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A Short Scooterist on a Long Ride: Around the USA by Vespa

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Quezzie, May 13, 2014.

  1. Quezzie

    Quezzie A. Scootertramp

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2011
    Oddometer:
    167
    Location:
    My Vespa
    advrockrider: You'll have to let me know how that goes! I just got back from an all-female motorcycle tour of Pakistan, and we rode local Honda CB150s. They were so light and nimble, and handled all sorts of terrain. But you already know I like small displacement, slow travel. :)
    125uCrazy likes this.
  2. Quezzie

    Quezzie A. Scootertramp

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2011
    Oddometer:
    167
    Location:
    My Vespa
    [​IMG]

    In case you haven't picked up by now, I love taking ferries with my bike. I go out of my way for ferry rides, and found a route to Vancouver that involved very little actual riding. Sure, it would be almost $70 in ferry fees, but did you miss the part about how I love taking ferries?

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    I got an orange tag for proving to the ticketmaster that my bottles were for spare fuel.

    My heart pounded as I pulled away from Gwynne and Tom's home in Ballard. This was the last piece of familiarity, the final stop within my comfort zone, before I cast myself into new lands. Well, there's still Port Angeles...

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    Waiting for Ferry #1, with... an Amigo.

    A short ferry to Kingston later, and I was on my way to Port Angeles. First stop?

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    Swain's. You cannot stop in PA without visiting.

    Swain's. Every piece of camping gear I own, every silk liner, drinking vessel, lamp, or dry bag that I selected and curated for my personal needs at camping stores and Army Navy stores across America... It's all available at Swain's. It should be a national treasure. Also, their website is straight from the 90s (at least as of this writing in Oct 2017) and should be preserved as well.

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    Thanks for dinner, Laura and Maham!

    Also found in Port Angeles: Laura! Originally from Verona, now living in PA. We met through Gwynne and Tom on my first time through the Port Angeles, during a campout at Tom's parent's home. This time, she brought special guest, Maham, an exchange student staying with them from Karachi. How serendipitous, when I mentioned I had plans to visit Pakistan, she told me excitedly about her home.

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    After dinner, Laura showed us this tiny landing between new developments. Canada is across the water. I wonder how many teenagers make out here.

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    It's beautiful in that PNW way, and quite a drop.

    I must have been absolutely exhausted my first time through PA, because as Laura and Maham and I cruised around in the car, I barely remembered anything.

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    Before I left in the morning, I noticed this spit of land sticking out...

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    So I took a quick ride up Ediz Hook before catching the Black Ball Ferry.

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    Woa, Ferry #2 is even fancier. It has a gift shop.

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    Good thing Laura found this ribbon for me, so I could be fancy. I'm ready for you, Victoria, BC.

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    Motos are first on, last off.

    The guy on an old BMW airhead was lashing his bike to the hull when I pulled behind him. Surprised, I asked whether the water got choppy enough to require tie downs. It was a stupid question, since he was tying his down I was clearly not going to risk coming back to the auto level to find my Vespa sideways on the opposite end of the ferry (I lashed down my bike, and the water was choppy enough that I became slightly seasick).

    The BMW rider shared a fantastic story about outrunning cops in Oregon, and then described San Francisco as "dreadful" in his dry, British accent. Some kids had broken off his spark plug in that city. As for immigration? "Tedious."

    At the Canadian border, I worried if border patrol would live up to its reputation. Instead, the border officer asked what year my bike was, because it turned out he collected vintage Vespas!"

    I have two VBBs and a 50SS," he noted cheerfully. "So, what are you plans in Victoria?"

    "Well, I have a reservation for tea at eleven," – he nodded approvingly, all but saying, Of course, that is correct "And then I'm staying with friends in Vancouver."

    And that was it. I was in Canada... again!

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    Looking back at Washington from Canadian soil.

    Back in Portland, Cydney had recommended having high tea in Victoria (in case ferry fees hadn't completely blown my daily budget out of the water). The Fairmont Empress High Tea was the natural choice, but the rate was jaw dropping...until I realized it was Canadian dollars. It was still more than I would normally spend, but as a Hong Konger, how could I miss experiencing cultural traditions from our mutual colonists, especially when they're in the shape of tea and confections? I made a reservation for the first sitting, and vowed to free camp for days.

    Dress code was listed as 'sophisticated, smart casual'. Concerned my riding gear wouldn't fit the bill, Gwynne and I crafted a plan before I left Seattle: I could borrow her clothing, and return it to her when she visited Vancouver later that week. In PA, Laura found a ribbon, which I attached to my helmet.

    The final outfit from our combined wardrobes?

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    It looks like Kiki got a motorcycle. Or Emily the Strange Biker?

    I'd like to say that upon arrival in the ladies room, dramatic music started playing and I started spinning in a magical girl transformation sequence, pulling off moto gear to reveal a glittering, superheroine vision of myself. The reality was less like the cartoons I watched as a kid. While not the most magical version of myself, I felt refined enough for a road outfit, and can confirm that the ladies room in the Fairmont Empress has a fireplace.

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    A fantastical engraved book of teas. I went with the namesake, the Empress blend.

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    Live baby grand piano covers of Adele and other pop songs played softly.

    I settled into my table, folding all my gear in the spare seat next to me. An older waitress came to my cozy window corner, and checked if it was a table for two.

    "Just me."

    "He dropped you off?" she asked, indicating the gear.

    "Uh, no. That's mine," unsure what she was getting at.

    "Oh..." she murmured absently, and then asked again whether I had any food allergies in a way that made me wonder if she'd deliberately slip them onto my plate.

    She must not have appreciated my helmet-bow, because she started my tea while I was in the restroom and neglected to explain the nifty hourglasses (they're for how dark you want your tea). Too bad, the scooter trash is staying, reading, and enjoying herself right into the next sitting!

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    Medium-dark tea. I can't believe it's only now that it occurred to me that's why those little candles are called tea lights.

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    The food tray has arrived, and it's utterly delightful.

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    I'll be here for the next several hours, leisurely mowing through three tiers of delicacies.

    Between enjoying my book, I could eavesdrop on the guests around me. A young couple with a toddler kept the waitress too occupied to slip allergens into my scones (yes, feed it more sugar!). Three middle-aged ladies a table over were having the kind of birthday party I'd look forward to, so much so that I didn't have the heart to tell them that white chocolate is not in fact bleached (it's only chocolate by name, containing no chocolate solids whatsoever).

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    While I have closeups of every item, this one was particularly fanciful. Hand peeled local shrimp, with ginger lemon marscapone, in a seaweed cone. I feel like a monster eating such adorable exquisiteness.

    The scones were perfectly flaky. The strawberry jam had a hint of thyme in it to keep from being overly sweet. The clotted cream would keep me warm on the early spring rides ahead. All these finger sandwiches were like European sushi, and every item was exemplary. Fine tea, tiny foods, fancy China, wifi, and a window view... Why would I ever leave? Oh right, I should go before my parking fee is ends up costing as much as this sitting (the parking attendant ended up waving me through, whew).

    I make a habit of overlooking my lactose intolerance for Afternoon Tea experiences, and this one nestled in nicely with my memories of The Peninsula and Four Seasons in Hong Kong. I have no regrets.

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    So. Worth. It.

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    Scoot by other Victoria sights. But I have another ferry to catch.

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    Ferry #3 is also scenic. Delicate opals reflect off low clouds in the diffused light, and distant mountains are faded cobalt.

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    Peacefully sailing by many green forested islands.

    My third ferry in two days was the finest by far (once I found the secret button to open the steel door to the upper levels). With 7 decks, a modern cafeteria, full-fledged restaurant serving beer and wine, gift shops with clothing, game arcade, business cubicles, and toddler play areas, it was clearly used to making regular commutes. Cantonese was popular onboard, but I also caught some Mandarin and other languages among the diverse passenger list.

    Also, I discovered a new favorite game to play with Canadians: Where is Rhode Island? Thus far, Maine and New York were top contenders.

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    Passengers from many walks of life onboard.

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    One of these bikes is not like the others. So, where do you guys think Rhode Island is?

    An unfortunate family emergency meant I was out a place to stay in Vancouver. Surely I could find a hostel or Airbnb, but I'd been looking forward to meeting some of the scooter scene in Vancouver. In the gasps of wifi at ferry terminals, news came in that everyone was out of town or busy. A few hours before arrival, Rob, the web designer for the Vespa Club of Canada, offered his spare room in New Westminster. I couldn't have been more grateful. He grilled up some chicken fajitas for dinner with his family, and I didn't even mind when his precocious teenaged son, Sam, immediately steered conversation towards religion and politics (ugh, what an awkward time to be an American). We passed the evening on subjects safer and nerdier than America: watching the pilot of American Gods.

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    Juuuuust fits. Whew. Hi, Rob!

    Thanks for rescuing a random scooterist, Rob.

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    Next day: that time my Vespa was so heavy the lift couldn't reach the top notch.

    Chris from Vespa Metro Vancouver reached out to me, making him the first ever Vespa shop to reach out, and friendlier guys you could not meet. They were the northernmost Vespa service shop in the Americas, and offered to look over my bike before its Alaskan haul.

    At the time, I believe I had ~64k miles on the odometer, which I didn't realize is over 100,000km! It sounds way more impressive in metric, and Chris put a little note on their high mileage wall.

    The skies were heavy with rain, so I ended up parking my bike at the shop for a few hours while Gwynne, who had just arrived by bus, and I explored the city on foot.

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    Ramen, for a cold damp day. Yah Yah Ya Ramen downtown.

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    Learning about the bizarre and fantastic world of Korean beauty products.

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    "It looks like a mini Star Ferry!" said Gwynne, referring to the tiny Granville Island ferries.

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    Clearly, we had to go for a tiny ferry ride. Ferry #3.5!

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    I want all of these.

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    All the scooter-sized snacks caught my eye at the Granville Island Public Market.

    It was great to see Gwynne one more time before heading into the northern beyond. I made away from the market light, with just some adorable French sausage sticks the size of birthday candles, and a handful of donut holes for the house back in New Westminster.

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    Speaking of back at the house...

    If only this rain would let up.
  3. CaptUglyDan

    CaptUglyDan Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2009
    Oddometer:
    802
    Location:
    Port Orchard Wa
    Tweekers break off the spark plugs to use the insulator as a crack pipe, Common occurence to airheads in SF and Seattle.
    I've had it happen 3 different times in downtown Seattle.

    Always enjoy reading your RR!
  4. everready

    everready Stuck in Ohio....Ugh!!!

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2013
    Oddometer:
    3,434
    Location:
    Macedonia, Ohio
    Rhode Island is in the Philippines, everyone knows that..........
  5. Hashbrowns

    Hashbrowns Adventurer

    Joined:
    Oct 18, 2010
    Oddometer:
    21
    Location:
    Louisvilleish
    Thoroughly enjoying your report. Thanks for sharing your adventure with us!
    LadyDraco likes this.
  6. RedDogAlberta

    RedDogAlberta High Plains Drifter

    Joined:
    Nov 27, 2009
    Oddometer:
    21,397
    Location:
    Edmonton, Alberta
    Mechanical/boiler rooms at motels work well for this also. I know from riding on Vancouver Island near Pacific Rim. :thumb
    Quezzie likes this.
  7. Quezzie

    Quezzie A. Scootertramp

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2011
    Oddometer:
    167
    Location:
    My Vespa
    [​IMG]

    This was it. My last stop for urbanity before I went into the British Columbian wild. I always dubbed this trip as an Alaskan adventure, but in actuality the largest portion of miles would be Canadian. Indeed, British Columbia alone proved to be expansive, rich in history, and absolutely packed with jaw-dropping natural beauty.

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    Even the Canadian Tire parking lot was gorgeous.

    I took BC-99 out of Vancouver, also known as the Sea to Sky highway. Upon leaving the city, the road immediately dialed up the majestic. Slate blue mountains erupted from the glittering water, frosted at the tips with blinding white snow. Traffic died down to reveal a serpentine stretch of smooth, beautiful tarmac hugging the rocky curves – almost all to myself. The craggy northwestern island formations I'd been sailing past on ferries, I now found myself flying through on my bike. It was utterly sublime.

    The skies were finally clear, but the cold pushed me into a Canadian Tire to warm up. Actually, it was also to find a specific hat, as a gift. I explained to an employee that I heard they carried a hat that made your head look like the Canadian Tire logo, red knit with a green pom.

    "Oh, like a toque?"

    I must admit, I privately delighted at catching a wild 'toque' in its natural habitat.

    "We changed those out for spring. I might be able to dig up one or two in the back though."

    He didn't end up finding any, but I felt I already got more than what I was looking for. I'll come back in the fall.

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    The ride was too glorious to stop for photos, so you only get this one.

    Scooterist Neil had reached out from Whistler, a town where my teenage self attempted to be cool and learn to snowboard (I'm terrible at it, and never went back). As I pulled into the resort town, I had my first close encounter with a Canadian bear, chilling by the train tracks on Alta Lake Road. It looked up as I passed within charging distance, and I swear it asked for a smoke.The daylight was getting noticeably longer, so I had plenty of time to meet Neil, Janet, and the most likable dog in the world, Juliet.

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    This dog. She is adorable.

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    I joined Juliet for her walk. Do you ever get used to views like this, Janet and Neil?

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    Oh, Canada.

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    Neil is killing it with tortilla bowls.

    At the house, Janet told me, "We have 4 sets of clothes in Whistler: dog walking clothes, work clothes, house clothes, and 'Shit I have to go into the city' clothes."

    The evening passed in easy camaraderie, eating tortilla bowls and drinking Spanish wine, enveloped in armchairs, chatting about Whistler, Neil's Cannonball Runs, and upcoming scooter events.

    Among the topics that stood out to me, Neil mentioned that while broken down "in Arkansas or someplace," he'd never encountered such overt racism – words about then president Obama, and the direction of American healthcare (Neil's confusion was understandable, "From the state of their remaining teeth alone, clearly these were people who would benefit from socialized healthcare."). It surprised me as much as him, but upon further reflection I realized as a young-looking, female, person of color (though I'm still unused to seeing myself as a minority, there are literally billions of people who look like me on the other side of the planet), only the least observant Southerner would unleash the kind of language and sentiment Neil encountered. My stories of racism in the US are much more encounters of the "Your people are so polite" variety. Neil, a tall salt-and-pepper white guy with a willingness to discourse, could be welcomed into the fold and see behind the curtain, even as a Canadian (he jokes they probably called him an N-loving commie after he left).

    I felt badly that this was one of his takeaways from America, but for better or worse, he witnessed a side of the US I probably couldn't stumble upon. The coexistence of hospitality and prejudice is paradoxical, yet exemplified by the region I call a home – though to be fair his story happened deep in hillbilly land. In the past I had the luxury of remaining mostly apolitical, but as an American spending time in another nation, even one as close as Canada, I was already encountering a degree of, "Soooo, what the fuck is going on with your country?" I should probably get used to feeling embarrassed, since the current American president continues to normalize racist, sexist, and backwards thinking.

    Canada is next door to the US, and already I got the feeling that I'm more American when I'm outside the country.

    It was a fascinating discussion for one night. Both he and Janet had to be out of the house early for work, but before I left he handed me one of his free lift passes. Thanks again, Neil!

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    Going up a mountain. The last time I was on this lift might have been 15 years ago.

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    Colorful skiiers. In May.

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    Getting pretty up here.

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    Breathtaking. I'm out of breath just stomping around taking photos.

    As a teenager I never appreciated the luxury of a ski trip here, but now I understand why this is such a winter sport destination. Being out in nature, on a mountaintop surrounded by glaciers... It's breathtaking, even before the physical exertion of sport. The view from the top is phenomenal, avoiding orthopedic injury or certain death as you careen downhill with boards strapped to you feet is just the cherry on top.

    I bet the hot chocolate is tastier up here as well, which must be why it's so expensive.

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    I'm sure it helps if you're a fearless kid and don't suck at skiing. Were these children just born with skis on their feet?

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    Even Gumby snowboards.

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    The clouds moved in and it got chilly, so back down we go.

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    Gumby is in for another round.

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    Lunch break in the shopping mall that is Whistler Village.

    Why is it that all ski villages look the same worldwide? There are the same three retail brands, a Starbucks, and an ice bar. I felt like I could be in Queenstown, NZ or Lake Placid, NY.

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    You're killing me.

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    Neil suggested a stop by Joffre Lakes. It was snowing as I pulled in.

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    Hope my moto boots count as sturdy footwear.

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    The most dangerous trail I've ever taken, I was slipping and flailing a spastic dance the whole way. Looks like I got some skiing in after all.

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    The view was absolutely worth it.

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    Lower Joffre Lake.

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    Still half frozen.

    It was serene to sit at the edge of this half-frozen lake. At least, it was until a gaggle of teenagers showed up. Their behavior was stark contrast to the quiet cold of the woods, and made me wonder if I was ever that annoying in pupa stage. Cue my departure, damn kids!

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    Back on the scoot. The Sea to Sky Highway is up there with riding through Glacier National Park.Absolutely dwarfed by mountains.

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    Well this was a first.

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    Hark, a wild avalanche appears.

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    I stopped to photograph the avalanche, and realized this was the opposite view.

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    You're killing me, BC. It's like a scaled up Pacific Coast. Taller. Craggier. More rugged.

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    It doesn't quit.

    I didn't realize I was approaching Lillooet until I had already blown by the welcome sign. It read, "Lillooet, Guaranteed Rugged," in all caps, printed in a font a steakhouse may find favorable. The road descended steeply into a valley town, hemmed in on all sides by steep mountain faces. They were violet in shade but the peaks were shallower and rounded, the pale blue snow had all but disappeared from their tops. I'd entered the 'inland desert' that Rob and Pamela had described – the end of the scenic road.

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    Thanks to the Internet, I found a photo of the steakhouse.

    "Lillooet. Rugged. Chewy. Seared on the outside, bloody on the inside. Eat it with an ax, if you're a wimp," I'm hereby expanding on the name in my memory.

    A number of other motorcyclists were buzzing around the gas station ("Alaska? Where's your fishing rod?"), or taking photos by the Mile 0 marker for Old Cariboo road, the beginning of the road for miners in gold rush days. It struck me as a pretty sounding name for a town guaranteed to be rugged, but it turned out it was originally named Cayoosh Flats. The locals found it unsavory, so it was renamed for the Lillooet Trail and the nearby Lil'wat native people.

    The road north of Lillooet would have been as dull as Rob had warned me, but the weather kept me on my toes. Alternating sun and showers, hail coming sideways, and temperatures down to 3 C made me glad I brought my heated gloves. My pack was the smallest it had ever been, because I simply wore everything.

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    Neil had mentioned a partially paved road from Pavilion to Clinton, but this sign was discouraging.Next time. I have plenty of gravel to look forward to farther north.

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    I require all of your gravy on fries.

    Before I left, Bagel had put me in touch with George at the Rangeland Motel in Lac la Hache, where the Cannonball riders (including Bagel and Neil) stayed in 2014. George himself was a retired scooterist, and just the most chill, laid-back guy.

    "Stay as long as you want, check out in whenever, just leave the keys in the room. We don't lock anything," George told me.

    He mentioned motorists coming through here on long overland hauls sometimes stayed for weeks to rest. The rooms were small and smelled faintly like grandma was a smoker, but in a cozy, welcoming way – this grandma probably lets kids eat the chocolates with alcohol in them. Lac la Hache was more of a gas station than a town, but it was peaceful and had all the necessities – the foremost for me at the time being warmth and sustenance.

    Thankfully, Hungry Bear Two was the kind of diner that feeds truckers: a straightforward menu with good value and massive portions. The TV played softly in the corner, and their tone was so serious I thought surely they must be discussing politics. Upon closer listening, it was followup to a hockey game.

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    Then this happened.

    The only other establishment open in town was Red Crow Cafe. Behind a sleepy bar, three kids in their early twenties kept themselves entertained by learning to play pool. They turned out to be on workaways from Europe, and we chatted until two Lac la Hache locals blew in. The young bartender from Holland took their instructions to make a round of Vitamin C drop shots (equal parts Red Bull, orange juice, and vodka dropped in a shot glass). The besties showed off their new matching tattoos, invited everyone to their house party, and took some selfies on my bike on the way out. By the time I called it a night, Rick, the owner of the Red Crow, promised to make me a cheeseless pizza when I'm back through town.

    The Rangeland may look modest, but with flannel sheets and a down comforter it was the perfect place to lay my head. A true motel.

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    Woohoo, making breakfast in real tableware. That's actually my second cup of coffee, the first I sipped from under the warmth of covers.

    The sun was bright by 5:30am and unbearable by 7, reminding me that nighttime would eventually shrink to a gasp as I pressed north.

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    Great to meet you and your family, George!

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    I wanted to check out this cool thrift shop in a log cabin, but it's closed on Sunday.

    The land beyond opened up on a scale altogether too big for a scooter, and I felt like a flea roving across a large green animal's back. I could see weather as I approached it, grey smears on a cerulean sky. The road continued to alternate between shade and bright sunlight, but sometimes it was miles after ducking into shadow before tiny raindrops would make my vision sparkle. A crosswind dogged me, occasionally bouncing hail off my visor. I'd reached to the part of the ride that's merely covering distance.

    Neil had warned me against Vanderhoof (I believe 'shithole' was the precise phrase he used) but the distance was about right and I needed a warm place to rest.

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    The weirdest Airbnb/motel I've stayed in.

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    But they had prime scooter parking.

    The Vanderhoof Inn was a square, shingled building next to the train tracks, and looked a relic from the 70s. It shared the ground floor with a laundromat that was once a "cold beer and wine store," an Indian restaurant, and a townie bar that locked up at 6 (where my scooter was parked, hopefully securely). Most of the smaller businesses looked like they'd been that way for at least 30 years. This was one of the weirder places I'd stayed, but aside from the occasional passing train I did have quiet privacy. The room itself was spacious: an entire efficiency apartment with a full kitchen, plates, mugs, and silverware albeit mismatched. There was even a little packet of shampoo bearing another hotel's name, which made my head smell like orange creamsicle.

    Plus, I got to watch a Canadian public TV program about the Oka Crisis. As I drifted to sleep to a 9:30pm sunset it struck me that this would never fly on American television, there seemed to be so little public interest in the stories of First Nations or Native Americans.

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    Warming up in a cafe in Houston, just in time for the hail to start again. Guess I'll take a coffee and wait. Brr.

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    Oh hi, Moricetown. Things are getting pretty again.

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    Looks like a beaver was busy?

    I had a delicious taste of sunshine for a moment before the skies resumed the rain and hail. Oncoming 18-wheelers were carried forward on plumes of vapor mist. Locals in Smithers warned that the rainfall had flooded Moricetown, and when I arrived it was necessary to navigate several roads turned to rivers and corners turned to pools.

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    The bridge into Hazelton was entirely metal grate. Grate, my favorite.

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    Hello, Peggy and Phil!

    Back in New Westminster, Pamela had put me in touch with her friends, Peggy and Phil in Hazelton, BC. I couldn't be more grateful for their hospitality, as I think Pamela neglected to mention I was passing though and they generously took me in with no idea how long I'd be around.

    Over some much appreciated hot tea, Peggy told me about her local charity work (aside from the charity of taking in random scooterists with nothing more than the recommendation of her church outreach friend) and some of the history of the Kispiox and Ksan villages. It was a lot of take in, and a quick time check revealed that the village museum was open for another half hour.

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    Ksan Historical Village and Museum.

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    Learning about First Nations of the region. The designs are so cool.

    With sun in the sky until 10pm, I went back from a scoot around the tiny town of Hazelton and up to visit Kispiox until Phil arrived for dinner.

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    Mystery paddleboat. Is it a yacht clubhouse now?

    There's a long history of paddlewheel steamboats on the Skeena river, especially during gold rush days. The names of towns I'd passed – 70 Mile House, 100 Mile House, 150 Mile House – were all acquired for the distances from Lillooet during the Cariboo Gold Rush. There were so many gold rushes, Lillooet was once the "largest city west of Chicago and north of San Francisco" during the Fraser Gold Rush (1958-59). It also may be the oldest continuously inhabited location on the continent, First Nations people having been settled here since time immemorial.

    Anyway, back to Hazelton.

    A scoot by the Tri-Town Theatre found they showed one movie at a time, with two screenings on Monday, and Thurs-Sunday. Admission? $6 for 2D, $9 for 3D.

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    I just like all the designs on signs.

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    'Band Council' suggests music to me, but First Nation Bands are collections of chiefs for government. I still think of music.

    I poked around Kispiox and saw other lonely roads to reserves, but I didn’t follow them. I already felt like an intruder in such a small, old community. Maybe it was all the dogs that barked at me or chased me.

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    Formerly called Shanghai Cafe, this Chinese-Canadian restaurant has been around since 1920?!

    I was surprised to find a Chinese restaurant in such a small town, but according to a historical map in town the Sunrise Cafe had always been a Chinese-Canadian restaurant. Upon further research, during the Omineca Gold Rush, about 40% of miners were Chinese, already experienced miners from the Cariboo Gold Rush.

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    More poking around town.

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    Perhaps the most remarkable thing about meeting Peggy and Phil was discovering Phil's mother's work: Gladys Muir gave birth to Phil, the kind, bushy-eyebrowed retired physician folded into the recliner before me, while on a Mission in southwest China. She wrote a book about her experiences, Yun-nan, South of the Clouds: My life in Southwest China from 1939-51, which Phil was working on re-publishing. Phil not only spoke some Mandarin, but brought out a box of letters, telegrams, and correspondences from his mother's years in rural China. Among them were photos of Phil as a child, seated on the handlebars of a bicycle.

    As the sunlight slid into steep angles across their livingroom I sat transfixed, listening to his stories of his mother's life – everything from a traditional welcoming ceremony for her first-born son (Phil), to the harshness and violence of regime change in 1949, to their family fleeing China when religion was no longer welcome. When words ran out, I absorbed Gladys' book, and pored over the artifacts in the box.

    It was amazing to witness such a collection of first-hand accounts from a remote part of China, a place far beyond even the faintest dream of tourism, and at a volatile and pivotal time in Chinese history. Perhaps Western eyes would never have such a rich picture of it without the efforts of Missionaries, who took the time to learn a language and document what others would consider trivial. All these photos, notes, and reports of local customs, daily life, and traditions possibly would have been lost in time, or to the brutality of Japanese occupation and viciousness of change to Communism. I had a new sense of the drive their family must have had to stay in such a difficult place, trying to affect change, and why it's called a 'mission'.

    Yet alongside the first-person descriptions were quips for how many Chinese had converted each day, or how many expressed an interest in converting. It was jarring to me, and I couldn't put my finger on what made me uncomfortable about it. While I cannot deny the charitable effects of Missions, I wondered if people at the time felt this was a fair exchange of culture. Faith is generally a positive force, but religion has a much darker history.

    I could see first hand the positive effects individuals like Peggy and Phil had on their community, including their commitment to learning and sharing the history of their home. I'm just glad not to have to reconcile with a belief system, or y'know, be a Chinese peasant during regime change.

    Personally, I'm much more in the camp of, "The existence of the Emoji Movie alone is proof there is no god."

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    Thank you for your kindness and generosity, Peggy and Phil.

    For a single overnight, it was an extremely enriching stay. I never would have explored this town if not for Pamela, Peggy, and Phil. Like many of the other quiet towns and small communities, I would probably have blown though. You can’t see them all, but I'm grateful they took the time to share a little slice of their life here.
  8. RedDogAlberta

    RedDogAlberta High Plains Drifter

    Joined:
    Nov 27, 2009
    Oddometer:
    21,397
    Location:
    Edmonton, Alberta
    Outstanding as usual! Yes, every little town has it's Chinese diner, often in the lobby of a nine room hotel a century old. You'll find the same on the prairies. Our two lane highway rides gravitate to our favourites and who has the best pie. For the most part the families are third generation Canadians running the restaurant and often the only visible minority (none caucasian) family in town. The kind of joints where your credit is good and they know when you get paid.
    Quezzie likes this.
  9. Trip Hammer

    Trip Hammer It's not the years, it's the mileage Supporter

    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2013
    Oddometer:
    1,255
    Location:
    Seattle
    You absolutely ROCK, Quezzie! I went back and read the whole report again the last couple days at work.. it's that good. :clap
    I know this is a bit behind real time, but I hope everything is going well for you these days and the scoot is sorted.

    Safe travels!
  10. Old fool

    Old fool Road rider

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2012
    Oddometer:
    292
    Location:
    Ottawa
    Yes indeed, your insight keeps me reading and following along - hope to cross paths some day.
    RedDogAlberta likes this.
  11. Quezzie

    Quezzie A. Scootertramp

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2011
    Oddometer:
    167
    Location:
    My Vespa
    Touchdown on Alaskan Soil. May 16, 2017.

    [​IMG]

    Putting on all my layers in the morning felt like dressing for battle. Today, I would touch Alaskan soil, albeit in the tiny tourist town of Hyder, AK. I had a low mileage day ahead of me, to give myself time to explore Kispiox again and see how far I got up to Salmon Glacier.

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    Found the totem poles this time!

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    I'm not sure how I missed these the first time through Kispiox, they're massive. Must be the dogs chasing me.

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    Works in progress, totems are still being carved and erected today.

    The totems were a convenient place to pause and properly tighten down my mirror. It had come loose when a drunk woman used it as an assist to take selfies on my bike a few nights back, and I kept putting it off. Ah well.

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    A unicyclist with maracas? How in-grate-iating.

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    First sign of Alaska, at the Stewart-Cassiar Highway junction!

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    "What're you, moving to Stewart with all that luggage? Getting Hyderized? Have a safe ride, eh!" Motorcyclists heading home after a ride to Stewart.

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    Designs are everywhere, even the diner. Also, yay they let me order the kid's portion.

    As expected, the dominant vegetable for days had become the noble french fry. Canadians had the best condiment for them as well: GRAVY. It might be my favorite, after malt vinegar. And maybe curry sauce. Okay, top three.

    It was hard to slow down to eat, because I was excited to get to Alaska!

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    More totems, in Kitwanga.

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    Kitwanga is part of the Gitxsan Nation.

    Contrasting the ancient totems was a small church and bell tower across the road, which I hadn't paid much attention to at the time. St Paul's Anglican Church was founded as a mission station in 1882. It's slightly puzzling how little information I could find, but it seems the Gitxsan Nation had converted to Christianity, encouraged by British settlers. Like the church and totems, the cultures existed side-by-side, even into present day.

    I got the impression that First Nations that ended up being in Canada seem to have been treated with more respect than many of the native people in what became the United States. Maybe the grass just seems greener on the side with affordable healthcare. I stand with Wednesday Addams in Addams Family Thankgsiving.

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    Prepare those spare fuel bottles, the Stewart-Cassiar Highway cuts across some of the most remote regions of the province.

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    Accommodations for truckers at Meziadin Junction. Too expensive for me.

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    It looks like they're used to handling quantity.

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    Too early in the season, everything is empty.

    I enjoyed the signs for GAS BAR up here, instead of gas station. Every refuel makes me feel like I'm rolling up to a cocktail bar, and when an attendant asks, "What'll you have?" I say "Premium, please," as if I were ordering a Manhattan. On the other hand, a place that does sell alcohol is called a Cold Beer And Wine Store. Always in that order.

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    Things are getting pretty.

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    Real pretty.

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    Blue skies.

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    Bear Glacier. I took a million photos that look approximately like this.

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    I'm not supposed to stop here, but no one is around to complain.

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    So cool to see a glacier from the road.

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    I'm in Alaska! No border patrol crossing into the U.S.

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    The Bus was freshly power washed, but not open yet. No fish and chips for me.

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    So quiet.

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    I picked up the slightest whiff of Canadian cell reception here.

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    It starts.

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    Not open either.

    I'd actually visited Hyder before, years ago on an inner passage cruise with my parents. The southernmost town of Alaska was sustained by tourism, capitalizing on its ghost town roots. This early in the season though, it was truly deserted. Glacier Inn was only open Wed-Sun 2-8. The Bus was freshly power washed but wouldn’t open until the last week of May. The only place semi-open was the campground, and they didn’t have hot water in their showers yet, or wifi. They actually recommended staying in Stewart, which was a 'real town.'

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    Let's try riding up to a glacier.

    I'd heard the road to Salmon Glacier viewpoint was still snowed in, but told myself I’d ride up until snow made it impassable. The dirt itself was hard-packed and not difficult for riding, in spite of the many signs warning otherwise. It was a beautiful road, with views, waterfalls, and avalanche zones.

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    I don't think they make chains for Vespas?

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    Sneaking back into British Columbia.

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    So many warnings.

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    They didn't warn me about the amazing view.

    Eventually, the road began to climb and temperatures dropped. Old snow clung to corners.

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    And that's all for today. I walked up to the mud, and decided I'd rather keep my bike upright.

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    It was beautiful, though a bit bumpy.

    My pack seemed to be holding well, until my front gas bottle rattled out from under the bungee net and I ran over it. I managed to retrieve it before it rolled off a cliff, with just a small dent in the side. It gets a carabiner now.

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    What is that up there?

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    I can't bear the anticipation. I waited for a pickup truck coming through to scare it off.

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    Sunshine and waterfalls and snow and gravel.

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    So peaceful.

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    Gah.

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    Going back to Canada.

    On the way back to Stewart to camp, the border officer asked me whether I had bear spray. I'd heard it was illegal to carry it across borders so had held off purchasing any until I was farther along, figuring that playing my ukulele at camp would be enough of a deterrent. This seemed to alarm the officer. She recommended at least getting a 'bear pen' – a small, firecracker that's supposed to scare them away.

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    It's lovely having sunlight so late each day, I never worry about setting up camp in the dark.

    I saw seven bears that day, including a mother with two cubs. The campground in town assured me that even though their camp was named Bear River RV Park, they didn't come down this far.

    They had glacier-fed water too, mmm.

    I did worry a bit for my air plant getting too cold at night. George at the Rangeland, ever resourceful, suggested putting a plastic bag over it. A dime bag would have been perfect, but I made do with what I had:

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    My extreme air plant is pushing the lower limits of temperature tolerance.

    That was it. Three years and eleven days since departure, scoot and I touched down on 49 U.S. states, Baja Mexico, and 4 Canadian provinces. 65k on the clock.

    The Yukon lay ahead.
  12. RedDogAlberta

    RedDogAlberta High Plains Drifter

    Joined:
    Nov 27, 2009
    Oddometer:
    21,397
    Location:
    Edmonton, Alberta
    Absolutely wonderful as always. Just be here for spring. The dealer is holding my new bike for the winter. We can quickly marry and be off for a summer of honeymoon bliss and adventure. :ricky:ricky

    Ok I tried. Instead, more please. :D
    Old fool likes this.
  13. Quezzie

    Quezzie A. Scootertramp

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2011
    Oddometer:
    167
    Location:
    My Vespa
    Boya, That's Beautiful. Stewart-Cassiar to Alaska Highway. May 17 - 18, 2017.


    [​IMG]

    I had a few campgrounds (recreation sites, as they're called) along the Stewart-Cassiar in mind for the next stretch. I knew I would be riding through some remote places, and figured I'd just go until I felt ready to stop. It's a supreme luxury, the freedom to go till whenever, with no one expecting you anywhere, anytime. I suppose it depends on the person whether they find that freeing or concerning.

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    This little bugger managed to get mashed between the inside of my pinlock and visor, requiring disassembly to clean.

    I was happy to wake up unmolested by bears, but mosquitoes were another thing. They were still relatively sparse early in the season and didn't bother me with gear on, but they were huge. The bloody spatters resulting from riding through a cloud of them would give Pollock a run for his money. The ride up Salmon Glacier road had coated the accumulated bug innards with dust, and it was time for a proper cleaning.

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    Hee hee, left a mark by some Kiwis at Temptations Bakery and Deli in Stewart, BC.

    Hyder was a ghost town, but Stewart was still a sleepy community. They made up for it by being exceptionally welcoming. Temptations Bakery, the only place open for coffee, had so many stickers and handwritten iterations of "So-and-so was here," the scrawls climbed up into the beams. They provided me a Sharpie to add my own.

    Everyone present seemed local, but a kind trucker struck up conversation over coffee. I did my best to decipher his very strong accent. Thank you for the coffee, accented Canadian man.

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    Road is all mine.

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    This. For hours.

    Everyone at Bell II (there is a Bell I but it's never on maps) was on their way to Alaska for seasonal work. The last thing resembling a community for miles was the Dease Lake gas station, where my bike decided to have difficulty starting. A couple instances earlier it seemed to hiccup on the road, or was that a gust of wind? Perhaps bad gas? When I checked the spark plug it hadn't budged. My red Loctite was on hand, but that freedom-fear scale made a brief tip in the other direction.

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    More maracas.

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    Always stop for gas.

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    Bell II had a lodge for hunters, but this one at Tatogga Lake Resort was something else.

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    I moose-t ask you...

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    Do you buy off the rack?

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    Stopped for a break and browsed through the Kluochon Centre Store in Iskut.Prices were high and I didn't quite belong, but this was the view outside.

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    Ketchup chips available by the box here?!

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    Still stunning.

    I passed many lakes that were still frozen or had old snow clinging precariously to the edges. Much like upstate NY, I read that glaciers had carved and fed the long deep lakes in this region.

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    One of the most glorious campgrounds I've ever been fortunate enough to find.

    The sun was still high around 7:30pm, when I arrived at Boya Lake Provincial Park. A soft twilight began to fall around 8, when my tent was pitched. I couldn't have found myself in a more perfect place.

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    A man was fishing to the left of this shot, but he said nothing bit.

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    Boya Lake.

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    Tour of the sprinter.

    I took a walk around camp with Gwen and Genevieve from Anchorage. They were driving a sprinter van up from Portland to Fairbanks. We chatted about Hatcher's pass, the ferry to Kodiak, and much more. It reminded me how much was ahead, and that I should pace myself. I'd bump into them again returning from Watson Lake!

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    Walking around the lake with Gwen and Genevieve.

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    Me next on the swing!

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    Yesss. There's a video here.

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    Like a mirror.

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    They said there was a caribou on the other side of the lake.

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    Thanks for the photo, Gwen!

    In the absence of bear lockers, I attempted to be responsible and hang a bear bag. It was the most ludicrous thing I've ever attempted, and I'm glad no one was there to witness. After many snags and missed throws, I left my snacks and toothpaste hanging over a low ditch and figured the bears could have their minty snack if they wanted it so bad.

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    What time is it? I'm just now realizing that my camp lantern is as useless as me trying to hang a bear bag.

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    Phone says it's 9pm.

    I loved arranging the tent so the window would face the lake and mountains. Looking out from between the giant mosquitoes settled on the mesh, I reveled in such good fortune that each night I get to set up a new home. But each morning I had to tear it down too.

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    In any other situation, 6am would be ungodly for breakfast.

    Around 11:40pm I woke briefly, and there was still light in the sky. A loud splash echoed across the water around 3am, when a caribou decided to take a bath in the lake. The sky was already brightening. The extended sunlight was addicting, I was really going to have to work to pace myself.

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    Yukon! Thanks for the photo, RVers on the other side of the road taking photos of the British Columbia sign.

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    Brief detour east for Sign Post Forest.

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    Scoot was here.

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    Hurr.

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    Wandering, looking for a sign...

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    Still looking.

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    The closest thing I could find to Providence, RI. I left a sticker.

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    At the Alaska Highway junction, the attendant suggested the Rancheria Lodge for all day breakfast. They were delicious, and had wifi too!

    I met two motorcyclists hauling a trailer, and a mod over lunch. He had a Lambretta in the 60s in England, put a ton of mirrors on the front of his bike, and wore a suit and everything. "It was all about looks then."

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    Glacier fed waters take on a greenish hue.

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    Motoring towards Whitehorse.

    On Highway 37, there were just enough bumps to keep me awake, and the constant company of snow topped mountains punctuated by emerald lakes. I wondered whether their beauty would ever become plain, like air that you simply breath in. When people here go to other places, do they find it terribly dull? A Sri Lankan guide once shared that travel was difficult for him, because foreign food tasted like water to his spice-acclimated palate.

    A long stretch of gravel construction slowed me, but otherwise the pavement from the Stewart-Cassiar and Alaska Highway to Whitehorse was utterly tame. The highway rode a fine line between zen-like serenity... and boredom. The scenery was expansive but looked the same for hours, then you would come upon a small lodge of a town. A part of me wished I had a big bike up here, to eat up such great distances.

    [​IMG]
    Having my fish and chips. Beez Kneez was affiliated with Klondike Rib & Salmon, so I gratefully accepted a coupon for dinner.

    Whitehorse, with a population of 25,000, was the biggest city I'd seen since Vancouver. Rolling in, I felt giddy with the traffic lights and people and civilization. I needed a rest, and the Beez Kneez Bakpakers had bunks and blackout curtains.

    This blue midnight sun is weird.
  14. DeGraafvanSalland

    DeGraafvanSalland De Graaf van Salland

    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2015
    Oddometer:
    98
    Location:
    Flevoland (Netherlands, Europe)
    Great report, once again:clap
  15. Romero

    Romero At Cinépolis or OXXO Supporter

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2016
    Oddometer:
    756
    Location:
    Morelia
    Very cool RR1 I miss my Vespa days! Well done!
  16. Offcenter

    Offcenter On The Road Again!

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,114
    Location:
    Northern New Jersey
    Hey Stephanie! Haven't heard anything from you in quite a while.
    Any news? Are you getting on the road again?
    All healed up?
  17. Kestrel

    Kestrel Gear Driven Cams!!

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2008
    Oddometer:
    650
    Location:
    North Carolina
    Some updates were posted here!

    http://250superhero.blogspot.com/
  18. Offcenter

    Offcenter On The Road Again!

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,114
    Location:
    Northern New Jersey
    Nah! Last update there was May last year, 9 months ago.
  19. Kestrel

    Kestrel Gear Driven Cams!!

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2008
    Oddometer:
    650
    Location:
    North Carolina
    It takes a long time to tell a story! Check the date on her post - she just updated that blog a week ago - it has the most current entries for her trip log.
  20. Quezzie

    Quezzie A. Scootertramp

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2011
    Oddometer:
    167
    Location:
    My Vespa
    The Indoor Life in Whitehorse, YT. May 19 - 21, 2017.

    [​IMG]

    Nothing in Whitehorse is more than 10 minutes away, because if you've gone any farther you're pretty much in the wild. The town was just big enough to have what I sought: a large grocery store where I availed myself to some produce (and gasped at the prices), and a cozy hostel with blackout curtains.

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    Beez Kneez Bakpaker is a quintessential hostel.

    Nancy, a most remarkable woman who manages the hostel in town, informed me that the ferry at Dawson City was operating and the Canadian side of the Top of the World Highway was open. However, no one was staffed at the U.S. Border Patrol yet, so I wouldn't be able to cross. Rain was in the forecast for the next few days as well, so I took this as a welcome invite to spend my days reading in the common area and chatting with other hostel guests.

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    Bertha runs security.

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    Basalt cliffs at Miles Canyon.
    When I wanted a break from the indoor life, Nancy recommended a mini adventure to Miles Canyon just outside of town.

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    The suspension bridge shook in the wind as I crossed.

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    I picked a short trail with a warning, For experienced hikers only. No railings along the footpath, just a sheer drop to the Yukon below.

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    Hark, an outcropping. I must climb it.

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    Climbed it. Yay.

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    View from the outcropping. You can see the lava-formed columns and the jagged path atop.

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    Brave kayaker.

    There were a number of hiking trails and what looked like fire roads, but the gathering rain clouds gave me an excuse to hustle back indoors.

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    Yukon River.

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    Now that's a stylish way to get around.

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    Nobody home though.

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    Beer and liquor tasting at the Yukon Brewing.

    Anyway, I had an appointment with Roberta from the hostel to tour Yukon Brewing.

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    A lone still peeking from behind beer.

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    I was wondering who 'Lee Doug' was until I realized I'd misheard the guide. The beer is called Lead Dog.

    For the remainder of the afternoon, I settled into a large couch by the window with my book, a handful of raspberries, and a warm buzz (the espresso stout and haskap berry liqueur were my favorites). The chatter of Spanish climbers at the table mixed with whatever was playing quietly on the sound system: Nancy's choice. Roberta worked on her laptop from the opposite couch. It was everything I needed.

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    The Deck cracks me up, because it's an indoor space decorated to look outdoors.

    There weren't many restaurants open, but Roberta and I set up at The Deck. Over dinner, I learned about first nations in Canada and her graduate studies; Roberta is Cree, and was interviewing first nations on this side of the continent for her graduate studies.

    [​IMG]
    Car ride to Atlin with Alex and Nancy! Bill is driving.

    On Nancy's day off, she invited Alex and I to join her for her first skydiving experience. Bill came to pick us up for the drive to the launch site near Atlin.

    "I think I'm allowed back at the Atlin Inn," Nancy remarked as she threw some warm layers and a 6-pack of beer in the car. Over the course of the day the beer would magically vanish, though I only saw her pound one of them when we refueled at Jake's Corner. She was nervous about the jump.

    It was a ragtag family outing. In the car, we could cover distances that would otherwise be exhausting for me on the bike. Along the drive, we paused for scenic views, or for Alex, from Australia, to get out of the car to chase wildlife with her point-and-shoot. The car had a CD player and we found one CD of an artist I didn't know, but Nancy sang along. She would point out things to Alex and I, like the 'free store' on the other side of the road: a cabin where people drop off their extra things, and other people pick it up. Or the origin of the names for nearby Snafu and Tarfu Lakes.

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    Windy out here.

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    Aww. Scenery and piss break.

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    I didn't know porcupines climbed.

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    Alex is keen to get a photo.

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    Atlin.

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    Nice shot, Nancy.

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    Alex and I are here to support your jump...

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    ...Out of a helicopter!

    Years ago, I was lucky enough to join a daring friend to go skydiving in New Hampshire. It was several hours of waiting, leading up to about 7 seconds of full adrenaline dump. Optional followup with beer, attempting to chill the fuck out again.

    This would be Nancy's first jump. While she waited for the skies to clear, she convinced Bill to take Alex and I for a drive to Warm Springs.

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    Warm Springs. It's an oasis of bright green in an otherwise wintry setting. Bill says spring is 10 days late, just my luck.

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    The water was warm like a bath. I picked a handful of watercress for Alex, and saw tiny prawns swimming among the salad bar.

    While looking for a bag to hold Alex's watercress, Bill instead found a pair of spare underwear in the center console. Ha, Nancy.

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    Clock post and old jail in Atlin. Hopefully won't get kicked out of the Atlin Inn and thrown in here?

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    Discovery Saloon, connected to the Atlin Inn, where Nancy was indeed allowed back in.

    In the end, the skies never cleared enough for even a helicopter ride. We picked Nancy up from the airport for a consolation drink and pot pies at the Discovery Saloon. "That's socked in, eh," she intoned, looking out the window at the stubborn cloud cover.

    [​IMG]
    Atlin Lake.

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    "Good place to keep your beer cold." -Nancy

    We took a different way back to Whitehorse, for a brief visit to Carcross.

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    Another lake, from Carcross. I believe there's a glacier in the distance.

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    Back at the hostel, alpinists and their gear. Photo by Alex.

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    Thanks for the pic, Alex.

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    His team attempted to summit Mount Logan, but had to come back due to a teammate's high-altitude cerebral edema (HACE).

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    Climbers need to plan enough food for the way up, the way down, and double that in case of emergency. True alpinists don't get helicoptered out if something goes wrong. Now that his friends have gone home, he's eating through his supplies.

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    I got to try a bit of his climbing bread with a pat of butter, on the most adorable cutting board.
    It makes me think of elven waybread,
    Lembas.

    Adding to the growing list of people way more hardcore than me riding a scooter to Alaska: Cyclists, kayakers, hikers, and alpinists of any variety.

    For me, I had hardcore rest and relaxation plans at the nearby hot springs.

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    Takhini Hot Springs, a short ride outside Whitehorse.

    Their cafe was more than I wanted to pay for, but it's pretty wild to savor a snowy mountain view while soaking in steaming mineral water.

    Flushed and with a relaxed heaviness in my limbs, I found an eagerness to feel the cold tickling the edges of my face through the helmet vents. I was ready for the road again.

    [​IMG]
    One last chill evening at Beez Kneez.

    News came in that U.S. border had opened on Sunday. A fresh group of guests arrived at the hostel, and the consensus was to go to Dirty Old Bastard for a night on the town. It was a surprisingly hipster kind of place but our party befriended local patrons, and not long into the Whitehorse bar scene a women introduced me to the Burnt Reynolds shot. It arrived on fire, and with instructions to drink it like this:

    [​IMG]
    Thanks for demo of how to drink the Burnt Reynolds shot.

    In an ongoing series of "you had to be there" moments, a very drunk man invited me to pick mushrooms with him (morels were lucrative and in season) before sliding off his seat, and I found a mummified cat before the end of the night.

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    In other peculiarities, a mummified cat guards the restroom of Dirty Old Bastard.

    Our party ended up staying out till 2am and walked back in twilight – a fitting farewell. I was sad to part ways, but the nature of a hostel, as any gathering of travelers, is fleeting. The regular cast of waywards in the past few days – hitchhikers, students, climbers, cyclists, kayakers, seasonal workers, or someone just looking for a home – were a colorful insta-family after so many miles solo, but after I left there would be no one to share this tiny slice of mutual history in Whitehorse.