Sketchbook Detour

***Temporary Sketchbook Detour***

I began a solo motorcycle trip from Los Angeles on Friday, June 22, 2012, heading north, as far as I'm having fun. I'll be updating my sketchbook with posts from the road, and not necessarily artwork. I'm too beat by the time I'm in camp or in a cheap motel.

I'll continue with the sketches when I get back in a few weeks.

Yeah right! It's been months! I'll get back to it as I finish up some classes and have more time again. Maybe in another month, like in February, 2013.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Not-a-Sketch: Arctic to Santa Monica

After hitting the Arctic, I left Fairbanks, excited about changing directions.  I was now heading towards dryness, warmth, and mainly, more new places.  First I needed to get back down the Alcan to Tok, then I'd head up over the Top-of-the-World highway to Dawson.

In Delta Junction, I happened upon some Rotella-T motor oil in the gas station, so I figure I should change my oil while it's available.  See...  Motorcycles (in general) use special motor-oil free of detergents and additives because they share that oil with their transmission and it won't work correctly without the right oil.  So I appeared very manly, changing my oil in the dirt behind the gas station.  

As soon as I turned north from Tok, the road and landscape got fun!  I have no idea on how to explain the landscape I saw, but it went on as far as the eye could see, and it was beautiful.  And the roads got narrow and a bit more twisty.

I stopped in Chicken, a settlement of four or five buildings (that I could see), then headed up the loose dirt and gravel road over towards Dawson.  I was completely alone for hours, and started to realize that I might miss the operational hours of the Canadian border.  On smaller roads, border crossings aren't open 24-hours.  One on top of a deserted dirt road definitely wasn't going to be open very late.  Luckily, I made it with fifteen minutes to spare.

I made it to Dawson City, a mostly-preserved historic mining town.  I had arrived on a Friday night, and while I paid for my room and got my key, three belligerent girls, all "young-adults," were arguing about all sorts of things and just wanted to "get drunk."  That was a perfect first impression of Dawson.  After going out and exploring, hitting the gambling hall, deciding it was too crowded (I had been alone in the vastness of Alaska and the Yukon, and my helmet for weeks), and while sipping some tequila, I realized that this town felt like Tijuana, Mexico (where I, too, acted as a belligerent "young-adult.").  Dawson had a timelessness to it.  People had been coming to town to party for a century.  Of course they weren't fall-down drunk, playing volleyball in the middle of the street after midnight until the sheriff came and told them that they had to stop or they'd be cited.  Probably not volleyball anyway...

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Not-a-Sketch: LA to Arctic

From Rancheria, Yukon, I rode the wide Alcan (Alaska-Canada Highway) up to Fairbanks.  After the tight and diverse Cassier highway, up through Western British Columbia, the Alcan seemed straight and wide.  Sure, there were plenty of animals to be seen in the vegatation on the banks along the road, but it didn't have the same closed-in wilderness feel of the Cassier.  It had more of a vastness appropriate for speedy cruising with the occasional destroy your suspension/rims/confidence patches of missing road/gravel/holes(?).

An exception was a very exciting stretch for the last hundred or so miles before the Alaskan border.  It was not the ideal motorcycling environment.  It was rainy, cold, and windy.  And then with the addition of loose dirt and gravel, and spray from passing vehicles, my semi-fogged visor was coated with a thin muddy film, until the rain would wash it off, for a few seconds, until another truck would pass from the other direction, respraying mud onto my visor. Not ideal or really that fun.

With magnificent use of money, time, and determination, I rode my big dirt-bike to Alaska!  The getting there wasn't so terribly difficult.  It was more about the remaining hyper-focused in all conditions to keep myself from screwing up and harming me, my bike, or the future of my trip. 

I continued up the Alcan, through various landscapes and a lot of the same, until I got to Fairbanks.  I grabbed a place to throw up my tent in a RV Park, and realized that my rear wheel-bearing needed to be replaced.  If a bearing goes, the wheel can lock up with fatal results, so the next day was spent hanging around the Thunder Road motorcycle shop while they found and replaced the part.  After spending some ridiculous money, I grabbed a ridiculously priced motel room and planned my final push north.

Up past Fairbanks, the only road that goes up into the arctic is the Dalton, or "Haul Road," used primarily by oil workers and the odd tourist (I am.).  The road consists of mostly of a combination of fine powdery dirt, calcium chloride, and gravel.  When it's dry, clouds of visibility impairing dust hang in the air behind passing vehicles.  When it's wet, it turns into slick-as-snot (well, slicker, actually) mud.  Seeing the water-sprayer truck pass by meant that I was going to have to work to keep from sliding off the road.  

It really didn't help that I was in sore need of new tires a few hundred miles shy of Fairbanks and they couldn't find a suitable  replacement at the motorcycle shop I was at the previous day.

As I followed the Haul Road up along the oil pipe line, the landscape became an endless, rolling tundra.

At the Arctic Circle, there were some volunteers working for the BLM that were there to welcome me and the other visitors to the marker.  A lady ushered me up to the sign and took a handful of photos for me.  She gave me a certificate and recorded some statistical information about where I was coming from, where I was headed, how many days I would be in Alaska, etc.

I was thrilled to have ridden all the way up from Santa Monica, CA, up to the Arctic, but also had to consider that I still needed to get home.  I recalled something about many of the fatalities on Everest being of people that had successfully summited the mountain, but got in trouble on the way back down the mountain.

I turned around shortly after the marker and headed back to Fairbanks, where I would be traumatized by the filth of my sink-washed laundry.

Now, with semi-clean clothes, and my Arctic Circle certificate, I'd get to start the second part of my adventure, heading back towards home.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Not-a-Sketch-LA to Arctic

I left Stewart, BC, early enough to encounter all sorts of animals on the way up the Cassier highway.  I got to see a couple of moose (mooses, moosi, meece?) and when I pulled off of the road onto a logging road to add liners to my gloves and relieve myself, there were no bears.  While doing my thing, standing at the edge of the clearing, a bear walked out of the bushes, staring and sniffing at me. I finish up and walk back to the bike.  At this point, the bear stands up to get a better view of me, then begins moving towards me.  I threw the gloves on the bike seat and jump on my gloves and away I went, with the bear in unenthusiastic pursuit.

Riding up the Cassier, I passed through different landscapes, weather, and road conditions.  All of it was pretty and required my full attention to avoid hazards like potholes, gravel patches, washouts, and lots of animals.  As I got closer to the Yukon, permanent-looking tent settlements began showing up along the road.  These were "Mushroom Buyers," buying up mushrooms to send to Japan for a tremendous profit.  A woman explained that some of these French-Canadian kids would make $300 a day crawling through the burnt up forest, looking for a certain type of mushroom that grows in this specific environment.  Cool stuff.  Maybe I should have stopped to earn some money.

After the Cassier, I arrived at the Alcan highway, the main road from Canada into Alaska.  At this point, it's wide and straight with one lane going in each direction.  It's a long, uneventful road except for the bears that I saw roaming the vegetation, the looming clouds, and an unfortunate accident resulting in a Harley in a ditch.  Sending positive vibes your way, Harley guy.

I not really very reluctantly give up on camping for the night, and grabbed a room in Rancheria.  This was the view from my bed.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Not-a-Sketch-LA to Arctic

After spending the day with the icefields and not being devoured by the bears in the campground that night, I headed out to grab some breakfast and more importantly, some coffee.

What's the deal with places not quite getting how to make food.  I mean, eggs are easy, right?  Scrambled eggs.  Pretty straight forward.  I've had them twice and they come out like over-cooked omelets without any stuff inside.

I've had some pretty uninspiring food so far, and it's been expensive, from nice restaurants.  And this is coming from someone who has already, several times so far had gas station food as his only meal for the day.

While moving along from gas station to rest stop to gas station, for fueling and having a drink, and stretching the legs, I began running into other people riding up towards Alaska.  We'd all be moving from station to station and campground or motel and would always talk over road conditions or lodging ideas.  I played leapfrog with a couple of riders from Jasper, Alberta, to Houston, BC, up the Cassier highway, to Stewart and Hyder, Alaska.  

The Cassier was a blast to ride up and will take you to a little outpost of an Alaskan town.  I rode right into the United States without any security check or anything.  A terrorist could easily go over and well... They couldn't do any more damage to the roads.  The place had an odd, third-world feel to it.  I rode out to see if I could find this bear watching area, but lost interest while having to maneuver around some giant, quick moving road building equipment.  To cross back into Canada, I had to break out the passport and tell the lady that I didn't have any weapons, etc.

I found a neat little spot in a campground in Hyder, where I could see a glacier and myriad waterfalls from my site.

Animals I had seen included black and grizzly bears, deer, bald eagles, a wolf, and a marmot(?).  I still wanted to see some moose, elk, sasquatches, and orcas.  I realize that some of those aren't that likely to see from my bike.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Not-a-Sketch-LA to Arctic

From Cranbrook, I headed out towards to the Icefields Parkway, what their website calls, "The most spectacular journey in the world."  Okay.  So it's 144 miles through the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Site, through two national parks.  Yeah...


It's that spectacular.  It's absolutely breathtaking for hours and hours.  I've heard people talk about becoming overwhelmed with the Louver.  At a certain point you're maxed out and can't absorb any more art.  Later in the day, I was cold, and hungry, and sorta done absorbing the beauty.  Don't get me wrong.  I was still mumbling to myself about feeling so small and insignificant in such an awe-inducing  environment, but I was ready for camp.

Alright already.  Yeah.  Glaciers right here next to the road.  Too bad I couldn't capture the blue glow the ice takes on...

Late that afternoon I finally arrived at a campground and the rangers tell me that they're advising tent campers to camp at one of the other camps because they've had bear problems the past few nights.  And last night they had three bears visit the camp.  If I am to stay, I need to stash my food and toiletries in the bathroom during the night.  Okay.  Fine.  Cool.  Where can I lay down?

And what's up with these scratches on the trees around my tent?  Hmm... That's a lot of scratches on these trees.  Four parallel scratches and all of this about seven to eight feet from the ground.  Peculiar...  I supposed I'll run this stuff over to the restroom THEN I'll lay down.