Sunday August 8, 2010 Ė Day 3 Ė Starting the Alcan, Mile ď0Ē
Getting out of the tent was a little difficult, it was cold! Finally packed up I head out to the road and on to Grande Cache. The thermometer on the bike said 37F!
The road winds through the foothills of the mountains to Grande Cache, were it turns north away from the mountains. The trees are tight up to the road and only offers occasional glimpses of the terrain. I filled up my gas tank at Grande Cache and decided to push on to Grande Prairie for breakfast.
There was some mining going on in these mountains. Railroad tracks followed along the river. The hills started to mellow out as I got closer to Grande Prairie and the oil and gas activity could be seen from the road. The cuts in the hillside revealed sandy soil instead of the rocky ground seen in the mountains.
Finally the trees open up some and I was in the plains near Grande Prairie. I was cold and stopped for Coffee and a sandwich at Tim Hortonís. Fuel for the bike and then I pushed on for Dawson Creek.
Out of Grand Prairie there was a little construction, but it was pretty easy. They were upgrading the road to an improved four lane road an most of the work was on the other two lanes. The traffic seemed a little busy for Sunday, but it is a major road in the area.
Finally I arrived in Dawson Creek and the famous Alcan milepost ď0Ē. It took me 1360 miles to get to the start of the Alcan. ;-) One important thing to remember is a stop at the visitor center in Dawson Creek and get a one page mileage chart that lists out the gas stations and campgrounds. This was very useful and I found myself pulling it out at many of the gas stops and calculating how far the next gas stop was.
Perhaps this is a good place to comment on the Alcan. It is completely paved except for sections that have been torn up for construction. On the whole, it is very possible to drive the highway with a car. Gas stops are fairly frequent, however it is good to keep track of the mileage as you donít want to pass a gas station and find yourself in one of the longer stretches without gas.
I stopped at a pullout to take a picture of this river valley. There are fewer grain fields and eventually, even though there is farming, you donít see many grain crops. I don't remember if it was this bridge for sure, but I crossed my first open grate bridge deck this Sunday.
Its cloudy and raining intermittently. I stop at Fort St John for fuel and debate with myself about getting a late lunch, but decide to push on and see what I find ahead.
This is what the highway looks like. When it is possible they clear the trees back on both sides of the road.
A little after this picture, I end up at Pink Mountain and get some fuel. Its raining steady, and the clouds look like they are going to stay awhile. I gear up and head for Fort Nelson.
Originally my plan is to camp on the south side of Fort Nelson, but the rain isnít letting up so I decide to get a hotel. As I was driving in, the trucks on the road indicated there was a fair amount of oil activity and yes, there were trucks parked all over town. The second place I stopped had a single smoking room available, so I decided to take it. It was very clean for a smoking room and I was glad to get it, even though it was $125.
After Fort St John, the road felt like the Alcan. Gas stations were small, most using older pumps, and were spaced further apart on the highway. When you pulled up to the pump, you asked whether they took a credit card, and many of the clerks/owners preferred prepayment. There were sometimes lodges along with the gas stations as well.
However as far as population, this was the backcountry. Coming from a sparsely populated region in Montana, I understood this and the people that were out here. Most of the people chose to live out here away from the conveniences that the larger towns offered and enjoyed this solitude. People were friendly and willing to start a conversation if you were standing in line.
When I got to Nelson, I was worried about getting some food as my watch was getting late. In fact at the restaurant I just about didnít go in as it was near closing time. Finally I went in and asked if they were still cooking, and they said yes about an hour longer. I was now in Pacific time.
Stats for Day 3: 549 miles, 8.9 gallons of fuel, 12.75 hours