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West Glos & Dean Forest
Motor Cycle Club

Celebrating 64 Years of Motor Cycling 1953 - 2017

Africa To Alaska

Article and Photos by Jason Bennett

A month before my flight to New York I find myself riding along the motorway in the pouring rain heading for a freighting depot in the midlands to crate my bike ready for shipment to the states. Arriving, it was a welcome site to see other extreme distance bikers all keen for the adventure which lay ahead.

The challenge was organized by the one and only Nick Sanders. The plan was to ride from New York to Alaska and back (approx 9,000 miles) in 18 days.

Landing in JFK airport carrying a crash helmet and wearing biking jacket soon had security on my tail, a short explanation cleared any suspicions and I was on my way. The first night was spent in New York, awoke early the following morning looking forward to getting the bike, only to hear that they hadn’t been cleared by customs and looked likely we would be spending another night in the Big Apple. Oh well time to do some sight seeing, but this delay would put us back a day before hitting the road. Thankfully Nick made a few ‘Phone calls and hey presto the bikes were ready for collection at lunch. It was a great relief to find the ‘Africa Twin’ undamaged, both bike and rider were set for the road ahead.

An easy afternoon ride (250miles) broke us in, ready for a full day in the saddle the following day when we’d take in Niagara falls.

On the road by 8am to spend a couple of hours at Niagara, this truly is a ‘wonder of the world’, the sheer scale and power of the falls is immense. A boat trip to the base of the falls, a few photo’s and it was time to hit the road to the next overnight stop. Another days ride would get us to lake Superior (about the size of England) and the start of the Trans Canadian Highway. The first 250-300miles isn’t a bad biking road then it gradually gets less interesting until it’s a flat featureless landscape. The thought of some ‘proper’ roads in the ‘Rockies’ kept me focused during this section.

Banff, gateway to the ‘Rockies’ this is what I’d been waiting for, winding roads, snow capped mountains and sunshine, motorcycling at its best! The route up to jasper is about 250miles with only one small petrol station, those with small tanks made sure they filled up before starting (the Africa could do it in one hit). A short photo stop at Lake Louise put me at the back of the group, even further after stopping at the ice fields. It was 4pm and I still had at least 350 miles to cover. Time to see what the Africa could do, bored with cruising at 85 I nailed it to the stop which took it off the clock 120 I guess (needs must). Fuelled at Jasper, my chosen route from here had sections of unmade road which brought my average down, it was beginning to sleet. The last 60miles to Dawson Creek (start of the world famous Alaska Highway) were the worst road conditions I’ve had to ride in. Near blizzard conditions at night, virtually zero visibility. I soon thawed out after a few beers that night.

Awoke to 6” snow and sub zero temperatures (-6 in September). Nick decided to hold a meeting to see if we wanted to carry on that day. After much discussion the group decided to sit it out for the day and start out again the following morning. Because we were on such a tight schedule and had no spare days it meant that we would not make it to Alaska, and the remainder of the tour to be re-routed. I was gutted, all the effort and distance for the sake of one day.

Heading South and onto our service stop and tyre change just outside Seattle. The hospitality and service was 1st class, jet washed our bikes and even sent out for Pizza!. A few members of a local bike club turned up as they heard we were in town and were keen to hear about our travels. A couple asked “where you headin to boy” I showed them on the map, any good roads you could recommend “hell yeah we’ll show you, follow us” lets go. The Africa was in it’s element on the twisty bumpy road in hot pursuit of the two ‘Yankees’ .

Having got my taste back for mountain roads Jason (Nicks right hand man) and I decided to plot our own route the next day rather than join the others on boring Interstate. Having persuaded a few to join us we set off. Everything was going well, civilized coffee and lunch stops, looked as though we would be at the Motel by 7pm (early for a change). Turning right SP Elk City 35 miles (what the hell’s that gonna be like) its along our route so off we go. To sum it up it stinks, sure lives up to its name not stopping we continued only to find the road changed into a rough gravel track a quick glance at the map showed it ran for about 120miles. With more than half the group on road bikes we decided to give it a miss and headed back through ‘Elk City’ to find an alternative. Waiting at the road junction to regroup, we were two short Jason and Mark (an odd character on a Yam 600 diversion) weren’t with us. 30 minutes later I went back to find them. Mark had hit a couple of racks in the road and cracked both wheels, this meant we had to spend the night at the nearest town and then try and get the wheels welded in the morning and have a long day in the saddle to catch up with the other group travelling with Nick.

We all arrived in Colorado springs the following evening for a farewell meal. Some of the other challengers were going on down to Mexico, others then taking on the world, made my trip a walk in the park in comparison, nevertheless I still had over 2500miles to cover.

With 4 days to get back to New York it was a case of hitting the Interstate and ‘A’ roads, head down and rack up the miles cruising at a steady 85-90.

Two days of warm dry weather was about to change as watching the weather forecast we were gonna get wet on the final days of the tour. Torrential rain battered against the bedroom window, severe warnings issued on the news, not the best day to ride 700 miles.
A good test for my new Rukka kit, many claim to be waterproof, few are. Two hours of riding and time for a fuel/coffee stop by now my hands are soaking and my feet are swimming in water still no let up in the rain. It proved too much for half the group which decided to hire vans and drive the remainder of the way to New York. Despite advise from the cops not to carry on as there was enough carnage on the roads we carried on with our bikes. The hotel was a sight for sore eyes as we’d been on the road for about ten hours in the pouring rain, amazingly my Rukka suit kept me dry (you get what you pay for I suppose). Later on the others rolled in with their bikes all nice and dry in the truck. A bit of bantering went on during the evening, there’s them that can and them that can’t!

No let up in the weather the next morning, but as we only had about 100miles to go made it a little easier. 

Eventually everyone was at the freighting depot all busy crating up and tying down the bikes ready for the return sea journey. A taxi ride back to JFK and a three hour wait in the lounge before departure, still gave us time to chat and reflect about where we’d been and the experiences we’d had.

Looking back on the trip it was a great experience, certainly a moto challenge, but for me, would have been better if we’d had more time to spend exploring the Rockies etc. The Alaska Highway is yet to be conquered, I will definitely go back. Also the daily mileages need to be revised slightly so as not to have to continually break the speed limits (by quite a large margin). As for the bike it performed faultlessly, oil and filter change, new tyres, chain adjusted twice, zero oil consumption, not bad for the oldest bike on the tour but then again it is a HONDA !!!!!

Anyone asks do you wonna go for a ride on the bike? BEWARE.

Jason…