riding companion seemed like the hardest part of the preparation. It was easy to go to a store and purchase material things and it was easy to prepare myself mentally and physically. Finding someone who was also enthused about taking on a mad journey like this, who could get time off at the same time, who could afford the expense associated with it and had an up for anything attitude was difficult, to say the least. To be fair, I didn’t look very hard because a part of me hoped that nobody would come along and I would have to ride alone by necessity. And then I happened to have a phone conversation with my friend Sarah.


Sarah Adkins lives in Portland, Oregon. We had been introduced by a mutual acquaintance a few years before and I had been struck even then by the combination of fresh faced innocence and youth combined with a worldly wise knowledge of the world. The soft spoken quiet kid had gone on to become an EMT. She had read the account of my first road trip across the Olympic Peninsula and had written to me about how that had inspired her to go get her own bike. She had quietly acquired a dirt bike and started kicking around on dirt roads. We talked on the phone on and off over the years always making plans to meet up and ride together, plans that never quite materialized.

I jokingly mentioned to her that she should take a few weeks off and ride with me to Alaska to which she said that it sounded like a good idea and she would see if she could get the time off. I never expected anything to come of it until she called back a week later saying that she had gotten the time off and started looking for an appropriate bike. I couldn’t quite bring myself to believe it. Here I had been dreading being forced to ride with a stranger. Instead I would ride with someone I liked, whose company I had enjoyed and someone who could hold her own in a tough situation. She didn’t have as much touring experience as I did, but what she lacked in experience, she more than made up for with her stolid up for anything attitude.

She acquired a brand new KLR650 and used it as her commuter over her weekly one hundred mile commute and started gradually outfitting it for the ride.

We met up in Oregon to sit and down and hash out details for the very first time. Together we planned the route and essentials. We joked that we were only really riding with the other person so we would have someone to help us pick up our bikes if it ever went down.



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The Motorcycle Shop

Alaska Leather











Downtown Anchorage











Toward Seward




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The Seward Highway

Leaving Anchorage
























Rolling in to Seward












Down by the water




















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The Glenn Highway


We woke up the next morning in Tok, AK to the sound of pouring rain. We  got dressed and parted ways for a bit while she went off to dry her overpants in the campground’s laudromat, while I tore down camp and loaded up the bike. The next hour was a Spinal Tap-esque comical experience wherein we kept trying to find each other in the maze of roads and RVs all of which looked exactly alike. Eventually we did manage to meet up and walked together to the campground kitchen to get breakfast. They had a buffet – the though of which excited me having been starved of real food for a while, but it turned out to be mostly all you could eat pancakes with some dodgy looking syrup and fruit. I did get to try reindeer sausage for the first time, which was exciting for the entire five minutes of the experience.








We managed to make breakfast last for about an hour as we took the time to relax and finish the pancakes and coffee.

As we rode out of the campground, we realized that it was consistently pouring down rain. We stopped at the local gas station to fill up our tanks. A couple of adventure riders were filling up near us. They told us to be extra careful out on the roads due to the pouring down rain and the danger of hydroplaning.

The first ten miles or so of the route was bad. Shortly after, it reached truly epic proportions of miserable. Riding in pouring down rain isn’t fun in the best of times, but it’s even less exciting when you know that you have about 350 more miles to go. Before the first 50 miles were up, I found that I was shivering violently from the cold and I couldn’t feel my hands anymore. For the first time in the journey I realized that being out in complete wilderness also meant that I couldn’t just pull over, go indoors to seek shelter and get warm. Most of the highway didn’t even have much of a shoulder to pull off on, should I inexplicably have wanted to do so. I was pretty much in auto-pilot mode and all my numbed brain could think of was to keep going, ticking off the miles until the next sign of civilization. Sarah pulled over a couple of times to take pictures and this was one of the few times on the trip that I truly wanted to shove her off a cliff, as I pulled over and waited for her and got rained on and froze some more.



After what seemed like a lifetime, I saw what looked like an oasis – a lodge in the distance with an honest to goodness parking lot. I rolled in, parked and barely managed to stumble in. My heated vest had stopped working and I was freezing cold. Everything we were wearing got soaked and I think I was very close to hypothermia. We couldn’t stop there though – it was either turn around and go back to Tok, or keep going to Anchorage. I chose to keep going although I was near frozen and exhausted from the effort of riding in the now near zero-visibility rain.

By the time we reached a town called GlennAllen, I was all but ready to give up. I pulled in at a building that appeared to be the visitor center. I have no idea how I managed to turn the bike off, get off it or walk up the stairs to collapse into the warm shelter because my body had now stopped having any feeling, my clothing was completely waterlogged, and my hands were frozen so stiff that I didn’t have any feeling in them anymore.

At the visitor center we were told about the Caribou Hotel where we could find a room for the night. It was only the middle of the day but I knew that I was done riding for the day.


As we stood in the hotel lobby waiting to be checked in, we observed with mild amusement biker after disgruntled biker walking in looking harassed and defeated. We nodded at each other in solidarity, no words needed.

At one point, I counted a total of 17 bikes parked under the front of the hotel lobby.



The room turned out to be a complete ripoff – an unbelievable $120 for a small double bed room where the heating didn’t work right and the toilet kept running. I didn’t care though. I was grateful at the thought of getting into a hot shower, thawing out, and climbing into a real bed.

We hung out all our wet things in an effort to get them dry. Unfortunately the hotel didn’t have a dryer that we could use and we had to resort to air drying. We even borrowed a little space heater and tried to use it to dry out our waterlogged boots.









We left the town of Glenn Allen the next morning eager to put as many miles as possible between us. Anchorage was a mere two hundred miles away and the thought of finally reaching the capital city of Alaska was exciting. We got off to a spirited start, feeling spoiled by the dry roads and warm sunshine.

Perhaps many others leaving Glenn Allen had had similar thoughts and provoked the ire of the local authorities though, because before long I saw what looking like a gleam of red and blue in my side mirror. I slowed down but Sarah was far ahead going well over 80mph. The red and blue lights overtook me and then her with an alarming rapidity and pretty soon we were both pulled over on the side of the road, sheepishly climbing off our bikes and wincing like schoolchildren as the cop walked over to us with the inevitable jaunty swagger. He asked us where we were going and why and whether we knew how fast we had been going. We looked appropriately confused and innocent and tried to bullshit our way out of it, to no avail. My heart sank as he pulled out the ominous book and started writing out a ticket.


“Umm… aren’t you going to let us go with a warning?” Sarah asked him at what I can only describe as spirit of undying hope in the face of adversity. I threw her an exasperated look which she answered with a shrug. The cop looked at her and said, “No.”

He then looked at both of us and said – “You were both going 79 in a 55 and you could get into big trouble for this. I’m going to write it up as a 72 though and I’m going to write out just one ticket. You can decide which one of you gets it.”

I looked at him with a look of amazed disbelief and imagined myself being on a reality tv show where this was the test complete with dramatic tense background music, and the decision would decide the course of our friendship for the rest of the journey.

“I’ll take it,” I said in a spirit of heroic sacrifice.

“What? No, I’ll take it!” said Sarah, not to be outdone with the heroics.

“Now wait a minute…” I started, ready to list all the downsides of having a speeding ticket on her record, when she interrupted me with – “Oh wait, I could lose my job if I had a ticket, seeing as how I need to drive an emergency vehicle around.”

“Okay then…,” I started, a little deflated.

“Hold on, let me call my boss!” she said and whipped out her phone to call her supervisor in Oregon and proceeded to have a chat with him while the cop and I patiently looked on.

“It’s okay. He said it won’t affect my job. I’ll take the ticket.” She said beaming, as she ended the call.

The cop walked back to his car to pull up her license and write out the ticket.

Touched by this act of magnanimity, I turned to her to express my gratitude when she said – “You’re splitting that with me.”

“Oh. Right.”

I decided to make good use of the time and took my camera out to take an incriminating photo of the bikes with the cop in the background. When he came back to us, I asked him if we could take some pictures with him for our family albums. He said yes, but we couldn’t post them on the internet. Busted!

As we got ready to get on our bikes, he warned us to be careful and not get caught again. “We wouldn’t dream of it, officer!” we said meekly and rode off.

Where we had been doing a good clip of 70+mph throughout our journey, we were now slowed down to the regulated 55mph. I wanted to go at least the accepted ten over, but Sarah wouldn’t hear of it. Given that she had just taken one for the team, I respected her decision and kept to slow, snail like pace. We kept our heads low in shame as we were overtaken by RVs and semis. The shame, oh the shame! That was the slowest one hundred miles of the journey.











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The Alaskan Highway


Into the Yukon and onto the Alaskan Highway! Brilliant weather! Gorgeous scenery. It felt as if we were riding through the pages of a calendar. Everything was scenic and picturesque and perfect. The road was now wide and smooth. Where the Cassiar had seemed like a little secret winding backroad, the Alaskan Highway was huge, straight and perfectly engineered.

We went through cities like Jade City, Nugget City and Teslin. Teslin was home to our scariest encounter thus far – riding on a long metal grated bridge behind an RV that was driving 5mph and occassionally braking for no apparent reason. I think our hearts must have stopped beating during that entire stretch, and I could hear Sarah screaming – “DON’T STOP DON’T STOP” all the way. When we finally got across, I think we were both mad enough to shoot his tires out from under him.







And finally at the end of a too long day, we entered the city of Whitehorse. After day upon day and hundreds of miles of ridng through wilderness and little one-horse towns, the sight of a real city with parks, houses, well manicured lawns, traffic lights and shiny Harley riders made us laugh with delight as we pulled in to the parking lot of a park and pulled our helmets off.


We ended up staying at a delightful place that night – the Beezkneez Backpackers hostel. They were full but they let us camp in their backyard. They had clean showers, internet access, kitchen, a cozy living room, and interesting travellers spending the night. The perfect place to rejuvenate our spirits! I try to retain this memory of Whitehorse in my memory, rather than the dismal one from ten days after.








Day 7 saw us waking up from a good night’s rest at the Beezkneez Bacpackers. We ate breakfast, started loading up the bikes and doing some routine maintenance. Sarah decided to adjust her chain and something went wrong so that the wheel made a creaking sound every time we rotated it. It took us a while to backtrack and sort it out, but it got her really frustrated. We then set out to go find some parts at an Auto Parts store only to realize that it was a Sunday and most stores were closed. After riding in the wilderness for most of the week, the one time we hit a major city turns out to be the one day when everything was closed! This could only happen to us.

We hit the road a bit late – around noon – and were hoping to at least cross the border before the end of the day. There were many construction zones on the way with loose packed gravel which slowed us down, but overall we kept up a good pace. We passed through the Kluane Lake area, which was gorgeous.









As we reached the end of the Yukon and neared Alaska, the weather changed dramatically. We rode a pretty consistent 90mph trying to outride a big, angry thunderstorm. The ominous clouds bearing down on us combined with flashes of lightning (scary in this barren remoteness) and the first few showers of rain made our entry into Alaska every bit as dramatic as I had hoped it would be. The last hundred miles riding into Alaska were almost like riding through some Tolkein-esque fantasy – completely remote with no vehicles out on the road besides us, misty mountains in the distance, bleak stripped down forests; and I especially have a chilling memory of passing a huge muddy angry marshland that reminded me of Isengard. I wouldn’t have been surprised to see an army of orcs emerging from it onto the road.

We crossed the border at around 7 in the evening – my first real border crossing from Canada into the US. The customs officer was really nice and chatty. He recommended that we take advantage of the recent dry weather and the fact that construction didn’t happen on Sundays to make it through all the way to Tok rather than stopping at Border City as planned. I was really tired by now, but what he said made sense, so we pushed on. I think we made it all the way to Tok on sheer willpower alone. We went through that dreaded stretch that every biker on the road had warned us about until now – about fifty miles of construction in rain gathering darkness. . The picture most people had painted of “The US side of the road is completely torn up.”, “Be very, very careful and go slow.”, “It’s fifty miles of the most miserable roads you will ever ride.” etc. had led us to imagine the aftermath of an apocalypse with dead bodies strewn all over and wailing infants crying out our names. The reality though, was quite a bit different because we pretty much sailed through it. It was slow going in some sections but nothing unmanageable. After we stopped for the night and exchanged notes, we resolved to never trust other people’s descriptions of road conditions again.

In hindsight though, we had been extraordinarily lucky with the weather – the rain ensured that there was no dust, but it has also not rained long enough for it to get slippery (as we found out when we went through that section a week later and my heart was in my mouth every time we went through a slick muddy section).






Sarah had promised me at the border that if I would consent to riding another 60 miles to Tok that day, we could stay at the best, swankiest place I wanted to instead of camping. I had given in at that thought and as we finally entered Tok, I pulled in to the parking lot of a somewhat fancy looking – for that area – hotel.

We turned off the bikes and walked into the reception… and stopped. Inside was a gigantic Christmas tree with presents piled around it, a TV playing Christmas carols and people walking around in Christmas sweaters putting up ornaments and decorations. It was July. We looked at each other and left.

Outside we tried calling the number of a hostel in that area only to be told that they were closed for a week because a moose had gotten in and destroyed all the beds.

Lady luck was really not on our side that night. We finally managed to find an RV park called the Sourdough Campground. It was raining steadily now and we pitched a tent in the rain, ate a rude meal and clambered into bed. This had been our longest day riding and the strain of the journey was now beginning to tell.

I was too tired even to grasp the thought that we had made our destination – we were in Alaska and tomorrow we would be in the capital city of Anchorage. All I wanted was to sleep and rest and I soon drifted off to sleep, the steady sound of rain lulling me into oblivion.
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Hyder, AK


I woke up in the barn the next morning, relieved to find that neither my food nor I had been eaten or even nibbled at by the Bear. Perhaps it had taken the night off. I unpacked my Ursack and put the contents away back into my panniers. We ate a rude breakfast of fruit and protein bars before getting an early start out. It felt good to be back on pavement again. We only needed to ride about a hundred miles this morning to get to our destination for the day – Hyder, AK. Yes, we would finally be in Alaska, and we would enjoy one day of light riding and plenty of rest. Now that we had put enough distance between ourselves and our homes, we felt entitled to do this.

It was brisk morning’s ride. The weather was crisp and a little cold and foggy. Enough that I broke out the winter gloves for the first time, which performed superlatively. My heated vest and the gloves kept me warm and toasty as I whizzed through the mostly straight beginning end of the Cassiar Highway.



Before long, we had hit the intersection with the Stewart Access Road, a 40 mile long stretch of road that led to the little town of Stewart. Little did I know then that this road would also turn out to be the twistiest, most scenic and delightful road through all of our Alaska travels.



We turned west onto the Stewart Access Road and within a few miles we were greeted by the sight of the most enormous snowcapped mountains amid gorgeous scenery. After the first few twisties had passed, I pulled over and told Sarah that I was going to have to take a much more spirited pace and I would meet up with her at the end. She nodded and said that she would probably take a more relaxed pace. That decided, I took off and roared through the landscape, leaning the bike over as much as I dared to and gradually warming up to this brilliant road, the remoteness only occasionally broken by a few meandering RVs that I impatiently overtook, and reveling in the scenery that unfolded before me. This is where I reached pure riding nirvana becoming one with the road, dancing with it, taking on each exciting turn, ripping through it and looking excitedly forward to the next one, and the next, and the next, until…

Until I turned right onto a downhill corner and was slammed in the face by the sight of the first enormous glacier I’d seen in all my life. I did the only thing I could do – pulled off the road, slowed to a halt, stopped, ripped my helmet off and stood and gawked. A quarter of an hour later, Sarah turned up and pretty much did the exact same thing and we screamed in delight at each other at the breathtaking sight in front of us.

We took quite a few pictures here, but no pictures could do justice to the sight and presence of this – our first landmark in a journey that would bring forth many wondrous sites.





When we had finally had our fill, we rode the last few miles to Stewart. We stopped here briefly to fill up our tanks with gas. I went inside trying to find a connector to my tire pressure gauge but didn’t have much luck.



From Stewart a mile long gravel road leads into the town of Hyder, AK. A dead-end town as it were, and this is also the road that leads out of town. This was our second border crossing back into the United States, although curiously enough we did not have to go through customs to get in. We were finally in ALASKA! This was of course a minor triumph because no roads lead from Hyder to the state of Alaska, and you have to come back out and ride north for about a thousand miles north before getting to Alaska again, but even so, it was something. The only reason for us to go here was that we had consistently been told by riders to visit here and get “Hyder-ized”. We didn’t really know what this entailed but were keen on finding out. :)


Half a mile after crossing the border, I pulled in at the first inn I saw that had motorcycles parked outside it – the SeaAlaska Inn. It was a modest affair with small, clean, affordable, ancient rooms. We walked into the bar to talk to the bartender about getting a room and got one on the ground floor.



The bar is where we ended up being Hyder-ized. I am unfortunately not allowed to say any more about this outside of the fact that I was in state to do any more riding for the rest of the day after we were done. We also ordered some of the most delicious pizza I have eaten and devoured it like we had been starving for days. I believe this was the first real meal we had had since we had started off.





Fed and watered, we now looked to the other bikers to socialize and exchange notes. As with most riders we had met, they too were travelling south and had already ridden through all the terrain coming up ahead of us. I pulled out my map of Alaska and they gave me copious amounts of information on the conditions of the roads ahead and what we could expect in the days to come. What we heard was not very good – they had been rained on for the past two weeks and had been cold and wet and miserable. They hadn’t been very much impressed by Alaska and were glad to be leaving it for warmer climes. They had ridden through most of the country and the fact that this had been their least favorite stretch didn’t bode much good for us. They had also made it to and back from Prudhoe Bay – that holy grail of destinations for adventure riders – worth riding to just to say that you had done it, but not very much fun to and back. Much like the riders who had ridden to Inuvik up the Dempster Highway, these riders described the Dalton Highway as wet, sludgy and with slick, dangerous mud. They had had an encounter with a herd of caribou, which fortunately had ended well for both man, machine and caribou in question.

Our bartender told us about a spot up the road where one could go look at salmon in the river and bears that came to catch the salmon. They had had a bear sighting earlier in the day, so there was a good chance that there would be more. Seeing as I was still not keen on riding, I hopped onto the back of Sarah’s KLR, resolving to keep my eyes firmly shut and imagine happy thoughts until we reached our destination. We stopped a bit earlier than we had intended, when she saw another rider on an 08 KLR. As she pulled over next to him, he turned out to be a kid of about seventeen years of age who was traveling with his dad. This was the second father-son pair we had encountered in this town. We told him where we were headed and he cheerfully agreed to follow us and come along.

Before long, we got to the salmon watching site. The ride itself wasn’t too bad except when we came onto more and more loose gravel.

We dismounted and paid for our tickets to go onto the observation deck and lo and behold – another first for me – the sight of enormous salmon swimming through the river or resting. We waited for quite a while, but the bears never showed up though.







Sarah and the other dirt bike riders, in the meantime, were hatching plans to ride the dirt roads to go see another glacier. I opted out of riding along, choosing instead to hitch a ride with another ride to go back to the hotel and rest.

I got back and took a long shower, trying to feel clean again. I then went back out to the bar and sat with a group of riders (Miles and ?). We got beers and pizza and proceeded to spend the evening exchanging riding stories, embellish some details and fabricating others from scratch.


Sarah rolled in later in the evening with Andrew, Jody and Derek with stories and pictures of the gorgeous sights they had seen and a video of a grizzly they had encountered.








We stayed up for a couple more hours before I decided to go crawl into bed for some much needed rest. Sarah – in keeping with being Sarah – partied into the small hours of the morning.


The next morning I woke up feeling refreshed and rested. I got out of bed, yawned and stretched, and got cleaned up before heading out to the bike with the first armload of things that needed to be packed away. I also took the opportunity to give the bike a once-over and it was probably a good thing that I did because I found that my rear tire pressure was almost 20psi, well below the recommended 35psi. I splashed it thoroughly with water to check for a slow leak, but it didn’t uncover anything.

We rolled out of Hyder that morning to cross the border back into Canada. I had a bone chilling moment there when I realized that my passport wasn’t in my jacket pocket as I had expected. It turned out to be in the innermost pocket under the waterproof lining though and I was able to breathe again. The customs officer looked at the passport and informed me that my visa had expired. Umm… no, it hadn’t, I said. It expires on the 6th of November. No, we use month/day/year here, he informed me. No, you don’t, you’re Canadian – you use day/month/year. Apparently, the good folks in Stewart are used to using US standards instead of Canadian, leading to this misunderstanding. Thankfully we were able to clear this up and I was soon on my way, looking forward to once again riding the twisty goodness of the Stewart access road back to the Cassiar.

We stopped at Stewart first to get some much needed food. This was the best breakfast I had had in a long time and I wolfed it down hungrily.




Outside the hotel in Stewart, we saw a BMW parked with an ADVRider sticker on it, which excited us considerably. We met the riders and chatted excitedly with them. All we had in common was that we posted on the same discussion forum, but out here in the middle of nowhere, it was enough to forge a bond of kinship. We talked and exchanged email addresses and promised to establish contact when we got home.


Leaving Stewart, we were finally ready to tackle the next leg of our journey – the mighty Cassiar Highway.


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The Cassiar Highway


I had heard about the Cassiar Highway almost a year ago from my next door neighbor – a guy who went up with the fishing boats in the winters and I’d heard that it was by far the more treacherous way to get into Alaska with a lot of unpaved sections and ripped up roads from the bad winters.

We stopped at the intersection with the Cassiar for a quick break and were shortly joined by a group of KLR riders. As we stood and chatted, a passing hitch-hiker came up to us with a gigantic watermelon, which he offered to share with us. Not questioning the surrealness of the situation, a knife was quickly produced and we proceeded to slice open and divide it amongst us. It was disposed of very quickly, after which we dispersed and went our separate ways,






After this brief, magical interlude, we saddled our horses and took off – up north on the famed Cassiar Highway. After months of dreaming and mixed expectations, there we were finally on it. If any road in the United States could be considered to be a destination in itself, this was it.

Time was when travellers would need to pick which route they would need to take to get to Alaska and the choice lay between the Alaskan Highway and the Cassiar. The former was by far the popular route – scenic and safe, a straight line path through thousands of miles of wilderness that stretched between Dawson City to the east and end at Fairbanks, AK in the north west. As a popular tourist destination, it was better maintained and fixed at the end of every winter. There were more rest stops and towns along the way.

The Cassiar on the other hand had a reputation for being the more treacherous one. It stretched from south east in Hazelton to north west to the border between BC and the Yukon, where it met up with the Alaskan Highway. It was 350 miles of a narrow, twisting road with few stops for gas and food along the way, very few turnout spaces and next to no shoulders for stopping in. I had heard that it would get really torn up each winter and be ravaged by frost heaves. Travellers on this road needed to make sure that their vehicles were primed and have plenty of spares in case of eventualities. Rest stops were few and far between and there was at least one 200 mile stretch where we would encounter no gas stations.

As far as road conditions went, we were in luck. By July, a major part of the highway had been fixed. We had been warned of one bad stretch about 40 miles long towards the end of the Cassiar, but that seemed very far off now.

It was almost mid-day by the time we got on the highway, so our hope of getting to the end within the day was alas not to be. We hoped to make it as far as possible before energy started to fade and hoped that we would find a place to camp down at at the end of the day. I had packed some of the leftover pizza from the SeaAlaska Inn for lunch, along with some fruit. I had also filled up my extra gas can and strapped it down to the pannier. I knew this time it wasn’t just insurance – I was going to need it. I was a little worried about my tire pressure from that morning, especially with not having my air compressor working, but there was little I could do about it.

The weather that day was brilliant, as it had been from the start of our journey, and for this I was grateful. We set a good pace when we started off as we were eager to cover a lot of ground. The Cassiar was narrow but well kept and we flew through the miles.

The highway stretches for a good 350 miles, so we didn’t have much hope of finishing it that day seeing as it was well after noon, but we were determined to cover as many miles as we could. It was beautiful, remote, complete wilderness with barely any traffic. This is where we started seeing bears and elk.

As usual, I had tunnel vision and I focused on nothing but the road ahead, while admiring the scenery in my peripheral vision. Sarah on the other hand saw every black bear, deer and caribou there was to see on the sides of the road. When she was in the lead, she’d point them out and even take pictures, while I had a mild stroke at watching her comfortably steer the bike with one hand, while looking off to the side and focussing to take an image, all the while going 70mph.

I remember one surreal moment when I happened to sense something in the distance and I braked gently. A few seconds later, a gigantic elk cantered out across the highway and disappeared amidst the trees to the left. It was almost a magical moment, fraught with danger on one level – if  hadn’t braked,  wouldn’t have seen it in time and it would have been a head on collission. This was when I started to feel like I was almost in a fairy tale.

The one memory I have of the Cassiar is that it was littered with lakes, amidst its gorgeous wilderness. At first I had the urge to stop at every lake and take photos, but soon I found myself getting blase about them. This was of course in part because we needed to keep going.

We did stop a few times at the more scenic ones when we needed to take a break for a snack, only to find that taking our helmets off for too long was not a good idea as we were swamped by a deluge of insects.

We passed few cars and were passed by even fewer. There were few RVs that crawled along at a snail’s pace, as is their nature, but they didn’t hold us back for very long.











Our energy started to flag towards late evening by when we had covered about 250 of the total 350 miles and we neared the first major sign of civilization – Dease Lake. As we neared town, I noticed that Sarah wasn’t behind me anymore. I pulled over to the side of the road to wait for her to catch up. As I turned my engine off and looked around, I happened to spy a movement on the other side of the road. My eyes caught sight of a black bear and I froze as I tried to recall every piece of advice I had ever read about what to do when within the vicinity of a bear. Should I stay put? Or start the engine and take off and risk it chasing me? They say that bears are surprisingly nimble for their size and can get up to 35mph. I knew that it would take my fully loaded GS at least a couple of minutes to get up to that. After a few minutes of indecision, I snapped the ignition off and took off down the street like my life depended on it and didn’t stop until I came to civilization – or what passed for it up in these parts anyway.

Thankfully the bear had had other things to do and hadn’t given chase. I recall seeing a couple out for a walk about 50 paces from the bear and wondered to myself if they were all quite mad up in these parts. Perhaps bears hanging around the town outskirts was such a normal phenomenon that they’d just walk past it and possibly tip their hats to it as it grunted back.

As these thoughts passed through my head, Sarah pulled up beside me laughing and asking me why I hadn’t pulled over earlier. As I pulled my helmet off, a little irritated, she showed me a picture on her camera. Apparently someone had spray painted over the “Welcome to Dease Lake” sign to make it read “Welcome to Dease Nuts”. It has amused Sarah enough that she had turned around to go take a picture, and I believe she was giggling about it for days later.

I told her my bear story and suggested that we might want to camp in a more populated part of town.


We stopped at a restaurant to eat where we met a woman called Frida. She belonged to a First Nation tribe and co-incidentally also used to ride an F650 GS. It was her birthday and she invited us to meet her later at a nearby pub for drinks. She said that the food there was good too.

Since the restaurant we had sat down in looked to be a little on the expensive side, we shamelessly got up and left and went in search of the pub she had menti0ned. She had been right about the food – we ordered some salmon and rice. It turns out the salmon had been caught fresh from the neighboring river and it was the tastiest fish I had ever eaten. Hunger might have added to some of the taste, no doubt, but I realized now that  previously frozen salmon from the neighborhood grocery store would never quite satisfy me.

Frida turned out to be a lovely person – intelligent and knowledgeable, and she told us a great deal about the town and its politics. We spent a good couple of hours talking before calling it a night.



We asked Frida if it would be okay for us to camp on the police station lawn. There had been nobody inside for us to ask permission from. She said that it probably wouldn’t be a problem, which is all we needed to hear.

We were really tired by now and decided to just pitch Sarah’s tent and go to sleep.

I slept well that night.



Day6: 37N, Yukon Border, Gold Nugget, 97W (Alaskan Highway), Teslin, Whitehourse (Beezkneez Backpackers)

We woke up the next morning to the sound of pouring rain – not the most pleasant sound to hear from the inside of a tent. I walked to the gas station across the street and used their bathroom for a good long time to clean up and look somewhat presentable. A bit of a losing battle because this marks the point where we started looking permanently bedraggled, unclean and unwashed. I hadn’t changed my clothes in at least a week and the reek was beginning to settle in. It was so much a part of the adventure though that at some point I stopped fighting it. In a way, it felt like my own little rebellion against society and the images of perfectly made up women we get bombarded with day after day. I stank, I hadn’t washed in days, I was muddy and filthy, but I felt glorious and was having the time of my life!

I scrounged for something edible in the store attached to the gas station and sadly settled for a couple of Power Bars and trail mix. Sarah and I ate while loading up the bikes and gearing up in the drizzling rain. A police car pulled in just then and the cop got out and walked towards us. We weren’t in any shape to make a run for it though, so we just stood there with sheepish expressions. He was rather pleasant though, in spite of finding out that we had camped on his lawn without permission.

We did the final unpaved sections of the Cassiar in pouring down rain and got the bikes well and truly dirty for the first time. I was a bit apprehensive about this stretch because of my complete lack of experience in dirt but it was pretty easy and we went a good 60-70mph clip.

In a few hours we found ourselves crossing over from British Columbia into the Yukon.



The Yukon! We were finally here. We were still too tired to truly exult but my word we had ridden our bikes from Seattle to the mighty Yukon!


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Heading North
Hyder, Alaska
The Cassiar Highway
The Alaskan Highway
The Glenn Highway
The Seward Highway
The Richardson Highway
Stopping in Slana


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Follow-up on the arm…

I went to the hospital yesterday for a follow-up visit and xrays. After a near two hour wait (yay hospitals), the surgeon’s assistant came in and said that I would need to be in a cast for two more months. When I refused to accept this, she came back with the surgeon who checked my wrist and said that they’d put me in a removable splint, which I could take off for washing my hand, but I have to have it on at all other times, including while sleeping. I will still need to have this one for two more months though, because that’s the healing time the scaphoid needs. :| I cannot lift anything heavier than a fork during this period.

The surgeon was very cool and we went through my xrays and CT scans together where he explained all the breaks, and the diagnoses they made. The metal plates in my forearm are nearly 5″ long, one of which is sub-cutaneous and I can feel it through my skin. He said that they would take the plate our if it really bothered me, but it’d have to be in 18 months, which apparently is the actual time it takes for the bone to be fully healed. He asked me to work on range of motion withint he limits of the splint over the next few weeks.

I’m going to go see him again in a month, after which he said that they would start “weaning me off of the splint”.

I’m home…

I am HOME!!!!!!!  :D

I feel rad! Well, as rad as one might be expected to feel with a broken arm. :)

Returning this way wasn’t quite what I had expected or quite the triumphant return I had envisioned and I’m certain that at some point I will break down when this sinks in completely, but all in all, there’s no place like home.

And… I am back from my grand adventure where I rode through Alaska, the Yukon and British Columbia doing 3200 miles over 14 days, did five border crossings, was chased by police in two countries, rode the Alaskan and Cassiar highways through blinding sunshine and crashing thunderstorms, over perfectly paved roads, gravel, and thick sludgy mud; I saw snow capped mountains, crystal clear lakes, muddy rivers, evergreen trees of every known kind, grizzlies and black bears prowling the desolate highways, elks and moose, porcupines and lemmings, soaring great bald eagles; I camped out in barns and police station lawns, stayed at a genuine Alaskan hunter/trapper’s cabin where the air was so still you could hear your own breath, and every petal of every flower gleamed with a water droplet; I rode through town after little town, met scores of interesting people and yes a few cute guys, including other bikers like me who were up there chasing the same dream and indeed there were times when it felt as if I were flying through a dream. I rode the Ride. I lived the dream. I lived.

I have a slightly bad update. I crashed a couple of hours ago a little distance from Destruction Bay in Canada. The front end of my bike started wobbling violently and I went down. Something was apparently wrong with the forks and they broke off. It was 100% not rider error and there was nothing I could do to stop it.

The bad news – I have a compound fracture in my left forearm where I broke two bones. The good news – that’s all that is wrong, and I was nearing the end of my adventure anyway. We were going to ride to Haines today and hang out for a couple of days to catch the ferry home.

As of now, we are waiting for a ride to a hospital in Whitehorse for xrays. If they can fix the arm there, that’d be good news. If I need surgery, I might need to fly to WA.

Anyway, please don’t freak out. Sarah and a few other riders are taking care of me and we will figure this out. Since I am in Canada, you cannot call me. I will try to send another update from Whitehorse when we know more.

Thanks for following this journey. It’s been a heck of an adventure so far. :)

Update from Seward, AK

As Granny Weatherwax would have it – “I aitn’t dead yet!”

I’m not sure why they the last two Spot messages didn’t go through but it was probably because we had incredibly bad weather at GlenAllen two days ago and were in a relatively crowded big city (Anchorage) a day ago. We didn’t have internet access and really neither of us felt like being online.

So a brief recap of the past week, even though it’s all a bit blurry in my mind now.

The riding through the Yukon was BRILLIANT and the crossing over into Alaska was even more dramatic than I had envisioned with the landscape being almost Tolkein-esque, an impending thunderstorm and lightning, torn up roads, complete wilderness with not a soul on the road… you get the picture… we managed to get the bikes dirty and made it into Tok before the sun went down (yes, I know that’s not saying much in Alaska).

The next day, it was pouring down rain though. My heated vest stopped working, my Goretex boots had water seep in, and I about died from the cold. We were forced to stop at Glennallen for the day after only about 120 miles of riding and checked in at the Caribou Inn. The scene at the lodge was a bit comical with biker after biker showing up looking harassed and exasperated. There were about 17 bikes parked in front of the hotel lobby that day (almost all adventure bikes too!)  The hotel room was overpriced ($140/night!!) and there was nothing to do all day except wring out our things, hope they dried overnight, trying to get warmer and talking about how we might have reached Anchorage that day.

Stuff did get dry and we set out on the road to Anchorage the next day (although a lot later than we expected because we tried to help a fellow BMW rider get his old bike to run).

The good people of Alaska have a unique torture device for motorcyclists riding the Glenn Highway. They call it the 55mph speed limit. We reached Anchorage a lot later than we had envisioned, checked in at a hostel and got dinner before calling it a night.

The next day we tooled around downtown, picked up some small tourist mementos, then set off for Seward. This morning we set off for Whittier to catch the ferry to Valdez.

More updates as and when I can.

Finally rolled into Alaska two hours ago after a brilliant day of riding – the best I’ve had so far. More updates soon if I can find a computer and internet access.

Blogging from Hyder, AK

Made it into Alaska for just a bit (head back into BC and the Yukon tomorrow). Hyder, AK to be precise and yes I got HYDERIZED this afternoon. For those not in the know, they give you a shot of some unknown liquid, and if you cannot hold it down you have to buy a round for the entire bar. It was 160 proof alcohol and yes, I held it down although my throat was on fire. They had the most unbelievably tasty pizza for a dinky one horse town too.

No bears at the creek unfortunately but we did see some gigantic salmon frolicking in the stream.

I’ve been making good time over the past couple of days and have caught up with our schedule. I’ve started averaging about 350-400 miles, which is pretty good going. I love the BMW’s suspension.

So far the ride itself has been rather dull with long straight roads fringed with trees. The one spectacular road I hit today was the 40 mile stretch between the Cassiar Highway and Stewart, where I ripped it open and zipped through the twisties. Motorcycling heaven!

In other news, I seem to be toughening up because I’ve been camping every night until tonight. Last night, we slept in someone’s barn in Hazelton. I’m really getting into this camping thing. Still need to get into the off-roading thing.

Met a few other bikers who came down from Prudhoe Bay and Inuvik with their bikes caked in mud. The bikers from Inuvik had one of their group go down on slick as grease mud. He slid down a ditch, had the bike land on him, broke his back and had to be airlifted to Fairbanks.

On that cheery note, I’m hurriedly signing off. Apologies for not replying to your comments. My time online is very limited. I’ve read them all though! Thank you for following my journey. :)

Quick update from Burns Lake…

WOOHOO!!!! Sarah and I hit the road a couple of days ago and are up in Burns Lake taking a quick lunch break. Thus far we have spent the night at Anderson Creek and Quesnel and tonight looks like it’ll be Hazelton. Tomorrow we hit Stewart and Hyder and get HYDERIZED. We also plan on going to see the bear eating fish, not to be confused with the bear-eating fish. :P

The only minor hitches we have had are me losing the bitewing on my Camelbak (plugged it with a screw and have to remember not to swallow it by mistake); and almost running out of gas on one stretch because I forget to fuel up at the last major stop and she gave me some of her gas. We rode those last few miles at about 50mph pissing off a lot of trucks and motorhomes. SCORE. :P

Talking about motorhomes, I loathe them with a passion. Would it KILL them to move over a couple of feet to let the bikers pass?

Sorry, no photos just yet because it’s mostly been just trees and trucks *yawn*. We’ll try to upload some soon though.

Stay tuned and thanks for watching!!  Over and out.

Alaska trip update…

I am finally allowing myself to get excited about riding off to Alaska next week. In fact, I’m having a hard time wiping off the huge grin on my face, causing much puzzled looks from those not in the know. :) YES, I leave on the 21st of July, which is next Monday!

Most of my trip preparation is done. All I need to do is pack and take care of some last loose ends.


Now to the important part:

My friend dropped off the satellite messenger last night. This is a device that can send an “OK” signal with a simple message:

SPOT Check OK.  All is well and I am continuing on with my journey.
Nearest Location:not known
Distance:not known
Time:07/11/2008 23:47:13 (GMT),-122.1188&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1

It can also send a pre-configured “Help” message of this format:

This is a HELP message. If l do not contact you by phone within 12 hours contact emergency svcs. with my location.
Nearest Location:not known
Distance:not known
Time:07/11/2008 23:49:49 (GMT),-122.1187&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1

I have set up two distribution lists which will receive each of these messages:

The former will be used to send the OK messages to as well as brief updates about our journey on the road (which I will also try to post to LJ when possible). The latter is a list for sending the Help message to, to which I will add only close friends and family who accept the responsibility of taking action should I ever need help (I don’t really expect to use this button).

This post is to ask you if you are interested in being added to the first trip update list. This is the list which will only receive updates and “I am OK” messages along with my GPS location. If you want to be added, please send me with your email address. (I do not really expect anyone to volunteer to be on the Help list).


All of you can follow my progress on this map which is updated realtime every time I hit OK on the device:

Another location where you can see trip updates is our ADVRider thread:

Our tentative route:

I will also try to make LJ voiceposts and am counting on you fine folks to decipher my accent and transcribe them. :)

Some of you didn’t know who Sarah was, and rightly so because she lives in PDX and I don’t believe I’ve ever posted a photo of hers. She rides a KLR650, is one of the coolest people I know, and I’m delighted to be doing this journey with someone who is so much fun to be with.

So here goes. :) Two dorks on a mission – we’re going to cover thousands of miles, break hundreds of hearts, consume tens of beers and encounter zero bears and mosquitos. Ha!!


People who think that I shouldn’t ride to Alaska because “it’s too dangerous” or “you should try something easier and closer to home first”, pretty please stop projecting your own fears on to me and FUCK OFF.

I’m not an idiot, and I’m taking every possible precaution to protect myself and to ride within my abilities. I do not need to explain any of this to you or try to reassure you, because frankly – it’s none of your fucking business.


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