Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Offbeat - Liam Marlaire

The bold and the cheap: Local motorcycle club’s monthlong journey to Alaska featured close calls with bears, few frills

  • con-offbeat-1-081218

    Members of the CBMC, a touring motorcycle group, are set to embark on a recently completed monthlong trip. Members on the journey included, front row from left, Burt Peloquin and “Cubby” Nesja; back row, John Panzer, Bill Matthews and Jim Begley.

    Contributed photo

  • con-offbeat-2-081218-1

    Musk ox travel alongside a Chippewa Valley-based motorcycle club that recently returned from a 10,000-mile trek through Alaska and Canada.

    Contributed photo

The 10,000-mile roundtrip journey wasn’t without its challenges and close calls.

Jim Begley is trail leader for the Cheap Buggers Motorcycle Club. The ‘B’ in CBMC actually stands for a slightly more course term, but the group of retirees like to keep things family-friendly.

Begley, Burt Peloquin, “Cubby” Nesja, Bill Matthews and John Panzer make up most of the organization’s roster, and the five recently returned from a one-month ride to and from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, which is well into the Arctic Circle.

The group left for the tour on July 2 and returned Aug. 1. Speed bumps along the way included:

• Peloquin once was forced to accelerate quickly while heading into a turn to avoid a black bear crossing the highway. “I wiped that bear’s nose with my knee,” he said.

• Matthews’ battery died when they arrived in the Arctic Circle, and Peloquin doubled back 250 miles to Fairbanks, Alaska, to get a new one. Lengthy stretches with no available services were common on the trip.

• The group stopped to stay overnight at a friend’s in Seward, Alaska — a rare evening of sleeping indoors — but were relegated to the garage because a grizzly bear and its three cubs had been recently unnerving the neighborhood. A few members of the club could hear the bears during the night, making sleep elusive.

•  •  •

The CBMC has been taking weeklong trips for years that have brought them to Arkansas, Tennessee, Montana, New York and other locales.

“We’re all from the area,” said Begley, who lives between Cadott and Chippewa Falls, “and all worked together at one time or another.”

Begley and Peloquin were employed at Cray in Chippewa Falls together for 38 years.

As the group’s name suggests, there are few frills on its trips. 

“We tent camped the whole way,” Begley said of the recently completed tour the group titled “CBMC Alaska Adventure 2018.” “Sometimes the sites had just a picnic table and a pit toilet for $20 a night. Some were free.”

The total cost of “lodging” was $274, or $54.80 per person. Meals were cooked at the campsites. Freshly caught fish at times were on the menu.

Motorcycles on the trip were three BMWs, one Yamaha and a Harley-Davidson. Model years ranged from 2002 to 2011.

Peloquin jokingly explained the rules for membership in the CBMC.

“You have to ride with us for two years,” he said, “and if you survive, you’re in.

“But new members have to find firewood.”

•  •  •

Taking into account a few days off here and there, the group averaged 400 miles a day on the trip.

Highlights included Hyder, Alaska, where sheer cliffs and waterfalls marked the scenery; Watson Lake,  a Canadian town that’s home to the Sign Post Forest, where visitors leave signs detailing where they’re from and how far they traveled to get there; the Top of the World Highway, which winds along the crest of a mountain range in Alaska; and wildlife such as musk ox traveling alongside the club.

Future plans for the CBMC include a return to Alaska to visit some sites they couldn’t get to this summer. An excursion to Nova Scotia, a province in far eastern Canada, also is on the to-do list.

As far as the recently completed adventure, both Begley and Peloquin said it was more than they could have ever imagined.

“You don’t even take pictures sometimes because they wouldn’t do it justice,” Peloquin said. “You just take it all in and move on.”

Contact: liam.marlaire@ecpc.com, 715-833-9215, @marlaires on Twitter

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