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Thread: San Francisco to Alaska, and back. July 2012.

  1. #1
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    San Francisco to Alaska, and back. July 2012.

    Ok, so this is a little late. Sixteen months late to be accurate. I started writing, then stopped, and just couldn't seem to get going again.
    Of course after so long, details become a little hazy, despite a diary, tons of photos and hours of video. So for those who were on the trip, please feel free to correct, criticise, confirm and or generally take the piss. Those that weren't, this is what we did......


    As everything was already loaded onto the bike, all I needed to take was my trusty tank bag and what I was wearing through the airport. Denise had bought me a courier bag for my iPad and such as a leaving gift, so with these two in hand I kissed her goodbye, and wandered through to Manchester's departure lounge to await my flight. An email from Chris had confirmed that my bike had been safely offloaded, and ridden to the motel. Only a slight brake light problem to report. Landing in San Francisco late on the Friday afternoon meant I was the last of the group to arrive, having cut the travel arrangements very fine. A shuttle bus leaves the airport for the Sonama area every hour, and my timing was just right to catch the next one. The driver radios ahead for anyone needing a taxi from the scheduled stops, but I got the one who was new and didn't know where the Hillside Inn Motel was! Luckily, a combination of his controller and my gps got us there only slightly later than expected at 10.30 pm. Gaz introduced me to Johno, who was sharing the room, and his non alcoholic beers. Collecting my gear from the bike, I gave it a quick pat on the seat in anticipation of tomorrows start. Kids on Christmas Eve would sleep better than I did that night, giddy doesn't even come close!

    Saturday
    Saturday morning bright and early I'm loaded up, kitted up, and raring to go. I nipped around to the nearest petrol station to fill up, and familiarise myself with the weird nozzles they have in California. The brake light problem was a twisted handguard, so easily fixed. Introductions are made to the other riders, whom I've only met once (except Gaz and Chris) by the motel car port. A healthy breakfast, and then Chris led us out into the traffic and on our way to Highway One and North.



    Looking South.

    I opted to ride at the back with Gaz, enjoying the elastic band effect on a bright sunny day. Highway One hugs the coastline, so there are lots of twists and turns, all the while with the Pacific on our left. Chris stopped us for a coffee at The Stewart Point Store, which seemed to sell just about everything. The lower bays had warning signs at the side of the road that you were entering, or leaving, a Tsunami danger zone! This is a warning I'm certainly not used too!



    Me, "Tour Dad" Chris, Little Mark and Skygod's arse.

    A small cafe in Fort Bragg was our lunch stop, but while we were there, an elderly gentleman tripped over the step and gashed his head. He was bleeding
    pretty badly, but no one seemed to be in a hurry to help. Enter Gaz, and the massed ranks of the "British Biker Gang", as the old guy’s wife described us. Gaz patched him up quickly and efficiently, then we helped him back into their car. His wife said this was to be their last road trip, as he was too ill to manage any more. Quite sad really, but she took a photo of us all to show "the folks back home".



    The Pacific

    Towards the end of the day, Highway One led up into the hills, on a sinuous road which made a lie of "American roads are straight" predictions we had been given. Nearly an hour of third gear forest bends to play with! Turning onto Highway 101 at Legett we headed to the Humbolt National Park and stopped next to some giant Redwoods for photos, marvelling at the size of the trunks. Gaz had a momentary hiccup with his bike when one of the TPS retaining clips snapped, but a couple of cable ties fixed it.



    Insert own caption here!

    Eureka was our destination for the night, and we walked into town to a Diner for food and a couple of beers before a fairly early night. My first day on American
    Tarmac had been a joy to ride.
    Mark
    Last edited by earthmover; 04-12-13 at 21:58. Reason: wrong photo!
    Just when you've got this rat race licked, here come faster rats!

  2. #2
    What Tyre pressure you running
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    Gaz had a momentary hiccup with his bike when one of the TPS retaining clips snapped, but a couple of cable ties fixed it.
    And is still the same to this very day!

    www.adventurebikewarehouse.com
    Be Safe............and if you cant be safe..........BE LETHAL.

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    Sunday
    It was grey and drizzling when we left on 101, the Redwood Highway. We rode through some old looking forest, muted greens and gnarled trunks. The road broadly followed the coast as we headed ever Northwards. Gaz and I filled up at a petrol station in Orick where I wouldn't have been surprised if we had to pump the fuel manually. (Alas poor Orick, I knew his smell?)



    Tsunami sign.



    Breakfast stop.

    Chris had pulled in at a roadside cafe slightly further up, where we had a large breakfast before pushing on again. He told us that after we turned inland it would get warm, and sure enough, five minutes after turning onto the 199 at Crescent City the temperature soared. We pulled into a lay by to take off layers, but Johno went one further and went for a swim in the river. This was to become a theme, see water, see Johno in it!



    You can't quite tell, but Johno is in there somewhere!

    The Smith River Scenic Byeway followed the Smith River (really?) with all its twists and turns. Then it reverted back to the Redwood Highway, and headed North some more. After a couple of hours of sweeping bends we filled up at Grants Pass and then hit Interstate 5 to put some miles on. At some point we lost Gaz for half an hour, but as we stopped at a fuel station he went sailing past. We then left California, and crossed into Oregon. It was quite late by the time Chris led us into Portland, but the Motel we pulled in at first was deemed 'unsuitable' by popular consensus. We suspected that it was actually a place used by the local ladies of the night to entertain their clientele. Somewhere that you weren't the only inhabitant of the beds. I've stayed in worse, just can't quite remember when.......
    A suitable replacement was found a short way away, and we all piled into the karaoke bar across the road for food. Sadly, the Karaoke started before we left,
    some people have no shame.

    Monday
    Early onto the road and Chris had promised us a proper breakfast. True to his word, the 49er at Castle Rock, just off the I 5, was a typical American truckstop, heavy on the calories, acres of formica and endless coffee. I had steak and eggs to fortify me for the day ahead.We turned off onto the Spirit Highway towards Mt St Helens, heading for the
    visitors centre opposite the site of the eruption in 1980. The roads were all open sweeping bends and smooth Tarmac, devoid of traffic at that time of the morning.
    It seemed a shame to waste the opportunity...... :-)



    Me (Big Mark), Alex, John, Geoff, Chris, Gaz, Bob, Clive, Little Mark, Johno.

    The cloud was low over the top, so we couldn't see the crater, but the film show in the visitors centre and the exhibits were superb. Very sobering to see the devastating effect nature can have.Riding back down the clouds had turned to drizzle, but the scenery was now more pertinent having seen the cause.
    The after effects can still be seen very clearly 30 years on.






    To get back on track, and avoid Seattle, Chris took us on a road new to him, up the North side of Puget sound. Quiet roads again, winding along the wooded foreshore. Alex, Gaz and I nearly got taken out by a pick-up truck travelling the opposite direction that had mistimed the speed of the vehicle in front! They bounced across the verge at the side of us, but in a fraction of a second we were past. We took a short ferry trip from Port Townsend to Keystone, then up Whidbey Island to the splendidly named Deception Pass bridge and some more stunning scenery. This took us onto the mainland, where it was a short ride to Bellingham. As it was 7.00 by then it was a quick change and into the Chinese next door for food.
    Mark
    Just when you've got this rat race licked, here come faster rats!

  4. #4
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    Tuesday
    Following the late arrival last night, most of us needed to fuel up, so after that and coffee we set out to cross into British Columbia, Canada. The border guard was an arse, but we were warned to expect that! From there we took the shortest route around Vancouver, which was on the I 99. Roadworks and city traffic meant this was a car park, but the pool lane for qualifying vehicles ( which bikes were) meant we got through quickly enough and further north to Porteau Cove. We stopped here for a photo opp, and to watch someone else taking photos of a very attractive young lady perched on the rocks by the edge of the water.
    Lunch was in a restaurant at a shopping centre in Squamish, which was excellent. There was also an electrical goods outlet where I managed to get spare SD cards for both my GoPro and camera for a fraction of what they cost at home.



    Sea to Sky Highway, on the way to Whistler. One of my better photos!

    Turning inland on highway 99, the Sea to Sky highway, the scenery changed from coastal to mountain, and got very big, as we climbed up towards Whistler. There were long queues with what we later found were line painting works, and people seemed loathe to pass them . We got tired of this, and rode down the cycle lane for a couple of miles, past the long queue of stationary traffic.
    It seemed a perfectly reasonable idea at the time.
    At the next set of traffic lights we got split up, and a state trooper pulled a u-turn and set off after those who had got through. Just coincidence? Nope.
    As we ambled past, the (attractive, female) officer was having a little chat with Geoff, and Gaz, who had stopped to offer moral support.
    Waiting for the two miscreants to join us at the next petrol station in Pemberton seemed to take forever. When they finally arrived, Geoff told us deadpan, that we all owed him
    100 dollars apiece, as he'd had to cough up the fine for us. He and Gaz managed to keep this up for a few minutes before telling us the truth. Our cards had been collectively marked, but a caution was all, this time.



    Pressing on, we turned onto route 97, the Caribou highway, which got narrower and twistier, giving us a glorious afternoon ride through the mountains. Gaz and I tried to film each other as we enjoyed the curves, but there was a touch of restraint shown, as we still had a long way to go. Chris pulled in at a beautiful photogenic lake, which Johno promptly dove in! The Caribou lodge at Clinton was our destination that night, and bar a short shower on the last couple of miles, we had enjoyed superb weather all afternoon.



    This had been a day full of great riding, could it really get better than this? The lodge was a timber built hotel that had more than its fair share of dead animals hanging off
    the walls! The beer was cold, and the food was hot, we were waiting for some grizzled old trapper to shamble in, but he mustn’t have made it through.
    Mark
    Just when you've got this rat race licked, here come faster rats!

  5. #5
    That's short for Pumpernickel Click here to find out how to Subscribe
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    Nice one, Mark!

    What's the story behind this Photoshop job?



    Looking forward to the next episode...
    www.pumpernickelontour.com - Four months through South America on a DRZ

  6. #6
    Great start Mark (at last) now get on with it.

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    Watching (& waiting) with much interest.........

    Thanx for taking the time etc etc etc.

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    Great stuff, always enjoy these reports and reminds me I have a half finished one to complete.

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    Nice one ,good start I'm in. Looking forward to your next instalment.

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    Excellent report so far, looking forward to the next instalment.

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    KEEP IT COMING!!!!
    Great report
    Great to see Sea to Sky and Caribou again - I rode in 2008ish - but kept going rather than turning left.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pumpy View Post
    Nice one, Mark!

    What's the story behind this Photoshop job?
    Hi Ella,
    Well it's my bike (looking very clean and shiny for once!), and Bob and Geoff are the photographers trying to get all of a Giant Redwood in shot. I don't know if they managed it, but watching them cracked me up.
    Mark
    Just when you've got this rat race licked, here come faster rats!

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    Wednesday
    After cracking a few miles off, we pulled in at 'Smittys' for breakfast at a town called Hundred Mile House. This was an interesting establishment, the waitresses were well past the prime of youth, and a bit scatty. We were treated a little like naughty children, but the food was excellent. Clive commented on the lack of birds (feathered) and so we spent the rest of the day pointing at anything in the sky. Today’s roads weren't as much fun as yesterday, but the respite was probably good for us! Highway 97 took us North some more.



    Gaz



    Alex



    Johno. Notice the subtle addition?



    Bob



    Muggins. There is something about the perspective with this shot that looks wierd, makes me look a lot bigger than I am!


    The surface tended to be tar-sprayed with gravel, and there were quite a few stretches that were being repaired. The norm is for single lane, one way traffic, led by an escort vehicle. At either end they have a controller, usually female, who will give you an update on how long it is likely to be before you can move. This can be 15 minutes or more, but ignore them at your peril. Stood around in the middle of nowhere all day is not a job I'd fancy. Chris stopped at a roadside shack which did fabulous milkshake, and we sat in the shade to drink/ eat them as the temperature had started to rise.
    Despite road signs warning us of all manner of wildlife, I only saw one deer. We reached our stop for the night, Vanderhoof, at 3.00, and it looked as if we were just in time. The skies had darkened and there were flashes of lightning in the distance, as if there was going to be a proper downpour. Vanderhoof was woefully short on eating establishments though, only one fast food type place was open. Johno befriended an old boy who lived in one of the trailers (caravan to us Brits) at the back of the Motel, and he let us use his BBQ. Gaz and I got
    some food from the Co-Op (really!) and then I grabbed some beers from the liquor store on the far side of town. Took me all of a minute.
    We shared the beers with the old boy and chatted for a while, while Johno cooked our steaks. He had just finished when the first raindrops fell, the expected downpour didn't happen
    though, someone else got that.
    Mark
    Just when you've got this rat race licked, here come faster rats!

  14. #14
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    This is a collection of go pro footage from the preceding few days. There's no music, no arty camera angles, and no commentary.
    It does show what the roads and scenery look like.



    Mark
    Just when you've got this rat race licked, here come faster rats!

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    Thursday.
    Leaving Vanderhoof on highway 16 we headed generally North West, into a misty morning. In the hollows this mist lingered longer, and we rode above it, very ethereal. The breakfast stop was at another quaint roadside eatery (Chris must look these up especially for us) but the service was far quicker than yesterday.
    Clive got an unexpected bonus as he walked back to his bike, a young lady stepped out of her shower and past her bedroom window, without her towel. She waved at us from her front porch as we left, but by now she was dressed.
    As the towns were getting fewer, and the distances between them increasing, the miles fly by. At New Hazleton the 16 veers south west for a time, as it broadly follows the Skeena River, until at Kitwanga we crossed over onto Highway 37, the Cassiar Highway. We fuelled up and had the obligatory photos at the milepost sign, with snow capped peaks getting closer.





    Left on 37i towards Stewart and Hyder, the road got a little less straight, giving another chance to have a play. The scenery was breathtaking though, so you ended up slowing down to take it all in. More wildlife started to appear, Johno and Clive both saw bears, and Geoff saw a beaver! Our next photo call was at the foot of Bear glacier, a shadow of its former self apparently, but magnificent all the same.



    Stewart was passed through in a couple of minutes, the border crossing into the most Southerly part of Alaska a little surreal, and we arrived at the Sealaska Inn, Hyder at 3.30. Here the Tarmac ended, as all the roads in the town were hard pack. Another enjoyable day in the saddle celebrated with a welcoming beer!
    Gaz and I were somewhat disconcerted to find that the door to our room wouldn't lock, especially as the owner, Michelle, showed us what a Black bear had done to her pick up truck the previous evening. The pick up that was parked beneath our window! Clive and I had a closer look, the bear had forced down the side window, then climbed in looking for food. The inside stank! Michelle assured us that it was what bears smell like, not her. Clive managed to repair the window, much to her relief.
    We wandered down to the local eatery, which seemed to contain most of the towns children, for supper and more beer, then back to the hotel.



    A local custom is for newcomers to get "Hyderized", which involves a shot of the local fire water. This custom duly observed, we stayed in the bar, watching the locals and talking shite, as you do.
    Mark
    Just when you've got this rat race licked, here come faster rats!

  16. #16
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    Friday.
    Lie in! What luxury. Jono, Gaz and I braved the border crossing to go back into Stewart to fuel up and get breakfast.
    Today was to be a 25 mile dirt ride up to the Salmon Tail glacier, then back to the Hotel. Everyone ditched unnecessary gear and panniers and left them in the
    rooms. The roads started out fairly smooth, especially near the town where they were recently graded. As we climbed the mountain though, they got quite rough in
    places, and getting the balance between floating over the bumps and crashing through them became harder. Thankfully, the weather was dry, as some of us were
    still on road tyres. Unfortunately, the weather was dry, so it was very, very dusty!
    As Chris had suggested that we all get to the top, then take photos on the way back down, I sat just a little way back from his dust cloud until we
    reached the viewpoint. We were in the clouds by now though, so the view was hidden. I noticed my rear light had pulled through one of it mountings, and of
    course my tools were in my pannier! Alex thankfully had his with him, but a bodge with a strip of gaffer tape was found to be the best fix, and this lasted the
    rest of the trip. (And for a while back home too!)



    Little Mark was somewhat unhappy, as he hadn't enjoyed the trip up the dirt road at all, and also hadn't realised just how dusty it had been. He had slung his
    camera round his neck without its case, for convenience, but the coating of dust on it meant he daren't even switch it on. He left to go back to the hotel to see if he could clean it.
    Gaz and I had a chat about Mark's concerns while we waited for the clouds to lift, and I spent some time on the way down thinking how best to help him out.
    Lift the clouds did, and what an awe inspiring sight it was. Photos do nothing at all to show the vibrancy of the blue of glacial ice, or the immensity of
    this, a relatively small fry as glaciers go. I was still blown away.



    A very slow moving mass, stood in front of a glacier.



    The ride back down was punctuated by plenty of photo stops, and hooning about on some of the gravel bends. Pick the right bends though, as some of them have
    fresh air instead of a barrier!



    Quick, stand on the pegs, there's a camera!

    Back at the Hotel, Little Mark had found some compressed air and rescued the camera, and we had a chat about how best to tackle further off road sections. A
    few more bikes had appeared, two Americans, and an Australian couple, so tales were exchanged as beers were drunk.
    We tried to find the annoying squeak that had manifested itself on Gaz's rear shock, and the oil level on Geoff's, both with limited success!



    How many UKGSers does it take to check an oil level?

    That evening a few of the lads went to the nature reserve at Fish Creek while the rest of us set up the Hotel's BBQ. The locals claimed that the salmon were
    running, which should bring the bears out to feed, and there are high level walkways where you can watch without being too close. To prove his camera was
    working, and his skill behind it, Mark took THE perfect shot of a Grizzly snatching its supper from the water.



    Geoff, "You won't believe the size of the bear I've just seen!"

    Michelle had been invited to join us, as we had borrowed most the hotels redundant kitchenware, and she seemed genuinely sorry that we were leaving the
    next day. Trade wasn't especially brisk in Hyder, and I suspect they survive by the skin of their teeth.



    Clive, Michelle and Bob.



    "What did you say was in this sauce Gaz? Tastes a bit salty."



    "What do you mean, best place for me?"
    Mark
    Just when you've got this rat race licked, here come faster rats!

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