Sunday, August 19, 2018

Alaska- A preview of my next book

  Alaska by motorcycle is one of the most challenging rides one can
do. This would be the third time I've ridden to Alaska.But even for
this challenging trip, I was raising the bar higher. Higher in fact
than anyone has ever done. I was going to ride a chopper all the way
north to Prudehoe Bay, Alaska.
   Prudehoe Bay is the most northern road on the globe. There are more
northern cities (or should I say villages), like Nome, Alaska but they
are only accessible by plane. Prudehoe Bay is over 500 miles north of
Fairbanks and sits on the coast of The Arctic Ocean. Previously,
Fairbanks was as far north as I have ever ridden. They say of all the
tourists that have ever been to Alaska, only 1% of them make it north
of Fairbanks.
   The highway going north is called The Dalton Highway. Alaskan State
road 11. It was built as a service road for the Alaskan Pipeline which
runs right beside it the entire way. It is also called "The Haul Road"
made famous by the TV show "Ice Road Truckers." It wasn't even open to
the public for most of it's life ( built in 1973) and still today, the
big 18 wheelers running supplies up and down it,have the right of way.
Every year more and more motorcycles attempt to make the journey but
usually they are riding dual sport bikes. Basically these are dirt bikes that adapted for the
highways. I was going to do it on my bike, a chopper. 

    I built my bike 4 years ago. It is built on a highly modified,
Twincam bagger frame. It is 10 inches up in the down tubes, 5 inches
out in the back bone, a 12 inch over front end and rolls a 23 inch Renegade
front wheel. I also dropped the frame in the seat area 3 inches but
kept the full stock suspension. The most noticeable change is the
twisted and knotted, two into one downtubes I did with Ron Finch. This
has proven to be a great highway chopper as I have put over 160,000
miles on it already. The road to Alaska isn't like any highways that
we ride on in the lower 48.. Just in northern Canada alone, the
highways are too challenging for most. If changing from asphalt to
gravel without warning isn't enough, there is "frost heaves" which act
as ramps that will launch rider and motorcycle into the air making you
feel like an X-Game rider.
   I left South Carolina the end of June and 3 weeks of hard riding
put me in Fairbanks, Alaska. That was an epic story too but I'll save
that for my next book as I have to condense this adventure to fit in a
magazine. I could have easily turned around from there, just as I had
done in 1998, but I wanted to truly have an adventure like no other.
   I had arrived in Fairbanks at around 5pm. This would have concluded
the day on any other trip as It was the major town and would make an
excellent starting point for the next day, refreshed and well rested.
But this was Alaska. In the Summer, it has a "day" that last 64 days long. That is,
even though the sun goes down at 12:30am and comes back up at 4:30am,
it never gets dark. This throws off everything. Sleeping ( or trying
to) in a tent doesn't help. Bear attacks were at an all time high and
every news that I heard reminded me of that fact. Sleep deprivation
was making me make some bad decisions. Luckily I am highly
experienced in bad decisions.

    I ate dinner in Fairbanks and decided to ride on till I got tired
then would pull over on the side of the road and camp. I was a lot
more tired than I realized. I left with a half a tank of fuel
knowing there was one more fuel stop before The Dalton Highway. I must
have been day dreaming because the next thing knew, I had missed it
and was now 90 miles north at the start of The Dalton Highway. There
was NOTHING out here, not even a home to walk up to and beg for gas. I
was on reserve and didn't have but a handful of miles left when I
flagged down 2 dual sports heading south. I knew dual sport riders are
like boy scouts- they are always prepared. They couldn't believe first
that I was taking a chopper north and second that I wasn't even
carrying extra gas. This was the easy leg of the trip and I was
already failing. The more north you go, the more a mistake like this
can cost you your life. For this reason, one of the riders acted like
he didn't want to give me his extra gas just because he was helping
aid someone that was already in over his head. It didn't help that I
was laughing about it. He didn't know that I was Bean're, and my pure
luck has gotten me very far. I thanked them and since they wouldn't
take money, I gave them a sticker. The next gas stop was 60 miles
away. I got there on fumes.

    Gassing up and going again, it was now around 10pm. To me it felt
about noon so I continued riding. It was totally remote so you don't
pass up anything. I saw a sign for " Hot Spot". I thought it was an
internet cafe. I should have known better as there is no phone
reception, much less internet anywhere out here. It turned out to be a
truck stop where I met my first
ice road truckers. I felt as welcomed as a turd in a punch bowl.I
nooded in some of their directions but only got stares back so I kept
to myself. Nothing was indoor but the kitchen so we all sat at picnic tables
outside. I sat away from everyone and minded my own business. I ate
the house special- a 3/4 pound jalapeno burger with a vanilla milk
shake. Yea, I told you I was a veteran at making bad decisions. During
my meal, one of the people in the kitchen walked outside and unloaded
a full 30 round clip of what sounded like a 223 rifle. No one acted
like this was anything out of the ordinary so I played along and just
kept eating.
  I was anxious to get out of there alive so I finished and got back
on the road. I was about 75 miles from the Arctic Circle. It was after
midnight and as I rode, it became darker and darker. This was odd I
thought and didn't understand why when suddenly, lightning flashed and
I knew it was going to be bad. Sometimes I pull over and other times,
I blast through storms. Here I was riding a gravel road and decided to
blast through it. That was until the skies opened up. I couldn't see
anything and the road quickly turned to muddy gravel so I stopped on
the side of the road and pitched my tent as fast as I could. I got
inside and out of my wet clothes but it was
still pouring hard. I decided this would help me sleep and not worry
about bear and it actually did, for awhile. The rain stopped about 2
hours later and now that the clouds rolled away, it was light out
again. I tried to go back to sleep but every noise made me think about
bears eating me so after about 30 minutes of tossing and turning, I
rolled up all my wet stuff, packed it on the bike and road on.

    I made one stop at the Arctic Circle sign, took some pictures then
road another 85 miles to the last stop for anything, Coldfoot. It had
a gas station, restaurant and hotel, all rolled into one. There was
one other building, a welcome center, but I didn't see it. I had the
breakfast buffet and it was phenomenal! You see, the couple of
restaurants they have up here on the haul road, are all for the oil
workers and everyone associated with the pipeline. They eat good and
the few scraggeling tourists that wander through here get to eat the
same. I stuffed myself and also drank 20 cups of coffee. I was jacked
up on caffeine and felt like a spider monkey on Mountain Dew. This was
the last stop until Deadhorse, the work town beside Prudehoe Bay. I
had 238 miles to go and NOTHING in between. With my full 6 gallon gas
tank, I still needed 2 gallons of fuel so I rummaged in the dumpsters
and came up with 2 one gallon water bottles. They fit perfectly in my
saddle bags. I liked protecting them because I knew if anything
happened to them, I would be stranded in the middle of the Arctic
waiting for the next hungry polar bear. Off I rode.
     I had to constantly be on the lookout for road hazards anywhere
from rocks, erosion and wildlife but also from the tractor trailers
coming and going. The highways isn't really wide enough for two
vehicles to pass in most areas so I had to get close to the edge when
trucks would come in the opposite direction. When they came from
behind me, it was best to let them pass because they could roll at 70
most of the time. I didn't need the pressure of one of them behind me
either and they didn't slow down for the gravel turns like I needed
to. They kicked up so much dust, it would be zero visibility for what
seemed liked forever.
    This road was a true wilderness path. Very few eyes have laid upon
it. I saw wildlife everywhere I looked. They say that every year, more
caribou walk it than people drive it. It was an visual adventure every
mile but it drug on and on. The
caffeine wore off first then the lack of sleep kicked in. I started
dozing at first followed by nods that turned into dreams and abrupted
wakings with near fatal accidents. I had to pull over and take a nap
but anytime I stopped up here, the flies and mosquitoes would swarm
and were so thick that I would actually choke on them. I know what I
had to do so I pulled over and dug through my luggage for my tent and
just like the storm I encountered, I once again rushed to pitch my
tent as fast as possible.. I then just unzipped the bottom and slid
under the door in an effort to pull the 1000's of eating insects off
of me and keep them outside the tent. I then stripped down into my
underwear and slept with the sun beating down. I was like a sweaty
piece of bacon but I got about 4 hours of rest. The best I had had in
days and I also was so exhausted that I never once worried about bear.
This was also a turning point because from here on out, bear crossed
my mind but I never let it bother my sleep. If it was going to happen,
it wouldn't matter if a was awake or asleep.

   Back on the road, the conditions started getting worse and worse. I
was already pass the point of no return though as once beyond the
halfway point, I only had enough fuel to get to the end and not enough
to turn around and get back. Speed was greatly reduced too as before I
could ride 70 mph on gravel. Now it was 45 mph dodging potholes and even a
crawl in other spots. One of the hundreds of rocks that flew up and
battered the undercarriage of my bike, pinched my rear brake line
against the frame and caused a leak. I didn't realize this till I
tried to hit the brakes and there was nothing there.. I now had no
rear brakes and only hoped to fix them once I got to Deadhorse. I
wasn't anyplace for a new line in Deadhorse, and when I turned around
to return to Fairbanks, I would again, only have front brakes. Try
riding a long front end chopper in gravel up and down mountains with
only front brakes. I did a lot of downshifting.

   When I felt like this was another of the worse decisions of my
life, I came across a highway worker with a reflective vest standing
in the road. He stopped me and said there was road construction for
the next 58 miles and then I would be in Deadhorse. He also said it
would take over 3 hours and he was right. For the next 3 hours, I rode
through construction zone after construction zone. There was so many
obstacles that it was like they were trying to make it impossible to
get to Prudehoe Bay. Every time I would succeed in making it past one,
there would be a different one a few miles on. From deep soft mud to
grapefruit sized rocks being spread across the highway. All along
would be giant pieces of earth moving equipment operating without
stopping long enough for me to pass. A few areas were so bad, I had to
stop and wait for a pilot truck to come and escort me through. One
particular area was so bad, the pilot truck had a flat while escorting
me, leaving me stranded till another pilot truck could come and escort
me out. 

   Seeming like this would never end, I came upon the town of
Deadhorse. . Pulling into town was a sign that said "road construction
ends". 30 feet later was another that said "welcome to Deadhorse" I ran
out of gas in another 20 feet. Now all I had to do was find some gas, turn
around and ride another 500 miles back to Fairbanks with no back
brakes but I knew I could. I could do anything after all, I had just
done the impossible.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

You can have me WITH or WITHOUT

     Leave it to me to be involved in controversy. This year for Sturgis, David Uhl painted me in the continuing saga of The Iron Horse Heist. It seemed that there was some negative feedback that I was naked in the horse trough so David repainted me with long johns on. The cool thing is David is going to offer BOTH paintings, your choice. Now like all David's Sturgis editions, after the rally, the price goes up. This is the cheapest you will ever be able to get this print so reserve your print today. Just email Greg at . Don't forget to specify which print you like.
This is Iron Horse Heist. It has sold out. Don't wait for my other prints to sell out.