Saturday, August 9, 2008

Reflections on a Great Ride

Last summer, on the way back from our ride to the West, I decided to ride to Alaska this year. I didn't know when; didn't know with whom; didn't know what bike--all I knew was that I was going to ride to Alaska.

A year later, the ride is now done. Sad in a way; one of my dreams realized, but right now, no specific riding dreams in the front of my brain. Guess one will drift that way soon. But now, I have no significant rides to do. After Alaska, what else is there to do? Smaller rides, for sure.

This installment is to capture some of the highlights and lowlights of the trip. To try to summarize six weeks in the life of a sixty-year old guy on the road. It will ramble a bit, but it helps me to focus on the important parts of the trip.

First, the bike. The RT is a fantastic piece of machinery for a long ride. It's a bit heavy, and it's a bit too tall for me, but once rolling, it is the best sport touring bike made. It used no oil at all. It got about 48 mpg for the trip, with a best of 53 and a worst of 43. It handles really well and stops on a dime. The ABS brakes give a sense of comfort, knowing that a panic stop will not have to end in trouble. It has very good power and speed; my highest speed was 113 mph somewhere on the Alaskan Highway. Felt solid as a rock and could have easily done more but for running up on Gary and needing to slow down. The bike was perfect!

The gear. The camping stuff worked perfectly. Tent had no leaks and was easy to put up, tear down, and put away. Down sleeping bag was comfortable and easy to pack. The Seattle bag held the camping equipment well and kept it dry. The undies, polyester for easy maintenance on the road worked well and was comfortable. All those things worked as well as anyone could hope. Kenwood radio worked perfectly. It was my first trip using it, and I'm very pleased that it worked just as it should have.

However, the GPS broke and the Sirius radio broke. While getting the tire installed in Seattle, I inadvertently left the GPS turned on for a couple of hours. When I got on the bike, I discovered that the screen was jumping left to right quickly, making all the controls inoperable. It was working, tracking speed, time, etc, but the maps would not display correcly and no routing was possible. One of the earlier GPSs I had owned had done the same thing several years ago and was replaced by warranty (contacted Garmin after getting home, and they are replacing this one under warranty). The Sirius radio itself is good. However, the power lead made intermittent contact with the radio, and the antennae lead broke along the way. So, I had no music from California to home. Will need to replace radio or leads.

Favorite things in no particular order: catching fish in Prince William Sound, the scenery along the way, BIG trees, snow-covered mountains, walking on glaciers, train ride, tour of Elmendorf AFB, Glacier National Park, Icefields Parkway,

Animals seen: moose (real and fake), whales, seals, porpoises, eagles, brown bear, black bear, bison, caribou, elk, puffins, sea lions, beaver, ground squirrel, red fox, and others that I can't recall right now. We saw a good representation of all the critters we wanted to see.

Lowlights--not many. Running out of gas on Gary's bike on the Parks Highway. Whle I knew we'd be okay, it's not a good feeling being that far away from help and needing some help. Flat tire on Alaska Highway. While it turned out to be a minor inconvenience and expense, it could have been bad if the plug had not held. Had the plug not worked, we may have missed the ferry and that would have been a significant disaster, not to mention delays and expenses to get a new tire in the middle of nowhere. GPS and radio breaking. Neither were essential, but each made the ride better. Cold weather in Anchorage. They were experiencing the coolest summer in several years, and it made the stay therejust a little less than perfect. That's about all of the downers for the trip.

Thank yous to many people who helped make the trip great for me. First, Carl and Mae, my next-door neighbors. Since I live alone, and would be gone for 6 weeks, some real things had to be taken care of. My wonderful neighbor, Mae, graciously agreed to get my mail and look through it to check for bills needing paying. Most are paid electronically, but sometimes one comes in needing a check written (happened this time), so I signed a couple of checks and she agreed to pay them for me. She also made deposits for any checks that came in. And she looked inside to make sure the house was okay and that the plants got water when needed. Thank you, Mae. Our hosts in Anchorage. I can't say enough thanks to them. They made me feel at home and looked after our every need. Great food, arranging for tours, arranging for fishing, procuring extra housing for us. I feel now that I have friends in Anchorage due to their great hospitality. Gary, for putting up with me for 6 weeks. I know I'm sometimes difficult, but he somehow seemed to accept my moods without a real problem. I appreciate his friendship very much. My readers, for giving me feedback that they were enjoying the blog. While it's written mostly for me to remember where I was and what was going on, it's written to share my life with family and friends. Thank you for your encouragement. Thanks to the guys who shared their experiences last year and the year before. That helped in planning and knowing what to expect. And, most importantly, I thank God for giving me the ability to do the things I do and for keeping me safe and healthy. Nothing is possible without His help.

The total mileage was 12,256 miles for the trip from and back to Gary's was 12,256 plus or minus a few miles. Total mileage, from my doorstep was 12,523 miles. Front tire had a couple of thousand miles on it before leaving; still has a couple thousand miles left on it. Had it not been for the flat, I believe the rear tire would have made it home. But the rear now has only 4,400 miles on it, so it's good for a while.

Some statistics from the ride:
-12,523 miles
-259.2 gallons of gasoline
-47.8 miles per gallon
-$4.56 per gallon average
-17 nites in motels
-15 nites in RV
-6 nites camping
-4 nites on ferry
-Approximate cost of trip: $5,000

Have cleaned up the bike. Took all the plastic off it, cleaned all the body panels, front and underside. Cleaned the engine and all underneath the plastic. Changed the alternator belt (preventive maintenance), cleaned the wheels. Replaced bad Hyperlight (warranty item). Re-gapped valves, changed oil and filter, and re-assembled. Bike looks like new except for the scuffs on the side cases.

What's next? I don't know. Have scheduled a few days for a short ride to West Virginia. The roads there are fantastic, so I may go there before cold weather sets in. And maybe a trip next spring to the southwest. Would like to see that part of the nation sometime. Beyond that, I don't know where I may show up.

For whomever is reading this blog, THANKS! Post a comment if so moved; I enjoy reading what you have to say probably more than you enjoy reading mine.

Until next time....

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