Across the border to USA

Oh what a lovely feeling to cross a border having cycled across a country! Canada has given up under the awesome fury of my relentless pedaling. When you finish a bicycle journey from ocean through a country of this size then it is a joyous feeling to cross the border.

A few years ago in Bolivia I spent a couple of weeks slogging through some of the most challenging tracks that I’ve encountered on a touring bicycle. Riding Bolivia south-west of the world famous salt-plains was both ridiculously difficult and exhilarating at the same time. Each day you plow through sand and gravel on ill-defined tracks across a sublimely beautiful landscape, all perfectly clear at 3,500 metres in elevation. When camping up against the wall of a remote hotel I met a couple who were cycling the same way towards the Chilean border and the Atacama Desert. We drank coffee together and the girl related that her father always said, “You have to earn a destination in order to really appreciate it”. That evening we both could feel the essential truth of that statement to the very core of our aching legs and fatigued souls.

To arrive having earned that arrival is something completely different to having been passively deposited somewhere. From the top of Canada I invested heart and soul into every one or those climbs, bought-in completely and committed to every kilometre and lived every bison-dodge, suffered every camp meal and felt every drop of rain.

The last part of the Canada ride takes me onto parts of the ‘continental divide‘ mountain bike ride, past a very large truck, more than a few places with ‘elk‘ in their names and the USA border at Roosville (where I’m charged $6 to process the USA visa waiver – really?). Now I roll on into Montana and spend an introductory evening in the back yard of the charming HA Brewing Co. for a cool and refreshing pint of IPA. Lovely.

Banff to Cranmore 20km

Cranmore to Canyon Campground 80km

Canyon to Elkford 95km

Elkford to Sparwood 37km

Sparwood to Campsite south of Eureka 130km

Icefield Parkway to Banff

The Icefield Parkway running North-south from Jasper to Banff in Alberta is a magnificent road that takes me through a few hundred kilometres of World Heritage listed national parks. This stretch would have been a photographer’s delight had it not been raining or overcast every day pretty well all of the way down the road. Therefore, not a great number of photographs in this posting but to compensate for this lack I have provided some video (set to a marvelous Spanish song) for your listening and viewing pleasure.

*I included the video of the Giant Beaver from Beaverlodge which is in-fact up the road a bit on Route 40, mostly on the justification that it is a giant beaver.

The camper drivers achieve new levels of ineptitude and stupidity, stopping in the middle of the wild at the slightest sniff of an opportunity to photograph a bear or squirrel.

So I join the throng of Helly Hansen designer-gear clad smurfs strolling around trying to find the most convenient place to have their wallets fleeced. On the positive side there is coffee. There is beer, pizza and a shop to get the bike some love and attention.

Banff also has a lovely Arts Centre and it is there that your correspondent paid a visit to see what was going on and talk to the friendly folk who run theatre programmes there.

Jasper – Icefields Camping 105km

Icefields Camping to Mosquito Camping 100km

Mosquito Camping to Banff 85km

Dawson Creek to Jasper, Alberta

*If you are easily offended, stop reading now. You have been warned!

Just been riding through seemingly endless rain for the last couple of weeks. Every day rain but we forge on southwards beyond the Alcan and into the western part of Alberta.

What a sight! A hotdog van with a shelter out in the middle of nowhere between Grande Prairie and Grande Cache was a very welcome site during yet another rain storm. Lovely.

Happy that the steam hid the crime of this particular meal in the photo. Reconstituted potato, fish stuff and devon sausage bits. Utter merde!

LNG and pipelines are touchy subjects up here. However, you just have to admire the sheer exuberance (and rendering) of the ‘bird’.

Should have dropped in for some bargains. Silver-linings?

Here at Buff3ysbicycling blog we are great lovers of road signs. That is, unless they are like the huge stupid sign outside Grande Cache in Alberta that states it is 1km to town, when it is actually 5.6km of 7%-10% gradient rise! Just how does anyone put one of those things up?! Love Canadians and Canadia of course, but the kilometre signage here is just all over the place.

I particularly liked the Trudeau bird sign (above). We are sure that Mr Trudeau is a very nice man but really don’t care. The joyous expression of abuse is to be applauded.

Such sentiments are increasingly rare in Australia, which is a matter of some regret. An Australian considering such a sign would pause and fall into a fit of hand-wringing (or out-source their political bravado to ‘egg-boy’). Not sure how it happened but over the last twenty or thirty years the laid back approach that prompted us to just do things, regardless of how stupid and futile, and by which we seemed to define ourselves, is now just not what it was. It has been replaced by endless by-laws, fear of consequence and collection of parking, speeding fines and council notices to remove what-ever-the-hell weed. It is more than mere modernisation making things this way. When you have visiting Europeans bemoaning the fact that Australia has too many rules, you know there is a problem. It’s almost like in response to some subliminal message embedded in a New Price is Right TV telecast, the population of Australia fronted up to local post offices where an officer reached into the chest cavities and extracted the ‘screw-it’ genes and mojo glands from each unsuspecting fop with a staple remover. All then settled into an era of disconcerting and debilitating dread of what might happen; in place of the previous ‘screw-it’ ethos an insidious reticence.

Stan, a crusty old drunk propping up the bar at a lodge way back up the road in Yukon, on learning that I was from Australia, had no hesitation in making his assessment, “Australians are pussies!”. Really? “We should be brothers – Australians and Canadians – but when I went there and they were all pussies”. Confronting assessment, I’ll grant you. Taken aback, the only retort I could muster was, “All the hardcore Aussies are here in Canada right now”, which did the trick. But he is right. Australia used to be the land of ‘No Worries’ but has now somehow morphed into the land of, ‘I’m sufficiently concerned as to the possible adverse consequences of your proposal that I will now don my safety high-vis vest and consult the risk reduction manual prior to making an assessment as to whether any worry is justified’.

Buff3ysbicyclingblog will start the fight back right here! In celebration of and homage to the effort of the artist who created such a lovely ‘bird’ for Mr. Trudeau, we echo the sentiment and lustily proclaim for no readily apparent reason: Fuck you Trudeau!! Up yours you bastard!!

Just to be even-handed, we also send a hearty ‘Fuck you!’ to his political opponents (whoever the hell they are).

To the drivers of the massive RVs who don’t cross to the other side of the road when passing hard-core adventure cyclists: SCREW YOU!! (I actually meant that one)

To the people who don’t like Buff3ysbicyclingblog: BITE ME!!

To the people who made the road sign ‘Grande Cache 1km‘ and put it 5.6km from Grande Cache: YOU ARE DICKHEADS!!

Feel better for that. We now waft down into the national parks of Jasper and Banff and join the mobs of well-heeled designer trekkers who are heading out on North-face sponsored walks along with their hotel associates holding their carefully calibrated trail-mix combo bars. On-on!

Dawson Creek – Grande Prairie 131km

Grande Prairie to Kakwa River 101km

Kakwa River to Grande Cache 95km

Grande Cache to Hinton 143km

Hinton to Jasper 75km

End of the Alcan Hwy

Well, years ago the Alcan Highway might have been a romantic route with wild and wonderful obstacles for the traveler. Now, however, it is a modern road in a seemingly endless tunnel of trees. There is an echo of the gold rush era with the plethora of land leases on the lower reaches of the road inviting a new invasion of gas companies that are fracking away madly in an attempt to release north America from dependence of middle-eastern energy. I blast through the hastily cobbled together mining settlement of Wonowon and dodge the ubiquitous Ford F350s on my way through to the end of the highway at Dawson Creek.

All of the cheese here is orange here for some reason and no one seems to know what Tabasco sauce is. While these are minor concerns in the larger canvas of international bicycle touring they are disconcerting none-the-less. So British Colombia is now bicycled and the road south leads into Alberta.

Fort Nelson Camping near Prophet River 98km

Prophet River to Sikanni Chief Campsite 100km

Sikanni Chief Campsite to Inga Lake 116km

Inga Lake to Fort St. John 73km

Fort St. John to Dawson Creek 75km

Alcan Hwy to Fort Nelson, BC

The ride out of Yukon into British Colombia puts me onto the Alcan Highway, a significant upgrade from the logging roads that I’ve been on recently. The road south now cuts across the north-eastern part of British Colombia towards Alberta. This road opened up the way from the lower 48 to Alaska in 1942 and is now a modern road along which at this time of year armies of RAM1500 utes and massive camper vans now plough. The ride to Fort Nelson is punctuated by sightings of the odd bison or bear and unfortunately not insignificant amounts of rain.

Running the gauntlet of a wild and dangerous bison near the Liard Hot Springs.

Klondike Loop and Campbell Hwy

After a little pit stop in the charming and kitsch Dawson City the road turns south-east down the Klondike Loop following the Yukon River. The loop runs south towards the city of Whitehorse and this was the direction in which I traveled in 2011. But this time after visiting a little cabin at the Moose Creek Lodge two days ride south of Dawson, I turn left onto a 51km forest track to the Campbell Highway (past Tetchin Lake) which turns out to be a 500km avenue of trees and a very low traffic road that runs along some pretty lakes. Highly recommended ride and the camping is great which at the end of a day’s ride helps you forget the nasty little gradient climbs that these logging roads throw at you. 12 days later I’m in Watson Lake and the bottom of the Yukon ride: 1,800km from the start at the top of the Dempster Highway.

The Moose Creek Lodge. The last time I stayed in this cabin I was nine years younger. A lovely little restaurant out along the Klondike Loop.

Would have been the perfect stop to camp if it were not for the mosquitoes.

At last a moose.

Another brilliant video.

93km Dawson City to Camping

65km Camping to Moose Creek Cabin

95km Moose Creek Cabin to Pelly Crossing

89km Pelly Crossing to Tatchun Lake camping

37km Tatchun Lake to Frenchman’s Lake Camping on backroad

82km Frenchman’s Lake Camping to Drury Creek Camping

82km Drury Creek Camping to Camping beyond Faro

85km Camping to Camping

78km Camping to lake-side camping

82km Lake-side camping to Frances Lake Camping

89km Frances Lake Camping to Simpson Lake camping

82km Simpson Lake camping to Watson Lake

Eagle Plains to the End of Dempster Hwy

The ride through the lower half of the highway was very pretty if a little more trafficked than the rest of the ride as the river ferry started operating and some of the spring camper and truck traffic started making its way up the highway. From Eagle Plains there were five days of riding through the mountains and the biking-legs kicked in a tad and I rediscovered just a little bit of the long-lost touring stamina.

63km: From Eagle Plains along the top of the range.

73km: Roller-coaster over the Ogilvie Range.

85km: Gradual up long-side the Peel River then up a pass.

77km: Up the long final pass all day.

112km: Down the last 72km of the Dempster Hwy then along the North Klondike Hwy to Dawson City.

Found this photo on the wall of the Eagle Plains restaurant. This is how they used to bike the Dempster. Truly hardcore! That tent would be 10kg.

The beautiful road through the shallow valley on the way up to the final pass of the Dempster.

The lovely Co-Motion near the Tombstone Mountain campsite about one day’s ride (75km) from the bottom of the highway.

Featuring the marvelous Latin rhythms of Joe Arroyo’s ‘El Caminante

Sometimes you just get really really lucky with a hotel (as I did at he lovely Downtown Hotel in Dawson City). Leg Heaven feels a little bit like this.

Dawson City is a cute gold-rush nostalgia town in northern Yukon; with great pizza, lashings of beer and a large spa bath.