It is a very common reaction that we get, when we tell
people we are going to Alaska
on a motorcycle and returning, in 7 days. Most people think we are crazy,
especially those that have been on, or ride a motorcycle. It is impossible to
explain the thrill and excitement of riding across the United States on a motorcycle, but
I will try.
Ever since we were informed that we were selected to be in
the 2009 Iron Butt Rally, we have been refining our long distance riding skills
and techniques. Since we are riding as a two up team, it is important to
function as one unit. This means having the same sleep and wake cycles as well
as food and rest stop cycles. This has always seemed to come natural to us.
When riding long distances on a motorcycle, the key is to
keep moving. One of the biggest downfalls for people trying to rack up miles in
a day, is stopping too long at gas stations. This eats up valuable riding time.
We have decided not to add an extra fuel cell to the BMW for the Iron Butt
Rally. Many people have told us that this will make us less than competitive in
the rally. We will simply be "tourists". We tend to disagree. In
three months, we will know if this was a bad decision.
Jeff and I usually ride for 3 hrs,
about 200 miles, and then stop for fuel. This gives us a chance to get off the
bike, use the restroom, and have a quick stretch. We have worked very hard to
keep each of these stops under 10 minutes. Before leaving for Alaska, we packed up a number of nutritious
and healthy snacks, that we could eat while on the bike. This kept us from
getting hungry or tired at the wrong times. It also made our fuel stops that
much more efficient. It's amazing what I could eat on the back of the bike with
my helmet on. I think this was one of the smartest things we figured out. It
kept us satisfied and moving - the key to long distance riding.
Before leaving for Alaska,
we had to make sure the two youngest of our six children would be properly
cared for. The majority of this task fell upon our middle son, Colin, who is
17. Since we would be gone over Memorial Day Weekend, he would have three long
days to keep them entertained. He also had the added responsibility of taking
care of all of the pets. If anyone can handle this task with ease, Colin can
Day 1 (Shorewood, WI to Shelby,
Our alarm clock rang at 1am. The motorcycle was all
repacked. We simply needed to get up, get dressed, and ride. We were riding
down the driveway at 2AM, as planned. The weather was cool, but not cold (mid
40°F's). We would have two gas stops before meeting up with friends Fred and Ann, who would ride with us from St
Paul, MN to the Enchanted Highway in North Dakota.
Things were going smoothly until shortly after meeting up
with Fred and Ann. Jeff's face shield detached itself from his helmet.
A quick stop on the side of the road and a repair was made. We were back
riding, even though this ate up an additional 12 minutes!
As we entered North
****** Dakota, the skies darkened and we experienced rain
for about an hour. There were some cross winds that only proved to be mildly
annoying. Fred and Ann left us in North Dakota and we
We road on into Montana
and continued on our journey. Nothing significant happened in Montana. We arrived in Shelby, MT
at 8:15pm mountain time. The first and longest day of 1387 Miles took us 19
hours and 15 minutes.
We checked into the O'Haire Manor Motel in Shelby, MT.
The hotel provided us with a bed and a shower and not much else. I decided to
see what I could find for food. Everything in Shelby was closed at 9pm, so we decided to
order Pizza Hut Pizza and have it delivered. It arrived fast and was hot. Day 1
Today we had the luxury of sleeping in until 4AM. We were
on the road a little before 5am. Since we had filled up with gas the night
before, we simply headed towards Canada. By 6AM we were at the
US/Canada border. We had no trouble crossing over into Canada. The border agent was a
little confused by our trip, but sent us along.
Almost 200 miles into our journey and it was time for the
first gas stop. We were both very cold, as we noticed that the temperature was
only 28°F. We took advantage of the stop, and got hot coffee at the gas
station. We met a delivery truck driver in the lot. He told us that spring was
very late in coming this year to Canada, and that's why it was so
From there, we drove through Calgary. Traffic was bad even on a Saturday
morning. We were glad to leave Calgary
and head towards the mountains.
As we approached Banff
and the Ice fields Parkway, the scenery was beautiful. We were fortunate that
the weather was sunny and warming up. We only saw one elk and a few deer
on the side of the road. This was by far, one of the most beautiful rides we
have ever been on.
The time changed again. We were now on Pacific time. We
entered McBride by mid afternoon. Debbie and Barry were kind enough to offer us
a night of lodging at their home, even though we had never met. Barry is also a
long distance motorcycle rider, that we spoke with on the discussion
board. He also has a twin of Jeff's
Motorcycle, a BMW R1150RT. We were able to shower, call home and have a cold
beer. It was a great way to relax after our 'short' 600 mile ride for the day.
We went out for supper with Barry and Debbie and then off
to visit some of their friends. We met kind and generous Kelly, Sharon + Meagan? who had a
great piece of land where they grew grapes for wine. They also had horses and
chickens. The highlight of the day was meeting their wild beaver, that was part
of the family. We also leaned what a 'Grow-Op' is.
After learning more history of McBride and Canada,
we were off to bed. We wanted to leave at 5:30 the next morning to make our way
Barry was going to lead us out of McBride to Prince George.
At 4am we heard a sound that we thought was our 'screaming
meanie". We tried to shut it off but couldn't. We learned that it was the
smoke alarm. Barry was up and making toast and coffee. He had a slight mishap
with the toast, which set off the alarm. This simply put us on the road 30
Barry was kind enough to lead us to Prince George. Along the way, we saw too many
Elk to count, along with numerous Moose and two Bears. The wildlife was
definitely out and about.
We had the most beautiful ride along Highway 16 towards Alaska. We saw many more
Moose and Bears along the way. the final ride from New Hazelton to Hyder, AK
was breathtaking. We were up close and personal with glaciers and bears.
We arrived in Hyder,
AK at 3:30pm. We had to go back
to get gas. We then checked into our room at the Sealaska Inn. I think we were
the only guests there. We had an awesome meal. I got "Hyderized" and
we were off to our room. I took one last walk around Hyder before heading back
to our room. Based on comments from Barry, and out quickly vaporizing rear
tire, we decided to change our return route. Instead of going south to Vancouver, we decided to go southeast to WilliamsLake.
We made our plans and then off to sleep.
We awoke to our "screaming meanie" at 2am. I
guess we messed up the times again. We wanted to be up at 4 and out by 5. We
reset and tried again. At 5am we were back on the road. Once we were back in Canada,
the bears were out in force. We saw a number of bears along the side of the
road. They all looked hungry, so Jeff
never slowed down enough for me to get a good picture.
We took highway 16 back to Prince
George and then followed highway 97 to WilliamsLake.
We checked into an Econo Lodge for the night. Connected to the hotel was a
Denny's Restaurant. We walked over and had cold beer and a big meal. Back to
the room. Jeff went to shower and
found that there was no hot water. The front desk said that the problem was
fixed and we would have hot water in 20 minutes. One hour later, I took my cold
We were up at 4am. We still didn't have hot water. We were
on the bike by 5am and headed to Spokane,
Washington. We twisted our way
through the twisty mountain roads past Kamloops
Somewhere up in the mountains, Jeff,
preoccupied with scenery and wildlife, missed the sign that there was a very
sharp 25km turn in the road, followed by immediately by a metal angled railroad
crossing, the edge of the mountain, and no guardrail. Jeff
made a skillful recovery and kept us from riding off into the abyss. I was
never really scared.
As we drove further towards the US border, we saw dozens of
vineyards and acres and acres of peach trees. The smells were awesome.
Suddenly, we made a sharp turn and we were back in the USA. Another couple of hours and we
checked into our hotel in Spokane,
WA. It was nice to be back in the
We had a quick meal at the Mexican Restaurant across the
street, and then off to bed.
Up and out by 4am. We only had 867 miles to travel today
to reach Rapid City, South Dakota. This morning we traveled along
Highway 90 through the pan handle of Idaho.
The temperature was in the upper 20's. It was very cold. We saw numerous deer
in the mountains. Fortunately, they all stayed along the sides of the roads.
We had great weather and an 11 1/2 hour ride to Rapid City. We
checked into our familiar Days Inn hotel. A quick trip across the parking lot
took us back to Kelly's Sports Bar for cold beer and deep fried food. It was a
We were up again bright and early. We would travel across South Dakota, through Minnesota
and home to Wisconsin.
Our only concern was the excessive wear on the rear tire. Fortunately, we had good
weather, and the near bald rear tire managed to get us home. (Note just
5500 miles and the Dunlop RoadSmart was toast)
We arrived in Shorewood,
WI at 4:30 pm to happy and
relieved children and happy pets. We accomplished our goal of riding to our 49th
state. The 2009 Iron Butt Rally HERE WE COME!
ballscasten • 2009-09-28 Nice report, hope you carry spot on the Iron Butt so we can track your progress. Thanks again
LonnyGammel • 2009-07-30 Great story and pictures, I will be traveling the same stretch of highway in a couple of days "north to Alaska"
I hope I enjoy it as much as yous did...
jfremder • 2009-06-05 Wow-
This is the best ride report EVER! The pictures are great and the prose is terrific. You must have a wonderful husband who really enjoys spending all that time with you! You are very lucky!!
poorboy • 2009-06-03 Great report, I also have been bitten by the long distance bug and have done several long distnce runs. Don't try to explain it to your friends, they would not understand. Good luck in the Iron Butt, sounds like you have got all your prep work done. Oh, change that tire.
HOGCDR • 2009-06-02 Made the Alaska ride last year, did not have SPOT until this year. ****** I'm trying to learn how to use it with the tracker system and posting pictures. ****** Great job!
kerkhof • 2009-06-02 great report...good way of using spot...i wasn't aware you could use it this way...have to try myself...see you guys in spartanburg in a couple of weeks...greets michiel from belgium
schoeby • 2009-06-02 Standing ovation - great job in posting to SA!!
jbeech • 2009-05-30 "It is a very common reaction that we get, when we tell people we are going to Alaska on a motorcycle in 7 days. Most people think we are crazy.."
You don't say! 5000 miles on a bike in 7 days is a lot of ground to cover! :-) A really nice track. Thx for posting.