Ridemalibu Motorcycle Rentals & Tours – Los Angeles CA
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Montreal - Yukon - Baja California and back: mototherapy on a Guzzi V7

Discussion in 'Ride Reports' started by bustermc, Aug 4, 2019.

  1. Blaufeld

    Blaufeld Cruisin' Guzzisti

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    Paraphrasing Barnum, "An idiot is born every minute"...
     
  2. bustermc

    bustermc Just got it firing!

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    Day 12 - Sunday August 11th, 2019 - Fort Nelson, AB
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    The impetus for this motorcycle trip was to visit two of my dearest friends who had moved together with their dog (who was best friends and almost-twins with my dog) from Montreal to Whitehorse. I hadn't seen them in almost a year, and had been promising to fly there and visit them eventually. As summer rolled around my startup was taking care of itself and the folks who'd been working for me took care of the lion's share of our current workload, so "eventually" became "in a couple weeks" and a flight became a motorcycle ride across the country. Another breakup, although much less serious and difficult than the Toronto Fiasco, was the drop that spilled the glass, and that was that. I wanted a small fun bike that I could also keep and make a street build out of eventually, so after looking at a bunch of great bikes I settled on the V7 because of my love for the Guzzi brand and the look and colors of the Carbon Dark.

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    I bought it only based on price from a hilariously, terribly bad dealer, and found another slightly-less-bad dealer to help with initial setup and service. As it turns out, though, Tara and Anya had flown to Montreal and got a Uhaul to cart the rest of their stuff back from their Montreal house to Whitehorse, so we'd be leap-frogging each other on the way to the Yukon, them steering clear of large cities so they wouldn't have to drive a big f***ing Uhaul around them, and me staying in cities because, well, I like staying in cities.

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    That morning I was in Grande Prairie and we chatted on WhatsApp; they were in Fort St John's heading up to Fort Nelson. I was originally planning to just ride a few into towards Dawson and / or Fort St John's, but the prospect of meeting up with them beforehand to hang out - and having a massive Uhaul as a support vehicle behind me in case anything goes south on the way to Whitehorse - pushed me towards waking up earlier and riding up to meet them in Fort St John's so we can continue on together towards Watson. The weather leaving Grande Prairie was cold and rainy; the Guzzi's temperature gauge showed 7 deg (Celsius - sorry, I'm not going to bother to convert that into "Fisher-Price's My First Thermometer" units - and visibility wasn't great. Fortunately, my hideous rain pants did their job well and the weather warmed up quickly as I pulled up to where my friends were staying at a a couple hours later. Lots of hugging, laughing and story-trading ensued. There wasn't really much to catch up on, really, since we never really lost touch after they moved thanks to Skype, emall, and WhatsApp.

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    After a warm coffee and light breakfast at their motel, we hit the road together, and it was pretty obvious that their big f***ing truck wasn't going to match my pace (I rode fast than them, obviously, but for shorter durations than they could drive) so I pulled ahead and started enjoying the increasingly beautiful scenery and long, sweeping roads of the Alaska highway. It's still a highway, but it's incredibly pleasant to ride along. Goats, Bison, and Bears grazing along the side of the highway all but ignored me as I rode past, with just one playful black bear trying to race me for a short distance as I slowed down to 50km/h through one of the many settlements peppered along the highway. It was one of my favourite rides, ever, as the combination of the oil-paintingesque mountain backdrops together with the [admittedly timid] drone of the Guzzi engine across the valleys brought me to an uber-relaxed state of relaxation. I had to plan my gas stops just a little more carefully and I knew that from here to Whitehorse there would be few opportunities for help if anything in the way of bike problems occurred, but having my pals no more than an hour or two behind me was reassuring.

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    I arrived at the Super 8 we were all staying at, and the receptionist was used to welcoming motorcyclists, so she gave me a comfy room at ground level where I could park my bike literally in front of the door. Tara and Anya arrived about 90 minutes later, and after hanging out in the pool (and taking turns on the kiddie waterslide, unashamed to be grown 30-somethings waiting in line with 8-year-olds) and the hot tub, we went to Dan's Neighbourhood Pub for a surprisingly good meal and an even better beer selection. Although I wouldn't reach Whitehorse for a couple more days, seeing familiar faces felt like part of the journey was already done. Back at the motel we played a few games of Cabo over a bottle of scotch they had along for the trip - we're great friends, but viciously competitive when it comes to card / board games - we talked for a bit, and I decided I'd make the run to Watson Lake tomorrow morning while they'd stop at Liard Hot Springs Lodge, and we'd meet up again in Watson before continuing onto Whitehorse together. Almost there.

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    Today's playlist:
     
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  3. bustermc

    bustermc Just got it firing!

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    Location:
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    Day 13 - Monday August 12th, 2019 - Fort Nelson, AB
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    The ride from Fort Nelson to Watson Lake was almost as beautiful as yesterday's from Fort St John. Although the Alaska highway is technically, well, a highway, it's curvy and dippy and climby enough in parts that you can have lots of fun at any speed. It's a lovely drive if you've got good weather like I had, and I was lucky to see quite a few bears, mountain goats, and lots of bison crossing the highway while curious motorists patiently waited. I spent a year or so living in a national park surrounded by indifferent bison, so the magic of the scene was only slightly less impressive to me than to everyone else. My friend and her wife were planning to stop at the Liard Hot Springs for the night, so I decided to press on to Watson Lake and wait or them to catch up the next morning so we could have breakfast / lunch and make it to Whitehorse together.

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    Although I rode almost 7 hours - more than I prefer to on such a small bike - I got to Watson Lake feeling pretty great. The weather had been warm all day, the gas stops were quick and efficient - but not cheap, not up here - and the place I'd spend the night, Air Force Lodge, had tons of character. Upon arriving I was greeted in person by the very friendly German proprietor, and we spent probably about 45 minutes talking about bikes, how he ended up in the Yukon, the lodge, where he got all the cool wartime trinkets and decorations, and Canada in general. The place is very much like an old-school barracks (but more comfortable / inviting), complete with single beds, tiny-but-spotless rooms and shared (but still very private - never saw another soul) bathrooms and shower.

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    There isn't all that much to see around town in Watson Lake, but there is the Signpost Forest, a quirky little area off the main strip with thousands of street, traffic and other signs that folks brought in from all over the world. It's kind of a strange feeling to walk the grounds and wonder how signs from across the world ended up here, and it's fun to imagine the stories of folks who've passed through here and left (or took) a memento. Definitely worth visiting if only for the randomness and weirdness of it all.

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    I fuelled up - at around double the price I'd paid in Alberta just a couple days ago - checked the Guzzi over to make sure everything was in running order - it was running eerily well, imho, for still basically not being fully-broken-in yet - and picked up some snacks from "Tempo Tags+Food+Gas" for the road the next day. They had quite a few rare treats, snacks and such that I didn't expect to find this far north, at reasonable prices too, so I may have indulged a little... I was waiting in line behind an older gentleman who was counting his nickels and dimes on the counter to pay for some milk and bread, and ended up like $0.80 short. I put a loonie on the counter, then turned around and saw that everyone else was also digging around in their pockets or purses to help him out too. That made the day a little bit better than it already was. I had dinner at Nugget Restaurant - a Chinese restaurant in the Yukon, against my better judgment - and the Mapo Tofu they served was surprisingly competent.

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    A few years ago, I was having dinner with a beautiful Sri Lankan girl, who was teaching English in Wichita. We had gone out for Japanese. We mused about how I was a Middle Eastern guy from Quebec, she was a Sri Lankan girl who grew up in England, and here we were eating at a Japanese restaurant in Kansas. A decade ago this would have been improbable. Half a century ago, impossible. Yet here we were, literally a clash of cultures, drinking altogether too much Sake and telling each other stories about our wildly different childhoods. I had a similar feeling over dinner today, riding my Italian-built motorcycle, staying at a German-operated lodge in northern Canada along a partially American-funded highway, eating Szechuan food. All those protectionists and conspiracy theorists fuming over globalism and having one world government controlling them have got it all wrong. Free trade is where it's at, I thought to myself, as I added more Szechuan peppers and spring onions over my rice while a black bear lazily retreated into the treeline. The Gen-Xer in me still holds dear the independence, cultural identities and vague, nebulous "freedoms" (waves hands about lazily) I grew up with, but the millennial in me'd happily be a paper-pusher in some Earth-wide bureaucracy if it means more of this.

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    Today's Playlist:
     
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  4. crzrdave

    crzrdave Just got it firing!

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    I enjoy reading your posts. Looking forward to more!

    Dave
     
  5. Didier

    Didier Cruisin' Guzzisti

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    Yes me too...
     
  6. Mayakovski

    Mayakovski Cruisin' Guzzisti GT Famiglia

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    Me too.
     
  7. bustermc

    bustermc Just got it firing!

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    Location:
    Quebec
    Days 14-27 - Tuesday August 13th - Thursday August 28th, 2019 - The Yukon
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    The only stretch of this trip I felt a little uneasy about riding on a small-displacement, low-production Italian bike was between Grand Prairie and Whitehorse. There are no Guzzi dealers on this stretch, and almost no cell phone reception outside of a few key areas. In spite of the abysmal track record our Canadian telcos have in serving rural areas, I expected such a well-traveled (and treacherous in winter) stretch of road, the only lifeline to the north in many cases, to have basic mobile service. As I was only a few hours from Whitehorse, and a quick inspection of the bike revealed everything to be in perfect working order. There literally was nothing to worry about, and that would - sort of surprisingly, to be honest - set the pace for the rest of the entire trip.
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    Tara and Anya were driving straight home to Whitehorse from the Hot Springs, so it was decided that I'd meet them for breakfast in Watson Lake. That gave me the opportunity to sleep in a little and catch up on some work, despite the less-than-highspeed internet connection. We met for a perfectly serviceable breakfast at Andrea's Restaurant, transferred most of my luggage into their truck because weight, gassed-up the UHaul and the Guzzi, and I followed them for a bit towards Whitehorse until I got bored of riding at 90km/h. The road to Whitehorse from here isn't nearly as interesting as the rest of the Alaska highway; it's mostly flat and straight, empty except for some forgettable outposts sparsely populated by tough-but-kind folk, which would be a bit of a microcosm of the north, I figure.

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    I arrived in Whitehorse an hour earlier than my friends, so decided I'd drop into "downtown" and explore the city a little. That took all of 7 minutes, so I grabbed a drink at Dirty Northern where I chatted with some locals and overheard a surprising amount of French. I'd later learn that there's a whole tight-knit - and relatively well-to-do - French community in Whitehorse, comprised of European French, Quebecois, and Franco-Canadians of various stripes. For such a small town - roughly 25k of the entire Yukon's 40k residents live here - the food and brewery scene is quite good. Winterlong Brewing Co. makes some world-class beer. I thought I'd have the most unique bike in the Yukon, until I saw a Royal Enfield Himalayan all the way up in Dawson City. So much for being special.

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    I spent the next two weeks in the North, with occasional escapades into Alaska. The first thing I learned from the locals was to temper your service expectations. Life operates at a slower pace here, and the lack of competition means that - unlike in a major metropolis - consumer experience isn't as much of a competitive edge here as it is elsewhere. There's a love-it-or-leave-it approach to the service industry, so you need to be patient and prepared even when you're spending you money to support a local business.

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    The second thing I learned is that locals - and there are very few true "locals" here - are suspicious of outsiders. Not because of mistrust, but because they're wary of cultivating relationships with folks who might only stay here for a year or two before moving on. The transient nature of employment in the North means that folks kind of paradrop into folks' lives, become friends with them, and then quickly move on somewhere else. I can see why locals choose to wait until you've been established a few months before opening up to you.

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    Highlights of the trip included catching up on my work from Yukonstruct, a maker-space sort of co-working place, boardgaming and/or drinking with my friends and their dog, hanging out in Haines Junction, watching a live "swamp-rock" band, Swamp Sex Robots, visiting parts of eastern Alaska, hiking in Kluane National Park, visiting a Champagne and Aishihik First Nations settlement, and visiting Dawson City I used to works for Parks Canada, and Dawson City is pretty much entirely managed by the agency, so I felt right at home.. These two weeks blew by faster than I'd hoped, and on my final day I bid farewell to the amazing friends who'd spawned the idea of this trip in the first place, and rode down a sunny Thursday morning to catch my 3-day ferry from Skagway, AL to Prince Rupert, BC.

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    Today's Playlist:
     
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