Friday, June 17, 2011

All Geared Up & Ready to Roll Tomorrow

Beverly Hillbillies on Two Wheels
Well, the Alaskapade is about to kick off and I think I'm done packing. I have all the camping, bike, and personal equipment I need for the journey packed and ready to roll.  I've spent the last eight months searching for the right gear at the right prices, planning routes, sorting out the logistics, working side projects for gas and expense cash, and working out and trimming down, and it's all come down to this.

Selecting the right camping gear was a tedious process.  Everyone had an opinion and there was a lot of good gear out there from which to select.  There's also a lot of expensive equipment out there.  In the past, I never gave packing size or weight a second thought and as such, most of the gear I already owned when I started planning this was way too large and heavy to pack on a motorcycle.  As detailed in previous entries, I have been fortunate to find just the right camping gear that was not only functional, but is light and highly compactable.  I can set up and pack up my tent in less than five minutes. It has plenty of space for me as well as room to store anything I choose to remove from the bike at night.  The tent, sleeping pad, pillow, inflatable repair kit, and tiny collapsible camping chair all fit neatly into a waterproof cylindrical dry sack that measures only 22" x 14" and weighs in at 11lbs.

I'll be carrying more high-tech gear than the Apollo 11 crew did when they walked on the moon. My GPS has freshly updated North American maps and includes addresses for every Harley dealer in the country in case I need to stop for service.  It also has 16 gigs of internal mp3 storage for all my tunes and a small library of audio books. The tunes, books, and even cell phone audio will play wirelessly via bluetooth into the stereo speakers mounted inside my helmet.

My Spot Connect satellite transponder will let my family and friends keep up with me on the road with location updates posted to easily-read Google maps that post every ten minutes. Unless I porked something up, the map should be at the top of this page now.  Viewers can click and drag to pan the map.  If your mouse has a scroll wheel, roll it up and down while pointed inside the map to zoom in and out.  If not, use the zoom buttons at the upper left of the map.  The lower right corner of the map has buttons to switch from map to satellite or hybrid views.  When there's actually tracking data to show, you can move your cursor to the tracking line to see when I was at the location last.  I will use my Spot Connect with a bluetooth connection to my Android smartphone to send messages out to those who have elected to receive updates from the road. There's also an emergency 911 button and even though I paid for search and rescue insurance, but I don't plan on needing that.

If I get sick of the tunes I'm packing, I'll have my Sirius satellite radio with me as well.  I'll also be traveling with two HD video cameras, two digital cameras and two tripods, all of which I plan to use to capture as much of the action as possible for the post-journey Alaskapade 2011 documentary. Each days' footage will be downloaded to my laptop and backed up to an external hard drive when I stop for the night.

For personal gear, I have a ThermaCELL bug repellent system, a mosquito screened hat, sun screen, special moisture wicking underwear, extra glasses and goggles, a spare helmet, a towel, and a bag of shower crap.  For months, I've been collecting the little bottles of soap and shampoo from the hotels I stay in for work travel.  I always pack aspirin for hand numbness, Motrin and an anti-inflammatory prescription for back pain, and Imodium in case the local foods disagree with me. I've been eating very health-conscious foods for the last six months, but I suspect I could get somewhat lax on diet discipline while out on the road for so long.

As for clothing, I'll pack lightly and take garments I can wear repeatedly and throw away as they disintegrate and/or when their odor gets too strong to be blown away by the wind as I ride.  I suspect I'll be replacing some of the tossed out shirts with a few new Harley t-shirts along the way.  I'll try to do laundry wherever there's a campground with facilities.  Of course I packed toilet paper too.

Speaking of paper, the international component of this journey dictated that a few other personal details be handled before I depart.  I secured proof of motorcycle insurance coverage in Canada and of course I have my passport. Riding solo, the distance, the destination, and indigenous wildlife cohabiting my lodging accommodations dictated that I update my Will as well as financial and health election forms. On a lighter note, I received confirmation from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency that I can carry some beef jerky across the border with me. Beef jerky, 5-Hour Energy, and Monster Energy drinks are a staple of my diet when I'm on bike trips.  Given the price for a gallon of gas these days, beef jerky and water might be more than just a staple.  Remember when gas prices were under $2/gallon?  That was just before President Obama took office.  "Hope and Change" indeed.  But I digress...
Hester is also primed and ready.  She has fresh engine oil/filter, all cables and wiring connections have been inspected and tightened, and all the nuts and bolts I can reach were checked and rechecked for tightness.  I'll carry an emergency tire plug kit with compressed CO2 cartridges and select tools for minor repairs and tightening along the route. I have a reflective rain suit and a bike cover that will fit over Hester, even if she's fully loaded.  I have my Harley Owners Group emergency road service contact numbers and the Spot Connect device to reach them if I'm out of cellular service.  I want fresh rubber when I hit the Dalton Highway, so I pre-paid for a new set of tires at the Harley Outpost in Fairbanks.  I spoke with the service manager there to confirm they would do my work while I wait.  I've found most HD dealers will give priority to road warriors. On one hand, it's Alaska; I mean how crowded can it be?  On the other, the weather up there has been fantastic and lots of people get their bikes serviced for the short riding season. Better be safe than sorry.  When I gave him my Texas address, he asked if I was riding all the way up.  I'm not sure how else Hester and I would make it up there, but I answered yes and then jokingly asked if he knew of any shortcuts.  He said short of drilling a hole through the Earth and going straight across, northwest through Canada was probably my best choice.

Click to enlarge
I also have a few sentimental items to carry along.  I wanted to bring something of Martin's with me, so his widow sent me his Harley Davidson snow cap.  My plan is to leave it at the Circle sign. I also have a special coin sent to me by an on-line reader and close friend. As an ex-military guy, I've been a challenge coin aficionado for some time.  Over the years, the coins have expanded beyond small military circles and have become more popular among the general public.  The coin on the right will definitely make the trip with me, but I'm not leaving it up there!

245lbs - Dec, 2010
One other important aspect of preparation for this trip was physical readiness.  I reached my goal and shed over forty pounds well before June 18th and even dropped a few more over the last few weeks. My waist went from a 38/40 to a loose fitting 34 and my bulging gut is gone.  I ate properly and I have worked my ass off in the gym five to six days each week since the beginning of the year.  I reviewed my daily averages this morning and calculated that between rowing and climbing on the elliptical trainer, I've covered 594 miles. I also cut out alcohol, sugar, and caffeine and I've maintained a low-carb diet.  I'm happy to once again be able to wear the leather jacket that I almost got rid of last year because it was too tight to zip.  I'll probably need it as I pass through the Canadian Rockies.

So, I think I'm ready.  I'm sure I've forgotten something, but I suppose that's part of traveling.  I've had so many suggestions and lists from friends and fellow riders that if I packed it all, I'd need a trailer.  All I need now is to wake up tomorrow and ride away.

Before I go, I want to express my thanks to the many people who have offered well wishes and good fortune to me on the trip. I've enjoyed reading the comments on my posts sent to me by readers; even the angry ones.  My opinions on the topics might not have changed, but my points of view have been expanded.  I'm especially grateful to my family and friends who have either supported the idea from the beginning, or come around when they realized I wasn't giving up on the dream and that I have actually thought this thing through.  There are still a few who think I'm crazy and that there's no way I'll make it all the way.  I may have to eat these words, but I will relish the thought of you watching the video I plan to shoot from the Arctic Circle after I get there. Nevertheless, I thank you for your inspiration.