British Columbia: The Stewart Cassiar Highway
Day 19 (101km)
"Are you cycling around the world?" -- a man with a reflective vest asked me in front of the grocery store
"Yes" -- I made the decision two days ago that my trip will not end in Argentina.
I finally made it to British Columbia and ahead of me was highway #37. A beautiful 874km road through north-western BC.
I was already behind schedule and if I wanted to ride all the way to Prince George I would need to average 160km per day. Then I thought, "What if I don't want to go fast?" What if I wanted to enjoy all the scenery, camp at the best spots and see all there is to see on the Cassiar.
Down the road, as the clouds got darker I saw smoke, it was Brett: the man I talked to at the grocery store.
"Every job I had in Alberta I get major lung infection."
It wasn't money that brought him here, there is not much fortune to be found in cutting firewood, but you are out here in the fresh air. He lives out in a tent while on the field, he also took down two threes so I can see how it's done.
The rain that started reminded me that I still had long ways to go.
I always used to worry where I will sleep when it gets dark, but I've done fine so far. The Arctic Sea ice, picnic benches, mountain peaks, sign post forests and highway pullouts.
20km before Good Hope Lake I saw a rest area. There was really nothing in town for me, so I just set up beside a bench.
Day 20 (24km)
Then I saw the caribou, a fox ran across the street. and finally, Good Hope Lake.
"You are the first cyclists of the year" - said Doug, he then invited me in for grilled cheese.
"When was the last time you had a shower?"
"Yesterday," haha, I guess riding few hours in the rain doesn't count.
Few hours and several grilled cheese sandwiches later I decided to take a day off. He took me around town and I met one of the elders.
"Oh, its for the kids. I have 6 grandchildren," The moment Molly heard that I plan on fundraising for kids in central/south America she started looking through her wallet. She is Taltan first nation and lives in Good Hope Lake, a small reserve of about 40 people, there is no gas or groceries here.
Day 21 (145km)
Just before heading out I met Robert, he has greenhouses on the edge of town, and now the fun part: everything except the nylon covers is reused. He also collects recyclables that would normally end up being burned at the garbage dump.
At Jade City, I got news about the motorcyclist who tried to get to Old Crow. He had tried and got turned back 3 times, but on the 4th he managed to sneak by and made it to Yukon's only town which is not connected to the road network. It will be few or several years before they build the temporary road again, maybe I will get to ride my bicycle up there...
Then came the mountains, around every turn you see a new peak. It was amazing.
Dease Lake was only 145km away and I was hoping to go past it, but the constant headwind was draining both physically and mentally. To even make it to Dease Lake, I had to ride at night. A bunch of copper trucks were returning, on a narrow, windy road at night all you need to do is "Not ride into the light"
Day 22 (89km)
I camped next to the police station and the wind shaking my tent woke me up at 6am. Another day in the headwind.
There's nothing like pedaling hard, while going downhill so that you can barely break 10km/h.
I would sometimes turn around and ride with the wind for 20seconds, just to take a break. And the deafening sound as you crawl forward makes even the prettiest of views irrelevant.
Rain accompanied my arrival at Iskut. I ate noodles under the cover of the local grocery store which closes at 6pm. Somebody had recently died and everybody was gathered at the School's gym, I decided its best not to go in.
I need a BC license plate at some point, I saw a yard with a good amount of trucks beside the road and went in. I met Jim, who when not signing cyclist's cards and posing as a witch runs the diesel generator for the town. He also enjoys putting together models (cars, planes, etc.) and found me a great spot to crash for the night: an undelivered mattress in a truck trailer.
Day 23 (159km)
Joe, in whose truck I slept does odd jobs around town such as deliveries, moving scrap metal from here to Terrace (500km+ drive) and even getting mail for the Red Chris mine (more on the mine later).
5am. It's still dark but I need to go. It's raining but I can't wait another day.
This normally remote highway is full of trucks, pickups and cars for two reasons: The Red Chris Mine (copper/gold) and the Northwest Transmission line (power).
The mine construction was strongly opposed by the local first nations, but the supreme court approved it.
The power line (left) will stretch to Yukon and also power the mine. It's expected to be completed by the end of 2014 and has a price tag of about 700million (so far). Countless acres of cleared forest, temporary roads up steep hills and spots only accessible by helicopter, the power line has it all.
There's nowhere to hide from the rain.
My gloves are soaked, my rain jacked is letting water through, same with the pants, my feet are getting wet. It's cold. At least there is no headwind.
But worst of all, the rain hides all the mountains from my sight, I am stuck in this bleak, gloomy, white abyss.
After 110km, I found a worker camp and went on a wooden deck. Shivering put on a dry sweater and tried drying my gear a little while eating lunch or dinner, I don't know what time it was. My hands were so cold that I lacked the strength to turn the dial of the stove, I had to remove it from the gas can, and hold it with my teeth while I turned it.
note to self: get waterproof gloves
I saw my first bear, or well... it saw me, I saw it as it ran into the bush.
I stopped at Bell 2 lodge to dry up and eat dinner and the owner offered me a room, camping after a day like that would have been very miserable (it was 9pm, it hasn't stopped raining since 5am...)
Day 24 (161km)
I could finally see past the clouds. There was no headwind. There was no rain.
A short conversation with copper ore trucker at the Stewart junction left me with no choice, I had to take that detour. It's only 60km but I will need to try and find a ride on the way back, I have only two days to make it to Terrace, from where I will hitch a ride to Prince George in order to arrive on time for tree planting.
Amazing mountains, roadside waterfalls (with rainbows!), sunshine and clear skies. Then I saw Bear Glacier, so spectacular that the photos don't do it any justice, you will have to wait for the video!
Saw my second bear, got my first mosquito bite, long downhills and I found somebody who will give me a ride tomorrow.
Shawn has been in Stewart for 5 years, he has a restaurant which opens for the summer (tourist season). He was in the process of setting up.
eat Great food -> Feel Good -> Be HaPPY
One of the cabins was going to be the bathroom, but for now it had a nice wooden floor. Perfect place to spend the night!
Day 25 (126km)
Hyder Alaska, I am on the way to the pier to look at the Pacific Ocean, I see a dog running toward me, a woman in the distance screams out:
He's next to me licking me and wagging his tail.
"The Hyder friendly wild dog," she says when I pass her.
The road to Salmon Glacier is closed, there are people going with skidoos up there, that must be fun.
My ride back to the junction offered me a place to stay for the night too but I don't have time, I need to get to Terrace, BC.
Ed and Marly are cruising along the highway. Ed is a local and just enjoying the great weather.
Five hours and two bears later I finally reached Cranberry Junction.
From here I turn away from the wind to ride the Nass forest service road.
I was rattling down the road at 10-15km/h but that didn't matter. There was no wind.
Day 26 (141km)
"Are you lost? -- A van pulled over
"No, I'm fine." -- I've been riding back and forth at the junction in the lava bed provincial park, wondering if I can do a 80km ride to another coastal town.
Then I made the turn to Terrace, 100km to go, guess what? Headwind.
Scenery was beautiful, but the headwind. Oh man. For the last 6 out of 8 days I head headwind and one with all rain. But that's ok. I think about how much I will enjoy the next day I am riding with no wind.
I stayed with Amy in Terrace, who is taking a year off with her husband and cycling with their two young kids in Europe and South America.
I then hitchiked on the Yellowhead Highway (highway of tears) to Prince George.
I always though that arriving here is the end of the adventure. It's really just the beginning.
I want to see the world
To be continued August 2014.