Alaska Sojourn!
Tom's Day 1 & 2

The Passing of the Gate
by Tom Bowman

"The longest part of the journey is said to be the passing of the gate."
- Marcus Terentius Varro

It has taken by my reckoning either one and one-half years or thirty-three years for me to reach this gate, so what Marcus Terentius said may be true.

I was sixteen or seventeen years old, I suppose, when the idea of taking a long trip by motorcycle came into my mind. I was in love with the photos in Surfer magazine of the green water and shimmering waves of California, and the shapely blonde girls and the hot rods and the prospect of adventure made me dream every day of climbing on my motorcycle and riding across the country to get there. Route 66 had not yet completely died, the Summer of Love had not yet happened, and everything stretched out before me. There was just one problem: my mother. I guess I need say no more for you to get the idea.

This is Ian Schmeisser's `96 R1100GS "C-5"
and my `97 R1100GS "Crow Jane"
(two hundred points to the guy who knows that name)

This is Tom

This is Ian

Fast forward to late 1996. I got the idea of an Alaska trip somewhere between Fredericksburg and Atlanta on my way home from the MOA National in Texas. "Hey!" I said to myself: "Missoula is almost halfway to Alaska, why not go up and hit the next National rally on the way back?" And so the seed was sown. I proposed a trip by posting a query to the IBMWR List and got a few eager replies, but the eagerness turned in the space of a week or two as reality set in. After most folks "do the math" on such a trip, the saddle time, costs, and time away from work and family are daunting. Yet, in what would be a strange twist, my close friend Ian Schmeisser from nearby in Atlanta spoke up and said he'd been waiting all his life to do that trip, and if I was serious, he was in. Alaska Sojourn! Was born. In another of those strange twists, I received a phone call from an old friend in New Jersey who was just "checking in", and when he asked me "What's new?" I told him of the Big Trip. He had been planning to do a trip out west on his K1100RS anyway, he said, and after a day or so mulling it over and getting the necessary Domestic Clearances, Ted was in. He plans to join us at the foot of Glacier National Park in Montana in a few days.

What has followed has been nearly a year of planning, with maps, books, phone calls, meetings, and messages exchanged across the Internet. When I had the chance to step up to a new GS last fall, Ian followed suit. Equipment was bought, itineraries planned, and options considered. From the early "minimalist" ideas I had for equipment, we've evolved into something of an "electronic travelling gypsy caravan" of camcorders, portable PC's, cell phones, mapping programs, and camping gear. There are stories buried in some of the gear and how it came to be in our inventory, and more tales of how things came together at the end of the preparation, but those will wait awhile.

And so after either thirty-three years or one and a-half years, this morning early, Ian and I convened at my house for coffee and a photo opportunity prior to the launch. Since "a picture is worth a thousand words", here you go:

Our plan is to alternate trip reports from the road between the three of us, documenting interesting features with a Kodak DC210 digital camera, peppering it with droll wit and philosophical ramblings, and uploading the whole mess to Ted Verrill's capable Web-Mastering hands at the IBMWR web site, where you're reading this now, I expect. We'll have a limited capacity to receive and answer e-mail, so if there are any burning questions or suggestions for the Best Cheeseburger in Whereever as this thing unfolds, feel free to beam a message out to us. Just don't be offended if we can't answer everything you can send: after all, this is a vacation, and we're going to have plenty to do. Hey: we're not even all that sure that we can find data ports in Left Snowshoe, Yukon Terrortree, donchaknow?

I've thought a lot about what I look forward to the most. There's a lot of it, and I expect we won't be able to see it all, but here are some things I'm personally looking forward to:

  • Mount Rushmore
  • The Crazy Horse Memorial
  • Devil's Tower
  • Beartooth Pass
  • Yellowstone National Park
  • The Icefields Parkway in Alberta
  • The Cassiar Highway
  • Denali
  • Kenai peninsula
  • Homer, Alaska, as far as the road goes
  • Wrangell-St.Elias National Park
  • The Inside Ferry, via the Alaska Maritime Ferry
  • The MOA National in Missoula
  • Teton National Park
  • Riding though the Rockies again

For maximum enjoyment, get yourself a copy of The Alaska Milepost at your local bookstore, and follow along. Today's itinerary takes us from Atlanta to Jonesburg, MO, where we'll camp at a KOA Kampground. We'll soon be passing the gate….

Tune in later; film at eleven.

On to Tom's Day 3!

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