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2010 Deadhorse Alaska Trip

'Tuesday June 1st, 2010 10:00'
This adventure is over.

As I mentioned, Ian and I had set up camp behind a hotel in this wonderful little spot next to a river. It was one of the best camping spots we'd ever found.


Ian had wanted us to get up early so we could reach the San Juan Ferry with plenty of extra time. I woke up around 7:15 to the sound of a hot air balloon being inflated.


I packed up my gear while Ian slept. The balloon rose high overhead.


For the previous few days I had just been slow. Ian had patiently waited on so many occasions for me to get it together that I wanted to be ready before he got up. As it got close to 8AM I woke him up. As it happened, despite my head start I only finished shortly before he did. Granted, he has less gear, but still.

We had breakfast at the same saloon that we had had dinner at before. It was the worlds slowest breakfast. By the time we were done it was well after 9AM, later than Ian wanted to get going.

We were off to run through the Cascades. Route 20 continued on through passes and around mountains. As has been the case in so much of this trip the vistas were beautiful.


There were many masochistic bicyclists in the Northwest, more than I have seen anywhere else in the country.


As we rode along we saw countless small waterfalls pouring out next to the road.


There were high overlooks, as have been present in almost every mountain range. Unfortunately, you can't really see the road way down below.


Riding with Ian is simply great. Strangely we have exactly the same riding style, ride at the same pace. We can each anticipate the other. There's never any hurry or stress. We set up and carve corners the same way. It's extremely rare that either of us does anything that surprises the other.

It was sunny but cool. Cool like an early Maryland spring after a morning rain. The road was clear and traffic was light, although there were an annoying density of RVs that refused to pull over to let us pass. Interestingly, there are signs in this part of the country that say having 5 cars behind you waiting to pass and not pulling over at the turnouts is illegal.


We also passed many signs, as one does in almost every part of the country, warning of deer. At one point however, there was a sign saying that there had been 97 deer strikes on a particular section of the road. I slowed down and saw this stupid deer boldly standing on the side of the road watching the cars go by.

I stopped. Fumbled with the new tankbag, grabbed the camera and the stupid deer just stood there boldly posing.


On a motorcycle, I fear deer.

I caught up with Ian who was unimpressed by the deer and had kept going on a ways until he realized I had stopped. We continued on only to get caught behind a line of a few cars, two RVs and some conversion van thing for a really long time. After far too long we were able to pass legally and went on our way but it had taken alot of time.

As it turned out we made it to the ferry with plenty of time. Motorcycles board first and disembark first on this ferry so we were instructed to go to the head of the line.

I noticed this bike caddy on the front of a pickup. I don't think I've seen a setup like this before.


As we waited, a couple for adventure riders rolled up on BMW R1200GS's. Ian now calls them "R1200GPS's" because every one he's seen has a gps mounted on it.


These bikes are much better suited for the kind of terrain I'll be seeing up in northern BC and Alaska. It turns out the guys riding these bikes had been on the same ferry with Ian on the way out. They had been to some kind of GS adventure riding rally.

I'm not exactly clear how to define adventure riding. There's quite a debate on advrider.com about it. Intuitively, adventure riding involves alot of miles over mixed terrain; pavement, gravel, dirt, trails, fields, etc. It usually involves camping and roughing it. Think "Long Way Round" or "Jupiters Travels". The latter I still have to read.

Nevertheless, adventure riders typically ride bikes decked out like the bike above. There's a certain look. I was giving these guys a bit of a hard time about how clean their bikes were. Mine certainly had more mud on it, but they had been doing some fairly intense offroad riding and had washed their bikes.

Out here you do see a fair number of guys riding bikes set up like this but where all the gear is shiny and new and their suits are spotless.

But I ride a street bike. Now I have spent a fair number of miles off road on this trip, maybe totalling 55 or so, but it's been a lap of luxury trip. I don't think it qualifies as "adventure riding'.

After a little while longer an older guy on a BMW K1200GT sport touring bike showed up.


This is essentially the modern version of the K100RS I ride. It's set up for "sport touring" in which you can go distance but once you get there you have enough performance to carve up canyon roads and have some fun. The K1200GT is wicked fast.

After a while longer, a couple of BMW K75's showed up; a '91 K75S and an '85 K75C. These are 750cc bikes equivalent to mine. Same model line, essentially the same vintage. I noticed some black tape on the K75S's gauges.


"ABS fault?", I said looking at him with a wry smile. He laughed. You would only know this if you own one of these bikes but if the ABS faults it blinks at you very annoyingly. It can also be expensive to fix; the less expensive approach is just to cover up the lights. :)

It dawned on me that there was coffee nearby, so I and one of the adventure riders whose name I forget, went to the espresso shack. As we came back to the bike there was a security announcement saying that we were not allowed to leave out bikes unattended. Ian was there so I didn't think it was going to be an issue. Whatever.

They started loading the ferry but I still had coffee. I improvised a coffee cup holder with Ian's help.


Duncan would be proud and will no doubt give me a bunch of shit for it. (If you knew how much shit I've given Duncan over the years about his desire for a coffee cup holder on his bike, which he does solely for the purpose of bugging me, you'd understand.)

On the ferry coffee cup in hand I'm finally looking at the Pacific Ocean.


As we pulled away from the dock I saw these critters flying around.


And managed to photograph one flying just inches above the water.


Cool, eh?

It was pretty cool, overcast and drizzly on the water. Ian was, as he always is in situations like this, stoic.


The ferry was exceptionally cool. I had hoped to be able to do something like this. I took countless photos but because it was so overcast few are worth looking at. There are a ridiculous number of closely spaced mountainous islands around Victoria.


I saw a couple of cute Irish looking women with a camera. "Would you like me to get a shot of the both of you?". Always works as a way of asking someone to take a photo of you and your buddy in return.


The ferry ride lasted about 3 hours. So there was plenty of time to gawk at the landscapes in the distance.


As promised the bikes disembarked first.


It was a quick pass through customs. Ian waited patiently with the ferry we had travelled on in the background while I continued to fumble with gear.


British Columbia!


And it was off to Ian and Tanya's house. They have this incredible house and yard surprisingly close into the city. I had always thought it was further out in the countryside.

Awesome garden.


Anouk, their 8 year old daughter, in the foreground.

Great tree.


Inside I was greeted by Arlo, their 5 year old son.


Tanya, the Salad Queen, had made an awesome salad and Ian grilled up some steaks. I have determined there is excellent food here. No good can come of this.


They have a very comfortable guest room with it's own full bath. Life is good. I slept well and managed to get up early the next day.

Monday June 28th

Yesterday was a rest day. I spent most of the day either talking on the phone or writing that long blog article. My use of roaming minutes is going to add up. Oh well. Apparently text messages are supposed to be free. We'll see if that turns out to be true.

Ian and Tanya had to work so I tried to make myself as unintrusive as I could. They have a separate building here that's split into an office and garage. It's very nice and provides a much needed separation between living and work spaces. Very smart. With the way I have my house set up with all the offices and servers in the house I don't have the separation so I never get that ritual distance from work. I have thought that maybe at some point I should set things up differently.

Ian and Tanya do web application development and are working on some very interesting and IMHO very promising projects. Tanya has this amazing ability to create very professional looking, very slick designs that work. In the web application development space that's what I lack. I just don't have the visual design skills to make what I build look good. It's all extremely funcitonal and the code is written to professional standards, but the look is always lacking.

This is why YML.COM is so ugly. I do think about attempting to up my visual skills or maybe I can establish a relationship with a good designer to help me make what I build more attractive. It's one of the things I think about as I consider ways of making the Joomla/Drupal competitor I've created, the formVista content management, community and social networking platform, more "adoptable".

It's about membership. Because the design doesn't look good it doesn't feel like it "belongs" to professional class solutions.

Tanya has some excellent insights into human behavior and it shows in the work she does and how she lives her life. It's always such a pleasure talking to her. We can get into these long in depth conversations and the time just flies by. I fear I was an attractive nuisance yesterday as she stayed and talked much longer than she should have, but it was an enjoyable conversation.

Tanya's Mom had invited us all over for dinner. The kids were already there and Tanya was going to follow in the car so Ian and I walked. It's like a 15 minutes walk. On the way we passed a huge granite bolder several meters high called Moss Rock. From there you can get a good view of Victoria.


You can hardly make them out but the Olympic Mountains in Washington are visible under the clouds in the distance.

There was a good breeze and one could see all these crazy Canadians flying parasailers over the coastline.


We walked on through a cemetary that had a row of impressive looking gnarly trees.


As I've mentioned a few times, I'm sick. I have a chronic intestinal disorder called Ulcerative Colitis and probably some associated problems. Several years back the last meds stopped working and I was out of remission for months. It's an unpleasant painful disease. When it got bad I started losing weight at an alarming rate. People who knew me back then will tell you I looked like I was approaching deaths door.

My options were somewhat limited. I really didn't want to take steriods and I didn't want to go down the road to surgery.

It got so bad though that I couldn't leave the house as I couldn't be more than 20 yards from a bathroom. This went on for weeks. There was alot of bleeding, incredible near pass-out levels of pain and just all in all unpleasantness. There were arthritis like symptoms, unbelievable debilitating fatigue, memory loss and all kinds of other problems that were all part of this complex.

Disgusted I tried yet once again to do some searches online. The official AMA stance is that diet has no effect on this disease or your long term prognosis. That just didn't make sense to me.

Searching on "Ulcerative Colitis and Fatigue" I found mention of a book called Breaking the Vicious Cycle. To make a long story short, the rather well articulated and basically non-flaky hypothesis is that the consumption of sugar (sucrose), starch and lactose somehow keeps the cycle of disease going making it chronic. Ulcerative Colitis and Crohns disease are not curable, unless you chop out the affected sections of intestine.

So I decided since I was stuck in the house anyway I'd eat pork and broccoli for a week breakfast lunch and dinner. "What the hell, eh?", I thought. "Maybe it'll give me a heartattack but that would be a better of checking out than I'm checking out now ...". So I did.

I saw incredible improvements within 48 hours. The bleeding stopped in about 6 weeks. I went in and out of remission over the next year and a half. Within three years I was largely symptom free. By my five year checkup the doctor said he could see no evidence of disease.

The downside is that I have to stay on diet. If I stray from the diet and get just a little sugar like what you get in commercial salad dressing, Bad Things happen.

Over time I should be able to reintroduce some strarches into my diet but I haven't felt confident enough to try yet ... because when Bad Things happen they tend to ruin a few days.

It's funny because every once in a while I'll think to myself that I'm just making it up. It's all mental. So I'll order a Guiness. And it'll be the best Guiness of my life. So I'll order another. At that point the next five days are spoken for and I confirm that I'm sick.

I keep telling Ian he needs less flakey friends.

So Tanya and her mom had a long discussion about what I can and can't have. Smoked Salmon? Nope, look at the ingredients. Sugar is added. Salad dressing? Nope. Sugar, see? etc. etc. Garlic? Love garlic, it doesn't love me back though. Almonds? Bummer, allergic to almonds.


I always feel self conscious because cooking for me is so problematic; I eat a ridiculously plain diet. I don't like to impose but if I go off diet it just goes really badly.

I remember a time a rather attractive woman had made dinner and dessert for me and showed up with it on my doorstep before I had had a chance to explain this situation ... a pasta dish, a cake ... "ummm, I'm so sorry but I can't ...", yea, that didn't go so well. Sometimes you just can't win.

Tanya's mom went way out of her way and made an excellent Mahi-Mahi dinner. It was wonderful.

Like being around Ted and Sarah, Bruce and Ha, being around Ian and Tanya is just nice and comfortable. They both rock as individuals but the two of them together makes me think of the cliche "the whole is greater than the sum of the parts". Totally.

I was telling a friend this morning, as I had mentioned here before, if I had grown up seeing examples like them and not the horror stories I saw, maybe I would have lived my life a bit differently.


But as Tanya and I were discussing yesterday, it's very hard once you're fully formed to change ... to distance yourself from the nightmares you were exposed to and the associations you've grown up with. Like a dog that's been kicked every time it's been offered a treat, it irrationally associates the treat with being kicked and will recoil at the thought. It takes a very long time for that association to be broken and, as I told her, in many cases it's not even that the association is broken, it's that you just learn to work around it.

But on rare occasions a caring human being can come along who through honest kindness opens a door inside you and suddenly the world is changed. It's through this incredible kindness and unbelievable patience of a few Very Important People that I'm still standing and now open enough to try to see things Differently. I guess that's part of why I'm out here. To see Differently.

So to you and you know who you are, thank you. There's no way I would have made it this far without you.

In a little while Ian and I will start working on the bikes. My bike is a macabre horror show of insect entrails that needs to be cleaned off. I also need to come up with some better mounting system for the tank bag. And the oil and filter need to be changed. We'll probably head over to the BMW dealer later to go get some supplies.

Soon it'll be time to head north out into the Big Cold and Lonely. The weather forecast in the north is looking disturbingly ominous. Very Cold Rain.

Ian keeps saying "You don't have to go all the way. If the Dalton Highway looks sketchy just turn around".

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