Four Corners of Canada Motorcycle Ride
Windsor Star pre-ride article
Start of ride: June 24, 2006 from Pt. Peel National Park, Ontario, Canada. this is Canada's southernmost mainland point. It is at latitude 41.90 deg. N. The entrance to the walking trail down to the point has this sign which rounds it off to 42 degrees. This is about the same latitude as Rome, Italy and is somewhat south of the northern border of California, yet is still well within the Canadian border. The aim was to travel to the four cardianl points of Canada. Starting at the southernmost point, then on to Cape Spear, Newfoundland, the Easternmost point. Crossing back across the continent and north to the Yukon Territory/Alaska border which is the westernmost point. Finally the most difficult of all. From Dawson City, Yukon, up the infamous Dempster Highway to Inuvik, Northwest Territories, this being the northernmost point accessable by land in Canada. There are other roads that travel further north (not by a whole lot) but they are not public roads and are open at the discretion of private companies. The roaad in Alaska to Prudhoe Bay (Deadhorse, AK) is an example.
The ride was conducted under the rules and regulations of the Iron Butt Association. This is an organization of long distance riders that have completed a minimum of a 1000 mile ride within a 24 hour period. These rides are strictly monitored and documented under very strict rules to ensure the rides are actually completed as stated. There is no chance of cheating these folks. There primary objective is to promote long distance riding in a safe and sane manner. It is never a "race". It is often mentioned that it is not how fast you ride on an Iron Butt Ride, but how fast you stop. The goal is to arrive alive without encountering any safety related or law enforcement issues.
The bike is a 1998 Honda Pacific Coast. It is a shaft driven 800cc "sport tournig" model. It has lots of modifications to enable ultra long distance riding in relatively short time spans. The modifications include: 3M headlight rock guard shield, extra loud air horn, electronic (loud) deer alert chirper, extensive wiring harness modifications, high intensity headlight bulb fitted with a beam modulator, a very loud air horn, digital compass, wide angle "blind spot"mirror additions, Garmin 2610 global positioning system (GPS) with the full detailed north America mapset on a 2 GB chip, horn guard, Laminar Lip windshield accessory, Magnavox Cruise Control,
This is the first email from the road posted June 29/06
#1 Hi all, Sorry I haven't had time to post anything. What with the ferry schedules to meet and the crummy weather I just haven't had time along with an internet connection. Motels up here and down east just don't have the same facilities I'm used to. Made Edmundston, NB in day one. Late start from Pt. Pelee and traffic in Toronto along with some heavy rain in the Eastern Townships of PQ. Next day hit PEI and on to Sydney in NS to pick up the ferry, more rain. Day three was across Nfld to Cape Spear in a mixture of sun and absolute torrential rain. Saw my first moose. It was roadkill just outside Port Aux Basques. Fortunately that is as close I've gotten to one. Cape Spear went well with the Park staff very helpful. Then off to Petty Harbour to get a bottle of Atlantic water. You can't get near the sea at Cape Spear unless you're suicidal and like jumping off of cliffs. Petty Harbour is a real neat place - like going back 50 years to all of the stereotypes of small fishing villages you see in the movies. Got a fisherman to take my photo getting the water and he gave me a local history lesson. If you're interested I'm sure a google search will turn up all of the interesting things such as the oldest inhabited spot in Canada etc. etc. Totally non tourist. Day four was a short one as the ferry takes 14 hours from Argentia so didn't get away from Sydney until about 2:45p.m. Only went to just inside the NB border. Day five went through NB and on to PQ in pouring rain all the way to about 200 miles north of Montreal, where it finally tapered off.. Stopped at Rouyan/Noranda for night. Today - Day 6 across the northern route via Highway 11 to Dryden in on and off rain. Saw a black bear when it ran in front of the car ahead of me. Boy oh boy can those things ever go fast!! That's the bare bones so far. Lots of interesting scenery along the way. Will try to post some photos to the web site if I have time. It's hard to ride for 15 to 16 hours and still get 8 hours sleep as well as eat, shower, pack & unpack the bike etc. etc. Am off to pick up a (Lynn's) new electric vest in Winnipeg tomorrow. Lynn sent it to the Minuteman shop there as mine decided that only the left side needed to work. Not bad if that's the only problem so far. Then off to cross the Prarie provinces. Hope for some of that ...what do you call it....sunshine??? G'night, Bob (or Robert depending on which side on the family/friend circle you're on)
Second email posted on June 30/06
#2 Just a note to let you know I'm in North Battleford, Sask. for the night. Stopped about 7:30 our time (9:30 yours). Wanted to get some laundry done and get a full night's sleep. Haven't had much time for either as I just realized that four days ago I got off the ferry from Nfld at 2:30 in the afternoon. Sooo even though I'm a little behind my personal schedule I guess it's not bad. We're making pretty good time. Lost time going into Winnipeg today to pick up Lynn's elect. vest (about 2 hours) and also some time putting on and taking off wet weather gear as it rained about a dozen times - sometimes hard! The "we"I refer to is the unholy triumverate of the bike the GPS and of course myself who came along for the ride. We all have names now. The GPS has always been known as "Ã‹mma" (after the Emma in "The Avengers") due to her very classey British accent when ordering me about the countryside. Unfortunately like most women she's never wrong (sigh). The most important member is of course "Scarlet" (short for The Scarlet Runner), who carry's us all about with me along to feed and keep them happy (?). Scarlet is not a name I chose lightly - or at all for that matter. My old (106 at the time) Aunt Ruby when she first saw the bike loved it and said "It's magnificent, I shall call it the Scarlet Runner" This obviously wasn't a name I'd choose and I thought it completely 1800's hokey. I of course never told Aunt Ruby however and she always referred to it by that name until she died. On this ride I've come to know Scarlet a lot better and have alas, decided that Aunt Ruby was correct in her Victorian way. Scarlet is a magnificent girl and is truly a Scarlet Runner to be carrying us around and taking all of the abuse we're putting her through. There are not many machines that could take the abuse and keep just purring along - sometimes really "RUNNING". So much for details. Tomorrow and the next day I'd like to get to Whitehorse in order to get new tires first thing Monday Morning. They are already there as I ordered them about a month ago. 8287 KM so far - well over half way to Inuvic (using the scenic route), but not yet half way for the total trip, which should be in the neighbourhood of 20,000 KM. G'night Bob P.S. please excuse the spelling and grammar - I don't have the time to proof nor do I really care at this point.
Third email posted July 4/06
#3 First - my apologies as some of you didn't get on the list, in particular those who were so kind as to get up at o'dark thirty and ride all the way to Pt. Pelee. You're on it now except Tom and I can't decipher the writing. Could someone pass along his email to me? Well it has now been two days of sunshine...well mostly. Yesterday from N. Battleford SK to the Alaska Highway start in B.C. was just a great ride. Scenery is steadily improving as we go west and north. Got the obligatory photo at mile 1 in Dawson Creek. Asked some lady to take my photo and her husband came over to see what I wanted. As if an old phart in a rumpled Aerostitch suit leaning on a protien encrusted Pacific Coast could be anything but harmless. Oh well, she took the photo. Got a recomendation from the Youkon tourist bureau for a "lodge"at mile marker (kilometers actually) 270 and then proceeded to drive there. Somewhat of a dump...oops...I mean rustic. No phone, no internet, no TV etc. Seems the building housing them all burnt down last week. In order to keep the lights on they have a very large & loud generator which ran all night. No bugs in the "room" so I went to try the "restaurant". Since there was no other choice within driving distance, it made the grade. Although slightly downhill! This morning noisily (remember the generator) dawned well before the Screaming Meanie went off at 4:45am. Looked outside and lo and behold dawn had already broken sometime previously. I guess this really is the north. In any case it was COLD. Bike thermometer read 37 deg. F. (about 2.5 deg. C) so on went the long johns etc. etc. etc. until I looked like the Michelin Man. Lovely day and an absolutely fantastic ride up the Alaska Highway. Continueed to shed clothing (discreetly) along the way as it got to over 80 in the afternoon! Saw lots of wild life including deer, caribou, various small stuff like bunnies and porcupines, bighorn sheep, wild horses, the largest buffalo in the world, and two grizzly bears. None of these seemed to take any notice of me when I stopped to take photos except the deer who ran away at the sound of the "deer alert" on the bike. Perhaps it works after all - this is about the 5th time this has happened. Faint hope but I guess any hope is better than none. Arrived at Whitehorse at about 6:30. What a terrific town. Very modern and clean. Full of parks and prosperous businesses. Looks like lots of money here. Not like half of the businesses along the highway. Many of the gas stops were closed as well as a lot of the stores and tourist traps. Thank god for a fuel cell. Speaking of the fuel cell, does anyone know why a petcock (relatively new) would start to seize up? I've taken to using a homemade wrench to turn it but it now takes a lot of effort even with the wrench. It's also leaking a bit. Hopefully I can get something here when I take it in for the tires to the Honda dealer tomorrow morning. Tomorrow (after the Honda Dealer installs the tires) it's off to Dawson City and the Alaska border. Will have to check further as my Google alert just noted a CBC article that said the Peel River ferry has been taken out of service since last Wednesday due to spring flooding(?). The Dempster is effectively closed at the moment. If it still is when I go, I'll just go on up and camp out until it opens up again. Can't be that long...can it? I only have enough camp food for 4 days so It better be soon or it will be a return to Eagle Plains (the halfway point) for goodies. So much for 16 days (as if that wasn't out the window already). There must be something to this long distance bike trip thing because I seem to be feeling better each day. Less pain, more stamina etc. God.....you don't think my body is regressing to the apparent age of my brain, do you? Probably just numb bum syndrome. G'night Bob P.S. I'll upload some photos now. P.P.S. Don't ever believe clothing manufacturers when they say it will drip dry overnight. Also don't wash everything you own as it makes for a damp first few hours next morning. An electric vest helps the drying process somewhat however. Brrrr!!
Fourth email posted July 3/06
#4 Sorry about the lack of photos. having trouble with the (pirated) connection. Will send more later. Off to the Honda Dlr. then Dawson. Bob
Fifth email posted July 4/06
#5 Stuck in Whitehorse as Honda dealer closed for holiday. Lay day allowed me to fix major fairing crack and repair (replace) the fuel cell petcock which seized up then commenced to leak all over everything. Fortunately Cam and Karen Beemer who are relatives of a neighbour and have been tremendously accommodating in taking me in and helping with the repairs. They also have hi speed internet so all the photos I tried (and failed) to upload last night are now on the web site. Cam drove me to see some of the sites around Whitehorse - you would not believe. I'll upload the photos later on and you will see what I mean. Tomorrow morning Scarlet gets new dancing slippers and we're off to Dawson and the Alaska border for the Westernmost point! Then it is up the Dempster first thing the next morning. Now the apprehension (hear the chicken feathers rustling?) is starting to hit. What have I let us in for? Oh well, better to try than not. dreams There is an interesting statue in downtown Whitehorse that is of a trapper going to prospect and the caption is "This is dedicated to all those who would follow their dreams" I thought it appropriate. How fortunate I am to be able to follow mine. G'night for now Bob
Sixth email posted July 5/06
#6Been a tough day today. Dealership took two hours to install tires. Left about 10:00 from Whitehorse and up the Mayo road (also called the Klondike Hwy.) More terrific scenery but the last 20 miles or so was gravel and some rather tedious construction areas to go through. Scarlet now thinks she's a dirt bike. Well she's dirty anyway - I guess that's a start. Got Hotel room in Dawson then proceeded on to cross the river via the ferry to the Top of the World Highway. I always thought it got it's name by being the furthest north road for a long time until the Dempster. NOT SO! It's name comes from the fact that it runs along the top of a mountain range. A mainly dirt road with some very poor tar & chip sections. Terrifying to ride. Scarlet is now pink, and I think I'm still white faced from fear. Picture a windy twisty washboard loose gravel road along the top of mountains with no shoulders, drop offs along most of the way with washboard and potholes. EEK!! The scenery however was truly awesome. I've never been on a more majestic road. It is sort of like the road up Mt. Evans except it is crummy but the scenery is much better. Back again along the road after getting the customs (Canadian and American) to be my witnesses and take the regulation Polaroid photos. Couldn't get water on mountain top so got a bottle of dirt. It makes a nice match for me and Scarlet. Then back along the same route to Dawson and dinner. It is 12:53 and still broad daylight. I,m going to sleep anyway as I have a wake-up call for 5:00. No one said this was to be written by someone bright! Anyway... off to tackle the final rdle tomorrow - the infamous Dempster Highway. 470 miles of dirt road. Thats like from Windsor to huToronto and back on dirt. Doubt I'll make it all the way in one day. There is a one business town about half way at Eagle Plains where I can get gas and perhaps camp for the night. Yes I brought the "bear kit" Too sleepy to sort out photos and upload tonight. Won't be able to contact anyone for at least next two days. By the way a Rogers cell phone does not work in the Yukon. A mixed blessing.G'night,BobP.S. I stand corrected - the sheep are not Bighorns they are...uhh...er..darned if I can remember.now. Anyone know? Cam, can you refresh my aging memory once more?P.P.S. Emma is sulking as there is no directions to give when there is only one road. It is noted however if one could turn right off of the Top of the World Highway the next road would be in Russia! ....I really must be tired - Gnight again.
Seventh email posted July 5/06
#7 6:00am here in Dawson City. Still bright sunlight. We're off to attempt the final hurdle. The (to me) mighty Dempster Highway. 470 miles of dirt. See you in a couple of days - when I return to civilization. Welll ... sort of. Got my bear kit out of hiding from the border people and big city cops should I have encountered one, and am about as ready as we'll ever be. Wake up Scarlet & Emma - we're off (perhaps our rocker!). Guess I'll have to stop saying g'night as from here on there isn't any. Night that is, this being the land of the Midnight Sun and all. Wierd!!! Bob
Eighth email posted July 6/06
#8 (from Lynn) Hi everyone, Just talked to Rob/Bob. He made it to Eagle Plains around 5pm Yukon time. Yesterday he started on the Dempster in the early morning and it was bright sunshine and dry. It turned cloudy dark then the rains came. He had to stop and camped about 100 miles south of the arctic circle. It was heavy rain and cold. In the morning walking around and up the road for warmth a road crew came by and said the road was not good ahead and by the way did he know he was in black bear territory?? As anyone who knows Rob/Bob you can imagine the smile on his face when asked if he was equipped to handle the situation. The rain had let up so on advice to take it slow and easy ,going at walking speed in first gear and feet on the ground 7 hours later eagle plains was a sight to behold. After a hot shower and some food and a good night sleep Scarlett and Rob /Bob will start out for Inuvik first thing in the morning. Depending on the weather,road etc. etc. he will get in touch when he can.So lets all join hands and pray to the sun God shall we. By the way Rob /Bob has really enjoyed your emails Thank you all. Now if I've done this right you should all receive this update. Goodnight for now Lynn
Ninth email posted July 8/06
#9 Hi all, Well... here it is 2 days later and I'm still only at Eagle Plains (half way at km 370). I'm writing this without an internet connection and will send it as soon as one comes available. Started up from Dawson City and the first 100km was everything and much much more, than I could have ever wished for. The road although dirt and washboard and pot holed wasn't too bad and lots of times I could go 60 kmph. Stopped many times however as the scenery is like nothing I have ever seen - anywhere. The vistas are incredible and the sky seems to go on forever. Bright sunlight and 55 degree F. temps. Wherever you look there is incredible distances or mountains or tundra or forest. I couldn't begin to do it justice with a description. I will have to upload some of the photos so you can see what I mean. The smile never left my face. What an experience to be driving a motorcycle through such country. Each part of Canada that I've travelled through seems better than the previous, although in each there is something uniquely special. All is fantastic and I am humbled by our country. At about Km 220 the "Smart Tire" pressure sensor for the rear tire started flashing indicating 12lb below optimum. I was aghast as it changed to 13 then 14 as I watched. Sure enough by the time I found a place to pull over the tire was going flat! Damn! this is the new tire that I waited an extra day in Whitehorse to be installed. The best tire I could buy. Stop, unpack, up on the stand, look for something. Not hard to see what looked at first like a nail head in the tread. Now where would a nail come from up here? Upon trying to pry and pull it out however it turned out to be a shard of gravel from the highway. The Dempster bites back! Fortunately I have all of the equipment needed to fix it and a power air pump that works off of Scarlet's power outlet. Soon we're on our way again. Although now I'm paying much more attention to the tire pressure alert system to see if the plug is going to hold or if the Dempster is going to give us another nibble. About half way to Eagle Plains, I noticed that the constant sunshine was marked by the odd rain squall in the distance. No problem, thought I. However the clouds soon all got married and closed off the sun and it started to rain. Well - my worst fear, rain on the Dempster. Everyone who has been up here warned me that the road is drivable on a bike except when it's wet. It was now becoming wet but no real problem, then it looked worse up ahead and the fog rolled in. I stopped to check out a little clearing to see if it would be possible to use as a campsite. Decided to continue on. About 2 miles up the road I came across an oncoming truck and flagged it down to ask what the weather was like up ahead. They said it was raining hard and the road was already almost impassable. Oops....time to turn around as it was now starting to rain quite heavily. I returned to the clearing and rushed to set up the tent before the heaviest hit. Made it just in time (almost) and got most things into the tent while only slightly wet. Put the cover over Scarlet and Emma and took a stroll around the area to check for wildlife signs. Didn't see anything although I made sure the complete bear kit was now assembled and distributed in the pockets of my jacket. Just in case, mind you. Settled into the tent to wait it out and decided it would be a good time to catch up on some sleep. Two hours later it was still a downpour! Got up and went outside to check out everything and you couldn't see across the road. No vehicles in past hour or so. I'd have been woken up as all the potholes make them quite noisy and I'm only 50 feet off the road. Decided it would be best to settle in for the day and perhaps night. Not that there is any night here. Just less light for a short time. Here I am about 100 miles south of the Arctic circle in a 34 degree Fahrenheit rainstorm, in the middle of a scrub forest/tundra landscape. What me worry? You betcha. Big time. I kept notes in the logbook of this time period and if you'd like I will reluctantly post them - they are not pretty nor very coherent however. Anyway, I slept some and worried some and the temp. just kept dropping till the thermometer eventually read 33 deg. F. Couldn't get warm even with everything on in the sleeping bag. About half way through the "nightime" I realized I'd done an incredibly stupid thing. I hadn't checked the bike over before putting on the cover as I was rushing and didn't remember turning off Emma. Rushed outside and dove under the cover and sure enough Emma was glowing happily while draining Scarlet's battery down. Commented upon her ancestry and hit the switch. Now what? Would Scarlet have enough power to start? Decided to start worrying now, seemed like a good time. Went back to the tent to try and dry off and give the battery a little time to regenerate. After about an hour I couldn't stand the suspense and went out to see what could be done. Walked out to the road and nothing had changed - I was still in a little valley so no chance of rolling her down a hill to start. Well she'd just have to do it on her own. Hoping she would ignore the wet almost freezing weather I pulled on the choke and pulled in the clutch and hit the starter. She started right away. She truly is as Aunt Ruby said - a magnificent thing!!! I almost cried with sheer joy. Your priorities change in situations like this. Here I was in the pouring rain in the middle of the "night", stranded on an impassable road in the high Arctic and I'm ecstatic and waxing poetic over getting a motorcycle started. Who'd of thought. In any case back to bed and try to keep warm and dry (tent leaks like a sieve) and get some sleep. In the morning I went out to see if I could flag down a vehicle. I hadn't heard any for hours but I wanted to be there in case. After walking up and down the road for about an hour along came a pickup from the Yukon Dept of Highways. They knew I was camped down the road as a tractor trailer driver had advised them last night. The first thing he asked was, "do you know you're right in the middle of a highly populated bear area.......black bears". Phew! for a minute there I thought he was going to say Grizzly! In any case the road had been closed in various sections and he was just going up to see what conditions were like. He had heard of a transport truck abandoning his trailer just up the road so he could proceed on with just the cab. I asked if he would call Lynn and tell her I was OK, just delayed for a while and I would call her as soon as I reached Eagle Plains Lodge. He said ok and just then a funny call came in on his radio. Seems the dispatcher had a call from some guy in an ultralight airplane from about 40 miles south where he was forced down onto the road yesterday afternoon. He wanted to know if the conditions were such that he could fly to Eagle Plains. Incredulous stares all round! "Nope" he said "when it's too bad for tractor trailers and motorcycles it's too bad to fly, and besides that the fog was still only 50 feet up in the valley and covering the hilltops." Wow, and I thought I was stranded. After they left I decided to try to pack up and just proceed at walking speed with my feet as training wheels. This decision had absolutely nothing to do with the bear situation whatsoever. You betcha! Packed up and was ready to roll surprisingly quickly. The ride was the worst conditions I have ever encountered by far. Suffice it to say that it took me from 10:40 am to 6:30 pm to go 88km. And the last 10km was fast. Checked in, called Lynn and went for some dinner. Couldn't eat! Went to the bar for some fake beer and who should I run into but several motorcyclists who had passed me yesterday who tried to ride through the rain. Everyone of them had gone "down" some several times. Lots of damage to some just pride and mud for others. I also met Joe Harrington. Joe is the ultralight pilot and had flown up when he got the all clear on the weather. Quite a guy, he flew it from Lethbridge and is on his way to Inuvic on his trip of a lifetime too. Surprisingly we had a lot in common in our journeys thus far. An interesting fellow and not any crazier than anyone else on this road. He is following the road from the air. Got up this morning and looked north. More rain clouds covering the mountains and wind and light rain here. Decided to stay the day. Later on went for a ride up to the arctic circle monument which is only 30km up the road. The road was surprisingly good and it only took a short time at 60 to 70 kmph. This road can change like lightening. Took lots of photos of the monument and area. It is suitably bleak and was very cold and windy (low 30's F.) Returned to the hotel and had lunch with Joe. Actually managed a hamburger. Ran into the trucker who had gone back to pick up his trailer which he had abandoned last night. He is local and said that's the worst he's seen it. The first time in 5 years he has had to abandon the trailer. Said the tractor was on one side and the trailer on the other all the way along and he didn't want to go off a cliff, so he just left the trailer and went slowly in the cab alone. He said even that was "hairey" So, that's how I spent my last two days. How was yours? I'm going to have a nap now and rest up for the ride north tomorrow. I'm going to Inuvic, period. See ya. Bob
Tenth email posted July 9/06
#10YAAAAAAHHHHHOOOOOO!!! Last night at 8:17 (local time) the clock finally stopped. I got my final gas receipt at a gas station in Inuvik, N.W.T. This completes the final corner of the four corners, being the northernmost point reachable by road in Canada. Or anywhere else in the world on a public road. This also completes the last event in the 10 provinces + two territories ride. Nunavit doesn't count as it is not accessible by land route. Total time 15 days, 14 hours, 23 minutes. (Sorry Dave E. - I wasn't thinking straight when I said 14 days on the phone last night) The total distance so far is 12,194 km (by the odometer) or 12,325 km by Emma. Emma seems to be somewhat of a braggart when calculating distance. I think she just likes to one-up Scarlett. Either way the I.B.A. will decree the final distance during the certification process. The final day's ride was uneventful considering the previous few days. We left Eagle plains at 7:00 am local time in 34 deg. F. temp. with overcast cloud. Not really encouraging. The first part of the road I was familiar with from the ride to the Arctic Circle yesterday. No problems except it is very windy from the side. Just as I approached the Arctic Circle monument I saw a tiny airplane overhead. Guess who? Joe. Looks like he had been circling around waiting for me he flew by and we exchanged waves. I managed some photos of him flying over the circle and hopefully he also got some of us. This encounter seemed very strange to me, being out here on the tundra with nothing else around. Stopped at the Circle Monument area and had breakfast at a picnic table there. For no other reason than I thought it would be neat to be able to say I'd had breakfast exactly on the Arctic Circle. Cliff Bar, Trail Mix & water. Yech! Hardly worth it. The road wasn't too bad by my newly revised standards. Rutted, smooth, potholes, washboard (a row of potholes holding hands), or loose gravel. The usual. Around the border between Yukon and the Northwest Territories it became very windy and there was lots of loose gravel. The road crews were trying to repair the damage from the rain storms. This caused probably the most frightening riding yet. The road has a lot of banking in the corners and sometimes lots of just plain slope to either side. In the loose gravel with the wind this caused me to tend to drift off toward the side of the road. Not a good situation in these parts, especially considering what is off the road in places. Nothing! (pucker factor 5+) Nothing happened however so we plugged slowly on until better conditions came our way. The road got better and finally got dry enough to have dust become an annoyance. Neil - I'm finally coming into conditions which you so accurately described from your trip up here. No need to be jealous however. I think things look better in retrospect. The scenery continued spectacular and no matter how much of this country I see - it is impossible to become jaded by the grandeur and beauty of this area. We came across an area with large snowbanks still on the side of the road so just had to stop and take Scarlett's photo next to a snow bank on July 8th. I threw a snowball at her for being a poser. Saw some large crane type birds but they were too quick for me to photograph. Also lots of little things sized about halfway between a prarie dog and a ground hog. They are constantly running across the road but always seem to avoid disaster. Finally got over the last mountain range and entered the costal plain/delta region. Crossed the Peel River ferry which fortunately has resumed service after last week's closure due to spring flooding. The next ferry is the one across the MacKenzie River. Pretty impressive. The MacKenzie is the second largest river in North America and one of the largest in the world. It is actually a three way trip as the ferry stops at the village of Tsiigehtchic on the way to Fort McPherson. Go ahead try and pronounce it. It is sort of like "Sing-a-chick" but not quite. I think you've got to be born here, or know the language real well. Met some locals on the ferry. Typically very friendly although the native people (Gwich'in) are somewhat reserved until you get talking - then they are very voluble. Onward north and now getting dry and dusty. Road very good (more and newer personal standards) although still patches of loose gravel and now lots of dust. They didn't get the rain up here. Just a note here. This ride up the Dempster has been very lucky for us as almost everyone else I've met has been "down" at least once. Many times today I could feel things starting to go and somehow we managed to recover. I firmly believe all of the "good luck's" I keep getting from all you people are being used up one by one to keep us safe. It sure isn't my dirt riding skills as I haven't any. I am currently enrolled in a P.H.D. course however. Arrived at Inuvik and took the required photo at the entrance sign which proclaims the "End of the Dempster - Inuvik - and several native language words which I think means something like "A People Place" Which is what the word Inuvik means. Just in case you're getting the wrong impression of the toughness of this ride. There were three bicyclists at the sign also taking their photos. They rode up the Dempster on bicycles!! Real, real tough guys. One of them took my photo for me. Then off to get gas and the all important time and date stamped fuel receipt to finally stop the clock. As luck would have it the receipt at the pump had the correct time and date but no location so I had to go inside and get a hand written one with the location on it to staple to the computer one. I'd hate for the ride to be disqualified on a technicality at this point. However the Iron Butt Association have been known to be sticklers for such details in the past. So I'm taking no chances. Off we then went to the local police station (R.C.M.P.) and got an officer to fill out and sign an End of Ride witness form. Went down to the MacKenzie river and gathered the requisite bottle of water to join the other three bottles and get another Polaroid photo and now we're finally DONE. Found a hotel and called Lynn to tell her the good news. Found out Dave had come in first after 18 years of trying in the Singlehanded Macinac sailboat race so also called him to congratulate. We are both lucky these days. Thank you all for your help and good wishes to make this ride happen. Without support it wouldn't be possible. Mostly however THANK YOU LYNN! For the "Kitchen Pass", the encouragement, support, and your love. I'm going to break my alcohol fast and have a shower a, beer, some supper and some sleep. In that order, otherwise I don't think they'd let me in the restaurant. Phew - I can't even stand myself, good thing Scarlett and Emma have no sense of smell.Good night (NOT - actually bright sunlight even at midnight)Bob
Eleventh email posted July 9/06
#11Well there just isn't a lot open here on a Sunday. Not even the car wash. Thanks for all the congratulations. I don't know about me, but Scarlett and Emma sure deserve something. A bath was what comes to mind first. Who'd of thought that a GPS could smell. In this case like squished bugs and dust. In any case - lo and behold I tried to go north from here but the road deteriorates into what is the base for the ice road to Tuktoyaktuk (try and say that when you've had an Arctic Red or two, unfortunately I'm still on the wagon till the end of the trip). So.....I guess that is the end of the road, so to speak. Guess I'll just have to turn around. In actual fact I will be completing another timed ride while going home. Although several four wheel drive vehicles have made the trip from here directly to Point Pelee - no one has done a certified ride on a motorcycle. Someone told me I should be certified, so I just naturally have to give it a go. I've decided to stay here for the day and have managed to hitch a ride on a charter plane going to Tuktoyaktuk (localspeak = "Tuk") this afternoon. The regular flights don't fly on Sunday. They are coming back in about 4 hours so I'll be able to see all of Tuk, from what people tell me. Then off south to butt my head and butt against the Dempster again. I'll try to upload some more photos today while I have internet access. By the way Cam (from Yellowknife) was kind enough to remind me that the sheep around Muncho Lake (nice lake by the way) are Stone Sheep. The large white ones that look like Bighorns are in fact Dall Sheep.Off to Tuk.Bob
Twelfth email posted July 13/06
#12Will send this as soon as I can find an internet connection. Went to Tuc and it is a very very different place. Right on the shores of the Arctic Ocean (Beaufort Sea). Is has very little elevation and looks like one strong storm would wash it away. There have been people living at or near here for tens of thousands of years however. Their lifestyle is almost incomprehensible. They exist mostly on Caribou and fish. They have communal storage rooms built 30 to 40 feet down into the permafrost. Like a large mine they have various tunnels with "rooms" off of each tunnel. Each family has a room in which they store caribou, fish, whale meat, or whatever else they want to keep preserved by freezing. It stays about 20 below in these "ÃÂ¯ce houses". Although not much to look at at first glance our local guide did a very thorough job of explaining everything. There is a lot more here than meets the casual eye. All in all a fascinating place, although I can't imagine anyone not born there being able to live there through a winter. Summer all sunshine - all day and all night, winter all darkness - all day and night. It is also the end of the Trans Canada Trail and has a memorial at the end. Our guide said that last January two bicyclists rode up the ice road (camping to sleep) at about 40 below temps. just so they could totally complete the trail across Canada! Tough guys!! Think it could be done on a recumbent John G.? Somehow I think a mountain bike with studded tires would be more like it. Left early and had some trouble finding a witness for the start of the ride south. No cops, no firemen so had to get two locals. The hotel desk clerk and finally found a plumber down at the dock working on a barge tug. Then off to try the Dempster once again. Same old stuff only in reverse. Road still all things only at different times. Took 8 hours and 30 min to go the 370 km to Eagle plains. Some of the scariest riding I've ever done. They are still trying to repair from the rainstorm and there is lots of fresh looooose gravel or freshly graded areas with windrows down the centre. Other areas still just have the ruts or areas where the dirt has been washed away leaving the large rocks that form the base sticking up. Almost lost it once - big time. I think I used up all of the "Good Lucks" left in the bag and perhaps dusted off some for a second time around. Out of the blue on what was not a real bad sectin. Thin layer of pea gravel over packed earth - about 40kph and BAM. Front wheel went out and then back the other way into a sliding wobble with the bike tilting to 20 to 30 degrees. I was so shure I was going down I was going to say ouch now in case I couldn't later. All of a sudden however - under acceleration she straightened herself and stopped the oscillation and we were going down the road as if nothing had happened. Except for the great dust cloud we threw up. Had to stop and slow my heard down a little. And to check and make sure no accidents happened. Nope - sure was a close thing though. Eagle Plains was a sight to behold. The Royal York couldn't have looked better. Got up this morning to more bright sunlight and about 42 deg. F. (a veritable blast of a heat wave for here at that time). Off down the road at 6:30 a.m. The 88 km that took 8 and a half hours on the way up took just 2 hours this time. There was a car parked near the infamous KM 280 and I stopped to see if they were OK. They weren't. Their VW Jetta had blown a CV joint and was immobile. They had there since noon the day before. They were towing a small tent trailer so were not in any danger and were just frustrated at the long delay. The type of tow truck they needed would have to come from Dawson - about 8 hours away minimum. They are from Tobermory Ont. and seem to be determined to get to Inuvik. I think they will rent something in Dawson. This is the second CV joint to fail in the car in less than 2000km. And it's still under warranty!! Onward through good weather, good roads, bad weather - yes more rain. then more good - bad - good etc. etc. Both roads and weather. Arrived at the end of gravel road sign with great relief. Rigged the camera to photograph me kissing pavement. Yes it tasted GREAT. What a relief. Of course only about 30 km along the Klondike Highway there was a construction site with 22 km of - guess what? Yup, fresh gravel. More walking speed. Rain off and on. Luckily we managed to dodge the worst of it. Just enough to solidify (or slimeafy) all of the Dempster dust. I'm getting tired of cleaning out the radiator with a water bottle. Tedious at best and then I can't use the bottle to drink out of until I can get somewhere I can wash out the river/creek etc. water. In for the night at Carmacks, Y.T. Not the Ritz. Not even the cracker. No bugs so far and the food is good. Hope to make some serious "south" tomorrow.G'night,BobOn the Klondike Hwy. Yukon Territory.Oh - yah - forgot to mention, Saw a Bob Cat, wolf and almost hit a black bear. It came out of the forest right in front and stopped to look and watch me trying to stop. Must have decided we looked too grungy to eat and apparently didn't like the sound of Scarlett's air horn alternating with her usual "meep" horn, as he took off to the side of the road into a meadow. Got some good photos after I stopped shaking and fumbling for the bear spray, flares etc.Details and photos at 6 and 11 - half hour before (or after - whatever) in Nfld.
Thirteenth email posted July 13/06
#13Last night was very cold with 34 deg. F. this morning. Bright and clear however so didn't realize how cold it was until riding. Woah - stop - don electric vest, heavier gloves....ahhh much better. Ground mist/fog everywhere so it looks like only the tops of things really exist and the rest didn't get painted in yet. About 30 minutes after we started the "SmarTTire" alert went off. Back tire down 7 lbs. What the heck? (those of you who know me know that's not exactly how I put it) Perhaps just the cold weather is throwing off the heat compensation. Wish full thinking at best. Soon it reads 9 lbs low. Out with the pump and pump it up. I guess the plug I installed on the Dempster Highway can't cope with high highway speeds. Or perhaps Mother Dempster just wants one more kick. In any case, the old (?) tires are at Whitehorse so all I have to do is keep air in it 'till then and get it changed. Step and repeat the foregoing pump ups and arrived at 8:10 and they were just opening up. Very busy this morning - long story short 3 one half hours later the tire is changed. As I'm walking around the neighbourhood I hear my name called (???) It's Cam the friend that I stayed with here a few days ago. Small world. We talked for a while and I went back to waiting. I mentioned to him that all of the photos I took in Whitehorse are missing. He will send me his from that time and I'll just hope I can recover them from the card. I'm using another card in the camera for now so as to not overwrite any of the lost files. So far that's the only really stupid thing I've done. Lots of minor stuff, but that won't count, will it? On down the Alaska Highway (local speak = Alcan Highway) past the "nice Lake" and saw lots and lots and lots of wild life. Buffalo that wanted to dispute who had the rights to his side of the road. It was his - absolutely. Bear running across the road. later on as the sun was going behind the mountains it seemed everything came out. In the last few miles I saw 2 moose. One a lot closer than I'd like. I was looking up and he was looking down. Not good to be that close to something that big. I was so surprised that I didn't even get his photo before he ran away into the brush. Saw another bull buffalo and this time he was well aware of me and I was afraid to go past as he was half on the shoulder and half on the road. Staring. Yes I got a photo of this one as we had quite a staring match for a while. While considering my options along came a family of idiots. The father idiot let three young idiot children out of the car not 20 feet from the Buffalo so they could get close up photos. The buffalo turned around and Zooooommm. We are outta here before he looks back. Thank you Scarlett for your robust first gear. As I went by I told the father idiot to get his kids back in the car but he just smiled and waved. Must have no connections to his brain - or no brain - whatever. About a mile up the road was a whole herd of buffalo. Even baby ones. Not paying attention however so I took some photos and left them to their buffalo business. Several more deer along the side and then a female moose. Not good. Found the next place to stay, and here I am. Toad River Lodge. Quite a unique place. Cabins, camp ground, restaurant, post office, laundry, store, tire repairs, welding, air strip, guide services etc.etc. Most of it run out of one small building. Got a cabin with complete kitchen facilities for $65.00. Obviously not the "Waldorf" but looked better than a salad to me. Internet connection at a table in the laundromat. No I don't know why it is there - it just is! I managed to send last night's report and will brave the mosquitoes to send this one later. Sorry about not keeping up with the photos but it just takes too much time. What with trying to ride as many hours as possible and eat and sleep, there just isn't enough time. I'll send as many as I can and the rest will have to wait until home. Home - wow, that's sounding like a more and more wonderful word as this ride winds down. The great adventure is all well and good, but now all I want to do is put in the miles to get home. The riding is spectacular however so there is some small consolation (big grin). Ohmygosh ....just realized it...I turned 60 today. Now I'm officially an old phart. Thought I'd get that in first, especially before anyone at Minuteman gets a word in. Are you folks listening in by the way? So much for today. What a great birthday! THank you so much Lynn for making it possible. How many guys get such a present after being married this long. Don't even go there - I already heard about the peace and quiet at home and at work thingHappy birthday, happy birthday to me. By for now.
NOTES ON THE DEMPSTER Now that we're off of it perhaps more objective observations are in order. This road is like no other. It is in a place where no road should be. Everything everyone tells you about it is true. Not at the same time however. What conditions are like today bear little commonality with what they will be like tomorrow. What's going on here, may be totally different around the next bend or over the next hill. Expect the unexpected. Nothing on it stays the same for very long, so if you are able to go fast, be VERY prepared to go slow shortly. Even if it's so dry the dust is choking you, over the next hill it may be wet and slimy due to the water trucks used to wet it down for maintenance work. Or rain from that one and only cloud in the sky. I think if they stopped maintenance work on this road for one month the tundra would reclaim it. It is a work in progress and a constant fight to keep it open against the elements of nature. Be self sufficient. If you're not prepared to live on it all alone for at least a few days, stay off of it, or prepare better. Avoid rain at all costs if possible. Good advice but not possible due to the lack of weather reporting stations. There is one at the top and one at the bottom. Unfortunately the centre is in a totally different climatic area and us usually not the same as either end. (see be prepared above) Remember this road is over 70 miles longer than twice as long as the distance between Toronto and Windsor. Having said all this, If you ever get a chance - drive it, ride it, or whatever. It is one of the last true frontiers available to people like ourselves without a lot of training or time. I hope they never pave it, if that is even possible. Right now it keeps the "Disney" type tourists off of it. The people you meet along the Dempster are not like ordinary people. They are dreamers, adventurers, livers of life. I met one fascinating old German lady (about mid 70's I'd guess) who was doing it in her little Toyota by herself. "I've always wanted to see the north" she told me. "I think this is the real Canada that the rest of the world imagines when they think of Canada" We took each other's photos at the Arctic circle monument and went on our way north. I later ran across her at Inuvik and she was elated. She'd spent a night in fort McPherson and said it was "different", but the people were nice. She has been all over the world and says this is the best place yet. Not the nicest, but the best. Now I know why Merlin liked it so much when she went up it in on a motor scooter after she retired. Another true character, if you know who Merlin is. Then there is Joe, who I mentioned earlier. How many people would fly an ultralight around and around the Arctic Circle monument just to take my photo as we went by. Not even knowing if I was coming or not. And I'd only known him for a day or two. The people who live and work here are also a breed apart. These people are LIVING LIFE, and this is one of those unique places where it is still possible. Go there if you can. G'nightBobWondering why they call this place Toad? It's sure not jumpin' tonight.
Fourteenth email posted July 14/06
#14finally got out of the mountains of the Yukon and BC this morning. No more critters sighted. Cold this morning and actually all day. Started at 38 deg. F. but most of the day was in the low 50's. I understand it is hot at home. Can't wait. I'll probably suffer however as my system is now used to 50 degrees (10C) as being a nice day. No jacket required. It will feel just like spring again - I hope! Rain showers off and on, the usual spectacular scenery in northern B.C. but the best was the appearance of good, smooooth roads with more than 100 meters of straightaway. Finally began to make good time once past Dawson Creek and off of the Alaska Hwy. The high speed roads of Alberta allowed us to make it to Edmonton easily even with the loss of an hour due to the time zone change. We made it just ahead of a big black cloud spewing out rain. Ha! Perhaps our luck is changing. Scarlett now has a large hole in her side currently mended by Duct tape. A leftover from the Dempster. Hardened mud caked inside caused the trunk lid to bind and crack when it closed. This will be an expensive repair but not complicated. She continues to just purr along mile after mile doing whatever speed is required of her. Ruby was right - she is a magnificent thing. What a privilege to be able to tag along. A couple of people have asked about "Tuc". I will write up more detail and post photos when time permits. Suffice to say that it is a very interesting place and like no other I've ever seen. Lots to think about regarding their way of life and how it integrates with ours. Staying in Edmonton tonight and hope to make it past Winnipeg tomorrow. Thiese distances are more like it! Dare I say that Sunday might be home day? Can't predict yet but possible. Saturday would be possible but I probably wouldn't be coherent. Suppose anyone would notice the difference?G'night from rainy EdmontonBobFinally in a half decent hotel without rusty sink and critters coming in through the screens.
Fifteenth email posted July 15/06
#15 Leaving Edmonton yesterday at 5:00 a.m. I checked the weather forecast. No rain! It was dark and 52 degrees and stayed cool for most of the morning. Off on the infamous Yellowhead Highway that runs across the entire three prarie provinces. Clear but with some funny clouds on the horizon. The yellowhead is not my favourite. I didn't like it on the way out and like it less on the way back. There are "truck ruts" all along it. Some are as much as 6 or even more deep. In one area there were steep ridges over 6 or 8 inches high bordering the ruts. As any of you know that ride bikes this can be extremely disconcerting, not to mention dangerous if you don't happen to see them. You literally can't change lanes or even move across your own lane. With a few exceptions for new pavement these continue on to a lesser or greater degree all the way to Winnipeg. Otherwise an uneventful ride until Saskatoon when the clouds turned into towering thunderheads and sat right above the road ahead. I''m trying to remember a day that I haven't gotten some rain at least part of the day. Can't remember except day one, - HOW long ago? The usual, rain, wind only a little lightening thank goodness and then out the other side to brilliant sunshine and a 20 degree temp rise. Wow. I'd forgotten what warm weather feels like. Off with the long johns, jacket liner, overgloves, etc. etc. Onward with only one small shower to Winnipeg, which I bypassed. Wanted to get to the Ontario border but didn't make it before nightfall and the emerging "critters'' drove me into a little mom and pop type motel in the middle of the bush about 100 km inside the Manitoba border. Half of Alberta, all of Sask. and almost all of Manitoba. Long day. Lady at the motel made me a tuna fish sandwich as there is nowhere to eat out here. I think I must look pretty rough after today. All in all not a bad day however as lots of miles made towards home. Today it was off to as far southeast as we could get.. Problems however. First the brakes started sounding funny so I went into Thunder Bay to see if I could get someone to look at them. Got gas on the way in and to make a long story short Scarlett & I got a gasoline bath from a faulty pump and I ended up losing the cap for the fuel cell. This is not an item you can pick up at Canadian Tire. Finally found a solution by using a funnel with a stopper in it held in place with two bungee cords. Scarlett is beginning to look like a bag lady. A bag lady with class though! There was nothing wrong with the brakes however. Just 16,000 km worth of dust, bugs and mud. About this time she started overheating. Thought it might be the heat as it was 96 deg. F. Closer inspection however revealed a radiator encrusted with bugs. A quick trip to the coin op car wash fixed that, and off we went. This is the fourth time I've had to blow out the rad on this trip. Decided to take the Lake Superior north shore rather than the way I came out due to the extreme heat. Figured it would be cooler along the lake & we could just put up with the slower route. Righto - 2 miles out of Thunder Bay it is 62 deg. F. Then up and down went the temps for the next 6 hours or so. Gave up trying to change clothes to suit. Just wore medium stuff and opened and closed the vents as necessary. From Wawa down this is probably one of the more scenic roads in Canada. A beautiful ride. You'd think I'd be jaded by now. Nope! Some things are just too good to ignore, and a great ride along a great road is one of them I might have however enjoyed it just a teeny teeny bit more three weeks ago, but then maybe not. Followed a transport the last 50 km to avoid critters after dark. Long day. It's 11:30 p.m. and I have a wake up call for 4:45 a.m. to try and get home tomorrow at a reasonable hour. Perhaps late afternoon or early evening at Pt. Pelee. so.....G'nightBob
Sixteenth email posted July 17/06
#16I lied above in the header. I'm sending this from the quiet comfort of the picnic table at home. What a nice word - HOME! Even better to be here. But you're interested in the trip - so here's the last day's notes. What I can remember, that is. After all at my (new) age I believe I can now justify my famous absent mindedness. Please - no comments from the girls at MMP. Left Sault Ste. Marie at 5:45 (52 deg F.) as soon as it was showing some daylight. Sure wanted to sleep in. But the last day, how could I delay. While exiting the "Soo" I recalled the weather forecast from last night - "no rain". If so what the heck are those clouds doing in front. Checking Emma I noticed we were heading straight south for a few miles then turning east toward Sudbury. Ha, Ha tee hee hee - they are out over the lake and we're going to turn and miss them. Turned and proceeded east feeling very smug. Oh, Oh! Where did all these new clouds come from. Sure enough it rained off and on 'till Sudbury (sigh!). No critters and it was a delight to see all the familiar names of the towns and places along the way. I was coming home and it felt like I could already smell the tomatoes in Essex county. Soon. Once past Sudbury the scenery once again turns nice so had a very pleasant ride until about Orillia where the main highway begins to get crowded. Took photos of a 5 mile backup coming towards me. Must be something going on in Orillia. Going my way it is heavy with returning Cottagers and bumper to bumper at 120kph is a real concentration enhancer after you've been used to two cars in one hour being a "rush hour". Actually it was more of that "at home" feeling. Finally in 98 deg. F. we turned onto the Hwy. 407 across the top of Toronto and then onto the Hwy. 401. I think Scarlett could do this road with no help from me or Emma. We stayed along for the ride however. Kitchener, London and Chatham seemed to just pass in an instant. My sense of distance seems to be out of kilter. This used to be much further, I'm sure of it. Finally the exit we've been waiting almost 20,000 km for. The turn here for Tilbury and Pt. Pelee. Ahhh..... these roads are more like it. Rough tar & chip. Feels somehow like home. Even plain old Essex county looks beautiful to me. So nice to see crops in the fields and no forest or tundra. Lots of NOT PINE OR SPRUCE trees. Soon we were pulling into the road to Pt. Pelee park and who should be there with a camera in hand. My very best and most loyal friend Ed. What a great thing for him to do. Just a quick "hi" then on to get that all important final computer receipt. The girl at the booth seemed to be expecting me and had the receipt ready. Once I had that that infernal clock that has ruled this entire ride was now stopped. What a relief. It's over. All I need to do now is go to the tip and get the obligatory witnesses signatures on the log book. The Park Warden met me at the final gate and escorted me through the restricted area to the point pavillion. All of a sudden there were people everywhere. And they were all people I know! I'd been had! Relatives Mike & Mariola and Lynn's sister Karen from Toronto and lots and lots of friends from here. WOW! WOW! Didn't know what to say. I'm sure something unintelligible came out but I don't know what. Then a "trolly load of tourists showed up and all wanted to know why this filthy wrecked looking motorcycle and the scruffy looking rider were doing down here. Soon they, also were wishing us all congratulations. An unbelievable sensation, which I cannot describe. When the Warden let me take the bike up on the deck to take a photo in front of the "Southernmost part of Canada" sign everyone clapped. Good grief.... it's only a bike ride. I accepted as mine however, the honour that belongs of course to Scarlett. And to Lynn. Thank you both. Got escorted out (seems strange to be preceded by a car with flashing lights) by the Warden. The Warden, by the wy acted, along with Lynn as my finish witnesses. Thanks Warden Kall. Thanks Point Pelee staff, you were all great to deal with. You're the type of people I'd expect to meet along the Dempster. And that is a true compliment. Arriving home after that endless 40 miles from Pt. Pelee to home when we turned onto our street what greets us? Half the people on the street! Banners, flags, posters (thanks Karen - someday....when you leas expect it) and more applause. Wow! Turned into the driveway and shut off Scarlett for the final time. I could almost hear a little sigh as the engine coasted down to silence. Home is the traveller.(s).
P.S. I'll post photos and send a final summary as soon as time permits. As they say, stay tuned - details at 6 and 11.
Seventeenth email posted July 21/06
Page #17Just uploaded a lot more photos. The last ones are the ones I thought were lost from the trip to Tuc. Still cannot recover the ones from the Top Of The World Hwy and Whitehorse. Will get to adding captions after get back from weekend. The paperwork for these three rides is heavy duty. Over 30 pages of receipts when stapled to pages. The ride was much more fun. EnjoyBob