Long Distance Motorcycle Riding
Published December 20, 2011 | By Amin
Long Distance Motorcycle Rides
So you think you want to be a long distance motorcycle rider. Cool, so do it. Get on you bike and ride. And ride. And ride.
Have you done it yet? Are you going to do it? Do you know how to do it?
OK, you want some help? I did. Want some help that is. I read everything I could get my hands on. You know, Ron Ayers books, the postings on the Iron Butt web page, anything I could find.
Oh, you don’t know who Ron Ayers is. You have never heard of the Iron Butt Association. You could probably use a little help.
Ron Ayers is a little out of your and my league. Nice guy, great books. When you are ready to try 48 states plus Alaska be sure to read his book, a bible on how to complete that ride. Did I mention that he did it in 10 days?
So maybe you want to start with something just a little bit easier than the 48 plus 1. How about 1000 miles? In 24 hours. Now we’re talking the Iron Butt Association.
Settle down. Doing 1000 mile in 24 hours is not as impossible as you are thinking. I know, the most you have ever done on your Sunday rides is 350 miles. You can do 1000 miles with a little preparation. And I don’t mean H. They are called Iron Butt riders for a reason.
The Iron Butt Association is a group of riders whose membership is granted after completing a “documented” 1000 mile ride in 24 hours. There are a lot of us. It seems to me that about the only thing we have in common is a joy of riding. Another interesting aspect of the members is the number of us that would fit into any Grecian Formula commercial. What I’m trying to say is this game is not just for the kids. Some of us that look back with fond memories on our 40’s and 50’s are active Iron Butt riders.
Check out the Iron Butt Web site.
After you take a look, and are still interested, come back and read the rest of this article. I’m going to try to share what I’ve learned along the way. What worked for me. And what didn’t.
What does long distance riding mean to me? A bunch of certificates I hang on the wall from the Iron Butt Association that says I have completed some long rides. Yes, I’m pretty proud of those certificates. But I don’t collect them anymore. I still love to take long rides.
So, what have I done? (This is my bragging time. It will be over soon and we can get back to the real stuff. The rest of you guys who are real long distance riders don’t laugh now.)
A couple of documented 1000 mile rides
A 1500 mile in 36 hour ride
A 50 CC ride
A 1500 mile in 24 hour ride
People ask me about the 50 CC ride the most. That was from the Atlantic, Jacksonville Beach Florida to the Pacific, San Diego California, in less than 50 hours. I made it in 46 hours. The hardest ride to complete was 1500 miles in 24 hours. It took me three tries.
OK, so do you want to know the coolest part of long distance riding?
Its being in Denver on Saturday morning and knowing I will have Sunday breakfast at home in Madison Wisconsin, if I want to.
It’s my brother asking me if I want to meet him in Hyder Alaska for a rider gathering and saying sure but I can’t leave until 3 days before the event.
It’s being asked at work on Monday morning what I did over the weekend and saying I went to Florida to get some oranges, on my bike.
One last one, it’s telling my wife I’m going for a ride and will be back later. And then riding to Fargo South Dakota and back to Madison Wisconsin. That’s just a little over 1000 miles.
Yes I do have a very understanding wife. But she does agree that taking these little rides is a lot cheaper than seeing a physiologist.
So, how to start? Just like you I was a weekend rider and once a year some friends and I would take a longer tour to some rally or another. Our long days were probably no more than 300 – 400 miles. My bike was a fun cruiser but not much fun after about 250 miles. I also got the bug for bigger, faster. I bought a sport touring bike with hard saddlebags. It was a Honda ST1100. Little did I know that it was also a favorite of some long distance riders. I met a few and was introduced to the Iron Butt Association.
Jump to the first long ride. A 1000 mile ride north from Madison Wisconsin to Duluth Minn. from there to Fargo North Dakota and back home. I did most of what you can do wrong on this ride. But I made it. So what did I do wrong? Let me list the ways.
I wired up a new radio just before I left.
I didn’t get a good night’s rest before I left.
My planning consisted of looking at a highway map.
I didn’t know what gas stations were open all night.
I eat to much along the way.
I drank coffee to stay awake.
I planned my first trip to travel on two lane blacktop roads.
I drove to fast.
I stopped to long.
The list goes on.
Let’s start with the first principle of long distance riding. You don’t need to speed. Let me say it again. You don’t need to speed. Let’s be straight here. I love to go fast on my motorcycle. And I do. But being successful at completing Iron Butt rides is not dependent on going as fast as you can. In fact, the Iron Butt association will not recognize the duration of rides when it is obvious that the only way to complete them was to speed excessively. The secret is simple. You don’t need to speed. You just can’t stop.
At least you can’t stop for very long.
If you stretch out those gas stops to a leisurely 20 minutes or a 1 hour lunch you will not make 1000 miles in 24 hours. Speaking of stops, how far can you ride your bike on one tank of gas? If it’s 120 miles that will be a challenge to completing your Iron Butt ride. Most long distance riders want to go more than 200 miles on a tank of gas. The very serious ones go so far as to add additional tanks to their bikes. The Iron Butt Association limits tank size to 11.5 gallons. On a bike getting 40 MPG that is a very long 470 miles of riding. Yes there are solutions for riders whose mileage per tank of gas exceeds their mileage per bladder. I’ll let you think about that one.
Another serious consideration is lights. Well think about it. In a 1000 mile ride in 24 hours some portion is going to be at night. You need big bright lights. The bigger the better. You want to see those deer before you clip them. The only thing worst than hitting a deer with you bike is hitting a moose. Yes we Iron Butt folks have collected a few moose along the way. Some have been fortunate enough to walk away afterwards. You notice I didn’t say ride away.
A word about seats. Iron Butt, that’s what it begins to feel like after 12 hours or so. There are those who claim that anyone who tries to do serious long distance riding with an original seat is nuts. I think that goes without saying. All long distance riders are a bit nuts. As for seats, some fit you some don’t. I use an original seat. I tried one of the custom seats and it hurt my butt. No two butts are the same. Suite yourself.
Farkels, that’s what we call all the modification and gizmo’s we add to our bikes. Better lights, taller wind screens, GPS systems (I wouldn’t leave home without one), radios, stop watches. The list never ends. One primary lesson to be learned about Farkels is to never add one just before you leave on a long ride. I guarantee that it will fail if you are planning on using it on your first long ride. This law is especially true if it’s electrical.
So what have I taught you? Not nearly enough. Can you do it/ Of course you can. It’s really a lot of fun. It’s a great way to see parts of our country you would never see otherwise. Having the sun rise and warning your back after a long cold night riding across the Arizona desert is one of those treats that can’t be described. It has to be experienced.
Let me know when you’re ready to go. I’ll try to keep up.
Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.
What has he gotten me into now?
It was a lap the lake ride. Three of us, my brother Bud, and Bob a good friend, were riding our bikes around Lake Michigan. They had talked me into a two day ride starting in Chicago. We headed south through the city and down around Gary Indiana at ” O dark” early in the morning.
You know that it had to start raining while we managed to squeeze through Gary on the expressways. As we turned north into Michigan it just keeps raining. About an hour north of Gary Indiana I pulled into an empty car wash to get out of the rain. I asked the guys if they really wanted to keep riding in this rain for two days. How about if we catch the ferry back across the Lake to Wisconsin? Man did I get a full load of shit from these guys. They asked how I, an Iron Butt rider could be wimping out just because of a little rain. I said OK we will keep heading north. But if it does not stop raining we will check the ferry schedule. Ten minutes down the road the rain stopped and the sun came out.
The rest of the day was a great ride along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. I do remember one stop for a great slice of cherry pie. My brother spent ten minutes trying to figure out how to strap a whole pie to the back of his bike. He ended up having one more slice instead.
As the day drew down we pulled into Traverse City. It was early in the afternoon but we decided to stop for the night. We found a hotel for the evening and unloaded our bikes into our room. I guess it was nap time. We woke up about 10:30 PM. We wanted dinner and the options were few. We found a great restaurant on the west end of the town. I had great Elk for dinner.
Somewhere around 12:00 we left the restaurant and headed back to our hotel. Bud decided to pull into an open gas station to refuel so we wouldn’t have to do it in the morning. All three of us were filling up at different pumps. It was quite in the station as well as the streets at 12:00. I had just finished filling my tank when a car pulled in and up to the front door of the gas station. I heard the guy who got out of the car say something but I wasn’t sure what he said. My brother on the other hand turned towards the guy and says “What did you say?”
At this point there are several things you should know. My brother is 10 years older than I am. At this time I was 50 years old. My brother retired from 20 plus years in the Marine Corps. My brother seldom puts up with BS from anyone. Oh yes one other detail. My brother weights somewhere around 320 lbs.
At this point Bud starts striding towards the guy getting out of his car. I look at this sean and start following my brother. I’m thinking Oh SHIT. Here I am a 50 year old about to get into a fight . I wonder what the Michigan jails are like. Well you got to cover your brothers back right? As we stride across the gas lot it occurs to me that I’m wearing full motorcycle gear. Heavy jacket, big boots, leather pants, gloves and a helmet. At that point I’m thinking bring it on.
As Bud walks up to the guy I can see the dudes eyes. It has just occurred to this guy that Bud out weights him close to 100 lbs. The girl on the otherside of the front seat starts to pull him back into the car. By this time I have walked up to confront the guy in the rear seat. As he starts to open the rear door on the car I wave my finger in front of his nose and simply say no. He slides back into the car.
Bud says once again to the guy at the front. “What did you say?” The guy says “I didn’t say nothing.” Bud says, ” I thought so”. They leave quickly and we return to our bikes. Bob who never left his bike says, “ what was that?” Bud and I laugh and say it was nothing. We were just communicating with the locals.
You got to love being a biker.
Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.
Published December 20, 2011 | By Amin
Tuesday April 1st I slide out of work about 12:00. Yes I’m early and just a little bit excited. When I get home I change into my riding clothes for the next 24 hours. Long johns on under leather jeans, a long sleeve T-shirt a long sleeve thermal shirt, my boots and riding jacket. In the garage I do one more check of the bike and tape my gas stop schedule to my right knee and roll out the door.
I ride into Oregon about 12:30 and head for the police station. The dispatcher calls in a squad car and the officer signs my sheet recording my odometer reading. A quick stop at Quick Trip to fill my tank and grab my first gas receipt. 1:13 CST I roll out of town heading south. Running south on I90 (I hate toll booths, I stop put my bike in neutral reach into my coat pocket for change, gloves on, and have the toll taker pick out the right change). First gas stop is Bloomington 188 miles down the road. Ah Illinois ——– flat ——–, but quick. Next stop 6:54 Centraila IL. Then Oak Grove KY at 9:54 553 miles. Each gas stop is about 8 minutes long. Gas up, stuff the receipt in the zip lock bag, a quick walk around the bike, a drink of water and back on the bike.
Some where in the mountains before Chattanooga I stop to put on my electric vest and plug it in. Yes its that dam cold. I also switch from my XM radio to my regular radio. Can’t have them both plugged in at the same time. Yes I know you would think a guy who had his bike setting in his family room in the basement all winter so he could play with the wiring of toys would have had this worked out before hand. It was one of those last minute electrical gremlins that I fixed by removing the XM radio from my wiring buss.
Anyway it was COLD. Chattanooga 2:30 CST 734 miles.
Down from the mountains rolling toward Atlanta my head lets me know that I’ve been up since 6:00 AM the day before. I can tell because I’m using the whole lane for my bike.
Iron Butt Hotel time. I pull into a rest area, grab my screaming mimi alarm clock and sleep for an hour. This alarm is 110 decibels and I think wakes up all the truckers in the rest area. In case you are unfamiliar with the Iron Butt hotel, it consists of a fully geared motor cyclist, including helmet – pillow don’t you know, stretched out on the most comfortable picnic table in the rest area. I prefer the wooden tables over the cement ones, but any will do.
I rolled through Atlanta before the morning rush hour and slide down to Macon GA. 7:10 AM CST 931 miles. Next stop Jasper FL right at the border 9:57 AM 1121 miles. I’ve now completed the requirements for a Saddle Sore 1000 in 21 hours. But I’m still heading towards Sue’s folks house and some needed sleep before I begin the 50CC.
I arrive in Flagler Beach FL at 12:46 CST 1286 miles. Stop for gas and get my receipt. This stops my Iron Butt clock. I roll into the Flagler Beach Police station to give my song and dance and have the officer there sign my odometer reading.
SS 1000 done. 1286 miles in 23 hours and 33 minutes. Not bad.
I try to talk to Sue’s folks for a little bit when I arrive but I’m in bed asleep 20 minutes after I arrive at their home.
I woke up from a very sound sleep about 9:00 PM by my clock. I will now give up trying to tell you what time it is locally. I used my watch time for the whole trip, as I did not check where the time zones changed before I left on the trip. After a quick shower and a turkey dinner from my mother in law. “Doesn’t she know turkey makes me sleepy?” I started north to Jacksonville Beach.
It was a cool clear night. I had my leathers, long johns and several layers of T-shirts under my cycle jacket. I was plenty warm.
I found the Jacksonville Beach cop shop with no problem. A quick explanation to the dispatcher about what I need a cop for. “Are you one of those Iron Butt guys?” “Yes sir” and I soon had a signature on my starting documents. It is nice to know that lisbian women do have an opportunity to wear black leather boots, jacket and a badge.
Off to the Atlantic to collect my bottle of ocean. I found the gas station we are to meet at and settled down to wait. Before to long five other guys have joined me for the run. Our planning and discussions over the Internet had lead us to expect a total of twelve. It was a mixed group with cruisers, touring and sport bikes in the mix. After some introductions and tire kicking we were about ready to saddle up. We had expected to head out in small groups. As there were only six of us we decided to start together. We soon had our gas receipts and were headed down 202 to meet up with our friend for the next 2000 miles I-10.
It was very exciting to start down the road after all the planning I had done to get ready. It did seem to me that my compatriots were somewhat less prepared than I was. Oh well maybe I’m just to anal.
Lets talk just a little bit about what I did to get ready for this trip. First you should know, now that it’s over, that I’ve been thinking about this trip for two years. Right after I did my first Iron Butt ride of 1000 miles in 24 hours I started planning this one. As I completed the documentation for my first Saddle Sore 1000 I read an account of one of the first successful 50 CC runs. I read it and said I can do that.
So what did I do to get ready?
I bought a new bike. I wanted something that was faster and stronger and could run at 80 MPH all the way across the USA. OK so I also thought the BMW was cool.
I planned my trip. No I mean I planned my trip. I knew where each gas station, that was open 24 hours a day, was located along every mile of the route. I knew where I was going to stop and how long I was going to take to get gas at each stop. I created maps of each section of the route. I knew if I was going to be going through each city at rush hour. I knew if there was a HOV lane on the interstate through each city or if I would be better off by taking the bypass. I had exchanged email with motorcycle riders in each city to find out about construction and known speed traps.
OK so I had a lot of time to plan this trip.
The bike was ready. New tires just before I left home. A radar detector hidden in the body work with a remote indicator for those states where detectors are not allowed. A XM radio with 100 stations that don’t fade out as you cross the country. Extra driving lights and two stop watches. One to track the time used the other to track the time remaining. A laminated card with each stop located with miles and expected time listed this I had taped to my knee so I could read it as I rode down the interstate. Yes I was ready.
My first stop for gas was scheduled for Tallahassee Florida. Man was it cold. Like 40 degrees in Florida. At 70 MPH for 2 and half-hours. It was COLD.
I pulled into a Waffle House for hot coffee and scattered and covered hashbrowns. Two of the guys have disappeared. Three more are still with me. They quit. It’s to cold for them. As they are from Orlando this is the coldest temperature they have ever ridden in. No heated handgrips or vest. They head for home. Well now what I’m I going to do. I hadn’t planned on riding with anyone anyhow. Its west for me. Back on the bike. Extra clothes, baklava hood and my vest plugged in. Off into the night. The next gas stop. And the next gas stop. Hey look the sun is coming up behind me. Oh yes maybe some heat from the sun.
Louisiana has the worst roads in the country. We have better paved one-lane back woods roads than these interstate roads. Baton Rouge and now I’m west of the Mississippi.
So this is what eastern Texas looks like. Can you spell oil field? Houston HOV lanes. Cool, zip through the city no problem. I spoke to fast. Stop and start traffic. This is killing my time line. I was already behind from that warm up stop back in Florida. Ok so I’ll make up some time across Texas. Stretch out my gas to make the next town. Save a little time. Gee I thought there was a gaslight that came on after the gas gage read empty. I wonder when that light will come on I’ve been on empty for awhile.
SHIT, SHIT, SHIT. The bike is running out of gas. I pull over on the shoulder and coast to wards the next exit. The bike is missing and stuttering. The exit is just a bit down the road. I wouldn’t have to walk far. I shake the bike side to side. It seems to help as the motor keeps sputtering along. I made the exit. I coast down the hill and up to the gas pump. This is the only gas station for 20 miles.
Ok so I was very lucky. Now I’m wondering if it will start and run even after I put gas in it. Yes! She starts right up and hummms along. Back on the road and heading west.
Its dark now and the temperature is starting to fall. Another quick gas stop and I’m heading towards Fort Stockton Texas. I will need to make one more gas stop before Sierra Blanca Texas. That’s my goal for tonight. 1543 miles from my start in Jacksonville Beach.
I’ve been doing the math. It’s not good. I will have to make 140 miles in 1:45 minutes. I won’t make my 1500 miles in 24 hours. It was that Waffle House stop and the traffic in Houston. I could try. The roads are empty. This is western Texas. All I see are cactus along side the road in the light from my extra driving lights. Man I’m tired. I could try to bust through to Sierra Blanca. But I can’t beat the clock. Ok Sue I promised. When I’m tired I’ll stop. Motel 6 Fort Stockton Texas. As I rent a room for 6 hours I notice how covered with bugs I am. I pull my gear off my bike and park it in a well-lit space in front of the Motel. Its 11:00 by my watch and I’ll be up at 4:45. In my room I pull off my gear turn on my screaming MIMI alarm clock and turn off the lights. The phone rings. I left my helmet sitting in the parking lot. Gear back on and grab my helmet. Yes I was tired.
The alarm goes off. 110 dB will wake you up. I hope my neighbors were planning an early start.
Back on the road heading west. Yes the sun comes up behind me once again. I really like riding across the southwest. I stop in Tucson for gas. I’m going to make this quest with time to spare. I take my time at this stop to have a soda and stretch my legs. West to California.
Lots of air bases out here. I just had a flock of A10’s come over my head low and slow. I heard sonic booms coming from the desert. Never did see the planes.
California. The last state. Still desert and then sand dunes. Big ones. As I cruse along at 80 across the desert. (speed limit 75 MPH) A Buick passes me with four white haired folks in it. I just learned the term a box of Que Tips . So it jumps into my head. I also decide I should pick up my speed. I’ve listened to a lot of XM radio over the last two days. If I never hear Wolf Blitzer again it’s ok with me. For the last few hours I have had the radio off and the earplugs out. Lots of time to think.
I’ve come to the last mountains before San Diego. Its windy, the sun is setting, right in my eyes. So I stop and put tape over the top of my helmet shield. I can block out the sun my tipping my helmet. I also put my cold weather gear back on and plug in my vest. The sign say 35 miles high winds. Up the mountain I head. I thought San Diego was just over the ridge. Its 120 miles further on. It’s cold at 4200 feet. All the way down the western side of the mountains it gets warmer. And the city starts. And goes and goes and goes. The last 45 miles takes forever. The Interstate ends. I’m there. Now to find a gas station and stop the clock. I drive around for 10 minutes looking for my gas station. I found it but with just dumb luck.
Pull up to the pump and get my gas. Receipt in hand, I made it. Almost exactly 46 hours from the start. My 50 CC is done. Well it will be as soon as I get a signature from a police officer. The guy at the gas station doesn’t know where the cop shop is. The only one I know of is right down town. So off I go. Down town San Diego on Friday night, after riding 2500 miles. So I find the cop shop. But its night and its closed up. Well they have to have a drunk tank right? I park my bike and walk around the building looking for an open door. No such luck. But I do see squad cars going into a garage. I follow them in. After some explanation about what I want an office signs my mileage sheet. Once again its good to know that there are job opportunities for ladies who like to wear leather boots, jackets, guns and badges. After she signs I asked her for directions to my hotel. I ask her to keep the directions simple, I have been on that bike for 46 hours.
Quickly in my hotel, order a pizza and call home.
Snow at home, rain through out the Midwest and tornadoes in Texas. I’ll worry about how I get home in the morning.
In the morning I watch the weather channel. It looks bad. I may be able to make it to northern Texas. Then what? Store the bike? Rent a truck?
Susan, my niece lives in Phoenix. A call. Yes I can leave my bike there. Sue gets me an airline ticket and I’m home.
Yes I do have to go back and get my bike. Don’t you know I just hate it when I have to go for another bike ride?
So what did I learn?
Yes I can ride a bike across the country in less than 50 hours.
Yes my ass got sore.
Yes I do love to ride.
I may never eat another lemon drop as long as I live.
Now to start planning the next adventure. You know my brother was talking about riding the four corners. That may be interesting. Maine, Florida, California and Washington. I wonder how long it would take?
World Class Motorcycle Endurance Rider
Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.
Flin Flom or Bust
Published December 20, 2011 | By Amin
Flin Flom or Bust
Friday July 28
We are to meet at my house to set off northward. I’ve been up since 6:00 and ready to go.
By 8:00 I’m pacing and have checked my gear attached to Greta (my BMW K1200rs) four or five times. Dan shows up at 8:05. My brother shows up at 8:30. Man I’m ready to go. A pit stop for Bud. He has ridden two hours from Chicago to get here. We’re off.
I take the lead and we head off from Oregon and hit 14 going north. In Madison we take the beltline out to I90 and join the other folks heading north. I settle in at about 70 MPH and cruise along with the rest of the traffic. I keep checking behind me to see if the others are riding at my pace. They stick to me like glue. Along about the Baraboo exit I begin thinking about a cup of coffee. I have a diner in the Dells that I often ride to for breakfast on Sunday morning rides. We park in front of the diner and it’s only then that I remember to turn on my GPS. I was so anxious to get going that I forgot to boot the thing up. Oh well I guess I wouldn’t have my whole trip plotted on the GPS memory. In the diner I’m surprised to find it packed. Oh yea it’s the Wisconsin Dells tourists. We wait for a table and are soon shown a large table by the hostess. There are two other guys waiting for a table and we ask them to share ours. They are on a boy’s weekend away trip. It turns out that they are from Stoughton. Just no escape from home yet. They ask where we are going. It’s the first of many times we will have this conversation. We say, “We’re headed to Flin Flon”. They say, “Where’s Flin Flon?” I tell them its as far north as you can go on paved roads in Manitoba. Then they say, “Why?” Over the next week we will have this same conversation with many people. For the most part Bud and Dan just look at me and wait for me to answer. I never did come up with a good one. But for the most part I just say I always wanted to go there. I really think its Walt Bublitz’s fault. He got me reading about the Canadian explorers who passed through Flin Flon and Cranberry Portage in the 1700’s. He also involved me in his trip that was to paddle across Canada about 12 years ago. Walt never made it all the way across Canada but he did a big chunk of it. Walt, I’ve now seen Lake Winnipeg. You are truly nuts. Well I can remember going over all those maps with Walt and I always knew that I would make it to Flin Flon.
The rest of the day the temperature keeps on rising. We stopped in Tomah to get gas. By that time it was 90 degrees and we had peeled off all of our cycle gear and were riding in T shirts. Not to hot at 70 MPH but you sure drink a lot of water. Back on the road with the next stop Eau Claire. Did you know that A&W will give you free refills of large root beers? I know they lost money on that deal with us. Bud wanted to stop at Gander Mountain for a water bladder and a drinking tube. Dan and I just enjoyed the AC in the store. Off we set with our next stop Rice Lake. I had been watching Bud in my rear view mirror for awhile. He wasn’t just drinking the water but was spraying it over himself to cool down. A motorcycle with AC. Only my brother would have thought of that.
As we started nearing Superior the clouds began to build up. Yep, rain. No complaints its still 90 degrees and the rain felt good. It didn’t last long. As we rolled into Superior we were beat. The first hotel with AC and a pool was all we wanted. A swim in the pool and a fish dinner and
Saturday July 29
I wake up early. The guys I’m traveling with don’t. OK so I read a book I brought along until I can’t wait any longer. If I make enough noise they do get up and get going. They like to remind me that they are both retired and I still work for a living. I get even by wakening them up on my hours. A good breakfast and we are off. This is highway 53 headed towards International Falls. This is a route I take to go to the Boundary Waters. Nothing but good memories of canoeing fills my head. I had to keep a tight grip on my bike to keep it from turning off towards Ely. I start thinking that in my mind the Boundary waters has always been way up north. I’m about to head off another 800 miles further north.
Another hot day and we cruise into International Falls. A stop for lunch and we cross the boarder. I roll up to customs after crossing the river and up to a stop. I begin to pull out my passport just as the guy asks for it. Why to you think a customs guard at the US /Canada boarder needs a bullet proof vest? Are there terrorists trying to crash their way into Canada from the US? Any way he asks me if I have any fire arms, booze or gifts for anyone in Canada. I say no but think about saying the only thing I plan on leaving in Canada is my money. I think better of it. He then says “Where are you going?” I respond with a smile on my face, thinking I finally have a Canadian who will know what I’m talking about, Flin Flon. He says, and I quote. “Why the hell do you want to go there?” Not the response I was expecting. I give him my story about the end of the road and he shakes his head and sends me on my way. Welcome to Canada. We turn back east to catch the only road that goes north to Dryden. It’s a nice ride along the lakes to catch our road that turns north. I’ve been on this road some 12 years ago when I was running supplies to my buddy Walt as he canoed across Canada. What I remembered was a hilly, twisty road through the forests. Indeed that’s what it is. The begining and the end of this 60 miles is rough but the center is a smooth two lane blacktop made for motorcycles. No houses, no cross road and lots of curves. What idiot set the speed at 50 Kilometers per hour? OK so maybe I was doing a little above that. Well maybe more than a little. Then along comes this guy in a car and me passes me. Who does he think he is passing a motorcycle? No car can run with a motorcycle on curves. So I consider my options. I could just sit back and watch him head off around the next curve. Or I could go with him. I believe I considered this decision for some time. In reality it was probably 30 seconds. I hit the throttle. I knew that Dan and Bud would come along behind me. There were no wrong roads to turn off on. I played push the car. If you pull up behind a car that thinks it’s as fast as a motorcycle they tend to go faster. The faster you go the faster they go. It doesn’t take to long before they are going faster than they should. You on the other hand are still just cruising on your bike well within your capabilities. After I saw his wife slap his arm for going to fast I backed off and let him go on his own pace while I had my little chuckle. A fun ride and a quick one.
In Dryden we found our favorite type of motel, a mom and pop one. You can translate that into cheap.
Dan had his first experience with a waitress asking his if he wanted gravy on his French fries. I think Dan believed she was putting him on. One last note. I lived in Canada in my youth. I’ve been coming here after I moved back to the US on a regular basis. For the first time the Canadian dollar is close to the value of the US dollar. 89 cents US equals 1 Canadian dollar. It use to be about 62 cents. Well the Canadians have gotten tired of this exchange rate crap. If you use US money these days in Canada they call it even. I call it a tip. One more thing while I think of it. Gas in Canada is 114 to 119 cents per liter. That’s over 5 bucks per gallon folks.
End of day 2 we’re done for the night.
Sunday July 30
Off to Winnipeg
Hot Hot Hot 32 degrees that’s about 96 degrees US.
We rode across the top of Lake of the Woods through Kenora Ontario.
Beautiful area of lakes and woods. Kenora looks like a great cottage town. Once again the A&W folks lost their shirts on that free refill idea. As we continue west along Canada Hwy 1 I spot a doe and two fawns paused along side the road. I slowed way down and waited to see what they would do. Mom decides that the black noisy thing running down the road is nothing she or her fawns should have anything to do with. She turns and a dash back to the fence along side the road and makes a graceful leap over the fence. The two fawns turn and follow her back to the woods. At the fence the fawns make the same graceful leap and bounce off the fence. Not quite the same abilities as their Mom. On we go riding across the center of Canada. I know it’s the center of Canada because a sign tells me so. Shortly we cross into Manitoba. There are signs all along this route with pictures of moose that say Danger at Night. I wish I could fit one on my bike. I also notice that the semi trucks along here have huge moose guards on the front of their trucks. I suppose a big semi may win an argument with a moose. A car or worse yet a bike would surly loose.
About 10 miles into Manitoba the world changes. The woods and rock and lakes disappear. Replaced by flat prairies, no trees and grain growing in the fields. Did I mention that it was HOT HOT HOT? We decide to go around Winnipeg and head up towards the lake. It looks like it’s a resort area and Bud wants to rent a cabin by the lake for the night. We ride about 50 miles up onto a peninsula that sticks out into the bottom of Lake Winnipeg. Just so you know. Lake Winnipeg is about 400 miles long and over 50 miles wide at its widest point. A big lake. Grand Beach, one of the ten best beaches in the world according to Playboy. Who are we to argue with Playboy? We went, we saw, we were not impressed. No way no how on the cabins. Drive around looking with no luck. But we see the one motorcycle besides ours within 100 miles and ask the rider where to go and presto a great motel with a nice restaurant and bar in the middle of nowhere. A good meal and some fun conversation with the cutie working in the bar and it’s a wrap on day three.
Monday July 31
Once again it’s off to Winnipeg. It’s not so hot today, around 80 degrees. We slide down the 50 miles from our motel near the lake to the city proper. It’s a typical big city in Canada. Bud says it looks like Cleveland. OK, nothing special but I forced the boys to ride through the center of the city at 12:00. Traffic is good for them. We stopped to exchange US dollars for Canadian cash at the first bank I saw that had shaded parking. Waiting for Dan to cash travelers checks Bud and I have a conversation with one guy using two canes. Broke his back riding a cycle. That’s sure to cheer you up. And another chat with a cabby. The usual conversation about Flin Flon and why the hell are you going there? Then we beat feet west out of town. Back into the flat plains. On the four lane heading west. At seventy miles per hour straight into a 30 MPH headwind. No fun. We got off the four lane as soon as possible and hit the back roads heading northwest.
This is the point that two major issues had to be dealt with. One, Bud hates to ride on flat plains. I mean really hates them. He kept on talking about being sure he was seeing Kansas license plates on the cars around us. He was also sure that the wheat field we were driving by was 67 miles long. It becomes obvious that neither Bud nor Dan had really looked at the maps of this trip that I sent them. I know that we have a ways to go on these flat plains on our way to Flin Flon and a long ways on the same flat plains coming back through Saskatchewan. The second issue is that my idea of how far one should ride each day and their idea of how far someone should ride each day is somewhat different. No way are we going to make the whole trip as I had planned it. No way was Bud going to put up with the long straight stretches of Saskatchewan. Time for a change of plan. I had planned on going north, just to the west of Lake Manitoba to La Pas and Flin Flon. Then we were to turn west and south to come back through Saskatoon Saskatchewan. We decided to continue north to Flin Flon but to come back on another isolated road that runs between Lake Manitoba and Lake Winnipeg. I had looked at this route early in my planning but decided that my brother’s bike could not make it from gas station to gas station. His bike will make 120 miles on a tank of gas and no more. We decided to continue on and ask the locals if the gas stations were that close together on the road. Keep this fact in mind for later reference. This change in plan may also help me fit this trip into the time I had available given the mileage we were making every day. My other card to play was my knowledge that I could cover 1000 miles in 24 hours if I had to. Iron Butt don’t you know.
We continued on across back roads ending our day at Minnedosa Manitoba. Its just a wide spot in the road with a hotel. We did notice several things as we came into the one street town. First there was a hotel. Thats good. I also spotted a Zamboni machine parked on the street. For you southerners a Zamboni machine is used to clean ice at hockey rinks. Why one was parked along the street in the middle of summer when its 80 degrees I’m not quite sure. The third key thing we noticed was a strong aroma drifting through town. Not a bad smell just a strong one something like hops or rye. We asked. It’s a big enthol plant on the edge of town. These folks are betting on $10 a gallon gas in the future. One last note. One street town. The teenagers were cruising up and down the street in their cars as the sun set. Not much to do when the closest town is 50 miles away. End of day four.
Tuesday August 1, 2006
Today we truly go north. We leave Minnedosa after an early breakfast. I don’t know what it is about riding but I seem to eat a good breakfast every morning. Not something I do when at home. This part of Manitoba is basically flat with an occasional ridge. We ride for about an hour north and then enter the Riding Mountain national park. The park has buffalo somewhere in it but we don’t see them. A nice ride through woodland and forest. I didn’t really notice it at the time but the ride was steadily uphill. At the top we catch a view out over the flatland heading north. We run down the steep hill going out of the park heading toward Dauphin Manitoba. Its all grain fields for as far as you can see. This is land settled by folks from the Ukraine of Russia. Lots of Russian orthodox churches in the little villages. The churches all have onion domes. The cemeteries come in pairs. Russian orthodox and Catholic. Usually within a half mile of each other along the road.
As we ride into Dauphin I’m looking at all the flat fields of grain and other crops trying to figure out what they are. These are not crops I recognize. Not wheat but something like it. Some low crop that is covered with purple blossoms. A green plant about five feet tall with bushy green leaves. It looks familiar but I don’t know what it is. We stop for gas in Dauphin and a cup of joe at the Tim Horton’s. Tim is to Canada what Starbucks is to the US. In the Tim Horton’s we strike up a conversation with an old guy sitting at the table next to us. My brother says, “You know we were looking at the crops coming into town, Do you know what the green —“. At that point without another word said by my brother the guy says. “You mean the hemp” Yes they grow weed by the 40 acres’ field. Not just one field we counted 5 of them. Now he says you can’t smoke it. They just grow it to make rope and cloth. Nevertheless, I’ve never seen 40 acres of pot before. We finished our coffee and turned around to go back and take pictures. Yes, Lucas just for you. Your dad standing in front of a very large field of pot. It looks like pot. It smells like pot. It must be pot. I’ve got to believe that the folks that drove by were laughing at the US guys on motorcycles who stopped to take pictures of the pot field.
We soon turned north again to move forward on our quest of Flin Flon. We passed through Ethelbert, Renwer, Birch River, Nova and Mafeking. All small towns in the middle of a very flat plain. North of Mafeking the forest returns and we once again enter lake country. It’s been a long day. Somewhere over 325 miles when we enter La Pas. The folks here say it as The Pass. The south side of the river is the white settlement. The north side is Indian reservation. We stop for gas and decide what to do next. Our original goal was to get to La Pas for the night. I’m fired up to ride another 120 miles to Flin Flon. Wiser heads prevail and we decide to spend the night. It’s my turn to find the hotel. I cross the street to see if the hotel at the Indian casino has any rooms. After standing at the desk for ten minutes I turn to another desk clerk and ask if there are any rooms. She turns to the man at the desk who had been ignoring me and asks if there are any rooms. He says no. Thank you very much. Ok so I was tired. I was also the only white guy at the front desk. I don’t think they wanted the likes of me in their hotel. As I push through the front door and mutter to myself my brother rolls up and says that he was told by the gas station clerk about a fishing resort 20 mile up the road that has cabins on the lake.
We’re off. Up the road 20 miles later we turn off the paved road for the Rock lake resort. I’m skeptical. Will they have a cabin? Will it be good enough? That’s a silly question. Especially if you have seen some of the places we have stayed. To put it simply it’s great. A sweet two bedroom cabin facing the lake. Wonderful people running the place. Nice call Bud. Its so good we decide to spend two nights at the Rock lake resort. Its only 70 miles to Fin Flon and we have to come back this way anyways. We can run up to Flin Flon and back tomorrow and be on our way Thursday.
I fall asleep tonight with Loons calling on the lake.
Tomorrow Flin Flon.
Wednesday August 2
Flin Flon or Bust
Its looks like a great blue sky day for our ride into Flin Flon. No gear on the bikes today we can leave it all in our cabin at Rock Lake. Bud has been talking to the family that runs the place and is thinking about renting a boat this afternoon to go fishing. Good idea. He catches fish. I eat them.
The road to Flin Flon is a good two lane black top. It winds through the woods and around the lakes. It seems to take for ever. The last stop before Flin Flon, Cranberry Portage. It’s just a wide spot in the road sort of town. The guys had let me lead this last section so I turned off to head to the lake. I know the guys were wondering why I turned off here, but it had to be. Walt, you may remember this name. This is the portage that separates the canoe routes that head west to the McKenzie River and the Artic Ocean from the river/lake routes heading to the Hudson Bay. For over 2000 years people have been making this portage at this place. I had to stand there even if I didn’t have a canoe on my shoulders. Ok guys I paid my respects lets get to Fin Flon.
It’s a rock. The whole town is one big rock. The houses are built on rock. The stores are built on rock. And the big mines are dug into the rock. It’s also bigger than I thought it would be. Maybe 6 – 8 thousand people. It’s a hilly rock and the folks build their houses up and down the rock. Oh yes one other thing. You can’t bury your sewer pipes in rock. They run along the streets in a long wooden box with boards on top to make a sidewalk. They heat them in winter and walk on them year around. We cruised the town and stopped at the bank to exchange some currency. Not much of a tourist town just a hard core mining town. Dan thought it was different. As we walked down the one main street looking in the store windows Dan says “You would think it was a different country” Yes, right Dan. It is. As we ride out of town I remember what our hosts at Rock Lake resort said as we left. Well you’ll be able to say you seen it. He was right we did see it. I’m not sure why.
We stopped at the grocery store on the way out of town bought steaks for us and our hosts back at Rock lake resort. We hope to be able to trade for fish.
Did I mention that the bright blue sky had turned into rain clouds? Did I also mention that we left all our rain gear at the resort? Well it didn’t last long. On the way back we stopped for lunch at the one gas station at the intersection of the roads we want to go on tomorrow. The road we want to run is 108 miles long and we want to make sure that bud has a chance to get gas before his 120 mile gas tank runs dry. They tell us sure at the other end is another gas station. Cool,tomorrow we will fill up and run across the top of Manitoba between the lakes.
We arrived back at Rock Lake mid afternoon. A trade is made for a steak dinner and 6:00 is set as eating time. We had a feast. Steak, walleye, fruit, vegetables, shrimp, blueberry pie and ice cream. A great meal enjoyed with our hosts and their family. They really liked the steaks, we really liked the walleye. Their attitude is that the walleye interferes with their bass fishing. Such a problem to have. This is the only resort on the whole lake. Somewhere around the size of lake Mendota. No other resorts, no other cabins, just them. Nice place. Nice people. They spend their summers here on the lake and the winters back in La Pas. I can think of a worst way to live your life.
I’ve been to Flin Flon. Now to head home.
Thursday August 3 2006
It’s Thursday. I’m about 1500 miles from home and I need to be at work on Monday. We’ve been running about 250 miles a day. I have a challenge. Let’s get going. We plan to run between Hwy 10 and Hwy 6 this morning. Our map says its 108 miles with no towns in between. The locals tell us there is a gas station at the intersection. Remember that Bud’s bike can go about 120 miles and then he starts pushing it. We stop at the last gas station before the cross over road and fill our tanks. To be sure we fill a one gallon spare gas can. For 1 hundred miles there is nothing. No I mean nothing. Not a house, not a barn, not a rest area, nothing. I counted 15 cars going the other way in 100 miles. I didn’t pass a car nor was I passed by a car. Nothing! After a while I started playing games just to stay interested. I would change my speed by 5 MPH every 10 miles. Just for kicks. The trees were smaller. Maybe 5 feet tall. Nearing the tundra up here. There were plenty of lakes, but nothing on them. No cabins no boats nothing.
At 100 miles I start to wonder if we will need the spare gas for Bud’s bike. Within the next mile I spot the gas station. One gas station, one café and one motel. That’s it. 100 miles back. 70 miles north to Thompson, and 100 miles south to Grand Rapids.
The café had several guys in it from the power company in the area. I started talking to the young linemen about bikes. He tells me that he just got his first bike. He had wanted one for sometime and had just made the purchase. He said it’s kind of strange having a motorcycle there as they only have one road. Dorothy we’re not in Kansas anymore.
As we walk out of the café to get on our bikes three guys walk out behind us and walk into the bush. Strange. About three minutes later we first hear and then see their helicopter lift off. Hanging from a cable below the helicopter is a ring about 40 feet across with wires running up into the copter. Prospectors. Flying over the land with their instruments looking for minerals. With no other café for 100 miles around they landed their copter for lunch.
He headed south for the first time. The map says its 100 miles south until the next gas. This time instead of winding around the lakes and over hills it’s straight and flat. We’re running next to Lake Winnipeg for the next 350 miles. When I say flat and straight I mean that we have sections of road that are 20 miles long flat as a pancake. A good straight road, no cross roads and the speed limit is 60 MPH. Not another car for 50 miles. We stop in one section just because it’s so damn flat and straight. Now some of you who know me might wonder if I was tempted to bend the speed limit. I haven’t seen a police car on the road for 4 days. The road is straight and flat as far as I can see. I can report that my cruise control can be set at 100 MPH and left there for 20 miles. I can also tell you that BMW claims a top speed for my cycle in excess of 140 MPH. They did not lie.
After gas at Grand Rapids we make one more long straight run of 100 plus miles before we call it a day. 350 miles or so and we’re about 1 hour north of Winnipeg
End of a very strange ride and day 7.
Day 8 and 9
Friday and Saturday August 4 and 5 2006
I talked it over with the guys last night and I’m going to have to separate from them in order to make it home on time. We will ride together around Winnipeg and across the border to Grand Forks North Dakota. I think that’s where Dick Dalbey is from. Sorry Dick, but I use to feel bad about admitting that I was from Beloit. Not any more.
From Grand Forks the guys will head east on Hwy 2 until they get to Duluth and then head south on 53. I will continue south to Fargo and then blast home from there.
We wake up north of Winnipeg to dark gray clouds. In an effort to keep away the rain I put all my rain gear on and hope that it will appease the rain gods. It doesn’t work. It pours. I don’t know about you but sometimes my mind wanders a bit. Especially when I’m tucked up inside my rain gear. Helmet snug over my head and the rain coming down as hard as it can. Then it changes to fire hose mode. Then it just rains hard.
Those of you who have had the “good fortune” to go on canoe trips with me know that I sometimes sing. Well when I’m wearing a helmet I sometimes sing more. The blessing is that no one else has to hear me. When the rain is coming down I not only sing I make up songs. Today I did exactly that. The problem with making up songs while you are riding in the rain is that you have plenty of opportunity to sing the song over and over. I would estimate somewhere in the range of 6000 times. That’s 4000 times after I got done changing the lyrics. So here you are the Gary Osmond raining on my motorcycle song.
Sung to the music of It’s a Great Day.
It’s a great day for being a duck
It’s a great day for changing your luck
Oh it’s a great day for making sweet love
An staying in bed all of the time
An staying in bed all of the time
For those of you interested in the XXX version send $25 and a self addressed stamped envelope and we can take care of you. Or just make the words up yourself. Don’t forget you need to sing this little ditty 4000 time in one day to appreciate its true beauty.
We stop for lunch hoping the rain will pass. It doesn’t. At the US border it’s still coming down cats and dogs. Oh yes, “Where did you go in Canada?” “Flin Flon.” “Why there?” “I really don’t have a good answer.” They let me back in anyway. Within 10 miles of the border the sun comes out and the temperature raises 20 degrees.
At Grand Forks I say good by to the guys and beat feet south to Fargo. Somewhere just east of Fargo the heat and the riding catch up with me and I grab a room for the night. Somewhere around 400 miles today. I’ve only got about 400 more tomorrow. The hotel room seems large and quite with no one else in it. Not nearly as much fun.
Up early and on the road by 7:00. I’ve ridden this road several times before. Once for an Iron Butt ride. Oregon to Fargo and back in 24 hours. Today should not be too bad.
Lots of Harleys heading west to Sturgis. Also a lot of bikes on trailers headed the same way. So do they call themselves bikers or towers?
Along about 4:00 I roll into my driveway. Just short or 3000 miles. No accidents, no problems and I’m home. I’ve been to Flin Flon. I’m not sure why.
Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.
Published December 20, 2011 | By Amin
For those of you who have read the other ride journals I’ve decided to give you some warning. We’re off again.
Greta and I are headed to Alaska. Greta is my 2002 K1200rs BMW. I am a 1952 male Iron Butt motorcycle rider. Greta and I try to plan and execute a significant ride every year. This year it’s Alaska. It seems kind of obvious. We have done the coast to cost 50CC Iron Butt ride. We did Flin Flon last year. We have ridden thru 46 states. It’s time to pickup 2 more. Besides I’ve never been to Alaska.
Just in case you don’t know, an Iron Butt is a motorcycle rider who has completed a minimum of 1,000 documented miles on his or her bike within a 24 hour period. Check out the web site. The 1,000 miles is just the beginning of the insanity. It gets extreme after that. Which leads to the other reason for the trip to Alaska? Every year Ron Ayers sponsors a meeting of fellow Iron Butt riders in Hyder Alaska. Its purpose is to honor and meet those riders who are completing the 48 States plus Alaska ride. This ride is completed in 10 days or less. I AM NOT COMPLETING THE 48 STATES PLUS ALASKA RIDE. I just want to meet them there when they finish.
So here is the plan. It’s revised from my original plan as life has a way of doing that to you.
Day 1. On May 21 I will leave Brooklyn Wisconsin for Hyder Alaska. My first stop is Dickinson North Dakota. It’s about 800 miles. A good first day. Not exactly the most exciting riding but it will stretch Greta’s legs.
Day 2. Dickinson to Lethbridge Alberta. 630 mile across Montana. You know up until a few years back there was no speed limit on the highways of Montana. Let’s see if there are today.
Day 3. is a short one from Lethbridge to Banff National park. I have been assured that there will be no snow on the roads. Greta and snow covered roads is not a good mix. Let’s hope they are right. Only 250 miles so I should have a chance to look upon the mountains.
Day 4. Lake Louise to Prince George British Columbia. 400 miles thru the mountains of British Columbia. The map shows 4 towns on this section. Should be interesting.
Day 5. 430 miles from Prince George to Hyder. It’s one road in and one road out.
The plan is to spend a couple of days with the rest of the crazy’s in Hyder. Participate in an opportunity to Hyderize in the local pub and then head home. I will meet my brother and another riding buddy in Hyder on Friday. We will all ride back to Wisconsin together starting on Sunday.
Total trip, about 6000 miles. Five days out by myself. Seven days back with my riding buddies. I should be back on June 3. I don’t think I will have access to the internet along the way but I will keep some notes and post them when I return.
Keep the shiny side up
Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.
Hyder or Bust
Hyder or Bust
Well I did it. Greta and I rode to Hyder Alaska. We left May 21 and returned June 1st. About 5,145 miles. The purpose was to attend the meeting of long distance riders, greeting those riders completing their 48 plus 1 ride. The 48 plus 1 is a ride covering all 48 states plus Alaska. They do this ride in 10 days or less. Yes I know it sounds nuts. Maybe it is, but you have got to love the spirit of the thing. At any rate the end of their ride is in Hyder Alaska. So that’s where we go.
The original plan was to ride to Seattle with my brother Bud and another friend Bob. From there we would run north to Prince George, British Columbia then west to Hyder Alaska. The plan was to leave late Thursday May 17. Some how I forgot that my daughter was graduating from collage on Sunday May 20th. So I left on Monday May 21. I planned to meet up with Bud and Bob in Hyder.
Day One – Monday
It’s 5 AM and I’m awake and ready to go. Everyone else is still asleep in the house. I had said my good byes the night before. Greta, my 2002 BMW K1200rs, has been ready and packed for days. It’s just light out when I roll down my drive way and head for interstate 94 heading west. Dickenson, North Dakota is 826 miles away and is my goal for tonight. No fuss no muss. It was a warm day as I rolled across Minnesota. I had worn my blue jeans and strapped my normal riding pants on the rear seat. I figured it would be cooler that way. As a last thought as I left home I strapped my rain pants on my bike also. On the west side of Minneapolis I can see that it’s going to rain. I stopped before the rain started and pulled on my rain gear. Somewhere before Bismarck I spot the dark storm cell ahead and just to the north of the interstate. It looks worse as I get closer. I’m about two miles south of the storm when I begin to see the clouds circling. It’s not long after that that I see the funnel reach down from the clouds to the land. It’s the first time I have ever seen a tornado. Where I’m at there is no rain, just a strong wind blowing from the south towards the storm. Ahead of me it looks lighter and clear. I twist on the throttle and beet feet west.
My goal that day is Dickinson North Dakota. I stop for my last tank of gas in Bismarck. As I’m pumping my gas I look over to the pump across from me and notice a BMW 1200 RT that looks fitted out for long distance riding. The guy riding the bike walks up and looks over at me and says. Hyder? How do you figure these odds? I’m 800 miles from home. 1600 miles from Hyder. And I meet up with one of the 120 or so other people in the world that are on their way to Hyder. We chat for a while and head out on our separate routes. We promise to buy each other a beer when we get to Hyder. Along about 6:00 PM I pull into Dickinson and check into my motel for the night. It never fails, through out this ride, that I get to spend some time every day explaining to someone that I’m not nuts I’m just riding my bike to Alaska. This day was no exception.
826 Miles today
Day Two – Tuesday
Dickinson North Dakota to Lethbridge Alberta
Ok, so you get the idea that it rained. Just to the west of Dickinson I turned north and ran up until I hit HWY 2. I have often thought that it would be cool to take HWY 2 from coast to coast. That’s one of the reasons I turned north to find it. All the way across Montana I rode HWY 2. Not to spectacular. Lots of road construction. And rain. I was happy to see Shelby Montana and HWY 15 heading north. Shortly there after I cross into Canada.
Let me make an editorial comment about the difference between the US custom folks and the Canadian customs folks. They both seem cut from the same cloth. They both are careful and complete. The one difference seems to be that after you have answered all the questions and provided all the documentation The Canadians seem happy to have you in their country and are capable of smiling. The US guys seem to have a large stiff pointy thing stuffed up their you know what.
Oh well you got to look out for those terrorists who show up at our bounders on motor cycles.
On to Lethbridge.
Lethbridge is a nice, small, attractive town in southern Alberta. I believe the name may have something to do with the great, long train bridge that reaches across the valley.
641 Miles today
1467 miles into the trip
Day three – Wednesday
Lethbridge to the Crossings
Today I get to pass thru Calgary and enter the Canadian Rockies. It should be a short easy day. I planned to have time to explore some of the national parks at Banff and Lake Louise.
Not a real early start as I only had 250 miles to go today. I cruised up HWY 2 to Calgary. There is a beltline around Calgary or you can pass straight thru the city. I figure why not go thru the city? I’ve never been here before so I’m curious to see it. The hwy thru the city turns out to be surface streets. Oh well. I’m busy looking at all the big buildings and towers and miss my turn. Ok, so I wanted to see where the stampede is held anyway. Besides I’m good at bushwhacking thru cities. Not to long, with the help of my GPS and I find my way thru the city to Canada HWY 1. HWY 1 runs from coast to coast across Canada. Around Montreal, where I grew up, it was called 401. It takes me out of the city west towards Banff and the Rockies.
Did I mention the rain? Yes that’s three days running.
Calgary sits on the Canadian prairie. Flat all the way until the Rockies rise majestically before you. And rise they do. Great mountains covered with snow at the higher elevations. HWY 1 is a 4 lane road that follows the valley into Banff. Wonderful scenery surrounds the city and highway. Big time ski area and a tourist Mecca.
I cruise on thru and head for Lake Louise about 50 miles further into the mountains.
Lake Louise is the address for the Crossing resort I have reservations for the night at.
I roll into Lake Louise and fill up my gas tank. From this point on I will pay close attention to my gas situation. I know that there will be many times from now on when I will push the limits of my gas range. Greta gets about 180 miles on a tank of gas, depending on how fast I go. There will be times over the next two weeks when gas stops will be at least 150 miles apart. I hope those stations are open.
I drive down the first street looking for the Crossings.
I drive down the second street looking for the Crossings.
I drive down the third street looking for the Crossings.
No more streets.
I did get to see the Château looking hotel that sits on Lake Louise. If you have ever seen photos of the Canadian Rockies you have seen this hotel. Very classy, very expensive. Not exactly the place for a guy on a bike with three days of road grime and a full set of rain gear to be walking around.
I went back to the one street village and found the Canadian national park information center. Sure they can tell me where the Crossings is at. 77 Kilometers (K) up the Icefield parkway towards Jasper. Ok. That’s the way I was headed anyway. 77 K that’s about 40 miles, no problem. I pull out of Lake Louise and head off to the parkway. National park road with an $8.90 toll. No big deal. As I’m paying my toll at the entrance to the parkway the rain that had been coming down turns to snow. Big flakes of snow mixed with rain. Flakes so big that the time it takes me to pay the toll and pull my gloves back on I’m covered with snow so I look white. The guy at the booth says no problem it’s melting and I will just have wet roads to deal with.
He was right. I had wet roads to deal with. And SNOW. The snow soon covered the outside of my face shield and fog covered the inside of my face shield. I also had clouds. They covered the mountains I was climbing into. Yes mountains. Do you know what happens to the temperature when you climb mountains? Do you know what happens to rain and wet snow when the temperature changes as you climb mountains? 40 miles of freezing rain snow and slush. Not a fun ride. I knew it was only 40 miles. I figured I could make it. Indeed I did. I rolled into the Crossings resort early in the afternoon with dark gray sky. Mountains covered with clouds and a big smile on my face. The young lady who checked me into the hotel asked me where I thought I was going. I told her nowhere now. She smiled and told me where the pub was located in the resort. Great place. Nice rooms, ok food and a great pub. A couple of beers in the pub watching the snow come down. I did wonder if I was going to spend more than one night here. Oh well I’ll worry about that tomorrow. End of day three.
296 miles today
1763 miles into the trip
Day Four – Thursday
Crossings to Prince George
I woke up at my usual o dark early time. Walked over to the window. Drew back the curtain and took a look outside. I turned around and crawled back under the covers. The world outside was white. Not just a dusting.
A couple of hours later I looked again. It was still white. The ground, the buildings, and Greta was covered with about 2 inches of snow. The parking lot and road looks wet but not snow covered. OK, breakfast at least. As I strolled over to the restaurant the parking lot was wet with some slush. The hiway was wet with a little less slush. Doable. But no cars on the road. I found the bread delivery truck in the parking lot. The driver said he had come in from the north and it wasn’t bad. He then noticed my bike and gear and shook his head. Yea he said I could make it but to be careful by the glacier ice fields. OK, I can do this. Scrape the snow and ice off Greta. Scrape off the tachometer and Speedo. Scrape off the ignition so I can get the key in. You get the idea.
So now you are expecting a detailed report on how I drove the next 100 miles to Jasper thru the snow and ice. I don’t remember. Yes I recall seeing some big mountains. I remember seeing a quick glance at some glaciers. I remember frozen slush and snow at the highest point on the route. But mostly what I remember is thinking that if I die here at least my body will be preserved. It was the scariest riding I have ever done. My ass hole was so tight I couldn’t have pooped a raison.
I do remember rolling into Jasper. Cute tourist town. Looks like it wants to be a Canadian version of Aspen. I think the Canadians do the ski resort better than we do. Oh yes the best part was sitting in the snooty little coffee house with all my motorcycle gear on having my cappuccino. I made it thru.
One gas stop from Jasper to Prince George BC.
The rain stopped.
Did you hear me? The rain stopped.
It’s a nice ride from Jasper to Prince George. The first section runs up through the wooded mountains. Nice curves and fun hills. A good ride. And the rain stopped. About half way to Prince George you join up with the only other highway in this part of the world. It comes up from Vancouver. It’s the most likely way for someone riding to Hyder to be coming. I see my second (remember the chance meeting in North Dakota) Iron Butt rider. We’re going north on a wide valley, mountains to the west and east. My gas stop is 15 miles up the road. The speed limit is 110 K. For some reason that’s what I’m doing. Passing me like a blur is a BMW LT with a passenger. Two miles later I pass the LT while he is discussing his performance with a RCMP representative. As I’m pumping gas at my stop the LT pulls in to do the same. He says they got him doing 138K. He received a nice performance reward from the RCMP. See you in Hyder, and I’m off. Just out of town two BMW GS bikes come up behind me moving fast. It’s a straight section so I wave them pass. Off they go. 60 seconds later another RCMP car coming the other way does a U turn in front of me and is off after the two GS’s. Two more awards are issued. The rest of the ride into Prince George is quite and never above the posted speed limit. It’s early to be stopping in Prince George but I can use a rest after riding thru the mountains and snow to get here. Prince George is a sizable town, 40,000 or so. It’s a railroad and paper mill town. The hotel I stop at gives me a suite for the cost of a single. Maybe they wanted to hide me in the back. No, they were just being nice. A beer and a buffalo burger in the local sports pub and it’s off to bed. I did find a note on my bike from a fellow K1200rs rider inviting me to stop and have coffee in the morning at the fire house. I didn’t think he would want to get up at 5:00 am when I left.
390 miles today
1857 miles into the trip
Day Five – Friday
Prince George to Hyder
The last stretch to Hyder. With an early start I figure I can easily make it by early afternoon. Its 200 miles from Prince George to the next town of any size, Smithers. I remember looking at the map before I left wondering of I was going to have problems getting gas along the way. It was really no problem as there are a couple of small towns along the way. When I say small I mean one street towns. I did stop at a rest area along the way and talked to a man and wife who had been to Hyder before. Yes I did get to explain the whole Iron Butt thing and the fact that I had left Wisconsin 4 days before.
Around noon I passed thru Smithers. The GPS says its 50 miles to the road I turn off on to head to the coast and Hyder. Smithers is a small town about the size of Oregon. It looks like it might be a ski town as there are mountains covered with snow right at the edge of town. It has the usual Tim Hortins (Canadian version of Starbucks), and A&W. I also noticed a Harley Davidson dealership as I passed thru.
Down the road I come to the intersection with HWY 37. This is my turn to Hyder. A gas station at the corner so I stop and gas up. No telling where the next station may be.
Its 137 miles from that gas station to Hyder according to my GPS. Let’s hope it’s right. Did I mention it’s raining? You can assume its raining, or snowing, anywhere in this narrative that I don’t say otherwise.
137 miles of road and trees. That’s all. No houses. No farms. No stores. No nothing. Not even any cars. Well there was one thing. I counted 15 black bears on or next to the road in those 137 miles. At first I slowed down to look at them and give them a chance to move off the road. They don’t move much. I don’t think their eye sight is very good. But they do hear. If you honk your horn they skedaddle back into the woods. You can get pretty blasé about bears after 8 or 9 of them. When you get to 15 you are just concerned that they get out of your way.
A moment to list the critters I spotted on this trip. Black bears, Moose, Deer, Elk, Antelope, Mule deer, Mountain goats, Eagles and Wolf.
About 20 miles from Hyder the road splits. 37 goes to Hyder and 37A heads north into Alaska. #8 drops down into a valley, well more like a canyon than anything else. It’s between mountains reaching up 4000 feet on one side, river and a road and mountains reaching up 4000 feet on the other side. The canyon floor is about 200 feet wide. You can see where the snow avalanches have come down one side of the valley, across the river and the road and back up the other side. How can I tell? Because the trees on one side are knocked down the mountain. The trees on the other side are knocked up the mountain. Did I mention the snow? Well it’s still here from the winter. They get 38 feet of snow in this area in the winter. No that’s not a typo, I said 38 feet. They get so much snow on this road that they don’t use snow plows, they use bulldozers. They get so much snow that the biggest effort is shoveling the snow off their roofs to keep them from collapsing.
At the bottom of the valley it meets the sea. I would call it a fiord.
The small town of Stewart BC sits at the end of the road. Down a ½ mile of gravel road is the town of Hyder Alaska. I’ve made it.
Stewart is about 4 small streets. There is the Prince Edward Hotel where I’ll be staying. A couple of liquor stores a gas station and maybe 2 dozen houses. Hyder has one bar/hotel and 12 houses. The total population is around 100. I spotted Bud taking pictures of the big city. I got my gas and rolled into Hyder to register with the event organizers. There are now more wacko Iron Butt riders in town than there are citizens.
As I park my bike on the dusty gravel road in front of the bar where we register for the Hyder Seek several things come to my attention. There was no customs house as I went from Stewart BC to Hyder Alaska. There are more long distance bikes parked in front of the bar than I have ever seen in one place before. And most important to me, the rear tire on my bike is worn out. It’s worn out as in I can see the cords in the body of the tire. This is not a good thing. I’m sure there are no tires to be bought in Stewart or Hyder. The next closest town is 200 miles away. The nearest town likely to have a BMW dealer with tires is about 1000 miles away. SHIT! I think I’ll have a beer. I meet and greet several of the other riders and think about my problem. Maybe I can have tires shipped in. I do remember seeing two bike dealerships in the last town I came thru. Or at least a sign for Honda and one for Harley Davidson. Well there is a chance. I find the Harley dealership in the phone book and call them. Yes, YES!! They have my tires and can put them on. It’s Friday and I ask them when they want me there. They say Saturday afternoon. I’ll be there. Somehow I’ll be there with my bike. Its 200 miles away. I have a bike with a rear tire that I think has a 50/50 chance that it can make it. I’ll be there. But tonight I’m drinking beer in Hyder Alaska. I don’t believe I’ll think about my bike breaking down on the road with the black bears. I’ll have another beer.
Fill a bar on the edge of Alaska with 120 long distance motorcycle riders. Add beer and fresh sea food and the BS is likely to get a little thick.
Three stories stick out in my mind.
One, the guy sitting next to me at the table is called bear bate. It seems he was attacked by a black bear 3 months ago while camping in the Rockies. Not a story I want to think about considering my ride the next day. He does have a spectacular set of scars on his head.
Two, there are two guys at my table that are leaving tomorrow for the Artic Ocean. They are riding to Inuvik. Their major concern is that they have to arrive at the Mackenzie River either before the ice goes out so they can ride across or after it clears out so they can ride the ferry across. That was their major concern. Not the 2500 miles of gravel road there and then back. Iron Butt riders, you got to love them.
The last story comes from Gary, the owner of the bar. A nice guy, a retired Marine. I asked hem what he did all winter with the 38 feet of snow. His response was that he sits on the beach in Mexico. He said the last thing he does before he leaves is hires someone to shovel the snow off the roof so it doesn’t collapse. The best story was also one from Gary. I’ll let him tell it.
‘You should have been here last week” he says.
“Why is that?” I respond. I know how to set up a story teller.
“Well we had a bar fight and I had to throw the two guys out”
You have to picture a bar on a dusty gravel street. The bar does indeed have swinging doors.
“I guess there was no more beer for them that night”, I comment.
“Yea”, Gary says. “But that wasn’t the end of it.” “One of the guys went to his pickup and got his shot gun.” “He went and blasted away at the other guy.”
“What did you do?” I asked.
“Well I went behind the bar and got my rifle. I put a hole in his leg.”
That was it. No fuss, no muss. He just shot him.
“Yea”, Gary says. “I couldn’t have him coming back into the bar with a shot gun”
I did see the guy who was shot with the shot gun limping around the town. Apparently the guy who was shot in the leg with the rifle is still in the hospital in Smithers, 200 miles up the road.
No fuss. No muss. No cops. No lawyers. No courts. And the guy in Smithers will be back in town drinking in Gary’s bar in a couple of days. After all it’s the only bar in town.
I don’t even care if the story is true. You have got to love Alaska.
Day Six Saturday
Hyder to Smothers BC
So, it’s Saturday morning around 7:00 AM. I need to be in Smithers to get my tires changed at 2:00 PM. It’s almost exactly 200 miles from Hyder. The first sign of civilization is 137 miles down the road. Until I get to the intersection with HWY 16 there is nothing. Well nothing but the 15 black bears I saw on the way in. And the rear tire is worn down to the thread. It all sounds like a bad movie script doesn’t it?
I say so long to my brother and agree to meet him on Sunday afternoon in Smithers. He and Bob will meet me in Smithers on Sunday after the end of the Hyder Seek meeting on Saturday. Yes it’s raining. I start off down the road hoping for the best. Well at least hoping someone will come down the road soon after my tire goes flat. I’m thinking that at least there are a lot of pickup trucks around these parts so maybe I can get someone to haul me into Smithers. I’m also thinking about how the bears ran off when I honked my horn. So if I stay with my bike until someone comes along I can honk at the bears. I’m going slow trying to save my tire. It occurs to me that if I ride on the most worn part of the road it might help. So I ride in the worn tire tracks of the road. I also ride in the wettest part of the road thinking it may help keep my tire cool. Do you think I’m desperate? After awhile I spot a truck pulling a trailer ahead. It dawns on me that if I pass them and then have a flat I may be able to flag them down for help.
137 miles later I come to the cross roads with HWY 16. I stopped to get gas and breathe again. HWY 16 has some traffic and I know I wouldn’t be left stranded. Just about 11:00 I pull into Smithers. It’s time for lunch and a beer. I’m feeling much better now.
After lunch I ride over to the Harley dealer and make arrangements to have the tires changed.
Just another day in the life of the Long Distance Motorcycle rider.
Day 7 Sunday
Smithers to Prince George
400 miles back to Prince George. It’s a bit strange to be riding with other bikes. Smooth ride with the only excitement the two moose we see along the road.
Day 8 Monday
Prince George to the Crossings
I’ve talked Bud and Bob into going back thru the glacier highway between Jasper and Lake Louise. We plan to stop at the same resort I stayed at on the way up. This time I plan to see the mountains and glaciers not just the ice on the road.
The most spectacular mountain scenery I have ever had a chance to view, bar none.
Mountains that never stop. Glaciers hanging from many passes. It’s everything we learned about in our physical geography courses. In a word spectacular. It’s even better than I thought it was going thru in the snow.
One additional note. The young lady who checked us in at the Crossings resort remembered me. Her comment was. Oh, you made it up the road. I hadn’t realized that there was any doubt by the staff at the resort. A good beer followed by a soak in their hot tub and an early start the next day.
Day 9 Tuesday
The Crossings to Shelby Montana
An early start on a sunny morning provides us with 77 klicks of riding through the mountains to Lake Louise. I hadn’t used my iPod much on this trip but this was a morning for tunes. A great set of curves running down the mountain valleys listening to James Taylor. With some regret we passed through Banff and entered the flat land to Calgary. I remembered the traffic going thru Calgary so as we approached the city I decided my GPS could provide a better route around the city that would make it quicker and easier. Well almost. Sorry Guys. It seems I didn’t cut off enough of the city and we had to work our way through some construction.
Running south from Calgary across the flat plains.
In the middle of nowhere is the boarder crossing back into the US.
Once again we pass thru the boarder with no problems, but certainly with no welcome home from our custom agents. So be it. We’re back home in the US. A nice room in a Shelbey hotel with a pool. Looks good to me. Besides, tomorrow is an IRON BUTT day.
Day 10 Wednesday
Shelby Montana to Fargo North Dakota
My two riding companions are IRON BUTT virgins. Meaning they have never qualified for membership in the Iron Butt association. This is something they want to correct on this trip. Today is the day. The plan is to leave at 5:00 AM today and ride down to HWY 94 and then head east to Fargo. If they can get there before 5:00 AM tomorrow they will have completed over 1,000 miles in 24 hours. I, as a member in good standing of the Iron Butt association can witness their ride. I’ve been coaching these two for over week that this is something they can easily do. I remind them that it’s not about their top speed, but it’s about not stopping. As we get on our bikes I also remind them that one, I can’t go as far as they can on a tank of gas, but not to worry, I’ll catch up, they should keep on going. And two that when they get tired they should stop and take a rest. They have plenty of time.
We’re off. Bud sets the pace and he is moving along. It’s his 5 over strategy. It has something to do with 5 over 70 and 5 over 75 and 5 over 80, well you get the idea. I continue to follow along bringing up the rear. This is a no sweat ride for me. I have nothing to prove. I’m just along for the ride. As I cruse along trying to keep up with the guys I do my mileage calculations and I think I’ll stop at Great Falls for gas. This is about 50 miles before Bud and Bob will be stopping for their first gas stop.
I’ve been looking at my GPS thinking about the route. I’ve also been thinking about this 1,000 mile ride. You know I’m under no obligation to ride 1,000 miles today. Just Bud and Bob are trying to complete an Iron Butt ride. I just promised to witness their departure and their arrival. You know what? There is a highway running across Montana that would cut about 200 miles off this ride. As Bud and Bob continue south I stop for gas in Great Falls and make my decision to take the short cut. They don’t see me turn off and will continue on their planned long distance ride. I head east across the heart of Montana. 100 miles between towns, no traffic, just miles and miles of grazing land. Nice ride. I also get a chuckle about how I will be rested and waiting for the guys when they show up in Fargo.
Did I mention the rain? As I said before if I don’t say otherwise it was raining. Across Montana it was a drizzle. Across North Dakota it was a down pour. It was a frog drowner. It came down in tank car size drops. It rained a lot. I stopped once to get out of the rain and eat pie. Good pie. Yes sometimes we ride to eat. Other times we eat to ride. I stopped again to have hot chocolate. A long wet day. I must admit that with my rain gear I can stay pretty dry all day long on my bike.
I arrived in West Fargo, our Iron Butt end location, about 5:00 pm. I checked into a Hotel room cleaned up and took a nap. I figured the guys would take about 17 hours for their ride. That would put them in at about 10:00 PM. At about 8:00 I’m looking out the window of my hotel and see Bud roll into the gas station across the street. He pumps his gas, gets the bill and officially ends his Iron Butt ride. I walk over has he finishes filling his tank and congratulate him. He says thanks, how the heck did you get here first? My response is, “Well, I’m just quick.” I did admit later to the short cut.
So where is Bob? Bud says he got separated from him in the fog. He hasn’t seen him all day. About 11:00 we get a call from Bob. It seems he took the wrong interstate when 90 and 94 separate. He is about 250 miles south of us. He did complete his Iron Butt ride. He will head on home tomorrow and we will see him there.
Day 11 Thursday
Fargo to Eau Clare
An easy no stress ride from Fargo thru the twin cities and into Eau Claire for the night. Well there was one exception to the no stress part. It seems that one of us was leading when we came to the twin cities. The choice was do we go thru the cities or around one of the beltline roads north or south. The traffic was light coming into the city despite it being 4:30. So our fearless leader decides to blast thru the city. Wrong choice. Of course any idiot would know that the traffic does not backup going into the city at 5:00. It backs up going out of the city. So call me a dumb small town kind of guy. Two hours of crawling along in stop and stop traffic and we made it out the other side. Oh by the way it didn’t rain today. Of course it was 90 degrees while we were sitting in the twin cities traffic.
Day 12 Friday
Fargo to Brooklyn Wisconsin
Going home. Taking a short ride from Eau Claire to Brooklyn. I’ve done this ride many times. The best part was stopping for gas in Tomah. We got our gas and were having a cool drink at the station. Two other guys on bikes park next to us and we start talking. I ask where they are heading and with some pride they say, “All the way to South Dakota, the Black Hills.” “Nice ride”, I respond. They ask where we are headed. I respond, “Home.” “Oh, where are you coming from?” “Alaska”, I respond. Now that will get you some respect in the rider community.
Home early evening. 5,145 miles from the start.
Great ride. I’d do it again today. Alaska was even better than people had told me it was. I will be going back. Long distance riding is one of the more rewarding things I do. And
Greta performed to my complete delight.
The next one? Well I have been talking about the border to border ride from Mexico to Canada in 24 hours. Then again I’ve always wanted to go to Yellow Horse. From there you go south to Alaska.
Keep the shiny side up.
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