Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Teslin to Dease River (Day 2, 336 miles)

Ahhh--finally! Internet access and Blogspot are all working at the same time! My apologies to all of you out there waiting for news of the Great Motorcycle Adventure who have been disappointed these last few days. I too have been disappointed in not being able to share these adventures while they are fresh in my mind--so we will all have to settle for the slightly moldy leftovers. Well, here are the long awaited pictures of our first camp at lake Teslin. Here is the lake:Here is the nifty cool (no one knew how cool until after this adventure--my parents definitely need to invest in some down or holofill sleeping bags!) tent trailer that we pulled behind the motorcyle and the tent that Dad slept in:

On the way to Alaska my Dad had a bit of a mishap when the cover came off the tent-trailer and it popped open on the highway--so before the tent-trailer could be used it needed some repairs. One of the mosquitoes that got into the tent-trailer in the meantime was so full of blood that its belly was transparent and it could hardly fly--I tried not to smush him anywhere where it would stain anything. I don't know how many of them got away, but I did discover the next morning that it is very hard to scratch through a motorcycle helmet and armored pants and jackets.

These guys were spotted at the corner of the parking lot to the campground--o.k., o.k., I know they are not real, but with your glasses off while putting on your helmet they can look awfully real.
Here it is, the paper to prove that the lady at the desk really did tell me when I checked in that the bathrooms had codes--right there underlined in red magic marker underneath the words "BATHROOM CODE" in all caps--431. Just one more piece of proof that I am not good with numbers, as if my GRE math score was not humiliating enough!Here at the camp in Teslin they had a restaurant where we went for breakfast after showers and breaking camp. I plugged in the computer to use their wi-fii access and discovered as I said in an earlier post that you cannot cut and paste from Word. I tried, and tried, and tried again, finally my Dad said, "Enough time on that we need to go!"

The night before we had talked about what time to leave. I knew my Dad would prefer to leave early in the morning around 6am or so, but I told him that I am slow in the mornings and I am on vacation, so I would like a little break on the early mornings. Dad very graciously offered that if we dilly-dallied a bit until 8am that would be allright with him. When I finally unplugged my computer and donned my helmet we pulled out of Teslin at about 10am.

Please pray for my Dad--he has to travel with me!

We decided after hearing mixed reports to go down the Cassiar Highway instead of the Al-Can. For those that don't know the Cassiar is a bit more remote than the Alaska Highway, with fewer fuel stops and more likely to have longer stretches of unpaved road, but is very beautiful, lots of waterfalls, rivers, lakes, mountains, etc. Neither of us had been down the Cassiar and we had both traveled the Alaska Highway so we decided to go for it. Dad's motorbike gets about 40mpg and so the long stretches were not too intimidating and we were game for the rough road when it came up. So we stopped for fuel, lunch and one last road report at the junction of the Alaska Highway and the Cassiar--there is one gas station and one restaurant--eliminates all that stressful actually having to make a decision stuff. While paying for gas we asked the cashier if she knew anything about the condition of the Cassiar, from behind a desk on the other side of the counter an older woman began to answer--citing every bump and rock in the road from her store to Mezziadin Junction. The young cashier smiled and handed Dad his change while the older woman conitnued her litany of road conditions and fuel stops. She explained that one day she went hoarse because so many people had come through asking about the road. When we asked her about the closest place to eat she pointed us across the street to "Sally's" and explained that the next closest place was "Mama Z's" in Dease Lake about 150 miles away--we opted for Sally's and her homebaked bread.

Sally's is a little Forest green box with white trim on the other side of the junction from the gas station. We walked in and sat at one of the three tables in a little room that looked like someone's dining room. Pretty soon a very sweet lady came from behind a partition to take our order. She disappeared with our requests and remained gone while the sounds of frying and mixing were heard behind the partition, after awhile she returned with generous hunks of scrumptious homemade bread, chicken noodle soup with dill and a pile of pan fries. It reminded me of when we used to play 'restaurant' when we were kids--except Sally's food was not plastic or playdough and she wouldn't take Monopoly money for the check.

True to all reports we did run into some road construction on the Cassiar--the saying up North here is that we have two seasons: winter and road construction. Just to give you an idea of the remote nature of the road we chose, the construction sign lady had to run and get her sign from her truck when she saw us and then had to figure out which side to display--stop, slow, stop, slow.

At one point Dad had to make a quick pit stop alongside the road and I stayed on the bike. I quickly scrunched my shoulders and put my hands in my sleeves to keep the mosquitoes out of my helmet and jacket. Those little suckers couldn't penetrate the ballistic nylon the motorbike gear is made from, but it did not stop them from trying--I was amazed that they could smell blood through the four layers I was wearing !

The Northern end of the Cassiar is filled with beautiful pine forests, miles and miles of blue and green lakes, swathes of fuscia fireweed, and bright white patches of snow marbled into the slopes of the green and rust tundra clad peaks--quite a praise producing landscape. A little bit of summer rain and mist put the waterproofing of all the gear to the test, all of which passed with flying colors.

Dad had not slept too well in the tent the night before and we decided to camp in a cabin this night so that Dad, the driver, could get some good rest before tackling the rough road tomorrow. We found a great place right off the highway at Dease River. They have no electricity and no potable water--it all has to be boiled for two minutes and then is safe for drinking-- but it was nothing a propane stove and heat lamp, a very clean and lovely bathhouse, a neat little log cabin, and very friendly owners could not take care of. We cooked a rice and broccoli package dinner on the propane stove and I took the pot and spoons down to the river to wash them up. There I met a fella who was fishing for Pike, Trout, or Arctic Char, whatever was biting, he said. On the way back to the cabin I met another fella who was traveling to Alaska with his six oldest grandchildren in a trailer and two tents--talk about an adventure!

It is amazing to me that people who would not say a word to you if they met you on a city street will talk to you just because you are in the same campground, or your mode of transportation is the same as theirs, or one they'd like to try. There is some barrier that gets removed when you camp. It is almost as if everyone automatically assumes that if you are there on vacation like them you are not a crook, a drug dealer, or a homicidal maniac, that you are a basically decent human being who will talk to them about the road, the weather, the fish, how many mission trips you have been on, how much your motorcycle cost, where you are from, and whether or not you know Sarah Palin.

Dad discovered while emptying his pockets before retiring that the Cashier at the junction had given him a Mexican Peso in change instead of the dollar he was owed--must be a part of that NAFTA treaty we haven't heard of yet--after all Candians and US residents have been exchanging each others' coinage in our trade systems quite freely for many years, why shouldn't Mexico get in on the deal??

Oh the joy of a warm, dry place to sleep, especially since it really started pouring after dinner--Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Guess what?! You cannot cut and paste from a Word document into this blog--or if anyone knows how to do that I would be most grateful for the instructions. So I was not able to post from the Yukon so I will have to give you a quick rundown of the first day. We arrived in Skagway and picked up my Dad's big yellow Motorcycle from Pastor R. where it was being stored. Pastor R. indicated that he was sorry to see it go, since having it in the driveway was giving his reputation in town a boost.

We met up with the Belflowers at the Ferry Terminal on their way back home, then took off for some lunch at the Stowaway Cafe--very nice fish and chips and an interesting pre-occupation with mermaids that makes for some eyebrow-raising decor. Fun place right down to the books in the bathroom. While it is probably not the first time I have laughed out loud in a public washroom, their copy of "Porn for Women" depicting a fully clothed guy vacuuming the floor on the front, probably made folks wonder what I found so amusing about washing my hands. You'll just have to visit the women's bathroom at the Stowaway Cafe in Skagway to know if the rest of the book is as humorous.

After lunch we went to the bank for some 'loonies' and other Canadian Cash, gassed up and aired up the tires on the Motorcycle.

For the first time I wrestled into all my motorcycle gear at once--armored boots, armored pants, armored jacket, armored gloves, and new helmet with cool fighter pilot sunshield option built in. I have to say that I think I look like Ralphie's little brother in his snowsuit from the movie "A Christmas Story"--what was that kid's name anyway??
I am about as mobile too!
And sideways--apparently one cannot edit the orientation of a picture in this blog either--I will try to remember to do that ahead of time from now on--but you get the idea:

The border guard in Canada must have been having a good day. I decided not to even try the passport and go with my valid Alaska Driver's License first. That's all it took, he asked us a few questions, told us about the road, and waved us off. Now we will just have to wait and see if they let me back in the country on the other side. So, I am not in Canadian Jail--yet.

We found a good campground in Yukon at Lake Teslin.
But I will upload pictures of our campsite in the next installment since I have figured out that it would be better to put them in first rather than have to drag them all the way down the page bit by bit because this blog does not automatically scroll either and loads all the pictures at the front. Who knew that blogging had such a learning curve??

I will just say two things about our stay at Lake Teslin--the lake is absolutely beautiful at 3am with the fog rising and the crescent moon and what must be Venus or Saturn glowing yellow through the deep twilight--it makes the walk all the way across the campground to the toilet an almost magical experience--no matter how many times you have to do it. That, and it is a good idea to remember the code that opens the bathroom door they gave you at the giftshop when you checked in.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

I suppose I should give a bit of background. Earlier this year I stopped to see B., a church member, at her office in the Mendenhall Mall. She began telling me about her grand plans to sell most of what she owned, pack and ship the rest, and then with her dog V. in the sidecar, ride her big red Honda Gold Wing motorcycle from Juneau to a small town in Northern Maine where she had decided to take up residence.

Now, I grew up riding motorcycles with my Dad and so the trip sounded like a wonderful adventure to me and I communicated as much. When B. saw me the next week at church she informed me that she was praying that I would go along with the dog in the sidecar on this great journey at least as far as Colorado where my family lives. I laughed, but knew that if she was praying that prayer I might as well pack my saddlebags and suit-up.

Sure enough when I discussed the timeline with our Head of Staff, the two weeks in question were the only two I could have had off during this Summer since he was traveling most of the rest of the season. So I talked with my parents about it and my Dad thought it sounded like a great trip, and what developed from that was that he rode up the highway on his big yellow Honda Gold Wing last week and is here helping me do laundry and pack my saddlebags and weed my garden and get ready to leave on the 14th for Skagway and then off down the highway.

Well, today is the 14th and we are still in Juneau. B. had been off hiking the Chilkoot Trail last week when she developed severe dizziness and high blood pressure--after being helicoptered off the trail and medivaced to Juneau the Docs found nothing wrong with any of the tests they ran and sent her home to rest and be ready to leave today. We chatted yesterday and she zoomed off to finish up the last minute preparations.

She called this morning to say she was headed back to the ER with the same symptoms she had expereinced on the trail. Needless to say we did not go today. We will check in with B. tomorrow and see what the new plan entails but for now the Doc sent her home with the express written instruction, "no motorcycle driving."

What is more, things became even more complex when I pulled out my passport and happened to notice that it expired this past March. As many of you know it is simply not possible to renew a passport in one day--though people on the internet will tell you it is, it isn't, at least not from Juneau, AK. So the adventure begins, but not the adventure we expected and the departure turns out not to be from the Auke Bay Terminal, but a departure from the plans we had made. We shall see what the Good Lord has in store tomorrow, and I will do my best to keep up with this and provide some pictures of whatever happens for all interested parties.
Please keep B. in your prayers.