Inuvik Bound: road2blue
After years of dreaming and planning, delays due to circumstances beyond my control, 2011 is the year of road2blue. On Fathers Day (June 19) I will leave on a journey many have taken before and will take in the future, but with a bit of a twist. My journey is a solo ride from my home near Vancouver BC, north through the Cariboo and Bulkley Valleys, up Highway 37 and through the Yukon to Dawson, then up the Dempster to Inuvik. I am riding solo for friends, family and strangers who battle Clinical Depression. My ride, all alone, through an inhospitable environment, fraught with danger, is meant to represent some of the struggles a depressed mind battles every day. The isolation, anxiety and challenges I face will pale in comparison to the battles people with mental illness face every day. I am riding to draw attention to their plight. Hopefully my ride will promote discussion and greater acceptance of those who face these battles. Please check my website and blog www.road2blue.com , follow me on twitter @road2blue and I will try and keep things up on here as well. Between now and June 19, I'll try to document some of the things I do to prepare for the trip. Once I leave, I'll try to build a decent ride report. I'll figure out "adding pictures" and I'll have a SPOT link on my website for you to follow me....should be fun. Look forward to your support and conversation.
And thanks for highlighting Depression. It is a devastating life condition. My family and I have fought it for years - even before we knew what it was.
Live fully. Laugh deeply. Love widely.
BMW MOA Ambassador / FOM / Roving Forum Moderator/
Selected Friends of Wile E Coyote/ A Million BMW sMiles
Hope to see lots of phots, some day I'd like to go.
I think anyone travelling north has a big question about tires. I've been thinkinga alot about this and thought I could "run whatch brung" as far north as possible then change to some new TKCs that I'm packing. Seemed reasonable but I was really worried about my old Anakees. As you can see from the pic...around town you can probably get another 1,000 km out of them (do I really sound like I own a KLR?), but I'm not sure how far north I'd get. I decided to splurge....New Anakees arrived yesterday so I'll put them on before I leave, pack new TKC's and change them in Dawson. Run the Dempster on Fresh TKCs, ride the Top of the World through Chicken, down to Haines to Jakes Corner and then up the Canol as far as I can go. Maybe I'll change back to the Anakees in Watson Lake or maybe I'll just run home to Chilliwack on the TKC's. Down to the last 10 days...this weekend is final maintenance on the 650, tire change and I'll start packing.
I thought a lot about luggage in planning this trip. Lots of people buy aluminium boxes or go for soft luggage. Being a frugal sort and having purchased a bike with factory bags, I really didn't want to shell out a bunch of extra money for aluminium bags...just for one trip. I was a bit worried about the monster size of some of those bags too (I do have a tendancy to fill every bit of available space so I'd likely just over pack) and overburdening my little 650. A bunch of reading on various websites, I decided to stick with stock but make a little modification. The plastic tabs holding the bags to the mounts look (and apparently are) subject to breakage. So I added an aluminium "angle iron" fastened to the bag with a couple of bolts. You can see a hole on what will be the top of the reinforcement...in case things do fall to pieces I can hook a strap into this hole, wrap it under the bag and up over top of the seat, around the bag on the other side and into a similar hole on the reinforcing angle on the other side. This reinforcement sits on top of the luggage mounting bars supplementing the weight bearing capacity of the plastic tab....hope it works!
A Day Late and a Dollar Short
Well, not really a dollar short....but definitely a day late. Meant to leave early this morning but family stuff got in the way. 5AM I was up...change the tires, sprockets and chain, cleaned the air filter, changed the oil....then started packing... so, now I'm finally packed, just need to throw the duffle on in the morning and tie it down. Looking good!
Have fun and be safe
Have a good trip up North, hope to see you on the road. My wife and I are leaving on Saturday from Edmonton for Alaska.
Gray clouds threatened as I rolled down the driveway at 9 AM Monday morning ÔÇô a day late on my holiday. I tentatively leaned through the familiar curves of the road into town and was pleased to note that the extra weight on the bike did not affect its stability there was just more substance and heft to the movements. I cleared the tenth traffic light, passed the last gas station and eased into the right lane preparing to enter the freeway. I knew I wouldnÔÇÖt really feel like the adventure had begun until at least the beginning of day two but I was impatient to get some real wind moving past my helmet. Second gear onto the freeway on ramp and the Rotax engine wound up almost as if it sensed my own urgency. Highway speed ÔÇ£plusÔÇØ I merged onto the TransCanada, my 2002 F650 Dakar was finally going to carry me into an part of the world where its true capabilities would be tested.
I skipped the first fuel stop in Hope, about 40 minutes east, where I had planned to top off the tank but did stop to make sure my luggage was secure. Further east in ÔÇ£Historic YaleÔÇØ I reached up and flicked on my new GoPro helmet camera to capture the ride through the Fraser Canyon. I have been through this canyon many times over the years and knew I should get at least a few good clips for enjoyment later. In addition to the GoPro, I have a point and shoot digital camera easily accessed from a front pocket on Aerostich and secured to me by a lanyard around my neck.
Yale currently has a population of about 200 but is the historic head of navigation on the south Fraser River. This was the drop off point for the thousands of gold miners trekking into central BC during the gold rush of the mid 1800ÔÇÖs and is now a popular drop in point for river rafters. Just as it was for miners 150 years ago, despite my familiarity with this route, I had more of the ÔÇ£IÔÇÖm finally on the roadÔÇØ feeling. Passing through tunnels in ÔÇ£the CanyonÔÇØ I pondered the early immigrants force to work (sometimes to their death) carving the early road through this wilderness.
I love that ride!
Nothing like being in the space you've been planning for so long!
Live fully. Laugh deeply. Love widely.
BMW MOA Ambassador / FOM / Roving Forum Moderator/
Selected Friends of Wile E Coyote/ A Million BMW sMiles
The TransCanada follows the Fraser River upstream through the Canyon to Lytton where the Fraser is joined by the Thompson River. At this point the highway follows the Thompson River through the Thompson Canyon. The ride through both canyons is about two and half hours of great scenery, good pavement a some great curves. The climate changes from the humid west coast air of the Fraser Valley to the arid interior. The change shows in the vegetation beside the road as the lush forests give way to scrubby sage.
Twenty minutes out of Cache Creek, the end of the canyon run, my low fuel light winked on. This was really my first tank of fuel through this bike for the year and I had forgotten what kind of range I could expect. I was regretting not topping off that tank in Hope.
There was fuel to spare as I rolled into town and I passed two stations before I pulled into a Shell station (maybe IÔÇÖll be able to squeeze in enough gas for a patronage point /airmile).
Cache Creek marks the beginning of the Cariboo region for me. As a child I remember travelling this route (Highway 97) regularly with my family as we farmed both in the Fraser Valley as well as in northern BC. The highway roughly follows the trail blazed by gold seekers in the mid 1800ÔÇÖs. Little towns situated along the way were stopping places for stage coaches and measured in distances from Lillooet (70 Mile House, 100 Mile House) along the road to the gold fields. Some of these towns have retained that pioneer focus while others have broadened their tourist base and have also developed as regional centres.
Further north, the impact of is evident in the roadside vegetation. The south Cariboo is very arid, the north has longer, colder winters but more precipitation. The scrub of the desert is gone and is replaced by rolling fields of hay bordered by birch, poplar and pine trees.
Not a lot of tight curves on the highways here, they are relatively straight with gentle hills. The Cariboo region is a plateau. In Williams Lake I buy gas and a gentleman walks over to talk about my bike and my trip while his buddy gases up. HeÔÇÖs interested in the GoPro so we talk about that a bit. His friend is getting ready to go as I tell him about road2blue and he quite enthusiastically takes my card and tells me itÔÇÖs a small world!
Passing through Quesnel, I am assaulted by the aroma of the pulp and paper industry, a unique odor I had not smelled in twenty years. I pondered the difference between driving in a vehicle and riding a motorcycle. In a car (or cage as a biker might call it) the scenery passes by but the your environment stays the same(its like watching a TV screen).
On a motorcycle you are a part of the environment. You can ride the same stretch of highway ten times in a day and it will always be different due because of the impact of the environment on the rider. You feel wind currents, subtle temperature changes, you smell fresh rain or hot brakes on semi trucks. Remembering all the road trips I have taken with family in a vehicle, I remember the scenery flashing by but not the sensation of the climate change. The only environmental change we experienced was the gradual build up of clutter from candy, gum wrappers and junk food containers in the vehicle as we progressed along our journey.
Approaching Prince George, I am reminded again of farming up in the Peace Region of BC when I was young. The gently rolling land produces good forage but has the scrubby look of hard growing conditions and less than optimal soil. The Pine Beetle devastation is clear here. Thousands of acres of dead trees have been harvested and in some cases piled to burn. Again I am reminded of how we cleared land in the sixties and seventies. Bulldozing the trees, piling them, burning them, repiling the roots reburning them until we could finally drag a heavy disk through the soil to ÔÇ£ breakÔÇØ the land.
From Prince George, I headed west toward Smithers. It was a long day but I had miles to make. I had not been on this section of the Yellowhead highway before and I was happy to finally be covering new ground. Forty minutes out of town I realized I was travelling on the infamous Highway of Tears and tomorrow I would step up the adventure a notch when I turned onto Highway 37 ÔÇô the Stewart Cassiar highway.
Ambassador at Large
Vicariously riding along
I'm late in tripping over your first post, and I'm hooked on following you on your adventure. I am always interested in the conditions on 37. I rode part of it once, and it was surely an interesting ride back then. I went during the 'gooey' season.
Once, long ago, I rode past the turnoff for the Dempster on the way to Dawson. I really wanted to turn right, but it wasn't in the plan, and I REALLY had the wrong motorcycle (K100LT!)
I'll go over to your web site, hoping to find that you're taking a SPOT or equiv. along for the ride.
I am filled with envy for this ride. Here's hoping the Muse of All Riders smiles down on you, and grants you vouchsafe.
And, don't fall off.
Smithers to the top of Highway 37
Just over 100 km west of Smithers is the junction with Highway 37, the Stewart Cassiar Highway. I stopped at Moricetown Canyon for a brief photo. This was once the largest population centre in the Bulkley Valley due to its spectacular fishing opportunity. Reaching Kitwanga I topped of my tank, crossed over the Skeena River and headed to my first gas stop about 265 kilometers north. This was my first foray into desolation. Traffic was noticeably lighter almost immediately. Pavement was superb and the scenery spectacular.
An hourÔÇÖs ride (seeing maybe twenty other vehicles) brought me to a stop sign at a junction in the middle of nowhere. Turn left and ride 40 km takes me to Stewart BC and a short hop into Hyder Alaska to get ÔÇ£hyderized.ÔÇØ If I turn right, IÔÇÖm about 60 km to fuel and the closer to my goal of being at the top of Highway 37 for night. I turn right. At kilometre 245, my low fuel light comes on. I have never run out of fuel with this bike so I donÔÇÖt actually know how far I can ride after the light comes on ÔÇô IÔÇÖm usually close enough to a gas station not to worry much. The other day, riding into Cache Creek, I rode approximately 25 km with the light on. When you see fewer than 20 cars in an hour and the last place you were close to fuel was over 100 km past, a low fuel light can play on your mind. Theoretically, you have done the math and know you have the capacity to make the goal but your light has come on earlier than expected. My first tank of the journey got me to 285 ÔÇô those warning lights play on the mind! I guess the little bike is a bit more thirsty when it is pushed a little harder. There was nothing to do but keep riding and hope the fuel outlasted the road.
Bell II showed up right where it was supposed to be. Bell II is a funny name for a stop in the road, it is really a beautiful log structured heli-ski lodge set beside the highway that offers fuel, a restaurant and lodging to travellers when they arenÔÇÖt booked with skiers. This time of year there were rooms available but with lots of light left in the day, I was soon off to my next fuel stop at Dease Lake.
Leaving Bell II the road winds along the Bowser River and numerous lakes eventually climbing to the top of Gnat pass nearly reaching the treeline (which is not as high as I am used to due to the northern latitude here).
From the summit of the pass, the road winds down a bit tighter than on the way up the last being a 7% gravel grade down to the Stikine River crossing. Although the Stikine is viewed as being one of BCÔÇÖs last truly wild rivers, the steel bridge takes us over waters that appear peaceful and placid.
From the Stikine crossing to Dease Lake there are numerous construction stretches but at this hour, the workers have left the jobsite for the day. I arrive at the Dease Lake gas station at eight pm, just as it is closing. I manage to sweet talk one last fill from them which will carry me to the top of 37 tonight. As I am leaving, truck and camper arrive and manage to squeak in under the wire as well.
For the next hour, the road is a little rougher than it has been further south. Here it is primarly seal coated rock chip rather than proper pavement. In the dimming light, sometimes there is the appearance of loose gravel on the road but traction remains consistent and strong.
By 9:30, IÔÇÖve been on the road for about twelve hours and IÔÇÖm looking at my GPS more frequently to figure out how long it will be before I get to pitch my tent. As I round a corner in the road, my jaw drops inside my helmet. The road straightens out and as far as the eye can see, both sides of the road are lined with blackened toothpick trees and charred grass. The transition from lush green to burnt remnants is instantaneous and the desolation is haunting, particularly in the dusky light of the evening. I ride for miles through this depressing devastation awed by the impact of a raging and uncontrolled forest fire. The odor of death and decay is heavy in the air.
Just after 11 PM, the junction of Highway 37 and the Alaska Highway appears ahead of me. A rustic and nearly empty campground at the corner has tremendous appeal and I set up my tent by the light of the twilight sky.
Highway 37 to Whitehorse
Finally on the road about 11 AM and bound for Whitehorse. It was a bit of ÔÇ£slab rideÔÇØ but I did stop at a roadside turnout noting the crossing of the Continental Divide. While I considered this a notable moment I also had a close look at the information panels placed at this rest stop and noted I would be crossing the Continental Divide about four times between here and Inuvik. Hopefully I would stop at each point along the way and take a picture ÔÇô it would make an interesting comparison.
The highway seemed almost endless into Teslin until I was about 25 km out. Cresting a hill I saw a vehicle pulled off to the side of the road and a lady flagging me to slow down. I had just passed a couple of vehicles and had to scrub off the speed fairly quickly but managed to pull up just in front of her Ford Explorer. She was pulling an overloaded trailer and had two kids with her. She was trying to talk to me but I had my helmet on and earplugs in. I tried to get her to flag down the vehicles I just passed because they could likely do more to help her than I could but I think she was so focussed on the fact that someone stopped, she had help. She was moving lock stock and barrel from Oregon to Skagway where her fianc?® found a job. Her transmission had broken down inVancouver and cost $2,000 to fix, she had spent $500 on gas and had now run out of gas (25 km outside of Teslin) and had no moneyÔÇªcould I help? Fortunately I had about 3 or 4 litres of gas in a container that might get her to Teslin, but that was it. She was pretty relieved to at least be able to get close to civilization!.
The hill into Teslin provides a scenic view of Teslin Lake and the bridge crossing the narrows. The seven section steel deck bridge is a beautiful sight from the pullout at the top of the hill. When I was young, my dad referred to these steel grate bridges as ÔÇ£singing bridgesÔÇØ due to the wonderful sound the tires make at highway speed as you cross over the grates. On a motorcycle, these are more like ÔÇ£screaming bridgesÔÇØ because the grating causes the bike to weave back and forth quite unnervingly.
I crossed the bridge safely and arrived bought gas at the first station across the bridge. The British guy I had had breakfast with was here with a bunch of new found friends. They had been in the restaurant for a while and were now about to resume travels. While I was paying for my fuel, the ÔÇ£moving ladyÔÇØ was making arrangements on the phone for someone to provide a credit card number to the gas station so that she could take on some fuel.
I had enough gas from there to take me to Whitehorse. As I approached the town and was thinking about accommodation, I noticed a small sign directed toward ÔÇ£Miles CanyonÔÇØ on the right. I braked hard remembering Miles Canyon as being a particularly difficult stretch of water for the miners from the ÔÇÖ98 gold rush. Today, Miles Canyon has been tamed by a dam downstream which has backed up the water and created a lake with a narrows through the Canyon. Before the dam was built, the rush of water through the narrow canyon (perhaps 100 feet wide) was so great that the water level was approximately 2 meters or 6 feet higher in the middle than on the sides. As the miners rafted through the canyon, if they werenÔÇÖt exactly in the middle, their raft would slide down to the outside edge and smash into the wall of the canyon. Today I saw a pleasure boat cruise through effortlessly and a couple of teenagers were preparing to jump off the cliffs into the water for a swim.
My night was to be spent in a campground on the bank of the Yukon River just within city limits of Whitehorse.
Whitehorse to Dawson
The morning sun was perfect and the temperature had just a hint of humidity. I had stayed at the Robert Service campground just inside city limits and was able to get a bunch of work done on blogs, photo sorting and catching up on email. I had figured out that the power adapter hooked up to my motorcycle battery would power both my computer and smartphone configured as a hotspot. Perfect…until the battery in my bike ran out of juice! Okay, so the morning was not quite perfect. I was able to use the park office power to finish my work and then pack up to go. At least I wasn’t waiting for a tire shipment from the US like a couple of other riders at the campground (2 days they had been waiting and the tires were held up in customs). My battery was not totally dead, it did start my bike and I let it run for a few minutes to recharge it and shut the engine down while I packed. As usual, it was ending up as a midmorning start due to the blogging and electronics…I never realized how much time that could take on a trip like this.
Bike is packed and ready to go, helmet on, camera on, glasses on, key on, start button…….rhurh…..nothing! My neighbours offer a boost. We had talked earlier this morning. They are a wonderful British couple (Nick and Ivanka http://www.bootsboatsandbikes.co.uk/nickandivanka/ ) taking six months off work and life to travel from through North America and down to the southern tip of South America on their 1150GS. I wheel my bike over to theirs and we hooked up the wires to recharge my battery a bit while they leave their bike running. While we wait, I chat with them about their trip and we ensnare another gentleman (who has since found jumper cables) into our conversation. After 10 minutes, my bike almost fires but just doesn’t quite have enough and their bike is starting to overheat from just sitting and idling so I get the gentleman with a car to do the honors.
Last edited by road2blue; 07-05-2011 at 05:52 PM.
Reason: added more story
I meander a bit around town before stopping at a gas station, the bike needs decent time to charge the battery so I ensure about half an hour of riding before reaching the last gas station heading out of town. As I step to the pump, I feel the leg zipper fail on my riding pants and they fall open exposing my leg which will cause problems if I happen to fall while riding. Out comes the duct tape and I wrap my leg at 4 spots to keep the riding pants closed.
Rolling out of Whitehorse (finally) on another mid morning start a Lake Laberge sign flashes past. I brake hard and exit onto a gravel road for a three mile detour down to the lakeshore to see where Sam McGee met his final end in Robert ServiceÔÇÖs poem, ÔÇ£The Cremation of Sam McGeeÔÇØ. Laberge is a beautiful vast bit of water with a few cabins along the shore within my view. It is not highly populated like so many in the south and I see a government campground here that would have been a spectacular place to spend a night.