It’s good to be in a county that has money with the Queen’s face on it again!
Canada is HUGE. Lying in my tent playing with the GPS as you do, I discovered my house in Newcastle, England was 2611 miles away. The Alaskan border was 3162 miles away in a straight line and 4849 miles by the shortest road route.
Collecting the bike, a BMW F650GS from Adrian’s Cycles in Moncton, New Brunswick mid afternoon in hot sunshine I headed for Nova Scotia. The 12,000 mile service cost $324 Canadian (180 pounds sterling). Probably a good deal cheaper than a BMW dealer although I hadn’t checked. Adrian, a Dutchman who emigrated in 1957 had a BMW dealership but now in semi-retirement has a shop selling spares, the occasional second hand bike and does servicing and repairs with his son.
There is a monument in Moncton commemorating the French who had settled Nova Scotia first, in 1604 (apart from the First Nation ‘Indians’ of course). A treaty signed the area over to the British who from 1755 to 1765 rounded up the French and shipped them back to France or one of the French colonies. Some escaped and settled in Quebec. A similar monument in Nova Scotia celebrated the first Scottish settlers from the Highland Clearances, making no mention of the French they replaced. So, we forced the French out to make room for the Crofters we were evicting from the Scottish Highlands. Makes you proud to be British.
The river flowing through Moncton is known as the Chocolate River due to its colour caused by the mud. Sure enough it is very close to the colour of Cadbury Dairy Milk. The high tides cause a tidal bore to surge in the river twice a day.
Chocolate River, Moncton, New Brunswick
Road works made for a slow start out of Moncton but it wasn’t long before the traffic thinned out and I was left with the usual winding road almost to myself. It’s great how easy it is to find good, little used roads almost anywhere in North America. A flat bed transporter carrying a JCB type digger in the roadside ditch blocked the road while two heavy recovery vehicles pulled it out. I got chatting to two Harley Davison riders waiting in the queue. They were heading for Cabots Trail too. There was the two HD riders and a car in front of me and no other vehicle turned up in the 20 minutes I was waiting.
140 miles later I camped overnight on the shores of Northumberland Strait then continued to Whycocomagh Provincial Park, Cape Breton in Nova Scotia via the Sunrise Trail. The weather had turned, looking overcast with some light showers. I was given a camping pitch next to a wooden shelter where I could cook and hang out if the weather was bad. This turned out to be such an asset, and with more rain forecast I decided to stay here and see Cape Breton as day trips rather than moving camp again.
Northumberland Strait Campsite
I saw another Bald Eagle flying over Bras d’Or Lake near the campsite. That makes four in total since arriving in Canada a week ago. I'm still waiting for my first moose and Canadian bear though.
Cabots Trail lived up to expectations. Great roads and scenery. I first heard of Cabots Trail on a Billy Connolly travel TV program I saw whilst planning my trip and decided I had to come.
Cabots Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
Bay St. Laurence and Meat Cove at the northern end of Cape Bretton were well worth the detour. Meat Cove lies at the end of a five mile gravel road with stunning ocean views and boasts a cliff top campsite. I originally intended to stay here and take two or three days riding Cabots Trail. This would be the best way of seeing it but with so many wet days forecast, dashing round on the only dry day suited me best.
Bay St. Laurence
Bay St. Laurence
Bay St. Laurence
Meat Cove Campsite
Lighthouse On Cabots Trail
Baddeck, Cabots Trail
On a trip to Port Hawksbury I plotted a route on the GPS that included a stretch of ‘unpaved road’. Assuming that this would be another gravel road I wasn’t concerned. It started off as a two lane gravel road then narrowed to a single, rutted, muddy track. I managed to stay on the bike despite the slipping and sliding but found thigh muscles I’d forgotten I had.
Canadian 'B' Road
Canadian 'B' Road
From Nova Scotia I finally started heading west stopping at the C’mon Hostel in Moncton again then on to Campbellton, New Brunswick. Cambellton is a starting point for the Gaspesie scenic route 132. A circular route following the coast around the Gaspesie peninsular then back through the mountains. I was planning to do the coastal part of the route then continue west for points unknown.
My Cambellton Home
I was told to expect stunning views of Gaspesie as I approached Cambellton. The last fifty miles were completed in light rain and sea mist so I missed out on that first sighting.
Cambellton New Brunswick From Sugarloaf Mountain
Sugarloaf mountain on the outskirts of Cambellton is a winter ski resort. It offers views of Quebec Provence across the bay from its summit.
Sugarloaf Mountain Ski Lift
Although not cold, the weather is cooler and certainly much more changeable. I put this down to being further north but a number of Canadians have said this summer is unusually cooler and wetter. I have started using hostels where they are available but am still mainly camping.
My Forillon Nation Park Dining Room
The Gaspesie coastal route may not be quite as dramatic as Cabots Trail, Nova Scotia. Passing through fishing and tourist villages for a lot of the route it is well worth doing though. At the tip of the peninsular is Parc National De Forrillon, a place I was told, renowned for whale watching. My hostel had great views over the bay and a few Porpoise could be seen from my alfresco dining table in the evening.
Gaspesie, Quebec Provence
Gaspesie, Quebec Provence
The next day I went on a whale watching boat trip from Grande Grave within the park. The bay was dead calm, ideal for whale spotting although there was some sea mist reducing visibility to half a mile or so at the harbour. Having booked on the next trip I went for a walk and saw more porpoise and Minke whales from the cliff top footpath. One Minke whale was only a 100 yards or so from shore but it had gone by the time I got the camera out.
There were more Minke whales on the boat trip including a good view of one with its head above the surface and water pouring from its mouth. Minke don’t use a blowhole to breath which is why they get their head out of the water. The sea mist thickened reducing visibility and stopped us seeing anything further out in the bay where the larger whales usually are.
Minke Whale - Just Missed The Head Shot
Cap Gaspe In The Mist - Forillon National Park
After the boat trip I headed on foot to the lighthouse at the end of the peninsular.
Footpath To Cap Gaspe, Forillon National Park
The path followed the shoreline where there were more Porpoise and Minke whales in view. The whale watching boat went by on its next trip then a larger whale surfaced sending a flume of water into the air. As the whale swam on the surface and continued to ’blow’ the boat swung round for a closer look. As the boat got close the whale started... er .. having a whale of a time. It was lifting long flippers into the air and splashing them down onto the surface of the water with a resounding crash. Then it dived several times lifting its huge tail well into the air each time. It would reappear coming head first vertically out of the water, turning and splashing on its back into the water with a loud crashing noise that was delayed by a second or two from where I was watching. Most times it would get half its body out of the water but once I could see its head, body and most of the tail.
Humpback Whale To Right of 48 Passenger Whale Watching Boat. Dark Patch In Front Of Boat Is A Minke Whale. (Taken With Mobile Phone Camera)
The people on the boat would have been looking up at the whale. I was excited at seeing this spectacle which went on for half an hour but I was also wishing I had gone on the later boat trip for a closer view! I met the boat later on as it came into dock and found out it had been a Humpback whale we had seen.
Cap Gaspe Lighthouse, Forillon NP
Forillon NP Sunset
The GPS which has been fantastic in allowing me to plan routes on quiet, scenic roads played a trick on me during the next leg of the trip further round the Gaspesie peninsular. It said there was no fuel stations on my route for over 100 miles. It seemed very unlikely as there were a number of villages on the way but I decided to play safe and detoured to Gaspe for fuel. On returning to the planned coastal route there was a fuel station within ten miles and several further on that weren‘t in the GPS database.
Gaspesie Roadside Rest Stop
Arriving on the St. Lawrence river side of the Gaspesie peninsular I stayed in a hostel on the beach. It was a bit of a party hostel with young French Canadians camping on the beach, staying in the hostels teepee and yurts as well as the ’Sea Shack’ hostel. A DJ was playing mainly reggae until the early hours. I had a few local beers and left them to it. The next morning sitting on the veranda with a cup of tea overlooking the St. Lawrence bay I was tempted to stay another night but the wild west was beckoning.
Gaspesie Sea Shack Auberge Festive
Auberge Festive Beach Bar
My New Dining Room Table
I have been travelling for four months now but still get a kick from crossing a new border or reaching particular landmarks. St. Lawrence Bay marks the end of the planned part of the trip. Up till now I have been heading for places I have wanted to visit with a couple of days travelling at the most between them. Now I just have a vague notion of heading west by the most northerly route I can find to Alaska. There isn’t time to get to Alaska before the cold weather sets in and by all accounts Canada is very good at cold weather! For the time being I will keep heading west and see what alternatives present themselves. Most travellers crossing Canada take a more southerly route passing into the USA several times enroute. My aim is to avoid cities where possible which the northern route does. I also want to taste if possible the wilderness and great open spaces of Canada. If it gets too wild I can always head south. The northern route isn’t much further north than the USA border anyway.
Parc Du Bic, St Lawrence Bay, Quebec Provence
Turning up at Trois Pistoles for the ferry across St. Lawrence Bay I was fortunate to arrive 45 minutes before the last trip of the day.
St. Lawrence Bay Ferry
My journey followed routes 178 and 167 to Chibougamau then onto route 113. On this section there was a sign warning that there was 191km to the next filling station. Not a problem but an indication that it is time to start keeping an eye out for refuelling opportunities.
What's At The Bottom Of Your Garden?
There was very little traffic on these roads and with long distances between any sign of habitation it began to feel like I was reaching the edge of the vast wilderness of northern Canada.
Lakes And Trees, Typical Scenery In This Part Of Canada
....And Nothing in Front
Taking a right turn onto route 397 took me onto a 70 mile section of dirt road, a well surfaced two lane highway. I was heading north of La Sarre to pick up route 652, another stretch of dirt road about 90 miles long. I was expecting another smoothish two lane highway but joined a very uneven stoney stretch that had to be negotiated in first and second gear. Assuming it would improve I pressed on until I came to a collapsed bridge. There were some ATV tracks running down the soft sandy side, through a small stream with a rocky bottom and out, up another soft sandy ramp. I rated my chances of getting through at 75% but if I did get stuck in the sandy sides I would probably have needed assistance to get out.
Uneven Bridge On Quebec Provence Unpaved Road
Time For Lunch
Collapsed Bridge, Normetal, Quebec Provence
Taking the collapsed bridge as an indication that the road wasn’t in use and wasn’t going to improve I reluctantly turned round to take the more southerly paved route through Matheson to Cochrane and Ontario.
Lakes And Trees..... Lakes And Trees
Daily mileage has increased now that I’m in semi wilderness. The aim is to cross Canada keeping to the most northerly roads available. The activities on offer are primarily, fishing, hunting and boating. Messing about in boats would be nice if the opportunity arose but I’m not keen on fishing and wouldn’t know one end of a gun from the other if it hadn’t been for Hollywood. The scenery, varied roads and virtually no traffic make for good biking though.
Queens Trans Canada Highway 11 Northern Route On A Wet Cloudy Day
Heading west on route 101 to Matheson I then branched off to an unpaved road for 70 miles before joining route 11 to Cochrane. The unpaved road ran parallel to the main road, veering close enough to see it at times and was two lanes wide in good condition. No dramas and a steady 50mph was easy to maintain. I had thought of stopping to camp at Fushimi Lake Province Park. By the time I got to the campsite turnoff it had been raining for a while. A sign said it was 13 kilometres down another unpaved road. Not feeling like getting the bike caked in dirt by riding in the wet and having to back track down the same road in the morning I decided to press on hoping the rain would stop.
There were a number of camping options further on and if the rain persisted a few small towns that might offer accommodation. I eventually stopped at Hornepayne Bunkhouse on route 631 south towards White River. The bunkhouse had a closed sign displayed but I spoke to the owner who was there for the weekend. The property was being renovated and wasn’t due to be reopened for a couple of weeks but he let me stay providing I didn’t mind that the builders still had a few jobs to complete. At 8pm on a wet evening I was delighted to have a roof over my head!
The next morning I passed through White River whose claim to fame is that Winnie The Pooh came from there. A WW1 soldier, Captain Harry Colbourn bought a bear from a trapper when his troop train stopped at White River. He called it Winnie after his home town of Winnipeg and brought it to England as the troop mascot. Before being shipped to the WW1 action in France Harry gave Winnie to London Zoo. A. A. Milne’s son was enthralled when he saw Winnie in the zoo and this prompted the author to write the Winnie The Pooh stories.
I had taken the longer route to Thunder Bay dropping south from route 11 to route 17 for the scenic road along Lake Superior shore. Unfortunately heavy fog concealed the view for most of the way.
Lake Superior In Mist
Lake Superior In Yet More Mist
The day had started cold with light rain, then there was the fog but I arrived in Thunder Bay in 33o C heat wearing my waterproof oversuit on top of my biking clothes. Talk about melting!
Thunder Bay, Ontario
Travelling west on Trans Canada Highway 17 I crossed from Ontario into Manitoba. Not too far from the border I came across a sign denoting the start of the Central Time Zone. In Manitoba the time zone changes on the 90o West Meridian. As I started the journey more or less on the Greenwich Prime Meridian I have now travelled quarter of the way round the world. Having completed 9683 miles in four months the world felt extraordinarily large as I stood straddling the meridian line.
Central Time Zone, Longitude 90o West And Quarter Of The Way Round The World Marker
Trees And Lakes
Not far after the time zone change another sign stated that I was halfway across Canada. Roadworks prevented me stopping for a photo.
Beware Of Moose
I had intended to skirt round the north of Winnipeg to camp on the west side of Lake Winnipeg but more rain was forecast so I headed for Winnipeg and stayed in a hostel. Winnipeg was the largest town I had ridden through since starting the trip. The Ice Hockey Arena takes pride of place in the centre of town.
Drying Tent And Tarp Before Arriving In Winnipeg
Checking the weather forecast, thunder and heavy rain were predicted for the following afternoon and for several days after that. The next morning was supposed to be cloudy but dry. I decided to make an unusually early start and hopefully escape the heavy rain. Awaking to more rain was disappointing but at least it wasn't particularly heavy. Whilst making breakfast someone had put the TV weather channel on. The forecaster was warning of imminent severe thunder storms for Winnipeg and helpfully pointing out that these kind of storms can and sometimes do turn into hurricanes. The weather was clearer to the north so I opted to try and outrun the storm.
Lake Winnipeg, Manitoba
I had intermittent rain until mid afternoon but it then cleared into a hot dry evening as I travelled north from Winnipeg on routes 9, 68, 6 and 60 towards The Paz and Flin Flon.
Manitoba, Lake And Fewer Trees
Being roughly in the middle of nowhere I decided to wild camp and turned down a track off route 60. Exploring an area of open ground I got stuck in deep gravel whilst trying to turn the bike round. Having taking the luggage off to reduce the weight I then found an old discarded wooden door. Digging the gravel out behind the bike I got the door positioned so that I could pull the rear wheel onto the door and was then able to ride back to terra firma. No major drama as the ground was level and I knew I would get the bike out one way or another. In hindsight, there was firmer, wider ground ahead. I should have kept going and turned on the firmer ground. All adds to the excitement though!
If Your Stupid Enough To Get Stuck In The Gravel At Least Be Smart Enough To Do It Beside A Discarded Door!
Manitoba Wild Camp After Being Stuck In Gravel
Manitoba Lakes And Trees
I crossed the border into Saskatchewan at Flin Flon. This mining town was established by the Hudson Bay Company who asked the residents what they wanted the town to be called. When no reply came a message was sent to the residents stating that unless they responded and chose a name it would be called after the fictional character Flin Flon. This was probably said in jest but when the residents failed to come up with a name the Hudson Bay Company registered the town as Flin Flon.
West of Flin Flon I hit my northern most point so far in this journey across 'Northern' Canada. I had passed a sign marking the 54th Parallel which didn't mean much at the time but assumed it to be significant for somebody to go to the bother of erecting the sign. That evening I checked the World map to see just how far north I was compared to my more familiar Europe. Somewhere in Norway, Denmark, Iceland maybe? Er... no, I was exactly in line with Newcastle upon Tyne, my home town in England. So much for the intrepid adventure traveller!
Nipekamew Sand Cliffs, Highway 165, Saskatchewan
From another wild camp at Nipekamew Sand Cliffs I headed for Meadow Lake Provincial Park not too far from Alberta. The route consisted mainly of unpaved roads with a couple of short paved sections. The unpaved roads varied from smooth where I could do a steady 50mph to rutted loose gravel and sand that made 15mph exciting. After a long tiring day I had to detour 40 miles for fuel before camping. I had travelled 420 miles without seeing a fuel station. I was a little concerned at how much the lower gear dirt roads would effect the fuel range. However on refilling there was 5 litres left so the bike could comfortably do 450 miles between refills. When I finally arrived at the campsite they actually sold fuel so the detour was unnecessary.
Greig Lake Sunset, Meadow Lake Provincial Park
I spent a few relaxing days here and started thinking more about where to spend the winter. I had planned a loop North to Slave Lake but decided to head straight for Edmonton and start the search for a winter residence in Alberta.
Meadow Lake Provincial Park Campsite
Campsite Deer, Used To Being Hand Fed I Suspect As It Walked Right Up To Me
Whilst riding on a dirt road within the park I finally saw a moose. There were two, an adult and a younger one standing in the middle of the road. I couldn't get close enough for a photograph though. They were off into the trees as soon as I tried to approach.
But They Are All Good At Hiding
I was on my way to the start of a walk where I saw plenty and varied ‘scat’ and footprints. One clear bear footprint dwarfed my hand. The wildlife itself stayed well out of sight though.
There Be Bears Lurking In These Woods
Heading towards Alberta, the first 70 miles were on unpaved roads within Meadow Lake Provincial Park. The parks are big and Canada is VAST!
Lake And Trees
A couple of minor problems have cropped up. I suspect the dirt roads are the cause. The fuel tap in the Touratec second fuel tank developed a leak. Tightening the retaining screws has stopped the leak but the O ring is dislodged so I will need to drain the tank and remove the valve to effect a proper repair. The pump on the petrol stove has packed up which means I can’t cook anything. I had some spare parts for the stove but naturally, not the one I need. I will try and get the part in Edmonton, my next stop.
Trees And Lake
Leaving Meadow Lake Provincial Park, Saskatchewan on a 70 mile stretch of dirt road I saw five deer, a common sight in these parts. The Moose, Elk and Bears are much harder to spot. It was a warm day but the tent and tarpaulin were damp from the morning dew so I stopped to dry them off on the grass by a side road after a couple of hours riding.
Alberta Agricultural Scenery
Stopping for lunch at a good local diner and the first hot food in several days since the camping stove packed in, I met a farmer. She was complaining of the drought and the resulting high price and scarcity of hay which she had to buy to feed horses. Drought I thought, what drought. I have experienced more than my fair share of rain crossing Canada and it had been raining only two days previously a 100 miles or so to the east. But no, Alberta has been in a long damaging drought and is desperate for some rain. I thought, YIPPEE, DRY WARM WEATHER. I then felt a little guilty for these selfish thoughts and commiserated with the farmer although I’m not sure if the sincerity came across.
Alberta Agricultural Scenery And Little Traffic
The scenery changed from forest to agricultural shortly before the Alberta border. Cattle, horses, grain of some kind and oil seed rape. I had thought a lot of central Canada would be growing grain but this was the first I had come across.
Edmonton Parliament Building
Arriving in Edmonton via highways 55 and 28 I found the hostel, or at least my GPS did and settled in for a weekend of big city life. The Edmonton Fringe Theatre Festival, the biggest in North America they boast was a short walk away.
Edmonton Fringe Festival
A Hideous Scary Monster Lures Another Innocent Bystander Into Her Lair By Playing The Violin
I located an MSR stove dealer on the local high street and walked there with my faulty stove hoping to get the spare part for the pump. They took the pump into a back room, repaired it and wouldn’t accept any payment. Fantastic service.
Edmonton Skyline From Chinese Garden
At the opposite side of town the Annual Edmonton Dragon Boat Races were being run from a Chinese Park.
Edmonton Dragon Boat Race
Travelling across Canada I have heard tales about the cold temperatures of a Canadian winter. Temperatures I cannot imagine, -30, -40 centigrade. One guy said the coldest he had been in 'up north' was -72 centigrade. I don't particularly like cold weather but have decided that I ought to experience a Canadian winter if possible. I hope to find a winter base where I can stay through the winter then continue the motorcycle journey in the spring.
Approaching Jasper From Edmonton
Heading towards Jasper I stopped at each small town looking for winter accommodation possibilities. Shortly after leaving Edson the Rocky Mountains appeared on the horizon. The first mountains that rise above the tree line I have seen on this trip.
With Views Like This Behind It's Hard To Focus Ahead
On arriving in Jasper I checked the accommodation adverts and went to view a couple of places. Rents are unsurprisingly a lot more expensive than in the centre of Canada.
Harley Sidecar Outfit In Jasper
The next day I had to find a fax machine to send the motorcycle insurance renewal form in. I had tried to do it over the internet or phone but the insurance company said I would have to download the application form from their website, print it out, fill it in then fax or scan and email the completed document back. I had my original application form with me so I bypassed a few steps and tippexed (white out I think it is called in America) the dates out and entered the new dates. The new policy was emailed to me a few days later and I got it printed out in a library. It seems an antiquated system compared to Europe.
>b>Jasper From Whistlers Mountain Treeline
After finally getting the insurance form faxed I was ready for some exercise so headed up The Whistlers mountains behind Jasper Hostel. There wasn’t time to get to the top but I made it to just above the tree line before heading back.
Canadian Rockies From Highway 93
Moving on, I decided to head back out of Jasper National Park thinking I would have a better chance of finding winter accommodation outside the park. I headed for Nordegg, down highway 93, a scenic route running through the National Park.
Snow In August, Canadian Rockies
Stopping at Columbia Icefield I saw my first glacier. I was a bit disappointed that the glacier was roped off. To walk on the glacier you had to hire crampons and join a guided tour. Health and Safety was the reason for the rope fence. There is running water underneath the glacier and it is possible to fall into a crevasse into the freezing water.
Columbia Icefield Just Off Highway 93
The leading edge of the glacier had picked up mud, rocks and debris making it a dirty brown colour. Further back it was whiter but there were a few open crevasses revealing sparkling blue ice. I guess if the fence hadn’t been there I would have been tempted to climb up to a crevasse and peer inside it. Leaning over to capture the blue ice on camera I would probably fall in and meet a frozen watery grave and be unable to finish my motorbike trip. Just as well the fence is there really!
Columbia Icefield Glacier
Marker stones showed how far the glacier has receded over the last 100 years. It has shrunk about quarter of a mile thanks to global warming.
Columbia Icefield Glacier, Marker Shows How Much It Has Receded
Nordegg is a small ex coal mining community. The coal mine closed in 1957 I was told by a couple of local retired miners. These miners were taking a four wheel drive jeep up a rugged trail to check out the area in preparation for the hunting season that was due to start.
I was tempted to head back into Jasper National Park and continue south on scenic route 93 to Banff but took highway 11 and 22 via Rocky Mountain House and Cochrane to Calgary. This route offered better chances for finding some winter accommodation. The bike was booked into the BMW dealership for its 18,000 mile service and a new rear tyre. When I pulled up outside Calgary hostel I had done exactly 12,000 miles since starting this trip in Miami.
Cochrane With Rockies On The Horizon
Whilst the bike was being serviced I walked round Calgary city centre then into a number of parks on my way to collect the bike. The service had been completed but the rear tyre I had ordered to match the front was out of stock. The tyre suppliers computer said there was one in stock but when they went to get it on the morning of the service it wasn’t there. I had the choice of continuing with my by now illegal rear tyre, fitting two matching tyres (The dealerships choice) or fitting a different rear tyre. I opted for the different rear tyre and chose one with a reasonably close tread pattern to the original. Once fitted the profile was different and the handling felt a bit light and less stable. This could be that the tyre needs running in or that it mismatches the front. Either way it is legal again and I will fit a new front tyre to match the rear in about 3000 miles time.
From Calgary I headed west again to Canmore and Banff, both touristy towns in the Rockies.
I had an interesting ‘Catch 22’ scenario with my debit card and credit cards which put my travels on hold for a few days. I have had continuous problems with my UK bank debit and credit cards since starting this trip.
Canmore Hostel Terrace. At Least I Had A View Whilst Trying To Persuade My Bank To Let Me Spend My Money
Experiencing more problems I had to phone Tmobile to top up my phone credit before yet more lengthy, expensive trans-continental calls to the bank. Both my debit card and credit card were rejected. Living outside of America I cannot top up the phone on the internet and in Canada nobody could tell me any shops where Tmobile top up cards could be bought.
Canmore From Hostel
So my debit and credit cards weren’t working and I couldn’t phone the bank to resolve the issue because Tmobile wouldn’t accept my debit and credit cards! So if you were thinking that riding a motorcycle round the world is all a bed of roses think again. There are the occasional thorns in that bed of roses!
All the winter accommodation places I viewed wanted someone to move in straight away and I was hoping to find somewhere that I could arrange to move into mid October so that I could ‘pop down’ to California for the Horizons Unlimited gathering between 24th and 27th September. In addition I still haven’t been able to top my phone up so can’t use it to book viewing appointments etc. I have decided to go to the Horizons Unlimited weekend then head back to Alberta and hope plenty of immediate occupancy places are available as it could be getting chilly by then.
My last stop in Alberta was Waterton Lake National Park on the Montana border. I headed there as it had a hostel but on arrival it was closed. There was a campsite near by and I got booked in there instead.
Waterton National Park
Deer In Waterton
Deer were walking through Waterton town an the campsite continuously. I was thinking of extending my stay and doing some more walking in the area but on the last day a strong wind picked up. The tent next to mine was flattened and my tarpaulin pole had blown down. The wind continued through the night and one of my tent poles bent in a strong gust. Fearing that the tent could be damaged I decided to leave as planned and head for Glacier National Park and the “Road To The Sun” in Montana.
Cloudy East And Sunny West Side Of Rockies On The Way To Montana
Arriving in Victoria on Vancouver Island from Washington State by ferry was like entering a different sunnier world compared to the wet temperate rain forests of Washington State. First impressions are how green and English it all looks with its imposing ivy clad hotel, lawns and red double decker buses. The top portion of the British Columbian flag is taken up by the Union Jack.
Victoria Empress Hotel
The one thing that was very un-British were the seaplanes taking off and landing in the harbour. As the towns have evolved around the harbours the seaplanes are landing a few minutes walk from the centre of towns making them much more convenient than regular planes and regular airports for the short hops.
Seaplanes In Victoria Harbour
I bought spare inner tubes and filters in preparation for the 5,000 mile round trip to Alaska. I intend to do the next service myself as I expect to be somewhere in the middle of nowhere. I have been concerned that the BMW mechanics use clever electronic diagnostic equipment during servicing that isn’t available to me but if the bike is running ok then any diagnostic equipment isn’t needed anyway. Out of the four times I have had work done by BMW mechanics three of those times they have put the non standard Touratech fuel breather pipes back incorrectly.
British Columbia Parliament Building In Victoria
I liked Nanaimo a lot. The only problem I had was that it took a week before I could pronounce it correctly. Nanaimo is north of Victoria on Vancouver Island.
Just off the coast at Nanaimo is Newcastle Island named after my home town, Newcastle Upon Tyne, England. Newcastle Island was given the name when coal was discovered. Miners and Shipbuilders were recruited from England and Scotland to work in Nanaimo and they formed the bulk of the European settlers.
Nanaimo Harbour With Newcastle Island In Background
I got the ferry from Vancouver Island to the mainland on the Nanaimo / Vancouver route. The five days I spent on Vancouver Island were hot and dry and you can watch seaplanes taking off and landing in the harbours so it is about my favourite place in the world at the moment. I must have seen 20 or so seaplanes take off or land without mishap so it appears to be a reasonably reliable mode of transport.
Seaplane In Nainaimo Harbour
Seaplanes must be solidly built as I watched a mechanic standing on a float hitting the plane with a big hammer. You may be reassured to know that the plane was stationary at the time.
Stanley Park, Vancouver
The Vancouver to Lillooet ‘Sea To Sky Highway’ (Hwy 99) has fast sweeping bends climbing up into the mountains and the day I rode it, the traffic was light enough to enjoy the views and / or the bends. The snow capped mountains got bigger and closer all the time but I never quite got into the snow.
Whistler, Home Of The 2010 Winter Olympics
I had been riding at my usual leisurely pace as far as Pemberton but decided I had better eat some miles to get up to Alaska and back to Mexico before my USA visa expires.
Pemberton, British Columbia
Rain was forecast but apart from some showers it was dry most of my first long day. I took a dirt road ‘shortcut’ although it would have taken longer but that’s not the point. The road passed a lake before joining Hwy 97 trundling ever northwards to Prince George where I joined Hwy 16 towards the Cassiar Highway.
Lakeside Dirt Road 'Shortcut'
The wildlife count along Hwy 16 was a pair of coyotes, a moose followed by a black bear cub. I started looking out for a camping spot about 50 miles from the start of the Cassiar Highway and spotted the bear cub with an immaculate shiny coat jumping around by the roadside. I didn’t see Mum but no doubt she wasn’t far away. There was a bit of a weird feeling in seeing a bear just before pulling over to pitch a tent!
Snowy Peaks, British Columbia
I had done 637 miles from 7:30am until just before it got dark at 9:30pm with a couple of meal breaks in roadside cafes. The mosquitoes were too bad to prepare or eat food outdoors and I don’t like to have food in the tent in case I have to fight a bear for it.
These Little Rock Men Pop Up All Over British Columbia
The Cassiar Highway (Hwy 37) from Kitwanga to the Yukon border was another road with little traffic and enough bends to make it interesting. Just after stopping for breakfast a car in each direction stopped on the road so I pulled up behind as a one year old grizzly bear walked across the road to my side. It stopped behind a bush 20 feet away and turned to watch me.
Yet More Snow Capped Peaks
I saw a second grizzly, bigger than the first one a bit later. I stopped, turned around and went for my camera but it disappeared into the undergrowth before I could get a photo. Towards the end of the Cassiar Highway I saw a third enormous black grizzly right at the road side. I slowed and we were watching each other as I passed. In order to confuse the amateur wildlife spotter black bears aren’t necessarily black and grizzlies come in a variety of shades including black. I finished the second long day in Whitehorse, Yukon at 9:30pm again although I had set off earlier, at 6am and covered 784 miles.
I arrived in Whitehorse, Yukon on the Alaska Highway following a marathon 784 mile ride from a wild camp north of Smithers, British Columbia. I hadn’t been able to phone ahead to make sure there was a bed at the hostel but fortunately I got the last one. My USA mobile phone was out of credit and I couldn’t top it up in Canada. For this reason I had bought a Canadian mobile phone which worked ok around Vancouver but wouldn’t work further north. I learned later that Yukon doesn’t use GSM phones and has a different system.
Teslin River, Yukon
After the 1898 Klondike gold rush the major transportation route from Whitehorse to Dawson City was along the Yukon River. In the summer, paddle wheelers plied the route and through the winter dog and horse teams pulled sleds carrying mail and lighter supplies. The flow of people and freight was held up during the spring thaw and autumn “freeze up”.
S.S. Klondike Stern Wheeler
I think I said this last summer whilst crossing Canada westward from Nova Scotia to the Canadian Rockies, Canada is huge.
S.S. Klondike Stern Wheeler
Following in the footsteps of the Klondike gold rush miners was a long haul by BMW F650GS. I wouldn’t want to tackle the journey by mule and canoe for all the gold in the Klondike.
Yukon River, Whitehorse
I had good warm weather and was riding at a leisurely pace again after a couple of days of high mileage riding to cover the vast distance to Alaska.
Whitehorse Newspaper Building
I passed a tiny bike that reminded me of the old Honda 90 loaded with tyres and gear three times on the ride through Yukon. The rider must have been putting in the hours. The bike had an Alabama plate so it had come quite a way. I hoped to talk with the rider but never met him / her.
I Overtook This Bike Three Times In Three Days
I was planning on wild camping so pulled off the road at 7pm and made and ate a meal then moved on to the next suitable camping area for the night. Having seen three grizzly bears the previous day I opted to follow good bear practise and eat and sleep in separate locations. I worried for a while that someone might stop to camp at my meal stop or that someone had prepared a meal prior to my arrival at my camping spot but if you think like that you would never leave the house!
Meal Stop On Disused Road.... Leave All The Bear Attracting Smells Here
Hopefully A Bear Free Campsite
It didn’t appear to get dark at all this far north in late June. I had late nights of going to bed after midnight and early starts when I woke at 4am and it was still daylight. In the interests of science and at great personal sacrifice I set an alarm for 2am to see if it was dark then. It wasn’t quite full daylight but easily light enough to read by.
Kluane Lake, Yukon
The road is predominantly tarmac now with the occasional few mile stretch of dirt where road repairs are taking place. The stretches awaiting repair have deep dips caused by the permafrost melting which results in the surface subsiding. This can get the RVs tilting over at an interesting angle but isn’t much of a problem on a bike ridden at reasonable speeds.
Kluane Lake, Yukon
Beaver Creek is the last stopping place before the Alaskan border. A place to spend your Canadian coins and dig out the passport in preparation for re-entering the USA.
Beaver Creek Almost In Alaska
There was a long wait at the border to enter Alaska. The traffic to Alaska is nearly all RVs (recreational vehicles or mobile homes and caravans in English) and motorbikes. It’s mainly tourists that drive the route, Alaskans have more sense and fly!
As twenty miles of the Top Of The World Highway (From Tok, Alaska to Dawson, Yukon) had been washed away in heavy rain closing the road I missed out on returning south by a completely different route from my northbound ride. I returned on the same roads for about 700 miles from Tok, Alaska, through Whitehorse to the top of the Cassiar Highway. From the Cassiar junction I stayed on the Alaskan Highway (Hwy 97). The Alaskan Highway is a bit longer than the Cassiar but a similar road as far as traffic and scenery are concerned. There were more grizzly bears on the Cassiar and more black bears on the Alaskan Highway which also has a herd of bison in the north of British Columbia.
Bison Grazing By The Alaskan Highway
The distances are too great to plan to be anywhere each day. I decided to take my time stopping to wild camp off the road at the end of each day with coffee breaks if a café presented itself. The earth gradually returned to a more familiar rhythm as the 24 hours of daylight ended, the nights got darker and the days hotter as I moved further south.
The next stage of my journey sees me heading to Montana then through Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico and Texas to enter Mexico before my US visa expires.
Muncho Lake, British Columbia On Highway 97
There were a number of moose, a fox and a porcupine as well as the black bears on the Yukon section to Whitehorse. Judging by the number of bear deposits on the side of the road the bears are either trying to reclaim it as part of their territory or they are really really scared of the traffic.
I had been carrying my road front tyre which still had several thousand miles left on it since fitting duel tyres in Anchorage. I had a feeling that I would get fed up hauling it around and leave it somewhere but as I hurried to pack and leave the Whitehorse hostel by its 10am check out time I accidentally left it on the drive. If anyone is passing and can make use of it feel free.
Me, A Black Bear And No Fences Between Us - Alaskan Highway
I met a German guy at a coffee stop with a German registered BMW F800GS, the first foreign registered bike I have seen on the trip. He had ridden from Europe through Siberia to Vladivostok then taken the bike to Japan before arriving with it in Vancouver. At the same coffee stop there were two US riders who had been prevented from doing the Top Of The World Highway by the flood damage. They had ridden from Dawson west until they were turned back. They had met a Dutch couple with a hired RV (mobile home) who were stranded between two flooded areas and couldn’t travel in either direction. Fortunately they had plenty of food and water but weren’t going to be able to return the RV when it was due or make their original flights home.
Black Bear At Roadside Rest Area
After five days of travelling I stopped early at Tudyah Lake Provisional Park Campsite to chill out in the afternoon rather than ride until the early evening and wild camp. There were only a few others there and one day visitor said he had just seen a bear in the campground but didn’t know what kind. A ranger turned up later who said black bears had been seen recently so I wasn’t unduly concerned. I prepared and ate my meal well away from my campsite and secured my food and toilet bag in a pannier for the night as part of my usual precautions. Before I left England when I was researching this trip I got some information on precautions to take while travelling and camping in bear country. None of the precautions included carrying a gun which I suspected many North Americans would do. I passed on the recent bear sighting information to a Canadian from Vancouver who arrived. He told me he wasn’t concerned as he carried a gun and had killed three grizzlies and seventy five black bears so far. He obviously doesn’t just shoot as a last resort unless he has been extremely unfortunate and been attacked by 78 bears! Personally I hope the 79th has better success than its 78 predecessors.
Tudyah Lake, British Columbia
The towns started appearing more frequently once I reached Kamloops, British Columbia. The weather got hotter and drier as well as I entered Canada‘s desert region. The wild camping spots became harder to find as I got into the more populated area. To the south of Kamloops a number of campsites were full and I got one of the last available sites in Kekuli Bay Provisional Park Campsite. I couldn't get the tent pegs into the hard gravel surface, the showers were poor, there was no electricity or WiFi and they charged $30 per night. Not good value for me on my own. The campsite was geared more towards the RV owners.
Kamloops Basking In The Sunshine, British Columbia
The two hostels in Kelowna, British Columbia were full when I phoned and I wanted to stay there to pick up spares for the bikes next service. Kelowna has the only BMW dealership on my route for quite a while. I decided to go to the two hostels in person and hope for a cancellation or failing that sometimes you can camp in the hostel grounds. Luckily I got into the second hostel which was within walking distance of the downtown area and a series of lakeside parks.
Kelowna, British Columbia
There were two hot days in Penticton which left me seeking a cool drink and some shade in the afternoons. I don’t know how hot it was but I hope to acclimatise to the warmer weather before I get to the serious stuff in Texas and Mexico!
Penticton, British Columbia
The day I left Penticton was cooler and it rained a bit as I travelled south on a quiet back road to Osoyoos then east on Highway 3 to Nelson. Nelson would be my last overnight stop in Canada as I head south from there over the border into the USA.
Lake On Backroad North Of Osoyoos
I had to stop in the small town of Greenwood to put my wet weather oversuit on. The high street was interesting, lots of old decorated building and masses of hanging baskets of flowers. The showers didn’t last too long and had cleared by the time I arrived in Nelson, British Columbia.
Greenwood, British Columbia
I arrived in Nelson at a good time as they were holding their annual street festival during my stay. The main street was closed to traffic with market stalls along the street and a stage area at either end for live music. I spent most of my time there listening to three women playing Blues music.
Nelson Street Festival
The following day I went for a walk along a footpath to a beach on Kootenay Lake with Jen, a fellow Brit. who I met at the Dancing Bear hostel. There was a group of mountain bikers on the beach who had cycled down a mountain to the beach and were being shuttled over the lake by helicopter to continue their ride. On the last trip the mountain bikes were slung in a cradle underneath the helicopter to be reunited with their riders.
How Else Would You Get Your Mountain Bike Across A Lake?
After fifteen months of travelling I am finally leaving my first country. It would take forever to get round the world at this rate but I have to exit The USA in six weeks time or face the wrath of The Department Of Homeland Security so maybe progress will accelerate a bit from now on. I don’t have any timescale to keep to on this trip although from now on I will generally stick within each countries normal visa time allocation rather than apply for extensions following the expense and hassle of extending my USA stay.
Helicopter Ready to Pick Up Mountain Bikes In Cradle Slung Underneath
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