Monday 12 March 2018

This Man Took An Epic Motorcycle Journey Until The Road Ran Out (66 Pics)

About four months ago, 26 year-old Sebastiaan de With and his friend, Stuart Philkill, returned from a motorcycle trip that captured the interest and imagination of young adventurers across the world. The photo gallery—highly popularized by Reddit and Imgur—chronicles a journey inspired after, as de With puts it, “[I] got divorced, lost my job, so me and my buddy got on our motorcycles and rode North to the Alaskan Arctic until the road ran out.”

Their trip spanned from San Francisco, California to Anchorage, Alaska—a winding stretch of highway crest that moves with the ocean through some of the world’s most incredible mountain views. The two captured the entire length in a photo-series bound to strike jealousy in the heart of an aforementioned divorced wife. Their trip took two months all in all.

According to de With, “It has really allowed me to kind of ‘find myself’ after such a turbulent time, and I’m now doing plenty of job-seeking with renewed inspiration to spend my time saving up for more experiences like this.”

A current San Francisco resident, de With is described as a photographer, designer and general motorcycle enthusiast. Stuart Philkill is also a photographer. The two created a Kickstarter campaign to fund the production of a photo-book of the trip, as well as a number of gallery-worthy prints to send to their contributors. Their campaign successfully raised over $10,000. A few motorcycle-friendly companies even chipped in to provide the two adventurers with gear for their trip.

However, de With and Philkill’s trip wasn’t popularized by the Kickstarter campaign, sponsorship or even the two’s promotional activity—their journey became one of 2014’s most-widely followed adventures because it tells a profound length about life, and the two roads that meet at the foot of turmoil; de With turned his back on self-pity to call ‘solitude’ footloose, re-defining hardship as opportunity.

We either crumble under uncertainty, or embrace the unknown.

1: Atigun Pass in the Arctic northernmost region of Alaska. The view at our destination, over 5,000 miles since we departed home. How did we get here? 

2: We departed San Francisco with some seriously loaded bikes. 

3: We camped with friends our first night (and last night in California) on the Ocean 

4: We took the roads less traveled by the most beautiful scenery. Crater Lake, Oregon… 

5: … is mind-blowing. 

6: Oregon offers far more than just snow-capped mountains and pines! Here we climbed Smith Rock. 

7: and then made time for Portland
8: we spent all our money on gas and gear, and crashed with friends in Portland (pictured) or camping on free land.
9: we got to haul ass at times through cities as we preferred to stay close to nature and make miles north
10: Washington State means ferries! You get to go on and get off first as a motorcyclist and hang out with other riders.
11: Washington state: Olympic National Park. Amazing place.

12: We met local wildlife and made friends!
13: As we wanted to chronicle the changes in landscape and nature, we went on hikes. Here’s one of the higher places in Washington, Hurricane Ridge, with a big stag chilling in the evening light.
14: We can see Canada from here! Here we come, Vancouver…
15: Vancouver was kickass. Our first time in Canada proper.
16: … we made friends, who invited us along on a massive illegal bicycle rave (!)
17: … and that was the last bit of crazy civilization before we hit the wilderness.
18: We rode out the morning after the crazy bike rave and were properly on our way north.
19: We camped in places we found by riding up random dirt roads and setting up a fire ring and a tent. Home for the night usually came with incredible views.
20: Passing through the mountains, we got to the prairie of British Columbia…

21: … and started getting set up later and later in the day. This was at 10 PM or so. Late light was very nice.
22: Long, dreadfully boring roads up to Alaska at times meant relaxing with the feet up!

23: Sometimes we camped in funny places. This is a cow pasture. Briefly after this shot we were chased off by a herd of curious cows and a big bull.
24: But, thanks to this fence we could sleep and set up camp on the side that was safe from the bovine menace.
25: Going up we saw our first glacier! We were really getting North now, just south of the Yukon.
26: We met other riders, like this guy from Bolivia. Some people ride from the top of America to the bottom…
27: Late light and long sunsets in boreal forests, the last forested areas before the tundra. Not pictured: intense shitloads of mosquitoes.
28. We hit the Alaskan Highway in the Yukon and found it quite decent as far as pavement goes! Incredible scenery and scale.
29. Maintenance involved Yukon Walmart parking lot oil changes and mechanical adjustments. The bikes did great!
30. Our first trip to the small Alaskan town of Skagway was breathtaking. The White Pass, known well from the time of the Klondike Gold Rush is insane.

31: Skagway, old port town of the Klondike Gold Rush. We met some super fun local girls who were incredibly cool and showed us around.
32: We returned the favour and I gave one of them a few rides! Thanks Sarah!
33: On our way out the Yukon treated us to these kind of views. Rainbows for days.
34: And we made friends with other locals, too!
35: We camped for a night with our new Alaskan friends and then rode up further north. We had an Arctic Circle to reach!

36: A quick photo for home in the Yukon. Getting better at packing the bikes!

37: At the end of the day we’d cross incredibly janky ‘roads’ to find camping spots and were at times cut off by fallen trees and / or moose.
38: Time to cross the Yukon river. This far north, this ferry runs 24/7 and is the only way to get into Alaska.

39: After the ferry you go over a long, beautiful dirt ‘highway’ known as the Top of the World Highway.

40: And then you make it to Alaska! Border people were very friendly. Woo!

41: The roads did instantly turn shittier. Just rocks and mud here.

42: The scenery turning bleaker and bleaker.

43: Yet, there is an inescapable beauty and vastness about the lower Alaskan landscape. It makes you feel small.

44: Roadside maintenance, our way.

45: We came by Denali National Park and went hiking. This was the view around 1 AM. Yes, 1 AM.

46: I may or may not have snuck around a few railroads for photos. I love old rail bridges.

47: Making good time for the Arctic, it was time for new tires. Fairbanks (where this was taken) was our last stop with any kind of population over 50 people.

48: You may know this road from Ice Road Truckers. It’s known to take many lives each year, due to the bad road conditions and how remote you are. There’s only 1 stop for gas in 500+ miles.

49: We made it to the sign delineating the Arctic Circle! But, we weren’t there yet – we wanted to ride north until the road ran out.

50: The foothills of the Brooks Range showed us the last mountain ridge we’d see until the Arctic Ocean (and if you’d kept going, the North Pole). The Brooks Range separates the forested landmass from the inhospitable Arctic North Slope.

51: Sure enough: we mounted the mountain pass and trees just vanished.

52: Actually, all vegetation vanished except for some bog grass. Meanwhile, we shared the road with nothing but massive speeding trucks leaving us in clouds of dust and rocks.

53: The Dalton takes its toll often. You see lots of wrecks and memorial signs for lost souls next to the road.

54: We made it!!! We were too freezing and cold to be excited. In the distance is the final human outpost before the Arctic Ocean: the Prudhoe Bay oil field and Deadhorse outpost.

55: Deadhorse has a bizarre quality to it.

56: It’s the biggest oil field in the US. We were amazed and felt strange being here, as it is all oil machinery and workers and the sun never sets.

57: We were happy to ride back south the next day.

58: A rainstorm on our heels, the terrain was turning apocalyptic.

59: The road was, predictably, just barely a road.
60: But as we came close to the pass, we remembered why we went on this ride.
61: The most beautiful place on Earth I have ever been.

62: Breath-taking light.

63: We were happy to see trees again after 300 miles!

64: Trees! And those views!

65: The storm did catch up with us eventually, but after having managed this feat we started on our way back home.

66: All in all, we rode for 11,000 miles or so from home to the end fo the road – the furthest north we could go and back. It was unforgettable. It was really nice to see the Golden Gate bridge again when I rode back into San Francisco.

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