The vacation is over. No more hotels, no more nice meals, no more support vehicle. Most importantly: No more parental supervision. Finally I can stay up past 9 pm and eat cookies for breakfast!
A Bittersweet day. There was excitement for my adventure to really begin, but also sadness about losing my wonderful travel companions. My parents would be heading west to Vancouver to visit my sister. My road was north, through the wilderness, to Alaska.
Mom and Dad, really are the perfect partners for a trip:
My mom is a logistics expert and master researcher. Maybe it’s the farmgirl in her, not wanting to waste anything, but her planning ensures that each experience possible is taken from a trip. She’s always positive, energetic and still so spunky. She puts the “fun” in “functional”. She has already been a big help in the planning of my trip and I will continue to lean on her advice as I move forward.
My dad travels with a perpetual sense of wonder, captivated not only by the biggest mountain but by the tiniest wildflower. Maybe it’s his artist’s eye, but I truly think he sees the world differently. As we finished eating our Chinese food a couple of nights ago I was headed towards the door, but Dad was busy pushing dirty plates aside to photograph the pattern on the top of our table that intrigued him. I hope we can all learn to see the world more like he does.
Furthermore, they have been ridiculously generous over the last week, knowing that I’m trying to conserve as much capital as possible for my trip. My expenses spreadsheet shows less than $20 in total food expenses at the time of our parting ways.
The first task for the day was repacking the bike. I had pushed off these tough decisions as long as possible. Luckily I had some willing helpers.
Rain delayed our process and I agonized over each decision. It was noon before we parted ways. Dad saluted me with a furious flurry of high beam flashes as I sped away. I could feel the love in each photon.
Early during my ride the rains began. They would come off and on for the rest of the day.
mmmmm. Nothing more thirst quenching than that rumble bar water.
Highway 40 to Grande Prairie was the least trafficked road I had been on so far. This provided the opportunity to see some wildlife. Here is my first time seeing a moose in the wild in North America. A momma with two calves.
I made it to Grande Prairie, which is a surprisingly large city, around 6pm. I decided to call it a day since I wanted plenty of time to set up for my first night camping. A nice lady at the visitor center directed me to a campground just west of town. It was a nice place, but the price of $33CAD (About $24 US) was an unwelcome expense. I will endeavor to sleep cheaper most nights, but I guess sometimes you have to pay to not get mauled by a bear.
Woke up at 6, really cold. I had to force myself out of the sleeping bag. I made it on the road by 7, which is decent timing for being my first morning breaking camp. The countryside around Grande Prairie was an interesting contrast to what I’d seen the day before. Lots of cropland and even cattle pastures.
I crossed the border into British Columbia and stopped into a McDonald’s in Dawson Creek. They had awesome internet and I spent a couple hours getting updated.
Dawson Creek is also marks mile 0 of the Alaska highway. I met three nice ladies on Harleys, one of whom took my picture.
In Taylor, just outside of Fort St. John, I pulled into the visitor center. There I met Rita. She was super helpful and answered almost all of my questions with either a map, brochure or other informational packet. She asked about my itinerary, then essentially made my decisions for me. She told me about the things I was going to do in the same way a mother would: That the conversation is over and it is not up for discussion. I really enjoyed her.
First she decided that I would postpone my progress and take the scenic, winding highway 29 along the Peace River. It did not sound like I had a choice, so I just did it. Some great riding.
I’m a conservative, cautious rider, especially with my bike loaded down the way it is; but I couldn’t help leaning a bit low on some of the turns.
“Two roads diverged in a wood….”
“I took the one less traveled by….”
“and that led to me almost driving my motorcycle off of a cliff and plunging to a grisly, yet scenic, demise.” -Robert Frost (I don’t have the exact quote. I think this is close 🙂 )
I ate some lunch on the top of this bluff overlooking the Peace River. It was a great detour, proving that Rita knows best!
It was on this bluff that I realized something inconceivable about my trip. I had yet to use “natures toilet” so far. How can one have an adventure when bound to the conventions of the modern toilet? So I guess my adventure began officially in some bushes high above the Peace River.
I also wanted to purchase an extra layer of sleeping warmth before I left Fort St. John. Rita directed me to the place where apparently any Canadian directs anyone to purchase anything: Canadian Tire. They had a good selection of outdoor gear and I picked up a very compact reflective survival blanket.
Leaving Fort St. John, the Prairie land had receded, replaced by thick forests on rolling hills. When a hill crested above the treeline, the mountains could be seen looming to the west. (“I’ll deal with those later.” I thought) The road was not twisty, but curvy with long sweeping bends. There were numerous logging operations active in the area and quite a bit of truck traffic.
I was expecting the road up to Fort Nelson to be a bit more deserted. Only once did I get a little close to running out of gas (about 50 miles to empty) and that was only because a listed station on my guide had now closed. I think the longest stretch without gas is only 110 km (65ish miles) which is not too bad. No need for a gas can yet.
Fort Nelson had a nice visitor center where I stopped for a bit. My destination for the night was the Beaver Lake campsite, about 30 minutes west of Fort Nelson. It is a free, no facilities campsite. Just as I thought I was going to have a day without needing rain gear, drizzle began on my way out of Fort Nelson. Thankfully it had receded by the time I reached my site. Setting up camp in the rain is no fun.
I am very pleased with how the adventure chapter of this story has begun. The road to Alaska is an unforgiving route, probably not the best place to work out the kinks. There are still a lot of things to figure out, but living as a nomad gets less strange each day.
As always, thanks for reading!