Dust to Dawson

It is that time of year, the sun does not leave us in darkness.  The urges to ride come hard, and stay long. The big gathering for adventure type bikers is the Dust to Dawson ride. It is NOT a Rally (required disclaimer) It is simply a gathering of kindred spirits who's intentions drag them far from grocery trips, and downtown strip cruises. 

 Click here to see the officially unofficial history of the genesis D2D Scroll to the story in yellow near the bottom. 

Dawson Yukon Territory is a gold rush townn that has survived the century and a half since the last gold rush. Dawson was the home of that ultimate bard of the north Robert Service. (you know, "Strange things done neith the midnight sun be the men who moil for Gold") If you dont know who Robert service was, click here.  

It appears the preferred approach from the west, is on the "Top of the World Highway" through Chicken Alaska.  As a matter of fact, the story goes that the non-rally was originally called the "over the top hop" but it wouldn't fit on a tea shirt. 
 For many, the trip to Dawson is part of a greater adventure ride either up the Dempster, or over to and up the Dalton. Theses are the highways of Ice Road Trucker fame.  Since, I live in Alaska, and can do the Dalton pretty much any time, I am going to ride the Dempster to Inuvik as part of my pilgrimage to Dawson. (ironically to those who know, Google spell check insists that "dempster" should be spelled "Dumpster" )

Here is a map of my proposed route.

View Dempster to Dawson in a larger map

This one is on my list for the year. I even planned ahead enough to apply for my passport without having to pay too much in rush fees. I haven't gotten it yet, but maybe, just maybe, they have forgotten about some of my past indiscretions and will grant me a passport. Otherwise, I guess i will have to sneak or be smuggled across the border of my own country.  (just kidding)

So, this is a pretty major trip, looks like 960 plus miles one way, also looks like most of it will be on gravel.  Though the roads are "improved" and have been around for centuries they are above the arctic circle, and therefore subject to the abuse of mother nature herself. I would love to pander on about pristine wilderness untouched by the hand of man, but that simply is not true. This is more like pristine wilderness reclaimed over and over by the inimitable forces of relentless nature. 

As you all know, I am pretty loath to plan to hard for an adventure, but this one has the short hairs standing a bit. Lots of unknown territory. I could call on those that have gone before me for more info but I am playing this one as if it is uncharted. I hope that does not bite me in my Kevlar clad ass. I will try to plan for the most obvious. 

As usual I will be taking as many safety precautions as possible. Good riding gear ATGATT practices, and doing my best to "Ride in the moment' and in a heightened sense of awareness.  I dont think everybody is out to get me, but I do know everybody is out to get someplace, and motorcycles  are not always seen in the din of traffic, texting, emtional upheaval, innebreation, and the like. I ride as if I am the only one paying any attention, and that helps keep my attitude of awareness at a level that will hopefully keep me a couple steps ahead of the oblivious cagers.

Preparation
I have done quite a bit of work on the bike as of late. New clutch, new tires, new oil, new spark plugs, and general maintenance. Believe me, such care of my beast is way outside my normal treatment of machines. Though I am a competent mechanic, I am usually more of the sort that fixes it after it breaks instead of being pro-active. On a motorcycle though, the way and the places I ride, preventative maintenance is part of safety. I cant plan for everything but I can take reasonable precaution. Keeping the bike well maintained is a reasonable precaution. 

As part of my testing of the bike for this adventure, I have taken a (fully loaded) 800 mile weekend ride that included some nasty terrain, some long stretches, and some hard riding.  I am also re-verifying my fuel range with both the GPS, and the trip odometer, just to be sure. I know there are some stretches of this ride that will be close to my limit.  I do plan to carry extra fuel though, just in  case.

I understand the challenges of the Dempster, besides the endless gravel and unimproved surface. I understand the weather can get in ones way.  I am prepared with good riding gear, extra warm layers, and a decent foul weather camp set up. I will even be prepared for a couple days delay. Hell, I think I look forward to a day or two in the tent.

One of the firsts for this trip will be that I am going to carry a fair amount of my food in the form of freeze dried Mountain House cuisine.  I am a really picky eater so I have been testing different meals over the last couple weeks. So far, I have found that the Lasagna, the chili mac, and the teriaki chicken and rice to be superb! I was leery at first but I am very happy to report these are edible, satisfying, and solve major packing issues.  They are seriously expensive, but still cheaper than eating out, and where I am going, their will not be many opportunities for eating out. 

I am still trying to secure a portable coffee press for the trip since I am  a serious coffee snob. I own a nice one form Starbucks but it has degraded over time almost to the point of being unusable, and I have not found a Starbucks up here that sells them.   Sportsman's Warehouse sells one but they are out of stock and nobody can tell me if there will be one on the next boat. 

I am packing, and re-packing to get the best weight and balance. Though, i have tried to avoid it thus far, it looks like I am going to have to ride with a duffel on the back seat. For the ride to Valdez I went without but still had to strap my bedroll to the seat in a waterproof bag. I may as well have a duffel with the extra room. 

I decided that I will take 2 tarps this time also. One for the ground, and one to cover the tent in case of seriously inclimate weather.  They are small, light, and pack easy so it is worth it. 

The caveat' of packing on a motorcycle is to try to identify the things that i need to access regularly, and make them readily accessible. Once a duffel is in place, opening the panniers is a hassle.  I have tried to pack the panniers only with things I will need to make camp, as in camp, the duffel will be removed. 
That leave the top box, and the tank bag for items that are used throughout the day. 

The stock BMW top box is HUGE, but way out of the bikes center of gravity. I work pretty hard to be aware of this and keep the weight way down. 

Their is an old adage about packing for a motorcycle trip. "Pack everything you need, then throw half of it 
away" What I have done, is on past trips made a list of the things I had that I didn't use, and made a short list of things that I didn't have that I wish I used. Now, every trip is different, and all my trips have underlying intentions that I don't always get around to, that is why I carry fishing gear (fly rod, tackle, and compact waders) I almost never fish on a ride but, if i ever wanted to, I could. 

I also carry a laptop. I have an inverter build into my top box to keep the laptop charged. I didn't use the laptop on the Valdez-McCarthy trip but that was a bit of a whirlwind trip. This trip is going to be a bit more subdued, and I plan to write more.

Thursday update (pre-trip)
Well, i am very happy to report that I found a new coffee press!. Just like the one I love, except not broken. No more grounds mixing with the bugs in y teeth. Ok, that was gross. 
I took a jaunt into Anchorage yesterday. I had some spare parts to pick up from the BMW dealer, and some other purchases planned.  I just HATE riding in the city, but hanging out, and shopping for motorcycle stuff made it all worth it.

I also bought a Cardo Scala Rider Q4 Bluetooth communicator. This is kind of like a fancy (stereo) Bluetooth headset that mounts in y helmet, and lets me connect wirelessly to my phone. This gives me the ability to make and receive phone calls while riding. Though talking on the cell phone defeats the purpose of riding, sometimes it is necessary.  If I were actually going to ride with somebody else, that had a Scala Rider, we could pair up and have bike to bike communications, or f I had a rider (any volunteers?) we could communicate as if we were sitting next to each other. oh wait, we would be sitting next to each other. Well, you get the idea.  
The most important part of this is that I now have tunes in my helmet! yes! days and days of specially selected riding music.  I have a playlist for cruising, one for speeding, one for off-road, and one for chewing up miles on looong days. 

The Cardo works great so far. I made some phone calls on it last night and was told that nobody could even tell I was on a bike going 80. I also flipped through my playlist (without looking t my phone) and enjoyed excellent fidelity and just the right speed adjusted volume. 

I hung out with the fine folks at Alaska Leather for a little while yesterday. I met a fellow traveler from Florida who is up here on his yearly ride to Alaska.  He claims to spend 40k miles a year on his GS, the stickers on his Panniers see to prove this out. He said something about having to catch a plane In San-Fran  so he isn't going to make the Dawson gathering. Godspeed to him. a big part of lifes journy is about those we meet along the way. 

I am currently in a battle with myself over purchasing an HD helmet cam.  I would so love to share my experiences with better video quality, and more convieniance than I can currently achieve.  Lets face it, I go places, and see things that most people cant even dream of. Is it worth the added expense to record and share my experiences?  Can I justify spending yet another 300.00 just to be able to record HD quality video from wherever I roam? The battle still rages in committee (in my head) 

Todays plan is to do some more bike maintenance. I will check all the vital fluids, change spark plugs, and adjust the valves. I will probably re-pack my top box again also.  I will let you all know how that goes...

June 18th
Well that was fun. Stripped out the threads (yeah the ones in the head) on the top two holes on the right cylinder. Learned REAL FAST bout how to buy and install Heli-Coils. They worked. Irony, the valves were perfect and didn't need any adjustment.
Oh, well, one less thing i will worry about on the road. All packed up, all double checked, all ready. Nothing to do now but wait...

June 19th
Didn't sleep much last night. As usual I kept getting up, and adding stuff to my list of things to do before I left.  I did make a decision to take a side trip to "Jim's Tree" You all can read about that on this link.

So, I don't have much to say, because it is time to ride... I will keep the updates coming as I find internet. 

In the meantime, here are some links to the pictures and videos generated so far...

Dust to Dwson



Live Video (Sometimes)


Keep coming back, and I will keep posting :)