Day 5: Tombston Mountain Campground, YT, to Inuvik, NWT.
Morning came early, as it quite often does in the north during summer. Dad was up at 5 to a bug-free campsite. I rose at 6:30 with the sun peeking over the mountain. For some reason, the sun activated the mosquitos once more, and I set out at a strongly motivated pace to break camp and break fast without having my lifeblood sucked dry by winged beasties. I don't think I've ever moved so much around camp to do simple chores like cook oatmeal or take down a tent. If one stood still, you were a target.
Anyway, sooner than later, we were off and riding, excited for what the day had in store. It was Canada Day, and we were truly enjoying the northern frontier.
As one heads further north, the expectation is that you get more in-tune with nature, and outhouses are fewer and far between. This didn't bother us whatsoever, as even with a pit toilet close by, there's something much more fundamentally correct about wandering into the forest, unzipping, and letting fly amid the birds' songs and breezes whispering through the foliage.
This was one such pit stop.
The road nearing Eagle Plains got a little rougher and we began climbing until we were winding our way amid mountain (I use the term loosely) peaks. All the rough, exposed rock was wreaking havoc with my front suspension, and in turn, my fairing subframe: a known weak point on the KLR. This, coupled with the aftermarket fairing, caused my poor thin-walled tubing to give way yet again, and we pulled over on the side of the road for a quick zip-tie fix.
I was prepared.
The view from our roadside repair location wasn't terrible either. It was one of those places where you could just sit for hours, trying to get a grasp, not only on your surroundings, but on your inner wonderings as well.
My Dad, trying, in understood futility, to capture the experience in a rectangular frame.
Anyway, we zip-tied things up in three directions,
and set off for Eagle Plains. It being Canada, I was fairly concerned that there would be nobody around to do a weld job on the bike, so the zip-tying was done in a manner that hopefully it could last until Inuvik. When we pulled into Eagle Plains and up to the gas pumps (regular or diesel, your pick), I asked the guy that was helping us whether there was somebody around to do a quick weld job.
He replied, "I'll go get the welder ready."
Awesome. After a full tank of gas, we wheeled the bike into the awaiting shop and Perry got to work.
I had him weld another brace on an already braced frame, hoping it would do the trick for this trip, and after half an hour and a reasonable rate, we were back in motion, well, at least, over to the restaurant for lunch.
It could have been any other day there: Canada Day meant very little. I don't know whether that was a good or bad thing. The fact was, however, if you live in Eagle Plains, you're 400km from Dawson or 360(ish) from Inuvik. There ain't much in terms of a parade that's going to happen here. That being said, our experience was pleasant and we returned to the road with full stomachs and the Arctic Circle as the next destination.
The land was starting to get a bit more barren, and the views were unlike anything really anywhere else.
We pressed on, through into the Northwest Territories.
This is a mountain pass, NWT style.
... And the DRZ kept pace, following at a distance whenever the gravel led to dust.
After a bit of road construction (which sure is done right in the North), we hopped on a ferry to take us onward, to Fort McPherson, where we hoped to top up so fuel wouldn't be a concern.
It was 6pm by this point, on Canada Day, and we ventured into town to the Co-Op gas station: the first one you see as you enter Ft. McPherson. We pulled up to the pumps and looked for any sign of life. A girl came out of a door at the top of the office steps, saying that the woman who ran the pumps had gone home for the day. Great. No gas here.
Was there other gas in town?
Yeah, we could check out Northern Foods on the other side of town.
As we carried down the main drag, we were blocked from continuing by Canada Day celebrations. It was the much-anticipated bicycle drag races, drawing speed demons from all the land to test their mettle against the district's finest. We tried to find a way around the main drag, asking one man if we could make it to Northern Foods by not taking main street. He didn't quite know.
We returned to the main street and came upon an 8-year-old on his bike. He, being one of the more helpful kids we met on the trip, directed us to the side road that would bring us clearly around the festivities and lead us to Northern Foods.
Finally, we were on track to get gas.
You might have to look close, but the sign in the window stated that Northern would also be closed on Canada Day. Great. We could chance it to Inuvik if we'd wanted, but Dad didn't feel totally comfortable with his fuel situation. Just as we were figuring out what to do, help came in the form of a middle-aged native fellow in his pickup truck.
"You guys look like you need gas."
"Looks like Northern's closed."
"Did you try the Co-op?"
"I think I have a gas can at home. I'll be back."
We looked at each other, grinned, drank some water, and began to understand the northern way. First off, who knows where this guy was headed to begin with. He could've been going to the celebrations or headed out of town to Inuvik, I have no idea. He took time out of his day not only to stop, but to return with fuel and help us out. There are good people everywhere.
Dad took a few liters of fuel from him, forced some money into his hand (if we'd not offered to pay, I don't think he'd have asked), and carried on our way, towards the second ferry.
From there to Inuvik, another 100km, it was some of this,
some of this,
and more of this.
The loose gravel at least made it a bit more interesting than pavement or hard-packed stuff. At last, however, the gravel gave way to tarmac (they should have a warning sign) and we neared the city limits. We'd made it.
We decided on a motel rather than camping (it had been a long day for sissies), and settled into the best hotel room we had on the trip, for more than we'd spent anywhere else, but still a reasonable rate even if it would have been down in the Vancouver area.
I took the obligatory "it's midnight and still sunny" photo,
and settled in for the night.
Final mileage, July 1:
A good day of riding, with a few stories coming of it and some excellent scenery to wash it all down. Tomorrow, we'd see what the day would bring.