29 May 2012

The Yukon!

Our campsite on Watson Lake was really lovely, and there were several other people in camp that night. We had a visitor in the form of a bird. He flew little laps around our campsite, constantly getting closer to us. He was not a very graceful flier, but his feathers were beautifully marked in black and white, and he had a little red on his head. He reminded me a little of a chicken actually, and i finally realized he was a ptarmigan. He seemed to be quite curious about us, and would wait at the end of our campsite if we both walked away. Like Mr. Precious Poomaker, i wanted to take him with me.

We left Watson Lake and drove to Whitehorse, Yukon, stopping along the way to see some of the sights Button pointed out to us the night before. They have a small set of waterfalls they are super proud of, and you can pull into what looks like a rest stop and walk out along a boardwalk to see them.

Carrying bear bells (given to us by John in Sagle) and bear spray (given to us by Don in Flaming Gorge) while singing and reciting cheers from Bring It On to keep the bears away while we hiked. Remember, I saw 11 of them the other day....


We also stopped in Teslin to gas up, take a picture of a sign (I'll post it later cuz it's on one of the cameras), and eat lunch by the lake. The lake was in breakup, so we could sit listening to the ice cracking, and watch as ripples pushed piles of ice floe up to the shore.

It hadn't been a great day of riding--lots of wind and straight roads. Very little wildlife. So we were happy to pull into Takhini Hot Springs. This would be camp for the next two nights as we were getting a day off. We camped at the hot springs, had some dinner, soaked in the hot pools, and took my bike apart again because it has been having gas mileage problems, and started stalling in neutral. We found what we thought was the problem, water in the air box and a wet air filter, and set out the next morning to find a replacement.

Whitehorse is the capital of the Yukon, but that is not saying much. It has a population of little over 34,000 people, the one brewery in the entire Yukon (which brews REALLY good beer), and one motorcycle store--formerly a Harley dealership. Having no luck finding a new filter, I called Foothills BMW at home and talked to a service tech about the problem. We were on the right track with drying out the filter. He said the bike will continue to run, just not at it's peak, and we located a filter in Fairbanks, so when we get there we will replace it.

We spent the next couple of hours exploring the city, visiting the brewery, and soaking in the pools again. This was really nice, and we will be ready to head out tomorrow on a long day's ride to Dawson City.

Oh yeah, we also met a really nice group of people from Skagway (formerly from Minnesota) who have invited us to stay with them when we get there. There were two little boys in the group, and Julius, whose 2nd birthday they were celebrating this weekend was super excited to sit on my motorcycle. It was funny, he wasn't super talkative, but the one word he said over and over, super clearly, was motorcycle. We can't wait to meet up with them again!


A big turnaround

Fort St. John to Fort Nelson was horrible. Awful, miserable. Rainy and colder than the previous day. The highway was straight, trees clear cut 100 feet back from the road. However, pulling into Fort Nelson, things began to turn around. We stayed the night at The Old Fort Nelson hotel. It was the original hotel in the area (but had been renovated a couple of times!--we were assured by the Visitor's Center) Apparently, it was most recently done with a Tiki theme.

The view from our hotel room!

We went next door to the pub for drinks and met one local--Debbie (totally awesome barmaid), one trucker--Sean (who hauls anything you can load onto a flat bed...and a few things you shouldn't), and one gas line worker--Kyle (who Debbie called Skippy cuz he looked like he was twelve years old.) We had a great time chatting with them all, and eventually made our way back to the hotel before the Karaoke Night started. If you're in Fort Nelson, it's the thing to do on a Wednesday night.

The next day was THE BEST day of riding thus far. The road was AMAZING! Rolling hill twisties alongside a river and amazing wildlife viewing. We saw 11 bears, a handful of big horn sheep, a small herd of horses, a giant black draft horse, caribou, a bunch of porcupines, deer, several herds of bison, and two moose. We came around a bend in the road and Josh tells me there is something in the road. Sure enough, standing on the center line of the road was some four legged animal. As we slowed down to approach, Josh asked what the hell it was. I said I thought it was a caribou, but he thought it was too small. Then it hit me--baby moose!!! He was all leg and awkwardness. As we watched from about 30 feet away, he reared up on his back legs, tossed his head, and ran to the side of the road in that funny run that moose do. He was so cute! This was the best wildlife experience I have ever had, and quite possibly the cutest thing I have ever seen. I expect puppies and kittens to do cute things, but I don't really think about baby moose doing silly baby animal things. He was so cute. Josh tried to get the camera out to take a picture, but as soon as he saw the camera, he headed for the brush. I really wanted to take him home, and I've already named him Mr. Precious Poomaker. I need to find out if we are zoned for moose.

We ended the drive at the Watson Lake visitors center. This place was a riot for two reasons. One: The Signpost Forest. Two: Button. Below are pics of the Signpost Forest. There are more than 74,000 signs here, all started by a tourist from Danville, Il. We forgot to bring one with us, but I'm not sure there would have been any place to put one! Then, there was Button. We really recommend visitors centers in this area of the world because of people like her. She was a RIOT!

Button: Oh, you should go here cuz I would marry this man. Tell him I sent you and he would say, "oh, my stalker! Here's my restraining order!" (pantomiming a huge sheaf of papers). Heh, heh, just kidding. No, I'm not...

Josh: I don't think she's kidding...

Louise: I don't think she is either...

But really, she was fun to talk to and terrifically informative. Thanks Button!


22 May 2012

Rain, rain, rain, and more rain...

All it did for almost 300 miles today was rain. For those who may be wondering, Gaerne boots and Gerbings heated gloves, although they say they are, are NOT waterproof. They held out for quite a time, but gave in to the rain eventually.

We opted for a hotel room tonight. I was not going to camp in this.

There were a couple of highlights to the day--three if you count the fact that I didn't have to fight to stay in a hotel tonight. About five minutes after we left camp this morning, Josh called back to me, "Bear on the left!" I looked over and there was a big grizzly who stood up on his hind legs as we approached and watched us ride by. He was amazing! I'm pretty sure, as he was watching, he was thinking, "Oh yeah, German engineering! And it looks so good in Titan Blue." I'm SURE that's what was on his bear brain.

The other high point was getting to Dawson Creek, and the start of the Al-Can highway. Somehow that makes it all seem like we are really on our way to Alaska. Although all it really means is that the speed limit and the temperatures are going to drop, and the road is going to get full of potholes and frost heaves. Still, it was pretty neat!

For now, we have almost all our gear spread all over the hotel room. Even the rain fly is out and trying to dry! We are hoping for fewer rain drops tomorrow!


Ian, I saw a moose!

Yesterday and today were spent in the national parks. We left Radium Hot Springs and immediately entered Kootenay National Park. As we went through the end of town, we saw a small herd of deer in someone's yard. Three minutes later, right as we entered the park, we had to slow way down so that we could share the road with a bunch of big horn sheep. They are shedding their winter coats and look so ratty, poor things. I wonder if the other wildlife tease them.

About two minutes later, Josh tells me there is a car stopped on the side of the road. I look ahead and see it and say there are people out of the car, it looks like they are with their dog. A few seconds later, Josh says, "That's not a dog, Louise. That's a bear." it was a baby black bear, and it was so cute. We drove by at a slower speed, but we're not as stupid as the other people who stopped. I may never have seen a bear in the wild before, but I watch enough PBS to know that where there is a baby, there is a mama!

We only went about 84 miles yesterday, and stopped at Lake Louise. As it turns out, camping was only open to hard sided vehicles and not to tents. So we were directed to a Hostel International, made a reservation, and headed up to the lake. With about four million other people because of the holiday weekend.

Here we are, at the lake that was named after me, Princess Louise!

I am sure the lake is amazing and that shade of blue that only glacier fed waters are, but it was still frozen. We should have brought our skates! We hiked the upper trail to Mirror Lake, but it wasn't mirroring anything due to the fact that it was frozen also. It was quite pretty there, however, and much more peaceful than down at Lake Louise.

We had a nice night at the hostel, and got on our way this morning in the rain. It was COLD today! I actually plugged in my heated gloves today and used them on and off. We did several mountain passes in the rain, and a couple that were dry. The mountain ranges here go on forever! Range after range after range. It is quite amazing, and not something you can really understand until you see it. So, I encourage you all to travel this way.

We drove along the Icefields Parkway (cold), past the Columbia Glacier (cold), and wound up in Jasper for lunch (soup!). After talking to a nice lady in a gift shop, we changed our route for the next day or so. We took a different route out of town, and then turn at the big highway sign that said "SCENIC ROUTE TO ALASKA." Well, okay. I like scenic routes. We are staying tonight at Grey's Lakes Provincial Park. There are 4 campgrounds in it, and we are, once again the only people in our campground. It is a little after ten and still light out. But the animals know it is night time and there are all kinds of wildlife making all sorts of noise. Kinda freaky, but really cool too.

Speaking of wildlife, today alone I saw another black bear, a caribou, had to share the road with some big horn sheep again, and best of all, a moose. Josh called back to me and said there were cars stopped up ahead, and that people were out staring at a tree stump. I rode by and said, "That's not a stump, Josh. That was a moose." At least when I mistook an animal for something else, it was another animal!


20 May 2012

Oh, Canadia!

After talking with John and Carol, we decided to cut our day of riding a little short and stop in Radium Hot Springs instead of pushing on to Lake Louise. We are really glad we made that decision! It was beautiful weather and we had a great day of riding, with a 6k round trip hike to the hot springs. Fantastic!

Our first stop of the day, however, was in Creston BC. We stopped at the Columbia Brewery, home of Kokanee beer. They weren't doing tours, but they had a virtual tour and samples if we wanted. We had fun talking with the girl who was running the gear shop. Canadians really are nice. Oh wait, she was from Chicago. Seriously, our first chat with someone in Canada, and she was only there because she married a Canadian dude and moved there.

Our second stop was Kicking Horse Coffee. They were sponsors of the Banff Mountain Film Fest World Tour and sent samples along for anyone who saw the films. We got a couple of mornings out of those samples and it was dang good coffee. So we stopped in Invermere, BC to have a cup and pick up a pound for the rest of our trip. The girl who served us also ran into the back to get me some stickers for the motorcycle when she heard our story. Btw, the coffee we love from them is called Kick Ass Coffee and I also like the Half Ass Coffee (with 1/2 the caffeine).

Next stop, Radium Hot Springs. As it turns out, our first weekend in Canadia is a holiday weekend. It is called May Long Weekend--apparently celebrates the birthday of Queen Victoria. We camped at Redstreak campground. 242 full sites when we pulled up. It was huge! But it had hot springs pools at the end of the trail, so that is all we cared about. Oh yeah, it also had hot showers, cooking huts with wood burning stoves, and free firewood. The Canadians know how to do it right!

Okay, here is the part where I talk about the picture situation. We have 2 cameras, two phones, the iPad, and the iPod. There are pictures on all of them, but only ones on the iPod or iPad make it to this blog. Sadly, until we make it out of Canadia and back into the states, it will stay that way. I'll try to do better in the next posts.

Montana and Northern Idaho

Have I mentioned that Montana is beautiful? It is. Maybe we'll move there and open a B&B or maybe just have a horse ranch. Whatever it is, we will go to the bakery just west of MT93 on 200. I feel certain it had a name, but I have no idea what it is. I just know that I have heard about this bakery for three years, since Josh and Ian got back from their Canadian Rockies trip.

After we left our campsite, our first stop was Orange Acres, a used car lot/defunct commune. Josh and Ian stayed there on their trip, right around bakery time, and had fun stories to tell about Jeff and Orange Acres. We chatted with him and then walked out to see the goats, sheep, bunnies, collections of...crap, pallets, and weird stuff turned into a mini golf course unlike any you have ever seen.

Then we got to move on to the bakery and eat our fill of fresh, homemade donuts. One was named The Bear Trap. It was a donut wrapped around fresh blueberry, blackberry,and raspberry filling. We learned a lot a out the bakery, Nancy who makes all the awesome goodies, the Garden of 1000 Buddhas that is being built in the area, and how the Secret Service scandal was actually a setup to cull the worst 10% of the service.

Above: Nancy

Below: The bakery. See, it doesn't even have a sign. I have no idea what the name is.

The other thing we learned about was a spring that has the "best water in the world." the directions were go past a highway turnoff, look for the white barn, and it is on the other side.

See the white barn.

Yup, I just drank right out of the spouting water. It was pretty awesome.

The end of that day had us driving through Sandpoint, ID to Sagle. We stayed with John and Carol. Carol is the aunt of our friend Justin Hicks. They took us to dinner at the local hangout, and it was fun seeing how they knew everyone in the area. We had such a great time with them--fantastic conversation, super nice people, and huge animal lovers. They currently had 5 rescue dogs, 3 rescue llamas, 4(?) rescue goats including a fainting goat, and 3 chickens. Can you see how we got along!?! We had a great night and a nice start to the morning having coffee and cinnamon buns for breakfast. We really hope to see them again and hope that we can always be as hospitable to travelers as they were.

Justin, the water wheel and the outdoor shower were awesome!

Idaho and Montana

We have arrived and spent our first night in Canada. I did a really good job going through the border, and did not call it Canadia once. The last few days of getting here have had their ups and downs. Mostly ups, though. Here are some highlights.

This is Capt. Lewis Meriwether's dog. We are at the Sacajawea Interpretive Center in Salmon, Idaho.

Southern Idaho: biscuits and gravy for breakfast at a gas station with itty bitty cafe, under the watchful eye of 10 elk, 3 deer, 1 pronghorn, and 1 silver fox--all of which were mounted and sporting a sign to tell us the name of the man who took each one. Eeewww. A little further on, I was sure a very small single prop airplane was going to fly into Josh as it crossed over the highway to land about 20 feet from the road. In hindsight, it was pretty cool to watch. Off the side of the same highway, there was a wildlife viewing platform you could walk up onto--overlooking a herd of cattle. Really, Idaho, that's the best you could do? Then the really fun part. As we are riding along and chatting (we have Sena SMH10 intercom/Bluetooth systems to talk to each other and listen to music on) my ABS light comes on and my speedometer needle takes a nose dive. It freaked me out a bit. Bike still worked properly, and brakes were not affected, so we drove until we found a place to pull off and check things over. Did I mention it was raining? An hour and a half later, we managed to get the problem fixed (and by we, I pretty much mean Josh), and headed into Montana.

Montana: We crossed over the state line by going over a mountain pass into the Bitteroot Valley in western Montana. It was so amazingly beautiful. I truly think western Montana is the most beautiful place in the country. We rode through the valley (beautiful), looked at the horse farms (beautiful), stopped in a small town for groceries (beautiful), and then found a campground at Lake Como for the evening. This was our third day of riding, and I was a little tired. Following dinner, I got in the tent to read and eventually fall asleep, and Josh went across the road to the horse campground (we were the only campers in ours and had to ride through the dirt around a barrier across the road to get in. We had called ahead and they said they weren't open for the season, but that we were welcome to camp if we wanted to) to see if anyone was there. He ran into John and Donna who were out on their Goldwing, pulling a trailer, for a long weekend. They came over in the morning and we chatted with them before we all got on the road. We have been super fortunate to meet some really great people, and we are only a couple of days in.


16 May 2012

Good morning, Utah!

And good evening, Idaho!
We had a beautiful day of riding today! Utah was beautiful this morning, Wyoming was lovely, if a bit rainy in the afternoon, and now here we are in Idaho for the evening.

The only thing of note happened as we pulled out of camp and got about 100 yards away. Louise learned a very important lesson. Just because the helmet is left on the motorcycle all night and not on the ground like the boots, does not mean one doesn't need to check it before putting it on. I am pretty sure I screamed like a little girl when the spider went running along the inside of my visor, right in front of my eyes. Okay fine, note taken.

Oh, one other thing. We left Wyoming and were riding in Idaho. For about a minute and a half. Then the road took us back into Wyoming and there it was. The best billboard ever. It was huge and it said "Anytime is Taco time!" Awesome and so true.


These two pics are of Sheep's Creek in NE Utah. It was really beautiful!

On the road. Finally.

Well, we finally got on the road this morning. It was a good day of riding, but what Josh said when we got off the bikes in camp sums the day up perfectly, "I'm ready for bed."

And it was only 6pm.

Our first stretch to Steamboat Springs was easy riding. It took about 3 hours and we stopped for lunch. Tracy and J. Large, the BBQ place is called The Double Z. Yummy! That was when we realized that we forgot to put a bottle of wine in the bags for dinner the first night. So we found a great little wine shop and picked up a bottle. That was also when we realized we forgot--and for those of you who know us well, this will make you laugh--we forgot a corkscrew! We each carry one in our cars and in our regular luggage (you NEVER know when you might need one!) and we have about a hundred of them at home. In fact, it's been a joke every time we move that somehow they seem to multiply. But here we are, at a campground in Flaming Gorge, Utah with no corkscrew. Luckily, the one other person camping tonight had one. His name is Don and he rode his motorcycle up from Colorado Springs. He shared our campfire with us and we had a nice evening.

Back to leaving Steamboat Springs. We rode through Craig, where the guys who play hockey with Josh go to a hockey tournament. Boy, that town was not what I thought it was going to be. I pictured a city, with a nice hotel--some of the stories make more sense now, guys.

We turned onto a small highway. Barely a highway really. Two lanes, speed limit varying between 35 and 60, depending on where you were. We had to slow down for a twister whipping across the road and funneling tumbleweeds 90 feet into the air. About that time, I asked Josh one more time (after having asked several times in the last couple of months) if it was going to turn into a dirt road. He emphatically said no, that Google maps gave this as the fastest route to get to Flaming Gorge. Ten miles later, we hit Utah and the pavement ended. Now, I am expecting dirt/gravel roads, but the truth is, up to this point, I have only ridden two. Just two.

And this is a crappy kind of dirt road. Hard packed, but with lose gravel on top. We rode a five mile stretch, standIng up, me being tense and nervous, trying to stay lose and have light hands on the bars and not succeeding particularly well, and wondering how in the hell I am going to make it to Alaska. We got to a sign, which I am hoping will say, "no worries, pavement again in 200 yards," but what it really says in junction with 191 in 20 miles. OH MY GOD! As we sit staring at the sign, me wanting to cry in my helmet, I look up and realize that the road turns back to pavement in about 200 yards. Oh, we'll then. I guess we'll be alright.

We hit that pavement and I was one happy girl. We did a few little twisties amongst some beautiful red rock hills, and the pavement ended again. Shit. We rode about 25 more miles of dirt road. But, I have to say, having the break on the good road and realizing that I made it through and could do it, made the second section much easier. My bike is made to do this kind of riding, and the added weight on the back, instead of making it harder to handle, settles it down really nicely on the road. We also got to see a herd of pronghorns leaping across the road and a lot of cows just hanging next to the road as if they were trying to hitch a ride. Sorry buddy, you are way over my load limit! It wasn't all bad.

And one little side note, Wyoming has WAY BETTER dirt roads than Utah. Hard pack, no gravel.

By the time we reached camp, we were both tired. And, there was no water. The camp hosts refunded half of our fee. We made dinner, enjoyed the fire, and enjoyed chatting with a fellow motor biker. Don even gave us his canister of bear spray. He says we are going to need it where we're going and he won't.

One day done and gone. We are so on our way!

And by the way, Ian McLeod, you are missed.


11 May 2012

Ready to go!

Well, it looks like we are pretty well ready to go. A few little things are left to do here and there, but we are close. The best part of this is we are done with the bikes. The last few parts arrived and we have installed it all. Some things went on easily, and some things...not so much.

As I suspected, my engine guards and new horn arrived while Josh was gone. The guards were simple enough to install, but after I got the bike pulled apart and ready, I realized there was no way, in this lifetime, that I was ever going to be able to break the engine bolts. Ok. Put the bike back together. I went for a ride to Palmer lake for breakfast instead and waited for Josh to get home a couple days later. We installed them together, using his muscles and my superior instruction reading skills.

Wednesday was a special day. (sadly, a sarcasm font does not exist, otherwise I would have used it here)

We purchased new tires for the bikes, figuring we should start with new tires since they last 8000-10,000 miles. No sense having to find them while we are on the road. Josh and Ian found out what a pain that is last summer when they had to do it. So we bought them and thought, "Hey, we will install them ourselves and get a little practice before we get on the road." This makes perfect sense, seeing as how neither of us had ever changed a motorcycle tire before, and there is a good chance that while on rough roads we will encounter a flat tire or two.

We started with the front tire on Josh's bike. No problem--less than 30 minutes later and we we done. New tire, proper inflation--AWESOME! Next was my rear tire. An hour and a half later, we still haven't even broken the bead and I get on Google to find out what we're doing wrong. Apparently nothing. As it turns out, my rear tire is the hardest tire to change. Ever. In the whole world. It took another hour and special equipment to change it. We really, really hope to not encounter problems with my rear tire on the road!


That's a c-clamp in my hand. We needed two to break the bead on my tire! We got it pulled apart, put the new tire on, put the tube back in and felt pretty good...until we tried to re-inflate it. It wouldn't hold air. Struggling to get the tire off (or on, who the hell knows) we put a hole in the tube. Great! So, we swapped out the tube for the spare I bought to carry on the trip. And back to the store to buy another spare to carry. I got a good tip from Dave at Let It Ride on how to install and avoid holes in the tubes, so we'll try to do better next time. And thanks to the guys at Supertune for balancing all the tires!

We were a little worried that Josh's rear tire would be as bad as mine or worse, but no. Half an hour after we started we were done. I love my motorcycle, but seriously what a pain in the ass. BMW doesn't make anything easy....

So, the countdown is on. Four days and we get on the road. The weather is supposed to be good for our first day out, and we'll take the rest as it comes! We are super excited and can't wait to get going! I'll keep you posted as we go!

03 May 2012

The Trip Route

Several people have asked if there is a map to follow the trip or a route to follow day by day. Josh has the route loaded into his GPS (Jill) and I have a huge stack of maps. We sat down with Ian McLeod a couple of months ago and planned the route. It took us hours, and to be honest, we haven't planned the last of our trip, once we leave Corvallis, Oregon for the last leg home.

For now, our route is as follows:

Day one: Denver to Flaming Gorge, UT--323 miles

Day two: Palisades Rervoir, ID--252 miles

Day three: Darby, MT--308 miles

Day four: Sagle, ID--255 miles (staying with a friend's aunt)

Day five/six: Banff/Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada--291 miles

Day seven: LaSalle Lakes Rec area (west of McBride), British Columbia--275 miles

Day eight: Hudson's Hope, British Columbia--332 miles

Day nine: Beaver Lake Rec/Liard hot springs (west of Fort Nelson) BC--298 miles

Day ten: Watson Lake, British Columbia--312 miles

Day eleven/twelve: Takhini Hot Springs, Yukon Territory--288 miles

Day thirteen: Klondike River Campground, Yukon Territory--312

Day fourteen: Tok, AK (via Top of the World Hwy if open)--193 miles

Day fifteen: Fairbanks, AK (couch surfing)--236 miles

This is where the trip may really change depending on weather. The hope is to travel north on the haul road (Dalton highway) as far north as we can, reaching the Arctic ocean. A little less than half of the road is dirt/gravel mix, so if it is raining, we will change our plans. Also, the temperature in Prudhoe Bay, at the moment, is stil in the single and low double digits for the highs. That is sort of miserable to ride in.... The following itinerary is the plan for good weather!

Day sixteen: Marion Creek campground--264 miles

Day seventeen: Deadhorse, AK (as far north as you can drive in North America)--235 miles

Day eighteen: Marion Creek campground--235 miles

Day nineteen: Fairbanks, AK--264 miles

Day twenty/twenty-one: Denali National Park, AK--123 miles

Day twenty-two/three: Talkeetna, AK (staying w/our friend Robin!)--154 miles

Day twenty-four: Whittier, AK--172 miles

Day twenty-five/six: Seward, AK--89 miles

Day twenty-seven: Gakona, AK--323 miles

Day twenty-eight: Kluane Lake, British Columbia, Canada--345 miles

Day twenty-nine: Skagway, AK--232 miles

Day thirty through thirty-four: AK Marine Hwy, Skagway-Bellingham WA

Day thirty-five: Seattle, WA (staying w/ cousin Laura!)

Day thirty-six: Corvallis, OR (staying w/Julie!)

Home from there. Probably another five or six days to do so. As the trip progresses, I will update the route. Now I am exhausted from just typing it out!

Only 12 days til we leave!