I’ve combined three days of writing into one. I will be out of contact for the next 6 days so stay tuned and pray for good weather or I might not come back at all. Dempster is not a road to be taken lightly.
The 25th started rather cold and cloudy. I woke up around 8 am and left Wal-Mart, dressed in my winter gear. I had no luck locating bear spray in Grande Prairie so I made it my mission to find some before I get eaten alive.
Storms up here tend to come from the north unlike in the United States where they normally come in from east or west. When something is coming down, I’m riding right into it and there is no way around it. It felt so cold that I thought it was going to snow at any moment but it never happened. When I got to Dawson Creek, I finally found bear spray and officially started my journey on the Alaska Highway.
The Alaska Highway is the most magnificent highway I’ve ever seen. With its twists and turns, sky high spruces, thick alders, high mountain lakes and the mesmerizing scenery, it is something out of a dream. The country up here is so wide and so wild that one can’t help admiring this beautiful land of plenty. Deer, caribou, buffalo and bears all roaming wild; babbling brooks and raging rivers at every bend, all put this highway in a league of its own. It’s awfully gorgeous.
At one of my pit stops, I met an older gentleman on a brand new Kawasaki Vulcan who was also headed north. Jean-Luc Darcy is in his sixties and is a Vietnam veteran who’s going to Whitehorse for the Canadian Legion ceremony. Born in Belgium and schooled in Canada, he has traveled the10K miles round trip from his home in Colorado to Alaska 3 times on a motorcycle and is under way to rack his 4th one.
After sharing a smoke, we got back on the road and since we were heading the same route, we stopped at the same turnouts and became friends in no time. We stopped at a remote (everything is remote here) restaurant near Pink Mountain called Mel & Mags. I had the most amazing meat casserole I ever had in my life along with a giant plate of five different salads from the salad-bar. The place was clean and staff so friendly that we ended up staying there for almost 2 hours. This place is highly recommended and if you don’t know me well, I am the most anal person in the world when it comes to food.
I was planning on camping out but Jean-Luc offered to get a room for both us, which I didn’t argue with too much. We stopped at Fort Nelson for the night. At the Bluebell Inn, the internet was non-existent so no update could be done that night, but after a couple of beers, I found out Jean-Luc is not going to Alaska after all. He’s heading with me to the Arctic Circle (I might have had something to do with it but I blame it on beers). We studied the maps and made assault plans for the duo late into the night. Two is always better than one I suppose.
The next morning I re-arranged my stuff on the bike; I moved the gas cans to the side and put the tent and sleeping bag inside my backpack. Now the pack sits about 10 inches lower and what a huge difference that made. No more getting blown over with every gust. Now I can actually ride as fast as I want without holding on to the O-Shit-Bar for dear life.
Fort Nelson to Watson Lake was only supposed to be a 6 hour ride but we were wrong again. The road turned into a demon and I had one of the most nerve-wracking rides of my life. The highway construction ninjas had dumped loose gravel for 300 kilometers and then left for China I suppose. If caribous popping out of every corner, crazy truck drivers going 90mph and bombarding us with rocks, and the bikes fish-tailing and sliding on the ice-like surface of the road weren’t enough, we had to watch out for buffalos crossing the road like it was a parade of some sort. We stopped every 30 minutes to rest and bitch at the road and after 9 hours of tackling this death-trap, we decided we had enough. We stopped at a provincial park and camped out. Soup and english muffins was my contribution and the camping fee was Jean’s. We cleaned the bikes and setup our tents and before we knew it, the sun was coming up.
We left the Liard campground at 9am and we hoped to get to Whitehorse by nightfall. Whitehorse was 422 miles away and the construction zone ended right after the park, so we rode out in style. At one point I thought I saw a monkey, but then I figured out I was hallucinating from starving to death, so I picked up some speed and found a restaurant. We had eggs, bacon, potatoes and toast for breakfast and I checked my emails while we were there. The Whitefish Pilot published an article about me that I thought was interesting. Matt Baldwin, thank you if you are reading this.
We walked out of the café to black skies and cold wind from the north. The weather up here is like a woman: one minute it’s all nice and lovely and a minute later, it starts throwing a tantrum. It started raining shortly thereafter and it got colder by the minute and time stood still while we got soaked to the bone.
Out of my fogged up goggles I saw a loaded bicycle crashed on the road with what looked like a human body face down next to it. I hit the brakes hard and turned around for the scene of the crash,parked, and started running while un-doing my helmet and trying to take my goggles off at the same time. When I got there the body was moving and found a guy lifting his head up and trying to tell me something but I couldn’t hear anything. I took out my ear plugs and asked the guy what happened again. He was just drunk and there was no accident. He said he was trying to get out of the rain and take a nap. I was furious. This asshole almost got me killed from braking that hard on a wet road and there was nothing wrong with him. I told him to get his shit off the highway and move to the shoulder before he really gets run over and walked back to my bike. Now my head, the only part of my body that wasn’t wet till now, was soaking too.
I told Jean-Luc that we should ride all the way to Whitehorse no matter what and we can dry off in Wal-Mart or something, but his hip was hurting him pretty bad and he wasn’t about to ride another 2 hours in the rain. He wanted to get a hotel room and stay in the next town, so I told him I’m on a budget and can’t afford that kind of luxury. He offered his room and I didn’t argue either. We stopped at Teslin Lake in the Yukon Territory and got a lake-front cabin for the night. It’s a beautiful lake and a very nice cabin that I’m sure costs quite a bit. We started spreading everything all over the room to dry and I made more soup and cooked some rice for dinner.
We are heading to Whitehorse tomorrow morning and we’ll leave Whitehorse for Dawson City the next day. Dawson City is the last stop in the semi-civilized world up here before we start on the Dempster Highway for the Arctic Ocean. The Dempster is a notorious dirt road that is 750 kilometers long that goes all the way to Inuvik. If the rain stops and conditions are half decent, we should be dipping our toes in the ice water of the ocean above soon. Till then…