Riding through the wild heart of Alaska and Canada

It takes courage to travel the northern regions of North America. It takes an even braver soul to make the trip on a motorcycle in late May, when winter is still hanging around like a house guest who has overstayed his welcome. Progressive’s Director of Distribution for Special Lines Chuck Mozingo just happens to be one of these adventurous people. And the 4,400-mile journey he embarked on with his 14-year-old son from Anchorage, Alaska, to Cleveland proved to be as rewarding as it was challenging.

The call to adventure

Chuck’s adventure began with a simple phone call from a friend in Anchorage who’d recently completed a motorcycle trip to the states bordering Canada. “I mentioned how I’d love to buy a motorcycle just to drive it home to Cleveland. And the more we talked, the better it sounded. So my friend said he’d keep his eye out for any bikes for sale.

“It seemed like that was that.”

A little while later, Chuck’s friend called him back. “He said, ‘Chuck, you’re not going to believe this. My next-door neighbor is looking to sell his BMW R1150 GSA.’” These motorcycles are built for long-distance travel, making it perfect for a journey like this. Now what seemed like “Someday, maybe” was turning into a real opportunity.

“My son overheard my conversation and said he’d be game for coming with me,” Chuck says. “That’s when I really started thinking about it.”

In the end, the lure of spending some quality time with his son was too great. After doing due diligence to have the bike checked out, Chuck bought it and booked a pair of one-way tickets to Anchorage. Then they began making preparations for the trip. They purchased light-weight snowmobile suits and wireless communication devices so they could talk. During this time, Chuck also began prepping his son for the rigors of the journey.

“To simulate the feeling of riding on the back of a motorcycle, I had him sit on these wooden bar stools we own for long periods of time,” Chuck laughs. “Those bar stools can get pretty uncomfortable. I’d check in on him every so often as he was working on his homework sitting on the stool, and he’d tell me he was fine. It was clear he was committed to doing the trip.”

The journey begins

On May 30, 2013, Chuck and his son arrived in Anchorage to pick up the motorcycle. After spending the night in Anchorage, the pair began their journey by heading through the Dawson mountain range … where it snowed … a lot.

“The first day on the Alaska Highway, we just got hammered with snow,” Chuck remembers. “What a way to start the trip!”

Thus began the nine-day trek through Alaska and Canada. Along the way, Chuck and his son rode on some of the most scenic roads in North America. Every day they were treated to a fresh helping of amazing sights. Mountains like the ancient walls of a lost civilization towered over the road. Emerald trees filled the horizon in a never-ending swath. And frozen waters glistened in the afternoon sun.

“It was truly remarkable,” Chuck smiles. “There were so many breathtaking moments where we’d come over the mountains and see this jaw-dropping landscape on the other side. One of the routes we took, the Icefields Parkway, is regarded as one of the most beautiful highways in the world. It’s a 130-mile stretch that passes through Jasper National Park and Banff. Seeing the rugged peaks and the clear blue waters of Lake Louise was simply epic.”

When they weren’t taking in all that nature had to offer, the father-and-son team spent long hours talking. “Every morning we’d start the day off with a bad joke. And from there, we’d talk for hours about everything—from the biggest to the smallest of topics. To me, very little is more enjoyable than a good conversation. I loved every minute of it.”

Weather and strangers and bears–oh my!

You don’t travel 4,400 miles without overcoming some challenges, and Chuck’s trip was no exception. Temperatures in the early part of the day hovered around 18 – 20 degrees. Chuck says that everything was still frozen and crisp, with spring just starting to make its entrance. However, Chuck was impressed with his son’s fortitude through these adverse conditions.

“He was a trooper. He never complained, even when the weather was miserable. I couldn’t have asked for a better companion,” Chuck says.

Of course, Chuck and his son also had their share of interesting experiences. “While traveling along the Cassiar Highway in British Columbia, Canada, we saw a grizzly bear crossing the road about 150 feet in front of us. He was huge; very formidable. Even from a distance you could see how powerful he was.”

Chuck slowed down to let the bear pass, then pressed on. Not but a quarter of a mile down the road, though, the unthinkable happened.

They got a flat tire.

“There we were, fixing a flat on the side of the road—all the while hoping the bear hadn’t noticed we’d stopped. All around us you could see bear tracks. It took us two-and-a-half hours to get it fixed, and the entire time we never saw a car.” Chuck laughs. “It’s an unnerving feeling knowing that the only way to save your son if you’re attacked by a bear is to throw yourself into its mouth.”

They had a different kind of scare in a little mining town just outside of Regina, Saskatchewan. There were no available rooms since the town was packed with miners off for the weekend. “The hotels could only offer us a bed, which meant we’d have to share the room with complete strangers,” Chuck recalls.

Fortunately, their roommates were friendly people that Chuck and his son ended up having dinner and playing cards with. “That’s how things went on the trip. If we were patient and flexible, everything worked out.”

Something more epic than picturesque scenery

After riding a motorcycle through the incredible landscape of Alaska and Canada, you’d expect the highlight of the trip to be something the rest of us can’t relate to. But amazingly enough, Chuck says the moment he’ll always remember happened just as the trip was wrapping up.

“About two hours from home, my son said, ‘Dad, can we stop to get some lunch? I’m not ready for the trip to be over yet.’ For me, that was the best part of the whole trip.”

Chuck says he’d leave tomorrow and take the trip again, if he could. “It’s funny,” he continues, “the two goals I had for the trip were to show my son a true wilderness sky unobstructed by light pollution, and to provide a memorable adventure for him. The first goal was a miserable failure—it was cloudy every night. But I’d say we did a good job of accomplishing the second.”

That’s why Chuck offers this advice to others: “Challenge yourself. Don’t allow barriers to keep you from doing things. You can pull off any dream trip you can possibly think of with some careful planning and execution. And when it’s all over, you’ll feel like a million bucks.”