RTW the Jamie Z Way: Winter Hiatus in Phoenix

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Jamie Z, Nov 29, 2020.

  1. Jamie Z

    Jamie Z I'm serious. Supporter

    Oct 17, 2006
    Around Denver
    September 4, 2021

    I eat caribou!



    Sometime last night a truck had pulled over at the rest area adjacent to where I was sleeping. All night long the diesel ran. Periodically it would rev up. It must have been powering a reefer unit.


    And it rained much of the night. Despite the clear skies at midnight, I’d put my rainfly on, and I’m glad I did. I packed up my tent, still soaked.

    I rode into Watson Lake and stopped first at the signpost forest. It’s a must-stop.


    It’s much larger than I was expecting. I was really astonished at the variety and quality of signs here.


    Because I had a phone signal here, I posted a picture of my bike at the signpost forest on Facebook. Within a minute or two, one of my cousins commented, “I’ve been there!” And then a couple minutes later I got a random message from a person I didn’t know. The message said “Come on over!” and an address in Watson Lake. WTF?

    Slowly I put the mystery together. My cousin and her husband are big game hunters, and they have come up to the Yukon a few times for hunting. They have friends here. And that’s how I met Ruth and her husband Terry!


    First thing Ruth asked me was, “Do you have any laundry you’d like to put in the wash?”

    Terry offered to cook up some caribou. I’ve never had it before.

    Screenshot_20210906-112216_Video Player~2.jpg


    Wow, some of the best meat I’ve ever eaten.

    I visited with Ruth and Terry for about an hour. They told me about some of their travels, including Mongolia, and Ruth had a lot of questions about Cuba. Terry told me that bears are not a problem this year because of all the available food in the wild, though he did warn me to keep a distance from the bison.

    Ruth told me I should ride out to the airport, the terminal is built from logs. When I left, she sent me with homemade cookies.


    There’s a plaque describing a plane which crashed into the lake 60 or 70 years ago. The plaque says that the wreckage is visible along the shore, but I never did figure out where it was.


    Before I left town I stopped at the grocery store deli for a sandwich and then across the street to the liquor store for a bottle of wine.

    The Alaska highway is wide, with full-width shoulders and trees cut back well off the roadway to minimize animal collisions. Now I was heading south. Watson Lake was my northernmost point, ever.



    iOverlander recommended a spot a few clicks off the highway into the forest. The road was a little wet, but not bad.


    The campsite sat on the bank of the Hyland River. I didn’t figure anyone would bother me out here. Like a lot of iOverland sites, this is a good spot for vanlifers, but not great for tents. The ground is uneven and covered in thick gravel, but it’s still a pretty good spot.


    I gathered up some firewood, far more than I thought I would need and got a fire started, for the first time on this trip, I think. Then I busted out the wine.


    I sat out until well into the night, occasionally putting more wood on the fire. With all the signs and talk about bison, I was reminded of the movie, Dances with Wolves, so I got my tablet out to watch it.


  2. Jamie Z

    Jamie Z I'm serious. Supporter

    Oct 17, 2006
    Around Denver
    September 5, 2021

    South along the Alaska Highway.



    As usual, in no hurry to get up and going in the morning, I stayed in the tent for a while after waking up. I heard some movement outside and saw a crow eating what was left of a few crackers I left outside.


    Not long after that, a guy on a side-by-side drove past. I took that as my sign to get dressed and get up out of the tent. He returned not long after and stopped for a chat. I packed up my tent after he left. It was still pretty wet on the outside.

    On the ride back on the logging road, I passed a group of ATVs. This road was quite busy!

    I continued south on the Alaska Highway, though it tends more east than south in this section.


    And saw several closed up hotels, gas stations, and restaurants. I’m only guessing, but they all looked like they had been closed up for quite a while, and not victims of covid.


    I stopped at Contact Creek based on the recommendation from Ruth. I didn’t really need anything, but bought a bag of chips and a coke and sat at the counter to chat with the owners.


    The lady here is working on a 33,000-piece puzzle. She said when it’s finished, it’ll be fifteen feet long.


    It’s a cool spot. I’m glad I stopped. They said business has been spotty, but with lots of US military traffic.


    The Alaska Highway crosses into the Yukon briefly and I stopped to take a picture of the sign. I love all the stickers.


    I stopped at an overlook of the Liard river.


    And met the driver of this rig on his way to Fairbanks and hunting along the Yukon river. He was pretty fascinated by my bike.


    I rode down a random side track and ended up on the shore of the Liard river. This would be a perfect campsite, but it’s early and I’m not ready to stop.


    I did spend about an hour here walking up and down the shoreline and skipping rocks. It’s a stone-skipping goldmine!


    Down the road a ways, another closed-up motel.


    And another stop at a would-be campsite along the river.


    I stopped for fuel at Coal River and soaked myself trying to fill up my water bottle at the spigot outside.


    I like stopping at these places. It really gives me a sense of how far I am from anywhere. When I get off the bike and look around, all I see are trees and hear the wind. Nobody is around. An occasional truck speeds by pulling a double trailer. It can sometimes feel like an apocalyptic world enhanced by my wearing armoured gear.


    I turned in when I saw the sign for Smith River Falls. There’s a narrow road leading back to a small parking area. The falls are visible from there.


    There is also a hiking trail to the bottom; the information sign at the top says it takes about an hour out and back. Because it was getting late in the day, I skipped the hike, but made a mental note that I might come back tomorrow morning.

    Back out on the Alaska Highway, a herd of bison grazed. And I kept my distance.


    I found a section of “Old Alaska Highway” and followed it a couple hundred meters until I got to a chain and had to turn back.


    The campsite I was seeking was situated next to the Liard River Airstrip.


    A few other campers were in the area, but I found an unoccupied spot on the bank high above the Liard river.


    With the wind howling, I retreated to my tent early and watched 1917. Though I thought it was fascinating that the whole movie is one long shot, I didn’t really get into it.
    TomTrek, DC950, jon_l and 66 others like this.
  3. bjor1978

    bjor1978 Adventurer

    Sep 30, 2019
    Cromwell, CT
    Continuing to love this report.

    Wonder what the story is on the old mercs at the Fireside motel? I owned a '76 W123 in South Africa, never seen as many grins and thumbs ups from other road users.
  4. Sunday Rider

    Sunday Rider Adventurer Wanabe

    Jan 31, 2010
    If you can bottle that and sell it, the world would be one big happy place. What a great shot Jamie.

  5. BarryB

    BarryB Been here awhile Supporter

    Feb 16, 2004
    Texas Hill Country
    Thanks for continuing to remind us what a beautiful country that is. I must go back. Your photos and story are very entertaining!
  6. MusicRider

    MusicRider Adventurer

    Aug 18, 2013
    Phoenix, AZ
    Absolutely beautiful pictures. Thanks for the RR.
  7. Krabill

    Krabill Long timer

    Oct 25, 2005
    Tulsa, OK
    The Canadian scenery is absolutely breathtaking. Thank you for all the photos.
    olderigetfasteriam and simmons1 like this.
  8. wpward

    wpward Stalker

    Apr 24, 2014
    One of my favorite movies! How do you have such a variety of movies with you?
  9. Baroquenride

    Baroquenride Everyone dies, but not everyone truly lives.

    Apr 10, 2011
    Clark Co, Wa
    Please say hello to Emily from Baroquenride! :raabia

  10. MrBob

    MrBob Long timer

    Oct 27, 2005
    olderigetfasteriam and Jamie Z like this.
  11. Hill Climber

    Hill Climber Long timer

    Feb 11, 2007
    Kaslo BC summer, Yuma AZ winter
    "I like stopping at these places. It really gives me a sense of how far I am from anywhere. When I get off the bike and look around, all I see are trees and hear the wind. Nobody is around. An occasional truck speeds by pulling a double trailer. It can sometimes feel like an apocalyptic world enhanced by my wearing armoured gear."

    What a great description of a still moment in time!
    liv2day and Sunday Rider like this.
  12. Jamie Z

    Jamie Z I'm serious. Supporter

    Oct 17, 2006
    Around Denver
    September 6, 2021

    Didn't go far today.



    I stayed in my tent for a couple hours after I woke up to write in my report. My tablet and keyboard were giving me some trouble. The keyboard wasn’t responding… I hope all the recent moisture hasn’t damaged it.


    The wind continued to blow this morning, off and on. Long stretches of perfectly calm air, and then sudden bursts of wind strong enough to deform the tent. On the positive side, it hadn’t rained and my tent was dry for the first time in several days.

    Packing up in the wind is a pain, and I ended up stuffing my tent into its sack rather than rolling it up like I usually do. My first stop today was to backtrack back to Smith River Falls.

    The trail down is steep, muddy, and not well-maintained. And at the end, the view of the falls is not much better than what you can see from up top.


    Not long after I got back on the Alaska Highway south, two loaded up V-Stroms passed me and we gave a wave. There are a lot of V-Stroms around here.

    I had been debating stopping at Liard Hot Springs just down the road, an oft-recommended stop along the Alaska Highway. I could stop early, get a campsite, soak in the hot springs, spend the night, and move on tomorrow. Or I could stop for a quick dip in the springs and continue on today. Or I could pass it up entirely. As usual, I was being indecisive.

    I pulled into the campground and told the attendant I was looking for a campsite. I planned to circle the campground to see if I felt like staying overnight. I saw one of the earlier V-Stroms at the entrance to the camping area and I pulled up next to him for a quick chat. He told me he and his girlfriend had just set up camp, and suggested I get a site nearby. He was very interested in my bike and what I thought of it.

    So that’s what I ended up doing. I found a site across from James and Vickie and set up my tent less than two hours after breaking camp up the road. They have an elaborate camp setup.


    I popped over for a quick chat and James had a bunch of questions about my bike. They currently ride two 2016 V-Strom 650, but he’s considering something smaller, like the CB500X. I offered that he could take it for a ride, so I got on his Suzuki, and he the Honda and we took a quick ride up the highway and turned onto a logging road.


    I had forgotten how smooth the V-Strom twin is. The whole bike felt great. The manners on the logging road surprised me. Damn, maybe I got the wrong bike!

    We rode back to the campground. Vickie wanted to take a nap, James suggested he and I walk to the springs.


    We got into the water and got to know each other. James is originally from Britain and moved to Canada five years ago.


    He and Vickie live in Vancouver and are planning their own long-term trip starting next year. We talked a bit about traveling solo versus with a partner and James admitted that they occasionally do separate things, like now.

    The pool is fed by a spring on one end, and flows out over a small dam on the other side. You can pick your ideal temperature by moving closer or farther from the source, but sometimes no matter where you are, a bubble of terribly hot water will flow past. The water was a lot hotter than I was expecting, and it felt great.


    I enjoyed the chat with James; we talked for about two hours before Vickie showed up and joined us in the pool.

    Since I hadn’t gotten anything for dinner, I got out of the water to go across the street to Liard Hot Springs Lodge, where there is a restaurant. The place was full and I had to wait about fifteen minutes for a seat, and the staff was completely overrun. I was happy enough to order the daily special.


    When I walked back to the campground, James and Vickie were finishing their own dinner and invited me inside their bug net. We didn’t stay up too long, but they were a lot of fun to talk to.

    Vickie went to bed early, James and I walked to the parking lot to watch for northern lights. James showed me some of his nighttime photos where he’d captured the northern lights. They were beautiful.

    I took a few long-exposure shots. Though the colors aren’t apparent to the naked eye, the green tinge of the aurora show up.

  13. CanadianRocky

    CanadianRocky No Bucket List... a Bucket full of Lists

    May 3, 2014
    SE & SW British Columbia
    Well, this looks like fun... now I have something to read for the winter...
    Baroquenride likes this.
  14. CanadianRocky

    CanadianRocky No Bucket List... a Bucket full of Lists

    May 3, 2014
    SE & SW British Columbia
    I just scanned the last few pages... I rode up to Alaska via Dease and back out via Edmonton in '017... it was nice to see some of the same places you stopped that I did... the gas station at Meziadin, the one when you get to the Alaska highway... the sign at the Yukon border... I took this picture right about where you are right now...

    TheAlCan copy.jpg
    Jamie Z, Bors, BIG OIL and 1 other person like this.
  15. gpfan

    gpfan a mari usque ad mare

    Jan 4, 2008
  16. szurszewski

    szurszewski Long timer

    May 26, 2010
    Olympia, WA
    Hi Jamie!

    You've had a few updates since my last check in. I'm really glad you stopped at the hot springs. I can't remember if I told you, but Laura and I stopped there often enough the camp host suggested we have our wedding there...and we almost did...but then opted to go a few more thousand miles south instead :) Did you make it up to/is one still allowed up to the upper more primitive spring?

    A couple of thoughts to go with your posts a few pages back: in the days we lived in Alaska (it doesn't feel that long ago, but I guess it's closing in on 15 years since we left) those gravel sections of the Cassiar you pictured are what the entire Cassiar looked like. Very little traffic the couple/few times we were there. I have a couple pics of Stewart that match yours - too bad they're on a hard drive in a box right now... The first time we drove out there in our truck we lost the power steering pump the day before Canada Day weekend. It was either wait out the weekend and another day or so in Stewart, or drive back to Terrace (the nearest "real" autoparts store with a pump) without power steering. Not the most fun, but interesting. Oh hey - what did you pay for fuel at Bell II? I think that our most expensive fuel stop ever anywhere was still there and back in like 2004.

    ...and to close out with something not at all fun, the red dresses and other clothing you saw along the highways are hung to remember/honor/bring attnetion to native women who have been the victim of violence. You posted a pic of a sign that's related, as well as that podcast. Plenty of info online for anyone who wants to look it up. My understanding is that the red clothing started around 2010.
  17. red bud

    red bud alky w/motorcycle problem Supporter

    Jul 20, 2007
    jaw ja
    when i read that about u riding the vstrom i thought that was like probably visiting a old friend for ya
    Jamie Z and ZGirl like this.
  18. MrBob

    MrBob Long timer

    Oct 27, 2005
    I bought a brand new 2006 Wee Strom and toured extensively with it, and bought a 2014 Wee Strom last year. They are wonderful bikes, but IMHO, the 500x is much more versatile.
    Bors likes this.
  19. Pete_Tallahassee

    Pete_Tallahassee Grampy Supporter

    Sep 12, 2006
    Tallahassee. FL. USA
    "It's a stone-skipping goldmine!"
    One of my favorite things to do as a kid. That place would have kept me there for hours.
    Hill Climber likes this.
  20. Jamie Z

    Jamie Z I'm serious. Supporter

    Oct 17, 2006
    Around Denver
    September 7, 2021

    Cold morning, cold evening.



    I did not sleep well, feeling cold all night. I woke up twice to add more layers and use my liner. I wondered if my long bath in the hot water was now making me feel cold. But when I got up in the morning and checked the temperature, it was just a few degrees above freezing.

    I dressed and took a walk around the campground and back down to the springs. The campground is surrounded by a tall electric fence to keep out bears (and other large wildlife). It has a weird, Jurassic Park feel.


    This morning the springs were mostly empty. I wish I had the ambition to get in the water again. I tried to walk beyond the spring to an area called “Hanging Gardens,” but the trail was blocked and closed.

    On the walk back to the campground, I watched a moose feeding in the water.


    Vickie wanted to try my bike so we suited up and took a ride down the same logging road.


    When we returned we all discussed what we thought of each others’ bikes. I don’t think Vickie liked the Honda, in part because it’s quite a bit taller than her V-Strom and she could barely reach the ground. She said it felt underpowered. James was quite interested in the fuel economy of the CB500X.

    We met up for a group photo. They were heading north back through Watson Lake, I headed south. I envied them traveling together.


    As I rode, I had a lot of time to think about what James and I had talked about, and traveling with a partner.


    It’s not a new line of thought for me, of course. But it’s something that’s been on my mind, and especially after meeting James and Vickie and others recently. It makes me wonder how it would be to have someone else with me. Of course, it’s a purely academic question. It’s not up to me whether someone else wants to travel with me or not…

    So, this being a solo trip as it is, I stopped frequently for scenic photos.




    And a couple more moose.


    At the Toad River Lodge, I stopped for fuel and picked up a couple of cinnamon buns inside.


    More scenery.


    I learned later that this is considered the most rugged (and highest altitude) portion of the Alaska Highway.


    And my first (live) caribou!


    The caribou were strange. The crossed the highway in front of me half a dozen times while I took photos. They appeared to intentionally cross in front of oncoming vehicles.

    It had been a chilly morning, and though the day had warmed up some, I was still quite cold, and I hadn’t taken a shower since Prince George, I decided to look for a room when I got to the next big town, Fort Nelson.


    The room was nice, with a separate bedroom and a kitchenette including a full-size refrigerator. What it didn’t have was heat. I went back to the office and asked about heat. The lady there told me she’d call the manager.

    An hour later, still no heat, so I checked back with the front desk. “I’ll call the manager.”

    Eventually a guy showed up and turned on some valve.
    TomTrek, glittleman, DC950 and 50 others like this.