All The Way Up

9-5-09 The name.

"All The Way Up" is about three guys going on a motorcycle adventure. We start from 3 different points in the US, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Colorado. We all meet up and ride, with our final destination being Deadhorse, Alaska at Prudhoe Bay. Presently in the planning stages, our expected departure is June, 2010. The name "All the way up" came about after watching the TV series "Long Way Round" and "Long Way Down". We certainly hope no one feels we are hijacking the name. It just seems fitting for our trip since we will be going as far north as we can go in the US and touching our toes in the Arctic ocean. Round trip length, estimated to be approximately 11,000 miles.

The three of us, myself, Bill from North Carolina, my nephew, Eddie from Tennessee, and my son Grayson from Colorado have never undertaken a trip as long as this and expect this will be the one to always remember.

For those who would like to follow along, I will be posting updates every few weeks as we prepare for the trip and as often as possible when we depart.

No I'm not asleep

My first bike was a Honda SL175 way back in 1974 while living in California. It took me everywhere, anything from commuting to work to chasing Jack Rabbits in the broom straw fields around Sacramento. After that I had a long dry spell with a Yamaha 350 in the late 70's and a Virago 920 in the early 90's, a Honda Shadow 1100 cruiser in 2007-2008 and now a Suzuki V-Strom 1000. This one will be my ride for All the way up.

My V-Strom DL1000

Eddie, wrong riding clothes!

I began riding mini-bikes at age 6 in 1970.  My first motorcycle was a 1976 Honda  XL 175 which I rode until the camshaft bearings in the head wore out and the bike quit.  From there I went to a 1976 Honda MR 250 which I bought used and trail rode until I began racing motocross in 1985.  The following are bikes that I raced during my motocross years from 1984 until 1989; 1982 Honda CR 480, 1985 Honda CR 250, 1987 Honda CR 250.

I took a number of years away from motorcycles and did not get back on a bike until 2000 when my dad gave me an old Yamaha Maxum and I was once again hooked on riding.  I rode the Maxum for a short time and then a friend introduced me to Hare Scrambles (what's that I thought, 2 hour race through the woods on a marked trail which typically is 10 miles in length and one must complete as many laps as possible within the allotted time).  I then purchased a 2000 KTM 250 EXC and began racing Hare Scrambles which was really great since it so closely resembled what I grew up doing, which was trail riding, albeit at a faster pace.  I raced Hare Scrambles from 2000 until 2007 and my bikes during that time included the following; 2000 KTM 250 EXC, 2001 KTM 520 EXC, Yamaha 2004 YZ 250F, 2005 KTM 250 EXC and 2007 KTM 250 XC.

My street riding experience since 1980 has included the following bikes;  Honda CB350, Yamaha Maxum, 2000 Honda 929RR, 2006 Harley Davidson Screamin Eagle V Rod and a Harley Davidson 2007 Road Glide.

Eddie, 3rd from right, 'The Intimidator'
Eddie, that smile meant it was fun

Grayson, still thinking about it.

Bill left, Grayson right
Grayson started riding minibikes, dirt bikes and ATV's in his younger years. He started street riding after taking the MSC in early 2008. His first street bike was a Kawasaki sport bike. Living in Colorado makes it hard for us to see each other often enough but we got together early in March of this year and did a ride together along with my wife Robin from NC to Key West Florida. That trip started out early in the morning with me breaking the ice first in our dogs water bowl before we left. It was really cold. Coming back we rode all day the last day in the cold and it raining all the way home. He rode my Honda Shadow Spirit 1100 on that trip. This summer he visited again and we put back together a wrecked 2003 Suzuki Burgman which he rode back to Colorado in the searing summer heat. His words were, "It was Hot". I believe he is ready for the Alaska Adventure.

Grayson, having some fun on his 2007 Honda 450R race quad
Grayson, first street bike, 2008 Kawasaki ZX6R
Bill & Grayson, our ride from NC to Key West, March 08

Where to start with the planning.

With a trip like this there are a couple of ways to do it. I have read about a lot of trips like this where people just jump on their bike and go. Most everything I do is like this, very little planning. I just get a thought and go do it. This time will be different. Since we have the weather in Alaska to be concerned about, that sets the time period for our travel. Since this is September it's to late to go this year and Eddie and Grayson haven't purchased their bikes yet (uh hmm). Forced planning I guess, with 8 months to go there is lots of time to think about everything we need to bring along, how to pack it all and what equipment we need for our bikes, etc. We don't have a firm route that we will take yet. My thoughts are that I should leave North Carolina, head to Tennessee meet up with Eddie and then we both ride to Colorado and meet up with Grayson. From there we head north. Another possibility is for Eddie and I to head north from Tennessee and have Grayson meet us at the Canadian border. How long this trip will take is another factor in planning. Can we all get enough time away from work and still have jobs when we get back home? All of us are experienced riders on the blacktop but my and Grayson's experience off road is limited. Eddie is the pro with years of off road racing experience. Since the last 500 miles from Fairbanks to Deadhorse is a gravel haul road with varying levels of repair, we need the right bikes and need to know how to ride them. Adventure? Yes

Getting the Bikes

This trip has been in our minds for over a year so I have been researching to find what is the best adventure bike on the planet. I read many comparisons and looked at them all. I decided on a Suzuki DL1000 V-Strom. I don't know that this is better or worse than the 650 but since I'm a pretty big guy and plan on loading it down with everything I need for a month on the road I chose the 1000 for that reason. I really wanted to get a BMW R1200 GSA but after thinking about the huge price difference I figured I could outfit a V-Strom and have just what I needed with a lot less expense. The search was on and I found a 2003 with 20K miles. It needed the clutch basket replaced and some tweaking on the fuel injection to make it mechanically perfect. I don't mind turning a wrench when I need to so this put me in the game cheap, $3300 to be exact!

Eddie....Grayson....waiting...whats it gonna be? I can already feel the jealousy setting in!

Eddies new bike 9-15-2009

Just begging to be ridden.
After months of researching Eddie made the plunge today. Yep I'm Jealous, he picked up his new 2008 BMW R1200 GS Adventure. What an awesome bike. This weekend we'll see just what it can do because we are meeting in the NC Mountains to do some practice riding together on the gravel and paved roads in Smoky Mountain National Park. Camping and cooking our meals with rain in the forecast will just make it more like what it will be like when we head "All The Way Up"

Test ride goes bad 9-20-2009

I left home from Rockingham, NC at 5:30 am on Friday riding my fully loaded V-strom, headed to the Tennessee border. Eddie left his home in Crossville, TN with his new fully loaded GSA. We both got to our meeting spot within minutes of each other around 10:30 am at Tennesse exit 447 on I-40. My ride to get there was 270 miles, his was 120 miles. I had ridden in the rain for over 200 miles and just broke into clearer skies for the last 10 miles. We took about a 10 minute break and studied our tires thinking we really weren't prepared for what may lay ahead, wet muddy roads. We both had dual sport tires which really aren't good for real mud. Mine had a bit more aggressive tread pattern, We didn't know what the gravel road conditions would be like where we were headed but decided that we would go easy for a ways and make a decision whether to continue or turn back. Off we went.

Our first run would be from Tennessee exit 451 and head south along Cove Creek road towards Cataloochee. This road is about 30 miles long and starts out along the Pigeon River then winds up the mountain with lots of switchbacks. I was leading since I had ridden the road once before and knew the turns to make to keep us on track. The road looked good and we didn't find any really slick spots. Some parts had lots of big rocks embedded, giving us the chance to stand on the pegs to smooth it out.  We reached the top of the mountain in a short time and Eddie took the lead from there with my instruction to turn right at the next intersection. We were very happy the road was as good as it was considering our tires.

The scenery was beautiful and the rain had stopped. What a great day it was going to be. We had our camping gear and were going to complete this run, then go visit Cataloochee where I had seen lots of Elk, Deer and Turkey on my previous visit. We were then going to head over to Balsam mountain and set up camp.

As Eddie headed down the mountain  in front of me I was able to watch and learn from his riding style. His years of off road racing experience showed even on the big GSA. As we reached the bottom of the mountain we rounded a curve, crossed a small wooden bridge and on the other side water was standing in most of the road. Eddie headed to the right not knowing how deep the water would be. As he cleared the water the back end of his bike started sliding sideways, he went up on the pegs pulling hard and turning into the skid. Everything he was doing looked right but the big GSA won this battle. He did a high side off the bike, landing on his right shoulder then continued to roll end over end for another 30 feet. The big GSA was right behind him chasing him down. It rolled 2 1/2 times because those nice BMW panniers and top box made that bike almost round. It was rolling like a barrel. Eddie stopped rolling, the bike finally stopped upside down with the tires straight up right next to him.

I stopped and ran over to him not knowing how bad he was hurt. His right shoulder was hanging down about 2-3 inches more than his left. We were so far out in a remote area that neither of our cell phones could pick up a signal to get help so we had to decide weather to get him on the back of my bike and ride out and try to find a hospital, or for me to leave him there and go find help. I inspected him and couldn't find any other injuries and he was able to get up and move around so I decided to leave him there and get help. It was about a 5 mile ride to find a ranger station who radioed for an ambulance. The ambulance took 2 hours to get there but got him safely to the hospital where we found out he had a separated shoulder. 6 weeks of healing and he should be okay.
Lump on right shoulder, not good
The GSA will need a little help
The trip was over, Eddie's wife Gail drove over from Crossville to fetch him from the hospital and I headed to a hotel for the night. The bike went by rollback to the garage and will get fixed. Eddie will heal, and we learned to not let enthusiasm get in the way of making sure you have the right equipment, tires in this case. As Eddied put it, "If I had been on my dirt bike I would have been doing a wheelie through that area".