BigLew55's UCC planning

BigLew55

Premier Member
#41
Day 7 7/5/18

Aurora Hotel

As I wake and look outside to assess the weather, there are raindrops hitting the window. That means it is rainy and windy. A look through the window confirms that it’s not a positive outlook. A quick glance on my phone confirms that current conditions are not favorable, but tomorrow looks better. I watch some TV until about 11 and check the weather again. Still no sign of improvement. I head down to the desk to extend my stay another night. I grab a light lunch and head back to the room.

I spend most of the day watching TV. They have a few movie channels available and I don’t really have many other options for recreation, so I rest up all day long.

One issue I did have to address is a missing bolt on my aux tank mounting. I had a few spare ¼-20 bolts as it’s a common size on my bike. It only takes a few minutes to correct the situation. While at my bike, I used the rest of my now unusable water to clean off my tail lights. They were made opaque from the mud yesterday.
 

BigLew55

Premier Member
#42
Day 8 7/6/18

Deadhorse, AK to Fairbanks, AK
North Slope
Atigun Pass
Chandler Pass
Coldfoot, AK
CB conversation
Home Depot

I wake before my alarm on Friday, July 6th. I check what few weather resources I have on my phone as soon as I can convince my eyes to focus. The temperature has only improved a bit, but the rain let up yesterday afternoon. I look out at overcast skies to see puddles still prevalent in the gravel parking lot. I plan to head south after a large breakfast.

I hear a lot of mulling around up and down the hallway. The local workers are getting to breakfast or to their trucks on the way to work. The heavy industrial equipment and mentality is omni-present up here. I try to stay out of their way during this rush. I use this time to pack and prepare for my return trip. I know the road will only be marginally better today. As I have everything organized, I head down to the chow hall. A plate full of eggs, sausage, hash browns, and some fruit seem to be the best plan I can muster. I grab a quick cup of coffee and a cup of water, then sit down. After eating, I take a quick picture of Colleen Lake just outside the window. It is still mostly frozen, reminding me that I should recalibrate my judgement when picking motorcycle destinations.

After breakfast, I gear up and throw everything needed on the bike. The bike is reluctant to start. After a few more attempts than normal, it fires and settles into its rhythm. GPS routes are all set and I head over to the gas station. This is a critical stop, so I try to make sure everything is in order. I go in the hut to insert my card and head back out to top off the tanks. Again, I’m just a bit over 6 gallons, so I am grateful for my auxiliary fuel tank that I added only a few months ago. After the pump stops, I go back in and fumble with directions before finding the procedure for obtaining the all-important starting receipt. With it in hand I head out to the bike. The time is off by a few hours, but on a ride timed via calendar (I have 30 days to get to Key West), I make a quick note and move on. Now I take the picture with the receipt with my bike’s odometer in the frame. Satisfied that I am now on the clock, I stow everything and start the arduous journey to Fairbanks. The next 150 miles will be the hardest road I’ll ride the rest of the trip, and likely for many years to come.

Again, the local roads are so potholed and rutted that I struggle to do 20 MPH. I putter along following the magenta line until I slowly work my way up to 30 or so. Occasionally, I have to slow back down, sometimes abruptly, to avoid being bounced out of my seat or off the road. A few sections of road construction are particularly harrowing, with larger stones exposed and less compact on the surface. This big Harley sinks a bit and squirrels through them.

On the hills, with the road still wet, the front wheel is not very planted. It struggles to follow ruts, while I try to maintain enough speed so that the back tire doesn’t start spinning. It is a balancing act that requires full attention at all times.

I often wonder how the ride would have been had the road been dry. Would I have been disappointed at the ease of this challenge? I still wonder that as I write this, but it does no good. I know that the answer is just another question.

At some point in this first segment just out of Deadhorse, I notice a large brown furry shape along the road up ahead. I hadn’t seen much wildlife on the way up, but this morning, I had already passed a small herd of what I think were reindeer. Now I see this shape in the distance, and I start flipping through the rolodex of possible animals in my head. Is it a grizzly? I downshift and prepare for evasive maneuvers just in case. As I get closer, it looks more bovine than ursine. Do buffalo roam this far north? As I get closer I see the distinct horn shape of a muskox. I don’t think they’re aggressive, but I am cautious anyway. I also make sure to scan the area for any buddies who may be nearby. I question my sanity for riding a motorcycle in an environment where I might encounter such a creature as the musk ox. I don’t really get any good reply from myself, so I continue, still unsure about my actual state of mind.

I continue to slog along heading up into the valley towards the passes. I cross them with attention and they are in about the same condition as when I was northbound. The snow is freshly white, but there is no precipitation today. Soon I am heading back down in elevation towards Coldfoot. The miles tick down and finally a bit of pavement. With this, I know I’m near. Soon, I pull in for another tank of fuel and decide no longer break is needed. Breakfast is still holding me well enough.

The road from Coldfoot to Fairbanks is not in great condition, but after riding the northern section of this road, it is a welcome improvement. It didn’t get the rain from the system that I was affected by on the north slope. The temperature is back up in the 50s and 60s, making for a very comfortable ride. Occasionally, I am dusted by a vehicle, but everyone seems to be courteous.

I strike up a CB conversation with one trucker. It doesn’t last too long, as he’s going faster than me. He obviously knows the road better and struggles less with the loose rock that frequents the path.

Eventually, I make it down to the Elliot highway junction. I stop for another picture of the bike. I have missed the “Arctic Circle” sign both directions and had wanted a picture if it too. In hindsight, I would have added it as a waypoint to my route to ensure I got it. I don’t plan to turn around.

Pavement is becoming more regular as I drop back towards Fairbanks. It is a welcome change, but vigilance is still required to avoid going too fast through the patches of loose gravel or hitting the unmarked potholes and frost heaves.

Fairbanks is a welcome sight. I am ready for a meal and a shower. It has been a long day and I’m starting to get a bit worn. My friend recommends a food truck with great burgers and then it’s shower and bed. I send a few quick texts to my wife to let her know that I survived the gravel road. She was not real fond of my plan to ride up there by myself. I think her real comfort in letting me go was the hope that I would stop talking about wanting to go.
 

BigLew55

Premier Member
#43
Day 9 7/7/18

Fairbanks, AK to Continental Divide, YK
Lots of moose and bears
Road doesn’t seem as rough

The next morning, we rise and pack as a team once again. There is a breakfast nook downstairs and we have the room to ourselves. We chat some more about the prior days ride and what we expect on the way back. Soon, we are gassing up and heading south. Most of the same gas stations are set for stops for the next two days, for better or worse. I skip a few, employing my Aux tank to reduce my receipt count by a few.

We are seeing quite a bit more wildlife on the way back. Moose, bears, elk, deer, mountain goats and more. I’m not really a fan of spotting wildlife while on two wheels but it helps to add interest to the long ride.

My companion comments that he doesn’t think the road seems as rough. We speculate whether it’s not as bad on this side, that it’s a result of going a bit slower this time, or if he’s in a better frame of mind, having rested in Anchorage for 3 full days. It’s still not a great road though. We frequently have to haul it down to well under the speed limit to keep from jarring the bikes or worse.

We pull into the same Continental Divide hotel and it’s after hours. We set our wake time and hit the sack.

Day 10 7/8/18

Continental Divide, YK to Grand Prairie, AB

I awake to a knock on the door. My alarm was not set properly, so I overslept by an hour. The office is still not open, so we pack the bikes and head out.

I like the riding on this day. We go back through the parks I liked so much on the way up. The roads are interesting, and the views are great. Eventually, we ride back out onto the prairie and back into the world of straight roads. Eventually, we pull into the hotel for the night. We try not to mull around too much because we know we want to pull some big miles tomorrow.
 

BigLew55

Premier Member
#44
Day 11 7/9/18

Grand Prairie, AB to Minot, ND
SS1K
Splitting the storm

We wake early and head out. We don’t get a good starting receipt (a judgement call on my part). Our destination for tonight will be Minot, SD. It is over 1,000 miles and a border crossing south of us. I don’t intend to submit this one, and he doesn’t have the required docs prepared to do so. Regardless, we will ride the miles and need to do it efficiently to maintain our sleep schedule for the next day.

Most of the day is uneventful. We ride, gas and repeat until late afternoon. Then the sky starts to darken ahead of us. I check the radar and find that we’re mostly avoiding the storm cells and riding through moderate showers.

As the afternoon turns to evening, though, the storms continue to pop up around us. The weather band occasionally interrupts with watches and warnings. I check the radar and modify the route a bit. This causes a bit of fuel anxiety, but we find our stop and get back on track.

Finally, we make it to the border. Our fourth and final of the trip is mostly uneventful, except that I drop my earplugs while conforming to the agent’s commands. Riding without them after being used to using them is a bit abrupt. We gas on the US side of the crossing at Portal, ND. We’re back in the land of gallons and MPH!

The road from here into Minot is getting re-paved, and there are several transitions that could have been a bit smoother, except for contractors who didn’t consider it necessary. We are still fighting the storm from earlier today, but we never get stuck in heavy rain. There is enough to make riding in the dark out here a bit more challenging than I prefer.

Eventually, we make it to Minot and check in. We had made good enough time to get a bit of sleep and start within striking distance of our houses tomorrow.
 

BigLew55

Premier Member
#45
Day 12 7/10/18

Minot, ND to Bettendorf, IA

We wake early and get the bikes packed. The hotel is next door to a Perkins, so we treat ourselves to a bit better breakfast than the Days Inn offered. I spend some time assessing the radar on my phone. It seems the storm from the night before is only a few hours ahead of use. We are not sure it’s going to be out of our path when we get to it, so we plan an alternate route that is a bit longer.

All set with that we point the headlights south and twist the throttle. The headwind is pretty lively, I guess around 25 mph, almost directly head on for most of the morning. This kills our gas range, even with backing off 5 then 10 MPH on the cruise control. We decide that time is more valuable than gas today and pick closer gas stops. This means that we put the cruise back up to our normal setting and ride on.

At our first stop, I inquire inside about ear plugs. The headwind is causing quite a bit of wind noise, and I’d like to mitigate that if possible. The attendant can’t locate any in the store, so I head back out to my bike. Parked at the pump next to me is now a railroad crew. These are some of the most safety-laden workers I know of. I ask the fellow fueling his truck if he happens to have any. He digs around in the back seat a bit and hands me a foam disposable set. They’re not quite as effective as my normal rubber ones, but still a welcome improvement.

We continue down to the interstate and then East to Fargo and Minneapolis. The wind has died down, but I still have to stop a bit short of the cities to fill up. Had I been able to make it to the south side, I could have eliminated one stop before home.

At Mason City, my partner takes the route down through Des Moines to SE Iowa. I peel off and take the path through Waterloo to the Quad cities. It is nice to sleep in my own bed, even for just one night. I slip in a load of laundry and a bit of bike maintenance too.

Day 13 7/11/18

Bettendorf, IA to Macon, GA

After a good night’s sleep in my bed, I have a quick breakfast and load up the bike. I will meet back up with my friend and another buddy in Galesburg, about an hour south of me. We travel the day heading towards Hot-lanta through some nasty Thunderstorms and continuously rising temperatures and humidity. We have another friend who meets us for dinner in Atlanta. After dinner, we make our way to Macon for the evening. It will be a short night, as we want to roll pretty early tomorrow.
 

BigLew55

Premier Member
#46
Day 14 7/12/18

Macon, GA to Key West, FL

The air is thick with humidity even this early in the morning. We are in the home stretch now. We go through tanks of gas until lunch.

My buddy went to college in Gainesville, so we stop for lunch at his spot of choice. After a a quick break we stop for another tank of gas and get rolling again.

The Florida turnpike is not very scenic, but it moves along nicely in most spots. We take longer to fuel than normal, as we are cooling down a bit and consuming fluids at the same time.

After a few pop-up showers, we run headlong into Miami rush hour. Lucky for us, they’re in the middle of a giant construction project to alleviate it a bit. Too bad we’re a few years too early. We crawl along for what seems like an hour.

One of the bikes has trouble with the heat, so we have to give it 5 minutes to cool down. This is an interesting predicament because there is not much shoulder due to construction. The opposite shoulder would have meant pushing his bike across several lanes of bumper to bumper traffic. Luckily, if fires right up after a few minutes and we are back underway, even if still very slow.

Eventually, the traffic relents, and we find ourselves heading for the Keys. We let the new guy set the pace down to Key West. He doesn’t use GPS, but it’s hard to make a wrong turn on this road. We go over Seven Mile Bridge at sunset and that’s a nice treat.

Shortly after sunset, we roll into Key West. I find a gas station and grab my receipt. I feel a lot of relief having gotten this. It has been a long trip, and not a budget friendly one either. We decide to head down to Hogsbreath for a celebratory beverage and something to eat. It is still fairly busy downtown and parking is a bit of a challenge even on motorcycles. We dine and toast, get a few pictures together and head back to the hotel.

I spend some time rinsing out my LDComfort gear so it will be a bit less funky for the trip home. We had decided not to plan to leave together in the morning because we had separate destinations. They were going to Hudson, FL where one had bought a house last year. I would have joined them for a day, had I not sat one out in Prudhoe the week before.
 

BigLew55

Premier Member
#47
Day 15 7/13/18

Key West FL to Dawson, GA

In the morning, we end up waking and having breakfast together anyway. Since we’re together, we head down to the buoy for the souvenir picture. After that, they go on a search for the police station in search of a patch for someone special. I decide that my day will be long enough and say goodbye. With my tanks full from the night before, I ride towards the mainland.

I plan to ride until I’m tired, and I also hope that’s north of Atlanta. The last two days have seen the temps above 95 for most of the day and over 100 at times. I don’t know what the heat index would have been, but it was not a pleasant time.

I made it to Dawson, GA and decided that was enough. The shower felt great, as did the air conditioning.

Day 16 7/14/18

Dawson GA to Bettendorf, IA

I’m up early one more time without the alarm. I pack my things and head down for the free breakfast. There’s not much and the coffee is cold, so a quick cup of water and I head out. There isn’t much to report today. It heats back up by mid-morning. At a gas station in southern Illinois, I grab a small bag of ice to throw in my jacket. I had heard about, but never tried this trick before. It works pretty well. I am mostly comfortable all the way home.

It is late afternoon when I open my garage door and roll in. My wife greets me after shortly thereafter. It has been a long trip and I’m glad to be home. I am ready for a real night’s sleep and a regular schedule.

I have a good idea of what I need to address before the Iron Butt Rally next year. The bike performed great. I need to add my hydration system and some more lighting.

Let’s see what comes next.
 

BigLew55

Premier Member
#53
Awesome Ride and write up how did your tires hold up and what are you using.
Stock dunlops. Held up well.

Front had about 6k before I left the House. Rear was new. Both still on the bike @20k now, with a couple more thousand left on them.

Gravel road didn't seem to cause unusual wear.