The Cassiar Hwy got us down to Meziadin Junction where we headed west towards the Portland Canal and the two towns Stewart and Hyder passing amazing glaciers.
Stewart and Hyder was a different experience. These two small towns are right next to each other, but far from everything else at the bottom of the Portland Canal. Located in a harsh, cold and misty environment, hidden deep in this fjord on the west coast of Canada.
Since the towns belong to two different countries; Hyder is in Alaska and Stewart is in Canada, they have their own little border control. They are even in two different time zones. When it is 4 pm in Hyder it is 5 pm in Stewart. Pretty unpractical since the people living in these small towns cross the border several times every day. But then again, I don’t think time matters so much for them.
The people living in Hyder seem to be either fishermen, mining people or old hippies who enjoy the simple and non restricted world, where no legal office sets its feet or construction rules are ever enforced. The people living here can do pretty much as they please. – And it shows!
There's so much junk scattered all over the place. Old mining machinery, abandoned houses falling apart, old trucks rusting in the woods.
The place attracts two types of visitors: tourists who come to see the bears feed of the spawning salmon and motorcyclists who come there to complete their 50 USA states and get a Ironbutt certificate.
The day we got there was the first day the salmon started coming up the creek. A grizzly with her two cubs was there, but unfortunately we missed them. To bad really, but nevertheless it was quite cool to see the big salmon dig holes in the shallow creek bed and lay their eggs and spawn.
We camped in Hyder Alaska behind the Sealaska Inn to everybody’s astonishment “But there are bears in the area!” Yes, like pretty much the rest of Alaska and Canada. There seem to be some weird bear fear hype going on among travelers. Guess the bear-spray and bear-bell industry is pretty pleased about the freaked-out tourists. Not to mention the weapon industry! - Mind you, there is bears in the area!
Speaking of weapon industry, we went into an old dusty general store with mostly empty shelves besides a bit of fishing equip and an extensive range of firearms. Lars found an amazingly cool tool tube – an old 88 mm mortar grenade holster. Mounted with 2 hose clamps, it fits perfectly on the skid plate and now holds all his tools. Price tag including clamps: $ 12,80!
Leaving Hyder and Stewart and heading for Prince George, we slowly returned to civilization. Fenced cow fields, frequent small towns and heavier traffic were a change in scenery we had to get used to again. Although as we left the main road to find a camp spot, we spotted a black bear less than 50 meters away from cows grassing quietly in the field. What a weird sight!
Riding a motorcycle can be a hazardous stuff! Especially when you are a bit unfocussed and forget details like strapping your bag down!
Lars was riding in front of me and noticed in his rear mirror that heavy smoke was coming from my bike. He signaled like a crazy guy to make me stop. I never noticed a thing! As I hadn't strapped my bag properly, the North Face bag was leaning against the exhaust - dope!!! Not a real smart move! It burned right through my bag and clothes! Bummer!
In Kitwanga we met Casey (KC) on her beautiful old timer Harley Davidson. Casey was traveling by her self to Alaska and we spend the night together with her in Houston on Hwy 16 (the Highway of Tears - check out the sad and ongoing story
). It was very cool to hang out with an experienced female biker.
Casey is the second female rider we meet on our trip. Except for all the women who ride on the back of their husbands and boyfriends. We don't know why so little women ride motorcycles. Casey's opinion was that she was passed the age (she's 60 years old) where she had to prove anything to anyone anymore. She did anything she'd like to do no matter what people thought of it. She told us, she didn't like to see the way the women in the US were moving back towards traditional role models, where women are supposed to behave in a particular way to be real women, and where finding that mister right, was their solely purpose in life. I told her about the exploding female sport Roller Derby, where women are definitely following their own dreams and doing exactly what they want no matter what people think of it. She liked the concept.
Beautiful old Native totem poles in Kitwanga, BC.
From Hwy 16 we headed for Dawson Creek to meet Ruth and Tim, who we met in Fairbanks. We decided to try to avoid Prince George and turn north towards Fort St. James and continue on forest roads up to Dawson Creek. The idea seemed pretty good until we hit the first bit of gravel.
It was a dry and dusty gravel road with more potholes and washboards than the Dalton Hwy. But worst of all, the road was busier than Paris during rush hour. Enormous log trucks heading south came towards us every 5 minutes, leaving a huge cloud of dust and zero visibility behind. As soon as we were through the dust and able to see the next pothole coming towards us, the next 2-3 log trucks would pass us and we were back to zero visibility. We couldn’t believe the amount of threes that was removed from the forest every minute. It was hard not to get Lord of the Rings – Isengard - flashbacks.
Eventually we turned away from this sorry ass road, onto a smaller forest road heading east. The road seemed pretty promising. No traffic but just a beautiful nice forest road, with nice scenery. At least so it seemed at first. After a while, the road got narrower, heavier and muddier. Further into the forest, the road was flooded in places. The potholes turned into deep rumbles and I put the Bunny bike down a few times. We could go 5 km/h max. The road didn’t really correspond to the map and it just didn’t feel right.
Finally after passing a stretch with heavy mud, the road ended blind. We realized that we had taken a wrong turn somewhere. We turned back, passed the same muddy areas and scary flooded parts and went back the road quite a bit, until we found the turn-of where we thought we got it wrong. This road quickly turned into a muddy disaster as well and on top of it, it was getting late.
We had the feeling we turned of from the log truck road in a wrong place and was going down dead-end roads one after the other. Finally we decided to throw the adventure towel in the ring and head back to Fort St. James to camp there. Back on the log truck road to the dust, potholes and washboards – now in the dark. Guess we weren’t all that tough and adventurous after all!
From Fort St. James we headed for Prince George and McDonald to get some WIFI! (nice excuse!). In the parking lot we met these 3 super cool guys, Scott, Chris & Austin all riding KLR's. Their surely knew hos to make the most of their money. They had a lot of homemade cool solutions for their bikes, and we admired their creativity.
From Prince George we headed towards Dawson Creek to Ruth and Tim (London & Aussie or Deli girls & Butcher!).
We were pleased to see the scenery change from city to cow fields to thick forest and despite some long stretches of awful newly laid gravel, Hwy 97 from Prince George to Dawson Creek was a beautiful ride.
Just outside Chetwynd I discovered that my pants were covered in oil! I looked down and the entire right side of the bike was sprayed with oil from the radiator. We stopped and tried to find the leak, but with all the mud and dust and now oil on top of it, it was hard to see where it was coming from. We decided to continue the 80 km to Dawson Creek and hoped there would be a mechanic there. We stopped a few times to check the leak, and it seemed to be okay, except for the fact that it was a big mess.
Ruth was a sweetheart and picked us up late in the evening at a petrol station in Dawson Creek. We followed her to their home at Schneider’s Riverside Ranch outside a little farmers town Pouce Coupe, a beautiful farm with the most amazing view over the surrounding fields.
Short after Tim and Rudie - a "Swindian" (Half Swiss, half Indian) - came back from Tim’s butcher shop where they had been “working” late.
We were also introduced to Marley and Fritz a couple of kittens who spend all day entertaining anyone who would give them a bit of attention.
Ruth and Tim live in a house together with Jordan & Frank (youngest son of Freddie and Liz Schneider), who were very nice to let us use their guest room the following 5 nights.
The bike was transported to Grande Prairie for repair at Windsor Motorsports
and since it was BC day the following Monday, we had a long weekend in Dawson Creek with awesome company and a nice soft bed! We weren’t sorry at all!
The following days we had more meat and more different kinds of meat, than we would normally have in several years. Dinner would include deer, caribou, elk as well as bison. Picnics would include nothing less than fresh made bison burger!
Bison Burger freshly cooked at Kinuseo Falls, Tumbler Ridge, BC.
Lars was introduced to authentic redneck lifestyle: Firing shotguns, fishing, eating loads of meat and no veggies, driving big ass trucks, drinking his brains out and growing a beard! And he loved it! For a while there I thought I was never gonna get him to leave with me.
Lars with his well earned Coors Light cap - I say no more!
Bruce, the gentleman we all met in Fairbanks, Alaska (with the broken arm) also came by Ruth and Tim’s place on his way back from Alaska, so we had a real Alaska reunion going on! He’s arm was doing better, which was very good news.
Tim, Jordan, Ruth, Henriette, Bruce and the kittens
The kittens seemed to be running on 2 modes: Either 100% on or 100% off!
Bruce drove us to Grande Prairie to pick up the bunny bike. It turned out the radiator had been rubbing against the tank due to a loose bolt and that had caused the leak. Luckily Ron at Windsor Motorsports
was able to fix the radiator.
Henriette happily reunited with the Bunny bike.
The fixed radiator. You can see where it had been rubbing against the tank.
Ron was a bit of an adventure rider himself and serious about this work. Something that is very appreciated when you depend on your two wheels and you don’t have all the money in the world to keep it running. The radiator has been running perfectly ever since. Thank you Windsor Motorsports
Ruth and Henriette doing the true redneck wifey style!
Leaving Dawson Creek was kind of sad. We had so much fun with our new friends and sometimes travelling includes too many goodbyes.
We headed to Jasper National Park and on the way a stop in Hinton to meet West Yellowhead Rollergirls
– and even skate! Yay!
Erin aka Atomic Toaster and Nathalie aka Old Lady Wheel-‘her’ took me to their outdoor rink to skate and talk Derby.
Their team was getting ready for their first bout and they were really excited about it. After skating they took us for drinks at a karaoke bar and Toaster showed us her real star qualities on the stage! She even managed to get me up there with the microphone - in my dirty riding gear! Argh! The shots started flowing to the table and Toaster and Old Lady was showing some real Derby party spirit!
Heading for Jasper National Park (Aug 5th)
Jasper wildlife getting a bit to familiar with the tourists!
Jasper National Park turned out to be a very busy place. It is unquestionable very beautiful, but the numbers of RV’s pickup trucks, hikers and bikers just makes it a bit to crowded for our taste. You didn’t have to look for the wildlife. Just look for the line of cars and people jamming up to take pictures of the animals. Amazingly the animals didn’t seem to care. Large Elks were grassing on the side of the road, while an ongoing stream of tourists with their enormous photo lenses were having their Kodak moment.
We treated ourselves with a nice boat ride on the Maligne Lake
On Icefields Parkway we met Petar, a 21-year-old guy from Croatia. He was doing the same trip as us on a big KTM 990 Adventure. He was just going the other way from Argentina to Alaska. We though it was pretty amazing that he was doing this at such a young age, but then he told us that when he was 19 he did a round-the-world trip! In fact, the week after he got his very first motorcycle, he took of to North Cape in Norway. He didn’t have gloves or proper riding gear! That’s the real adventure spirit. Just get on the road. You might freeze your hands and nose of, but you’ll have so much fun doing it!
Check out Petar’s amazing website
The Icefields Parkway took us through this amazing glacier carved scenery with non-stop Kodak moments so we got a lot of breaks along the way.
Waterfalls carving through the rocks creating amazing rock formations.
Peyto Lake is a glacier-fed lake which gives it the amazing artificial looking blue color.
The ultimate tourist trap: Lake Louise. It's undeniable very beautiful though and the Fairmont's Chateau Lake Louise is a very posh place to hang out with room rates starting from $500. Not in this life!
Enjoying the company at the Castle Mountain Campground. Alice & John from Alberta and Jonathan & Jean-Baptiste from Touluse, France.
Lars doing his homework in the Palace office.
We quickly realized that if we went just a little further than the paved tourist walkways, we would have the place for ourselves. Most people just get out of the RV to take a photo, but they don’t like to get too far away from the comforts of air-condition and cup holders. Lars with the last sausage from the famous Dawson Creek Butchery
Next stop was Calgary (Aug 9th
) for a new rear tire for the Bunny bike. On www.advrider.com
we got recommendations to go to Anderwerks for parts and repairs. Anderwerks
is a BMW motorrad specialist owned by Dave Anderson. He turned out to be a bit of a adventure rider himself.
A flat tire seldom happens on a sunny afternoon, but more likely on a rainy evening on a muddy road on a scary mountain side, so we wanted to do the tire change ourselves by hand behind the shop. Dave agreed to let us do that to his staff’s and other customer’s great amusement.
The “breaking the bead” hug! Didn't work though. We had to use the side-stand on the KLR - that did the trick.
Parts Manager Jennifer was very supportive during the whole act.
And the final victory outburst when we finally got the new tire back on, without pinching the tube once!
Dave invited us to stay at his place for the night and cooked us a nice BBQ on his enormous gas BBQ – his #2 best toy, placed next to his #1 best toy – A BMW HP2 equipped with all the HPN and Touratech goodies you could ever dream of. Take a look at this baby:
Dave had a special seat made by Andrea from Powersports Seats
for his HP2. Her shop was right here in Calgary, and we thought she could be the solution to my seat issues. The Suzuki seat is mildly put very uncomfortable. It cuts of the circulation to my right leg. It doesn’t hurt a lot when I ride, but as soon as I get of the bike and stand up, my leg goes numb right away. And I have even invested in the Suzuki gel seat, which should be more comfortable than the original stock seat. However I can’t say I wasn’t warned; on several rider forums the Suzuki seats are described as extremely uncomfortable and not made for longer journeys.
Well arrived in Andreas cool workshop, she removed the seat cover and we quickly realized why this seat wasn’t doing its job. The foam was a poor and hard quality and the gel was equally bad. The gel didn’t even cover the entire space it was supposed to, leaving a rather large hole of nothing. No wonder I was aching.
Andrea did an amazing job, while we waited. She cut of a big chunk of the old foam and replaced with a new of better quality. The she started molding and reshaping it and made space for a new gel pad. It was really cool to see her work and mold the foam like clay.
We tried the seat on the bike several times, to ensure the shape was right for me. The result feels a whole lot better than before. I’m still very sensitive and I think the problem will diminish slowly, but it feels a whole lot better now.
Leaving Calgary we went by the local IKEA warehouse. We hoped an IKEA sheepskin would be the final solution to the butt issues! We treated ourselves to some Swedish meatballs and felt a bit closer to home!
Back on the road we headed for Kananaskis Country and Hwy 40 going south. This road was a beautiful relief from the crowded Jasper, Lake Louise, Banff experience. The mountains were amazing and we saw a lot of deer and mountain sheep. A the bottom of Hwy 40 we turned of to Hwy 940, a beautiful gravel road that took us all the way to Coleman through a beautiful, peaceful landscape of mountains, rivers and fields with cows and horses living the best life imaginable.
We crossed the border into the US at Chief Mountain, a beautiful little lonely border patrol in Waterton Lakes National Park.
Coming from the busy Jasper-Banff National Parks it was a relief getting back to a real outpost.