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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My wife and I took our 2012 GW to Alaska and back this June. As most have said of Alaska it is the trip of a lifetime. This website, and the responses I received to my many questions, made the trip happen. I thank you.
I'm not much of an adventure writer so instead of trying to post the many amazing photos and stories I thought I might post, instead, a first timers practical 'guide' to traveling to Alaska. Please feel free to add what you believe I miss.

The bike: I used my 2012 GW. I saw many many bikes on the road to Alaska. Dual sports, Harleys, ninjas, etc. I simply can't believe there is a better 2up Alaska bike than the GW. There were simply no negatives to the GW. When we would talk with other riders their backseater would always ask about the comfort and weather protection of the GW and most had very negative comments about the bike they were riding on. Most complained about vibration and being cold/wet. First rule in 2up touring is keeping the princess happy!
Bike Mods: I added;
1. PIAA LED 1100 driving lights. Although most of the ride would be in the daylight (June) I wanted the forward visibility to other vehicles. These lights performed flawlessly, are extremely bright, and stupid easy to install. In short, they get you seen!
2. Modulator. I modulate my high beams. Again, folks are tired, looking at bears, mountains and endless roadway, I wanted to stick out, and I did.
3. SS belly pan. IMO a must. based on the dents on my pan when I got home it prevented damage to my bike.
4. Heat cloths/controllers. I used Warm and Safe Pants/jacket liners and gloves. I simply attached the controllers so the pigtail hangs out from under the seat. This allows me to tuck away out of sight the pigtail when I don't need the heat (I live in S-Cal). Alaska is hit and miss on the weather. It may rain, it may be frosty, or it may be bright and sunny. I will refer you to Rule number 1 about keeping the princess happy. We used the heat several times and were absolutely comfortable. Could we have just layered more clothes? No, I talked with many others who did and regretted it.
5. Tires: I had about 4000 miles on my stock Bridgestones, put about 7500 miles more for the trip, and they still have plenty of life in them. I do have a brand new set sitting in my garage that I bought so I could change them out upon my return. However, after an inspection, they are just fine. They handled the rain, minor gravel/dirt, frost heaves, crappy roads just fine.
6. Windscreen. The stock worked just fine. I do have a new F4 +4 sitting in garage I thought I would need, but, didn't.
7. Rain Cover. I used the Half cover and it was indispensable. Keeps the rain, dust, dew of the bike.
Truck rack/bag: I installed a trunk rack and a bag. Both were indispensable. The bag come off easy and I used it to take our clothes into the hotel/hostal every night.

Let me say that I was prepared to spend whatever amount I felt I needed to to comply with Rule 1. As it turns out, the GW is already pretty darn 'tour ready' in stock form.

Clothes:
Heated Clothes: Warn and Safe. As mentioned above I used heated liners and gloves that I stored in the trunk and put on when I needed to. I think we could have done just fine without the pants liners simply by layering, but, I'll never know.

Riding clothes: Firstgear overpants with zip out rain liners. These worked perfectly. Very comfortable, dry and easy on/off. Nuff said.

Jacket: Firstgear Kilimanjaro waterproof. Again, Perfect. When it was hot I vented it, when it was cold, I zipped it. When it rained I stayed dry. However, when I returned to California around Sacramento it was above 100 degs and I would have liked my vented perforated jacket, however, it would have been useless on the rest of the ride.

Gloves: I tool my hot weather gloves and used them when the weather cooperated. But, I used my Heated Firstgear waterpoof gloves when it didn't. Again, they worked perfectly. Warm and dry.

Helmets: Nolan N90 modular with SENA 10 wireless comm. Worked perfectly. No leaks in the helmet. The SENA also worked perfect, even when soaked.

Boots: TCX Waterproof boots. About $100 on sale. Warm, dry and comfortable. Allows you to walk around a little and they're still comfortable. If I was done riding for the day I changed my boots to Tshoes. I saw many leather non-motorcycle boots. Some worked just fine, some leaked and stayed wet for days. Picture cold rain striking your boots at 60 mph for several hours...

Trailer or no trailer/hitch box: I opted not to tow a trailer or carry a hitch box. To tell you the truth this was the most difficult of decisions. It hinged on IF I was going to camp or not. I elected NOT to camp, so I was able to carry two people clothes, tools, supplies, everything in the existing trunk space and trunk bag. There was plenty of room. We took 3 sets of clothes, extra shoes, jackets, and everything else you might need to such a trip. HOWEVER, if I was going to camp, I would have taken a trailer (more on that later). I opted not to install/carry a hitch box and it was an excellent decision. Based of the road conditions I think the extra weight, and where the weight is located, would have been a safety detriment. However, I did see many hitch boxes on other bikes.

To Camp or to Hotel: Again, please refer to rule 1. I love to camp. The princess loves to camp. However, I didn't want to add that complexity to the mix. For me it turned out to be a good decision. We didn't need hotel/hostel reservations anywhere and I was greatfull not to need to set up a camp after riding all day. It also freed up my ability to go any direction, for as long of short as I wanted and not need to look for a campground. IF I return on a dualsport, I will probably camp as I will be riding 1up and rules 1 will not apply.

Guns: First of all I carry a gun everywhere I go, do to my previous life. However, as I would be crossing into and out of Canada multiple times, carrying a gun simply was not an option. IF you carry a gun into Canada and are caught you will go to jail, period. However, I did carry bear spray. When I actually needed it (more on that later) it was locked away in the trunk :(

Hotels/Hostels: Alaska is set up for you, the tourist. There's plenty of hotels, hostels, motels, diners, etc. I went in June and did not need to make a single reservation. Reservations require you to be at a certain place at a certain time and that just didn't go with my "lets go thata way" mentality. Trust me, this approach works and lowers stress significantly. Try it, you'll like it.

Gas: Contrary to the myth, there's plenty of fuel. Don't worry about it. I usually filled up when I got to half and really didn't need to. Repairs, I don't know. However, I did buy the Honda Plan so towing to a "authorized repair facility" was covered. $100 for 5 years is cheap.

Tools: I took a small air compressor, tire patch/plug kit, and some minor hand tools. Enough to get me to the next hotel at which time I would call my Honda plan.

The Alaska Highway System/aka take the ferry: I drove to Bellingham Washington and took the ferry to Whittier Alaska. The ferry takes about 5 days. I booked a cabin w/no bathroom and it was just fine. The ferry is clean, comfortable, allows you to travel the inside passage and visit towns that are inaccessible by roads. However, it can get a little tedious. Its NOT a cruise ship. They do have a cafeteria, but, the food is kinda expensive and sometimes not very good. So, Take some food with you. Fresh fruit, and stuff that can be prepared with hot water(which is available in the cafeteria/microwaves too). If your taking a computer (tablet) take movies, books, etc. You can shop for food in Bellingham and carry it on...no problem.

Driving your bike on to the ferry: Relax! Its easy. They will walk you though exactly what you need to do. I took a set of tie downs (that I gave away in Whittier) and 4 loops made out of nylon webbing. Look on the web on how to properly tie down your bike on a ferry. Do not NOT tie down your bike! Use the loops and its easy. Just be careful when you initially drive onto the ferry as the surface is wet steel and very slippery. I would have your passenger walk on board.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 · (Edited)
Roads: I live in southern California. My state is on the verge of bankruptcy, so, I drive on roads that have seen better days. Most of the roads in Alaska were excellent! Yes, that good. They made s-cal roads look like the pitted, tore up trails that they are. My experience in June of 2012 is not to worry about the Alaska roads. They are just fine...frost heaves and all. The roads in the Yukon and BC are another story however. They are in pretty ruff shape in many areas. I'm very glad I didn't have a trailer or box in the Yukon/BC. It would have been ruff. I did 60-65 mph or so and had zero issues. If you go 70 + mph, ya gets what ya gets. There were some stretches of gravel due to washouts and repairs, but, just slow down a little and you'll be just fine. Drivers in Alaska, Yukon, and BC are great. The closer you get to Washington and points south the worse they get.

Bears/moose/deer: There are two types of bears. Those that can eat you, and those that are in zoos. The bears in Alaska can and will eat you. If you think otherwise Darwin has a rule for you. I have never seen a Grizzly (Brown) bear before my ride. The second one I saw chased me. I know, I know the bear experts out there will say that I was not chased, I was "false charged". And I say BS! I was chased and darn near eaten! So, there I was just riding down the two lane road out of Carcross Yukon riding about 50 mph when I see a brown bear about 300 yards ahead and 50 yards off the road. I downshift to about 45 mph so I won't intersect the bear and tell the princess to get the camera. As I'm slowing I notice the bear walking towards the road, so I cover the brakes cause I don't want to get too close to this guy. I'm about 200 yards away when all of a sudden Yogi looks at me and starts running towards me...he's matching my direction as I get closer. Let me say that until you see just how fast a bear can run you just can't appreciate it. They are faster that a GW from a start and that's no exaggeration. The road is too narrow to stop and do a u-turn, and the bear is going to intersect with me in about 4 seconds. So, I gun the bike. My thinking is if I stop he's going to eat me. So, I figure my best bet is to gun the bike honking the horn and hit hit at 60mph. Yes, I'll be injured, yes, the Princess will be injured, but were about to be injured/eaten anyway. So I gun the bike and lean into it honking the horn. The bear and the bike converge and he stops about 10 feet from the bike as I scream by. No gun, no bear spray, no nothing would have worked...except what I did. It all happened in about 6 seconds.
Moose: Collisions with moose account for more deaths of motorists than being eaten by bears. They are big, eat next to the road and are very aggressive.
Deer: I didn't see any in Alaska, Yukon or BC. But, they are there.

Weather: I got 2 days of heavy rain in Washington and Oregon and less than a day in Alaska/Yukon and BC combined. It was very cold riding out of Whittier to Homer/and back, but for the most part I was lucky to avoid poor weather. I was the exception to the rule.

My plan for Alaska was simple. Point the bike north and ride. No time limit, no destination, no hurry. I was gone just about a month and did not rush. I didn't do the Prudoe bay road. To do Feel free to PM me or ask any question and I'll give ya what I know.ch a road on a GW imo is doable but, you'll want to sell the bike afterwards. I made it as far north as Fairbanks and as far south as Homer and took the Alcan south home.

If your considering going to Alaska and have been putting it off. It's time to stop putting it off. It's just not that difficult. It's very doable-if you can ride to the store, you can ride to Alaska. Trust me, if I can do it, so can you.
 

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Great write up Migolito! I hope it serves to entice more people to do the trip on their bike. You and I share the same thoughts and feelings about bears not in a zoo!
 

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+1 on the write up but I must admit being a visual guy I wouldn't mind pictures.:eek:

Oh by the way your description of the bear encounter is why I posted this.


 

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I'll have to settle for the write up and / or pictures. By the time I made it just to the west coast I would be worn out.
 

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I'll have to settle for the write up and / or pictures. By the time I made it just to the west coast I would be worn out.
it would thake me much longer than a month for a trip to alaska
 

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Thanks for the write up, very helpful.
 

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Thanks for that information. Especially the ferry, if I go up there it will be using that. Your bear incident was disconcerting, I will not let my wife read this one. Sometimes all you can do it gun it and glad that worked for you.

From here to Bellingham is 2500 miles so I think that I may need six weeks. Retirement is coming......2019 or 2020, who's up for it?
 

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Mark, make it 2022 and I might be able to retire and tag along. :cool:
 

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Mark, make it 2022 and I might be able to retire and tag along. :cool:
Sounds good. My route will go right through Spokane so I will pick you up on the way!
 

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Does that ferry make a stop in Prince Rupert? That's two days ride from here...'19 or so? Hmmmmm.
Oh, and it's not a case of outrunning the bear, just outrunning one other companion.;):p
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
The photos of the gang of bears pretty much sums it up. Look how narrow the road is and how BIG those suckers are! What happened to me is, I'm lead to believe (and what I've told my wife) extraordinarily rare. That's my story anyways.

For those of you waiting until retirement or who think its just too far-Don't wait. Find the time, and find a way. Maybe ship the bike ahead, take the Ferry from Bellingham to Whittier-ride Alaska-then catch the Ferry from Skagit back down to Bellingham. Or even ship the bike to Whittier and start from there. It's doable.

And yes, I believe the Alaska Highway System (ferry) stops at Prince Rupert. You could plan a layover there for a few days and jump back on the ferry...something I'll do when I go next time.

Let me add another something. The folks, to a one, that I ran into in Alaska are the nicest folks I've ever been around. Seriously. I was up early one morning to catch the 1 hour Ferry to Skagit and there was no coffee to be had anyplace. I was whining to the Princess about this great misfortune when one of the workers in the terminal heard me and brought a cup of Joe from the employees coffee pot. Its those random acts...
 

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Migolito,
That's quite a write up. I know it took some time and thought to put it together. I was stationed in Alaska, at Shemya Island in 88-89, but you can't ride out there! You wouldn't want to, anyway. But, I did have a chance to spend a month in and around Anchorage. It's hard to describe Alaska to someone who has not been there. The sheer massiveness of the scenery is unbelievable. The clean air, the wildlife, and the people are unique. I was told once that the people in Alaska are there running away from something in the lower 48....Not sure how true that is.;)

I would love to take a trip like you did there, but you said keep the princess happy. The only way I could do that is not to go to Alaska:eek:

Thanks for the trip report, and I look forward to the pictures!
DB
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Thank you for the kind words. Your right on about the scenery and the massiveness. I stopped measuring mileage in miles after the first day. Then I started measuring in 'travel time'.
You could ride to AK with out the Princess and have her meet you in Anchorage, ride AK w/you and she could fly out of Anchorage home.
 

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Thank you for the kind words. Your right on about the scenery and the massiveness. I stopped measuring mileage in miles after the first day. Then I started measuring in 'travel time'.
You could ride to AK with out the Princess and have her meet you in Anchorage, ride AK w/you and she could fly out of Anchorage home.
I would have to put her on a cruise, luxury cabin, in Seattle. Ride the AlCan, and pick her up in Anchorage. Then, while she was at the spa in Anchorage, I could do all the riding I wanted. We rode in January at 35 degrees, but that is about it. We were headed to Marco Island, Florida, and she could feel it getting warmer!:rolleyes:
 

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Thank you for the info. The wife and I have been considering the trip, read everything we could about riding AK, even requested/received a visitor's guide and info from AK, but your article is more helpful than anything we've seen. The bears are a concern to the wife, but she's willing to give it a try. We are planning to do this in 2014 and welcome company if anyone is interested. We cannot put it off due to our ages and our "children's concern"; I;ll turn 70 that year. I hope I can print your article to keep for our planning.
 
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