To the Arctic Circle, and back
Published: August 26, 2011 3:00 PM
Motorcycle enthusiasts Leslie Sofarelli and Cheryl Letkeman are known for taking long road trips around North America on just two wheels, but their latest joyride not only allowed them to live out a dream, but give back to their community as well.
On June 29, the women embarked on a 45-day trip taking them from Maple Ridge, up into northern B.C., across the Yukon and into Alaska in order to collect donations for the Autism Community Training charity group. The charity is close to the couple’s heart as Letkeman’s nephew has autism.
The duo recently returned home on Aug. 11 and estimate they’ve raised $5,000 for ACT.
Prior to their journey, Triumph Canada had heard about their charitable trip and lent the women two Triumph Tiger 800 XC bikes as part of an extended road test.
That inspired the couple to mount high definition cameras onto their helmets and bikes so they could digitally record their journey for everyone to experience through an online blog.
The duo never experienced any problems with Internet connectivity while camping in remote spots and were able to update their blog on a regular basis.
Overall, they logged 13,683 kilometres in their effort to reach the Arctic Circle and if they could they’d go back.
“It was amazing. It was beyond our expectations. It’s absolutely stunning and beautiful,” Sofarelli, who’s been around motorcycles since childhood, said.
“The landscape is just incredible. The terrain changes so quickly from alpine mountains to tundra and there are no people or buildings. Just one way in and out roads. It’s just very vast, colourful and beautiful.
“At the same time it can be absolutely intimidating with the weather, but the biggest thing we learned was to appreciate the beauty of rain,” she added.
She estimates 94 per cent of their trip was spent riding through heavy rains with temperatures hovering between three and 16 degrees Celsius.
The weather wasn’t the only aspect of their trip that wasn’t cooperating. The Triumph bikes lent to the couple had stalling problems, which they documented on their blog.
“Overall the bikes did really well. The bikes did have a stalling issue but as soon as we got to Anchorage Triumph took our bikes to get fixed,” Sofarelli said. “They released a statement on Tuesday saying they’re hoping to get the stalling issue fixed as soon as possible.”
“The bikes had stalling issues for a predominant part of our trip but we just learned to live with it. We would tweak the bikes to keep them going. Triumph wanted to fly us home when we hit Whitehorse but we figured since we learned how to live with it that we wanted to carry on with the rest of the trip.”
According to Sofarelli, most bikers dream of riding either the Dempster Highway in the Yukon or the Dalton Highway in Alaska, which both lead to Arctic circle crossings. The duo took on both but admit the roads’ rough mixture of clay, calcium chloride, shell and rock made it nearly impossible to navigate through the rain.
Despite the rough weather and mechanical problems, the were positive experiences on the trip. The women saw an endless array of wildlife up close, including grizzly bears, bison, cariboo and eagles.
“The bison are humongous. They just stream down the hill and block off the road so of course you have to wait for them to finish,” she said. “We were completely in their territory so we were being as respectful as we can.”
The most memorable moment came on an off day in Alaska where the girls took a private plane ride to the top of Mt. McKinley.
“We actually saw the peak. We are one of 30 per cent of people who got to see the peak on a clear day,” Sofarelli said. “It was so overwhelming. We probably took about 350 pictures in that hour and a half. It was just spectacular.”
Last year the couple ventured off on a road trip to New York. They clocked 11870 km crossing five provinces and 17 states.
“It just goes to show you how big B.C., the Yukon and Alaska really is. We racked up more miles on this trip heading west and north than across country to New York.”
“For us, it’s just the best way to travel. You’re not only experiencing it on two wheels, but you’re in it, you smell it, you feel it and you’re exposed to the elements. Sometimes it does feel like a survival game but it is the most amazing way to travel.”
With the Alaska trip crossed off their bucket list, the couple would like to take a motorcycle trip around the world sometime in the near future . If their plan works out, they would also like to help out more charities as well.
“If we could figure out how to take a leave of absence from work and be prepared financially then that’s what we want to do. Each trip is just getting bigger and bigger but we need to do things big to keep our attention,” Sofarelli added.
“I think most people associate charities with these big rides people do. The biking community is very generous. I think we’ll always be attached to some sort of charity when we ride from now on.”
Even though the charity ride is over, the couple and ACT are still collecting donations
• For more information visit Sofarelli’s blog at advgrrls.com.
Recent article that our local rag wrote about our trip. Thought we would share it. I did mention that even though we had technical issues with the bikes that we truly enjoyed riding the Tigers all the way!