Way out West - Canada to Central America

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Motojournalism, Sep 30, 2009.

  1. Motojournalism

    Motojournalism motojournalism.com

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    Only one truck passed by last night. They stopped to look, but moved on quickly.
    I'm up before dawn, ready to slip out of hiding. I step in a few gopher holes hidden in the long grass while taking down the tent.
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    There's ladybugs everywhere! There must be thirty on my tent, some on my luggage, I brush a few from my boots.
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    According to the maps, Western Canada begins at the Ontario - Manitoba border. But I know better. The real West dosen't start 'till halfway across Saskatchewan. Now we're getting into cowboy country.

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    My horse with no name

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    Among the ghosts of no fame.

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    Descending into Frenchman Valley

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    This looks like it could crawl away of it's own accord, wagging it's scorpion tail.

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    Amazingly well preserved, how many winters has it weathered?

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    I've got over 320km on the trip odometer, I'll need gas around 350. I've been looking all morning, many of these towns on the map are collections of ten houses or less. No services.

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    I step back in time to a Canada Post office in a dead-end town. Back in time because the ladies working there are dressed like the photos in my early 1980's math textbooks. The distance to the gas station several towns over is given in miles as well. Canada switched to metric in the late 70's, Before my time. I have no idea how far a mile is...



    The gas station turns out to be a cardlock for the local farmers. I'm lucky though, there's someone there to take cash. She prints out an invoice after I fill the tank.



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    Would you trust your teenagers to drive these beasts?

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    The old propieter sitting in the shade outside the Manitoka New & Used directs me to the only game in town for breakfast.

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    A big farmer breakfast at that.
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    And back to cattle country, there's a long way to go.

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    Skirting south along the border

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    A tumbleweed rolls across the road ahead, just like in the movies!

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    Not sure if they have a sense of humour in this town or what...

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    Not sure what it was about this place, but it took this far, several thousand kilometers into the trip, to feel like I'd really gone somewhere.


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    I bed down in Cypress Hills after crossing the Alberta border.

    Music is a very personal thing, but lying on my back in the dark looking out at the universe, I can't imagine a more fitting soundtrack on my iPod than Dayvan Cowboy, by Boards of Canada




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    #41
    PvtPts likes this.
  2. ricohman

    ricohman Long timer

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    Here is a pic of that road that leads into the muddy. But since I have a color camera its in color.
    I have shot some nice mulies in that area.
    I just rode from #6 through Coronach, Rock Glen and the Frenchman Valley two weeks ago. Nice ride. I'm going back in 3 weeks to do some hunting.
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    #42
  3. ricohman

    ricohman Long timer

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    And the elevators are mostly private now. Notice the rails lines missing?
    There is some short track but the grain elevator is nearly a thing of the past sadly.
    #43
  4. rubRsidedown

    rubRsidedown Long timer

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    Great read and pics. :clap
    #44
  5. DrydenRider

    DrydenRider Sun Seeker

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    Great story as usual Anthony. We were through that way in early Sept and know exactly what you mean.

    Keep up the fantastic pics and tales of the road.

    Here is a picture of the gas station at Orion Sask.

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    and the station owners shop

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    #45
  6. Motojournalism

    Motojournalism motojournalism.com

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    Glad you folks are diggin' the report so-far. :thumb

    @T.Low
    Thanks! Brevity is an underrated technique :D

    @JoeyBones
    Man that was a relief! I'll not question the moto-gods on that one!

    @ricohman
    I thought I was seeing things at one point. Way up ahead I saw a deer and a man walking across the road into a field. When I got closer I saw the man had a compound bow and a full-sized cardboard cutout buck under his arm. Target practice!

    Too bad about the grain elevators. They're icons of the prairies.

    @dryden_rider_54
    That's awesome, I love those way out there stations.:D
    Did you put that in the "Pictures of your bike at gas stations" thread?
    #46
  7. juames

    juames Have Fun, Don't Die!

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    I'm loving your RR! Always wanted to make the same ride...and dam that '05 looks good! Half the fun is finding new place to take its picture...keep it coming!
    :thumb

    ps...what exhaust you have on your bike?


    Bike look familiar?
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    #47
  8. nofate

    nofate what blackflies?

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    Its my new desktop photo. :clap
    #48
  9. manfromthestix

    manfromthestix Lost in Space Supporter

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    The Big Flat, indeed! I laughed my ass off when I saw that photo. My son lives in North Dakota where the entire state is laid out on a grid like that. :puke1 The only fun corners are the on and off-ramps to the Interstate. He's a pilot too and says it's never a problem to find a spot to land if you have trouble, and the tallest things around are telephone poles so no pesky mountains to worry about.

    Ride on! Great report and excellent photography!

    Doug
    #49
  10. ricohman

    ricohman Long timer

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    That silhouette isn't for target practice.
    Its a decoy.
    #50
  11. Motojournalism

    Motojournalism motojournalism.com

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    It's warm at dawn. The wind already slicing through the hills, back into the open plains.

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    Waiting in vain, miles from no place, a phone booth, sun bleached and weather worn.

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    114Km feels a bit far...
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    On this tire...

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    Time to turn and drone north to the main artery for sustainance.

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    The foothills roll out of the horizon to herald the end of the plains.

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    Then I'm back on the main highway after Lethbridge. Smooth tarmac, agressive trafic, jacked-up diesel pickups tearing past at top speed. There's a vicious headwind coming off the mountains. I'm barely able to keep the speed limit. The temperature has dropped.


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    The highway turns south-west and the cross-winds are the worst I've felt since northern Newfoundland. In case I hadn't noticed, there are signs helpfully warning of "WIND GUSTS"

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    I have a few scary moments leaned over in curves; once blown across the double yellow line, the other felt like someone had kicked the front wheel.

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    It's just too dangerous to be on the busy highway. I've got traffic pooling behind me till the passing lanes. I'm beat. I'm cold. It's time to get off the road. I stop for groceries, my traveling standby. A big chunk of real peppered salami from the deli, old white cheddar, a tin of soup to heat and some dense bread. And some 10 year Alberta Springs for a nightcap. I'll need it after this long-haul.



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    Into the hills, into my tent. It's good to be back West, but I ain't home yet.

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    #51
  12. no

    no dreaming adventurer Supporter

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    This is exceptional. :lurk
    #52
  13. mc_lucky!

    mc_lucky! Adventurer

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    Yay, your photo's are awesome!
    Are theese made with a digital camera or analog?

    Big ups!
    #53
  14. helidude

    helidude defy gravity

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    thank-you for NOT sitting on the middle of the road!


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    #54
  15. Deadly99

    Deadly99 Fast and Far

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    :clap :lurk
    #55
  16. Motojournalism

    Motojournalism motojournalism.com

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    @Juames
    It's a Jardine that I've got on there. It sounds goooood, but it ain't quiet!
    '05 had the best scheme :thumb

    @manfromthestix
    Yeah I was not too far from North Dakota at that point.
    I laughed when I saw that too, had to snap a pic :D

    @mc_lucky!
    Cheers:thumb I'm using a digital point n' shoot for most of the photos, and a digital SLR for the rest. I like to give them a film look with Adobe Lightroom. If you click on the pictures, it takes you to my Flickr account. You can see the details about the cameras and settings for each photo.

    @helidude
    Man, I could have safely taken a nap in the middle of the road :D
    #56
  17. Philbikerjohnson771

    Philbikerjohnson771 n00b

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    Stunning photography pal!
    #57
  18. TemeculaRider

    TemeculaRider Been here awhile

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    Oh man, I wanna go so bad! Fantastic trip report.

    You shoulda asked the girl to hop on the back and get the hell outta there with you! :wink:
    #58
  19. Motojournalism

    Motojournalism motojournalism.com

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    Yesterday, after I had stopped for that burger, I was happy to see a tiny public library.

    On the road, libraries = internet!

    I had an email from my tent-space guy in Red Deer. He said he would be at a Horizons Unlimited meet in a small town outside of Calgary at 10am. Fantastic! I'd have to blast up there, but I'll try to make it.


    This morning, I'm up and packed early to hit that H.U. meet-up. The air feels good, the sky is clearing.

    The empty roads twist back down into the valley, but I have to back off the entusiastic pace to let two deer bound across the road ahead. I count five deer before coming to the main road and even see a black bear ambling across a farmer's field in the distance.

    I'm missing photo-ops left right and center, but I've got to discipline myself if I'm going to make it for 10:00.

    I sit at a deserted intersection for a few minutes, looking at the map, the "cowboy trail" highway 22 looks good and twisty, heading north toward Calgary alongside the Rocky Mountains.

    I punch in a search for gas into the GPS and find I have to go southwest, out of my way to find a station.


    On the way I pass through what looks like a construction project, though the road is fine and there are no warning signs. It looks like they have been blasting, a river of sharp grey boulders the size of small cars on either side of the road.

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    It turns out this is Frank Slide.


    The side of the mountain just fell out in the middle of the night...




    From Wikipedia:

    On April 29, 1903, at 4:10 a.m., 90 million tonnes (30 million cubic metres) of limestone crashed from the east face of Turtle Mountain and covered approximately three square kilometres of the valley floor. The slab of rock that broke free was approximately 650 m high, 900 m wide and 150 m thick[1]. The slide dammed the Crowsnest River and formed a small lake, covered 2km of the Canadian Pacific Railway, destroyed most of the coal mine's surface infrastructure, and buried seven houses on the outskirts of the sleeping town of Frank, as well as several rural buildings. Of the roughly 100 individuals who lived in the path of the slide, 76 were killed.



    It's damn cold now, and black clouds are funneling through the mountains with momentum.

    I down half a black coffee to warm up. It dosen't do much good, and I chuck the other half when the heavy rain starts. I hop back on my ride and head back east toward my intersection, chased by the weather.


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    This does not look good, but I'll give it a shot. I stop by the side of the road to get out the rain gear. and seal-up the cameras.
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    I go on to do battle with the weather. The rain is thick once I'm back into it, but I'm warmer with the extra layers.



    It's very dark now and up ahead a car is flashing it's high beams at me. It's not far before I see why.

    A big pickup truck is across the left lane, facing the ditch. The front is gone, as are all the windows, a minivan is further out in the ditch facing the road in much the same conditon. There are about six other vehicles - including a tour bus - parked at the side of the road to help the people. The smashed windows have been covered with tarpaulins to keep the rain out. There are no emergency crew at the scene.



    There's nothing I can do to help, I've got to press on...

    Five minutes further up the road the rain gets heavier still, and even colder. Foam is washing up on the road and I can't tell why... Till I pull over to see that it's not foam, but hail. There's a coating of the slick ice pellets rapidly collecting on the ground.

    To go on further into the mountains would just be stupid. I gingerly pull a U-turn on the slippery surface, and head back toward the scene of the accident.



    Still no sign of rescue yet. It's f*kin' grim...

    I'm back out of the hail and I finally in the distance the flashing red lights appear.

    Police, ambulance, fire. Good luck guys, we can't thank you enough for putting your own necks on the line.



    I gotta get inside, warm-up and eat. There's no way I can make it to that meet now.

    At the first restaurant I see, I have a chat with the Harley folks who have been waiting out the weather.

    They're headed East today, the weather is clearer out that way.

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    I'm happy to hole-up here for a while. With hot coffee, a big breakfast and Wi-Fi.


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    It's lunch by the time I leave, after having a bowl of soup.

    I've used my time to catch-up on the photos, email, twitter, check the maps, the live satalite weather website, and charge the myriad batteries all this modern gear requires.

    The map calls for a long-haul along the despised Trans-Canada slab, so I ride full-out 'till I can't stand it any longer. I head for some farm roads only to discover that reality does not agree with the GPS. I work my way around the plains, giving Calgary a wide berth as I head for Red Deer.

    How frustrating to have a taste of the mountains after so long, only to be turned away.

    On and on into the evening. I give my tent-space contact a call and Bill will meet me at a gas station on the outskirts of town. It's well into dark by now. I'm so beat I'm having a hard time keeping warm. I'm happy to go full-out when there's a pair of red headlights to follow, but once their gone I slow way down to watch for deer.

    I stop on the side of the road to check the map and keep myself warm for the second time in 20 min.

    A middle-aged lady in a car pulls up behind to check if I'm OK, she saw me pulled-off at the last light too.

    She says she's a rider too so she knows I must be cold. She offers that I could warm-up in her car, but I politely decline. That really was nice of her to check on random motorcyle guy in the dark. I told her I appreciated it, then rolled on into the dark.

    Finally into the city lights, I wait just a few minutes after calling Bill to meet at the gas station.

    Bill has me follow him in his FJ cruiser as we head 10km to his house down an unlit gravel road. He explained that he would let me go ahead when we got to the twisty part so I would have more light. I'm having such trouble concentrating I nearly plow into the back of his truck when he stops to let me pass.

    There's a few sketchy moments in the deep gravel, but it's no problem really. I just take it slow and easy till I park my tired machine alongside his F650 Dakar and brand new F800GS.



    I'm glad to be offered a beer and a hot sandwich as we pore over maps.

    I pull lots of advice from Bill about heading south. You see, he's got a bit of experience under his belt.



    That's the sort of coffee table reading I like to see


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    The last two days, Cypress Hills, to Red Deer.


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    #59
  20. Motojournalism

    Motojournalism motojournalism.com

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    So much for brevity :D
    I figured that would be a short one because of less photos!


    @ TemeculaRider
    I'll need to get an AfricaTwin in case of 2-up opportunity:D
    #60