And so it begins. This crisp clear day in late May finds Buff3y the Hardcore Adventure Cyclist at the top of the Dempster Highway, at the top of the continent of North America. I had a bit of a test ride with the fully packed bike on the way up here to Tuktoyaktuk and regret to inform of a decidedly softish core to the legs. It has been seven years since I last headed out on the long-road and can unhappily report here that the concept of muscle memory is completely bogus; the sweet memory of plowing up Andean switch-backs sadly a very distant one.
The Bear Deterrent (which cost freakin’ C$75) has to be sprayed directly into the grizzly’s eyes or a scene from Revenant will most likely ensue.
The hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk is nestled up against a still-frozen Arctic Ocean in far-northern Canada (refer video of idiot trying to dip wheels in the ocean). It plays host to the early warning station for tracking in-coming military hardware that might lob in from Russia and land on Canada or the USA. It is also strewn with the remnant tanks and other infrastructure from the 1970’s oil boom. The simple wooden houses are super-insulated and one is a guest house that not only accommodates but serves up a bowl of beef stew to a tired cyclist.
I caught a ride up here after the experimental 50km test ride on the loaded bike out of the town of Inuvik, 148km to the south. The legs go to complete jello after a depressingly short distance along the gently rolling dirt road so am delighted to see John and his magnificently warm Ford something-or-other truck arrive. John is a Tuk local who points out every type of bird and squirrel he somehow manages to see from hundreds of yards away, while we trundle over the smooth dirt highway that will be my route southwards in a day’s time. The tundra is still covered with snow and the sea is frozen in many places and the whole vista is dazzlingly clear and incredibly beautiful.
The ride south will start with the 148km leg back down to Inuvik. Just south of Inuvik there are two river crossings by ferry. It is mid-May so ‘the thaw’ is on and these ferries only start operating after this thaw has done its thing, allowing me further south. The Dempster then crosses southwards over the Arctic Circle and into Yukon finishing just 40km short of Dawson City (a town I remember fondly from previous travels in this part of the world).
After that the plan is to follow the line of the Rockies south-eastwards into Montana and points south.