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Journey to the Top of the World
by: Tom Maguire
If there is any interest Ducati NA has a small article on their website on my trip to the Arctic Circle and I've attached a somewhat longer account of the trip below.
If any of you read Ducati North America's story of my trip on their website, you read the short version. The part about my tattoo of Carpe Diem was quite correct and my "seize the day" mentality helped me get my bike in gear and go. At 60 years of age, I felt good but wondered how many years I had left before a trip of this scope would be beyond me physically or mentally. It also helped that my wife practically pushed me out the door; hopefully, she wasn't having an affair.
Even though this story will be on BCM's website, I feel compelled to say how fortunate I have been to have them work on my bikes. Like many of you, I travel a long distance to have BCM service my bikes. I am not mechanically inclined and by biggest fear on this trip was having a breakdown (the bike, not me). In many places it would be difficult to find any type of help, let alone a Ducati dealer. I believe that BCM considered my mechanical shortcomings and went above and beyond the call of duty to get my Multistrada in perfect running condition including getting expired warranty work done before departure.
I do my best to avoid interstates and for the most part was very successful ... some Route 90 in Montana and Idaho and the last three days on Route 70 to home in New York.
Briefly my route was from BCM across Vermont into N.Y. where I crossed into Canada at Messina, N.Y.; across the tops of the Great Lakes stopping in Pembroke, Sault Ste Marie and Thunder Bay, Ontario; back into the lower 48 at International Falls; and across northern Minnesota, North Dakota and into Montana.
In Montana I attended a BMW Rally at Beartooth Pass, and they were nice enough to award me (on a Ducati!) the Long-Distance Award. There were 6 Ducati's at the rally. I was fortunate to ride the Beartooth Pass and one of my all-time favorite roads, The Chief Joseph Highway in Wyoming.
After leaving the rally, I rode through Glacier National Park and stopped at Beaudry Motors in Idaho for a scheduled oil and filter change and a rear tire. They were not very helpful, a beautiful dealership but it was all business with no personal touch. What they did not take care of was immediately taken care of at other dealerships.
North into Canada, passed Lake Louise, through Jasper, Grande Cache, Grande Prairie and finally Dawson Creek (Mile 0 of the Alcan Highway), Watson Lake (all the signs), Whitehorse (a great town), Carmacks and Dawson City.
From Dawson City there is a free ferry which takes you to the other side of the Yukon River and the start of the Top of the World Highway. On the Canadian side this road is mainly hard-packed dirt and gravel; on the American side it's similar but with lots of potholes.
At the border crossing the U.S. agent asked the usual questions: place of birth, reason for visit, etc. But he decided to ask an additional question. After looking at my driver's license (DOB) and seeing the red Multistrada, he asked "having a mid-life crisis, are we?" I responded with "NO, an old-age crisis." He ended up being quite helpful. He also stated that this was the first Ducati he had even seen on the Top of the World.
After riding this road you come to the proverbial fork in the road, and I opted (with help from the agent) to go to Eagle, Alaska. It's a 65-mile potholed, gravel road in and the same road out. There are no guardrails, no shoulders, but beautiful scenery all around and below you. Scenery you could easily become part of should you make a mistake. Eagle was everything I hoped for, a reasonable motel sitting next to the Yukon River, a gas station and a small restaurant. The ride out was just as enjoyable. I continued to Chicken and Tok, approximately 240 miles of unpaved roads. This was for me my greatest accomplishment because I'm not that good off road and street tires didn't help.
On August 29 I left Fairbanks and taking the Dalton Highway or Haul Road I reached the Arctic Circle. Again, this was around 250 miles of unpaved roads. I was very fortunate to ride The Top of the World Highway and the Haul Road in dry conditions. I'm not sure I could have made it in rain. I'm glad I didn't have to find out.
Great experience at Alaska Cycle Center (Ducati dealer) where I was treated like a dignitary by the Service Manager, Dave Hine. He even washed my bike free of charge.
Back through Whitehorse to the Cassiar Highway with a side trip to Hyder, Alaska. This was not only a beautiful Ducati-type road, but it had scenery to match ? glaciers, ice bergs, water falls, rivers and in Hyder streams filled with huge salmon and grizzly bears fattening themselves for the long winter ahead.
Eventually into Eastern Washington and Oregon. I camped at stunning Crater Lake, passed Mt. Shasta in California, and down to the famous Highway 1 or the Coast Highway at Monterey. Since it was mid-week and after the kids were back at school, I practically had the road to myself. The only limiting factor was my skill. Even I managed to drag the center stand a few times. I know of no other road in this country where you have such a beautiful view of the ocean. It's just the road, the cliffs and the ocean. Then on to Santa Barbara for a long-overdue full service at what will soon be known as Ducati of Santa Barbara, owned by Trevor Dunne who was quite familiar with BCM; he was quite a character.
Heading for Death Valley I was detoured by the wild fires and went across the Mojave Desert. It was 110º and the locals said I was lucky; it had been over 130º! I rode the west side of Lake Powell and camped in Zion National Park. The next day I camped at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. When morning came (I didn't sleep much), it was 31º with 50 mph winds.
I had wanted to go to Bryce Canyon but they had a similar weather forecast so I opted to go east where I went through Monument National Park, into Colorado, and over Wolf Creek Pass (it had snowed the day before). Once I made it to Kansas I decided it was time to get home, so I jumped on Route 70 for a 3-day express ride home.
I've probably bored everyone to sleep by now, but if you are still with me, two quick stories:
I had a flat rear tire in Watford City, North Dakota, and it was suggested that I call Farmers Union Oil Company because they fix the local tractor tires. I called and asked if they could just come and put air in the tire so I could find the leak; within 5 minutes he was there (in the meantime I removed luggage, etc.) and filled the tire. He thought I would be able to ride the bike and suggested I follow him to his shop where he removed the wheel, the tire, patched the tire, remounted the tire, reinstalled the wheel, drove me back to the diner to get my luggage, etc. and when he totaled everything up, he charged me $30.39! ? and refused my $5.00 tip stating "that's my job."
In Whitehorse, Yukon, I was desparate for hand guards (something I meant to do before I left). On the Multistrada website many members state that the KTM hand guards work the best. At Yukon Honda & KTM they started to take the guards off the showroom model when the parts man found some in storage. They didn't charge for labor because they felt the hand guards were overpriced.
These two stories helped make this such a wonderful trip and help to renew one's faith in mankind.
Some miscellaneous (rambling) facts: the 2004 Multistrada is stock except for Termignoni exhaust, heated grips and a Sargent saddle which made the trip much more enjoyable. I also purchased a Gerbing electric under jacket that was worth its weight in gold. I remember one of the heated clothing companies said something like "once you ride with one, you will wonder why you waited so long" ? it's true! I have no GPS, CB radio, all weather computer, XM radio nor MP3 player, just a compass on my watch which doesn't work well and a cell phone which in much of B.C., the Yukon and Alaska did not work. Finding gas was never a problem. The greatest distance between stations was 175 miles. Finding a room was never a problem either, but rooms were expensive in these same areas.
Would I do a trip like this again? DEFINITELY! Already plans are being made for a trip to Nova Scotia, Price Edward Island and eastern Quebec. And as someone once told me, "this life is not a dress rehearsal." So make the most out of what's left. As my license plate reads, "VIVERE" ? Italian for Live Life.
Anyway, it was 6 weeks to the day, I totaled 14,343 trouble- free miles, had very good weather, met lots of nice people and made great memories.
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