There are lessons to be learned on every ride.
It was time to turn around. I had spent a showstopping summer exploring the Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Alaska. New cultures and unfamiliar wildlife had broadened my experience, difficult roads had improved my riding skills, and primal wilderness had renovated my soul. All this made it difficult to break camp in Anchorage and point my front wheel toward home, but I was beyond grateful for these once-in-a-lifetime encounters and, growing philosophical, I started to reflect on takeaways from the trek.
Beginning with the most obvious, I was reminded that it is nearly impossible to pull up to the fuel pumps or stand with a drink in front of a convenience store and have no one speak to you. “Where are you from?” is usually first, followed of course by questions about your travels, and — from other riders — about your chosen mount. The same for campgrounds. For many years, the House of Harley Davidson in Anchorage has offered free camping regardless of your ride, and when I arrived at the tiny patch of grass next to the dealership, a yellow tent was already pitched beside a BMW R1200GS.
As I began to unload my Suzuki V-Strom DL650XA, Bill and I fell into conversation. Loyal Beemer fans have stiff competition in an equally loyal group of Stromtroopers, so of course, we chatted about that. Bill wanted to talk horsepower, low centre of gravity, and comfort while I harped on reliability, smaller size, and comparable ability to source parts anywhere in the world.
Not to mention the cost. For those of us with limited budgets wanting to wring the most from a travel dollar, the Strom has always been a bulletproof go-to. Having owned a model from each of the three generations, I remained convinced that my V-Strom was the best value in its class. Perhaps the House of Harley set the tone by accepting us both. Riders are riders after all, and our conversation turned to adventure.
Only a week earlier, Bill had taken a tumble and, while the bike was okay, he had broken nine ribs. Not only did he refuse to let it end his trip, but after resting up, he had completed the Dalton Highway to Prudhoe Bay. I had just finished the same journey (minus the broken ribs) on one of America’s most challenging roads, so I was duly…