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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Whitehorse, Yukon to Smithers, British Columbia, Canada

This segment of our trip took us from Whitehorse, Yukon to Smithers, British Columbia, Canada. This was one of the most remote sections that we will encounter until Patagonia and as so much we went without real services for the majority of this leg. Due to the remoteness of the Cassiar Highway we were forced to carry 60lbs of food in order to sustain our veracious appetites. Parker and I were lucky to reunite with some old touring acquaintances from the Dalton Highway and meet new ones to share the awesome experiences and scenery the Cassiar Highway provided.

Antsy to get back on the road Parker and I made a late day decision to depart Whitehorse for less expensive accommodations...road side campspots. When I say roadside this might be a little misleading because we have uncovered some of the most beautiful campsites of the trip.
The first night out of Whitehorse found us just inches from the banks of the Teslin River where while cooking dinner under the moonlight we hooked into grayling and watched salmon make their way upstream. I awoke early the following morning and Parker decided to stay in his tent so I hit the road solo. I made a mid day stop at Jakes Corner where I was presented with four kilos / ten pounds of pizza for $4 Canadian. I'm not sure how they typically do Pizza in the Yukon but this thing was covered with 1/4” thick strips of Bacon and steak. I took this mound of food to go and raced down the road to a nearby rest stop. As I stuffed my face, an older woman pulled up in her touring van and began to inquire about our travels. It turns out this woman (Betty) is from a town in Lake Clark just 10-15 miles away from ground zero of the Pebble Project. Given my recent interactions with the bartender at Mentasta it was reassuring to hear that she and the majority of her community are up in arms about the impending development.

Parker and I rendezvoused that day at around mile 60 where I presented him with his 5lb pizza that I was tired of carrying. We hit the road together and found an incredible camp spot on the shores of Teslin Lake at an abandoned summer camp. As we ate dinner that night a bee decided to land on my chest and sting my nipple. Little did we know that this was just a precursor of what was to come. Once again we were visited by the 70mph+ winds and as I laid in my sleeping bag that night in one of the makeshift cabins I laughed to myself thinking about Parker outside in his mesh tent.


We broke camp the next morning and got back onto the Alaska Highway where after about five miles we ran into our Japanese buddy Kenta who we met on the Dalton Highway in early July. The three of us decided to ride together and later that afternoon we found a perfect camp spot on the banks of the Smart River. When Parker rode into camp he informed me that a bee had gotten stuck behind his sunglasses and had stung him in between the eyes. Knowing Parker's bad history with reactions to bee's I reassured him that there was only a small red mark where the stinger had entered. Phew!

That evening we were joined by two Dutch cyclists headed towards Edmonton, BC.
Our relaxed schedule did not mesh with these two because when I awoke the next morning they were already gone. I started the hot water for our oates and shook Parker's tent..this is standard procedure. Parker responded with a groan and as the zipper of his tent opened I found myself face to face Parker's Asian twin. Apparently the bee did a little more damage than I originally thought.




Over the next two days, Kenta, Parker and I made our way to the Cassiar. Highlights from these two days include passing the Texas 4000 riders, massive roadside diner pancakes at the Continental Divide and grocery shopping at Junction 37 (general store). The three of us had all planned to restock our food supplies at Junction 37; however, we all had small panic attacks when we walked inside and realized that their grocery consisted of $5 cans of chili and $3 bags of Top Ramen noodles. After spending $50 on 5 cans of chili and candy bars I took my heap of groceries outside to contemplate how badly we had just been ripped off. As I was leaning against an old rusted out chest freezer I was startled by a shrill voice behind me..”how about you park your ass somewhere else instead of on my freezer....eh.” I spun around to find the haggard shop owner staring over her glasses at me.

Not willing to let a witch spoil my day, I smiled and walked away. As we were leaving the store premises a middle age man and his wife caught sight of us. They started drilling us with questions about our trip and then invited us to their RV for some cold beverages and “tea”. Of course we accepted. George a retired Fire Protection Contractor and his wife Wendy absolutely entertained us for a couple of hours until we parted ways to start the Cassiar and search for a campsite. Parker and I met Kenta that night at Blue Lakes where we set our tents under a phenomenal sunset.

The next afternoon found us at Good Hope Lake, a small native community which was rumored to have food supplies. As I pulled up in front of the store...I recognized the all too familiar sight of a bicycle draped with gear leaning against the building. I knew a fellow spandex donning bicycle enthusiast had to be close by. Enter: Christian Hemken, world bicycle touring legend.
As I pulled up closer to the store I spotted the 6'8” German scouring the pages of an outdated Star Magazine. When I realized he was turned to “The Best and Worst Celebrity Bodies,” I knew we were going to get along perfectly.

Christian has made a career / life out of riding his bicycle around the world. Having just completed the ride from Tierre Del Fuego to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, Christian decided he would merely turn around and ride to New York. To put things into a little better perspective when we met up with Christian he had been riding for 20 months and had covered over 22,000 miles. As fate would have it, Parker and I happened to cross paths with Christian at the beginning of the Cassiar Highway.


As we sat at a lunch table at Good Hope Lake, Parker and I peppered Christian with thousands of questions about routes, logistics, gear, etc. Christian entertained us with answers and would intermittently dive back into the Star Magazine to point out the worst cellulite photos. We were so engulfed in the conversation we did not even notice that a convoy of bikes and gear was approaching. Enter: Sean, Ingrid and Kate (8 years old)..the family on bikes. This English family departed from their home in Scotland, rented out their house and consolidated the family belonging to a few panniers in order to take to the Panamerican Highway. Sean and his 8 year old daughter Kate are sharing a tandem bicycle which is decorated with panniers and a trailer (lucky Sean!). Kate is unbelievably enthusiastic about the ride and the new lifestyle. We took a great sequence of video where we asked both Christian and Kate why bicycle travel is so awesome. Let's just say the answers are a bit different.

Fortunately it worked out logistically that our new entourage of touring cyclists could stay at the same campsite that night. Kenta, Parker, Christian, Sean, Ingrid, Kate and I, all enjoyed a swim and dinner at Simmons Lake. It was great to be able to spend time with Sean and his family and unbelievably motivating to think that Kate (20 years my junior) will be making the same journey as us. The following morning Sean notified us that his family would be staying back a day to catch up on some of Kate's school work. We said our good-byes and Chrisitian, Kenta, Parker and I hit the road.

After just three days of travel on the Cassiar Christian informed us that out of the 22,000 miles he has cycled during this journey, the Cassiar is one of the nicest legs. Parker and I made sure to enjoy every inch of beautiful pavement and soak in the gorgeous backdrops. Without going into too much detail I will tell you that every evening on the Cassiar we either found ourselves on the banks of a river or the shores of a lake. There was one night; however, that we camped behind the Bell II Lodge. The famous Heli Skiing Lodge, was the nicest facility we've seen and we took absolute advantage of their hot tub, sauna, and showers. Michael, the manager of the lodge, met us the next morning and helped Parker and I plan out our fishing trip to Smithers. Micheal guides heli-skiing trips during the winter and heli- fishing trips during the summer. As you can imagine he is constantly stressed out and has a general distaste for life. We would both like to thank Michael and his staff for their hospitality.

Parker, Christian and I arrived in Smithers on August 12th. As our plans to trade the bikes for our fly fishing rods began to materialize we were forced to say goodbye to our new German friend. His humor and wisdom will be missed. As both of us agree, the world would be a better place with more people like Christian. He leads a life with almost no footprint and has completely separated himself from any materialistic thoughts or desires. In one year of travel Christian spent just over $4,000 dollars.

As you might imagine, 22,000 miles of solo riding has left Christian with thousands of hours to philosophize and to contemplate the short coming of our society both on a national and international scale. Christian shared hundreds of his ideas and observations with us and I'd like to share a few of them with you.....

“I have a dream for a book where all the truck drivers that have wronged cyclists are locked into a dark room and forced to endure all the shit we do. First..100kmph winds, then clouds of dust, deafening horns, and huge trucks passing by at 120kmph.
In regards to free refills at McDonald's... “They have free refills at all of the American McDonald's, this is very nice for a thirsty German Cyclist.”

“It should be mandatory by law that all gas stations supply a vegetarian fuel for people traveling by bicycle. You see, 1 liter of gas has 15,000 calories and we should need only 5,000. This substance should be dispensed the same as gas and only cost 1/5 of the price of gasoline and never more than 20 cents per liter.”

“I never buy motor..ever! Except if I become millionaire I buy 50 S Class Mercedes and park them all over my neighborhood so that no one can find parking. I let bums sleep in them and children put their toys in the trunks.”

Various news forums are starting to take heed of Trout Unlimited's recent press release regarding our ride. We have been contracted by local papers and radio stations and on August 13th I gave an interview to the Dillingham Public Radio Station. Flyfisherman Magazine and Fly Rod and Reel have also run articles about our mission on their blogs.

In the next leg of our journey we will travel from Smithers, BC to Seattle, Washington. With the availability of services and internet on this stretch we should have a better opportunity to provide more frequent blog updates.




Update to Previous Post:
There are a couple of items that were not mentioned in our previous post regarding our stay in Whitehorse. The first being that Parker and I met the self proclaimed “Daffy Duck” outside of Walmart. Daffy is a well known figure around town and is potentially the best equipped cyclist I have ever encountered. Instead of carrying spare parts or tubes, Daffy carry's an entire spare bike on the back of his child carrier. Rather than cramming his clothes into stinky dry bags he wears them all. Apparently, he also gets instantaneous service at a bicycle shop where I couldn't even get the time of day.


The second omitted item is in regards to our time in Whitehorse in between Kjell's mid day departure and our evening ride to the Teslin River. While we were sitting in a local cafe using the internet to upload photos we were approached by a young couple. These two swingers were on their way back from Dawson City where they had apparently “hit it big” on the roulette table. Still buzzed from their recent luck the two had made the rash decision to get hitched at a local Whitehorse chapel. They needed two witnesses for the ceremony and Parker and I apparently looked like willing participants. Unfortunately we could not make the ceremony but did take this picture for them against the painted sunset on the wall of the cafe. They thanked us anyway and ran outside, jumped into Jimbo's IROC-Z Camaro and time-traveled back to the 80's.


Favorite / Most Frequently Asked Questions and Comments:
“How many tires are you going to use?”
“Isn't Argentina a Spanish speaking State?”
“How much money you got tied up in those machines?”
“How much baby powder you boys carrying?”
“How many gears those things have?”...always followed by the person telling us that their bike only had 3
“You know they invented planes for a reason.”
“Now why are you guys carrying fire extinguishers?”...referencing our stove fuel.
After informing people that we started in Alaska and are traveling south they respond, “Ohhh, well at least its all down hill.”

4 comments:

Stephen Mull said...

Good stuff guys. Glad to see you already got into some steelfaces.

Cob said...

Thanks for the journey again. Awesome work! Also, I love the bike shop photo. Brought a tear to my eye...tear. Keeper up!!

AZ said...

Seth I love this. Besides the fact I am cracking up out loud, celebrity cellulite is always funny. But I think the icing on the cake here is the quote about the Mercedes and the bums and the toys, you can't make these things up. Love it keep it coming.

nancy said...

I'm wondering if you happen to have any contact info for that family you met - the one with the daughter on the tandem? I would love to contact them if you have a way.

We are also a family traveling on bikes on the Pan American Highway. My husband and one twin son ride on a tandem while the other twin and I ride singles. We left in June 2008 from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska and are now in Colombia.

You can read about our journey at familyonbikes.org Please email me at familyonbikes@gmail.com if you have a way to contact the other family!

Thanks!
Nancy

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