Days One and Two
In a twist from my regular (or not so regular) updates about my health and fitness, for the next three weeks my blog will be taken over by The Motorcycle Diaries. Cameron and I are on a motorcycle trip from Whitehorse, Yukon Territory to Vancouver Island and back again. We are currently at the end of day five. I was going to write about the first five days all together but so many interesting things have happened already that it would be an impossibly long blog post that no one would be able to read. I’m going to break it up into two days at a time until we have a few normal days and I can catch up… If normal never happens (very possible) then I’ll catch up after I get home. I didn’t plan on writing about this trip but it’s been so intersting that I really wanted to. Of course I didn’t bring my keyboard with me and trying to type it all on the iPad was impossible, so today I went and bought a fancy keyboard that folds up to a tiny size to fit in my bags and now I’m off to the blog races.
Cameron and I left Whitehorse on May 31st for a three week trip on his 2000 KLR650 and my 2012 KLR650. Cameron has been riding for about four years but this is year one for me. I got my licence just over a month ago and we thought it would be a great idea at the time to set out together for warmer climates and different roads. I understand already why they call it “adventure motorcycling” and we haven’t even left a main road yet. Even so, it’s been an adventure!
We left on my first day off after a night shift. I went home and slept for about four hours and then got up and got ready to go. The schedule for our first day was to go from Whitehorse to Watson Lake, about 440 kilometres. We left Whitehorse at 2:00 PM after packing everything up and making a couple of stops in town. I have been nervous about this trip for a few weeks. My KLR650 is much bigger than the bike I learned on and love, a Yamaha XT225. I’ve been excited about the trip as well, not just nervous… But mostly nervous.
We had pretty good weather the first day and the riding was going well until the road got quite potholey. I was doing a good job of avoiding them but all of a sudden there were potholes across the entire road and one right in front of me was unavoidable. It was deep and terrifying. I was staring my death in the face. My whole body tensed up, I’m pretty sure I stopped breathing. Then I remembered that Cameron said I need to relax. So right before I hit the pothole I made sure I had a good grip on the handlebars and relaxed the rest of my body. I thought my front tire was going in that pothole, stopping dead, and I was going to keep going over the handlebars. I was ready for the end, but the KLR just said “meh” and went right through it with a big bump. Cameron was following behind me and he hit the pothole on his KLR which also said “meh” and tanked on through it. Thank you draft horse of adventure bikes!
We ate lunch in Teslin. I wasn’t very hungry so I just asked for a side of fries… Then they told me the soup of the day was beef barley so I said I’d have that. This is what I got.
It’s pretty much a bucket of soup and ALL of their french fries. We laughed pretty hard. I ate about ¾ of the soup and when I finished with the fries it still looked like an entire platter that could feed a family of four.. We’re still laughing about it actually. Hilarious.
The first night we stayed in Watson Lake thanks to the hospitality of Jon and Jenna who were away in Texas on their own bike trip but generously let us stay in their house anyway. Thank you both and we’re looking forward to riding with you later this summer… Or boating… That would also be fun to the max. We stopped at the grocery store and got a frozen pizza which Cam attached to the back of his bike in the plastic grocery bag. We filled our pockets with drink and headed to Jon and Jenna’s. I rode behind him to make sure we didn’t lose the pizza. It survivied. We were exhausted. More exhausted than I thought you could be from sitting on a bike all day. We had to stop every 100km or less due to extreme arse pain. Riding is very physical and without these last many months of training I wouldn’t have lasted more than two days. That’s not a “might not have lasted” it’s a “definitely would not have lasted”. This is most likely the hardest thing I have ever done both mentally and physically. You’ll have to stick with The Motorcycle Diaries to find out why in full but as I’ve been reminded, the hard things are usually the things worth doing.
Think of a trip you could do where you were terrified about 70% of the time. I have much less terror now, but the first three days pretty much went like this –> fear, stress, fear, terror, adrenaline, fear, ooh this is nice, arse pain, terror, adrenaline, stress, nicotine, lunch, fear, adrenaline, stress, arse pain, adrenaline, nicotine, nicotine, fear, terror, adrenaline, stress, nicotine, fear, arse pain, end of the day!! Booze, exhaustion sleep. Don’t worry, it’ll get better when we get to day four but no less interesting.
Day two took us from Watson Lake to Fort Nelson. This was the day of The Incident. The morning started out with alright weather. It was cloudy but didn’t look like it was going to rain imminently. We had breakfast at Bee Jay’s. This is a place that looks Iike it’s been closed for 20 years but actually serves really good breakfast. We hit the road late morning and had a few hard packed gravel sections in construction zones that I was nervous about but had no problem with. Then we hit a very loose gravel section and I have never ridden in anything like this before. I was doing ok until this happened:
Cameron was yelling “slow” at me in the Sena (our Bluetooth communication thing of awesomeness). This confused me because I was pretty sure the right thing to do was speed up a little and that was what I was doing. I managed to wrestle the front wheel straight and keep the bike up which is a major miracle. Peter, who saw the video later that night, said I “James Paterson’d the wheel straight. I thought that description was funny and exactly right. I James Paterson’d the shit outta those handlebars, and James Paterson was the one who trained me to be able to do that, mentally and physically. Thanks buddy 😉
The Incident stayed with me for the rest of the day and every time there were construction signs or gravel patches I was pretty terrified. Cameron said I was silly to worry about something that didn’t happen (i.e. a crash) because I did well and stayed up. He was completely right, but I was still pretty terrified. We made it to Fort Nelson with no further incident. We got a good photo at Summit Lake and Nothern Rockies Lodge at Muncho Lake and some great GoPro videos that Cam will edit and post later on YouTube. I’ll add the link when he does. We also discovered I look hilarious in my rain gear and cannot do up my boots by myself when I have it all on. As Cameron was fastening my boots I asked him if he felt like he was taking a child on a motorcycle trip… He said it felt exactly like that. I had to agree. He gets one million man points for patience and a good sense of humour on this trip so far.
In Fort Nelson we stopped to fuel up and a very nice lady in a van parked at the gas station left her spot to drive over and chat to us. On a bike trip, everyone wants to talk to you. It’s really neat compared to traveling in a car. You meet some cool people. In episode two I will talk about one of the coolest people I have ever met (on day three) who told me not to be so scared all the time… And then I wasn’t. So back to the gas station… This lady drove over and asked where we were from and where we were going and we chatted for a bit. Then she said “ya know, if you’re on a budget and need a place to stay I work at the men’s shelter and we can definitely give you a bed and a meal.” We were a little stunned for a second and then I smiled and thanked her very much for the kind offer but we’d probably go with the hotel tonight. She seemed a little dissapointed. We looked at our bikes and ourselves and realized how dirty they both were. Cameron said our bikes must look like hobo bikes. I had bug splatters all over my jacket. We proceeded to find the nicest hotel in Fort Nelson and stayed there.
We had dinner at Dan’s Pub. They had just reopened days before our visit with new owners and they brought us the most delicious shots in the world on the house for opening week. They called them “crispy crunch” and they tasted like boozy chocolate heaven. When we were eating dinner we heard from Peter who was headed in the opposite direction towards home with a new Van and had just pulled into town. He joined us at dinner and this time Cameron had made the mistake of ordering too much food this time with a double order of wings. Luckily Peter was able to help him out. He checked into the same hotel as us and we had a great time hanging out after dinner and have a few drinks together. We showed Peter the video and he told me I James Paterson’d it. Finally I started feeling better about my near crash.
The first two days were over and I had almost crashed twice, cried in my helmet twice, wondered what the fuck I was doing in the middle of nowhere on a motorcycle that I’d just learned how to ride uncountable times and enjoyed myself for about two minutes total. But I was determined to do it. Cameron had been amazing. Patient and helpful and understanding. Even though he’s wanted to do a bike trip for years he offered to turn around or fly me home or anything I needed. That was amazing but I was determined to see it through or crash trying. I always quit the hard shit and I refused to quit this. I’m so glad I pushed on because as I said, it got better, much much better. But you’ll have to keep reading to find out how and when. Stay tuned for Episode Two in the next few days. Until then…
Keep the shiny side up…
P.S. I’ve finally finished this post and it’s late and I haven’t proof read it 1000 times like I normal do (and still make mistakes) but I care not and am going to bed now! So sorry about the goofs… I’m sure you know what I mean.