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Motorcycle Adventure – Ep. 5 – North to Alaska Part 1

Seattle, Washington to Dawson Creek, British Columbia

You know the drill. Here’s the video if you please, otherwise, or also, read along.

The few days I spent in Seattle with Tracy I think I was the most relaxed in my entire life.  Not worried about the bike or miles, and not having to think about work in any way made the stop like a vacation.  But, even better than that, I got to hang with Tracy and her daughter Jackie!  I got to see the place Tracy is staying while I am on my adventure, too.  It’s a nice apartment with good views in Renton, just south of Seattle.

Not until the day before I had to leave did we three actually venture out, visiting the Chihuly Museum, which is stuffed full of this amazing man’s blown glass.  It’s right beside the space needle, so of course I had to try and take picture with both.

We didn’t make it up the needle because the line was too long (we had been up it once before anyway), so instead we decided to try the Great Wheel, one of those ginormous Ferris wheels near the aquarium.  Lots of nervousness as that thing rocked back and forth at the top while those below were loading.

The following day I had to get going if I were to make it to Deadhorse and back to Seattle in early August, or about 6 weeks.  I need to meet an impending date that Tracy and I have marked on the calendar to fly back to Florida to attend my brother’s retirement ceremony from the Navy, and then get all of our stuff out of storage in Virginia and back to Washington.

The road east out of Seattle runs right through National Forests of lush and green, which probably explains the rain and mist.  After that Washington opens up into desert scrubland all the way to Spokane before you start to see trees again.  I camped that night near Diamond Lake.

The next day, I had intended to stop short of Glacier National Park to camp but got there early enough and decided to go ahead and ride the Going to the Sun Road through the park.  Listen mates, please put this on your list to do in your lifetime.  It is absolutely spectacular and majestic and hot apple pie with ice cream amazing, and despite the heavy 10mph traffic, I was having mind orgasms every 3 minutes.  And, much of the ride you are on a sheer 2000-foot cliff.  Yikes!

That night, after Glacier, I holed up in a very expensive hotel in Babb, Montana near the border with Alberta, and they didn’t even have wifi, which was terrible as I had no cell connection either!!!

The next day I crossed the border back into Canada and followed a route suggested by a fellow Jupiter’s Traveller, Nevil Stow, who I was planning to stay with that night in Canmore, Alberta.  So, if you’re ever in Babb, Montana, do this and take Nevil’s and my advice:  take the Kananaskis Trail.  Holy mother of all toads, frogs, and other living things. After Glacier, I didn’t think I could be impressed, but as I learned, as the US Rockies become the Canadian Rockies, it only gets better each and every mile.  It was marked as a dirt road on my AAA map, but no dirt, my friends, nothing but smooth asphalt through some breathtaking mountains.

That weekend I hung out with Nevil and his beautiful wife, Michelle.

Nevil’s house is wonderfully situated near the continental divide and is considered by many the “Aspen of Canada.” The town of Canmore reminded me of some Bavarian paradise.

That weekend started with Canada Day, the day I arrived, and went all weekend.  Folks, mostly local friends, were coming and going all weekend and I find out afterward that his home is also known as “Stowasis” in the adventure motorcycle community, famous at least partially for its “Garagaritas.” Haha.  Well, I too had to sign the garage door, right?  (by the way, there’s people you know who have written on that garage door…)

On Saturday, we did some admin in Canmore, where I picked up some supplies, including bear spray and bangers, and had some lunch.  Then later, we did some bike maintenance in Nevil’s well-appointed garage.

They definitely took care of me and I really enjoyed my stay at the Stowasis! It’s the kind of place you’d want, and they’d insist, to stay for as long as you need to. Thanks Michelle and Nevil!

After leaving Nevil’s house, I first stopped at Lake Louise and Moraine Lake near Banff.  Again, just another couple of money shots as this part of the work is just simply amazing.

Then, I headed up the Icefield Parkway toward Jasper.  And yet again, the views are just too much for words.  I had some weather, namely rain, and it got damned cold through some of the shoots between the mountains, but still I wouldn’t have traded that ride for anything.

That night, I had intended to “wing it” and find a place to camp near Jasper when all of sudden I got a note from Stefan, who you may remember from our trip in Newfoundland a few weeks ago, asking to meet up!!  We had split up back then because of different paths, but now the streams were crossing!  Of course, I said heck yeah!

Stefan and I met in Hinton just north of Jasper at a hotel he’d already booked for two nights, so we made plans to ride the roads local to Jasper the following day.  First, we rode through Medicine Lake, which a year ago (to the day) a fire had ravaged the place.  It gave off a nice set of hues as the trees began to recover.

Next was Meligne Lake further south.  This lake is very popular with the tourists and there were dozens of tour buses packed with people around.

We’d planned to go to Miette Hot Springs, but ran into “Joe from Jasper” in Meligne who ran a local tour outfit and he convinced us that was a waste of time (the spring just fed into a swimming pool…).   He suggested instead we head down into Jasper National Park and take in Edith Covell mountain and glacier.  Glad we listened, because the ride up the mountain was awesome, with lots of twisties, and the road takes you right up against a glacier. Thanks Joe!!

The following morning, Stefan and I split up (again) as I headed north to Dawson Creek, British Columbia via the Bighorn Highway (Hwy 40).  The Rockies quickly gave out and turned over to slow rolling green hills and straight highways.

Dawson Creek is cool because it is home of Milepost 0 of the Alaska Highway, where I planned to relax for a couple of days.  It’s a neat little town that grew rapidly in the 30s when the railroad extended here. Now, many people come through on their way west and north to Alaska.

While intending to take a picture of the sign, I ran into a fellow rider and realized it was Alex, who I had met in Bracebridge, Ontario several weeks ago!  So we took the picture together.

So, that’s it for now. I am continuing on northwest to Alaska now, taking the Alaska Highway to Whitehorse, and then the Klondike Loop, including the Top of the World Highway.  More posts later!

Lessons Learned:

  • Gas stations and roads in northern Alberta. The stretch from Jasper to Dawson Creek is about 325 miles, but there was no problem getting gas in Grand Cache (about 90 miles in) and then again in Grand Prairie (another 115 miles), but between these small towns there is literally nothing but trees and wildlife.  There also was a lot of construction between Grand Cache and Grand Prairie that required waiting for about 20 minutes and then following a guide truck for 5 miles over recently chunked up road.  I understand from locals that little maintenance is done in the Winter, so in the Summer, there is a LOT of road construction!
  • Nevil (a prior trail guide) recommended some things to me I took on without question: bear spray with a glow in the dark cap (so you can quickly find it in the tent), ii. Bear poppers (like flares, but they go bang), iii. a fixed knife to cut your own way out of a tent if a bear gets too close, and iv. a solar powered inflatable light (seriously, Google this, these things are great!).  For the bear spray and poppers, you cannot (or are not supposed to) bring them across the border, but you can find them in many stores once in Canada, like Canadian Tire.  They’ll want your personal information and make you sign a government document before getting them.

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