Solstice

Given its solitary nature, this trip is as much an internal journey within my head as it is physical challenge for my body. Long days alone on the bike provide ample opportunity for introspection.  However, a subplot of the story of my trip is to witness a slice of life in the north, meeting people with lives very different from my own.  And during this leg of the trip I felt I had reached the north.  It hit me particularly when an eight-year-old girl pulled up to a gas station I was stopped at in Pink Mountain, on a snowmobile with her five-year-old brother on the back.  She has been driving snowmobiles since she was four.

Snowmobiling near Pink Mountain

Snowmobiling near Pink Mountain

This part of the world is rich with oil and gas and jobs and money are plentiful.  I met a rig worker named John who recently got out of prison and says that he managed to get this job only because he is willing to work over Christmas.  He is planning on saving the money from the job to check himself into rehab.  Dustin is a first nations youth who is set to turn 20 in a few weeks and on his reserve that means he will receive a $100,000 payout for oil and gas royalties.  When I asked him what he planned to do with the money, he answered: “give it to my girlfriend.”

It is also interesting to see the reaction of people to my trip, both good and bad.  The overwhelming majority of the reaction has been positive and generous.  From people opening up their homes to me, to people stopping on the highway to ask if there is anything I need.  (I almost always need something to drink).  One of the more interesting gifts I received I found as I reached the top of a hill.  I saw two small silver packages at the side of the road standing up in the snow.  As I approached I wondered how they ended up there, standing up.  I was not sure if they were full or empty.  It was not till I had passed them that I realized someone must have left them for me.  Thanks anonymous GU donor.

Mystery of the GU

Mystery of the GU

The negative reactions to my presence on the road are most normally seen when vehicles intentionally do not leave much room between themselves and me when there is no oncoming traffic.  But at the restaurant at Mile 53, where I was having a hot chocolate I overheard a table of young men talking about me.  The word “jackass” was used.

Looking at the maps before leaving Fort St. John, I was unsure what the road ahead might bring. But I was glad to see that they have made improvements to the highway since the picture below was taken.

Historical picture of the Alaska Highway

Historical picture of the Alaska Highway

I knew the gaps between towns and stores would get larger and larger. I prepared myself for days on the bike and in the tent. But lo-and-behold fifty or so kilometers on my way I came upon a nice restaurant with a  fire and wifi access. It was too tempting and I stopped to warm up. The battle for kilometers started. Warm  fires and food pose a particular challenge to my progress.

I found a nice spot and camped near Pink mountain. When I was setting up camp I noticed some wolf prints in  the snow. Interesting but not worrisome.

On day three the winds were fierce. They started at 60km/hr and worked their way up to 90km/hr. I was constantly battling the gusts which pushed me off the road and into the ditch a few times.

Battling against the wind

Fighting a head wind

I was quite happy when I came across a work camp in Buckinghorse River. I jokingly asked about rates for people biking to the Arctic and got an offer I couldn’t refuse. The folks at the camp went above and beyond. It was a great antidote to a day that had me pretty demoralized.

The next day I planned to get most of the way to Fort Nelson. It was Christmas eve. The weather cooperated and it was a beautiful, dry and completely wind free. After about 120kms I decided I was feeling good enough to make it all the way. I arrived in Fort Nelson to my host Richy and his two basset hounds around 10:30.

Bertie

Bertie the Bassett Hound

Richy invited me along for Christmas dinner with friends (the Vandersteens). I had a great time with great people and great food. I also got to touch base with Michelle and my family later in the evening.

Christmas dinner in Fort Nelson

Christmas dinner in Fort Nelson

The winter solstice arrived during this leg – which usually means the days will be getting longer. But as I continue Northward I should outpace the increasing daylight. I have enjoyed biking at night; it is quiet and the moonlight has  its own particular feel to it. But I have to admit, the novelty of riding in the dark is starting to wear off.  I realize I prefer to see the end of the hill ahead and not just 50 feet in front of me.

I’ve had a chance to rest once again and now will head northwest to Watson Lake and Whitehorse. I  suspect the gaps will be longer on this route but I’ll be keeping my eyes open for nice camping spots and camps where ever possible.  I am particularly looking forward to Liard Hot Springs.

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16 thoughts on “Solstice

  1. Hi! Merry Christmas from David and I. We’re following your blog and look forward to the entries. Hope the vehicles give you lots of room and the winds don’t blow from any direction but behind you….it’s always nice to have a hand at your back.

    We’re glad to see you’re getting out of the cold from time to time and being hosted and “Gu’ed) by people along the way. We hosted a young fellow from Norway who was riding around the world a few years ago. We got him set up with extra lights as he was heading across Canada in mid-winter.

    Take care of yourself.
    Sandra and David Beggs
    (Cycle Therapy Performance Bike Fit and Sales in Duncan, BC)

  2. Great story about the Gué Brek.Glad to hear you got a Christmas diner.Laird hot springs will be à great motivator to get you down the road.Happy New Year and Ill look for you if I get up that way in the new Year

  3. Well done so far.
    Keep only the good and the positive memories as these will sustain you during the long and quiet hours on the road. God’s peace be with you! !! best wishes and a happy new year.
    Way to go !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Hey Brek! Thanx for the post of the young lady on the sled, reminds me of my own childhood. We go back to work on the 2nd, and we check and have your website and updates on the Tv / front computer at the store. Glad you are doing well. Lots of people asking about you and hoping your doing well.
    Happy New Year to ya. Stay safe. I look forward to your return.
    Marie @ Cap’s

  5. Hi Brek and a Happy New Year!

    Chris and I are following you blog with great interest and admiration. No mention of the knee lately so I hope it’s now OK. We met Michelle at Cap’s the other day, and I said we’d been following along. Look forward to a great slideshow or presentation at the bike store when you get back!

    Enjoy soaking in Liard Hotsprings. Michelle said you had hosts in Whitehorse, but if it turns out you need a place, get in touch with me and we’ll try to connect you with friends of ours.

    Margo (and Chris)

  6. Loving your adventure! Glad you are meeting some great people – one of my favourite things when I went across Canada solo was meeting families and being invited it. As I was alone, it was great to have family time with others, share a meal and loads of stories. Most likely the reason this adventure still remains the best one yet!

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