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Seattle to Alaska - Part 4

Text and photos by Colleen First

...continued from part 3

Day 13 � 274 miles
Once we left Whitehorse behind the scenery again picked up pace and there was lots to look at. We made a specific stop at Walker's to have some more of their tasty homemade food. We didn't get a very early start, and with a few more off-road exploring trips we didn't get as far as we had thought.

Watson Lake, while you may not know the name, is famous for it's Signpost Forest. Here is one picture, but it will never do the place justice. There are over 50,000 signs posted here � I was quite surprised at the magnitude of this place!

At Junction 37 we went straight where as we had previously come up from the south. For the return home we were going to follow the Alaska Highway almost to it's beginning (we ended up skirting Dawson Creek). We weren't sure how far the places were on the map from where we were, so we stopped at the first motel we saw, which was at Iron Creek. I'm not even sure if we were in the Yukon or BC, as I didn't see any signs. I think it was the Yukon� It turned out to be a good stop, with fresh food, a warm room and a TV. We had to laugh at the sign taped to the top of the TV: "Do Not Change the Channel. There Is Only One Channel". And as if that wasn't bad enough, the owner could control which One Channel it was from the main building. We were at his mercy for our electronic entertainment.

Day 14 � 325 miles
Today was a surprise. No, not that it happened, but the terrain that we rode through. I had no idea what to expect from this corner of BC, but was pleasantly surprised to find mountain passes, rivers, steep hills and windy roads. We saw much wildlife, including Stone's sheep (they looked more like goats to me), caribou, two black bear and deer. The weather looked promising, but the promise was never kept. It was cold for most of the trip (ok, ALL of the trip) through Muncho Pass and it rained on us periodically. The roads were in mostly great shape, with some tricky downhill corners that were all gravel just to spice things up a bit. We stopped just before Summit Lake for some homemade cinnamon buns (Moose Buns, they called them) and to warm up a bit more.

After coming over the Pass and working our way down to Fort Nelson, I felt an odd sensation from my bike. At first I thought that it was the engine not pulling smoothly, but then I wondered about the chain. No sooner did I wonder about it than it came off the sprocket. I was lucky that's all it did. I knew that the chain was on its last legs, but I honestly thought that it would get me back to Seattle. Nope, not now. Doug tightened it as far as it would go, but the sprockets were worn and the chain was still sagging. Far from nowhere, we did all we could do: limped it slowly down the mountains to Fort Nelson. We were fortunate to find a shop that, while not officially "open", was still willing to work on the bike. They didn't have any parts (there seems to be a theme here), but the mechanic was willing to remove a link from the chain so that we could at least get to Fort St John the next day. It was really too late to make the journey to Fort St John that night, as there is nothing between the two towns except for a couple of hundred kilometers of empty road. We found a cheap motel and made an early evening of it.

Day 15 � 238 miles
We got up especially early so as to make it in to Fort St John at a reasonable time, which we did do. The ride from Fort Nelson to Fort St John isn't anything to write home about and took about four hours. It's mostly flat open land. The morning had thick fog that lasted for quite some time, although we still managed to see a nice sunrise. That didn't last long, however, as it then rained for the next three hours until we pulled into Fort St John. We had three motorcycle shop phone numbers from the guys in Fort Nelson, but when we called them, none of them carried the parts we needed. One of them suggested the Kawasaki dealership that turned out to not carry the parts we needed either. However, the owner was more helpful and called to his supplier in Edmonton and arranged to have the parts I needed put on a bus for delivery at 8 am the next day (that's Saturday delivery!). I agreed and we went off to find a motel for the night. We got the last room at the Bluebell, took nice hot showers and then promptly fell asleep for three hours. We got up long enough to dine at the local Pizza Hut, channel surf and then fall asleep again.

Day 16 � 283 miles
We dropped the bike off at 9am and then went to find breakfast. The service was done by 11am and we had the bikes loaded and on the road by 11:30. The sun was coming out in Fort St John and we thought that we might be in for a pleasant ride for our trip down past Prince George and hopefully Spences Bridge. It wasn't to be. We started out by backtracking slightly up #97 so that we could take the Hudson's Hope loop south, thereby skipping Dawson Creek. I had also heard that this was a more interesting road, and I'm guessing that it is. There were lots of deer happily munching grass on either side of the road, and we saw a moose, coyote and another black bear. The road follows the Peace River and there are lots of farms in the area that made for some very nice scenery. The road is winding and climbs up and down some nice hills. I even managed to drag the end of my tool tube I had mounted to the skid plate of my bike.

Then it struck: the Flat Gremlins attacked Doug's bike. We were about 20 miles from the nearest town and there was a light rain. What to do? Neither of us had actually fixed a flat tire before (and these have tubes so there's a bit more work involved than your standard tire plug kit) so we were a little hesitant. After a short debate at the side of the road Doug decided that he'd try and fix it. We pulled the bikes over to the widest spot at the side of the road that we could find and started looking for something to jack the bike up on to. Luckily for us the railroad workers were not tidy and had left a number of steel plates scattered around the nearby railroad track.

Once the bike was up we took the rear wheel off and consulted the magazine Doug had purchased in Prudhoe Bay that had an article on "how to fix a flat tire". That article was a godsend!

With the handy tools that we had packed along we soon had the tube out of the rim and found the nasty hole. We suspect that the tube was pinched, as we couldn't find any evidence of anything going through the (almost new) rubber itself. Doug then pulled out his trusty bicycle repair patch kit and fixed the hole.

We must have made quite a sight, sitting by the side of the road with all of our gear scattered around us. Only one person stopped to offer help, so either we looked like we knew what we were doing or people just don't care. It took us about 2 � hours to get back on the road, but that also included the time we stood around looking at the tire saying "What should we do?" as well as the actual bumbling through the magazine article and repacking the bikes when we were all done. Not too bad, if I say so myself.

Once we were back on the road it was much later than we had hoped for. Our goal had been to stop about 3 hours south of Prince George, but it looked like we were going to hit Prince George instead. We decided to stay near Moxie's again (yum!) and get another early start in the morning. Doug had to catch a ferry to Victoria and had to be at work the next day so we had very little time left to spare.

Day 17 � 580 miles
Morning cruelly arrived at 4:15 am and we were on the road by 5am. The morning started out cool, but quickly heated up once we hit Cache Creek. We were in a race to get Doug to the ferries, so there wasn't much stopping. Gas stops about every 3-4 hours and one break at Cache Creek for drinks and munchies. We parted ways at Sumas, where I crossed the border back in to the States (not even a question as to where I had been � how disappointing!) and Doug hoofed it to the next ferry home.

Approximately 5,600 miles had rolled over on my odometer when I pulled into my driveway at the end of the day � and I had one sore butt! But it was a great trip, and I am so glad that we were able to complete it with so few mishaps.


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