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Overall Map

Planning Document



Two weeks and 9000 km of the most beautiful scenery we’ve ever found, with two full days of dirt, constant construction, rain and the friendliest people you can meet.

Day 0

Last year, when we finished our 5000 km, two week California trip, we said to ourselves, “What’s next? It’s the big three-oh for both of us, so we need to make it epic. How about Alaska? But… all the way this time.”
Planning began immediately. We outlined a route, bike upgrades and supplies needed to cook and camp for 17 days. Our bikes need upgraded suspensions, rock protection, a backup of spark plugs, lights, brake pads, flat repair and fuses with a plan for tires to be safe.
Two months prior to the trip, both bikes had a major service including valves, tires, throttle bodies, fuel/air/oil filters and final drives. The V-Strom had a fuel pump issue in the last week, causing an inordinate amount of stress and attempted solutions, culminating in a new fuel pump from North Carolina overnighted at the last minute and a quick visit to an actual mechanic. The Friday we were supposed to leave was spent replacing a kinked fuel line and actually packing, which we finished by about 3am. On the way home the ST1300 had an indicator light go out requiring replacement and sleep by 4am.

Day 2

After 4 hours of sleep, we decided to get back on track by riding directly to our day 2 destination of Chetwynd (Moberly Lake). There was a 50 minute delay between Spences Bridge and Cache Creek where the highway happened to be on fire.



We had lunch and danced to the ethnic music from tour bus patrons while an air show was conducted above us, dumping chemicals on the fire. Our bikes were decorated “fire-retardant pink” for a while. The strong head-wind and recent repairs had the V-Strom using an unusual amount of fuel, actually having to use the extra 1.5L fuel tube between towns, which we fixed with a tank of treated fuel. Exhilarated with good weather and finally being on the road, we passed Heart Lake Campground (through a dense thicket of flying insects) and continued to Moberly Lake Provincial Campground. It was our second longest day of the trip.

Day 3

After a long night’s rest, we travelled to the WAC Bennett Dam. Bennett is significantly larger than any BC Dam with the capacity to supply 25% of BC’s power.



On the Cassiar, the towns grew smaller while the vehicles and animals grew larger and rougher. We encountered a particularly nasty gravel section with 3 inch minus rock fill, at a high enough speed to convince us to drop our tire pressure. At the far end of construction we used an air compressor to re-inflate our tires and immediately melted the accessory wiring on the V-Strom.



After passing through some absolutely gorgeous canyons, we arrived at a completely filled up Liard River Hot Springs campground. Our late arrival nearly landed us in the overflow far away from the campground, but we were rescued by a park ranger who escorted us to a day-use area to camp right next to the hot-springs entrance. Best spot in the whole park! While we re-wired the V-Strom accessories we met a motorcyclist who travels the arctic in the winter putting our current troubles in stark perspective.



After midnight, we walked the kilometer of raised wooden walkway over the swamp to the hot springs; the high summer latitude twilight providing barely enough light to make flashlights unnecessary. It was fairly unsettling to walk the narrow path listening to moose and various critters shuffling in the dimly lit swamp just aside the walkway. We met a couple porcupines who were very indignant about sharing the path with us. Liard was the most rustic and “natural” hot springs we visited; the two rock-lined pools separated by a small wall and a hidden spring above the garden.



Day 4

We woke to a dusting of ash from nearby fires that acted as a thick fog, persisting all the way to the Watson Lake Sign Post Forest. We had lunch surrounded by road signs and funny signs serving as trip memorabilia from all over the world.



There isn’t much in Northern BC and the Yukon Territories. We were glad to reach Whitehorse for some supplies and a (extremely brief) dip in the Yukon River.
The Robert Service Campground is walking distance from town and offers a great community of walk-in tenters compared to the endless RV sites everyone fills as they travel through the one stop everyone goes through to travel north. We met some motorcyclists who were heading North, some to Dawson, some to Prudhoe Bay, whom we would run into again a couple times.

 

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Day 5

The ride from Whitehorse is fairly flat until you reach Alaska. The Alcan is certainly the roughest stretch of pavement we travelled with plenty of construction delays, crazy pilot cars preceding unbelievably overloaded trucks, dirt and dust to push through.



As we crossed into Alaska, the scenery and spirits improved. We made it and were met with fantastic sights and an adventurous group travelling from Panama to Alaska.



Our eagerly anticipated waypoint was Sourdough Campground, where a nightly gathering starts with introductions, descriptions of each group’s respective adventures, and culminates in a pancake toss with the reward of a free breakfast. The campground is highly recommended as was the pancake breakfast, which was excellent beyond the fact that it was our first meal someone else cooked this trip.



Day 6

Our noon arrival to Glennallen marked the end of constant construction and the beginning of breathtaking scenery many tourists experience travelling between the ports of Anchorage, Haines and Valdez.



It’s worth spending time at the Hub of Alaska with a recommendation to try the Thai Food Bus. It’s not authentic (we received a puzzled look instead of the requested chopsticks), but pretty tasty, and hilariously out of place in the middle of Alaska. We spoke with many motorcyclists recommending places to stay, eat, drink and warning us to not attempt the Top of the World, Dempster or Dalton highways if it’s even remotely wet or if construction crews have dumped Calcium Chloride.







South of Anchorage, traffic is quite heavy during rush hour, yet the Seward Highway is one of the most scenic stretches of road anywhere in the US. It felt like the Alaskan version of the Sea-to-Sky highway.



We camped at Seward Waterfront Park with 24 hours of light to view a fantastic shoreline lined with glaciers, campers, and boats.

 

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Day 7
A morning ride from Seward allowed for a new angle to view the coast and new sights uncovered from coastal clouds.
We travelled to Whittier through the second longest tunnel in North America. The one lane wide tunnel alternates traffic between trains and one-way traffic, with cars placing tires on either side of the rails and motorcycles riding between the tracks. We wondered why motorcyclists went through last, but a special pamphlet for bikes warned of rocks falling from the and that tires may deflect off into the train tracks you must ride between for the 4km stretch.



Whittier is a fairly small port town with a large building the whole town used to reside in built up the mountainside. We had about 10 minutes to visit before going back through the tunnel, but felt we had a pretty comprehensive visit (Dev bought a magnet).
The ride north from Anchorage was fairly uninspiring until our approach to Denali National Park, through a wide valley surrounded by stark peaks. Denali is know for Mt McKinley, the tallest mountain peak in North America, which is so tall that it has its own weather system that allows 30% of visitors to see the mountain. A mixture of rain and smoke from fires masked our view and the park is so popular all campgrounds were full.



There were 10 miles of construction north of Denali with a chalky section that felt like ice and a thick muddy section with ruts that pulled our front tires all over the place. We stayed at the Denali outdoor center, which offers active campers a great place to rent equipment such as kayaks and canoes to go exploring.



Day 8

We planned a relaxing day with a morning ride into Fairbanks to drop all non-essential gear in a hotel for the upcoming ride up the Dalton to the Arctic Circle.



The Fairbanks University museum is an extravagant structure we visited to learn about the history Alaska. After our visit we travelled to Chena Hot Springs for a well-deserved soak followed by a fine dining and a brew at the Silver Gulch, Alaska’s northernmost brewery. The fresh Alaskan salmon bites and halibut made for a worthy (somewhat nervously joked) “last meal”.



During our travels, several travellers suggested a [ur=howlingdogsaloon.alaskansavvy.com/]Howling Dog Saloon[/url] visit. The Saloon owner is a motorcycle advocate and there’s live music, outside activities and on-site places to camp overnight. A rider mentioned earlier university dorms are inexpensive to rent overnight.

 

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1. We extended the first part of the trip as much as possible to hit the Dalton on a weekend when the least number of trucks were on the road. This meant cassiar and heading south from Tok.

2. We pushed all the dirt to the end of the trip. Dalton, Top o' World and cranberry connector are at the end in case we needed to skip anything or ran into problems. We did skip the Dempster. Top o' world is uphill out of alaska so we took it west to east, also it gave us an option to skip which we wouldn't have stopping at Dawson.

3. The ferry on the return is a fantastic time to relax. We decided to skip the Skagway/Haines Ferry so we didn't ride the same pass twice.
 

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Day 9 – The Arctic Circle

The day had come. Against all recommendations, we set our sights north to visit the Arctic Circle.
Our journey began by passing through an active fire on the pipeline, with dozens of firefighters disgorging from yellow school busses along the rough dirt road. At the beginning of the Dalton, we found the road could be ridden at a fairly quick pace due our reduced tire pressure and upgraded suspension absorbing most vibration.



We stopped at the Hilltop Truck Stop to get current conditions from the truck drivers learning about 6-8” gravel fill, wet sections and how the road is so narrow two trucks are careful to not knock mirrors as they pass by each other.



Trucks will make your experience on the Dalton. As one approaches pull over to allow them to do their job and avoid the cloud of dust and spray of rocks they displace. As we showed them respect they showed us the same courtesy. We were careful to not pull off the compacted tire tracks so as to not lose control in the very soft shoulders. Marking is somewhat casual on the Dalton; when there’s a pothole ¼ the size of a tire, a traffic cone is thrown into the hole. Don’t drive in those holes.



Yukon River is the first available fuel stop on the Dalton, and a decent place to find food.
North of the Yukon River at a place known as Sand Hill a spray truck freshly mixed Calcium Chloride with water, making for a truly terrifying experience requiring everything I had to keep the ST1300 in control and just enough speed to make it up the hill. The V-Strom was marginally more capable, and Dev approaches imminent death with a rallying whoop, so it worked out okay. This is where it would have been wise to wait or turn around.



As we continued, just before the Arctic Circle sign we found an arrangement of rocks known as Finger Mountain offering a great place to relax with spectacular, unending views, before our final push to The Sign.



During our ride, we met a few travelers that stopped at the Arctic Circle to celebrate, have a laugh, take a picture and share a beer. We made it to our goal and the turn-around point for our trip. Should one consider riding farther north you should ride to the northern slope for a scenery change to tundra and if you want to reach the Arctic Ocean a tour needs to be booked.



The ride back went fairly well and considerably faster. Sand Hill was somewhat dry and manageable, though rain slowed our return after the Yukon River Camp. Regardless of the hour, we stopped at the Howling Dog Saloon and met many riders that had participated in the day’s motorcycle show. The owner offered us reduced cover to celebrate our successful adventure.
We ended the day by pressure washing the chemicals off our motorcycles so they didn’t eat through the metal bits. Finally, we collapsed into actual beds, thoroughly spent and very happy.

 

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Day 10



After a morning of laundry and a visit to the Wedgewood Car Museum (featuring pre WW2 cars) we travelled south to the North Pole to see Santa and his Reindeer.



The road heading east from Fairbanks is on a high ridge looking out at endless waterways meandering along the landscape. At one stop, we met a pair of Germans that travel with one change of clothes and minimal gear. They travel 3 weeks a year, leaving their bikes at the latest destination after each vacation. They have traversed Europe and Asia, including a recent trip across the road of bones in Russia. During our chat they had cracked a beer, down it, stamped it flat and threw it back into one of their two side-cases, which they noted was entirely dedicated to beer with the explanation, “What? We’re German.”.



The road north from Tok to Chicken heads up the mountain where we found cold temperatures and biblical rainfall. Luckily Chicken was mostly dry and - although we arrived late - two locals gave us the code to use their facilities, hot showers (and a shot of Jameson at the bar).

 

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Day 11
There’s a small café across from the Chicken gift shop we ate at fueling ourselves for the road ahead.



The Top of the World highway is a great twisty stretch of road with elevation changes tighter on the U.S side than the Canadian favoring our eastern direction of travel. The road is narrow with a lower possible riding speed than the Dalton. It was also one of the two roads (the other being the Dalton) that everyone we talked to said would be the most likely to kill us given even a hint of moisture.



The rain started almost immediately, and once we crossed into Canada, the road turned into a wet rainy mess with between one and three inches of mud. The experience on the ST1300 with its sport tires was more akin to skiing than riding. A mixture of lower weight, slightly better grip and (what I’m pretty sure is) pure insanity led the V-Strom rider to classify the day as “fun”. Our speed was so low, it took all day to traverse the highway, finally crossing the 24hr ferry into Dawson around 5pm.



At the tourist information center, we were informed the Tombstone Interpretive Center was moved because it was on an active aggressive bear path, but, “We left the campground there anyways.” Also, the infamous Dempster road leading up to the park had experienced the same torrential downpour. For once, sanity prevailed and that plan was quickly cancelled.



After a coin-operated wash south of the Bridge leaving Dawson, we headed back to town and randomly decided to visit a viewpoint based on a spotted camera sign beside the road. 10-15km later we arrived to the top of Midnight Dome and could not believe our luck in arriving at the #1 visitor attraction in Dawson.



We elatedly began cooking a *fancy* dinner with cook fresh supplies we bought in Dawson while listening in to the tour groups rolling through, informing us about the surrounding areas and the gold rush history. The viewpoint was so spectacular we camped nearby, so we could enjoy it in the morning as well.

 

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Day 12
We started our day exceptionally early to do two days of riding in one, ensuring we make our ferry reservation in Skagway the next afternoon. I was saved from Dev’s threats of retaliatory murder by his extreme fatigue.



The sights from Alaska were behind us and the land flattened as we reached Whitehorse in a mixture of rain and cloud. Takhini Hot Springs before Whitehorse made for a great stop.



The Chilkoot Pass to Skagway offered some spectacularly stark mountain-scapes, accompanied by driving wind and rain, extremely low cloud cover (the pass reaches over 1000m elevation) and temperatures well under 10 degrees.



The border guard shook his head at our sad, soaked visage as he let us back into Alaska.



Once we reached Skagway we circled the town, finding our ferry terminal and a corner of the town park many pitch their tents for free camping.

 

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Day 13

After a moist morning, we meandered around viewing massive cruise ships and a heavily tiered tourist trap of a town.



In the afternoon, we boarded a small ferry travelling to Juneau with a stop in Haines. Alaska ferries are proper oceangoing vessels with a small car dock that unloads and loads from one port requiring everyone be tightly packed and capable of turning around in close quarters. Never thought I would describe BC Ferries as a “quick” process, but I suppose everything is relative.



Our bikes were last on first off making for an extremely quick gear-up with everyone waiting. To travel on the Alaska marine highway system (AMHS) bring your own tie-downs or you can’t travel.
We arrived late to Juneau in the pouring rain and all the while setting up our tents (on concrete, so we had to MacGyver a solution with ropes and ratchets instead of pegs) we asked ourselves why we wouldn’t get a hotel. We found shelter outside a restroom to have a drink and a laugh at our situation.



Day 14

We awoke to typical Juneau weather dominated by mists that persist most of the day. Mendenhall Glacier has several ice caves you can hike through if you’re brave and have time, constituting one of our few regrettably missed opportunities on the trip.



We rode into town for King Crab at Tracy’s Crab Shack on the boardwalk, followed by a spectacular flightseeing tour at Wings Airways featuring several of the nearby glaciers.



After an evening of wandering the town with a laugh at the Red Dog Saloon and shops we travelled to Hot Bite in Auke Bay for halibut cheeks and caught our evening ferry destined for Prince Rupert 33.5 hours later.



As recommended by several forums, we decided to sleep in the solarium: a large heated area open to the back of the ferry with flat lawn chairs for a sleeping pad/mattress. It was far better than an isolated cabin; being out in the elements with others allowed us to meet the ship’s “community” with individuals from around the world and the most interesting stories and things to share.



There were a couple of individuals on their honeymoon that were on a ferry that broke down for 3 days. If you travel as stand-by you must get off the ferry at every stop then they will see if that can get you back on. I do NOT recommend being standby if you’re travelling through multiple ports. As last-minute add-ons, they were standby and needed to get off at every stop including 2am-4am stops requiring them to pack everything and wait several hours to hopefully board again. Even this couldn’t stop them from being impossibly cute together, raising the spirits of everyone they talked to.
 

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Day 15

I slept for over 12 hours in the solarium and missed a whale that had full-breached (Dev only saw the splash). The ferry ride was mostly shrouded in fog, but some narrow passages offered intriguing sights and the ferry operator announced significant sea life sightings along the trip. The Canadian portion of the inside passage is prettier, but we might be biased.



When the ferry stopped at a port, we took a quick run into town out of curiosity. While waiting to re-board a tour guide announced it was his birthday and there was a party that evening in the mid-lounge. He was adamant that everyone get drunk beforehand so as to not upset the crew with public drinking. This request included the crew. We joined in songs from multiple parts of the world as the guitar was passed around the circle.



Day 16
Where our ferry was scheduled to arrive at 4:45AM it instead arrived after 8AM. We unloaded to a long border lineup and waited 2 hours to cross into Prince Rupert and more rain. Nothing like starting a 900km day at 11:00am.



The Nisga’a highway north from Terrace is a nice ride with some sweeping curves and a fairly large lava field along the latter half of the highway. I unfortunately decided to stop near a boat launch where the clay ground gave way tipping the bike over the low side; shattering a mirror and scraping up the luggage.



The gravel road from New Aiyansh to the Alaska Highway was dusty with enough road ripples to limit your speed to around 60kph. We were careful on corners as 4x4’s rip up the road drifting most tight corners.



We decided to stop early at Beaumont Provincial Park for a dip in Fraser lake and a relatively early night.

Day 17

1000km is a long way to go to the end our trip. We set our focus on getting back but increasing temperatures directed us away from the Canyon and towards Hwy 24 and Hwy 5 passes. They were pretty, but not typically worth the diversion.
In Kamloops, the temperature topped 40 degrees requiring a guilty stop at a Dairy Queen. Little did we know the temperature would drop with rain south of Kamloops.
In true cyclical fashion, the highway between Chilliwack and Abbotsford was reduced to one lane due to multiple accidents.



We arrived at home bone-weary, wistfully reflecting on the journey we had undertaken, the call to adventure and the open road thoroughly satisfied… until the next time.
 

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When my family first moved to Chetwynd in the 70's, to muddy 'streets' and wooden sidewalks, we stayed at a cabin on moberly lake until our house was finished. Weird seeing it mentioned in a ride report here. Good report! Would love to see the actual route on a map link.
 

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The "day x" links to that days map. There's a rough map for the full route and each day is listed in the "planning document" on the first post.

I think moberly lake campground opened within the last year or so. Great place.
 

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In my haste to 'get to the good stuff' I missed the overall map link at the very top. My bad, thanks.

I had watermelon eating contests at Moberly Lake Park as a kid!
 

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Spectacular trip, photos, and report! Thank you!

You used sport bike tires on the ST? woa.

How were the bugs when camping way up north?
 
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