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Two wheels north: A trip to the Arctic Circle

Lake Oswego's John Harris hits open road on a 5,500-mile motorcycle adventure
by: submitted photo John Harris was happy to find that the Great White North was all it was cracked up to be. He found places like the icy Richardson River to be awesomely beautiful.

John Harris of Lake Oswego had an unusual idea for a great vacation.

A 5,500-mile round trip via motorcycle to the Arctic Circle that took 14 days. Once he reached his destination, Harris simply turned around and came right back.

'I didn't have a lot of vacation time,' he explained.

It wasn't always mile-to-mile fun. Harris admitted: 'There are days I wish I had taken a break.' Mainly because of a heavy motorcycle helmet that made his neck hurt. 'It stinks,' said Harris.

But a slightly sore neck was worth all of the freedom and beauty Harris experienced on his trip to the Yukon, seeing places he had never seen, meeting new people and making 'moveable friendships.'

'Oh yeah,' Harris answered when asked if we would go again. 'I would do it again tomorrow.'

It would be fair to describe Harris, who works as maintenance supervisor for the city of Lake Oswego, as a rugged individualist. He had not been on a motorcycle in 37 years prior to his Yukon jaunt, and a previous motorcycle trip to Memphis was marred by controversy.

'My dad didn't want me to go,' Harris said.

But with his kids out of high school, Harris got the itch for two-wheeled travel again. While his friends opted to vacation in warmer climates, Harris went the cold route.

'I saw new places and beautiful things,' he said. 'It was spectacular. There was still a little ice on the lakes. There was no traffic.'

Instead of cars, Harris saw lots of animals: 28 bears (he kept count), moose, Arctic foxes and many more species.

His stops included the Yukon River, Poker Creek, the Cassiar Mountains, along the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and the Richardson River, among other places. He was held up from a day of travel by 'an amazing' forest fire in British Columbia.

'I saw the Donjek River, a place I didn't know existed,' Harris said. 'I had to stop and take it in. It was astonishingly beautiful.'

He added, 'I've never seen a concentration of mountains and glaciers like I saw in B.C. and the Yukon. It was jaw-dropping. The coast range was spectacular.'

In the whole 5,000-plus miles Harris did not run into one genuine nut, unless you count the carnies that talked him into giving them too many electric tie cords.

While the folks were friendly and the big animals inoffensive, Harris got into big trouble with little animals.

'On a lonely highway I dropped (tipped over) my bike,' he said. 'The mosquitoes discovered me, and I had never seen mosquitoes like that.

'It was like a slapstick comedy. I was running around trying to avoid the mosquitoes.'

Unfortunately, there was not a camera around to capture this wonderful moment.

Still, it is doubtful another 37 years will pass before Harris gets the whim to get on his motorcycle and hit the road again.

He calls it 'a lust for travel.'