Kelly's 2011 Alaska Journey

Pre-travel preparations - May 13-20, 2011

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Preparation - Friday, 5/13

Preparations for the trip continue. The KLR650 bike already has received a new seat, new top of the line GPS (which also functions as as my new stereo/MP3 player), new tires and heavy tubes. I've made and installed wind wings which
expand the windshield, and made fairing lowers which direct the wind (and precipitation) around my legs. They also direct the air around the rear bags, which actually increases my gas mileage! Double win.

Next week, the bike gets new fork springs and custom rear shock.

I've tested the mini-laptop, helmet-cam, and external 2TB disk. I plan to photograph the entire trip- The helmet cam takes HD video, but I expect I'll set it to take a photo every 5 seconds instead. It has a very wide-angle fisheye lens, so when there's something I really want a photo of, I'll pull over and break out the real camera. I expect that the 2TB disk will be just about full by the time I get home.

This weekend will be more bike maintenance, relocation (or removal) of the chain oiler to make room for the remote reservoir of the new shock, and getting a little more gear for the trip.

The trip details:

I head north through Eugene, OR, Seattle and Bellingham, WA, into central and east British Columbia. A quick side trip into the Northwest Territory, back to B.C., then into the Yukon Territory. I'll have a side trip to Skagway, which is on the coast, north of Juneau. Northwest to Tok, AK, southwest to Valdez, where I'll stay for a day with a cruise to see the Columbia Glacier and Orca & Humpback whales. Then on to Anchorage, where I'll stay a couple days. A side trip down the Seward peninsula, then the guided tour with MotoQuest. The guided tour heads north through Fairbanks, past Denali National Park, Mount McKinley, to Prudhoe Bay. (I'll now have seen both ends of the Alaska Pipeline) Weather permitting, I'll wade (and perhaps even dunk or swim) into the Arctic Sea. Then back south, seeing other areas in the interior of Alaska, back to Anchorage. At that point, the guided tour is over, and I'm on my own again. It's then a quick two-day ride to Haines, AK, where I'll catch a ferry boat. 4 nights and 3 days later, I'll pull into Bellingham, WA. Then a liesurely two-day ride to home.

It'll be about 8,000 mi / 12875 km of riding, 875 mi / 1408 km of which will be dirt roads. I'm not camping- Since the sun won't set as I get into the northern areas, I'll want a room where I can: close the drapes, sleep in a bed, have a shower or bath, and be away from animals including mosquitoes. Staying in hotels also means that I needn't carry the weight of my camping gear. Seeing as I'm taking my little bike, I'd like to keep the weight as low as possible.

Preparation - Wednesday, 5/18

The bike is ready. New suspension, the windshield extensions are on, oil and filter changed. The only things left to do on it are to mount a handheld air horn, and mount a voltmeter. The air horn is for animals- In case there are big critters that don't find me or the bike endearing, I'll attempt to frighten them away with the horn. The voltmeter is to make sure the battery continues to charge. If I have the GPS/MP3 player going as well as the electric clothing, I'm worried that I'd use too much of the alternator output. This could put my battery in a discharging state- A bad thing. So I'll watch the voltage when all the electrics are on. If it's problem, I could turn the heat down, or turn off the headlight. (which is something I'd never do in the city, but out on the open road with no traffic, it's probably pretty safe)

By the way- "Electric clothing." For those not familiar with it, think of a thin electric blanket in the shape of a suit. I wear it under my bike jacket and pants. I plug it into a thermostat, plug the thermostat into the bike, and dial whatever temperature I want to be. Considering it may JUST warm up to freezing at the Arctic Sea, the electric gear isn't a silly luxury- It'll keep me from getting hypothermia. I've had some VERY cold rides in the past, and the electrics kept me alive (and no, I don't think that's an exaggeration).

Now it's time to start packing- I have to take clothing for all different climates, toiletries, some spare bike parts, tools, and maintenance things like chain cleaner, etc. I was hoping to leave room in my trunk to hold the helmet when I'm not wearing it, but we'll see. I definitely want to have SOME extra room- I'll want to bring home some souvenirs. The biggest of which will be some "Terminator Stout" from a microbrewery in Portland, Oregon. :-)

Preparation - Friday, 5/20

I'm exhausted! I've never before prepared so much for a trip. Making and installing parts for the bike, getting things serviced, keys made, running all over hill and dale for supplies. But I'm packed, the bike is REALLY ready, and come tomorrow morning I'll hit the road. Tomorrow will be a longish day- Instead of stopping at Eugene, OR, I'll continue to Salem and stay with some friends of mine. (Thanks, Roger and Karen! I look forward to seeing you!) On the bright side, that will be the longest riding day of the entire journey. While I've done many 1000+ mile days in the past, I'm a bit out of practice for endurance riding, and I've NEVER ridden that kind of distance on a DIRT bike. But I've made many modifications to it, and it's much more suited for touring than it was when it was new.

It's funny- Every time I get ready to head out on a really long ride, I feel tense beforehand. Maybe it's going over and over in my mind all of the things I need to carry, maybe it's the knowledge of how challenging the trip might be. This time is no different. But once I'm out on the open road, all that melts away and I'm left with the exhilaration of the journey, the promise of the adventures and exploring to come. I'm sure tomorrow will bring new energy and exuberance.

Many thanks to all the people who've sent their best wishes for a fun and safe trip! Don't worry, things will be fine. You can't imagine all the preparations for adverse conditions I've gone through.

I'll probably have a hard time getting phone calls in many places, but text messages are much more likely to go through. (because they'll queue up and wait until there's a small window of signal, then they'll transmit). You can also send me email and I'll see it when I can.

Stay tuned...


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