Alaska Sojourn!
Ian's Updates, Days 6-8


A Long, Strange Trip to Alaska
by Ian Schmeisser (ischmeisse@aol.com)

Days 6-8

Oh Canada, Eh? (Oui?)

Canada is cool… literally and figuratively. These people really have it together, even if their money is worth 30% less than ours. Everyone smiles, everyone is nice to you, everyone has a lyrical accent, and no one is sarcastic, cynical or even the least bit jaded (at least out here in the sticks). I've spent quite a bit of time in almost every part of Canada and I get exactly the same impression: I love this place, I love these people, and I would really like to live here. In the summer.

After many days of riding past strange things in the USA, I haven't seen many weird things in Canada except the bilingual signage. I mean, you see signs in every National Park that say things like: Canadian Lake/Lac Canadian. Everyone knows that the French are contrary, but this starts to feel like you're living in a house with a big white line painted down the middle of it. Come on, you guys… work it out!

We entered Canada just north of Missoula & Whitefish, Montana at the Port of Roosville. "What kind of guns are you carrying with you?" asked the nice Canadian Customs man, who assumes that all motorcyclists carry guns (or is it every American?) "I'm not carrying any guns," say I, to which he responded "Do you have any weapons to declare?" Now, not wanting to get a cavity search at the Canadian border, I bit my tongue and politely respond "No sir, no weapons of any kind." I thought it wise not to tell him about my Leatherman tool.

We rode through the Canadian Rockies, which are way rockier than ours. Tom went ga-ga over them, and he thanked me for being so persistent about riding this way when we were planning this trip months ago (back then he wondered what the big deal was...). Our first day through this area took us over the mountains, past Numa Falls to Lake Louise and then to Yoho Pass… where we wimped out and stayed in a fancy lodge and had a fru-fru dinner and slept in beds.

The next day (Day Seven) through the area was much more challenging. We started early, and it was cold and wet for several hours of riding along the Icefields Parkway. Unfortunately, many of the mountain views we had traveled so far to see were shrouded in clouds. But enough were visible to make the miserable conditions worthwhile. We had to pull out nearly all the stops in our preparations. But we were macho men and left the electric jackets packed away. We didn't want to use our last line of defense so far south… we had a long way north to go and needed the psychological "margin."

Heading out of the hills, we went off northwestward through Prince George and stopped to camp alongside Francois Lake. For the most part the countryside was unremarkable… looked like just about anywhere. Every trip has some of this… no big deal.

Day eight took us into the middle of nowhere along the Cassiar Highway. Going this way is a tad shorter than the western approach to the Alaska Highway, but the real reason we chose this route was for the gravel roads. Our R11GS machines really showed their stuff, handling us, all our gear and 75mph power slides around corners with casual aplomb. These motorcycles are by far and away the ideal mounts for this trip. I honestly can't think of anything more suitable short of a Hummer… and those suck too much $2.50-a-gallon gas to be practical!

It was a dusty, bumpy and long ride… and I loved every mile. Right now I'm sitting at Red Goat campground, listening to Grateful Dead's Mars Hotel and typing on the PC, sitting next to the campfire beside the lake. I've done my voicemail & answered my e-mail. Somehow I'm going to figure out how to do this all the time!


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