Day one: Really, an intro  (Click on photos to enlarge.)

Wow!  It is difficult to focus on my first day on the road toward Alaska after having spent such a spectacular 5 days at the International Women Riders Congress and Festival in Huntsville, Ontario, Canada.

At this gathering, Gin and I were there hosting a seminar entitled “OUR POWER.”   The “Our Power” seminar began by introducing the attendees to our major projects and how we started out as a totally non-funded entity and began enjoying the support from  the motorcycle industry beginning in 1996 and, more fully, in the spring of 1998.  From the favorable comments, we knew we were on the right track to both inspire the attendees as well as showing that women really do RIDE!  We ride in the dirt, on the track and over the by-ways and highways of our spectacular nations.

Now, we need YOU folks sending us pictures you took during this event.. Picture captions would be appreciated too.  THANKS!

Tomorrow I’ll do a posting on my first 2 days on the road.  For now, let us all get a great night’s sleep.

Sue :-)

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August 15, 2010:

Departure from Deerhurst Resort, Huntsville, ON, Canada, site of the International Women Riders Congress and Festival hosted by the Motorcycle Confederation of Canada.

4:30 a.m.:  Our very early start begins by turning off the alarm and sleeping until 6:15 a.m.  We played hard at MCC’s first women’s conference and absolutely had a blast.  Go to www.motorcycling.ca to find out more.  Plan on being at the next one. If it’s not on your bucket list, you really will be  missing out.

At 7:00 a.m. we were to go… to BREAKFAST.  As we pull into the Family Restaurant and Pizza in Huntsville, the same two gentlemen we met two days earlier are sitting in the daily reserved booth waiting to greet us.  I must send the restaurant a post card.  Anyone know the address and the owners’ name?

By 8:00 a.m. we are actually on the road.  Gin Shear, executive director for WMF headed back to Le Roy, NY while I headed to Alaska! The first 150 kilometers were pure joy as they took me along Provincial Road 17, wonderful lakes and beautiful sweepers.

A hundred miles into the ride, the skies turned black, lit up only by the lightning.  The torrential downpours forced everyone off the road. “Great,” I thought, “I’ve got the whole road to myself!”

Crossing the border at Sault Ste Marie via the International Bridge was painless but time consuming, an hour and 10 minutes with a gorgeous view of a canola oil burning truck.  To the sides though, it truly was beautiful.  I marveled at the human engineering of the locks, the skies had turned blue and there was a great view.

Bridge at Sault-Ste-Marie

Aerial view of the Soo Locks

530 miles into the day, I decided to stop short of my 715 mile goal.  The late start, rain and border crossing just said, “STOP” in Superior Motel, which turned out to be far SUPERIOR to the not superior Days Inn which wanted $109 a night.  Superior Motel offered $55/night and gave me a whole house!   I walked into unit 33 thinking I would find a small room, only to find a two bedroom apartment with a full kitchen twice the size of ours at home.  Too bad I don’t cook.  Good luck that Shark’s Family dining was a short walk down the road.

Tomorrow, I hope to stop at the Rustic Roost Motel on US 2 to say hello after having not been there for 17 years.  You’ll know why in my next blog.

August 16th:

Seventeen years ago on our first breast cancer fund raising effort, Arctic Tour ’93 – Women Riding for Research, we kicked off from Boston and spent our first night at our own house in Le Roy, NY.  Day two found us on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and into Wisconsin in the midst of high winds, heavy rain and Tornado warnings.  Riding along Lake Superior we had stopped at a number of motels but found “No room at the Inn(s).”

Finally, we happened upon Rustic Roost Motel and Restaurant.  I prevailed upon the owner to find some place to put us up as we were “Going to DIE” if we had to go one more mile in those dangerous conditions.  The owner, Ursula, indicated that all she had was a large garage where she stored extra motel mattresses and other inventory. “Perfect!” I quickly responded,

So we spent the night, with our bikes, sleeping upon motel mattresses in our sleeping bags.  As we settled in for the night, Ursula showed up with hot chocolate and homemade cookies. She then informed us that breakfast was on her the next morning.

Well, I just had to stop by at the Rustic Roost once again.  Unfortunately, Ursula was not on site as she had suffered a broken leg.  However, I did get a chance to call her and as soon as I informed her that seventeen years earlier she had provided a haven from a DARK AND VERY STORMY NIGHT for three women, Ursula jumped in with “YES!  You were on motorbikes and you were on your way to Alaska.  You were raising money for cancer, breast cancer, right?”

RIGHT URSULA!  So I had a great bowl of chili and took a couple of pictures.  One is of course of the Rustic Roost.

Rustic Roost, Take 2

The other is to show you another great discovery I made today.  It was kind of cold and Alisa, www.motoadventuregal.com, had picked up a “ONE SIZE FITS ALL” kidney belt for me in Huntsville, as I had left mine in California.  Well, at first having it wrap around me two and a half times seemed a bit excessive.  However, once the temps dropped, I loved the extra insulation.  The cold winds didn’t have a chance getting through to my core.  Thanks Alisa!

Sue's Super Wrap

Yahoo!  I am on schedule.  I covered 720 miles today and 530 yesterday.  If the weather holds, I am definitely going to make it to Anchorage no later than mid-day on Saturday, August 21st.  That gives me a day to get my bike serviced and sleep in before I take off with www.motoquesttours.com for a six-day dual sport tour.

August 17

Day Three involved just trying to make the miles.  The big challenge continued to be fighting the wind.  Consider the life of a fishing bobber and you have a good idea of what it has been like out on the road.  Still, it’s hard to complain as the sun has been out and although cool, it has not been cold.  Today I made 668 miles and landed in Lloydminster, Alberta, Canada.  I am officially at the mid-point having covered 2000 miles in 3 days with another 2000 miles to go.  Check the map.  Lloydminster splits it’s city streets between Saskatchewan and Alberta.  Pretty cool.  Right in the middle of town you are informed that you are leaving one province and entering another.

Catch up with you folks tomorrow.  Sue :-)

August 18th:

This is Gin writing from home. I did not receive a blog submission from Sue today. She made it all the way to the edge of Saskatchewan yesterday. The green sign below says, “Alberta Saskatchewan Border.”

The border in mid-town

This morning when she did her pre-ride check she discovered some tire damage.

Fortunately there is a Kawasaki dealer in town and they were able to fit her with new tires fairly quickly. Aside from the unexpected expense at this point in the trip, there was the time delay. She plans on riding tonight till 9pm or dark, whichever comes first. That pre-ride check is SO important, no matter what or where you ride.

Damage to Sue's rear tire

Stay safe, mon ami!

August 19th

Gin again. Sue has been on the Alaska Highway and cell service has been spotty. But here’s what has been going on.

Sue got her tires changed in British Columbia. After the new tires were on the bike was running great! They did a wonderful job of balancing them for her and what a difference it has made.

She found a small motel with a restaurant for the night. No cell service, so also no internet. I got a phone call the morning of the 20th. All is well and she has made up time so that she is back on schedule.

The shop in Alberta where I had my tires changed

August 20th:

Gin again. Sue called after a long day on the Alaska Highway. Beautiful views of snow capped mountains. She has seen a lot of moose along the way. Yesterday she spotted a mother moose with a young one. She also came upon a herd of bison. She did stop for a picture of these cows with their young. Bison along the road

Riding on this great road, she spied the most beautiful rainbow she has ever seen. Sue was certain it was a hello from our dear friend, Woody whom we lost to ovarian cancer last spring.

The Alaska Highway was built during WWII, in an effort to get troops up into Alaska to protect the northwest coast after the bombing of Dutch Harbor. The US and Canadian armies worked feverishly to build the highway. Destruction Bay, Yukon is a small town along this road. It was named for the high winds that continuously blew down the buildings during the highway construction. Today it has an estimated population of 55. This is where Sue found a place to eat and spend the night. They had cell service!

August 21st

Okay, it’s finally Sue, reporting in on her own but THANK YOU GIN for taking my calls and letting people know where I am and how it’s going.  I did make it to Anchorage 4000 miles in 6 and a half days.  Losing the better part of Thursday from riding probably saved my life.  What great Karma though.  Think about it. I find a Kawasaki Dealership right around the corner and they stock KLR tires because so many KLR riders come north their way.

The weather, which had been hot and dry did a complete turn around and turned cold and wet starting Thursday afternoon. I did make it to Toad River, Yukon by night’s end on Thursday moments before the diner was to close. PHEW!  They still had hot chili and the best homemade bread I have had in a long time.  Plus, I was able to replace our Toad River stickers which had been on our gas cans that were stolen on the Arctic Tour – Ride for Research in ’93.

Under all of the many layers, there really is a 125 pound person. After donning a turtle neck, electric jacket, armor, winter riding jacket AND Kawasaki rain jacket, I looked more like the INCREDIBLE

BULK!  However, I was warm and somehow could still move.

Once you get North of Toad River on the Alaska Highway, the real beauty of British Columbia begins to take over and the traffic dies down.  Most all of the traffic I ran into was heading south. Not Sue, she’s heading north.  The morning I woke up in Toad River, it was 40 degrees.  My next stay was 658 miles later in Destruction Bay, where I woke up to 34 degrees and dense, cold fog.  Forty miles into the ride, the frost heaves and loose gravel presented themselves.  On the bike, it was no problem.  I just had to slow way down due to the poor visibility.

Once again, I came to a border crossing and I was the only one there.  Check out my Zumo and the picture.  Apparently, you are not supposed to take pictures at the border but I found this out after the fact. Oh well.

Mrs Garminski shows the way!

Border crossing - Do not take pictures!

The ride into TOK was quick and landed me at Grumpys cafe and a great breakfast.  Then, it was on to Anchorage where I was met by MotoQuest partners, Phil, Kevin, and Kevin’s wife Kelly plus Ariel, Joanne, Cobra and Jason. What a fine, friendly bunch.  Presently, I am lounging in bed while Jason is giving my KLR an oil change, new front brake pads, changing out my tires for more aggressive 50/50 Kendas and installing better footpegs for the riding we’ll be doing.

I have now seen the route we’ll use on a map.  This afternoon, I meet with Phil, Ariel, Kevin and Kelly to look at the Adventure for the Cures Dual Sport Ride for next year. I won’t have access to internet or cell while gone.  On occasion, I will get in a phone call to Gin who will do her best to keep up the blog.  Thanks for reading all.

Mama Sue :-)

A quick addendum: To make a donation,

How to Become a Spirit Rider

1. Go to www.dslrf.org (Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation) and click the donate tab on the homepage. Fill out the donation form and specify CAN/AM Journey of Hope – Cindy’s Ride – Spirit Riders as the designation for your donor contribution through the “Donor Designations” pull down menu.

2. NOTE: 100% of your donation will support two important organizations: it will support innovative breast cancer research at the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation ( www.dslrf.org ) and it will also support Avon Crusade against Breast Cancer Canada http://www.ca.avon.com/PRSuite/crusade.page

August 22:

This is Gin writing today. Sue arrived in Anchorage, met with her hosts and fellow riders for this dirt and road adventure. She got a good night’s sleep and has had a chance to rest up for the ride.

Sue called at their first stop on the ride. They rode past Mt. McKinley, or Denali, and got a good look at the peak in the sunshine. Unfortunately when they made a stop for pictures it was hidden in clouds. That happened to us in 1993 as well!

The next couple of days she will probably be out of contact, but we eagerly await hearing all that she is seeing in the beautiful northern part of the continent.

August 23rd:

I have this intermittent moment where I am able to get an Internet signal. Today we had an exquisite day with four water crossings of Valdez Creek.  They were shallow crossings but created a lot of excitement.  Kerry Lea, one of the women on board has only had her license for two weeks and is doing incredibly well.  She’s on board a Yamaha XT225.   We also saw three Caribou and a moose en route to this unbelievably beautiful mountaintop.  Because we are so far north, at an elevation of 4200 feet, we are above the tree line in many areas of our riding.  The moose come up in elevation to get away from the mosquitoes.  If there is snow around, they will bed down to cool off and further ward off the bugs.

The food at the Gracious Inn and Lodges has been fantastic.  Last night we had the best spaghetti and meatballs, tossed salad, homemade bread and three different pies for dessert.  Carol and her husband Butch run the place with help from Butch’s brother Bobby.  Out of this location at mile marker 82 on the Denali Highway, these folks do snow machine tours in the winter, fly-overs of the glaciers in the summer along with guided hunting and fishing excursions.  We all have fallen in love with the place

I would say that 90% of the roads we have been on are easier than what we rode on last year.  When the more challenging routes come up, there are multiple other options for people to pursue other directions for the day.

More to come as I get Internet access.

August 24th:

 

Gin asked yesterday if this was the Northern Lights Tour.

Yes! We are on part of the Northern Lights Tour.  They were spectacular on Monday night.  I was wearing earplugs and didn’t hear the call to come out and see them.  However, the pictures our photographer took are spectacular.  I am hoping we get another clear night.  They were mostly green but on occasion they were also purples and pink hues.

Last night a gentle rain started around 11 p.m.  Yahoo! Our little dome tent we bought in 1998 held tight and I was warm and toasty.  I am so glad that Phil told us to bring two sleeping bags.  Everyone else has been cold but me.  My port-a-potty got a good laugh from all.  It was 28 degrees F. for a low on Monday night.  But my gallon jug and WIDE funnel worked like a charm and I didn’t have to get out of my snug, warm tent to relieve my bladder.

Yesterday’s ride will only be for those who want a challenge.  We did four water crossings.  The first one, I had no idea where the shallow path of travel was.  I just crossed the Valdez River and it turns out I picked the deepest part.  I made it to the other side to major cheers.  On the way back, I knew where to ride and it was a whole lot easier. The road became gnarley after the fourth crossing.  We went to the top of a small mountain that looked like a goat trail to me.  I fell once but have put myself about mid-pack and had lots of help to get the bike back up.

En route, we saw a moose up in high elevation.  They, too, go up in elevation to get away from the mosquitoes.  Three caribou ran across the trail.  We couldn’t get pictures on the fly but it was a spectacular sight.

Next year, yesterday’s ride will be a day where the those who want to push themselves harder can take this route.  The others will want to continue on to Denali for white water rafting or a bus trip into the park.  Even right here at Gracious House Lodge, you can take a guided fishing trip or a fly over and see three glaciers.  Carol and Butch own and run the place.  Butch inherited the place and has worked and built up Gracious House Lodge for 54 years. Carol, Butch’s wife, has worked with him for the last 30 years.  There’s enough to keep us busy for three days for whatever skill level and range of interest.

Will write more tonight.   This may be the last night for this.  I am not sure we’ll have this luxury at the next camp site.

August 25th:

Today was spectacular!  I chose to go on the picture taking, video taping, slower paced, easier ride.  We still had four water crossings and we’ll have great video to show for it when I get back to using a real computer.  I am sending a few pictures to give you the idea of our day.  Carilea, her husband Kevin, David from Progressive Suspension and I opted for the “Smell the Roses” tour with Brenden.  Brenden is a fantastic guy and he took these pictures.

Water crossing

The amphibian KLR650

We had lunch by the Susitna River and then Carilea went back to the Gracious House Lodge while David, Brenden and I tried to find a new route.  We wound up on this almost single track road just wide enough for a small quad.  It was full of roots, ruts and steps made up of rocks and roots and fallen logs.  I fell twice and both times were my own fault for not trusting the throttle. I came back at it and made it to the point where all three of us said, “Okay, far enough… this is nuts and we turned back, which meant we had to get all three bikes turned around in a narrow rutted path which took some doing.

Not to worry.  We will NOT be taking “Dirty Dozen Riders” on the trail.  Still, I was quite proud of myself for taking on the challenge and it paid off.  Not only did I learn more about my bike and what I need to do to get her to go where I want, I also faced some fear and won out over it.  WOW!  I just feel great.  WOODY… ARE YOU LISTENING?!??!

“I’M ALIVE… I’M AWAKE… AND  I  FEEL  GREAT!”

I am so glad I am doing this ride in advance.  Between the Colorado Ride last year, and pre-riding the route this year, I am definitely using both experiences to create great options for all riders. There is just no better way to determine what’s going to work than experiencing it first hand in advance.  I have also learned to better accept my limitations and to work within my skill set.  I sill want and NEED to push the envelope but I find myself biting off more reasonable goals.  I have learned that you really don’t miss out if you are simply marching forward and aspiring towards your personal best.  I need not be measured against any other scale than just my personal best.

I am really glad I opted for the right pace and right level of difficulty.  Hmmmm…. another lesson learned… FINALLY… that I won’t have to learn again the next time around.

Wait until you all see the pictures from this trip.  Yesterday, we saw two Eagles with their four young.  They were all flying.  At first we saw the parents with one baby.  The, a while later another joined by the time we finished watching four fledglings were a flying. WOW! David tried capturing this on his “Point and Shoot” camera but doubts he’ll get more than two big dots and four small dots against the sky.  So, it was one of those, “You had to be there” experiences and I feel so privileged to have been there.

While out on a trail with Brenden (great MotoQuest guide) and David from Progressive Suspension, we did get some hilarious shots and video clips of me FAILING TO ROLL ON THE THROTTLE at the very worst time and therefore tipping over mid-climb up two  steps made up of rocks and roots.  I think my launch in the air from Colorado came back to me and I backed off the throttle when I should have stayed on it.   I am so glad Brenden and David were willing to help me pull the bike back for another attempt.  I have dubbed this trek… “Second Chance Trail.”

August 26:

WOW! Gracious House Lodge on the Denali Highway is such a great place to stay and use as a base camp. The riding off the Denali, which in itself is a dirt road, offers a vast array of riding from easy to totally hairy.  The shots from this ride involved a lot of water crossings.  They were not outrageously deep but deep enough to make for a lot of fun and great pics.  On this particular day, I knew better than to take the route that involved the thigh high water and steep shale filled climbs.  I opted for the moderate trail along with David, Brenden, Carileah and Kevin.  We had a total blast taking pictures all along the way.

August 27th:

Today is Saturday and I owe blog write ups for the last three days.  Tomorrow, I will simply stay in bed with tons of coffee and get you all caught up to date.  The pictures say it all. This state is so vast; a week barely scrapes the surface of the beauty.  However, it is enough time to compel me to come back.  Lots more to share tomorrow.

August 29th:

Hello again. Sue sent me a bunch of pictures to show while she is writing more of her story for the blog. So I will put them up here and you can see all of this for yourselves. All I can say s “wow! Also, remember that you can click on the photos to enrage them.

Judy at Tangle River

August 26th: from Sue

We wrapped up our stay at Gracious House lodge with yet another incredible meal.  Butch and Carol, along with Butch’s brother Billy, do an incredible job of keeping this place going.  It is obviously a labor of love.  Here’s the cool thing.  Carol, who is 67 and has driven snow machines over the last 30 years, now wants to ride a motorcycle. Butch is all for it.  So, we talked about her contacting me about taking a course with Coach2Ride.  Carol and Jim will be coming down to the lower 48 to visit friends in San Diego.  WOW!  Plus, Judy and Kelly also live in SoCal and would be up for taking an all women’s class from Coach2Ride too.  I am psyched.  Carol might even become an Adventure for the Cures Riders on next year’s mission.

After tearing down camp we headed across the remaining 53 miles of the Denali Highway towards Richardson Hwy (AK-4).  It was raining some and there was road construction on this dirt thoroughfare.  Both conditions offered loose, slimy mud on parts of the road, but it was not that hard to navigate.  Kevin Haggerty had a rear tire go flat along the way but Jethro (beloved chase vehicle) and Brenden, Jethro’s trusty sidekick, showed up to save the day.  Brenden simply downloaded another Kawasaki KLR and Kevin and his wife Kelly were on their way.

We had lunch at the Tangle River Inn:  great chili, endless cups of coffee a friendly waitress and cook, Dawn.  Dawn and her husband had emigrated from New Orleans.   They had owned a seafood restaurant that had been doing well but Katrina changed their lives radically.  One would think that coming from warm weather Dawn would have found the northern country daunting, to say the least, but she loves Alaska.  More than one person has told me, “There are lots of folks who come up hear to visit but just never leave.”

Our destination for the day was Copper Center and the Copper Center Lodge.  The lodge offers free camping, $5 showers and great food. The camping area is right on the Copper River.  The sound of the current and the waves just lulled people to sleep.

August 27th:

I thought I would be off to Valdez today but then the opportunity came up to visit Kinnecott & McCarthy at the end of the McCarthy Road with Brenden, Kevin and Kelly.  The road is 60 miles of dirt and takes you through dramatic scenery as it wends its way up to higher elevation and close to the Root Glacier. We spread out for the ride, as the dust was pretty thick due to the dry weather.  I was in the middle and Kevin and Kelly were in the lead.  I couldn’t find them until Brenden pointed out that we just ride across the pedestrian bridge.  Apparently, this is totally acceptable for motorcycles.  I still don’t know how the cars and trucks get up there.

Once there we visited the old Copper Processing Mill and took pictures before going off to lunch at the Kennicott Glacier Lodge.  Aptly named as you can see the Glacier from the balcony of the restaurant, which also offers outdoor seating.  If you go to Alaska, the McCarthy Road needs to be on your itinerary.

On the way back Brenden and I decided to catch the view from the long bridge that spans the Kuskulana River, which then runs into the Copper River.  You are not allowed to stop on the bridge, however, no signs warned not to stop on the catwalk below the bridge. So, that’s what we did and the view of the canyon and river below was well worth the effort.

Check out the pictures from the 27th.  You’ll see why it was such a great day as our final full day of dual sport riding.

August 28th:

Departing from Copper Center we only had a 200 mile ride back to Moto    Quest Headquarters in Anchorage.  However, after the challenges of riding in the dirt, the pavement seemed pretty tame and I had trouble staying awake until the Glaciers started showing up on my left as we were approaching Sheep Mountain Lodge, mile marker 113 on the Glen Highway.

Happy group after dinner

After we all partook in great homemade soups or chili with jumbo sized sour dough biscuits, I headed out in front of the others to make it to The Motorcycle Shop to pick up front brake pads, oil and a filter before they closed at 4 p.m.

That’s about when the rain came in the form of a torrential downpour.  The visibility was horrendous but I was NOT sleepy through this mess as it also involved going through some construction too. No one had any complaints about the weather though as we had just ridden 6 days in Alaska pretty much rain free.  The only place I experienced some rain was on the Denali Highway and that actually was just enough to keep the dust down so we could all ride closer together.

Getting back to MotoQuest led to a pizza party and plans to all get together the next evening for dinner.  Yes!  We all got along just famously and we were experiencing “Dual Sport Touring Withdrawl.”

I got to my room around 6 p.m. Alaska time and talked with Gin a bit.  I then promptly fell asleep into my computer and woke up with keyboard imprints on my face.  Twelve hours later I started to feel rested again.  I guess 4000 miles to get out here in 6 and one half days followed immediately by 997.5 miles of dual sport riding had taken a lot out of me.  I was just having so much fun in the dirt it hadn’t caught up until I was done with the tour.

While hanging around Anchorage, I visited Alaska Leather on the corner of Spenard and Minnesota.  Barb owns the place and is an Olympia Technical Gear Dealer.  Being in town, Karilea and Kevin Rhea, owners of Olympia decided to help out at the shop for two days while Barb was hosting her “BLOW OUT SALES EVENT.”

Yesterday I also got to know Ernesto Urrestaraso from Uruguay.  He has been on his 200 cc. motorcycle for two years traveling throughout the Americas.  His wife joined him here in Anchorage for 6 weeks at the end of his journey.  He plans to sell his ZTT200 Zanella and fly home as South America begins its spring and summer.

Ernesto

Tonight I am going to sleep in Phil Freeman’s guesthouse.  Again, Phil is the owner of MotoQuest.  His guesthouse is a school bus.  This seems appropriate for an ole schoolteacher.  Phil lives in Girdwood and from Girdwood I will leave for Whittier and a ferry ride through Prince William Sound to Valdez.

Then, I’ll figure the rest of my trip down through to Seattle where I will hook up with Gin (YAHOO!) and we’ll get to visit with GREAT friends.

Sept. 3:

Hi, folks, Gin here. Sue has been traveling southward and eastward for a couple of days. She spent her last night in Anchorage in Phil’s “guest house,” which is an old school bus. Looks pretty rough on the outside, but nice on the inside.

Phil's guest house

She had a good ride to the big tunnel going to Whittier. Her plan was to take the ferry from Whittier, that is reported to be a beautiful sight seeing ride, with views of orcas and belugas and eagles, oh my! She got there quite early, after a harrowing ride through the 2.5 mile tunnel. It is long, dark, and slippery, but they do not allow other vehicles in the tunnel with motorcycles. What does that tell us? But, she made it through. Then she found that the ferry was booked full. She would have to wait until 4pm to see if they could squeeze her in. By that time she would have lost the whole riding day, so she headed back through the tunnel and headed for Tok.

Arriving in Whittier, AK

Portage Glacier

She visited Thompson’s Eagle Claw Motorcycle Park, a motorcycle campground in Tok. They are lovely, but quite rustic, no electricity. Sue was cold, hungry and tired by this time, so she decided to find a hotel.

She found one, and that was when she discovered that she had left the power cord to her computer in Anchorage, in the school bus. So, no writing that night!

The next day she headed to Whitehorse, Yukon. This was a long, wet, cold ride. She had overslept and got a very late start on the day. But, that gave her the chance to chat with me, Marjorie, and wait out the rain before packing the bike.

Last night was a late one for our intrepid heroine. Rain, cold and pot holes made for an arduous ride. I got a call at 11:30pm Eastern time that she finally was in a motel in Whitehorse. When she first arrived, she found a Staples store! Yay! She was able to buy a replacement power cord for the computer. When she called she was going to get dinner at the nearby restaurant. She had her heart set on a steak, since it was the only place open. But, alas, they were out of everything but appetizers and a chicken dish. Her plan was to take part of the steak with her for breakfast this morning. She said, “I can put it on the window sill and it will be cold enough.” I suggested that the local bears might appreciate that. Then she remembered the fridge in her motel room. Better idea.

So, now we await the latest from Sue. She has 6 days to go 2000 miles, by her standards, an easy scoot!

Tuesday 8/31/10:

Tuesday was another lay-off day in Anchorage during which I visited with Don and Keith at The Motorcycle Store, visited Barb at Alaska Leather, shipped home dirty clothes and packed for the next day’s departure.

Phil Freeman, owner of MotoQuest and Alaska Rider was packing too for the tour he is leading in Peru.  Still, I went to his place to save some bucks by sleeping in his school bus.  Yep!  And the picture does not do it justice.  When I approached it, I thought for sure it must leak but no… not only did it not leak, once inside, I found inlaid hard wood floor in the “Foyer”,  with wall to wall carpeting in the rest of this unique little guest house.  I had a great night’s sleep listening to the rain on the roof.

Wednesday: Sept. 1, 2010:

I headed south to Whittier, Alaska, had a caribou sausage, egg and cheese breakfast sandwich and great coffee on the waterfront and headed back north through Anchorage again and on to Tok.

I thought the Ferry left at 2:00 p.m. and had been told that the Ferry staff always finds room for a bike.  When I found the Ferry Terminal closed I called and was told the Ferry was full and wouldn’t depart until 4:00 p.m.  Hmmm… take a chance they would have room for me meant hanging out in Whittier all day long not knowing whether I had wasted the day or not.  I decided riding sounded better but I do want to make that trip through Prince William Sound… There’s always next year.

This meant I got to go through the 2.5 mile long tunnel twice. Vehicles and trains share the tunnel’s use.  Everyone has to take turn on who is using it, as it is a single lane tunnel. For motorcyclists, this means when your turn comes you get to ride between two rails on steel plate.  Now this plate is usually wet.  All I could think of was how many cars had dripped oil or transmission fluid on the very steel plate surface I was negotiating.  Dirt, rocks, gravel, sand and water crossings all started to look easy compared to this “white knuckle” experience.

When I found I had to do that tunnel a second time, I was none too happy.  As it turned out though, it wasn’t nearly so scary once I knew what to expect. There WAS a big “phew” as I looked at the tunnel’s exit in my rear view mirror.

My day ended in Tok where I checked out Eagle Claw Motorcycle Campground.  Vanessa showed up to take me around the place.  They have pre-set campsites.  One site has a Tee-pee, another two have cabins and a final one has a platform wall tent.  Next year, they are setting up an old ambulance as a two-person place to sleep.  Vanessa and her husband Brian also built a shop for riders to use to work on their bikes.  You can drop your oil there and Vanessa and Brian recycle it.

The most impressive structure is their cabin.  When Vanessa and Brian first moved onto the land, they bought an “Old School Bus.”  Seems that Alaskans love living in school busses.  Vanessa and Brian did for six and a half years while that hand hewed every log in their home while also building and then opening their motorcycle specific campground. Incredible.

Thurs: Sept. 2, 2010: As told by Sue, Friday night, 9/3

With the backtracking into and then out of Whittier yesterday I covered a lot more miles than intended and was bushed.  I slept until 9 a.m.  and found myself in the same position in which I went to sleep.  Looking out the window I found rain.  And that’s what I rode in for the 389 miles to Whitehorse.  Whitehorse turned out to be an expensive stop.  $85+ tax for a room was the cheapest I could find.  Dinner turned out to be more than I would normally spend too but it was delicious and I was totally impressed by Antoinette, the chef and owner of “Antoinette’s ~ Good Food and a Nice Place to Eat.”

Antoinette’s other chefs had not made their way to the Yukon as of yet but she was scheduled to open and so she did.  What Antoinette can do to food is miraculous.  I had chicken rolled with cheese and mild spices enclosed in a light, flaky baked crust. It was served with a crunchy rice dish and a delectable cranberry sauce. YUM!

We got to talking and it turns out that Antoinette lost her dearest friend Beatrice to ovarian cancer just three weeks ago.  She showed me her picture that she has on her wall in her restaurant’s kitchen.  All I could think of was Woody.  We shared a good hug and got more than a little teary.  I was so touched by Antoinette’s tenacity, humor and caring.  It took all of the cold rain from the day out of my bones.

Sept. 5:

Such a ride, the beauty and the sparseness of communities and people make this an especially poignant trip.  I am continually awed by the majesty of my surroundings.  However the people of the North Country make up an enormous part of the joy of this region those their numbers are small.

I am still blown away by Vanessa’s and Brian’s story of how they just sold everything, paid off all debt and hit the road for Alaska to live their dream.  Their patience and resiliency as they lived in a school bus while constructing their log home and building a campground to meet the needs of motorcyclists makes me feel lazy.

Then there is Antoinette, she’s fond of saying, I make SLOW FOOD, not FAST FOOD. Not only does Antoinette serve up healthy, delicious food, she’s a healthy risk taker too.  Her restaurant in Whitehorse has only been open two weeks and when her other chefs had not made it to the Yukon in time for the grand opening; she opened anyway as a one-woman show.  Antoinette’s heart is huge and you feel her passion in every delectable bite she serves.  Read more:  http://www.yukon-news.com/business/10546/

Visiting with such great folks in Tok, Alaska and Whitehorse, Yukon kept me warm throughout a cold and rainy day as I rode down to Dease Lake along the Stewart-Cassiar Hwy 37.  That’s the most western North-South Highway in British Columbia. Seventeen years ago, during Arctic Tour ’93 ~ Ride for Research, this highway was all dirt.  I am sure the citizens of B.C. appreciate that it is mostly paved now with just a few miles here and there of gravel.  Where the gravel exists, there’s a reason, a rock slide or avalanche took out part of the road and it was repaired as a gravel road pending further pavement.  For myself, I missed the dirt.  Still, the Cassiar retains much of its character especially farther north.  The road is narrow and you really have to watch for the occasional oncoming traffic.  There are no lines on the road to indicate one’s share of the road.  It seems that most larger vehicles take their share out of the middle.

It was along the Stewart-Cassiar that I happened upon four bears. The first I came upon was a Mama Bear and her cub.  They were scratching their butts in the middle of the road.  It’s as if they said, “Damn tourists!” as I came by and they grudgingly ambled off.  The next two bears, on two separate occasions found me to be quite a curious site.  I stopped well away from them.  Each time, each bear stood up on its hind legs then squatted and just gawked at me.  I think I appeared as the “Incredible Hulk” in my green Kawasaki rain jacket that I had donned over my riding jacket, electric jacket and three other layers to stay warm.  I was warm by the way, despite the chill in the air and the intermittent rain.

I was about out of gas and personal steam by the time I reached Dease Lake for the night.  Mama Z’s, located directly across from the B&B I found.  I treated myself to a delicious serving of lasagna and the best Caesar Salad I have ever had.  Plus, Dease Lake had fuel!  That was causing me a bit of concern after passing through Good Hope Lake and finding no services at all.

From Dease Lake I headed to Stewart, B.C. and Hyder, Alaska.  You get to Hyder through Stewart and that’s about the only way you can unless someone has a helipad I don’t know about.  En route I saw Bear Glacier and was awestruck by how depleted is was since last we passed this way.  In 1993, you could hear thunderous crashes as large chunks of the glacier broke off and floated in the water.  Now Bear Glacier ends in dirt.  It is melting and water is still running into the lake but no thunderous chunks. I felt sad at the site of this diminished Glacier.

My spirits were buoyed when I met Kathy the Ranger at the Fish Creek Wildlife Observation Deck, which I refer to as the Bears’ Boardwalk.  Bears had been there that morning but Kathy indicated that once they have had their fill they go off for siesta time in the woods and fields near the creek.

This is a special place.  I tried taking pictures of the gigunda salmon that were swimming about.  I also tried capturing the brown opportunistic gulls that hang around for scraps left by the bears.  They didn’t turn out so you will just have to go to this place yourselves.

Kathy told me to stop by and say hello to Caroline at Boundary Gallery and Gifts.  Turns out that Caroline and the entire community of Hyder have really gotten behind the “Save Second Base Breast Cancer Campaign.”  This effort is especially directed at younger, pre-menopausal women.  I thought of Cindy throughout my time with Caroline.   Caroline and her mother are both survivors having had their mammograms and follow-up diagnostic procedures on the same day.  They got confirmation on their breast cancers four days apart.  Caroline’s step-sister is also a survivor. Plus, Hyder very recently lost one of their 71 citizens to the monster.

Caroline filled me up with her laughter and humor about dealing with breast cancer.  I told her about Gin’s 28 reasons for having a double-modified radical mastectomy.  Caroline said, “Well, here’s one more. No longer will I have to worry about which one gets to my knees first.” I laughed until we cried.

Caroline is one fine woman and I suspect she’s a good sampling of the kind of people who live in Hyder.

Today, I get to visit with Bookie!  Bookie was on our very first fund raising effort back in 1993.  I am thinking I haven’t seen her since.  I am ecstatic over the prospect of our reunion.  More on this visit down the road.

Sept. 10:

Hello everyone. Sue arrived in Seattle on Sept. 7 and is at our dear friend, Marjorie’s home. I flew in on the 8th. Here is the latest chapter from Sue:

3 Responses to CAN/AM Journey of Hope 2010

  1. Berta says:

    Hey Sue!!! Take care, we’re all thinking of you and sending good wishes for a safe journey. Be safe!! Berta & Jim and family

  2. Berta says:

    Hi sue its drew have fun and be safe. I LUV ALASKA

  3. Book says:

    Hi Sue, Gin
    Great to have re-connected.
    Sue, an absolutely wonderful visit, all the “kids” miss you.
    ’til next year, when we meet again!

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