I regret -
....leaving a fantastic trip with sights unseen - Coastal Alaska is such a change from the high Arctic..... what a fantastic contrast and riding thru the high mountains that crowd the coast is amazing.... and that's what Dave did for the balance of the trip.
I'm sure Dave will finish writing the report with his adventures over on ADV - when he does I'll post it here as well.
The rest of the story - Dave finishes
Day 17: Saturday, June 6, 2009. DeaseRiver @ Cassier Highway, British Columbia to Hyder, Alaska
Today was just the short run down to Hyder, and would be the shortest riding day of the trip. I was going to ride into Telegraph Creek, but decide to save that side trip for next time. Richard and Bill will be on the road too, and I might see them somewhere south. The three of us get a little fuel from Dennis, say our goodbyes, and start down the road. The sun was shining, and you wouldnÔÇÖt find a better day for a ride on the Cassier.
I want a big breakfast at DeaseLake and donÔÇÖt waste time getting there. The store on the corner does triple duty as grocery store, caf?® and fuel stop. ItÔÇÖs also information central for the whole area. I got my big breakfast, read the area newspaper, met some of the locals, gave out some road reports to RV people headed north, had a gal show off her new tattoo on the inside of her forearm, and in general, was a lazy dog. I had been pushing for almost three weeks already and today was the day for a break. Man, what a remarkable trip so far.
Fueled up and riding south, my goal for the day was to get down to Hyder, find a place to camp, park the bike, and drink up a bunch of beer. Easy enough, shouldnÔÇÖt be a strain. After Hyder, I knew I would be in full travel mode again.
I stop for a break and fuel at Bell II, about the only reliable fuel stop between DeaseLake and the bottom of the Cassier, unless you go into Stewart/Hyder. The BMW boys cruise past as IÔÇÖm parked there eating my ice cream bar. ThatÔÇÖs the thing about riding up here. With only one road, youÔÇÖll see guys time and again. On three occasions in 2007, I saw people again over 1000 miles from where we first met, and once it was close to 2000 miles. Ice cream gone, and IÔÇÖm gone down to the Stewart/Hyder intersection and then west.
I have never been on a stretch of road anywhere that has so many bears around. You could see a dozen by the time you get to Stewart. If you donÔÇÖt see the bears themselves, thereÔÇÖs so much bear scat in the road it looks like a cattle feedlot.
I arrive in Stewart and ride over to power wash the bike. I had saved up a whole pocket full of loonies for this purpose and would use most. The only way to go through coins faster would be one of those one armed bandits, or a real bandit. When I go over to get some fuel, the BMW brothers are sitting in the shade next to the station.
We compare notes, and when I look back towards the bike, thereÔÇÖs a guy circling it with an intent frown on his face. Not too unusual, it has a different look to it and can attract attention. When I walk up, the guy says ÔÇ£I know exactly what you did with this bikeÔÇØ. He was a rider from Calgary, over to Hyder for some club event, and he really did know his bikes. Of all the people who looked at the bike during the trip, he was the only one who got it right.
From Stewart you can ride right into Alaska without going through a border check. Homeland Security must think that a terrorist who got into Hyder would take one look at all the crazies over there and flee right back into Canukistan. The Canukistanians covered that bet by putting in a Customs check point. It kinda explains why some of those people stayed in Hyder, they could get in, but couldnÔÇÖt get out.
I set the tent in that grassy area behind the Sealaska bathhouse, talked to some riders that came over to check the bike, and strolled over to the saloon, ice cold beer on my mind. Richard and Bill are standing there when I come around the corner, but had just come over for a quick look and are going to ride farther south today. So long guys, itÔÇÖs been a pleasure.
The bar was crowded for the time of day, I was finally able to wrangle a bar stool and start in on the beer.
I wasnÔÇÖt sitting there too long when a fortyish gal staggered up to the end of the bar and plopped onto a stool. Her hair looked like she had styled it with a weedeater, shot it with WD-40, and then hit it with a blowtorch. It was kind of a crinkly retro look and suited her pretty good, but it wasnÔÇÖt the kind of hair that you would ever consider running your hands through, even at closing time with a few too many under your belt. She might have been a regular and nobody paid any attention to her.
Suddenly, she shouted down the bar with everything she had ÔÇ£Hey, who the hell do I have to fooook in this place to get a drink over here?ÔÇØ IÔÇÖd heard that line before, but only in jest. No joke this time, and being fog horn loud, it startled the heck out of me. Her crazed eyes were darting around the bar and settled on the guy next to me. The dude went from ruddy complexion to Casper the Ghost white in a split second. He grabbed his change off the bar, and hustled right out the door. Those two must know each other.
The guy on my left casually asked his buddy sitting next to him ÔÇ£Ya still have that extra biohazard suit from the oil spill?ÔÇØ His buddy never answered, just turned back to his beer, while shaking his head. About this time the bartender came marching along, drink in hand, arm fully extended. It was like you would do if you were trying to give a snarling Doberman a dog treat. The gal grabbed the glass and tossed the drink like you would a shotÔÇªthe only problem being that there were some ice cubes in there and she choked.
Geez, I just got to town and I wasnÔÇÖt expecting all this cheap entertainment. I kept looking over her way. It was like driving down the road and seeing a bad car wreck, you shouldnÔÇÖt stare in that direction, but you just canÔÇÖt help it. Nobody was rushing over to try that Heimlich thing on her, so maybe she did this little stunt every time she came in here. I donÔÇÖt know if the ice cubes melted some or what, but she only turned a little purple before she was able to get some air in there. Eyes all bloodshot now, she used her first deep breath to call down to the bartender in a sound that was now more yelp than yell and said ÔÇ£Hit me!ÔÇØ while holding up two fingers, and when the drinks arrived, she hunched over the bar and got back to business. Wow, the place was jumpinÔÇÖ.
I run into some ADV riders who are on their way north. IÔÇÖve been on most of those northern roads by now and know my way around up there a little. We talk about the roads and some options, but I could tell that they werenÔÇÖt much interested. IÔÇÖm reminded that itÔÇÖs a 50/50 world out there. Some listen, and some donÔÇÖt. When you can find some recent first hand information on those roads, itÔÇÖs time to listen.
Dinner was down the street at the Bus for some grilled fish. While sitting there, I paged through the family photo albums that were stacked around, all the time getting a running commentary as the lady owner responded to my questions. I donÔÇÖt think there was a single thing that remained the same as depicted in the photos, with all the situations and circumstances having changed, and I got the sense that it wasnÔÇÖt always for the better.
The sun was going down and the drunks were starting to get wound up. I donÔÇÖt know what it is with some of these guys, but get them away from home for a few days and they act like theyÔÇÖve never tasted beer before. One young drunk, a rider on his way north, was talking crap to anyone he bumped into. He could get away with that at home, but up here heÔÇÖs going to run into one of these boys with arms like big chunks of cord wood, say the wrong thing, and that will close out his bad boy career. Then again, it might be one of these women, and she would just shoot him.
ItÔÇÖs the end of the day for me. I managed to hit all the high points. Scenery, people, good foodÔÇªand cold beer. Got entertained along the way too. IÔÇÖm riding back into the civilized world tomorrow, but only for a day.
Dave continues -
Day 18: Sunday, June 7, 2009. Hyder, Alaska to WilliamsLake, British Columbia
Sunday was another bright day, and boy, you better grab this weather when you can around here. The last trip through this same area, it had rained hard every single day. Folks said it had been that way for six weeks. No thanks. Nobody stirring in the camping area, it think they all closed down the bar last night. I didnÔÇÖt hear any gunfire during the night, so it must have been an uneventful evening in there.
I was planning on breakfast at Gitwangak down on the Yellowhead, so I was ready to go. The pert Canadian Customs girl gave me kind of an unnecessary high power custom agent once over, but then took one look at the border stamps as she flipped through my passport, marched right back into her little post and returned with my passport freshly stampedÔÇªand handed it back with a smile. This stamp business is pretty contagious. In reality, I was sneaking back into Canuckistan for the beer.
I had a tank of fuel from the previous day, so I backtracked out to the Cassier intersection. Weaving through all the new moose and bear poop in the road kept it interesting, but also a reminder to stay off this road at night. You pass a much photographed glacier along this road, but itÔÇÖs disappearing so fast that by the next trip up here it might be gone entirely.
I get out to the Cassier and pass only one car traveling towards Stewart. Minutes after turning south, two bikes pass me in a blur and they had to be going well over 100mph. I never even caught the make, but this is not the road for that speed. Hit a moose or bear at that speed and you would just be another part of the burger.
When I get down towards the Yellowhead, the fuel light is on. IÔÇÖm always low on fuel. If I had a beer keg size tank, IÔÇÖd still run out. Too lazy to dump in a can, IÔÇÖll just take that little back road into Kitwanga and get fuel there. I know a gas station on that roadÔÇªbut of course itÔÇÖs closed until 10AM. WonÔÇÖt help, IÔÇÖd be late for breakfast. I dump in a can of fuel, and when I get to the caf?® at Gitwangak I find the parking area full of Harley D cruiser bikes, apparently eastbound. Also a new looking 12GSA with a low exhaust conversion-huh, I donÔÇÖt get that one. No traffic on the Cassier, they must be coming back from Prince Rupert.
Good food that was slow in getting there in this busy morning place. My waitress was all smiles under her beehive hair. She was one of those professional waitresses who can recite the menu verbatim, and that hair was in style when she started her career 40-50 years ago. She knew the game and had so much tip change in her pockets that she jingled when she walked.
We both stood out as about the only people in there without a Harley costume. IÔÇÖm going to get one of those bandanas and keep it in the tank bag. When I want an emergency disguise for a scene like this, I can grab it and tie it on my head. I donÔÇÖt know exactly what that elderly waitress would do, but IÔÇÖd vote for a pair of those leather chaps the Harley girls wear. Ya know, show off her butt. On that thoughtÔÇªman, letÔÇÖs get outta here.
Gassed up and running east. IÔÇÖm running down to WilliamsLake today. ThatÔÇÖs the jumpoff point for the next adventure, plus I need to replace my chain, either myself, or find a dealer. My chain is in sad shape and I think all that silty mud and chloride from the bush roads have caused premature wear. A spare chain was not one of the spares I left at home, and I donÔÇÖt want to ride another day on this one.
The Yellowhead is the major east/west route, and being the weekend, thereÔÇÖs plenty of traffic. Some of the small towns along the Yellowhead between here and Prince George have a prosperous look and must be the economic hubs for their areas. The bike clubs are all out for rides on this sunny day, and riders always come over for some talk when I stop for fuel. With the Yukon, NWT, and Alaska close by, or relatively so, you would think that these guys would have been up there at some point. Nope, not a one and no one expressed much interest in going. CanÔÇÖt get the Harley dirty I guess.
I originally planned on taking the back way from Vanderhoof to Quesnel, but had conflicting road condition reports. Some said it was open, then open but rough, then dirt bike rough, then impassable by bike. Nuts, I had the street tires back on and was solo, so I thought I shouldnÔÇÖt try it this trip. It would be a long backtrack if I couldnÔÇÖt move forward. This is an ideal ride around for PG and a congested stretch of 97, and by the next time up there IÔÇÖm going to have better road info.
I did have some road info from a Quesnel ADV inmate, so after the messy traffic at PG and the 97 road south, I jump across the FrasierRiver and try this road to WilliamsLake. I wasnÔÇÖt sure about this choice to start because it took some time to get clear of Quesnel development and traffic. Once clear, the country opens up and I recognize the reason this route was recommended. Lovely high country with farms and ranches along this stretch, and a good bike road to boot. I did get surprised by a washed out section that was being repaired, but after PG and 97, it was a joy.
The road signs were a little sketchy, so when I come up on a guy riding a horse, I ease by and then stop. Glad I did. The rider was a Native fella, probably from the settlement on that road, and sat that saddle like an old time calvary officer. Back erect, reigns held lightly, not an ounce of slouch in man or beast. The horse was eyeing the bike, not nervously, but prancing in a ÔÇ£letÔÇÖs raceÔÇØ manner.
The guy could have done ads for western wear or something, he was the real deal. It turned out that besides the horse, he also rides a KLR around the area. We talked for half an hour about this and that, and I would have talked longer, but I didnÔÇÖt want to get caught on that road late in the day. His parting advice was ÔÇ£Watch the grades going down to the bridge at the riverÔÇØ. Ok, thanksÔÇªand with a wave I was gone.
ThereÔÇÖs no mistaking the decent down to the river from the surrounding high country. Steep, with a loose gravel surface, the road winds down to the bridge. I understand the warning now, this little stretch could put someone down. I stop at the bridge and what a cool spot this is at the river, with the scenic high banks up and down the Frasier.
While stopped, an older pickup comes slowly down the grade. A young couple in the cab and they were towing one of those Woodmiser portable bandsaw mills. The young lady passenger, shirt sleeve rolled up and her elbow and gloved hand on the door, gave me a big smile and a wave as they crept by and over the bridge. Very pretty, very blond, and very sunburned, it looked like she had been out helping her guy on some project. Wow! Men canÔÇÖt help but love women like that. I had been fortunate in finding a girl exactly like her many many years ago and was smart and lucky enough to marry her.
Across the Frasier bridge and just through the first turn on the climb up the grade from the river, here comes a car hard on the gas drifting through the next corner above me. I was over as far as I could go without falling down the embankment, and the guy sweeps past me, still crossed up and still on the gas, in a cloud of dust and hail of gravel. The driver never even glanced my way, backed off for a second, and then drifted through the corner below me. When the dust cleared, I could see dust rising on the other side of the river. IÔÇÖm glad that SOB didnÔÇÖt meet the old pickup on that one-lane bridge.
This road eventually takes you into WilliamsLake and you arrive on the industrial side of town, nothing too impressive. There must be four or five saw mills there, but they look like they have closed down. I donÔÇÖt care. IÔÇÖve reached my destination and just need something to eat and a place to stay. I take a meandering route through town and find myself back up along 97 and looking straight at a McD. Good enough, IÔÇÖm not riding another mile.
Park the bike and before I get much farther I realize the place is busy, real busy. People must have walked here, the lot wasnÔÇÖt that full. The customers are all young and I can understand once again why many Canuckistanians want US TV programming banned at the border. Many of the kids look like they came directly to WilliamsLake from one of the finer neighborhoods in say a place likeÔÇªDetroit. Wannabes in every respect, dressed the part, tat here tat there. I get fakey hard ass looks as I walk in. Big deal.
Even the employees are tattooed. WhatÔÇÖs with this, does everyone get a tattoo gift for each birthday? Christmas? I get my food and IÔÇÖve had enough, itÔÇÖs too hot in there and no place to sit anyway. Outside and a nice balmy evening, I was so hungry that I havenÔÇÖt given a place to stay much thought.
IÔÇÖd wolfed my food and was relaxing, sipping one of those jumbo Cokes. A young guy is shuffling my general direction across the parking lot. IÔÇÖm thinking ÔÇ£slackerÔÇØ, another droopy drawer half ass wannabe. Now he changes direction and heÔÇÖs looking right at me. I hear a little beep, itÔÇÖs my radar ramping up and the first good return now says ÔÇ£stonerÔÇØ and the guy turns towards me. Oops, an alarm goes off, the one labeled ÔÇ£doperÔÇØ, and by that time the guy was getting way too close.
I canÔÇÖt be sittinÔÇÖ there on the curb, so I activate the defenses. I hit my cop vibe button and turn the dial up to screamÔÇªand I stood up. A second ago I was an old man on the curb, but now I was a freakinÔÇÖ huge old man in my riding jacket and might just have a badge of some kind. ThereÔÇÖs a little hitch in his shuffle when I stand up, but he leans forward like heÔÇÖs walking into a strong head wind and on he comes. Sheet, thatÔÇÖs the problem with drugs, they make you so stupid you canÔÇÖt recognize what I think is a damn good cop vibe.
This is one sorry looking dude, as unhealthy a looking human being as any IÔÇÖd seen lately. His first words were ÔÇ£I need $10, ehÔÇØ. No use coming back with any clever response, he wouldnÔÇÖt get it, so I just said ÔÇ£DonÔÇÖt have itÔÇØ. ÔÇ£Yeah ya do, gimme $10ÔÇØ. This exchange is going back and forth, and itÔÇÖs like talking to a seriously delinquent but slightly dangerous child. Ten bucks is the price of something, and this whacko is determined. He reaches in his pocket, pulls out a phone, reads a text, and jambs it back in. ÔÇ£Friends cominÔÇÖ, be here any minute, ehÔÇØ. ThatÔÇÖs just great, time to get the heck out of here, like right now.
Before I could make a move, a later model SUV drives in the lot and heads right for us. When I turn to get a better look, the driver hits the brakes hard enough to get a chirp. Geez, maybe my cop vibe is working some after all. My new doper friend looks at the SUV, looks back at me, back and forth like a bobble head. A light tap on the horn from the SUV does the trick and heÔÇÖs gone quickly in his awkward shuffle. Rather than drive past me, the SUV backs up and goes out the way they came in. What wasnÔÇÖt so funny a minute ago is funny now. Someone is going to flush that guy.
I ask a middle age couple that parks close to me if they knew of an inexpensive motel nearby, and they point right across the highway ÔÇ£Try that one, ehÔÇØ. The motel was on the other side of the highway and both frontage roads and I hadnÔÇÖt noticed. I ride up to the entry and park the bike. If they have a room, IÔÇÖm leaving the bike right there where it can be seen. A Chinese woman is at the desk and when I ask the usual questions, she doesnÔÇÖt speak English well enough to answer and runs off to find someone who does.
A Chinese guy comes back and he speaks enough to understand, at least after a few tries. We do the registration stuff and I ask him how long he has been in Canuckistan. ÔÇ£Nine yearÔÇØ is the answer. Nine years to learn just a few English words, and his wife knows less. I hear ÔÇ£Move overÔÇØ and heÔÇÖs pointing out the doors towards the bike and motioning with his hands. Ok, now I donÔÇÖt understand English worth a damn either and after more attempts, he gives up.
I get settled and find the phone book listing for the Kawaskai dealer, scribble the info on a note pad, my last official act. I go to turn on the AC before turning in, ainÔÇÖt none. IÔÇÖll survive. Another interesting day on the road, and IÔÇÖm already thinking about the big side trip planned for tomorrow.
Sad Note -
The friendly Canadian Chap, Bill, who took a day to show us the Icefields Parkway in beautiful Canada was killed recently in a hit and run on his new BMW while travelling in Mexico a few weeks back.
I'm sorry for his family - Bill was a fine guy.
very sad to hear about your friend Bill....
your RR is amazing...you sure did cover a lot of miles in a short time...maybe I missed it but why did you go so early in the summer?
Turns out that if you are heading into the North Country timing can be crucial.
Late May/Early June....
= little or no traffic. No motorhomes - esp those rented to European tourists. You can make serious time if you're not passing lines of car/trucks/motorhomes.
= Little or no rain. These are the dryest weeks of their 'summer'. Not to say that we had no rain, but not much in the scheme of things.
= No bugs. Or darn few. People who travel the Dempster and Dalton later in the season can find literal clouds of biting bugs.
= Less traffic on the Dempster, Campbell and Dalton. Actually almost no traffic, hours would go by without another vechicle of any type. And as I noted, oncoming trucks do not slow down for motorcycles. Guard your headlight and oil cooler against rocks - they can do huge damage in an instant.
=24 hour sun. The endless days fool your internal clocks, you can ride 16 hours with little weariness.
= Empty campgrounds.
Gear lessons - use a heated jacket liner, I found a heated vest to be inadaquate. Go with good gear - Aerostich or similar.
The calcium chloride used on the roads is bad stuff when wet. Next time I'll add a front fender extender to cut the slop tossed back on the bike.