Sunday, November 13, 2011

8.27.11 Day 67 Mile 0

8.27.11 Day 67 Mile 0

First thing I did this morning was check the thermometer on my tank bag. It read 45 degrees inside my tent. I took it outside and put it on the bike to see what it was like outside. It felt cold. We had a fire this morning for the first time of the trip while we had coffee. We were packed up and on the road by 9:30. It wasn’t long before we got into Pine Pass which was our first big construction area. We passed through one the other day, but it was easy to get through, just a little dusty. We had to wait for a while at this one and we chatted with the construction worker for a while and some of the truckers. Once we got moving, the road became deep gravel that was difficult to manage on the sport bike, but Clint did just fine. Some parts of it turned into wet dirt and back into gravel. Then hard pack, then gravel, then dirt. I went slow on the deep gravel. The bars just did whatever they wanted to and I could go fast enough to skim over the rocks. Once off the deep stuff, I would haul ass to catch back up. There was many 10 or 15 miles of this behind a pilot car. Then we had clear road for a while, then came to yet another construction site. This is supposed to be the last one though. This site was a lot better and easier. Got through it no problem but while waiting for the pilot car, I saw how dirty everything had gotten already and I was kicking myself in the ass for not putting the rain covers on the bags and the rain suit on. Its going to be tough to clean all this caked up mud off.

We got to Chetwyn and stopped at what was apparently the only gas station in the area because it was packed. Maybe it was just all the construction traffic stopping all at once but it took forever to get anything done. We hung out for a while and drank coffee and I had a buffalo chicken taquito from the 7/11. It reminded me of working in Virginia when Shawn and I would get these often for a quick lunch or while on break. I looked at the clock and realized it had taken us over 3 hours to travel under 100 miles.

We finally geared up and hit the road for Dawson City just over an hour away. When we get there, I see a sign for Tim Horton’s and I knew without a question that’s where lunch was waiting. I get my usual turkey bacon sandwich and ice cap and sit down with my laptop. I wanted to check out the weather for the next few days and check on email. Before I left Seattle, I was told my race car driver Jim decided to pull out for the rest of the season. Then since we were running behind, I told my boss that I wouldn’t be able to work on the other car for the next race in California. I had planned on three extra days and two of them were already gone before I even started. There was still a small chance I would have to work so I checked my email when I got a chance.

After lunch, we went looking for the Mile Zero sign of the Alaskan Highway. We got our photos and met an Asian guy from seattle in a Mini Cooper. He was driving up to Whitehorse to meet some friends. We took our picture and went on our way. The morning was kind of a downer because of the construction and lack of scenery and excitement. After lunch and the start of the Alaskan Highway, I felt reinvigorated and happy to be on the Alcan. At one point, I said to myself with a huge grin, “I’m on the Alaskan Highway!”

The first few hours of the Alcan were flat and boring and through farming country. Not what I was expecting but we were only getting started. Road conditions were fairly good for a while but eventually got worse and worse. Potholes started appearing and dust started piling up and flying into every corner and crevice. On several long sections, there were large piles of dust and gravel in the road and they were hard to see until you were right up on them or unless Clint when through them on the KLR and kicked up a cloud of dust. Sometimes, there was no chance to slow down and there was no choice but to run through the large thick patches at 70 Mph causing a quick speed wobble and two wheel slide. The passing semi trucks kicked up a lot of dust and gravel that cam comes flying at me and stinging my neck which was the only exposed area of my skin. My face shield is coated in dust and I feared wiping it and scratching it since there was still a long way to go of these conditions. I wanted to save the scratches until I was at least on the Dalton Highway. At one point, while my bike and body rattled through the potholes, I thought to myself, “Oh yeah, Im on the Alcan,” but this time not in the excited manner as earlier. The novelty has already worn off and my battered body and motorcycle yearned for each time I needed fuel. This is only the beginning of a long ride up to Alaska, where the Dalton promised worse conditions.

At our last stop for the day at Wonowon, we took out the map and tried to pick out a campground to stay in. There didn’t seemed to be any provincial parks in the area but we were told that Sikanni campground was nice and there was also one just a few minutes past it at Buckinghorse. Inside the gas station, I found another pair of headphones for $7. I knew the quality would be junk, but hopefully they would stay in my ear better and help block out the wind noise. The ones I had purchased in the Wal-mart were complete junk and I only wore them for a few miles before the pink ones went back in.

We decided that the Sikanni campground would probably be our best bet and made our way there. At first look, the campground looked like a pile of garbage. There was a gravel parking lot where a few Rvs were camped and a couple of tent sites on the river that were right next to the highway. As Im looking at them, I could see the semi trucks kicking up huge amounts of dirt and I wasn’t dreading breathing in all that dust while I slept and hearing trucks go by all night. There were cabins available for $35 but one look at them and I decided I would rather sleep in my tent next to the road. There was wood available for purchase and when I asked about it, the owners said there was probably a handful left at the site they were putting us at. Pulled up to the site and there was a huge amount of wood sitting there. Enough for two nights. We unpacked and set up camp. Clint went to the store in search of beer while I put up my tent. He came back empty handed so we just sat at the bench and started up the fire. Might as well get one going early, there is plenty of wood to burn and its free. After hanging out for a while, an older man came up to us and said, “I heard you guys were looking for some beer. I’ve got a couple I can give you, I’m going to pick up some fresh cold ones.”

“Sure, we’ll take them! Thanks!”

He ended up hanging out for a while and talking about bikes and all the traveling he has done in the RV. We asked him about road conditions and weather further up north. Apparently the roads got a lot worse ahead and it had been raining in Whitehorse for weeks on end. Great, just what I wanted to hear. I took the beer he gave us and placed them in the ice cold river to chill them. A few minutes later, we were enjoying free cold beer by the river next to our free fire. Not bad after all I guess. It’s still not the great magnificent campground we were looking for in the wilderness of Canada. The running joke has become, “Okay, tomorrow night, we will find that great campsite.”

I ate some canned tuna with wheat thins for dinner then afterwards went to go clean up a little bit. It was already too cold to take a shower so I wiped my face down and was disgusted by the blackness of the towels. Gross, I need a shower. Tomorrow…

Monday, November 7, 2011

8.26.11 Day 66 Pink is my favorite color.

8.26.11 Day 66 Pink is my favorite color.

After coffee, we got on the road by 8:30am. After such great scenery yesterday, the day was a bit of a disappointment. There was nothing to see and nothing to do. We went through small towns spread out by distances of 40-50 miles on the Caribou Highway or 97. The town names ranged from 70 Mile house up to 150 Mile House.

Somewhere along the way, I believe it was Quesnel during a gas stop, I decided that I couldn’t take these monotonous roads anymore without some sort of entertainment. I was told there was a Radioshack in town where I could purchase headphones but after a couple of laps around town, I never found it so I went into some form of budget store where I found a tiny selection of headphones. The only kind that would even have a chance of fitting underneath my helmet were a set of bright pink JVC earbuds. Not having any other choice, I paid the $17 for the earbuds and went outside to show off my new purchase to Clint. I think he was quite impressed. Back on the road we just kept chugging along. Nothing to see, nothing to do.

We get to Prince George and decide to stop for lunch and re-stock some supplies. There is a Wal-Mart in town so we eat at the McDonalds inside and buy some food. A Big Mac was actually good. I picked up a couple packs of Ramen, rice, spam and other dried goods. I also finally got a pack of ratchet straps expecting to break one or two on the AlCan and a set of new $10 headphones to replace the pink ones. At the checkout line, a couple on a Harley was behind us and Clint struck up a conversation with them while I argued with the cashier about the total price of the rice, spam and tripod that I bought. Somehow, my total ended up being over $100. I asked the cashier if Spam was really that expensive in Canada. Apparently the headphones had some kind of error and was ringing up to be $50. After it was fixed, Clint told me that the Harley rider had offered us a place to crash for the night in Prince George. It was still too early to stop and apparently the wife didn’t seem too agreeable to the offer.

It was a challenge trying to find a place for everything. The rain had chased us all day so I thought about putting on the rain gear to make room but could bear the thought of being hot and stuffy when it didn’t rain. Clint had found some cheap tripods at Wal-mart. They were only maybe 10 inches long and were around $10 so I had to buy one. After we found a home for all of our new purchases, we went on our way to put in some more miles. Leaving town, I spot a bank and decide that we should probably exchange a little bit of money. Inside the bank, I exchanged $200 US and got $192 back in Canadian. Talked with the cute bank teller for a bit while Clint finishes his transaction. I walk over to him and notices that he only got $188 and I make a comment that the exchange rate must be different on this side of the bank. Clint made some remark about how it was because I had flirted with my teller. The woman exchanging Clint’s money said that there was a handling fee that she forgot to charge me. Ooops, I glanced over at my teller sheepishly and said, “ I mean yeah,…..I got $188 too. Uh….” She laughed and I cursed myself for opening my mouth.

Couple of hours and a few hundred miles later, we stop again at near McLeod Lake and start looking for campgrounds. We were recommended the Whiskers Point Provincial Park by some locals but it was close and it was still early There was a pass about 2 hours ahead so we thought we would probably want to camp well before that to stay on lower elevations. There was one more provincial park past Whiskers Point but when we came up to the park, Clint pulled in and I made no complaints. We drove around for a while looking for a spot. All the spots on the water were taken, which I didn’t mind since I could see clouds of bugs flying around the water. We pick a spot and Clint goes off looking for the registration box. As Im unpacking, a park ranger comes up to me and asks for the money and if we need any wood. Umm….Clint has my money and he went looking for a registration box.

Registration done, we walked over to the lake and watched the already setting sun finish its descent over the lake. We took some pictures and went back to camp. Fire ablaze we had dinner by headlamp. I cant remember what I had now, but I think it was just a pack of Ramen noodles. Yeah, that must be right. Clint made soup and used some of my rice as filler. It had gotten chilly tonight by the time I crawled into the sleeping bag. Starting to make up some mileage now, maybe we cant actually get back on track by the time we hit Fairbanks.

8.25.11 Day 65 Blown away by BC

8.25.11 Day 65 Blown away by BC

Even though we got up fairly early this morning, we didn’t leave the campsite until 10am. Clint had a breakfast of oatmeal and made us some coffee. This trend would continue while we rode together. I also decided to grab a shower knowing it might be a while before the next chance. We went straight for the border crossing at Blaine and for the Peace Arch. This would be my third corner of the trip. We stopped at the park and took the obligatory photos. In the park, there was a sculpture with an engine block as the base and we spent a few minutes trying to determine what it came from. Both of us being mechanics, there was a sense of defeat when neither of us could identify the vehicle from which it came. We moved on to the border crossing.

Peace Arch

Not like it matters, you can drive around them...

I was expecting a much bigger ordeal than what we experienced. There was only a short line and Clint went ahead first. He was quickly released then I pulled up to the booth. Passport and a few quick questions and then we were in Canada. We were soon pulling into downtown Vancouver and was swallowed by the city. The skyline of the city was quite impressive with lofty apartment buildings dominating the horizon. Getting through the city was not quite as impressive. Stoplight after stoplight filled with cars. We came to an intersection where Rte. 99 turned off and Clint made a wrong turn and not even looking, I followed. We continued down this way for a few miles until I finally took the lead following the GPS out of town. We killed a few hours making our way through town.

Back on the right track, I stopped at a gas station just outside of the city and filled up and ate some snacks. The fuel was more than $5 a gallon and I knew I was in for an expensive couple of weeks. Its only going to be worse from here. Rte 99 becomes the Sea to Sky Highway which is the perfect name. You ride along the coast of the Strait of Georgia and all you can see is the water and islands with glaciated peaks rising out of them. It’s a beautiful ride for a couple of hours. Then it eventually led to higher elevations through Whistler, by the Blackcomb Glacier, through Pemberton, more mountains passes with gorgeous scenery, by Duffy Lake, Seton Lake and down into Lilooet. Just before Seton Lake, I pulled my camera out of the tank bag to snap a quick picture like I normally do but when I stuffed it back into its front pocket and pulled my hand away, something immediately felt different. I looked down to see the pocket empty then in my left mirror, I could see an object bouncing on the road splintering and shedding pieces. Shit. On the brakes. When I got turned around, Clint had already picked up the camera and we started looking for the battery that flew out of it. Found it just a few feet away and I stuffed it back in and powered the camera up. The screen is shattered and the body is dented, but it still turns on. I take a couple of test pictures and it seemed to make all the right noises but there is no telling if it actually worked since the display was destroyed. I’ve used the camera in the same fashion for over 2 months now and have taken thousands of photos, I guess it was bound to happen sooner or later since I was doing it more haphazardly than before. Oh well, we moved on.

Sea to Sky Highway

The first construction zone in Canada, this one was nice and short. Not too far after this there was a horse just walking around on the street.

This is the last picture I will ever see on my point and shoot camera. Seconds before the demise of the screen.

This is how Clint tests it.

There the scenery starts to change quite drastically. Gone are the glaciated peaks and now there is dry dirt, canyons and desert plants and brush. Even the faces we encountered seemed to be changing. There are several Indian reservations nearby and the facial features and skin color seemed to change almost instantly when we crossed over the imaginary line that separates the reservation from the rest of the area.

Looks a little drier here.

We stop at a gas station to fill up and get more snacks as we passed on lunch to make up some miles. I looked down to see my headphones missing. Damn. Why am I losing stuff today? Its going to be a while before I can find a set of decent headphones. At this point, it is time for us to start looking for campgrounds. There are so many flat bluffs where I would have loved to camp overlooking the canyon but its far too open and we would have been vacated before even putting the side stand down. Plenty of RV campgrounds around but nothing that offered the seclusion I was looking for. We kept riding further into nothingness when we happened upon the Marble Canyon Provincial Park. It’s a very small campground on a small lake but it will do. It’s cheap and we are here.

Marble Canyon campground

After setting up camp, we start making some dinner. Clint made his package of red beans and rice while I fed some bagel crisps to the ducks that were wandering around the campsite. First there was the one curious duck, but he left and came back with several of his friends. Pretty soon, I had them fighting over the bagel crisps. I probably shouldn’t have been feeding them, but it was good entertainment while I waited for dinner. We could hear a waterfall somewhere but couldn’t seem to find it after wandering around for a bit. It took a while to realize that it was on the cliff overlooking the lake and was partially hidden by trees and bushes. As we walked back to our site, a young boy and girl were stopped next their bicycles and the boy was struggling to put the chain that had fallen off his sisters bike. I stopped and replaced the chain on it for them and went on our way. We hung out for a while then turned in. Sleep came easy that night.