Texas to Tuktoyaktuk

Where have you been riding? Tell us all about your trip. Prove it with pictures! If ya didn't take pictures, it didn't happen...
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This is the place for you to post reports about your rides. Remember the mantra: "If you don't post pictures, it didn't happen".
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mightymatt43
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Postby mightymatt43 » Fri Sep 11, 2009 10:36 pm

pidgey wrote:Hey guys, how much is the snocoach trip these days? I did it with relatives about 10 years ago and it was a fortune back then :wink:


well, we actually didn't do it. i don't think it was a very good day for the tours as it was pretty gusty and snowing and we really wanted to make it to a hotel in jasper for the night. we texans have thin blood - not conducive for the snow.

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Postby mightymatt43 » Fri Sep 11, 2009 10:40 pm

daydream wrote:Hell, half the bidges you cross in Texas say "so and so River" you look down and there is no water, nothing but sand and gravel. Water, brown or otherwise, would be an improvement.


i know it - my dad has a ranch right on a river that has completely dried up. apparently, that's the first time in about 70 years that it's done that. not good.

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Postby mightymatt43 » Sun Sep 13, 2009 9:58 pm

Entry 15

Wow. I have a lot of report as we've had pretty horrible internet connections for the past few days. So here goes:

Before we got to Jasper, we took time to climb up to a glacier and I made this:
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ej0voDM4LAg
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When we left Jasper, we immediately had two female wolves run right in front of us across the highway. Unfortunately, our little camera was broken so we missed a pic but it was great to see. But we decided to cough up more money at a Walmart for a new one (that's what credit cards are for, right?).
Broken on the right, new and tiny on the left:
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After about 10 minutes on the road before leaving Jasper, however, a pretty stiff head wind picked up. We thought that it was possibly just coming off the mountains, but it continued to pick up throughout the day and by the time we reached Dawson Creek, I was pretty well fed up with it. It was probably the most frustrating day of driving on the trip. I think I'd take rainy and cold over windy any day.

We did a lot of this due to the wind:
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But the scenery wasn't half bad.
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We eventually made it to the Alaska Highway:
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And we felt pretty good about ourselves, to be honest.

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We noticed very early on that the farther north you get, the more eccentric the gas stations become. This one featured Sasquatch.
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After Dawson Creek, we made our way to Fort Nelson through much of the same scenery and more wind and rain. Fort Nelson turned out to be a pretty interesting experience, as it turns out, mainly because of a few people we met there. We were sitting out in the parking lot as the air filter dried when a trucker and helicopter pilot came up and starting chatting with us. The first thing we learned (after answering the normal questions, aka 'how old is the bike?', 'where was it made?', 'is the sidecar comfortable?') was that Fort Nelson was scheduled to grow in population from 2,000 to 80,000 over the next year! The biggest gas find in North America was just discovered very near the town and so there are business men everywhere trying to get a piece.

Secondly, the trucker gave us our favorite quote of the trip thus far. In giving us advice about the road ahead, he said, "There are animals everywhere and they ain't afraid of the road, eh? It's $#&%*#$ Jurassic Park out there, eh?" Kristen couldn't help herself and laughed out loud and the guy was a real sport about it. And now, every time we see any wildlife, we sing the Jurassic Park theme song very loudly.

Here's Kristen beating my pants off at gin in the parking lot. 10 games. Who knew my wife was such a card shark?
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The drive between Jasper and Fort Nelson was pretty uneventful scenery-wise, but it was gorgeous on the way to Watson Lake. Even though it rained nearly the entire time as we wound our way through the mountains, it was great.

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To get a feel for this part of the country, you need to know that every gas station up here is multipurpose. They are also a restaurant, camp ground, tire repair station, store and private residence. I guess they have to be that way because services are hard to come by this far north. We're honestly excited every time we come to a place because they're all so unique.

We had homemade beef and barely soup at one:
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One boasted a huge collection of hats:
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We also saw a ton of wildlife.
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Oh, and the buffalo don't get out of the way for anybody. This guy stood in the middle of the road and just stared us down for 5 minutes. I was intimidated.

After 10 hours of driving, we came flying into Watson Lake as it was getting dark and struggled to find accommodation:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hKWPmjKFWm4
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We woke up the next morning and spent a bit of time at the Sign Forest. It's odd and definitely worth the stop.

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We then drove through a sea of trees that were all changing with the season. Really beautiful.
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After a nice drive, we ended up in Whitehorse - the capital of Yukon. There are only 24,000 residents in the whole province and 18,500 live in Whitehorse. It's pretty modern and the good weather allowed me to do a quick fluid change before sleep.

More in a bit...

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Postby sputnik » Mon Sep 14, 2009 4:41 pm

hi guys; matt hows your back been? i just mounted a windshield' big diff in the strain on ridin. did you figgier out wat caused the tub tire issue? are the locals cluing you in on the weather time frame for snow/sleet/freezin rain? i would think anytime, but it don't look much different than maine weather right now. i did notice that the trees seem to be getting smaller though :shock: the thing about the moose an bison is at night they blend in with the shadows,DONT RIDE AT NIGHT! we want you guys back to home :old: look forward to your rr's . adios

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Postby pidgey » Mon Sep 14, 2009 8:46 pm

those places look kind of familiar........ :wink:

Good luck on the Dempster. :thumbsup:
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Postby Thunderstruck » Wed Sep 16, 2009 6:16 pm

Looks like they made it to Inuvik. Unless some changes have happened I believe that's as far as you can go until they open the ice road. Any one know if that's still true?
Chuck
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Postby Spicy McHaggis » Wed Sep 16, 2009 6:54 pm

Thunderstruck wrote:Looks like they made it to Inuvik. Unless some changes have happened I believe that's as far as you can go until they open the ice road. Any one know if that's still true?
Chuck


Yup that's still true and most likely always will be!

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Postby mightymatt43 » Thu Sep 17, 2009 12:34 am

sputnik wrote:hi guys; matt hows your back been? i just mounted a windshield' big diff in the strain on ridin. did you figgier out wat caused the tub tire issue? are the locals cluing you in on the weather time frame for snow/sleet/freezin rain? i would think anytime, but it don't look much different than maine weather right now. i did notice that the trees seem to be getting smaller though :shock: the thing about the moose an bison is at night they blend in with the shadows,DONT RIDE AT NIGHT! we want you guys back to home :old: look forward to your rr's . adios


my back is pretty moody, actually, but the past few days have been okay. i'm sure the windshield does a lot but would have killed my gas mileage too much for this trip. as far as the weather goes - we may hit some when we get to dawson. we'll definitely be driving the dempster back south in the rain but dawson is supposed to get snow this weekend. we're hoping to sneak past! and we definitely have been avoiding riding at night as much as possible - thanks for your concern!

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Postby mightymatt43 » Thu Sep 17, 2009 12:35 am

pidgey wrote:those places look kind of familiar........ :wink:

Good luck on the Dempster. :thumbsup:


haha - yeah i'm sure they do. but this road is ever changing with the weather...

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Postby mightymatt43 » Thu Sep 17, 2009 12:36 am

Thunderstruck wrote:Looks like they made it to Inuvik. Unless some changes have happened I believe that's as far as you can go until they open the ice road. Any one know if that's still true?
Chuck


we did make it to inuvik and as spicy said, you can only drive to tuk in the winter. we are still trying to decide if paying for a flight up north is going to be worth it. this traveling business is expensive!

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Postby Thunderstruck » Thu Sep 17, 2009 12:47 am

A chance to dip your toes in the Arctic Ocean/Beaufort Sea, do you really need to think real hard on whether to do it or not. Once in a lifetime adventure. Go for it and score some beach sand/pebbles for your scrapbook!
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Postby mightymatt43 » Thu Sep 17, 2009 1:40 am

Entry 16

Wow. I have a lot of report to catch up on! Hang on, boys and girls, this is gonna be a long one and I'm certain it will be a precursor to our most exciting post...

During our ride from Whitehorse to Dawson I remembered how important good weather is to a fun ride. It was absolutely perfect - sun shinning, no wind, pleasant temperature - after the past few days of variable conditions, it was a real treat. Speaking of treats, our first stop gave way to the revelation that they make enormous cinnamon rolls in the Yukon! This thing was bigger than my head and that is saying a lot:
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The sea of yellow surrounding us as we drove north was breathtaking. The changing of the seasons here is very apparent and is a constant reminder that we shouldn't take our time or else we could be caught in some pretty nasty weather.
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The traffic was definitely light this far north and I'm assuming it is because the summer season is nearly finished. Nonetheless, we made a few stops at various places Kristen had read about. Some were definitely a little reminiscent of a setting from movies like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre - in all reality the people are all very, very nice and considerate.
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We rolled into Dawson City just before dark and found it to be pretty charming. They've really sold out to recreating the days of the Gold Rush and we had a good time wandering around. In fact, due to waking up a bit too late and some heavy rain, we decided to stay an extra day before heading further north. We even had a few people buy us drinks due only to the Ural. Well done, bike. Well done.
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But the Dempster was waiting!
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We woke up early a few days ago and put on our game face. I researched for a year to get the chance to ride the Dempster and I think I may have psyched myself out in doing so. I was a bit anxious as we filled up for the last time at the junction of the Klondike Highway and the Dempster and seeing as it was raining pretty steadily, I suppose I had the right to be nervous. For anyone that doesn't know (I'm sure most of you do) the Dempster is 417 miles of dirt, gravel and mud. It's an amazing feat of engineering that allows it to be driven through the entire year through some seriously extreme weather. Most importantly, it is an ever-changing road because of the weather and can shift from being dry and hard to wet and slushy in an instant.

Anyway, we had been given a ton of advice from locals who all told us the number one thing to remember is to yield! Yield to everybody, especially the truckers. So after snapping a few pictures at mile 0, we headed north, unaware at how dirty we were about to become.

We quickly learned that the Dempster gives you three types of mud: slick and bumpy where with bits of rock and gravel scattered about where the dirt is thin, huge puddles of wet mud that sprays you with grey and black, and (my favorite) deep and slushy mud that forces you to ski as you attempt a balance between control and chaos. I can definitely say that I was never bored.

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Although the road is a bit challenging, the scenery is unbelievable. The landscapes are constantly changing and there is wildlife everywhere. At times, Kristen and I really felt as if we were on another planet. It is unbelievable. We also noticed that the few cars we saw reacted even more than usual to our bike. We always get attention, but these people pumped their fists in the air and honked and waved in encouragement. At least I hope it was in encouragement...:wink:

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My favorite:
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We continued on through the day and received a good mix of sun and rain while the road continued to be muddy and slick (especially through the mountains). By the time we reached our first stop in Eagle Plains, I was pretty tired, to say the least. And dirty - so dirty.

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Eagle Plains is the first place to find services and is 215 miles from mile 0. Don’t get this place confused with a town. It’s really only a series of buildings that offers gas, tire repair, a restaurant and bar, and a ton of expensive rooms to sleep in for the night. It’s open all year round and features some of the unfriendliest and intimidating staff we’ve ever seen. Of course, Kristen’s charm can be resisted by none… It also is full of dogs (we’re guessing they belonged to the truckers that drive the Dempster) all of whom were extremely well behaved and joined us in the dining room. So after peeling away our nasty clothes and eating a quick dinner, we collapsed in our beds and slept soundly through the night.

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To be continued...

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Postby mightymatt43 » Thu Sep 17, 2009 2:01 am

We woke up feeling rested, ate a quick breakfast and piled our dirty gear back on the mud-caked Ural. After filling up with gas we hit the road again found that we were immediately encompassed in a cloud. Eagle Plains is at a pretty high elevation and as we descended, we were thrust onto the movie set of Sleepy Hollow.

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After coming down onto the plains, we reached a pivotal point on our trip. After 25 days and a little over 4500 miles, we crossed into the Arctic Circle! A nice woman from NY, who had driven the Dempster just to get a shot of the sign with a rubber chicken, took our picture and then turned back south after telling us that there was nothing to see farther north. We hoped on the bike and headed onwards anyway and had not been driving for more than 5 minutes when we stumbled upon the most exciting part of our entire trip.

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It takes a special woman to go on a trip like this...
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Kristen had just sent an email to her mom that morning about how disappointed she was that she hadn’t seen a bear. We had been told, and warned, about how we were heading into the most densely populated area of Grizzly’s in the world. So, we had expected to see them everywhere but were disappointed day after day. This day, however, turned out to be quite different.

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We were driving along an especially open and flat area when Kristen spotted something in the distance. “Matt, what is that?”, she asked me while pointing to the right of the road. As we got closer we realized that we were 100 yards away from a Grizzly! I stopped the bike and Kristen snapped a few pictures with our small point-and-shoot as the bear lazily wandered in our general direction. As he got a closer, Kristen got a bit more nervous (and rightly so) and tensely pulled out her bigger camera with a zoom lens. About that time, a construction worker with his wife pulled up in their truck. They both hopped out with a camera and I took that as a cue to jump off the bike and take the camera from Kristen to get a better angle of the bear (who was now behind us on the road). The bear continued to get closer and as Kristen got out of the sidecar, the man turned to us and said, “Umm, I think it’s about time that you folks get in my truck…”. Upon hearing that, our eyes got a bit larger and we sprinted for the door as the bear trotted up the road.

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I then realized that getting off the bike was a horrible idea. The bear ran up to the bike and immediately started sniffing around. The man and his wife rolled down their windows and started yelling and honking the horn but the bear wouldn’t take a hint. Eventually, the man basically shoved the bear away from our faithful steed (who smiled through the whole affair) with his truck and after some tense moments the bear finally walked a ways down the road. Seeing that it was far enough away, Kristen and I jumped out of the truck and quickly put our gear back on while the truck waiting for us, just in case. After thanking our saviors, we sped away to the north and decided to leave the bike running every time we stopped in the future.

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The rest of the day was filled with more mud, blue skies, and a mysterious snack. On the way north, you have to cross two rives on two separate ferries. We shared one of them with a nice woman who offered us a treat while we waited. Kristen loved it. We’re not totally sure what is was but it was definitely fishy.

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And so, at about 8:30 pm yesterday evening we reached our final destination. The town of Inuvik is as far north as you can drive (without aid of the ice road in the winter) and is end of the Dempster Highway. We’re now staying at a chalet that raises sled dogs (huskies everywhere!). More on that tomorrow before we head south once again! Off to an evening hike and pancake dinner!

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Postby Spicy McHaggis » Thu Sep 17, 2009 2:23 am

YES!!!!!!!!!

Some images look vaguely familiar...
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Congratulations!!!

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Postby mightymatt43 » Thu Sep 17, 2009 2:43 am

Spicy McHaggis wrote:YES!!!!!!!!!

Some images look vaguely familiar...

Congratulations!!!


hahahah - yes, dude. i was hoping you would notice that. that smiley face, my friend, is me paying respect to those that came before...


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