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michaellmcc 05-20-2018 01:19 PM

Northern Walkabout
A picture that’s worth a thousand words (all uttered through clenched teeth):

It was a snowy day at Wonowon and I needed a little help to get untracked there on the Alcan Highway, on our last trip up in 2013. I never thought I’d want to ride to Alaska again. In fact, I was sure of it.

But time heals all wounds (and memory fades), and my three compadres wanted an even number, so a foursome from Central Texas is heading for the Yukon, Northwest Territories, Alaska, and even the Arctic Ocean next week, weather permitting. I don’t mean departing Texas in late May depends on the weather, but getting close enough to take a dip in the Arctic Ocean in early June sure as heck does. “Break-up” has to happen big time.

Crocodile Dundee described walkabout thusly: A spontaneous journey through the wilderness of one's choosing in an effort to satisfy one's itchy feet, a need to be elsewhere, the craving for the open road, that space over the horizon...yes... something like that... you can't quite touch it so you have to go find it because you just know it's there. Or maybe it just feels good to go walking around. Yeah, it's WALKABOUT.

Obviously, we’re a world away from Dundee’s Oz, and we’re riding motorcycles instead of walking, but otherwise the description fits perfectly.

Travis and Scott are ex-Navy; Travis is actually a former Marine, but that’s part of the USN, and he coined the term “Northern Walkabout”. They reckoned as how we should, like Popeye and the rest of the Navy, get tats on our forearms as something of an insignia for our expeditionary force. We three agreed with just about all off-the-wall aspects of the adventure, even looking forward to the mummified toe “Sourtoe” cocktails in Dawson. That’ll probably be the subject of another story in due course. However, Meryl is originally from Kansas, the “buckle” of the Bible Belt, and he’s far too conservative for tattoos, fearing (with good reason) that his wife would remove it with his angle grinder. Likewise, Kansans don’t imbibe alcoholic beverages garnished with mummified toes.

Since we can’t do tattoos, we have custom MotoScreenz windshield stickers for the bikes, which will serve as a reminder to us and other explorers (if we see any) that this is a serious matter: Miles and miles of miles and miles, isolation, cold Arctic winds, hungry polar bears. Plus, the stickers will be a lot easier and less painful to remove than tattoos once we return to civilization!

The journey maps something like this…each way…without showing the inevitable side trips. In other words, nearly 14,000 miles:

Why undertake this on motorcycles? Well, refer to the definition of “WALKABOUT” above. On the other hand, there’s this more succinct explanation:

“If you have to ask that question, you wouldn't understand the answer.”
- John McPhee, Coming into the Country

Hasta la vista.

misterk 05-20-2018 11:31 PM

Re: Northern Walkabout
Good luck, I have subscribed

Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk

t-cab12 05-21-2018 07:16 AM

Re: Northern Walkabout
can't wait to hear all about this!

gixxerjasen 05-21-2018 09:15 AM

Re: Northern Walkabout
Good stuff. How many days will your group be on the road to accomplish this?

Montejay 05-21-2018 09:17 AM

Re: Northern Walkabout
Nice, looking forward to the reports and pics.

tshelfer 05-21-2018 12:46 PM

Re: Northern Walkabout
:eek2::eek2: :hail::hail::hail::hail:

No snow for THIS Texas boy, but I'll enjoy following your adventure.

michaellmcc 05-21-2018 01:44 PM

Re: Northern Walkabout

Originally Posted by gixxerjasen (Post 1556762)
Good stuff. How many days will your group be on the road to accomplish this?

The only way to answer that is "as long as it takes".

Being retired has its advantages...

Tabasco 05-21-2018 02:55 PM

Re: Northern Walkabout
Cool, look forward to the report also. As the old man of the Trippen’ Connie’s adventures that is the only land continuous state we haven’t done. Son only gets 2 weeks off for our trips so it’s pretty hard to do. Wife and I took an Alaskan cruise in ‘16 and while in Denali I kept seeing a constant flow of motorcycles coming thru and heading further north. Can’t imagine the planning, Alaska is such a huge state with a lot of miles of nothing but scenery. While in Anchorage I went by a motorcycle rental place and they let me ride one of those Chinese adventure bikes around the block so I could say I have ridden in 49 States. Y’all be safe and have a Sourtoe for me.

Tourmeister 05-21-2018 05:06 PM

Re: Northern Walkabout

SpiritAtBay 05-22-2018 12:13 AM

Re: Northern Walkabout

Jeff S 05-22-2018 09:11 AM

Re: Northern Walkabout
You had me with that photo......

SpiritAtBay 05-29-2018 08:24 PM

Re: Northern Walkabout
Wha happen?

Have they left yet? Has he forgotten about us?.

michaellmcc 06-09-2018 03:32 PM

Re: Northern Walkabout
[Maybe Mr. Moderator will move this thread to trip reports?]

Welllllllllll, decent internet so a short update.

It’s Saturday, June 9th, and here we are in Dawson City, Yukon, center of the famous Klondike Gold Rush, the end of paved highways, and approaching the Arctic Circle. But how did we get here?

My three compadres and I, all being somewhat headstrong, took individual routes to Livingston, MT, for the official start of the Northern Walkabout.

The first exciting, adventurous day was the ride from Austin to Clovis on May 25th. North of Sweetwater, I saw (and felt) 102F, and “climbed” to Texas’ (in)famous South Plains, where the adventure was crabbing against the strong crosswind (a recurring theme), dodging dust devils, basking in the fragrance of feed lots, and catching a very short glimpse of Lubbock, where I spent ten years at Tech. No, wait, checking my math, I forgot to carry the one; it was actually only 4-1/2 years. Sure felt like ten...

Clovis is a stop I really enjoy. First off, all trains in the Lower 48 are required to converge there…and toot their horns. The steak dinner at K-Bob’s is usually good. Waking up in Clovis after listening to the lonesome train whistles all night is almost always a great feeling…dry, cool morning, on the edge of New Mexico and the coming mountains. My track would be NW to Las Vegas, Taos, into Colorado and the northern latitudes.

I met two TWT's in Santa Rosa who were also riding to Alaska, so we rode to Las Vegas for coffee, then on to Taos, where they went west and I went north. Hopefully we'll reconnect down the road...

Day 2 was the ride from Clovis to Leadville, CO, which sits at 10,000’ elevation. Leadville is a fine historic mining town, good coffee and food, very cool temperatures, etc. It would be even better if I COULD BREATHE there; the Hill Country of Texas doesn’t really prepare one for high altitudes.

On Day 3, I rode from Leadville to Pinedale, WY, where I was met again with mountains and cool temps and wind and a threat of rain. Another coincidence at a wonderful little family-run motel - I ran into another TWT on his way to Alaska. Go figure. Day 4, through the Tetons and about half way through Yellowstone, stopping in West Yellowstone, MT, for the night. Then Day 5 was back into Yellowstone NP and to its northern exit at Gardiner, near Livingston, followed by a couple of days off to relax and have new tires (Michelin Anakee Wilds) fitted at a small shop in Bozeman. Two of the others arrived a day later and did their own tire changes on the ground. Obviously, you gotta be tough (or extremely frugal) to be an adventurer…

That brings us to Friday, June 1st, the official trip kick-off. Mileage is not our goal, so we only rode as far as Glacier NP and camped on its eastern edge. Windy and rainy all day…and Going to the Sun Highway was still closed due to snow accumulation. That meant the following morning (Saturday) we could only ride a little less than half of it, then turn around and retrace our route, turning north toward Canada, a simple border crossing, and more mountains to Banff. Great provincial park campground just on the edge of town. Sunday was another short day, being around 200 miles (although they don’t really have miles in Canada) to Jasper, along the Icefields Parkway, with views of the glaciers. Monday we left Jasper, entered British Columbia, and traversed Prince George and Dawson Creek, then spent the night in Fort Nelson, where two of us decided to stay in a beautiful riverside motel (log cabins). The other two camped (yes, the same “tough” two that had changed their own tires…). We’ll (or at least I will) mix camping and motels along the way.

Dawson Creek was the official start of the Alcan Highway, so we were truly on our way, around 3,000 miles from Austin.

We’ve covered a lot of miles on the Alcan from Dawson Creek BC to Dawson City YT, where we have nice accommodations called the Bunkhouse. It’s actually large, old building with two floors of small individual rooms, each facing outdoor walkways. There’re nice and clean and beat the heck out of our tents, which we’re drying out and deodorizing after several wet nights. Here in Dawson, it looked like daylight last night at midnight.

We’re gathering intel for the ride to the Arctic Circle and ocean, which we’ll begin tomorrow, by talking to several riders on their way back. It‘ll be about a four or five day, segmented expedition, a round trip of around 1,000 miles. No pavement and very few places to stop, so it’s done in pieces: Dawson to Eagle Plains in one day, then to Inuvik the next day, then the next day up to Tuk and back to Inuvik, then reverse. We’re hoping for largely dry weather.

The crew:

Signpost Forest in Watson Lake:

Posting our expedition sign:

Along the Alcan:

Finally, here's the SPOT link for real-time (more or less) position:

SpiritAtBay 06-10-2018 04:00 PM

Re: Northern Walkabout
Thanks for the update!

pacman 06-15-2018 02:20 PM

Re: Northern Walkabout

Looking at doing AK in 2020. Love reading these reports. Thanks for posting!

michaellmcc 06-20-2018 02:56 AM

Re: Northern Walkabout
This is going to be brief...

We’ve seen a lot of wilderness and a few towns since the entry of June 9th. Here we are in Fairbanks on Tuesday, 6/19, taking a well-deserved day off…catching up on laundry, including washing the mud-spattered riding gear. Upon arriving here yesterday afternoon, our first stop was a car wash so we could power wash the dried mud that coated our bikes. We needed that first so we could take them to the shop for tires and oil changes. They’re not clean now by any means, but at least the worst of it has been removed. We all put on new rear tires (Michelin Anakee Wild) after around 5,000 miles on every conceivable [rough] road surface since leaving Montana. More on that later.

It may be obvious to everyone else, but I think I’ve finally sorted through the important “highways” that we’ve traveled, which go by names rather than numbers. And they’re all highways in the broadest sense of the word, regardless of their width, composition, or surface condition.

Alcan (or Alaska) Highway (paved) from Dawson Creek, BC to Delta Junction, AK
Richardson Highway (paved) from Delta Junction to Fairbanks
Klondike Highway (paved) from Whitehorse, Yukon to Dawson City, Yukon
Dempster Highway (unpaved) from Dawson City to Inuvik
ITH - Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk Highway (unpaved)
Top of the World Highway (part paved, part unpaved) from Dawson City to Tok, AK
Elliot Highway (paved) from Fairbanks to Livengood, AK
Dalton Highway (largely unpaved) from Livengood to Deadhorse/Prudhoe Bay, AK

For us, the adventure trifecta comprised the Dempster, Top of the World, and Dalton, which we rode without incident, but not without time and effort and a little excitement along the way. So I'll just throw in some photos and fill in the gaps later.

Arctic Circle north of Dawson City:

Eagle Plains, half way to Inuvik:

Morning departure for Inuvik:

Inuvik arrival:

Tuk, Inuit village on the Beaufort Sea (Arctic Ocean):

Objective achieved - top of the North American continent, overlooking the Beaufort Sea:

Crossing into Alaska on the Top of the World Highway:

Chicken, AK:

Fair warning between Coldfoot and Deadhorse on the Dalton:

Paralleling the Alaska Pipeline in the Brooks Range:

Another objective achieved:

gixxerjasen 06-20-2018 10:00 PM

Re: Northern Walkabout
Hey, I sent Nathan, a friend from another board that I lured over here, your link to this thread and he said he did run into you guys up there on his trip. Don't know how much time ya'll spent together or if you rode together at all. If you did spend any time with him, you should know he went down on the Dempster hwy and had to have back surgery on Saturday. He's recovering really well and will be flying home on Friday of this week. Apparently the bike is not making the return trip.

michaellmcc 06-24-2018 07:51 PM

Re: Northern Walkabout

Originally Posted by gixxerjasen (Post 1560799)
Hey, I sent Nathan, a friend from another board that I lured over here, your link to this thread and he said he did run into you guys up there on his trip. Don't know how much time ya'll spent together or if you rode together at all. If you did spend any time with him, you should know he went down on the Dempster hwy and had to have back surgery on Saturday. He's recovering really well and will be flying home on Friday of this week. Apparently the bike is not making the return trip.

Oh No! I met Nathan in Dawson City, when he asked if we were the four TWT-ers you had told him about. Yes, we were.

We didn't ride together, as our voyages north were timed differently. I do remember seeing him coming toward us as we were heading south after going to Tuk. I think it was south of Inuvik but not sure. I had no idea he later had an accident. Given its apparent severity, an after action review when he gets around to it might be informative to others.

All the best to him for a speedy recovery.

gixxerjasen 06-24-2018 08:14 PM

Re: Northern Walkabout
Yea, he's not sure what happened. Road felt funny, then he woke up staring at the sky with someone running up to help. Had back surgery and some minor PT to get him cleared to go home. Got back home yesterday. His wife is taking it well and they are already talking about his next bike, so there's that.

Here's some images, some are huge. I can't seem to use BBCode to resize so they are just links. Helmet definitely did it's job though for sure. :eek2:

Windmill 06-25-2018 12:37 AM

Re: Northern Walkabout
He needs to hang that helmet up. It very well could have saved his life. The helmet took a tremendous blow. Glad he will be ok.

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