Ride report of ’09, 5 Coast/Circumnavigation of North America

This trip actually started with a conversation with Alan Leduc Founder of the MTF in 2008. He was going to be totally tied up with his China project until 2010, so the plan was to go on June +/- of 2010. After other things interrupted Alan’s plans, I was talking to Terry Hammond about it, and it dawned on me that there was nothing preventing me from stepping the schedule up and planning a June/July 2009 run. Alan and I had discussed doing a UCCCC and throw in a bay to bay and if time permitted, also throw in a Nova Scotia, Newfoundland loop of 500 miles +/-. Terry Hammond and I got together and compared our lists of stuff that we felt it was necessary to take for a trip of this length and sometimes isolation, planned maintenance, dates, parts and tools. As the time began to roll around, Terry realized that the extremely wet spring might possibly interfere with his participation. Terry owns a few bikes including a KLR 650, but he planned to take his ST1300, which concerned me having been there and remembering the dangerous “grader berms”, and the ST-1300’s low clearance, etc. We were shooting at the week of June 21st, which I hoped would get us out of Alaska before monsoon hit too hard like it did the last time I was up there in July/August 2006. I also decided that it would be better judgment to put a new rear tire on my KLR 650 and truck to Key West, saving the chain, sprockets, and tires. I put on an Avon Gripster with the hopes of getting to Anchorage from Key West & through San Diego without the need to change tires. I had added San Diego after a conversation with Mike Kneebone about adding another coast to my ride. I already planned to ride from Key West to Prudhoe to Goose Bay, Labrador and back to Key West making it a UCCCCC which would touch five coasts including counting Key West as the start and finish coast. This made some changes in my maintenance schedule since I was adding more miles, but also included the infamous “Goose Bay Road” which had bit many riders and many bikes. I already knew how treacherous the Dalton Highway (Haul Road) could be and it always varies a lot with the weather at the time. When I rode it in 2006, it had been raining for three days and the Calcium Chloride (snot) was very difficult to ride and equally hard on the bike. I hoped for better weather. I sent extra tires to Roger Bliss in Wasilla, AK and made him and Jack Gustafson of Glenn Allen, AK aware that I was going to make another run their way. I also contacted other friends, Joe and Sandra May (Iceman) from Trapper’s Creek to let them know. I left for Key West the week of June 15th and planned to hit some National Parks for stamps on the way down to Tom and Trudee Coppedge’s place in Marathon Key before launching the ride. It was here that I learned that Terry absolutely could not go. I decided to leave Key West on June 25th, and I also learned that a couple of school classmates planned to meet me in Texas and ride to Alaska on their road bikes. I would leave them as I went north from Fairbanks to Prudhoe Bay. Robert Thompson from Thompson’s Motor Sports in Terre Haute, Indiana riding the same Gold Wing he rode with me to Alaska in 2006 and Jim Knierem riding his new Harley. I eventually met them in San Antonio, Texas at Jim’s daughter’s house.

I left Marathon for Key West on June 24th in the rain and when I got there, I went to the police station to see if any of my witnesses from 2006 were on duty. They weren’t so I was explaining to a couple of officers what I needed when my overweight-top-heavy bike fell into a police squad car. We had to have an investigation to see if I had damaged city property. I hadn’t. I did get the two signatures etc. and then found that I had damaged my throttle on my bike. After a trip to NAPA and a couple of hours work, I got a couple hours sleep. I had already got my IBA picture by the buoy. I left at 3 AM to try to beat the Key corridor road repair crews. Going around Miami, a 20’ long 5” black pipe fell off a truck, and I swung hard to the right and fortunately barely missed it. I needed a gas receipt when I made the turn west onto Rte. 10 since I was starting my ride with a SS1K. I had never done one on this KLR. As I pulled into the station, the engine died. I went ahead and gassed up but then the bike wouldn’t start unless I choked it, then turned off the choke and tried to start it with full throttle.. I asked the station owner for the location of a bike shop. It was a mile or so away, so I had to point the bike toward where I wanted to go and try to start it full throttle in gear. When it hit, I tried to feather the clutch but ended up wheeling out of the station since I had all this weight on the back of the bike. I found the shop and the owner refused to help me because it wasn’t a Harley, even though I told him I had a Harley at home, and I was sure that it was a fuel system problem I did a wheelie out of his lot and back toward Interstate 10. I got on I-#10 and rode 20 miles before realizing I hadn’t got a receipt. I jumped the median and after half an hour of trying to retrieve the information at the station, I wrote out an 8 ½ x 11 affidavit and had the owner sign it with telephone #’s, etc. I was 600 miles into a SS1K and was going to run until it quit. I did wheelies out of every gas station for 400 miles in the Florida Panhandle and into Mississippi. I felt safer stopping in Gulfport, thinking it might have a Kawasaki shop, and I was pretty sure that I had enough miles for a Saddlesore. I got to the Kawasaki shop next day and after half a day found a couple carburetor problems, fixed them and took off. Jim Plunkett and I planned to meet in Beaumont, Texas, and ride together for awhile, but my delay caused that not to happen. I was sorry about that.

I met my friends in San Antonio, and we rode to Fort Stockton, Texas that afternoon. We all decided to do a SS/1K the next day. We left early while it was not too hot but were soon in 112-114 degree desert temperatures all the way across the western U.S. until the mountains east of San Diego. We went 50 additional miles that night up to San Clemente to make sure we had the miles needed. It was Jim’s first and Robert’s second SS1K.

UCCCCC LEG 2 CALIFORNIA TO ALASKA We got a good night sleep and headed up the Pacific Coastal Highway towards Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, Yukon, and Alaska. It was cooler close to the coast and we didn’t get hot again until we took I-5 north toward Oregon and went inland. We got into rush hour in Portland and crept a foot or so at a time for 13-14 miles—HOT! We tried to get to a National Park near Portland, but we were delayed by the traffic and were half an hour late. I went around behind the building and found the last employee getting into her car and talked her into opening it back up and getting out the stamps. I think there were 4 each of them. I was impressed with the scenery of the ride through Northern Oregon and Southern Washington State. We went through both states in one day and stayed at Bellington, Washington which is near the Canadian border. The next morning we went across a quiet rural border crossing and mad it up to Prince George for the night and spent the next morning having Jim’s bike worked on at a Harley dealership. They messed it up so we blew fuses all the way to Whitehorse where another Harley dealership found and fixed the problem which started with improperly installed heated grips. We met some Harley riders there that were heading up to the Artic Circle. I happened to meet them there a few days later. After spending the night in Tok, we rode the Tok Bypass to Glenn Allen and met Jack Gustafson. Jack couldn’t have been more kind and considerate. He performed all kinds of service on my bike and volunteered his wheels and rims with TKC 80’s to make the Prudhoe Bay / Deadhorse. I gladly accepted and it turned out to be a good decision. I can never repay Jack for all that he did. The next day, I headed up with the bike faltering which KLR just do sometime. In heavy rain just south of Fairbanks, I didn’t see this moose cow with her twin calves until I was right on her. I managed to get stopped just in time. I went on to spend the night at Alaska University at Fairbanks for $36 @ night in a dorm room with laundry, shower, computer room 24 hours each day. If anyone is going that way, ping or ring me and I’ll get you the information. Lots of motorcyclists have found it. I left early next morning for Wiseman, AK near Coldfoot to meet up with Jack and my two riding buddies coming in his van. Wiseman is half the price of Coldfoot and only 5-6 miles off the Dalton. They got in late that night and I left a 3-4 AM next morning hoping to go up and back the same day which I did. The first leg of the Haul Road was hard packed and much better than it had been last time with Fletcher and I rode it after three days of hard rain. But it was raining before I got to Atigon Pass and rather than have too much rock like last time had very little and was very muddy and slick. It rained about half the way up to Prudhoe and two-thirds the way back. I still stayed pretty well up on top of the gravel and ended up averaging a little over 40 mph which was much better than last time. I did the same on the return leg and got back to Wisemen at 4-430 PM. I met Jack and the guys as I was returning and they were on their way up to see Prudhoe Bay. The Haul Road always seems to cost me though—it took out my front fork seals, a clutch cable as I got back to Fairbanks and two more GPS’S bit the dirt–the one on the bike and my spare I was carrying. That makes one @ Quest II and 3 @ 2610’s. I sure seem to be rough on those things. I also needed a chain and sprockets when I got back to Jacks and another oil change—my second since I left Key West with fresh oil. I noticed my front fork seals were leaking when I got back to Wisemen. I hoped that I could get back to the Kawasaki shop in Fairbanks by closing on Saturday to get new seals and wipers. We spent the night in the Cabins at Wisemen and returned to Fairbanks the next day. On the Dalton Highway on the way back, we met quite an interesting sight to see, being taken to Prudhoe. We were motioned completely off the road while it passed– a huge 400 ton load, 26’ wide, and being pulled by a big tractor and being pushed by three other large truck/tractors.

UCCCCC 3RD LEG ALASKA TO LABRADOR TO KEY WEST I left the next day taking the TOK Bypass to TOK. There was still smoke everywhere from the forest fires. I traveled down the Al-Can and again got to see countless wildlife in the Yukon and British Columbia. There was a 30 km stretch where road repairs of chip and seal made for a very dirty ride. At one single pump gas station. Gas was $6.14 per gallon. I finally got out of the construction zone and was getting along well at about the speed limit when I was in a left curve and found that I had a “dually” pickup with a 5th wheel RV in my lane passing a semi on a 2-lane highway. He never let up and I had no choice but to hit the shoulder at 65 mph with an overweight and top heavy bike. I tried to get it under control without hitting the deep ditch with 8-10” rip rap. I was fortunate. I learned the next morning of another rider that wasn’t so fortunate and went into the ditch and broke his foot and bike in the rip rap. The long trip across Canada was beautiful. What a great country! Lakes and rivers are everywhere on both sides. You’re doing well to cover one province each day because they are so large. I met so many very friendly people everywhere I stopped. Motel rooms were usually $80-$130 each night, even Econo-Lodge and Motel 6. Gas was usually $4.00 a gallon +/-. Meals were a little higher and much higher in Labrador. In Labrador City, I was charged $14 for a small side salad with grilled chicken at MacDonalds. That was my only meal that day. I realized in Saskatchewan that if I was going to change tires that I better do it before long as I was nearing some remote areas. Even though the Avon Gripster had done well (from Key West about 11-12 thousand miles) and had 1/3 to ¼ tread left, I felt I should put on the Tourances that I carried from Wheeldog’s. It was recommended that I stop at Schrader’s in Yorkton, SK, which I did, and you can read about that in a thread I put in the LD folder recommending them for the Gold Dealer Award. Across the Al-Can and Trans-Canadian, I noticed that there were 1000’s of miles of a crop that was in the process changing color from green to yellow. I learned that it was Canola (if I remember correctly, Canola is short for Canadian Oil Low Acid) and is a alternate healthy cooking oil. It was as far as the eye could see, like corn and soybeans in the Midwest. I decided to make my last stop before tackling the Trans-Labrador and the Goose Bay roads in Forestville, Quebec. I stayed there at an Econo Lodge and attempted to communicate my desires to leave my extra gear there. I was told “No” twice, so I ran around town looking for a rental storage place in another motel. The other motels were full and had no storage buildings. I went back to the Econo Lodge restaurant and was approached by a local biker that had seen my bike. We discussed my problem and he volunteered to store my stuff at his house, but that was 20 KM away. So he went to talk to the management in French and came back with a smile, and I was allowed to leave all my extra weight there. I left early the next morning for Goose Bay and 750 + miles of roads that I knew most of which was gravel. The highway route 389 from Baie-Comeau, Quebec was scenic and smooth up to Manic 5 (one of the large hydro-electric dams in that area). I gassed at Manic 5 (which also has rooms to rent) and immediately was in deep fresh gravel for 30-40 km, then it would alternate between loose gravel, packed gravel, packed dirt, some kind of pink rock (which was actually a little better to ride on) and a gravel/sand mix that didn’t ride as well. Just like the Dalton (Haul) Road, it was imperative to properly assess the upcoming surface and ride it accordingly. The biggest problems were created by the 30-34 wheel trucks and there was no dust abatement efforts. You could often see a truck coming 3-4 miles away making a huge dirt cloud. When they pass, you can see nothing for a long while, and keeping a proper riding line is important as there was very little crosswind at that time. You just slowed, got on your pegs and rode assuming deep gravel. As soon as you could see, you picked a line. I learned that the worst situation was having a truck that was passing you from behind. Going the same way, the dirt blinded you for miles and miles. I learned quickly that if you want to survive that as soon as you see a truck coming at you, check quickly to check if any are coming behind you. The truck behind you can’t see anything either when the on coming truck passes. If you slow down, he may hit you and if you go down, he will kill you, so get off the road completely, let them have the road, and stay in the ditch or “pull off” until you can see. At one time, I met six big trucks in one mile. I was totally blind for a long time. Even the dust from a pickup or car can momentarily blind you. There are gas pumps available every 150-200 miles. However, there are only three small towns between Manic 5 and Goose Bay/ Happy Valley– Labrador City, Fermont, and Churchill Falls. In each town, the motels are $100 a night and B & B’s are about half that at $50-55. Having heard from many (other prior riders & also locals) that the road was much worse closer to Goose Bay, I was somewhat apprehensive because the road that I just rode was plenty bad enough. I also hit large holes filled with sand and other places where the sand added to the rock and when the graders went over it, it was like a sand beach with sand berms. I also saw for the first time, double berms, which required a bike jumping about a total of about 5-6 feet of berm when one is forced to cross the middle of the road. At the end of the first day of the Trans-Labrador Road, as I laid down in a B&B, I thought long and hard about how wise or foolish it was to proceed tomorrow. In all my riding experience, I had never had that strong a fear happen to me before. I had felt forced to leave all my extra stuff including most tools, parts, etc, back at Forestville,Quebec. I knew that I couldn’t take on this road so top heavy and overloaded. I had only 1 toothbrush and paste, tube patch kit, small air compressor, tire tools, a few other tools, a gas can, a couple pair of drawers & socks—that’s it. Almost any small problem could dead-line me. I was by myself and even if I hit “Help” on the spot, Jason and I had agreed that it meant that I was O.K., but the bike was inoperative and send my co-ordinates to AAA/RV. I would have hit the “911” button, if I was hurt., But who knows how long that would take. There were times that I wouldn’t see a vehicle for an hour or two, and I’m not sure that they could help that much anyway. Local people, that I met in Labrador City, that knew the road up to Goose Bay, absolutely couldn’t believe that I was by myself and warned me over & over how bad it was up ahead. I was also thinking that, I was getting farther and farther from home, and when I get up there, I still have turn around and come back the very same way. I finally decided that I didn’t come 6 K + miles across Canada to turn around. If I had headed straight back from Alaska, I would be home by now. I would head North East and just see how bad it was. It was bad , but I had it so magnified in my mind, that it turned out to not as bad as I had expected. I learned that I gained a lot of respect for others that had done this ride, Pat McGhie, Thane Salliker, Dick Fish, and especially, Sean Gallagher who made it from Goose Bay to Prudhoe Bay in 7 ½ days—which seems close to impossible.(It took me close to 10 days after the 3 days of maintenance after the ‘Haul Road” experience.) The area that I was worried about the most was the last 170 miles before Goose Bay, which included a lot of construction area. This area did include some dangers, but no worse than I had already had. As I said before, this was the first that I had seen of the double berms. Side by side berms, which makes them about 4-5 feet across and often they had large rocks hidden in them.—up to basketball size. They could bend a rim, bust a tire, or send your bike off at a crazy angle. I learned that happened to a rider just before I got to Goose Bay. A policeman in Goose Bay, Labrador, signing my “Bay to Bay” IBA Papers said that an “Ironbutt Guy” had gone down just south of Goose Bay/Happy Valley on a BMW and broke his leg, some ribs totaled his bike and had been flown back to a Labrador City hospital. I tried to get a name so that I could help, but there was none available.. The rooms around here are $ 100 usually, but I stayed in a B&B for $55 which incl. a steak dinner & breakfast. I slept better now —there were now no longer any unknowns. I knew much more than I did before.

From Forestville, Quebec to Goose Bay is 2 days up/ 2 days back. One could do it in 1 day up, and 1 day back, I imagine, but I like it the way that I did it, and would do it the same way on a repeat ride. I got to smell some coffee on the way up and a few flowers on the way back. Hey — We’re out here to enjoy the ride aren’t we? I left Goose Bay early, and got to Labrador City early, and I stayed at the same B&B. I did the leg back to my “Stuff” in Forestville ,Quebec , which was Sunday and much less traffic, including hardly any Big Trucks. And—BTW—there is a stretch of about 50 Miles +/- in the middle of Churchill Falls & Manic 5 that is pavement. You’ll enjoy every mile of it, I assure you. When I got back to Manic 5, knowing that everything would mostly be paved until I got home, I could have gotten off the bike & kissed the beginning of that pavement. I rode in the rain all the way back to Forestville, Quebec and didn’t care what-so-damn-ever. I left the next day for Key West, Fl. and home amd decided to kick back a little and not push real hard. I enjoyed a leisurely 3K ride back to the Keys &; Tom & Trudee Coppedge’s and get to stop and stay with. Quinton & Wanda Grubb’s near Macon, Ga. and have dinner with them & Kevin Lechner.. Along the return trip, I had a scheduled maintenance stop in Hamilton/Stony Creek, Ontario, at Dual Sport Plus. Les & Catherine Clarke not only dropped everything to have their shop rebuild my bike, but went out of their way to make me comfortable, going so far as to letting me stay at their beautiful home and an evening of conversation that I’ll always remember. I also had the good fortune of a visit from Cliff Hicks, his wife, and his Grandson, from London, Ontario. It was sure a pleasure to see a familiar face after seeing only strangers for weeks, The ride down through Quebec and Ontario was scenic & casual. I found it ironic, that after successfully riding the roads that I had ridden, without any get-offs or injuries, that the only injuries that I had sustained on this whole trip, took place in a bathroom in a Motel in Baie St. Paul, Quebec. I slipped stepping out of a bathtub, hit the floor and tub like a sack of flour and whacked my left shoulder, right elbow, right heal, tail bone. I was up all night with the right shoulder pain, at which time, the first of next morning, the tail bone took over the top pain position. The 650 miles required of me the next day to the scheduled maintenance location of Dual Sport Plus, in Stoney Creek, Ontario, was extremely painful as was the 2500 miles needed to complete the ride to Key West, Florida. The main problem being, my long established habit of sitting on my tail-bone while doing LD rides :-). I certainly enjoyed the relaxed pace down through the States as well as the gas & motel prices. 5 @ days of rain had no effect on my spirits as I mentally relived the last month’s of adventure. I am still enjoying those memories. What a treat to return to Key West and then the Coppedge’s in Marathon Key. I got to watch him as he took in his lobster traps out and we enjoyed a couple more great meals together. Thanks to everyone that helped to make this trip happen and to those others that supported me along the way. Tim Yow / Rydnfool

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One Response to Ride report of ’09, 5 Coast/Circumnavigation of North America

  1. timyow says:

    James,
    Sorry that I’ve been traveling and missed your message. I planned to come to one of your Goldwing meetings when I return to T.V.. I plan to be there January 8th until Mid-March, including the Ironbutt “Ride-In” in Early March in J’Ville,FL.
    Lets get in contact sometime in mid-January for lunch 0r coffee.

    Tim

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