Up The Dempster to Inuvik

 

Up the Dempster to Inuvik

OR

The Ride Goes On Forever

 

       There are strange things done in the midnight sun

 By the men who moil for gold

For some reason known to Canadians, they like to name their highways. The Dempster Highway runs north from Highway 2 a little east of Dawson City to the City of Inuvik. Inuvik is at the end of 425 miles of a dirt and gravel road which is some of the most scenic you will ever see. Inuvik is in the Mackinzie River Delta and is as far north as you can go in Canada unless you want to ride an ice road in winter. In that case you can go 60 miles further to Tuktoyaktuk. On a previous ride I had ridden the Goldwing up the Alcan to Fairbanks and Anchorage. I had seen the Dempster Highway on the map and was tempted to try it. However, in a rare example of common sense elected not to do so. But, the idea was interesting and became more so when I did some reading on the net. One thing led to another and I swapped off a RT 1100 for a 1200 GSA to see what was at the end of the Dempster. So one Sunday in the summer of 2009 I headed north to Inuvik. Well, not exactly. I was leaving on a Sunday and that was the day of a group ride at Bentonville Ark, and I wanted to do that, so actually, I headed east first. I left OKC at about 3:30 in the morning and got to Bentonville in time for the 8:00 ride departure. The ride group rode around on some of the nice roads in NE Arkansas and SW Missouri. When the group headed south from Joplin, I headed west. It was more than a trifle warm going across Kansas. The bike has a temperature read out and it was in excess of 100 most of the afternoon, with a high of 104. That temperature will suck the water out of you in a heartbeat and can be life threatening. However, with a little common sense it can be handled. I ride about 100 miles and then stop and drink a lot of water. If you can keep hydrated you can do ok. Drinking soda or anything with sugar won’t cut it. Gatorade and the like work ok if you get the one without sugar. Get a dehydration headache one time and you will not forget it. However, I did not let the heat make me forget to see the sights. Right outside of Dodge City there is a place where you can see the tracks left by people traveling the Santa Fe Trail. If you are looking for actual wagon tracks you are going to be disappointed. What you will see are depressions going against the normal trend with different plants. Also, at the time that the Santa Fe Trail was being used, the southern border of the USA was the Arkansas River, south of that was Mexico. I went to school in Kansas and didn’t know that. I made it to Syracuse Kansas and called it a day. It was still well past 100 and I was done. That was the hottest day of the trip. The next morning I headed for Denver and got there just in time for lunch with my sister at a nice Thai restaurant and a nice afternoon and evening of visiting. The next morning, it was up and at it at the crack of 7:00. I wanted to get out of Denver before the traffic got bad and I did that. I headed out to pick up Highway 125 leading out of Granby. I had not been on that road and wanted to see what it was like. It turns out that it is a very nice road. I basically stayed on it until I hit I-90 in Montana. It changed numbers when it went into Wyoming andDempster 09 077 Montana but, essentially, it is the same road.   Along the way I saw Sheep Mountain, which is a textbook example of an Anticline which, if you are a geologist, is interesting. In this same general area are all sorts of roadside signs about different trails across the area, such things as the Bridger Trail, the Emigrant Trail and the Mormon Trail, to name a few. I topped a rise and the sign said, scenic turnout, so I did, and here is a view of the Wind River Basin. This is one of the most spectacular views you will see. Those mountains in the background are the ones Wind River View 2surrounding Yellowstone. They have to be at least 100 miles away. And, there isn’t anything in between them and you. I met a couple of guys on Harleys from the Dallas area who were also heading north. We talked a bit and then headed on down the line. Thermopolis Wyoming is along this road. It is a very large mineral hot spring which is a little reminder to folks that Yellowstone is a very large volcano and is still active.  I kept going north until I hit I-90 and headed west. About the time I got to Bozeman it was feeling like it was time to call it a day. I finished up with a little BBQ and a couple of beers and settled in. As a side note, Montana BBQ is not bad, but is nothing to call home about. The next morning, it was back into the jacket, with liner, and on down the interstate. Montana is large, and while I am not fond of the interstate, it does come in handy. On the plus side, in this part of Montana, it is actually pretty scenic. I went through Butte, which anyone of note knows is the home of Evel Knievel. It is also home to a very large hole in the ground. Further west I saw a very large smokestack sticking up. I was trying to estimate its size from the surrounding mountains and could only come up with, very large. Later my friend in Kalispell informed me that it is in excess of 500’ tall. I finally jumped off of the I-90 and headed north to Kalispell and a short visit. That is a very pretty part of the country. I have been through here at least four times, and it is still worth the trip. My friend and his wife live on the west shore of Flathead Lake which is just a hop skip and a jump from Glacier. I can safely say you will not see a view like they have around just any corner. I found the house without too much trouble and we settled in for a few lies and then it was time to move on. I have seen Glacier, and it is great, but this time I was not going through it and crossed over into Canada at Roosville. The crossing was not a problem and again, I was in Canada. I was planning on stopping for the night in Radium Hot Springs, but signs along the way informed me that this was a very upscale place, so I elected to stop in Windemere and had some very forgetful Chinese food, but, the beer was good. I was heading into Banff the next day. The ride into Banff was nice. It was along the headwaters of Columbia Headway BCthe Columbia River. This was sort of surprise to me. The last time I was here I was told that the Headwaters of the Columbia River were the Columbia Ice Field.  However, according to this sign that little tidbit was not the official version. That guy that told me wrong was from Canada, he needs to go back to class. On a previous ride I had come out of Banff on Highway 1 coming through Revelstoke. This time I was going in from the west through Radium Hot Springs, and it was interesting. I left early so when I came through the town, not much was open. However, at the entry to the park there were signs saying to pay the fee, but everything was closed, so I just rode on it. They didn’t shoot me so I guess it worked out. The road in was cut through solid rock. They wanted this road very badly. Except for the sun in my eyes on some of the corners it was a very nice ride. Shortly after getting into the park the wildlife started showing up. Sheep BanffI don’t know how many were in this herd of Mountain Goats, but there were at least 10-15 and they were not worried about much. As they were losing there winter coats, they were also very mangy.  I watched them a bit and then moved along. I had a nice breakfast at the Lake Louise village and prepared to view Banff and Jasper. This would be the third time I have been through Banff. If you have not been, you should go. Banff and Jasper are two interconnected Provincial Parks. This place, like many will have you saying that the pictures do not do it justice. This area has to be one of the most scenic in the world.   Here is what I consider one of the better photos. As you can see, there is quite a bit of snow in theBanff mountains. It seems to me that there is quite a bit more than there was the last two times I was here. I also noticed that the rivers were carrying quite a bit more water. I guess the last few winters have had plenty of snow. Views like this are common. Notice the steep sides on the valleys with the rounding on the edges. All of this is typical of glaciated areas. And, it was not too long ago geologically speaking, that glaciers were covering this land. The glaciers have been receding for the last 10 or 12,000  Banff view 3years, but, they will return. When, who knows. In human time it will take a very long time. In geologic time, it could be in the blink of an eye.  On down the road, it clouded up and I stopped and got into the rain gear. It didn’t amount to much and didn’t last long, but it did cause me to ride past the last gas station without stopping.  Later on, a moose walked across the road and into the woods. It surprised me, that thing was big. Both the elk and the moose are large animals and hitting one of them would not end well for either of us. I fixed in my mind to slow down, especially at dusk and dawn and be on the watch. It was about this time that I noticed I was a little low on fuel and it was still quite away to the next town, Prince George. This is in one of those areas where there are a lot of trees and not much else. I had last gassed up at Lake Louise and had not been traveling hard so I was getting good mileage. So, I throttled back and with few options rode on. There was one station about 30 miles from Prince George. But, it did not look like they sold a lot of fuel and I do not like to pay that much for water so I went on. It turns out I made it with no problem. I did however stop at the first station I ran across. From Lake Louise to Prince George is 371 miles and I put in 31.5 liters of fuel which is 8.2 gallons. The GSA has an 8.7 gallon gas tank. So, it turns out not to have been a problem as I still had ½ gallon left. That is 45.2 MPG which is pretty good for me. I headed north out of Prince George on a nice road with little traffic and lots of trees. When we came up here two years ago, we came out of Jasper and took the east road up through Grande Cache and Grand Prairie which was also a nice road with little traffic and also lots of trees. The difference is that this road went through some mountains and was somewhat more interesting. I called it a day in Chetwynd. The next morning I had an interesting experience in Hudson’s Hope when I stopped for breakfast. When I was leaving, a guy who had noticed the bike ask me if I was from Oklahoma. He said he was also and from the conversation I believe he was. He said he had moved to Hudson’s Hope in the late 60’s. He said that the reason was that he liked the hunting and fishing, which may also be true. What he didn’t say, and this is a guess, is that he was a draft evader. He was about my age, and in the time frame he was talking about, if you were a young male, just moving to Canada because you liked the hunting and fishing would have been difficult. After breakfast I headed north to intercept the Alcan Highway just east of Ft. St. John. In this area, near the cities, there is some agriculture, mostly cow and hay growing from what I could see and deduce from the farms and equipment. But, once you get a distance from the cities, it is back to the forest. Canada has roadside stops and scenic pull outs along the way. Do not be deluded by the signs. These are actually insect feeding stations. When you stop, if you stop on the highway, you have about 10 seconds before you are covered by mosquitoes and flies. If you stop by any vegetation, you have less time. By this time I was staying in the jacket most of the day plus gloves. When I stopped, I left them on, as well as the helmet with the shield down. Instead of perfume, the women up here must wear DEET. On the road from Ft.Nelson to Watson Lake I ran into the most road construction I was to see. ThereToad River 2 was about a 30 mile stretch before Toad River where we had to follow a pilot car. The dust was so bad I could not see the car in front of me much less the pilot car. Thankfully, I was the last vehicle so I didn’t have to worry about getting rear ended. You would have though they would have watered the road. Just before Toad River we ran out of the construction zone and I was glad of that. I stopped for gas and a good meal at the Toad River Lodge. I wanted to get to Watson Lake for the night. I did that, but almost everything was filled up. I spent the night in what is billed as a converted Pilot’s barracks from when the Alcan was being built. The rooms were small with the shower and bathroom just down the hall. I am not complaining, it was clean and reasonably priced. Two years ago in the same town I paid over $100 for a larger less clean room. I left early in the AM as I wanted to get to Whitehorse and get the tires changed. If you are from the lower 48 and are considering a trip this way, keep one thing in mind, be flexible and do not get yourself in a place where you have to have something. All along the road, there are motels, gas stations and cafes. However, they may or may not be open, have gas or food. One morning I was riding along looking for breakfast and came across a gas station with a big sign announcing their great cafe with fresh bread and rolls. It was a rather downtrodden looking place, but I went in. Two guys were there drinking coffee. I ask when the cafe opened and the reply was that they did not have a cafe. A shrug was all I got when I ask why the signs. When I decided to do the Dempster Highway I did a bunch of research and concluded that I would be doing it on knobbies, and fresh one, not ones ¾ shot from the ride up. The internet has a bunch of stories about people doing the Dempster and different rides. There were basically two types. One, everything was great, minimal trouble, and two, everything went wrong, terrible, etc. Planning and the right equipment solves many of those problems. One guy, on a GS, had a bad crash on the Dempster, but when you looked close, he had 3/4 worn out road tires and was riding on wet clay. This is not a recipe for a good result. I started the trip on road tires, but I knew by the time I reached Whitehorse the rear would be getting thin. I carried a set of knobbies and was going to get put on in Whitehorse. I made it to Whitehorse and went looking for a place to get the tires swapped out. The Honda shop was the first one I came across and it turned out to be a good choice. They sold Honda cars and bikes, Can-am Spyders and chainsaws. They also changed tires and were pleasant and reasonable. Less than two hours after getting there I left Whitehorse with the knobbies installed and the street front on the luggage rack. The front would get re-installed in Anchorage, the rear stayed in Whitehorse. When you get this far north, depending on the soil, the forests get pretty ratty, and they grow very slowly. Quite a lot of the area just north of Whitehorse has been burned. They had signs out and some of the fires were over 25 years ago and the forests were not restored yet. I stopped for gas in Carmacks about the time as two guys from Florida. One was on a 1982 Honda Silver Wing he had dug up in Chicago and the other was on a Kawasaki ZX 1400; one of the crotch rocket types. Both were totally covered with dust and mud and said most of it had come from the Top of The World Road into Chicken Ak. According to them, the road we were on was under repair for the rest of the distance to Dawson City, but that it was just in short sections. They were right. It was about this time that I was glad I had the knobbies. They handled the loose gravel with little problem. Along about 6:00 PM I made it to the Dempster Highway turnoff east of Dawson City and had to make a decision. I could either spend the night in Dawson City or head up the highway. It was 225 miles to Eagle Plains, the first stop on the Dempster. As it was light 24 hours a day I fueled up and headed up the highway. Dempster FireweedAt first the road was just gravel and dust among the trees, but in a short while here is what we see. The flowers are called fireweed, and as it says, they are weeds. They are also very pretty and everywhere. It took a few miles to get used to handling the bike on the Dempster. Mostly, it was good hard pack with loose gravel on top. If the gravel was not too thick it wasn't a problem. However, in some places it was easily 2-3 inches thick. Also, it changed very rapidly so you had to keep watching. This is the first snowfield I saw. I was quite impressed. Dempster snowfieldHowever, it turns out this one is very small. There are lots of them along the way.  It was about this time that I came across a mama moose with two calves. Fortunately they were not on the road as I had just crested a hill when I saw them. If they had been on the road we would have had a problem. When they saw me they would not pose and just took off.  Shortly after the moose I made another discovery: mainly that this time of the year they work on the road around the clock. It was well after seven and there they were, laying fresh dirt and gravel. They lay the dirt in about 3-4” layers so again, the knobbies came in handy. So I rode on, one eye on the road and one on the scenery which was like nothing I had ever seen. About the only trees were along the rivers. The rest of the land was covered by brush and grass. Along about 10:00 in the evening I pulled into Eagle Plains. The sun was still well up. The gas station was closed and would open at 8 in the morning. The restaurant was closed and would open at 7 in the morning. The motel was full and I would be camping, and I only had time for one beer before the bar closed. It was for things like this that I had brought the tent. So, I pitched it and found that I had brought the wrong sleeping bag. However, it was not cold so I did ok. That is after I slapped mosquitoes for about 10 minutes after crawling in the tent. I woke up about 3 AM and it was still light. When I woke for good at 6:30 it was also light. With no reasonable choices I waited for the restaurant to open then the gas station and then I headed for Inuvik. About ten miles after Eagle Plains I saw the marker for the Arctic Circle. That was as far north as IArctic Circle had been and I was going further. I was heading north along a valley with mountains on the east side. Weather was moving in from the west and coming against the mountains. It was raining off and on, nothing serious, but enough to get the road wet which was no problem on the gravel but was when the surface was clay. Again, I was thankful for the knobbies. The country was like nothing I had ever seen. It took no stretch of the imagination to see a herd of caribou coming down the valley. The white stuff in this photo is a cloud drifting back from a pass through the mountains. It was raining at the time I took this and I had been watching this cloud Dempster view 2for some time. As you can see, there are no trees, little scrub bushes, but mostly grasses of different types. They didn’t even have the fireweed here. At the top of the pass I mentioned above, was the border into the NW Territories. At this point, the sky had cleared and it was not raining, but, that was not to last. You can see the road for miles each way, and other than the road, there is no indication of any human involvement. From this point, the road was basically running downward onto the MacKenzie River Delta and into a different country. Here I am crossing the Peel River. I am the only one on the ferry. In the winter they cannot run theFerry Across the Peel ferries so you cross the Peel and the MacKenzie on ice roads. In this part of the road you are crossing a swamp or muskeg. It grows the stunted trees and not much else. It really is not a very pretty part of the road. By now I had the feel of the bike and the road and could make pretty good time. Running 50-60 mph was common, but you still had to keep a sharp look out as the surface could change very quickly. At long last, I came to Inuvik. Inuvik is the end of the road in Canada. It is as far north as you can drive in the summer. Come back in winter and you can drive 90 kilometers further on an ice road. Looking at the map, it seems that Prudhoe is a bit further north, but the difference is not much and I did not have to deal with the oil field trucks. I get all the practice I need at that in Oklahoma. As far as a destination, Inuvik doesn’t have much going for it. It is a prefab First Nations town. Canada built it in the 70's I think. The town was on the other side of the river but kept getting washed away in the spring floods so they moved it to the east bank of the MacKenzie. There is a plan afoot to move gas from Prudhoe and discoveries in the MacKenzie delta south to the rest of Canada and the US. So, quite a few of the oil companies moved to Inuvik and set up shop. Now, the pipeline is stalled and no one knows if or when it will happen. So there is nothing going on in the town. It has the usual group of drunks and addicts lying along main. I had a burger and fries at a burger joint, gassed up and headed back south. As I rode along I was trying to decide what to do. If I rode straight through I would get into Dawson City around midnight. Or, I could stop early at Eagle Plains and see if a room was available. If not I would ride on as tenting it again was not going to work. I could not make it back to the highway on the gas I had and I did not want to depend on fuel at Eagle Plains so I pulled into Ft. MacPherson and gassed up. At that point I had enough fuel to make it to the Dawson City highway even if I could not get gas at Eagle Plains. As it turned out Sunday is a slow night for Eagle Plains. I got a room and fair dinner and a couple of good beers. The next morning after breakfast I headed down the road. It was just as scenic going south as north. Two Moose Lake 2Two Moose Lake is what happens when the permafrost melts. According to the signs, permafrost runs about 300’ (really) deep in this valley. Occasionally, for some reason a pool will form and just keep getting larger. Duckweed grows in them and that is a favorite Moose food, hence the name. When I made it back to the Dempster turnoff on Highway 2 I had traveled 908 miles on the dirt with no problem other than a dirty bike.  When I started up this way, I did not know about the Top of the World highway, now I was going to ride it. It was interesting going into Dawson City. On the eastern side of town were very uniform piles of river rock that had been dredged and laid down by a gold mining dredge. As there is no soil on the rock, it was washed out, the land is worthless. I took a ferry across the Yukon and away we went. The road was paved at first, but they got over that in short order. The Top of the World Highway, Highway 9 in Canada and Highway 5 in Alaska is indeed a scenic highway. In Canada it runs along the crest of the mountain ridge and the views are something else. For a dirt road, it carries a goodly amount of traffic. There were people from all over pulling all sorts of equipment down the road. I often wondered if some of those people knew what they were getting into or just did not want to drive the extra miles to get to Dawson City. If you don’t want to drive the Top of the World dirt road, it is several hundred miles the other way.  This is where you cross into Alaska from Canada on the Top of The World Highway. Not much of aDempster 09 062 crossing and they didn’t ask a lot of questions. From here the road was still scenic, but mostly downhill into the valleys and into Chicken Alaska. The road was still dirt, narrow, not as well kept as in Canada and with no guardrails. I have seen better maintained jeep trails in Colorado. At one point it started raining fairly hard and I was going down a steep grade taking it slowly. I looked in my mirror and a guy in an SUV was right on the luggage rack. No way could he have stopped if necessary. I pulled over and gladly let him go by.  There is not much in Chicken Alaska. As you can see, it is a tourist trap. Even I would not go out of my way to visit Dempster 09 064here. Well, probably I would. It sits at the bottom of the Top of The World Highway and is a good place to stop for a drink, non alcoholic, no booze that I saw. About 5-6 miles out of town you pick up the paved road and from there it is just laying on the miles to Tok. I was planning on making it to Anchorage that day. However, the sign said it was still a bunch of miles to go so I called it a day and did some laundry.  The ride from Tok to Anchorage is a great ride. The road is good and the scenery is difficult to beat. It was cool when I started and I ran into fog by one of the lakes, and that is never fun, but it didn’t last long. Looking off to the south of the highway I could see a couple of mountains that looked impressive. However, as I could hardly make them out I knew the camera would not have a chance. Finally, I had to stop and give it a shot. I am sure this one has a name I just do not know what it is. On the big picture you can see a glacier coming down on the right side.  This one was pretty much sitting out by itself, or at least that is the way it seemed. Shortly after noon I made it to Anchorage and went directly to the BMW shop. Before leaving Oklahoma I had called the shop and bought and paid for a rear tire and made arrangements to have the road tires put back on for the trip home. I did not want to be running all over Anchorage looking for a tire. When I called they assured me they had plenty of tires I wanted and would hold one for me. They lied. Not only did they not have my tire they wanted to sell me another one at a higher price. That didn’t fly, I had to take the other tire, but at the price of the other one, which was still a rip off. Then, they charged twice what the fellow in Whitehorse charged for the tire swap. So, keep that in mind if you go by the BMW shop in Anchorage. On the plus side, I did get the tires on and they worked. My son and his family live in Anchorage. After getting the tires changed I rode over to his house for a little family reunion. We went out for dinner to a restaurant that serves under a tent and is open year round. The food was good and fresh. Over the course of the summer, so far, I have had fresh lobster in Maine and fresh salmon in Alaska. After that, it was an evening of sitting around catching up on all of the news and generally shooting the bull, but very pleasant. The next morning bright and early it was back on the road heading home. Anchorage doesn’t have much of a traffic problem but what it does have I missed. The ride back to Tok was just as scenic as going the other way. I had breakfast at a little place along the highway and there I climbed into the electric gear for the first time. The temperature was around 40 and after awhile that chills you right to the bone. But, I just dialed up the rheostat and got warm and toasty.  I finally got a moose to pose, even if it was a cow. She was totally unconcerned. There were a couple of cars, me and a bicycle rider just snapping away and she could not have cared less. That is until the bicycle rider got too close. She didn’t move but she did snort at him and lay her ears back. Fortunately  he had enough common sense to stop so she settled down and all ended well.  I wanted to make it to Whitehorse for the day so I sort of hurried along. It is 708 miles from Anchorage to Whitehorse on mostly good roads. Crossing into Canada was no problem although they did have one biker pulled over with all of his stuff spread out. South of the border is an area where they have a lot of problems with frost heaves so you don’t want to get into too big of a hurry. Even taking it easy I bottomed the shocks more than once. The ride by Kluane Lake was interesting. When I last came this way, it was cool with the wind blowing hard. This time is was also cool with the wind blowing harder. Looking around, it was easy to understand why. You are riding in a glaciated valley straight into the mountain range that still has the glaciers in them. The wind flows out of the mountains and gets with the program. Without too much imagination seeing a mammoth walking along would not be too difficult. That wind was kicking the bike around. The folks pulling the big trailers were for sure having fun. It was a little east of the lake that I almost bagged me an elk, or the other way around. I finally made it to Whitehorse, checked in to the motel and then went to Sanchez’s for some good Mexican food, or, at least good Mexican food Whitehorse style.  The next morning I headed out early. On down the road a bit I saw something unusual. Many of us have probably heard stories about how fast bears can run, well, I saw one really moving. He was sitting alongside the road waiting in the trees watching until a car went by. When he decided it was safe, he then sprinted across the road. In that short distance, he really moved. Shortly before Watson Lake I turned off on the Cassier Highway. This is a very scenic road through an area very sparsely settled. There are mountains there, they are not high, but they are something to see. Dempster 09 075This is just a little waterfall along the way. It was right across the road of a gold mining operation. About the time I got to Dease Lake a front was coming through and it began to rain, not hard but hard enough.  The sights along the road were something else. The mountains are rugged and had plenty of snow and you are right up there with them. The clouds were blowing through, sometimes hiding the mountains, and sometimes the road. I had my hands full watching the road and the scenery and staying out of the ditches. By the time I got down to the main east west road it had stopped raining and warmed up. I made it into Smithers and parked it.  The next day, I thought I could make it into the states. I was wrong, BC is a large place. The road into Prince George and then south is one of the (few) major roads they have and it carries a lot of traffic. However, choices are few. I stuck with it until about 150 miles south of Prince George and then turned off on the first road I could and that was a fine idea. It had about 1/3 of the traffic and was scenic. It was also hot. I made it as far as Lumby and stopped for a nice slice of prime rib and a couple of cold beers in the Blue Ox. I left early the next morning and was covering some nice roads. I also saw a young bull moose, but he was not into posing. I also saw several deer by the highway so I was not in too big a hurry. Dempster 09 076I think this is a nice photo. I am waiting on the ferry to cross Lower Arrow Lake which is part of the Columbia system. In 2000, when I crossed this lake further north it was very low. This time, it was full. I went on down through Nelson which was named after someone and then crossed the border at Creston. Shortly before crossing the border I was riding by a hay field with my shield open and got stung on the cheek by a bee. Hopefully one of these days I will learn to keep the shield closed. I crossed into Idaho and as Idaho is not very wide at that point shortly I was in Montana. Again, it was hot, and dry. This area was drier than any I had seen. I took the back roads most of the day and jumped on I-90 at Missoula. I gassed up at a truck stop and this is the first place where I could actually get a large glass of iced tea. I drank three. Shortly after getting on the interstate a front came through, it cooled off, and rained. If anyone in Montana pays any attention to the interstate speed limit I didn’t see them. I was running at least 80 and often 85 and was getting passed. Not much for gas mileage but you can cover the miles. I will say this for Montana I-90, for an interstate it isn't a bad road, at least in the western part of the state. When I hit Bozeman I called it a day.  The rest of the trip was on roads I had already covered. I took I-90 east to near Billings and headed south. It was not as hot as the day before so it was a nice ride. Go through that country and you will realize why they call it Big Sky country. Dempster 09 079This time I did take a photo of the Thermopolis Hot Springs. Also, I had passed split rock on the way up and was unimpressed. However, on the way back I could see the split in the rock over 10 miles away. I was impressed. This is a view of the Big Horn River in the Wind River Canyon. It is a very pretty ride but not very Dempster 09 080long. I continued on south across Wyoming and into Colorado. Shortly after crossing into Colorado I saw a mature Bald Eagle (white head and all) sitting alongside the road munching on something. He also would not pose.  As I came into Walden Co. the clouds looked threatening. Getting the jump on things I got into the rain gear. At first the rain was not bad but as I went into Granby and Winter Park it became very heavy. Coming out of Winter Park you go over Berthould Pass which is over 11,000 feet. That was an interesting ride especially when I rode through a cloud and couldn't see much of anything. The worst part was when I discovered that I had incorrectly closed a flap on my jacket and I got a large does of cold water down the inside of my jacket and pants. After I fixed the flap I had no more problems with that.  I ran out of the rain on the south side of the pass and by the time I hit I-70 all I had to worry about was the Sunday traffic back into Denver. Even that was not too bad and I made it to my sister’s house about 6:30, just in time for afternoon toddies. From there on, I was on very familiar ground. I have covered Denver to OKC many times and it has not changed. I left Denver around 7 and got to OKC about 5, just about the normal time.  I was just glad that I had not come through the Texas Panhandle the night before as they had some torrential rains that night. The water was still on the road to the west of Dumas. I made it back alive and breathing after covering 9892 miles round trip. Interestingly, this is only a few mile different than when I did the Alaska trip, without the Dempster, in 2007. I had no problems to speak of, and the weather mostly cooperated. The bike did its job with no complaint. If I had tried to take the Goldwing down the Dempster as I almost did the results would not have been pleasant. It is a magnificent country both north and south of whatever borders there are. Beauty takes many forms. The mountains are beautiful, but so are the vistas across the plains. From atop some of the passes in Montana it seems as if you can see forever. I had never seen anything like the tundra in Canada and it was worth the trip and the mountains in Western BC are something else. To sum things up, it was a great ride.