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Discussion Starter #1
These jpgs's show the route we intend to take when we ride to Alaska beginning on 1 July. I just added the routed to the Milepost Overview map and extracted the two pages.

Alaska Route01_Page_01.jpg Alaska Route01_Page_02.jpg

In the different threads concerning rides to Alaska some have indicated the "need" for heated clothing. Is this really necessary? I'd like to hear from those who have done it without the heated clothes...were you miserable or cold because you didn't have it?
 

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In general the route looks good but it's difficult to tell, especially in respect to a few good local road alternatives with the low resolution maps.

As for heated clothing, it really depends on two factors, your temperature comfort zone and the weather when you go.

I feel comfortable in cooler weather and when I did an Alaska trip three years ago this past May I used my heated vest only once. I got up one morning and the temp was 32 degrees so I plugged in. Most other mornings the temp was at least 40 or better so I did not feel the need to plug in. My wife was not along on that trip but if she had been, she would have been plugged in most days. For her, at least an insulated jacket is required for anything below 65 degrees. She has a heated jacket, heated gloves and heated pants. All I have is a heated jacket liner for even sub-zero riding.

As I mentioned, it also depends on the weather and that can be very different some years. I had reasonably good weather and all clear roads (snow), a year like this and it might have been very different.

For me, July 1 would be without heated gear and for my wife, she wears a Gerbings heated jacket and she'd be bringing along her temp controller to be able to plug in.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks, it sounds like heated clothing won't be necessary for the time I'm going. I hope the wife agrees!

I exported the images from the Milepost and that's the size/quality they ended up? I included the 2 pages in a pdf and they looked good, but the file size was too big.
 

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I would skip going up through MT. to Calgary, nothing there to see. Go through Sandpoint ID and Creston. Take 3A to 6 up to Revelstroke. Then take 1 over to 93 and go North through the Icefields. Two lake crossing on a ferry and beautiful scenery. Stay away from Calgary and Edmonton.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
That does look like a much more interesting route. The only problem is time constraints. We have basically 25 days to do the trip. This includes towing the bike from Tennessee to Utah and then back to Tennessee when we're through. That leaves us about 20 days, so we planned to go as quickly as possible to Glacier, do "Going to The Sun" and then quickly from there to Banff and enjoy Banff and Jasper. Having never done this before, I'm a little worried we'll run out of time? Man I wish we had at least 6 weeks to do this!
 

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You should lay your route out in Google Maps. It would be easier to share. 20 days is a short time but doable. You'll be spending a lot of time in the seat day in and day out. Sightseeing from the bike isn't much fun. How many motorcycle miles does your trip entail?

Temperature wise, you should be OK. The sun is up quite a long time during those days so the days should be in the mid-60s to low-70s. It can be chilly when it is raining though so I'd have good rain gear onboard.
 

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Your maps show what is the basic route to/from Alaska, returning via the Cassiar. Overall, pretty good.

But I agree with CBXMan - stay away from Calgary and Edmonton, unless you enjoy riding through places like Nashville and Cincinnati. ;) However, since you will be under time constraints, my suggestion would be to go west from I-15 (which I presume you will be taking north from Utah) on I-90 and following US93/Canada 93 all the way to Jasper. That will take you through the Kootenays, which are very worthwhile. US95 from Coeur d'Alene to Sandpoint won't be missed, believe me.

Riding north from Jasper to Alaska, you don't have a whole lot of choices, especially riding two-up on a Wing. The Big Horn Hwy between Jasper and Grande Prairie is a good one, although the pavement is a bit rough in a few places. North out of Dawson Creek you'll encounter fairly heavy traffic, but it gets lighter the farther north you go, and once past Fort Nelson you'll finally feel like you're on the Alcan.

While most people who have never been here seem to associate Fairbanks with Alaska, the highway between the border and Fairbanks is probably the least scenic stretch, mile for mile, in the entire state. The best scenery - and that is what most people come up here for - is to be found in the mountain range passes and along the coast. You would probably enjoy riding down to Seward far more than riding to Fairbanks. However, if your plans also include visiting Denali, and taking the bus ride into the park, then going to Fairbanks can be justified.

One of the highlights of many visitors' trips is the ride down to Valdez over Thompson Pass. It's quite a beautiful ride. Some people combine that with a ferry trip between Valdez and Whittier, which gives them the opportunity to see both Valdez and the Kenai Peninsula.

Another side trip - that takes very little extra time, provided the ferry schedule cooperates - is to leave the Alcan at Haines Junction (assuming this diversion was taken on the southbound leg), travel over Chilkat Pass to Haines, ride the ferry from Haines to Skagway (17 miles, 1 hour), then ride over White Pass and through Carcross to get back to the Alcan at Jake's Corner.

Going south on the Cassiar (which is now almost totally paved), if you have the time to ride out to Hyder, that is a side trip not to be missed. Every trip report in which the riders made that detour, they rave about it.

To save time as you ride south - just in case you're running short of time - you could turn off the Cariboo Hwy (97) at Cache Creek and work your way south and east to cross into the U.S. at Osoyoos, but continuing south from Cache Creek on 1 to Hope, and crossing at Sumas would allow you to ride down the Thompson and Fraser River canyons. Very scenic!
I've been traveling that route off and on for over 50 years and never get tired of it.

Regarding the weather: You're bound to encounter some rain, somewhere along the way. And once you get far north, rain and cool weather almost always go together. You might not mind it, but in my experience - if mama ain't warm and dry, she won't be happy. And you know what happens when mama ain't happy...:-(

In many trips back and forth, some very early in the year, there have been some when I hardly needed heated gear except in the wee hours of the morning. And others when I needed it most of the day. But only once did I ride without heated grips, and that was when I rode my new Wing home from the Ohio dealer in mid-May. All my bikes have those, and I won't have a bike without them. They sometimes come in handy in June and July.
 

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Thanks, it sounds like heated clothing won't be necessary for the time I'm going. I hope the wife agrees!

I exported the images from the Milepost and that's the size/quality they ended up? I included the 2 pages in a pdf and they looked good, but the file size was too big.
Uh, er.um........hey.......


You better not leave the heated gear home. Take it with you. You will need it. Cold, rain, conditions change day to day, mornings are cold, some days can be bad. Others are great.

Gear such as heated jacket liner does not take much room. Take them with you.

On any cross country, take it all, leave none at home, best have it than need it and not have it.

I know from experience, it can get cold and nasty real quick. It can rain like a cow pissing on a flat rock too.

Kit
 

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Discussion Starter #9
I'm really enjoying all the excellent suggestions and it sounds as if I need to discuss a change of route with my brother. Maybe we can get more scenic "bang for our buck" by altering our route! I cerainly have a lot to think about in the next 3 weeks!
 

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I know from experience, it can get cold and nasty real quick. It can rain like a cow pissing on a flat rock too.
It's funny that you mention that. This very weather event happened yesterday. I think the high for the day was 53F. Lots of rain showers in the area. You just never know, especially in the more mountainous regions.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
The problem with the heated gear isn't whether to take it or not. We don't own any and I'm not sure I want to spend the money to buy two complete sets right now! Also don't know where to go to try any on? We live 50 miles north of Nashville. If I had it I would definately take it along in case I needed it.
 

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The problem with the heated gear isn't whether to take it or not. We don't own any and I'm not sure I want to spend the money to buy two complete sets right now! Also don't know where to go to try any on? We live 50 miles north of Nashville. If I had it I would definately take it along in case I needed it.
From my experience when two-up, the rider has quite a bit more protection than the passenger, and is also exerting a little effort to help generate warmth. But the passenger is more exposed, and often will get hit by a breeze on the back. So you should be able to get one set - maybe just a jacket liner - to take care of your passenger if it turns chilly.

One of the problems you face when you get farther north is the distances between shelters. For instance, after leaving Fort Nelson northbound on the Alcan, you will be climbing to the top of Steamboat Hill. It can be warm in Fort Nelson, but pretty chilly on top. If you get cold, there's no place nearby to warm up. It's either continue on for many miles (by which time you might find warm temperatures again - or colder) or you turn around and go back to Fort Nelson. You just never know.

I've lived in Alaska for over 54 years, and being outside quite a bit, keep an eye on the weather. And yet, when I leave the house for a trip of 50 miles or more, I take an insulated jacket, rain gear, ventilated suit, and a variety of gloves - because I may need them all as the temperature and condition changes, and there's no predicting it. Traveling in the mountains, weather can change drastically in 10 miles or less.

Advice we regularly give to travelers coming this way on a bike - be prepared for every kind of weather imaginable, as you just might run into it.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Thank so much for the voice of experience! It's amazing how you can get answers for just about anything on this forum.
 

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It's funny that you mention that. This very weather event happened yesterday. I think the high for the day was 53F. Lots of rain showers in the area. You just never know, especially in the more mountainous regions.
Exactly! :agree:

Coming back down from a ride to Atigun Pass Memorial Day weekend, it was 85°F at Hot Spot (north side of the Yukon River, for those not familiar with the Haul Road) just after noon. Closer to Mile 0, it was up to 87° when I rode under a large, dark cloud. Within 1/2 mile it had dropped to 62° and was pouring down rain mixed with hail. That lasted for 5 or 6 miles, then back out of it and into sunshine again.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Even when the weather turns to crap it can sometimes be fun. It's the adventure that makes trips memorable. (and lots of pictures and videos)
 

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I can't answer your question about heated gear. Only you and the weatherman can figure out the answer to that. My wife and I just got back from a 3 week trip to Alaska and we were glad to have ours. I can give you some other info about our trip that you may find helpful.
We left Wisconsin for Sagle Idaho on May 19 and spent the weekend with relatives there. Then we left for Alaska on Monday May 23. We rode Hwy 95 to Hwy 93 in Alberta thru Lake Louise and spent our first night in Jasper, Alberta. Then we took Hwy 16 to Hwy 40 to Grande Prairie Alberta. We rode from there to Dawson Creek and then took the Alcan Hwy from there to Tok, Alaska. We rode from there thru Palmer, Alaska to Denali National Park. We spent 1 1/2 days there. We took the 8 hour bus tour, visited the dog kennel, and did some hiking. We went from there to Fairbanks where we spent 2 1/2 days. On the way to Fairbanks we stopped in a little town called Nenana. If you have a chance stop there and go to the store across from the Visitor Center and ask for Joanne Hawkins. She is a very interesting local character. Be sure to ask her why she came to Alaska and what M&M stands for. At Fairbanks we enjoyed the Riverboat Tour, the, El Dorado Gold Mine, the Ice Museum which is about 30 miles from town, the Museum of the North at the University of Alaska. We would have went to the Botanical Gardens but it was too early in the year for them to have very much on display, and the Pioneer Park. The Pioneer Park is free and has a lot of interesting displays.
On the way home we went thru Chicken, Alaska which was a mistake. We were told that there was about 30 miles of gravel between Chicken and the border then all paved road from there to Dawson, City. Turns out that there was 40 miles of gravel from Chicken to the border then about 10 miles of paved road then another 60 miles of gravel. All the gravel we rode at about 25-30 mph. That made for a LONG ride.
We got home on June 16. My wife and I each rode our own 1800 Goldwing I towed a trailer. We rode thru some construction but nothing that was a problem. Get a copy of the 2011 Milepost. I planned all of our Canada and Alaska gas stops in advance. Never had a problem with gas, the farthest between gas stations was 98 miles. Be ready to pay a premium price for gas when out in the boondocks. The most we paid was $1.76.9 per liter at Buckinghorse, Yukon. We each had our own camera and took about 500 pictures.
If you have any questions I'll help if I can.
 

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On the way home we went thru Chicken, Alaska which was a mistake. We were told that there was about 30 miles of gravel between Chicken and the border then all paved road from there to Dawson, City. Turns out that there was 40 miles of gravel from Chicken to the border then about 10 miles of paved road then another 60 miles of gravel. All the gravel we rode at about 25-30 mph. That made for a LONG ride.
Hmmm. The Milepost shows it to be about 43 miles from Chicken to the border, and the gravel starts about half a mile before getting to Chicken itself.

Last Thursday it was raining and miserable, the road surface greasy, and one Wing went down, totaling the bike. But when it's dry, the road can be handled with few problems. Of course, pulling a trailer makes things a little different.

The first ~20 miles after crossing into the Yukon are paved, with accompanying potholes :x. Right now, the last three or four miles down the hill to the Yukon River have fresh sealcoat. The gravel is, for the most part, well packed and good running. What I recommend for anyone coming up this way is to get some experience on gravel first. To the amazement of most people who don't have the opportunity to practice, it is surprising to find that higher speeds actually offer better stability. My minimum speed on gravel is usually around 35 mph, and on really loose stuff I prefer riding at 45 to 60, adding throttle any time the bike starts to wiggle too much. Leaning over on curves (not talking about some of the tight hairpins soon after leaving Chicken) can be done with a little extra throttle. It's counter-intuitive, but it works.

Surprised to see how much fuel was at Buckinghorse, but guess that's the law of supply and demand. It was a relatively inexpensive (it's all relative, right? :lol:) $1.622/ltr ($6.14/gal) at Dawson City on Friday. In days of old I would always avoid having to buy gas anywhere around Coal River, as that was usually the highest price anywhere on the Alcan.

As early in the year as you came north, you at least missed the worst of our infamous state bird, the mosquito. In addition to the cool weather, did you also get to experience some of the hot temperatures at the end of May?
 

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Having live in Alaska for 51 years, myself, I have to say that weather-wise, things can be quite unpredictable. Alaska is so vast that you can't count on the weather being the same for any distance, so when we rode up there, we were always prepared for any kind of weather. Sure, the gear takes up some room, but it's better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.

As for the Alaska Hwy, the least scenic portion, IMO, is from Ft. St. John to Ft. Nelson. After that it's a nice ride. Also, unless getting that photo at MP 0 in Dawson Creek, BC is paramount, a great alternative (and shorter route at that) is to take the Hudson's Hope Cutoff that runs from Chetwynd, BC to Ft. St. John. Very scenic and fun ride. Less traffic, too.

In Alaska, be prepared to encounter lots of rough pavement. There are a lot of frost hneaves, pavement breaks ( especially on the Tok Cutoff), and tar snakes. Otherwise, the roads are paved. The Glenn Hwy from Glnenallen to Palmer is particulary scenic, save for the portion from Glenallen to Eureka. Then it's interesting.

If you're a pie fan, be sure to stop at the Valley Hotel in Palmer. Their restaurant isn't fancy, but they serve up some good pie--all made there in their kitchen. At least they did when we lived in Palmer.
 

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Your ride is over I expect. But, yes. It gets cold. Snows even. But, heated gear is not necessary. For me, only my hands got unbearably cold. I used rubber gloves and chemical heating packets. A functioning set of heated grips would have done the trick.
 
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