Summer 2015 – coming to a state near you?

This entry is part 1 of 7 in the series 2015: Alaska or Bust

Things have been quiet over here in my little corner of the internet. I’ve been a busy little bee, and that’s still very much the case. But there’s just 22 days left. Twenty-two. Twenty. Two.

Holy crap, I have so much to do!

The semester isn’t just winding down, the end is veritably nigh. And just 4 days after I submit final grades, I’ll be throwing a leg over the bike and heading out on the trip I’ve been planning for a decade or more.

And it feels like I haven’t planned a damn thing. Here are the states I’ll probably be passing through:


And here are the Provinces:


Things may change a little bit in the next 22 days, but that’s basically it. I’m still adding in stops here and there, and I am still waiting to hear from a few folks for confirmation (Utah *cough* check your email!), and knowing me, by the end of the first week I’ll be miles and miles off route, but hey… a man’s got to have a plan, even if it’s more of a rough guideline than any kind of plan.

Over the next couple of weeks I’ll go into a little bit of detail about the route and the prep I’ve been doing for the last 4 months. It’s been hectic, to say the least. I’ve made some big changes to the bike and to my packing strategy. This is by far the longest trip I’ve ever been on, in both days and miles, and it’s… kind of scary sometimes, to be honest.

But at the end of the day, I’ve reached the point where I don’t want to WORK on the trip… I want to BE on the trip. I don’t want to READ about Alaska and the Yukon, I want to be there, bouncing along the Top of the World Highway – and dodging the trucks along the Dalton on the way to the Arctic Circle and Prudhoe Bay – and relaxing in a B&B outside Homer with my gal.

In short… I want to be gone.

I’ll try to be posting along the way… at the very least some of the pictures and video I capture along the way. So hang in there… 22 days.




Updated Motorcycle Packing List

Summer 2011

As summer kicks off and various trips loom on the horizon, I’ve pulled out the ol’ motorcycle packing list. Each year I adjust the “base” list on what I discovered the year before. Last year, for example, I significantly overpacked. In part it was by design, as I knew I’d be hitting a range of temperatures on my 8 week trip around the states (28 degrees in UT to 113 in TX, to be precise). But I also relied too heavily on the “just in case” model of packing, and the result was bringing along too much gear. For example, even though I camped almost everywhere I went (with the exception of staying at friends’ homes), I didn’t use the pots and pans at all. Not even once. Instead, I just used the JetBoil and freeze dried food. Guess what I won’t be taking along this summer?

Here’s how the list has shaped up. I won’t take all of them on every trip (for example the next trip is a 3 day camping trip over Memorial Day where I will only need 2 days of Riding Clothes and 2 days of off-bike clothes), but it’s where I start when it’s time to get organized.

Important Stuff

  1. Passport – This goes with me whether or not I plan on leaving the country.
  2. First Aid Kit
  3. Wallet
  4. Keys (and spare keys for the bike!)
  5. Cash
  6. Credit/Debit cards
  7. Maps (paper)


  1. Standard BMW Vario side/top cases – I try to keep heavier items in the side cases to keep the center of gravity as low as possible. The top case I am in the process of converting/modifying for padded electronic gear and document storage.
  2. Wolfman Luggage – I just picked this up a month ago. My hope is to store all the compressible items here in separate compression bags for easy compartmentalization.
  3. Sea-to-Summit Compression Dry Bags – Various sizes, to be stored within the Wolfman Luggage.
  4. Expandable BMW Tank Case: For daily riding necessities.
  5. Backpack: While I try to take this, it doesn’t always happen. I’d like to have it for days spent off the bike, but sometimes it just isn’t needed.
  6. RotoPax Water 1 gal. tank: 1 (for cooking/cleaning at the campsite)
  7. RotoPax Fuel 1 gal. tank: 1 – Going to be changing this to smaller MSR bottle storage mounted to the bike.
  8. Small Camera Bag


  1. iPad – This is a new addition and replaces the 13″ Macbook Pro. I think I’ve set it up with everything I need for writing while on the road. We’ll find out in a couple of weeks!
  2. Camera – Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX100v + 2 memory cards
  3. Kensington Auto/Air Power Inverter with USB Ports – For charging electronics while on the road. It worked awesome last summer, charging the phone, laptop, and camera batteries.
  4. SPOT GPS Messenger
  5. Cell phone (Droid currently)
  6. Garmin Zumo 600
  7. *I may add a bluetooth keyboard into the mix if I decide to pick one up before I leave.
  8. 1 spare set of batteries for the SPOT
  9. iPad Connection Kit (for camera)
  10. Adapters for camera, iPad, cell phone

Off-bike Clothes
Generally, this varies with the duration and destination of the trip. As a rule of thumb, though, I bring:

  1. Jeans – 1 pair
  2. Khakis – 1 pair (only if I am staying with friends along the way)
  3. Shorts – 1 pair
  4. Short-sleeve collared shirts – 3 max
  5. Hoodie
  6. Underwear – 3 pairs max
  7. Keen Sandals (eventually, I’ll likely replace these with a pair of short hiking boots)
  8. Fleece jacket – No matter the weather, I always take a fleece with me.
  9. Hat – 1 (usually a ball cap or crushable, lightweight canvas cap)
  10. Bandana – now that I have the Buff, I’m not sure I’m going to bring this along (but I probably will – old habits die hard)
  11. Watch

Riding Clothes

  1. T-Shirts – 3
  2. Long sleeve t-shirt – 1
  3. Gatorskins Top – This is a new item, and I have yet to try it out. Probably not needed on summer rides, but I’ll still give it a go just to see.
  4. LD Comfort shorts – 2 (quick drying riding underwear that can be easily hand washed)
  5. LD Comfort longs – 1 (quick drying riding underwear that can be easily hand washed)
  6. Klim Riding Socks – 4
  7. Big-Ears Ear Plugs
  8. Riding Pants – Firstgear MeshTex
  9. Riding Jacket – Firstgear Ranier (+ Liner)
  10. Rain pants
  11. Riding boots
  12. Riding Gloves – 2-3 pairs, depending on destination – Held Air Stream, BMW All Around 2, Held Freezer Gloves
  13. Buff Headgear – I can’t say enough about the Buff.
  14. Sunglasses

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Camping gear

  1. Big Agnes Sleeping Bag
  2. Thermarest Sleeping Pad
  3. Eureka Apex 2-man tent + rain fly + ground cloth
  4. Head-mounted flashlight
  5. Small Tent lantern
  6. Spare rope
  7. Pillow Case (Stuff the fleece and hoodie inside for a pillow)
  8. Camp towel – small and quick-trying
  9. Biodegradeable toilet paper – the 1 “just in case” item I didn’t dare remove from the list
  10. JetBoil + fuel
  11. Freeze-dried camp food
  12. Instant Coffee
  13. Pita Bread
  14. Camp utensil
  15. Camp cup
  16. Kermit Chair


  1. Insect repellent
  2. Sunscreen
  3. Toothpaste (travel sized)
  4. Travel toothbrush
  5. Deodorant (travel sized)
  6. Razor – I’m going to toy with bringing the cordless razor since last summer I didn’t bring any at all and my TX friends made me shave before I entered their house (ok, not really, but I was going all Grizzly Adams by the time I hit TX)
  7. Nail Clippers/File
  8. Ibuprofen
  9. Tiny Sewing Kit
  10. Soap


  1. Moleskine notebook
  2. 1 pen
  3. 1 mechanical pencil
  4. 1 pack of playing cards – you’d be surprised how often I end up playing cards with strangers at a campsite. It’s awesome.
  5. Zip-ties of various sizes
  6. 3-4 draw-string garbage bags
  7. 3-4 zip-lock baggies
  8. Duct Tape – A whole role isn’t necessary. I usually wrap about 10 feet or so around a pencil and just tuck it in with the tools.
  9. Tool kit – only the barest of essentials are necessary, especially since I’m not nearly the wrench that I think I am
  10. Mini Air Compressor
  11. 1 qt Oil

Seems like a lot when written out item by item!

Beat the Heat with Fieldsheer’s Iceberg Vest

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When I arrived home after my trip last summer, I had 1 more piece of riding gear than I started with: the Iceberg Vest from Fieldsheer. When I popped into BMW Motorcycles of Utah for a new set of tires, we got to talking about where I was heading.

They talked me out of heading up to Montana (June 22nd and the roads I wanted to take were still closed to snow) and talked me into heading down to Bryce Canyon and the Grand Staircase.

They stressed, however, that the heat would end up being a very serious concern, and at their urging I picked up the Iceberg Vest for around $50. Spend a few of minutes soaking it in water, wear it under the mesh Tourmaster jacket, and it was supposed to absorb body heat and release it as the water evaporates. I didn’t end up using it down in Escalante as temps stayed in the 90s, but I think it’s fair to say it saved me coming out of New Mexico.

BMW Motorcycles of Utah

Heading East out of Roswell, NM, the further I rode into Texas, the higher the temps climbed, topping out at 113 degrees around Colorado City. The vest was terrific. Not only did it absorb the heat, but with the mesh jacket it acted like a kind of air conditioner when at speed. The water evaporated quickly in the dry heat and wind, though, and I had to stop every 30-45 minutes to re-soak the vest. Even so, the Iceberg Vest (combined with a constant refilling of my Camelbak) made riding that day possible. Had I not picked it up in Salt Lake, I would have either pushed myself too hard and risked heat stroke and dehydration, or I would have been forced to stop much earlier in the day.

While it’s not a part of my everyday riding gear, the Iceberg Vest is small and light enough to toss in a stuff sack and bring along on multi-day rides, especially if I’m heading South (which, living in NY, is pretty much every trip I take). If you deal with riding in the heat, I recommend it.

Sea-to-Summit Compression Dry Bags

For my big trip last summer, I knew I was going to need additional dry bags.

I did a bunch of comparison shopping, read reviews, and talked to fellow riders about their choices. In the end, it came down to a choice between motorcycle gear or backpacking gear. Since the backpacking gear came in around 1/5 the cost, I went with the backpacking gear. It was a good choice.

The Sea-to-Summit bags come in 5 sizes ranging from the XS at 2-6 liters to the XL at 10-30 liters. It’s important to note that these bags are waterproof, not water resistant. Fold the roll-top closure over at least 3 times and there simply is no way for water to get in. Additionally, the bags all compress down to 1/3 their maximum size via a now standard 4-strap compression system. The bottom panel allows air out for compression without allowing water in when the sky opens up.

I still can’t believe that in 5 weeks of riding I had only one day of rain, but that one day proved to be plenty. Just past Steamboat Springs, CO I hit a storm and was riding in some of the worst weather I’ve ever been in. From Steamboat to Vernal, UT it alternated between grape-sized hail, heavy rain, and torrential ark-building rain. All the campgrounds I had marked on the map were flooded, so I ended up getting a motel in Vernal. I was a bit nervous for my sleeping bag, which I had stuffed into the large compression sack along with the tent, air mattress, ground cloth, and fly. I didn’t need to worry. Everything was dry as the proverbial bone.

There is one downside to these, though. Though the seams are all double stitched and the fabric is sturdy against tears, it does puncture quite easily. I think it was probably the Mountain House Pro-Pak pouch that did it, but there is the tiniest of holes in the middle of the large sack. The pouches aren’t exactly sharp, but I can see how, when compressed, a corner might poke through. Suffice it to say I’ll be using these bags for soft goods only from here on out.

Other than that, these bags are terrific and have earned a spot in my standard travel gear. Here is how I ended up packing the dry bags:

Large: Tent, sleeping bag, air mattress, ground cloth, fly (and, one day, freeze-dried food – oops!)
Medium: Clothes and minimal toiletries
Small: I saved this for dirty clothes and put it inside the Medium bag

Ranging from around $25 to $50 depending on size, I think having at least one of these is essential for any motorcycle trip. I now keep the small one tucked away in a side case or tank bag at all times.