Pictures: Day 20 - End

Day 20 – End / July 1 – July 4, 2008

The bike trip officially ended the next day when auDRey and I took a small spill on a wet construction stretch and ended up in a ditch. I was totally fine; it was slow speed but auDRey ended up upside down and the engine finally gave out. This was close to the US-Canada border and I figured my only option was to try and make it to Fairbanks, back to the Suzuki dealer. One last dose of luck as this family of Peter Jacobs was heading to Fairbanks and offered to give me a ride.

Peter and Tracy here took me under their wings until I figured out what to do about my bike and transport for getting back home to Chicago. They were taking their son to the local motocross races and I really enjoyed the time spent with the family.

This is their son Jake on the bike and dad, Peter on the quad. Peter is an ex-professional snowmobile racer and he's seeing if his son has it in him. This was my first time to a motocross track and Jake told me all about how the races are run and how to ride the track.

Getting some air on a Kawasaki 250 2-stroke.

Northern Powersports Suzuki tore down the engine and showed me the damage: a ruined piston head, piston rings, cylinder head and valves. Repair estimate was around $3,000. I called up my insurance and thankfully I had full coverage on the bike and they said they would take care of it for me. I believe the water in the fuel caused the engine to run hotter than normal (lean conditions) and this might have lead to detonation that destroyed the piston head and the rings allowing oil to be burned in the combustion chamber. Water is the biggest enemy to internal combustion engines.

The damage to the cylinder head inside the engine. I think many things contributed to this catastrophic problem. The DR650 is known to have a very reliable engine, but I think too many variables were working against it - the bad muffler that lost its packing material, the water damage from way back on the Dalton who knows what else. She definitely put up with a lot before finally letting go.

Stripped off her touring guise, she’s still shows her dirt-bike heritage. Knowing that my insurance would now be totaling the bike, I tried to salvage as many aftermarket additions that I installed in preparation for this trip and future trips.

I bought her with 4,000 miles on the clock and we had an excellent time through Mexico last year and up till now, a wonderful time up here in Alaska.

A sad ending to a fantastic trip. I was totally bummed to be leaving auDRey behind because as cheesy at it sounds, I felt we had really connected and I really enjoyed riding her. Hopefully someone buys her for cheap and fixes her up.

After shipping my luggage home through UPS, I used some airline miles that I acquired from my numerous trips to China to get a one-way ticket back to Chicago from Fairbanks. What a bummer to be ending the trip this way, but hey, at least I'm getting home safely without too much of a financial ding. What a great adventure!

Taking pictures of planes in Seattle, while waiting for my connection.

The Seattle airport terminal.

Picture Index

Pictures: Day 18 - 19

Day 18 / Sunday, June 29, 2008

Stopping by Worthington Glacier on my way back into the Interior.

The Chugach Mountains near the glacier. Elevation is not very high but the high latitudes keep the snow on the peaks almost throughout the year.

The brighter side of the micro climate of the Chugach. It was damp and rainy yesterday and nice and bright today. While the town of Valdez itself wasn't that much to see, the ride down and back is definitely worth coming this way.

Looking out at the Wrangell Mountains from the main highway heading towards Gokona and Tok.

This is where the trip started going off-track for me. So I had to remove my muffler end cap the day before, before it ripped itself off and I was running with no end cap. As you can see, I believe the packing material for the muffler has been eroded away. These lightweight dirt-bike mufflers need repacking of the muffling material every 3 months or at least 1,000 miles. I should’ve learned about this before and installed a muffler that doesn’t require repacking, as it doesn’t make sense for touring. Lesson learned.

Just near a remote gas station on the way to Tok, the bike died and I rolled it in to the station and started taking things apart to figure out what the problem was. Good thing I had a spark-plug removal wrench in my tool kit and figured out why the engine was dying – the electrodes were being bent in leaving no room for a spark to ignite the fuel. I had spare plugs and put them in but still hadn't figured out the cause.

I figured not having the end cap on was bad for the exhaust back pressure and with the help of another rider there, I found some old telephone wire next to the station and stripped the copper wire out from it and made a cage to hold the end cap on. I also put on JB Weld on the seam.

The owner of the station said there was an airplane/bike owner a few miles up the road who would have some tools to help me out. I pulled up and Thumper and June came out and offered to help. He's a Harley rider and keeps his bike down near Seattle and flies down to ride often. He also thought what I was doing was crazy but understood and helped me out.

He attached some metal strips to hold in my muffler end cap. What a pleasant couple. The kindness that I came across all over this state has definitely been reassuring in the greater goodness of humanity.

On the way to Tok, I caught up with these riders who recognized my bike from their trip up the Dalton Highway and were concerned as to how I was getting along.

The last picture of auDRey in the wild all setup as a DR650 Adventure.

Heading to Tok where the Alaska Highway heads south and east into Canada.

The bike died again just outside of Tok and I figured I better strip the engine down and try and find the culprit before heading off into 400 miles of wilderness to Whitehorse.

With luck still running high on this trip, Professor Nick in the cap here happened to stop at the same camp site and pitch up right next to me. He was the one who helped me finally get my tire problems fixed out on the Dalton Highway and I also met him earlier in the trip in Dawson City. I told him I was having engine issues and he said I was certainly very lucky as he's actually an applied physics/automotive professor working with the Big 3 car companies in Detroit. We set out root-causing the problem. The guy in the foreground is Constantin, a German diplomat who was touring around Alaska with a diplomat friend from San Francisco and they offered to help with whatever tools they had.

Nick's ingenuity: using the rear view mirror to look between the carburetor and the intake port of the engine to see the condition of the intake valves. We were trying to see if anything was obviously bent or damaged. We didn’t find anything damaged and not wanting to open up the cylinder head out on the road, we couldn't tell if the insides of the engine were damaged.

With no option besides putting her back together and seeing how she holds, I put some exhaust bondo to better seal the end cap and hoped it would hold. We waited a day for one of Nick's riding friends to show up before heading south into Canada.


Day 19 / Monday, June 30, 2008

That evening, we hung out at the local bar and quickly became friends with these guys. The guy on the left, Pete is a local motocross champ and he loves to ride his dirt bike in the woods. The guy on the right, Mike is an animal trapper by trade. He traps Lynx and other animals over the winter and sells their fur. If he makes good money, he doesn't work in the summer and just relaxes. These guys just totally love the wilderness and their strong small community and they were very jovial.

Pete said he could do handstand pushups and really wanted to show us. Nick is making sure his head actually touched the ground.

And Nick joined in with all the bravado and tried his hardest to upset our man here. Good times.

Next: Day 20 - End, The Journey Ends

Picture Index

Pictures: Day 17

Day 17 / Saturday, June 28, 2008

Heading out of Anchorage after a day of rest and repair for auDRey. There's technically no Interstate Highway in Alaska but this road in and out of Anchorage and the peninsula is the widest road in the state. I'm waiting to cross those mountains up ahead on my way to Valdez.

I can see why the Glenn Highway is considered a scenic route. That's looking at the northern edge of the Chugach Mountains.

This was certainly a beautiful drive. The mountain peak there with its head in the clouds kept me interested for a long while. Imagine how high it is from its surroundings to create its own clouds, just like Denali...

Beautiful views in all directions.

Now those are what you call mountains.

They were doing some major construction in one section.

It was tough to pay attention to the road all the time because of these great scenic vistas, plus taking pictures of them while moving.

Matanuska Glacier visible from the highway. It's the largest glacier that you can drive up to in your car. It's an active glacier, moving at about 1 foot per year and it empties into this valley instead of an ocean. It's 27 miles long and 4 miles wide at the mouth.

The sign that something mechanical was not right on the bike. The exhaust should not be experiencing this kind of vibration. Since it was Saturday and all the mechanics were closed, I tore off the end cap to prevent it from breaking off while riding and it sounded like I was running straight pipes – really, really loud. But my logic was that Harleys ride with really loud straight pipes, so it can’t be that damaging to the engine.

Heading off to the fishing town of Valdez, also the end of the Alaska Pipeline, about 110 miles away. This is the only road into and out of Valdez and the scenery itself is worth heading down to Valdez.

It was quite misty as I got close to crossing the Chugach Mountains and I saw this complete rainbow in a small valley.

I've never seen one this close and complete. I saw where the rainbow ended and I'm sorry to report that there's no pot o'gold.

The weather was changing pretty quickly around each corner.

I like how at this latitude it's so clear where the tree line ends and where the snow starts. Those peaks are only about 4,000 ft but the air is quite chilly and being so close to the oceans, the Chugach gets a lot of snow and has the most glaciers in Alaska.

Being so close to the ocean also leads to all this funky weather. Bright sunshine behind dark clouds.

Passing by Worthington Glacier, a frequent stop for tour buses. Since it was getting late, I'd stop by to get a closer look on my way back.

Thompson Pass, the highest point on the road at only 2678 ft, but in the winter, this pass gets the most snow in Alaska. In 1952-53, this pass got over 81 ft of snow! But in the summer it seems so dull.

All those poles are for the winter, when the road is buried in snow.

On the ocean-side of the Chugach.

Entering Keystone Canyon, the last of the mountains before the ocean.

The road got winding and twisty.

Bridal Veil Falls near Valdez, which is over 1,100 ft tall. The name sounded familiar and then I later found out that it's a very popular name for waterfalls as it obviously resembles a bride's veil. There are over 20 waterfalls in the US with the same name.

Looking out across Prince William Sound from Valdez. You can see an oil tanker being escorted by tug boats as this is the terminus for the Alaska Pipeline and from here, the crude heads down to the lower 48. This was also the site of the infamous Exxon-Valdez oil spill of 1989 and the destructive earthquake of 1964, which leveled the old site of Valdez .

Next: Day 18 - 19, Riding into Tok with Bike Problems

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