Sunday, 31 August 2008

Have you lubed it?

Simon arrived on thursday and it has been a flurry of activity finishing everything to finally get out the door. One of the harder activities of the last few days was mounting the new tires on my bike.  I was so excited to finish with the rear wheel and put it all back together and go for a ride around town to rerun some tools that we had borrowed. When i started down the road the bike shook like it was going to fall apart. We went back home to sort it out thinking maybe I made the rear wheel out of true when i was trying to break the bead to remove the old tire. Thankfully it was much simpler the bead of the new tire was not seated properly. After 2 hours of inflation and deflation a little help form gerry and Simon we were completely frustrated and still not done. So I went up to the tire shop in town and he said " Have you lubed it up good?". I went home put some dish soap around the bead and amazingly it was done. 
It is the simple things I often forget. I am sure there will be plenty more of those from here on out, so let the adventure begin. A little packing and off we go. 

thin air and Aons mile high office

Aon Denver employees. A top bunch of friendly people. A pleasure to meet.
Pete and simon outside Aon Denver
Denver is Colorado`s state capital city. Aon has an office there. 4100 e.mississippi ave. Its an address i have been seeing and wondering about for years. Working in the postroom at Dev sq, i have sent many a courier via transworld couriers over to that office. The place i imagined, to be a large office, due to the fact that i have mentioned about sending a lot of items over there. I wasn`t suprised to see a tall dark , glassy building and a large sign along side, showing Aon inside. The office isn`t situated in the downtown Denver area, where the main clump of denvers financial towers are. The Aon building is sat in the lovely named cherry creek area. The sun was shining as myself and Pete found the office. Pete knew where Misssissippi avenue was , but hadn`t heard of a company called Aon before, until i mentioned i work for them. Aon has 4 floors in the building and around 150 employees. We were greeted warmly and curiously as we asked to meet a marketing person. All where unavailable, So i was very happily suprised to finally be greeted by the executive vice president, Terri Brown. She took us under her wing and introduced us to a number of Aon staff, who all asked questions about our trip and Fragile X Syndrome. We took some photos and chatted, laughed for some time, till eventually saying goodbye and good luck. A great bunch of people, very friendly and unskeptical. mmmmmm, not like the london lot aye !!!!! (only kidding)...... lets hope that on this quest , the Aon peeps we find are as warm and helpful........... next stop Aon pheonix.

I got to Leadville a couple of days ago now. Pete has been great. The perfect host, with freshly cooked cookies made by his mate , Amy, a tasty delight indeed, large as ya like choco lumps ! I expected to see pete, twitching the curtains anxiously itching to get on the road, after a year of talk. He is ready and red hot to go ! he`s done mods to his bike. Changed the tyres, to those well reported dual sport tyres, Avon Distanzias. Reputed to take on any kind of unforgiving dirt track and carry on doing that for 10000 miles. Changed his oil and filters. Set the bike up for the haul. I am chuffed to bits to see and hear that he is on th eroad for longer than i thought. 2 months hes out there for. I`ll have to see if myself and the adventure can seduce him into rolling as far south as possible. Looks like he might be able to make it into Colombia and maybe Ecuador. I have been carrying a new chain and front sprocket, that i got from AKRIDERS in anchorage,. and it was time to change them. i didnt have a front sprocket, but pete had found one for me. This was gonna be a test for me. A part of me was hoping pete and his house mate jerry would kick me aside and say "leave it out, we`ll fit the stuff for ya", but most of me wanted to sort this out, coz i have to get my hands filthy with mechanical experience, coz as the trip goes on i will need to utillise at least some sort experience as the bike start to go into demensure. Got the old chain off easy, to find the clip that holds the master link together, not letting the chain come apart, was missing. I am definatly a lucky man. I have been carrying a stone from the Arctic coast. A black stone with a thin white line on. A stone the Inuits say brings long life and luck ! .. the clipless chain could`ve totaly destroyed the bikes motor and maybe my left calf muscle. Followed the manuals instructions, but after meeting Jay at Signe & jeffs gaff in philipsburg earlier in the trip i ended up using the feeling and knowing approach, that he showed me. It works. I always do it by the book if im new to it. Jay showed me how to feel ya way around it. In this case the chain. After all its all a case of this joins that, that makes this do that etc. It went well. the new chain and sprockets are on. the oil changed. A new filter and we are ready to rock as they say over here. The past 2 nights have been spent following pete around saying TaTa to his friends. A top lot. We had steaks in town with Randy. jd, marny and terri. A great night of laughs a stuffed bellies. Last night was spent with John, Joyce and there daughter Emily, jerry & alyssa. sat out in the pines at 10000feet up, 2 miles high, by turqiouse lake. A great night of bbq`d munch and stories to laugh to until the night came in, the milky way came out in total view from south horizon to north horizon, making realise how earth sits amongst it all. We could see the spiral of the Milky Way. So thats it phase 2 begins today.
Bizzare views from the top of the world Leadville, Colorado. A fierce cloud comes from behind the rockies

Friday, 29 August 2008

more mountains and lakes

red cliff bridge - colorado
john and joanne - philipsburg montana
virginia city - montana
virginia city - montana
montana opens up. rockies 
red wyoming
jasper national park
lake louise, banff. named after one of queen victorias daughters
lake - montana
signe on one of her wonderful machines
signe sorting us all out some breakfast. that crispy bacon was the best. the oven is a gorgeous renovated 1903 oven.
alberta mist
scooped out peaks - jasper

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Phase 1 finished

I made it. I`m in Leadville Colorado. Petes home town. 5300 miles. It feels like the trip is in 3 stages. Stage 1, Alaska to petes. Stage 2, petes to panama. Then stage 3, Colombia to Ushuaia. Its the first time i have managed to stick all my clothes into a washer. I feel great. Satisfied with the riding and experiences, as in meeting some interesting people, making heart felt new friendships and seeing the most incredible places and animals. Not quite so feeling great about the publicity aspect so far though. Its been dificult to get the media interested. The only way is to send emails, because i havent been able , with the time i have to ride around the towns looking for media outlets, so emails have been the way. It mainly comes in a letter to the editor form, which i hope will be published. Now that we have 2 minds on the trip , it will be better for ideas and time. I was in a rush , banging out 300-400 miles a day. We are sitting put in Leadville for a couple of days now. Get the bikes sorted out, like new tyres, chains, sprockets. A good clean etc. We are visiting petes local newspaper in person tomorrow, so that should get things rolling. A local lad and an englishbloke riding this ride should take their interest. We are also going into Denver, to visit the Aon office there. Denver 100 miles from leadville is currently holding the nations democratic convention, so the city is buzzing from all that right now. Its great to be here in one piece. The bike, considering its past (a rental) has been in perfect shape, no problems. I only had to tighten the chain and air the tyres along the way. Shes heating up faster at the moment, but after a good clean taking off all that muddy insulation, the coolness should be back. Those 5000 miles have taken me from the top of the world, down the spine of the jagged, dark, stark rocky mountains. Through the road hugging clouds of british columbia. 3 days of cloud and mist. wet and internal moaning. It wasnt till i pulled up in a gas station in dawson creek, the end of the alcan, that i finally snapped out of the wet misery, when a strange woman came upto me laughing hysterically and saying "your wet" that i cracked up laughing along with her, realising that all of this is part of it, not just the sunshine times. Was all good after that. Held up in grand praire, alberta for the night, before riding into the sunshine and jasper and banff national parks. Jaw dropping natural beauty. the parks are stunning. turquiose lakes, from the glacier juice, scouped out mountain ranges. zillions of spruce, aspen and pine trees. Animals safely roaming around , free from the hunters weapons. Ater riding through and camping in the parks i raosted away out of canada and into montana, usa. Thought a wolf crossed my path. a silvery grey dog type beast, smaller than i imagined, so as it turned out it was probably a coyote. (edit : it was a wolf. saw a coyote at grand canyon. definwhat i saw was much bigger and not fox like - like a coyote)) A cheeky rascal that thought hed escaped me but i stopped to watch him bobbing his head up and down in the long grass, willing me away. i tried howling to get him going, but he just sneared and slinked off into the trees. Montana, turned brown. A light brown, beige. Rolling hills of beige, sweet smelling purfumes i couldnt make out. Sometimes wiffs of burning entered my helmet. Forrest fires are rife up here. I stayed the night in Kalispell. I had been contacted by a lady , named sylvia, who had heard of the trip and wanted to meet, but alas my timing was rubbish again. Sylvia is heading out there soon. hope to meet her oneday on the road. Off through the beige once more, with the rockies never to far from view. raising in altutude to upto 6000 feet, into mid montana. A gorgeous old town, done out wild western 19th century days. Philipsburg. The buildings looked authentic and not plastically made to show the days of old. I couldnt resist this place. after meeting mike smith, a freindly chap , with london ancestry, another fine friendly geezer comes in and offers me a place to kip for the night. John from Kalispell. married to Joanne. It turns out to be a house owned by signe and jeff. 2 very much bmw motorcyle fanatics. their garage is full of old and wonderfull machines. Theres others staying there. all looking out for each other, having a laugh and loving bmws. My KLR looked right at home though amongst these demons of miles and history. John and joanne are on and in an old bmw sidecar outfit. Brian, jay and roger all on their own big big beamers, riding all over the mountains and far away. A friendly warm comunity, that was a real pleasure and suprise to be part of. After good byes i head off into wyoming and yellowstone national park. Wyoming seems like a brother to montana, but with sparser savings. A land of what looked like sunshine tundra and not arctic tundra, covering everything. A huge flatter landscape than what i had been used to. Indian reservations, with small box houses. towns of 3 buildings and 1 gas pump. I loved Wyoming. Hardly any people. long long straight roads with this not tundra. the rockies showing up sometimes to show me im on the right road. yellowstone was missed really, i hit it to late. the sun was falling. i had an hour to get through there along a 2 hour road. It got dark. it was pitch black. I spent the time , doing 30mph and no more. watching the roads shoulders for suicidal beasts. I caught up another unfortunate on a bike. a harley davidson, not suprisingly. we rode out the dark , silent partners. Got out in one piece. the lakes , somehow looked very silver in the darkness. a silver i have never seen before in the natural world. Mysterious mists sat in the trees bellies. All very hammer house of wonderful horror. Just needed the bone chilling howls of the local wolves to make it right right. A sound i have waited all my life to hear, but alas again. Was out of wyoming like the wind. mainly leaning into a strong crosswind, pushing hard again the opposite bar grip. Colorado, can be compared to Alaska, in my opinion. The roads curl and bank made of silky tarmac sucking on the bikes tyres, inducing confidence in the rider to make the most of throughing the bike left right left, flying out of the corners into the next unbarriered mountain curve. Whilst loving all this, you raise to 10000 feet through stunning green forests and the barren jagged rockies are back in constant companionship. Im here. at petes. typing this pale ale on the floor. petes sorting his tyres and brakes out in the sunshine. We are both going to use the blog. posting when the times right. I have so much more to say and so many more people to mention, but cant fit it all in. Hopefully i will when i can. Fingers crossed the groove comes for the publications. that should be tomorrow ! we leave for southerly sun on sunday.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Out of Alaska into Canada and the endless mist

It is always hard leaving Alaska. This time wasnt different. The sun was kind to me while i was up there. Only a couple of days wet. Tok is the last town before the Canadian border. I met Teddy there, whilst waiting for a moose to get out of the road. She stood there for 5 minutes staring at me, until i got my camera out to shoot her, then she sloped off, not before i managed to get a pic of her. Teddy pulled up as i was waiting there. A gold prospecter, probably one of the last of his kind. Even had the dangly white beared hiding 2 black teeth. A manic laugh and a wacko excitement in everything. Had to leave him that night though, coz he wanted me to join him sleeping under the freezing stars, with vacum wrapped salmon half eaten laying next to us all night. He said "the bears wont bother us", but i scared out of that gamble. Had a top nights send off with my Alaskan mates, in Girdwood. A glorious meal in great company and a viewing of the town dogs chasing a black bear and her cubs up a tree. She just sat there, legs dangling from a branch, like a human kid for ages till the dogs got bored. It was a breeze crossing the border, no waiting time. At Beaver creek, the first Canadian town i met up with a swiss couple that i had met in Anchorage. Guido and Gaby. They have been on the road for 2 years riding north from Argentina on their BMW 1200`s, which they curse after endless problems. Rode with them for 3 days covering around 900 miles. We camped all the time, which is the best option for saving money. B & B`S are very expensive up here. My first Aon call came in Whitehorse along the yukon river. I got there on a sunday, but thought thats ok coz i will just go and say hello on the monday, but alas, it was a yukon provincial days holiday on the monday. A celebration of the first gold to be found in the area, back in 1896. Not to mind though, i took a few snaps of the Aon office. A small place with 3 reserved car bays for the employees. A real contrast in size to devonshire sq. At the moment i am in Grande Praire, Alberta. It hasnt stopped raining for 3 days now. My visor is almost ruined and its to cold to make more miles today. Almost 4000 miles to now. Will be more specific with all details soon. Waiting on responses from publications along the way also, fingers crossed !!

Aon office- Whitehorse - Yukon Canada

Gabby & Guido - 2 years on the road

Friday, 15 August 2008











Thursday, 14 August 2008

Sawman of the North

After all the flapping about having to get upto deadhorse by the friday, riding sort of ilegally i managed to change the booking at the caribou inn to saturday night. In doing so, i didnt have to strain the life out of the bike and test my riding skills to a death defying limit. Left Anchorage, thursday after riding around town getting the needed things for a trip like this, like a tyre repair kit, tyre irons, lots of oil, chain lube and snickers bars. The plan was to get north to Fairbanks that night, so as to give me an easier low mileage day to get used to the dirt of the notorious james dalton highway, the day after. Didn`t make it ! Left Anchorage and after 50 miles it slashed down. Slashed until i could not take anymore. I pushed and pushed, until i couldnt see or feel anything anymore. 80 miles short of fairbanks, passed Talkeetna and Denali park, a Lodge, slightly hidden from the road by being distant from the road, but in a green clearing inbetween thick dark forests of the tallest spruce. It didnt matter how much it cost, i couldnt physicaly ride anymore. 315 miles north of the AKrider office in Anchorage. No one was staying there. An old boy named Jim answered the door and encouraged me in out of the rain. $69, which isnt bad for Alaska. I sat there with jim , drying off and listening to his tales of old Alaska. His hunting days of fierce battles up in the arctic hunting polar bears. Wrestling a black bear that had fallen through the window of his cabin. Tracking down the Largest of wolves. All seemed a bit tall for me really, but then he showed me the death room. A room dedicated to his hunting days. The wolf really was the largest of beasts. His skin stretched all over one wall. I couldnt believe that a wolf could grow to that size. Its head like a Lion. Turns out the place is haunted by the spirit of the owner, who had a brain hemorage 15 years ago, in a back room. Jim told me not to worry though, coz the spirit only slams doors some nights, he doesnt pace up and down the wooden corridors or anything like that. That was it, the light was left on all night and i managed to get at least 2 hours kip in ! some adventurer i am ! . Left there around 9am with a mouth full of a second danish pastry, with apple and other stuff in. Rode through Fairbanks, still raining and cold, but i was better prepared and dressed this time. Filled up the bike with gas at a small town called Fox, 70ish miles short of the start of the dalton highway. No more gas till Coldfoot, 250 miles north. filled the jerry can up also, just incase. It turns out i was wrong in thinking that. Another fill up station at the Yukon river crossing, 60 miles north of the start of the dalton.

The Dalton highway. A road of all roads to any overland rider. So famous i`m sure the stories can`t be true. A road that sorts the men out from the boys & generaly chews`em up for its main course, without spitting them out to be found. It was really exciting for me to be there at last but I stood there, at the sign for at least half hour, thinking i had definatly made one the biggest mistakes of my life. The rain had stopped. After 2 close and very loud gun shots, away to my left somewhere, i was on the bike and not worrying about the biggest mistake of my life. I didnt even notice the bike snaking all over the road, due to the loose gravel and ruts. When i did notice, i was already some way to be relaxed with road taking the bike where i didnt want it to go. "squeeze the tank with ya knees and lightly hold the handle bars", Jeff had wisely told me. It works. The only way to relax my hands on the bars when tensed up is by squeezing the tank with my knees, so all the tension goes to the knees holding the tank. The bike then somehow ends up going in a better straight line , on the right side of the road than before. Soon i started to notice fewer vehicles around. The ones that did come by facing me, had waving , wide eyed drivers. That gave the hint i was heading for places, where people seldom go. No one waves at people coming the other way if they are constantly seeing people coming the way. Sort of like hikers up a mountain somewhere. I was starting to feel like i was getting into the real wilds of Alaska. The fear sneaked off and i was settling into the road, like old slippers. Pavement / tarmac came and went in half mile & mile fits. Some places, that had been sprayed with chemicals for road conservation left the road wet and thick with mud. A shock to the complacent rider. I cant reach more than 30mph on this stuff. mostly sliding through at 10mph. Nearly dropping the bike twice. Stopped at the Yukon, a huge wide river, shouldered by eager fishermen. Leaving the Yukon stop a BMW rider came flying past, didnt even notice me. He was very fast for that kind of gravel. An hour on i found him and 5 other riders parked up chatting. A nice bunch. All americans except a Kiwi girl, that lives in London. Annette is riding the same route as me , to raise awareness for a Latin American childrens charity. Past gobblers Knob (a hill) through hills that become mountains. Everything covered in green and brown. Pine trees so dense. A lake , where archeologists working on the pipeline, have found native stuff dating back 2000 years. The pipeline follows you around the hills, running parrallel, then tangenting off underground or off up a rise and appearing somewhere unexpected. Playing a chasing game, keeping me company.
The pipeline. A completly man made intrusion into this wild place. A simple design that feeds the lower places with its black gold. I love it. I believe it works with the wilderness. Someways complementing it. Mans way of saying "i can take what i want from you". It cheekily keeps ya company. The arctic circle marker came and went. The furthest north i have ever been. The sun got larger as i neared Coldfoot. The nights place to sleep. It didnt go down till 11pm.

"i know that accent" i heard as i was sorting a room out in coldfoot. Helen and gary from devizes in wiltshire. A great couple of characters. A pleasure to meet. New friends. They have been away for 3 months exploring the states and canada by hired car. They are masters in the hotel blag of getting the price down. We had a great laugh that night, with a few bottles of beer and a meeting with a nut case floridian, Daniel, who once walked for 9 months across the mountain tops of eastern USA. 340 miles that day. I felt good. Happy that the road hadn`t been to hungry and that the sun was on my side. Stories were coming in that the next section , to the top was getting ,more challenging by the hour. Snow had been falling up in the Brooks range. Fog was everywhere and temperatures were dropping fast. When chatting to people the first question was "which direction you come from ?" . I was feeling in awe of the south bounders that came from the top. Mostly intreptid car drivers. Some with family and some solitary. Mostly hunters. All with a wry smile and eyes saying "you dont know what ya in for ". SO next morning im up and away after all north bounders. Helen and gary have already left in the car. No bikers anywhere and the coach full of older peeps left half hour ago. 248 miles to Deadhorse. The sun was out again, bit of luck. Means the road is dry and faster and fun. Caught the coach up, passed it with hoots of hello`s. Up into th eAtigun pass and the fabled brooks range. A place i have wanted to be at for a few years now. Straight up into the clouds. Couldnt see a thing for 3 hours until riding back down the other side. Its was freezing. I was that cold i had to stop and try and warm up. Hands had frozen into the grip position, which i couldnt straighten for 5 minutes. I managed to get off the wrong side of the bike and kick the beast down flat. Took me another half hour top get the strength to strain it upright again. The clouds rose as i rode down altitude. The hills became smaller, covered in small damp shrubs and hunters in camo gear, with bows and arrows, Laying on the road shoulders wainting for their caribou to show. The hills flattened complety into the Arctic Tundra. This place seemed to me where the rest of the world had not bothered to go. All stops at the Brooks range. Silence reigns. 100 miles left and im freezing again. a place called Happy Valley turns up. One building and a few sort of buildings scatterd around by a beautiful blue river. I turned in hoping to buy coffee and warmth. A man steps out of nowhere. Ed, a friendly understanding man, who in winter lives on an Arctic island named Katovik and in summer heads south to 80 miles south of deadhorse. Hardly Hawaii ! He took me into his house, fed me coffee and great complements on the ride for FXS. It was hard to leave his warmth. 80 miles left, a warm torso, toes and neck, i ripped up the rest of the way as the sky seemed lower and greyer than ever. Landed in deadhorse to find the riders from the previous day, one of them riding a huge honda goldwing (how he made it up there on that i will never understand) and he got a ticket for speeding. The fastest i could make that day was 60mph. He must get some sort of reward for that ride ! $179 for a night up there in the Arctic caribu Inn. Nice enough room. Bears apparently everywhere, so we are told to watch out when leaving the building. Deadhorse i found out is part of the whole area of prudhoe bay. It lays a 10 minute slow drive by bus from the Arctic ocean. I took the bus the next morning along with an Argentine geezer who had just driven up from Buenos Aires after 7 months on his own. His car was just an ordinary rear wheel driven saloon car. A few dents here and there and a solar panel on the boot. We wern`t aloud to have a full dip in th esea, due to a polar bear being in the area. I didnt see it , but we were told it doesnt matter if we can see it or not, its there. It could be 30 miles away and sense we are in the ocean, so the next lot of bus riders could have him on their problem lists. Oh well, got my hand wet anyway and looked south wondering what i will be wondering when im at the southern tip looking north in all those months time. Met helen and gary again that night, which was fun again. Said our goodbye`s. I hope i catch them again soon somewhere coincidental.

I know we speak the same language, us brits as our mates stateside, but i am having trouble getting my name across. Simon, 8 times out of 10 becomes Sawman to people i chat to. So now i just say my name is sawman. Mind you a few people have said "whats that ? Solomon, you say ?". Think i prefer Sawman. My hold on the english language is in need of help ! ...................Everyone i meet i tell what i am doing and why. ALL are interested. All want to know what Fragile X syndrome is. Some have helped in placing this blog on their web sites. Some spreading via word of mouth. All have a sticker ! Some are coming up with ideas to help me in spreading awareness. There is the Anchorage news i will visit tomorrow. Fingers crossed they see a story worth printing..... Its 12.04 now. im back down in the AKrider office Anchorage again typing this. Its time for bed. Im sleeping with 50 motorycles tonight under the same sleepy briefness : The ride back from prudhoe was incredible. Had the brooks range all to myself , came 20 feet away from my first grizzly, a 3 year old rascal. mum had kicked her out last year. she seemed just as nervous as me. Muskox by the road. Caribou herds. saw mount mckinley out of the clouds, all 20000 feet of it. Met some more characters, who i will never forget, excentricity city up here ! . Seeing what was behind me on the way up there, when riding south was like riding through another place entirely. 1800 miles- 7 days. Got back, Brendan heroicaly cleaned the bike for me, getting the fan working again. Great chats with Nicole, about her adventures and the route i am taking to get to leadville , colorado and pete. New front tyre tomorrow a new chain and sprockets, then im off towards the canadian border. More mountains and beauty ! Will be hard to say ta ta to Alaska. The friendliest people, who will give you whats theirs -the most incredible scenery, shocking. Theres is too much to say about this incredible last frontier !