Welcome to the first in a series of stories about our motorcycle journey to Alaska. I can’t wait to get started on this adventure which is one of the reasons why this first dispatch and the next one are months apart.
I am the honorary Alaska Motorcycle groups chronicler with no competition for the title that I know of. A person who chronicles events, “as I now see it”, creates, gains knowledge along the way, then documents a written record for the future and those back home.
My friend Gpskevin says that one of the hardest part about doing an adventure ride is getting out the front door of the house. We depart from various places in the USA to Alaska on or about June 2023.
And my friend Tyedye Keith likes to add that you don’t need a twenty thousand dollar adventure bike to do an Alaska trip. A $5000 bike will serve you well. I’m planning on doing this ride on a $4,000.00; newly acquired 2019 Kawasaki Versys 300 motorcycle to try and prove his point!
If you ride, then no problem, you already understand and possibly share in the passion for motorcycle travel; if you don’t ride then hopefully, I’ve done a decent enough job at storytelling to keep you interested and inspired. This first and lengthy Alaskan dispatch introduces us to our next ride; on roads from Washington state through Canada and into the last frontier of our 49th state – Alaska.
This story and the ones that follow will probably be about passion for motorcycle travel, the travelers themselves, the locals and our experiences along our journey. If that sounds appealing to you then feel free to read on. If it doesn’t then just enjoy the pictures and move on with your life.
You load up your motorcycle panniers with whatever you anticipate you’ll need on a future adventure ride. Things get packed like for example; mosquito repellent and a good head and face net, a medicinal bottle of bourbon, a large pot for communal cooking, should that become necessary. Then there’s the extras like a fishing pole, maybe a crab pot or two, I hear their huge and plentiful, available year round and you don’t even need a permit. Plus add a few cans of cat food to lure them into your trap.
A .22 rifle might also come useful in case you need to outrun a grizzly. No, you’ll never outrun a grizzly but, you can outrun your friends. A large coffee pot and tools for fixing flats and any other problems right down to the last metric nut or bolt.
That’s how my packing process works on a trip of this magnitude, and might I now add, in a smaller bike that I haven’t yet ridden. This is only a result of having too much time before the start of the ride. The new to me Versys 300 motorcycle is over a thousand miles from me; I bought it sight unseen. Now what could possibly go wrong?
My reality for motorcycle packing is; I just throw down two Large 27-Gallon Black Heavy Duty Tote containers with a Snap Lid. The one on the left contains what now seems like a good idea to take. The one on the right in my garage gets what actually makes sense, the night before departure time.
Alaska roads are designed with efficiency in mind but, along the way there’s tons of amazing scenery and wildlife to keep you in the moment. There’s no toll roads, dogs or cows or topes on the roads and the roads are not twisty. Cruise control is a good feature which I don’t have and so is heated handgrips which I hope Joey installed before selling me the Versys.
You can supposedly live off the land in Alaska but, other than some light fishing we don’t intend to be around long enough to find out.
How this ride may have possibly started: On a 2022 Gpskevin Copper Canyon ride following a fantastic meal in Batopilas, Chihuahua at Juanitas Restaurant the groups conversation goes from the ride today; interesting events that happened; like losing Johanns and Larry; future places to visit, some road gossip about riders not present, before finally settling back down to the next ride.
I can freely admit that I purchased the wine bottle full of locally made homemade moonshine from Juanitas husband for about $20US. The shot glasses were not my idea but, a nice touch to the table settings. Now imagine your home now and your living room turned into a restaurant. Your kitchen is now full of cooks and if you step through the open doorway you encounter the bedroom and bathroom. Maybe next year the new expansion will come so that the enterprising couple can get most of their home back.
The conversation soon flowed with every rider in on the conversation about future rides.
Before the dessert flan arrived I seem to recall Alaska Todd momentarily seizing the exact moment, somewhat akin to how an inspirational leader like William Wallace of Braveheart did!
If you don’t yet know what a dessert flan is then you haven’t yet lived or possess a really slender body. The flan is made out of eggs; sweetened condensed milk, cream or whole milk; and flavorings such as vanilla, orange, coconut, or even coffee. Ours was homemade vanilla and baked by Juanita.
And if you haven’t seen the movie Braveheart; well, it’s about a medieval Scottish patriot who is spurred into revolt against the English because they slaughtered the love of his life. There you have it. Similar to a Hallmark movie where single drop dead and gorgeous women find love but, only on major commercialized hallmark card selling American holidays.
Girl meets boy, girl and boy fall in love, girl and boy break up and just as you get comfortable with all of the traditional story line bullshit; in Braveheart an English soldier has his way with girl, before suddenly slitting girls throat with a sword and shocking the hell out of the viewer. How could he possibly go on…….
“You are all momentarily free men, while south of the border in Mexico; but, that may soon change, once we cross the border, so, let’s get primed up for our next big adventure, I propose a ride to Alaska.”
For some in the group Todd may have just as easily said Timbuktu as the “The Last Frontier” to ride to and we would’ve all still said hell yeah! The last frontier was how Alaska was generally viewed by most pioneers and explorers at the close of our 19th century.
Why go all the way to Alaska when Mexico is literally in our backyard? I don’t yet know myself but, it has something to do with the Alaskan frontier that I’ll soon be chronicling.
If you stop to imagine an Alaskan last frontier, it probably wouldn’t be with a two lane strip of straight asphalt running right through it. Alaskans like to call any road, even if it’s just a gravel road, a highway. You have your essential highway like The Alaska Highway, then there’s the scenic ones like the Alaska Top of the World Highway, the one with the oil pipeline called the Alcan Highway and the picturesque one, if the clouds aren’t obscuring the mountains, the Denali Highway. Just a chosen few that you may have already heard of.
“This is the law of the Yukon, that only the strong shall thrive; That surely the weak will perish, and only the fit survive.” – Robert Service of the Yukon
Everyone always loves to hear any story about our last American frontier; except for maybe the two Canadians now in our group. (That be you Dale and Larry) And since Todd has lived most of his adult life in Alaska; we let him continue to hold court, for maybe just a little wee bit longer.
Tom told us that Alaska is big! You can easily fit California, Texas and Montana into it and still have room left over. It’s probably allot like Mexico, said one of our newbies on this ride. Yeah says Todd, just add moose, grizzlies, wolves, rivers full of wild salmon, and a lot of glaciers.
Our travels and tribulations will be much of what I get to chronicle daily; along with a bit of history, culture and foods that we experience.
Most riders in our small group probably forgot that they accepted Todds challenges to ride Alaska but, just as promised, weeks later an email to a “select few” arrives from Todd; wanting to know now, what we planned on riding, some proposed dates, who was-in and who was out. If you said you were out, then that was the end of that conversation. And if he feels that your bike is not up to the challenge then he will let you know.
Why just on day one of this amazing Alaska adventure Todd has us riding from Anchorage to Fairbanks, a distance of 360 miles. Along the way we stop at Talkeetna, Cantwell, and also the Denali Park Village for a little sightseeing and tourist activities. Then there’s Nenana and then I’m back to Fairbanks where we lodge at Pikes Waterfront Lodge.
From the safety of our home or workplace and hundreds of miles away from each other communication with one another is over text or email. We were now free to invite other capable riders seeking their Alaskan experience. The Alaskan ride group I believe now holds on to at least five riders. More may join, we shall see.
Once I shared the Alaskan ride information with Yoda Roberto he made it known immediately that riding to Alaska was a priority for him. Before the official USA announcement of the Covid pandemic Yoda Roberto was on a RTW (round the world) motorcycle ride adventure of his very own. Roberto’s last stop was Prince Andrews, Canada, before packing up and storing his Kawasaki Versys motorcycle. The other riders he was with also abandoned the round the world expedition once again, on account of this world wide pandemic that we didn’t know much about.
Roberto’s Kawasaki Versys 300 is still sitting inside a storage unit but, we’re confident that with some “remove and replace” maintenance the Versys should fire right up and continue on to the last frontier and beyond.
TODDS AMAZING LAST FRONTIER RIDE: The ride to Alaska now expands so much that it became necessary for him to turn it into two separate rides. “I told you Alaska was big!”
Ride 1 would go from Anchorage to the proposed schedule below covering a distance of over 2,000 miles. About 1200 miles of dirt. The riders would then leave their motorcycles in Alaska and fly home. More to follow for Ride number two.
Perhaps for me, unlike possibly the others the most important undertaking before a journey is the mental preparations. But, let’s not also forget that having the proper gear, a suitable motorcycle, a workable plan, lots of prior experience and a whole wad of cash and a credit card or two can keep that adventure from turning into an ordeal or a shit show. And if I recall correctly on my first trip to Alaska; it’s also the land of $20.00 hamburgers. It’s not a cheap ride as far as food and lodging go.
Worrying about breaking the budget is not yet a concern for any of the participants in this ride group.
“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” Quote from a famous person
And then just like that the road to Alaska went from just talking about the next adventure to an actual working plan from an Alaskan motorcycle rider.
Todd amazed everyone with the following proposed written itinerary:
Alaska Ride # 1 This will be a 9 Day ride
The ride Starts @ 8am June 17, 2023, in Anchorage, AK 99516
Or start where ever you like… See you in Fairbanks or on the trail.
Please make all your reservations soon please.
6/17 – Anchorage to Fairbanks (360mi), Hotel is for 2 days
Stop 1 – Talkeetna (113mi)—Gas and sightseeing
Stop 2 – Cantwell (125mi) Gas.
Stop 3 – Denali Park Village(21mi) Lunch, sightseeing, atourist stop
Stop 4 Optional – Nenana(75mi) Gas, bathroom break if needed.
Stop 5 – Fairbanks(55mi.) Lodging at Pikes Waterfront Lodge, 1850 Hoselton Rd, Fairbanks, AK 99709. # 877-774-2400
6/18 – Fairbanks to Circle, back to Fairbanks(310mi)
Stop 1 – Chatanika Lodge, (27mi.) 5760 Steese Hwy, Fairbanks, AK 99712. Breakfast, Historic Gold Dredge viewing, and first look at the Trans Alaska Pipeline.
Stop 2 – Central Alaska(95mi.) Gas, Circle District Gold Mining Museum.
Stop 3 – Circle Alaska (33mi), and the Yukon River. Everyone is required to piss in the Yukon River, it’s tradition.
Stop 4 – Fairbanks(155mi) Back to Pikes Waterfront Lodge Yukon River at Circle, Alaska
6/19 – Fairbanks to Manley Hot Springs (156mi)
Stop 1 – Hilltop Truckstop (23mi) Breakfast, top off gas tanks, no other gas stations until Manley.
Stop 2 – Manley Hot Springs(133mi.) stay at the historic Manley Roadhouse, 100 Front Street 907-672-3161 Manley Hot Springs, Ak 99756. Bring your swimming trunks.
6/20 (254 miles) Manley to Coldfoot Camp #907-474-3500Make your own arrangments, remember to say include meals.
Stop 1 – Yukon River Camp(120mi-ish) Dalton Highway Mile Post 56, Gas up.
Stop 2 – Coldfoot (25mi), Dalton Highway Milepost 175. Stay at Coldfoot Camp. These are not luxury accommodations, and Coldfoot is the last gas station for 244 miles until Deadhorse at Prudhoe Bay.
6/21 –Coldfoot to Deadhorse (244 mi.) Stay at Deadhorse Camp. Mile 412.8 Dalton HWY Prudhoe Bay, AK 877-474-3565
Make your own arrangements. Shuttle to the Arctic Ocean tour…you have to jump in the ocean if they let us do so
6/22 –Prudhoe Bay to Chena Hot Springs Resort (544 mi.) Chena Hot Springs Resort 17600 Chena Hot Springs Road Fairbanks, AK 99712 907-451-8104
Make your own reservations for two nights, and again bring your swimming trunks. *See note about stop 1 for overnight options. Please read below before booking.
**Stop 1 – Coldfoot (244mi) Gas and food. * (You may want to reserve a room here in case the weather is really bad and some want to just over night here).
For those who do not want to travel the 544 miles, you will need to stay the night in Coldfoot and only reserve one night at Chena Hot Springs.
Stop 2 – Yukon River Camp (125mi.) Gas.
Stop 3 – Fox (115mi) Gas
Stop 4 Chena Hot Springs Resort (61mi.) Stay at Chena Hot Springs Resort.
6/23 – Down Day, at Chena Hot Springs. Explore local trails, fish, or just relax-hang out and BBQ at
Spencer’s cabin on the West Fork of the Chena River 3 miles from the resort.
6/24 – Chena Hot Springs to Maclaren River Lodge (264mi)
Stop 1 – Delta Junction(142mi) Gas and lunch…gotta get a buffalo burger.
Stop 2 – Maclaren River Lodge (122mi.) Mile 42 Denali Highway Paxson, AK 99737 (907-388-6361)
6/25 – Maclaren River Lodge to Anchorage (293mi).
Total Mileage 2,171 (Approx. 1200 Miles of the ride will bedirt roads)
And then there’s a Versy’s in my future.
To me it’s always an incredible moment when you first leave your home for motorcycle travel to far off places with friends. Partly it’s because I know that when I return home again I’ll feel like a changed person, almost invincible again.
There are places in this world where, when you cross the border, immediately you feel like you’re somewhere wholly alien to where you were before – crossing into Canada to get to Alaska is certainly not one of those places.
In an earlier conversation with four year old grandson Wyatt he reminds me that Papa still needs an Alaska motorcycle to ride. So I text my most excellent friend Joey the Lord to see if he wants to sell me his Kawasaki Versys 300.
Joey soon replies back to me; I need 4k ($4,000) for that bike… it is completely ready to go, just add gas & clothes. All tire repair tubes tools bags everything is done! I eliminated The hard bags and installed soft bags and installed a new clutch and heavier springs on the suspension…
Being part of a ride group exposes me to more rides and roads than I would ever discover on my own. Over the years it has introduced me to lives beyond my not so carefully crafted retirement life…….not really but, it probably put a smile on people’s faces that know me.
How are the Alaska roads you might now ask? Most of the roads are……. you’ll just have to wait till we get on them to find out.
The Versy’s should soon just be floating on a cloud, with fantastic scenery and friends all around ……..couldn’t say enough about ‘em, these friends and wouldn’t trade-’em for a million Alaska bucks.
The first participant with me is the legendary character Yoda Roberto. If a situation calls for a gentle caring soul, then Roberto would be your man. Ever earnest and thoughtful and always contemplating the perfect universe. He is a gentleman and a scholar! I’ve seen him ride everything from a Honda Grom to a Ducati. He rides like the wind, has fair skin, and especially doesn’t like cold weather! Alaska in June should suit him just fine.
What is the make-up of a good motorcycle ride group? What are the essential parts list to bring? The way we see it; it’s like the center of a tootsie pop; the world may never know.
But, what we do know NOW is that the chosen country has to be interesting. The roads have to be fun to ride and the accommodations should be pleasing with hot water provided and preferably heat and cold as required. Plus the food must be tasty and not get anyone sick.
I had been to Alaska twice before. Once to join my friend John Lang in laying out a course for a future 2,000 mile watercraft Alaskan spring time race. Our group of five Seadoo riders succeeded in riding down the Kenai peninsula and over to Larsen Bay, Kodiak Island before being turned back on account of weather as we attempted to cross onto the Aleutian islands; 1,000 miles ridden in less than thirty days. A williwaw kept us in our tents for three days! A williwaw is a stormy cold wind that magically appears and blows continuously down mountains in Alaska.
And on my second trip I saw lots of water, trees and rocks, the occasional grizzly crossing the road and moose while driving a Wrangler X jeep. The most memorable thing was the glaciers and the hot springs.
Once I got tired of Alaska roads I drove myself to Haines; boarded the Alaska Marine Highway ferry. I pitched my tent on the rear deck of the ship; duct taping it to the deck and sleeping in it as there were no cabins available. The ferry transported me all the way back down to Bellingham, Washington with several stops along the way.
Now if Alaska only offered up a ride up to Anchorage on say, a train car similar to how they used to do it in Mexico decades ago then life would be good. A one way trip to Alaska is usually enough.
The 400-mile train trip on the Chihuahua Pacifico Railroad, known locally as the “Chepe”, used to take RV’s and motorcycles from the city of Chihuahua westwards down to Los Mochis before stopping in Creel on flat cars. The Chepe started operating in 1961 but, seized operations a long time ago.
According to google Anchorage is Alaska’s largest city, located in the south-central part of the state on Cook Inlet. It’s known for its Alaska native cultural sites and serves as the gateway to nearby wilderness areas and mountains including the Chugach, Kenai and Talkeetna.
If you want your own self guided tour to Alaska, Canada, Famous Inland Passage, Prudhoe Bay, Arctic Circle, and the Kenai Peninsula but, don’t know how to get started then purchase a ride packet from http://www.gpskevinadventurerides.com/upcoming-rides/alaska-by-adventure-bike or go on Kindle; find Phil Freeman’s book on Alaska.
Phil is from Alaska and the founder of Motoquest Motorcycle Adventure Rides. Phil believes we all have choices in life, and motorcycling the world is the best of them.