Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Hyder, Alaska

Sitting at the "Wildflour Coffee Shop" ("the place where the pastries are as flaky as the locals"), being served by a jovial young woman with lots of tattoos. Her mother is in the kitchen doing all the cooking and baking. "Fly", an older weathered fellow walks out after a lively exchange. "You know the sad thing is," she says aloud "I still look at his butt."



On one of the main streets in Hyder, Alaska, the Wildflour Coffee Shop, owned by "Baker Babe" Bonnie Barret. "Where the pastries are as flaky as the locals."


After breakfast, I took a photo or two, then visited a nearby gift shop. Bought a couple of Alaska pins and post cards. Outside, a motorcycle pulled up, loaded for the long journey, and I met Alan "Toddy" Todd from New Zealand.

Toddy is the "kiwigoingtoalaska" on the Adventure Rider website.

We chatted for a while, and I offered him the cinnamon roll I had taken from "Wildflour" "to go". Toddy invited me to join him at the "Biker's Rally" in Dawson City June 13th. From there, they'll ride to Innuvik and then return, with a party back at the "Downtown Hotel" in Dawson on the 17th. I noted the dates, but confessed that it was difficult to estimate where I'll be at that time. His ride is being sponsored by Alaska Leather of Anchorage.

He asked if I've been "Hyderized" yet. "What's that?"

He explained that it's a world-famous tradition that when you visit Hyder, you go to the local bar to get "Hyderized". You have to drink a shot of what some say is pure ethanol. For this you receive a certificate and bragging rights. I told Toddy I probably wouldn't be doing that.



Traveling "Kiwi", Alan "Toddy" Todd from New Zealand. He's on a four-month tour of western North America, with his next destination Inuvik, Northwest Territories (up near the Arctic). He's munching a Wildflour pecan roll.


I had never even heard of Hyder before reaching the end off this highway. Toddy asked if I'd be riding up to the Salmon Glacier. I said I wasn't sure. I had a post card to write. He left to explore.

Took care of some business at a nearby pay phone: paid credit card balances, closed phone accounts, tried to call my daughter, but she was at school. Wrote a couple postcards "home" and a check to cover that Washington speeding ticket, then walked over to the post office to mail them. The "postmaster" (who appeared to be watching TV) acted busy and a bit annoyed when I asked the rate for mail to California. (The rate here is the same as anywhere else in the U.S.)



No one to take you by the hand up here...


Decided to take in the Salmon Glacier after all. All gravel road running deep into a canyon, then climbing the mountain sides. I soon became accustomed to the surface and rode standing. It was some 20 miles back, and the elevation was becoming dramatic. Once the glacier was in view, I was surprised that the road was high above it.



This is the view from as far as I made it. Behind me, a sheer wall and avalanche zone, before me, another sheer cliff, straight down. Hearing gravel rattling down from above, I realized it probably wasn't a brilliant idea to be taking pictures from this particular spot.


A series of snowbanks finally impeded my progress, and I had to turn around. I never did see Toddy up there.



Trying to reach the end of the road to Salmon Glacier, I couldn't make it around the bend up ahead.


I returned to the Rainey Creek campground to fill up on some of their wonderful spring water, and to say "good bye" to Sheri. She was away, but I got a chance to talk with her husband, Al. A big retired RCMP officer, he had lots of stories about wolves, bear, deer, moose and Gold Wings (and how motorcycles and wildlife don't mix.) Al said wolves are a serious threat in Stewart. They attack animals and people. Not long ago, a tourist was jogging along the Bear River when he was attacked and killed by a wolf.

Filled up on gas. In daylight, Stewart doesn't look so inhospitable. I found myself forgetting to look up and regard the glaciered mountains surrounding the town. Simply incredible!

Monday, May 30, 2005

Rainey Creek Campground, Stewart, BC

11:30 p.m.

Just bedding down in my tent. A hot shower for a "looney" (Canadian dollar) was worth ten times that! It's still light enough to see the snow-draped mountains encircling this inlet. In the background, the roar of the Bear River and its tributaries, the occasional call of Canadian geese, the crackling of a fire and quiet conversation of three young Canadian travelers nearby.

Underwhelmed by the working class, almost impoverished community I found here in Stewart. No sign along the highway of the Provincial Campground indicated on my map, I slowly drove through town, past closed, and some boarded-up businesses. Nothing inviting here.

One campground I found stated "no tents or soft-sided campers." "Bear River. I wonder why they call it that?" I began to be concerned. Continued beyond Stewart, around a huge estuary, wherein floated an odd mix of logs and small fishing boats. Some kind of freighter lay at anchor out in the deeper water, listing to one side.

Past a dilapidated receiving station of some sort, I found signs indicating proof of citizenship would be required to re-enter Canada. Was I about to cross into Alaska? I hadn't even looked closely at the map.

Beyond a small modular Canadian customs office, the streets of Hyder, Alaska began. The pavement ended and I bounced down the almost comical main street of Hyder. It is something out of the Old West. I was coming to the end of the road, and my options, when I found "Camp-Run-A-Muck". Ramshackle, worn and lifeless, no one was in the office (9:30 p.m.) No tents could be seen; only a couple of motorhomes. "Maybe tent camping is unsafe out here? Am I totally naïve?"

Rode back through Hyder, standing up on my pegs. An officer was waiting for me outside Canadian Customs. I asked him about tent camping. He related the story of a Hyder man partially eaten by a bear. A local chef who, getting off work, went straight to the bar. He later passed out while walking home, to awake never again.

He suggested I try the Rainey Creek Campground up the road in Stewart. Sheri, the manager, came out of the office as I drove in. She said I had passed her and her girlfriend an hour earlier at Meziadin Junction. "I'll bet $10 he'll be looking for a spot in Stewart," she told her friend.

I asked Sheri if it's safe to tent camp.

"Sure."

"Aren't there bears?"

"Yes, but we haven't had any problem," and she told me how they'll occasionally pass through the campground.

I was reassured. I think.

Pulled into my assigned campsite, passing three tent campers sitting around a picnic table, completely covered up except for small openings around their faces. Soon I found out why; the mosquitoes were swarming. I offered the two men and a woman some of my "Jungle Juice" (DEET mosquito repellent), which they gladly accepted. They in turn offered me a beer, an "I.P.A." from "downeast".

I never asked their names, but learned of their travels. One from Vancouver, one from Manitoba and one from "all over Canada." This last young fellow told of working on the ice, beyond Inuvik, surveying for gas and oil fields. He said minus 55 degrees Celsius was their limit up there. Any colder, they get the day off.

The two men operate equipment in Alcan's copper mine, south of Terrace. The copper concentrate is delivered by truck to Stewart (and deposited at that dilapidated depot), loaded onto ships, then sent to Japan.

The two fellows had also traveled to Peru and Ecuador. One had gone to California, even meeting a friend in my hometown, Santa Rosa. I never did hear much about the young woman's travels.

***

Back in Prince Rupert, the day had begun for me at 5:30. Emerged into a fog, everything soaking. It was cold for a change. I was on the road by 6:40 and drove straight to the Alaska Ferry queue. Officials were walking the line of vehicles. "The ferry's broke down. You'll need to go to the office for a refund. You might be able to go stand-by tomorrow with that motorcycle."

Inside the terminal was a line of concerned, but not distressed travelers. I realized that this kind of adventure attracts resourceful people, who expect challenges. This was just one such opportunity to find a solution.

The agent said it was correct that I could wait to go stand-by tomorrow, but I would need to take the bike off at each port, then re-board on a stand-by basis. He said there was not a high likelihood I'd make it to Skagway without being stranded. "Or, you could wait for a confirmed reservation...June 4th."

"Or, you could drive there; I think it's about a thousand miles."

Forced to decide, I asked for a refund. Was I taking the path of a "victim", giving up a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" to see some fantastic scenery? Or, was I just choosing another, equally exciting adventure? I wasn't sure. Pondered my options for a while, then headed into town.

Parked in front of "javadotcup". Over a cappuccino and toasted bagel with cream cheese, composed an update to "my followers". "Well, there is still the website I need to create..." The tools were here. The time was now available. I just needed the will.

"I don't have a schedule any more, so why not just park here and get it done?" Muddled my way through "Yahoo Web Hosting", "blogger.com", "Hello" and "Picasa2" programs to figure out how to have my domain ("timtraveler.com") forward to "blogger", then how to upload photos to "blogger".

It took hours to "get the hang of it," but by mid-afternoon, I had a rudimentary site going; certainly nothing as refined as "Dusty's" site, which had inspired me, but it was okay for "Day One". By 3:00 p.m., I felt I was over-staying my welcome. I was beginning to recognize the staff (and they, me.) I had sat at my computer while various groups had come and met in the "living room" area, then moved on. (I loved listening to the lilt in their voices; almost a Scottish sound.)

As I was putting my things away, three motorcyclists, wearing rally gear, came in and were talking with the staff. I went up to pay my bill and check in with these guys. They were doing a loop from California, around the West, up into the Canadian Rockies, then out to Vancouver Island before turning south.

I first talked with a rider from San Diego. He had a strong stutter. When his companion came over, I learned the other two were from Cotati (just south of Santa Rosa!) I never asked their names, nor introduced myself, a weakness in my character, I think. They were checking into the "B&B" connected with the cafe.

On the road again, I had decided to drive to Skagway. A gorgeous afternoon for a ride; cool and sunny, a few puffy clouds and the wind at my back! Now on familiar highway, returning to Terrace.

The clutch felt "spongey". Played with the adjuster screw, but it never felt quite right. (I would later - much later - discover that this was due to the plastic hand guard interfering with the clutch lever operation. This occurs when the guard gets twisted slightly out of its normal position. The same can happen on the right side, with the brake lever.)

Paced a Subaru traveling at 75 mph, using it as my "front door", to alert me to any approaching police. Considered camping again at Kleanza Creek, but with a good six or seven hours of daylight still, I decided to push north. Fueled in Terrace, then stopped by the gravel pile, where I had met Roy two days earlier. Thought, if I waited, I might see another bear. But I didn't wait long. Onward!



Kitwanga, the southern gateway to the Cassiar Highway. At this point, all these names (except Alaska) were meaningless to me.


In Kitwanga, topped off my gas tank and photographed the "North to Alaska" sign. Turned north on highway 37. I saw a sign for a town called Cassiar. "Is this the famous Cassiar Highway?" I had not even studied the map far enough ahead to know I was traveling one of the favorite motorcycling highways. I was simply looking for the shortest route to Skagway. A bit further along, I photographed the "Seven Sisters", now behind me.



A backward look from the Cassiar Highway: the Seven Sisters.


Over high, rolling hill country, the road was all mine! There was only an occasional passing truck or car. I was on the alert, however for deer, moose or bear, but there wasn't a creature to be seen. "Maybe these harvested forests are not as inviting to wildlife as the timber companies would have us think?"



It appears that forests have forgotten how to take care of themselves. Thus, man's intervention.


Remembering that this is supposed to be an adventure, I decided to drive out to Stewart, which on the map looked to be on an inlet, perhaps a fjord. Maybe there I would get a taste of what I was missing, not being on the "Inside Passage" cruise?

Turned west at Meziadin Junction and learned I was now on the "Glacier Highway". (All the highways seem to have names up here.) Rugged, snow-capped mountains lay ahead. Driving into the sun's glare, with thick brush right up to the roadside, I was especially anxious about animals jumping out. In fact, I saw only two or three rodent-like creatures dart out and back, and another mammal I've never seen before - a beaver, badger, wolverine, or what? Its fur was two-tone, brown and ivory, and it was fairly large. I was amazed how quickly it ran across the highway.

Suddenly, I came upon Bear Glacier and was shocked by the sight of the massive frozen river of baby blue ice pushing down a canyon, a milky green-blue lake beneath it. A flash in time. I stopped in one of the few areas not marked an "avalanche zone" and just marveled. It was all too quiet.



Along "The Glacier Highway", the Bear Glacier. Taken at 9:00 pm, about an hour before sunset.


Following the river down toward Stewart, eyes darting in the fading light, I began to notice big piles of scat along the shoulder. Bears? Really BIG bears???

Ferry Fiasco (from an e-mail communiqué)


"javadotcup": a wonderful little internet cafe (and B&B) in Prince Rupert. I think I spent about 12 hours here over two days!

***

From adversity rises opportunity. Someone said that, I think.

Returned to "javadotcup" after the ferry fiasco. Over another bagel and double cappuccino (dry, of course), assessed possible next steps. The promised "blog" was still hanging over me as an untackled task.

So, here I was in this great internet cafe, with all the tools. No time like the present. So, over the course of a few hours, I've muddled through "Yahoo Web Hosting", "blogger.com", "picasa" and "Hello" programs, learned about domains and domain name forwarding and finally came up with this rudimentary "blog."

(All previous "timtraveler" blog entries were posted subsequent to this one.)

Thanks to fellow biker Dusty Davis for providing some guidance on this stuff. See Dusty's site for his own story and some great U.S. photos: link.

And we “cannot make one hair black or white”

(assuming one has hair,that is)

This, from an e-mail communique:

With this note, the Kampions may be more than a bit annoyed at my hasty exit, citing the need to be in Prince Rupert by today. This morning I found there was really no need to rush. The ferry was canceled due to a mechanical breakdown.

The options seem few: take a chance on going “stand-by” on tomorrow’s ferry, wait for a “guaranteed” June 4th reservation or drive up to Alaska (1,000 miles or so from here.) I’m told that if I were to go stand-by, I would have to leave the ship at each of the 4 or 5 ports and would only be allowed back aboard if space permitted. Northbound, they say, the odds are not great, since the breakdown has created a capacity crunch for the Alaska Marine Highway system.

Not wishing to get stranded in Ketchikan, I received a refund of the $422 fare, and will take to the highway. Who knows what unexpected adventures await! I know the Inside Passage is reported to be awesome, but that will have to wait for another day. There is no shortage of incredible scenery up here.

Tim(othy)

Sunday, May 29, 2005


Visitor to my tent site (just kidding)

E-mail communiqué btb (before the "blog")

(NOTE: Before setting up the blog, e-mail updates provided the latest news from my journey.)

Hey, gang!

Sorry – no website yet, so like it or not, you’re getting e-mailed (or as some may consider it, "spammed”). I’ve been a driving fool, trying to reach Prince Rupert in time for my slot on the Monday (tomorrow) morning ferry.

I know it sounds crazy coming from me, but I just love internet technology! I’m at a great little internet café called “javadotcup” in Prince Rupert, BC. Charging my computer’s battery, eating a bagel with cream cheese, drinking cappuccino, listening to music, checking e-mail - this is the life!

Since leaving Santa Rosa this past Monday, the weather has been perfect for motorcycling - sunny all the way (though the gale-force winds on the southern Oregon coast were a bit challenging.) Even up here in the northern lands, temperatures have been reaching the upper 80’s inland. The 2,000 miles of highway traveled thus far have been excellent. The Canadian highways have been especially well-maintained.

On Thursday, I briefly stopped to visit the "Whidbey Kampions". Almost as soon as I got off the bike, I was treated to an outstanding lunch at the local “Edgecliff” restaurant. First class. And for a short time, I became a part of the wild and wonderful Kampion social milieu (I think that’s a word.) Drew and Susan are like a pit crew for their gregarious young ones (and the passing guest)! It’s never dull in that house. Thanks to the Kampions – I wish my stay were longer.

And CONGRATULATIONS to Alana on her graduation!!!

From the start, the ride has been a constant learning process. You have to develop routines and checklists. But inevitably, when packing up, or suiting up, I forget something, and a mile or two down the road, have to stop again. Leaving a strap loose can lead to loss of gear, or a distraction that could be hazardous down the road. Leaving something behind is permanent.

Thus far, I’ve lost only a few minor things (so far as I’m aware): earplugs (brought plenty of spares), a handkerchief (it’s in the Kampion’s laundry), and the “bite-valve” for my “platypus” water bag. (Driving down the highway, I glimpsed through the rear view mirror the plastic hydration hose waving in the wind. The valve had fallen off and the water drained from the bag. If I were in the Sahara, this would have been the END of me! But here in British Columbia, there’s water everywhere. No big deal. As Drew said, these bags are stupid, anyway.) Many more things have been “nearly” left behind. Curiously, there’s a sense you develop that alerts you that something’s not right.

I have so much stuff, that any loss is in an odd way welcome. Shaving is not convenient on the road, so I jettisoned my plug-in electric razor and my battery-powered razor (but, just in case I change my mind, I retained the old “manual” razor.)

Except for the night at Kampions, I’ve camped each day. I’m slowly getting the hang of it. Tent set-up time has been reduced from about one hour to ten minutes. Mosquitoes accelerate the process considerably - motivation. Speaking of them, they are so big, you actually feel it when walking around and you bump into one! Two nights ago, in the fertile valleys around 100-Mile House, they were swarming, having just hatched with the warm weather.

There are plenty of creeks to wash up in. One of the best investments was a folding plastic bucket. I’ve used it to carry water from the streams to bathe myself, my riding suit and bike (all requiring regular clean-up in this “insect-rich” land. Actually, I feel a bit guilty about the swath of death I create when riding down the highway. We humans have a far-reaching impact.)

Last night, approaching Terrace, BC, I saw a black bear and her two cubs ambling into the trees just off the highway. How CUTE! You just want to cuddle them. Unfortunately, they were too fast for me to catch.

The landscape between Prince George and Prince Rupert, BC is truly spectacular, especially along the Skeena River. It’s much like Yosemite Valley, yet on a much grander scale.

The daylight is definitely getting longer up here. Raindrops woke me this morning. I scampered out to put the rainfly on my tent. It was bright out. I checked the time: 5:00 a.m. Last night, I stopped driving at 9:30 p.m. and set-up camp along Kleanza Creek. (I crack up when I see what they call a “creek” here – it’s a raging torrent!) When I went to bed at about 10:30, it was not yet completely dark.

Enough for now, wouldn’t you say?

I wish you were all here. THAT would be a blast.

Adios,

Tim(othy)

Terrace to Prince Rupert

11:15 a.m. Kleanza Creek Provincial Park, just outside of Terrace, BC

527 miles racked up yesterday, and just over 2,000 on the trip thus far. The bike is packed up. I'm just enjoying a little quiet time before heading out. This is a very tranquil setting, with campsites lined up the canyon along the water, or just across the road from it. The "creek" is a raging river in my estimation.

Raindrops had me scurrying to put the rainfly on the tent this morning. It was light outside, 5:00 a.m. "This is strange." Today, I have less than two hours of driving to reach Prince Rupert, so there is time to relax and catch up on a few organizational matters. Dozed until about 8:30. Crawling out of the tent, I was surprised to see a number of my neighbors had already left.

Took some time to rearrange the tank bag. Washed my face and hair using the bucket of water scooped from the river last night. Only a few mosquitoes around. Very mild temperatures overnight and this morning.



LATER

In Terrace, had a cup of coffee and a muffin at "The Artful Cup", sitting at a sidewalk table.

There are some big industrial operations in Terrace, including Alcan, Eurocan Pulp and Paper, and Methanex.

The past few days have just been a continuation of the past months, the same hectic pace. But the Canadian highways have been great, beautifully maintained.



Along the Skeena River in Northwestern British Columbia


An awesome ride today, just following the wild and powerful Skeena River as it cuts through an incredible landscape to the sea. Rode alongside a Canadian National ("CN") train, snapping photos as it rolled toward Prince Rupert. Near the coast, the Skeena broadens into a huge tidal basin, the stiff ocean winds, cool and refreshing.



Just more Canadian beauty



Racing the Canadian National (actually, he was only doing about 45 mph)


Signs guided me through Prince Rupert to the Alaska Marine Highway terminal. Before anything else, I wanted to determine the procedure for tomorrow's ferry. I checked in and was given a boarding pass, then told where to line up along the road tomorrow morning.

The next bit of business was finding accommodations, hopefully with internet access. A campground only a few minutes from the ferry was one possibility. I inquired at the office, a young couple minding the place (though not as much as they were minding each other!) They invited me to have a look around. But the campsites border on a bog, that I imagine must be horrific once the mosquitoes come out.

Told them I was going to have a look around town, and asked if they knew of an internet cafe. They pointed me to one right downtown.

Parked myself at a window seat in "javadotcup", a great little internet cafe. For three hours, I caught up with e-mail and tried to capture observations from the past few days, all the while enjoying some excellent coffee and bagels.

At 8:00 p.m., I left town. I had passed Prudhomme Lake Provincial Park on the way into Prince Rupert and thought I'd give it a try. It looked fairly secluded and pristine.

No office or gate, I helped myself to a vacant site. Soon after arriving, a ranger came over to welcome me (really!) He was unusual in that he seemed to be working here solely out of his love for nature. He was not caught up in the trappings of his official role.

No mosquitoes out here, but tiny black flies might drive you crazy.

Drove only about 140 miles today, a bit more sane.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Kleanza Creek Provincial Park

Saturday, May 28, 2005 8:00 a.m.

"Dogs 'n Suds" restaurant, Williams Lake, BC

An odd little family restaurant with a biker theme. Stopped here because of the half-dozen motorcycles parked at the curb. Other than "Tim Horton's", this was the only place showing any signs of life this early. I was disappointed to find that, despite its picturesque setting, Williams Lake is just another industrial town with a timber-based economy. But what can you expect? What other job potential could lure someone out here?

"Boston Pizza", "Subway", "A&W" and "Tim Horton's" are landmarks in each of the big towns.

An early start this morning. A long, slow sunrise. Even though I wore ear plugs, the endless train of semis rolling slowly by on the gravel road below had kept me awake much of the night. Feeling the $10 camping fee would be "insult to injury" after such a hellish night, I decided to evacuate the campground as quickly as possible to avoid the rangers.

Cautiously unzipped the tent flap and looked out. Despite the cold, there was a mosquito waiting for me. Trying to out-race the bugs, hurried to pack things up. But within minutes, they were swarming. These guys are so big, you can feel it when you bump into one.

My movements became more frenzied as I was now under assault. That's dangerous if it leads to sloppy or careless packing. I was swearing at the insects, and at my stupidity as I continue to overlook things in packing, having to undo gear to include the missed item.

I was just climbing onto the bike when a truck drove up to my site. "Damn!" Just a few minutes too slow. I complained to the ranger, but she just apologized for the conditions and said she'd still have to charge me. It felt almost as if I were being ticketed.

It was refreshing to be rolling along in the brisk air. A sharp pain in my right shoulder blade returned immediately this morning. Yesterday's 14 hours on the road was too much!

LATER:

On highway 97, there's a 100 Kph speed limit, which I occasionally pushed to 120. I'm amazed at how much traffic there is out here in the "wilderness". Pulled into a rest stop north of Hixon. Took off my riding suit and shirt, enjoying the warm sun.

A car turned in and this character came over to chat. I never did ask his name, but learned he is from Prince George and that, before retiring, he operated heavy equipment for a forest company. He said it's the "spruce bark beetle" that's decimating the Jack Pine throughout the region. (The forests are filled with dead and dying trees.) His language was colorful, if bigoted, as he referred to "turban twisters", and the "need for a revolution". But, "Canadians are cowards", he concluded, with a tone of resignation.

Driving through Prince George and then Vanderhoof, one sees logging on a massive scale. It's impossible to imagine this is sustainable. All along my ride, the ruddy-topped forests reflect the devastation from beetles. Can the forests sustain this in addition to man's assaults?

West of Vanderhoof, I see the first trace of clouds in days.

One of the destinations on my list was Tyhee Lake Provincial Park. I had read, I thought, that the water there was clear and crisp. Coming upon the lake, it was not what I expected. A busy campground, I parked in an open site and walked around to see if it was worth staying. Along the water's edge, a slimey algae covered the surface. A small sandy beach was swarming with kids. Parents were crowded onto the tiny bank. Jet skis raised a storm just offshore. Not too appealing to me, I returned to the bike and continued west.

Recalling passages from Karen Larsen's Breaking the Limit as I retraced her route through the region. Beyond Fraser Lake, rises the Coast Mountains, dramatic snow-covered peaks, among which are the "Seven Sisters", a rampart with seven jagged spires. It's a sight you might expect in Switzerland, but coming up from the eastern foothills, it takes you quite by surprise.

Not far beyond, I paused along the Skeena River to absorb the view. A motorcyclist rode up and joined me. A friendly chap named "Roy" introduced himself. He was riding an '81 Honda CR400T. He said he owns "Ardill's DC Electric" just up the road, in Terrace. He comes out to this spot to watch for bears, he said.

After he left I snapped a few pictures of the river, stretching out my stay, hoping that I too might see the bears cross the highway. But after a while, I decided to move on and find a campsite. A mile up the road, just off the shoulder, I saw a mother bear with two cubs, clambering through the brush toward the riverbank.

Found a campsite at the Kleanza Creek Provincial Park, just east of Terrace. $14.00CAD for the site. Only fifty feet away, the "creek" roared down through the canyon. After setting up my camp, I climbed down on the rocks and scooped up some ice-cold water with my bucket. I'll use it for washing up tomorrow.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Whidbey Island, Washington to Lac Le Hache, British Columbia

5:30 p.m.

I am at a great roadside spot called "Cayoosh Creek Recreation Area," up the canyon to the west of Lilloet, BC. The "creek" is more a tumbling river now, filled with fresh, cold snowmelt. I took the opportunity to wash my motorcycle, using the handy, Ortlieb folding bucket.

Just over 1,200 miles traveled thus far. The pace has been far too rushed, "deadlines" (e.g. Prince Rupert by Monday morning) pushing me on.

Just came over the mountains from Whistler, BC, the almost antiseptic playground for the well-to-do. Cluttered with estates, chalets, condos, hotels and malls, and lots of young people looking for a "good time". The mountain rising to the south is scarred with ski runs. It's an amazingly dramatic setting, but one senses the developers and timber companies work hand-in-hand to maximize profits from this national treasure.



A typical view east of Whistler, BC


Stopped in Whistler only long enough to use an ATM, withdrawing $200CAD. I was drawn to move on to a, hopefully, more tranquil town, Pemberton. In the mid- to upper-80s, even at higher elevations, wearing the Aerostich riding suit seemed nearly insane. Pemberton felt a bit more "organic", "down to earth" than Whistler. Fueled up, drank part of a Coke, then visited with a young lady at the town's Information Office. She recommended a couple nearby restaurants.

Outside her office was a caravan of new, what appeared to be SUV-station wagon hybrids; well-dressed business people milling about. I wandered over to see what this was all about. They were car dealers test-driving the new Subaru "Tribeca".

Went to the "Pony Expresso" for lunch. A very organic-looking little old building. They made a great chicken and Gruyere sandwich on thick, freshly-baked bread. Outstanding. That and a dark beer brought a sigh of contentment. Sad to learn that this little gem would soon be closing its doors. The owner sold the land.

LATER:

The town of Lillooet, whose name from previous reading had evoked mysterious imagery, turned out to be a rugged, blue-collar mill town, and rail center. On a plateau overlooking the mighty Fraser River, with the Coast Range as a backdrop, it occupies an awesome setting.



Lillooet, British Columbia


Continuing east toward Highway 97, I had the road almost to myself; maybe there was a passing car every five minutes. 100-Mile House became my goal for the day. It's funny, because I had not thought of stopping there, but Drew mentioned he had a friend in 100-Mile House, and planted the seed.

Reached 97 around sunset, surprised to find it a major north-south supply corridor; heavy truck traffic. With evening, and the damp lowlands, came the mosquitoes. Stopping for gas, I was introduced to a whole new breed of mosquito. The police, who were also taking a break at the station, appeared amused by my shock at the sheer numbers of insects. I talked with a "big boy" driving a four-by-four. He's in the oil well drilling business and has worked all over the North Slope, Yukon and Northwest Territories.

"This MUST be like Alaska!" I exclaimed.

"Oh, no. They're much worse up there."

Then he started to talk about the bears. He left me with the warning to "be bear aware."

Passed the Timothy Lake turn-off. Tempted to stop and look for a camp there, just for the photo op, but kept on.

Reaching 100-Mile House, I was pretty hungry, and chilled. Stopped at "Tim Horton's". This felt like a cowboy town, with big trucks and hot rods. Not an area I would be too comfortable camping.

Up the road 20 or 30 miles was my best prospect for the night: Lac Le Hache. Reaching the lake, I came upon a highway construction zone. The pavement ended and I had to negotiate five miles of gravel in the dark. "Oh, no!" I was fatigued and not quite ready for this stuff.

The campground was in the construction zone. I missed it the first time and had to back-track on the gravel again.

It looked nearly empty. Mosquitoes all over me, I raced to set up the tent and zip myself inside. Got the computer out to record some notes. It was after 11:00.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Mr. Humbug

10:15 a.m.

Tyler Street Coffee House, Port Townsend, WA

In a particularly bad mood this morning. An elderly policeman just came in and asked "who has the motorcycle outside?" Of course, few people heard him, so another fellow had to bellow it. He asked me to move it ten feet to a marked parking spot. (I had tried to avoid occupying an entire spot on the crowded street, instead taking one of those little triangles at the row's end.)

My cellphone wouldn't hold a charge, so I was forced to use a payphone. A $1 charge for mis-dialing (no refunds). Then another $1 call. Advised the Kampions not to come over just to have coffee. Drew, as usual, was full of helpful suggestions, but I cut him off. "I only have three minutes!" Just the essentials: "where's that great coffee shop in town?"

I'm thinking, "all the stress wouldn't exist if it weren't for the expectations of others. I wouldn't be carrying this crap phone, using outrageous phone booths, watching the time constantly, etc., etc." Or so it seems...

I know the underlying causes rest much deeper within.

Awoke around 7:30, having slept surprisingly well; little tossing and turning. Within an hour, I was packed up. No shower, though they were available; just a splash of water in the face. Stopped by the camp office to check out and pay my fee. Parking amidst a throng of young students, there was the opportunity to engage them and chat about my big adventure, but I didn't. I just haven't slipped into my world traveler persona yet. Right now, it's serious business.

Inside the park office, waiting to be helped, I impatiently watched as a clerk assisted the camper ahead of me. Four other bureaucrats stood looking on. Apparently only one was qualified to check campers out. When it was my turn, I stated incorrectly that I camped in the "Primitive Camp" versus the full hook-up site I actually occupied. Paid $10, rather than the $22 going rate for hook-ups. ("Washington has gotten enough out of me.")

The coffee shop is a great spot. Hugely popular, with a youthful staff and very mixed clientèle. Good coffee and pastries. If I lived here, it would be my A'Roma Roasters.

Miscellaneous notes:

I've noticed that I am starting to hear things! An alarm going off, a recording playing, strange knocks on the bike. It has me a bit off-balance.

It also feels lately that I've lost the sense that everything is proceeding according to a plan, a feeling that was palpable throughout the past year, as I moved inexorably toward this journey.

LATER:

Crossing to Whidbey Island on the ferry, I stood at the ship's bow, enjoying the wind, and then I noticed the "drumbeat" of its engines. Drew had spoken of this. It's wild! A beautiful landscape, this Puget Sound and Whidbey Island.

A visit to the Whidbey Kampions


Three quarters of the Whidbey Kampions (Alex was roofing while we were eating)



Two clowns at the "Edgecliff" in Langley, WA

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Almost to Whidbey Island

Up after 7:30, my clothes as wet as they were last night. An early lesson: cottons don't dry easily. Of course, "everyone" told me that! Camping 100 yards from the highway IS a problem! The trucks resumed rolling by fairly early this morning and were frequent. It took about three hours to pack up, taking time to clean sand off everything and to move my wet clothes into the ever-shifting areas of sunlight. But investing three or four hours a day to pack and unpack simply won't cut it. It certainly argues for staying in one spot more than 24 hours.

On the road around 10:30. I found that the most beautiful part of the Oregon Coast was now behind me and what lay ahead were countless seaside towns, many with the same "cutesy" atmosphere. Nostalgic Americana, each with their "ice cream and candy parlor."

From south of Newport to the State Highway 18 cut-off to Portland, it was almost intolerable, a real mess. Heavy traffic and many small towns with frequent 25 mph zones. Stopped for coffee at "Newport Roasters", next to a surf shop. Coffee and a "Grandma's biscotti", that is.

A beautiful day, warming up susbantially. 85° when I arrived in Tillamook. Purchased a padlock and some "Werner's" beef jerky.

Relieved to reach the Columbia River bridge at Astoria. The river is amazingly wide here. Crossing over, seagulls glide along with me just above the railings. It seemed they had a message.

On the Washington shore, I took a wrong turn (if there ARE wrong turns on this journey,) and ended up in the town of Long Beach, on a peninsula. Made the most of it and visited the "Surfer Sands" food stand. There I met the proprietor "Steven", a character everyone in town seemed to know. He recommended I try the steak sandwich with mushrooms and onions, and a raspberry smoothie. Good advice. In Washington, I already felt more kinship to California. Oregon had a strange, almost authoritarian energy. As I said, it reminded me of Germany: neat and clean, cute towns. Too perfect.

Cutting across to highway 101 east of Ilwaco, I was caught by an oncoming state trooper. I stopped as soon as I saw him make the u-turn. The young officer approached and ask his smart ass question, "Are you in a hurry to get somewhere?" I kept the answer to myself: "yes - out of your frickin' state!" His radar showed me doing over 70 mph in a 60 mph zone (but it was a beautiful, wide-open, ALMOST empty highway!) My first ticket in over three years; an unprecedented run of good luck! $94, the damages. That's all he was out there to do; generate a little revenue. I was in a very sour mood after that.

In Hoquiam, outside the Weyerhauser corporate offices is a pastoral display of forest animals, conveying the nurturing relationship between "forest products" company and wildlife. "Who are you guys kidding?" It was hot in the late afternoon. Called the Whidbey Island Kampions to let them know I was running later than expected.



At what point did our forests become merely a crop?


From Hoquiam north, I call U.S. 101 the "Trail of Tears." The complete and utter devastation of the Olympic Peninsula due to clear-cutting is an outrage. There is no couching it any other way. What I saw here is criminal, on a scale that few Americans seem to appreciate. Even the National Park lands appeared not to be immune. It is enough to make one ill, the knowledge that we are liquidating future generations' rightful inheritance. Those little creatures at Hoquiam had an even more sinister connotation after circling the Peninsula. The concealment of high crimes, out here in the wilds of Washington.



Bordering Olympic National Park. The locals have inured themselves to destruction. I called this highway the "Trail of Tears". The clearcutting was massive.



Olympic National Forest. "With Trees Grow Jobs."


Drove along the shores of idyllic Lake Crescent at twilight. It's a scene right out of the Swiss Alps. Very watchful for deer, proceeding with great caution. The tension eased as I descended into Port Angeles, and there was a welcome warming of the air. Called Whidbey again. I would be too late for tonight's ferry out of Port Townsend, so I agreed to camp at Ft. Worden. We could all meet at Port Townsend in the morning.

The old military complex at Ft. Worden has camping accommodations. I arrived around 11:00 p.m. and tried to find my way around. A ranger stopped to help orient me. Then a couple, noticing my bike, stopped to ask about my trip. Fellow GS riders, the gentleman was heading up to Inuvik, Northwest Territories soon.

In my tent by midnight. The amazing sound of frogs filling the night.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Beachside State Park, Oregon


Blowing sands at Beachside State Park north of Cape Perpetua


My first full day on the road. Writing notes by the light of my "Petzl" headlamp, lying on my stomach inside the tent. The surf is loud behind me and there's the occasional passing car or truck on the highway 100 yards in front of me.

Frequent signage along my route today warned of tsunami danger. Camping in this zone, I won't be surprised to have nightmares. (Full-moon-triggered earthquakes just off the coast?)

$17.00 for the campsite, but it comes with a hot shower and a beautiful wide flat sandy beach. Washed some clothes in the bathhouse sink and hung them on a fence to dry. At sunset, I walked out on the sand. The wind was blowing right down the beach, sending wraith-like sand swirls gliding over the beach's dark surface.

Passed the "Boil Water Test", inaugurating my Primus multi-fuel stove. Enjoyed some peppermint tea with honey, a "Balance" bar, a "Lindor" truffle and two "Tootsie Roll Pops" (thank you, Jessica!)

My body is unused to the positions needed to "operate" in a tent. Hopefully, in time, I'll become more accustomed to sitting folded or cross-legged.

On Drew's suggestion, I had checked out the campground at Cape Perpetua, just south of here. It was up a lush canyon, and very well maintained, but promised to be mosquito-infested, like last night's. Anyway, it was too early to stop, so I drove to the lookout atop Cape Pepertua to at least enjoy the panorama.

Surviving my first night. Snapshots from the road.

I awoke in a lush forest, the sound of a river nearby. Packed up and on the road about 9:40.

Except for the new "Tsunami Lanes" leading out of the city, downtown Crescent City looked strangely familiar. I wondered if this is in fact where I stopped for breakfast some 35 years ago, not Eureka as I had long believed?

Drove up the road to the Pelican Bay Maximum Security Prison. The stark facility is bordered by a hundred yards of barren soil, surrounded by perimeters of barbed and electrical wire. No nonsense here.

A short distance beyond,in Ft. Dick, "Mugshots Drive-Through Expresso."

A billboard claims "Elk Valley Casino" "one of the 3 wonders of Del Norte."

Crossing into Oregon, the landscape seems cleaner - manicured (it reminds me of Germany); it's warmer (73°) and the gas is cheaper!

At Pistol River, the wind is whipping off the ocean, sucked into the warm interior. 30-45 mph according to my pocket weather station.

In Gold Beach, I stopped for a cappuccino at "Tsunami Willie's". $3.75. A Christian band setting up for the evening's show.

Nice drivers up here. They ALWAYS obey the 50 mph speed limit, much to my frustration. Many stops for roadwork along the coast.

The logging trucks leave behind a sickening smell of diesel mixed with evergreen sap. Beyond the thin curtain of trees, clearcuts abound. I stop south of Reedsport to capture one such obscenity.



Oregon landscape. At war with nature, south of Reedsport. See the geotag link above for an aerial view of the destruction.



Oregon. Behind the "cosmetic curtain" shielding sensitive motorists from the devastation along U.S. 101, rampant clearcutting mows down our forests, as here along the southern shores of Tankenitch Lake.

[May 2012 update: see this Living on Earth story on Oregon's dirty little secret (and in this, Oregon is hardly alone): Clearcut Chemicals]

On many stretches of the Oregon coast, "exclusive" properties have removed the beach from our view.

In Bandon, the gas station attendant hands me the pump. "The law says I just have to hand it to you. But you can pump it."

"Tsunami Hazard Zones" marked in the low-lying areas.

At "Charl's" coffee shop in Florence, I try a bowl of clam chowder and a strawberry Belgian waffle. A great combination. Washed up in their bathroom. I'm dirty!

Monday, May 23, 2005

Journey Begins! Day 1: Santa Rosa to Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park


Mandatory pre-trip self-portrait


11:30 p.m. In bed!

Left my home of 16 years on Sonoma Mountain at 1:13 this afternoon. 6,079 miles on my 2005 BMW R1200GS. Before I return to Northern California, I expect to have 30 or 40,000 more miles on it.



Loaded, really loaded


I nearly panicked after fully loading the bike, suiting up and mounting it. I couldn't even get it off the center stand. "Oh, sh...!" I had 10 pounds of stuff thrown over my shoulder for the short ride into Rohnert Park, and another 7-pound box of stuff to mail to my brother from Santa Rosa.

All this made for a very shaky start. I am thankful no one was there to witness.

At my storage unit in Rohnert Park, I shed the 10-pound sack, quickly determined to reduce my wine inventory by half (leaving one bottle behind) and chuck the fleece vest.

At a mail center in Santa Rosa, I got rid of the 7-pound box. Things were looking better. But I was already sweating profusely in my Aerostich suit. "I need to get on the road!"

So, at 2:40 p.m., I officially left Santa Rosa for Alaska, 6,099 miles now on the bike! It still felt so heavy, and I wondered if I would ever get used to handling the weight.

The ride north through Sonoma and Mendocino counties, a familiar territory, provided a chance to review everything in my mind. Was everything done that could be done? What was I forgetting? (For surely there were many things forgotten!)

My first refueling stop was in Ukiah, and already some people asked about the journey. In the crowded station, a woman walking by suddenly shouted "watch out!" A young driver was trying to pull in past my parked bike. "He was about to hit it!" she said. I thanked her for looking out for me.

As I started to enter the redwood forests, the feeling of being on the road began to sink in. I came to the Eel River and its milky green water reminded me of Austria's Inn River. The winds coming up river from the coast were strong, and increased approaching Eureka.



Bike and big tree. Really big tree.



Mandatory redwood shot


I saw the sign for the "Samoa Cookhouse" and, having missed opportunities to try it in the past, decided this was the time. A cold ride out to the peninsula that shields Humboldt Bay from the wild and stormy North Pacific.

The Cookhouse is a funny place, with plenty of history and character. You walk in and are seated at long tables. The menu is what it is; everybody gets basically the same thing. And it's all-you-can-eat. Served "family style", the food was very simple and ordinary. But it's a great place to take the family, at least once.

Leaving Samoa, and driving the long peninsula toward Arcata, I was overcome with a powerful feeling of homelessness, of having reached the end of some road. There was a connection to this town, and this area, since my daughter had lived here as a small child. I visited only rarely from Southern California.

Refueling in Arcata, I was able to put the bike on the centerstand, but then unable to roll it off. "This is embarrassing!" After repeated attempts, it finally tipped forward. I was winded from the effort.

It was dark now, not a great time to be searching for a campsite. Passed numerous campgrounds, each full of campers. I rolled into one, which had a group tent site. As my headlights illuminated the tents, I saw flashlights waving back to me, essentially telling me to "get the hell out of here."

Finally, I found this campground, tucked back in a canyon well off the highway. I was now officially a camper. A relief to finally climb "into the sack" (literally).

Saturday, May 21, 2005


Farewell to my mountain refuge of 16 Years. Thanks to Dona and Jack, wonderful landlords, friends and neighbors.



On the Sonoma Mountain property

A'Roma Roasters


My favorite local hang-out for nearly 15 years! A'Roma Roasters, Santa Rosa. I will be comparing every coffee house along the way to this one.



Inside A'roma Roasters

Update: After the Americas Trip, I took a fresh look at A'Roma Roasters and, sadly, the assessment was not a positive one. I guess I'm a slow learner. In roughly fifteen years as a customer (and an estimated $15,000 in purchases over this period,) exactly ONE employee learned my name. And she moved on years ago.

The ownership has steadily become more heavy-handed in laying down rules and restrictions and responded to exactly one of the many suggestions I offered over the years.

So, I moved on - across the Railroad Square to Flying Goat Coffee. I'll give them a shot at my business.

Garden Court


My beautiful daughter, Jessica and her friend Sergio at my farewell breakfast at our local favorite, "Garden Court". Belgian waffles with strawberries, and Eggs Benedict!



Sergio on his rig

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Getting Close

The time for departure is quickly approaching. I hope to be driving north by Sunday.

Hit a minor bump in the road today. I took my new (purchased in November specifically for this trip) motorcycle for its 6,000-mile service, and learned they’ll need to replace the gearbox and clutch. It’s under warranty, of course, but a surprise nonetheless. (I expect I will become quite familiar with surprises over the coming months.)

My consolation prize was the opportunity to drive a black and white former police motorcycle as a loaner. For once it felt I was on the right side of the law.

Another little surprise yesterday: the car I’m selling couldn’t pass this state’s mandatory smog certification. It seems it needs another catalytic converter (just replaced last year.) The shop wants a week to do the work. This will take a little balancing act between buyer, seller and mechanic.

Got the final in a series of vaccinations today. So I’ve been injected with Tetanus, Typhoid Fever, Yellow Fever, Hepatitis A and B. And I’m not dead yet. I passed on the Rabies vaccine - just need to avoid wild animals. (Do bears carry rabies?)

The “downside” in having my motorcycle in the shop for the next few days is losing the opportunity to pack and re-pack it over and over again to determine how much stuff I’ll have to leave off.

I’m in the final stages of moving out of my apartment of 16 years. One regret is losing “privileges” to beautiful Sonoma Mountain.

But, in the end, we must learn to separate from everything…

Friday, May 06, 2005

End of an era

On my last day of work for Robert Mondavi Corporation, I passed the 240,000-mile mark in my 1996 BMW 328i sedan. It's in fact the end of two eras, as I bought the sport car just after arriving at Mondavi in 1996. Within the next two weeks, the car will be sold.

En route to "work" this morning, I re-wound all the “Pimsler” Spanish language cassette tapes that Terry Henry had loaned me. Didn’t quite make it through the 25 “lessons”, but it’s better than not having tried at all.

There was a festive air at the office. Joyce brought in a fruit tart and orange juice, while Kelly added pastries. We learned that Joyce is in the process of negotiating with Cork Supply International. It is down to agreeing on a salary.

Shirley Carson, our H.R. Manager, delivered our final paychecks: final salary check, payout of accrued Medical and Personal Time Off, and our Fiscal 2005 Bonus Share. The gross was pretty impressive, however, after 40% was deducted, it felt we had been fleeced. We joked bitterly of supporting the Iraq war effort.

There was little left for me to wrap up at the office. Handed over my notebook computer and docking station to our Tech Support guy, Scott. On the desktop, I laid out the monitor, keyboard, mouse and monitor stand, and reconfirmed that the company had no interest in these components and I was free to take them home. Louis had an extra docking station, which he added to my stack. That will save me $75. Loaded everything into the car.

Sealed up two small file boxes containing the distillation of nine years’ work here at Mondavi. Julius, another of the Tecs who had for years taken care of us, said he would “burn” my electronic files onto discs for Louis, who might find some benefit for his role supporting Woodbridge Winery.

We adjourned to Gina’s for a final lunch together. Took my camera along to capture the occasion. “JuJu”, Gina’s co-owner, could not accept that we’d no longer be coming into her restaurant as a group. She presented each of us with a small gift: a jar containing her special blend of spices.



For years, Kalid and Joumana's Gina's Cafe was our first choice for lunch



A final gathering for lunch at "Gina's Deli". Tim Shaw, Gina's owners Joumana and Kalid, Mark, Jim, Josh West, Vickie, Joyce and Louis.






Kalid and Joumana's daughter Maya





Following lunch, I used this last opportunity at the office to copy documents (passport, driver’s license, motorcycle title and registration.) I will carry about 25 copies of each. Distributed an e-mail with instructions on how to contact me.

By 2:00 p.m., Shirley was blending margaritas. We gathered in the H.R. conference room (a now-familiar routine) for food, drink and lots of laughter. (You have to laugh. It’s the only way to get through the sadness.) All this time, I had failed to appreciate what a collection of comedians inhabited these offices!

By 3:30, with hugs and good-luck handshakes all around, I was off to an appointment with Dr. Friedman. But before I could leave the office, Kelly and Vickie surprised Mark, Tim and I with signed 1.5-liter bottles of the 2001 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. It was quite a nice farewell gift.

At Dr. Friedman’s office, I received my second Hepatitis B injection, and a Hepatitis A injection. He wrote prescriptions for a year’s supply of “Lipitor” and 300 tablets of Doxycycline (anti-malarial). Drove away from Napa, closing another chapter in this life.