Because of difficulties doing laundry in Prince George, I was later getting away than Jim was as he headed east toward Edmonton, Alberta. I left the hotel at about 10, had trouble with my left pannier (it came open as I was riding toward breakfast!), then ate a leisurely breakfast at a Denny’s and didn’t get out of PG till close till noon.
I rode south through country that was more agricultural than anything we’d seen except for the 100 miles or so west of Grande Prairie, Alberta, and stopped after 140 miles at a rest area. I had an interesting conversation there with a bicycle rider heading from Prudhoe Bay to Ushiaia, the southern-most point in South America. You can check out his location at http://www.whereispaul.me.
A few more miles down the road and I gassed up at 100-Mile House, 207 miles south of Prince George. Then as I left town, the rain started. It was never as bad as the rain Jim and I rode in during the leg from Haines Junction and Tok, but was hard enough to keep my attention focused and to make my riding “interesting.”
But not long after I turned onto 99, the rain stopped. Canada 99 is a great and challenging ride. At first the roads and the terrain reminded me of the coastal mountains and hills of northern California. But then I started paralleling the gorge of the Frazier River and the dryer country around it, surrounded by towering mountain ranges took on a more primordial feel.
A mining operation on 99.
There were 13% grades and 20mph hairpins and that was nothing compared to what was coming after Lillooet.
A kind-of-fuzzy view of Lillooet.
I should have stopped there, fuzzy or not. There’s not much there (although it’s “Guaranteed to Be Rugged” and it definitely lives up to that claim. But, there probably would have been a motel room. There sure weren’t any between there and Blaine, Washington!
That was OK, because I wasn’t ready to stop at Lillooet anyway. Out of town the road, such it is, follows the Cayoosh Creek drainage. It was a road that has me looking for new superlatives and there probably aren’t that many I haven’t already used. Steeper grades, tighter turns, more and more rugged terrain. The only road I can compare it to is one that my friends Rick Hall, Chris Baum, and I rode between Gold Beach, OR, and Grant’s Pass. This road was slightly wider, much better marked, and was missing the 1-200 yard-long cracks that left you wondering if you’d be able to get to the other side of the road if you needed to, but it had that desolate character, only slightly marred by occasional traffic.
Just as I left Lillooet, a deer walked across the road in front of me and then, just as I started rolling again, there was a guy on a Triumph Bonneville right beside me, hollering something. I stopped and he told me that the “deer were everywhere! I’ve seen 12 today!” He turned off within a half mile and I rode on. I stopped at a pullout and talked to a railroad engineer who was moving from Vancouver to Lillooet to drive trains for the Canadian National Railroad. He had a real purty Harley Davidson V-Rod in the back of his purty pickup truck. Here are some pictures from along the way:
Looking back towards Lillooet.
Near the summit where the Cayoosh Creek drainage starts. I missed some of the best pictures because I had my mind and hands occupied with riding.
The road was only 60 miles from Lillooet to Pemberton, but it took me about an hour and 45 minutes. I saw another deer, had a close encounter with a beagle pup near the end and got closer to a bear than I’ve ever been. The bear encounter was one of those “I wish I’d realized what that was” moments. Just a couple of miles after the beagle ran across the road in front of me, I was clear to the right of the pavement, trying to encourage a pickup to go around me. There was a concrete barrier immediately to my right and suddenly there was a black, hairy mass sticking up above the barrier. I realized about 2 seconds after it was behind me that it had been a bear walking along the creek that was about 3′ feet to the right of the barrier. It had been a big bear, too, even if I didn’t see anything but the top of its head and back.
From the time I topped the summit near the headwaters of Cayooshe Creek, it was getting darker and I kept meeting motorcyclists heading east. I wanted to stop them and tell them that it wasn’t a road I’d be wanting to ride in the dark, or in the hour or so leading up to the dark. Deer-thirty, I thought.
When I got to Pemberton, I’d decided that I’d stop at the first motel I saw. Well, Pemberton isn’t that kind of town. No motels at all. Lodges and condos. All full.
The girl at the lodge I stopped at told me that she already knew everything in Whistler was full and suggested that I would probably need to go to Squamish, Squamish was another 54 miles. I would have stopped at campgrounds, but they were all full, too. When I got to Whistler, I stopped for gas and called ahead to Squamish and learned that everything there was full. Something about a logger’s festival in Whistler.
So I forged on, in the dark, on winding roads with many fast drivers going both directions, thinking about the deer that were probably out there in the dark, just lurking for a tired Colorado motorcyclist unfamiliar with where he was going. Those thoughts were enough to keep me focused and riding carefully.
Finally, I got to Vancouver. Well, North Vancouver. I got off the by-then 4-lane divided highway and headed into civilization, stopping at the Travelodge that was the first motel I could turn into. That’s when I learned that everyone in Canada was on the move due to a long weekend. There would be no motel rooms in Vancouver. I tried calling towns east of Vancouver, but as far back as Abbotsford, the story was the same. Nothing. Zip. Nada. Everything was full.
So, I used my GPS to give me a phone number to call from a Denny’s in North Vancouver. I called the International Motel in Blaine, the destination I thought I”d reach today, and there was one (smoking) room still available. The man said he would hold it for me and didn’t take a credit card number to reserve it. It was nearly midnight then, and I told him I was going to get something to eat and then it would take an hour to get to him. He said that was OK. I ate my 2nd meal in a row at a Denny’s and thought I’d be here by 1:30 or so.
I was within a mile by that time, but then it took me an hour and 45 minutes to get through Customs. The line was two cars wide (which were merging into one line about 400 yards from the SINGLE lane that was open for customs clearance. I was to the point where I was sure I was going to drop the bike again by the time I got up to the not-too-friendly customs office welcoming us all to the USA. Plus I dropped my passport when he handed it back to me. He wasn’t happy about picking it up, but decided that it would be quicker than watching me get off the bike and pick it up and then get back on. And he’d never even seen me get on and off the bike. 🙂
The traffic pattern leaving Customs was confusing and tight and by 3:45 my bike-handling skills were even worse than usual. I wasn’t sure I was going to make it out and cover the remaining 200 yards to the Blaine exit. But I did and
when I got here, to the International Motel, the manager gave me a non-smoking “suite” of two bedrooms. Simple but clean and only $49/day. I told him this morning that was going to stay another night and he told me that since I’d gotten here so late he figured the room was mine till Monday anyway. Then I told him Rick was going to join me for the Four Corner’s Ride and he told me that he always liked to give Four Corners riders a break (“Just don’t tell Edith!”), so even though he usually charged $72 for two people in a two room unit, he’d let Rick stay for free. “Just don’t tell Edith!”
I slept for about 5 hours and then my phone started making noise at me. Text messages from people. I should have left it off. I got up, walked down the street, and had a good breakfast, and now that I’ve updated the blog, I’m going back to bed till Rick gets here.
Stats: Day 21: 556 miles; Trip, 7998 miles; Total for Year, 13.842 miles; Total on bike, 65,931 miles.