(July 29 – written by Dave)
We have been enjoying our Portland, Oregon break. We spent a week or so in Portland, then a week at the family cabin on the Oregon coast. We should be ready to ride next Thursday when we recommence the journey south. In the meantime, we decided to look back and summarize the first 2 months of the trip. First some “Best of…” and “Worst of…” thoughts:
Best Sherpa – Easy pick here, Chris carried 2 large bags of oatmeal and 2 bags of Starbucks coffee for most of the time he traveled with us. Not a bad effort given he doesn’t like Starbucks and is no big fan of oatmeal. But, it meant we were well prepared to survive a food emergency, which was Nancy’s planning goal.
Best Pancakes – As you know, Nancy likes her pancakes. To be a contender in this category, clearly more than pancake quality played an import factor. And the winner is… A three way tie:
JM Sauvie – Watson Lake warmshowers host family. Pancakes were “crepe-like, light and fresh”. The morning conversation was priceless; it was great to connect with Yukon locals.
Dee – Kitwanga RV park, outside Dee and Keith’s caravan. A serendipitous meeting with our stalker Andy and his travelling companions Dee and Keith. We hadn’t had pancakes in a long time and being treated like rock stars was pretty cool. Pancakes were of a high standard, especially when you consider they were made in a caravan.
Don – Victoria. Another great Warmshowers host who along with his friends John, Jane and David kept us entertained for an entire weekend. For our last brekkie Don whipped up a wonderful batch of blueberry pancakes – bonus points for the blueberries.
Best Meal you’d never eat at home – Another easy one. Mark eating Haagen Dazs cookies and cream ice-cream, drinking an Alaskan Amber Ale, all topped with a side of M&Ms (see spy camera photo below if you don’t believe me). Mark also takes out second place in this category for eating something like 10 boxes of Quaker Oats breakfast bars while riding 10 days. We won’t talk about the ‘hard’ lemonade (in both lemon and raspberry flavour) that was sampled by some members of the team just before we headed into Canada…
Worst Beard – Dave, by a mile – see photo.
Worst gear choice – Tie – Mark and Chris wearing 10 year old rain booties – both fell apart on day one (actually, I think they started with the booties barely hanging on), and often we would see them riding with the booties peeled back from the wind.
Best Dock – Boya Lake, Cassiar Highway, Northern BC
Best new road sign – Disco motorcycle rider – Close second place to “Don’t feed the bears” – first spotted after seeing 20 bears in 6 weeks.
Best hotel we didn’t stay in – Costa Lessa Hotel – with a name like that, you have to wonder.
Best hotel we stayed in – I’m not sure this is a fair contest but on our break in Portland we had our 25th wedding anniversary. We took the plunge and stayed at the same hotel we stayed at 25 years ago – Portland’s iconic Heathman Hotel. It was “slightly” nicer than the previously category leader, the Whitehorse Best Western.
Best Brekkie Choice– not counting the pancakes, this one has to go to the 4 egg, 4 fried oyster, 4 alarm quadruple bypass Hang Dog hangover cure from The Dock of the Bay restaurant in Bay Center, Washington. I didn’t need to eat the rest of the day (though I did, of course).
Longest distance without a stop light/signal – The first big open stretch was Fairbanks to Whitehorse, YT – when it we saw the Whitehorse red-light, we thought for sure that would be the trip’s longest distance between lights – it was 614 miles for this stretch. Well, it turns out, that was just a “short” distance between light because when we left Whitehorse, we did not see another stop signal until Terrace, BC. This turned out to be a whopping 735 miles.
Best new saying for the trip – There is still much debate on this one but our 9 year old niece Lyla learned what I think is a great saying from her grade school teacher – “Teamwork makes the dream work”. It’s a great saying. I may have overused it a wee bit. It had little to no effect when I was begging for food on the Cassiar Highway (see below).
Best investments not used – Bear spray and bear bangers – purchased in Fairbanks and Dease Lake respectively. Neither was deployed. In fact, the bear spray was only de-holstered once – for the first bear of the trip. Mostly the bears were scary but completely disinterested in us. The first bear was the scariest and not just because it was first. It was the biggest of the trip and it was basically right on the oncoming lane fog line, on a narrow part of the Alcan. 90% of all the bears we saw ran away as we approached. The rest just looked at us, sniffed and went back to what they were doing before we arrived.
Best free schwag – Nancy’s green plastic whistle with stylistic matching green string lanyard (a gift from Mark). Nancy wore this around her neck, puffing it mostly on Cassiar Highway uphills – something about alerting bears of our approach. Being uphill however, not much air was forthcoming and the whistle tweets were barely audible. Any bears that heard, or saw Nancy puffing the whistle, probably ran away laughing –if bears do indeed laugh.
SOME DATA FROM THE TRIP SO FAR:
Animal count – This is a fun category simply because of the sheer variety animals that we’ve seen so far. On our last big trip from Oz to Europe, we saw far fewer animals. On this trip we have travelled through some very remote areas where animals are still likely to have good habitat. I’m sure we saw more than most car drivers and would have seen more had we slowed down ourselves. There are lots of animals in Alaska, The Yukon and British Columbia.
Grizzly bear – 2
Black Bear – 19
Moose – 2 – both running away, fleeting glances
Coyote – 1 On the Alcan near Klune Lake – chased us until rocks were deployed
Fox – 3, including one in the middle of Robert Service Campground, Whitehorse
Lynx – 1
Beaver – 1
Deer – lots, in Washington and Oregon
Eagles – heaps, but the first one was still very exciting
Osprey – heaps, but seeing one catch a fish and a really big nest was cool
Caribou – none, though we saw heaps of signs warning of them
Elk – same as the caribou, big no shows, with lots of warning signs
Dahl Sheep – 40 or so, way up high on the mountains near Klune Lake
Porpoise – several pods jumping on the Inland Passage
Whales – several breaching on the Inland Passage
Squirrels, rabbits – heaps, squirrels further south, rabbits up north
Reptiles in The Yukon – zero, they don’t have any!
Sleeping – People always ask if we are camping. To which we almost always say that we are. The numbers below are somewhat skewed by our Portland break where we spent time at family homes and slept in real beds. We have, however, spent 36 nights in our tent so far on this trip.
Hotel Bed 8
Hostel Bed 6
Private home Bed 19
Budget – Somewhat below but we’re not really sure. We worked hard the last four years and saved aggressively for this trip. We have spent less per day so far than we did on the last big trip but we are really only keeping track of the lodging costs. It is really tiring to keep track of every dollar you spend every day. If we run out of money before we reach the bottom of South America, well, we’ll just stop. We don’t think we’ll reach this point but not letting money drive every choice feels good/better.
Mechanical issues – I almost hate to write about this because we have been travelling nearly issue free for 2,200+ miles. We had one flat tire – but I caused that when I pulled the pump valve too hard when removing it. We had a few loose bolts here and there but we got them tightened before anything fell off. We did lose a pannier hook the last day riding to Whitehorse and would have had to cobble something together had Mark not let us cannibalize his bag for parts (thanks Mark).
I should point out that when I cleaned my bike last week in Portland, I rotated our tires front to back. When I removed my rear tire, the rim cracked/broke on both sides, right on the braking surface – this yielded an unrideable wheel. It made a lot of scary crackling noise as it broke. I’ve never had this happen before and it was made even stranger because we have disk brakes and we haven’t worn rims out on the braking surface. It is hard to imagine this happening in a better place. We had 10 days off before continuing the ride and the shop where we bought the bikes was only 5 miles away. I took the wheel in and they have fixed it for me and managed to get it covered under warranty. None of the mechanics in the shop nor had the manufacturer had seen anything like this before.
The Cassiar Highway – We knew that we would be remote on the northern leg of this trip. We thought that the most remote sections would be in Alaska. We were only half right. Alaska was remote but there were lots of “Grey Nomads” (RV’rs). Further south in BC we hit the Cassiar Highway and remote took on a whole new meaning. On the 800k of the Cassiar, there is one small store (Dease Lake) and one walk-up burger shack (also in Dease Lake). We had enough food for three meals per day but sort of thought we’d supplement with the odd minimart/roadhouse snack. Well, there aren’t any minimarts or roadhouses. And there were a lot fewer Grey Nomads as well – they mostly take the Alcan to get up north.
No stores means limited food supplies, including bread. We were left with tortilla wraps for sandwiches and there is not much umph in a tortilla wrap. Nancy often ate her lunch with her back to me, for fear I’d steal a bite or two. I don’t think she really bought into my theory that “I’m bigger, and thus should eat more”. Scraps from any of our three meals were rarely forthcoming no matter how often I said “Teamwork makes the dream work”.
Next steps – We are planning on heading south on August 3rd. We’ll have some new travelling companions with us, but more on that in the next post. We’ve really enjoyed our break but are also looking forward to continuing the journey.