Shrinking The Planet – One Ride At A Time

Archive for April, 2012

I’m Going To Stop To Take A Picture (Part 3)

When you are out adventure riding, there are certain moments that beg to be recorded.  The problem is that the timing may not appear to be right to take a picture or a video.  You are too busy enjoying yourself, you are angry about a situation that has occurred (the 4th puncture of the day may be such  a time), you may be very sad because of a sight you’ve seen or been part of someone’s plight.  But the recording of such events, while at the time appearing to be too maddening, too difficult, or almost inappropriate (and there are inappropriate times I would suggest), in the fullness of time actually call to be recorded.  Who will remember these times?  How will these times be shared without such recordings? 

Do yourself and the world a favor and record the happenings.  And…  once recorded, share them with others so that they too can experience what you have done, seen, and experienced and they in turn pass it on to others.  Such times do are short in duration, but can be made to last forever if you just take the time to record them.


Lastly, record what’s important to you. Don’t let others tell you what is and is not important. It’s what important to you that matters. Because what’s important to you reflects who and what you are, and that’s what you want to share now isn’t it? So let’s find out who Kim and Mike are from some of their moments, but believe us, there are thousands of them that we could put here. If you’d like, send us some of yours and we’ll post them here as well.

Now come on now, send us some pictures to post! Send them to and we’ll see what we can do. Remember, to shrink the planet, you must share yourself.

By the way, if you don’t know, click on any one of the pictures in the gallery below and it will open that picture into a full size picture and then you can click your way through the remainder of the pictures in either direction in full size. 
Ride2Adventure – Shrink the Planet One Ride At A Time

Transiting The Trans Labrador Highway & Canadian Atlantic Provinces (Part 2)

Having snaked our way up the side of Manic 5 we were underway for real on our TLH adventure.  It had been a beautiful ride so far, but it had been an all pavement ride up to this point and we were really looking forward to a bit more challenging terrain to ride.  We were about to experience some and find out what the TLH had in store for us.

As we made our way northward, the rain decreased in intensity and the low clouds began to lift a bit.  We were able to see a bit more of our surroundings and enjoy the very green forests that encroached from all directions.  The rain could do little to dampen our spirits as we soldiered on deeper into the forests of Labrador.  Yes, we were really heading into the wilderness and we were loving it.  The gravel road undulated and swooped up and down, sometimes with fairly steep grades.  The gravel varied from hard packed to loose and piled, so we had to stay alert, but it was not hugely difficult riding.  In fact, the rain was doing us somewhat of a favor and keeping the dust to zero.

After about two hours on the road and not a single car coming from the other direction, we were really in riding nirvana.  All this to ourselves, lush green surrounded us, the grey misty skies embraced us and softened all the features to a gauzy dreamlike condition.  If you could ride a motorcycle and enter a trance at the same time, now would be the time to do it, it was just that peaceful.   Just when we thought that we were the last two people on earth (or at least in Labrador) as we crested a hill, we were reminded that we were still surrounded by “civilization” no matter how isolated we thought we were.

To the right side of the road atop an orange pole stood tall, thin, blazing red beacon with unlit yellow and green lights.  It stood there silently with another square little box counting down the minutes and seconds as if it were waiting for something big to happen.  Could this really be?  A traffic signal in the middle of nowhere on the TLH?  Indeed it was and it was the first of its kind seen by this city boy.  It was a time controlled traffic signal and it was waiting for us and telling us to wait until it counted down to zero.  But it was quite strange.  Ahead we could only see sodden gravel road and varying shades of green trees, for what appeared to be a half mile.  We still didn’t know what it was doing there but we waited somewhat impatiently for the countdown to end and the light to turn green.

In fact, it took so long that a car pulled up beside us and turned off its engine to wait as well.  It’s occupants rolled down their windows and offered us some of the nuts they were munching on and we chatted a few minutes about our trip and where were from and where we were headed.  They told us that up ahead, we would find some construction where the road would narrow to a single lane and that’s why we were being held, so that traffic coming the other way would have time to pass the construction and pass us.  After the allotted time had passed we would be free to go and the folks on the other end would have to wait until we had passed by the timing of the traffic signal.  When the light finally turned green, we wished our new friends well and let them go first since we were in no rush to get anywhere and they were headed for Labrador City, quite a distance away.

One of the “highlights” of the trip was to pass through the vanished town of Gagnon, Quebec.   Gagnon provided us with one of the most eerie feelings we’ve ever had.  Gagnon was founded by the Québec Cartier Mining Company to mine iron ore at Jeannine Lake. Construction of the pilot plant began in the winter of 1957.  By August of that year, the plant had processed a thousand tons of ore. On January 28, 1960, the town was incorporated as Ville de Gagnon and named after Onésime Gagnon, the first Minister of Mining in Quebec. Thereafter it grew rapidly to 1300 inhabitants and by the end of that year, Gagnon had more than 4000 residents. It had an airport, churches, schools, a town hall, an arena, a hospital, and a large commercial centre, despite being isolated and only accessible by aircraft

In 1974, mining began at Fire Lake, some 80 kilometres (50 mi) north-east.  By the mid-1980s however, the mine was no longer turning a profit and the mines were closed.  More startlingly, the town fully was fully dismantled in 1985. All buildings and nearly all of the streets were demolished.  The town’s main street is all that remains and it became part of Route 389 two years after the town’s closure.  Eerily, that section of road retains a boulevard configuration, complete with a median, sidewalks, and sewers, despite being deep in the wilderness, hundreds of kilometres from the nearest active community,  It was  a very strange and unsettling feeling having traveled many miles on damp gravel to arrive at a paved section of road, complete with dividers and sidewalks, and see nothing around you but brush and trees.  You could only stare and wonder, “What happened to all the people who used to live here and where are they now?”

We stopped for a brief time but needed to move on since we had planned a fairly long day and had planned to bed down in were bedding down in Labrador City.  As we headed further north, towards Fermont, the mining town that led to the closure of Gagnon, the road began a set of twists and turns and multiple rail crossings.  Despite the fact that you are many miles from any large city, there are plenty of trains traversing these tracks and you must be very careful at the crossings to ensure that there is not a train coming.  While we completed this section in a single day, three separate trains passed by us.

Another hazard of the TLH is the “dreaded” road grader.  Traveling at low speeds, the transit the TLH for hundreds of miles evening out potholes and adding a slight crown to the road to assist in drainage.  While this is excellent for the four wheeled variety of vehicles, it can lead to more difficult riding for the two wheel variety.  The graders often leave an in or two of soft mixed soil in their wake as well as very significant mixed gravel berms that can make negotiating the road quite difficult.  The graders have gained a significant notoriety among the two wheeled adventure riding community and although their wake is not generally deadly, it can bite the unsuspecting if you turn your back on them as we’ll find out in Part 3.

I’m Going To Stop To Take A Picture (Part 2)

Since I posted Part 1 of “I’m Going To Stop To Take A Picture (Part 1)” (which has been our most popular post by far to date) I’ve been mulling over exactly what constitutes “scenery”.  Having been going through the selection process of many of our pictures this afternoon, I’ve found that there’s a very definite question of interpretation.  Are we just talking about landscapes when we talk about scenery or can it be more?  Can people be in a scenery picture or do they distract the view from the overall viewing pleasure?  Well, having thought about it for a good part of the day I’ve come to the conclusion that…  I don’t know.

One thing I do know is that I’ve found that I have a lot of pictures that could be classified as scenery, so I’m not sure how I’m going to present them to you or how to best sum them up to you.  Hmmm…..  Will it just suffice to say that they recall beautiful or memorable scenes?  Is that too broad a definition?  I really don’t know.  So here’s what I’m going to do.  I’m going to show you some nice pictures and call them scenery.  The only rule is that there are no people in these pictures and then I am going to let you decide whether they constitute scenery or not.  Perhaps after you’ve looked at the pictures, some of you will care to comment on what constitutes a scenery picture and what you thought of the pictures I chose to post.   How’s that?

Oh and a last confession.  I must have as Carl Sagan used to say…  “Billions and billions” of pictures that could qualify as scenery and I have not posted them all in this post.  So if you are not careful, I just may post a Part 2a.  You have been warned.  I sincerely hope you enjoy these pictures from all over the world where we have been.

By the way, just in case you don’t know, clicking on one of the thumbnail pictures will open it to a full size picture and you can then click through the whole gallery of photos if you like.

I’m Going To Stop To Take A Picture (Part 1)

The left ear speaker in my bike to bike helmet intercom crackled with a monotone voice I thought I’d already heard fifty times today.  “I’m going to stop to take a picture.”  Arggghhh!!!!!  No, not again, please, not again.  We were just making some decent time and now we have to stop again?  But you know what?  That voice in my left ear was my riding buddy, Kim’s Dad Dick.  He was the smart one that day and he taught me something as well.  Riding, especially adventure riding is a special experience and if you can capture it so you can re-live it later, you’ve done yourself and others a great service.  Because remember, your adventure isn’t all about you, it’s about the others that you meet and what we exchange when we interact.

When you capture that experience particularly in pictures or video, you share the experiences not only that you had, but potentially the impact that you had on others.  So take the time to not only experience your journey, but also record it for you and others to share later.  The sharing of these experiences on film or video can be almost as good as experiencing it first hand and if you can convince someone else to take an adventure ride, you will have made the planet a smaller and more sharing place.  Congratulations.

Now you may be asking how do these picture and recordings let me enjoy my adventure over and over or make the world a better place?  Well let’s take a couple of moments and figure this out together.  You can generally remember that the trip you went on was a lot of fun and that you had a good time, but will you remember all the individual scenes during your adventure, perhaps with someone you love, or care about, the gorgeous landscapes, the people you met, the weather you experienced and dealt with, or that you saw something that effected you.  How about all the action scenes, riding through water crossings, over logs, through sand, mud and… snow.  When you have pictures or video, these things are brought back to life.

So let’s break these down a bit and see what we can see, eh?  We’ll do this in several parts so for the first part, let’s look at personal one on one photos.  Ones that capturing the essence of the riding experience, fun or the adventure itself.  How do we do that?  Well it can be different for different people, but when you are really, really having fun or if there is a difficult situation, if you just take a picture right then and there, you will likely have captured the essence and spirit of the ride.  What do I mean by that; and who wants to stop and take a picture just when you are having fun or really ticked off?   I mean literally just take the picture.  Here are some of my favorites in this regard…

Capturing the person…

Here capturing some of the fun…

Perhaps the not so fun times…

And finally some reflections on riding…

With each of these pictures, a memory is renewed or an experience potentially forgotten forever shared.  Don’t let them get away, keep them forever.  Next time, in Part 2 we’ll take a look at scenery.

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Ride2Adventure – Shrink the Planet One Ride At A Time

Transiting The Trans Labrador Highway & Canadian Atlantic Provinces (Part 1)

As native New England adventure riders, we were looking for a ride that would be a bit more off the beaten track but doable within the 2 weeks we had off.  Something that was not your garden style ride, but something more.  We wondered where we could ride that would take us off the pavement and into the wilderness a bit, but still put us in touch with some different local flavors.  Something that we were not used to and would be new, interesting and exciting.  After thinking about it for a while, we thought we had come up with the only conclusion possible for us.  The Trans Labrador Highway (aka the TLH)!  At the time, a little traveled gravel road known for its changing conditions, pea sized gravel, significant distances between towns and nice people in them.  Then we thought, while we were at it, we may as well visit Newfoundland and Nova Scotia!

Done!  The deal had been struck, we would leave in the middle of June and head generally northeast up through Quebec, into Labrador, to Goose Bay, where the TLH ended, hop a ferry to Cartwright, get back on the TLH and ride to Blanc Sablon (actually in Quebec) hop another ferry to Newfoundland, ride south down the west coast of Newfoundland and once again jump on another ferry to Nova Scotia, ride the length of Nova Scotia and then board one last ferry to Maine and ride back to New Hampshire.  What a great trip!

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The machines for this trip were a KTM 950 Adventure for me and a BMW F650GS for Kim.  Although we planned to stay in hotels or B&Bs each night, we loaded them up with some extra supplies and gear in case of breakdown along the TLH.  We had emergency food, water and shelter and fuel just in case, and we were still loaded within reason.

So off we went on a bright and sunny afternoon headed towards Magog, Quebec.  Once reaching the Canadian border, signs in both English and French reminded us that we were indeed in the French speaking province of Quebec.  Ahh…  a different culture flavor to enjoy.  As the day wore on, the skies turned a bit more ominous, but luckily for us, we made it to our first stop completely dry and were able to enjoy a nice French Canadian dinner.   Yum!  We hit the rack fairly early in hopes of getting an early start the following morning.  We hoped that the good weather we had encountered all day would continue into the next.  However, we were not so lucky this time and the skies decided to open, shedding their grey and misty burden upon the surrounding green landscape.  On went our rain gear and we made our way north.  All morning we encountered rain and wind, but by the time we had made it to La Malbaie, the rain had stopped and the sun occasionally peeked out between thick layers of heavy grey clouds.

We continued on in increasing sun and drying roads.  By the time we had made it to Baie Comeau it was downright sunny.  A few miles later and we were ready to board our first ferry of the trip, a very short jaunt across a river but the only way across it.  There was a short backup of cars and trucks and everyone was patiently waiting their turn.  While waiting, we chatted with several people who wanted to know about the bikes and where we were headed.  When we told them we were about to traverse the Trans Labrador Highway, many were impressed, some wished they were coming along and all were very friendly.

In the increasing sun, we passed our first of several large dams that would mark our progress along the TLH.  All of these dams are named with the precursor name “Manic” short for the Manicouagan reservoir that feeds the dams managed by Quebec Hydro.  These dams are very important powering large portions of eastern Canada as well as the Eastern United States.    We did a bit of the tourist thing and stopped for a few pictures at Manic 2 and Manic 5.  All of the Manic dams are impressive structures, the most impressive being Manic 5 where the gravel of the TLH begins.  We had hoped to take a tour of the inner workings of the Manic 5 (more formally known as the Daniel – Johnson dam), but we were two days early for the start of the tour season, so we missed out.

By the time we reached Manic 5 and the Energy Hotel where we would stay for the night, we were pretty tired so we unloaded our gear and piled it into our converted mobile home room.  We walked past several other converted mobile home units and into the small cafeteria for some dinner.  We noted that all of this was created not for the tourist trade, but to put up traveling workers who service Manic 5.  As we sat and ate our cafeteria food, we looked around and noticed that we were the aliens, the outsiders.  The real  inhabitants of this place were the workers who kept the beast which was Manic 5 alive, fed and healthy.  We were merely outsiders, observers, not doers involved in keeping this mammoth beast alive which in turn made so many other people’s lives easier and literally, full of light.  It made me feel small.  However, in little over an hour, we had finished our meal and we walked back to our room in gathering darkness and mounting drizzle.

As morning came, it was raining and raining hard.  But the TLH called and we were anxious to be under way and start the beginning fo the gravel portion of our adventure.  We loaded up our bikes and made our way over the last short portion of pavement.  Prior to arriving on the gravel, you weave your way past several corners as Manic 5 looms in front of you.  Several giant arches equally spaced with a single giant arch in the middle face you looking like tressels to a giant bridge.  As you get closer, the immensity of the structure strikes you, this beast is large and it is powerful.  Its size and power become more evident as you ride the road that climbs beside its concrete face.

Suddenly the road turns to gravel and it is steep.  You make your way up the road and as you make it to the top on this new to you gravel surface, you can look down and see that you have climbed over 700 feet from whence you started.  This dam is indeed spectacular.  We stopped for a few pictures and began our TLH adventure in earnest.  We’ll tell you more about our journey in Part 2.

Alaska – Gravel, Grandeur & Goofy Grins (Part 6)

We enjoyed being in Dawson City so much that time was vanquished much more quickly than the setting of the sun in Dawson’s 21 hours of daylight.  Suddenly it was time to leave this wonderful place.  With quite a bit of disappointment, we the loaded the bikes and headed for the ferry and back up the mountain to the US border via the Top of the World Highway.

The trip to the border was fairly easy going with great scenery, good gravel and bright sun.  We did unfortunately encounter some people in motorhomes who were driving recklessly.  Very slow up the steep grades they would not let you pass and when you finally did pass, they would come down the steep grades very fast at the risk of burning out their brakes and tailgate until the next upward grade.  Other than the motorhome issue, you couldn’t ask for a much nicer trip to the border.  Once there, we were greeted by the residents of the town of Poker Creek Alaska, population 2.  The residents?  The two border guards that live at the house on the border while the highway is open.  They were very friendly and even assisted us with the motorhomes we had encountered on the highway.  The let us through very quickly and determined that the motorhomes merited a much more significant inspection.  Ahhh… payback.  Thank you guys!

Past the border we headed back toward Chicken and made a stop at the Chicken Creek Cafe for lunch again.  We met a few travelers while there and discussed off road riding and our journey so far.  Many expressed a desire to ride with us or make the journey on two wheels instead of four, so they too could enjoy the adventure as we had been doing.  They all said… “Someday.”  We were so glad that we had made “someday” arrive for us.

One of the travellers asked us which of the bikes was better and I remarked that they were both good bikes  He said he thought the KTM was probably the better bike because it had glasses.  I wasn’t sure what he meant until I turned around and looked at the headlights of my KTM and then I saw what he meant.  The lens covers on the KTM did indeed look like glasses!  (see pictures).  Very dirty glasses, but glasses nonetheless.

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On the way out of Chicken, we stopped to see Chicken’s own dredge, the Pedro dredge.  It was being restored and was smaller in size than dredge #4 in Dawson, but you could get much closer to the Pedro dredge.  We walked around and took a few pictures and once again we were reminded of the toiling that took place over a hundred years ago in search of gold.

After the pictures, it was time to get moving again so we could get to our hotel for the night at Tok.  As we had  related earlier, for us Tok did not represent anything special so it merely became a waypoint and a disembarkation point for our next stop at McCarthy, Alaska.  McCarthy had special allure to us for numerous reasons.  First, while we were researching this trip, we found the Kennicott Glacier Lodge which is located directly beside the Root Glacier that we intended to walk and which was only a short hike from the old McCarthy Copper Mine which we also intended to tour.

Having found the Kennicott Glacier Lodge with all the surrounding areas of interest, we excitedly called to make reservations.  We told them we would be arriving on motorcycles and the assistant suddenly became very concerned.  Did we know that they were located at the end of a 60 mile gravel road?  Why yes, yes we did, and that was precisely one of the reasons we had decided to come and visit them.  With a bit of hesitation, the attendant booked us and were all set to go to McCarthy.  We couldn’t wait to get there.

After a few hours sleep in Tok, we tried to get an early start but we ran into two separate mechanical problems.  First, one of the pannier bolts had broken on the KTM and the bolt was broken off inside the mount.  Damn!  There was no way for me to get the broken bolt out of the mount myself.  The first thing to do was to totally unpack the bike.  Then find a shop where I  could get an extractor to remove the bolt.  Ultimately I found an ATV shop where I spent several hours disassembling the pannier mounts so we could get at the mount to extract the broken bolt.  Once we had extracted the bolt, I reassembled the pannier mounts and headed back to the hotel.  By this time it had started raining.  Nice.  It was a short ride to the hotel where Kim was patiently waiting.  We rushed through loading the bikes quickly as time was wasting.

I fired up and jumped on my bike and immediately knew something was wrong.  The bike felt all mushy and it felt like I was riding on iron rollers.  It was immediately clear what the problem was.  I had a rear tire flat.  Damn!  Again!  But the tire still had enough air to get back to the ATV shop without ruining the tire.  Once there, we checked the tube and found no punctures.  Now what?  Believe it or not, it was just that the valve core was loose.  Double damn!  But it was an easy fix and another short ride later I was back at the hotel and packed for the ride to McCarthy.

As we made our way to McCarthy first on paved roads to the Kennicott mine with its rich history as the biggest copper deposit ever discovered, our anticipation and excitement grew as did the sight of the Wrangell – St. Elias mountain range and the glaciers it held.  There were beautiful vistas filled with mountains and trees and nothing else.  They continued to grow and grow as we approached, but forward motion did not seem to exist.  We knew we were traveling at around 50 mph, but the size of the Great Land and the distance to the mountain ranges nullified any feeling of forward progress.  We felt suspended in time and space.  Although we were moving, the landscape and the surroundings really didn’t change other than to witness the increasing size of the mountains in front of us gradually got closer.  Mountains changed from smallish bumps to taller peaks and finally to towering monoliths directly in front of our eyes.

By 5:30 PM we arrived at the turnoff of the pavement to the beginning of the gravel to get to Kennicott.  We’ll take you there in Part 7.

Alaska – Gravel, Grandeur & Goofy Grins (Part 5)

As we had feared, our time in Dawson was quickly nearing its end.  We had originally planned to ride the length of the Dempster Highway to Inuvik.  But as our time waned, we knew we could not accommodate such a journey.  Yet we were still determined to see more of the surrounding area and at the very least take a brief ride onto the famous Demptster Highway.   It was an easy pavement ride to the Dempster in bright sunshine and our spirits rose even further just as did the fluffy clouds in the sparkling azure Alaskan sky.    When we did reach the Dempster it was in marvelous condition.  We had heard horror stories about how treacherous it could be with any amount of rain but we were indeed lucky as the road was hard and smooth and fairly dust free.  If it weren’t for the spectacular scenery, in its present condition, the road was literally a gravel high speed highway.  But we were in no rush and the sights were far to beautiful to speed by without taking notice.

So we dawdled along admiring the towering mountains often covered with beautiful green trees of differing varieties and greenery too vast to describe.  Although they were often very green, sometimes they were barren in places and the inner core of the mountain could be seen.  Hard stone of differing colors, greys, pinks and blues appearing like the bones and sinew of the mountain made itself known .  Without trying to, the underlayments told the story of the mountain’s life.  Soft green trees and greenery supporting all manners of life existed at the surface, while just below, cold stone lay dormant holding the living above its head.  Truly, “The Great Land” is a master showman; showing you how amazing the interlocking puzzle of nature is.  Everything is connected.  Everything.

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We rode about 60 miles up the Dempster and stopped to have a lunch by the side of the road.  For some reason, our bag lunch tasted even better than usual in the beautiful surroundings.  So after munching down a sandwich, some nuts and an oreo cookie or two, we decided it was time to turn back to Dawson.  It was very strange, but travelling in the opposite direction was like taking another trip.  It looked like different scenery.  Were we sleeping on the way north?  It was fantastic, a two way treat of a ride.  We couldn’t explain it.  The mountains were beautiful, the rivers that ran beside the road had a different character, everything seemed new.  I felt like I was a kid at a carnival just getting off a ride and heading to the next.  It was that kind of excitement.  I was a bit drunk on it.  I was having more fun than I could remember in a long time and my inner kid had just emerged.  What a feeling.

At one particular point we decided we just had to have a picture.  So we pulled off to the side of the road near a small stream in front of a mountain.  I got a pretty nice shot of the bikes with the mountain in the background.  Then Kim said she wanted a picture with me in it.  So off I went to get into the picture.  We wear intercoms so we can talk to each other on the bikes and while Kim was lining up the shot, I asked her through the intercom “Kim, are you sure the bike’s mirror isn’t in front of my face?”   “No, it’s ok” came the speedy reply and she took the picture.

Another thing Kim likes to do is take a series of pictures of closer and closer zooms, and this series was no different.  So as she focused for the second picture, I still thought my face might be covered by the bike’s mirror.  “Are you sure that the mirror isn’t blocking my face?”  “Yes, I’m sure”, came the reply and “click” went the camera.  Finally, it was time for the third and final shot and I really thought the mirror was in the way of my face.  Kim, really, are you sure the mirror is not blocking my face?”  The only answer was the “click” of the camera.

So when we reviewed the results of this little picture taking opportunity, this was the result.


 Love is indeed blind.

As we finished up the picture taking, another rider was riding his way north on a BMW F650GS towards Inuvik, our original destination.

He stopped and we chatted about where he was headed and said that he was indeed headed to Inuvik which was about 400 miles away.  I asked him if he had any extra fuel and he said that he did not.  When I asked him when he had last filled up he said he wasn’t sure.  Kim and I were astounded.  Here we were in the Canadian Yukon, in significant bear country and this gentleman absolutely didn’t have enough fuel to get himself to Inuvik and he may not have had enough to get himself to the next town at Eagle Plains over 100 miles away.  Since the bike I was riding carried 7 gallons of fuel I offered to give him some fuel.  Luckily, he accepted and I was able to give him over 3 gallons of gas!  That being the case, it would have been problematic for that gent to reach Eagle Plains.  Boy were we glad we had this chance meeting.

So feeling we had done our good deed for the day we headed back to Dawson City for dinner.  We had promised ourselves a nice dinner at one of the premier restaurants in town.  Oh boy was it nice.  The presentation was marvelous and the taste wonderful.  It was a splendid way to top off a beautiful day of riding.  After dinner, we did a bit of walking around town to drink in all that Dawson City represented.  With sunrises around 3:30 in the morning and sunset around 1:00, there was a lot of sun for the day.  I for one, did not miss the night and could have stayed up for what seemed forever during our stay in the Dawson City area.

As great as Dawson City is, there’s even more to be seen as we head back southeasterly towards McCarthy, Alaska which we’ll tell you about in Part 6.

Alaska – Gravel, Grandeur & Goofy Grins (Part 4)

Having seen Dawson City’s colorfully painted downtown town district calling to us from above, we were excited to finish the rest of our descent and take it all in up close and personal.  We jumped back on the bikes and scooted quickly down the rest of the mountain until we reached the Yukon River and the free ferry across.  There was a short line of cars and trucks waiting for the ferry to make its way back across the river and pick us up.  But before long, the ferry arrived and we were making our way back to Dawson City.

After a brief ten minute crossing, the ferry ramp came down and we had landed in Dawson.  Suddenly we found ourselves in a wild west town of the 1800s.  The streets were all dirt and the sidewalks were not sidewalks but elevated wooden board walks.  Two story gayly painted buildings stood in front of us with hand lettered signs.  There wasn’t a chain store in sight.  There was even a horse drawn wagon.  From our surroundings, I thought I could hear spurs jingling on my boots as we rode.

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As we rolled into the center of town, we found the town hall/information center.  It too was fronted by a dirt road and elevated wooden boardwalk and we decided to stop there and pick up some information on Dawson and the precise whereabouts of our little hotel.  We pulled off the dusty roadway and parked.  Kim dismounted and I was about to dismount when a bearded gentleman approached offered his hand and said, “You must be Kim and Mike.”  We were flabbergasted.    Here we were, in a tiny town in the Canadian Yukon literally almost 4000 miles from home and a guy we’ve never seen before in our lives picks us out just as we are getting off our bikes and says hello like he’s known us all his life.  We love adventure riding.

Ahhh… Yes, yes we are, we mumbled or something to that effect.  He introduced himself as Tracy.  Tracy was the person that the couple at the McKinley View Lodge had told us that they wanted our email address for.  He had emailed us previously and said he hoped to meet us at the Dust to Dawson (D2D) gathering, but wow, this was something.  We both hadn’t even gotten off our bikes yet!  We hit it off immediately and Tracy, Kim and I spent quite a bit of time together at D2D enjoying the events, meals and even a ride or two or three.   By the time we had to say goodbye, we knew we had become steadfast friends.  In fact, we are still friends to this day even though thousands of miles separate us from Tracy and his wife MaryLee.  But we haven’t let that stop us, we’ve taken the time to correspond, and this past summer rode a good portion of the Trans American Trail together.

So when we tell you that adventure riding means more than just riding a motorcycle, think about this.  Two people from New Hampshire have a chance meeting with a couple they’ve never met at a  lodge near Mt. McKinley.  This couple asks us for our email address to give to their friend who rides motorcycles.  That friend tracks us down in a town in the Canadian Yukon and we hit it off so well that we spend three days together.  That relationship is so cemented by the passion of adventure riding that the long distance relationship is maintained for four years and two couples then get together in Tennessee and ride across the country together mostly off road.   I think you’ll agree that there aren’t many activities that provide the zest for life and yearning to be together to explore than adventure motorcycling.

But let’s get back to Dawson City, the D2D event and what can be found around Dawson.  For a pretty small town, there is much to be found in Dawson especially during D2D.  For those of you who may not be familiar, D2D is an adventure riding event hosted by members of  It’s a gathering of like minded adventure riders from all over the world.  Adventure riders are indeed shrinking the world.  While we were there, there were riders from Europe and Australia.  Planned events include group rides, a riding skill challenges and a large sit down meal.  It’s just a terrific gathering.

But Dawson isn’t just about D2D.  They also have some interesting historic venues.  They have recovered and recreated one of Jack London’s actual cabins.  It’s a tiny structure with a sod roof.  It wouldn’t be big enough to be considered a one bedroom apartment today.  When Jack lived in it, he shared it with at least one other person and sometimes more.  Outside was an elevated and enclosed perch where food and other supplies were stored lest you attract bears into your living quarters.  Every time you went to get food, you had to climb that high tree and get it.  It was difficult to imagine all the hardships of dealing with the lack of running water, electricity, and just surviving the environment, never mind the addition of the absolutely challenging and unrelenting Yukon winter.  The people of that era were the true examples of pioneers.  To survive in these conditions, these people had to be ever stout and unbreakable of heart and mind.  Some became rich, others bent or broke returning from whence they came and others unfortunately just perished.

With the conditions being so difficult, you may be asking yourself, why would anyone travel to such difficult climes?  It was the lure of wealth.  Gold.  It was reported all over the lower 48, that gold could be found lying at the surface in the areas near Dawson and all one need do is travel there, stake a claim and riches would soon be theirs.  So it was that Jack London was lured to Dawson and so it was that gold mining companies were lured as well.  And they brought great machines at great expense.  Huge floating machines called dredges capable of swallowing vast quantities of earth quickly.  Many large iron buckets were suspended from a boom and they rotated one after another, endlessly 24 hours a day, gulping the earth from swamps, ponds and rivers.  These machines, built more than 100 years ago, were so well designed and engineered that they extracted more than 95% of the gold that entered them.

In consuming the gold, they also consumed the men that operated them.  No grease or oil was used in their operation for fear that the gold would be lost in the sifting process, as such, the metal on metal grinding sound was abominable.  Men lost their hearing.  There were little to no safety considerations and men were often injured in their operation and merely replaced with another man.  The men worked in muddy swamps in the summer and as if to taunt them, extreme sub zero temperatures in winter.  But there was gold to be found and this ensured a steady stream of people willing to try their luck to become instantly wealthy.  This ultimately is the story of Dawson City.

Although Dawson  revolved around gold, there’s more to talk about and we’ll tell you in Part 5.

You Meet The Nicest People On A…

Many years ago (1962 actually), Honda introduced the concept of riding motorcycles to “everyday” people with an ad campaign that featured the slogan, “You meet the nicest people on a Honda.”  While that might be true of Honda motorcycles, Kim and I have found that Honda’s ad campaign slogan really is an anthem for all of motorcycling; and are we ever glad it’s the case.

Through our journeys and we dare say a few adventures, we have met the most amazing people and made most endearing and lasting friends.  Other friends have come and gone, but there is something special about those friends who we have made having ridden with them or having met as a result of a ride to somewhere.

Take for example our trip to Labrador.  While we were visiting the very small town of Port Hope Simpson which had only gravel roads and one means of lodging, the phone rang.  Kim and I looked at each other bewildered.  “Who could be calling us in the middle of Labrador?”  I gingerly picked up the phone and a happy voice on the other end said, Hi Mike, this is Dave Noel.  You and I have been corresponding on the Ride the Rock website, I came by to say hi.  Dave had just ridden 25 miles of gravel to say hello to strangers he had been having email conversations with.  After a nice visit at the lodge, Dave rode home and the following day we visited him at his house and met his family.  We’re still friends to this day and we still correspond.

Or how about the time we were on a ferry from Newfoundland to Nova Scotia?  I was posting about our trip to Newfoundland when I received an email from a stranger who invited us to ride with him if we were willing.  In return, he’d show us some of his favorite back roads.  Who were we to refuse?  We met Joe Treen at a local restaurant and we were off for an excellent day of riding.  Since then,  we’ve gotten together to ride a number of times and Joe has come to visit and stay at our home in NH.

Perhaps we should tell you about our chance meeting with a couple at a restaurant in Alaska who told us they had a friend who rode motorcycles and that they’d like to give him our email address.  Of course we said yes and ultimately we met Tracy and his wife MaryLee.  Since 2008 we’ve been friends and we were even lucky enough to get time off together last year to ride a good portion of the Trans America Trail together.

Maybe we should tell you about our trip from Pucon, Chile to Ushuaia, Argentina.  On that trip we travelled with Tavo, Leo, Andrew, Bjorn, Paul, Matt and Louise.  We’ve only lost touch with two of them.  We correspond with them fairly often.  But why don’t you meet up with them more?  Well, there’s a bit of a geography problem now.  You see, Tavo is from Columbia, Leo is from Germany, Andrew is from England, Bjorn is from Norway, Paul is from Australia and Matt and Louise are from……  Cleveland.

As to the non-riding people we have met, we can’t tell you how they have effected us and us hopefully them.  Almost everywhere we stop, the bikes are a conversation item.  Where are we from, where are we going?  What’s it like to ride off road?  What’s it like for Kim to ride the terrain she rides?  Isn’t it hard to do?  We always tell them that it is a very fulfilling thing and one of the best parts is meeting people like them.  They usually glow with comments like that and in turn they share themselves with us.  It’s wonderful.

One story stands out in my mind.   It was on our Labrador trip.  It was fairly early in the morning and I was packing the bikes in the rain preparing to board the ferry to Newfoundland.  It was dank and dreary and the grey ocean was topped with whitecaps.  Nearby a tour bus idled waiting for its passengers to board.

As I was finishing packing an older gentleman approached and quietly watched for a while.  He was wearing a clear raincoat and a yellow Gloucester fisherman’s hat. I noticed he was wearing a Cessna belt buckle and I could tell that this man had had some adventures of his own.  After a while, he walked a bit closer and asked where we were headed and where we had come from.  I told him that we had ridden from our house in New Hampshire and we were headed to Newfoundland.  We chatted a bit about the trip so far and what the Trans Labrador Highway had been like.  While we stood there in the rain, he looked me in the eye and looked over to the bus he would later board and he said, “I wish I was traveling with you.”

Ride2Adventure – Shrink The Planet One Ride At A Time

Alaska – Gravel, Grandeur & Goofy Grins (Part 3)

We left the Tangle River Inn and made our way easterly towards Tok.  We were in and out of rain showers and frankly our arrival was a bit anti-climatic.  Tok is a decent sized town, but is not all that distinctive.  Perhaps what made Tok distinctive was the Westmark hotel which contained a slew of busses carrying cruise ship passengers headed for another point of embarkation.  All those people jammed together and they really weren’t seeing the real Alaska and its people.  What a shame.

We stayed only overnight and headed out first thing in the morning north-easterly towards Eagle, year round population 180.  We knew that the trip to Eagle was a dead end cut off by the Yukon river, and that we would have to re-trace our tracks, but we thought that the surrounding roads and terrain looked pretty interesting so the trip was worthwhile.  There were mountains and gravel roads to ride and 180 people to me so that seemed like fun!

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Shortly after hitting the road the rain began.  Nothing ridiculous, but on and off showers as we made our way along the paved portion of our day’s trip.  Sooner than we knew it, we were on the gravel and making good time.  And then the skies opened up.  It was as if one of Alaska’s glaciers had burst and let loose the millions of gallons of ice melt water that had been contained for years.  Visibility dropped to near zero and the temperature dropped as quickly as the falling rain.  There was little else to do but stop and put on rain gear.  While we unpacked our gear from our bikes, a ten wheeled dump truck traveling in the opposite direction stopped and the driver rolled down the window.

He had news.  Just ahead, he said, they were repairing the road and laying gravel down. Big gravel, in 1 and 2 inch chunks, about 2 inches deep.  Not to worry though, the gravel was only about a 3 mile stretch.  “Marvelous, just marvelous”, I thought.  Then he said that the gravel wasn’t the real issue.  They were laying the gravel because the road had turned to mud and they were dumping the gravel on top to make the road surface hard enough for travel.  “Wonderful, just wonderful”, I thought.  Not to worry though, the mud was only a mile long though.  “Crap”, I thought.

Oh well, we came for some adventure and adventure we were going to get.  So on we went, slowly making our way through the pouring rain on asteroid size chunks of gravel and sloppy mud.  But when all was said and done, we made it through with flying colors with Kim riding the gauntlet like a knight who’d won many a match with nary a slip.  She did indeed pull off a spectacular ride.

For all this testing, we were greeted by the über small town of Chicken (its real name is Chicken Creek).  It is said that it Chicken was so named because the settlers found that the surrounding countryside was full of Ptarmigan.  However, no-one could spell Ptarmigan, so they decided to name it Chicken.

While passing through Chicken, we stopped at its epicenter, the Chicken Creek Cafe and the Chicken Creek Saloon.  In a strip of attached wooden buildings, they served home cooked food and bottled liquor.  The food was excellent especially considering there is no running water at all.  They hand pump all their water for cooking and cleaning and there are no flush rest rooms.  If you need to use the facilities the outhouse is out the front door to your right.

But by the time we finished our meals, we were well rested and the rain has stopped to a drizzle.  Ahh…  It was time to make our way to Eagle and get a good night’s sleep.  When we arrived at Eagle it was getting late and we checked in and headed to the only restaurant in town which was right on the Yukon river.  It was a good meal and only made us more sleepy.

The following morning we had some time to meet our innkeeper and talk about life in Eagle and what ever else she could think of.  It turns out that she was not a native of Eagle but had been a school teacher in Wisconsin.  She had developed a pen pal relationship with a man who told her he lived in a small town in Alaska called Eagle.  After about a year, he invited her to come out and visit him, she did and found that his home had no running water and no central heat.  But she fell in love with Alaska and ultimately the man and never returned to Wisconsin.

We stayed only one day in Eagle and in the late morning headed towards Canada and the Yukon Territory town of Dawson City.  We had an appointment to attend ADV’s Dust to Dawson event.  ADVers from all over the world would be in attendance and we were looking forward to meeting other adventure riders from various corners of the planet.

Back we rode over the same gravel road from whence we had come and just before getting to Chicken, we made the turn to make our way to the Canadian border and ultimately onto the Top Of The World Highway.  Approaching and crossing the border was pretty anti-climatic.  The Canadian border is in the town of Little Gold Creek.  Its residents?  The border guards that live at the house at the border crossing and no-one else.  While there, they asked appropriate questions and sent us on our way.

Then we were off and traveling the Top Of The World Highway.  The views were great, but for some reason we were not awed.  The road surface changed back and forth from gravel and pavement which made the ride a bit interesting, but for some reason, there were an abundance of motorhomes and vehicles with trailers on the road despite being fairly in a fairly isolated area.  It became a bit frustrating as the motorhomes were very slow going up the very big hills we encountered and very fast coming down sometimes traveling uncomfortably close to Kim as she descended the hills.

But after about an hour we started a gradual descent and approached the town of Dawson City.  Coming down some of the final hills, we came to a clearing and could catch a glimpse of the city we were about to visit.  We could see the town center and it was painted in bright, lively colors that beckoned to us from the valley below.  The Yukon river continued its lazy flow in front of us, for now cutting us off from the delightful little town.  But we were only a couple of miles and a free ferry ride away from 3 days of fun in Dawson which we’ll tell you about in Part 4.

GeigerRig Hydration Systems

You’re hot, sweaty, tired, thirsty and in the middle of no-where.  You need a drink.  So does your riding buddy or buddies.  Now what?  You’ve made an unfortunate mistake and fallen off your machine, are a bit bloody and need to wash some grit out of that abrasion.   Eww…  what to do?  You need to carry some gear for the day trip or a bit longer trip but you don’t want to weigh down the bike with tied on or fully mounted gear.  So how can you solve all of the above equations?  Is there a simple, single solution?  Well kemosabe’, to this writer, there is.

Enter the Geigerrig.  A backpack with a built in hydration system.  You may be thinking, so what there are a bunch of hydration systems out there, what’s makes this one different?  Well among other things, this one is different in that it is pressurized; pressurized by you by means of a small, attached bulb on the outside of different sized backpacks.  So in the scenarios discussed above, your pressurized Geigerrig works like this…

  • You’re hot and sweaty, cool off by squeezing the end of the drink tube and squirting the liquid all over your body.  Ahhhhh….  so nice.
  • Share a drink with your buddies…  your buddies squeeze the end of the included drink tube and squirt the liquid into their mouths.  No nasty exchange on a single mouthpiece.
  • Dirt, sand, mud in your abrasion…  squeeze the end of the included drink tube and squirt the liquid onto the wound and wash as necessary
  • Need to carry gear…  put it in the backpack of the hydration system.

Now if all this seems like an advertisement for Geigerrig, it’s not.  All we can say is that we used this hydration system on our Trans American Trail ride this summer with temperatures often over 100 degrees every day.  The value in having cold water during the day (we filled the hydration pack with ice cubes and water in the morning) for drinking and for cooling off was immeasurable.  For example…

Pretty chilly water still squirting late in the afternoon on a 100+ degree day.

We can’t tell you how important the Geigerrig was to staying hydrated and cool enough to finish the trip.

As for the details of the rig, the one you see in the picture is the 1600.  It accommodated plenty of gear, it was large enough to handle a rolled up jacket, maps, some tools and other goodies needed.  It attached easily and securely with no flopping around noted.  There are many pockets to segregate your gear so if you pack your gear systematically, you can do so and know exactly where to find your items.

Filling the “hydration engine couldn’t be simpler.  Unhook it from the interior hook, slide off the clip from the hydration engine container, unfold the bag and open.  Fill the engine and reverse the process.  Easy.  Even with the engine filled with liquid, there was still plenty of room in the 1600 backpack.

However, all was not sunshine and roses.  One distinct shortcoming was the length of the hydration tube.  It was too short to drink from while riding and wearing a helmet.  This is a major oversight in my book and Geigerrig may have addressed this by now, but it is a very unfortunate and important shortcoming.  Drinking on the roll can be very important for those who ride long distances or who are in environments where stopping constantly is not an option.

Still all in all, I would give the Geigerrig an A-.  Frankly its a piece of gear that no-one should be without.  For more details on the Geigerrig, visit their website here.

Sidi Adventure Goretex Boots – Initial Impression

I’ve had a little time to ride in Sidi’s Adventure Goretex Boots and have formed an initial impression of their performance.  On a sunny Vermont day, we were able to put in a little over 100 miles mostly on pavement with some dirt and gravel and a tiny amount of slimy mud left over from the Vermont mud season.  With temperatures in the high 30s to low 40s, we did everything from low speeds to some higher speed twisties, so we had a fairly good day and mix of conditions to get initial impressions.

In keeping with a more pure off road bias, the Sidi Adventures are a fairly tall boot.  If you are used to a “normal” road boot, you’ll immediately notice the increased height of the boot.  In addition, it’s also significantly heavier than many road boots so when you first pick them up to put them on, you’ll immediately notice the increased weight.  Once on though, the weight is less noticeable.  Also immediately apparent is the increased stiffness of the boot.  It’s not as stiff as a pure off road boot, but it is fairly stiff and it will take a bit of getting used to if you have previously only been a road boot user.  If you’ve been in pure off road boots before, the Adventures will feel soft.

I found that the boot was a bit fidgety to get on, particularly the upper buckle.  It’s nothing significant, but you will have to do a bit of adjustment to get the buckle to overlap correctly.  This will likely go away with use, but it was a bit of a fuss on the first few fittings.  Not a significant worry however.   On the other side of the coin, adjusting the length of the buckle straps couldn’t be easier and Sidi has done an excellent job here.  A mere snap of the strap downward releases it for adjustment and when you have it adjusted properly snap it up back into place and you are done.  Wonderful!

Once you get the boot on, one thing you will immediately feel is the security of the boot and that is a good thing.   Your foot and leg feel encompassed by the boot; not oppressed by it.  It’s stiff but it feels stiff in all the right places.  It has a large shin guard plate and guards at the ankles and shifting areas.   I felt protected in this boot.

The interior of the boot was roomy enough for my very wide feet which are EEEs.  Normally, I take out the footbeds of my boots and insert rubber insoles as well as a 1 1/4 lift due to a previous motorcycle/car interaction.  I can say that the interior of the boot was roomy enough to accommodate my lift but not my rubber foot beds which are thicker than the factory originals.  So I did have to go back to the factory original footbeds to use my lift.  To translate all of this, I’d say that the toebox and overall interior is fairly roomy.  If you have very narrow feet, you may want to think about adding a thicker footbed, but for folks with normal to wide feet, you should be all set.  As far as sizing goes, I wear a 8 1/2 US shoe and wear a size 43 Sidi Adventure boot.

Initially, the boot had a couple of hotspots in them for my foot and leg.  There was a slight squeezing at the side of my foot, but that eased up as the day went on so I don’t anticipate any problems.  The other noticeable issue was a hotspot on my right shin.  It seemed to be right under the beginning of where the shin guard started only on my right leg.  Once again, this let up as the day grew longer so I attribute this to a break in issue as well.

As was stated earlier, it was fairly chilly out with temperatures in the high 30s and low 40s.  I was wearing one pair of smart wool socks and my feet were always warm and toasty.  They seemed to retain the heat in my boot but never got wet/clammy and therefore did not get cold.  Again, thanks to the wonders of Goretex, these boots can breathe and breathe they do.  We did not encounter any rain or hit any water crossings during this ride, so I can’t comment on its waterproof capabilities at this time but I will update you later in our long term review.

The boots have a lugged sole and offer excellent traction on pavement, gravel or mud which we experienced on this ride.   Since I’ve only worn them one day, I can’t comment on the longevity of the sole, but it does appear to be the same sole as on my previous Sidi Canyon Goretex boots that are 3 full seasons old and the soles look like they have a couple more seasons in them at least.

So can I say that the Sidi Adventure Goretex are worth their lofty price at this point?  It’s hard to tell since this report is only on one day’s ride in the cold.  So once I get some more miles and rides on them in warmer (i.e. hot) weather, I’ll update you all with a long term update and let you know whether I think the boots are worth their high price.  But for the time being, it’s looking like a good investment!

Ride2Adventure – Shrink The Planet One Ride At A Time

Arai XD4 vs XD3 Helmet Initial Impression

I’ve had a little time to ride in Arai’s XD4 and have an initial impression of it as compared to the Arai XD3.  On a sunny Vermont day, we were able to put in a little over 100 miles mostly on pavement with some dirt and gravel and a tiny amount of slimy mud left over from the Vermont mud season.  With temperatures in the high 30s to low 40s, we did everything from low speeds to some higher speed twisties, so we had a fairly good day and mix of conditions to get initial impressions.

Arai XD4

Arai XD4

Arai XD3

For me, both helmets seem to have the same helmet shape shell and the fit was essentially the same between the two models.  However, for the XD4, Arai has redesigned the cheek pads.  Not only are they a slightly different shape and size, but the cheek pads supplied as original equipment with the helmet are apparently now 5 MM thicker than with the XD3.  In the size M that I purchased new years ago, the stock cheek pads were 20 MM.  Now, in the XD4, the stock cheek pads are 25 MM.  Frankly, the 25 MM cheek pads are probably the best fit for racing and 100% safety, but in return they give you that squished face, kissing fish face feel and look.  Not the most attractive and comfortable way to ride.

So if you don’t like the look and feel of a small aquarium fish, never fear, in the XD4 Arai has thoughtfully included an easy peel 5 MM layer for the cheek pad.  You simply just remove the cheek pads, then the covers and carefully remove the clearly marked 5 MM layer.  I chose to go this route and if I can do it, anyone can.  Then just put the cheek pad covers back on and insert the cheek pads back in the helmet and you are ready to ride, newly minted 20 MM cheek pads and all.

Out on the road, one of the things that the XD line of helmets provides is excellent visibility.  The XD4 continues this tradition with excellent visibility with a wide viewing port, again big enough to wear goggles in if you wanted to remove the face shield.   Another thing that the XD series does well is flow air and the XD4 does not disappoint in this area either.  We did over 100 miles yesterday in temperatures ranging from high 30s to low 40s (F).   You do get a good amount of air around your neck and lower chin so if it’s really cold, you’ll want to make sure you have some way to block the air in theses areas.  However, with closed vents, air flow was blocked off and no cold drafts were noted, so I’m going to say that the seals are apparently good since the XD3 flows a decent amount of air through its vents when moving.  The vents on the XD4 are substantially larger than the XD3 and they portend much more ventilation than the XD3.  I’ll update this when we get into warmer weather.

The shield was susceptible to fogging in the cold, but it was easily dispatched with just a slight crack of the visor.  Nonetheless, I’d suggest an insert of some sort.  Kim and I use Fog City but there are others out there like Pinlock that Arai shields are set up to use.

The visor on the XD4 has been redesigned, is smaller and is claimed to be more aerodynamic than the XD3.  We did ride at a brisk pace during the day, but nothing approaching race speeds.  I was riding a KTM 990 Adventure and if you are familiar with that machine, it has a tiny windshield.  At 5’9″ sitting behind the stock KTM windshield, I did not notice any substantial increase or decrease in buffeting.  If there is a benefit, it must be more recognizable at speeds over 80 MPH.

Weight is claimed to be down on the XD4 compared to the XD3, but frankly to me it’s not that noticeable in riding.  Perhaps over a very long day, the lighter weight would be more noticeable and less tiring, but over a mere 100 mile jaunt, not much difference was noted.  I’ll add that Kim carried the helmet a bit and claimed it was lighter when compared to her XD3 and she’s a pretty good judge of these sort of things.

So there you have it, an initial impression of the XD3 versus the XD4.  Once the weather heats up a bit and we have a few more miles under our wheels, we’ll update you with a longer term update on living with the XD4.

Ride2Adventure – Shrink The Planet One Ride At A Time

We Need To Know!

Now that we have a fair amount of content posted, we’d like to know what you like and don’t like about R2ADV.  Here’s a chance for you to give us a bit of a road map to tell us where R2ADV should go in the future.  So we’d like to ask you to take a minute or two to complete this very simple poll to tell us what you like the most about R2ADV.  If you’d be so kind to leave a comment with the poll, that would be greatly appreciated.  Thanks so much!

Mike and Kim

Sometimes Adventure Is Not So Far Away

As we crested a hill in nearby Dunbarton, NH, we spotted a police cruiser on the opposite side of the road in perfect position to nab passing speeders.  Damn, was he first thought that crossed my mind as I looked at my speedometer to find that I wasn’t speeding and that I needn’t worry.  But it was enough adrenaline to make me slow down considerably and look more closely at the police cruiser that we were now slowly approaching.

It was a Dunbarton cruiser all right, but upon closer inspection, it was a 1970s era Chevrolet Chevelle cruiser, with two bubblegum blue lights on the roof and an old bee hive siren on the hood.  In addition it had an old style whip antenna attached to the side of its rear fender.  So as Kim and I slowly rode by, I knew that something was up.

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Curiosity was eating at me.  What’s a 70s era cruiser doing on the side of the road running radar?  They say that curiosity killed the cat, so I guess that I’m lucky that I’m not a cat.  About a mile down the road, I signaled for Kim to stop and turn around so we could go get another look at that old cruiser.  We reversed course and as we approached we could see that there wasn’t anyone in the cruiser.  So naturally, I signaled Kim to stop.

We turned off our engines and both got off our bikes.  It was a 70s era cruiser all right and it was in perfect shape.  In fact, it was gorgeous, it had been fully restored and I was impressed.  As we walked around the cruiser admiring its restoration a gentleman walked out of the driveway of the house from which the cruiser had been parked.  His name was Len and he had restored the cruiser himself.

Len told us that he like to restore different kinds of vehicles and invited us to see the other ones he had restored.  So as we walked past his high hedges into his front yard, we saw his large oversized garage with a sign that read “Toy Box Garage” in whimsical lettering.  As we walked inside, we were in for a treat!

Not only did Len have restored vehicles including old Packards, 1 1/2 ton Army trucks, jeeps, 1930s era farm trucks, an aluminum engined Oldsmobile and tractors, but he also had the most amazing collection of gas station paraphernalia including pumps, signs, you name it, he had it.  It was a thing of beauty.

It turns out Len had retired and he restored old vehicles as a hobby.  He now donates his time and his vehicles for town events to surrounding towns for parades etc.  He and his wife Beth both helped out as much as they could and are well known in their communities for donating their time and energy for free.

Before we could leave, Len gave us some parting gifts from his vast stock of paraphernalia he had collected over the years.  He invited us to come back any time and to bring our friends.  So when we had a world traveller come and visit us on his BMW from Australia, we could not think of a better local place to bring him.  Once again, Len rolled out the red carpet and our newly minted Australian friend left with gifts from Len and Beth of expired Massachusetts and New Hampshire license plates that he could take back to Australia and tell his friends about.

So not to far from our home, less than 20 miles in fact, our short adventure ride enabled us to find and share our friendship with Len and Beth with our new Australian friend Geoff.  Through this sharing, on a brief 20 mile ride, we shrunk the planet a little more for a person that came from half way around the Earth.  What more could anyone ask from adventure riding.

Ride2Adventure – Shrink The Planet One Ride At A Time

Alaska – Gravel, Grandeur & Goofy Grins (Part 2)

As we said earlier, we stopped at the McKinley View Lodge where we were in for a special treat.  After a brief lunch we learned a bit about the history of the lodge and its progenitor, Mary Carey.  Mary was one of the first female pilots to fly an aircraft over Mt. McKinley and she also built the lodge with some of the tools and heavy equipment you see in the slideshow.   Google Mary for she was a very interesting woman.

But we were in for a more interesting treat when as we were leaving, we struck up a conversation with a couple who noticed our NH plates on our bikes.  After telling them about our journey and where we were headed, they asked if we would mind if they shared our email address with one of their friends who also motorcycled around the area.  Of course we agreed and we were on our way.

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We continued our way towards Cantwell in a dreary overcast, hoping that the cloud cover would lift a bit so we could see Mt. McKinley in all its glory, but persistent rain showers pestered us as we moved north.  Although at times the clouds did appear to break a bit, they never fully opened and we did not get to see McKinley.  But as the day progressed, it did brighten and we were treated to some breathtaking scenery.

When we rolled into Cantwell, it had pretty much cleared.  It had been a long day of riding and we were pretty tired.  We checked in to a small off the road hotel and asked them for a place to eat.  It turned out that the closest place was called “The Perch” and was about 15 miles away.  So we jumped back on the bikes for another ride which turned out to be quite beautiful and to top it off, the dinner was quite awesome as well.

After a long and sumptuous dinner, we lazily headed back to the hotel for a night’s rest before we headed out across the Denali Highway in the morning.  I must say that I was concerned that it would a potholed, RV clogged, gravel disaster, but as we started out westerly on the Denali the following morning, it became quite clear that I needn’t have worried.

The “highway” was indeed gravel for all but 24 of its 135 miles, but it was nearly free of any traffic.  As we rode along, we really could have used clamps to keep our hanging jaws shut as we were awed by one after another beautiful view or scene.  Mountains rose from vast plains covered in spruce.  The air was so clear you could see that the trees went on miles and miles until they reached the soaring mountains covered in snow.

Glaciers slid down the sides of several mountains leaving ice falls which glinted in the bright and sometimes almost harsh sunlight.  The whites of the snow and ice at times became silver and almost clear as the refractory fire of the light bounced and reflected off the many facets of the mountains’ faces.  Each time we thought we could not be more awed, we were indeed even more floored at the visual treats we encountered.  It is difficult to explain the beauty of it all.  In fact, we were stopping so much, we were in danger of having to stop and camp on the side of the highway if we didn’t get moving.

So with great difficulty, we soldiered on without stopping.  After about 5 hours of stopping and starting on the road, we came upon the only place on the highway that serves food.  We had seen only two or three vehicles the entire time we were on the highway, but as we pulled into the parking lot of the Gracious House and the Home Style Cooking Cafe we found where they all were.  The dirt parking lot was packed and there was not a single seat in the house.  Not one.  We waited about 20 minutes and not a single seat opened.  We then broke the code and decided that our lunch would consist of almonds, cashews, power bars and water, served on a bluff overlooking mountains and glaciers.

Boy did we make the right decision.  It was a stellar 20 minutes of relaxation and communing.  Few words were said between us while we munched on our meager lunch and soaked in all the surrounding elements would give us.  It was 20 minutes or so that neither of us will ever forget.   Soon it was time to get back on the road if we were going to get to our destination for the evening, the Tangle River Inn in Paxson.

We loaded up our gear and got back on the road, the scenery birthing a tranquility that I’d not previously known.  We had been riding about an hour on a section of the highway that had been built up about four feet off the tundra.  Steep embankments rolled off each side of the road into a thick green underbrush.  I was just motoring along at about 45 miles per hour when suddenly from my right, a gigantic blackish blur darted out from the underbrush and ran up the embankment from in front of me.  It was very large and it was moving fast, but then suddenly a second smaller brownish blur followed immediately behind the big black blur.

The only thing I could do was nail the brakes and try to avoid hitting the blurs.  Then it dawned on me.  As we were packing our gear, the agents that we used to ship Kim’s bike warned us that it was moose calving season and the moose were plentiful and wherever you might see a moose, there might be a calf with it.  Well surer than heck, I’d just found my first two moose in Alaska.  I managed to get my heavily loaded bike stopped about 10 feet short of and behind the adult female moose and the calf which was running with her.  They both continued running across the road and down the opposite embankment.

It just so happened that we were approaching a small river at the time.  I reached into the sleeve of my Stich to grab my point and shoot camera, but by the time I got it out of my sleeve, they had already dived into the river and gotten to the other side.  By the time I could focus, they were in the brush and gone.  I was so happy and sad at the same time.  I had missed hitting the moose and avoided injury, but I had missed an awesome camera shot.

Moose avoided we only had about 40 miles to go to get to our destination.  When we arrived, we found that the accommodations were less than stellar.  But once again, in keeping with the Alaskan tradition, the food was home cooked and amazing and there was plenty of it.  For dessert, there was spectacular scenery from our room with lake and mountain views.  Well satiated after dinner, we took a few pictures outside battling our first real difficult encounter with Alaskan mosquitos, but it was well worth it.  Tomorrow morning, we would head back onto the pavement towards Tok and ultimately the Canadian Yukon as you’ll see in Part 3.

Sidi Adventure Goretex Boots

When you get old-“er” things might start to hurt.  It’s the beginning of payback time.  Remember all those falls you took having fun.  Remember feeling and thinking you were immortal?  No scratch that, remember knowing that you were immortal?

Now re-adjust your brain a bit and remember all the not so fun injuries.  A few get offs from your racing days.  A couple of collisions with immovable objects.  Well unfortunately they’re coming home to roost and you had better be prepared.  Prepared with good equipment if you want to keep up.  So it is with my decision to up the ante with a new pair of Sidi Adventure Goretex boots.

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A hybrid of a pure off road boot and a touring boot, the Sidi Adventure Goretex would appear to have the goods to solve the problems of the Adventure Rider who wants a more protection and support than a road boot, but doesn’t want the all out stiffness of an off road boot.  Throw in the breathability and claimed waterproofing, it would seem that you have a winner.   We’ll be testing the boot in the near future to see it they live up to their reputation and whether they are worth their rather lofty price tag.

Stay tuned for more info shortly…

UPDATE:  We will be out for a full day of cold weather riding tomorrow (Saturday April 7) so I will have my first impressions of the Sidi Adventure Goretex Boots posted by Sunday.  Stay tuned!

Ride2Adventure – Shrink The Planet One Ride At A Time

Arai XD4 vs XD3 Helmet

With the new Arai XD4 recently released and my trusty Arai XD3 now having four years of hard labor under its visor, it is time for a replacement.  One thing Kim and I won’t skimp on is a quality helmet.  So I’ve ordered a new XD4 and we’ll shortly have a review and report on how it stacks up against the old XD3.  With a significant price increase, we sure do hope it’s a lot better!

Arai XD4

There’s still a bit of snow around these parts of NH and VT, so we may be a bit delayed in writing the report, but this is an adventure riding website so how can we delay for too long?  What kind of journalistic integrity would that reflect, eh?  So stay tuned and we’ll be reporting in shortly…

UPDATE:  We will be out for a full day of cold weather riding tomorrow (Saturday April 7) so I will have my first impressions of the XD4 vs. the XD3 posted by Sunday.  Stay tuned!

When Opportunity Knocks…. Slam The Door?

Let me start off by saying I love KTM motorcycles.  The little Austrian brand that builds high quality, very sporty, enduro motorcycles capable of covering all matter of terrain.  Actually, you might even say I am a KTM fanatic.  But sometimes, even if you are a fanatic, you have to call out your “hero” and tell them like it is.  Well, I’ve had something on my chest for the last seven years and it’s time I got it off.  So here goes…

If you saw the motorcycle adventure movie “The Long Way Round” with Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman, you have to ask yourself, “What was KTM thinking when they refused to give two actors three motorcycles in return for the world wide movie promotion of their motorcycle brand as they ride their way around the world on a charity mission?  Could a better opportunity presented itself to KTM on a platter?

So let’s boil this all down shall we?  Two actors, one of whom is literally known throughout the world as the planet hopping, Jedi master Obi Wan Kenobi, along with a lesser known actor who provides comic relief, want to go on an around the world trip using your less than well known brand of motorcycle.  They will also be making stops along the way, helping children while using your bike.   In addition, to help them along during their journey, they will have some help.  Not one or two people, but an entire support team.  The support team will have a 4 wheel drive vehicle, a doctor, satellite communications and several other people with the ability to make border crossings happen via influential people.  Hmmm….  does that sound like an opportunity for failure to you?  KTM apparently thought so.

Oh, and don’t forget…  The whole journey is going to be made into a movie!  The kind of movie where the reality can be changed “a little”.  In movies, through the magic of film making, things happen that might not happen in real life.  Can an actor play a “Jedi Master” who reports to a two foot green creature who is even a more powerful “Jedi Master”?  In movies they can.  Can an alien land in a spaceship that looks like a Christmas tree, befriend a little boy and make his bicycle fly?  In movies they can.  Can an ogre make friends with a talking donkey and marry a princess?  In movies they can.  Can a KTM make an around the world trip with two actors and an entire support crew?  According to KTM management at the time, apparently not; not even in a MOVIE!   Jeesh!

By the time the Long Way Round movie was in production, KTM had already won 4 straight Dakar rallies, one of the most gruelling tests of man and machine on the planet.  Thereafter, KTM would continue its winning streak with an additional 7 Dakar wins in a row, a true testament to the KTM marque and the ability of its machines (as well as the men who rode them of course).  So why would KTM balk at giving up 3 bikes which would more than likely have been the far better choice for the trip as Charlie Boorman had suggested?  Could it be that they took the word of a single “consultant” and just outright refused on one person’s viewpoint?  How shortsighted and terrible.

After the Long Way Round movie and its successor Long Way Down screened, sales of BMW adventure motorcycles skyrocketed.  Even though the big GS’s were oversized and heavy, had breakdowns and were difficult to handle when the conditions got rough, many people just want to be like Ewan and Charlie and latched on to the BMW adventure bandwagon.  BMW must send Ewan and Charlie flowers every time the sales of the GS’s climb and I for one wouldn’t blame them.  They’ve created a marketing phenomenon with adventure motorcyclists.  Just mention the Long Way Round or The Long Way Down and people think BMW.  Congratulations BMW.

As for you KTM  well, I hope you’ve learned your lesson.  You make excellent machines that win gruelling races and competitions.  But in North America, almost no-one knows about you.   You’ve got to come up with a way to get people to know you and let them find out how excellent your machines are.  Maybe you ought to call Charlie and tell him you’re very sorry for the error.  You have new KTM 990s just waiting for him at his garage with panniers etc. ready to go.  Call Ewan and tell him that anyone can do the long way round easterly, it’s time to do it westerly and no highways allowed.  Period.  And while you’re at it, show off some of those sexy KTM accessories and even some of those non-KTM accessories so people know they are out there too.  They’ll only make people want your machines more.

KTM, I’ll always love your machines but the group of us here in the US can’t keep the flame alive by ourselves.  You have to help.  When opportunity knocks, don’t slam the door.  Please.   Charlie and Ewan already have too many flowers from BMW.

Falling Off Sucks

Falling off sucks.  Yes it does.  The bruises, the scratches, the potential injury, to say nothing of the embarrassment, falling off sucks.  Or does it? If we step back and examine our falls (I’ve had plenty), what caused them?  Was it my inattention?  My lack of ability?  Impassable terrain?  Equipment failure or lack of the appropriate equipment?  Something else?

As you can tell, there are lots of reasons we fall off.  But if we step back and analyze our falls, are they all bad things?  Did we learn something from them?  Did we learn that we need to pay attention at all times or that we need to lay off the front brake in low adhesion situations?  Did it make you think that you need more practice and drive you to go out and do so?  Did it make you think a second time before attempting that muddy track on smooth tires when there was a different way around?

Well then, perhaps falling off really doesn’t suck.  Perhaps it’s something you can use as a tool when it happens.  You can use these experiences to learn and improve.  It’s a bit humbling perhaps, but if you take away a learning experience from the fall, you’ve come out ahead.  That’s the secret.  Just make sure that you walk away from that fall with new perspectives and new insights that will keep you from repeating that fall and others to come.

So…  after all, maybe falling off doesn’t suck.  Maybe it just stinks for a little while.

Ride2Adventure – Shrink The Planet One Ride At A Time

Alaska – Gravel, Grandeur & Goofy Grins (Part 1)

Alaska has been called the Great Land.  Well we’re here to tell you that it’s not.  It’s not nearly enough of a superlative name for Alaska.  After visiting and riding though only a very small portion of Alaska’s  586,412 square miles (or 663,267  square miles if you include the water inside its borders), Alaska truly is the Spectacular, Gigantic Land of Grandeur.  Alaska is one of those places that defies easy description; even with pictures.  Passing on the beauty and the overall majesty of Alaska is nearly impossible.  Add to that a side trip into the Canadian Yukon and you have a nearly indescribable adventure.  But we will try to give you but an idea of what you can expect if you choose to journey to this wonderful place.

Naturally, planning for a trip such as a ride through Alaska and the Canadian Yukon requires a fair bit of planning.  Kim was riding her Suzuki DR650 which I prepped extensively for the trip.  Installed were panniers, top box, windshield and numerous protective bits and bobs to ensure that a drop here or there wouldn’t end the adventure early.  Once ready to go, we shipped the bike to an agent in Anchorage where we picked it up to begin our adventure.

I am riding a KTM 640 Adventure, a bike designed for a trip such as this.  Originally designed for the Dakar Rally, it was made for off-road and needed little for this adventure other than the equipment to carry “stuff”.  I was lucky enough to find a used one in the Anchorage area through the community at ADVRider and all that I needed to do was to have the panniers installed at a local motorcycle shop in Anchorage.

Bikes prepped and ready to go, we arrived in Anchorage on an overcast and rainy day.  Our enthusiasm however was far from diminished.  We grabbed a taxi from the airport and headed to the agent to off-load our gear and let Kim start the setup of her bike while I continued to the motorcycle shop to pick up my bike.

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While in the taxi, I noticed that Anchorage is just like any other medium sized city.  It has office buildings, chain restaurants, lots of people running about doing what they do and lots of traffic.  I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t that.  After about a half hour, I was able to pick up my KTM 640A and be on my way to the agent’s to meet up with Kim, load up my bike and head to the hotel to drop off our gear, grab a dinner somewhere and get a good nights rest so we could be ready for a fresh start the following morning.

We were pretty tired from packing for our adventure, getting to the airport, taking our flight, picking up the bags and picking up the bikes and unloading the gear into the bikes.  By the time we had finished, it was around 8 PM Alaska time.  We wanted to head to the hotel, grab a bite to eat and head back to the hotel to get a good nights rest.  By the time we got to a restaurant and finished dinner it was 11 PM.  Then it dawned on us.  It was still light outside and if it hadn’t been rainy, it would have been downright bright!  At 11 PM!  Lesson 1, the sun doesn’t set until really late in the summer in Alaska; later as you go further north.  That is a pretty cool phenomenon, one that I could definitely live with in the summer, but it’s just the reverse in the winter, so…

When we awoke, it was raining heavily, but we were determined to get out of Anchorage an into some of the less populated Alaska.  Our destination for the day was generally north towards Talkeetna and a small lodge there.  It did take about an hour to get out of Anchorage in the traffic and rain, but once on the Parks Highway, the riding got better and so did the scenery.  Traffic congestion gave way to smaller roads and mountains.  Ahhh…. that’s more like it!

After a full day’s riding, we made it into Talkeetna for a quick night’s rest and we were back out on the road early for a quick breakfast where we learned our second Alaskan lesson.  Everything is big in Alaska.  Everything.  The mountains, the distances between locations and… the portions of food!  Unbelievable is the only word.  Ordering our “Half Standard” breakfast at a Talkeetna roadhouse resulted in each of us receiving two completely overflowing plates complete with eggs, bacon, two slices of Texas toast and a coffee roll.  Can you say gut buster?

Totally overflowing with food, we set out again in a northerly direction towards Cantwell.  Much of this riding was still on pavement but the scenery really began to pop.  On the schedule for the day was a viewing of Mt. McKinley if the weather would cooperate.  We stopped for lunch at the McKinley View Lodge where we would have seen Mt. McKinley if the weather were cooperating.  It did not, so we did not.  Oh well.

However, this stop did lead us to the opportunity to “Shrink The Planet” once again and we were quite thankful for that.  Our bikes had New Hampshire license plates on them and that often is an opportunity for conversation.  We were approached by a couple and we struck up a conversation about adventure riding and where we were from and where we were going.  We talked a bit about them and also, one of their friends.  They said they had a friend who was a rider who would be very interested in what we were doing and asked if they could share our email address with him.  Of course we said yes, and this chance meeting would lead to a “Shrinking of the Planet” that has continued to this day, not only in Alaska, but across this country from Tennessee to Colorado.  We’ll tell you more about that in Part 2.