The Motorcycle Diaries – Part Two

If you’re joining me for the first time let me bring you up to date. My blog is normally about my journey (or more accurately struggle) towards fitness and weight loss. For the next three weeks I’m taking a break from that to write about the 6000 km motorcycle trip my husband Cameron and I have taken from Whitehorse, Yukon Territory to Vancouver Island and back again. As I write this I am sitting on a sun deck on the Island with an epic view of the Pacific Ocean and Gulf Islands. It’s a beautiful warm day eight of our trip and I can’t believe we’ve finally made it here. It’s been such an interesting trip that I wanted to write about it but I didn’t bring my keyboard with me…. However since there are such things as stores in the south lands I went out and bought myself a fancy schmancy keyboard that folds up small enough to fit in my motorcycle bags so that I could bring my adventures to you! Even though we’re on day seven I have only managed to blog days one and two so far which you can find here. I will catch up eventually but for now, without further ado, let me bring you days three and four.

Day Three

The morning of day three we woke up in Fort Nelson planning on driving 453 kilometers to Dawson Creek. When we left our bikes the night before Cameron had locked the wheel on his bike. As he did that he told me that he thought locking the wheel once before may have drained the battery but “if I’m going to have a dead battery somewhere it might as well be when we’re in a town and no the middle of nowhere.” I had to agree.

When we got out to the bikes the next morning… possibly not early… surprise, surprise his battery was dead. Cameron was fairly angry about this. I was confused when he was angry because it seemed like he expected it the night before. Once I reminded him that this kind of thing was all part of the trip and also that he expected it to happen he realized that there was no point in being angry and it was all part of trip and he cheered up. We purchased a BCAA membership before the trip just in case we got a flat tire or ran out of fuel in the middle of nowhere and we thought about calling, but then I realized that we should just ask the hotel if they could give him a jump (derp!). A young fellow helped us out and grabbed the hotel shuttle which he used to jump start Cameron’s bike. He saw our plates and told us all about how he had relatives in Whitehorse and had visited there and thought it was very pretty but it was “way too far from Vancouver” to live.

Another surprise we had that morning was a note from Peter along with a couple of empty bottles to help us out.

We thought that was pretty funny. After getting Cam’s bike started we headed out towards Dawson Creek. The riding this day was uneventful. I had been leading for the first two days with Cameron behind me so that he could watch me and give me riding tips on the Sena (our Bluetooth communication contraption). On day three however Cameron rode in front of me for the first time and it made a huge difference to me to have him in front. He could warn me of any big potholes or gravel or crazy road conditions and it made me feel much more comfortable than I expected it would. I was finally able to relax slightly and listen to some music and enjoy the riding. The road was good and the weather was decent and I didn’t have ten pounds of sticky rain gear on. I put on my Spotify “Air Punch” playlist and was boppin to the music while I rode.

We stopped for lunch at the Buckinghorse River Café which was tiny but had good food and when we left there was a Cloud Of Doom on the horizon. It wasn’t exactly clear if the road was heading towards the doom cloud or just around it. We chanced it and stayed rain gear free and thus able to do up my own boots for a while. We decided that if it started raining on us in earnest we’d stop to get me into my Michelin Man rain suit. The whole day we skirted just around the edge of the Cloud Of Doom and although we occasionally encountered wet roads we were lucky enough to only get slightly drizzled on for a moment or two before we were back to the dry. I hadn’t much experience on wet roads though so I was very nervous on them. Every time we got to a wet section my brain said “YOU ARE RIDING ON ICE KIRSTIN, SLOW DOWN!” My brain was wrong however (for the second time ever) it was not slippery at all. Cameron put great tires on my bike and it was totally fine… I just had to get over my ridiculousness. I’m still a little nervous on the wet but nothing like that first day.

All in all day three was decent. I was still struggling quite a bit with fear but I was able to get some music on and sing in my helmet and say to myself one hundred times “you’re ok Kirsti, you’re ok” and I was ok. When we got into Dawson Creek we went to a car wash and Cameron washed off our dirty hobo bikes before heading to the hotel.

The hotel is where I met Jean, my motorcycle riding – pep talking – angel. I went outside to grab something from the top case of my bike and he was out there unpacking his Triumph. He’d just gotten in and was wearing an amazing leather vest with “Veteran” on the back and many beautiful patches on the front. Jean is a Canadian Veteran who was with NATO during his military career. He left his home in Montreal in November of last year and has been touring North America since then. He was in the last three weeks of his trip when we met him. His goal was to get a photo at the Alaska Highway sign in Dawson Creek and he was about to head home. We got to talking (as you do to other bikers when you’re on your bike) and I told him we had also taken a photo at the sign which we had passed many times in cars but never stopped at.

I told him about my fears and how much I had been struggling on the first few days of our trip. He told me that I didn’t need to be scared all the time and that many people, in fact most people would never do anything like this in their life. Maybe I’ll crash, maybe I won’t… But if I spend the whole trip worrying that something crappy will happen I won’t enjoy the good times we will have. In general in life I’m not a worrier so I don’t know why I couldn’t let it go and relax with this trip. Jean really helped me put it in perspective and realize that this may be a once in a lifetime experience for me. I’m hoping that I’ll get to do it again when I have more experience, but I may not. I didn’t want to ruin it by being scared all the time. So I cut that shit out. Do I still have moments of fear? Yep, sure do. But I stopped being scared 90% of the time as I was before. There’s no point. That’s not fun. After I met Jean things changed for me, and after he met us he decided he couldn’t finish his trip without hitting the Yukon and Alaska. So he went up to Watson Lake and got photos at the signpost forest and then rode down the Cassiar and went to Hyder, Alaska before heading back east. So to Jean, if you read this, please know that you changed my trip for the better and meeting you made me less scared all the time… I’m so glad you kept going north because you met us and I hope we were able to change your trip for the better as well. I will never ever forget meeting you and what a difference you made for me. Thank you!

Day Four

Cameron had been having trouble with his turn signals on his bike. The left signal had stopped working. When he tried to fix the left signal the right signal stopped working. Cam has been wanting a new bike for a while. He put a lot of work into his old KLR repainting it and fixing it up and it looks great, but riding is what he loves to do and he rides every day possible at home so I keep telling him that if he wants a new bike he should get it. Cameron, however, needs a reason to buy something new. I told him broken turn signals seemed like a pretty good reason… Then he fixed them. When we filled up with fuel that day he thought my newer bike probably had better fuel economy than his old one so we compared when we filled up. 10.3 litres for him… 10.3 litres for me. Yet another excuse gone. Oh well, maybe I can push it over some time and break something that will convince him to buy a new bike, we’ll have to wait and see.

After another chat with Jean at our hotel’s continental breakfast he rode off into the morning. Five minutes later as we were packing our bikes he rode back into the parking lot and added us to Facebook! I’m so glad he came back and did that. Soon after we left for Jasper.

The ride through Grande Prairie and towards Grande Cache can be summed up with one word. Wind. The first time I rode this bike it had been windy in Whitehorse and that was a little scary, but the wind on day four made that wind seem as powerful as a 90 year old blowing out birthday candles. This was bold, italic and underlined wind! I fought with fear for a while and was pretty tense. Eventually I was able to remind myself of what Jean said and relaxed quite a bit. Unsurprisingly it was much better when I relaxed and learned to lean into it. The wind generally came from the right side and was able to blow Cameron and I two feet across the road on occasion. If we stayed in the right hand lane position this was ok and I didn’t get blown into the oncoming lane or feel like I was going to fall over anymore after relaxing. Of course riding to the right was a problem when I suddenly got a gust from the left and it blew me onto the shoulder of the road. The shoulder was nice and wide and there were no semi trucks coming at me from there so that was alright. The first time I got a little jolt of adrenaline as I was blown towards the rumble strip. My brain told me that if I hit the rumble strip it would be pretty much ice and my bike would just shoot out from under me. As usual when I thought the road was ice, I was wrong. The rumble strip is just rumbly, like it’s supposed to be. It says “hey idiot! Wake up! You’re going off the road.” Not “I am ice, say goodbye to all your skin.” Well now I know.

The scenery was pretty much what you’d expect from somewhere called Grande Prairie. Once we got into Grade Cache it changed for the better. The road was twisty and mountainous and beautiful. One thing I’ve noticed most about riding a motorcycle as opposed to being in a car is the smells of the journey. You can smell everything and there are more pleasant ones than you’d think. On my bike I have smelled fragrant trees and plants, a forest fire that was burning just two weeks ago, brakes burning on semi trucks going downhill, fresh cut grass in fields, cattle farms and fresh rain on the road. In Dawson Creek we were sitting at a red light and I smelled a very strong vanilla smell. I looked to my right and there was a 17ish year old girl in an old beater car with at least 6 vanillaroma tree car fresheners on her rear view mirror. Cameron was ahead of me and I was telling him about it when the light turned green and she passed him. He smelled it too and even when she was 200 meters ahead of us we could smell the vanilla wafting out of her open window. I said that I bet she smells like vanilla all the time. Cameron said “yep, but at least she doesn’t smell like weed.” I laughed pretty hard.

The drive continued to be windy but beautiful all the way into Jasper. We arrived at the hotel at the same time as a big convoy of cruiser bikes with the men driving and the women on the back. People that ride cruisers don’t ever give the bike wave to us lowly adventure bike riders but they always seem to talk to us when we meet up at a gas station or rest stop and are usually super nice… Just too cool to wave I suppose. These guys had ridden up together from Edmonton for the weekend and asked us questions about our ride when they saw our Yukon plates. We had a good chat and then went to our hotel room which was the coolest hotel room we’ve seen. It was two levels with a living room, kitchenette, bathroom and balcony on the first floor. It had a real wood burning fireplace and a comfy place to sit which we proceeded to fill with our luggage. It’s amazing how much stuff you can pack in some seemingly small bike cases and we constantly amaze ourselves when we unpack and spread out with how much stuff we have. The second floor of the room was a loft bedroom with a queen bed and a half wall overlooking the bottom floor. We sat on the balcony for a while before going to for dinner and collapsing into exhaustion sleep once again.

The next day was on to Kamloops which was a baking hot hell hole that you will read about in episode three. Will our Yukon bodies survive the heat? Will Cameron get a new bike? Will I manage to go the whole trip without dropping my bike? Stay tuned to find out!!


My current view… Not to shabby.

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