Following are two excerpts from my book "Motorcycling Stories - Adventure Touring from the Northwest Territories to the Yucatan Peninsula" about my seventh trip to Alaska when I rode a 2001 BMW R1150GS.
"My primary objective for riding to Alaska for a seventh time was to see my grandson Robyn graduate from high school. I would also get to see my granddaughter Asia, who had taken a brief hiatus from her college studies to accept a government job working for the Air National Guard there. I figured the main thing I would get from the ride itself would be seeing some outstanding scenery in the mountains during the spring season when everything is still white with snow and the roads are free of traffic. There should be practically no RV traffic to contend with in mid May, making it a safer and much more enjoyable trip than during the tourist season. I left on May 19th, almost two weeks earlier than I had ever left for Alaska before and a full eleven days before Robyn’s graduation. The eleven days included at least two extra days in case I ran into snow. My original plan included nine fairly short days of riding in each direction, which I figured should be more than enough.
"I would turn 76 in June and my physical condition was pretty good for my age. When I mentioned the trip to my cardiologist he just smiled and said, "Go for it." Of course he’s an eternal optimist, which is why I chose him. I think my ophthalmologist may have had a few concerns because I have blind spots and a few other problems involving both eyes; but I recently passed my motor vehicle eye test and I’ve learned to live and ride with my eye problems. Aside from that, I have several stiff and aching joints, especially in the morning, but I can live with those too, as long as I can manage to get my shoes on and tied, and get my rain suit and boots on when I need them.
"Initially I planned my route via Spokane, WA to avoid possible snow in the northern Rockies, but when I researched the British Columbia area on the Internet I learned that the Cassiar Highway between Hazelton, BC and Watson Lake in the Yukon Territory was in poor condition. Deep mud was reported along some of the dirt sections and there was considerable one-way, single-lane traffic due to washouts. If I had all the time in the world to get there, and if I was packing a tent and sleeping bag, I would risk it, because it’s more scenic that way. But I didn’t have all the time in the world and I was traveling as light as possible. Typical spring weather, including some rain and sleet was also reported in the area between Spokane and Hazelton.
"The Alaska Highway route through the northern Canadian Rockies on the other hand didn’t seem half-bad for spring travel. The road surface was reported clear with reports of some frost heaves, many breaks in the pavement, and a few minor, isolated landslides. It’s always been that way, even during some of my better trips, so I revised my route to enter Canada via Saskatchewan and head straight for the Alaska Highway at Dawson Creek, BC. Twenty-two miles of construction were reported on the Alaska Highway in the western part of the Yukon Territory, but I would have to cope with that section on either route I chose."
The following excerpt begins at a gas stop on Day 7:
"I took a 15-minute break at Haines Junction after noticing a fresh pot of coffee in the office. While there I took a chance and removed my rain suit, which took about 15 minutes while I finished my coffee. I had to peel off some of it anyway to use the toilet.
"West of Haines Junction the road surface got much worse and if I hadn’t put extra air in the tires I think I would have bent the rims on at least one of the huge potholes I hit. It was particularly rough around Lake Kluane where the road skirts the edge of the lake for several miles. That was where I encountered some rocks in the road from a minor landslide, and also the first traffic of the trip. There were about a dozen large motor homes, house trailers, and pickup campers traveling slowly because of the roughness. I assumed they had just gotten off the ferry in Haines because of the way they were bunched together. I had no trouble getting by, but I was glad I didn’t have to cope with that kind of traffic all the way.
"Between Burwash Landing and Beaver Creek I ran into the 22 miles of road construction that I had heard about. It was dry with loose gravel on the surface, which made the bike fishtail quite a bit and I left a long trail of dust. I met a few large motor homes along there too, which were more difficult to pass because of their huge dust trails. I would usually wait until the dust was blown away by a gust of wind before I attempted the pass. There were several pockets of work activity, but I was stopped only a few times for a few minutes each time.
"After clearing US customs near Beaver Creek I also found the Alaskan roads to have several huge frost breaks. I got to Tok around 2 PM Alaska Time, having gained two hours crossing the border. If I had not been nodding off from the lack of sleep I would have continued; but I was already more than a day ahead of my schedule and I had been on the road for 10 hours, so I decided to take a motel there. I also wasn’t too enthused about stopping in Glennallen. I chose the same motel in Tok where I had stayed a few times before. The room cost $67, which was the highest price I paid for any night of the trip. Gas prices were also high there, especially considering that they pay no state taxes in Alaska. It was about 20 cents higher than the average price of gas in the US. In Canada I paid as much as a dollar a liter. It was my toughest day of the trip so far, having covered 520 miles of very rough road on a few hours sleep.
I took very few photos during the trip but what I did take are below:
Around Pink Mountain the scenery begins to get spectacular.
Lake Kluane Provincial Park in the Yukon
This fella on a new Harley stayed with me for a few hours on the Alaska Hwy
One-room cabin at Mukluk Annie's - one of my favorite stops because of their famous "salmon-bake" restaurant and buffet. The toilet, sink and bed in the tiny cabin are all in the same open-landscape area. See second photo below.
Signpost Park in Watson Lake, YT. I ate a granola bar here for lunch.
Near Haines Junction where I stopped for gas and coffee.
High school graduation ceremony
Proud Mom (my daughter Donna) and my grandson Robyn
Donna, Robyn and Asia (my oldest of 10 grandchildren)
A quick tire change at Phil Bourdon's farm in Augusta, Wisconsin