A North American Bicycle Journey
I pedalled my way from Key West, Florida to Tok, Alaska. What I wrote in my journal is what I was thinking and feeling at the time, it’s just a reflection of who I am, my own personal opinions, my own perceptions, and written exactly as I saw the world around me at that particular moment.
Why I did it? That is what most people ask, and you know, it is not a simple answer. One of my thoughts was to really do something with my life and truly live. Experience the world around me before I shuffle off the mortal coil.
The story continues from
Pedalling to Nirvana – part 4.2 (Montana)
British Columbia, Alberta, British Columbia, CANADA
Day 90 to day 112 (June-July 1999)
Entered BC on 93 at Roosvile from Montana, USA
Stayed on 93 through:
Grasmere, Elko, Jaffray, Wardner, Fort Steele, Wasa, Skookumchuck, Fairmont Hot Springs, Windemere, Radium Hot Springs
then through three of the most beautiful parcs I have ever seen:
Kootenay, Banff, and Jasper Parcs are on 93
BC ended after Kootenay Parc as I entered Alberta at Banff
entered on 93 from Kootenay Parc into Banff Parc and through Jasper Parc
I deviated form 93 in two places, after the town of Banff I took the less crowded 1A and just before Jasper I rode another unpopular route, 93A
after Jasper, took 16 which is the yellowhead highway, to 40
stayed on 40 north through Grande Cache to Grande Prarie
at Grande Prairie, took 2 west back into BC
I re-entered BC again after riding through the parcs in Alberta and farther north on 2 at Tupper
stayed on 2 through Pouce Coupe to Dawson Creek(beginning of the Alaska Highway)
rode the Alaska Highway all the way to the Yukon Territory
DAY 90 Continued… – June 12, 1999 – Canada
Woo Hoo!!! Canada at last! I went through the usual questions at the border. When asked about firearms, mace, etc., I told her I had pepper spray and that was no problem. There were still a lot of miles to cover and the sun was setting. After reaching the left turn where 93 junctions with 3, I had about a mile to go for the provincial park. Then it was another 7 miles off 93.
Geez! That sux! The sun was now gone and it was getting very cold. When I rode into the park it was difficult to find the camping area. I turned down a gravel road that I thought was the camping area. There were quite a few picnic tables, so I parked my bike beside one and pulled out my sleeping bag. Not another soul anywhere as I spread my sleeping bag out on the table and crawled inside, fully clothed and with my jacket on. It was 10:30 and getting very cold now. Within moments, a park service truck drives up as the camp host was walking his last rounds of the park for the night, (he was about 22 or so) and informed me that I was in the day use area, not the campground. After I told him I planned on leaving at sunrise he said “Ok, I’ll let you stay here and I won’t charge you the camping fee”. Then he went on to say, “If anyone asks, you never saw me because I’d get in trouble by my boss if he knew I let you stay in this area and that I didn’t charge you a camping fee.” I thanked him and climbed back into my bag to get warm as he drove off. Lying on my back, I looked up at the brightest stars I’ve seen in a long time. It felt so incredibly good to be so open like this amidst a dark forest.
Today – 30.52 miles in BC (total for the day 93.52)
Total – 3939 miles
Avg. Speed – 11.0mph
DAY 91 – June 13, 1999
Waking up at 5am, my legs and butt were exceptionally sore. Shit! This sux man. I’ll never again take off so many days in a row. I should’ve at least went on short rides around town, the lake, or the mountain. The morning was very cold, 40 degrees is what my new thermometer read. Geez I hate being cold! My movements were slow as I added layers of clothes and prepared to leave. After eating a couple of almost frozen Powerbars, I was leaving at 5:45am. After 7 miles of slow riding, I made it back to 93 and continued north. The new sub-zero riding gloves and booties were keeping my hands and feet toasty warm.
The riding continued very slowly since my legs and butt were very sore from yesterdays ride. I was in no hurry so I took my time, taking many breaks to take photos. It was a cloudy day so most of the photos may not turn out very well. How nice to take notice not only of the mountainous landscape but also the small details, like flowers. I could lay in a patch of these white and yellow flowers on the green grass and stare at the clouds for hours. Even the smells were relaxing as my mind forgets…forgets the past and future, nothing exists but that moment in time.
Another break I took, I sat on the ground writing in my journal for yesterday and contemplating the silent mountains in the distance. Wow! I can’t describe in words all of these incredible riding experiences I get. The riding continues…
5:18pm 69.96 miles, 9.5mph average. Stopped at Skookumchuck bought turkey sub for later.
8:15pm 96.96 miles, 10mph average. Took break to eat turkey sub :-) Wow! I’m feeling great as the evening progresses.
10:15pm 115.79 miles, 10mph average. Took break in Windemere. The later it gets the more awesome the ride gets! Maybe ride through the night? Yes, that’s it! A 24 hour ride, maybe 36 hours!
I continue riding and it’s dark now. Then the thought occurs, “What if I ride up on a moose or bear that I can’t see until I get too close?” As quickly as the thought hits me, a campground appears on my right, at the edge of town. Well it may not have been a 24 hour ride, but 16.5 hours on the road is pretty good.
I set up my tent, took a shower in the bath house, and went to sleep at 12:30pm.
Today – 116.45 miles
Total – 4055 miles
Avg. Speed – 10.0mph
DAY 92 – June 14, 1999
Initially I woke up at 5am and laid there drifting in and out of sleep. I finally got up at 6:30am and left by 7:10am. Then, after approximately 12 miles of riding, I stopped at the Husky House Restaurant at the junction of 93 and 95. Sitting in a booth by the window I ate 1 pancake and a slice of toast for breakfast.
Leaving the restaurant, I immediately enter Kootenay National Park.
Oh Crap! I have to start my day with a long 11% grade to climb. Soon after entering the park I see several bighorn sheep.
After taking some photos, I finished the climb and paused to take in the scenery. I then rode until 12:30pm and stopped for a Powerbar break. What! Ahhh! I’m out, shit! I have no food for the 90 mile ride through the park. So I just kept riding until I was beyond starving at 3:30pm. There was still the good ole TVP and instant mashed potatoes I had left. I sat by the road eating dry potato flakes and TVP. I felt better with food in my stomach.
I continued riding and there was little traffic. The park season doesn’t begin until the end of the month, leaving me with a nice, relaxing, ride.
Then I saw something by the road…what is it? It was a black bear, right by the road! I stopped to take a couple of photos with “Counter Assault” in hand :) Being only 30 feet away, the bear didn’t seem to mind. Cool, this is the closest I want to be anyway, maybe even too close as it is.
Soon I came up to a small store and gas station which sits in the middle of the park. I bought 2 chicken pita’s, 8 Powerbars, 6 Granola Bars, and some Gatorade. Then, just down the road I saw another, bigger, black bear. Cool!
After the continental divide it was mostly downhill. I reached 43.5mph through the curves, what a rush! I think that’s the fastest I ridden through turns. Reminded me of my motorcycle days. Of course after wiping out too many times, and being lucky enough to tell about it, I decided to get rid of it.
Riding into Banff at 10:30pm, I met 2 guys on bicycles. Let’s just call these guys Fred and Barney, to protect the guilty :)
There was an “Ay” in every sentence, sometimes 2 in a sentence. Barney had been on several bicycle tours and rode from here to Anchorage one summer. They offered to ride with me and show me the hostel. After riding through town, they pointed to the road that leads to the hostel. Ugh! It’s a steep, uphill, climb! Geez, I thought I was done with that hard work. Fred pointed out where he lives and invited me to stop by tomorrow for a beer.
The hostel is huge! Too big! It has 220 beds, a giant shared kitchen with several refrigerators, and a café. The bikes have to remain outside and I no longer have a lock. They let me put it in another building and lock it inside. Bikes are constantly being stolen in this town. After being given a key for my room, I went downstairs and down a hallway to find room 104. It was rather small to occupy 3 bunks, making it difficult for 6 people to put their belongings in the room.
Today – 100.29 miles
Total – 44155 miles
Avg. Speed – 9.5mph
Max. Speed – 43.5mph
DAY 93 – June 15, 1999
Soon after falling asleep last night I was awakened by someone snoring loudly. Then around 3am I was awoke again by the loudest fart I ever heard! My God, was that a bear roaring???
When I got up at 8:00am I met Ken, another cyclist staying in this room of 6 people. After brushing my teeth I headed for the café and ordered the “Natural”, (Granola, bowl of fruit, and yogurt). I sat with Ken as we shared stories about our bike rides. Ken is from England and this is his first touring as well. It was a lot of trouble getting 3 months off work but after 2 years of trying, he was finally able to get the time off for a tour. He told me that he met a girl walking across British Columbia pushing a cart. I don’t know if I’d want to do that myself.
After breakfast, I hopped the transit bus into town. When I was getting on I didn’t have exact change so another lady paid the $1.00 for me. The ride was so short! Geez, it couldn’t have been a mile. Last night it seemed like miles making this last climb up after already biking 100 miles. And to think, people are paying a dollar to have a bus deliver them, maybe a mile, to the middle of town, and it’s downhill!
Outside the visitors center, I saw a young guy hangin’ out talking to someone. I asked him if he was a local since he looked like a local. He said “Yeah, sort of”. His name was Dennis and he goes to college in BC and works summers in Banff. Dennis was able to give me directions to all the places I wanted to go today. Since he was walking to the bank and that was one of my stops, we walked down there together. He is studying International Politics And we discussed some environmental issues surrounding politics. We parted ways after the bank and I went to the One Hour Photo to have my film developed, which they screwed up by getting the colors a bit wrong.
Walking around town, I went inside Kokopelli Handcrafts looking for Kokopelli stuff. Well they had 2 things that were Kokopelli in the whole store! The girl that works there, Wendy, told me they really didn’t have anything with the Kokopelli Dude. She seemed to be a bit confused as to the whole concept of a Kokopelli store without Kokopelli stuff as I was. Anyway, I went to the BacTrax and bought a bicycle lock. Since I was staying at the Banff hostel they gave me 20% off, Cool! Then I found Bruno’s Café that Dennis recommended for lunch. Inside, I ordered a Thai Veggie wrap and a beer, mmmmm :-)
After lunch I went looking for a music store to buy a cassette for my Walkman. I went inside the 3 story mall and went first to Banff Mountain Wear to check out their stuff. The guy inside was pretty cool and we talked about the area here. With the mountains right outside the window, everyone here skis, snowboards, and mountain bikes. J.S. said that he had been a snowboarder for 11 years but now with the new skis, he has gone mostly to skiing, “It’s much more technical and challenging”. After a few moments he grabbed a pair of binoculars and headed to the window. His friends were climbing a vertical rock face straight out from the window. One thing I’ve noticed about the Canadians I’ve hung out with so far is that they say “eh” and “f#!k” a lot. So we talked about “f@#!in” skiin’, snowboardin’, surfin’, and bikin’. We also discussed how “f@#!in crazy some of these guys are that do some of that f@#!ed up shit, you know what I mean, eh?” That’s just an example of what conversation with J.S. was like. I hung out for a while and completely forgot about the music store.
While walking back to the hostel I decided to see what Fred was up to. He was sitting outside on the deck drinking a beer. He invited me inside and called Barney to come over with more beer. When Barney arrived, Fred called and ordered pizza. The three of us sat around the kitchen table trading bike stories. Barney pointed to a mountain out the window to show where he biked yesterday. He attempted some very steep, very technical, downhills that no one has attempted before. On one he took a dive over his bike, flipped over, then landed on his feet before tumbling down the mountain. Fred had seen it, otherwise it might have been hard to believe, even though Barney is pretty crazy. He will take these so fast that his brakes heat up the rims so hot that the tire begins to spin with the tube and will cut the valve stem. I was tempted to buy new tires and have him take me on some of these rides. But, I’ll wait ‘til another day. Knowing my luck, I’d break my bike frame or something.
When the pizza arrived, I tried to pay for part of it but instead, Fred said it was on them in exchange for more of my stories. “I can make up a hell of a good story for a free beer and pizza”, I said jokingly. “Just don’t tell us they’re lies and we’ll believe ‘em, eh”, Barney said. Soon, we made it to the back yard and sat on a grassy hill enjoying the sun. “What’s that smell”, I thought, as a girl walked up; An old familiar smell. She sits on the grass with us and begins passing the joint around. Now you know why I changed their names :-)
As the sun began to set, it began getting cooler so we built a fire in the backyard. Ahhh, warmth surrounding my body. And being dusk, the wild life began appearing. We saw several elk and deer just 20 feet away on the other side of the fence. I had to use my 35mm lens to take some photos since they were so close. Man, this was so cool, I couldn’t imagine living in the mountains with wild life all around. And yet I’ve found another town with some cool people to hang out with. This morning I met Dennis, who was cool to talk to…then J.S., and now I find myself hangin’ out in someone’s backyard indulging in beer and pizza. Of course I changed the names of these last 2 guys because of their method of finding “oneness”. :-)
Back at the hostel, I couldn’t sleep. It was 12:45am when I went to the community room. I looked through some old National Geographics, ate a candy bar, and drank 2 “Fruitopia’s”. This was after eating a Powerbar and a Granola Bar in the dorm room. By 3am I was finally able to sleep.
DAY 94 – June 16, 1999
Hmmmmmm… today is my brothers birthday… happy birthday Rick!!
I had the same breakfast as yesterday in the cafe’. While outside getting ready to leave, Simon walked up to check out my bike. He was in the same room as me and slept in the bunk below me. Simon was with a friend that is travelling and he joined her for a few days. Their plans are to head to Lake Louise and possibly stay there. I planned on going to Mosquito Creek Hostel or whatever place is around when I decide to stop. Riding into town, I went to one of the bike shops to stock up on Powerbars. Inside I saw THE shirt!! man I had to have that bike shirt. With all the looks I get in stores with my tight bike clothes and noisy shoes, I decided it was time to give them something to look at :) It was the most obnoxiously bright shirt with an alien on it. So I bought it and wore it out of the store :)
Leaving town I hopped on 1a since it was less crowded. It was a good choice with very little traffic and surrounded by forest and quiet. When I reached 93, I soon encountered a station that checks the park passes. Mine was expired so I had to purchase another which will be good until 4pm tomorrow. Another 5 bucks, but maybe I can get by the next few days without having to buy another one. The girl at the station told me that it was a good thing I wasn’t here 2 weeks ago since they had a lot of rain and snow. Wow, good thing I stayed in Whitefish for 2 weeks so I could come through here during good weather. Lake Louise didn’t look all too spectacular form the road, instead a very touristy area that turned me off, so I kept riding.
My max speed today was 46 mph wooo hooo! man that gives me a rush every time! I just can’t seem to break into the 48+ mph range. Oh well many more mountains yet to come :)
When I reached the Mosquito Creek Hostel, I was ready to stop for the day. I got a late start at 11 am and it would be too late by the time I made it to the next campground or hostel. The hostel was set in the trees and was very rustic and primitive. No running water or electricity. Inside the community building with the shared kitchen and living room area were, I met some guys there that informed me that the manager was not there and laughed at the fact that no one knew where he was. Several others had come in and there was no one to pay, so no one paid to stay there for the night. After I had settled in, I met Lauren another cyclist staying here for the night. He is a very unique man that left a career in the corporate world with a high salary to live on an island in a bus that has been converted into living quarters. There is no running water or electricity in his little piece of paradise. He doesn’t own a vehicle and bikes everywhere he goes. For lights in the summer months Lauren uses solar panels to generate electricity and in the winter it is mostly candle light. He has many stories and seems to very much at peace with himself in this life he has found. Lauren told me that he keeps a daily journal as well but no one reads them. They are very personal and reflect his inner thoughts as he is riding. I was told of how his writing is up and down just as the roads are. While going over one pass, he broke out in a loud laughter as he became overwhelmed with an indescribable rush of emotion. He seems to be very connected with his surroundings and allows the intensity to travel through him while he rides on this emotional rollercoaster. Lauren is indeed a rare man, and one I was happy to meet and hopefully someday our paths will cross again.
In the community kitchen I met Jason, Eric, Andrew, Shawna, and Melissa. They are all there for the summer working on various research projects for college. Jason and Eric go to the University of Alberta and Andrew, Shawna, and Melissa attend the University of Ottawa. I spent some time talking to them about there research and just biology in general. There has always been something about the typical biology major. They always seem to be real cool down to earth people and sort of connected to the earth. They were all fun to hang out with and joke about stuff. Later in the evening, I was approached by Simon from the hostel. He introduced me to Alison, the girl he was with. Alison and Simon are both from England. Simon is working in a National Park in Wisconsin as part of is doctoral I think?? I know he mentioned something about a doctoral and he has come overseas to work in the park. Alison had begun a ‘round the world journey and got in touch with Simon to join her for part of it. He took a week off to hang out with her as far as Jasper and then he will be going back to Wisconsin. The 3 of us were the last ones to hang out and talk in the kitchen into the late hours. Alison had quit her job to travel the world for a year by herself to just discover the world out there. I’ve been encountering several people like this lately. A girl in Banff had told me she was planning to go travel Europe so she can help answer the question “Who am I”. I hope to take a bicycle ride around Europe someday, then New Zealand, then Australia… etc… just keep riding :)
Today – 55.9 miles
Total – 4211 miles
Avg. Speed – 9.0mph
Max. Speed – 46mph
DAY 95 – June 17, 1999
As I was leaving the hostel, I said goodbye to everyone and then headed north. What a spectacular ride!!!!! The mountains are just so close and so incredibly large. When I reached the road to Peyto Lake, I debated whether it would be worth the trek off the main road to go see it. Lauren had told me to go see it, but I’ve seen so many lakes already.
As I started riding up the road to the lake, I met Murray and Ingrid. Both of them were on a short trip testing out there new BOB trailers. Ingrid told me that it was nice to finally meet someone else pulling a BOB. Everyone else they’ve been meeting has had panniers.
Both of them were very pleasant as we talked a bit and exchanged some riding stories. They told me about a list that you can get your name on, and when you do, you can contact anyone on the list to provide you a backyard to tent in and give you a hot shower. Wow that would be cool. They said they’ll e-mail the information so I can contact some of those for free tenting and shower :)
I parked my bike in the snow and made the trek up the path to see Peyto Lake. OH Sh$t!! What an incredibly beautiful lake!!! The most beautiful I’ve ever seen!!! As I stood in awe, I studied the shades of blues across the vast lake. The colors changed slightly from the shore line to the middle of the lake. My mind wandered beyond the surface and through its depths. Being fully immersed in the cool water, I floated through a timeless space filled with beauty while allowing my consciousness to penetrate this pristine ethereal liquid. How glad I was to take this side trip off the road.
What a rush of emotion!
I continued to ride north and achieved 47 mph on another downhill. Come on what about 48? :) I flew by a female cyclist and said hello as she was approaching a lake where a male cyclist was sitting and waiting. Soon, the male cyclists had caught up with me and said ” So are you the guy cycling from Florida to Alaska?” I said that I was and he went on to say “We’ve heard about you since we entered Montana from Colorado”. Somehow they just happened to get on my same route and apparently people were talking about me in my wake. Geez, I didn’t realize I made that kind of impact on people.
Maybe it is just because I’m so crazy, ay. Patrick and Rocio were several weeks behind me and he couldn’t believe that they caught up with me. I told him I had taken 15 days off in Whitefish, that’s why they caught up with me. We rode together to The Rampart Creek Hostel and I immediately headed for the cold creek. I was smelling pretty bad by now without a shower for 2 days. So I decided to submerge myself in the numbing 35 degree Fahrenheit water.
It was soooooo cold!!!!! They couldn’t believe that I actually got in there with the rapidly flowing glacial water. So Rocio was brave enough to try it next. Then we decided no one would believe that we bathed in ice water so we took photos of it. My second time in wasn’t as bad since my body was already a bit numb. After Rocio went in, Patrick said “I have to do it now”. Then it was a beeline for a warm spot in the sun :)
For dinner, Patrick made some curry and cous cous for the three of us. Wow that was a good dinner mmmmm. Both of them are very neat people. Patrick is from Switzerland and Rocio form Mexico. They have been together living in Costa Rico for 4 years and decided to go a bicycle ride together, the first one for both of them. She will be leaving by train for Vancouver to visit her sister when we arrive in Jasper. Later in the evening Hamish and Dennis arrived on their bikes pulling homemade trailers. Wow those were cool trailers, with a kickstand that was similar to the type you see on motorcycles. They had 2 legs that came down from underneath and propped it up, supporting it and the bicycle. The trailers are also adjustable on the width and length to accommodate different size bags. I took some photos so they will be posted soon if they are not here now. Hamish is from New Zealand and Dennis is from Australia on a short ride through Canada. There was another young couple that came through hitchhiking across Canada. Both of them worked on an organic farm and had the hippie/granola type image.
Today – 42.39 miles
Total – 4254 miles
Avg. Speed – 13.0mph
Max. Speed – 47.0mph
DAY 96 – June 18, 1999
Wow that was weird, to ride exactly 96.00 miles on day 96! As I was getting ready to leave, I spoke to Hamish. He too is carrying about the same photo gear as I am. I told him we could take turns photographing each other riding. He said “don’t think we could keep up with you.” I assured him that I do not ride very fast and stop a lot to take photos. One thing I’ve noticed during the past few days is how other cyclists seem to have a respect for me. It’s as if I’m being looked up to for my accomplishments so far and for the journey I’m on. I will make sure that it doesn’t go to my head :)
I was first to leave, then about 20 minutes later, I was passed by Patrick and Rocio as I was photographing one of the many waterfalls. You can hear the roar of the fast moving water in the distance as it plummets down the vertical rock walls. I caught up with Patrick and Rocio at the Weeping Wall.
What an incredible sight! We paused for photos and take in the awesome power of nature. Soon we reached “The Big Hill”, that’s the hill leading to Sunwapta Pass as I was told by on of the tour bus drivers that drives it everyday. He said it was all they could do to drive up it at 20 mph. I soon passed Patrick and Rocio maintaining 7mph up the hill. Wow these hills are getting easier and easier and the weight I keep adding makes my trailer heavier and heavier.
Man I’ve never been able to take such a steep hill with so much weight at this speed. I was feeling invincible going up.
When I reached the overlook for Bridal Veil Falls I stopped to take some photos and wait for Patrick and Rocio. It was a long climb to this point and I just knew it was almost over. We continued up the hill and it just kept going and going and going. The air was getting thinner as my breathing became difficult making it difficult to maintain my 7mph speed. Come on where’s the top to this darn thing!!!! We keep pedaling and pedaling and pedaling. The air gets thinner and thinner. Now I’m beginning to feel all that weight I have. Near the top Patrick over takes me and kicks my @ss reaching Sunwapta Pass before me.
Of course I’ll have to say he only has 2 rear panniers and less than half my weight. But even so he is a strong rider. Soon the clouds got very dark and the temperature dropped to below freezing. The rain started and I was freezing in my shorts and bike shirt. We had to retreat in the visitor center at the Columbia Ice fields to get warm and add layers of clothes.
Inside we were overwhelmed by crowds of tourists everywhere. My God this sux!!! Too many people! We ate in the cafeteria where I paid $1 for a banana, $3.95 for a slice of pizza, and $1.85 for hot chocolate. Geez this place is expensive. But the clouds soon went away revealing a blue sky and warm sun.
Then we were off riding! Going downhill, I reached 46 mph with headwinds in a 30 mph zone. My head was crouched low with my head on the handlebars as I zoomed down. There were a lot of cars pulled off the left side in a parking area and pedestrians everywhere. I flew past a lot of people walking in my same direction along the road with their backs to me and then began passing cars that were going slower than me in the curves.
Patrick was not too far behind me and afterwards told me that I scared the sh!t out of those people. He saw them jump as I flew by and after I passed someone yelled, “lookout here comes another one”, pointing to Patrick. “You’re nuts” is what Patrick told me, but hey he wasn’t too far behind me :)
I lost Patrick and Rocio as they had stopped for a break somewhere.
When I reached a gas station/store that was beside a road that led to a waterfall, I took a break. While there I was surrounded by tourists that kept asking me questions and looking at my bike. Wow there was a small crowd forming and I was the center of attention.
Soon I was able to escape and head for the waterfall, I took some photos and headed for the road. Then I saw the bikes of Patrick’s and Rocio’s outside the store. I stopped and talked to them some and then more tourists came up to me. This time I have to pose for photos with them. It is as if I am a star or something :) This was cool ;) Maybe it was my shirt hee hee.
We continued north and soon dark clouds were following us. Patrick suggested we take 93A at the Athabasca Waterfall. Stopping at the Waterfall I saw a really cool rainbow over it as the water rushed over and down. I only hope the photos will capture this as I saw it. It was indeed an incredible sight. From the waterfall there was a short trail back to the road that I took over large stones. Patrick was behind me and laughed as I flew uphill and my trailer was getting airborne over these large rocks. Then we were heading up 93A which happened to be a lot of climbing again! It was supposed to be all downhill now, but I guess that was on 93 not 93A. We started picking up our pace trying to beat another rain that was looming in the distance behind us. It was getting cold again so I pedaled hard to keep warm instead of taking the time to add layers of clothes again. After the climb was over we approached a bridge where a couple of guys were repelling down the side towards the rapid below. I have no idea what they were doing but took a couple of photos and then we kept going to beat the rain.
Arriving in town, Patrick and Rocio were looking for a room somewhere to spend their last night together alone. I searched for the hostel and the idiot in the gas station sent me off in the wrong direction. After getting frustrated, I stopped at one of many houses in a row that advertised “guest rooms”. The lady said it was $40 but after my reaction to such a high price gave it to me for $35. photos soon to come.
Today – 96.0 miles (no way, what a coincidence)
Total – 4350 miles
Avg. Speed – 12.5mph
Max. Speed – 46mph
DAY 97 – June 19, 1999
Woke up from a weird dream…A girl fell into a water hole and I had to pull her out. By the time I got her out she was no longer breathing and had no heartbeat, so I gave her CPR. She came to and that was the end of it.
I went to the Internet Café this morning for a bagel, coffee, and to email some journal updates. After several hours of typing, Patrick showed up. By that time it was time for lunch so we went to the Athabasca Hotel. I ordered grilled chicken salad and beer. We sat and talked for over an hour then walked back to the one-hour photo where I dropped film off on the way to get lunch. We went through about 100 photos and then Patrick headed back to his room for a “siesta”.
Continuing my way through different shops and stores, I purchased additional supplies and food. I wanted to add about the same amount of weight that I’ll need on that last section of road. Walking back to my room, both arms were heavily weighed down as I carried mostly dehydrated foods. After dropping off my stuff it was time to meet Patrick back at the pub inside the Athabasca Hotel. Patrick was already talking to Amy. The three of us sat at a long, 2 sided bar, that had stools on each side. I sat on one side, opposite of Patrick and Andy, as the beer and laughter poured. Andy looks to be in his mid-twenties. He works as a chef back home in Delaware and as soon as he saves enough money he goes on a trip. He has been just about everywhere in the world just by working long enough to save up money and then leaving on a trip somewhere. Within a couple hours, Shawna and Leonardo take residence a bar stool away sitting opposite of each other. Shawna is originally from Canada but moved to Holland for her work. She is a petite lady, well dressed, with dark hair. Her visit here was to see how much has changed over the years since she left. Leonardo, her husband, is a native of Holland and a big, stocky, guy. He is travelling with Shawna, who is taking him to her girlfriends in Vancouver and he will stay there and do some work for her. Shawna had become interested in my journey and asked several questions. As I responded, I would look at both of them but Leonardo returned a blank stare, seemed disinterested in such a journey.
Anyway, it was getting late and I already had too much beer, so Patrick and I left. We walked to the Internet Café so Patrick could send some e-mail to his friends. This took him awhile since he had to type them in three different languages, depending on which friend he was e-mailing.
Back at the place I was staying, I was greeted by some Japanese people that had arrived earlier. There were three girls, Ai, Yokiyo, and Rie; and one guy named Katsushige. They were heading south to Banff tomorrow so I showed them my photos and encouraged the to see Peyto Lake. All of us sat and talked for hours. None of them spoke very good English and I was half drunk, so it was a fun evening :-) One of them got a camera so they could have a group picture with me in it. Well, of course I had to get mine and do the same. I went to my room to get my stuff together so I would be ready to meet Patrick at 8am. Soon Yokiyo appeared at my door and said, something like “I make for you”, as she holds her hands out. In her palm rested a bird she made with origami paper art. Wow, a gift! I felt compelled to return the gesture. Being unable to make anything to give, I decided to give her a book I bought in Whitefish, “The Tao of Pooh”. It’s a very good book and since I enjoyed it so much, it gave the gift more meaning, so it was a good exchange. All of them were very nice and I felt compelled to return to the kitchen area. They made me tea and we talked some more. It ends up that Yokiyo is a swimming instructor and teaches “water exercise”. We call it aquatic therapy in PT terms. She even told me about one she works with that has Parkinsons. There was much enthusiasm in her voice and gestures as she spoke about her work.
I had decided to color my hair again this year, I debated on a dark maroon and some other crazy colors, but finally decided on a shade of a light reddish color. Well, Yukiyo was very helpful in assisting me with the task. I remember starting to do it and Yukiyo tried to say something but seemed to find difficulty in finding the right English words, so she just rolled up her sleeves and put the plastic gloves on. Next thing I knew my hair was much lighter and had a slight reddish tint to it. Maybe next year it will be green. hee hee. Last year I shaved my head bald in the Yukon and then colored it dark purple in Alaska.
It was 3am when I finally tried to get to sleep. Lying in bed, I was wide awake. Why couldn’t I sleep? I’ve been up since 8am….too much alcohol?…not enough alcohol? Ahhh, I became restless so I started going through the photos and getting them ready to mail. By 4am the sunlight was coming through my window, which made me even more awake. So I just waited until it was time to meet Patrick.
DAY 98 – June 20, 1999
It was just past 8am when I met Patrick at the house where he was staying in a guestroom. Exactly 24 hours ago I got up and now I have yet to sleep. The total extra weight I’m carrying is about 200 pounds. As we began riding on 16 East, I stopped to put my jacket on. I told Patrick to go ahead and I’d catch up. The ride out of Jasper was downhill with tailwinds. Since I wasn’t feeling very well, I let gravity and tailwinds do most of the work. As I rode I kept burping up the taste of beer and I had a slight headache.
Taking my time, I stopped to photograph big horn sheep on the mountainside, flowers along the road, and many elk. It made me feel a bit better when I’d stop, get off my bike, and stick my nose inside one of those big red flowers. Ahhhh, the scents of nature are soothing.
When I reached 40, I was confronted by something I did not want to see, a five mile uphill climb. I’ve had no sleep, a slight hangover, and a billion pounds I’m pulling. That sucked! I just kept pushing my feet into the pedals. After riding a total of 60 miles, it was 3pm and I was beginning to fall asleep. I’d shut my eyes for a second and then I begin to dream instantly as my bike veered off the road. Finding the Gregg Lake campground, I rode in and stopped at the main entrance to the camping area. I parked my bike and laid in the grass for about 30 minutes. There were too many people and too much noise to sleep so I bought a Pepsi from the soda machine, downed it, and was on my way.
For most of the day it seemed as if I were in a trance, just pedaling in a bit of a daze. As the evening progressed it began getting colder. I allowed myself to get cold and hungry in an effort to help me stay awake. The cold night was brutal as I used my strong will and determination to keep pushing my weak body, trying to make it to Grande Cache.
By 11pm it was too dark to read my odometer or even see the road well. I was still to far south to have light all through the night. The wildlife went unnoticed until I rode up close to them. They were scared of me and I sent 2 black bears and a cow moose off running. By 12:30pm I was too tired and weak to move any more. I pulled off the road by a lake and hid my bike in the trees. Laying my sleeping bag in the grass by my bike, I crawled inside fully clothed and with my bike shoes still on. It was now 1am, 16 hours on the road, 41 hours without sleep, I was very tired.
Today – 132.79 miles
Total – 4482 miles
Avg. Speed – 10.0mph
DAY 99 – June 21, 1999
A raven was next to me investigating my trailer, which woke me up. I’m sure he was trying to get in, and given enough time, probably could’ve unzipped it. They are very intelligent birds, although most view them as pesky scavengers. It was 5:30am when I opened my eyes to a bright morning. My body and mind were still exhausted as I forced myself to unzip my sleeping bag in the cold air. I sat and ate about a half a pound of trail mix while contemplating nothing. Then I made myself get up and get ready to leave. The place I slept was by Grande Cache Lake, I knew I had to be close. As soon as I began to ride, I had to climb a hill. Man, this sux! The hill was very difficult in my lethargic state. My only thought was how crazy I was to add so much unnecessary weight while in the Canadian Rockies. I will need this much for my trek up to Prudhoe Bay, and I thought it would be good to start getting used to the weight. But screw it! I’ll have to continue riding with all this extra food until I can eat most of it over the next few weeks. But after that, only what I need.
The town appeared after just over 3 miles of riding, which took me about 45 minutes. Even if I’d known the town was this close last night, I’m sure I couldn’t have made it. I was like a zombie riding in the night. Getting weaker and weaker after 41 hours with no sleep. This morning I didn’t feel much better with only 4.5 hours of sleep. There was a sign for a campground so I thought I’d go there and get some sleep. Then the thought of attempting to set up my tent and trying to sleep in the noisy morning did not appeal to me. So, I checked in to the Mountain Village Motel. I paid $40.00 Canadian which is $28.00 US and thought it would be well worth it to sleep in a quiet room. As soon as I took everything in my room, I went into the bathroom. Looking in the mirror I noticed my lips were now beyond dry and cracked, but bleeding in several places. Oh well, I thought, then collapsed on the bed and slept.
Waking up at 10:30am, I got my photos ready to mail and walked to the mall across the street where the post office is located. Going inside the True Value store I purchased some extra bungee cords. I’ve had a problem lately with stuff falling off my trailer. A couple of days ago my tripod took a flying lesson off my trailer. Luckily, Patrick was behind me to pick it up. Flying downhill, I never new it came off and wouldn’t have noticed until I was ready to use it again. Unfortunately, it looks like Patrick won’t be behind me picking up after me now. Since he was much stronger than me yesterday and had a bike with less weight, I can only assume he made it to town and possibly further. Knowing Patrick, he won’t be taking a day off like me so I’ll be lucky to catch up with him again.
Hey, ya know how when you’re around a group of people for a while, you begin to pick up on their slang, ay? Many Canadians put “ay” at the end of every sentence and some will put it at both ends, ay. Well, I’ve caught myself saying “ay” quite a bit now. At least that’s better than “y’all” :-) or maybe I could combine them and really screw people up, “How y’all doin’, ay?”
Another lesson: Check everywhere for spiders! They were in my handlebar bag and in some of my clothes. Good thing I’m not a Zen Buddhist. They believe in co-existing with all living things, even spiders and mosquitoes. Someone with that belief wouldn’t even think of squishing them. But I have a small fear of toxic spider bites.
Today – 3.4 miles
Total – 4485 miles
Avg. Speed – 5.0mph
DAY 100 – June 22, 1999
Sleeping in late I wanted to get plenty of rest. I thought I would attempt a 24 hr ride. It was a perfect night when I stopped at 12:30am. If I hadn’t been awake for 41 hours I wouldn’t have finished riding until morning. As long as there are no headwinds I’ll ride through the night. Cold and rain doesn’t bother me as much as headwinds. I hate them…
9:15am – Left motel and headed north towards Grand Prairie.
11:55am – (break) distance 34.09, avg. 13.0, temp 65 degrees. So far it’s been very hilly with a lot of climbing for the last ten miles. The sky is very cloudy but at least I have a good tailwind. Although the road is boring, there’s hardly any traffic and it has a smooth, wide, shoulder.
1:50am – (break) distance 57.08, avg. 13.0, temp 60 degrees. Much of the same. Still very hilly and cloudy. This appears to be an infrequently traveled road through the wilderness. I’m getting bored so I use my walkman to enhance my ride. Music! Yes! It can really make you feel good. If I keep a good pace with minimal breaks, maybe I can ride over 250 miles in 24 hours?
3:25pm – (break) distance 66.93, avg. 12.0, temp 72 degrees. Man, the temp is up and down just like these hills. My average speed is slowing down but I’m half way to Grand Prairie.
5:20pm – (break) distance 80.97, avg. 11.0. Uphills suck!! My average speed continues to drop. When I reach Grand Prairie, I think I’ll take a one hour break before continuing through the night.
9:15pm – (break) distance 120.51, avg. 10.5. Just before reaching Grand Prairie, it started to rain. The wind was blowing pretty strong to the east and gusting. I was supposed to turn left on 43 which would send me directly into strong headwinds and cold rain. Instead I said screw it, and turned right so the wind could blow me towards a place to stay. Why couldn’t tonight be like the night I slept by the lake? Geeez, this weather is crap! I’m in a bad mood now and the lady in the motel office won’t quit talking to me. Just give me a room key!!! She’s asking too many questions and after I get the key she comes up with something else to say to keep me there. I just want to go to a warm room and relax.
Finally! I get to my room. Today’s ride sucked! After the absolute best ride ever through Kootnay, Banff, and Jasper National Parks, This road absolutely sux! I’m afraid I won’t enjoy the ride much after leaving such incredible experiences already, especially after the ride through Kooteny, Banff, and Jasper!
Today – 120.51 miles
Total – 4606 miles
Avg. Speed – 10.5mph
DAY 101 – June 23, 1999
I woke up to a cold, cloudy, rainy, morning. Pedaling west on 43 I was riding against the cold wind. The temperature was 7 degree Celsius (44 degrees Fahrenheit) and the wind-chill brought it well below freezing. I hate the wind and call it a few names I won’t mention here. Cold, rain, and hills, I can tolerate but that stupid wind is pure hell! So again, I find myself miserable and in a bad mood. As I stopped at the edge of town, I thought “screw it, I don’t have to put up with this crap”. If it isn’t fun, I’m not going to do it. I have nothing to prove and I’ve endured enough crap on this trip already. So, I turned around and checked into a motel at the edge of town, the Westport Inn.
The lady in the office informed me that this weather will continue throughout the week. OK, so I’m having a bad day. Things are going to get better. I’m sure of it, they always do.
Today – 1.99 miles
Total – 4608 miles
Avg. Speed – 5.0mph
DAY 102 – June 24, 1999
Leaving at 6:30am, it was a very cold morning. The temperature was 44 degrees F and the wind chill made it close to freezing, I’m sure. I was riding with my face mask, sub-zero riding gloves, booties over my shoes, and several layers of clothes. The road was newly paved with a nice wide shoulder. Looking to my left, I noticed a rainbow in the distance and I thought, “yeah, this is gonna be a good day.” Maybe I’ll try for my 250 mile, 24 hr. ride that I’ve been wanting to do. Patrick must be two days ahead of me by now so this way I can catch up to him as well.
By 10:30am it was getting very warm so I shed some clothes. On warm day, and on days when I don’t feel like I need to use the mirror on my helmet, I ride without my helmet. As I was trying to clip my helmet straps around some straps to secure it to my rear rack, I heard “errrrr” and saw a bicycle tire slide right up to me. I looked up to see Patrick! “What….How….Where have you been?” Patrick arrived in Grande Cache at 9:30. He said it was a very tough day with a slight hangover. The last hill he ended up pushing his bike all the way up. When I rode into town the next morning, he was leaving. Then he took two days to make the ride to Grand Prairie. I rode it in one day which put us both arriving there on the same day. Patrick got there in early afternoon when it wasn’t raining so he camped in the campground. The next day, yesterday, he didn’t ride either, and now we meet again.
We rode out of Alberta and…Back into British Columbia. By the time we reached Dawson Creek I was starving. It was 2:30pm (or actually 1:30 since we crossed time zones today), and all I’d had to eat today were 3 powerbars. As soon as I saw the Subway sign, I yelled to Patrick that I needed to stop there. By now I was feeling weak and dizzy. After eating a 6″ roasted chicken sub, I was still hungry but decided to wait until we camp before eating any more.
We then rode to the middle of town where the “0” marker for the Alaska highway is.
Riding out to the edge of town, we stopped at the Alahart RV Park and Campground. Patrick haggled the price down to $8.00 for both of us. We set up our tents and rode out to get stuff to fix for dinner. First stop was the Organic Farm Bakery. Inside we were greeted by a very pleasant Barvarian lady. Hildegard kept giving us free samples and free coffee. Then, while sitting down at a table, she told someone to wait a minute so she could feed the bikers. She then brought us each a piece of carrot cake. Wow this was great! And the food was excellent, very good homemade breads. Each of us bought a loaf of bread and then rode to the grocery store for vegetables.
Patrick cooked a really good meal with Garbonzo beans, fresh vegetables, sage and other spices. Man, I’m glad I’m hanging out with someone that can cook! I usually buy stuff that I just add water to, quick and easy is the way I like to cook. After eating we drank some :honey blonde ale” beer and played chess. Patrick has one of those travelers magnetic chess boards. Of course he kicked my butt, but that’s OK ‘cause I’ll beat him next time.
Today – 86.56 miles
Total – 4695 miles
Avg. Speed – 12.0mph
DAY 103 – June 25, 1999
Patrick prepared something to eat this morning. We had slices of bread with cream cheese, a little bit of garlic, and sliced tomatoes. By the way, did I mention that the bread was only $1.75 a loaf! That is cheap for such good bread, especially since $1.00 US=$1.44 Canadian. After eating we rode out with a tailwind at 8:30am. We also had a tailwind yesterday. I guess we’ve been lucky since everybody says the wind usually blows in the other direction.
The road and landscape still pretty much sucks! So, I tried to focus on the small wonders like the flowers and butterflies. I also thought about how incredible this journey really is. So many people at work right now and unable to do something like this. How lucky I am to be out here, even if the wooded landscape is unchanging and monotonous.
While I was stopped, Patrick got several miles ahead of me. I thought, here we go again, maybe I’ll see him again in 4 days. After riding about 50 miles, I stopped at the Charlie Lake store. I bought a veggie sandwich with cucumbers, tomato, radishes, and lettuce. Going outside to eat my sandwich, I see Patrick. Geez, how the heck does he keep coming up behind me after he loses me?
After leaving there, we rode to the Shepherd Inn and sat on the bench out front. We looked at the dark clouds ahead and, thinking it might rain, decided to stay here. The tent site was $3.50 each, wow that’s cheap! Since we didn’t ride the 100 miles intended for today, we decided that we will leave early tomorrow and ride 100+ miles tomorrow. All we wanted to do was hurry up and get past Ft. Nelson where the scenery gets better.
Instead of setting up my tent, I decided to sleep on the ground in the fresh air. I put my sleeping bag on the ground, crawled inside, and put my mosquito net over my head. Patrick must think I’m crazy to want to sleep on the ground, but it’s so refreshing to sleep in the open. It’s just difficult to fall asleep with the daylight lasting so long into the middle of the night.
Today – 73.5 miles
Total – 4768 miles
Avg. Speed – 12.0mph
DAY 104 – June 26, 1999
This was a very bad day for me. I hated the road, I hated being here, and I thought I’d quit as soon as I got to Whitehorse. It all started with me waking up to a brief 5 minute rain at 5:30am. I stayed in my sleeping bag and scooted under the picnic table as soon as I felt the first raindrops. Patrick got up as soon as the rain stopped and proceeded to dry out his tent. Of course for him to dry out his tent he had to shake his rainfly LOUDLY, over and over and over. I thought it would never end!!! Oh well, I needed to be getting up anyway.
After we got ready, Patrick rode ahead and I stayed behind at the café for coffee and a bran muffin. It just seemed too early for me, I’ve never been much of a morning person(have I mentioned htat before?). Leaving the café, I started out with a tailwind in the cool morning. The temperature was constantly changing, either too hot or too cold. The clouds would cover the sun and it seemed the temperature would drop 10 degrees, then they’d move away and it would get warm again. There was a lot of dust on the road which gets kicked up in my face whenever one of those RV’s fly by.
The landscape was still the same and I was just not wanting to ride. During one of those warm moments with the sun shining, I sat in the grass by the road and just hung out with a butterfly. I wondered what it would be like to be a butterfly floating along in his beautiful world….but then I imagined him getting splattered on the windshield of an RV. Maybe that wouldn’t be such a great life huh? :-) Anyway, it was calming to sit in the lush grass, with my mind riding on the wings of a butterfly, embracing the soft cool yellow.
Continuing my ride, I was in a better mood. I found a positive moment out of a negative day. But then I looked ahead at the dark rain clouds. I struggled to make it to the top of the pass before the rain started. When I reached the top, the rain had already started. After leaning my bike against a trash dumpster, I covered my handlebar bag in plastic, then put on my rain coat. Then….ping….pop…bop…thud…thunk…CRAP! It’s hailing! It started out as bb sized and when they became marble size….they really hurt. I ran down the hill off the side of the road to the tree line ow, ow, ow, ow, crap, sh!t, ah, geez that ones gonna leave a mark! I found got a giant road sign by the trees and ran with it over my head back up to the dumpster. After putting the sign on top of the dumpster I weighted it down with a large steel pole so I could slide it over the edge. Then I just sat under my makeshift shelter and waited. The hail stopped after about 20 minutes and the rain was gone after about 30 minutes. Soon the sun came out and the temperature raised about 20 degrees. Then, after riding about 3 miles, I realized I’d left my sunglasses on the ground by the dumpster. Crap!! Well actually, I used a different synonym. :-) So, back I go, up that hill to the top of the pass where I’d waited out the storm. Luckily no one had found them so they were still there. What a crappy day this is turning out to be. I rode maybe 30 minutes when the rain started again. Ugh! I’m really hatin’ it now! But wait, what do I see? Cool! A sign for a steep grade…..downhill! As I rode down the wet road the raindrops began stinging my face as I reached 47mph. Then I saw a sign, “Dangerous Curve, Drive Slow”. Since cars can’t corner as fast as me, I take up the whole lane and take the wet curve at 47mph…Woosh! What a rush…make that 2 positive things today. :-)
It was 10:30pm when I found Patrick camped out by Bucking Horse River. I threw some pebbles on his tent but he didn’t wake up, so I yelled, “Yo, Patrick”. Then I hear “no way!”, in a very surprised voice. I said, “Don’t ask.” “I’ve heard many stories about you”, he tells me. “I waited for you and asked people if they’d seen you. One said you’re about 10 miles away, then I hear you are about 2 miles away. Someone told me he saw you in the rain and felt sorry for you, but he wasn’t sorry…just glad he was in his RV and that it wasn’t him” , Patrick said with a laugh. “But then someone tells me that the only biker he’s seen was going the other direction.” “He tells me ‘maybe he got tired of you’ and laughed.”
After our conversation and laughing at my miserable day, I fixed a Mountain House 2 portion, chicken teriyaki dinner. I was very wet, cold, exhausted, and VERY hungry. My small camp stove didn’t even have time to heat up the water fully before I added it to my dehydrated meal and scarfed it down like a wild animal.
Today – 110.23 miles
Total – 4478 miles
Avg. Speed – 8.8mph
DAY 105 – June 27, 1999
For breakfast I fixed this dehydrated cereal stuff. It was composed of: Millet, prunes, raisins, walnuts, and maple sugar. Of course Patrick had been up for hours before I got up. Typically, I move very slowly in the mornings and this morning was no exception. We rode to this small store/café and I stocked up on anything for energy – bananas, slices of poppy seed bread, and candy bars. There will be nothing else for 50 miles and I was out of Power Bars. By the way, that was really good poppy seed bread :-)
There were mild headwinds as we started out from the store at 11am. The temperature was very cold to me so I had several layers of clothes on. Patrick takes off riding strong and quickly loses me. It usually takes me about 30 minutes of riding before I begin to pick up a good pace. I passed about 12 cyclist today and one guy was on a recumbent bike. It looked very comfortable, kicked back like he was in a Lazy Boy recliner. Man, that looks too easy!
The temperature warmed up into the low 70’s, so I stripped down to just my bike shorts and bike shirt. The clouds were now seperating revealing more blue sky and making cool shapes. I took photos of a couple of clouds that I saw something in. When I was a child, I used to love looking at the clouds and finding something in them…ah, the good ole days :-)
The wind had changed direction by the time I reached the next store, so now we had tailwinds. Patrick was there waiting for me. I had gone 55 miles at an average speed of 13mph. Taking a break outside the store, I ate 2 bananas, a slice of poppy seed bread, and drank a Jolt Cola for a quick boost. Looking back down the road, we noticed big rain clouds headed our way. Thinking it was moving about 10mph, I pedaled along at my 13mph pace. Soon I began to feel rain drops and looking up, I saw the edge of the dark cloud above me.
Crap! I began to pedal hard and fast, maintaining 21mph until my knees hurt. Finally, I was way ahead of it and could pedal easier.
Arriving in Ft. Nelson, I stopped in front of the Blue Bell Inn, where Patrick and I agreed to meet. He wasn’t there and I was looking around for him and could not find him. At first I was thinking crap we’re gonna get seperated again. I just sat outside on the curb for about 20 minutes debating what to do, and just debating this whole ride. Kinda sucks being out on the lonely road and a pretty boring landscape all alone.
I got off my butt and decided to ride around the town to look for Patrick. As soon as I began pedalling away I saw him riding from across the street towards me. He had gone across the street to get something to eat.
We decided that we would take tomorrow off to get some things done. Since I hadn’t bathed in 3 days and Patrick 2 days, we decided to splurge on a motel room. The Mini Price Inn was $50.00 (Canadian) including tax, for both of us. Patrick took a shower first and we both sort of celebrated having warm showers and comfortable beds to sleep in. ahhhh this was great. I had joked around a little bit and Patrick laughed because he said that Rocio had a different opinion of me than the guy he is with now being kinda crude. I typically don’t allow this part of me show in front of ladies :)
After getting cleaned up, we walked to the only Pub in town. It was a very nice Pub for such a small town. We had dinner and draught beer while relaxing in soft, comfortable chairs. This was great after biking almost 115 miles today.
Today – 114.21 miles
Total – 4993 miles
Avg. Speed – 14.0mph(woo hooo kickin’ some butt!)
DAY 106 – June 28, 1999
Lots of things to do today, my list is as follows:
Fix wire for bike computer
One of the wires on my bike computer was pulled apart when my bike was shipped to Key West. It has stayed together with the bare wires twisted together until yesterday when it came apart while riding through a rough section of road where they were doing road construction.
Attach handlebar bag – make it more secure
My handlebar bag is attached with a plastic clamp and has been sagging with the weight of my camera and 3 lenses. I came up with an idea while riding…to put holes in the top left and right hand corners, put in some metal grommets, thread a piece of rope through them, and secure it to my handlebars. You’ll have to see the photo I took of it. It actually worked great.
Buy lots of food to last one week
The best place to shop is Overwaitra Foods. They have an excellent selection with lots of bulk foods. A much better selection of bulk foods than the health food store, and much cheaper.
Clean and maintain bikes
We took our bikes to the only car wash, it is a pressure sprayer on the side of a Shell station. We thoroughly cleaned our bikes, being careful not to spray the hubs or bottom bracket.
After washing our bikes we rode to the laundro-mat with our dirty clothes in our panniers. We let the bikes dry in the warm sun while our clothes were being washed. We then wiped them down and lubed everything. Wow, looks like new again!!!
We met 2 couples outside the launder-mat, Dominique and Marie were French. They began biking from the tip of South America 2 and a half years ago!! Wow, what an adventure!! Yesterday morning they had an encounter with a black bear. Marie was cooking breakfast when she turned to see a black bear had come up to 3 meters from her. Dominique tried to scare the bear away, to no avail. The bear stood and gave him an angry growl. So needless to say, Dominique and Marie got the heck out of there while the bear devoured their food, tore up their camp, and tore up their tent. Both of them were very scared and wanted to purchase some pepper spray in case of another encounter. They couldn’t afford the $50.00 for a can so I gave them the one I had strapped to my bike. Dominique was very appreciative and thanked me several times. I was just glad I was in a position to help.
The other couple didn’t talk much. They were driving an older model, foreign, 4 wheel drive sport utility vehicle. It looked very rugged. Something you’d see driving through the wilds of Africa. Since English was not their primary language, Patrick spoke to them mostly since he is fluent in German and Spanish.
Back at the motel room, I fine tuned my front and rear derailleurs. After several tries at adjusting them, I quickly became confident and was able to get my bike shifting perfectly. Then I inspected every detail and made sure every nut and bolt was tight.
DAY 107 – June 29, 1999
This morning it was very cool, cloudy, and windy. Leaving at 11am we rode into headwinds. We decided to only ride about 50 miles and camp out at Steamboat Mountain. Since it would be a short day I rode very casually. I’ve been so burned out riding lately. Maybe it’s just the monotonous terrain, but my mind can’t even push my body any more. Riding now isn’t like it was when I could push myself through any adversity. Hopefully, it will get better when I reach Summit Lake. Dominique and Marie haven’t enjoyed the section of riding either. They said it was better biking through the dessert.
After about 30 miles of riding, the other couple I met briefly yesterday stopped to talk. They are driving everywhere. All around the world, in every direction. Their names were Stefanie and Gaston. Stefanie is Swiss and Gaston is French. On the hood of their truck, Stefanie painted a map of the world and is painting white dashed lines to indicate where they’ve been. She started from the beginning and briefly told me about their trip up until now.
There were several challenges especially through east Russia when no roads existed. I think it was in Iberia where they had to drive on frozen rivers. After about an hour of conversation, Stefanie gave me their web-site tuour-du-monde.int.ch, although she said it hasn’t been updated because she got tired of writing. We discussed the difficulty of trying to write every day and still make free time to enjoy where you are. Stefanie also told me that her perception about some of the places she’s been is different now than when she first wrote about them. You quickly loose the intensity of emotions you experience.
When they drove away, I continued for a few miles when I saw 2 cow moose near the road. They noticed me and ran into the woods. Stopping at the area where I’d seen them run into the woods, I could see them hiding behind some trees watching me. I stayed there for about 30 minutes and when they decided I wasn’t a threat, they came back out. After taking a few photos, I continued riding.
Then, after about 10 miles, I saw a black bear, off the road near the tree line to my right. He was about 60 feet away so I stopped to take some photos. With my 70-300mm lens, I began taking photos at 300mm while he moved through the grass eating. A couple of times he paused, looked in my direction, and began sniffing. Some bears have poor vision, they rely on their very powerful sense of smell. He knew I was there while he continued to eat and slowly moved up the hill. I had to keep zooming out as I continued to shoot photos. Then, when he stopped, put his head up in the air, and began sniffing, I tried to zoom out further since he was too big in the frame, but that was it! I was at 70mm and didn’t realize it. Pulling the camera away from my face, I saw that the bear was only 15 feet away, staring at me. Crap!! I quickly grabbed my pepper spray and stood my ground. He took one more step closer to me and sniffed. After a minute or two, but it seemed like a lot longer, he decided I wasn’t a threat and walked away. My gawd that was close!!! Whew, my adrenaline was pumping through my body as I rode away. Then I saw another much smaller black bear off the left side of the road, but I didn’t hang out long.
When I reached Steamboat Mountain, Patrick had been there for a couple of hours. He doesn’t stop to take photos like me because he doesn’t have a camera. We set up our tents, fixed dinner, and made some coffee. The temperature was dropping quickly so I took out the bottle of Kahlua that I’ve had since Jasper and added some to our coffee. Mmmmmm, warmth :-)
Today – 49.76 miles
Total – 5042 miles
Avg. Speed – 8.5mph
DAY 108 – June 30, 1999
Today was a really crappy day. It was 40 degrees and raining in the morning. We sat in the small café’ and waited before leaving. The temperature got up to 50 degrees but it continued to rain off and on all day. So we sat in the café’ and played chess, talked, and ate. It seemed like I was constantly eating all day. Mostly out of boredom I suppose. We heard it was supposed to rain for 3 days and Summit Lake is only about 40 miles down the road. I really wanted to hang out at Summit Lake and Muncho Lake during nice, sunny, days.
Oh well, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens tomorrow.
By the way, here are some handy conversions:
$1.00 = $1.44
1 Gallon = 3.79 Liters
1lb = .454 Kilograms
1 Mile = 1.61 Kilometers
OK, now I’m really bored today….can you tell?
This is what my receipt from Overwaitra Foods says:
.55kg Mixed Nuts
.245kg Chocolate Covered Almonds
.335kg Honey Almond Granola
.285kg Brown Sugar
1 box of Nutri-Gran Bars
I also purchased some soups, instant mashed potatoes, and a bunch of other stuff at the IGA but don’t have that receipt handy. If I would have known about Overwaitea Foods, I wouldn’t have gone to the IGA initially. Anyway, there should be enough food for at least a week to the next town. Did I mention how bored I am? Maybe I’ll sing…”Rain, Rain, Go away…” :-)
Today – 49.76 miles
Total – 5042 miles
Avg. Speed – 8.5mph
DAY 109 – July 1, 1999
This is Canada Day. It seems like a lifetime since I drove this road last year. I was a different person living a different life back then.
Today is even worse than yesterday, constant cold and rain. Someone said there was snow at Bucking Horse last night. Neither one of us really wants to bike in this weather. After the boring sections of road, we want to bike through the nice areas in good weather. At least I’m not on a time schedule and don’t have to ride. The weather doesn’t bother me but I wouldn’t enjoy the scenery and wouldn’t be able to take photos. So, here I am bored again today.
This morning I woke up from some crazy dreams. I went to a restaurant or Pub or something like that. It was kind of a nice place and was teal green inside. There were a couple of people with me and when we sat down, someone asked for my ID. I pulled out my wallet and handed over my driver’s license, only it wasn’t mine. And instead of a single photo, it had a family photo on it. Looking through my wallet, I couldn’t find my driver’s license. That was a weird dream. In another dream, I was working in a nursing home and was arguing about how much therapy was available for a stroke patient. I kept arguing and persisted until I became very frustrated. I woke up remembering how much I hate that part of Rehab. In a way, I really don’t miss the profession. My last full-time job ended December 31 and I’m in no hurry to go back to that crap.
Patrick and I decided to catch a ride into Ft. Nelson so we could sit and drink a couple of beers. We were lucky enough to find a ride pretty easily. The guy that drove us was full of lots of exaggerated bear stories. He told us about where he lives in his small cabin out in the bush. We heard stories about how he kills a lot of black bears that come around his place. After a few miles of driving, he lights up a joint and offers it to us. Patrick and I both declined the offer. He went on to tell us how the best “stuff” is grown up here and that smoking marijuana “is a way of life for most.” When Patrick camped out in Grand Prairie for 2 days he noticed that most of the Canadians he encountered smoked too.
Well we went back to Dan’s Neighborhood Pub in Ft. Nelson. I ordered a Thai chicken salad and a beer; Patrick only ordered a beer. We were joined by a new friend who gave us a ride. The three of us just sat and talked. It was nice to get away from our tents and relax in a nice pub out of this miserable weather.
Tomorrow we will leave no matter what the weather is like. I hate being stuck like this.
DAY 110 – July 2, 1999
Yes!! The sun came out!! Our destination for today will be Summit Lake, which is only 40 miles away, so we took our time getting ready.
Here’s what we were told about the elevations changes:
River at Ft. Nelson – 1000 ft
Ft. Nelson – 1310 ft
310 ft climb in about ½ mile
Steamboat (where we are now) – 2850 ft
Top of hill 3 miles ahead – 3500 ft
Summit Lake – 4250 ft
So, it looks like a 1400 ft gain for today. We left around 10am and began our climb. There was some road construction and we pedaled several miles over a dirt and gravel road. Both of us had to breathe through our shirts when the vehicles flew by leaving a dust cloud. At 10:30am we encountered a black bear near the road. This is the earliest I’ve seen one. They’re usually not out until after 5:00pm. Then we saw a large cow moose and calf cross the road about 100 yards ahead of us. I was slow getting my camera out but I think I got a photo just before they disappeared into the woods. I’ll have to wait and see when I get the film developed.
For most of the day Patrick and I both felt a little sick. I was glad it was going to be a short day. Fortunately, the climb was slow and gradual so we didn’t have to work too hard. There was very little wind today, just an occasional breeze. The scenery was indeed much better now, but still pales in comparison with Kootenay, Banff, and Jasper.
Arriving at Summit Lake, we pitched our tents in the same spot I was in last year. The sky was clear and Patrick said he was going to leave the rain-fly off his tent. I laughed because the weather here changes so quickly and is always so unpredictable. In one day I saw it go from warm, sunny, blue skies, to cold, freezing rain, and back to sunny skies again. Patrick decided he better put the rain-fly on “just in case”.
For dinner we had Tabouli and vegetable noodles. Afterwards we were both tired. We had gotten used to our afternoon siesta’’ during the past 2 days. It was about 7pm when I laid down for a nap and about 8:30pm when I heard the camp host waking up Patrick in his tent. Glad it was him…not me :-) Patrick paid the $12.00 camping fee, which is a rip-off! It is not a very nice camping area for that kind of money, but the lake is nice. Some Provincial Parks are not worth the money, I’d rather free-camp in the woods somewhere. I’ve mentioned this to Patrick but he’s a bit concerned about the bears getting our food.
Today – 40.81 miles
Total – 5083 miles
Avg. Speed – 9.5mph
DAY 111 – July 3, 1999
Well, good thing Patrick had his rain-fly on. It poured down rain around midnight last night. So that meant extra time this morning to dry off our tents. For breakfast I just ate 2 Powerbars and we were pedaling by 8:30am.
Within a few miles we encountered the stone sheep that live on Stone Mountain.
They were everywhere and were always on the road. Continuing on, the ride was easy since we were leaving the highest elevation of the Alaska Highway, and we had a tailwind.
After about 20 miles, i stopped to take a pee at a bridge that crossed a river. When I was stepping back over the guardrail, I hit my left knee so hard it started bleeding. Crap! That hurt! I couldn’t ride for a while and when I did it hurt to push with my left leg. My right leg had to do most of the work. Then, to add insult to injury, it began pouring down rain. Well, I thought, at least the cold rain will be good for my injured knee.
After riding 30 minutes in the rain, I found Patrick waiting inside the café’ at Toad River Lodge. The rain continued off and on for quite a while so we decided to go ahead and eat something. I got a chicken sandwich and coffee. We were there for about an hour and a half before it was clear enough, and we thought it was through raining, to continue. Patrick soon lost me as I pedaled mostly with my right leg.
I think my odometer read about 50 miles when the climbing began and the headwinds got strong. The climbing got worse as I pedaled at 3.5mph for 5 miles up a steep pass. Maybe this climb wasn’t so bad, but the headwinds and my left knee made it one of my worst climbs ever.
When I arrived at Double G Services, (gas, store, café’, camping) Patrick was sitting outside on a bench. He was not in the best of moods and cussed that hill and the headwinds. Patrick said he got off and just walked up the hill instead of taking a break. Well, at least I wasn’t the only one hating that last bit of riding. Patrick is really wanting to quit now and he said that the scenery isn’t all that great. Instead of riding to Alaska, he said he will quit at Whitehorse. Then he said he may just quit here since this was also a Greyhound bus stop. The Provincial Park was still a few miles down the road and was pretty much like the last one. It cost $12.00 for a tent site with nothing. Here they charge $12.84 for a tent site with hot showers. For 42 cents each, we decided it would be worth it to have a shower.
For dinner, Patrick cooked some rice with a little olive oil in it, added a bit of garlic that he sautéed in olive oil, some spices, and a can of tuna that we bought back at the Rocky Mountain Lodge for $3.00. The guy there said that there were no other places to buy groceries at Muncho Lake. He lied to us to make the sale. The problem here are the prices: $4.95 for a can of tuna, $3.50 for a bottle of Arizona Ice Tea, and $4.00 for a 2 liter bottle of Coke. Everything is way too expensive.
By 8pm there were too many mosquitoes hovering around us despite our efforts at building a big fire to keep them away. We even found a bunch of wood that was coated in black stuff…sort of like the stuff on railroad ties, creosote I think they call it. It made a lot of black smoke and for a while it eliminated most of them, but then they started coming back even more. By this time, Patrick was joking me about the fact that I looked like a black man….covered in soot that the fire was putting out. It covered everything, even our tents. Soon, we both had to make a dash for our tents to escape those little vampires. I went to sleep with a compression wrap on my now swollen, left knee.
Today – 65.42 miles
Total – 5149 miles
Avg. Speed – 11.0mph
DAY 112 – July 4, 1999
Fourth of July, Woo Hoo! But no one around me celebrates. Where are the fireworks? Of course I’m in Canada, hangin’’out with a guy from Switzerland, so it doesn’t mean a thing to anyone around me. Besides, fireworks up here would really suck since it never gets dark here this time of year. I have to sleep with my headband pulled down over my eyes.
It rained all night and we got out of our tents about 9am. Patrick fixed us some coffee to warm us up since it was 1 degree Celsius. (33.8 degrees Fahrenheit) The conversion is 1.8C + 32, I still remember that from Chemistry and Physics in college. It seems I remember stupid, trivial, stuff and forget the things I want to remember. Anyway, my powerbar was as hard as a rock so to prevent a chipped tooth, I would just dip it in my coffee and warm it up first. After the coffee and powerbar, I decided I’d rather sit in the café’ for a while.
While inside the café’, we met a guy that camped at Summit Lake last night. He woke up to 3 inches of snow this morning. Wow, a day earlier and that would have been us. We hung out most of the morning watching the thermometer outside the window. The cook/owner is from Scotland, so I thought I was in the movie “Braveheart” talking to him. When it wasn’t busy, he and his wife took a break from the kitchen and sat at a table. She is Canadian so she didn’t have that accent. His accent was so funny, and the rest of the day Patrick and I would imitate it.
It was noon when Patrick left and 12:35pm when I left.
2:45pm – 16.5 miles, 8.5mph avg., I’ve been riding into cold headwinds, but it looks like blue skies ahead
3:15pm – I see stone sheep near the road
4:00pm – there’s a black bear on the left side of the road. Man, there sure are a lot of black bears out. Last year we only saw 2 during the summer, now they’re everywhere. I feel like I’m wasting film on these guys. This bear held his head up, sniffing in my direction. Fortunately, I was down wind so he had no clue as to what I was. After a couple of minutes, he walked up to the tree line, went into the woods, then re-appeared about 50 yards down wind from me.
Oh, you think you’re a smart little sucka. He began sniffing again and walks towards me. I’m sure he could smell the food in my trailer and I decided I didn’t want to see how well that pepper spray worked. As I pedaled away, he stopped, looked towards me, and then went back to eating grass.
5:30pm – Approximately 45 miles, (I didn’t check) I met Patrick at Liard Hot Springs. The sign said “No Bicycles On The Boardwalk”. That leads to the hot springs but I wasn’t about to leave my bike and gear unattended. I told Patrick that we would just push our bikes back there. While on our way back, some RV drivin’ redneck tourist said “did you know that bikes are not allowed in here”, in an arrogant, cocky, voice. We ignored him and continued towards the less crowded Beta pool. Sinking into the warm water, I felt totally relaxed. I kept my bike clothes on to clean off some of the sweat. There were just a few others, most of the tourists were at the alpha pool. While soaking in the murky warmth, I thought of the 2 days Chris McCandless spent here. I wonder if he dislikes tourists as much as I do. A park ranger came walking back after that tourist in the RV reported us. He didn’t do anything though….just walked back.
6:40pm – we decided to continue riding. The sky was blue, and the sun was warm…perfect riding weather.
10:30pm – 88.16 miles, 11.5mph avg. We arrived at an area called Whirlpool Canyon along the Liard River. Setting up our tents, we were bombarded by hundreds of mosquitoes. I took out my last 2 Mountain House freeze dried meals. After eating those, we had to escape those blood suckers and find refuge in our tents.
12:30pm – The sun recently set over the horizon. It will remain light the rest of the night. The temperature is dropping as I bundle up in my sleeping bag using my jacket as my pillow.
Today – 88.16 miles
Total – 5237 miles
Avg. Speed – 11.5mph