Day 13: New Hazelton, BC. 280 miles today. Only 161 miles to Hyder, Alaska! Bears sighted.

Day 13: New Hazelton, BC. 280 miles today. Only 161 miles to Hyder, Alaska! Bears sighted.

I’m sitting outside my motel room at the Robber’s Roost, drinking a beer called Pilsner, smoking a Dunhill cigar and staring across the street at some snowcapped mountains. It’s 70 degrees, 21 Celsius. Can’t believe I’m this close to Alaska.

Had to say goodbye to my good buddy Kevin today. He needed to head back to Calgary and eventually back to work. It was great having him to pal around with! A great friend who is now hunkering down in Canmore probably talking to the woman from Slovakia that we met.

This morning when I left Prince George it was not much above freezing. The ride to the town of Houston was cold, cloudy, slightly interesting but when I got to Houston everything lit up: the sky, my mood, the weather. The mountains reappeared, with a river running alongside the town and it was beautiful. The town was had some nice parks, shops, restaurants, pubs, places filled with opportunities for outdoor activities. The same for cute little towns like Telkwa and Smitters that we passed through. If I had to live up here, I’d choose one of these towns. Morice mountain and the Telkwa Range you could see as you drove along. Snow caked the top like frosting a child hadn’t scrapped off yet. Though the signs warned of moose, caribou and black bear in the area I only saw the bears a few times by the side of the road. And we’re not talking Yogi and Boo Boo either.

So far Big Red and I have traveled 3423 miles, just over 5500 kilometers. Only 161 miles ( 259 Kilometers) to go. Then what?

Then we head down the west coast of Canada toward LA where my son, daughter and son-in law live. Can’t wait to see them. But that will be another 2100 miles (3400 Kilometers). Piece of cake. We got this one.

Map update:

Day 12: Below Freezing Outside, But Only 718 Miles to Alaska.

My buddy Kevin saved the day by finding another way to get to Alaska where I wouldn’t have to ride through horrendous weather, just some bad weather. The way we figure it is that I’ve got 718 miles to ride to get to the town of Hyder, Alaska. I can do that! But I may have to chip away at the miles for a few days. Right now it’s below freezing outside and we’re first going to have to backtrack to Jasper, where it’s even colder and then head toward Prince George. It’s supposed to be getting warmer as the next few days roll on.

And I do have my cold song that I sing whenever I’m freezing, can’t think anymore and just have to push through. It’s “Rock Around the Clock”. Over and over, softly or shouting. It’s gotten me through many a cold ride, without resorting to expletives, or at least as many of them.

Day 11: Jasper, Alberta; Yesterday – Canmore, Banff, Jasper; And My Most Beautiful Ride Ever

Latest Map Update:

Yesterday was the most beautiful motorcycle ride I’ve ever been on, especially the section from Canmore to Banff to the Saskatchewan River Crossing. The huge snow-riddled Rocky Mountains were looming on both sides of the road for a hundred miles. The piercing freshness of the freezing air was exhilarating. The scent of the fir trees, the gorgeous white birches, the trembling of the leaves on the quaking aspen, and the sheer silence, all combined to make the place feel serene, magical and sacred. It’s not often I feel in awe but I was on that ride.

We passed signs warning of avalanches and could see huge dammed bodies of snow high on the mountains just itching for a reason to fall. We stopped as a herd of bighorn sheep passed through us for inspection.

We stopped at the restaurant at the Saskatchewan River Crossing, took a break and gassed up. Next fuel stop wasn’t for over 100 miles.

The next half of the ride to Jasper shared the same beauty only with added wind, snow on the side of the road, and a glacier you could see, (Big Red wanted to ride her but I said: no. I have to draw the line somewhere. Glaciers are a good a place to start as any.) But it got colder, the road way too bumpy, bouncing me out of the saddle now and again. Then the rain started to fall. So the sheer magnificence of the unfolding scene became slightly tarnished the wetter I got. But only slightly.   Still, nothing that couldn’t be healed by a fake fire in the hotel room and a pint of pilsner beer at the Jasper Brewery.

Day 5 Continued: Snow!

Made it as far as Alexandria, Minnesota, about 100 miles from my destination of Fargo but had to stop due to the snow falling and being a freezing zombie motorcycle rider. If it were one or the other I might have tried to go on. I’ll write more when I’ve warmed up.

Day 5: What’s a Bad Riding Day Look Like? Today. Lakeville, Minnesota.

Right now it’s 38 degrees (3 degrees Celsius), raining and the wind is blowing out of the west at 13 mph. Could be worse though. Could be snowing like it was when I was riding through the Rockies two years ago, about this same time of year. When I left this morning it was 44 degrees so the temperature has dropped. I’m trying to make it up to Fargo today (250 miles away) but it’s going to be challenging.  The rain has already soaked through my trousers.  This morning was not fun – my windshield was coated with raindrops, so was my helmet visor and then I had the spray from the 18 wheelers. Fortunately, I made it to a Starbucks. Yippie! Going to hunker down here for a while, warm up, dry out, change clothes and then try the road again. Only managed 50 miles this morning so I’ll be “nickel and diming” the miles up to Fargo.  Gonna need the protection of St. Columbanus, the patron saint of motorcycle riders, today if I’m to keep my Zen going! (I know- mixing theologies there a bit!). Still, I’m happy! Watch out for motorcycles!

One Day Until I Head off to Alaska: Saying Goodbye; Thoughts on Mortality

This week has been a tough lesson in saying goodbye. First, my senior students graduated on Saturday and so I rode Big Red up to Dalton and donned the cap and gown and walked in the procession during their ceremony. I’ve known them for three years since they took my Introduction to Social Work course. I’m so proud of their accomplishments and yet so sad to see them go. All 20 have gotten job offers and over 75% have been accepted to graduate school.

Then we had to pack our offices up. They’re remodeling. It reminded me of my last packing in Ireland,  when I left there 4 years ago with just 4 suitcases, after having lived there for 16 years. That was a tough goodbye, but it taught me some profound lessons; letting go, trusting, risking, humility and compassion, to mention a few.

Then it was saying “goodbye” here in town to the many kind friends I’ve made since I moved to Rome. I’ve been told they’re taking bets on how far I’ll make it. How many times I’ll stop at Harley shops along the way. It’s the usual ribbing, the taking the Mickie out of me, by friends, mates or “muckers”, that lets you know they care. Okay, well some of them. (You know who you are!) I know that I should be back in a few months’ time but motorcycle trips have a way of causing everyone to think about the rider’s mortality, especially the rider. Still, there’s nothing I’d rather be doing. All true adventures have an element of peril in them.

I am excited and optimistic about the trip. I figure it’ll take me about 14 days to get to Alaska and I hope to keep posting everyday along the way. From Alaska I’ll head down the west coast and spend some days on the Pacific Coast Highway all the way to LA.

But for tomorrow, I’m aiming to get to Paducah, Kentucky!

 The Summer Day – Mary Oliver

… I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down

into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,

how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,

which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?

Last Rides. When Will Yours Be? Alaska Trip Planning

Last Rides. When Will Yours Be? Alaska Road Trip Planning.

Just in the last week there have been 4 motorcycle wrecks in this area, caused by drivers not paying attention. No one died, yet, but one fellow lost a leg and things are not looking well for another.

Whenever I ride I do think that this might be my last one. I’m not morbid about things, if anything it helps me to practice gratitude and stay in the here and now. I pray for folks and give thanks as I ride through the beautiful countrysides.

It’s 46 days until I head off on my trip to Alaska. I’m starting to get more excited and more nervous.

You can see my rough trip plan mapped out here:

I’ve started gathering up the things I want and will need. Too early to start collecting bags of peanuts, sticks of beef jerky and granola bars though. I’m working on the bigger items now.

I’m waiting on my passport. It needed to be renewed and I sent it off in February only to have them send me back my photo and tell me it wasn’t correct. I had my glasses on.

Bought a new tent. Picked a Marmot Tungsten 1person Tent. Got good reviews and looked light and easy to set up, with extra space to throw my pack in. I’d been using a 3 person tent for a few years. Big enough to accommodate my stuff and any girlfriend’s. But the girlfriend’s gone, bless her heart, and I need to travel as light as I can.

Urban Survival Gear X-6 Tactical Flashlight, a great flashlight, waterproof and has self-defense aspects. You can blind someone, strobe light them or wop them over the head (Japanese kubotan) if they won’t leave you alone. Oh, and you can see things really well with it.

I also got a new knife, a Victorinox Swiss Army Swiss Champ with an SOS kit. It’s the biggest knife they make and has 33 functions on it, though I’m not sure I’ll need the fish scaler. The SOS kit has everything you need including, matches, a mirror, and an international distress signal guide. It’s even got a compass in case I get lost and the odds of that are high! (Remember on my last cross country trip I crossed the Mississippi River 5 times just on the way to California?)

I also treated myself to a Saddleback laptop bag. It can hold my tablet (Asus) and keyboard and fits nicely into my saddlebag.

I’m working on my route. Interstates are allowed on this trip. So far my rough plans include heading to Nashville, then Champaign, Illinois, Bloomington-Utica-Rockford, then Madison, Wisconsin, then Minneapolis, Minnesota and Fargo, North Dakota. Even I can’t miss North Dakota!  That will be about 1300 miles and should take an easy 4 days. But I’m open to alternatives. Might want to see Fond du Lac, Wisconsin again, where I taught for 4 years and see the house for the homeless where I used to volunteer.

No GPS for me. I like the adventures that come with getting lost. And getting lost I most assuredly will.

Announcing: Summer 2016 Motorcycle Trip! 9000+ miles

Rome to Nome to Hannah to Home

Specifically, Rome (Georgia) to Nome, (Alaska, actually probably Juneau but Nome rhymes) to Hannah (daughter in Los Angeles) to home (Rome)
I’ve been thinking about this trip for some time now and it’s finally time to announce it and start planning. As a teacher, I’m fortunate to have summers off and so I’m planning on heading out around the 10th of May.
I’ll keep you posted as plans progress! Wish me luck!