Category Archives: Canada

Old Man Winter

   It all started in the Yukon Territory when we began seeing single branches rebelling against the greens that overwhelmed the color scheme of the outdoors. We commented about how we might get to see the leaves change colors, burning the chlorophyll induced hues into fiery reds, oranges and yellow.
    Increasingly, we have been waking up with our sleeping bags stiffened by a thick coating of frost, reminding us that old man winter can move quick in his later years. His artistic sense seems to prelude his appearance, amplified by a more generous application of Autumn colors. No longer are the trees attempting to hide their sole rebellious limb. Feverish mutiny engulfs the entire tree, dilating the torrid spectrum.
Odd that winter is signaled by such warm colors, as if they are offering their final blow to the battle of seasons. Unfortunately, we are merely pawns in this seasonal warfare.
    The “little� snow storm near Grand Cache was a debilitating blow on summer and our comfort. The old man surely impressed us with his youthful vigor by lavishing us with his awesome power. Our naive youthfulness compounded our problems by neglecting to bring various “creature comforts�, like water proof gloves, dry socks, and ski goggles.
    I attempted to make due by sheer excess, putting on multiple pairs of socks, both on my feet and on my hands. A sad sight to behold; the frigid cyclist plowing through snow, attempting to return a wave from a passing motorist with a sock dangling from the frozen stub more warmly referred to as a hand. In theory, the extra layers make sense, however, they only insulate, which is quite different than heat. This afterthought of warmth comes too late for frozen limbs.
    Ski goggles sound like a ridiculous thing to bring with you on a bike trip. I have a pair of perfectly good sunglasses (except for the broken earpiece, of course). and they failed to protect me from the onslaught of snowflakes. Gentle, dainty, flowers of ice, that blossom into a winter wonderland. Only, when you are going down a hill at 40 miles per hour, those dainty geometric ice flowers turn into veritable micro-daggers, slicing through the outermost membrane of your eyeball, temporarily blinding. You can always close your eyes and risk crashing into the guardrail or oncoming traffic. You can attempt to squint your eyes and angle your head precisely enough to open approximately one percent of your field of vision, which still does not guard against 100% of the seemingly lethal snow stars. You can also wear sunglasses that will render your vision dangerously dark and undesirably blurry, leaving your eyes susceptible to some of the more accurately aimed snow flakes.
    These words may seem overdramatic, but I promise you they are not. If you are ever feeling like things are going too well for you and wish to delay the impending cyclic transition into bad times (this is a profound philosophy of my current life, the idea that what goes down, must soon go up), try skiing down a hill in the snow without goggles. I imagine you would share my belief that snowflakes are treacherous and evil.
    Winter has coldly entombed my thoughts, recently, as we have begun the 2700 mile stretch of “bike-packing� down the rocky mountains. According to the maps, we absolutely need to be off the 2 months worth of trail, no later than two weeks after we start. The reason, being, that when you mix high-altitude off-road passes and winter, you get an impossibly snowy route. Theoretically, I can add two and two together, but in actuality, my stubbornness and lack of options renders the equation an irritation to avoid. A reminder that will lose its subtlety as we are laboriously dragging our bikes up a snowy mountain pass, mutating the definition of “bikepacking� into something that would not even be wished upon one’s worst enemies.
    The Great Divide Route has been wonderfully challenging so far. The maps guiding us are rather charming, at times. According to the narrative, we are about to “start climbing a virtual wall� which will turn into a “real pusher� for the next mile or so. This will take us over the Elk Pass and the Great Divide. This will only be our second of 30 or so crossings until we reach Mexico.
    It has been astounding how much more difficult the off-road biking has been. Grades and trail conditions that even undermine the efforts of regular mountain bikers and ATV’s, let alone fully loaded touring bikes. Having been accustomed to a good stretch of smoothly paved roads, I have taken for granted what it takes to move my bike a mile, and have recently cherished each and every one. A redundant accomplishment that warrants celebration at each repetition.
    Despite the feeling that we have become ambassadors of pain on a daily basis, as we maneuver up “virtual walls�, we have all been thrilled by our newfound freedom from cars and road signs. We found ourselves riding alongside a pristine lake outside of Banff National Park with epic geography bearing names like Shark Mountain, jetting it’s way out of the earth at a 60 degree angle, thin slices of granite lined with snow, stacked up to look like a toppled piece of chocolate cake.
   ble to cars. My elation derived from this outdoor experience is heightened by the exclusive access we achieve through our cycling accomplishments. Nature is something to be fully immersed in. It is not the same place for me if I were to drive up in a car, complete with an artificial climate at my fingertips, as I turn right at the sign indicating a “Vista� with a small paved section to park, where I can quickly dip my toes into the scenery.
   ve the luxury of waking up within a “Vista�, of riding all day through scenery that adorns postcards and television shows. We get to sleep next to waterfalls, lakes and streams; showered by stars, soaked in moonlight, bathing us in an experience that we will never forget.

Real Biking (At Last!)

    Our bikes are strange creatures — souped up commuters cum all-mountain destroyers.  Cross country bikes with down hill wheels and cheep hybrid tires; and the glaring and essential deviation, the mechanical coup d’état we ride Xtracycles.  Suffice it to say that while they (we) don’t fit into any of the existing ghettos of the cycling world, one thing is certain however.  Our heavy-duty-longwheelbase-mountain-touring creations are not designed for road riding.

   Road riding despite it’s pleasant monotony, is a world governed by lines and signs, and (worse) is irrevocably entrenched in the world of automobiles.  Even on the quietest of country roads, the cyclist can’t escape the ominous omniscience of the four-wheeled polluting machines.  Neither our bikes (with their low gears and wide tires) or our psyches jive well with road riding — and as a rule we make every effort to avoid it.  Plotting our course to follow the rough and remote.  Even so, we have been confined of late, to the domain of giant and inexpertly piloted vacation craft, tainting the indescribably beautiful surroundings with fear and road rage.

   In the vicinity of Jasper we discovered a system of trails paralleling the highway, and jumped at the chance to indulge our hybrid steeds and delve into the off-road

   Eagerly, we turned off the smooth pavement and headed for a series of “advanced” hiking trails.  And plunged immediately into serpentine singletrack bliss, The surface was moderate and the incline gradual, and not a cursed machine to be seen or heard.  We cruised up-stream, remembering (or learning — myself being the only experienced Xtracycle-mtnbiker) how to turn quickly, shift out and balance.  But, just as we were beginning to feel cocky and in control, the grades got steeper the turns tighter and a whole lot rockier. For the first time on the trip perhaps we were really using our lowest gears, and wishing for more rubber, to guide our wheels through the minefield of upended cobble stones and aspiring boulders.  The arduous ups were redeemed for a while by tight circuitous downs, but we were soon aching from the unfamiliar exertions, working harder in 10 minutes that in a good day’s road ride.  All two soon we were off the map, and confronted with a forking trail.  Optimistic and not ready to abandon the joys of trail riding, we chose the path less traveled, and headed up.

   Up, being the operative term: the trail continued it’s profusion of loose cobble stones and junior boulders, but now was rather overgrown, adding moss and protruding tree roots to the milieu, all the while grinding relentlessly up hill.  The riding increasingly becoming a desperate test of endurance and balance/navigation as we inched uphill. Bucked repeatedly by the treacherous trail, we became intimately acquainted with every awkward nuance of bodily hauling our cumbersome steeds endlessly upwards.  Eventually the trail, more or less dead-ended into a rocky creek bed, forcing us to backtrack.

   As we blasted down the track we had so recently clawed our way up, l got an inkling (my first) of what downhill mountain biking was all about: Flying over/down steep and rough terrain, aided by the wonders of suspension, is incredibly exhilarating.

   All two soon however were back at the fork and speed was a thing of the past, we forded a stream and hauled our bikes up the embankment, where the trail flattened out but if possible became more technical. We crept along plotting a serpentine course through the rock field, a good number now grown up into full-size boulders; around a beautiful lake and into a cliff. little did we know it was the first of several, all nearly vertical and ranging from 5 to 20 feet in height.

   Defying gravity we dragged/pushed our loaded and unwieldy bikes, sliding down again as often as we gained any ground, eventually the force of will would triumph and we would collapse panting at the top. These obstacles were randomly interspersed with lovely down hills and rolling flat-ish sections, which were taking decidedly less technical turn. Almost with out warning, the trail spit us out, and we were exhausted exhilarated and sharing the pavement once more with out favorite ten thousand pound death machines.

   We were in truth, a little shocked that our bikes had weathered such a savage beating with such equanimity — my left foot was bleeding and both knee and shin were nicely bruised. But there had been no flat tires, our brakes still seemed to function — so suffused with adrenalin and excitement we pressed on at record speed dreaming of Banff, and the start of the great divide trail.

   Confidence buoyed up perhaps, by our bout of trail-riding, we camped at the foot of Columbia glacier — the largest tourist attraction in the whole national park — across the street from the huge hotel/buss terminal, and right next to the road the souped up tour busses traversed on the way to drive tourists around on the glacier. Our luck or audacity won out and we were not awakened by either RCMP or wardens.

   Naturally our next move was to ride our bikes on the glacier. The approach was rather more difficult than we had expected, but with a little more hauling we got out bikes to the edge of the ice, where we had the pleasure of watching the tourists cram into the tiny coned-off area which had arbitrarily been declared safer than the rest.

   We shifted into low gear and headed out onto the steep rough glacial ice, we were making good headway towards the false horizon, when Jacob’s pedal exploded, in a shower of sheared and broken bearings, which no amount of skillful oakie-rigging could fix.  We eventually admitted defeat, and took the down hill run toward the tourist area — Jacob walking his wounded bike.

   Jacob was rescued from attempting a one-footed ascent of our highest pass to date, by another of his unconventional guardian angels, this time in the guise of the Mills, an awesome couple from Nevada City, who gave him the pedals off one of their bikes.

   Calamity averted we weren’t sure what to make of the sudden failure — was his bike rebelling against the rough treatment of the previous days?  The unanswerable question slipped to the back burner as we continued to cruise through the picture post card scenery on our way toward Banff and freedom from cars. Slipped to the back burner that is, until 30 miles from Banff riding on smooth pavement of a back road, Jacobs extracycle frame suddenly snapped.

   We limped into Banff in search of repair, Sean and l carrying Jacobs stuff while he gingerly rode a bike whose frame was lashed together with parachute cord. The message seemed clear — our bikes were made for dirt, but after 3000miles they needed a little TLC.

Losing Momentum through Alberta

By Sean   

    Towns are growing in size, road traffic choking our precious air supply, and the presence of civilization in the way of threatening signposts, electric fenced RV parks, and the infinite types of tourist processing stations have been a strain on ‘roughing it’ campaign. As a consequence we’ve exhibited the utmost brazenness –or perhaps insolence- in our choosing of appropriate grounds to cook and pass out. As the inhibitions of a more popular world mount, the bike nomads have become more defiant to the safe and comfortable method of hiding at the threshold of where normal behavior would permit a member of society to venture. It is not always easy. Drawing near the great city of Grand Prairie one night, we were coasting swiftly over a four lane highway when suddenly, at the top of a hill our nocturnal eyes recoiled in horror at flood of city lights; it was like reaching the peak of Sepulveda pass at Sunset blvd and seeing the glowing expanse of Los Angeles. We were quite incapacitated upon being confronted with this unappealing iridescence, so we immediately dragged our bikes up a huge embankment off the highway shoulder and laid in thick grasses till the tide of traffic lulled our senses to sleep. Yet, the shift in our behavior was evident a few hundred miles before, upon our first visitation from the Royal Mounted police. Feeling famished from a long uninterrupted ride we searched for a place to set up a stove and settled upon a wide slab of foundational concrete, with our backs against a portable architectural command office. After ten minutes of dicing potatoes and frying the first cuts of meat, two patrol cars surrounded each side of the construction site. We were not, however, being confronted for trespassing, as one of the four hovering officers explained, “Someone had complained of noise resulting from glass shatteringâ€�. After blinding us with heavy light beams and being reassured of our imminent departure, they searched diligently the premises for the remains of a glass nuisance. All the time we looked around the neighborhood, feeling the disdain of the local residents as they leaned cautiously on doors slightly ajar, waiting for the police intimidation to restore the quiet ambiance.

    From Grand Prairie we would follow a small logging road to the small town of Grand Cache. The Road was paved and enduring the strain of heavy construction machinery; several road kill corpses littered the shoulder. The second day Jacob and I peddled furiously up and down hills trying to avoid the looming specter of storm clouds heading in our direction. When we stopped for lunch, rain caught up with us just before a drenched Goat resumed our company. He had not managed to outpace our gloomy pursuer and had been “stuck under his own personal rain cloudâ€�. Next morning the rain turned to sleet which stuck to the decaying autumn leaves rendering the outside of our tent into a frosty white wonderland. We reached Grand Cache just as a heavy snow descended upon the road. In a Chinese-American cuisine café, amidst cups of coffee and eyes fixed to a glowing all-knowing television screen, a quick weather forecast for the area confirmed our fears; a large red block encompassing the entire area of our current location to Banff predicted snow fall for the next three days. We bought food at the grocery store and headed off into the storm. Stopping for the night, snow was kicked away and the tent pitched upon a muddy flat. No one desired to deal with the labors of cooking and we tried our best to ignore the worsening conditions. The snow piled up on our pyramid tent in thick layers. Jacob managed to destabilize a stake from the ground while trying to knock the snow from the roof. The entire night I suffered the sensation of being buried alive as the tent walls sagged down and soaked sleeping bags with condensation; perhaps the tent would collapse and force us out into the miserable cold.

    Our tent held together and we biked once again through the downpour of wet snow and gusty winds. At one point I began losing feeling in my fingers, the thin fabric of my bike gloves achieving little in means of insulation. As I stood on the edged of the road, breathing into my numb hands, a man pulled over to check up on my condition. He offered to drive me back to Grand Cache, an offer I nearly accepted upon a quick analysis of the near-insanity attributed to this expedition. The driver, returning from a hunt in the mountains, allowed me to warm my hands on his radiator for a few minutes, and then gave me a battered pair of winter gloves. They were ancient, yet they looked as good as gold to my soar eyes. I thanked him profusely, and biked on in good humor till five minutes later when the mouthpiece of my camel back slipped off and a stream of cold water came gushing from the dangling tube. I attempted to contain the flow with my left hand, and my precious new glove quickly became saturated with my drinking water. The leak fixed, I reassured myself that at least I hadn’t yet had the misfortune of sliding off the road into a marsh or stream as was the case with a few cars and a semi-truck that I had passed earlier on.

    Thirty kilometers outside of Hinton we found a closed ‘official’ campsite which we proceed to make our home. There was a large supply of firewood kept dry beneath a tarp and after soaking a few logs in gas a roaring fire was produced and our spirits elevated with the fragrance smoke swirling among snow flakes. Jacob and I tried drying out all our wet clothes on the flames, with the effect that socks and shirts were still soaked in the morning only with a rank smell of smoke mingling with the usual scents of sweat and mildew. Jacob also managed to melt the rubber tips in his bike shoes, damage which caused much discomfort and cut circulation to his toes while riding.

    The storm began to let up while en route to Hinton. Not much can be ascertained as to the qualities of this town. Walking aimlessly through a Safeway grocery store I was accosted by ten High school girls dressed up in Halloween costumes and soliciting flavored condoms for two dollars. Confused with the pomp of such a spectacle, I mumbled that my tight budget wouldn’t allow it, to which they chided me for not having the heart to contribute to a good cause. At this point, I felt the drive to move on, the mystical land of Jasper National park looming but fifty miles ahead.

Cold Footprints of a Campsite

By Jacob
An interested observer who happens upon our campsite would find a variety of footprints. Sean and I both wear a larger shoe and leave imprints characterized by the latest sandal fashions. Chaco and Keen leave a very distinct mark as it’s etched into the ground, our tent leaves soft square print and our tires leave a cyclic pattern of geometric shapes trailing along the contours of their path.

Goat, however, might leave clues that would baffle even the most astute physical anthropologists. If one were to pass upon our campsite outside of Grand Cache they would find a series of paths, trails and footprints that would offer some curious insight into our adventure.

The first and most obvious would likely be our bike trails, attempting to burn their way through the snow. Upon closer observation, they would certainly notice the tell-tale signs of cyclists more than struggling. Fallen snow angels, marking clumsiness and a general inability to glide through the snow upright, as it were. Following these tracks, an expert anthropologist might likely be inclined to imagine the path punctuated by a variety of screams, spawned by frustration of repetitive falls.

The wheel is an invention that has altered the course of history, to the extent that we cannot fathom life without it. While living in snow, one would hardly be inclined to extol the virtues of the wheel in all its roundness. Quite the contrary, smooth flat objects empower the individual across snowy surfaces.

Bikes hardly fit into that category, which explains why our paths were not clean, precise lines cutting through the foot of soft powdery snow, and away from their tent.

Leaving a large square shaped footprint in the snow approximately seven feet by seven, the tent’s footprint provided a tangible clue about their experience the night prior. Piled around the edges of the print was about 3 times as much snow, a shallow and oddly square shaped crater filled with mud. Having set up their tent with relatively little snow on the ground, one could estimate that the amount of snowfall would surely offer a hardy challenge for any temporary lightweight housing construction. Testing the strength of the seams the fabric and the stakes plunged into the ground, the snow had slowly built up over the night. Starting with a gentle sag, inching the roof closer, only to develop into an oppressive curve, placing physical and psychological pressure on the inhabitants inside. Eventually, one of the stakes failed pinning down one of the occupants inside (Goat) with a foot of snow. The only solution was to venture out into the blizzard in all our naked glory to re-place the stake and attempt to restore the tent’s integrity. The anthropologist would certainly have ascertained their preference to sleep in the comfort of a wood framed house complimented by a nice stove and hot cocoa.


Having spent a good amount of time in school learning about how humans adapt to their environment, the academic would would be shocked and delighted to come across a particular temporary fossil that just might challenge some schools of thought.

It is not often that you would encounter bare footprints, resembling those left by human, on stark white snow. Throughout the ages, humans have invented highly sophisticated padded apparatus to walk on. These, of course, are collectively referred to as shoes. Something that we have become so accustomed to, it is not only considered uncouth to walk inside various establishments without these on, it is too often illegal. As for the footprints left at the campsite, our friendly anthropologist would be left to wonder if these in fact were the result of a human, and questions of motive and symbolism would follow throughout the day.


If it were me, I would easily dismiss the sighting as a result of the legendary Sasquatch, or “bigfoot” as it is known in other parts of the world. I’ve already convinced myself that one late night outside of Watson Lake, my sleep was disturbed by a legendary Chupacabra grunting and snorting it’s hideous nose in anticipation of sucking my blood.


However, academics do not have the luxury of such convenient explanations and are compelled to seek more “reasonable” answers. If I were still around I might offer the opinion that my friend is nuts and I can surely not explain his behavior. I would probably continue to explain that during the few days we biked through the snow, I was certain my feet were blue and about to fall off, despite being entombed in three pairs of socks and what goat refers to as “foot coffins” (aka SHOES).

Has this creature and it’s ten toes evolved into a more functional human species capable of greater weather extremes? It was patently clear that I was whining far louder and far more about my feet than he was (in fact, he wasn’t whining at all). As I sat on the road attempting to revive the circulation to the ice blocks below my leg, I cursed my own feet and circulation for forsaking me.
Personally, I’d rather leave the Anthro person alone with these footprints and their imagination. It would surely offer some food for thought and would leave them hungry for more.

Our experience can never be understood or explained through physical evidence. Pictures and words can not do justice to the some of the scenery we’ve pedaled past. To the mountain faces that have been arranged in impossibly incongruous geometrical patterns. A cubist illusion of beauty that eludes the mind and inspires the soul. Riding through the Icefield Parkway, peering down at crystal lakes whose clarity has been infused by the electric blues of the sky and the vibrant greens of the forest, leaving the beauty of the colorful in between, settled by the winds and currents.

I’m Dreaming of a White Summer

Currently in Jasper.   The internet costs a ton and that will preclude our updates with any substance.  We hope to find something less costly in Banff. 

THe long and short of it, is that we got hit by a rainstorm late one day which drenched our entire gear and soaked our morale.  We woke up to white flurries and windy conditions which advanced into near blizzard conditions.  We were hardly prepared for the icy/snowy conditions that would not relent for the next two days.   We have a ton to write about, but will have to wait until we have cheaper internet access.  Check back in 4 days. 

Sick on the AlCan

Hoping to briefly update the blog world.  

We reached Summit Lake on the AlCan, the highest point on the highway.   The drab flat scenery exploded into a curious assortment of bald mountains combed back by the treeline.  Teetering rocks and large columns of rock precariously penetrteep mountain sides, kicking little rocks down onto the highway and us.  Caribou seemed unphased by the endless stream of cars, but inevitably, king around the world.

In Ft. Nelson we heard there was a Slovenian passing through on a bike journey around the world.  We kept our eyes open but did not see him while in town. Before leaving we got lunch at a Subway, and Goat was accosted by a drunk girl from the Northwest Territory who insisted on giving him the NWT plate (shaped like a polar bear) she had stolen from somebodies car so that they could drive legally into town with a plate whose registration expired boldly in 2002.

       We found our progress was moving along quite quickly on the flat and smoothly paved AlCan.  I couldn’t resist the partially eaten Oh Henry candybar that I encountered on the road.  I greedily consumed the free 400 calories and tossed any concerns aside with the wrapper in my pocket.

      We got sketched out by the cars blasting by us in the darkness and set up camp in an isolated gravel pit.  We cooked up our usual dinner of oats, granola, butter, dried fruit, apples, etc.  All conversation ended until the meal was consumed and our mouths had room to let air pass..

    I woke up early and felt really weird.  Not just because I woke up early, which in of itself, is..rather weird.  But my stomach was surely not agreeing with some choices I made recently.  It attempted to settle the disagreement by expunging everything from my intestines, including what wasnt there.  As I celebrated the disagreement with dry heaves I was able to see the lovely dinner under a whole new light.

      The raisins seemed to bloat into grapes and accented the pile of oatmeal puke nicely with gold and purple colors.  Unfortunately, t relief.  I just lay in the dirt, in a fetal position wondering what I had done so wrong.

    I directed my problems at Subway, claiming the corporate entity had poisoned my meal and was attempting to sabotage my attempts to enjoy life.  I cursed their Where fresh is the taste motto and simmered in pain simultaneously attempting to keep a fixed gaze to maintain my delicate balance.  Just looking at my bike made me ill.

      We saw the Slovenian pass, but we were unable to mobilize ourselves to catch up with him.  I could see Seans nervous energy taking grip as he watched the biker pass.  Overwhelmed by the undeniably strong urge to continue, to progress.  Under normal circumstances, without the sickening delay, Sean’s mindset is generally present to a certain impatience that reinforces our momentum.

       As the sun began setting I felt like I could get an hour so in on the bike, and was becoming more sympathetic to Sean’s eagerness to move forward.  But was thoroughly wiped out without any calories to burn.  The reality of how vulnerable we are on these longer stretches quickly set in.  Being a couple of healthy days ride away from any kind of help becomes up to a week of unhealthy riding.  I felt betrayed by my body, convinced that I am healthier than this, I’d dare say impervious to illness.  I worked a year in a school district and did not get sick, despite the presence of hundreds of youngsters and all the germs they can collect.

       About 10 minutes into the ride we crossed paths with Rosie who is running around the world.  She hauls a trailer behind her, built by the British military, capable of housing Rosie and all her worldly possessions.     She is a delightfully cheerful  English lady who stayed in her tent while she chatted with us, offering us her wardrobe to keep warm.  We were dumbfounded and thoroughly humbled by her mission, having taken 3 and a half years already, she is quite the inspiration and loads of fun.

      Feeling energized by the interaction I thought to myself, that if she can haul that cart around, then I should be able to pedal my sickly self down the road.  I did my best, but my stomach was always teetering towards the inevitable session of dry heaves.  Having spent the last two months chronically hungry from over-exertion, it was an awkward sensation to not feel that yearning for food.  I hoped the short evening ride would inspire a larger appetite.

      We camped and enjoyed a beautiful display of northern lights.  I was able to eat a few spoonfuls of oats without puking and felt quite proud of my accomplishment.  I had high hopes for being able to ride a bit more effectively the next day.

       I woke up without having to puke and felt mildly hungry.  I was able to eat almost a bowl full of oats and felt confident I could hold it down.  The ride was painful that day as the flats bent up and down a bit more than I was prepared for.  I spent a good thirty minutes expunging a precious few calories from my caloric deficient body.  I did my best to get back on my bike and attempt to catch up with my fellow riders.

       I kept my head down and zig-zagged my way along the freeway, beyond exhaustion.  Each hill I told myself that I would take a nap on the other side, hoping my company would be waiting.  Soon, I approached the final hill that my consciousness would allow.   Attempting anymore would surely result in an exhaustion fueled crashed.

       Even descending the slope felt painful.  My legs refused to cooperate and my eyelids were holding up the weight from hours of riding.  Keeping a straight line proved challenging.  My riding felt more like a clumsy stupor more than anything else.  After reaching them, I threw my tarp down and passed out with my helmet on.

      I awoke hearing Sean asking Goat how many more miles we might be able to go that day.  I grumpily mumbled that he should let me puke the rest of my guts out and wed be ready to go.  After sleeping, I developed a bit of an appetite and was able to consume some more food and successfully hold it down.

       That night we saw the moon rising, a golden hue stretching itself above the mountains.  It disappeared into the clouds and reappeared in an artificial horizon, staged by the clouds.  They formed a pool of water reflecting the image of the moon below the strip horizon that played with the shape of the soft night light.  Pulling it into a oblong circle extending it’s light across the sky.

       Gradually, I felt better and was able to return to our usual regimen of biking.  My mileage is currently above 2300 miles.  We should be leaving this town today and finally departing from the AlCan highway with too much traffic.

Pursuing Leisure Along the ALCAN Highway

 By Sean

      It’s been an exhausting past few weeks; whole days spent bearing the asphyxiating sauna steam in the recreational center at Watson lake, or just managing to not roast alive in the boiling mineral waters of Liard Hot Springs, or held immobile by the captivating page turners found stuffed in the damp recesses of neglected book exchanges, some bearing the approval of Oprah’s authoritative club stamp.

               The first sunny afternoon of our B.C. experience was spent searching for fresh water. We found our fill, entranced by the beauty of  ‘Cranberry Rapids’ and ‘Whirlpool Canyon’ at the junction of Coal and Liard Rivers. Instead of responding to our hydration needs at such scenic points we contemplated how to procure rafts capable of voyage through these tumultuous streams, assuring ourselves that a convenient tap would appear at a roadside diner ten miles up the road. We conceived that it would be possible to fill our dry bags with compressed air allowing the xtracycle the buoyancy to float while the front tire would steer along the rocky bottom, however, initial test runs proved disastrous. Two German explorers of the R.V. world bore witness to the bike-rafting stunts and attempted to talk us out of our idiotic endeavors. The majesty of these waters cannot be overstated, the name may invoke images of excessive quantities of refined pork fat flowing out tunnels of tin –many RVers pronounce them ‘lard’, which would also entail our ideal caloric efficient diet- and yet the sight surpasses even these elevated presuppositions.
                 Leaving the Whirlpool behind, we sipped some coffee, bought some fireworks, and set out for the famous Liard hot springs. As the sun dissolved behind us I managed to make out the giant torso of a Black Bear spread itself in an intimidating stance, and then moments later the white tail of a Caribou making extravagantly high leaps off the soggy marshland. We arrived at the springs well after the front gates had closed, then ridding without lights over the half mile of wooden walkway that extends over the delicate riparian environment we frantically dove into the 126-degree pool, disturbing the peace of just a few folk left soaking among the roots of tall trees and rain-forest shrubs. It was difficult to fathom the extent of the beauty of Liard springs the first dark night, though we would spend the duration of the next day revitalizing our spirits and depleted energy reserves here in this small paradise. Having realized that the pools were to be used upon payment of a small fee, we were obliged to sneak in again –which entailed riding past the front guard booth at a snails pace. On a good day there were two choices to be had for the discretionary soaker; the near boiling Alpha pool that eventually narrowed into a lukewarm stream beneath outcropping jungle terrain, and a deeper pool that contained milder waters. A small gate barred the way to the second pool and bore a sign explaining that bears were in control of the area. How the bear population could be contained to a spot a few hundred feet away was never explained, perhaps the temperature of the alpha pool was a bit on the extreme side for their tastes. Nevertheless, later in the evening we heard the loud belligerent voices of daring young souls –girl scouts judging from the enthusiastic tone of the singing- making their triumphant return from bear territory. They turned out to be two Australian women towing behind an ecstatic young man from Anchorage, who like a choirmaster was directing the flow of every single national anthem held in the memory bank of his slightly inebriated company. The off key tunes were uttered at the maximum volume to scare off the wild beasts so advertised by the signs. Predictably prepared with a cooler full of beer, the Australian travelers preceded to take over the Alpha pool, initiating conversation with everyone, issuing the prescribed stereotypes to everyone. The bike trio was converted to surfers and ‘the history teachers’, and the Canadians were continuously extolled for their virtues of kindness and generosity. Towards the end of the night a man discovered to his dismay that a large quantity of cash had been stolen from his wallet, a stiff warning to us who allow our bikes to be left unattended in the distant periphery.

                  Traveling south the next day we encountered a small herd of wild bison. At the point when all three cyclists stopped to stare in wonder, the largest of the beasts emerged from his sedate crouch, it emitted a thick cloud of dust after shaking his fur and slowly it advanced into the seclusion of the woods. Later in the day we found ourselves facing Lake Mucho –or big lake- from the vantage point of a hill that had been groomed to offer a more vivid view of the upcoming gas-station/café than of the peculiar jade-green waters. The sky was densely overcast and next to our resting spot the deep rumbling of an R.V. generator assured us that our fellow B.C. travelers were more warm and illuminated than the breathtaking scenery outside. We cycled down hill a few kilometers to have coffee at the gas station just before it closed for the night. The proprietor locked the café doors, jumped on a souped-up ATV and made a mad dash for home. We figured that a small table just on the threshold of ‘Private Property’ would serve as a good kitchen. No sooner had we began boiling water for pasta than the rain began falling. It became cold, windy, and soon the rain fell heavy enough to transform the large parking area into a small lake. Our little stove sounded as demoralized and defeated as our hearts were in response to the worsening conditions. The water took an eternity to boil, and soon I was ready to toss my worn and worthless Gortex rain gear into a large fire just beyond the ‘no trespassing’ sign that was blazing along unattended despite the rain. We huddled underneath a short projection of the roof, turning the soggy pages of our novels until lunch was ready. Wolfing down the food in minutes, we packed up our wet belongings and peddled slowly down the coastline of the lack –a thriving head wind pounding at us. Finally we settled down in what was basically the back yard of the next café up the road. It turned out to be the only official post-office between Watson Lake and Ft. Nelson, it also turned out the best homemade bread on the Alaskan Highway –although according to Jack, the lone man who ran all operations, the German tourists couldn’t buy his bread because “it wasn’t heavy with a thick crustâ€�. Jack had his hands full that day. To every guest seeking accomidation he would spread the word; “I’ve been going at it since six a.m., it’s well past noon now, I’ve got to get this bread made, it just keeps crawling away from me”. One lady seeking a gruel breakfast offered to clean the man’s dishes for him, two other ladies -whom presumably jack had encountered before- beseeched Jack for the privelage of his showers, to ‘rid the grime of traveling’. a female truck driver trying to choke back tears entered the cafe solemly reflecting on a terrible sight forty miles up the road. On Summit Lake -our destination for the day- a truck carrying aviation fuel exploded after its driver had suffered a heart attack. The regulars at Jack’s industrious cafe/gas station/ postal station all threw in their emotional weight to console the observer of such tangible horror. Driving trucks along the ALCANs proves risky business indeed. The striking scenic beauty offers a deceptive comfort to the driver confronted with endless steep grades and passes marked with signs of caution ‘very dangerous curve’ and such.

Perils of Bicycle Tourists

By Jacob:

It seems that bicycles are viewed as being somewhat hazardous, hence the helmets and safety precautions. I would imagine there are quite a few folks who take the vulnerability to heart and avoid the activity altogether. It is not the bike to be afraid of…. it is them you should be afraid of.
We all wear our helmets, in habit, with little conscious awareness at this point. It’s like putting on socks with your shoes. Often enough, we are wandering around our campsite, or town with our helmets still attached, looking like soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. With luck, one of us will remind the other that he looks ridiculous walking into the grocery store with his helmet. Without luck, one of us will laugh at the other for leaving the helmet on.

My first observation that elicits a rise of fear. Beer cans littering the highways. First viewed about 100 miles south of the Arctic Circle, indicating that we were closer to civilization noted by the apparent carelessness of the sight. These roads we’ve travelled have largely been out in the middle of nowhere. At best, the collection of beer cans could be the result of some inconsiderate construction workers detailing the roads. At worst, and what my imagination largely attributes this to, they are being thrown out of a big rig or RV as it recklessly speeds through the countryside.

Coupled with an absent bike lane, you experience moments where your life is on the line. A thin white strip separating the wilderness from the strip of asphalt and gravel that melts over the land. This white stripe offers a bit of safety, if not merely the illusion of such. A line of demarkation, something familar and recognizable to the vehicles; something for them to avoid. This is reinforced by fear of losing their own lives as their vehicle could lose control and crash.
On your left side of this line is often enough a tremendous machine powering its way at a speed fast enough to kill you a hundred times. They are programmed to understand that if they cross over that line their safety is not guaranteed. On your right is often enough a steep bank, which vehicles hope to avoid so they can preserve their heartbeat at a healthy pace.

My observations of their behavior has been reinforced by their inability toeven cross the center divider. On a road that offers its services to half a dozen cars per 100 miles, it seems legitimate that if they were to pass a cyclist, that they might take advantage of the huge lane that is apparently without traffic for the next few miles. But alas, this might give the cyclist ample room to ride comfortable on the highways and they face a risk of another vehicle spontaneously appearing in front of them on the long flat stretch.
So.. many of the drivers stay in between both lines and naturally maintain their speed a couple dozen kilometers per hour above the speed limit as if they are operating a video game.
Somewhere in between those two commanding lines, is the cyclist, infinitely more vulnerable to the precarious elements pressuring from the sides. A slight swerve to the left during one of these perilous situations would leave the cyclist wishing the helmet came with life insurance, because it would surely not help. A slight swerve to the right, could send you into the heavy gravel, where you could lose control and quickly come crashing down, appreciating the helmet, and cursing the driver. Hoping nothing was broken, especially if you are hundred or so miles from any help.
The fear of the beer cans, has been that those precious lines that delicately balance the safety of the cyclist on the road could potentially bend the line enough to add a bicycle hood ornament to the vehicle. I don’t think that I would make a good hood ornament. I’m definitely not shiny enough or symbolic enough.

MY SECOND FEAR, has come from my observations of the many signs along the street.

Having not grown up in the countryside with the liberty to shoot guns and drink beer on a daily basis, I have not come to terms with the countryside antics of blasting away signs. I have yet to see a sign that has not been considered a legitimate and useful target. Whether it is a mile marker, service sign, or wooden caribou I have seen every variety transformed into swiss cheese.

This fear..or revelation or what have you ocurred to me after leaving the town of Chicken where I noticed a fond fascination of firearms. As I became interested in my distance for the day, I noticed that every mile marker was conveniently shredded by bullets of every caliber and variety. Bird shot, cannon shot, rifle shot, etc. There were a mere handful of them that could still be read along the 60 or so miles I paid attention.

The thoroughness was remarkable. It was as if there was an unpsoken vengeance against these signs. A war against the diamond shaped metal objects which obviously must have wronged somebody to deserve this kind of retaliation.

I consider myself a pacifist in this war and do not operate my bicycle with an armed rifle at the ready. Though, I can’t say I haven’t thought about the possibility. In any case, I started to notice which direction these bullets were flying as I winded along a twisted mountain road. I pictured a bunch of good ‘ol boys with rifles in the back of a truck hootin’ and hollerin’ throwin’ their beer cans out the side and taking aim.

I’m not only an optimist, but a pacifist as well. Now, I’m sure everybody who is operating these weapons is fully qualified to use them safely and responsibly. How else could they enlist in this war against informative metal placards? Despite my optimism, I kept noticing that the signs were right about head level, which often allowed me to look through the bullet holes to see where they would go after they penetrated the sign.

My mind filled with geometric lines tracing along the canyons and mountain roads filling my mind with a web of bullet paths. It was amazing how often we could get caught in this web as we calmly rode our bikes up the mountain. I imagine, these “qualified” gunslingers would surely not shoot at the sign if they saw a car coming from the other side.

However, I remain doubtful that they would see the haggard bicyclist huffing and puffing his way up a hill. When I’m feeling particularly good, I like to balance my positive emotions with this paranoid delusion, if you will. It is probably a very low possibility of danger, maybe about the same risk as getting hit by a stray bullet shot up at New Years. But on these long stretches of road, you gotta keep your mind occupied, gotta worry about something.

I know one thing, If i hear bullets being shot, accompanied by a drunken howl. I’ll stay far from the road, and will probably still wear my helmet for good measure.

Northern Lights by Watson Lake

By Jacob

The Robert Campbell Highway proved to be the detour we were looking for. Off the tourist train , we cycled, enuncumbered by the hoards of tourists blazing through the dusty roads. There were maybe 6-10 cars throughout the entire day, and were generally more than considerate, giving us plenty of room and displaying a conscious awareness of the dust they kick up.

We feasted in Faro on stewing meat, potatos and eggs while we stocked up on fresh supplies to keep our quality of life high enough to prevent the scurvy. After an unventful visit to the town, we found ourselves in Ross River repeating the same agenda the following day. Sitting at a gas station drinking coffee, I watched a bunch of motorcylists on the AlCan 5000 race/rally repairing a flat tire. They seemed to be enjoying themselves thoroughly and all had really sweet bikes.

I met a fireman who was planning a ride in a few weeks and was curious about our trip. I invited us to the firestation for some coffee, which we happily obliged, something I seem incapable of refusing. He was an awesome character to run into. About thirty years old, and a cancer survivor who had gone to the ‘bush’ to seek some solitude. He was eager to talk, and had enlightening thoughts about his post-cancer world-views which largely included living life to its fullest.

He spoke of a shortcut back to the highway, which we listened with up-turned ears. “It is steep, but should save you about 10 kilometers” he shared.

There was no hill too steep to warrant going an extra 10 kilometers and we relished the thought as we left the town. On a pair of fresh legs this hill quickly unveiled itself as a monster, and I felt thankful to have gears to accomodate such a ridiculous path. It wasn’t the longest hill, but at 2.5 grueling miles an hour, it was long enough. Sean lacked the fortune of the appropriate gears and got to enjoy the hill to an extent I did not reach.

The following downhill was everything I hoped it would be. Bone jarring to the extent that my vision was shaken up enough to blur the path in front of me until we spilled onto the Campbell, 9km ahead of where we began.

The route seemed too good to be true. Nice gravel roads charting their way through some of God’s finest works. We were so overwhelmed by the constant view of mountain peaks soaring over luscious river valleys and blue lakes they almost became redundant. In an effort to liven things up, and as a result of sleeping in so late, we started riding at night.

The twilight lasts an incredibly long time up here, giving us plenty of time to stretch the day. Coupled with such a smooth path, we were able to ride long into the evening, generally, without even needing to get out our headlamps. It was quite exhilarating flying through the darkness at speeds above 30 mph. Every once in awhile we’d hit a patch of thick gravel or a large pothole and nervously turn on our headlamp for awhile. But, for the most part, there was nothing in the way.

One night, as the darkness swept over us and we realized that we could hardly even see each other unless we were within 15 feet or so of each other. As I glided down one particular hill, squinting all the while, as if that would light up the way I saw something strange about the road in front of me. At the last second I quickly swerved out of the way of a white vehicle parked in the middle of the road without its lights on. Thoroughly confused we all seemed to have experienced the same thing, coming inches from colliding with the mysterious vehicle who now must have been thoroughly freaked out from hearing our voices out in the middle of nowhere.

They turned on their lights as we continued on our way. We couldn’t help but laugh thinking about what a bizarre situation that must have been for them imagining the possibilities of their explanations.

Sean was leading the pack at one point in the night and we heard a loud bang, a sort of crashing metallic noise. It appeared in our dim view that he had hit a construction sign that was on the side of the road. Seemingly unscathed, he continued on his way, uneager to talk about it. I contained my laughter, in case he was actually hurt (which he wasn’t), but it was not easy.

His experience lent a bit of worry which inclined me to put my headlamp on. After a length of smooth road I felt safe enough to turn it off again. I kept thinking that a car was behind me as I saw the reflection of lights off Sean’s helmet. I precariously turned my head in the darkness, hoping to hold a steady line in the dark. Repeatedly, I managed to see absolutely nothing, but the blackness that we just slipped through.

It wasn’t until we decided to hit camp when it made sense, when Goat exclaimed, “There are the Northern Lights.” We were lead to believe that this only happened in Spring and early summer and had resigned ourselves to disappointment, followed by promises that we’ll have to come back up here and see the famous astral projections.

After we looked up, in disbelief at the phosphorent lightshow we were incapable of accomplishing anything else, but dropping our jaws in stunned awe. Brilliant flourescent green illuminations danced around the sky penetrating the darkness with precise beauty. It was everything we had dreamed it would be. We stood there, raptured by its beauty until is subsided.

We took to biking at night so we would be more awake to enjoy the midnight aurora in all it’s radiance. The following night we were mesmorized by a display the covered the entire sky with this mysterious rainbow of the night that blushed with streams and sparkles of green and purple columns of light dashing across the sky.

This has been quite the highlight of our trip recently. Unfortunately, I’m out of internet time for now. More updates to come!!

Leaving Dawson City under my own personal Rain Cloud

By Jacob

          Left Dawson City by winding our way through the wormlike remnants of the mighty dredges which had stripped away every last ounce of remaining gold and piled up the earth in wriggling piles creating a giant maze of sorts.  The Klondike clearly had devastating effects on the area which is still presently mined.

           Sean couldn’t help but get a flat tire early in the ride, leaving us to the side of the road as some folks we met in the city screamed past us in an oversized van, heading to the river for a Canoe Trip hollering unintelligible ramblings as they past.
           The Klondike Highway proved to be largely empty of traffic which made our route smooth and worriless.  On our way to Stewart Crossing, we encountered a fair amount of scattered showers, an atmospheric inconsistency that drives the cyclo-tourist nuts.   Having to slow the momentum of the ride to add rain layers and/or shed them over and over gnaws away at my sanity. 
             Fortunately, we arrived with a bit of sanctuary at a café that let us dry out and enjoy a solid meal (thanks to the kind donations, we could splurge a bit).  The owner kindly offered us a trailer to stay the night in, complete with Satellite TV, a luxury we were certainly not interested.  We were not even down to pay 12 dollars for a camping sight, and his offer of 60 dollars, was not even considered.  Although it was 9 o’ clock at night, it was still early in our day.
              I often find myself lagging far behind the others early in the day, enjoying a timely “warm-up� as I would say, feigning some athletic interest in the matter.  My warm-up may consist of 3 hours of slow cycling to prepare my muscles for the ride, which often puts me a good 15-20 minutes behind them, sometimes more.  I have yet to stay far enough behind to have the food ready by the time I reach our rest stop, but I do hope to see that day. 
              The day after passing Stewart Crossing, I enjoyed my luxurious “warm-up� so as to not “strain anything� while listening to some music on my headphones.  A large cloud seemed to hover overhead as it quickly began to saturate with darkness.  Within no time, it transformed into a murky, dingy soup that mirrored the ponds I was riding along.  Just ahead of this cloud was sunshine and blue skies, a weather phenomenon cyclists rarely complain about.
              I increased my pace, no longer fearing any muscular inflictions.  My imagination presented a cartoon image of little ‘ol me on my bicycle with a tiny cloud over my head, desperately trying to escape the aerial bombardment of the liquefied sky.  I knew that the moment I stepped off my bike, two things would happen.  
1. The rain cloud would center it’s vicious self, unavoidably, directly overhead.
2. I would put on my rain gear and be stuck in a villainous battle between rain and shine.
         I opted against allowing the puff of billowing misery to get the upper hand.   So I did what any irrational cyclist would do.  I attempted to outrun it, of course.   I was un-phased by the first sprinklings it offered, and gained hope as my heightened pace seemed to alleviate the intensity of the rain, temporarily.  In order to keep up with this, I had to maintain a pace of at least 18 miles per hour, which I quickly found myself struggling to sustain. 
        The rain showers increased, in reverse proportion to my speed.  The slower I went the worse it got.  All the while I was teased by the glimpse of sunshine, just beyond the cloud, that promised comfort and clarity.  It seemed so close, just another few miles.  I tormented myself with this illusion for at least an hour.   My shoes, were becoming damp, but my spirits were not.  I was sure that the very next bend would afford relief.

        As you would have probably guessed, I had quickly absorbed every water molecule possible and was treated to the squishing sound of wet shoes.  By now I wished I would have given up this stubborn non-sense and put on my rain gear, only it was a tad too late.  I had to constantly wipe off my eyes so that I could see through the drizzle and fix my sights on the glowing skies so close ahead. 
            Only, I was stuck in a torrential downpour at this point and was having difficulty even seeing in front of me.  I rubbed my eyes with my soggy gloves, and opened them to see a black bear about 30 yards ahead.  Two frightened animals stopped in their tracks, gave a good look at each other.  The bear moseyed off the roadm, as I attempted to grab my camera and take a picture.
           Why I feel compelled to take pictures in these moments, I am never really sure.  I lack any real photographic talent as well as a real camera.  But there seems to be this desire to acquire indisputable evidence of the things I see, if not for others, for my own poor memory.  And so, in the photo gallery you can see the bear, represented by the black spot on the left side of the road.  Enjoy.
              After this momentary pause, the rain had intensified and as I rode away I could see a steady stream of water dripping off of my nose.  I concentrated on this and the steady symphony of sounds coming from my sopping wet clothes and shoes. 
              Eventually, I made it to the sunshine.  I wished to offer a note of victory, claiming that my cycling abilities pulled me through this one.  I am even tempted to lie and reserve some sense of pride, only, I really don’t think anybody cares.   The cloud really just drifted to the left of me and by default left me riding under the sun, eager to dry off.
               The best part of the experience was arriving at the rest stop with Sean and Goat completely un-phased by the 2 hours worth of torrential downpour I got to gulp up.  They were dry as a bone and I couldn’t believe it.  I wanted them to share the misery of this experience with me.   After they had run out of wise cracks, they found some time to cook up some food and relax.  Fortunately, the good weather kept up the rest of the day and I was able to dry myself off.


A Klondike Experience

   By Sean  Â Â Â Â 

   Had we had our morning cup o’joe at the border crossing, we might have been attentive enough to devote some time to play a few leisurely holes at the world famous ‘top of the world golf course’. This grand establishment hosts annual tournaments attracting the most daring and ambitious minded RVer folk on the road. Lovely martinis at the club house, a stroke of pure graphite smashing gratification below the blazing lights of summer solstice, and perhaps the only well groomed piece of grass a thousand miles in every direction, this attraction doesn’t just pretend to seduce the green eco-sensitive American, it is the femme fatale of the Yukon wilderness. Unfortunately, we ‘slacker’ bike crew were enamored by a sunset dyed vermillion over smooth fur covered hills rolling in every direction. after a day of climbing up gravel hills with fickle clouds throbbing overhead with threats of sleet, and intermittent periods of rain, we deserved the last fourteen kilometers of thrilling downhill rush. We reached the twenty-four hour –Free- ferry to the city of Dawson just as some girls from Toronto were embarking to establish themselves in the bar scene. We made small talk, they inspected our peculiar vehicles, we consoled each other that maybe we’d meet up on the other side of the Yukon. We crossed the river, they drove away, and the three of us ended up in the nook of Bombay Peggy’s unsociably drinking expensive pints of Guinness. That’s all that young bike nomads need; the exposure to convenient acquaintance making opportunities that carry the hope of freshening and revitalizing lonely weary spirits and then having that opportunity drift out of sight in a maze of unfamiliar ground. This presents the inevitable consequence of counseling each other over one another’s social inadequacies –tightening the bonds of the band.  
               In the warm early hours of the morning, the drone of the river barge and the shouts of British kayak adventures to their yelping dogs harasses my sensitive ears. I crawled out of my sleeping cave and immediately became absorbed in the beauty of this Yukon River valley. After a quick cup of coffee, I resolved to take photos of Dawson till its eccentric citizens vowed to stone my foreign face and bury my intruding contraption in the depths of an old mining shaft. Actually it so happened that the spring and washer of my 35mm popped off the housing when I tried winding the film. The washer dropped to the dirt under the elevated floor boards of a bank. Furiously I swept the dirt with hands, ripped at the weeds with unkempt nails in an attempt to recover the tiny piece. Some people walking by thought I was a lunatic for sure –Jacob had to reassure one girl that I was just mining for gold, like a decent tourist should.
            I cheered up over the loss after having a calorie efficient breakfast of bacon, eggs cooked in bacon grease, bagels soaked in butter, cheese, and yogurt that we cooked up beneath the town gazebo. Setting up the old whisper lite stove in the very center of town activity proved to be a great way of attracting all types of tourist folk to come and shoot the breeze and express astonishment at our brazen ambitions. It became a routine to cook big meaty meals under this public gazebo under the noses of bourgeois café owners, where we encountered everyone from a trio of very serious business minded Berliners trying their luck in a Klondike gold mine, to Erin; the incredibly generous and hospitable gal who allowed us to use her home as our own for the duration of our stay. 
                  That second night we would not be cajoled to lay down that hefty weight of change required to get a decent drink. Instead we marched straight into the government supervised liquor store to discover that the menu was indecently outrageous. I spotted an old upright key-clanker and tried to vent my rage at the prices with a little rag; instantly an old lady manager came out from the shadows and told me to shut it tight and told goat that his bare feet weren’t welcomed.        Dismayed at the lack of bitter candy, we mounted our bikes and headed down Second Street. Some guy in the street yelled and threw his arms about wildly, making sure we’d have a pleasant time running him down. “You bastards, you shot my brother, I want satisfaction!� he cried. At first I thought he was some town freak show promoter attempting to prod us into a covered tent with all sorts of sedated beasts of the north doing back flips and catapulting pudgy Sourdoughs on seesaws, with enough convivial enticements to moderate the insanity of course. Then I got it into my head that he meant business, “hell, I’ll duel you.� He came up close to me and told me I was crazier than he expected; after all, it wasn’t satisfaction from me he wanted, he wanted to hire us to be errand boys, “find the blue van and get me a few grams, I’ve got the money�. Obviously our bikes would expedite the delicate mission of exploring the whole eight blocks of the town’s limits for this blue van. “I’ll go find this guy only after I get my satisfaction� I replied hoping to entice him back into the game, “joking or not you’ve injured my dignity with your accusations�. He didn’t have the guts to fight, but he did have the decency to get us into the bar and lay the majority of the tab to get a few pitchers of beer. It was light beer so it went like water. Our new boisterous friend –Michael- began talking to a girl who I thought was looking at me funny, I stared at her a second and Michael caught hold of my gaze, “she’s into you, buddy�. She sat down with us at the table, “what did you say?� casually curious. “Nothing nothing,� Michael assured her, then aside to me, “I could put in a good word for you but she’s already crazy about you�. They were obviously lovers, ex-lovers, good friends, taunting me with their con-job team. Michael had that lightening strike personality of an ex-speed addict, his friend Melissa appeared grounded and yet completely enthralled by the urgently energetic tones and spontaneous acts of boisterous public disturbances. He attempted to lecture us on Beat authors, trying to understand our ignorance of minute details “having been so close to Berkeley�. He brought me and Jacob up to his room so that we could hear him recite some lines of the poets of his home town –Toronto. The room was stuffy, cramped and I realized how lucky I had been sleeping for free in the wide expanse of wilderness. We returned downstairs to the bar; Melissa began telling us stories of her and Michael’s adventures in hitchhiking across Canada. It involved much nudity –flashing, and mooning the tourists at bus stops- and random acts of theft. The energy packed man got overly exuberant at some point and spilled his drink across the table, some of it spilling onto my pants. I batted not an eye, realizing fully the amount of drenching weather I still had to overcome. Michael became emotional took me by the shoulder over to a private chat, “I’m so terribly sorry, man�. I tried to reassure him; he wouldn’t listen to anything I said…ever in our short time of acquaintance. He did however buy me some drinks before he went over and threw himself on his knees in front of a table of old mining employees. In quite a humorous scene he expounded on all his virtuous qualities attempting to win himself a twelve hour a day shift at some diamond mind. Melissa had already gone over and initiated the job interview for the guy, but as she turned to us and explained, “For any of you guys it would be quite easy to get a job, even under the table. But for him…� she nodded her head; it was obvious that he was being overly excited in his dramatic approach. Tired, we managed to get out of that seedy bar they call the pit, much the pleading from Melissa that we stay and continue to chat. She didn’t look too pleased at being left alone with her madman admirer.
             It was around three in the morning when we went looking for the abode of Erin. She had an early rising job and was surely asleep.  We snooped quietly in the back yard trying to find a good place to crash. Jacob chose a flat wooden surface that once served as a door lying precarious in a pile of timber in the dark recesses beneath the house. Goat and I chose the patio deck that was between the two sections of the duplex. There were many toys scattered on that deck but with a belligerent swoop of my hand a good clean section opened up before me, and I passed out. I woke up the next morning to see a small kid of six or seven prodding the remains of a train track lying in ruins beside my sleeping bag. It must have been the product of much toil and care at some point; he looked mildly disturbed. He sat there trying to reconstruct parts of his train park, while I lay stunned at what a horrible and insensitive person I’d become. The kid finally got up and ran into the house having grasped the bizarre ambiance calling out, “mom there’s two men still resting out on the porch�. At that point I thought I was to be pummeled in the face with a filthy broom. But nothing came of it, Goat and I decided it was time to get up and try to find Jacob whose coffee obsessed mind clicks on incredibly early while in the vicinity of a quick fix.
            It became difficult to fathom how much time we were spending in Dawson. This night complimenting day transaction was ill-suited to a town where the party spills out onto the streets and into the rooms of hostels and co-op type environments after ‘Last call’ has been shouted fifty times. After enduring the haphazard rendition of Nirvana’s greatest hits at ‘the pit’, we found ourselves mingling with two German carpenters –they could be spotted all over town with their thick black corduroy work-clothes and matching black caps. One wore a sheriffs’ badge and proclaimed, “This is so no one ever gives you shit, and they know whose boss�. Some local kids felt it necessary to treat us to a night hike up the Dome –the peak of the hilltop overlooking Dawson. The idea stayed in the streets as comments compiled about the rugged terrain of marsh and woods. One night we made up our minds to try the ‘Sour Toe shot’. This was a much hyped affair involving the pickled relic of an authentic frostbitten miners toe; rolled in salt and added to a small shot of some cheap whiskey, for ten dollars you put your lips to the toe while a young man in Halloween store quality sailors garb recites a lot of rubbish to maintain the attention of the gathered crowd. Our attention was fortunately not kept for long. Three Australian men, who we had encountered earlier in front of a coffee shop, saved us from the tourist trap, digging right into the heart of our expedition, exerting no reservation in mouthing the cares of their minds, and buying us pitcher after pitcher of beer. To be sure, the Dawson experience contains much more than drinking. On one occasion we were supposed to meet the cashier clerk of the grocery store for a drink at the bar; we ended up not meeting her at all, instead opting to hear some more young people from Toronto spout their Anarchistic views on society, explain the food-not-bombs and dumpster diving scene in their fair city, and watch as two of them violently wrestled each other to the ground while one girl took dozens of pictures and sang softly in French. We did bike pass the bar eventually, two hours late to meet the cashier. We saw our friend Michael sitting on top of a long fiberglass canoe; he ran out into the street when he recognized me, shouted that he needed my help. I grew worried as Melissa came into view; face exploded in tears and flushed red from anger. She looked wrecked and wasn’t responsive to her employer as he lectured her about the irresponsibility of being associated with someone like her friend. She had been serving drinks that night, and for whatever reason Michael had thrown a fit and threw stones into the bar, possibly some that hit her. Another hotel/bar manager caught sight of Michael and yelled at him about the damages he had made to the hotel.  “The door is completely ruined, I just checked the room� the manager scolded him, to which Michael replied, “Fine, I’ll pay, I want to pay, just tell me the price�. This was reminiscent of a story that he had told us over beer, of being thrown in a police car, kicking out the back window, escaping, being reaprehended, then being issued a ticket for thirty dollars in damages. When he paid the police attendant he screamed, “Fools, I’d have gladly paid sixty dollars.� I hadn’t really believed the story, but now, with this mess before me I wondered about this guy.         Luckily Jacob had missed out on that scene, we found him later talking to some more Australians drinking out of green cans marked lager in the comfort of their motor trailer. They were listening to the stories of an old man with a Pug named Orville, who’d been a dredge operator in the Klondike many years before. Talking to them lightened mood, until Orville made the peculiar comment of, “don’t forget to get the place of their mothers�. He repeated it a second time, and yet we were all still stood perplexed by its meaning. He clarified us, “so we’s know where to send their bones when the bears’ are finished with’em�. Charming fellow that Orville, I would have loved to exploit his endless wit further, but it we’d need all the rest we could get if we were to escape this town the next day.
             We ended up leaving our mark on that eccentric town with a wild flourish of our own. Right outside the duplex –where we spent a much more solid nights sleep indoors- we were saying our thank yours and goodbyes to Erin and packing our gear onto the bikes. There was still some gasoline in one of our fuel canisters that we wanted to replace with fresh white gas. Jacob had the idea of etching some deep memory of the ephemeral moment of our passing into the mind of our benevolent host. He poured the gas in a cursive design of the word ‘Bye’ and lit a match. Instantly the dirt road in front of the duplex became a swirling inferno of fire and billowing black smoke that traveled high and must have been visible from all over town. At first I thought Erin would be too astonished to respond but she said sort of modestly, “I hope that goes out soon.â€� Realizing how prone we were to overextending our stay, we were really set on leaving that comfortable convivial town and heading straight into the thick of bear country. Initially we became aware that our snack supply was lacking and proceeded to purchase twenty dollars worth of candy bars, of the British company ‘Cadbury’ make. But what would ideally sustain our motivation and energy would be a Dawson city every hundred miles or so. Dawson used to be the ‘San Francisco’ of the North for the whole year that the hyped Klondike gold rush seduced thirty thousand people to come and settle the banks of the Yukon. Certainly a little bit of that ancient energy has survived to this day; it still attracts that sort of person not content to beat head against steering wheel in city traffic, or buy his dinners from the freezer section at Ralphs. There are still some citizens of this place who live in a cave, come into town every other week for supplies in a canoe, and live with only the noise of the river rapids. To me it would appeal as an ideal home, if only the winters weren’t so morbidly dark and cold.

safely in CANADIA on top of the world

By Goat 

Well after our early morning rendezvous with the tight security protecting Canada from invasion by American ruffians such as our selves. We were finally in our first “foreign� country, and from the mountain pass vista separating the sovereign nations it did appear our days ride might be downhill all the way as some people had suggested… It wasn’t of course, but the Top of the World Highway more than made up for any lack of coasting.  The remarkable thoroughfare began its life as a “short cut� connecting the early mining camps on the Fortymile creek, and the boomtown of Dawson city. What makes the route interesting and spectacular, is the way it winds along ridge tops – remaining on top of the world, rather than plunging over a mountain pass and following meandering river valleys like a normal road.  In fact once we had managed to scale the pass and gain entry to Canada – the road stayed mostly flat (rolling hills of course, but no drastic inclines) meandering along the hilltops with stunning views in every direction.
The day was so clear and the panorama so far reaching tat we could watch scattered storm clouds flitting about like malicious butterflies.  Leaving their (fleeting) mark on the sun dappled lands to the north and south. Unfortunately these meteorological apparitions flitted our way too and we would be suddenly engulfed in torrential down pours of giant raindrops mixed with sleet and hail.  Forcing us to leap off our bikes and rummage around in (formerly) dry bags, extracting our motley assemblage of rain gear, in a fairly futile attempt to keep from getting more wet. Sean’s hand-me-down gore tex jacket seems to soak up water rather than repel it (though he would be the last to complain) and the frog toggs Jacob and I carry are nice and light weight, but lack the ability to hold off serious down pours.  Mercifully, the thunder heads as a rule flitted off as suddenly as they had descended, returning us to sunshine and epic views, and allowing us to peel off our sodden raingear and dry our rumpled wings.
Jacob was rather exhausted after his (self imposed) ordeals of the last few days, and managed to lag rather far behind, forcing him to ride rather further for his lunch than he was disposed to – a feeling he communicated with great urgency when he at last arrived at the lunch stop Sean had chosen.  It was a rather amusing tirade, and I’m afraid he got less sympathy than he deserved.  After lunch with hunger and tempers appeased we continued to wend our idyllic way to Dawson. Eagerly anticipating the 14miles of down hill promised by the cycle tourists we met in Chicken, though we were a little inclined to distrust their information as they had also told us that the road was terribly maintained on the Canada side of the border and rough through out.  Perhaps it was bad for a road bike with skinny tires, but the road was mostly paved and glassy smooth as far as we were concerned.
Doubts aside, towards the end of the day we rounded a bend and right next to the Dawson city welcome billboard, was a yellow sign cautioning us that 14kilometers of steep down hill lay in store.  Cheered by the sight we gave our informants the benefit of the doubt on their carelessness with units of measure.  And blasted down the hill into Dawson city. My speedometer clocked me a 45 miles per hour, and the hill was kind enough to let us hold that speed all the way to the Yukon river whose mighty waters we had last seen several hundred miles away in Alaska.  The little diesel ferry chugged up almost immediately and disgorged us on the other side into the teeming metropolis of Dawson city (pop~1500).

Chicken to Canada, eh?

     Â Â I unfortunately deleted this entry when a militant librarian startled me something fierce with her demands that I get off the computer within 30 seconds that I accidentally deleted the last entry.  So I did my best to recapture it.

 By Jacob

        Our stay in Chicken was ever too short.  The novelty of the “Chicken Poop” outhouse and belligerent “eskimos” had not even begun to wear out when we departed.  Unfortunately, the humble town of Chicken does not sell groceries and oddly enough, will not even sell you an egg, unless you buy it cooked.  We could not afford the luxury of dining out and had to rush on to our next resupply across the border.

      Â Â Â  Equipped with a ration of smoked salmon from a kind RVer, and some dumpstered food kindly “wasted’ by an adventure cycling tour, we ‘hit the road’ with a little extra protein in our lives. 

       Â Â Â  We were greeted by a steep and lengthy uphill and two Holland America tour busses who promptly “left us in the dust”, with a smile and a cheerful wave.  We constantly debate whether or not these  “dustings” are resultling from a wicked sense of humor, or just plain ignorance.  Judging by their cheerful attitude as they zoomed past us at 40 miles an hour, I was inclined to assume the latter.

      Â Â Â Â Â Â Karma seemed to find its way into their lives as we later learned they had gotten a flat tire, and likely had to endure the eccentricities of the Chicken locals longer then they would likely prefer. :) 

       Â Â Â Â Â With no intention of riding through the dust storm I pulled over and attempted to wipe off the earth that seemed to so quickly cake up on my clothes and lungs.  I took the liberty to engage in one of my lengthy stretching sessions that left me horizontally inclined far longer than is athletically useful.  In this time, my fellow riders took to placing a good amount of distance between me.

      Â Â Â Â  We had left a bit later than we should have in order to make it to the border at a comfortable pace and this was becoming increasingly apparent as I did a bit of mindless calculations with my bike computer.  Feeling a bit far behind, I did my best to keep up a solid pace, but couldn’t help to take a few pictures of the river valleys that sent tens of thousands of men packing across the snowcovered Yukon to find that yellow stone. 

      Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â  The sense of urgency was ever present throughout my day as the computer seemed to lash me with an electronic whip.  “Hurry up, or you’ll never make it to the border in time,” it snapped.  I hesitated to explore further some of the interesting sights along the way that grabbed my attention, like the old miner in the river or the ancient dredge.  My conversation was stopped short by the electronic leash that found its way in my consciousness, ever constraining my opportunities for the day.

       Â Â Â  This Cateye Enduro 8 bike computer became an electronic extension of my brain.  Corresponding with the few mile markers that had not been blown to oblivion by the armed country folk goin’ out for a drive, I could sense that I needed to pick up my pace.  I did my best to get those wheels spinning faster and faster.  Only the wind and hills seemed to constantly work against me, stripping me of valuable seconds/minutes of time.

      Â Â Â Â  After a couple hours of grueling self-imposed time trials I still saw no signs of my fellow riders.  I was getting mighty close to the “B-un–ry” (Boundary) as indicated by the bullet ridden sign.  If I kept up my pace I should actually be able to make it there before they closed in 30 minutes, I thought.

      Â Â Â Â Â  I relished the downhill that swept me towards the few buildings that represented the boundary.  I was picturing Goat and Sean waiting there with their feet up, ready with a few notes of sarcasm about what a slacker I was.  And after my solo detour to Northway, Alaska, I had little to respond with.  Especially since my humor was emptied into a huge appetite that has not seen food in 4 or so hours.

      Â Â Â Â Â Â  As I coasted into the Boundary with about 15 minutes to go, I realized that this was actually a little town and not the customs office I desired to cross before 8 pm.   Which was further articulated by a girl standing barefoot in the streets pointing towards a hill, claiming it was 4 miles away. 

      Â Â Â Â Â Â Â I ate my last Snickers for the quick 240 calories I would need to get me to the end of this ever ticking, tocking, timeless clock.  Heaving and panting…practically wheezing, I climbed up the first stretch, imagining it to wind down into a valley where I would catch a nice downhill breeze into the customs office.

      Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â  Only the first stretch happened to expose another painful uphill stretch, which there upon exposed another, and another.  My calculations became more grim and grim as the best I could muster up these mighty hills was about 6 miles per hour, which I could not hold as long as I wished.  Bouncing from 3-6 mph with every ounce of effort being transferred to those precious pedals on my bicycle.  I realized I was losing this uphill battle.

      Â Â Â Â Â Â Â  A few cars whizzed past me, leaving me in the increasingly familiar dust akin to these rural highways.  These cars made it look so easy, practically flying up the hill.  I pathetically hobbled my exhausted self within view of the customs building which stood on top of a might ridgeline.  Enhanced by imagination, this great wall of Canada was a formidable foe. 

      Â Â Â Â Â Â Â I saw one of the speeding motorists let through the green gateway into Canada and gave me a breath of hope.  I began standing and struggling to the top, picturing my friends there trying to convince the customs office to wait just a bit longer to let me through.  I even envisioned them with binoculars watching me suffer my way up this 4 mile hill.  My computer calculations never included this 4 mile finale, in all it’s never-ending splendor. 

     Â Â Â Â Â Â Two more cars whizzed past me as coughed up their trails, cursing the seeming simplicity of their motors.  In the far distance I could see the customs officer closing the gate, blocking access to the car that so kindly offered me the token gift of dust.  I slouched, sat back on my seat, defeated.  Ready to endure the ridicule of my peers for my slacker ways, I continued my ascent in hopes that maybe they would make an exception for the sad cyclist.

      Â Â Â Â Â Â  As I approached the gates blocking access to the car, I saw the driver returning to his ride with a reflected expression of defeat.  A younger French Canadian and his girlfriend were too late to secure access to their homeland this evening and forced to spend another night in the states. 

         “Any luck?” I rhetorically inquired.

          “Ohh…no.   Not tonight. They said I should camp down at Boundary.  Eh…. sorry about the, uh. dust back there.” He responded, slowly and curiously, questioning his command of English at every word. 

            “Don’t worry about, become rather fond of the taste, really.” I joked.

           His girlfiend, who was a bit shy and even more uncertain of her ability to communicate in English offered in jest, “well..maybe you could sneak on through with your bicycle.”

           Her boyfriend added with a smile, “they have guns, and dogs.”

          “Ya’ll didn’t happen to see any cyclists up there at the customs office did you?”  I questioned, still unaware of the possibility that I had somehow passed them en route.

          “Oh yeah.  I saw two of them, about 8 miles back,” he directed his comment towards his girlfriend for some verification.

          “Aha…they are the slackers.” I thought to myself. 

          Â Â Â Â Â My defeat quickly transformed into a victory and my mood was raised.  After chatting with the couple a bit longer about our travels, I retired to the vista point a half-mile back, welcoming you to Alaska where I would camp.

       Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â There was another poor soul who has had the worst luck on his solo vacation.  Charged with many troubles and too much time travelling by himself, he was more than eager to share his recent experiences.  3 flat tires in the past two weeks on top of a transmission job left this poor guy ready to end his vacation early and get back to work down in Oceanside, CA. 

       Â Â Â Â Â Â Â After about an hour and a half, the “slackers” arrived after gingerly taking their time exploring all the things I wished I had time for.  It was a very friendly atmosphere at the vista that night, united by our procrastination we felt a sense of comraderie for all having missed the ‘ship into canada’.  Food was passed around, (which generally vanished by the time it crossed our paths), as we cheerfully shared our travelling experiences.

       Â Â Â Â Â Â Â  We could see for miles and miles up there that night.  I spent a couple hours picking blueberries as I watched the sun set and a rather large storm developing just east of us.  After devouring the 4 liter pot of rice/beans complete with the smoked salmon given to us by the RVer, we set up our tent and went to sleep.  The couple from Quebec chose to sleep in their car, as did the guy from Oceanside who somehow managed to stay the night in the cab of his truck, unable to snuggle with the piles of junk he kept in the back.  

       Â Â Â Â Â After a decadent morning of sunshine (helped dry off our gear) and wild blueberry laden oats we were about ready to go on our way.  We were briefly delayed by a swiss couple travelling to Denali on bikes, wearing heavy mountaineering shoes, for their “walking trip” in Denali.  The interaction was shortened by an inability to communicate effectively, but it was positive to see other cyclists out here on the Top of the World, highway.

         “A long bike ride, eh?” greeted the customs officer.

         “Whooh….you really gotta work to get into Canada, that was quite a hill.” I responded.

          An older man nearby working on a truck cheerfully exclaimed, “Ahh…don’t worry. It’s all downhill after this.”

          Absolutely doubting his claims, I still relished the thought and appreciated his good natured comment.

         “I imagine you probably don’t have any cigarettes, eh? or else you wouldn’t have made it up that hill.  But I have to ask if you are carrying any cigarettes?” She asked, seemingly trying to add a little character to the textbook nature of our interaction.

          Satisfied with our negative response, she continued onto the next item on her agenda. 

           “Soo…uhh..  Are you carrying any firearms?  Rifle, bullets, bear spray?” She asked, seeming to recognize the absurd nature of the checklist, clearly not designed for the international bicycle traffic.

             Afraid to get our 50 dollar bear spray canisters taken, we declined.  And she pressed further.

             “Let me repeat, are you carrying any bear spray? There are sure a lot bears up in these parts, eh?” Stunned by our lack of preparation for such a lengthy wilderness escapade.

      Satisfied with our carefree, ignorant responses, she moved onto the next agenda item.  She asked us about our jobs and how much money we had.  Frustrated by the lack of supporting evidence she harbored the issue a bit further.  We claimed we could show her online (which was currently out of order as the satellite was being repaired a dozen yards away), but riding our bikes back to Tok, was surely out of the question.  Seeing the limited opportunities she moved past that.

             “Well…okay.  I just need your passports and driver’s license so we can scan them.  Ohh, yeah..  and if you need me to fill up your water bottles, there will be no opportunities until you get to Dawson City.” She concluded.

      Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â  We handed her our water bottles and waited for our passports to get stamped.  We waited, a bit curious about how they would scan them without any internet/phone connection.  She promptly returned with our passports and Dromedary Bags filled with water and officially welcomed us to Canada.

              “Hope you enjoy your stay.  A beautiful ride, eh?” She commented as we reflected on the prominence of “eh?” following their sentences.  I likened it to the Southern California speech, where like preceeds much of what is said. 

             Â Â Â Â Â And off we were, Dawson City bound, via the Top of the World highway……..

Carmacks, Update

Just resupplied in Carmacks, about to travel the Robert Campbell highway. Will likely not be around civilization for another week or so. We will do our best to update our website with a short rest at Watson lake. This will be an adventurous stretch, with rough roads and no supplies. We hope we have been able to estimate the correct amount of food to bring. Morale is high. We have been enjoying the sights and sounds.