Ride To Tuktoyaktuk, Canada: Part Two


Warning sign at the beginning of the Dempster Highway, Yukon. No emergency services.

Home To Airdrie

The ride home was the opposite of the ride to Dawson City.

The Ninja was still flawless and precise, but the weather was hot and sunny the whole three days’ time for a change. I shed thermal layers quickly along the way until I was down to just my base layer and all the vents were open on my jacket and pants. What a different experience!

Instead of fighting to see through pouring rain obscuring my visor as I had on the way up, it was a gory layer of horsefly and mosquito guts coating my helmet, jacket, and motorcycle that made things challenging now.

I rode the Alaska highway backward and enjoyed it very much with all its wildlife, twists and turns along the way. Especially nice was the collection of S curves around Muncho Lake and Toad River. Spectacular scenery and good motorcycling fun.

Caribou along the Alaska Highway.

There’s Always Someone Better

Between Whitehorse and Watson Lake I stopped for gas at the Rancheria Mile 710 Restaurant and noticed a European Kawasaki KLR 650 parked out front with a license plate from Ireland on it! I had to go in and meet this rider for sure.

The Rancheria Mile 710 Restaurant with my Kawasaki Ninja H2SX SE and a European KLR650 in front.

Inside it was like a scene from out of a movie to me. Alone (other than the waitress) and seated at a table was a tall man wearing dark green BMW riding gear that was so dirty and road-worn I could tell this guy was a very experienced adventurer who had seen a lot of miles recently.

Either that or possibly just a bit of a slob. Happily, it turned out to be the former, not the latter.

He had a map spread out on the table in front of him with an untouched bowl of onion soup going cold beside it. We got to talking right away and I came to find out he was riding around the world in stages on his KLR.

He had already tackled most of Alaska including the Top of the World Highway and the Dalton Highway right to Prudhoe Bay. He had also been up the Dempster to Tuktoyaktuk the day before me and now was on his way south along the west coast of Canada and the US, eventually to end up in Panama before calling it quits and flying home.

In discussing the Dempster he told me when compared to the “roads” he had recently ridden across Russian and Mongolia the soft, bumpy mess of loose gravel I had fought to ride through was “quite a good road”.

I told him he was my hero and that I could only dream of traversing the continents on a motorcycle he had already put behind him.

His response was quite simply: “Well then watch out because that’s the way it started for me too. Dreaming of doing it.”

Home At Last

My family was thrilled to have me home 5 days early and vice versa.

I took some time to give the Ninja a thorough cleaning, but sadly there is some grime that even I can’t quite get off the muffler much to my distress. It was such a pristine, beautiful machine when I left for Tuk compared to now.

I’m happy to say I actually used the bike for its intended purpose instead of leaving it to be a garage queen or Sunday driver, but it still hurts just a little bit to see it not looking showroom condition anymore.

The Cost Of Dropping An H2SX

Damaged fairings on my 2018 Kawasaki Ninja H2SX SE.

I priced out replacement fairings for the right side. Yikes. In case you didn’t read the first half of this adventure, it pains me to say that my bike tipped over at a gas station on the way to Dawson City and scratched up the right side fairings.

The green portion isn’t too bad at $272 (Canadian dollars), but the black section is a whopping $414. I think I’ll put off complete replacement while I look at repainting options for the black section at least. Happily, I can replace them myself and save on labor costs.

The Tires

My worn out Bridgestone Battlax tires on my 2018 Kawasaki Ninja H2SX SE after 8200 kms.

My worn out Bridgestone Battlax tires on my 2018 Kawasaki Ninja H2SX SE after 8200 kms.

The Bridgestone Battlax tires that came from the factory with the Ninja really did well, considering how rough the roads were they traveled on. At times I traveled through construction zones that were so torn up, gravel, mud-covered and rough it reminded me of sections I encountered on the Dempster!

My worn out Bridgestone Battlax tires on my 2018 Kawasaki Ninja H2SX SE after 8200 kms.

I had purposely kept the Ninja in Medium Power mode instead of Full Power in an effort to make the tires last the whole trip. I barely managed it as the cords were starting to show on the rear tire halfway through the return trip home

My worn out Bridgestone Battlax tires on my 2018 Kawasaki Ninja H2SX SE after 8200 kms.

On the FaceBook H2SX forum, some riders were reporting only getting 4000 km (2500 miles) out of their rear tire, while I managed 8200 km (5000 miles).

Now I’ve installed some Michelin Pilot Road 5 sneakers on the Ninja and will be doing a review soon, once I get some miles on them.

The Last Word

My Joe Rocket Canada RKT-25 helmet coated in bug guts.

This experience was life-changing for me. I’m not exaggerating in saying that.

My riding skills improved, my confidence grew and anytime I travel to a new place I gain insight into different lifestyles while also learning about what makes me tick.

This article has nearly turned into a novel, because I couldn’t help notice, well… everything and feel the need to share it. I’m the kind of person who wants everyone around me to live life to the fullest degree possible, so when I find something to help do that, I spread the news.

This isn’t a trip for everyone to take, but perhaps anyone could do a portion of it and still experience part of the growth I did.

I’m Hooked

I’m already planning the next WBW adventure ride thanks to the success of this one. There are a number of options I’m looking at. Some are with tour groups like DARE while others are on my shoulders entirely.

I think this time I would like to experience riding in a totally different climate than the Arctic, and so tropical or desert is where I’m looking.

Riding the Baja course (not racing, just riding).

Riding the Trans America Trail.

Riding the Trans Europe Trail.

Riding in Thailand.

Riding in Africa.

Riding in Israel.

So many possibilities are out there it’s difficult to choose just one. What a great problem to have, eh?

 

18 Comments

  1. Matthew
    August 23, 2018
    Reply

    Thank you for sharing the story. Inspiring. On my bucking list 🙂

    • Jim Pruner
      August 24, 2018
      Reply

      Thanks for the feedback Matthew! You definitely owe a trip like this to yourself.

      Life changing experiences like these are what make it worth waking up in the morning.

  2. Rob
    September 9, 2018
    Reply

    Just back from Tuk two weeks ago – the Inuvik to Tuk road was the single best gravel road I’ve ever been on – perfect condition and fast. The Eagle Plains to McPherson however was one of the hardest bits of riding I’ve ever done both ways – wind, rain, zero degrees, no traction. A tremendous, difficult, challenging, and ultimately immensely rewarding journey .

    • Jim Pruner
      September 12, 2018
      Reply

      Unbelievable eh?! It’s the road that’s never the same twice. I’m glad to hear it’s gotten somewhat safer now and that you made it there and back in one piece.

      • anthony klatt
        April 1, 2020
        Reply

        Thanks for taking all the time and effort to create this vlog. I plan on riding this July with my 16 AT if Covid 19 is clear. I really enjoyed reading all your write ups as a fellow Albertan myself!!!

        • April 1, 2020
          Reply

          Hi Anthony!

          I’m thrilled to hear you enjoyed this piece. It has great sentimental value to me because that trip changed my perspective on life. It sounds perhaps like an exaggeration, but after I stood in the Arctic Ocean in Tuk and realized what an incredible journey it had been to that point I had an overwhelming sense of contentment come over me that I’ll never forget.
          I hope you get to go, if not this year another sometime. It’s worth the effort, expense and risk. July will be very rainy and there’ll be plenty of bugs after you, but that’s part of the fun… sort of. I’d still recommend going in June instead! hahaha
          Cheers!

  3. Nathan Stueber
    December 7, 2018
    Reply

    Wow! I just came across your article. I’m the Louisiana boy that trashed that BMW. I was surprised to see it!

    • Ben Smith
      January 30, 2019
      Reply

      thanks for sharing your experience in such detail! Me and my riding partner are in the planning stages of this trip for the summer of 2020. Your journal is invaluable! Thanks again and I look forward to reading about your next adventure. California to Tuk 2020

      • Jim Pruner
        January 31, 2019
        Reply

        Ben are you and your partner ever in for a treat! Do yourself a favour and take your time getting there. Really stop and smell the proverbial roses along the way.
        I can’t believe I’m actually thinking about going back! I promised myself when I made it there without any issues that I wouldn’t push my luck by attempting it a second time, but I admit I’m considering a return.

  4. Troy
    February 17, 2019
    Reply

    Nice report Jim, I thoroughly enjoyed the read. Your friend Greg was planning to ride an HD Crossbones on the trip across the Arctic Circle twice, but later you mention he was riding a Triumph Tiger? Did he make his entire trip on the Tiger to both Deadhorse and Tuk?

    • Jim Pruner
      February 17, 2019
      Reply

      Hi Troy!

      I guess I may have been a bit unclear in the write up so here’s how it is.

      Greg has ridden his Harley Crossbones all the way to Prudhoe Bay a couple of years ago and later took his Tiger all the way to Inuvik. His plan last year was to ride to Prudhoe Bay first and then to Tuktoyaktuk in the same trip on his Tiger.
      When we parted ways in Whitehorse his Tiger was starting to act up and by the time he got to Fairbanks it was worrying him enough that he turned around and went home instead.
      He’s traded the Tiger in for a new F850GS now and plans to do the ride this June so if you go this year you may bump into him.
      If I can by some miracle get delivery of my KTM 790 adventure R before June I’m toying with the idea of following him to Prudhoe Bay too, but it looks doubtful at this point.
      I’m glad you enjoyed the read. I think it’s my best work to date and have reread it myself once or twice to relive the experience.
      If you get to go yourself you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about when I say it was life changing.

  5. Bj
    June 22, 2019
    Reply

    Great to read about your trip (up and down). I’m debating doing a similar trip up north this year and it was good to read about your experiences!

    That rear tire on the Ninja was definitely on it’s last legs coming home 😉

    One tip: If you go back with a bike loaded down with gear, try and get out and offroad with it a bit beforehand. Having ridden dualsports for 10+ years, they behave very differently with a load on!

    • Jim Pruner
      June 22, 2019
      Reply

      Hi Bj thank you for reading the whole thing! This series is my favorite piece of work to date and it makes me really feel justified putting the effort into it if it inspires and helps others to follow that same path.
      It’s very much worth the trip. I hope you go.

      Ya totally agree about the tire and the loaded bikes!

      Cheers.

      • Regan Davis
        November 13, 2020
        Reply

        Jim I have just read your journal. What a great adventure. Im planning the same trip the summer of 2021. Given the tour company you went with has closed their business are you aware of anyone else that provides bikes from Dawson? My plan would be to ride my BMW k1600B to Dawson from Calgary and then ideally use a tour company for the tuk leg.

        Thanks
        Regan

        • November 14, 2020
          Reply

          Regan thank you for appreciating the work I put into this one. To date, I think it’s still my magnum opus, lol!

          I hope you get to make the trip in full next year. COVID19 made it all but impossible this year unfortunately with northern communities closing up to the outside world which is such a shame. It’s truly the trip of a lifetime. I’m considering another ride up next year myself if borders stay closed as they are now to the south.

          Yes, to answer your question there are other alternatives to take advantage of to ride north. Get a hold of my good friend Lawrence Neyando who lives in Inuvik and runs Arctic Motorcycle Adventures: https://www.arcticmoto.ca/ He can meet you in Dawson City with one of his KLR650s and help as much or little as you like on the trip to Tuk. He’s a great resource even if you go it alone (and can provide rescue if needed). Arctic Moto is also on FaceBook if you are on that platform https://www.facebook.com/arcticmoto.

          If I decide to head up that way I’ll post something on the site and maybe I’ll see you along the way.

  6. Wayne Laczo
    December 28, 2020
    Reply

    Hi Jim,
    This is the second time I have read this. It’s a great read! I had plans in 2020 to go to Prudhoe Bay but because the boarders were closed that didn’t happen. For 2021 I booked five weeks off, the last week in May and all of June and decided I’d have a better chance on making it to Tuk this time. Spent all of 2020 outfitting my new bike for it and met more people that want to go too. We spent most of the summer tearing up forestry trunk roads in southern Alberta practising for the trip.
    Reading this article really helps with the planning. Thank you!

    • December 29, 2020
      Reply

      Hi Wayne!

      Greg has ridden both the Dalton and Dempster on the same trip since I wrote this piece and he agrees with me that the Dempster is more challenging and Tuk more enjoyable as a destination than Prudhoe Bay. I know you’ll find the same thing if you can get up there in 2021. The borders to the NWT remain closed at this point to my knowledge and there’s a 14 day quarantine even for residents that leave the territory. That would be a huge bummer if it doesn’t change now that the vaccine is rolling out.

      I’m considering a return trip in 2021 myself since I didn’t ride Top of the World Highway neither did I get to explore so many side routes due to being on my Ninja for most of the trip. If the US border stays closed (and I expect it will) this will become even more enticing for me. Are you in Calgary, Wayne? I think I found you on FaceBook after a quick search. Keep me in mind for your plans if you want another person to tag along. There are a number of riders that have commented on this piece who are also planning to ride up in 2021, but I imagine the timelines will vary so depending on availability our plans might align.

  7. Wayne Laczo
    December 29, 2020
    Reply

    Yes I’m in Calgary. I don’t really use facebook anymore.

    That would be great.!

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