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Update from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/16.html
After our much-needed break in Calgary, it was good to be on the road again. We're headed west towards Banff National Park where we'll spend a couple of nights in the National Park to do some sightseeing and ride the amazing roads in the area.
Neda spots wildlife again on the Bow Valley Trail
From Calgary, we bypassed the main TransCanada Highway and took the smaller, more scenic Bow Valley Trail, which follows the Bow River all the way to Canmore. We saw tons of motorcyclists, mainly sportbikes, zoom by on the twisty road, taking advantage of the beautiful, sunny Albertan weekend-weather.
Rocky Mountains loom ahead on Bow Valley Trail
Posing on the main strip, Banff Ave
In Banff, we parked next to two Ontario GSes! One with an RTI sticker (where we used to teach)!
We've visited Banff many times over the years, mainly to go snowboarding in the amazing resorts in the area. It's a classic alpine tourist trap, very pretty, overpriced storefronts selling the latest Arcteryx fashions to Starbucks-sipping vacationers with permanent Oakley tan-lines on their face. We know, because we used to be one of them back when we had jobs. And snowboards. And a home to store all that stuff in...
Posing on the main strip
Ride back to our campsite on Bow Valley Parkway
Once again, Neda's keen eye spots more wildlife
Waitin' on a train. Please use your imagination. Or Google Image "Morant's Curve"...
Paul told me that there was a famous spot in Banff National Park called Morant's Curve where people camp out for hours in front of the S-shaped turn waiting for the eastbound Canadian Pacific trains to pass by with the picturesque Bow River and (usually) snow-capped Rocky Mountains in the background. Sure enough when we arrived, a dozen photographers had set up tripods to capture the event. So we broke out our groceries and proceeded to make lunch while waiting for the train. The CP rail schedule is about as reliable as a chocolate camshaft, and over the NEXT TWO HOURS, one-by-one the photographers got fed up and left, as new ones arrived to take their place. We couldn't wait any longer - we wanted to ride. So, empty-handed (empty SD-card?), we rode towards Lake Louise.
While I waited for the train, Neda went hiking and took some pictures
Rental canoes on Lake Louise
Next stop, Lake Louise, the site of the most photographed lake in the world. We arrived in the pouring rain, so we hid out in the very posh Chateau Lake Louise, waiting for a chance to dash out to hike around the area. Once again, we were inundated by tourists of all nationalities. Tour buses swarm the Banff/Lake Louise area like GS-owners to the latest Touratech catalog. We really needed to "Get to da choppa!" and just ride where other people weren't...
Riding through the rocks at Radium, BC
So we did my favorite loop (er triangle?) in the Calgary-area: Banff->Golden->Radium->Banff. Kilometers of twisty roads, most of it with very little traffic south of Golden, and all of it with the majestic Rocky Mountains surrounding us!
Relaxing in the hot springs at Radium
The loop takes us into Eastern BC for a while, and we stopped at the hot springs at Radium to dip into the naturally heated wading pools to relax our riding muscles (posteriors) before the trip back to our campsite in Banff.
Kootenay Highway at dusk
The Kootenay Highway runs from Radium, BC through the Kootenay National Park, all the way back into Banff National Park. Although not as famous as Deals Gap, Sea-To-Sky or Cabot Trail, it's a destination highway for many motorists as well, and we hit it at just the right time, as the sun was low in the horizon. The colours took on a beautiful, lazy hue lit by the setting sun and for the first time on this trip, I felt that zen-like feeling, when all the turns in the road come to you telepathically and everything is right in the world. It was such a magical ride on that road that I didn't want it to end. Neda chimed in over the intercom telling me she was feeling exactly the same way and it was wonderful sharing the ride with her that way.
Riding into the setting Alberta sun
This was such a great riding day, and I felt I really needed it after the eventful week I've been having.
Great Blog and amazing pictures! Sara
Those who say something is impossible should not hinder those who are achieving it!
HU RR Finding Freedom...World Wide Ride
Update from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/17.html
Banff to Jasper. With terrain like this, how can a motorcyclist not drool?
Pretty stream in Banff National Park
Neda took advantage of the beautiful hiking weather to snap some pictures of Banff National Park in the morning. I took advantage of the beautiful hiking weather to work on the blog...
The trails in Banff are marked for different-sized groups depending on the bear activity in the area. There are trails suitable for solo hiking, and others that require a group of 3 people or more to hike together. The thinking is that if you hike solo in bear country, you are bear-food for sure. But if you are hiking with at least two other people, you just have to be faster than one of them, so the odds are in your favour.
Good thing Neda bought a bear bell while we were in Calgary. Not sure why all the other hikers laughed at her bear-bell, I'm sure I heard one of them call it a "dinner bell"...
Neda's bear bell comes with a built-in silencer so you can turn it off and on. Handy, because I'm sure all the movie theaters in Banff require you to silence your cellphones, pagers and bear bells before the movie begins.
Ink pots at Johnston Canyon
Johnston Canyon was just across the way from our campsite, so Neda took a 3.5 hour hike to visit the famous Ink Pots, which are 6 blue-green pools fed by underground springs. The colour is from glacial sediments suspended in the water.
ATGATT *especially* when hiking in bear country
In the afternoon, we rode the famous Icefields Parkway between Lake Louise and Jasper to take in the view of the Canadian Rocky Mountains all around us. We pass by a couple of beautiful-looking glaciers along the way.
Cold! Gerbings to the rescue!
R12GS needs some love too
I've noticed Neda's F650GS gets the lions share of attention on this blog. I know it's a newer bike, but now that my 12GS has shed it's ugly Aeroflow windscreen, I think it deserves a bit more screen time as well. I'm proud to say that the only Touratech item I've installed are the handguard spoilers...
Checking out the Athabaska Glacier at Columbia Icefields
Touratech commercial. When do you get the cheque, Neda?
Skies are roiling on the way to Jasper
As we venture into Jasper National Park, the skies darken, so the first thing we do is immediately set up our tent before the rain begins, which is imminent. The park has provided bear lockers where campers can store their food away from their tents. So we raid the other lockers for some free food before we head out to hike around the area.
Shoutout to Neda's old hometown
Jasper Tramways operates a cable car that takes you up to the top of Whistlers Mountain just outside the town of Jasper. At the bottom, is a pinboard atlas where tourists can pinpoint where they came from. Tons of pins around Toronto, so I don't even try, but Neda notices not a lot of folks from the town where she was born.
That triangle down there is the town of Jasper
We continued to climb at the top of the tram to the summit of Whistler's Mountain. The views of Jasper and the surrounding rivers below were amazing, and even the light drizzle didn't dampen my enthusiasm to climb higher.
Some hike all the way up here to contemplate the meaning of life. Others just hog all the good seats...
Up at the top, we find snow!
Me and my new buddy Inukshuk check out the view together
In the evening, we ride into Jasper to get some Interwebbing and blogging done in a coffee shop. I don't know how these places make money when you can hog a table for hours and only pay a couple of dollars for coffee. We're kicked out at closing into the pouring rain, but when we ride back to the park, we're greeted with a warm and dry tent. Well, a dry tent, at least...
Singin' in the rain - Gene Kelly-stylez in Jasper
Update from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/18.html
From Jasper, we rode Hwy 5 through Kamloops with a quick detour through 5A, the Princeton-Kamloops Highway, a very scenic twisty ride past a series of pretty lakes in the valley, to end up in Merritt. We met Veronica, another ADVer outside the Starbucks at Merritt. She was covered head to toe in dust, and with her dirtbike gear and astride her Suzuki DR, she looked completely hardcore. We talked for a while and on her map, she showed us some great dual-sport roads in the area. We hope to visit them in the next few days.
We had made arrangements to meet Kevin and Manon in Vancouver for the long weekend. Yes, Kevin and Manon from Ottawa (from our very first blog entry are now Kevin and Manon from Vancouver! They've moved clear across the country just to provide us with a place to stay for the weekend!
Beating the heatwave in Vancouver with Kevin and Manon
It was so nice having a real bed to sleep in, and a couch, and a wide-screen TV, and a fridge, etc. We caught up with all the MotoGP races we had missed and ate pizza and drank Cherry Pepsi and it was all so decadent! K&M spoiled us to bits and we let them! Vancouver was having a heatwave, so we spent some time in the park next to their new condo to cool down.
Thanks Manon for the picture!
We spent an (extra) long weekend with them, parking the bikes for a few days and doing nothing but watching the Olympics on TV, eating and sleeping. It was amazing to spend time relaxing with good friends after being on the road for only just a few weeks.
Sasha Koop from Funhouse Tattoo
So, to commemorate traveling all the way from the east coast to the west coast of Canada, Neda decides to get inked! Actually, she had been planning this for quite some time, having had to change tattoo artists from Toronto because of timing, and arranging an appointment with a Vancouver artist while we were on the road. Sasha Koop from Funhouse Tattoo came highly recommended and we all came to watch the action and provide support.
A future tattoo artist looks on while Neda gets inked
"Take the road less travelled"
Neda explains the meaning behind the tatto:
"The blue heron feathers are a style mash-up. The inside of the feathers is done in Haida First Nations-style, and the outside is a more realistic feather to soften the design. The beads represent Gene and I. Blue is Gene, red is me, and yellow represents my bike and the sun."
Personally, I'm not into tattoos for myself (more a fan of making new holes in my body), but I think the design is cool and the tattoo turned out awesome. Neda was ecstatic!
Suspension bridge at Lynn Canyon
Because everyone knows how much I *love* hiking (not), Kevin, Manon and Neda drag me out to Lynn Canyon. Since K&M are still new to Vancouver, they had to TripAdvisor where to take us. Right now, they're still "Kevin-and-Manon-*IN*-Vancouver", and they've got a long way to go before they become "Kevin-and-Manon-*FROM*-Vancouver"...
Hikers in Lynn Canyon
So, seeing how I've probably visited Vancouver more often than K&M, I lead "Kevin-in-Vancouver" to the Gastown district downtown to take some touristy shots of the area.
A gaggle of GSes stop traffic in Gastown...
I was dismayed to find out recently that the Gastown Steamclock does not run entirely on steam! It is actually electrically powered and the only time steam is utilized is every 15 minutes when the clock gives a little show and plays a tune. Felt *so* totally ripped off...
Walking around Gastown
And of course, rain in Vancouver
updated from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/19.html
We left Kevin & Manon's place with a bit of reluctance, not just a warm bed and comfy couch and TV and stocked fridge, etc. but the fun and laughter of good friends, and familiar company. We rode to Tsawwassen just south of Vancouver to take a 90 minute ferry to the island.
Riding around downtown Victoria
Uh oh, Neda spots a market and immediately, I know where I'm going to be for the next few hours...
We came back from walking around downtown and noticed that we got stupid parking tickets after paying for parking on the street. The cause was parking too close to the parking lines. There were no bloody parking lines! We took pictures of our parking spots, but it's going to cost us time and more parking money just to fight this thing. We feel so ripped off, and it took us a while to get out of this foul mood.
Seaplanes taking off and landing in Victoria Harbour
This is the first thing visitors see when they step off the seaplane. How inviting!
Victoria harbour is such a pretty place to spend the evening, you can watch the sun set on the waters and the city has done a really nice job with maintaining all the flowers and gardens in the area. Neda's favorite TV station is The Food Network, and one of the shows she watches is called Eat Street. She saw an episode called "Red Fish, Blue Fish", and she told me, "If we're ever in Victoria, we *HAVE* to go there!". So here we are:
Red Fish, Blue Fish, Orange Sunset
Red Fish, Blue Fish is a food truck right on the harbour by the seaplane terminals. We lined up for over an hour (!) and just squeaked in before they closed for the evening. The food was delicious, as promised and we had a spectacular view of the setting sun over the waters of the bay while we noshed away on great seafood.
Sleepy yachts in Victoria harbour
Neda found some great riding roads just north of Victoria on the east coast of the island. From Campbell River, we rode west on Hwy 28 as it cuts through Strathcona Provincial Park, staying the evening in Buttle Lake. As we pitched our tent, we heard scores of sportbikes ripping it up on 28, so we knew we had a great day of riding ahead of us. In the late morning, we completed Hwy 28 out to Gold River and then back again, eyes glued to the inside line of all the tight curves, trying to ignore the distracting scenery lest we end up as another roadside attraction on this awesome twisty road!
Hwy 28 from Campbell River to Gold River
We headed north through Nanaimo, debated about whether to be cheesy and buy Nanaimo bars for lunch, decided against it, and then took the very scenic and twisty Hwy 4 west through Port Alberni. As most of you know, when the riding is good, the pictures get scarce, so you'll have to trust us when we say, if you're in the area, Vancouver island has amazing riding!
We reached the west coast and stayed in a very expensive and uninspiring camp site in Ucluelet, just south of Tofino. So Neda went off in search of a new campsite while I pretended to blog.
Hero shot on the way to Mussel Beach
Mussel beach is at the end of an 8km gravel road in the wilderness, nothing but trees and a bear that lives about 1 km in. We know this because we've seen him everytime we go to and from our new campsite on the beach!
This is shot 5 of a 10-shot sequence...
During one of our trips on the bumpy gravel road, Neda's sidecase vibrates off the bike and she has to stop and walk back to pick it up. I guess I could have helped her but I was too busy documenting the Walk of Shame. I had to turn the intercom off because the obscenities were getting too vulgar for my delicate eardrums...
"Do you mind giving me a hand?"... so I clap... It's a tough job being the staff photographer...
The rocky beach at our campsite
Mussel beach is one of our favorite campsites so far. The owner has built funky sculptures and treeforts out of the driftwood lying on the shore. The treefort sites are bit too pricey for us, they fit 2 or 3 tents, so we just get a spot by the beach and the scenery is beautiful. The owner, Curtis, is super-friendly as well and we talked bikes with him and our tent-neightbour throughout our 2-night stay. Everyone loves talking motorcycles! They either have one, want one, is curious about ours or knows someone that has one.
Goin' fishing! Not really, I'm not a fan of fishing, but I'll happily eat the end-product...
I helped Luke push Curtis' fishing boat out into the waters. By "help", I mean watched a bit, then pestered him with questions, and then hopped in the boat for a paparazzi shot. He showed me some of his catches on his digital camera, one 50-lb fish half his height!
We asked a guy in Tofino to take a picture of us, his three-legged dog decided to hop over and pose with us. So cute!
We rode out to Tofino for the day to walk around the town and get some wi-fi. Now BC is a pretty bohemian province, but Tofino is the hippy-central capital with a surfer-twist. This picture is kind of special for us, since we've got a shot of us in Cape Speer out on the east coast of Newfoundland, and now we're in Tofino, out in the west coast of Vancouver Island. We've crossed Canada coast-to-coast and seen a lot of the country along the way, and I feel this was a proper way to say goodbye to the place that we've lived in for so long.
Waves and wavy lines in Chesterman Beach
Sarah from Island BMW put us on their Facebook page! Cool!
We both got new shoes in the back at Island BMW. Taylor, the service advisor recommended Hidenau K76s in the rear for better wear than the Tourances. They seem very noisy, but we'll give them a chance once they break in to see how well they handle and then decide if we want to stick a K76 in the front as well next time or go back to Tourances.
Updated from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/20.html
After having spent almost a whole week on Vancouver Island, we took the ferry back to the mainland and decided to ride north into the mountains. Vancouver to Whistler is a route we have driven many, many times on our snowboard trips. We haven't been back since the 2010 Winter Olympics and it was very interesting to see the changes the province made to accommodate such a world-class event.
Sea-to-Sky Highway from Vancouver to Whistler
Highway 99, or at least the part between Horseshoe Bay to Pemberton, is also known as the Sea-To-Sky Highway and is *the* motorcycle destination highway on the Canadian West Coast. Fast sweepers hugging the coastline overlooking Howe Sound used to be a two-lane undivided highway, and I remember there used to be lots of accidents from motorists either not paying attention or trying to pass on blind corners. We were very surprised when we found that most of the Sea-To-Sky was now a divided four-lane highway! Sweet! Trying to keep up with Neda was a full-time left-lane affair as I watched the bottom of her Touratech panniers scoop lower and lower to the pavement on each turn.
Olympic rings at Whistler Village
The scenery is astounding in the summertime, it was hard keeping an eye on the turns in the road when just to our left, the sheer drop to the waters below and the mountains on the other side of the sound provided constant distraction. Further up the highway, we started to notice other tiny Olympic changes: all the signs announcing the small towns along the Sea-To-Sky were now on smart, shiny, engraved rocks. Very snazzy! When we arrived at Whistler Village, we noticed a hubbub of activity. Lots of young people milling about, which was strange since it was the off-season. We quickly discovered that we were in the middle of Crankworx 2012, the "Colosseum of freeride mountain biking"". So many events were going on, downhill racing, dirt tracking, trials, etc. But the event that caught the most attention were the tricks and jumps.
We must have spent half the day watching the mountain bikers launch themselves off a platform 50-feet from the ground, perform physics-defying feats of acrobatics and then land on a huge downhill dirt ramp, all against the backdrop of the magnificent Rocky Mountains. I don't know much about mountain biking, so I'll do my best to provide commentary from my point-of-view:
I'm sure this wouldn't be too much harder to pull off on a fully-laden R1200GS...
25,000 people in attendance for Crankworx 2012
This was a popular trick. It must be easy or something...
At the bottom of the landing ramp, the large crowd screams their appreciation for each trick
Most of these athletes were performing while not feeling very well. Many young people commented that they were sick. I felt sorry for them...
This event was like synchronized swimming, but with bikes. And without the water. And not at all very synchronized...
I was told this one is called a Superman, not sure why.
Crankworx is a 10-day long event at Whistler mountain, and we stayed to watch the events for two days, commuting back and forth from our campsite less than 30 kms north in Pemberton. Although motorcycle parking was free in Whistler, the food was far from free...
Sea-to-Sky Highway north of Whistler to Pemberton on the way back to our campsite
On a sad note, the province's Olympic committee must have ran out of funds for the smart, snazzy stones announcing the towns north of Whistler, where tourists rarely ventured. Our arrival in poor ole Pemberton is heralded by the same old metal sign that's been there since before 2010...
You guys are so brave. Selling up and hitting the open road. I wish I had the guts to do that although I dont have much to sell so my trip would be a short one.
Thanks for taking us along with you on your fabulous journey. I am looking forward to see more of your adventures and dreaming of one day getting to ride some of these places as well.
Stay safe and have fun.
Updated from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/21.html
When we met Veronica in Merritt, BC last week, she pointed us to a spot on her map called the Highline Trail and told us that it was a great dual-sport road with amazing views. So we took her advice and rode up there. The Highline Trail starts at a town called D'Arcy, at the end of Portage Road which runs off the Sea-To-Sky at Mount Currie.
Anderson Lake, D'Arcy, BC
While we were adjusting our tire pressures for the gravel road in D'Arcy, a few residents drove up to us in their trucks and ATVs and recommended that we just ride around the corner to the lake and hang out at the docks. We were glad to take their advice because the lake was beautiful, clear and blue and the waters were just as refreshing as they looked. We ended up putting our swimsuits on and stayed for a couple of hours, sunbathing and swimming. If this was one of our normal "Cant Stop! We're on a Schedule!" trips, we would have totally missed out on the lake and a great rest stop.
This was the neighbourhood dog, Scout, who trained me very well to play fetch with him
The Highline Trail climbs rapidly from D'Arcy, and you soon can see Anderson Lake from a high vantage point. Open only in the summertime, it is only recommended for 4WD vehicles. Or 1wd...
Beautiful, but distracting view of Anderson Lake from Highline Trail
Parking in the Lillooet Fire Zone. Wonder if we'll get tickets here as well...
If you look closely, you can see Neda riding the trail on the left side of the picture
The trail was a great dual-sport road as promised by Veronica. And the views were amazing! Hard-packed gravel and lots of elevation changes had us moving our body weight back and forth on the bike.
Rounding the bend on the Highline Trail
Rounding the bend part II - don't look down, steep drop on the right!
30 kms later, we stopped for a late afternoon lunch at the Highline Pub in Seton. It seemed like the only business in town and we stayed for a couple of hours because they had wi-fi. When I asked the owner what the roads were like back to Lillooet, she replied that it was another 70 kms of the same gravel but worse (worse? cool!), so we decided to head out before the sun robbed us of visibility.
Sun is setting on the Highline Trail
The road to Lillooet had steep switchback climbs where had amazing views of the man-made Carpenter Lake. We saw some great wildlife, I should say Neda saw some great wildlife, since she was in the lead. I just got to hear about it on the intercom, "Oh my god, a bear!"... "Where? Where?"... "Oh, it ran off, I scared it away"...
Neda returns to the BatCave after a long day fighting grime.
The trail follows Bridge River for quite awhile before ending up in Lillooet
We reached Lillooet as the sun disappeared behind the hills and we set up our tent in the dark. What a great day of dual-sport riding!
Update from Aug 18 2012: Riding through the BC Drylands
From Lillooet, we rode to Cache Creek in the searing heat of the BC drylands. Temperatures soared to 37C and we took shelter in any available shade we could find. Although not technically a desert in terms of rainfall, the BC interior is semi-arid with its terrain of sagebrush, grasslands and rolling hills. It reminded me a lot of the climate and terrain of the south-west US.
Obligatory riding shot through the BC drylands
View of Highway 99 and Fraser River on the way to Cache Creek
Deserted antique farming equipment arranged as artwork on the plains of drylands
More views of 99 winding its way next to the Fraser
Laundry day. Neda forbid me to show any of my underwear on religious grounds. They're a bit holey...
At Cache Creek we camped next to a guy who was coming down from Alaska. His name was Gene too! What a co-incidence! And he provided us with maps and advice on traveling north. This must be a sign that we are headed in the right direction. Prior to coming out west, we had no idea where we were going, Taylor from Island BMW told us there were two ways north, the Cassiar Highway and the Alcan (or Alaska Highway). I was just going to follow the GPS, Highway 37, which was the Cassiar, and Taylor told us it was the more direct, but the more scenic route, despite the pavement being not as smooth, when there was pavement (!)...
Who is this handsome chap peering out from the back of the RV in front of me...?
The weather was getting oppressively hot and we stopped at a lake on the way to Prince George to go swimming. We met a few motorcyclists who also had the same idea, many were dipping their T-shirts into the waters to get the evaporative-cooling effect while riding in the heat. At Prince George, we took TransCanada 16 west to try to make it to the beginning of the Cassiar Highway before nightfall.
Came across an interesting site on the way to the Cassiar
Some of the Wet'suwet'em First Nations tribe set up a fishery in Moricetown Canyon, just north of Smithers, BC. It's the tail-end (pun intended) of salmon spawning season, and the fish were jumping upstream into the waiting nets of the fisherman to be tagged and then released, presumably to help planning the numbers for the season's crop of fish.
Waiting for the fish to jump into the nets. If only fishing were this easy...
HEY! It is *this* easy!
Trying to figure out which fish they tagged and which they just released without tagging, the fish that were the most interesting to them were the ones that jumped straight into the net.
Made it to the bottom of the Cassiar Highway!
We made a friend at the Cassiar campgrounds
At the campgrounds in Kitwanga, at the beginning of the Cassiar Highway, the owner asked us where we were going and we replied, "North!". He scared us a bit when he said we were heading up kind of late in the season and were going to run into cold weather. Hmmm... Oh well. The next morning, his dog Dahlia greeted us at the tent door. Her cuteness factor was high and she delayed us for over an hour the next morning as she taught me how to play fetch with her cloth frisbee.
I taught Dahlia a few tricks as well...
We're steeling ourselves for colder weather ahead!
Great posts and I am enjoying following along in your adventure. I love the shot of the fish jumping towards the net. In case your wondering it is a Steelhead which is a searun Rainbow Trout. They are the reason you saw the banks of the Bulkley River packed with anglers from all over the world. I know your posts are some what delayed but if you read this in time I have 2 recomendations for the Cassiar Hwy.
1. The Glacier Hwy to Hyder AK. Get Hyderized, but don't ride after. There is a Grizzly look out a little past Hyder but I did that in a truck.
2. Telegraph ck. rd. to Telegraph and the Stikine River. Near Dease Lake.
Updated from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/23.html
The Stewart Highway (aka Highway 37A) runs east/west off the Cassiar Highway. The scenery along the way is a mix of dense alpine forest and mountainous terrain. It's only a 65 km detour to visit the town of Stewart, BC, at the end of the 37A, and we are rewarded with amazing views of glaciers, terminating just a few hundred meters from the highway.
Bear Glacier, on the way to Stewart, BC
A snow cave on the side of the mountain
Bridge crossing on Stewart Highway
Gorgeous motorcycle scenery on the way to Stewart
Weather is cold and wet, rainsuits on for most of the day
Stewart, BC is a working town, home for plenty of miners and the BC Hydro workers who are working on the nearby dam. The US border is just 2 kms away and when we told the owner of the Cassiar Campsite last night that we were going to visit Hyder, Alaska, just across the border, he questioned our sanity, "Why on earth would you want to do that? It's a dump! Nothing there but a bunch of draft-dodgers!"
Well, he was right. The town was a dump. I don't know why anyone would want to visit Hyder, yet it's one of the most popular motorcycle destinations amongst the Iron Butt Association and long-distance riding clubs. But looking at a map, it's obvious why. Hyder is the southern-most city in Alaska accessible by road. There's way more bragging rights in saying, "I rode all the way to Alaska!" than, "I rode all the way to the middle of British Columbia!"
But now you know: Hyder, Alaska = Fake Alaska...
What the..? We're in Alaska? When did that happen?!
The town is such a dump that even the US government has forgotten about its existence. Our ride over the "US/Canada border" was heralded by nothing but a sign proclaiming, "Entering Alaska". No passport control, no customs, no immigration. Just a sign. Oh, but there was a Canadian border patrol on the way back to Stewart, BC. No doubt to stop those draft dodgers from sneaking into Canada. We talked to a guy whose sister forgot her Canadian passport when entering Hyder. Canadian customs wouldn't let her back into the country and she had to have her passport couriered to Hyder to get back in!
One of the more prominent buildings in Hyder is the US Postal Office, and there is a large sign on the side of the building, "Apply for your US Passport here". Presumably if the draft dodgers ever wanted to rejoin mainstream America, they could do so with an explanation at the US Postal Office.
Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum at the Hyder General Store
We heard a funny anecdote about the stateless nature of Hyder. Supposedly, once a month, a state trooper from Ketchikan, AK flies into Hyder, and during the week that he's there, nobody drives their car - all their licenses and registrations have long since expired! Dodging the draft, dodging the DMV, same thing, I guess!
With nothing much to see in Hyder, we tried to find the bear viewing area at Fish Creek. The Hyder General Store is run by a huge mountain man, 8 feet tall, 360lbs, with a grizzled, grey Alaskan beard straight out of Grizzly Adams. We were scared to ask for directions, for fear that he would pop us in his mouth and swallow us whole, but he turned out to be really nice and pointed us a few miles down the (very gravelly) road.
Getting educated on the difference between black bears and grizzly bears. Did you know you're not supposed to run from bears? Given my natural flight-or-flight instinct, I'm really screwed...
You can see down the length of Fish Creek from the bear viewing area. Lots of naturists set up telephoto cameras and video equipment at the far end
The US Forestry Service built this special viewing area to keep tourists safe from the bears that wander the shallow stream at feeding time. From this sheltered vantage point, we were supposed to see them swatting at salmon as they swam tiredly upstream to spawn and die. All we saw was a bunch of dead salmon, seagulls picking at their corpses; no bears, though. I think we came too early in the afternoon. We must have stayed for over 3 hours just sitting, staring at dead salmon and gluttonous seagulls.
Pretty much all we saw the whole day
Of course, the minute Neda leaves to go to the washroom, a baby black bear saunters into the parking lot, sniffs around and leaves!
Not wanting to ride back in the dark, we left for Canada empty-handed just as the sun was setting, and at our campsite in Stewart, our next-door neighbour who was also at the viewing area told us that a couple of bears came out to dine after sunset. Grrrr!!!!
Log teepees on the Cassiar
A warning sign of some sorts...?
Gravel section of the Cassiar
You can see in the picture above newer trees growing in the sections where previous forest fires have cleared the area. This is part of the natural cycle for forests, and small signs are erected on the side of the highway displaying the year of the forest fire in that section.
We traveled north on the rest of the Cassiar Highway in cold, foggy and overcast conditions - very different from the desert-like interior of BC that we left just a couple of days ago. Most of the length of the 874 km highway was paved, with the exception of a couple of long stretches of gravel. We shared the road with logging trucks and the odd RV and it really felt like we were riding in the deep forest of the province as the Yukon Territory loomed ahead of us.
Update from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/24.html
We're now at the north end of the Cassiar Highway, as it terminates at the Alaska Highway. The full name is the Alaska-Canada highway, or Alcan Highway for short, but most people refer to it as the Alaska Highway. The road was originally built by the US Army to provide a way to get troops and munitions to defend Alaska against the Japanese immediately after Pearl Harbor.
More importantly, we're in the Yukon Territory! I've never been here before, and I had to look up what differentiates a Canadian Territory from a Province. From Wikipedia:
Signpost Forest in Watson Lake, YT
At Watson Lake's visitor centre, we found out that this all started with an American GI stationed at the Alaska Highway during WWII who got homesick, so he nailed up a sign from his hometown. Others started doing the same, and now tourists from all over the world bring signs from their home to nail them up at the Signpost Forest. There are over 75,000 signs today. Seems there are more thieves in this forest than Sherwood...
Saw a few Ontario signs here. Good to know kleptomaniacs from our province are well-represented...
While at the visitor centre, we overheard one of the staff talk to a guest in fluent German! It turns out that Whitehorse, which is the capital of Yukon and only 4 hours drive away from Watson Lake, is quite the hub for trans-continental flights. This is due to a shorter distance for northern hemisphere countries to fly over the Arctic, than it is to fly latitudinally over the fat part of the globe. In fact, there is a direct flight from Frankfurt to Whitehorse. This would explain all the German tourists in rented RVs that we ran into wandering around the Yukon Territory.
Neda gives up counting the signs at the Signpost Forest
We camped for the evening at Watson Lake, and again, talking to the owner of this RV Park, he told us we were traveling very late in the season and made up some fancy, scary stories about snow and frost if we were to journey northwards. So the next morning, we journeyed northwards.
On the way to Whitehorse, we stopped in Teslin, a small town right on the Alcan, for a break. There we met Young, a Californian who rode his Trumph Speed Triple up here. He had just gotten his rear tire replaced, and he was in Teslin trying to find the local who helped him when he was stranded on the side of the road earlier. Young just left us a note on our guestbook! Cool!
From Whitehorse, we rode the Klondike Highway north to Dawson city, the same route that over 100,000 prospectors took to travel to the Yukon after gold was discovered in 1896. The journey for them was long and arduous and they had to carry everything they needed on their backs. For us, the 500km ride was scenic and our trusty motorcycles carried everything for us!
Pretty sure none of these buildings actually existed at the time of the Gold Rush, they were built for the Tourist Rush.
Dawson City is one wild-looking town straight out of all the Wild West movies. There are still some original buildings from the turn of the century, but most of the stores and businesses are built and decorated to reflect the town's rich history. By the time most of the prospectors arrived in the Yukon, most of the gold claims had already been staked so the majority came all the way for nothing. Still, some worked in the mines for companies and started businesses catering to the continuing influx of new prospectors, and this was where Dawson City was born.
But do they sell an oil filter for a 450 EXC? Didn't think so...
We treated ourselves to a couple of nights in a local bed and breakfast, it was pricey, but it was soooo luxurious sleeping in a real bed again! During the day, we strolled the wooden boardwalks around town. It was the end of the tourist season so some of the stores were closing soon and the town was not as busy as it was just a few weeks ago. During its heydey in 1898, Dawson City housed so many prospectors and businesses that it was the largest city in Western North America north of Seattle.
Row of pretty coloured buildings
These guys look like they just came from Crankworx 2012!
Neda is busy making new friends to replace all the human friends we left behind
I've been meaning to grow a dodgy-looking 'stache my whole life.
Fiddlin' away the time in Dawson City
After the glitter of the Gold Rush faded and news spread that most of the claims in the Klondike had already been staked, prospectors left Dawson City in droves, some looking for gold in Alaska, others returning home with their pockets empty. Still, the infrastructure for a large city had been built and over time, Dawson City escaped the fate of several Gold Rush ghost towns. Just a couple of decades later, it re-emerged as a new mecca for entertainment, drawing in the wealthy and affluent on large steamships to spend their time and money here.
Original buildings kept untouched as a historical display
The original buildings were built right on the permafrost land during the summer of the gold rush. However, once the winters came, the warmth of the floor melted the waters of the ground underneath and caused the first structures to cave in on themselves. Later buildings were built on raised supports.
The fake front facades that look like they came straight from a Hollywood set were propped up to mask the cheaply-built buildings behind, as they were hastily erected to service the rush of gold prospectors. The facades were ornately painted to give a sense of permanence to prospective customers. All the modern tourist stores are built in the same tradition on raised supports and fake facades, as you can see in the pictures above.
I can just imagine two gunslingers facing each other at opposite ends of this street at high noon. DRAW!
We learned so much about the Klondike and the history of Dawson in the couple of days that we spent there. I'm really enjoying this meandering by motorcycle, it's a lot more enriching than just spending the entire time on the road and seeing towns from behind a visor, while missing out on all the culture and history.
But tomorrow, we ride!
Moterbike campground in Tok
Id recommend the Eagle claw moto campground in Tok and if you stay there have a steam bath for sure.
Those who say something is impossible should not hinder those who are achieving it!
HU RR Finding Freedom...World Wide Ride
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