In the spring of 1996, Lin and I decided to ride our motorcycles to Alaska and back. I had purchased my first new bike in December, 1995: an MZ Skorpion Sport. Dave at Moto International worked with Bob Strode to design and attach a pannier mounting system and I bought some Hepco-Becker hard bags. Lin had some great hard bags for her 1975 Moto Guzzi 850T and we were rarin' to go! We plotted, planned, and read for months in preparation for this two-week trip.
Click the small pictures to see bigger ones
We left early in the morning in July. Our plan was to go to Baring, WA, to the wedding of our good friends Sarah and Mike, who we knew through the University Honda bike shop. The weather was gorgeous and we made good time. But when we got to Baring, we found that the call of the road was too much for us to resist. We offered our congratulations, explained where we were off to, and departed with the good wishes of all our friends. We crossed into Canada at Sumas. Our spirits were high, despite the warnings of the customs agent at the crossing ("Watch out for those big mosquitos!"). We camped the first night in a provincial park near Hope, B.C.

So long!

Happy to be in Canada

We rode "North to Alaska!", through Kelowna, Revelstoke, and Golden on our way to Lake Louise. A wonderful stretch of road through the mountains gave us both big grins, despite the heavy panniers, trucks and rain. After dutifully waiting in line behind huge tour buses for a quick glimpse of the lake (over developed!), we turned north for Jasper. What a great stretch of highway that was! After the traffic and congestion of Lake Louise (my advice: go see Lake Marion instead), we felt great and opened up the bikes completely. The sun was shining as we rode between the mountains on a clear, clean road.

Shameless adoration of
my new bike

Yes, cheryl, it's very yellow

We stopped for a rest and a smile and another motorcyclist pulled up along side us. He was having a great day, too, and agreed to take our picture. He seemed a little surprised at the speed at which we were travelling but we assured him that since we were only girls, we couldn't possibly have been going that fast ;).

So he finally caught
up to us, eh?

Girl power!

Jasper was fun, but felt strangely crowded to us after the open road of Highway 93 so we grabbed a quick lunch and headed to Prince George. Since the weather had been less than perfect, I bought some rain gear and a bottle of oil (what's with those thirsty big thumpers anyway?!?) at the Yamaha shop there. Then we pointed our headlights to Fort St. John. Along the way, we stopped at Hudson Hope so Lin could try to find the rest of this vehicle (and its owner!) We also encountered lots of deer and mountain goats.

Where's the rest of it?

Ambling across our road

Fort St. John is a nice town and the folks at the tourist information center were kind enough to point us towards the dump so that we could see the local black bear population. Following the hand-drawn map, we arrived and behaved exactly like tourists, much to the amusement of the locals dropping off their garbage. The bears could not have cared less about Lin and I (or my loud exhaust pipe, whom we dubbed "Mr. Holeshot") as they rummaged through the boxes of Cap'n Crunch and empty milk containers.

Cool! Bears!

Hey, Yogi, let's camp here!

Onward we rode, often going an hour or two without even seeing another vehicle. It was so quiet, so still, and so wild! We stopped once, just to listen to the silence. Other than the desert of Big Bend, I have never felt so completely how wild the world is. Sure, there was a "paved" road, but that just didn't seem to matter to the deer, rabbits, and hawks that surrounded us, nor to the wind which detoured around us on its way across the fields. After what seemed an eternity of straight pavement, we arrived at Fort Nelson hungry and low on fuel. The campground there was less than desirable so we stayed in a converted mobile home/hotel and cooked our dinner on the sidewalk outside. Next day we were up and out early, headed for Liard Hot Springs. Along the way we encountered some intense road construction, but both bikes handled the gravel just fine! It was tiring, though, maneuvering those heavy bikes through the rubble.

Once at Liard, we claimed a camping spot and headed off to soak our weary bones in some of the biggest hot springs I have ever seen. One was a deep dark pool about 30 feet wide with bubbles popping in the middle of it. It had a boardwalk around it and ladders down into it. I swam a while, then we went down to the stream nearby. The stream was right at the entry of the spring and the water there was intensely hot. We had to sit downstream in the knee-high water and let it cascade over us on its way down the mountain. What a fantastic interlude that was! Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures, but here's some I found on the internet. The first one illustrates the river and how you can sit below the little waterfall and get a hot water massage! The second one is of the big peaceful pond.

Thanks to the 'net

Don't you love other people's

The next day was a big one for me since we arrived in the Yukon Territory! Ever since I was a little girl I've dreamed of going to the Yukon. It just seemed so far away to me! And here we were. We waited by the sign for nearly 30 minutes until someone drove past and stopped to take our photo. This photo remains one of my most cherished memories.

Look at me!

Feeling pretty smug now

We finally arrived in Whitehorse. What a fantastic day! We pitched camp and headed into town to see the sights. The campsite we found was great because it was right by a little stream. We felt lucky to have it until very late that night when the salmon were jumping and jumping and jumping. Just when you'd doze off, SPLASH! Ah, so that explains why this picture-perfect site was available when we arrived. Oh well, to us city girls it was cool! We walked way upstream, marvelling at the big red fish and their perseverance, and cheering them on.

Whitehorse camp

Monument to the bush pilots
of Alaska

I panned for gold but didn't come up with enough to quit my day job. Next day I headed off for Skagway, AK while Lin stayed behind to do some routine maintenance on her bike. The road to Skagway was fantastic: chip-seal for plenty of grip, and nice mountain curves for scenery and the occasional thrill. Plus it felt good to ride the bike without those heavy panniers for a change! There's a very pretty lake along the way, too.

C'mon, c'mon...

Great mineral color

Skagway was a very interesting town and I'm glad I took the time to go there. The plight of those prospectors trying to eke out a living was heartrending. And a lot of them didn't survive. The graveyard in Skagway was particularly interesting because the historical society had researched as many of the graves as they could and printed up a pamphlet that told the stories of each person.

I'll take it!

A long way from home

The trains they used to move the snow and to haul provisions were fantastic. They were in great condition, as if you could fire them right up and take off. The White Pass Train actually still operates for tourists, but I didn't have time to take the trip.

White Pass Train

Snow train

After the action and adventure of the "big city" of Whitehorse, we headed over to Hyder, AK so that we could get "Hyder-ized" at one of the two local bars. Hyder shares the Canadian border with a little town in B.C. and the trip up there was striking, as we passed several glaciers. We had dinner at the Chinese restaurant there and debated whether we should camp or stay in the old-timey hotel in Hyder. As thunder clouds rolled in, we decided to go for the hotel. The rooms were small but tidy. With their pictures nailed to the wall, one small towel in the bathroom, and a shower that was "uninspiring", it still seemed like heaven to us. We meandered down to the hotel bar and made friends with the bartender (always a good idea). He took a liking to us and told us all about the town and its history.

The bartender showed us where to go to get Hyder-ized, which involves drinking a shot of Everclear at the bar across the street. It was fun and cheap but when the bartender refused to serve us more $2 shots, we took our little membership cards and went back to our buddy at the hotel bar. We spent a wonderful evening talking to him and drinking Johnny Walker Red. He advised us to go out and watch the bears feed on the salmon just a few miles away the next day. So we did. The bears were positive gluttons as they scooped salmon out of the river and ate their brains, tossing the rest of the fish on the shore where raccoons and seagulls fought over their carcasses. There were lots of people there, including a forest ranger who helped make sure we kept a safe distance.

Bears eating salmon

More bears!

The ranger told us that the bears were only eating the brains of the salmon because they were preparing to hibernate and needed the protein. There were black bears feeding on one side of the bridge and grizzlies feeding on the other side. They didn't pay much attention to each other, but still we were glad the ranger was there with her pepper spray. She came close to using it once, though. Seems one of the tourists (the kind with the BIG camera) refused to heed her instructions to stay away from the edge of the bridge since that was the bears' escape path. They don't care to have their paths blocked and were visibly nervous at his approach. The tourist's response was "well, I'm not too worried since you're right there with your pepper spray". Her response was "If I use this, it's going to be in your face, not the bears'." That seemed to convince him that he should move to the safety zone. Watching those bears feed was amazing, just like standing in a National Geographic television special. We watched for a long time.

On the way back to town, we had to stop on the road since there was a big grizzly bear sitting there. Lin urged me to go ahead and ride up to it to scare it away but something told me not to. We sat there wondering what to do for 10 minutes or so before a big pickup truck came along and zoomed right by the bear, scaring it into the bushes on the side of the road. I wonder how long we would have been stuck there if that truck hadn't come along?

The next day we left Hyder and headed for Haines, AK. Along the way we stopped to offer assistance to a German man working on his BMW motorcycle. He wasn't very friendly, though, and managed, in less than three sentences, to insult both of our bikes! So we left him with his pieces of bike and continued south. Haines is a great town, full of spirit and friendly, tough folks.

One happy girl

Another happy girl

We had a delicious lunch and decided to take the Alaska State Ferry south to Prince Rupert so that we could rest a bit and see the Inside Passage.

Let's get on board

Big ol' boat, eh?

The ferry was not cheap, but by sleeping on deck we made it affordable and fun. All together we were on board for 58 hours and met lots of people along the way. Some were from Europe and others were locals just travelling up and down the Inside Passage. We stopped and visited Sitka (for souvenirs), Juneau (for liquor), and Ketchikan (for the Safeway salad bar) along the way. The scenery was fantastic and we spent hours watching the fish jump in the water ("whee!"). We also made friends with the engineers below-deck, who gave us a guided tour of the engine room.

Camping cheaply on deck
Note the brown paper bag
on the floor ;)

Lovely sunset, or was
that a sunrise?

We sailed into Prince Rupert in the middle of the night and stayed at a little boarding house there, in the attic. We had an early breakfast and rode east to Prince George, since my Skorpion needed new tires. The chip-seal had eaten away at my new Metzeler MEZ1's. The guys at the Yamaha shop in Prince George remembered us and were very friendly, setting me up with some Bridgestones for the ride home. We stopped along the way south to watch some natives fish for salmon with spears in a waterfall and try salmon jerky (yum!). The we rode down the Frasier Canyon River Road (spectacular! but a little bit dangerous) and eventually back to the good old US-of-A. Our destination was Vashon Island, where a big motorcycle rally was planned for that weekend. The going was great, except for getting speeding tickets in Monroe. After two weeks of speeding across Canada and Alaska, we finally got caught! Oh well, we didn't let that dampen our spirits at Vashon. It was a great party, and the perfect end to a perfect trip!

Rugged Inside Passage

A most excellent adventure!

page maintained by