Jess did remarkably well enduring the back of the Dommie for 6 weeks over some long distances and bad roads. Sadly she is now gone and on another sad note so is my bike. Yep it went bang and is now recieving the kiss of life. More of that later.
After indulging in the luxury of a Motel room with hot tub outside the door we decided to start the journey south. First port of call was Keno City, another out of the way mining town that had been recommended by Claire and Lorne. Of course this involved long distances and more dirt roads. Nothing I couldn't handle or so I thought. That was until I ran off the road and nearlly put us in a ditch. Lessons to be learnt. Long distaces, warm weather and straight roads are hypnotizing. Beware.
Keno City was not as expected. 14 people grace it with their prescence year round. Another mining town which has had its heyday. We met lots of the locals, all very welcoming. A true "northerner" had even made it out there. Named Geordie for obvious reasons he has run the bar and other "recreational" facilities through the boom and is now there to stay. Predicts that there will be a big war soon and is bussily buying up enough dried food to sustain a small army. Didn't quite convince me I should be doing the same thing. We also had a go at gold panning but didn't see this as our road to untold wealth. Neither Jess nor I had the patience required to sift through piles and piles of earth. 2 nights in Keno and we felt the call of the road again.
A very uneventful ride to Whitehorse followed, only after leaving the main road to head for Skagway did things get more interesting. Yep more mountains, more galaciers and the worlds smallest desert entertained us. Skagway which is the ferry terminus for the Alsaka Marine Highway tried to be all the things Dawson City was but wasn't quite up to it. We were there to catch the ferry to Prince Rupert which would take us two and a half days. A good change from sitting on the bike.
The boat ride involved more stunning mountain scenery and a few far off Orca Wales to try to spot. On the ferry we met a local, Mike from Petersburg, a small island town the boat stopped at. He convinced us that we needed to stop there and see exactly how things were done on the island. He spent the next day entertaining us on his boat. We saw some icebergs, one of which defied my best attempts to stand on it for the photo, we saw more Orca wales, tried to catch us a Halibut and we went shrimping. Great to haul them up until you realise that you have to murder all the poor buggers in order to eat them. More challenges to my great vegetarian way of trying to live, but none that can't be overcome. The shrimps were murdered and tasted fine!
Mike and Tiffany made us very welcome, we even used their spare house to sleep in but as it was being built and had no roof I suppose you still could call it camping.
Prince Rupert being a town didn't hold much interest for us so we headed east, this time bound for Hyder, back in Alaska. Here we were told we could get the coverted prize of being able to watch Bears fish and eat spawning Salmon. We were even lucky enough to see a Black Bear wandering down the road on the ride there. After much waiting at Fish Creek for the bears and no sightings we arrived next morning at 6am and were greeted by not one but three different sightings of bears doing the fishing thing. We were no more than 20m on the elevated platform from one grizzly which fished for about 10mins before eating his catch on the side. A truly remarkable thing to see. The 350 mile diversion had been worth it. We now had some mile crunching to do to get to the Canadian Rockies, three solid days of riding broken by a trip to the bike shop to change fork seals and a front tyre.
We arrived in Jasper worn out and in need of less miles and more scenery. It was not a dissapointment. Again we were treated to rocky mountain views and galcier in scenery which is so much bigger than anything in the UK. Life on and off the road was relaxed again.
The only thing that was tainting the views was the smoke from distant forest fires which were raging out of control in the west. This summer has been Canadas driest on record and many fires have been burning and destroying properties. A smoky view is however better than no view. After riding through the Rockies we headed west toward Whistler. On route we saw forest fires from real close and the landscape changed to virtual desert. It was like Mexico, jess even got to see her first tumbleweed rolling down the road. The highlight of the journey to Whistler has to be Hwy99. Awsome riding and little traffic. Anyone riding a bike can't fail to enjoy this route.
Whistler also had another highlight of which legends are made. Downhill mountain biking of a world class order. Managed to justify the cost of hiring some downhill bikes and buying a lift ticket for a day of superb fun and adrenaline. I used to think that I was quite handy on a mountain bike but the way the locals ride makes you feel like you just learnt to ride the bike. Did however learn the art of getting air (a little but it felt like a lot!) and both Jess and I managed to get through the day without a crash. (yeah I hear you say we needed to try harder. I agree)
From Whistler we crusied down to Vancouver and onto the ferry to get us to Vancouver Island. I spent a lot of the journey talking to some guys who were admiring the bike telling them how good it was and how it hadn't let me down. Big mistake. 3 miles off the ferry it started making a bad metalic noise and 2 miles later promptly died on me. Reliable bike, my arse. Still on the bright side it was only a mile and a half to push it to the Honda dealer. With every nearly sorted problem comes the spanner that goes into the works. Well my spanner was that the bike shop was not open on Sunday, no surprise really. Monday however was also closed cos they were still "riding". In the middle of a small town in an area that you wouldnt describe as dodgy, but where you would not leave the door to your hose unlocked we were standing wondering what to do next. Did the answer we needed arrive, you bet it did but thats another story and I am out of time. Will post more news soon.
PS before you post me to say the quality of the pictures are crap, be rest assured I know and will not make the same mistake next time, I hope.
Three weeks on Vancouver Island, not exactly what I had planned, more like three days. I have learnt two valuable lessons from it. Foremost, european model only bikes are a pain in the ass to get bits for and there are plenty of fantastic people out there ready to rescue a motorcyclist in distress like I was.
Standing outside the closed bikeshop with that ball in the pit of your stomach feeling was not the relaxing sunday ride I had planned. I kept looking at passing cars hoping one of them might take pity on us and help out. Hey presto, up drives this guy in a campervan who had already seen us pushing the bike to the shop. Did we want to leave the bike at his house and have him run it to a bike shop in the morning, do bears crap in the woods? Drew, a Harley rider had been through the breakdown in a strange place routine himself and knew how it felt. We ended up staying with Drew and Sandra. We were watered, fed and watched stars in their hot tub at night. We stayed with Drew and Sandra until we tied our boot laces tight and headed back to Vancouver as footpassengers to have a look at the city and for Jess to catch her flight back to England.
Of course we stayed in the cheapest hostel in town. It was cheap for a reason. Wandering around in the evening left Jess in a state of fear and me wondering where all the straight, sane people go. We were in the Eastside of town well know for its proliferation of hookers and drug dealers/addicts. Eventually we discovered the good parts of the city and enjoyed wandering about and hanging on the beach.
Of course no visit to the city would be complete without retail therapy, so we went to Moutain Equipment Co Op, the size of a football field, full of outdoor toys.
After a teary goodbye at the airport I headed back to Vancouver Island to get my bike. It had been fantastic sharing the last 6 weeks with Jess but alas she had to go earn some travel tokens to allow her to return to South America next March.
Bike not ready, no surprise. The list of damage now reads, dropped valve seat, bent valve, buggered piston with rebore needed. 1 more week of waiting.
Unsure how to use the time but again answer supplied. A weekend in a rainforest cabin, fishing and crabbing with Drew, Sandra and their son Brant. The sun shone, the beer flowed from dawn till way past dusk and a good time was had by all.
I had to come to see the Island and no wheels just meant a different way of travelling. I hitched to Victoria and spent a couple of days sunning myself, doing the tourist thing and reading.
Another visit to the bike shop and another problem. The piston sleeve had a crack in it. More money and what turned out to be nearly another two weeks of delays. I knew a gathering of Overland Bikers was meeting some 450 kms away on the weekend and set about trying to find a lift to that. Thanks to this website Timo replied to my postings and on thursday we set off for Revelstoke. Well I suppose you are thinking that these overland bikers are the bearded BMW riding types. Yes there were lots of BMWs and yes lots of people did have beards but the weekend was excellent. Lots of really interesting folk doing some big trips all over the world. A great opportunity to drink beer and talk bull about bikes.
I returned to Vancouver Island and spent the 5 more days waiting for the bike to be fixed. Thanks to Timo and Julie I had a place to stay and managed to relax and nearly forget about the bike and the ever increasing bill it was going to cost me. The day arrived and I parted with $1,400 Canadian and got my scruffy bike back in working order. Steve, the sometimes slightly stoned mechanic had I hoped fettled it to mechanical perfection ready for the next 25,00 miles the dommie would have to endure.
A quick one day blast to the Pacific Ocean was all it took to convice me I could finally leave for the states. One last night at Timos and I boarded the Victoria ferry bound for a cloudy Olympic Peninsular. Back to the country where drivers use their brakes, not steering wheels to go around corners and where every house has a flag or "proud to be american" banner in their windows! I certainly enjoyed Canada and will be back some time in the future.
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