Posts Tagged With: Travel

Time For a Little Planning

Now I have friends and acquaintances that have sold everything, quit their jobs, and just travel the world on their motorbikes.  One couple in particular, just celebrated ten years on the road.  And I think that if I were a cat who had nine lives, at least one of them would include that life.  But I’m not a cat.

I also have friends who have done something similar, but for shorter periods of time, such as maybe a year to a few years.  Again, the cat comes to mind.  But, I still haven’t figured out how to become a cat, if a cat really has nine lives, and if I were a cat, would I be able to travel around the world on a motorbike.

Like I said, before, I’m more like the average joe.  I have a wife, kids, a job, mortgage, and all the trappings of a typical middle-aged American.  Even If I wanted to do so, I don’t think the family would want me to just quit my job, sell off my belongings, and maybe theirs too, and take off on the motorbike for a long period of time. In fact, I’m pretty sure when I came back, they would be nowhere to be found.  Or at least they wouldn’t be too excited to see me again.  So however I’m going to do this, I better keep my family in mind.  And besides, what would become of me in my old age if I have no home or family to come back to.  Maybe I better do some thinking.

After thinking about all of this, I decided that for me, my trips needed to in the range of 30-60 days.  I could still work, but take off time for the trip.  My family wouldn’t leave me.  And I would always have a home base to come back to.  Also, and I think this is important, at least for me, is that with keeping my trips shorter, I would not have trouble acclimating back to my “normal” life after being out on the road.  This may sound strange, but I am writing this after my trip to Alaska, where I was “away” from the day to day life I’m used to for nearly a month.  And even in just that short of time, going back to the “normal” life took a few days to adjust back to.  And I have friends who after a few years on the road, say they gave up trying to ever adjust back and some have had a difficult time at best.   So enough about the background stuff.  Let’s get the trip started.

Day 1 – Leaving Home

As usual, things don’t always go as planned.  Originally, I was to leave home around 8:30 in the morning and ride over to Le Claire, Iowa, where I would stop off at the American Pickers Shop and do a video of the visit.  But at the last minute, the History Channel changed their shooting schedule to my day, and theirs takes precedence over mine.  So no American Pickers video for this trip.  Not having to be there at 10:00 am, meant I could just leave a bit later.  And so it was nearly 10:00 am before I got on the road.

Here’s a little video of my leaving shot by my youngest son on his ipod.  He and my middle age son were home to see me off.

Day one was really pretty uneventful.  I planned to ride to St.Paul, Minnesota for the first night.  No special route was planned.  I would just wing it along the way.  But I thought a stop at the self-proclaimed world’s largest truckstop in Walcott, Iowa might be a good place for lunch, so I headed off towards there.

I don’t know if this is the world’s largest truckstop, but it is pretty big.

World's largest truck stop

I took some time to look around, and of course have a bite to eat.  I also had plenty of company.  Everyone from Harley riders to an older retired couple who used to ride had to stop by and talk with me.

I eventually got away from all the curious onlookers and made my way over to the gas pumps where what else, more people came over to find out where I was headed or from where I came.  This would be a common theme throughout the trip.  When the bike is loaded up like it was, it attracts people of all ages like a magnet.

Speaking of bike, in the previous video, you might have noticed how I had my tires mounted on the back of the bike.  They were hanging over the top box.  Hanging over a bit too much.  That first day, they proved that to me over and over, as the bike was a bit light in the front end.  I actually pulled the front wheel off the ground while passing a bit too aggressively on the interstate.  So the next day, I figured out how to mount them a bit more forward, which made all the difference in the world.

So like I said, day one was pretty uneventful.  Well, that is if you don’t count the guy who mooned me while passing me on the interstate.  Oh, and the girl, riding passenger with another gal, who decided to show me her breasts.  Actually, she only partially showed them to me.  I think she chickened-out at the last moment.  So not full exposure, just a partial.  Both events were not recorded with the GoPro.  Although I was in photo-mode, and easily could have just reached over and hit the remote control and taken a picture, I didn’t think of it until it was too late.

I had lots of people who gave me the thumbs up, as well as other types of signals that all appeared to show appreciation for what it appeared to them I was doing.  Taking a trip on my motorbike.  Well, maybe not.  Maybe it was the GoPro Camera mounted on my helmet that had them thinking they would be the next video star on Youtube or something.

In the past, when wearing the GoPro on my Helmet, I’ve had people chase me down and ask me if I work for Google Earth.  Actually, I once passed a Google Earth car in Peoria while wearing the camera.  I was not filming at the time, I have no idea if they were either.  Maybe I should check that out some day.

Onward I Travel

So the plan is to ride north from St. Paul, Minnesota up to Grand Forks, ND where I catch Highway 2.  Take Highway 2 through North Dakota, and then mostly across Montana.  Then turn north on 15 and take that across the border into Canada.  I tell you this is the plan because just prior to my trip, Alberta, Canada suffered some of the worst flooding they have ever experienced.  Nearly 100,000 people were evacuated from Calgery alone.  And all the main roads suffered damage or in many cases, total shutdown as the bridges were washed out.

In the United States, this closing of roads is not a big deal.  We’ll just take another one.  But outside of our country, especially in the mountains, such a luxury may not be so likely.  So based upon my observations in the news, along with a few conversations with people traveling up in that area, it sounded a bit bleak that I might be able to actually travel in that area of the country.  And I had planned to ride the Icefields Parkway and stay in Lake Louise, Alberta.  Now it sounded as though I might not be able to get there.  Word was that the only way into and out of Baniff was by helicopter!

So as I traveled across Highway 2, I kept one eye on the road and one eye on the news regarding travel in that part of Canada.  I really wanted to ride the Icefields Parkway.  Would I be able to actually even get to the Parkway?  And if not, what route then do I take to get to Alaska.  This wasn’t some small area affected by a little flood.  This is more like if I can’t travel up through what is called the eastern access to Alaska, I might have to stay in the States, ride all the way to the coast and enter into Canada through Vancouver, British Columbia.  And that would total upset my travel schedule.  In my next installment, I will cover the ride across Highway 2 and my decision of what route to take into Canada due to all of the flooding.

Thanks for following my little presentation and I’ll see you right here next time on Where In The World Is Jim.

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Let’s Talk About My Trip To Alaska

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Hello Everyone and welcome to my post-trip blog about my recent motorcycle trip to Alaska and back.  In order to get things up and going as soon as possible, and to make it a bit easier for you the viewer to digest my presentation, I will break it up into parts.  I have decided to try and make the presentation slightly more brief than originally planned.  But then again, I thought I would be able to do a lot of “presenting along the way”.  Boy was I wrong.  So here goes.

The Big Picture

On June 27th, 2013, I left my home in Central Illinois on my 2009 BMW 1200GSA motorcycle for a 30-day trip that would see me travel by road as far north as is possible in North America, then head down to Salem, Oregon to participate in the 41st BMW MOA International Motorcycle Rally.  Finally I would travel south along the western coast of the United States down to San Diego, California.  After that, it would be off to Alamogordo, New Mexico to say hi to my father.  Then on east towards Fayetteville, Arkansas to visit with some relatives before turning north and arriving back home.

Now to be frank, this was a bit ambitious.  After all, it had originally been planned as a 60 day trip.  60 days of just me and my BMW, traveling a little over 12,000 miles, taking in the many different sights, smells, and experiences that go along with motorcycle travel.  And don’t forget the many different people I would meet along the way

A Little About Me

Before I get into the meat of this trip, the first of many to be undertaken by me, I would like to spend a little time explaining why I chose to travel by motorbike.  I apologize in advance if I bore some of you.  But many people have asked me why I have chosen to do this.  So I will try to be brief.

Motorcycles are not new to me.  I first began riding back in 1968.  I took my first cross-country tour in 1982.  I still own that bike.  Actually, as I write this, I now own six motorbikes.  Each has a specific purpose in life.  Think of them as shoes.  How many different types do you wear?  So let’s talk about why I want to travel by motorbike.

There simply is no other way to travel if you really want to experience the real world.  Yes, you can travel by the plane, train, or automobile.  But in doing so, you in fact isolating yourself from the very things that make the travel experience, well, an  experience.    Someone once said something along the lines of “Travel by car is like watching a movie.  Travel by motorcycle is like being in that movie.”  When you travel by motorbike, people seem to be drawn to you.  They see you as possibly somewhat vulnerable.  Maybe you need help figuring out where to go next.  Maybe they are locals.  Maybe not.  Either way, they think they can offer help or information.  And so they approach you.

Then of course there is the motorbike.  When they see the bike all loaded down, they know you are coming from somewhere and heading somewhere.  And while that is true in any mode of travel you may choose, a motorcycle adds a whole new dimension to travel.  And people know it.  To many, you are an adventurer.  Not afraid to take on the elements as you travel around the globe.  Someone who will have travel tales to tell.   Someone who I living the dream.  Maybe someone who is living their dream.

Many people dream about just hopping on a motorbike and heading off on a journey somewhere.  But there are hundreds of excuses, oh excuse me, reasons, why they don’t do so.  I won’t go into all the reasons.  I know many of them myself first hand.   So when suddenly you just magically appear, right in front of them, they just have to talk to you.  They want to find out where your going, where you’ve been, and what it’s like to be able to just take off and seemingly leave all the troubles of the daily grind behind.  Ask any motorbike traveler about something as simple as refueling at a gas station.  It’s impossible not to have people approach you if your bike is all loaded down with panniers, bags, spare tyres, etc.

I’m one of those people who decided it was time to get back on the bike and travel.  Like I said before, I know of all the excuses why I could not do this.  I have a full time job.  I have a wife and family at home.  I have financial obligations.  Where does the money come from to finance such a trip.  What if this happens, or maybe that.  The list goes on and on.

But the facts are this:  I’m not getting any younger.  And far too many people I know have suddenly become ill and passed away.  If I don’t start traveling now, when will I?  Or maybe the question is will I be able to?  As far as I know, I only get one shot at life.  Maybe it’s time to evaluate my situation in life.  If I really want to travel, there’s no time like the present to get going.  And my first trip would be to travel to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska.

Supposedly, Mark Twain once said “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.”  I have no idea if he really said that, but it sure makes sense to me.  I have lots of other sayings I could repeat here.  But the bottom line is this:  it’s simply time to do it.  So let’s get started!  There’s no better time than the present.  So in my next installment, I will go into the why and how I chose the timing of my trip.

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Morning Ride – Dalton Highway

Morning Ride – Dalton Highway

Hello from Deadhorse, Alaska.  I took this picture this morning while driving up to Deadhorse from Coldfoot.  I shot over 150 pictures today along the Dalton.  I simply could not have taken these photos had I ridden the BMW up here.  It was a tough decision, but in the end, I wanted the pictures more than bragging rights of riding to Deadhorse.  Arctic Circle i did on the bike.  But North of Coldfoot, I knew the scenery would dictate lots of stops on the road.

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Minnesota Rest Stop

Minnesota Rest Stop

Taking a Break

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Day 1 – The Bike Is Packed and Ready To Go

I’m spending my first night on the road in Bloomington, Minnesota. I shot a litttle video showing the bike packed and ready to go.

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Alaska Trip Overview

Sorry no pics yet, but they will begin soon

So this trip has taken on several changes over the last year. What began as a 60 day trip has shrunk to a 30 – 33 day trip. Throw in the timing of the BMW MOA International Rally and the Alaska part of the trip becomes a bit of a sprint.

One of the purposes of this blog and the videos and such is to provide insight into what goes into making such trips. I hope my experiences will help others who are interested in making extended motorbike trips. So while there will be the site – seeing type commentary, pictures, videos and such, there will also be some behind the scenes type things. So let’s get started.

II originally set up my Youtube Channel, Armchair Traveler to enlist help in planning this trip. Now being new to all of the video making stuff, that meant I had to learn, no fumble through the process of creating the videos. Enter Final Cut Pro.

So I purchase Final Cut, watch some videos on how to use it,  grab a camera and go to work. Oh, I need better audio. Do some research and now – enter Zoom H4N.

Now I have have the basic tools to make videos, so I do so, making crude off the cuff videos asking viewers to share their ideas on where to go, what to see and what roads to take. Hmmm, Houston we have a problem. No viewers.

Are you with me so far? Remember I said you would get some behind the scenes stuff. I’m only sharing this so others can learn from my mistakes.

So how am I going to get ideas from viewers if I don’t have any viewers? I do get a few comments and to date, about 30 people have subscribed to Armchair Traveler. So I press on assuming that more people will subscribe as I go along. After all, I’m not offering any funny cat tricks, pranks or voyeur type stuff. This is just traveling by motorbike and this first trip is just up to Alaska. A mere 12,000 mile ride. And I’ve got a month to do it in.

When I originally thought up the YouTube Channel, I named it Armchair Traveler because I wanted my viewers to be the Armchair travelers. I wanted them to tell me where they would go if they could. Then I would try to go there. Not to sound too negative, but many people simply cannot afford either the time or expense to take such trips. Maybe they are afraid of motorcycles. Maybe they have some physical handicap that prohibits them from making such trips. But none of those things can stop them from dreaming or wishing they could go. I just thought I’d try to help them live out a little of their dream ride, even if it meant I did the traveling and they got to sit in the safety of their “armchair” and watch their ride presented by me.

So that plan did not go well. So on to plan B. What is Plan B you say? Well, that’s for next time.

Thanks for subscribing.

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