Monday, August 12, 2013

Jasper to Fort Nelson to Whitehorse

I woke up feeling great this morning.  The air was cold and I could see my breath inside the tent but I was warm enough in my sleeping bag.  I could hear squirrels and birds in all directions around me arguing over who gets to make breakfast and it sounded like it was about to get physical.

I laid there a while trying to recount the last 12 days and I couldn't help but feel like taking this trip was one of the best decisions of my life.  Yesterday's ride through the Canadian countryside really put me at ease with what I was doing out here and what was in store for me over the next 3 weeks of riding.  I've fallen into the groove of waking up each morning and riding until I'm content then pulling over someplace suitable.  I'm completely self-sufficient and free when it comes to where to spend the night, sustenance, and what time to start and stop riding.  I have no schedule and I don't have anywhere specific to be for weeks to come.  My days have been a complete departure from the real world which is exactly what I was looking for in the first place.  Even a regular vacation seems to be too much trouble at this point.  I wish I was a better writer so that I can explain this feeling.  "I am alive" is the best way I can sum up my thoughts.  Besides, even if I was a better writer you should still seek out your own adventure and your own clarity of mind.  All I can say is this feeling is sublime.

No lazy, sun kissed life was this, with nothing to do but loaf and be bored.  Here was neither peace, nor rest, nor a moment's safety.  All was confusion and action, and every moment life and limb was in peril.  Jack London

Philip, my new friend on the road, was hard at work with his bike by the time I rolled out of my tent.  He was tightening up his exhaust and checked his plugs.  There wasn't too much he could do out here with minimal tools and know how.  I definitely wasn't much help to him.

We chatted a while on the mechanical issues he was having and what his backup plan would be if the bike left him stranded.  It was a sad conversation, sort of like a friend (the bike) was dying and you had to tippy toe around the obvious fact that it's ending soon for them but you get to keep going.  I left him alone a while to wrench on his bike while he mulled it over.  I knew he had to turn back but I wasn't going to make that call for him.  I've been stranded before by vehicles in my own home town and even then it was a major hassle.  I don't know what Canadian AAA costs but I'm sure neither of us could afford it.

Ultimately he decided that it was the smart choice to head back to Spokane, Washington.  The bitter truth that his adventure was ending left me with an awful feeling for his sake and for two of my own reasons.  I had enjoyed riding with a buddy all day yesterday and was looking forward to continuing North into the unknown with some one to share the experiences with.  Also, I was overcome with the fear that something out of my control could end my own adventure before I was ready for it to end.

I set off a few hours after Phillip left camp.  I wanted some time to relax on my own in the camp without cars or people everywhere trying to take pictures next to me or run me off the road.   I had a big  600 mile day ahead of me and I wasn't in a rush to start it.  There was a lot on my mind and I didn't want to rush thoughts while riding.

The ride to Fort Nelson wasn't nearly as scenic as yesterday's ride through the parks.  Somehow I had made my way out of the mountains and back into the prairies.  Canada's prairies are a lot like our own back home but I was still glad to see them.

I was jamming to my iPod on my 30th mile of perfectly straight road when I saw a heard of giant buffalo behind a dilapidated fence.  I haven't seen a buffalo in a really long time so I pulled over for a picture. They were about 70 yards away from the fence and most of them were facing the opposite direction so I started to kick dirt, growl and grunt.  I'm sure I made myself look like a complete jackass with this display but I wanted to get their attention and honking the horn on the bike didn't work at all.

My Tatanka mating dance must have been spot on because the biggest baddest buffalo in the bunch shoves his way through the pack and starts picking up speed right at me.  He was snorting and slobbering all over the place as he continued to pick up even more speed.  I felt the ground shudder beneath me from his 2 thousand pound frame punishing the soil below him.  This guy was a giant and I had no place to go.  The fence I was standing behind would easily topple if he kept on coming.  I shrieked and ran closer to my bike as if that would do anything for me.  The giant beast came to a skidding stop right in front of the really old and weak-looking fence and began to kick dirt around, stomping his horns into the ground and grunting at me.  I couldn't help but laugh at myself for taunting a giant beast and then shrieking like a little girl with a spider just as I turned and ran. My Tatanka mating dance worked like a charm and I got the pictures I really wanted.   I'm just really grateful for that fence.

I rolled into Ft. Nelson pretty late in the evening.  It was 9pm and the sun was just starting to set.  I checked into a Motel 8 to recharge and get a healthy meal.  I've spent too many consecutive nights in the woods and wanted to sleep without building myself a shelter.   A large hawaiian pizza later I was passed out cold.

The next day I decided to go to Whitehorse.  I got an early start and hoped the roads would be more scenic then yesterday's farm and oil field service company shop extravaganza.

The views today were spectacular.  Blue lakes and snowy mountain peaks and a seemingly endless horzion at times.   The roads were unbelievable as well, curvy and fast in all the right places.  I'm pretty sure I spent more time on the sides of my tires then I did on the bottom.  Great day on the road.

In Canada there are signs everywhere for wildlife.  Watch out for this, watch out for that... yadda yadda yadda.  They go on and on for miles.  The funny part is that I haven't seen any animals standing next to their signs yet.  The one time I saw an elk it was standing near a moose sign.  The moose are no where to be seen and all the other animals are confused.  Someone really needs to talk to these animals and or get all the signs straightened out.

I was hauling through the countryside at full speed when I saw 2 signs for buffalo and 2 signs that said stay in your vehicle.  I fully expected to see anything but buffalo but all of a sudden I saw a giant hulk of a buffalo slowly walking down the road.  This guy remembered his 'always stand next to your sign' class in Canadian grade school.  He was coming right at me so I pulled over about 100 yards in front of him and shut off the bike.  He saw me pull over but just kept on walking straight towards my bike.  I immediately recalled yesterday's experience with the Tatanka dance and the charging buffalo but I figured that if I didn't do the dance all would be safe.  Besides, either way I'm screwed. I hadn't seen a fence for 30 miles.  I jumped off the bike and grabbed my camera and stepped away.  I wanted the ultimate photo and I was willing to risk getting tree'd by a buffalo.   He walked by slowly and split the distance between my bike and me without a second look, and I got the picture I wanted.

The rest of the day was an endless stream of curvy roads and scenic vistas.  I must have smashed 10 thousand bugs with my helmet today. I had to pull over to clean it 5 times in 3 hrs.

Later guys,  I hope to be in Alaska by tomorrow.

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