My Alaskan Ride by Trey Lillich
Wind & Fire MC # 1080
Sgt at Arms / Treasurer
Lone Star Chapter
Two years ago I read Riding the Edge, by Dave Barr. If you have never read the book it is about a guy that rides a Harley Davidson Sportster around the world. I am no where near able to take on such a feat, but that book and a web site that I found by Mike LeDuc http://www.niia.net/~leduc_mike/, planted seeds that just seemed to grow with out effort. I mentioned to my buddy, Mark, that I was contemplating heading to Alaska and the Artic Circle and that was all it took to have a partner. It took two years to get our ducks in a row and the vacation time together, but we did it and on June 3, 2005 we left Houston, Texas and headed north.
You really need to look at this on a map the size of a wall to get the true scope of the length of this trip. It was 4500 miles from my house to the Artic Circle on the Dalton Highway. I have to admit that I never really gained a true feeling for how far it actually is until about the fourth or fifth day on the road. Another thing that you just canít grasp is who precious space is. We had to carry just about everything we needed on our bikes. We had little space and needed a lot! Although we had decided to do this the old Biker way and rough it, we still had to make sure everything we had worked and was essential. One thing that I will never leave home with out is my Gortex Bivy sack! I found that out in a driving rain out side of Liberal, Kansas. Preparation is everything on a trip like this. The bike must be prepared, the gear must work and you need to be ready physically and mentally for what is ahead of you. There are two good publications available that will help. The Mile Post and Alaska by Motorcycle by Dr. Gregory Frazier, are both very good resources for this trip. You can make it on just about any type of bike. We saw mostly the BMW GS type bikes and KLRs, but we made it on Sportsters. Mine a 2001 1200 Sport and Marks a 2000 1200 Custom. I would not recommend taking the chromed out street cruiser, but only because I know what it is going to look like after the Alaskan, Dalton, Top of the World and Cassiar highways get finished with it.
We left Houston and headed up Hwy 6 all the way to I20 where we took a short ride west before jumping on US83 at Abilene. I know that you are thinking that there are shorter or at least faster ways to go, but we are riding Sportsters that are loaded down and only hold a little over three gallons of gas. We both thought it would be a better ride to take some of the roads less traveled and go a little slower. Highway 83 took us strait up through Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South and then North Dakota, where we crossed into Canada at Portal. It took us three days to make it to Canada and that was riding over 500 miles a day. The ride was pleasant, but it just seemed like we saw the same thing mile after mile until we got west of Edmonton. The Alaskan Highway starts at Dawson Creek and there is a marker there that is a great photo opportunity. The Alaskan Highway is mostly paved for itís entire length, but as is the case every summer on every road, there was a lot of road construction. Of course motorcycles get to go the front of the line when you have to stop. Expect many pot holes and frost heaves on the road as you head northwest on the Alcan. The Dalton Highway was even worse than any of the other roads that we encountered, but it certainly is passable and there are stretches of pavement. The bridge over the Yukon River was fun to cross. Unlike most of the bridges that we crossed that had metal grating , that is another story in its self, the Yukon bridge has a wood deck made of maybe 2 by 8s or 2 by 10s. I just picked on that didnít look too bad and tried to ride a line down it; the deck really was pretty torn up.
We reached the Artic Circle at about 8:30 P.M. Of course it was still day light and it was hot! Who would believe that it would be 90 degrees or more at the Artic Circle?
After a few toasts to our success we deliberated as to whether we should head for the "top" or just go to Coldfoot and camp. We decided that we would save that for our next trip and head back to Fairbanks. By the time we reached Delta Junction is was 6 AM. We set up camp and slept until around noon and then headed for Tok where we decided to stay and relax for a day.
The " Top of the World Highway" is a must see. After leaving Tok, Alaska you head for Chicken. There is a store there where you should probably fill up your tank. The highway is actually a dirt road and you need to be aware of all of the RVs traveling, but it is beautiful and you will end up at the Yukon River where you catch a ferry to Dawson City.
In my opinion the Cassiar Hwy was the most beautiful, yet one of the most difficult parts of the trip. The roads were pretty good when they were paved, but there are several long stretches that are under repair or construction and it rained almost the entire day after we headed south from Watson Lake. We ended up in Stewart, BC and saw one of the most beautiful glaciers I have ever seen. How we ended up there is a long story that I can not get into at this time, but I am glad we did. From there we headed west to Prince George. The Harley Davidson dealer in Smithers , BC received us very well and Dave offered to let us wash our bikes there. If you ever have a problem up that way you can give them a call and they will come help.
We headed to Jasper, Alberta and from there took the Ice fields Parkway down to Lake Louise. This stretch of highway through Jasper National Park is what my friend Mark described as " a bikers dream". The are miles and miles of turns and some very beautiful scenery, as well. One thing to note about this area is that there are many more tourists here. Jasper and Lake Louise were teaming with people from every where. We ended up in Radium Hot Springs, BC for the night in a pretty much empty Provincial Park. We spent a peaceful last night in Canada, but the next day it started raining again and it rained on us all the way to Kalispell, MT.
Being back in the US felt good. We never had a problem with any one in Canada, but we were home now and gas came in gallons and speed limits in miles per hour. We headed south thru Montana, Wyoming and back to Hwy 83 in Nebraska. The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful except for a few deer that decided to test our reaction time after dark and high winds across Kansas and North Texas.
This is certainly a trip I will take again some time in the future and one that I would recommend for any one that doesnít mind roughing it a bit and abusing their bike a little. There are few people up in the far corner of BC, the Yukon and Alaska and there is so much beautiful country to see. It does not really matter what kind of bike you have, just make sure it is prepared. Preparation of your bike, your equipment and yourself are essential of a successful and enjoyable trip like this. It is a once in a life time type event that I will do my best to experience many more times.