Alaska Trip Report; The Final Five
Friday August 25th
This trip has been 6 months in the planning and probably 10 years in my imagination. I am about to embark on a journey that I have dreamed about for most of my adult life. I have always wanted to go to Alaska and since my first motorcycle trip in 1999 the idea of going by motorcycle has grown from crazy fantasy to full blown reality. I have just watched my crated bike being taken into a warehouse to be loaded onto a truck and shipped to Seattle, Washington. This is really happening. Less than a week from now I will board a plane to Seattle to pick up my bike and start the journey of a lifetime. The anticipation is building, all my planning and hard work are about to be tested, I cannot wait.
I would like to thank all the people who made this trip possible; My loving and understanding wife who supports all my crazy obsessions. My father who is no longer with us, but who always had the dream of going to Alaska to see his final state, and who gave me a case of wonder-lust from all our family travel over the years. My ever helpful support network of internet forum members, a band of strangers who will go out of their way to help a person they have never met. I thank you all.
I would also like to give kudos to a few of the suppliers and service shops that have proven that good work and great service still exists in today’s world. First of all I would like to thank Kent and Tracey Soignier of GMD Computrack in Atlanta. I shipped them my forks for inspection/rebuild where they straightened my one bent fork and rebuilt them. I installed the forks and found what I thought was a leak and instead of arguing over the phone with me, they gave me their shipping account to pay for shipping to them and installed a new bushing/seal in my fork even though they could not duplicate the leak and shipped it back to me in a hurry. I would highly recommend this shop for service. They are honest and do great work. I will be sending them all my future business. I would also like to thank Sargent Seat for making my 500+ mile days possible on this bike.
Thanks for following along on my adventure.
Saturday July 3rd Seattle WA to Missoula MT 571 miles
I did not sleep much last night. I never really sleep the night before a trip, I am always too excited. It rained off and on last night and the remnants of the weather were still apparent when I ventured outside to start loading the bike up. Once I got everything tied down and lashed it was time to get this adventure started.
This is a strange first day, usually I am leaving my own driveway, but this time I am already 2500 miles from home. I almost always get lost or miss a turn on the first day of a trip as well, but not in the first 5 minutes. Riding south on 99 I went right past the left turn onto 516. It took me a couple of miles to realize I had gone too far. The funny thing is I stopped for gas right at the 99/516 junction but failed to see it. I had to laugh out loud inside my helmet at my mistake, and hoped over the next 4 weeks that this little error would be the worst thing to happen on this trip.
Once we made our way through the city streets and traffic and were headed up 18 to I 90 the weather started to turn colder and the route took us ever higher towards the mountains and up into the clouds. The road was wet and the air was thick with fog, but it never really rained on us. After a cold ride over the Snoqualmie pass I had to stop on the side of I 90 and put on my rain pants to block some of the cold air. It was cold, wet and the traffic was surprisingly heavy for a Saturday morning, but there was nowhere else I would rather be at that moment. It was a glorious beginning to a month long odyssey.
Once I donned my rain pants the weather started to clear up and the temperature seemed to increase by 1 degree every 10 to 20 miles as well. We stopped for fuel in Vantage and the clouds had all but disappeared leaving behind blue skies and sunshine. It was still only 58 degrees which is just about perfect for motorcycle touring.
We crossed the river over the long bridge and bid a thankful farewell to the boring I 90 and turned our wheels east on 26. Miles later I started to miss I 90, as 26 was flat and straight two lane that reminded me of the western part of my own state, Ohio. In Washtucna we turned onto Rt. 261 and shortly thereafter stopped for a break.
25 minutes later we stopped for another break after a great section of road. 261 from Sperry all the way to Lyons State Park where we stopped to photograph the railroad trestle was an amazingly fun ride. There were lots of switchbacks and even some decent elevation changes. Roads like this are what make motorcycle travel worth the effort.
We stopped again less than a half hour later in the town of Pomeroy for lunch at the Town and Country Restaurant. I had a decent burger and fries.
Once we had ourselves all fueled up we headed east on Rt. 12 into Idaho. The weather was just about perfect, but I knew colder temperatures were coming as we rode towards Lolo Pass and into Montana. We had to stop at the Idaho/Washington border towns of Clarkston and Lewiston to get the required state welcome sign pictures. Getting near the Idaho sign in Lewiston proved to be a challenge with one way roads and crazy traffic patterns, but in the end we were victorious.
Once we left the town of Lewiston US Rt. 12 got interesting, the road followed a river valley through the Nez Perce Indian Reservation and into the Clearwater National Forest. We got so caught up in the riding that we forgot all about our bikes limited ranges. Eventually my riding partners R1 showed the first signs of low fuel with a warning light. My 900rr started to sputter about 20 miles later and I switched to my reserve. Luckily for us just as the R1 was nearly empty we stumbled upon a gas station. Sometimes it is better to be lucky than smart and aware, but I did not want to take that chance again and vowed to myself to pay closer attention in the future.
The road continued to twist and turn all the way to the Montana border. Once again the road was the focus of my attentions and there were plenty of missed photo opportunities along the way. We had missed an excellent sign on the way up 12, but there just happened to be another one on the way down. This is a sign that every motorcyclist dreams of seeing.
By the time we reached the Montana border it was after 8 pm and we snapped one quick photo and got back on the road. Light was running out and the wildlife was starting to run about. After last year and my near bike ending deer strike I wasn’t in a hurry to hit anything with antlers.
Our final destination was Missoula Montana. The town had all the usual stores and restaurants which made my riding partner gleefully happy. This would be our last night in civilization so I told him to make the most of it. We stayed at the Hawthorn Suites outside of town near the airport. The room was a steal at $112, it had the square footage of a small house and most of the amenities as well. Tomorrow we were headed to Banff for our first of many nights of camping. It was a great first day of riding.