The Road to Alaska, 2008

The Bike
The Bike

It was the opportunity of a life time.  A motorcycle ride from the studio here in San Marcos, CA to Alaska and back.  I’d been on long bike trips before but nothing like this, and to top it off, this time I was going alone.  I decided the bike would be my trusty Harley-Davidson FLHX (Street Glide).  It was set up for touring with lower fairings and a chopped tour pack on the back.  I decided the tour pack would be dedicated to camera equipment only.  It made since, I could stop, open the tour pack, grab what I needed, get the shot, stow and go.  My right saddlebag would carry tools, inclement weather gear, leathers (when not worn) and a first aid kit.  The left bag would carry six old t-shirts (throw away’s), two pair of Levis, socks, undies, a pair of old tennis shoes and a tire repair kit,.  On the passenger seat I carried a duffle with a spare helmet, more clothes and toiletries.  On top of the duffle my trusty tripod, more on that later.   OK, I had the gear thing down, next was the route.  I knew I was going to Alaska but I didn’t know how I was going to get there.  Time to Google.

The Route
The Route

It’s funny, but when you think of driving to Alaska, you think of going up the coast, and you can, but the shortest way to Alaska from Southern California is up the 15 through Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Montana and into Canada.  Once in Canada you head North West through Alberta, British Columbia, the Yukon Territories and into Alaska.  I decided that to do this right, I wanted to see as many of the National and Canadian treasures as I could.  Therefore I planned my route to visit, in my opinion, some of the most beautiful areas in the U.S. and Canada.  My route would be as follows:  I would take I-15 into Southern Utah.  From there I would ride through Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon.  After Bryce I would continue up through central Utah on US-89 to Provo.  Then it was back on I-15 past the Great Salt Lake, up to Idaho Falls.  Just past Idaho Falls I would catch US-28 up to Salmon Idaho.  From Salmon I would take US-93 all the way up to Hungry Horse, Montana.  From Hungry Horse I would spend a day shooting in Glacier National Park before continuing through the park and into Canada.   Once in Canada I would travel up Provinical-22 into Calgary and from Calgary head east through Banff and up to Jasper, eventually making it to Grand Prairie.  From Grand Prairie it was up to Dawson Creek and the beginning of the Alcan Highway.  Once on the Alcan it was up to Alaska.  I would then do the interior circle through Alaska with a side trip down to Seward Bay and then it was back down the Alcan to Dawson Creek.  From Dawson Creek I planned to take a different route home.  This route would take me down Provinical-97 into Vancouver.  From there I would cross into Washington State and catch State-20 through the Cascades National Park.  From the Cascades I would meander down US-97 and eventually head west through Mt. Rainer National Park and then on to Mt. Saint Helens.  From Mt. Saint Helens I would travel South East through the Columbia River Gorge and then turn south past Mt. Hood eventually getting back on US-97 for the trip south to Crater Lake.  From Crater Lake I would continue south past Mt. Shasta and then head east on State-44 over to Lassen Volcanic National Park.  From Lassen I would head down US-89 through Lake Tahoe and back into Nevada.  Once in Nevada I would head down US-395 to Lee Vining and travel Tioga Pass through Yosemite National Park.  From Yosemite it would be south again through Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks and back over Walker pass to US-395.  From there it would be a straight run down 395 to home.  The trip would take me through eight states and three Canadian Provinces over a period of 31 days for a total of 9,468 miles.  A little more than your average Sunday Drive.

Stay tuned, as we document the trip of a life time, day by day, mile by mile, moment by moment.

THE GEAR

The Bag
The Bag

For me, this was the trip of a life time, so I wanted to make sure I had everything I needed for the assignment.  The rules were clear, “if I need it, take it, if I might need it, take it”, and it all has to fit into a box 22 inches wide by 16 inches long by 8 inches high.  I started filling the box with my Lowpro Micro Trekker 200, a great little pack that would carry everything I required and left enough room in the box for a sweatshirt, jacket and a day’s supply of cigars. First in the bag was the 1D Mark III, my work horse in the field.  Plenty of juice for 13″x19″prints and a great format for scenic’s.  I’ve actually made prints up to 44″x36″ with excellent results using Alien Skin’s Blow Up 2.  Next in the bag went the EF 16-35 f/2.8L, an excellent choice for scenic’s.  Also making it into the bag, the EF 70-200 f/2.8L along with its mate, the EF 2x II, bringing the total zoom out to 400mm at f/5.6.  Since it doesn’t have IM, it’s got to be on a tripod, but hey, 90% of what I shoot with this lens is on a tripod.  I’ve always said, “Great images start with a good foundation.”  So, with me, it wasn’t a choice, it was a requirement, thus the Manfrotto 055MF4 gets strapped to the duffle.  I purchased it specifically for this trip.  Weighing in at 2Kg, a little under 4 pounds and adjusting from 11cm to 165 cm (4.33″ to 64.96″), it pretty much covers the whole gamut and packs down to 54cm (21.26″).  With a 488RCO Ball sitting on top it fit just perfect across the top of my 24″ duffle.  The last lens to make it into the bag was my EF24-70 f/2.8L.  This lens fills in the gap, makes for a great portrait lens, and has a nice macro function as well.  For this trip no fixed lenses make the bag, only zooms.  Finally, to put a little light on the subject I threw a 550EX Speedlight in the bag.

Accessories that made it into the bag include, a pair of Hoya ND filters in 2 and 4 stop configurations, a Hoya polarizer, several Scandisk, Extreme 3 memory cards, ranging in size from 4-16 gigabytes.   Making sure I wouldn’t run out of power on the road I threw an extra camera battery into the bag along with a charger.  Last, but not least, 16 AA’s went into the bag to power the 550EX.

I dropped my Daughter’s Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T30 into the glove box up front, figuring I might want to take a few shots while riding down the road, not a practice I recommend while riding a bike, but then I never was one to take my own advice.  And that my friends, is how I pack, for the shoot of a life time.

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