There and Back – The Whitehorse Adventure – Day 5

Watson Lake to Whitehorse – 438kms

We awoke in the morning to a light drizzle outside and the prospect of more rain over the course of the morning. Today’s destination would be the titular Whitehorse, but we would have to stop in Teslin for gas, and as it turned out, breakfast too.

After getting the bikes all packed up in light rain, we headed out for breakfast. Our host,Mike, had mentioned that Archie’s, where we had dinner the night before, was a good breakfast place, and we saw breakfast items on the menu. However when we rolled up to Archie’s, it was closed until 11am – it was 830am or so and there was no way we were going to wait.

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So we proceeded down the highway to the gas station at the edge of Watson Lake, fueled up and headed out in the rain.

After rolling along for some time, Louise finally accepted “defeat” and asked to pull over to put on her heated jacket. We stopped at a rest stop where the rain had petered out to a light mist and we both pulled out our heated jackets to put them on. The temperature was hovering at about 6-7 deg at this point.

Now warmed up, we continued heading northwest through the low mountains, and the skies slowly cleared. By the time we reached Teslin, it was mostly sunny and had warmed up to 18 deg!

We stopped at a viewpoint just before the famous Nisutlin Bay Bridge, which is the longest bridge on the Alaska Highway, and features the metal grated surface, which is pretty sketchy on the bikes.

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A few minutes later we were at the Yukon Motel in Teslin, where we topped up the gas tanks, then parked and had an unhurried lunch/breakfast. Lunch included a most excellent cinnamon bun …

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There was a fellow biker stopped here too, from Washington state. He’d come up from just outside of Watson Lake where he was camping in the rain, about an hour ahead of us. He’d come up the Cassiar Highway and was heading to Fairbanks on a BMW GS1200. He’d also had a couple of FJR1300s in the past, so we had a bit in common.

The Yukon Motel has a couple of tame critters on display …Whitehorse19 Day 05 - 11

We arrived at Whitehorse about 330pm or so, found the hotel, got checked in, unpacked and got changed. My hair was bugging me in the helmet something fierce the last couple of day so I thought I’d get a haircut here to see if that would help. With the help of Google Maps, we found a place, but they were close to closing and wouldn’t take a walk-in. We found another place a short distance away and I was sat right down. Sadly it turned out to be one of the worst haircuts I’ve ever had – shaved on the sides, and left longer on top, Oh well, the difference between a bad haircut and good is about 2 weeks, so I’ll get it fixed up later.

A little while later we headed out for dinner. At breakfast in Fort Nelson a couple of days ago, we had been chatting with the guy at the next table, and among other things, he’d suggested that we should eat at the Klondike Ribs and Salmon restaurant in Whitehorse. It turns out that it’s only a couple of blocks from the hotel, so headed there. So did a lot of other people at there was a 45 minute wait! Eventually we were seated and while I had the ribs, Louise had fish & chips – both were excellent. Dinner was finished off with a nice tasty pecan pie.

Back at the hotel, we moved the bikes to the underground parking at the hotel and spread the tent out to dry.

By this point we were pretty tired so we turned in for the night.

 

 

There and Back – The Whitehorse Adventure – Day 4

Fort Nelson to Watson Lake – 513kms

When I checked the weather forecast last night it said cloudy and mild, and in fact the morning started that way as we showered and got packed up.

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But by the time we rolled off to the gas station, the skies were clouding up in the east and the west. When we left town after a pretty decent breakfast at the Fort Nelson Hotel cafe, it was starting to sprinkle.

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Now as I sit here in the hotel room at the Air Force Lodge in Watson lake, it’s lightly raining outside.

In spite of the rain it was a pretty good day – one of the bigger days in terms of mileage, some quality time in a hot springs pool, and some wildlife spotted!

As I said, the sprinkles of rain started pretty much as we left Fort Nelson. A ways down the road, as it got heavier, we stopped to put on rain gloves and another layer. Before we reached Muncho Lake for our gas stop it had rained hard, rained lightly and in parts the sun shone. But my God the scenery was fantastic! We crossed over a pass from one side of a ridge to the other, in rain and weak sunshine, but the views caused both Louise and I to utter “wow” multiple times.

Eventually we reached Muncho Lake where the clouds broke and sunshine came out, warming up to 20 deg. We fuelled the bikes, had a bio break and a snack, before heading up 30 kms or so to the Liard Hot Springs.

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The rain held off while we made our way to the hot springs, and the temperature was comfortable. After parking the bikes we walked the boardwalk to springs and enjoyed the steaming hot water for almost 45 minutes.

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The rest of the run north was somewhat tiring, but we were looking forward to stopping for the night at the Air Force Lodge in Watson Lake. Once we crossed in to the Yukon, the clouds closed in and it began to rain, again.

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Arriving at about 6pm, Mike greeted us at the door to Air Force Lodge.

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What a fantastic place and our host Mike was extremely easy to talk to – he had a ton of stories as well some pretty good reno skills. the whole Lodge was rebuilt by him, from an old WWII air force barracks from the old airport that had been chainsawed in half to move it.. This was easily the cleanest place we’ve been to. Mike has his guests take off their shoes at the front door, and that really helps keep things clean and it was pretty nice to be able to walk around in socks or bare feet. The interior was setup barracks or dorm style – each individual room had a bed and little desk, the showers and washrooms were communal facilities just down the hall. The internet was a bit weak though as was the LTE cell connection, so this report didn’t get loaded right away.

There’s no eating facilities on sight though, so we had to run into town to get dinner, we actually did that before we unloaded the bikes. Mike recommended Archie’s, just across from the Signpost Forest, so that’s where we headed. We both had a delicious burger and I had an Apple Pie, then we headed back to the Lodge, unloaded and had a pretty good nights sleep.

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Now for the wildlife report. The past three days were somewhat lame for wildlife spotting, with only a deer and 2 elk spotted. However, here are the numbers to date:

  • Deer: 1
  • Elk: 2
  • Bear: 1
  • Bison: hundreds, well dozens anyway
  • Crows: hundreds
  • dead skunk road kill: 4

Today we saw our first bear in the ditch north of Muncho Lake before the Hot Springs – he was drinking from a stream. We also saw literally dozens of free range bison – singles, small groups and a couple of larger herds. These bison are pretty huge animals, and they looked healthy enough!

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Stay tuned for Day 5!

ian

There and Back – The Whitehorse Adventure – Day 3

Dawson Creek to Fort Nelson – 453kms

As I said in yesterday’s blog, we’d probably be packing the tent this morning in the rain and that’s exactly how the day started. You can’t really see it in the pictures, but the rain was was light but steady right up until we hopped on the bikes and pulled out.

It rained pretty much all night with a few breaks and both Louise and I slept on and off. Louise I think had a bit better sleep than I did because she had earplugs in!

We had three things on the agenda for the morning before heading out on the highway: breakfast, fuel, and the Mile 0 monument. Last night I had a look on the internet for the best breakfast place in Dawson Creek and more than a few sites agreed that Le’s Family Restaurant was the best. So we went there as soon we had everything packed.

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Le’s is a pretty small place, really just an a-frame shed tied into the end of a motel, but the food was good. However the server sure had better things to do than work the tables – zero personality.

Next up was gas, just some random PetroCanada, then on to downtown Dawson Creek for a couple of pictures at Mile 0!

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The curse is officially lifted!

Just outside of Dawson Creek, there’s stretch of Old Alaska Highway that runs for about 10k and goes over the old Kiskatinaw Bridge – for more information on the Kiskatinaw,  check out this webpage: Tourism Dawson Creek – Kiskatinaw Bridge.  I’ve had this bridge on the “list of things to see in the North” for sometime now and I talked Louise into taking the detour to see it.

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It’s a timber bridge with wood planks for the deck, which in the rain, was a bit slippy.

By this time the rain had started up and got steadier and heavier as we left Dawson Creek. Thankfully it never got to the downpour stage, but it was wet all the same. It wasn’t so bad until we got to areas of construction, where it turned into a dirty sandy slime that coated the bikes, our gear, our suits and our helmets. By the time we reached Wonowon (located at mile 101, get it?), we had to pull over and clean up the helmets so we could see again.

Eventually the rain let up once we reached Buckinghorse River Lodge, about halfway between Dawson Creek and Fort Nelson. The picture below shows the delivery end of the gas station …

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… and this picture shows the business end.

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There are three containers on skids; one not really in the picture but on the left of the picture above is diesel fuel; the one that Louise is stepping out of with the credit card machine and activation machinery; and the third which is labeled AFD, which is the gas. The process is you go into the “booth”, insert your credit card, which activates the pump for the gas. then you go out to the corner of the other container, turn on the pump and fill your tank(s), making sure to shut-off the pump when you’re done. Then you go back to the booth to get a receipt.

The Buckinghorse River Lodge Cafe had a lunch special – BLT sandwich and Bean & Bacon soup with endless coffee or tea, all for $9.95! Possibly the best meal deal so far!

The skies finally started to clear and it warmed up over the course of the last 160kms to Fort Nelson, all the way to 21 deg! We were going to camp again, but we’d used up a lot of batteries during the previous night, and we both wanted a shower so we opted for a super-cheap motel – the Shannon Motel. Not great, but not too bad.

 

Tomorrow is breakfast at the Fort Nelson Hotel, cinnamon buns at Toad River, and the Liard Hot Springs, before calling it a day at Watson Lake in the Yukon!

There and Back – The Whitehorse Adventure – Day 2

Hinton to Dawson Creek – 461kms

Well, it’s raining. I’m sitting here in our tent, posting this while tethered to my iPhone, listening to the rain on the outside of the tent. But the great thing about today is that we finally beat the Dawson Creek curse!

Louise and I tried to get to Dawson Creek back in 2012 – there’s a ride report here on this blog I think. Louise got pleurisy and we never made it then. A few years later a group of us had Dawson Creek in the plan, but on account of weather, we headed south instead. Louise had a trip that included Dawson Creek in the planning for last year, but it didn’t happen. It had become a bit a joke between us and some of our friends that there was a curse on Louise regarding Dawson Creek.

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The morning in Hinton was beautiful – warm sunny and after getting gas and a forgettable breakfast at the Husky House, we headed north on Highway 40 to Grande Prairie where we were planning to have lunch with our friends Carl and Marilyn.

Louise got a rare picture of me here before we pulled out …

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Just under halfway there is the town of Grande Cache – we stopped there for a bio break and to top up the gas tanks. The highway is pretty rough most of the way – with many potholes and the right side of the road is slowly slipping into the ditch.

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The skies in Grande Cache looked somewhat ominous, but there was no rain at all, and the temperature was pretty much in the mid-20s all afternoon.

As we got closer to Grande Prairie, the highway was pretty torn up on the sides due to construction and the speed limit was up and down from 100kmh to 50kmh, then back to 100kmh again. That made the drive a bit slower, but the good thing was that there was light traffic going north.

I had messaged Carl, while stopped at Grande Cache, that we’d meet him at the Holiday Inn in GP. Little did I know that there are two Holiday Inns in GP – the one I meant was the Holiday Inn and Suites at the junction of Highway 40 and 43 on the west, but what I said was Holiday Inn Express, which is on the other side of town. And that’s where Carl was waiting for us. I called him and got it figured out and within a few minutes, we’d hooked up for lunch at the Old Trapper pub. The food was ok, the server was nice, but she had a voice that made one want to scream!

Carl snapped this picture of us as we were leaving …

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The ride to Dawson Creek was uneventful and we arrived in good time, found the campground and set up for the night.

 

Just before the rain started, we boiled up some water for a coffee, a hot chocolate and a snack and as the rain started up, we retreated to the tent to call it an early night.

So today there is no more curse of Dawson Creek, although it’s going to be a rainy night and we’ll be packing the tent wet I expect. Oh well – it’s all part of the adventure!

There and Back – The Whitehorse Adventure – Day 1

Cochrane to Hinton – 496kms

Louise and I left this morning on our first trip in a long long time. This time we’re going to head up to Whitehorse, Yukon, via the Alaska highway from Dawson Creek north, then back down the Cassiar Highway on the west side of BC through Stewart/Hyder and back home.

Cochrane-WhitehorseMap

Should be just about 5000 kms total.

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The first days plan was to get to Hinton, via Highway 22 north and then 16 west. We had planned on getting away by 10am but we finally pulled away by about 1115am – par for the course though! First stop was the Shell station just north of Cochrane to top up the tanks.

Next stop was a bio break at Sundre …

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We stopped next in Drayton Valley for gas and a bit of a food at Timmies. Louise had soup, while I had a brekkie muffin, butter tart and cookie washed down with a smoothie and a coffee!

Highway 22 north of Drayton Valley pretty much all the way to the junction at Highway 16 was under construction, with a kilometre or so of no highway – just dirt/gravel. Louise road the same stretch a month or so ago and it was raining then making that section a bit sketchy at that time. It was dry this time so going through on the FJR wasn’t too bad.

For a few hours the GPS on both bikes said we’d arrive at the motel in Hinton at 5:56pm and I’ll be darned if we arrived in the parking lot at 5:56pm!

We got checked in by Jong at the office, who was a really nice guy and headed up to the room. For bikes trips, I would much rather stay at motels than hotels, for the simple reason that usually you can park right in front of the door! That makes unloading and loading so much easier.

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After getting the bikes unpacked and changed, we walked down the road to Mr. Mike’s for dinner.

Pretty good first day! Looking forward to Day 2.

 

 

 

Moab 2017 – Preamble

Wow! First post in ages!! And it’s the start of a great series so stay tuned!

Since the middle of 2016, Rob, one of our Run to the Hills riding friends in Edmonton had been after a number of us to make it to Moab, UT in the spring of 2017 for a week of dirt bike riding.

There were a couple of problems with this for us. First, we didn’t have appropriate bikes – my VStrom and Louise’s Triumph Tiger were WAY too heavy for the kind of riding that was envisioned. Second, Louise is still hard at work in April and May and it’s difficult for her to get the time off.  However, I knew it would be a fantastic adventure and something we might otherwise never get to do.

So we decided to go.

First up was setting the date. That took some time but eventually we settled on the first week of May. Then the logistics had to be worked on, like finding a place to stay while in Moab, deciding on when to leave, how long to take to get there, what trailer to use to haul the bikes we didn’t yet have.  Scott found a Vacasa place to stay, we spent an evening on our chat list plotting a route and stops between Edmonton and Moab, and we made hotel reservations.

With these arrangements now made, we figured we’d better get a couple of bikes. In late January, our friend Rob happened upon a Yamaha XT250 in Whitecourt – good condition with low miles. He volunteered to take his trailer out, have a look and if all was good he’d buy it, haul it to Edmonton, and we’d pay him. Short story – Louise wound up the owner of a 2008 XT250.

In the middle of February, I was in Toronto on a business trip when another of our riding friends in Edmonton decided to sell his Suzuki DR650 and buy a VStrom 650. The price on the DR seemed good for the modifications that had been done and so I made the deal on the DR.

With the bikes purchased, we made arrangements with Dan, who has a large enclosed trailer, to go to Edmonton on March 18 and bring the bikes back.

Next up was getting my utility trailer into shape to haul the bikes down to Moab. The 10 year-old Snowbear utility trailer was getting pretty tired, especially the tires and wheel bearings. Louise and I changed out the bearings and put new wheels/tires on, then I added a trailer jack (finally), wheel chocks and tie-downs for the straps.

With the trailer fixed up and ready for the bikes, we loaded them on and figured out spacing and tie-down points.

With the scheduled departure date being April 28, time was starting to run out. Louise had to replace her helmet, so she picked up a Schuberth E1 for a heck of a good price, along with new off-road boots.

We still had to replace the tires on both bikes. The XT250 looked like it had the original tires from 2008 on it, and the tires on the DR650 were pretty worn out. On the DR650 I went with Dunlop D606’s front and back, and on the XT we went with Continental TKC-80’s front and back. Louise picked them up on the weekend before we left and we loaded up the bikes on the trailer and hauled them both to Dan’s place where the tire changing machine is.

Because this is Alberta, before we left, this happened:

Wednesday after the snow melted, I was at Dan’s for tire changing. The tires went off and on just fine on the XT and in short order we were done the first bike. Off the lift, and get the DR on the lift, pull the wheels – we had the process figured out. Until the rear tire, where when we put the new tire onto the wheel, we discovered that the tire was 18″ while the wheel was 17″. No wonder it went on so easy! Anyway it was easily swapped in the morning for the right tire and Dan and I got the new tire on and the wheel remounted on Thursday evening.

Louise had to work on Friday until 3pm, then I’d pick her up at the school and we’d leave for Helena directly from there. So Friday morning and early afternoon I got the Jeep and the trailer packed up and headed off to the school to collect Louise.

Check out the next post for the actual trip!

VStrom Tech Night – July 16, 2013

“Big Dan” hosted a Tech Night at his new place in the NW, so we rode on over to partake in the festivities. The major event was to be the replacement of Phil’s stator which had been giving him grief for a while. Dan and Phil enlisted Louise to participate in the wrenching and I think she enjoyed it.

Here are a few pictures from the evening …

Stator goes in the big hole there.

Phil with a stator – the stator is the non-rotating part of the bike’s alternator – the thing that provides power.

While Phil’s bike was on the lift undergoing major surgery the rest of us were out in the sun chatting while I tinkered with the new intercom system wiring on Louise’s VStrom. In the picture below, Trent’s new 2013 FJR1300, (the major new redesign of my bike), is on the left.

Trent offered me a test spin on his new bike, which I eagerly took him up on! I was pretty curious as to what the real-world difference would be between the new design 2013 and my second generation 2009. First off, Trent’s bike doesn’t have the bar risers that mine does, so I couldn’t get a good sense how the ergonomics felt in comparison, but since the chassis and seat are unchanged from 2009, the risers ought to make sitting and reaching the handlebars the same. Second, it seems that the new FJR is quicker – the new engine computer and sport mapping does make a difference. With the engine in relaxed mode, it was noticeably more tame than my 2009. So the stock fixed mapping on the 2009 seems to be set between the sport mode and tame mode on the new FJR. Suspension seemed the same. The improved windscreen still needs to be a bit higher for me. Trent mentioned that he was happy with it since he’s a couple of inched shorter than I am. I didn’t take it far and I came back in a few minutes. The group was laughing because they could hear me accelerating briskly up on the main road.

I talked to Trent about a taller windscreen for the VStrom and he volunteered up the Givi he has on his VStrom for a test on the RTTH since he was taking his FJR.

We did some bench racing – that’s Trent, Richard, Dan and me, Phil’s back can be seen on the right of picture …

With Phil’s new stator installed and seemingly working fine, we all ate off the BBQ brisket he brought over for dinner – he’s an actual chef.

Dan and I took a run at mounting the really loud horn on Louise’s VStrom, but failed … again. In fact I broke the mount even more so that I can see no way now to properly mount the thing anywhere. I will buy Louise a new one and try not to screw up the mount again.

Good times these Tech Nights.

08 VStrom Tech – Electronics/Crash Bar Install

With the panniers mounted last weekend, this weekend’s work involved installing the ALTrider crash bars and bash plate, as well as installing the accessory fuse panel, wiring up the power for the GPS and the new PTT gear for the Sena headsets that we now use for communications.

Here’s the VStrom before I started the work. The panniers are one from last weekend, but the stock windscreen is still on and you can see the stock plastic plate underneath the engine – that would be replaced today with a heavy aluminum plate.

The first thing I installed was the Eastern Beaver PC8 fuse panel. It came with a prebuilt cable for power and the relay for powering the panel with the ignition key.

After running a power line up to the GPS mount under the windscreen bracket, I removed the windscreen and setup the mounting plate of for the Garmin ZUMO and the SPOT tracker.

Next up – crash bars and frame sliders from ALTrider. Louise has the same setup on her VStrom and they work great.

Left side installed, I’m working on the right side …

Louise must have got bored with taking pictures after this one …

… because there are no more pictures.

We got the frame sliders and bash plate installed by the end of the day – all that was needed was the taller windscreen and she was ready for RTTH!

08 VStrom Tech – Pannier Install

The VStrom group’s annual Run to the Hills (RTTH) trip was coming up soon and since I had pretty much all the parts for the Micatech panniers (side cases) on hand, I wanted to get them installed so I could take the VStrom on the trip.

First step was pulling the seat and top case rack off so that the SW-Motech side racks could be installed.

The various rack bits needed to be assembled and loosely tightened so things could be properly aligned.

With everything tightened and the case attachment bits on, this is what it all looks like …

And with the Micatech pannier mounted …

Now I have the same amazing carrying capacity as Louise does!

Almost ready for RTTH in a couple of weeks.