Thursday, 5 July 2012

Chapter 9


Ready to roll.................

Well we are finally on the way. At 8.30 am we solemnly stood by our packed bikes in the hotel carpark and played "North to Alaska " on the iPhone. It seemed quite a strange sensation after so much planning to be finally on the way ! In the final packing the panniers and bags had suddenly got fuller and woops - there is now no spare room and everything is " choker". It seems that there might need to be a discard on the way and some posting back. It also seems that it is very dependant on the weather. If we start putting on cold weather layers then suddenly the space frees up again.
Into the mountains we go !

We took the tourist route up to Whistler and gazed at the slopes we had skied down sixteen years earlier. Then it was off over a spectacular mountain pass to a small town called Lillooet. Lillooet could best be described as a sad little town. Once upon a time it was the biggest gold mining area north of San Fransisco before the Yukon opened up. We met a local historian who talked nonstop for half an hour on the history of the town. Apparently just on the outskirts of the town in the hanging tree where a trigger happy judge hanged eight of the local miscreants in a five year period.


A loooooong day in the saddle with our fair share of rain. It was a good test of the rain gear and we came through in very dry condition. It was also a good test of the marriage! By the time we hauled into Prince George we were fairly tired although a superb Chinese meal soon revived flagging spirits. I must say I am impressed with the state of the roads and also the considerate driving here in Canada. However speed limits appear to be largely advisory and largely ignored although I guess within reason.


I thought Smithers was just a brand of jam but it seems it is also a town. About three quarters of the way to Smithers I pulled into a petrol station and an identical yella BMW GSA pulled in along side me. We rapidly compared notes as you do and that conversation always includes the attachments to a bike. I pulled out a trump card that I was reasonably proud of. Unlike his bike I pointed out that mine had a built in woman attached. End of comparison conversation !

However we met up with the same group of bikers in Smithers and had a great time comparing notes and telling tall stories. The hotel ( which they recommended) was very much into being a Mecca for motorcyclists. As you checked in taped to the reception counter was a notice telling you "Not to use the handtowels for cleaning motorcycles - rags will be provided ". Well, that is in your face folks and that's a' tellin ya !

Talking of lingo I have been practicing my "Howdy " and seems to work best on those folks who are from Texas. It seems there is a lot of travelers from Texas heading north. Conversation does seem to falter a little and tail off with them however when I point out that Alaska is bigger than Texas ! Yes it is - it must be true I read it on the Internet !


And the day just got better and better! The ride down to Stewart passed a spectacular glacier and stunning mountain vistas as we wound down to the coastal town ( pop 300 !) on the Canadian and Alaskan border.

Stewart is a real character town. One of the buildings on the main street was built for Klondike Kate. Although not stated on the sign if I remember rightly Klondike Kate had the dubious honour of being the woman who got a little confused and instead of laying down her life for the honour of the town she lay down her honour for the life of the town!

Main Street Stewart

In the afternoon we crossed the border into Hyder in Alaska. What border? You just drive thru into Hyder ( pop 50 ,) with no border stops at all Then it was up a gravel road to visit the glacier at Salmon Arm. That was absolutely spectacular as you drive above a point where two ginormous glaciers meet. Anywhere less in the world there would be bus loads of tourists from all over the world to see such a sight. But here there was just a lonely chappie selling postcards and no one else there apart from some local young people in a Ute - whoops sorry a truck!

"Look at me! "

Oh and we saw a moose on the road today. I stopped the bike in the middle of the road and said quietly " hey chappie can you move over " and he looked at me and sauntered off into the undergrowth. Note to self - must remember to try this with Grizzly bears !

And a highlight today was as we drove thru the CBD ( sarcasm!) of Hyder I heard a loud shout of "Dick". It was Andi of Andi and Ellen fame - the two very adventurous motokiwis from Wanaka. They arrived in Anchorage about a month ago and are doing a much more adventurous trip than us. We vaguely thought we may cross paths but had no idea where they were. We had a great chat and lots of hugs- Ellen is very good at those. We have promised to catch up again possibly in Mexico since they are taking 2 years to do what we are doing in 5 months and we should overtake them.. I have promised to get some Hubbards Berry Berry Nice to them.

The motokiwis and the meetup ( pow wow I mean !)


Another great day in the office! I was a little puzzled as we came over a low pass called Gnats Pass. Why would you call a pass that I wondered? Then the penny dropped. The pass was smaller than a Gnats Arse! Or was it a spelling mistake?

We stopped at a lovely place for lunch that oozed character and had a marvelous collection of stuffed animals including a hugh big bull moose. Outside on a post was hanging a one meter long mouse trap. Except this was labelled a mosquito trap. Seeing the size of the local mozzies I can well believe it.

Tonight was the first night camping at an idyllic spot on the side of a lovely lake. Yes, I did remember to pack all the tent poles and did remember how to put the tent up. As I type this it is still sunny and it is now 11.15 at night aas  we are nearly in the land of the midnight sun. As I awoke at midnight, as gentlemen of my certain age are prone to do, it was to the light of the soft gloaming ( which of course had me roaming in the gloaming ! ) Not the mobile phone sort of roaming!

Life is tough

We had some bikers camp next to us. One of them gave us a talk on bears and prevention of bear attacks. He had flares , a machine that held cartridges that sounded like a gun when they went off and he also had an arsenal of Mace or pepper spray. He even carried them all round our campsite He told us that you cannot take pepper spray from Canada across the border into Alaska but you can buy it off the shelf in Alaska. Work that one out! He also said that you should not use it on traffic officers as it might make them a little Grizzly! Sorry about that! Also not a good idea to use it in the tent!

I did however do the proper Canadian thing and stored all our food in our panniers well away from our tent and nervously went to bed to await the bear attack !


A nice easy day today. On the way we stopped at Jade City where there is a place that mines and cuts Jade and makes jewelry. Some of the Jade is shipped to greenstone factories in Hokitika on the South Island of New Zealand and then shipped back for sale in the shop at Jade City in the middle of nowhere on the Cassier highway. It did seem a little incongruous seeing greenstone - woops Canadian jade - in the form of Maori shapes such as fishhooks or meres. But I guess that is just a prime example of globalization.

I must comment on this question of cities such as Jade City that we visited today and Nugget city where we stay tonight. It seems that in Canada you need not a population of 20,000, not 2,000 , not 200 ,not 20 but a population of at least 2 to be called a city! And these self styled cities are not old relics of a prosperous yesteryear as an excuse. In New Zealand they could be had up under the Commerce act for passing off as something they are not. We pulled into Nugget City thinking it sounded like a romantic old gold mining city. It is but a truck stop, a petrol station, a small restaurant and some motel units all rolled into one!


Today it was a cxaswe of saddling up the Yellowhorse and the Blackhorse and riding up to Whitehorse. The Alaskan highway was just like I imagined.  Sweeping vistas of forestrs and snow covered mountains going on forever as the road swooped and turned thru a parade of stunning views.  Note to self - must not get too poetic!

Now we are in Whitehorse - the capital of the Yukon . Tomorrow is a no bike well deserved rest day.  I have to say I am amazed how well Diana is standing up to it.  She is getting very good now - she can spot a set of Continental TK80 tyres on another bike from 50 paces and then saunter over and start serious bike talk.  Now that's a real bikers moll for you! I am hugely impressed!  Her next lesson will be on fixing punctures !

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