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Old 08-17-2009, 11:30 PM   #1
Garak OP
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Couch-surfing west

Pretty new here as an inmate, although I've been lurking/reading for probably five years or so. Nonetheless, this is my first ride report on ADV and its perhaps a little overdue (sorry Klay!) but I've been spending more time riding than on the computer, or anything else for that matter.
Anyway, I guess it all started around Christmas 2008, when I was back in British Columbia visiting the family. The whole time, I couldn't stop wondering what I was doing living 4500 km from here, working a job that was only moderately entertaining, riding in a place where the only curves where on the...well not on the roads anyway.
A scheme was hatched whereby I would work pretty much every day until the middle of June, by which time my calculations suggested I'd be able to take the rest of the summer off and ride from Kitchener, ON to Vancouver Island, BC.
Fast forward to June 12:
So, the (still shiny) DR was packed, and a basic course was charted. It seems a lot of my friends live north of 54 so the trip was going to span a bit of latitude, not the most direct route possible, perfect.



After one last visit to my Starbucks in Waterloo, it was destination US border at Sarnia/Port Huron. Driving over the bridge to the border was pretty exhilarating, really felt like the trip was starting. Coming off the bridge into the line-up at the border crossing was perhaps less exhilarating. It would more accurately be described as hot and long; unlike me.



The DHS officer at the border was very friendly, and mostly curious about my trip and the bike. A few minutes of chatting and I was through. The plan was to stay on I94 until I was just past Detroit, and then get onto US12. The first turn I made was of course a wrong turn, but after a few minutes I was on I94, heading in the right direction even. The highlight on the interstate was obviously the sign for Romulus, which I unfortunately didn't get a picture of. The lowlight was stopping for bad coffee at McDonalds and then passing a Starbucks sign at the next exit. Eff.
Onto US12. Why is there so much traffic? Nobody coming the other way... Is it rush hour? Is it the Exodus? Oh, Michigan Speedway is up ahead. Nascar? Yep. Nascar. Thats fine, I got by the speedway and the highway was mine heading west and what a highway it was. Beautiful scenery, and passing through so many fantastic little towns along the way, each like a little trip through history. Small towns in Canada...aren't quite like this somehow. Anyway enough romanticizing, I didn't manage to capture the feeling in pictures so I guess it wasn't real.
Crossing into Indiana, I was close to the end of my first day on the road.



Now, the directions Mark (R.Markus) gave me seemed pretty clear. On paper. Hmm. In retrospect, I was kind of drunk when I copied them down, and I was being distracted by a pretty girl. Obviously Mark gave me creative directions as some sort of ADVRider test, couldn't have been my fault.
"Huh, I heard a thumper go by a while ago, figured it was you but it must have been someone else."
"Uh...yeah...must have been..."

So we rolled the DR into the garage, nestled in with the Uly and the orange erotica, and head inside to play with the dogs until Mark's wife Tina came home. For dinner we headed down to the Tree House Cafe, which is a really neat little place near Michigan City with a bunch of outdoor tables. We all ordered the italian beef. Apparently Mark is a picky eater, no cheese on his. Tina and I made fun of him for a bit. We sat around chatting about riding, my plans for the rest of the trip, stuff. After dinner we headed down to the waterfront to go for a bit of walk, observed some amusing locals, but it was kind of chilly by this point, even for this Canadian and about time for bed so we headed back and called it a night.
Now I could go on and on really, but Mark and Tina were just so incredibly nice, and made me feel so welcome. I'll never forget you guys and I wish I could have stayed longer just to hang out. Onward as it was though, so after delicious breakfast of pancakes/eggs , and some amusing sausages we parted company.

To be continued...
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Old 08-18-2009, 09:51 PM   #2
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..and I start to deviate from the map.

Leaving Mark and Tina's place, my first stop was going to be coffee, but looking at the sky, I decided to skip that and see how far I could make it before I got wet. While this wasn't a stupid plan, it didn't really play out as I was quickly tempted to check out Indiana Dunes State Park. Walking up the trail from the parking lot, the air felt a little wet, and by the time I reached the top, it was indeed raining. The view was definitely worth it.



The previous night, on our walk around the waterfront Mark and Tina showed me the power plant, then dashed my excitement, explaining that despite appearances, it was actually coal fired. Neat to see it from both sides and from the amount of steam its pushing, you can tell its pretty humid. The dunes were also pretty cool.

The rain continued to pick up as I headed towards Gary, and I was starting to get pretty wet. Had the weather been more favourable, I would have taken many more pictures along here; the industrial plants from Gary through to East Chicago were really striking. Despite having been lived in some rather industrial areas (ie northern Alberta) I was still pretty moved by the vastness of the steel mill/oil refinery tapestry that is the lakeshore from Gary most of the way to Chicago. Needless to say, the air quality was pretty bad, not helped by the day's meteorology, but such as it is.

I managed to push through to East Chicago before I really needed to stop for coffee and warm up. McD's it was again, I wasn't in the mood to look around for something better. Turned out to be fine though as several people inside were eager to strike up conversation. Not being entirely sure where I was going, I too was eager to talk, and so spent half an hour or so drinking coffee and getting some direction. A new course laid in, I was warned that I would be going through "some neighbourhoods," and that I should probably get gas here so that I didn't have to stop.

They were correct, and through "some neighbourhoods" I did go, but it was uneventful. The most attention I got was from a young man in an Escalade (on 22" wheels) who pulled up beside me at a light, looked at me quizzically, nodded and pulled away. The Projects are probably the most (in)famous, but aren't unique in Chicago, and it was fascinating travelling through this part of urban America within which exists a culture that I have absolutely no access to. Its right there, but its so far away.

Enough introspection. Coming into Chicago proper on Lakeshore the weather was miserable and I really couldn't see a thing so I just kept my head up and moved with traffic the best I could. A lot of people had warned me about traffic in Chicago before I left on this trip, so I was pretty much expecting lunacy. Any concerns I had were unfounded. Sure there was lots of traffic, but it moved along quite nicely and drivers were mostly predictable. Passing through downtown the weather seemed to be improving and it quickly stopped raining and the sun came out. My morning destination was the Museum of Science and Industry, but being thoroughly soaked, I decided to prowl around for a couple of hours drying off in the sun before looking for the museum.

As it happened, I hadn't the faintest clue where the museum was, or perhaps, where I was in relation to the museum. What followed were several blasts up and down Lakeshore in the area I thought it ought to be. I was wrong. I had already gone way past it which I learned when I finally stopped to ask for directions. Anyway, somewhere in there I stopped at this park type area with a nice view of downtown.



Visible above the skyline in that picture is an aerial banner. What can't be resolved is that the banner reads "Hammertime." That is all, and I don't know.

After riding around town for a couple hours, standing on the pegs, I was pretty much dry, so I headed for the museum. My main interest in going to the museum was to see Apollo 8.



To stand next to an Apollo space craft, let alone the first to leave Earth's gravitational field and orbit the Moon was a deeply moving experience. In addition to this they had a Mercury capsule on display.



After the museum, it seemed like time for coffee. At last, Starbucks. It had been a couple days. Yes, I have a problem. Rather a habit. I don't know that being hooked on Starbucks can really be considered a problem...



Hung out here for a bit, contemplating what I had just seen and then it was time to head west again. I'd love to spend more time in Chicago, and I will be back.

Onward to Wisconsin and Dave's (ldbandit76) place before it got too late. I rolled into the idyllic locale of Cross Plains, WI as the sun was setting and found the house without issue. Dave and Debra welcomed me in with open arms and I was fortunate enough to meet their adorable three month old daughter Danica as well. Never before had I encountered such a happy, interactive three month old, but there she was.

After a delicious steak dinner with Wisconsin blue cheese spread and sweet potato chips, it was time for a walk to Culver's. Culver's is a Wisconsin establishment which serves frozen custard. Yes, it is as good as you might imagine. Really, really good. Obviously pretty healthy too.

Returning from decadence, Dave took me down to the computer to chart a course for my next day on the road. This was good for a couple of reasons. The first being that I really had no idea how I was getting to Minnesota. The second being that if I was left to my own devices, I would not have found what turned out to be the be among the best riding I would encounter on this 7000 km trip. More on that in a minute though.

Setting forth pretty early Sunday morning, my first order of business was to check out Madison. For a long time, I've been quite keen to visit Madison. I'm not sure why really, but I wasn't wrong. Its a clean, beautiful city of about a quarter million people (?) anchored jointly by the University of Wisconsin and the state capitol. The capitol building is very pretty in its own right, and I couldn't resist getting this picture:



I suspect I was rather illegally parked there, but nobody shot at me, perhaps because it was 7:30 am on a Sunday.

Back to riding. The first piece of road on my agenda was actually what Dave commutes every morning to work. The sheer beauty of this winding county road would be all the motivation I'd need to go to work every morning and it wouldn't even have been on my radar had Dave not brought it to my attention. Better yet, I had it all to myself so it really was one of those nirvana rides.

Can't remember exactly where this was, but I think it fits here in the timeline anyway:



Ha ha. Next up on the menu was Wildcat Mountain State Park. Less of a secret I imagine, but again, I wasn't aware of it. I didn't count the corners, but they were plentiful and tight. A bit more traffic on this stretch, but I wasn't impeded in any of the important parts. I will be back, and I will ride these two sections of road, back and forth, all day.

Dave, if you guys ever make it to BC, let me know, because I owe you good day of riding.

Onward to Minnesota. The next most interesting part to me was crossing the Mississippi River. Perhaps that sounds silly, but as a guy from Canada who had never done that before, it was pretty neat. I wish I had a picture of the bridge, it was quite nice.

Google maps charted kind of a weird trajectory to Klay's house. It did the trick, even if it felt like I touched every road in Northfield getting there. But get there I did, and I think Klay has some pictures of my arrival, which he might post now that I've finally got around to writing this up? It was pretty cool meeting Klay, drinking beer, talking about all manner of things. He's obviously got a couple posts on here, and I've been following his insights for a long time. Once again, complete strangers taking me into their home, treating me like family. I like this theme. Klay, you will no doubt be pleased to know that I did cook up some of that adventure bacon in the morning, and even took a picture:



It was really tasty.
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Old 08-19-2009, 01:46 AM   #3
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Cathy and I were pleased and amused that you awakened and cooked up a little bacon breakfast before your departure, as I encouraged. Truthfully, I am honoured by your visit.







More, please.
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Old 08-19-2009, 08:08 AM   #4
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Old 08-20-2009, 10:33 PM   #5
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Pictures!

Cool, thanks for putting those up Klay
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Old 08-20-2009, 10:42 PM   #6
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Day 4

From Klay's house, it was destination Winnipeg. At 500 miles, this would be the longest day of the trip so far, but I knew there was a hottub and a lot of beer waiting for me at Annette's place. Pretty much the entire day would be spent on the interstate. Boring, but it does the trick. Through Minneapolis uneventfully, I went into St. Cloud for food/fuel around noon-thirty. With the tail wind that was pushing me, fuel mileage was right on 4.0 L/100km averaging around 120 km/h (indicated). While I was eating, I got a text message from Annette:

"Where are you?"
"St. Cloud."
"You're still six hours out."
"Probably a little more than that."
"Get going, you've gotta be here by seven."
"Uhh, k."

Back on the road, I crossed into North Dakota about two and a half hours later and wicked it up to around 140 km/h (indicated). No day time speed enforcement in ND, so I tried to make up some time.

Not gonna lie, I was a little disappointed by Fargo. I don't know what I was expecting. But with the movie, and...I don't know, I'd built the place up in my mind, but in reality it is exactly what a person can reasonably expect of it. No more, no less. From Fargo most of the way to the border, there were bloody great cumulonimbus clouds a few miles west of the highway. Every so often, the road would bend that way just enough for me to feel a few raindrops. All the vehicles heading south were still covered in dust, so I figured I'd probably manage to stay dry, but...you never know. Wouldn't have been a big deal really, but in general, I prefer to stay dry. As luck would have it, the storms stayed just far enough west the whole way north, and dry I stayed.

Nothing noteworthy occurred as I travelled north and got to the border a little before six o'clock. Given the ease of my crossing into Michigan I didn't anticipate that this would take long, especially since there was no line-up. There was however a truckload of Can-Ams heading into Canada. Neato.



Pull up to the booth:
"Where are you going?"
"Winnipeg for tonight."
"Passport please."
"Here you go."
"How long were in the United States?"
"This is day four."
"Did you purchase anything?"
"Fuel and food as I went."
"Any repairs to the bike while you were out of the country?"
"Nope."
"New tires?"
"Nope."
"Riding gear?"
"Nope."
"Do you have any weapons?"
"I have an axe."
"No firearms, switchblades, explosives?"
"Nope."
"Here's your passport, please carry on."
"See ya."



Pulled away from the booth and the bike died. Switched to reserve. Bike started. I guess a guy burns a lot of fuel at those speeds... Hoped there was a gas station coming up soon. Of course, there were many gas stations, but being rural Manitoba, they are all cardlocks. Finally find a one, and put 12 litres in. Must have been pretty close.

An hour or so later I pulled into Annette's place, and she handed me a beer, which I consumed. Then a ticket to the Coldplay concert which started in half an hour.

"So this is why you told me to hurry up?"

"Yes."

So I was wearing riding gear, and I was pretty dirty, but whatever, we were going to a concert. I hadn't really listened to Coldplay much other than to hear them on the radio, but the concert was very good. Well put together set, and a tight performance all evening.
Afterwards, we went back to Annette's place to visit the hottub. I'd never met Annette's boyfriend Adam before, but he was extremely funny.

As we sat there, I recounted the story of the last few days, and it kind of hit me that it'd been pretty magical. Sitting under the sky in Michigan City, Indiana with Mark and Tina eating dinner, talking, laughing. Going for custard in Cross Plains with Dave and Debra, Danica in her stroller. Watching Dave get excited about planning my route to Minnesota, even though he rides those roads every day. Hanging out with Klay and Cathy, eating steak, drinking beer, talking about DRs and a hundred other things, and now a free concert and a hottub with an old friend and a new friend in Winnipeg. I don't know if life gets better than this, but we'll see what tomorrow brings.
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Old 08-20-2009, 10:44 PM   #7
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Old 08-22-2009, 02:01 AM   #8
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Go north.

Day five. Tuesday for what it was worth. This would be the second 500+ miler in as many days but would be a little different than the previous day. To travel from Winnipeg to Nelson House means to fill up at the last gas station leaving town, ride until it dies, switch to reserve, and hope you make it the next gas station. Wash, rinse, repeat until you get there.



The reason the map doesn't show anything north of Winnipeg, is that there isn't really anything north of Winnipeg. Having been as far north as Thompson herself, Annette kind of knew what I was getting myself into and gave me a small package of cookies. I picked up two cans of Red Bull before I left Winnipeg, and it was show time.



I calculated this one rather carefully, and so long as all the gas stations along the way were open, and actually had fuel, it seemed possible. Considering that I was travelling at the height of an H1N1 influenza outbreak which was hitting first nations communities particularly hard, and considering that all of my fuel stops would be on reserves, neither condition was by any means guaranteed. What's the worst that could happen?

The first stop was Fairford, 240 km (150 miles) north of Winnipeg. The scenery on this leg of the trip was exactly what a person would expect of mid-latitude Canadian prairies. Fairford had fuel. It took about two minutes to fill the bike, and another ten to find somebody to take my money. Drank one Red Bull, purchased one Red Bull.

Fairford to Grand Rapids is about 200 km, which was comfortably inside my range with the day's wind conditions. Now, having lived in some pretty remote places, I have for some years now been contemplating the minimum population, critical mass if you will, necessary to support a Chinese food restaurant. Grand Rapids has a population of about 330 people. There is nothing for 200 km in any direction, and yet:



I had lunch, got fuel, drank a Red Bull and purchased a Red Bull. The next stop would be Ponton Junction. Distances were more within range from there on so I didn't have to quite as disciplined with the throttle. By this point, it was getting pretty warm. Really rather warm, 35C (95F). Right around the 54th parallel, waves of drowsiness hit. It was the heat, I was fading and needed a break, a cold lake, and soon. A virtue of northern(ish) Manitoba is that lakes are abundant. The next little trail leading off into the bush I saw, I took. Good call.



It was beautiful and cold. I emptied my pockets and jumped in. Didn't really want to leave, but I had to. I filled my helmet up with water one last time and I was off. The evaporative cooling did the trick, and I was wide awake until Ponton, completely dry by the time I got there though. Fuel again in Ponton, drank one Red Bull, purchased one Red Bull.

Heading north, I encountered this sign on the side of the road. There wasn't really anything going on. I don't know.



Crossing the 55th parallel was noteworthy, if only because it was the northernmost latitude marker I would see. It was also the last picture I would take until I reached my days destination.



I was into the Arctic Ocean watershed by this point, but there were no signs to that end.

After Ponton, the next stop was Thompson, the only sizeable town north of Winnipeg in Manitoba at about 13000 people. In Thompson, I met Bill and Lisa for dinner, and followed them to Nelson House. This was necessary because nobody is allowed onto the reserve at Nelson House without either written permission from the band council, or a resident escort. I don't think its usually a big deal, but being on a bike I was bound to draw some attention.

Coming outside after dinner, there were big active thunderstorms visible just to the east, and within minutes we were being rained on. Quick stop for fuel, and we were off in an attempt to get ahead of the storms. Now, the road from Thompson to Nelson House wasn't paved, or particularly well maintained, providing a good opportunity to get the still too clean DR nice and dirty. As soon as we were out of town we put the spurs to it. My speedometer needle remained between 130 km/h and 145 km/h for the entire 75 km or so to the Nelson House turn-off. At this latitude a road develops some pretty serious frost heaves, sufficient to the get the front wheel off the ground a few times. Coming around a nice sweeping curve, hang the back end out a little bit, straightened out, over frost heave, front wheel up, and a RCMP pickup passed in the other direction. Eff, I thought I was going to jail. But they didn't even blink. Bigger problems to deal with I suppose, when you are 2 of 6 police officers on a northern Manitoba Indian reserve with a population hovering around 5000 people. I later found out that my reputation preceded me in a sense. They knew I was coming, that I would be teaching at the school for a couple weeks, and that I was basically a good guy.

Once we got into Nelson House, at Bill and Lisa's place they suggested we bring the bike inside, or it would probably be vandalized by morning. When one thinks of putting a bike inside, the mental image is generally one of some sort of garage. Rather we pushed the bike up the front steps and backed it into the laundry room.



I love my friends...
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Old 08-22-2009, 03:10 AM   #9
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Why the questions at the border about clothes, bike repairs and tyres?
Is there an extra tax to pay on purchases/services done outside Canada , or are the specs for the tyres in Canada/USA different?
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Old 08-22-2009, 11:28 AM   #10
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taxes...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ross1969
Why the questions at the border about clothes, bike repairs and tyres?
Is there an extra tax to pay on purchases/services done outside Canada , or are the specs for the tyres in Canada/USA different?
Canadian sales taxes on anything I may have purchased while in USA, as well as import duties on anything purchased that was manufactured outside of North America. There are exemptions based on the length of time spent there, so I probably could have brought $400 worth of merchandise across the border free of taxes/duties.
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Old 08-24-2009, 11:48 PM   #11
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A long day...

After arriving in Nelson House I was in a bit of a holding pattern. I stayed for about two weeks, did some teaching at the school and helped Bill and Lisa pack up the house for their own move back to BC. Since this is about as un-moto-related as a thing can be, I won't write more about it here, but if anyone's curious about my time there, feel free to ask.

Setting forth from Nelson House on June 30, we all hoped to make it Lloydminster, AB that night. Not a big deal on four wheels, but at 1300 km, this would definitely be the longest stretch I'd done on a motorcycle. I plotted a course looking a lot like this:



It started out well enough. I left Nelson House around 7:00 am with the idea of getting a bit of a head start. Didn't really consider that it might be kind of chilly...it was right around 10C (50F) which is cold enough in a vented textile jacket and summer gloves. By Thompson, I was definitely in need of coffee, so I got gas, stopped at the Tim Hortons and hung out there for a bit warming up. From Thompson, I had planned fuel stops at Ponton and the HWY 39/10 junction. That would get me safely to The Pas for lunch. Or so I thought. The first stop no problem, still pretty cold, but I could basically feel my hands. Onward, and into new territory as I was heading west from Ponton this time. It seemed prudent to keep the speed around 100 km/h because I was a little suspicious of my next fuel stop and wanted to maximize range. As it was, the gas station at the junction was closed (permanently?), and so I carried on south without any real idea of where the next gas station might be. I knew there was fuel in The Pas, but I also knew there was no way I'd make it that far. Oh well, all you can do is keep going. Worse comes to worst, I had a litre of Coleman fuel, buried somewhere in the Wolfman bag. Why not a litre of gasoline since my MSR stove will burn that just as well? Poor choices I guess.

As luck would have it, I happened across a gas station in Atik(?) just before I ran out. I grabbed a giant Red Bull too and drank it. The weather was finally starting to warm up as I got further south. This would not be my last close call on fuel that day...

Not too long later I arrived in The Pas and was oddly followed around town for bit by an RCMP constable. It later occured to me that I'd been standing on my pegs all the way through town, had an ax strapped to the bike and was a long way from home. Anyway, I prowled around town for a bit and stopped for lunch. I didn't bother filling the gas tank since I'd only been on the road about 50 km since my last stop. That was stupid. I think I'd been planning to stop for fuel in Westray for reasons passing understanding, but there is nothing in Westray. So this series of poor choices had me at the HWY 10/77 junction, with about 250km on the clock. I needed to head west on 77, but I had a strange feeling that I should head south in search of fuel. Two kilometers later, I switched to reserve. Reducing speed to 80 km/h, I really didn't know how this would play out. What felt like a long time passed before I rolled into Mafeking (I think?). Lo, a gas station ahead. It was closed. But I could see another one, and much to my relief, it was open. It had one pump (which appeared to date from the late sixties'), and only accepted cash, but they had fuel. Back north to the junction and I was on course again.

The next long while (250 km or so) was pretty damn boring, as prairies tend to be on a motorcycle, but eventually I came upon Melfort, SK. I was at that point 800 km (500 miles) into the day and was a little over half way to my destination for the night. As I came through town I could see a bloody great storm on the horizon. The thing about travelling across the prairies is that you have a long time to look forward to things like that before you go through them. You know its coming, because the road doesn't curve, you just hope its dissipated by the time you get there. I kept an eye on the cars coming east and they were still mostly dust covered so I figured I was alright for a bit, but as I came down the slope into Prince Albert, the drizzle started. Nothing serious, but I knew I was close to the storm.

The great thing about Saskatchewan is that the road signs are often placed in a completely arbitrary manner. For instance, heading west on HWY 55, there are little signs every few kilometers that say 55W. Its all well and good until they apparently ran out of 55W signs and just put up 55E signs instead. Not a big deal really, I knew I hadn't turned around, but it was funny. (Yes I am getting to a point). So the drizzle coming into Prince Albert quickly turned to all-out rain, and I was pretty much soaked after a few minutes. Whatever. It happens. I just needed to keep heading west. I came to a big intersection and there was a sign telling me to keep right to get onto HWY 3 west. Seemed a little odd, but who was I to argue. I turned right, went past some strip malls and the road quickly got smaller and it became rather apparent that I wasjust heading out to someone's farm. Turned around, it was time to find Starbucks because I knew they'd help me out and tolerate my being dripping wet from the rain. It so happened it was a licensed store in the Safeway, but at least they had coffee.

Anyway, it turned out, when the sign said Right, it actually meant Left and you're just supposed to know. God I'm stupid. Or something.

Warmer, caffeinated, if not very dry, I was on the road again. The rain was getting pretty serious, I couldn't really see much, but what do you do? The wind picked up quickly, I was right in the storm cell now, and there was lightning at least in front and to my sides. Didn't care to look back for long enough to see it. It sucked. It started to let up though and I could see brighter skies ahead. Wasn't as bad as it looked from a distance.

Twenty minutes later, I was riding in sunshine and actually drying off a little. This pattern continued. Storm cell, dry out, storm cell, dry out. I began to wonder if that huge storm I saw on the horizon had yet to show itself because it was way bigger than any of these. Sure enough, as I was getting closer to Shellbrook, some real rain started. Thats fine, I needed gas anyway. Except as I came into town, the rain turned to hail and that got uncomfortable in a hurry. Shellbrook must be the only town around that doesn't have a covered gas bar. I filled up the bike, trying to minimize the rain and hail getting into the tank. I went inside to pay, completely drenched. Handed the cashier a dripping wet $10 bill, muttering as I walked back out into the weather.

What was I supposed to do? A thousand km into the day, only three hundred more to go. Still in the middle of a hailstorm but nowhere else to go really, so I got back on the bike. Riding through this storm for another half hour or so, and I concluded it was the big one I'd seen. Later that night, I would learn that two tornados were reported not far south of where I was, in the hail. Guess I was lucky.

Things were looking up. The sky was basically clear, although daylight was fading. Approaching Turtleford (seriously) there are road construction signs. Big deal, I was on a dual sport, what's the worst that could happen? I guess pretty close to the worst that could happen is that you push a Cat road through a farmer's field and then get 40 mm of rain. Stock, well squared off Bridgestone Trailwings on greasy prairie mud, following a minivan that could barely get going, at 10 km/h, for several kilometers. Not my idea of a good time. I made it. I don't know how, because I'm not really that good a rider, but I made it.

Anyway, the next hour or so remains kind of a blur. I was a little surprised by the extent of natural gas development around Lloydminster, but that's all I really remember of the scenery. It was getting dark and cold, and I switched to reserve 20 km out of Lloyminster. The first three gas stations were closed. Finally found one and filled up. After asking around I learned that the Super 8 motel at which I was supposed to meet Bill and Lisa, didn't exist. Eff it, the Holiday Inn looked pretty nice. It was 11:00 pm, I'd ridden just over 1300 km and I had no idea where they were. Walking inside, I was greeted by a pretty and friendly hotel desk manager. They had a king suite for $189, but she took pity on me and let it go for $119. Sold. She said if I parked around back under the camera, she'd keep an eye on my bike as she'd be there all night. This was my first paid accommodation since I left Ontario. I'd hoped to couch surf the whole way, but I'm not complaining one bit.

At 2:30 am Lisa phoned my cell. They've just arrived in Lloydminster. I can't believe I got there first.
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Garak screwed with this post 08-05-2012 at 10:27 PM
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Old 08-25-2009, 12:02 AM   #12
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Old 08-27-2009, 10:32 AM   #13
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1300km?
Yer a nut
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Old 08-27-2009, 02:42 PM   #14
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Short post...(thats uh...what she said?)

After the previous day, I was expecting to be feel pretty sore in the morning, but it was manageable. Bill and Lisa were heading due west for Prince George (and a last minute wedding dress fitting for Lisa) and then Smithers, so we wouldn't cross paths again for a little while.

I got breakfast and coffee at the hotel and set forth for Edmonton.There was a steady 30km/h or so headwind pretty much all the way to Edmonton which kind of sucked. I stopped about an hour in to top up the tank and (hopefully) buy a giant bottle of Advil since I'd misplaced mine. Fortunately, the gas station had some so I took three with a can of Red Bull and carried on my way. I'd been planning to stop in Edmonton for a bit, but when I got there I couldn't remember why. It was probably that, having lived in northern BC and Alberta for a few years, we'd always go to Edmonton shopping. Since I didn't have any money, or anywhere to put stuff, there was little sense in that, so I filled the tank up again and carried on.

It was quite tempting to head west to Hinton and on to Grande Praire through Grande Cache, because thats a great little stretch of road. One of the better ones in AB maybe. I opted for the shorter route though after my 1300 km trek of yesterday which was probably wise.

Just after I turned onto HWY 43 I passed a couple bikes on the side of the road so I looped back around to see if they needed anything.



The fellow on the right was a local, out for a putt on his R1200GS who had also stopped to help. On the left, with the DRz, this fellow was on his way to Prudhoe Bay from Ohio and it seemed he was having some fuelling trouble. By the time I got there he thought he had it resolved and got it started, so I followed him to White Court just to make sure he was on his way alright. I stopped in White Court too for fuel, and got a coffee while I was at it. Seemed like a good spot to send Ashley a text and give her an ETA for Grande Prairie so she wasn't sitting around waiting for me.

Coming out of Tim Hortons, it looked like was headed into some weather. A couple of folks outside said it hadn't rained in days and the clouds would just blow over, but I'm a guy that keeps an eye on the cumulonimbus and I was pretty sure I'd be getting wet. And so, about twenty minutes later I rode into a cold downdraft and and the rain started. It wasn't bad really, because the temperature was still around 25C so I'd get wet, pass the storm cell, dry out, get wet, pass the storm cell...and so on. The last little shower was just before I crossed the south Peace River (yep, still in the Arctic Ocean watershed).

Not long after that I was rolling through Grande Prairie and pulled up to Ashley's place. She wasn't home of course, so I put my feet up on the bars, leaned back on the Wolfman bag and had a nap. Neighbours must have thought I was crazy. I wonder if they're right... Anyway, she got home a little while later. We went to her friends place, built a fire and drank beer. Good times with good friends once again. Oh, and then Ashley mentioned that we were leaving in the morning for a two day river kayaking trip...
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Old 08-29-2009, 04:48 PM   #15
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more pictures!

Kayaking was fun, something like 30 km in two days. I was a little tired afterwards, this being my first time ever kayaking. It turned into a bit of an adventure in its own right too when somebody drank a little too much rye, and I got to tow another kayak behind mine. Good times though, and we got the boats back in the truck before dark to boot.

From Grande Prairie, my next stop would be Prince George. At this point I was definitely starting to feel pretty at home, having lived up there for five or six years. The road between Grande Prairie and Dawson Creek is not really the most exciting ride, but there are are some good cultural tidbits along the way.



This giant beaver (joke goes here) for instance, can be seen in Beaverlodge, AB. In the winter, with its back covered in snow, it becomes a giant sinister looking skunk. An hour or so later, across the BC/AB border I was in Dawson Creek. I'm sure many people here are familiar with Dawson Creek as being home to Mile Zero of the Alaska Hwy.



Now I'm not certain what exactly makes Dawson Creek 'Mile Zero' of the Alaska Hwy other than that they have declared it such, since its still just Hwy 97, but that might be a question for the ages.

I guess I haven't mentioned that it started raining about 10 minutes after I left Grande Prairie. Not really hard rain, but steady stratus rain, so by Dawson Creek I was pretty well soaked. Seemed like a good time to stop for a coffee and to warm up a little bit. I sat in the Tim Hortons for a while watching the rain intensify, and then decided to head out in what seemed to be a bit of lull in the storm (not really, but it held off just long enough for me to get back on the road....).

The next stop would be Chetwynd, about an hour past Dawson Creek. This stretch of road was a little bit more fun than the previous, in so far as it had a couple of nice curves and once in Chetwynd, I was greeted by more rich culture.



Being around lunch time I parked at the A&W and went inside, dripping wet, and really cold at this point. Cold enough that it was about twenty minutes before I could hold my coffee without shaking so badly as to spill it all over the place. The girl at the counter was kind enough to carry my tray to a table because it was pretty clear that if I tried to myself, it wasn't going to end well for anybody. I managed to eat my hamburger and fries without making a mess and then started into the coffee. As awkward as it was, I was comforted by the fact that I was still shivering, indicating that I wasn't critically hypothermic. Turns out that A&W has free coffee refills. Its not great coffee, but its not bad, and it was doing the trick.

After about an hour I figured I had warmed up sufficiently to get back on the road. This was something of a big decision as there is really nothing but 300 km of highway between Chetwynd and Prince George, save the gas station at the Mackenzie junction. For what its worth, the Pine Pass between Chetwynd and the Mackenzie junction offers some pretty nice riding. Nothing particularly tight, but lots of decent high speed sweepers and an abundance of elevation changes. Also of note, the Pine Pass crosses the continental divide and serves as the break between the Arctic (Peace River) and Pacific (Fraser River) watersheds.

As luck would have it, the weather improved greatly south of the pass, and while it was still raining lightly, it was a lot warmer. Despite the weather I was making decent time and filled up at the junction around 2:00pm.

The original plan, or rather the plan that had developed a couple days prior was that I'd get to Prince George, meet up with Jess, and we'd head north again that night camping for a couple days. The weather forecast had this rain sticking around for a few days though, spanning most of northern BC, so we decided that I'd just come find her when she got off work and we'd hatch a new scheme. The salient points quickly became a warm, dry place to stay, and the means to dry all of my gear.

It was about 4:00 pm when I arrived in Prince George. It was raining again, but not much, and I took refuge in one of my favourite old Starbucks to the kill the couple hours until Jess finished work. It was a good chance to dry off, warm up, plug in my phone and let people know I was alive.



At 6:30, I met up with Jess, we went to her house so I could change into dry clothes, at which point she told me to leave all my laundry there so she could wash it later, and we went out for dinner.

Prince George is home to some more things I find amusing. (Note: please don't take any of this as me disparaging the north. I lived in PG for five years, went to university there, and have fond memories of the place.)



I found this billboard on the road out to the airport. I think its absolutely fantastic and I can't think of anywhere else in Canada where you'll find billboards advertising escort agencies. Prostitution is no more legal here than anywhere else in the country. And, its a very nice billboard!



This little combination of establishments was new since I moved away from Prince George. This is either a spectacular fail, or rather brilliant, and I'm not sure which. Needless to say I have an entire album of pictures like this from my time there, but they aren't exactly moto-related.

Without glossing over any interesting details, I stayed in Prince George for about five days and then it was time to continue on once again. The next leg of the journey would take me to my final destination (for this particular trip) on some of my favourite pavement anywhere...
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