Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Genesis of the Tour

For the record the Magical Mystery Tour began with an email and a link to Mike Curiak's blog back on May Day.

From: Mike Curiak
Subject: Psssst, hey buddy...
Date: May 1, 2011 12:27:09 PM AKDT
To: Roman Dial, Eric Parsons, Steve Fassbinder, Dylan Kentch

Apologies for the verbosity, but there is a point to it all:


See ya 'round. Hopefully real soon!

This looked like an opening to spring what I knew we'd all want to do, so I hit "reply all" almost instantly:

From: Roman Dial
Subject: Re: Psssst, hey buddy...
Date: May 1, 2011 1:00:38 PM AKDT
To: Mike Curiak , Roman Dial
Cc: Eric Parsons , Steve Fassbinder, Dylan Kentch

Mike et al.

This is timely indeed.

I finally bought a fat bike thanks to Mike's advice and Eric's inspirations. It's meant for a couple more rides before I can't do this stuff anymore.

While we did call it hellbiking (i.e. wilderness bike & boat mostly off-trail) and many derided us at the time as "hike-a-bikers" (back then it was hard to ride and shoot photos at the same time -- plus that wasn't as photogenic as crossing rivers and thrashing through bushes), there were good reasons we did hellbike trips year after year for a decade: 1988 (Wrangells), 89 (Eastern AK Range), 90 (Brooks Range), 91 (Canyonlands), 93 (Into the Wild Bus w/Krakauer), 94 (Western AK Range), 95 (Kenai Peninsula), 96 (NG trip), 97 (Talkeetna Mtns), and 05 (Talkeetna Mtns).

I am looking for the right (experienced but patient and w/a sense of humor) partners to help an old man (me) get from Yakutat to Glacier Bay on fat bikes (or other) and this is the key group, I believe. I think it's a ten day trip and we need packrafts and some, umm, balls, I guess, for dealing with glaciers, bears, and bays. Two weeks from where you live and back most likely.

This is the stretch of Lost Coast that would make a good video using a SLR HD camera and Go Pro as a sub-five minute submission to Banff Mtn Film Festival, for example.

A group of three is ideal for sharing gear, and maybe five is better than four, but four would work, too. Even two, but images and stories come more easily when more than two.

Any of you with the means ($ to get to Yakutat and out of Glacier Bay), time (June), and interest?

You all have what it takes otherwise: skill, boat, and imagination.


The responses trickled in, beginning with Doom, whom I knew only from the Blogosphere:

From: Steve Fassbinder
Subject: Re: Psssst, hey buddy...
Date: May 1, 2011 4:46:38 PM AKDT
To: Roman Dial

Is this really a trip I could possibly say no to? hmmmm
There is also the reality of taking another extended trip this summer( cost, time off work, ect).
I'm going to head into the garage and replace that 4 year old chain on my pugs and think about it.
Let's just say I'm very interested, but perhaps august would work better for me?
Damn....sounds amazing....

A day later Dylan's response arrived with the enthusiasm of youth:

From: Dylan Kentch
Subject: Re: Psssst, hey buddy...
Date: May 2, 2011 12:31:36 AM AKDT
To: Roman Dial


Game on. Any time after the first weekend in June should be good for
me. Let me talk to the bosses by the end of the week and get back to
you then. Flying into Yakutat is cheap, it's getting home from
Glacier Bay that should be more expensive (I think).


And then Mike was responding, somewhat lukewarmly for tossing out the ball in the first place it seemed to me:

From: Mike Curiak
Subject: RE: Psssst, hey buddy...
Date: May 2, 2011 9:41:40 AM AKDT
To: Roman Dial
Cc: Eric Parsons , Steve Fassbinder, Dylan Kentch


To say that I’m interested is a level of understatement that I’m ill equipped to explain. God yes I wanna.

I love that Roman has started this out by attempting to sandbag us. Old? It’s all relative. What was that quote by Dick Griffith about old age and treachery?!!!?

Roman, with your experience us ‘young’ns’ will still be struggling to keep up. As long as you, too, are bringing a sense of humor and some patience, we’ll probably do fine.

I’m pretty well set with gear (as far as I know) and certainly set with cameras. I’ve got two HD SLR’s (one zoom, one ultra wide) and I’ve already been scheming how to sew a dry bag to my spraydeck to keep them protected but easy access.

I’ve also got a HD camcorder that I’ll gladly loan to whomever else goes, and wants to be responsible for it.

Is June really the best time for this one? I ask because it’s a really, really hard time for me to get away. Not impossible though. I’m still reeling a bit from the financial wreckage of my Feb AK trip, and a bit more time to recover wouldn’t hurt. Early July?


It was looking like time to snag Eric, who has a dog, a woman, a baby, and a business. He seemed the hardest, but most important, to catch, as he is the coastal bike-rafting explorer. I tried to set the hook with logistics talk:

From: Roman Dial
Subject: Re: RE: Psssst, hey buddy...
Date: May 2, 2011 4:29:18 PM AKDT
To: Mike Curiak, Roman Dial
Cc: Eric Parsons, Steve Fassbinder, Dylan Kentch


Dylan says yes, game on. Mike says, yes

August I'm in Tibet and Mid July I have a week-long short job. Need to see my wife somewhere in there.

The last week June/First week of July window is doable for me with some play on either side of that. Maybe a hair bit rainier/stormier than June (http://www.wrcc.dri.edu/cgi-bin/cliMAIN.pl?akyaku), but early July still has long days, maybe fewer bugs, better fed bears.

This is a route I have not yet done, so yes, may be sandbagging y'all but should be interesting. I can get beta, if we want it (Giffith, Hig, Skurka and Dylan's good boss, Dirk know the coast).

Lituya Bay and La Perouse Gl seem like notable obstacles.

We can get out of Gustavus to Juneau on the twice weekly (M & W) ferry (http://gustavus.com/gethere/index.html#ferry and http://www.gustavusak.com/).

One thing you should know, in full disclosure, is that I had ankle surgery ("arthroscopic debridement of an impingement") about three weeks ago. Doesn't hurt any more than before the surgery and feels best when I am in a boat or on a bike.


Maybe it was my admission of weakness with recent ankle surgery, but eight minutes later came the Captain's commitment:

From: Eric Parsons
Subject: Re: Psssst, hey buddy...
Date: May 2, 2011 4:37:07 PM AKDT
To: Roman Dial, Mike Curiak
Cc: Steve Fassbinder, Dylan Kentch

"circular inspiration" is a good thing but I don't know Roman. Sounds scary, lots of bears, calving tidewater glaciers (I'm still traumatized mind you..) and big balls. shit. what did Skurka say? "engaging?" :)

screw that man, I'm going to stick to feeding Finn pureed sweet potatoes.

kidding of course, would be sweet to have done the whole coast and is a route I've pondered about a lot. Getting the time will be the hard part, that will take some work on my part.

But now that Eric was in, it pulled the rest of the crew more firmly into commitment. One hour later:

From: Steve Fassbinder
Subject: Re: Psssst, hey buddy...
Date: May 2, 2011 5:44:07 PM AKDT
To: Roman Dial
Cc: Mike Curiak, Roman Dial, Eric Parsons, Dylan Kentch

Ok this idea has my full attention.

In fact I'm thinking about selling my #25 Don Mclung bike to finance my way, shit i'd sell my left nut if it was worth anything!

Late June early July would work for me. I have a wedding that I must attend in SF on july15th. I guess the farther away from that date would be best, as to give me some time to work in-between.

Things that I could possibly help with are my unwavering good attitude, camera skills, and possible film ideas.

I'm very close friends with all the mountain film telluride people, in fact they are all starting to get fat bikes. If we made a film that we all felt good about putting our names on, it would be a shoe in at MF.

I also have a friend from telluride, that just took a summer bush pilot job, based out of homer.Not sure if he could help us? He flew his personal plane up to AK with the intention of exploring (flying) to some amazing places, and told me I should come up this summer and he'd fly me anywhere.

I would love to be a part of a tour like this, as much for the company, as for the experience of riding and boating in such an unknown( to me) place.

Let's keep the ball rolling with some ideas and dates.

I leave one week from tomorrow for a 13 day trek across Utah that will involve the usual bike boating bushwhacking, but this time there will be a legit climbing section, and bachelor party thrown in the mix.

Should I return from this mess with my sanity and liver still intact, you can count me in.

All the best


By 10 PM of May 2, less than a day and a half after Mike C's first email we were all in and planning:

From: Mike Curiak
Subject: RE: RE: Psssst, hey buddy...
Date: May 2, 2011 9:51:00 PM AKDT
To: Roman Dial
Cc: Eric Parsons, Steve Fassbinder, Dylan Kentch

Sorry about the email binge. I’m procrastinating real work, which is the only time I get emails answered…

Last of June/First of July is probably the best compromise for all, yeah? Eric? Dylan? I can agree to it.

I’m not worried about being sandbagged, Roman. You’ll be waiting on me plenty regardless of locomotion. If, somehow, I can keep up on the bike and in the boat, I still won’t because I’ll be fixated on filling as many memory cards as I can. I expect y’all knew that already.

Looking at the maps I see *lots* of notable obstacles. I’m so green to this that I should probably keep my mouth shut and just follow closely. I’m of the opinion that we’re gonna have our work cut out for us regardless, and more beta is mo betta.

But that’s just me. Happy to go in ~blind if that’s what the group decides. It always works itself out.

AK guys—any guesses at what we’ll be spending to get to Yakutat, and back from Gustavus/Juneau all-in? Just looking for a round number to budget.

Roman—after the debridement has the impingement lessened?

Sleeping fitfully already…


And the rest is video and blog entries....more of which I'll try and trickle in, too.


  1. funny seeing this all linked together.

  2. INTERNET!!!

    Did you guys share gear lists and what not electronically pre-trip or did you go about it all pretty individually?

    I spent the better part of two hours this afternoon watching all the videos, reading all the blogs, and checking out all the photos from the trip. Time well spent.

    It was particularly cool that you all got together to do this because I think that many of us in the blog community follow all of you separately and it was neat to this this come together as a group effort.

  3. Any chance you had at denying your manipulative nature just vanished.

    Not that any of us ever had a reason to doubt...;)

  4. Sam,

    As a group there was not much gear talk other than cookpots (individual + gallon from me), stoves (alcohol: MC and me), shelters (me and Eric), tools (MC), wound kit (me), maps (Eric and me).

    One of us brought up food, but that went nowhere and we all brought our own.

    The day we left, I cleverly manipulated Doom into carrying the three person shelter (Go Lite Hex mid) and the pound of coffee. But he's so good natured he still out rode us all with the extra group gear.

  5. Wow - I WISH I had been included in this email exchange! What a great group of guys you know over there.


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