Ever have one of those vacations that you need an immediate follow-up vacation to recover from? Well, this was one of those trips. But in addition to wanting…wait…needing a grace period before slipping back into work zombie form, I had to take a sabbatical. Put this trip on the backburner and let is stew for a bit before putting font on screen. So with that teaser, I also offer my apologies for the delay in writing up this trip report.
Now please do not read into the intro anything deeper than what is offered. It was indeed an epic adventure…on so many levels as I will do my best to portray. And the storyline plots and twists were as good as or better than the typical made-for-repulsive reality television. Hmmm, The Real Goldwings of Inuvik
? Even a bit of Queer Ride for the Straight Guys
(trust me…wait for it).
Perhaps the extended cool-off period before writing this could be explained as a wait-and-see effort to determine if the (Candid) cameras were secretly filming us and we didn’t notice (yes, I recall the original show with Allen Funt). It was beautifully surreal at times; frustratingly Groundhog Day
-ish at others. But in the end, I wouldn’t trade it for anything…just don’t ask me to do it again or I might throw a sucker punch. It’d be reflexive of course.
Leading up to this monster trip, I initiated a prelude report here: https://www.ngwclub.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=19&t=65385
When I last left off, I was struggling to get the final pieces of the bike together. The ignition was giving me fits, or so I thought. Turns out a short in the wiring (needle in the haystack) was the cause. More on that later. But I went ahead and installed the Dyna kit and removed the C-5 ignition. Plus the HD-style LED headlight assembly was giving me some fits, so I left the popsicle turn signals on in case I had to revert to them.
31 May 2018. All the last minute work squashes any bravado plans to ride from Savannah to Denver. The bike is simply not ready. Nor do I care for solo riding these days with the cell phone zombies anyway. So I’m forced to use a shipping service. I called several, upscale and reputable services but they aren’t set-up for last minute schedules much less a rough-but-ready 1979 GL1000. After all, this ain’t no chromed-out piercing Harley. So, I decide to give uShip a shot (apologies to any professional drivers out there).
Since I have some logistical hurdles to get outsiders to my house, I chose to meet the uShip driver outside the development. Ford F-150. He’s pulling a boat as well (for another uShip customer). It would be entertaining to see him take a sharp corner with the tailgate down pulling a boat, but I have to prep my own gear for the trip. Please make nice-nice with the wife who completely doesn’t get what we do.
For this trip, I re-used a faux Givi top case from my Ducati and that shipped with the bike. For other storage, I opt for soft side dry bags from Ortlieb, which worked quite well.
Only one other dry bag tucked behind me and I should be good to go. I think I’m lean and mean…
Truthfully, I’m a little nervous that the bike may not make it to Denver. The whole thing seemed sketchy at best. I was supposed to get regular updates on the shipment, but nary a word since it left. Scheduled to arrive on 3 June…not a lot of room for error with almost 2,000 miles to cover.
Fortunately, my fears are put to rest as the F-150 arrives at my company’s place on a bright and sunny Sunday. The bike looks EXACLTY like it left. Now it’s really crunch time. T minus 3 days to the planned departure for Saskatoon to meet the other riders. I still haven’t found what’s causing the ignition issues, nor do my lights work well. Signal light? Pfft. And a trip to the far reaches of northern Canada on the horizon…easy peasy.
I could go into detail here, but suffice it to say that each evening after work I was going back and forth to car parts stores, motorcycle stores, home improvement stores – you name it. I just could not figure out why it ran great for a while then quit. I didn’t take many pictures and was thinking I might have to buy a local Gen1 Goldwing on the spot to make the trip. It was getting close…but then I (thought) I found the gremlin- bad ground in the headlamp assembly. Timing done. New battery. Plug wires replaced (wrong end on one, but I get it to work). New bulbs. New fuses. She’s running and sounds AWESOME with the short pipes.
While I’ve been wrestling demons of my own making, Ben has been tweaking his ride to the nth degree. The man is focused. Hard working. And meticulous. He is the chosen one….He just didn’t have enough time to get the colors in harmony. But the final product is 1 million times cleaner than what he started with (a complete, frame off rebuild and piece together of more than one craigslist bargain). Also, his girlfriend must be a Saint. Job [sic] is no match.
6 June 2018. Everyone is aware of my last minute (literal) prep. And although a last minute crush, Ben only got his ride dialed in a few days before as well. Bets are going around at work about how far the bikes will make it. I’m not even sure which side I would place my money….but Ben and I are packed and leaving for the far, far North. I’m hoping that I don’t obliterate the excitement with a mechanical failure along the way…the odds are NOT in my favor. To add to the pressure, we’ve only given ourselves until the evening of the following day to arrive in Saskatoon – roughly 1200 miles away. 20 hours riding - 6 hours the afternoon/evening and 14 the next day. On 40+ year old motorcycles.
Things are running good. Smooth ride along I-25 north. Once we clear out of the congested north Denver area, traffic is light and flowing well. But it doesn’t take long for the first issue to show itself…just as we pull off to fill up near Longmont, my bike dies on the off ramp. I coast into the gas station. Fuse (ignition) blown. Certainly a fluke, right? Fill up, replace and get back on I-25. Next stop is just shy of Cheyenne, WY. Same thing happens again – she dies on the off ramp so I coast into the gas station. Same fuse blown. As it turns out, every time I hit the brake, POOF! So I buy every fuse the gas station has and we decide to muster on and rely on engine braking as much as possible. For those that aren’t familiar with I-25 North of Denver, this isn’t really a big deal. But I can’t use turn signals either so hand signals the whole way.
***Warning. Rant ahead. Proceed at your own risk.***
Barney Fife. For all the LEO’s that read this, I plead that you forgive my animosity. I have a long history with traffic citations. I’ve had coworkers make laminated cartoons of my misadventures with ticket-givers. But yet in 33 years of driving I’ve NEVER been the driver in an automobile (or motorcycle) accident with another vehicle. EVER. other than a 20 mph slide on a sheet of ice involving only me, my truck and the opposing curb – I’ve not had any road accident!!! And I’ve racked up well over a half-million miles on my own. So in my opinion 99% of the speeding tickets given are pure evil. Not safety related.
Well just as we are pulling into Gillette, WY after a long ride after a day at work - an opposing 5-0 flips his lights on and swings a 180 to come our way. We pull over well before he gets there and take our helmets off. Courtesy always. Man, just moments away from a warm room and a hot meal after 6+ hours of riding and a wicked storm daring us to continue any further. Do I look amused?
Really?!? We have to dodge every other idiot on the road in cages doing their hair or checking their stocks or social media content that can’t wait for a safer place. It a mostly empty highway, clear weather, no storm or moisture (yet). Late 70’s vintage motorcycles riding in the right lane doing 79mph (in a 70 zone). BOGO ticket bonanza for the diminutive and nervous cop. He didn’t want us near the bikes, which is why we are standing clearly away from them per his request. Honestly, taking my speeding ticket history aside, I truly didn’t feel this cop should be patrolling the streets if he is that nervous around two tired, vintage motorcycle enthusiasts. We don’t have Hell’s Angels insignia on. We aren’t even riding loud, blinged-out Harley’s. And I don’t think we look all that threatening…
The only priceless moment about that is about 5 miles prior we were really stretching the bikes out. Thank God he didn’t pass us then. We would’ve deserved it then. And I would’ve owned it. A late meal and a quick crash at the nearest hotel in Gillette went over very well. Yes, some issues existing on my bike but she was running. Just. Don’t. Press. The. Brake. Pedal. Day 1 in the books.
7 June 2018. The 1st morning on the road. the bikes looked good then. But we haven’t hit dirt yet.
A bit chilly to start off, but fortunately we were blessed with an absolutely beautiful day to ride that Thursday. And there are few better places in the West to ride than through Wyoming and Montana. Big Sky Country is right!
Somewhere in our picturesque pathway North, Ben decides to take his steed for a little rip. I’m cruising at a pretty good clip myself and am enjoying the peaceful and serene riding. Absolutely majestic. But as Ben passes me, his bike decides to make things a bit dramatic. I’m watching in horror as the wobbles increase steadily to something a frog’s hair shy of a full-on tank slapper. Déjà vu all over again. In 2009, about an hour into that trip to Alaska, one of our riders high-sides in front of a semi on a two lane blacktop (secondary) road outside Saskatoon. That rider went to the hospital as his trip ends and ours is just beginning. That trip report is over here: https://advrider.com/f/threads/santa-and-his-heartless-elves-do-alaska.481661/
Can this be happening again?!? Really?!? If only he could hear me continuously say to myself “Oh God no! Ben, no Ben, no!” There’s several expletives in my chant – omitted to retain this NC-17 rating. I start to slow down to prepare for picking up the pieces. But the wipeout never materializes. I truly thought although I had been taking pictures while cruising, I really shouldn’t capture this…right?!? And I didn’t. Man-code and all...
I have another flashback to our 2015 ride to the Canadian Maritimes (Bottom Gear 4848 write-up here: https://ngwclub.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=46&t=58586
. Hyde was pulling a trailer on his Goldwing and it tried valiantly to toss the ride from the machine within minutes of kicking off our trip. Something about the early part of our trips is perpetually jinxed. But Hyde, being 360 lbs of manliness refused the trailer’s most aggressive moves. But Ben is not 360 lbs. Less than half that in fact. However, he performed an absolute textbook version of riding it out and stuck with it. When in doubt, ride it out. Truly amazing. He was channeling his inner Cap’n Sully. Or maybe Charlie Daniels… Here’s how far he was ahead of me when he finally banished the demons back to Hell:
I hate to say it, but it would’ve been a beautiful place for a yard sale. But fortunately, he wasn’t selling. Yet unbeknownst to him, his bike was brewing up another problem. You see, all along we’ve been comparing mileage between the bikes. He’s a fit young man with absolute minimal baggage. One bag. I’m rapidly approaching the half-ton in age with the typical extra bulk and plenty of baggage (3). I feel like Imelda Marcos by comparison. Never mind the bright yellow side bags pretending to be sails. But I am getting slightly better mileage. A minor victory for the old fart!!! It certainly couldn’t be the symphonic Webers?!?
Vintage problems arise. At the last town prior to the Canadian border, we finally determine that his fuel pump is secretly jettisoning fuel and increasingly sacrificing the go-go juice to his right boot. Good thing Johnny Blaze didn’t make an appearance…
Fortunately, my onboard mechanical fuel pump is just a dummy. A backup, ready for just this unlikely event. I’m using my trusty K&N electric fuel pump so the onboard unit is largely ornamental. So a quick swap of the top end (my diaphragm didn’t look at all worthy, but hey times were tough). And he’s off and running again toward Canuckistan.
I do want to also communicate a significant near-miss incident that occurred along the way. Somewhere along that beautiful route, an absent-minded driver in a Ram truck pulling a decently sized enclosed trailer took a bee-line for the ditch. Our ditch. See, we were on a long left-handed sweeping two lane road and he was coming our way. I think he was giving his phone more attention than the road or two motorcyclists. If we were about 100 feet ahead, we'd have been testing our coefficient of restitution...me on the grill and Ben on the trailer. We didn't both to stop as we had a long way to go and it's the wild West. He was probably armed anyway...
We make to the border with little additional fanfare. And fortunately, the RCMP / Border Patrol wasn’t too bored to grill an odd riding duo so we officially reach the Province that rhymes with nothing at all. No guns Sir. No Sir, I said no guns. Or alcohol. Or drugs. No, no guns.
Now in contrast to the green, rolling hills of WY and MT…SK is flat and very…Kansas-like. Nothing to see here, move along. I would normally skip this part, but I had my own excitement along this stretch of 2 lane tarmac. See this pic?
Notice the Ram phone mount on the right bar? Currently not used in this pic, but since I was less familiar with the roads to Saskatchewan I decided to use Waze to guide me. Well, I didn’t have the rubber straps that help hold the phone in place. Recall where I inflicted a Kansas comparison? Well, the crosswinds were WICKED. Somewhere along the way, a serious gust of wind ripped the iPhone out of the holder and across the opposing lane and into the grass – too fast for me to respond. Grab a handful of binders and flip a U-ey. It took about a half hour, but we did find it. But it was the gnarliest shattered screen I’ve ever seen (no pictures). But it had power; just no more directions. And for all of Ben’s preparations, his AT&T phone would not function (on a cellular level) in Canada. Ever.
The good news is that we made it. Cold and weary but undaunted. We had made our goal of reaching the “real” kick-off point: Saskatoon. And we had riding through at least 3 of the 5 curves in all of Saskatchewan already. To be continued. This is going to take a while...