Lessons learned so far:
1 – Do not put a merino wool sweater in the dryer – even on delicate. (I’m told this may be obvious to most of you)
2 – Buy quality – I have tried to balance safety and quality with a limited budget – but sometimes this costs more in the end – I have already had to buy new boots after the inexpensive ones I bought started to fail after pretty limited use. (Argh!)
3 – People will surprise you along the road. I am truly grateful for the generosity of new friends and even perfect strangers. A warm place to rest and recoup or warm croissant to fill my belly. It all makes the journey so much easier. Especially after long, wet days.
A few updates:
The distances in kilometers up to Tuktoyaktuk have been added on the Route page as well as links to newspaper articles and t.v. interviews on the new Media page…we’ll update this as I meet new people along the way.
Trip update – Kamloops to Clearwater (123km)
Sunday morning I was on the road again and heading toward Jasper. It was a day with two faces. The first was sublime: 11 degrees with a tail wind; cycling on the winding, car-less, west side of the North Thompson; surrounded by the smells of a boreal autumn; and then a new experience: a ride on a reaction ferry (this is where the ferry is positioned at a 45 degree angle to the flow of the river and is pulled across on a cable by the current; to go back, the ferry is positioned at 45 degrees the other way).
Reaction Ferry across the North Thompson
Shortly after I returned to the main highway, however, the day showed its other face: a headwind with driving rain and sleet. This challenged me for the next half of the trip. Fortunately, in Clearwater I found a great gas station with a Skype phone to call anywhere in the world for free (I took the opportunity for a nice long call home). That night I found a great spot to camp at the front door of the info center that was closed for the season.
Camping in Clearwater
Clearwater to Blue River (105km)
The next day was a nice long gradual climb toward Blue River with a beautiful mountain pass at Messiter Summit. Sweating has proven to be the issue I thought it would be. It’s annoying now but can be dangerous when it’s cold out. Having layers that wick away the moisture is key and keeping a pace that doesn’t warm me up is equally important. Ironic how the worst problem in the cold is getting too hot.
At the end of the day in Blue River, I stopped at a restaurant for some food. When I asked about potential spots to set up camp, a very kind guy offered to put me up in a hotel. It was an offer I couldn’t resist. I will have lots of camping ahead of me beyond Jasper.
Blue River to Valemount (92km)
…. a day riding in the snow. Tom, my ‘Warm Showers’ host in Valemount got a little worried when I did not appear after dark, so he went out on the highway to find me. He found me 5 kilometers from town struggling up a hill. As he approached the hill he could see my headlight dancing back and forth in the sky (it is hard to ride straight up a hill with all that weight). My Trelock light powered by the dynamo hub has truly proven itself. Cars often flash their brights, that is just how bright it is.
Leaving Blue River
Tom and I spent the evening talking about bicycle touring in different parts of the world. Tom and his partner Peggy like to do a big tour in Europe or Canada every summer and then spend the winter skiing deep in the backcountry around Valemount.
Tom - my host in Valemount
Valemount to Jasper (126km)
This leg proved far more grueling than expected. I intended to get a reasonably early start for the long ride to Jasper but I had a few stops to make first. Tom organized an interview with the local paper, The Rocky Mountain Goat, and I made a stop at the Valemount Swiss Bakery
on the way out of town. I was intending to get just enough food to last me till Jasper but after I chose my supplies they decided to give me enough bread and pastries to last me half way to Tuktoyaktuk! (delicious). I also met a local snow-mobile guide who showed me a very interesting way to stave off frost bite on the nose. (Red Green would be proud)
Learning new tricks
Finally on the road, I was pushing against a brutal headwind and had waves of slush splashing over me as the trucks rolled by. This is the problem when the temperatures are just around zero. Thankfully, the clear day that I had been hoping for materialized and I was able to catch sight of the most majestic mountain I have ever seen, Mount Robson.
Unfortunately, as the sun dropped so did the temperature and the road turned to sheer ice. After falling over on the highway, I decided I would have to ride through the snow on the shoulder which hampered my progress. I pulled into Jasper at 11:00, tired and ready for a rest.
Next leg of the journey
I have family in Jasper and have had a chance to visit, re-energize and get ready for the next leg of this journey. I am leaving this morning for Hinton and then heading to Grande Cache, Grande Prairie and Dawson Creek.