Saturday, 28 July 2012

CHAPTER 16


DAY 26. PRINCE GEORGE TO JASPER. 380 km

Today was a day of coincidences. As we navigated thru Prince George a couple going in the opposite direction also on a BMW GSA gave us a big wave. Somewhat belatedly I realized that it was Brian and Jo, the kiwi dairy farmers we had met in Fairbanks. Then half an hour later we stop for roadworks. Lo and behold another bike pulls up alongside us with a Taranaki sticker on its petrol tank. It was another Kiwi couple who were part of a group on Kiwi riders doing a 60 day tour of the US and Canada .

The kiwi line up !




We stop for lunch. Suddenly we find ourselves parked next to another 5 bikes from New Zealand. Then Brian and Jo turn up. It was a lovely little meeting and lunch .

Gentlemen, get your molls!




Then onwards thru lovely scenery to Jasper, a delightful alpine tourist town. We are really in the heart of the Rockies now. It is now time for a days rest and I have to hole up anyway as I have a call to New Zealand for our monthly Board meeting. That night in Jasper we have Brian and Jo staying in the same hotel and we celebrate their 20 th wedding anniversary with them


DAY 27. NICE REST DAY IN JASPER

Ken and Shirley meet up with their friends and go off for a day excursion. I prepare for a Board meeting then join in on it at the very respectable hour of 3.30 pm in the afternoon. It was nice to hear the voices again of the board members and management team back in New Zealand

And I have this idea for a bison flavored breakfast cereal but do not seem to get too much traction on this. Actually Diana points out that a Bison here in Canada seems to be what you wash your face in in your hotel room .


DAY 28. JASPER TO RADIUM SPRING. 480 km


And we are now off down the famous Icefields Parkway to Lake Louise and Banff.

Today I realize that. I am striking a problem. You see dear reader I have been ratcheting up the superlatives as the scenery and days have just got better and better. The problem of course is what do do when you have day that is better than a day you have just described as stunning. Today was one of those days that went off the top of the superlatives scale.

The best I can do then is to describe the day as "Optically Orgasmic" (with multiples!). What happens when we have a day better than this I do not know.

The Athabasca falls







Near the Columbia Ice Field



It was a case of vista after vista unfolding before our eyes. The photos simply do not do it justice or come close to capturing the grandeur. It was a beautiful sunny day as we rode thru the National Park and the highway engineers seem to have been very clever in designing the road to maximize the unfolding vistas











And we got as close to a black bear on the side of the road as would like to. Fortunately he was still eating his greens when we saw him and hadn't turned his thoughts to his meat dish yet.

I can't bear to think.....




The lovely Lake Louise






And now we find ourselves in the delightful alpine town of Radium Springs where a soak in the hot pools awaits our weary bones. One assumes the hot pools are not full of Radium !


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

CHAPTER 15


DAY 24. FORT NELSON TO CHETWYND. 530km




And it was a long way with straight roads and " quite a lot of not a lot". However the last bit past the Peace River dam was lovely as we followed the "Power of Peace " high voltage power lines. And lo and behold we saw actual farms for the first time in three weeks!
An actual farm! Oh the smell of new hay!




We stopped at a road house on the way. Along with the photos of dead animals on the walls was a sign that read thus -
" There are two enemies of guns-
Rust and Politicians ! "
What do you say to that?
I have also been musing on the American/Canadian language although Canadians will be highly offended that I put them in the same camp, anyway one American I was talking to made mention of "Ma Pa's". After a while I nutted out the translation as follows
Ma Pa's = My Paws. = My Hands
Oh and the stuff that comes out of a tap apparently is " Whartah"
Quite easy really and no more difficult than understanding Mandarin!
Back to the reality of the road ! We camped for the night at Chetwynd which was a pleasant little town with chainsaw wooden carvings up the main street. Yes, it is a lumber town
Love with a chainsaw!




Home sweet Home!




DAY. 25. CHETWYND TO PRINCE GEORGE. 320 km
I predicted today would be a little boring. How wrong wrong I was! It was a lovely ride thru some stunning scenery as the road went through several forest parks. And an easy day at that .








This afternoon I had a feeling of Deja Vue. It was justified. We came up thru Prince George three weeks ago and today we arrived back in town by a different route to the one going north. To celebrate the completion of the " North to Alaska" route we stayed at the same hotel and sat at the same table in the same restaurant and ate the same meal ( not reheated thank goodness! ). What boring old farts we are! However it was sort of comforting in a funny old way.

And one could no help but reflect that when we stayed here on the way north three weeks ago we were greenhorns on day 2 of our trip with no real idea of what lay ahead. How indeed times change!
We have now done about 8,500 kms on the trip so far. The reality hit home when I phoned BMW in Calgary this morning to book the bikes in for their "every 10,000 km" service and also to get a new set of tyres before we head south into the United States.

A final observation from the road. All thru Alaska and Canada are abandoned roadhouses that sold petrol and food and often accommodation to weary travelers. I am not sure whether cars now tend not to stop or there is less tourist traffic as a result of the economic turndown. However not only are they sorry sights but also food and petrol are now often long distances apart and one has to watch petrol management.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

CHAPTER 14



DAY 21. DAWSON CITY TO FARO. 530km

It was with a little reluctance we left Dawson City. Just as we were due to leave the heavens opened so we spent an extra hour and a half for the rain to stop. Eventually it did and we were on our way only to cop heavy rain for about an hour on the way.

Leaving Dawson city the road follows the Klondike river. For about 30 km both sides of the road for several kilometers are lined with tailings piles from the gold dredges. It is like a ginormous worm has passed thru the landscape leaving its droppings trail. It must look surreal from the air

Then it was down the road to Carmack where we turned off the main road and headed to the town of Faro. Faro is a lead mining town in the middle of nowhere. One sixth of the world batteries have lead in them from the Faro mine. Apparently there are 25,000 hectares of land that has been poisoned for the next 200 years as a result of mining practice in the sixties However it had a nice campground and a nice pub meal finished off the day

Puncture on Kens bike. Photo courtesy of an advisory committee member!




DAY. 22. FARO TO WATSON LAKE. 430km

An easy day of only 439 km? No,no,no! It was 430 km of gravel road with absolutely nothing en route. We were right out on the vastness of the Yukon. We only saw one other car all day. If we had of broken down in the middle we would have been in big trouble as it would have been A 200 km hard ride for help You really appreciate the size of the Yukon on a road such as this




Then Watson Lake there we had what I think would be the worst meal of my life. The restaurant come takeaway bar was crowded and hot. The waitress was tired and at the end of her tether. The service was slooooooow! The meal was terrible. We were tired,hot and thirsty. Not a good combination! For the first time in North America I refused to tip


DAY 23. WATSON LAKE TO FORT NELSON. 535 km

What an absolutely superb day. The scenery down thru Muncho Lake state park was absolutely stunning. High mountains,gorgeous lakes, forested hills and a sweeping and swooning road that wound its way thro stunning vista after vista. I am almost moved to poetry or even more dangerously song!








Yes,a bison walking to work




A bison working out-




Bison,bison everywhere




And now we are in Fort Nelson. A fort town sounds sort of comforting and has a nice ring to it. Tomorrow we go to Fort Saint John although I must admit I did not think the Crusaders got this far!

Thursday, 19 July 2012

CHAPTER 13




DAY 16    FAIRBANKS TO DENALI     210km

Last night we had the must have Salmon Bake which is the  "must do" in Fairbanks..Sitting at a table under the trees drinking local beer and eatinf local crabs and salmon was all rather nice as we congratulated ourselves for having not only survivrd but enjoyed the famous Dalton highway.

It was also time to remove many many layers of nud from the bikes and it was all rather a relief to acfind bikes under the mud.  Mind you the number plater was totally obsured to any following local constabulary or "state troopers" as they are called here.  Note to self - the state troopers metamorphise to "sheriffs" when back in Canada.   Either way they are always addressed as  "Sir".

The trip down to Denali was nice and we were lucky to find a lovely National Park campsite under the trees next to the National Park Entrance .  You are not allowed to drive into the National Park - you have to take a special park bus. That we did.  It was an 8 hour trtip up and back  We did see some small herds of Caribou and a big Grizzly Bear but the famous Mt Mckinley was shrouded in cloud as it often is.  That was a great piy as apparently it is a truly magnificant sight particularly to ex mountaineers as myself.


DAY  17   DENALI TO ANCHORAGE     320km

We got to Anchorage only to find Captain Cook had got there before us.  Not only did he call it by the somewhat unusually unimaginative name of Anchorage but the local inlet the twn is on is Cooks inlet.  I am glad he did not name Auckland with the same amount of imagination!

Anchorage represents the furtherst west we will go.  We duly stopped on a street corner, proclaimed it as our most westerly step and turned to the southeast.  Actually here is a geography lesson.  The Americas are not straight up and down  ( I am sure most Americans would agree with that !)  Geographically speaking as opposed to metaphorically speaking the Americas span the globe on quite an angle and Ushuaia in Pategonia is actually 85 degrees of langitude or a quarter of the way round the globe from Anchorage.
..
Anchorage is a lovely town.  Like Christchurch it was decimated by a large earthquake although their big one was in 1964.


DAY 18   ANCHORAGE TO TOK   530 km

This was along the Glenn highway.  What a scenic road..  The scenery was jaw droppingly beautiful with lakes, snowy mountains and the hugh big Manathuska glacies coming almost to the road. And the road makes had been unusually thoughtful in building in panoramic vista even thoough this is the mai arterial road south.

Tok is just a small junction strip town  However we had tyhe good fortune to stay in a special motorcycle campground run by the lovely - but lonely - Vanessa.  We stayed in a Teepee and Ken and Shirley stayed ain an ambulance converted to a small cabin.  We dined out under the stars next to a roaring campfire and then finished off the night in a special home made steam sauner  It was indeed soothing for the soul ( and also the bikers backside! )


DAY 19   TOK TO DAWSON CITY      315km

Today it was the Taylor highway then the famous Top of the World Highway  ( summer road only) to Dawson City which is back into the Canadian Yukon..

Everone has to stop at Chicken ( pop 50 in summer and 30 in winter ! )  Tyhe town weas originally called Ptarmigon  ( the state bird of Alaska ) but the locals had trouble with the spelling and changed it to the more user friendly name of Chicken  This was Yukon gold mining country and there are gold mines and old gold mining relics everywhere.Being an old relic myself I felt at home The little local pub in Chicken was a real beauty and I did wonder if I could fake an illness such as a sore ingrown toenail so we could stay in Chicken for the night and hole up in the local bar for the afternoon to recuperate. . But on reflection would that not be a little.....chicken?

Crossing the border into Canada was so so easy.  " Do you have any vegetables or hugh amounts of money on you Sir?"  " Well lets check your face agaist your passprt photo and you are then on your way"  Just like that and quite an anticlimax really.  Again no mention of our means of transport and we could have been naked on horseback for all they care.


DAY 20   RESTING NICELY IN DAWSON CITY THANKS

I forgot my Stetsons!



Wedding Dawson style



A building with a lien on it Dawson style!



The honky Tonk!



Not only is the Yukon river wide and broad!


After 6 days riding it is time for a rest.  Dawson City is Arrowtown on Steroids although Arrowtown does not have to worry about permafrost like Dawson City does  This is the real McCoy old gold mining twon with gravel streets, board walks and saloons or pubs on every corner.  Although touristy with tourists being the new gold the history is fascinating.  All the buildings are geniunely old with no" fake old" allowed and  some of the 100 year old buildings still have sides of flattened biscuit tins. I like the town.  They even have  a Coromandel girl serving in one of the shops!

And this is the town with the hotel with the pickled  miners toe in a jar of alcohol which you drink from! It is a badge of honour to drink from the glass with the miners toe in it.  On second thoughts I will stick to a beer thanks although will I weaken and be game to try it tonight?  You are going to have to wait to the next blog post to find out.........

Saturday, 14 July 2012

CHAPTER 12.

  DAY  15  DEADHORSE TO COLDFOOT. 395 km


At 8.15 am we went outside and did something highly symbolic. We turned the bikes around from heading North to heading due South. The long long trip to Ushuaia has begun!

You never know what is coming!




We start by having to hotfoot to Coldfoot ! We left Prudhoe Bay in stunningly fine weather which is now our third day in a row of sunny skies and balmy temperatures. When I look on the map Deadhorse is about 70.5 Degrees North i.e. only about 20 Degrees from the North Pole. In terms of latitude we would be well into Antactica at this longitude South. And of course we have well into the land of the midnight sun and the first sunset for the summer in Prudhoe Bay will be on the 15 th of August. We should get to Coldfoot by nightfall

Anyway about journeys south. Perhaps it is the fact we are going South but the journey seemed easier even though it took longer. The big surprise was meeting hugh oversized trucks heading North with big Landing Craft on them that are going to be used to service the offshore rigs in the brief summer that they have up here.

We stopped for lunch on the Atigun pass which is about 4000 ft high. I rode carefully down the other side as the lead bike. When I got right to the bottom I saw a truck coming towards me. Only then I realised that I had come down the entire pass on the wrong side of the road and I had reverted to my New Zealand habits.

The Atigun Pass. Attaboy Atigun !



Then from Atigun Pass it was a lovely trip down to the hamlet of Wiseman which is about 30 km north of Deadhorse. There we stayed in same log cabin as we had on the way up. That was just as well as I had taken the only key north with me and I still had it in my pocket!

The little log cabin in the woods of Wiseman.








 DAY  16     COLDFOOT TO FAIRBANKS. 430 km

And it is back to civilization. It is all relative. On our way North I though Fairbanks was a real frontier town on the edge of the universe. Now having gone 800 km further north to the Arctic ocean and back it seems like it is a perfectly normal town in a perfectly normal location.


                                                                       Boats and bears are both road hazards
And a final note about Coldfoot. In the Gentleman's toilets in Coldfoot there was a little notice reminding one that Fairbanks people are woosers as they start complaining and whining when the temperature gets down to minus 40 degrees ( translation from Fahrenheight ) below zero. It is all relative. What then would they think of Aucklanders up here in Coldfoot? I left the Gentleman's toilets quickly without pondering the answer to that question.

And now dear readers we are in the city of Fairbanks. Tonight we had a Salmon Bake which is what you are supposed to do here. Tomorrow it is off to Denali which is the National Park surrounding Mt McKinley.


Roadsworks yet again
The little log cabin in Wiseman

Thursday, 12 July 2012

CHAPTER 11


  DAY 12    FAIRBANKS TO COLDFOOT.      420 km

Today was the start of the infamous Dalton highway to Prudhoe Bay on the Arctic ocean. There was big relief all round that the weather was fine.
Gorgeous vistas of purple fireweed and long roads stretching into the distance





The trip up was absolutely beautiful as we ride up thru the tundra and boreal forests. At the start of the Dalton highway the road became dirt and gravel but fortunately was dry. However where there were roadworks it was somewhat slippery on the mixture of water, dirt and Calcium Chloride ( anti freeze )
First milestone was the mighty Yukon river and goodness gracious what a big river. It looked about as big at the Mississippi river.

Then it was up to the Arctic Circle signpost at the Arctic circle itself. Many many photos are compulsory and it must be one of the most photographed signs in the world !










The travelers four.......





Then onward was the cry and "Dick of the Arctic" and his gallant wife Diana, goddess of motorcycle pillion passengers, girded their loins or at least hitched their riding trousers up and it was north to the trucks top settlement of Coldfoot.





Coldfoot was so named because apparently the early gold miners got cold feet at this point north and decided to go no further. Clearly if they had of had access to finest Merino wool Icebreaker socks from New Zealand then Coldfoot may have never in fact have existed !

Finally it was up to Wiseman ( pop 50 ) where we stayed in a delightful log cabin may out of local hand hewn logs. It was run by Ute and ............ ( note to self - must get his name on return.) Anyway .......... was a retired trapper and regaled us with tales of being out in the woods in mid winter for up to a week at a time with the dogs and sled setting trap lines for catching fur animals. He told us the temperature in Wiseman gets down to minus 68 degrees Fahrenheit in winter. You have to enjoy the winter here he told us. Note to self - must not complain about cold Auckland winters again!


   DAY  13     COLDFOOT ( WISEMAM) TO DEADHORSE. 410 km

And dear reader it is off to the the Arctic ocean we go......





What a spectacular ride! The sky was totally blue all day without nary a cloud and the temperatures were positively barmy at up to 18 degrees C





The scenery was spectacular to say the least. We crossed the Atigan Pass (4000 odd feet high) and rode down the Chandler shelf to Deadhorse at Prudhoe Bay.

I had read blog reports of icy fogs, snow storms and freezing rain even in July on this road so it was hard to reconcile this with the magnificent weather we were having .

And into Prudhoe Bay the intrepid travelers rode.....

Tonight we stay at an oil workers hostel with the sexy name of RA 10. ( recreational area No 10 ). A comfortable hostel yes but a recreational area no! When you are an oil worker here you work 12 hour shifts for 2 to 4 weeks continuously then you fly out for your recreation, you do not exactly have it here.


  DAY  14    DEADHORSE. ( PRUDOE BAY ). REST DAY

Yes Mum, we are here! Today it was the obligatory trip to the Arctic ocean (about 18 km from Deadhorse) for the obligatory toe dipping exercise in the Arctic ocean.

"Drill baby,drill ! "




We arrived at the ocean after navigating countless oil derricks. In the distance you could see the limit of the pack ice. According to Sarah Palin Russia is just beyond that again! You have to do a compulsory look for Polar Bears before you are allowed onto the beach. Yes, really.

Then into the water we go. No swimming is allowed and I can only surmise that this is because they do not want frozen testicles washing up onto the beaches. Mind you the polar bears might see them as snap frozen delicacies and being revenge for Kiwis who eat " mountain oysters"


" Dick of the Arctic"









And now for a decent breakfast .......




Please can I have some more......




Cool beach babe




Goodness me, this Clipboard newsletter is interesting




We are now stuffed full of facts and figures about oil at Prudoe Bay. Suffice to say in summary that oil was discovered in the 1960s, developed in the 1970s and production peaked in the 1980s. However it is felt there is still enough oil here to last another 50 years. As engineering projects around the world go this was a biggie and must be up there with the biggest.

But trips are also about stories. We met up on the trip north with Barry and Craig - two brothers also doing the trip on motorcycles. They are also staying in " SA10" with us Barry lives at Willow near Anchorage and is a bush pilot with his own hire plane. He fur traps in his spare time and told us he had a real "scocum gal" of a wife who even looks after his trap lines in winter when he is away. He told us she had her baby one afternoon then cooked at the Lodge the next morning and only when the chores were done did she go off to hospital. Now that's a gal! We got regaled with stunning stories of living in the "bush" which is what we would call the outback and of flying small planes in Alaska.

Brother Craig on the other hand used to run the nuclear power plants on nuclear submarines and told us about life on nuclear subs as a submariner and being under the Arctic ice. His stories were also fascinating and I now know a little about the fission reaction and the different Uranium isotopes.

Who said a journey such as this is only about the joy of riding of motorcycles? The stories and tales encountered on the journey are absolutely fascinating although I think motorcycle travel helps draw the stories out from fellow travellers that you would never hear as an "ordinary" tourist.

Monday, 9 July 2012

CHAPTER. 10


 DAY 8 WHITEHORSE TO...........WELL WHITEHORSE. 0 km


Well this was a rest day and a well deserved one at that after 7 days on the go. We shouted ourselves a niceish hotel and had a 2 night stay. Whitehorse is an old gold miming town and was the end of the railway from Skagway. In addition it was the end of the navigable section of the famous Yukon river.

We took the opportunity to check the bikes over and tightened all and everything that looked as if it needed tightening and tightened things that did not even need tightening. Actually the bikes are going remarkably well and the only problem so far has been a blown headlight. Oh and the automatic self righting mechanism does not work particularly well when they fall over!

As I was saying about the price of fish Dick...............












So after some good sleeps and some good feeds it is time to pack the swags and get on the way.


DAY 9. WHITEHORSE TO BEAVER CREEK. 420 km

Today involved heading up to Haines junction and then heading north to Beaver Creek which is virtually on the Canadian/Alaskan border. As we headed north we started to encounter "frost heave" where the road sinks as a result of the melting permafrost underneath. The road got progressively worse but the undulations certainly kept the pillion passenger awake. One could become airborne quite easily if you went over some sections to fast.






We are also now experiencing the temperatures of the Arctic summer. Quite often the temperature drops to under 10 degrees C so it is a case of getting well rugged up.

Beaver Creek seems to be devoid of beavers ! We stayed at Buckshot Bettys in a rustic cabin that was oozing with character and got well looked after by Betty. All the info indicated that accommodation in Beaver Creek would be hard to find including camping grounds being full. In actual fact the town was almost like a ghost town with the locals out in the middle of the road imploring you to stay


The cabin in the woods!






Actually I have been amazed at the lack of traffic on the roads. Where is everybody? I thought the Alcan highway would be a throbbing arterial route with traffic pounding away all day and night. In fact there are times when it is a novelty to see a vehicle coming the other way


DAY 10. BEAVER CREEK TO FAIRBANKS. 503 km

And so we crossed the border from the Yukon into the state of Alaska. This was our first border crossing by road so was not sure what the expect. In fact it all wen smoothly and there was absolute zero interest by the customs officer in the bikes. We could have been walking through barefooted for all he was concerned .

The Canadian customs and the American customs are separated by a no mans land of about 20 Kms. It struck me that if you lost your passport in the middle of this section you could be be condemned for eternity to live in this no mans land begging for food off the passing cars !

And in the no mans land is the actual border which you straddle with a foot in each country






We stopped for the second breakfast 100 km. - whoops 60 miles - north of the border. I shouted myself some Eggs Benedict. My goodnesss me. What I got was a big plate of egg and sausage flavored cholesterol ! The fatty sensation in my mouth lasted all day.


The stop at a town called - wait for it. - North Pole






We arrived at the University of Fairbanks student hostels where we are staying. " hello Mr Hubbard " came the cheery call from a woman sitting on the steps. It was Jo of Brian and Jo Bosch who are dairy farmers from Featherstone. They are traveling right around the US and Canada by motorcycle over a 6 month period and like us they are also going up the Dalton highway to Prudoe Bay.

And here is a coincidence for you. Ken new panniers racks for his motorbike that he bought in Wellington off the dealer actually came off Brian's bike as Brian did not want them when he purchased his new bike from the same dealer. . It is indeed a smaaaaaaall world!


DAY 11. A REST DAY IN FAIRBANKS 0 km

We are students now although I must admit I had forgotten about the romance of single beds and hard mattresses !

I have been puzzling on the name "Fairbanks ". I thought there was not such a thing as ""Fair banks" and certainly when I used the ATM I have to say I got no super favourable exchange rate concessions! This I think is an oxymoron !

Fairbanks is well .... a town. The Lonely Planet guide is somewhat unflattering and suggests the best part of a visit to the town is leaving it .

That is too harsh. The museum at the University is superb and we enjoyed the visit. And you have to admire the grit of the locals who have 2 hours of daylight in winter and up to ( or is it down to!) temperatures of minus 40 degrees C in winter.

Conversely everything grows " like stink" here in summer with a passion and an intensity. I was woken several times last night with the sound of the grass growing outside our dorm window! Did you know that Fairbanks is the big vegetable capital of the world as they grow monstrous vegetables here in summer with the long daylight hours .

And I received here the ultimate compliment. They asked my birthdate when I went to purchase some alcohol. However it seems unfortunately they were not checking to see if I was underage. Rather they wanted to check that my drivers license had no restricted alcohol endorsements. Once I got over the rejection of my youth status being checked I thought this was all rather a good idea .

Tomorrow we start the infamous Dalton Highway or Haul Road as we head north to Prudoe Bay. No Internet connections for the next 4 days so the next posting will be once we are back down to Fairbanks.

I should be seen by the trucks on the Dalton highway.........