Monday, October 18, 2010

The ALCAN and the Beartooth Rendezvous

Submitted by Gary Pedersen

(Gary and his wife, Kay, spend their summers in Alaska. This report is about Gary returning to his home at Chester, SD, via the ALCAN and Beartooth Rendevous.)

14 AUG: Anchorage, AK, to Burwash Landing, YT, 534 miles. It was raining when I left Anchorage this morning and it was the 27th continuous day of recorded precipitation there. Biblical jokes were becoming common. It stopped raining by the time I went through Palmer and it continued to get warmer as the day went on. While getting gas at Glenn Allen I met a couple from Oregon that had the real adventure spirit traveling on their Road King. They both worked for the same company and had both been “furloughed” for three weeks. They threw some things in and on their bike and had taken the ferry to Alaska. At Glenn Allen they were buying their first map.
When I got to the Canadian border the temperature was in the high 80sF. Hot for Alaska. There was construction at the border and the nice flag lady had traffic stopped for no apparent reason. I waited for just over thirty minutes when I found out why we were waiting. Six belly dumps, a road grader and a water truck passed the waiting cars, motor homes and motorcycles. Yup, the belly dumps each dropped their loads, the grader made one pass trying to level the gravel and then the water truck turned it into a real mess. And then the nice flag lady turns her sign from “STOP” to “SLOW” and waves us on. I was thinking non-Presbyterian words!
My fork seals had started to leak on the Taylor Highway after D2D and the frost heaves between Beaver Creek and Destruction Bay finished them. The rest of the trip would be with an ever increasing layer of oil and dirt on me and the bike. I stopped at the Burwash Landing Resort because their rooms aren’t too bad, and if it’s not raining their tent camping is free. I’m in the tent this night. Supper was a T-bone, mashed potatoes, mixed veggies and a roll for $13.95. The steak may have been moose. The campground was quiet until about 10:00 pm when four college students from Vancouver arrived, put up their tents and started to finish off many cases of Yukon Gold beer. They finally got quiet about 3:00 am. I’m not sure if they passed out, or just ran out of beer. I actually wished I had a Harley with no mufflers that morning when I left.

15 AUG: Burwash Landing to Watson Lake, YT, 443 miles. This part of the trip was uneventful until I was about 150 miles out of Watson Lake. At one point the smoke from the many forest fires south of Watson Lake had reduced visibility to under 200 yards, it got hard to breath and my eyes were stinging. The Cassiar Highway was closed for several days because of the fires. I like to stay at The Air Force Lodge (privately owned) in Watson Lake. It is one of the cleanest places to stay in North America and is a trip down memory lane for an old retired soldier. My opinion of the lodge has not been biased just because the owner rides a 2003 F650GS.

16 AUG: Watson Lake to Dawson Creek, BC, 601 miles. After the twisty parts of the road around Muncho Lake the road is just lots of long straights through the foothills of the Rockies. There were several bison, caribou and stone sheep along the road, but no crazy tourists to block traffic. The good news is that many of the lodges and gas stations that were closed last year were again open. When I got to Dawson Creek the weather forecast was for winds gusting in excess of 50 mph so I opted to stay in a small motel. Yes, I am a fair weather tenter. I really don’t get any thrill out of rolling up a wet tent in the rain.

17 AUG: Dawson Creek to Canmore, AB, 554 miles. At Grand Prairie I took Hwy 40 south so I could go over to Jasper and Banff National Parks. There were too many tourists for me in the park, but there aren’t really any ways to leave the park once you’re in it. Traffic moved slowly and there were numerous traffic jams any place wildlife got near the highway. One of the reasons people drive through the park I guess. Because of the erratic behavior of many of the drivers I was following at twice the normal distance from the cars in front of me when sure enough, the driver locks up all four wheels and comes to a stop. This I was ready for. What I wasn’t ready for was for the idiot to then put the car in reverse and floor it, pealing out in reverse. I’m now off to the ditch to get out of his way. I have no idea what the driver thought he saw that was worth doing that stunt. The small black bear that was 200 yards from the road was not worth what he did
In Canmore I checked out three campgrounds, and all backed up to the Trans-Canada Railroad tracks. There were trains about every ten minutes so even though it is nice out I opt for a motel. Yeah, I know. The guy in the room next to me had trailored his Harley from Toronto to Sturgis and was on his way to Vancouver, with the HD in the trailer. He wouldn’t even have a beer with a BMW rider. Oh well, more hydration for me.

18 AUG: Canmore to Great Falls, MT, 436 miles. East of Canmore I turned south and went through the Elbow Sheep Wildland Prov Park and then east to AB22. I then was on the east edge of Glacier National Park until Browning, MT. Great roads and very little tourist traffic. After coming out of the mountains I stopped in Fairview, MT, for gas and something cold to drink. While resting I noticed the Malting Barley Capital sign across the street. A definite “Kodak moment”. I have now been to the source of true happiness in the world! At Great Falls the weather was great for camping, not too much wind and not a cloud in the sky so I stopped at a camp ground. I put the tent up, opened everything up to air out and went for a shower. As I was coming out of the shower I saw a bunch of little black round things pop up from the ground. Yup, the in-ground sprinkler system came on. I must be the only guy that can put a tent up in the sun and still get soaked. Luckily the wind had come up and my things dried out in a couple of hours. It took me a little while longer to cool off.

19 AUG: Great Falls to Red Lodge, MT, 289 miles and the Beartooth Rendezvous. I went east from Great Falls on MT3 and then south on US191 to I-90 at Big Timber. At Columbus I went south again on MT78, curves again. I got to Red Lodge about noon, had lunch and then headed to the Lion’s Beartooth Mountain Youth Camp and the Beartooth Rendezvous.
The Beartooth BMW Club calls this event a rendezvous instead of a rally because they don’t have a list of scheduled rally type activities. With all of the great roads to ride in the area there really is no need for activities. You are only a few miles south of the start of the switch-backs that go to Beartooth Pass, you are fifty miles from the north gate of Yellowstone, about sixty miles from the Big Horn Mountains, and the list goes on. The advance registration is $50, and it’s $70 at the door. For this you get supper Thursday (spaghetti), Friday (BBQ pork) and Saturday (prime rib), live music on Friday night; coffee, tea, ice water, chips and pretzels all day, clean showers/restrooms and a really great place to camp. For an additional $20 for three nights you could have a bunk in one of the cabins and the opportunity to meet new friends that enjoy motorcycles. There were only three of us in my cabin. The Red Lodge Ales microbrewery had a concession set up and 16 oz drafts were $4. Breakfast and lunch were served by the Billings Lions for $8 and $5 dollars. Breakfast was an “all-you-can-eat” buffet that caused a problem for me on Friday morning. I had planned to sleep in, but the smells of bacon, eggs and coffee had me up by 6:30 to sample the scrambled eggs with ham and eggs, plain scrambled eggs, hash browns, bacon, link sausage, biscuits and gravy, pancakes, french toast and fruit. Do people really eat fruit? On Saturday it was back to oatmeal and ground flax seed for me. I don’t know what was for lunch, I was riding in the Beartooth mountains at noon on Friday and Saturday (even with bad fork seals). Some of the riders thought that the registration, breakfast and beer prices were a little high, but one has to remember that the profits from all of the sales at the rendezvous go to the Billings Lions to help run the camp for children with special needs.
The Billings Lions started the camp in 1928 and then the camp went through the WPA, CCC and the Forest Service until the Billings Lions again took possession. There are thirteen small cabins, separate boy’s and girl’s shower buildings, a great dining hall and assorted other buildings in a really great setting.
I thought I might have a chance at the long-distance rider by riding from Anchorage, but a couple from Australia had flown to Portland, bought a BMW and rode to Alaska, then to Red Lodge. At sign-in I was feeling pretty good about getting to Red Lodge in five and a half days, but the lady doing sign-in (Pam) said that when she and her husband rode from Missoula to Anchorage it took them fourteen weeks-----on their bicycles! Smack me up side my ego. There was also one wild animal incident in the campgrounds. It seems a chipmunk got into a tank bag, ate all of the sunflower seeds and then pooped and peed in the tank bag.
By Saturday afternoon there were about 150 motorcycles and 170 people at the camp ground. There were three Autobahners at the Beartooth Rondy – Dave McBride, Bob Mandel and myself. Where were you? (Gary Plush also attended. Ed. note.)
The 2011 Beartooth Rendezvous is tentatively scheduled for 18-21 August. It is an event that you should plan to attend.

22 AUG: Red Lodge to Rapid City, 436 miles. The Big Horn Mountains were great, but not as large as I remembered them. I was last there in 1954 when I was five years old. The Medicine Wheel National Historical Landmark is worth the stop and hike from the parking area to see the wheel. When I got to Sheridan a bank sign said it was 100F. A summer in Alaska did not acclimatize me for this. When I got to Spearfish and stopped to see some friends it was 106F. I got to Rapid City about 4:30 and got an air conditioned motel room. There’s no A/C in my tent. It was hot.

23 AUG: Rapid City to Chester, about 350 miles. I got home about 1:15 after an uneventful trip on I-90.

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