Prudhoe Bay

Day 18-22 - September 7-11

Kamloops, BC to Missoula, MT

I spent Tuesday, September 7 in Kamloops, BC connecting with the office, working on some e-mails and repairing my motorcycle.  A fall on the Dempster Highway had loosened some of the fasteners on the front of the bike and I needed some special metric bolts to put it back together.  There is a specialty hardware store in Kamloops that had what I needed.  The motorcycle has also developed a small oil leak in a tube leading into the oil heat exchanger.  I believe this has been worn down by debris coming from the front tire.  I’ve patched it well enough to complete the rest of the trip – but it will need to be replaced when I get home.

Kamloops describes itself as “the tournament city” – with many hotels and restaurants.  Athletes gather from cities in western Canada, including Calgary, Vancouver and Edmonton, and participate in a variety of events throughout the year.  The hotel I stayed in was less than $100/night and frequented by large tour groups that roll through the area at all times of year.  British Columbia is a magnate for tourists.  Oil and gas development, lumber, pulp wood, and mining are the industrial drivers. 

After nine days of solid rain, on my day off I get a sunny day, 70 degrees with no rain.  Kamloops probably does not receive the mountain rain on the windward side of the mountains – I expect that year round it is dryer than points to the Northwest.

On Wednesday, September 8 I drove from Kamloops, BC to Creston, BC.  This was a long leg – about 375 miles – and again it rained nearly the whole time.  This wet weather riding is really getting on my nerves and the heavy traffic makes it worse.  I’ve been trying to stay in one of the two “tracks” created by the tires of the cars ahead – generally this is the dry area and helps minimize the risk of hydroplaning.   Hydroplaning particularly needs to be avoided on corners – especially corners to the right, where a slide would put you into opposing traffic.  Sometimes the dry tracks are replaced by an indentation where the cars have been tracking; which then gathers water and makes it necessary to ride on the crown of the road.   

I was amused by the fact that although I have been riding through rain for the last nine days, irrigation is commonly used in the area.  There is abundant water in the streams but it falls on the windward side of the mountains – not the leeward side. 

Even when there is a gap in the rain, the clouds look foreboding:

Lumber trucks would frequently pass:

On their way to various sawmills:

I arrive at the ferry dock at Needles which takes me across one of the many hydro (electric) producing lakes in British Columbia.   The sign in the background states that motorcycles are not given head of the line privileges:

I will admit that throughout the trip virtually all motorcycles cut to the head of the line – must be some sort of tradition. 

The ferry is cable-driven with a cable on each side and one in the middle for power.  I don’t believe the boat has a propulsion system other than the cables.

There are many ferries throughout Canada (at no charge) and they make continuous trips back and forth – even with only one person aboard.  Next to the ferry dock was a marshaling area for logs.  The logs are dumped in the lake and held in a corral until they can be transported to the other end of the lake and the sawmill (approx. 100 km).  

The ospreys have found this artificial lake and they are abundant in the high altitudes (but still always seem to prefer high tension poles).

The osprey winter in South America, arrive here in April, eggs hatch in June and the young leave the nest in August.  They live solely on fish which they nail from the air and at impact go a bit under water.

The rain continues throughout the day which makes it impossible for me to use my good camera – the lens fogs immediately.

I headed north into the mountains from Needles to Nakusp.  My plan was to take the Balfour Ferry and head down to Creston.  In the process, I got lost due to GPS incompetence on my part and upon arriving at the Balfour Ferry found a 40 minute wait which would then be followed by a 40 minute ride and the rain was intensifying.

Rather than wait, I drove down through Nelson and Salmo to Creston in hopes of finding improved weather – no such luck:

Even in the rain, I saw a variety of animals, fox, bear and this unfortunate deer:

I arrived into Creston late and found a cheap motel where I could dry my clothes and turned in almost immediately.

Thursday, September 9 I headed out early and it was just a short hop to the Idaho border.  I was pulled over near the border by a Canadian Mountie and told that I was going twice the speed limit at the border – the speed limit was only 30 km/hr.  After receiving a stern lecture, he let me go.  The US border was well staffed with customs agents and a number of cars were being pulled over and searched – the immigration guys were clearly doing their job.

Crossing into Idaho two things are evident – first there is more agriculture of all types and second there is not the rich pine smell that was north of the border.  Although the roads are in better shape, the trees are not trimmed back as far as they are in Canada and you need to be aware of wildlife springing out of the trees onto the road.

The mild day once again turned threatening as I arrived at Glacier Park:

This represents the “formal” end of the trip from the Arctic Ocean to the Southern Ocean.  This location connects with the end of last year’s US Continental Divide journey from the Mexican border to the Canadian border. 

Glacier Park is truly extraordinary!  Again soaking wet I line up a campground option and then try to get into a fully booked lodge at the end of the park.  The campground is beautiful and right on the lake:

It is made even more attractive by the exciting addition of bear risk:

I end up getting a room at the lodge purely by luck.  Someone had just cancelled their reservation when I walked in.  The lodge is gorgeous and was built around 1912.  This is an old 1930-something White Motors sightseeing bus which was built at the 79th Street plant in Cleveland just west of Liberty Blvd.:

After a short active duty stint in the Army Reserve in 1964, I worked at this same White Motors plant. 

I was looking forward to the next day where I was hoping to take the “Road to the Sun” up over Logan’s Pass to St. Mary’s (which was closed last year).  I also was hoping to take the dirt road up the western end of the park where I had run into interesting wildlife last year.

There are a couple of little gadgets I have along on this ride that I wanted to share with you.  The first is a Bluetooth controller for my iPod that enables me to change volume or skip songs even with a gloved hand. 

An iPod is great to have along – but not all of the time.  The solitary daydreaming that goes into a motorcycle ride is one of the most enjoyable elements. 

The second interesting gadget is the Spot GPS device that enables tracking on the journey.

This device became necessary to alleviate family anxiety which stems from my 2001 Alaska trip.  That year my mother was in Tawas with Marge and read in the East Tawas newspaper that a bear had killed someone in Michigan.  She reached me in Alaska and instructed me to leave a message on an answering machine everyday as to where I was, what I did, and where I was heading.  Marge likes the Spot device because it pinpoints my location every 10 minutes.  Using Google maps she can zoom in on the topography of the area.

Another consideration is the mounting of the 35mm camera – I have it harnessed around my shoulders on shock cords.  It has a wide angle lens that doesn’t require pinpoint aiming – you shoot the picture and crop the portion you want later.

Friday, September 10 I take the “Road to the Sun” which is the most beautiful road in America – no matter what the conditions.  This is a must-see for everyone and because there is a nearby airport and excellent services, planning ahead makes this an easy park to visit.

The weather starts out nicely with only a small drizzle.

But there were threatening clouds:

There was an antique car show at the park with a large collection of Model A’s – this one is a 1927 Roadster.

This is the area of the “big burn” a number of years ago which burned out a significant portion of trees in Glacier Park.


The vistas are incredible:

There was heavy Friday traffic and included a group gathering for the 100th anniversary of the park.  There were also road closings due to construction.

The Road to the Sun is one of Obama’s stimulus projects.  Some of the waits were up to 30 minutes, but the construction workers handled them efficiently.  And the views while waiting were magnificent.

It’s terrific to have the Road to the Sun a stimulus project; but with the high unemployment among young people it would be a good idea to reinstate the WPA or the CCC projects of the Roosevelt years.  Here young men and women were given jobs in the parks and learned construction skills and work ethic.  This would be a worthwhile investment both in the park and in our countries’ youth – the most important investment we can make.

At Logan Pass, the top of the Road to the Sun, there was hail and heavy rain and my good camera no longer functioned.  At the interpretation center I took a picture of my hand relative to a grizzlies’ – bring him on, I’ll kick his ass:

There is a crew reconstructing the mountainside retaining wall attempting to match the existing wall as seen here:

Here’s an example of the jumble of rocks that the construction workers are trying to mold into a neat wall along the road like the one built in the 20’s.

You could see various workers eyeing the pile for the right size and right angle of block. 

As I near St. Mary’s the rain & hail subside into a welcome comfortable drizzle.

At St. Mary’s there is an even older version of the White Motors truck in unrestored and in its original condition. 

There were many more beautiful vistas that, due to the rain, unfortunately could not be photographed with the best camera:

I finished the Road to the Sun too late to return to the dirt road I visited last year and spent the remainder of the day driving the distance to Polson.  This would position me for a 1.5 hour or 2 hour drive to Missoula the following day in order to prep my motorcycle for the trip back and deliver to Big Sky BMW for shipment.

This trip covering both North and South America has been a fascinating experience.  I thoroughly enjoy meeting the people and experiencing first-hand the different cultures and fascinating national biases and understanding the hopes and frustrations of young people.

Each of the three legs of the trip presented a significantly different experience and varied greatly in complexity, cost and the detail required.  The most complicate part was from LA to Ushuaia, which was organized by Helge Pederson, one of the greatest adventure motorcyclists of our time.  The least complicated and the one that represented the greatest challenge for motorcycling techniques was the humble US Continental Divide from the Mexican border to Glacier Park.  If you haven’t read that portion of the blog, I would recommend it – the trip was a gas.  It was inexpensive and can be done easily in an unguided way.

The Alaska-Canada portion of the trip was also fascinating.  I had previously driven portions of the Dalton Highway, but not all the way to Prudhoe Bay.  Other than the Campbell Highway, this leg did not challenge motorcycling technique.  But perhaps the destination was more important than the process – it’s always nice to say you’ve put your motorcycle boot into the Arctic Ocean.

Thanks for joining my adventure.

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  • Gas
    Rick Taft - September 16, 2010, 7:31 am
    Dan - Well done. Dream executed with panache. From a vicarious expense point of view, I found all three legs cost me about the same amount after the "Dan does it and I read about it" subsidy. I also found all three legs to be a gas, though on some days your gas quotient was higher than others. Keep the stories coming in person. Rick
  • John Hubbard - September 16, 2010, 4:30 pm
    Dan;
    I have been following your adventures for over a year after Dr Walt Maurer shared your link with me. I have ridden some of the roads you traversed and was vicariously there with you. Your pragmatic and intelligent communications about the people and economy were enlightening. Your gathering and analysis of facts is indicative of your manufacturing background. I am an x-Cleveland engineer graduate and was CEO of a publicly traded engineering company until last year. You ought to think of running for a political position to see if you can apply your level headed outlook, experience and no-BS approach you could help America. Ride safe and if ever in Dallas would love to meet you.
  • bILL bOYER - September 19, 2010, 7:34 pm
    Note to all persons living or dead who would dream of suggesting that Dan should run for elected office: Ricky is the Officical Elected Official in this crowd. The only office interesting to Dan is to take Jimmy Dimora's place at the pasta counter.

    Congrats, Dan for doing this amazing voyage and, especially, the last legs all alone! Love reading all the blogs! See you next week .. .
    Cheers, Willis
  • Great Read
    Tony Yeley - August 18, 2015, 7:48 pm
    I'm enjoying the ride through your blog, thanks. Have you read Jupiter's Travels, by Ted Simon? I think you'd enjoy it.
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