Glaciers and Deserts and meeting great people

jeckyll

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#1
Teasers:







Planning:
For quite a while now I'd wanted to ride to Northern Canada, first to Inuvik (because the road ended there) and then to Tuk once they pushed the road through. A buddy of mine was heading up in his truck for vacation this year and that brought back my desire to go. My current contract was up on Aug 2nd and I thought that would be a good time to head out.

The real push to go was when I went to the North Central Washington GTG and ride and talked to some folks that had been :)

Once the decision was made to go, I read up on what people had experienced, started thinking about what I'd need for the bike and the trip. A spare 5 L gas canister was a must, warmer cloths so maybe an extra dry bag, some spare brake pads and a new set of Shock Socks made the list and were ordered. I also bought a smaller stove, some new gloves and ordered a Tractionator GPS tire as I wanted something that would make the trip.

Shiny new rubber!


Crash bars mounted, oil change done:





I mapped out the kilometers and it looked like a minimum 14 day ride, which included two rest or flex days (i.e. if the weather sucked or I simply needed a break. Not too bad and totally manageable, though I'd be averaging between 500 and 600 km / day, much of it highway. Very different than the rides I normally take, which are meant to maximize time on the side of the tire.

The living room soon looked a bit messy as I worked on packing and figuring out how to best carry everything.




I really thought this trip was going to be about the riding, but in the end it turned out to be much more about the people I met, and rode with, along the way :)


Saturday - Day 0:
Final packing proceeded pretty quickly, I'd had a complete list from a decade-plus of road trips, it didn't need that much tweaking.

Before going I really enjoyed Dynobob's thread about his trip to the Yukon, and based on his advice read "Klondike - The last gold rush" by Pierre Berton. Great book, and I love this quote at the beginning:



 

jeckyll

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#2
Sunday - Day 1: New Westminster to outside of Horesefly, BC
The weather looked good, touch warm but nice for riding.

I got the bike loaded, bit awkward due to the extra beer I was carrying. I was spending the first day at my dad's place and couldn't arrive empty handed of course.


Given that it was a Sunday of a long weekend, I didn't expect to have the road all to myself, but still took the Whistler - Lillooet route as I wanted a bit of scenery :)

Had a decent run on Duffy Lake, passed numerous cars and a bunch of cruisers, nothing too hectic though with the bike fully loaded. Stopped at the Lillooet reservoir and had a snack and took a couple of photos. Such a beautiful spot!






Next stop was Clinton, just for some gas, and then 108 mile for another snack.

I parked next to a Harley and met Bert and Anita from Belgium. Great people, we talked about their trip and since they were heading to Vancouver Island I was able to tell them a bit about the roads and possible camping spots. Great people, he rides a BMW RT back home but couldn't find one to rent, hence the Harley ;)



After stretching my back and walking around for a bit, it was back on the highway and towards Horsefly.


Rolled into 'town' pretty much on time, the new rear tire did pretty good on the easy 15 km of gravel that it took to get to dad's place.


I was definitely glad to get off the bike and knew I had to change the bag setup. I couldn't get comfortable all day due to the way I had the bags loaded. So tomorrow would be a bit of a test of a new way of packing the bike ...

But for now it was time to rest, drink some beer and eat some good food.


Home grown veggies and venison burgers :)



Their neighour, Bruce, came over as it looked like they were finally going to have a couple of dry days to get the hay in wearing a "Vegetarian: Old indian word for bad hunter" shirt, which was a good fit given that we were having venison ;)

Next: North and East and some pesky(?) BMW riders? ;)
 

jeckyll

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#3
Day 2: Horsefly to Smithers

I woke up and had a great home-cooked breakfast (sorry, no photos, we were too busy chatting and drinking coffee).

Then I loaded up, trying to spin the whole load around so I'd have a bit more space behind my back. Now I was heading into places I hadn't been, and riding further North than I'd ever ridden.





Dayna and Dad had given me some tips for cutting off some of the 'commute' through Williams Lake, so I popped towards Likely and then took Mountain House road down to Hwy 97 (no packaged meals were offered anywhere along it, I checked :) ).

It was a nice ride through the countryside and I stopped before the highway to tighten some straps and change some layers, it was warming up already.


Nothing to exciting heading up towards PG, though I did pass the place where the highway had been shut due to a deadly collision just two days before.

Got some gas in Quesnel and didn't slow down much for Prince George. The bike did have a weird stumble at a traffic light and of course I got concerned about what was going on. Never did that before and I've ridden in temps as high as 42 C, way hotter than it was currently.

Finally had to take a break to eat a banana and switch to my hotweather gloves, the temps were in the mid to high 20's (80+ F for you in the US).

Not a lot of pictures, this was mostly a commuting day. Lots of this:


A couple of guys on BMW GS's caught up to me and we traded positions for a while as we worked through traffic, having a good time.

Then they pulled over, I wasn't sure why.

In Houston (now in the 30's, or 91 F for you US folks) I had to stop to take a photo of this giant fly-rod! Michelle (my significant other) fishes, I hunt, so I had to make sure I got this :) (SuperT for scale)


And a shot of just the rod:


It was too damn hot to take much of a break, so I pushed on.

In Smithers I did a quick google search, none of the hotels rated very highly and were all more than I wanted to spend. But the Smither Guesthouse looked good, so I popped up there. And they had a room!

Great place, friendly people, decent rate, I was sold.


Fridge and nice common area, if you're stopping in Smithers, check them out.


As I unpacked, the two Beemer riders went past, I figured they went to the campground. So I popped own and sure enough, there was one of them coming the other way.

So I spoke to Marko for a bit and he told me to swing by for a beer. I went over after I ate and hung out with him and Ibrahim for a while, they're both from Turkey originally but now live in Vancouver. Why I got no photos of us, I have no idea. We were going to try and meet up the next day if things worked out, though they were trying to average 800 km / day, which was too much for me, I know where my personal sweet spot is for time on the bike... and that's not it :D

And they pulled over because Marko lost his phone and had to ride around listening to his bluetooth connect and disconnect until he found where it was, and it wasn't even damaged!

Next: Onto the Cassiar, bears and guys who are stranded!
 

jeckyll

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#4
Having issues with Google images, so will replace photos that aren't working going forward.

Anyway, onwards and upwards :)

--

Day 3 - Stewart to Dease lake.

Finally going to get into some smaller roads and more remote places :)

I got dressed and headed out, expecting to meet up with the guys I met yesterday (after all, there was only one road North that we were all taking ;) ). Never did happen, I got a text 2 days later in Whitehorse as I had no coverage. Never use text messaging while on the road, WhatsApp or email are much superior if cell coverage is going to be inconsistent.

All ready to go


Stopped for Coffee and breakfast at McDonalds just down the road and then got underway

I noticed pretty quickly that I was dressed a bit light, but had all my warmer cloths buried under bags etc, a mistake I wouldn't make in the future.

Just up the road, traditional fishing




I stopped for a bit, it was cool to see. At the same time, I felt the urge to push on and get onto the Cassiar. Still early in the trip and I was eager to make my way north.

Mandatory gas stop and picture opportunity, can't miss this sign, right?


I was eager to see how things would play out next, I felt like I should have camped the night before and resolved to camp in Dease Lake.
If I wasn't wearing the helmet, you'd see a face that wasn't entirely relaxed...


Saw a black bear just up the highway and would see one more. No photos as I was riding.

Met a group at the junction to Stewart who were mostly cruisers with one BMW in the mix. Saved a set of sunglasses the kid on the BMW dropped at the pump and his buddy almost ran over :D


Good guys (and gal) and we shatted for a bit. They were excited to go to Stewart. I almost changed my plans to head there immediately, but the weather window that I was hoping for in Inuvik and Tuk was calling me.

Just north of Bell II I had an amazing encounter with a wolf! I was coming through a right hand turn, next to a wall of dirt and rocks and in the ditch was a large black wolf, just jogging along. He heard me and looked over his shoulder and I looked right into his eyes! Gave me a major shiver down my back.

I stopped to get a couple of photos along the way, beautiful lakes next to the highway. This is around Iskut where I got a bit gas as I wasn't 100% sure I'd make Dease Lake without running on fumes




And then the skies got really dark ... (continued in next post due to photo limits :) )



 

jeckyll

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#5
Definitely looking dark ahead...


And for a little while it looked like I was going to be able to pass it by, the road was winding and I managed to keep the rain off to my side and ahead was looking better for a bit.


Still good ahead, no?


But then it caught me after Gnatt lake and it was coming down hard. I zipped up and thought about the fact that I planned to camp tonight. Don't like packing up wet, and then some lightning started up ahead. Hotel if possible!

Managed to get a room in Dease Lake, not cheap, but hell look outside and I was glad to be in a nice dry room and not a tent


I went to the grocery store for some beer and snacks and ran into an Argentinian guy at the pumps who was riding to Deadhorse. Nice enough guy, didn't speak a lot of English. I wished him well.

On the way back into the hotel I met Bill. His truck broke down 3 days ago, he was stuck waiting for a water pump. He rode as well and we hit it off and hung out a bit, drank a beer and planned to drink more after I had dinner.

At dinner I met a super nice couple from the states, Dick & Marge, both 88 years old and on a road trip! They asked if I was the guy riding the bike, then we talked throughout dinner and Dick insisted on buying me a beer. Super nice folks.

After dinner Bill and I had a few more beers, talked bikes and I shared some of my favourite roads in Oregon, which he was excited about. He wants to meet up and ride some of them :)
Super cool guy (and he did eventually get the waterpump and made it to his cousin in Alaska).



What a great day, met more super people! :)

Next: Into the Yukon!
 

jeckyll

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#6
Day 4 - Into the Yukon: Dease Lake to Whitehorse

The morning was pretty dark and everything was wet, though the rain seemed to have passed through the clouds were still behind. Last night there was some pounding rain at times, between that and the lightning I made the right choice not camping. I spent too much money though, so this morning it was hotel coffee and oatmeal (which Michelle had made for me :) )


Ran into Bill at the gas station and he watched my stuff while I went inside and paid, which was much appreciated since some sketchy guys were hanging out. :)

North into the clouds, which at times seemed to be right on top of the road. I did see a moose which was cool!

Stopped once I was under the clouds to get a shot, some more amazing scenery.


And then it was like the mountains rose right out of the highway. Gorgeous, the way the light was playing off the tips!

(this a little ways before Jade city)

I wanted to stop every 50 meters to get some photos, but it was another long day today, so I kept it to a few stops


And then I made it to the Yukon :)


I had 4 goals for this trip:
1. Yukon
2. Dawson City
3. Arctic Circle
4. Arctic Ocean
Bonus goals: Top of the world highway, Telegraph Creek and Stewart including the Salmon Glacier. And maybe Barkerville if I got a chance, but that was a long shot.

First goal reached!



Stopped once more to get a few pictures and have a quick snack




Part 2: People you meet in Whitehorse ;)
 

jeckyll

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#7
Teslin, which has the longest metal-mesh bridge I've ever ridden :)


Got gas on the other side and met Dick who also rides a SuperT and was heading up to ride the Top of the World highway.

Hope you had a good ride up there Dick!

I did notice that I had a headlight out and decided that Whitehorse would be the place to deal with it. So I pushed on to make time an sure enough Canadian Tire had what I needed. Fixed it right there in the lot, under the sign that said not to do any repairs in their parking lot. Whoops :)

The hotels in Whitehorse didn't seem that enticing, I did find a B&B though that was highly rated. And got a room.





They have free laundry and even had shaving cream in the bathroom, which was the one thing I forgot :)
As I was waiting for my laundry to finish, a guy rolled up on a BMW GS. Chip and I chatted, he was on his way south to Colorado and was taking a couple of days rest.

I scooted out to pick up a fleece as I decided I didn't have enough warm clothing, and to get some dinner. Back to Canadian Tire and then to A&W. And who's in the parking lot? Rodolfo, the guy from Argentina I met at the gas station in Dease Lake yesterday.




His buddy Paul was there too, they met in Stewart. Long story short, Rodolfo and I decided to ride to Dawson City together the next day. It would be good to ride with someone!

Back at the B&B Chip and I chatted for a long time. Talked about work, riding and the fact that we'd worry about every noise we'd hear on the bike. It was a very cool night.

Hope you had a safe trip home Chip!

I did tell him that his side-cases made my bike feel inadequate ;)




What a great day.

Next: Dawson City!
 

jeckyll

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#8
Day 5 - Whitehorse to Dawson City

I hurried in the morning to get everything packed up and get to the meeting point by 8 am so Rodolfo and I could ride out together.

No Rodolfo though. I did get a WhatsApp message in Spanish, so after I gassed up I hit google translate and understood that he was on his way, but didn't know from where :D

Just before 8:30 am he arrived and we got ready to head out. Heading North towards Dawson City I saw a young woman hitch-hiking and thought about all the missing women along Hwy 16 'The highway of tears' and how dangerous that could be ...

Soon we were cruising through some very big country. If you've been North you know that it's quite tricky to capture it.


It was bloody chilly again about 4 C when I woke up (40 F), I was wearing my heated vest, but with all the waiting around and standing in the sun, I didn't plug it in before I left.

We were having a good time though


Once we'd both plugged in all the heated gear we had things were much more comfortable :) My back had been bad all morning, the heated gear helped my back relax more, so double benefit. I started feeling happier over all.

We saw another moose cow, this time with calf but no other wildlife. We stopped at a pullout just after Stewart Crossing

Somewhere on his phone Rodolfo has a similar photo of me, I haven't gotten it yet though :)


The Stewart River


We got into Dawson at a decent time, finally a bit shorter day! After a bit of riding around, and then finally consulting google maps, we got to the campground and got a spot.


Definitely not a lot of space between the spots, but right downtown Dawson.

On the way to register we met a couple of guys who'd just come off the Dempster and were telling horror stories about how bad it was. They were on large bikes and had pretty worn 90/10 tires, so I listened but wasn't too concerned. Chip seemed a more credible source of riding info.

As we set-up we met Steve from Kamloops. His buddy bailed and he was excited that I was heading up the Dempster as he was looking for someone to ride with. Looked like I'd have someone to ride up with, which was good. The forecast called for a 60% chance of showers, so maybe the roads would be a touch damp (if this were a movie, ominous music would be playing at this point ... :-o )

Rodolfo was carrying on to Alaska the next day to continue his trip to Deadhorse :)

We finished setting up and jumped back on the bikes to head above Dawson.



Quite a popular spot


We met Paul from Holland


He also just got back with his buddy from going to Tuk and told a very different story from the guys we met at the campground (who he said complained everytime he talked to them on the road). Paul was on a KLR with 80/20 tires and said "keep it at 110 km/h the whole way and you're fine".

I figured the truth was somewhere in-between, but fascinating how different the comments were.

Just imagine the folks in from the 1896 goldrush coming up this river ...


I did try my hand at a panorama


And a lot of selfies were taken ;)



Breaking into 2 parts ... :)
 
Last edited:

jeckyll

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#9
Then we went to find food (I think we were at the Jack London Grill)


Dawson is a cool town, the dirt roads definitely add some 'frontier feel'




And then hung out drinking a bit at the campground (I claim no responsibility for the beer selection, Steve came back with it...)


We met a German couple on GS's who were traveling North and had come from South America (I didn't write down their names, but will find the sticker :) ). We chatted for a bit.


I also called ahead to Eagle Plains and reserved a room for the next day. Non-refundable of course, but we got a double. All set, though Inuvik and Tuk's forecast was for a week worth of rain. Our goal was to try and dump gear at Eagle Plains, get to the Arctic Circle and then high-tail it out of there before things got too bad weather wise.

It got a bit later and eventually we turned in, definitely not 'dark' though :)


Next: Onto the Dempster and towards the Arctic Circle.

 

EricV

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#15
Great job so far. Day 2.... sounds more like Smithers to Stewart... ;)

Lots of great places and experiences. I went to all those in '14 on our AK/YT trip. Nice that you remembered to take pics of the people you encountered. I suck at that. And you're spot on, you can't appreciate the massive scale of AK or the YT in a picture. It has to be experienced to be fully understood. I had a nice laugh at the stop every 50 meters to take a pic comment. I felt that way too. And it's worse on the Icefields Parkway. Even on the Yellowhead from PR to PG it had its moments where you were sure everyone else in the world disappeared and you were the only one on the road. Up in the YT, it was always fun to run into others at stops and share stories from the road.
 

jeckyll

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#18
Thanks for all the positive comments & likes. I normally write up 1 or 2 days at a time, so there will be daily updates for a few days yet :)
 

jeckyll

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#19
Great job so far. Day 2.... sounds more like Smithers to Stewart... ;)

Lots of great places and experiences. I went to all those in '14 on our AK/YT trip. Nice that you remembered to take pics of the people you encountered. I suck at that. And you're spot on, you can't appreciate the massive scale of AK or the YT in a picture. It has to be experienced to be fully understood. I had a nice laugh at the stop every 50 meters to take a pic comment. I felt that way too. And it's worse on the Icefields Parkway. Even on the Yellowhead from PR to PG it had its moments where you were sure everyone else in the world disappeared and you were the only one on the road. Up in the YT, it was always fun to run into others at stops and share stories from the road.
Definitely on the 'scale'. And while I agree that there is plenty of time on your own on the road, I was also surprised just how I'd always see people at the same time, especially on the way back. Things seemed so much more 'urban' on the way down than on the way up. Not sure if you felt the same way.

And you know from the 'where did you ride your tenere today' thread that Stewart is coming ;)
 

jeckyll

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#20
Day 6 - Dawson City -> Eagle Plains

Slept OK, but not really enough. We stayed up a bit later than I'd planned, it was still quite light when I went to the washroom at midnight, and woke up a bit early as well. No matter, time to make breakfast and start packing.

As soon as I got up Steve came over and said that his dog had a stoke and he was riding home, no Arctic Circle for him.

So I was going to be on my own, who knows, maybe it was better that way.

Oatmeal and coffee from a package for breakfast :)


Rodolfo and I packed up, wished each other well and then I rode out


Gassed up at the edge of Dawson City, filled my jerry can and headed off. I didn't quite have enough to make the 30 km to the turnoff comfortably and was wondering if I should really stop and fill up again, what could 1 liter matter really?


First though, I'd missed this on the way in and decided that I better get a photo:




But I decided that if I ran out of gas I'd feel like an idiot so I stopped and grabbed gas again at the turn off cardlock.

The sky wasn't filling me with confidence, but again, it was only supposed to be a 60% chance of a shower. So I thought I'd head in and see what it was like. I had enough gas to do 200 km in and 200 km back if things didn't work out.



Camping gear - check
Food for 3 days - check
Gas for 400 km - check
Rain gear - check

Garmin InReach - check (and turned on just in case)

Well, time to go!


I made good time to start, 90 km/h speed limit was actually hard to stick to, though I tried as I wanted to get good gas mileage, just in case.

Starts a bit slow,



but around Tombstone, damn is it beautiful!




The sky was light behind me,


... but ahead it didn't look so good.



I remembered what Chip said, the road is actually not bad with just a touch of moisture, that'll keep the dust down. Maybe it'd be fine... Right?!?

Well, after this there are not a lot of photos.

I'd put my rain jacket on when I stopped at Tombstone and that was a smart move. Because the rain started after this stop. Not too bad at first, but steady and ever increasing. By the time I got over the first climb it was worse, along the Ogilvie river it was worse and by this time it felt like my front end had no wheel-bearings. The handlebars did nothing, so I steered with my feet only by leaning the bike.

Not a big deal though, from everything I'd heard maybe this was normal.

At 200 km in I passed my 'turn-around' point, things were slick, but not bad. Though it had now been steadily raining for 100 km or so and the rain kept getting worse. The wind picked up as well, but I was in good spirits, heated gear was on, hands were reasonably warm and only a tiny bit damp on the edge of the glove.

At 240 km in, it got pretty bad. Orange looking mud (clay?) that was 3 - 4 inches deep and I was getting lock-to-lock slides on the bike, nothing seemed to work to have any control. I kept slowing as I was climbing, spinning the rear, losing the front, having the thing buck sideways.

At 253 km in, I pulled over as there was a car behind me and I saw another rider pulled over at the top of a small crest...

Continued in next part.


 
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