Kevin's Offroad

Kevin's Offroad

The Duke did it…and so will I!!

I’m on my way to Alaska on July 1st, 2011…all the way to Ivvavik National Park and back, touching the Arctic Circle and hitting every National Park (well, most of them) on the way up and back before our return to Phoenix, AZ on August 1st, 2011

I’ll be posting updates along the way…photography, video, and comments. As you could imagine, I’m REALLY looking forward to this!!

Photos are on our Picasa Account HERE :

Video updates are on our YouTube account HERE

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June 30, 2011 –

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July 1st, 2011 – Flagstaff, AZ > Fillmore, UT – Uneventful drive. Took some pretty pix of the trip.

From Alaska Expedition 2011

ALL PHOTOS ARE LOCATED HERE

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July 2nd, 2011 – Fillmore, UT > Dillon, MT – Again, uneventful driving…but pretty!

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July 3rd, 2011 – Dillon, MT > Glacier, MT

On the way from Dillon to Glacier National Park in Montana, I heard a noise coming from the rear end, getting louder. After a quick inspection, found differential oil smoking out of the driver’s side tube. Not good. I checked the fluid level, and it was good. I decided to drive BACK to Missoula for a new bearing, but when I saw my rear tire wobbling left/right, I decided not to risk driving, so I was towed in to O’Reilly’s Auto Parts Missoula (the guys there were EXTREMELY helpful and friendly! If only we got this sort of service from EVERY auto parts store, lol) in town, and tore it apart.

Turns out the driver’s side bearing was in the process of eating the bearing race on the shaft as it was seizing, and there was not much left of the bearing itself. It must have been close to red-hot inside, because, to make matters worse, the 5 minutes I spent on the side of the road was enough to bend the shaft with the weight of the Jeep on it while it was “malleable”. Tomorrow’s the Fourth…everyone is closed. So, I got a hotel room downtown, and did a little bar-hopping (which was GREAT fun…what a great town and people!) instead of sitting in the room, lamenting being “temporarily disabled” for a few days.

Not exactly what I had in mind

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July 4th, 2011 – Had a very timely run-in with a local at the grocery store, who knew of a guy in town who could help with my plight. I left him a voice mail, but don’t expect to hear from him until Tuesday, due to the holiday. Looks like I’ll be enjoying a Fourth of July celebration along with 100k Missoulans!

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July 5th, 2011 – If the people could be any nicer in this town, I’m not sure how. I have gotten nothing but outstanding service, friendly, patient people, and extremely knowledgible people at the three parts counters I’ve been to, and the machine shop as well. I think the great Missoula secret is that they kill all the rude people, such that they don’t breed. It’s unreal…seriously. I’ve never been to a Checker/O’Reilly’s Auto Parts where EVERY counter guy not only knows his stuff, but is full of suggestions, and genuinely interested in helping me out of a spot. I love this town.

And, another “shout-out” goes to Dutchman Motorsports out of Portland, OR, who went out of their way to accommodate me, and get a shaft out the door at 3pm, via Priority Overnight, after calling in the specs at 11am. In other words, they had the shaft ready to ship in less than 4 hours, built to spec, totally custom, and for a VERY reasonable expedite fee! These guys have saved my bacon, and I’m truly appreciative. If you’re looking for custom axle shafts for your project…give Derek a shout at Dutchman Motorsports …I think you’ll be glad you did. Parts are on their way, and I’ll have the Jeep back on the road by tomorrow.

PS: By the way, make certain that your differential cover’s fill plug BOTTOM is approximately 1″ below the centerline of the axle tube. My hybrid D60 with 9″ outers has an OX locker in it, and the level of the OX cover’s fill plug is about an inch or so too low to get the correct amount of fluid into it due to the pinion angle pointing upwards, at the differential. I don’t think this is a flaw of OX…I think it’s just my pinion angle not allowing me to get the right amount of fluid into the diff, which means that the axle tubes don’t have any fluid in them, aside from the fluid that’s carried down the axle shaft from the carrier. I am going to park the Jeep nose-down into a ditch to fill the oil up to the proper fluid level, and hopefully that’ll be the LAST time I burn up a bearing.

PPS: If you’re swapping to beefier axles, I HIGHLY recommend considering full-floating axle shafts. The issue of burning up a bearing and damaging my axle shaft would not be a problem at all with a full-float setup.

PPPS: Missoula is outstanding. What a great vibe, beautiful women with dresses and long hair, friendly people, good food, and relatively cheap. Hell…I might come back to the downtown area on vacation sometime…this is outstanding! Hit the Rhino, Red’s and Iron Horse on the first night, and then Tamarack Ale House Brewery and Top Hat tonight. I freakin’ love it here!!

Missoula, MT – Voted best place to break down and have to stay for a few days.

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July 6th, 2011 – Got the axle shaft in at the hotel, which was overnighted in from Dutchman, per their promise, and got the axle shaft installed. I decided to inspect the passenger side also, just to make CERTAIN that there were no problems with the bearing on that side. That side was leaking a bit, so it had dirt and grime all over the place. Even being careful, when I went to remove the retaining plate, I dropped a bit of dirt down, into the bearing. CRRAAAAAAPPPP!! Decided to tear it all down, and put a new bearing on that shaft as well, because who knows if it was damaged from lack of fluid…better to be safe, especially since I already had all the tools out, and knew the people would could help with pressing on the bearing. Buttoned it all back up, parked the nose of the Jeep downhill, and filled the diff fluid as much as I could. I also parked it with the passenger axle tube lower than the driver, so that the fluid would fill the passenger side tube up before it spilled out the fill hole.

From Alaska Expedition 2011
From Alaska Expedition 2011

So, around 6pm, I got on the road to Glacier, finally, and enjoyed the late afternoon and evening there. Took a short 3 mile hike around the falls, took lots of pictures, and was TRULY grateful for being back on the road again. My buddies were already in Alaska by this time, I was only 4 days behind, and with a lot of driving, I think I can catch them on their way back from the Dempster Highway.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v

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July 7th, 2011 – Big Arm, MT to West Glacier, then to Lake McDonald and East Glacier to camp



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July 8th, 2011 –

Left my campsite in Glacier and headed over to Elk Summit trail head,

From Alaska Expedition 2011

where I hiked an approximate 8-mile round trip before I headed out of town for Banff. The first two miles of this trail were mostly flat, the second two miles included a 2,500 foot elevation gain, peaking out at 7,600 ft. elevation. I gave in at 7,000 ft…that was MORE than enough for me. What an unbeleviably beautiful, but STEEP, trail.

From Alaska Expedition 2011
From Alaska Expedition 2011





Was going to try to make Banff, AB tonight, but stopped in Calgary to figure out exactly what I was going to do about my schedule being all goofed up. Decided that driving to Alaska was out, but that a ferry, a cruise, or a flight would still work out for me. I spent a few hours online, researching my options, and soaking my poor legs and knees from the hike yesterday, in the hot tub at the hotel. Just because I’m behind on the itinerary, doesn’t mean that I can’t enjoy myself on my OWN trip…one with no deadlines…just making it up as I go! True choice, and free spirit…I can live with that!!

As a result, I also wound up seeing BC-DC , who is an AC-DC cover band, playing at a local bar just outside of Calgary in High River, AB. In one word: Outstanding! These guys did an AMAZING job of both old and newish AC-DC songs, of which I’m a huge fan of. Check out this quick video I took:

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July 9th, 2011 –

Drove from Calgary to Banff National Park after spending a half-day in the AM at the library and the travel agency, attempting to figure out exactly what to do about Alaska…boat, fly, or what… Beautiful place! I’m going to list Banff on my list of places to come back to.

From Alaska Expedition 2011
From Alaska Expedition 2011

Since I’m off schedule anyway, I figured I might as well spend some time checking out the town. What a great place…VERY pretty. I really like it here!

From Alaska Expedition 2011

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July 10th, 2011 – I woke up today to the chirping birds of the Johnston Campground, just outside of Banff. Got a little rain last night, but the tent kept me nice and dry. Oddly, the staff here in Banff National Park is super-nice…but the tourists almost couldn’t be bothered to say “hi” to me…even after I initiated. Odd. You leave the place you’re at…you’re in beautiful areas…enjoying scenery…and don’t want to have a thing to do with other humans? Humans are strange. Why not stay inside your house, just like every other week, if you’re that anti-social?

Enjoyed Banff for the AM, and then headed off to Lake Louise, AB to enjoy the sights there. Wow…how pretty is THIS place!!

From Alaska Expedition 2011
From Alaska Expedition 2011
From Alaska Expedition 2011
From Alaska Expedition 2011
From Alaska Expedition 2011

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July 11th, 2011 – Stayed the night at Canyon Hot Springs last night and tonight. Needed a day to do a little organization, catch up on e-mails, and figure out the rest of my newly-found flexible itinerary. I realized two days previous that the ONLY way to catch the rest of the group is to drive right by all of the sights that they stopped at on the way up, and basically drive like a Over-The-Road trucker in order to catch them. Well, that ain’t my cup of tea, so I weighed my options, and decided that I’d instead, fly out of Seattle into Anchorage, and either rent a car, or hop on a tour and spend 5 or so days doing that. I set out on this trip to see Alaska, and though it’s not exactly the way I had planned…I can still both enjoy my trip AND the sights, AND get to the end point…Alaska…by doing it this way. I heard a quote, paraphrased, which went, “The measure of a man is how solid and sturdy he can build a house with the bricks thrown at him by others”. In this case, I was dealt a hand, in which I needed to learn a lesson on how to repair my Jeep’s bent axle shaft and bearing in an Auto Parts store parking lot, AND, how to make the best of being 4 days behind. Well, this is how it’s going to be done…flexibility…the mark of a great trip, lol.

From Alaska Expedition 2011
From Alaska Expedition 2011

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July 12th, 2011 –

From Alaska Expedition 2011

Menandered my way South and West from Lake Louise / Banff, through Revelstoke, Shuswap Lake, Kamloops, and Chilliwack (all in BC), and turned south at Point Sumas, WA before I got to Vancouver, BC.

From Alaska Expedition 2011
From Alaska Expedition 2011
From Alaska Expedition 2011

I drove through the border crossing, and was IMMEDIATELY rewarded with $1.00 off per gallon of gas, compared to Canada. Wow…there is a HUGE difference, just crossing the border…and we complain about OUR taxes. Craziness!! The highest I saw fuel today was at Salmon Arm (Shuswap Lake area) at $1.35/L, which translates to $5.13 CAD per gallon, which is around $5.50/gal USD after all the exchange rates and fees and such. At those rates, can you imagine that a head of lettuce or fresh fruit or beef is more expensive too, due to the increased cost of transport? Hell, even the bags of ice were $3.00 each…more than double what we pay in the States…and this is ICE for God’s sake…not like Canadians don’t have and abundance of water or freezers. Bear in mind that we’re not any more than a few hours north of the CAN/USA border here. I hope they like their socialized health care…cause hell…that’s a lot of extra $ flying out of Canadians’ pockets on a monthly basis.

Enough with the politics…saw some really amazing stuff today…glad I took the path of least resistance, lol.




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July 13th, 2011 –
Woke up in Mt. Vernon, WA this AM, back in the good ‘ol US of A, and spent the morning getting ready for my flight tomorrow: non-stop from Seattle to Anchorage. It wasn’t what I had planned originally, obviously, but it’ll get me into the heart of Alaska, from which I can venture out on a tour or with a rental car, to see the area sights. We’re working with what we’ve got, here…but I’m thoroughly enjoying the idea of sitting on a plane for 6 hours round trip, versus driving 8 days straight up and back…which allows me to see more of Alaska. Again, not ideal, but what we’re looking at, due to my delay in Montana repairing the Jeep.

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July 14th, 2011 –
Seattle, WA to Anchorage, AK via Alaska Airlines, then drove to Seward, AK via Seward Highway

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July 15th, 2011 –
Kenai Fjords Glacier Tour on tour boat, then drove Seward, AK to Soldotna, AK via the Old Seward Highway through Kenai National Wildlife Preserve

This is Northwest Glacier, just after a chunk broke off at the top of the glacier. I didn’t get the original “calving”, but I got the “ice-fall” coming off the top…absolutely amazing!

More of Northwest Glacier…Video 2/4

Video 3/4

Video 4/4

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July 16th, 2011 –
Soldotna, AK to Homer, AK

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July 17th, 2011 –
All day in Homer, AK on a Sea Kayak tour (True North Tours), plus dinner with Russ and Ralph at Fresh Sourdough Express (amazing organic and locally grown restaurant/bakery

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July 18th, 2011 –
Homer, AK to Denali NP, AK

Meanwhile, back in Phoenix, my neighbors were having a HUGE dust storm…check out the time lapse video on this…too cool!!

July 19th, 2011 – Denali National Park