Shrinking The Planet – One Ride At A Time

Archive for May, 2012

Sidi Adventure Goretex Boots – Mid Term Update

It’s been a little over a month since I wrote my initial impression of the Sidi Adventure Goretex Boots.  In that time I’ve had easy pavement and gravel rides lasting for hours as well as some fairly spirited single track woods riding with friends and can say that the Sidi Adventure goretex boots have come through with flying colors.  Smooth tarmac, loose gravel, mud, rocks, water crossings small fallen trees and hidden obstacles have all been easily dispatched by the watertight armored boots that can.

So what do I mean by all of this?  Well on the pavement, smooth gravel and just plain walking about where outright boot performance is not put to the test and comfort is the deciding factor, the Sidi Canyon goretex boot has been up to the task and the more appropriate choice.  On the other hand, the Sidi Adventure goretex with each wearing, seems to become more and more comfortable.  I would not rate it as comfortable as the Sidi Canyon goretex, but comparing the two is like comparing an armored car and a tank.  Both can do protective jobs, but you’d only really bet your life on the tank in all out war.

The Sidi Canyon is the armored car, protecting you from small arms fire, like light gravel roads and the average rain storm.  The Sidi Canyon gortex is the M-16 tank, capable of securing the troops from all sorts of mayhem, such as big rocks, trees, water crossings and the like.  The trade off is that you are a bit more cramped in the tank than in the armored car, but when you need to protect yourself at all costs, bet on the Sidi Adventure goretex boot.

One thing I really like about the Sidi Adventure goretex over the Sidi Canyon goretex is the stiffer sole.  Not that noticeable while walking, it is immediately noticeable while standing on the pegs, especially when taking any hits.  Far less jolt is transmitted to the feet and to my 50+ year old feet, that is a godsend.  For some, that may represent a tradeoff in “feel”, but if you’ve ridden in motocross style boots, there will be as much if not more feel in the Sidi Canyon Adventure than in a pure motocross boot.  However, if you’ve only ridden in street boots, you’ll notice the extra stiffness and that may take some acclimation time.  It should be no big deal.

There have been reports of squeaking with walking but I’ve yet to experience it which is a good thing.  I’ve read reports that if it does occur, WD-40 or such lubricants will stop the noise, but the downside is that they generally dry up and would require reapplication.  However as I said, I have not experienced any squeaking in over 3 months use to date.

The Sidi Adventure goretex boots are also fairly heavy, significantly more than your average street boot.  But if you are going to buy the Sidi Adventure goretex boot, you should be a more off road oriented rider, otherwise you are wasting your money.  You’d be better served buying the Sidi Canyon goretex which is less expensive and more on road oriented.

So when all is said and done, are the Sidi Adventure Goretex boots worth their significantly lofty price?  For those people who spend a good deal (i.e. more than 50% of their time on gravel or off paved roads, but still want a boot that is comfortable and usable on the street; the answer is a resounding yes.  They can be the single pair of boots that do it all for you.  On road, off road, woods, walking about, these boots can do it all.

But if you do more than 50% of your riding on pavement, you may want to look at less expensive alternatives.  The Sidi Canyon being one since they can do 75% of what the Sidi Adventure can do and is signficantly less expensive.  In any event, you can’t go wrong with either of these boots; it’s just that to me, a more off road oriented rider, the Sidi Adventure Goretex boot represents a very smart choice.

Ride2Adventure – Shrink The Planet One Ride At A Time


SENA SMH-10 Bluetooth Motorcycle Communicator Eval

Communications are probably one of the single most important topics on trips that are undertaken that are not solo.  To ensure that everyone understands what is intended, we must all communicate the plan and we must do it well.  Well Kim and I have  used a number of the two way motorcycle communicators and we’d like to tell you about our experience with the Sena SMH-10.  Overall, we’re pretty pleased.

By way of background, the Sena SMH-10 is the first Bluetooth communicator we have used.  Previously, we had used the Collett series of radios the last being the Collett Platinum 900.  While we found the communicators to be good performers, we did not find their reliability to be so great.  They do have a 3 year 100% warranty and Collett does honor their warranty well, but who wants to have the down time associated with yearly repairs which is what we experienced.

So back to the Sena’s.  Overall we’ve found the range performance of the Sena to be pretty good especially considering that it is a bluetooth device.  Sena claims a reception range of “up to” 980 yards (900 meters).  We’ve found that the distance in unrestricted terrain to be somewhat less, perhaps 500 – 700 yards at best.  Frankly, if you are riding with friends, how often are you more than a quarter mile from them?  If you are going to be that far away, perhaps you should call them on the phone, eh?  For us however, the real world test of performance is in more restricted space such as in the woods or around corners in twisty terrain.  Here, the range of the Sena varies significantly.

If you are in the city and are several turns ahead of your riding partner cut off by buildings, range is signifcantly decreased.  The same goes for being in the woods.  The more dense the terrain, the shorter the range of the communicator.  However, we can say with confidence that with all our adventure riding in non-densely wooded terrain, the Sena has given us totally acceptable reception.  This is really important to me as I like to know how Kim is doing when we are in the woods and I don’t always have her in sight.  I believe the same goes for her wanting to keep tabs on me.  As far as range goes, we’ve seen as little as 100 yards in the woods, but frankly we were really buried in there.  If you’re looking for a communicator strictly for the woods, you probably do want to look elsewhere though.

As you can tell from R2ADV, we have ridden all over the world and we ride in all sorts of weather and conditions.  We are constantly riding in the rain.  Pouring rain; as in downpours for hours.  We continued to use the Senas in these conditions and we can report that the Sena did not suffer an water related failure in 2 years of use.  That’s something that the Collett couldn’t claim.  We ended up returning the Colletts 3 times in 3 years for repairs.

We also ride a lot of gravel and in very dusty conditions.  Both in South America and during last years Trans American Trail ride, we rode extensively in very dusty conditions where visibility was almost nil due to the bike in front or an ocassional vehicle we caught up to or passed coming from the opposite direction.  We literally were covered in thick dust at the end of the day and the Senas still worked flawlessly.

The Sena’s charge fairly rapidly.  Ours are the V3.0s and the V4.0s are now widely available.  The V3.0s will fully charge in 3 – 4 hours.  Sena claims that the V4.0 will charge in 2.  We can’t confirm that claim since as we said earlier, our experience is with the V3.0. but it seems a bit strange to this non-engineer that a firmware update would reduce the full charging time.  Perhaps an EE can comment in our comment section and voice an opinion.

Ultimately, after two full hard years of use, we have experienced some problems with one of the Senas.  One unit must be positioned just right to receive a charge.  It seems that there is a poor connection inside the unit.  In addition, the audio has become extremely distorted and has almost become unuseable.  It transmits well, but the receive audio is so bad it is almost impossible to understand the incoming communication.  Since the Sena comes with a 2 year warranty and these units are out of warranty.  Unfortuately, we won’t be able to test Sena’s warranty support on the older failing unit.  However, we do have a replacement pair that were shipped to us new in non-working condition, so we’ll let you know how Sena handles their warranty service as this plays out.

So when all is said and done, would we recommend the Sena SMH-10.  The answer is a fairly enthusiastic yes with a couple of caveats.  As long as you are not depending on the Sena SMH-10 for 100% woods riding, or very long distance communications, the Sena is a pretty good tool.  Our experience has been with these kind of electronics, a couple of years use is about what you can expect to get for service.  Priced at about $300 for a pair, they are not inexpensive, but for the communications, added bit of safety and overall communications, we think they are worth it.

We hope you found this review helpful.

Mike and Kim

Ride2Adventure – Shrink The Planet One Ride At A Time


Transiting The Trans Labrador Highway & Canadian Atlantic Provinces (Part 5)

The ferry Sir Robert Bond effortlessly cruised up the bay so as to deliver us on time and early in the morning in Cartwright.  The short overnight cruise had been uneventful and we slept heavily until the morning arrival announcement awakened us.  Offloading was a cinch and we found ourselves deposited in Cartwright hungry and in need of fuel.  First things first,  we immediately made…  breakfast the priority.

Not being a very large town, not too far from the ferry dock we found a small diner where the locals were busy getting ready for the day.  We joined them, munched down some good local fare and inquired about obtaining fuel.  They told us the only gas station in town would open around 8:30 and it was now 7:30.  Kim and I looked at each other and decided that with the extra fuel I was carrying we would head on towards Port Hope Simpson where fuel was available and where we planned to stay for the night.

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.

We meandered along the TLH enjoying ourselves and the scenery, just soaking everything in.  It was decent weather, we were in no particular rush and in fuel saving mode.  We’d been traveling a couple of hours.  Cruising along, I looked into my rearview mirror and saw a dust cloud and two headlights coming our way at a high rate of speed.  They weren’t spaced evenly so it wasn’t a car or truck.  As I stopped to see what was coming, my guess was confirmed.  It was our friends Roy and Jeff from the ferry.  They had waited for the gas station to open and were high tailing it to try to make the ferry at Blanc Sablon.  They had covered in one hour what we had in two.  They were moving!

We chatted briefly and they decided to get going so they didn’t miss the ferry at Blanc Sablon.  We wished them well and their bikes and their dust cloud soon vanished in the distance.  Their bikes having disappeared over the horizon, it was time for us to make our own headway towards Port Hope Simpson to get the fuel we needed and obtain respite from the black flies which had recently made themselves known in full force.  In fact, for one photo stop, Kim refused to open her faceshield lest she immediately be swarmed by the nasty little critters.  She was right, it was better to keep moving.

After some beautiful riding and some very abbreviated photo stops, we arrived in Port Hope Simpson and found the General Store that also sold fuel.  To our surprise, we found some familiar faces.  Yes indeed, it was our friends Roy and Jeff from the ferry once again.  It seemed that the power was out in town and therefore, the fuel pumps were not working.  We chatted and walked into the General Store to find out if they knew when the power might come back on.

The clerk there told us not to worry, that the power should come back on in an hour or so.  She told us that this always happened when the guys down at the saw mill turned up the power without calling first and it trips off the breaker.  That puts that part of the town out of power until the circuit could be reset.  So we waited around for about an hour and sure as the sun rises the power came back on and we were able to fill all our bikes.

Unfortunately for Roy and Jeff, they were now truly under a time deadline and they REALLY had to make a beeline for Blanc Sablon if they wanted to make the ferry before it left the dock.  (We found out later that they did make it but only by a matter of minutes.)

Fully fueled, we headed to the only accommodations in town and settled in.  We were sitting in our room relaxing when the phone rang.  Kim and I simultaneously looked at each other with bewildered looks.  Who would be calling us in a little tiny hotel in Port Hope Simpson in northern Labrador?  I walked over to the phone and picked it up wondering who might be on the other end.

A unfamilar voice said “Mike”?  Yes, I replied warily.  The voice on the other end said, “Hi, it’s Dave Noel.  We’ve been corresponding on the Ride The Rock forum and I thought I’d come over and say hi.”  I was shocked but really pleased.  Dave and I had been chatting on the excellent Ride The Rock forum (you can find the link on our links page) when I was planning the TLH ride and Dave had been following my postings on ADVRider.com (you can also find their link on our links page)  He took it upon himself to ride over 25 miles on gravel from his home town Mary’s Harbor, just to say hello to someone he had never met.  In what other community would that kind of hospitality be shown?  I was amazed and pleased to no end.  I met Dave in the “lobby” and we went back to our room for a chat and we decided that the three of us would ride together tomorrow for a while.  We would meet at Dave’s house and ride from there.

The following morning we easily found Dave’s house and met his family, his wife and two sons.  Soon we were on the TLH headed towards Red Bay.  The trip had been cool, and along the way we found how cool it had been.  It was mid June and we found large patches of… SNOW!  More than enough to make snowballs and enough for Dave to try to sneak in a couple of sneaky snowball attacks!  However, I am pleased to report that he was unable to connect any either of these New Hampshire natives.

As we approached Red Bay we stopped for a couple of pictures.  We were on an elevated portion of the TLH with a partial view of Red Bay.  In the distance we could see the bay and I could see white specs in the water.  I was somewhat speechless.  I told Kim to look closely behind her and look in the bay.  Did she see what I saw?  Were there really icebergs in the bay?  Now we were really excited because neither of us had ever seen icebergs in person.  Dave humored us and we descended into Red Bay.

As we approached, it became clear that the specs were indeed icebergs and they were majestic.  Sparkling white and huge, they floated silently in the bay.  We did not sense any motion, but they floated there like barren white islands of various shapes and sizes, daring you to describe them.  Some were gigantic, towering monoliths of ice, jutting out of the water.  It amazed us to think that fully two thirds of the berg lay under water.  Others were smaller and flatter, still white almost silver in color, again defying description.

We stopped at a small restaurant in town and had lunch with Dave.  He needed to get home so we wished him the best and thanked him for taking the time to come and meet us and share this journey with us.  We remain friends to this day.

After we said our goodbyes, we rode closer to the bay to gain the best view of the icebergs and yet another magical thing happened.  As I was sitting on my KTM staring, I noticed a spray of water in front of the iceberg.  Then another, and still another.  My mouth dropped agape.  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  There from the side of the road, right in front of me, were several icebergs and in front and around the icebergs were several pods of Humpback whales feeding!  They were breeching and if I listened carefully, I could even hear them blowing.  It was a spectacular sight.  One that I will probably never experience again.  There must have been more than 100 whales feeding.

As I sat beside the road, a local came out of his house and said, “Pretty good show huh?”  They were here all day yesterday and today.”  I was dumbfounded.  All I could mumble was, “Yes, it’s a great show, I am so happy to be here to enjoy it.”  So everyone, I was lucky enough to have my little point and shoot camera with me which had a video mode.  Because it’s a little point and shoot the video isn’t excellent, but I think it’s worthwhile.  Therefore, I am indeed pleased to share with you the best whale watch I’ve ever been on, (including those on boats hehe) that was taken from the side of the road on my KTM motorcycle.  You can find it here:

We sat there for an hour watching and listening to the whales.  It was an amazing experience.  Words just can’t describe it, it’s one of things that you just have to experience for yourself.  We could have watched for hours, but we too had an appointment with the ferry at Blanc Sablon and it was time for us to make our way there.  So with significant regret, we mounted up again and made our way towards our next stop at Blanc Sablon and the ferry to Newfoundland where we’ll take you in Part 6


Motorcyclists – Who Are Those People And Why Should They Share?

Having written R2ADV for a couple of months now and expounded on the virtues of recording your journeys so that you can recall them yourselves and also share them with others, a comment on a recent post has gotten me to thinking.   After telling you all to do so, an anonymous poster commented that all the scenery etc. pictures were nice, but the one Kim and I would always allow us to remember the journey and the good time we had.  Thank you anonymous poster!

So with that bit of wisdom, I had to think I failed to reinforce how important those recordings are to the person who takes the picture as well.  Stopping to take the picture is not only for sharing with others, but for sharing with yourself later.  OK you say, so what?  Well, you might not look at that picture for years or you might look at it regularly, but if it re-kindles the passion for the ride that you took, then you have succeeded.  Succeed in getting yourself out to ride and perhaps getting someone else excited enough to get out there as well.  So that’s a big deal on two levels, that’s what!

It also dawned on me that we’d never properly introduced ourselves, or given you a taste of how we share our adventures.   Frankly, we always ride together on journeys of any significant length, and almost always on shorter journeys.  What could be better than traveling with your best friend eh?  It’s with this thought in mind that I thought that I would share with you on two levels; the first level is an attempt to show how important taking pictures for later enjoyment and sharing can be.  The second level is to act as a brief introduction into who we are.  I think you’ll get the idea.  We hope you like these pictures and the inspire you to do the same on your travels.  Perhaps you’d be so kind to share some with us here?

We hope you enjoy these.  If the response is good, we may even put up a second set.

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.


Transiting The Trans Labrador Highway & Canadian Atlantic Provinces (Part 4)

We awoke to light drizzle but with an increasing outlook for sun.  We were headed for Goose Bay, but we’d have an intermediate stop in Red Bay and it was to be an exciting experience, one that we’d not soon forget.  We left our combination hotel, restaurant, supermarket, high school building and packed the bikes.  Soon we were off the paved roads of the town of Churchill Falls and back out on the gravel of the Trans Labrador Highway.

As the sun climbed higher in the sky, so did our spirits as the clouds parted and the temperatures rose.  Today was going to be a truly nice ride and we were about to reach one of our milestone places, Goose Bay.  From Goose Bay, we were going to take the ferry to Cartwright and the final run through Labrador to Blanc Sablon where we’d take another ferry to Newfoundland.  Goose Bay was to be , the beginning of another adventure in our adventure.  We were psyched!

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.

During the day’s trip, the gravel was to transform many times.  We were had been impressed with the overall condition of the TLH, the stories we’d heard of how dangerous it was for bikes hadn’t seemed to be true.   Caution was indeed necessary as was demonstrated by Kim’s get off outside of Labrador City.  But overall, the gravel had been fairly uniform and other than the hazards presented by the road graders, the road condition had been pretty good.

Today however, was a day of road and sky transformations.  It seemed that the road condition changed with the sky.  The clearer the sky became, the deeper and looser the gravel became.  Later in the day as it began to cloud up again, the road firmed up and became almost like pavement.  It was truly strange.  But enough about the road conditions.  We were headed for Goose Bay!

We traveled over and between verdant forests.  Many shades of green contrasting on the same hill or mountainside.  It was an irregular patchwork of greens, a pattern chosen by nature into a decoration of magical proportions.  All the while, we swooped and dived between the mountains on a path of stone and sand.  It was a symphony of nature and music for my ears was unnecessary because the music of nature before my eyes played in my head as I rode.

Time passed very quickly even though by this time we were in and out of rain showers.  Before we knew it we made it to the greeting sign for Goose Bay and Happy Valley.  It had stopped raining for the moment and it gave us the opportunity to take some pictures in front of the sign as evidence that we had made it.  Someone had left a marker of their achievement as well and built a rock man figure to the left of the sign letting all others know that people they had been there previously. and now so had we.

Shortly thereafter, it started to rain again and we headed to our hotel for a day and a half layover since the ferry would not be leaving until then.  We parked the bikes and unpacked the gear we needed in the rain.  Once in our room we dried off and warmed up.  It had become quite chilly by this point and the warmth of the hotel was greatly appreciated.  Now all we needed was a hot dinner.  Luckily for us, there was a small restaurant right next to the hotel and we headed on over.

They were serving a buffet and we passed a gentleman in the line.  I guess we look like “bikers” because he asked are you the two on the bikes?  We told him that indeed we were.  He said that he noticed our New Hampshire license plates and remarked that we had ridden a long way from home.  We told him we enjoyed the ride, especially over the TLH and that we were now headed to the end at Blanc Sablon and the ferry to Newfoundland, then on to Nova Scotia.  He said he was very interested in our trip and asked if he could join us for dinner to chat about it.  Of course we said yes and we had a terrific dinner discussing where we had been and were going on this trip and about adventure riding in general.  In return, he told us about himself and his family.  He was the local pastor in Goose Bay and had travelled there from Quebec a few years earlier.  His flock was growing and he was enjoying being in Labrador where he said could be a part of a community where people were like family.   After dinner, we wished him well and we returned to our hotel room feeling like we had become a bit part of the Goose Bay community, we learned about them and they about us.  It was a nice feeling.

The following day, I did a little preventative maintenance on the bikes and we did a little looking around Goose Bay.  But late in the afternoon, it was time to head to the ferry terminal to pick up the ferry to Cartwright where we continue our journey to the end of the TLH in Blanc Sablon, Quebec.  Little did we know that this part of the trip was to become very, very special.

We arrived at the terminal fairly early and found ourselves one of the few vehicles in the lot.  Parked at the pier was our ride to Cartwright, the Sir Robert Bond, our ferry.  She was a sturdy looking vessel and we were somewhat impatient to get on board, tie down the bikes and get underway for Cartwright.  It was to be an overnight trip and we had rented a berth so we could arrive fresh and rested to start the beginning of the end of our TLH ride.

Loading time came and was orchestrated very well.  It was an easy process and we were supplied with tie downs for the bikes.  Faster than we thought possible, we were on board and ready to depart. We walked around the Bond looking for some dinner and they did have a cafeteria.  Well, it was a cafeteria, and the food quality merited the name cafeteria food, but it was food and we were hungry.  Fed, we were ready to hit the sack and we adjourned to our berth for a good night’s rest.  Along the way, we met a couple of other riders, from all places, Massachusetts, the state right next to New Hampshire.  They too had been riding the TLH albeit at a much higher rate of speed.  They were really zooming and had covered much more ground in much less time than we had.  We had a good time joking around and having fun with them.  In fact, so much fun that I guess we drew a complaint from someone and a member of the crew staff asked us to keep the noise down.  Ooops!

Our partying done, now it was time to hit the rack.  The last of the TLH lay in front of us in the morning and well tell you about this and the very special happenings (the pictures will knock your socks off!) in Part 5.


Alaska – Gravel, Grandeur & Goofy Grins (Part 8)

We hated to admit it, but it was in fact time to leave McCarthy.  Time had passed so quickly, I was really somewhat upset to be leaving such a beautiful place.  Kim as ever, was taking all in stride and had already packed our gear in plastic bags and was patiently awaiting the van to pick us up and drop us off at the foot bridge so we could walk the last quarter mile or so to our bikes to re-pack our gear.   I truly was going to miss the Root glacier and the amazing sights and story of incredible perseverance of all those who had toiled at the Kennicott mine.  But I knew there was more to come for us in Valdez and Seward, perhaps even better, and those thoughts buoyed my spirit as we prepared to leave this absolutely amazing place.

Sooner than we knew it, we were back at the foot bridge carrying all our gear back to our bikes to commence our re-packing activities and hit the road for the day and to head for Valdez.  After about half an hour, we were ready to move on and we headed back out on the 60 miles of gravel back towards the pavement from whence we had come.  It was a faster an easier ride than the previous one since we had already ridden the route but still an enjoyable and exciting jaunt.

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.

As we approached the pavement, the weather started to deteriorate and we began to experience the first rain of the day.  Rain had become one of our friends during this trip and it was no big deal as we motored on happily and the temperature continued to drop.  Further into the ride towards Valdez, we started to climb which helped the temperatures to drop even more.  The wind began to pick up significantly and the temperature began to plummet.  Snowflakes started to fly as they were ripped from the not too distant clouds just above us.  They roiled above us and we could see them being swept up the side of the mountains but being halted at the summit by some other competing wind.  The sun began to fade and the weather was truly beginning to get nasty.

I radioed to Kim over the communicators to stop so we could add some layers and check our maps for location and distance to Valdez.  We stopped to check our map and found that we were almost right in front of the Worthington glacier.  It rolled down the side of the mountain in extending two icy fingers in a “V” for victory having made its way across and over the top of the mountain ending right next to the road we were on.  It was impressive!  It had made it across the mountain where the clouds had been unable to.

After checking our maps, we found that we were not that far away and if the snow didn’t pick up, we could probably make it into Valdez in a couple of hours or less.   After taking a few pictures of the Worthington glacier  we were off again and headed to Valdez in the snow and rain.   As we neared Valdez, the clouds continued to lower and we were concerned that we may hit some really difficult weather and intense snow.  But as we entered a canyon, several blue holes opened overhead and the sun burst through in bright flashes.  So there was hope to make it to Valdez and there was a sun above! Great!

The road began to twist and turn surrounded with high jagged rock canyon walls covered in greenery.  If the weather were better, this road would have been the kind boy racers would enjoy quite a bit.  But as nature would have it, there was another show to be viewed that would slow us down.  Under a blue hole, in the sunlight, a cascade of white water crashed down from above.  Bouncing from prominence to prominence, the water cascaded in a flash of white and a veil of misty fog.  We had to stop to take it all in.  In fact, while we were there, several folks were similarly effected and chose to stop as well.  It was a feast for the eyes; a delicious sight.

After a few photos it was back onto the bikes and only a short jaunt to Valdez.  The rain picked up again, but was an on and off affair for the two days while we visited.  So in the on and off rain, we decided that it would be a good idea to visit Valdez and meet some of the locals and find out a little about the city.

We took the time to visit Valdez’s two museums full of information about the history, establishment and people of Valdez, as well as Good Friday earthquake and tsunami that wiped out most of the city in 1964.   We saw a specimen of the extremely rare Alaskan Furry Koho salmon.  It was encased in a glass enclosed case so you couldn’t pet it, or eat it.  Those Alaskans, they protect their rare species carefully.

We later met the curator of the museum who gave us the opportunity to have our picture taken with an Authentic Alaskan hunting rifle saying that “everything is bigger in Alaska”.  Shortly thereafter he came out with a 7 foot long rifle that you will see in the pictures here.  Quite a guy that curator.

Did you know that Valdez claims to be Alaska’s snow capital?  We had a chance to check some of their snow removal equipment and if it’s an indicator of the snow they get, we don’t doubt them.  Snow machines 15 1/2 foot tall with 5 1/2 tall augers tell of a need to move a lot of snow; and there are several of them.  When the auger of the machine is taller than my wife, you know its a big machine.

We also saw several examples of the symbol of our country flying around the harbor.  Bald eagles are plentiful in the area and they can be seen quite regularly in Valdez.  It was great to see them and they are just as majestic as you would think they are.

After two days of rain in Valdez, it was time to move on to Seward.  By this time, the weather looked to be clearing a bit and we were anxious to be moving in some sun.  We planned a full days ride with a couple of stops along the way.  The first stop was to be in Girdwood at the Alyeska Tramway, a ski area that has a view of Turnagain Arm.  Girdwood is also known for the Girdwood festival which has Alaskan artists, exotic foods and entertainers from all over Alaska.  The ride was once again beautiful with curving roads alongside the ocean and mountains.  The views were spectacular as the harbor was as placid as a mill pond and it reflected the surrounding mountains.  It was a wonderful sight.

We parked at Alyeska and took the tram to the top.  It was even more spectacular.  From a white snow covered perch, you were witness to an amazing view of Turnagain harbor stretched out in front you.  As if by some magical plan, a parasailer floated silently by us and down to the valley floor below.  The water of the harbor was blue and sparkled in the sun, reflecting the surrounding mountains.  It was perfect.

Again, we could have stayed forever, but we had to make Seward in one day, so we hopped back on the tram and headed down the mountain and got back on the bikes.  Not too far from Alyeska, we spied a sign that pointed us to the Wildlife Conservation Center.  Kim enjoys seeing “wild” animals so we set our course for the Center.  It turned out that it was a drive through center where people drive through with their cars to see the animals.  We were on bikes.  Hmmm…. do we really want to be in a wild animal center on bikes?  Can I really accelerate that hard on a fully loaded adventure bike?  Do I really like wild animals that much?

Never fear we were told, all the “dangerous” animals were fenced in.  So we paid our fee and visited with bison, elk, moose, musk ox, caribou, and supposedly bears which we never saw (although we saw the pelvis of some poor departed animal in their enclosure).   Do you know that a musk ox makes a sound that sounds like a lion’s/tiger’s growl.  I’m here to tell you that I heard it up close, and it does and it’s impressive.  All in all, it turned out to be a good experience with the opportunity to get pretty close to the animals and see their behaviors.  It was money well spent.

Time was indeed fleeting and we needed to get to Seward.  So we said our goodbyes to the animals and hightailed it the rest of the way to Seward in clearing and brightening weather.  When we got to our hotel, little did we realize that we would once again be surrounded by wild animals.  We’ll tell you more in Part 9.


Transiting The Trans Labrador Highway & Canadian Atlantic Provinces (Part 3)

In a misty drizzle just outside of Fermont, we rounded one of the corners beyond a railroad crossing.  A road grader had recently passed and left a rather high gravel and dirt berm near the middle of the road.  It has also apparently stopped there and made a slight turn because it had left a small pile of gravel and dirt a couple of feet to the right of the high berm.  It wasn’t that big but that was part of the problem.  It was difficult to see and it was also solid since it was filled with gravel.  Soft enough to dig into but not soft enough to plow through. 

I was about 100 yards ahead of Kim on my bigger KTM 950 and saw it in time to take evasive action.  I don’t know why I didn’t signal her or tell her about the berm on the communicator.  I guess I just figured she would see it.  Dummy!  Well she was on her smaller BMW F650 single and she hit it fairly dead center causing her to fall off and pile drive the big toe of her right foot into the gravel of the roadway.  It also knocked off one of her panniers and tweaked the pannier frame and lock.

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. 

 

I turned around and Kim was more concerned about the bike than herself.  She said her foot was a bit sore but was more concerned about how we would get her pannier closed, locked and back on her bike.  (It turns out that Kim had actually broken her toe and rode the remainder of the trip with the second bone in her big toe split in two, almost down the center.  I told you she’s pretty intrepid!) I had good tools and with a few tie wraps, a couple of temporary bolts, a bit of bending with pliers and smacking with rocks, we were ready to go again.   Of course, the rain had to pick up and we pressed on in the rain and gathering darkness towards Labrador City for a rest and to get some appropriate bolts to fix Kim’s panniers.

When we arrived in Labrador City, it was fairly late; almost 9:00 PM.  We hadn’t had any dinner and we were wet, cold, tired and hungry.  The restaurant was already closed and we asked about nearby places to eat.  It turned out there weren’t any open within walking distance, but the hotel folks graciously opened the bar area to us and got us some hot soup and a sandwich which we gratefully accepted.  What nice people!

The following morning, it was still raining and raining with abandon.  We went in search of hardware for Kim’s panniers and were given directions to a small store in town.   They unfortunately did not have what we were looking for and we were standing in the parking lot trying to figure out our next move when a somewhat familiar voice said, “Hi you two, what are you doing here?  We looked over and there was the woman who we had met while we were in a small hotel in Baie Comeau.  We had chatted a bit and she had said she and her family lived in Labrador City and they were returning in the process of there when we met them at the hotel.  Now here she was at this chance meeting!  We told her of our predicament and she said she could help us out and led us to a hardware store that did indeed have the parts we needed to fix Kim’s bike.  We thanked her and before we could get her full name and address, she was off.  The kindness of people is amazing.

With Kim’s bike repaired, it was only a short ride on pavement until we got back onto the gravel of the TLH.  “Civilization” quickly faded as the gravel grew deeper and the trees grew thicker, taller and greener.  We were headed to Churchill Falls and we were really into some isolated country.  It was gorgeous, but it was indeed immense.  Mountains surrounded us in many shades of green.  Light green and dark greens literally covering the mountains like a patchwork quilt of  trees randomly distributed over and around the mountain sides.  Once off the mountains, large plains could often be seen, sometimes populated with thriving green trees or sometimes with the dead trees that had expired in forest fires or been killed by flooding.  And as we traveled on, not a glimpse of man made civilization was to be found.  Not a sign, telephone pole, street light or manhole cover.  It was wilderness and it was amazing. 

After traveling for a few hours we decided to stop for a snack of a powerbar, some nuts and water.  By stopping, the presence of the wide open wilderness became even more omnipresent.  It was overcast and no breeze blew.  It was very quiet.  The road and surrounding terrain was flat and we cold see it disappear around a wooded corner in the distance.  Nearby, a large sand berm approximately 10 feet tall offered a better vantage point to view the surroundings so I climbed it to look around.  With the view from that berm, I could see even farther into the open and vast space around me, bracketed by verdant mountains.  It was beautiful and scary at the same time.  I looked down from the berm to see Kim standing 20 yards away and she looked miniscule framed by the surroundings.  It was a surreal moment, one where you feel like you are only a very, very small part of the earth.

Wake up! I told myself there’s a lot more of Labrador to travel so I disengaged my mind from the scene and climbed down from the berm.  We needed to get to Churchill Falls before dark and we still had plenty of miles to go.  After what seemed like many hours in the wilderness, we arrived in Churchill Falls and the beginning of paved road again.  Churchill Falls was built exclusively as a town to service the nearby hydroelectric dam.  It is a small self sufficient town complete with hotel, high school, supermarket, and restaurant but all are in the same building.  When you have to be self sufficient this far out, there’s little credit given to waste.  So if you are going to build a large public complex, you may as well build them all together at the same time and that’s exactly what the folks in Churchill Falls did.  Bravo.

We did get to experience a bit of what the locals must have to do all the time.  When we went looking for food in town, the restaurant was closed because they didn’t have a chef.  But we were told that the local bar had food.  So we went there but they were a bit low on supplies as well.  Kim ended up having fried cod chunks and water, and since I don’t like seafood, I ended up with mozzarella sticks and beer as a 100% nutritionally complete dinner.

The following morning we got up early for our ride to Goose Bay and the first major ferry ride of the trip.  We’ll tell you more about that in Part 4.