Thursday, August 1, 2013

Riding into the midnight sun

Usual story, I tell Barton we will probably be in Bozeman for just a few days. Almost two weeks later and me and Vido finally ride out of town. The days were filled with some local trail riding,  a couple of river raft float trips with Vido's mate Rusty, helping out with Barton's new house construction and also a considerable amount of time checking out the pubs.

Barton, Me, Vido

Master chief Vido on the BBQ

Great single track riding near Bozeman

An hour or so after leaving town we were back. I'd left my Insulin in the fridge and had to go back for it. So eventually we were out and back on the trails and quickly had our first run in with an angry ranch owner who would have run us down with his truck given the chance. The owner was all worked up and was threatening to call the local police. Our GPS route had as heading along an old rail way line, on inspection when we exited the private road signs that we had supposedly ridden past were almost faded to the point of being unreadable at close range. It was very disappointing to both me and Vido to encounter such unfriendly behavior.

The run in on the ranch had put a downer on what was some good riding. It should have been an enjoyable day but It wasn't fun. Well really, to be honest the main reason I wasn't enjoying the riding was because my mind just wasn't into it. It was on Barton's flat mate Michelle who had made leaving Bozeman difficult. I think I will be re visiting Bozeman some time soon!

In the small town of Boulder we eat the biggest T bone steak ever and we also discuss the topic of bears and decide it's time to purchase some pepper spray. Vido suggests that his mean gangster rap played through his beat box may not be sufficient to detour persistent bears at our camp and thinks that the spray would also come in handy for ranch owners.

The next day we end up on the wrong side of a locked gate and on private property again. We manage to skirt around a fence to an unlocked gate and escape without incident and without having to discharge any pepper spray but we've had enough of all the private property signs so are forced onto the highway to Missoula.

Time for a quick dip, Montana

I leave Vido behind in Missoula to detour up to Fernie across the border in Canada and visit my friend Jen. Northern Montana has some great forestry roads and it's all public access. It's remote in places and my bald rear tyre goes flat on a rough road out in the middle of no where. No problems though as I have all the gear to get going again and put on my new knobbly tire a day before I was going to.

Closing in on the Canadian border there's some very dark looking clouds out the west and at the same time I notice that I can't have done a good job on my rear tire fix as it's low on air. I pull up outside a pub right before the border crossing and seek out shelter from the half inch hail that is now belting down. I'm reluctant to have a beer but when the nice waitress feels sorry for me and offers one on the house it's too hard to turn down. The hail passes and I set about replacing the tube for the second time that day. The border crossing is straight forward and I'm through pretty quickly.

I meet up with Jen in down town Fernie at a live music jam out on the streets which has a great atmosphere. Fernie is a sweet little town set amongst some impressive mountain ranges, I spend a day out riding with Jen up to a radio tower high above town with great views and swimming in a nearby lake. This would be a great place to hang out for a while and take in all the awesome mountain biking. But the summer is only so long, so it's time to hit the road again, I manage to link up some great forestry roads over a couple of high passes on my way over to Nelson.

View high above Fernie in Southern BC

Great riding between Fernie and Nelson

I'm looking forward to arriving in Nelson as this Is where Louis, Robin and Evan who I meet way back down in Colombia last year live. Those of you who have been following the blog may remember that back when I meet these guys they where learning para glide and unfortunately Louis broke his back on a crash landing. The last time I saw Louis was him being wheel chaired out of the hospital and heading for the airport back in Colombia. So it was just awesome to see him stride up the street and meet us in downtown Nelson.

It hasn't been easy for Louis though. He's been incredibly focused on his recovery to get this far and still has a way to go. Inspirational stuff. My arrival in Nelson is well timed, I meet back up with Vido and over the weekend we celebrate Robin's birthday, check out a local music festival and spend an afternoon floating a river which ended in some seriously sized rapids in our 20 dollar Warehouse rafts which was rugged! It was great to spend some time with all the Boys again, maybe next time we meet will be in Nelson, New Zealand!

After studying the maps Vido and I come to the conclusion that we need to make some serious ground north to Alaska. Damn, we are going to have to put in some big highway days. After a morning of pavement and congested traffic our GPS are guiding us off the highway and onto a gravel forestry road. Not far in there is a sign saying road closed due to 3 wash outs at km 23 to 50. It doesn't take much discussion and we disregard the signs and go for it, the morning of highway riding was just too much!

If we can't make the crossings this is going to cost a bunch of time. The feeling of anxiaty is soon replaced with exillartion as both the scenery and the road are awesome. And at 20 odd k or so we cross a new bridge, maybe this is going to be easy? Further on and a section of road has a river of water running down it's length, it's not deep though and we negotiate  200 meters of it fairly easily. We are now deep in the mountains and approaching the 50km mark and come across a large slip, about 100 meters across. There's a old bench bulldozed across and in places we have to weave around boulders with just enough room to get the bikes through. That was lucky.

We take off round the corner and both plough hard into a ditch that has been dug across the road. The suspension bottoms hard and I'm thinking I'm going to get thrown off but manage to keep it up right. I guess they put that ditch in to warn of the drop off into a creek that now stood between us and the road on the other side and our escape. A bridge had obviously been removed leaving some steep banks down into a rather rough creek. On close inspection we worked out a line that might work, the water was fast flowing and difficult to stand in but only for a sort distance. We determined that the most likely successful strategy would be to drop off the bank with enough speed to launch across the short swift section. With some man handling up the other side we were over and once again enjoying some great forest roads.

With that section of road out of the way we weren't out of the woods yet though. Our route had us heading deep into this massive forest again and now the road had become so over grown that we had to abandon the GPS route and just try and head in the correct direction using roads that did exist! This is about when Vido's run of bad luck started. His muffler fell off, we wired it back on with some safety wire. It's now late and we ride side by side down the forestry road combining the power of our headlights.

We break out onto the highway at around 10 30 pm and just happen to pull up at the same time as two big tractor truck rigs. They're looking for somewhere to stay and head off up the highway to the nearest town, we quickly jump in behind them and use them as a big bull bar protecting us from any suicidal deer or moose. At the town we all go into the pub hoping for a meal but the kitchen is closed so we settle for beer and packet chips. After a couple of beers one of the 2 only locals in the pub just happens to say that he has a restaurant up the road, it's late and he's well shut down for the night but gets a ride and goes cooks us all up a big feed and brings it back to the pub and refuses money. The other local let's us put the tents up on his section. Now that was a great end to a great day of riding.

One last obstacle

The cush drive rubbers on the Dr are looking pretty shot and I'm worried about the bearing flogging out the rear hub so we stop in Prince George for new bearings and some retaining compound. We gun it back on the highway and I notice that I've lost Vido in the mirror, I'm not too concerned as he pins it on the highway and I just cruise so I'm thinking that he will catch up quickly. He doesn't, I stop and give him a call. His chain few off and damaged the joining link in the process. I head back up the road and we cobble together the chain and get him a couple of k up the road to a town. Luckily there is a chain in the small bike shop in town and we're off the next morning, but that was about the end of the good luck.

Calling in at Smither's for gas Vido notices that he's lost the bolt that holds the front sprocket on. It's also noticeable that the spline on the shaft is in bad shape. With the bolt replaced Vido decides that the sprocket will hold out and head for Whitehorse for a replacement. Just when we're about to pull out of town I notice that his rear tyre is low on air and then we discover that his tyre has a knob completely ripped off and with 1300km of remote road on the Cassiar highway ahead of us we head back to the bike shop and find some tyres. I end changing mine as well as the Dunlop 606 is disappearing fast with all the highway riding and would have been pushed to make Whitehorse.

The Bike shop is run by Sam, "Smoking Sam" on advrider. He's a super nice guy and rips wheelies on his beefed up Harley. Sam invites us back to his place for a BBQ and beers and a place to put the tents. It's too nice a offer so we stay with Sam and he breaks out his XL600 the next day and takes us on a little ride in the morning which sees us riding to the very top of a ski hill, cool.

Hanging out with "Smoking Sam" in Smithers

Today we were hoping to make some good ground. It was not to be however, Vido crashed the KTM into a beaver pond. We were unable to restart the bike and after checking the basics like spark and fuel with no luck it was decided to head for a KTM dealer in Terrace. The Dr was working hard at around 100km/hr but we made the 90km tow with out problems, lucky the road was flat with no traffic or stop and starts, It was still hard work for Vido on the end of the tow rope though and I think we were both glad to be done with that!

At the Ktm shop the extent of the damage become clear. Damn. The Ktm would be down at least a week while waiting for new parts. Vido decided the best option would be to have the bike rebuilt in Terrace and visit his sister in Anchorage and then attend a family reunion back home as planed and hopefully have the bike all ready to go on his return. I help remove the engine from the bike and the following day head for Whitehorse on my own. Vido will get a ride out to the ferries with Brain, a local that put us up for the night and is heading out that way for work.

Camping up out side the KTM shop in Terrace. The plastic bread trays made for a surprisingly good bed

I have mixed feelings as I ride along the remote road, out to Stewart it is spectacular with hanging glaciers on either side of the valley and in some ways it is nice to just be on my own out here. At the same time I'm feeling sad and can't help wondering how Vido is. Having to leave his bike behind was hard. It makes me think about my bike too, about all the places she's taken me and how reliable she's been. At times I wish I had a fast high performing bike but right now I love my bike.

The ride to Whitehorse is uneventful, miles and miles of forest, in places the devastating Spruce Beetle has killed off the trees and created an eerie landscape. For the last few hours of riding on the highway my mind wonders back to when I was working here 6 years ago building log houses. I'm excited about being back in town and way back down in South America last year when I decided to keep riding I thought it would be pretty neat to make it all the way back up here on the bike. And here I was, I was riding into town. I had a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.

High above the Salmon Glacier right on the border of Canada and Alaska near Stewart and Hyder