Alaska 2014 – South Florida to Calgary, Canada

This is my 8th night on the road, and I’m in Calgary, Canada, ready to start packing everything and be on my way to Alaska tomorrow morning. Just like I did during last year’s trip, I stopped for a whole day and rested a little bit, if doing laundry and catching up with emails can be called resting anyway… Calgary surprised me quite a bit, and I never thought of it as being such a big city. It’s beautiful, though, and I definitely got a very good Canadian vibe from it. Even though I didn’t have much time to look around, what I saw was pleasantly nice. Having made new good and kind friends here, John and Meike, will certainly help in making me come back sometime in the future.

These first days went on as planned, and it was really interesting to see how a second long road trip would feel. I basically took the same route as last year’s, mainly because my goal is to get to Alaska as fast as I possibly can and use the time up there to explore and photograph as much as I can. Even with the roads being mostly the same, I quickly discovered this was far from being the same trip. Maybe it was because I was feeling more relaxed, or maybe because I felt more prepared for the daily routine of long distance motorcycling travel, the fact is that I was able to see and enjoy more along the way.

Leaving Florida was the same milestone sensation of the trip starting for real, and I visited a couple of good friends on my way to the border. Stu Nowlin, who welcomed me last year at his nice home in Lawrence, Kansas, and the Drake family in Mitchell, South Dakota, generous in their hospitality and friendship. For two days, starting in Oak Grove, Kentucky, I was joined on the road by another good friend, Rick Miller, from Virginia, riding his 1200 GS Adventure and enjoying every single mile. We parted ways in Mitchell, and while I took the route to the West, Rick rode back home on the East Coast under a lot of rain. It was great to have his company, even if for two days only.

The crossing of the Big Horn, in Wyoming, marked the very first unforgettable day of riding: sunny skies, beautiful weather and stunning views all around me. The next day, I rode the Beartooth Highway and went on through Yellowstone, where I saw the very first black bear for this trip, and was also chased by a very angry big bird when I stopped for some photos by the roadside. I’m glad nobody was around to see the quite ridiculous scene: the bird kept coming at me and I was shooing him away with my camera, trying to jump back on the bike without being “kissed” by the feathered menace. I have no clue why, but he was definitely in a very bad mood…

Just before crossing the border into Canada, I rode to the West entrance of Glacier National Park, but this time around I knew in advance I wouldn’t be able to go through one of the highlights of the trip last year, the Going to the Sun Highway. A large part of the road was still closed, they had way more snow this year and it’s taking longer to open the whole highway. I had to go to the East entrance, and from there I took the road that would get me into Canada. It was still a very nice and scenic ride, but nothing that can be compared to that great road inside the park.

From here, the plan is to keep on going via the Alaska Highway, and be in Tok, Alaska, in 4 or 5 more days. Once I’m there, I will just let the weather dictate my riding around the whole state, and will take my time exploring what is out there. Definitely something to look forward to. The new bike is performing brilliantly, and I have nothing to complain about, except for the seat, which is bothering me a little bit. It’s a narrower stock seat, and it doesn’t feel as comfortable as my older bike’s. Nothing to complain about when you’re just going around town for a quick ride, but I can feel it on these 500/600-mile days in a row. Guess I will simply have to get used to it.

If I have to say what is the major difference between life on the road in 2013 and 2014, it is that this time around I’m feeling way faster and more experienced in getting ready every morning: packing and unpacking became second nature, and I don’t even have to think twice about what goes where. It just happens, and it feels right! The next post will probably be already from somewhere in Alaska, hopefully in around one week or a little more. Thanks to all my friends for following this new journey, and for now here’s a few images from these first days.

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