Alaska Trip Introduction – Kamikaze Rabbits, Broken Bones, and the Norman Bates Gas Stop

Back from Alaska and had the adventure of a lifetime.  Among many other things, I got the honor of experiencing broken bones, kamikaze rabbits, a Norman Bates-style gas stop, and bears and other dangerous wildlife within inches of me.  The hardest part of the adventure is figuring out how to tell the story now.

I had sent out an invite to some other riders to see if anybody was interested in tagging along, and two others answered the calling.  Over the course of the ride, I met a number of other people I knew from the online motorcycling community; as well as some very interesting characters that each had their own stories to tell.  For the three of us who did the ride at least partially together, it was agreed from the start that I would write an expose of the trip together, sharing the good, bad, and the unforgettably ugly.  I’ll praise and slam each of us in this ride report and fully expect them to contact me and correct any exaggerations or beer-induced fogginess that may appear in the upcoming words.  Perceptions here are mine alone; I’ll try not to exaggerate circumstances too much.

There’s lots of good information for those planning a ride to Alaska all over the Internet.  We also found lots of incorrect or downright wrong information.  As this journey gets told, I’ll set the record straight on some things that are floating around out there…maybe to the chagrin of those that have never actually done the trip and love repeating something that they read years ago from somebody else who never did the trip.  Of course, much of what you may have heard is also true.  Bring that extra gas can…sometimes luck won’t be on your side.  A quick note that if a gas station permanently closes, you may be walking if you don’t have emergency gas.

The cast of characters of the three that went on this adventure include a cheesehead, a Twins-loving Minnesotian (is that a word?), and a Hoosier.  In campfire discussions, we found that we are within two years of age of one another; that and the fact that the group all love to ride motorcycles, there is not much else that we all have in common.  Yet we ride on together, eventually learning about each other’s habits and unique abilities and each eventually finds the sarcastic ammunition to use against one another throughout the journey.

Before we proceed into the actual trip, the trio of amigos should be introduced:

First, there’s Jeff.  That’s me above, photo bombing.  My ride is a 2007 Vstrom DL650 and I’m the Hoosier.  I sent out an invite to others to see if anybody was interested in coming along to Alaska, or even partially.  Over thirty people responded…and in the end, only two people came along due to the fact that most didn’t know the cost in time, expenses, or time away from family when they initially responded.  Of the group, I led 99% of the ride…and I got to be the one that was constantly pushing the group to move on so that we could keep to the overall needed schedule so we could see everything we wanted to in the available three weeks. The need to push on cost me a lot on this trip as my motorcycle and body will show in upcoming postings, but it is ironic that the need to venture farther one fateful day did not come from me.  Although I have been riding for decades, I learned some things on this journey that will definitely influence future adventures.

Let’s make this ride report difficult from the start.  Introducing Jeffrey above.  Yep, there’s two of us that were blessed with the name Jeff at birth.  When I refer to Jeffrey, I’m referring to the other guy (unlike one of the episodes of Seinfeld with a guy named Jimmy, I don’t refer to myself in the third party).  Riding a 2012 Vstrom DL650, he’s the cheesehead that ended up in the Minneapolis area to live.  Older than the other two riders by just months, Jeffrey was the old man of the group.  We started chatting online back in October about possibly connecting up to do the trip.  One of the most social guys you will ever meet, he made friends at every single stop…whether for gas, food, outhouse, wherever.  What I would classify as a very serious Facebook addict, he would say it was a simple hobby of checking his account every single opportunity he could…numerous times per day…and all night long.  Every stop became a search for signal…and Jeffrey used his talents to provide weather and other updates quickly upon request.  If you meet Jeffrey, ask him how Erica is doing.

Finishing up the trio is the one guy not riding the best overall bike ever made.  The above is Rob, who is very proud of riding (and seemed to be pushing a lot) a 2012 F800GS.  We shared many a barb about the other’s choice of ride but in the end I’d ride with the guy even if he was on a Big Wheel.  Rob had the biggest deadline of us all to get home; he ended up putting a couple miles down in Alaska then had to turn around and missed the back half of the overall route.  Rob joins the story a day later than the initial meeting of Jeff’s by finding the group its first campsite on top of an massively ant infested parcel of land …and makes amends three weeks later over some potato salad.

Each of us had our own main reasons to do this journey.  I had more than one.  My mom was going to go with me up there so I could experience Alaska like she had two dozen years ago.  Unfortunately her fight with cancer ended with her the loser and it never happened.  So, I needed to do this trip to fulfill a promise I had made to her.

Secondly, and not every person reading this knows this…I’m in a fight of my own with multiple sclerosis (MS) that sidelined my initial trip last year I had planned with a guy I was going to go up there with last June.  A flare-up last year convinced me I couldn’t do this trip safely…so I opted for a ride to Colorado/Utah instead, where I could take more rest time off the bike as needed.  This trip to Alaska really was taxing on the body…but I’d do it again in a heart beat.  I realized it may be a “now or never” event riding to Alaska…so I went this year.  And thirdly, the fact that it was the only “needed” motorcycle bucket list item I had not completed to date.

And…I wanted to see a bear in the wild with my own eyes and not from a documentary.  And for the last part, I saw many more than one…and sometimes the wildlife got within inches.  I may just share some pictures to prove it too.

Oh, okay…here’s one of the many bear pictures I took.

This would be the famous British Columbia Dandelion-Toothed Black Bear. A ferocious beast, this bear walked right over to the plant and viciously tore the dandelions out, ate them, and continue to disregard me and other people just feet away. First Internet myth dispelled…all bears aren’t out to eat you. Every one of the many dozens we saw either fled in fright at the sight of man or machine, or simply ignored us as they walked by us within spitting distance.

So, if this ride report interests you, follow along.  My writing style changes daily; my sarcasm remains constant.  With over 3000 photos to chose from to use both here and on my blog, you’ll see just some of them in a downgraded somewhat low-resolution online image.  After initial editing, there’s about 400 photos to come over a large number of postings so I can effectively tell the story of the adventure.  I’ll try to post every few days a new day’s worth of photos and descriptions.  Not promising anything; the broken ribs I got from the trip dictate how long I can sit and type at this point.  Was the pain worth it?  YES.  Even with the miserable 4,800 mile ride home AFTER the accident, I still smiled thinking about the trip.

Believe me…the photographs comes nowhere close to the real thing.  If you have thought about ever doing this trip whether on a cruise, by car, or by bike, DO IT.  Nothing else will compare.  NOTHING.  The amazement, the joy, the excitement, the pain, the fatigue.  This wasn’t a trip. It was an adventure.  It felt good to get back home…but truth be told, five minutes later, I was ready to jump back on and go do it all over again.

I kept track of all the financials on this trip and I’ll share things as I go along with the report.  The exact mileage each day is a little fuzzy though…when a cold beer or a promise of a meal got thrust at me, I forgot to take an odometer reading that evening.

So I’ll throw a new posting up as I have time.  If you have any specific questions, use the link on the right side of these postings to send me a message.

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