Every year Ron Ayres holds a motorcycle event in Hyder, Alaska, (note, Ron no longer holds this event, though people still ride to Hyder) commemorating him being the first rider to visit the lower 48 states plus Alaska in ten days, which has now become the Iron Butt Association 48 plus (48 states plus Alaska in ten days). While we didn’t have the vacation time to attempt that (at least this year), we did decide last fall to go up to Hyder for the event, and to cheer on the three riders from Minnesota who were attempting the ride. In addition, we planned to try and get our IBA Saddlesore 2000 certification on the way back. Involved in the trip was the usual crew of myself, Ron and Carrie Hanson, Kerry Person, Paul Ptak, and Paul Sundet.
Day one: Tuesday
I took off work on Tuesday because I had the vacation to use up, and I wanted to get a few things done before the ride. I ended up planning up until the very last minute, most of which involved how to hook up a water jug to the side of my bike to free up tank bag space where I usually keep my camelback (can never have enough space!). I managed to figure that out about 3:45 with an estimated departure time of 4 pm. Ron and Carrie and myself left Brooklyn Park at 4 and had a nice easy ride to Jamestown, ND where we met up with Kerry, Paul and Paul. Nothing too eventful.
Day two: Wednesday
We got up early on Wednesday, and Mr. Ptak had left us about an hour before. Seems he had some business to take care of on the road – something about a hat J. We took off for what was to be our longest, and most boring, day of the trip up. Going thru the badlands in western ND is really cool, and I’d assumed Northern Montana would be the same way. It’s not – it’s really very flat and boring. We were supposed to meet up with Paul in Wolf Point, MT, but when we got there, there was no sign of him. I was the only one with cell phone service there (and for most of the trip, as I just switched providers for that reason), and we tried to call him with no luck, so we went on.
For most of the trip, we were getting about 300 miles per tank running the fuel cells, but with the cool temps, and the straight on headwinds, both Sundet and I were in danger of running out around 250, and we had to stop for gas about 50 miles early, in a very small town whose name I can’t remember. There was only one working gas pump, and the local bar and gas station were the same place. I imagine that we looked pretty strange to the locals walking into the bar in all our riding gear. We all filled up on the same bill to save time (I don’t know if they even knew what pay at the pump is in this town), but it worked out well – almost exactly $20 each.
About this time I noticed that my CB was acting strange (not unusual – I’ve never been able to transmit well at highway speed). I couldn’t transmit at all now, but I could still hear the others. Though I could hear them, the knobs were so loose, they kept vibrating out of position, so I had to tape them in place. I was NOT happy, as this is a $350 piece of equipment meant to be mounted on a bike, and it was only a year old. I later plugged into Sundet’s and it worked fine, so it wasn’t my headset. Arrgh – maybe I should just buy a freaking ‘Wing instead of cobbling gadgets on my bike…
At that point we were able to get a message from Paul, that he’d meet us near the border. Problem was, he didn’t say which side of the border. We looked for him the whole way up, and then we crossed into Alberta still with no sign of him. It was just about the easiest border crossing ever – I don’t even think they looked at our papers. Finally Ron picked up Paul on the CB, and he was just south of the border so we met up on the side of the road and headed into Calgary. We were pretty tired as it was nearly a 1000 mile day, but not too tired to go get something to eat at a nearby Irish pub, where we saw soldiers in skirts (okay, they were kilts, but still it seemed odd), and where the waitress said “eh” a lot.
Day three: Thursday
Thursday was to be our “flower sniffing” day. Only 600 miles, and this was where all the scenery was. We rode into the mountains thru Banff, Jasper and Lake Louise. Lots of pictures were taken this day, as we stopped quite often to sightsee. We looked like the Men in Black (or a bunch of janitors) all dressed alike with our Gerbing heated jackets on, walking around the lake. I’m sure that looked strange. Some nice travelers got a great photo of all of us and the bikes near an overlook as well.
The mountains in the Canadian Rockies are the most amazing I’ve ever seen. They even make Colorado look boring. We had great roads too, and the weather was 75F (I don’t do Celsius well…) and sunny the whole way through the mountains. It could not have been a more perfect day.
We rolled into Prince George, BC that night to find a hotel. Now I won’t normally rip on a city in a ride report, because a friend (who happened to be on this ride) once told me that it could be offensive to someone who lives there and might be reading this, and he was right. Fair enough, but I’ll just say that Prince George is the only town I’ve stayed in on the bike where the hotel desk clerk recommended we all take everything off our bikes in case of theft and to park as close to the door as possible. Enough said. We had a decent dinner and sampled the local beer in town, as well as got to see the locals dressed to the nines for an event at the local Civic Centre (mainly because we got lost trying to find the restaurant). I don’t think we ever found out what the event was. I figured it was a hockey game, or maybe curling, seeing as we were in Canada, but maybe not…
Day four: Friday – North to Alaska!
We left Prince George early and headed for Alaska. This was pretty much a straight ride-thru day as we wanted to get to Hyder at a decent time. We were pushing fuel range, especially with Paul not running a cell, but we were also getting incredible mileage – I’d guess we could have gone close to 400 miles with the fuel cells. The ride was fairly uneventful (but included a scary unpaved bridge covered in gravel – my aversion to gravel is well-known). There isn’t much between PG and Hyder-Stewart, though we did go through towns named Burns Lake and Smithers. (eeexxcellent).
Once you turn off the main road and head toward Hyder and Stewart, the scenery picks up again. That’s actually an understatement – it’s amazing. Like riding through a rainforest, with waterfalls spouting from the cliffs, only with snowcapped mountains, and a bright blue glacier! It was unlike anything I’d seen.
Once we rolled into Stewart (the main town on the Canada side of the border from Hyder), who should we see but Rick Corwine – one of the MN riders who completed the 48-plus. Turns out he was waiting for us to roll in! We checked into the Ripley Creek Inn and got cleaned up. It was a really nice place too. While walking around town, we we ran into another esteemed MN rider, Greg Anderson, who was toting a bottle of Washington state’s finest wine to celebrate their 49 state ride.
We decided not to ride over to Hyder for the first night’s dinner. After three days of riding, we decided to sample the local beer (Alaska Amber – really good stuff!) instead. Fortunately, the Sealaska Inn in Hyder (the only hotel in Hyder and the headquarters of Hyderseek) provided a shuttle between the two towns (about two miles or so). We got on the “short bus” and headed to Alaska.
The dinner was a lot of fun, and it’s always cool to see how people set up their bikes for LD riding. We think our bikes are well-farkled, but until you see 2-3 GPS units and satellite tracking on multiple bikes…you haven’t seen anything. My favorite bike though, was a 1980’s vintage Suzuki GS850 owned by a guy from Alberta. It’s his LD ride, and owning a 1980 GS1100, I have all the respect in the world for someone who can ride one in a rally!
One of the traditions at the Sealaska is getting “Hyderized.” I wasn’t sure what that meant, but after a fill of Alaska Amber, I was up for it (someone had to do it). What it is, is a flaming shot of Everclear! Somehow, I thought this was a good idea (it wasn’t). I did get an official card to prove I did it. I also got a terrible headache the next day in return. Oh well, how often are you in Hyder, Alaska!
We left on the short bus around midnight (it was still twilight), and headed back over after clearing Canadian customs (there are no US customs – you can’t go anywhere else from Hyder).
Day five: Saturday – Hanging around Town:
We got up around 10 or so and headed for breakfast. Both Ron and I had seen better days. Breakfast helped, but not much. I did some shopping while the rest of the crew did laundry, and then we went for our ceremonial ride across the border to Hyder. We took our pictures by the sign, and then went to the Seafood Express for lunch.
The Seafood Express is a converted school bus where they cook fresh fish. You sit outside on the old bus seats, and they cook the food inside. The food is excellent. We had lunch with a bunch of riders, and walked around town a little (what there is of the town). We followed that up with a ride down the pier with Rick, Greg, and Jim Simonet, the other local rider who made the 49 state ride. I was apprehensive of riding down there (about a half mile gravel road and then a wooden pier), but it was one of the many highlights of the trip. The pier goes out into the harbor, which leads 80 miles to the ocean. It was a great sunny day, and we all got pictures out on the pier – very cool. We took some more photos at the border, including some of the entire group of MN riders, and some typical shots of each of us straddling the border, and then it was back to Stewart to clean up for dinner.
We took the short bus back to Hyder for dinner, with a lot less partying, since we had to ride the next day. Dinner was similar, and then they had the big group picture as well as the drawings for door prizes. The grand prize was a motorcycle tour in Brazil. We didn’t win that, but Kerry won a custom motorcycle seat! After that it was back to Stewart to get ready for the long ride home.
Day six: Sunday – The Saddlesore 2000 begins!
Ron, Carrie, Kerry and I had planned an IBA Saddlesore 2000 (2000 miles in 48 hours) for the ride home, so we got up early. The Pauls were our witnesses, and with a starting time of 7 am (6:46 actually for me) and a receipt from the local café, we were on our way. Paul and Paul then headed north for the Yukon (tempting, but I wanted a day to recover at home at the end).
The first half of the day was fairly uneventful, as we passed through the same towns we went through before. We turned directly south however, at Prince George, hoping to make Spokane, WA that night. A lot of people criticize IBA rides, saying that all you do is burn interstate highways, and you don’t get to see anything cool. They weren’t on this ride with us!
We thought central BC would be pine trees and deer, but when we got south of our fuel stop at Williams Lake, it turned into beautiful high desert, with rolling hills and twisting rivers. The GPS took us down a twisty two-lane road through Indian lands, and over a mountain pass (where my wind deflector was sheared off by a piece of flying metal debris). We came out of the pass by a huge lake, where the temperatures were about 30 degrees warmer than over the pass. We realized that there was no way to realistically make Spokane by a decent hour, and there was nowhere to stay on the US side of the border, so we stopped for the night in Osoyoos, BC, a few miles from the border, at an Econolodge. We went about 900 miles that day.
Day seven: Monday – A difficult situation…
We didn’t sleep much that night, knowing that we had a long ride ahead to Bismarck – our end point, and we were short of our goal for the night before. We left about 5 am, and headed for the border. After the easiest border crossing ever (even easier than when we entered Canada), we headed into Washington. We routed through some beautiful woods, and then we rode over the Grand Coulee Dam – what a sight! Too bad we were on the clock and couldn’t stop!
We hit Spokane about mid morning, and from there we knew we’d have interstate the rest of the way home. But just over the border into Idaho, we ran into a big problem. (no, we weren’t attacked by giant potatoes or Napoleon Dynamite…) Carrie pulled off to the side of the Interstate – her bike died. We all pulled over to discuss the problem. It appeared to be a fuel pump issue. Jim Simonet, who had been riding with us (but wasn’t documenting a SS2k – after all, he’d just done the 48 plus!) had a hitch on his ST1100, and a tow strap. We were able to tow the bike a mile to a gas station, and we assessed the situation.
I called Lisa at home, and she was able to find a BMW dealer a mile away in Post Falls. The problem was, it was Memorial Day, and nothing was open. Ron called Tom Roe back in Minneapolis at Betty’s Bikes and Buns, and Tom, knowing everything about BMW’s, was able to assess the problem. It was either a bad fuel pump, or just a disconnected hose. Either way, they’d have to pull the tank off the bike. (see why bikes like mine with carburetors are better!). We figured at this point our SS2000 wasn’t going to happen. Ron and Jim wrenched on the bike, and sure enough, it was just a loose hose, fixed by a small clamp! It set us back about two hours, but we decided to attempt the SS2000 anyway – what did we have to lose?
The next stretch, was one of the prettiest of the trip, through Coeur D’alene , Idaho. Beautiful lakes, and high speed twisty freeways through the mountains. Unfortunately, this was my low point for energy after sitting around in the sun for two hours, and I sort of hung in the back of the pack through this stretch. We stopped quickly in Montana so Jim could pick up a Grand Tour stop, and headed for our next fuel stop in Butte.
Butte was a fairly long stop for us. Kerry and Carrie needed to take a nap, and we needed to gear up, knowing that we’d be hitting some bad weather on the other side of the mountain pass towards Billings. It looked like our weather luck had run out, as NOAA and the XM weather channel were predicting thunderstorms and rain all the way to Bismarck – not good, especially when my tires were getting worn. We headed into the mountains, and despite the warnings for high winds (another thing I hate…) the weather wasn’t too bad, but it did begin to rain steadily in Billings, where we stopped to gas up again.
We had to make a decision on what to do. Riding straight through to Bismarck would have been tough. It would have meant a lot of night riding through the deer-infested Badlands, in the rain with a lot of fatigue. At the same time, stopping in Billings would mean abandoning the SS2000, and giving us a really long ride home the next day. We decided to ride through to Miles City, MT, about 270 miles short of our goal. It was dark and rainy, and not much fun at all. We pulled into Miles City about 11 pm.
Day eight: Tuesday: The final stretch, and home!
We had 270 miles to go, and we had to make it to Bismarck by 8:46 Central time. We’d already set all our clocks to Central time to make sure we didn’t make a mistake, since the time zone change is about 60 miles west of Bismarck.
We slept for about three hours and hit the road again. It was still raining and dark when we left, and we saw a number of deer on the roads. We stopped quickly in Beach, ND for fuel, and pushed on through the badlands to Bismarck, arriving at 8:12 Central. We made it with a half-hour to spare! To celebrate, we had breakfast at Perkins – real food at last! After that – it was time to head for home.
We stopped in Jamestown, and Ron, Carrie and Kerry got a hotel room to get a few more hours sleep, and I decided to ride straight home. I had to stop in Fergus Falls for gas, as the headwinds were really cutting my gas mileage, and also because there was a brand new Burger Time off the freeway (it’s no Sonic, but it’s still really good!) A quick stop at a rest stop in Avon, and I was home at 4:30 – exactly one week to the half-hour from when we left. Ron and Carrie came home around 8, and we had our traditional end-of-ride beers in the garage. Lisa got home late from work, and she joined us, after which I slept for 12 hours – I needed it after riding for three days on such little sleep! In all though, it was an amazing trip, with incredible sights, and beautiful weather. If you like to travel by bike, and you get the chance to go to Hyder, don’t think twice – just GO – you won’t regret it!