|June 2005||Louisiana HSTA Newsletter||Bob Chappuis, Editor|
|Join me in welcoming new (to Louisiana) member Vick Thomas to the Louisiana HSTA. Vick rides a 1985 Honda Sabre (VF1100S). He has been a member since the early 1990's and just recently moved to Louisiana from New Mexico. WELCOME Vick!|
Finally, May 26 arrived and it was time to go on an Edelweiss Motorcycle Tour of Alaska. The tour didn't start until May 28, but I wanted to get up a day or two early just to explore a little bit.
My first Alaskan adventure began in just trying to get there. I had purchased an airline ticket via Priceline.com months previous. Let me tell you, I will never do that again. My itinerary changed between the time I purchased the ticket and time to go, so I ended up leaving West Monroe at midnight by auto to try and make a 9:30am flight out of DFW. I made it, but now had an unused portion of a ticket (fortunately it is still valid for a year!) I did end up in Anchorage and my luggage and riding gear arrived with me. I should be thankful for that!
The first thing one notices about Alaska in the summertime is that at 11:00 pm it is still light outside (cars do not need headlights till about 11:30.) I got a cab to my first hotel (the base hotel for the Edelweiss Tour was too expensive so I found another place to stay.) Al's Alaskan Inn, complete with downstairs bar sufficed very well. I slept well the first night because I had been up for about 30 straight hours. The next morning though I was off to downtown Anchorage to explore and try culinary treats such as reindeer sausage (maybe we should ad this to the Cajun Christmas list!) Anchorage is an interesting city and easy to get around. I visited a couple of museums and an IMAX theater and learned some of the history of the 49th state. It was also in the upper 40's so the warm clothes I packed came in handy. I took a float plane trip out of Anchorage (more planes in Anchorage have floats than wheels) and flew over a glacier and explored some wilderness outside of Anchorage. It doesn't take long to find wilderness and the vastness of the state is very quickly felt.
On May 28th we got together with the Edelweiss group at the base hotel. There were six altogether, two couples from California, one rider from Connecticut, and myself along with the two tour guides Keith and Carl. We had a very nice dinner Saturday night and got ready for the first leg of our journey on Sunday. I chose an R1150R to ride, very similar to my bike at home.
The first leg on Sunday morning left Anchorage and headed south to the seaport town of Seward. The trip was relatively short, but the scenery is really breathtaking. It rained and that was a sign of things to come. We finished our ride by viewing a glacier and seeing the progress it has made over the last 50 years.
Monday had us ride the same road back north to Anchorage and on into Wasilla. Though the rode was the same, the view seemed different from the day previous. The outstanding scenery was ever present.
Tuesday we continued north toward Denali National Park. Denali National Park is home to Mt. McKinley, the highest peak in North America. Because of the weather, we did not get a good view of this most impressive mountain. In fact, it is said that the mountain "makes its own weather" so one can never really be sure if they will see McKinley or not. We did have some nice weather on this day and were startled by a moose that was standing on the side of the road. Moose can be a potential hazard and hundreds are killed every year on Alaskan highways. We got to our cabins at the Denali Park entrance about 5:00 pm (still more than six hours of daylight left!) This day also gave us our first glimpse of caribou as one was along the side of the road as we motored north.
On Wednesday, I did not ride the motorcycle, but took a guided bus tour into Denali National Park. This was a real treat. Only a limited number of visitors are allowed into Denali each day and personal vehicles are not allowed at all beyond mile 15 (the road in is over 100 miles long this is a vast, huge country two and one half times the size of Texas!) The bus tour took seven hours but we saw moose, Dall sheep, caribou, a grizzly bear mother and cub in their natural habitat. Snow was still present in the higher elevations and sled dogs are used to patrol Denali in the wintertime. We also saw a number of native bird species and various other animals such as snow shoe hares and squirrels. The tour guide had 13 years experience and was knowledgeable in life cycle information on the animals we saw along with park history. I would recommend this tour to anyone and getting to Alaska without getting to Denali shouldn't be condoned. Of interest to note is Denali gets one more inch of rainfall per year than our closer to home Big Bend that several of us visited in February. (13" vs. 12" per year)
On Thursday, June 2 we left Denali National Park and headed north on Alaska Parks Highway 3 to Fairbanks. Fairbanks is home to the largest university in the state which houses the University of Alaska Museum. One of the other riders, David Smith and I visited this museum and got an interesting glimpse of the state including information on native peoples, the Alaska Pipeline, and even a display of some of the native animals. A nine foot tall Brown Bear greets you upon entering this building of most unique architecture. The ride from Denali to Fairbanks is more flat and mountains, always in view, are less prominent. Don't think Alaska doesn't have mosquitoes!! I promise you the 49th state has bugs that can rival anything we have down here. The life cycle may not be long, but they are voracious during the time they are alive. They can get so bad that animals may stampede in an attempt to get away from these pests.
We left Fairbanks Friday morning under overcast skies and it was not long before the rain, which never really left, found us again about five miles south of town as we began our journey back towards Anchorage. Rain was steady and continued as we rode south. About 65 miles south of Fairbanks, I hit the road literally! I was riding about 60 mph when I hit a repair patch in the road that had a film of water on top. My front wheel hydroplaned (I guess) and I tank slapped the handlebars before the bike went down. The bike fell on its' left side and pitched me off the right. The next thing I knew I was sliding on my back down Alaska Highway 4! After about a 250 foot slide I stopped (as I was sliding along the road it seemed like it took a LONG time to finally stop!!) I could feel my brand new Aerostitch doing what it was supposed to do. I sat up and started taking inventory. My head was still on as were my arms and legs (I checked other vital parts as well!) All my fingers and toes were still in place and all I could feel was a small bruise on my back. Several people stopped to see if I was okay, and it appeared I was. The bike was down in a ravine on the other side of the road. Its' slide had been pretty long as well. Bent handlebars, broken clutch, and scrapes to the left cylinder head. It was out of commission. David Smith, who was on a brand new 05 1200 GS hit the same patch of repair and went down right behind me. His bike toppled off the right side of the road and tumbled. Major damage was done to his motorcycle. Miraculously, David, wearing Darien gear, suffered not a scratch either. We were very, very lucky. And after much thought and conversation we could not figure out what we did wrong. Both of us had ridden in the rain many times before. It took over an hour for the state police to arrive. The trooper investigating the accidents told us a motorcycle had gone down a year before in the exact same place under identical weather conditions. The owner of the motorcycles David and I were riding filed a formal complaint with the Alaska Department of Transportation. Fortunately, for David and me, the Edelweiss chase vehicle came along and we loaded our two broken bikes up. I climbed into the truck after putting on some dry clothes and continued the trip south. Needless to say, this pretty much ruined my vacation. But, I must remember that we were so very lucky to just get up and walk away. Had we been hurt it would have taken an unknown amount of time for rescue personnel to arrive. Motorcycles can be fixed, it just takes an infusion of money, and fixing "old farts" can be considerably more expensive.
After arriving at our overnight destination, the Sheep Mountain Lodge, I had the orthopedic surgeon on the trip give me a look over. All he told me was he thought he would invest in an Aerostitch. I had one little bruise on my left buttocks. His wife took several photos of my Aerostitch which I sent to the company upon my return home.
The cabins at Sheep Mountain Lodge were the nicest accommodations of the trip. They would have been even nicer had I not hit the pavement that morning. The next day, Saturday, was the last day of the trip and I was in the chase vehicle this day as well. We were only 100 miles from Anchorage, and I didn't feel like riding anyway. We did stop and view Musk Ox (a primitive animal reintroduced into Alaska), and got a great view of Matanuska Glacier. The scenery once again, was spectacular. We arrived in Anchorage about 2:30 pm Saturday. We went out as a group for the last time Saturday evening. We had reservations at a restaurant/comedy club that was such a good time it almost made me forget the wreck of the day before. I had to get to the airport later that evening to begin my long journey home.
Had it not been for my accident, this would have been one of the best vacations I have ever had. The scenery rivals that of Europe and the roads are in good condition (generally.) The size of it all is incredible! This was my fifth Edelweiss Tour and I have enjoyed every one. I am sure I will travel with Edelweiss again, only be a little bit more wary about patches in the road next time.
Where does the $1000 a day come in? When you have to pay for motorcycle repair that you didn't plan on, it quickly ads up. Fortunately, Anchorage does have a BMW dealership whose service department got two "fix-it" projects they were not counting on.
As I ride back and forth to work now, I see riders in blue jeans and t-shirts. The necessity of appropriate riding gear was a lesson for all of the riders on this tour. I won't ride again, unless I am properly attired. As a physician I recounted this story to on yesterday told me, "Drew, at 47, when you fall, you are going to hurt something." I am fortunate that the biggest thing hurt in my fall, seemed only to be my pride.
by Bob Chappuis
8 LA HSTA members attended STAR 05 in Lexington Kentucky in mid June. 6 of these rode up together on 5 bikes on a three day sport tour starting from Jackson, Louisiana, our designated meeting spot. These included Bob & Stacie Chappuis two-up on a 99 Interceptor (VFR 800), Bill Ellis, 04 Yamaha FJR1300, Sherri Ellis 05 Yamaha FZ6, Tony Crowell 05 Suzuki 650 V-Strom and Kevin Yeats, 04 ST1300. Paul Lefort did a one-day iron butt from his home in Thibodaux and Cindy Earle trailered her 02 Interceptor.
Our 6 person group averaged about 380 miles per day, made up of as many scenic and/or twisty back roads as possible, including the Natchez Trace, Cherohala Skyway and a section of the Blue Ridge Parkway and other previously unknown (to me), but outstanding roads and highways. Once again, Tony Crowell, our club routemeister extraordinaire, designed a superb sport-touring route! Overnight stops included Cullman, AL and Maggie Valley, NC. We enjoyed truly outstanding weather with only 20 miles of rain out of our approximately 2200-mile total. This occurred in bumper to bumper traffic in the tourist resort stretch between Bryson City and Maggie Valley We were forced (all except Tony) to pull off and don our rain gear but this was the only rain we would see for the whole trip. Maggie Valley also gets the distinction of the only disappointing evening meal we had the entire trip. The steaks at a recommended family owned Steakhouse across the street from our motel were mediocre at best. By contrast, the genuine Mexican food we had in Cullman, AL the previous night was fabulous! Not to mention the delicioso Margaritas!
The Comfort Inn in Maggie Valley was nestled in a beautiful setting and had very nice, spacious rooms at a great rate however and we really enjoyed the stay. Sunday, the short ride up to Lexington included some great roads but also some heavy traffic as we passed though some densely populated areas. We had some great fun aggravating the crap out of some ponderously slow, road clogging Monster SUVs and Mega Double Dually Diesel RedNeckMobiles. I'm sure their drivers had some choice names for us too.
We arrived at STAR HQ in Lexington about 3:00 pm. Check-In and registration was quick and easy and we were very soon meeting up with a long list of old friends and acquaintances. The Holiday Inn was truly huge and it was a challenge to get around to the different sections of the sprawling complex. But we soon located the bar, restaurant and pool and patio areas and made ourselves at home. We spent the next three days enjoying the company of our little group as well as the many friends we had amongst the 380+ HSTA members present, talking, eating, sight seeing and of course, riding. On Monday our group made one of the rides listed by the organizers: Natural Bridge State park and Nada Tunnel. We did not se the natural bridge but did ride through the Nada Tunnel, which appeared to be hacked out of the rock with a big chisel and seemed too narrow for an automobile to pass through! Then Stacie and I, Bill & Sherri and Kevin rode to the Kentucky Horse Park. We were too late for any of the organized tours but did get to ride a 45-minute trail ride around the park. I have been on a few dude ranch trail rides before but this was the first time the guides attempted to match the horses to the riders. Naturally I wound up on the meanest, ugliest horse in the corral! The ride was slow but fun, especially watching Bill break his horse's bridal. Tuesday, our group, plus my Florida friends Chuck Headrick and Fannie Haine did the Lunch Ride to Blue Licks Battleground State Park with extra loop thrown in: awesome ridge road KY 22. This was a really fun, spirited ride. The lunch was at the State Park restaurant facility and was excellent!
On Wednesday Bill and Sherri, Stacie and I and Chuck Hedrick decided to tour the Woodford Reserve Bourbon Distillery, about a 25 mile ride from Lexington, while Tony, Paul and Kevin opted for some more curve carving. Woodford Reserve is a super-premium small batch bourbon and the distillery site is recognized as the birthplace of bourbon and is a National Historic Landmark. The distillery is located in a beautiful rural setting with restored original distillery and bourbon aging buildings plus a beautiful modern museum and restaurant building on a hill overlooking the distillery. The tour was quite informative and we learned some interesting facts about the history and techniques of bourbon making. And of course the samples! Tony, Paul and Kevin road in after completing their ride and joined the rest of us for lunch at the restaurant which included some excellent pulled pork barbeque sandwiches. Another great day at STAR 05!
After a quick ride back to Headquarters our LA group gathered at the pool patio to give Bill a surprise birthday cake arranged by Sherri and baked by the motel restaurant. Then it was time for the banquet and the much anticipated VFR raffle. The bike was won by Robert Bashaw of Arkansas and none of us won any of the other door prizes but the food was very good and we enjoyed the presentation given by guest speaker Ron Ayers, Iron Butt veteran and Bike Tour operator.
After the banquet it was time to prepare for the next days early departure and then hang out in the lot and say goodbyes to various friends and acquaintenances, many of whom we probably will not see again until June 06.
Paul and Kevin were gone by the time the rest of us were awake Thursday morning, choosing to make the trip home in one day. The rest of us got an early start and had a pleasant but hot ride, arriving in Pulaski, TN by mid afternoon but not without the trip's first casualty: the sole of one of Tony's boots came loose! Too much peg hanging in the twisties, no doubt. The Comfort Inn had only suites available due to a Seniors Tour arriving by Greyhound but we successfully negotiated the $140 rate down to $89 and thus got to spend our final night on the road in luxury! Bill and I made a quick run to the local WalMart Supercenter for some Gorilla Glue and Brew and all were soon cooling off in pool.We finished the day with another great meal at the Legends Steakhouse, next door to the motel followed by a another relaxing session by the pool, savoring fond memories of another great road trip. Anticipating a scorcher in southern MS and LA for our final leg home we turned in early and departed Pulaski in the foggy darkness at 05:30. It did indeed get hot and our stops were more often and longer but we eventually all made it home safe and sound and happy and already making plans to attend STAR 2006 in Avon, CO.
Louisiana can boast 40% of it's membership in attendance at STAR 2005 and I do believe that puts us at the top. Although we cannot compete with (adjoining state) Ohio's attendance numbers (73 or some such) we edged out their 38%. Not half bad for the Bayou State! To all our members who have not attended a STAR, I can only tell you that my amateur journalistic offerings cannot come close to describing how much fun we had. Don't miss STAR 06!
More STAR 05 pictures are online at http://www.barrowcreek.com/STAR05/INdex.htm
We will meet early to beat the heat. Route and lunch destination to be determined, suggestions welcomed
Privately organized track day; details:
No Problem Raceway, Belle Rose, LA. $110.00 via pre-pay, or $125 at the track. FULL day, ride until 4pm, with a lunchbreak. The deadline for pre-pay to this event will be WEDNESDAY, JULY 27th. Red Bull will be present again, along with *hopefully* LA Rider TV. For those riders that pre-registered, lunch will be provided, a BBQ/Cookout of some sort. Bring your family and friends and lets have a great time.
A big thankyou to Drew Newcomer for his ride report and to Bill Ellis, Tony Crowell and Kevin Yeats for their picture contibutions
Y'ALL KEEP IN TOUCH! AND REMEMBER: RIDE TO WORK DAY IS WEDNESDAY JULY 20!
(225)635-3171 home (225)281-0799 Cell.