9/7/04 - 10/7/04
Dawson City is as incredible as everyone says it it. The
streets are still dirt with wooden sidewalks and timber buildings, just
as it was in the late 1890s. Dawson City was founded in 1896 after a huge
gold discovery nearby and in the few years from 1896 - 1906 it boomed
and developed to over 30 000. Most of the population were miners seeking
their fortune, but several entrepreneurs also made their fortunes from
the miners, including the many 'goodtime girls'.
We spent the first day tracking Dawson City's social change
and development during this time from it's roots as a native settlement,
though the gold rush years to the remote sub arctic community that it
is today. With a permanent population of around 1500, tourism and gold
mining are the main industries and Dawson City is a unique step back in
time to another world and the night life is colourful particularly Diamond
tooth Gerties can can girls.!! Certainly a must visit place.
After a couple of days off the bike it was now time for
some big days heading south on the Alaskan highway to Jasper and Banff
about 1800km away. Unfortunately the Klondike Motorcycle rally is on this
weekend but we can't afford the time to hang around. maybe next time.
The road is much better than it was north of Dawson City and there are
lots and lots of motorcyclists heading north for the rally and also to
Alaska. The serious travelers here are riding BMW GSs but there are also
lots of Harleys, Goldwings and others. All bikers wave at each other irrespective
of what machine they are riding and there is a feeling of camaraderie
amongst the bikers. The smoke is still quite bad but should clear as we
get futher south.
Camped at Whitehorse, small town but the capital of the
Yukon Territory. Our campsite was on the banks of the mighty Yukon River
and at about 10.00pm we went for a short ride up to Miles Canyon, where
the river rushes through the narrow canyon. Quite spectacular in the dusky
Headed south again, still on the Alaskan Highway, impressed
with the surface after all the road works to the north and we can easily
maintain 120kph. Camped at Liard River and had our first bath in 10 weeks
in the natural hot springs. The water was so hot we could only stay in
for about 20 minutes.
We were awakened around 6.00am to the sound of two gunshots.
Seemed a little strange as we were in a state park. Anyway we packed up
and went across the road to the lodge to fuel up and apparently a black
bear had broken through one of the glass windows trying to get to food.
Once this happens the bear has to be destroyed and the shots we heard
were from the rangers gun. There are signs all around warning that 'a
fed bear is a dead bear', meaning that if food is left around and the
bears become accustomed to getting food from humans, then they become
aggressive if they can't get any and ultimately have to be destroyed.
A pleasant ride south of about 700km to Fort St. John passing
jade coloured lakes and rocky mountain peaks along a well surfaced winding
road. We also saw more wild life on this section than on the whole trip
with numerous close sightings of wild mountain goat and sheep, carabou,
moose (with calf) deer and black bear.
After a long day we decided to spoil ourselves and get a
motel room for the night. It's been about 3 weeks since we slept on a
bed and this place also has internet access. $55.00 for the night is a
bit expensive for us but we did make the most of the room.
Trying to answer emails and update this site saw us leave
late at 12.00pm. We had a long way to go to Jasper, about 700km, but decided
to pace ourselves better than we had earlier. 70km further on along Highway
2 saw us in Dawson Creek, a pleasant looking town and one we'd like to
spend more time in. This is where the Alaskan Highway started, mile post
0 and we wished we could have stayed longer, but with a big day ahead
it's ever southward and onto Grand Prairie for fuel and lunch.
We can't believe how hot it is. Temps are in the high 20s
(C) and we're sweltering. Catch a good value lunch at the local Tim Hortans
then off to Jasper on the 40, which is a good winding road with lots of
wildlife. In the dusky evening light the scenery was picturesque and the
cooler air brought several bears down from the forest to the roadside
snackbar. On one occasion we stopped less than 8 metres from a black bear
and watched him snacking for about 30 minutes.
As we enter the national park we have to pay fees. $C56.00
for 4 days which entitled us entry to all adjacent national parks, then
$C22.00 a night at the national park campsite 3km from the town of Jasper
(map:5) We did see another black bear close to the road though, quite
amusing as he became aware of the tourists he decided to climb a tree
in an attempt to hide I suppose, but after several minutes poised precariously
on the trunk of a Spruce, he decided to climb down and retreat into the
forest feeling somewhat embarassed with himself.
Up early and off to the Visitor's Centre for info on what
is claimed to be, one of the most spectacular places on the west coast
of the north America's. Dianne got the drum from the centre and we decided
to take the cable car up to Whistler Mountain to get a feeling for the
area. The cable car took us up to 2285 metres and from there we hiked
further to reach the summit to enjoy the 360 degree panoramic views. Here
we are at what seems the 'top of the world' and we're determined to make
the most of it.
Back down and on a 45 km scenic and winding ride through
the Maligne valley to Lake Maligne We chilled out here for a while on
one of the jetties, catching up on some rest just so we can continue.
This constant touring and being on the go can take it out of you and sometimes
you just need to recharge the batteries.
Maybe be are lacking a bit of iron, so we get some steak
and salad for tucker tonight and some red wine and garlic in case that
helps too and head back to camp. Not sure why but no mozzies are bothering
us tonight although a Elk did stroll right past our table, checking us
The bike was filthy from all the bugs that splatter themselves
on the paintwork, then the dust from the roadworks sticks to it, then
more bugs and more dust. We'd also begun to feel that other bikers, normally
so friendly, were shunning us. Was it the dirty bike, were we dirtier
than we thought, was it the garlick or were we encountering French Canadians?
We're not sure what it was but this was the first time in all our travels
that other bikers refused to at least aknowledge and return a friendly
We washed the bike and then headed out towards Mount Robson
(the highest mountain in the Canadian Rockies) It was a clear day and
we were lucky to see the whole mountain without cloud cover. Back to Jasper
and a ride to Lake Edith and Lake Annette, both glacier fed and therefore
having that unique pale blue colour. At Lake Edith I decided to take a
swim in the icy waters, just to prove that I could. Once you go numb it's
not so bad and the warm sun soon thawed me out.
An early start today as we're headed south down the Icefields
Parkway to Lake Louise (6). It's reputation for being the most beautiful
road in the world is well founded and it took us 8 hours to cover 230
Km of continuous World Heritige site scenery. So many pull outs with view
points to the many mountain peaks, waterfalls, canyons and glaciers. The
highlight was a hike up onto the Athabasca Glacier in the Colombia Ice
Fields, an awsome experience to be walking on something this huge and
We arrived late at the town of Lake Louise to a full campsite
and had to travel futher south before finding another National park site
Overnight rain cleared some of the haze that had developed
late yesterday and we were keen to visit Lake Louise. It is everything
everybody says it is, absolutly spectacular with the lake constantly changing
colour as the sun moves behind the clouds, or do the clouds move in front
of the sun? Dianne decided to make the most of this incredible vista to
do a drawing and we spent several hours just soaking things in.
On the way back to the town we took the turn off to Lake
Moraine. Glad we did as in our humble opinon, this is the true jewel in
the area. The colour of the glacial fed lake is indiscribable - see the
pics. We spent a couple of hours hiking along the banks of the lake to
the source, where the glacial melt rushes down the mountain side into
So much to do all the time and this afternoon we still plan
to go to Banff (6). off along the highway to this attractive comercial
centre with lots of touristy shops.
Up and packed up early and off through Kamloops National
Park as we continue south. From glacier clad peaks to dry grassy slopes
of the Colombia valley where cactus grow. A fuel and coffee stop at Radium
Junction and a chat with a local who suggested we visit 'Head-Smashed-In
Buffalo Jump, Interpretive Centre' which was in Alberta not far from our
planned route over the Crowsnest Pass and along Waterton NP to get to
Glacier NP in the USA. We took his advice and headed south on the 95,
then east towards threating clouds.
Those threatening clouds were a good excuse to stop at a
motel for the night at Fernie, our first motel for 21 days. A good decision
– we had a chance to meet some great fellow riders from Missouri,
Ron and Gerry and there was a huge storm that night.
Back on the Crows Nest Highway and through the pass. Unfortunately
we could not see too much as it was still raining and the mountains were
shrouded with low cloud. Suddenly the sun was out and there were only
flat grass lands as far as the eye could see. We had suddenly dropped
into the prairies.
Wind generators appeared on the horizon. When we see green
grass we've figured out that the rain makes the grass grow therefore we
might get rained on, and we're quick to realise that when we see wind
generators .... Well the winds were horrendous, more preparation for Patagonia
later in the year. An initial tail wind was much appreciated but as we
turned towards Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump Interpretive Centre (8) the
side wind buffated our helmets like mad.
Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump Centre is so named after an
Indian Brave who decided to stand under the ledge to witness the plunge
of buffalo as his people drove them to their deaths over the cliff. Unfortunatly
he was crushed by a buffalo as it plunged over the cliff and the location
was therefore so named. This is a World Heritige listed site and the interpretive
centre is really educational. We spent several hours learning about the
local indians and their life style on the prairies.
As we continued on to the USA border, the cross winds continued
to challenge us. We climbed back into the rockies as we headed for the
small border post between Alberta and Montana. That night we stayed at
a KOA camp site at St Mary adjacent to Waterton Glacier NP (9).
Back in the USA
Today we plan to ride over the 'Highway To The Sun', through
Glacier National Park. The mountains in the park, seen here from the east,
seem again to rise right out of the prairie grasslands and before we know
it we're in amongst high mountain peaks, sedimentary rocks and glacier
scoured valleys. At the Logan Pass information centre we went on a Nature
Trail that took us to Hidden Lake. Time to soak in our surrounds as we
walked up over the mountain, through some snow and into the valley on
the other side.
A Marmatte got very friendly with Haydns foot on the trail
to Hidden lake.
We decided that we needed to rest up before our ardious
ride the next day so elected to stay in a cheap motel. The room was comfortable
enough but little did we realise that there was a rail track just behind
the motel and that train drivers would delight in blowing their horns
ad infinitum as they passed through the town all through the night. needless
to say we didn't get a lot of quality sleep.
Daybreak, and the winds howled and the freezing rain pounded
relentlessely on the rooftops. Nobody dared venture ourside, but that
was on the south west coast of Chile and fortunatly we are here in Cut
Bank, Montanna where the weather is perfect, cool with blue skies and
no wind. I'm almost embarassed to say the conditions are perfect for riding.
This was it. The start of the Iron Butt. Seemed strange
perhaps but we elected to start our ordeal, challenge, mission, at 930am.
We reckoned that would give us the least night time hours of riding. With
the route and rest/fuel stops planned we headed for the local police station
for a creditable witness to the start mileage and time, then to the gas
station for a time and date stamp on the fuel receipt and then off, not
sure if these aging bikers are up to the challenge.
The scenery through Montana for us was very different. Wide
open plains and wheat fields meant we could see for miles and we enjoyed
the patterned landscape of harvested and yet to be harvested gold and
green pastures. We had expected this part of our travels to be less interesting
but, with the cruise control set at 120kph, we enjoyed a kalidaslope of
colours as we cruised through the rolling fields of Montana prairies.
With the stops carefully planned we refueled the bike and
ourselves and headed ever eastward. On a ride such as this it's important
to maintain energy levels and Dianne had prepared energy snacks for all
the planned stops. Like us the bike was also weary from all the touring.
The engine oil has been in the sump for 11000km, the gearbox and primary
oils are about 24000km old and the spark plugs about the same. The rear
tyre is showing the effects of the Alaskan and Yukon road works and is
down to the legal limit and the rear break pads are shot, I'm just using
front brakes. Not the sort of steed you would normally start an Iron Butt
run on, but what the heck, she's/he's a Harley. Actually it's a bike with
no name so if you can think of an appropriate name, email us. You could
win a Harley ride!!
We progessed ever easward, impressed with our (the three
of us ) resilance. North Dakota and the scenery changed yet again and
with the evening lighting we powered on into the twilight. The ride was
planned to minimise night time riding as the deer are particularly bad
around here, so the last stop for the day was scheduled around 10.00pm.
and around 1100km. Well, the last hour was a trial. Up to then we had
been feeling strong but that last hour till 10.00pm was challenging. Nevertheless
we made our scheduled stop and found a motel for $US30.00. Not too bad
as we only planned to stay/sleep there for 3 hours. (I think the recepoponist
thought we must have been having an illicit affair when I asked for an
early morning call at 2.15am)
At 2.15am our alarm went off. To help wake us up I put the
TV on and lo and behold the "Blues Brothers" were showing. (one
of my favourites). That got us going and we fired up the HAWG in the early
morning darkness and again headed east toward the (hopefully) rising sun.
200km later at the first fuel stop and we were freezing.
The temperature was around 5 degrees C and we were chilled to the bone.
Fortunatly we have those heated vests stached away so out they came. What
a difference they made as again we moved on. With over 500km to cover
in 6.5 hours we couldn't afford to dwardle. To be on the safe side we
needed to cover at least 1650km, just in case our odometer was out a bit,
but the map showed no towns to get a time stamp at the gas stop between
where we were and Deluth. Deluth was too far away time wise. Would we
find somewhere to varify our milage and time and legitimate our ride?
Well yes we did, a small place called Junction. We fuelled
up, I got the dated/timed receipt and Dianne found two willing witnessess
to sign the forms. We were now official Iron Butters although I felt more
like an offical Sore Butter. Dianne pulled up OK so I think she must have
"Bunns of Steel". In future corispondance I should be refered
to as "he who has sore arse" and Dianne as "she who has
bunns of steel".
Alas, there were no TV crews or crowds popping champagne
corks to witness our achievement, so after a snicker bar we headed on
to Deluth and the Harley Dealer. The rear tyre was almost down to the
canvas and there were two long splits in the casing so after 15000km of
hard riding we decided to get it replaced.
We left the Harley shop at 4.00pm and despite our enduring
ride, still had to get to Thunder Bay (another 350km) that night. It was
an enjoyable ride along side Lake Superio but we were too tired to really
appreciate its beauty.
Friends in Australia are good friends with the couple in
Thunder Bay and asked us to pay them a visit, so thats what we did. Crossing
the border into Canada again we arrived at their home about 830pm, what
a gruelling day!
Back through Canada
25/7/04 - 27/7/04
Left Thunder Bay around 5.00pm, just to get a few Kays in
for the day. Decided to take the 101 northern route to Haileybury (nearly
1000km) to visit good friends of ours from Rhodesia whom we haven't seen
for nearly 20 years.
An uneventful run through forested areas and pretty straight
roads. Interior Canada is a mass of lakes and we passed what seemed like
hundreds along the way. Some swampy areas that also provide a haven for
mosquitoes. Despite numerous warnings to beware of moose and deer, we
didn't see a single one.