When I was given my layoff notice, the company asked me to stay on for an additional 3 months.  They then yanked all of my projects.  For 3 months, I sat in my office and cruised the Internet with nothing to do.  At some point, I stumbled across a trip report up the Dempster Highway on a moped.  That adventurer's account of his journey was the genesis for my desire to head north.

            The rest of my time at work was spent planning and researching my trip.

            Why the KLR?  I looked at a number of different motorcycles.  The one thing that kept pointing back to the KLR was its large fuel tank.  It was one of the few bikes that could cover the distance from Dawson to Eagle Plains without having to carry external fuel.  Its large hauling capacity and the ability to travel at both highway and gravel speeds helped.  Granted, it didn't do either well (in fact, it is a pig in the mud), but it did both adequately.

            I bought Wolfman Alpha luggage, a Kawasaki tank bag, and a center stand from Fred at Arrowhead Motorsports.  Fred is scary-fast with shipping and a great resource for information on riding in the Moab area.  I called the order in on Friday and my packages arrived on Monday.  
            My riding gear was purchased from Wayne Boyer of Cycloport/ Motoport.  Wayne met with me twice.  The first time, he sold me a jacket that had been used as a demonstrator.  I asked him to build some pants.  The second time, he delivered the pants.  At our second meeting, he brought a Kevlar pad that he used to provide an additional layer of protection to his gear.  He placed the pad against a concrete piller and told me to hit it as hard as I could.  About half-way through my swing, I thought, "This is stupid.  If he's wrong, I'm breaking my wrist."  Wayne's stuff was as good as he said it was.  He is proud of his product, and rightly so.

            The addition of the nerf bars completed the package, as far as I was concerned.  The nerf bars surround the sides of the bike for protection against a fall.  The addition of the highway pegs allowed me to stretch out and relax while I toured.  The nerf bars were purchased from Happy Trails in Boise, Idaho.  They went out of their way to accommodate me after I called in from the road with only a few miles' notice.

            The Alpha contained a tent, sleeping bag, and tools.  The external straps on the bag allowed me to mount a rolled-up sleeping pad to the top of the bag.  The sleeping pad served as an admirable back rest, when combined with the highway pegs.  A duffel bag bungeed onto the back of the bike carried my clothes and the 2 X 6 needed to hoist the bike on its center stand.

            One note about the amount of gear strapped to the bike:  the KLR sits high, and the gear left a spot just wide enough on the seat to sit.  To mount the bike,  I had to lean over my left leg, grab my right foot, and lunge to get into the seat.  To get off, I had to fall to one side and catch myself before I hit the ground.  There was no beautiful way to get on and off the bike, unless I was fortunate enough to be able to pull up to the island of a gas pump and hop on and off the pump's pedestal.

            I rode alone.  Although there were numerous times I wanted to turn to someone and say, "Look at that!", the advantage of riding alone was that I kept to my own schedule and my own route.  Most days I didn't even plot a route:  I just headed in the general direction I wanted to go.  The best riding was on 2-lane secondary roads with light traffic.  My personal sweet spot seemed to settle in around 60 miles per hour, and I did not appreciate being pushed.  My riding routine evolved into a standard of 60 mile runs.  At the end of each run, I would make it a point to pull over at the next available wide spot in the road and stop to stretch.  With this routine, I was able to ride for some fairly long days without turning into a pointy-headed, hunched-over gnome.

            My favorite roads?  The Cassiar with the Stewart-Hyder side trip, and the Dempster.            

            The thing about the hotels:  I had camping gear.  My philosophy was that if it rained, I booked a hotel room.  It rained almost every day until I reached the US border going south.  By that time, I just wasn't going to bother with camping.  I still wanted the gear with me in case of trouble on one of the lonely roads I traveled.

            The riding gear all worked fine through rain, sleet and cold, with the glaring exception of my boots.  I turn into a miserable ogre when my feet get wet.  I apologize to all of those whose feelings I may have hurt during the course of my journey.  It was my feet talking.  I plan to spend some money and buy some decent, waterproof boots.

            Finally, a little about the weather:  I started a major in meteorology in college, until I found out the only people hiring at the time were in the military.  Since this was during the last years of the Viet Nam War, the career path didn't seem too promising.  I later talked to a co-worker who had been in the Navy as a Weather Observer during that time.  He told me his job was to be ferried onto enemy shores in a little rubber boat, where he would climb a tree, observe the weather, and call in artillery rounds.

            I grew up in Michigan.  Michigan has a severe climate.  This northern state suffers from wild swings in temperature due to the tilt of the earth and the seasonal journey of the sun.  Summer storms roll in as long lines of cells from the southwest, boiling skyward as the leading edge of cold fronts crash into moist, tropical air from the Gulf of Mexico.  Storms are usually preceded by an oppressive stillness and humidity.  At night, “heat lightning” flashes in clear skies as lightning from thunderstorms below the horizon reflects up into the humid atmosphere.  Occasional low mutters of thunder slowly coalesce into a continuous rumbling, growing louder as the storms approach.  Every once in awhile, the southwestern edge of the approaching blackness begins to swirl.

            Half our town was destroyed in 1956 by an F-5 tornado.  Gotta respect the elements.

            It's funny.  I enjoy San Diego's nearly perfect climate, but I really miss the storms.

            I am still fascinated by weather.  The warmth of the arctic came as a surprise to me, until I realized that long days not only provide light, but build up heat. It is not a land of perpetual snow and ice, at least not during the short summer season.  The warning would be that the weather that far north is dynamic, with a very real possibility of swinging from thunderstorms to snow in a day.  You have to carry the right gear to match both possibilities.

            Since I've returned, I have had the opportunity to meet some great people who provide great service to the KLR community.  They are:

The Leftcoast KLR Society, composed of:
Mike Cowlishaw, the famous "Eagle Mike",
Buddy Seifert, Julian's host for the "Julian Tech Days",
and Mark Bakarich, an uncommonly good-looking wrench.

The KLR650.net site (aka, Glenn's site) a great repository of  information about the KLR.

Mark's site can fix your bike.  

This KLR FAQ site can tell you more than you would care to know about your KLR.

The KLRWorld.com site is noted for its technical information.

Also, thanks to Warren and Carl for letting me tag along on some great San Diego County rides.

Finally, if the opportunity arises to travel to an imaginary line in the far north, take it!

 I know, I want to go back.  

It wasn't just the people in the Dodge pickup who told me they were on "a trip of the lifetime".  

It was a common theme expressed by many of my fellow travelers.

Arctic Circle