Alaska Road Trip - Part III
I woke up at around 4:30, not feeling particularly well - something I ate last night must not have settled well. I went used the facilities and tried to get some more sleep. I tossed and turned for a couple hours and decided to get up. I was feeling a little better but was tired. I actually made decent time getting everything packed up (about an hour), but am still amazed that I can't quite get the trailer to fold down the same way twice - every morning it seems like there's a new puzzle to solve. As I was checking out the trailer as I put it on the hitch, I noticed that one of the tail lights on my cooler rack attached to the back of the trailer was about to fall off. When the hitch is raised to move it about by hand, the cooler rack drags on the ground a bit. I'm pretty sure that when the rig got loaded on the tow truck, the cooler rack scraped the ground pretty hard and broke the plastic housing that holds the lens in place and the lens and light were basically dangling, just waiting for a good bump to knock the lens off. Since I was in a fairly decent sized town, I decided to deal with it before I got on the road. SO after breakfast, I found an auto supply place.
They had some lights, but not of the exact brand and size of mine. I bought one that was close and after some fashioning, made it work. So it was about 9:00 before I was able to get under way for the day. As I was buttoning the lighting project up, a lady wandered by and said "Nice day for a ride!" "I hope so." It was overcast, but pleasant as I left, but could see threatening clouds in the skies to the north. Tired of all the bulky rain gear I decided to just use my chaps and medium gloves. It was chilly for the first bit of the ride, but I was OK.
My first photo opp came at Williams Lake. I found a pull out and snapped a few pics. Nice, but nothing remarkable. I did catch a glimpse of a couple deer across the road, so I guess there is wildlife here after all. A little further up the road, I came across a wildlife viewing area. I pulled in to see what was up and they actually listed beavers and river otters among the animals that are present in the preserve. Excited to maybe see a beaver or river otter, neither of which I'd seen before, I headed off on the trail that led to one of the beaver dens. I got out to the section where it was supposed to be (Otter Point), but saw no obvious beaver den, let alone any beavers or otters. There were birds aplenty, but I've seen most of them before. I saw one duck-like bird that may have been new to me, but at a distance so it was hard to say. The one bird that I could see that was new to me was a Yellow Headed Black Bird. I managed to get a bit of a pic of one, but not very clear. I wandered around a bit more - probably spent nearly an hour wandering around a very pleasant habitat, but didn't really get any special memories or photos of anything here.
I got back on the road and hit Quesnel in time for gas and lunch. There was supposed to be a gas station about 10 miles shy of Quesnel, which was in comfortable range. Quesnel was a little further than I wanted to risk. I got to where the station was and saw the price of fuel at 1.09/liter (about 30 to 40 cents cheaper than anywhere else so far). This should have been a clue. As I followed another gas hunter off the highway, I realized that the place was closed. Grrrr. I found out later, that many independent stations in Canada are having to shut down because the government is imposing stricter rules about underground storage tanks, similar to what the stations in California went through about 10 years ago. In order to stay in operation, the stations with older tanks require a complete tank and line replacement to add double walled systems to prevent leakage into the ground. I actually worked for a company at one point about 15 years ago doing these installations. It's quite a costly and time consuming process taking 3-4 months to complete. All but the most active fuel stations are pretty much forced to close down because of the cost.
I actually lunched at a McDonalds in a Walmart and decided to pick up a few things while I was there. In particular, I was looking for a little propane heater, that I could use in my tent on chillier evenings and mornings and last night had been chilly enough to warrant spending a little time trying to find one. I had tried to find one in town before I left, but all the stores that might carry such a thing were in summer mode, and by the time I thought of it, I didn't have time to risk not getting it time via the internet. I figured up here, in a much cooler climate, that something like that may be around. After picking up a couple of other small things, I tried to get help from the staff to make sure I hadn't overlooked something. This ended up being a bit of a PIA, because every staff person seemed to be busy helping everyone except me. I waited for about 5 minutes as one gal was helping another customer, and before I could grab her, she dashed off in the other direction and started to help someone else who had just wandered up. After some more waiting, I finally found another clerk and she confirmed that they didn't have them. I ended up spending about 45 minutes taking care of that business.
I got on the road headed for Prince George. About 30 minutes out of Quesnel, I started getting into some light rain. It was light enough that I didn't feel the need to pull over and put on all my gear. Right as I hit the first intersection in Prince George, the rain just came pouring down from nowhere and drenched me in seconds. I was pulling off into a gas station anyway to ask where information services were, but the rain was coming down hard. I pulled into one of the bays even though I didn't need gas. I went in and got some coffee and a candy bar and the station attendants were real nice about letting me stay parked there for a bit while I dried off a little. After my coffee, I put on my rain gear and by then the rain had pretty much stopped. Perfect. I have picked up on a pattern the last couple days. The mornings have tended to be reasonable, overcast but not threatening. Around 12_00 or 1:00 some rain moves in. After 2-5 hours it clears up again and has been cool to cold, but generally pleasant in the evenings. Today was no different.
I headed into the information center hoping to get some advice on what to expect in the 3 basic newly developed trip plans. The guys there were very helpful and basically convinced me that my best bet to see dramatic scenery and wildlife, decent roads and least chance of rain, was to head east rather than west or north. They said a couple of riders had just come through the Cassiar highway and reported it to be in good condition, but it also been fairly dry during their trip. He said that the biggest issue was frost heaves closer to the Al-Can highway, rather than the unpaved sections of the road near Dease Lake. Neither of the guys was familiar with any of the Northwest Territory headed for Yellowknife. They both convinced me that I would likely have the best time heading for Jasper. So that was that. I also asked them about a sporting goods store where I may find a propane heater. They directed me and off I went.
I got to the sporting goods store and they had nothing. They directed me to another place Canadian Tires, which is not dissimilar to a Walmart. I found the Canadian Tire and found the camping gear. I went up and down the aisle where the propane fueled camping gear was and had no luck. I was just about to pick up a miniature lantern to provide a little heat. Then I turned around and presto, they had two choices! I had seen both of these on the internet and the one that I though I wanted was huge, way to big for me to fit anywhere on my rig and it was way more expensive that I was willing to spend. The other one was small enough to squeeze in somewhere and the price was reasonable so I picked it up.
When I was at the information center, I inquired if there was a place to stop about an hour or so out of town on 16 that I could stop for the night. The guys said that the next place was about 2 1/2 hours away on 16 heading east. It was already 4:30 and I knew I had to do some running around and was looking forward to an early stop so I could just relax for a bit and I also wanted to check a few things out on the bike. They directed me to a place south of town on 97 (that I had already passed) and showed me a cut-over to 16 which I had seen on the way into town. So after I procured the heater, I head back south a few kilometers. I had learned that my next likely fuel opportunity after leaving Prince George was about 130 miles away. I decided to fill up and also grab a little spare fuel. Since I had to pass the gas station where I was allowed to dry off with no hassles, I decided to make a point of giving them my fuel business on the way down to the RV place.
I got set up, went to a nearby convenience store for a sandwich and some ice before settling in for the night. BY the time I got back to camp, I discovered that it was already 7:30. Where had the time gone? I ran over to shower and sat down to eat. After eating, I checked into the bike stuff a little bit. After I got rolling on Thursday, I noticed a couple of things that weren't working quite right. My audio system wasn't working at all and my trip odometers were resetting every time I turned off the engine. Obviously, I must have done something while chasing down my other problems to disrupt something. When I replaced the bad fuse, I had grabbed on that was in the fuse block that was labeled as "stand by". I considered the possibility that it was being used by something after all. After looking at the manual, I discovered that "stand by" didn't mean "spare" and was actually being used by the odometers. It didn't show any connection to the audio system, but one never knows. I replaced the "stand by" fuse and I think (I'll know tomorrow) that the odometer issue is fixed, but the audio system is still not functioning. I will have to dig into the fairing and possibly one of the lower sections to trace that down. Meanwhile, I've been using ear pods which has been inconvenient, but functional. Hopefully I'll find a location to spend a couple nights at and have time to tear into it a bit, but I was running short on R & R time tonight as it was.
This particular RV park uses wi-fi provided by an outside company. They require you to setup an account and pay 5.95/day to use it. Itís pretty outrageous cost, but the internet is an invaluable tool for looking at tomorrow's weather expectations and general travel information, not to mention keeping ion touch with home. At about 8:45 I finally got trying to get hooked up. I filled out all the stuff and it told me "transaction failed". I reconfigured the credit card number and it still failed. The RV office closed at 9:00, so I high tailed it up there to use their phone (my cell phone was not working again!) I called them (obviously email would not work!) and got through to a tech. He was fumbling about looking for something and after a few minutes the line went dead. I called back immediately and was stuck on hold for about 20 minutes. I had had enough. Hopefully they didn't get any of my money because I sure got no service out of them. So I had to spend the evening without any internet and no contact to home.
One of the last minute purchases I made before leaving home was a little folding laundry hanger, so I have somewhere to let towels and wet gear hang to dry, so they won't have to get packed wet. I pulled it out tonight and set up the new heater underneath it to help speed the drying. As I've been completing this entry, I've been monitoring the progress. The heater doesn't put out a lot of heat, but it is drying things out a little. The inside of the tent is noticeably warmer than outside, but not toasty by any means after nearly two hours with it running.
I'm heading for the Jasper area in the morning, hoping for clearer skies and perhaps one day where things will go little smoother.
This morning I awoke to a damp fog - just enough to get the tent nice and wet. The ride up 16 towards Jasper was the same scenery for about an hour. I made the mistake of trying to check out an interior rain forest and Cedar Grove. The "road" leading UP to the parking lot was mud and large rocks. I kind of looked at it for a bit and decided to go for it. The mud was pretty soft and I had a real tough time getting up the hill and actually got stuck near the top (I had to slow down because there were cars parked just beyond where the "road" enters the parking area and I didn't want to approach them too quickly). I was able to work the bike loose from the mud and get it up into the parking area. Once I got to the top and tried to turn the rig around, my front wheel got jammed against a rock and kind of stuck which forced my bars hard to the right away from the slope. When that happened, the bike wanted to fall over to the right. I fought it for a good couple of minutes, but finally had to lat it lay down on the guards so I could get off and tilt it back up right. I ended up having to disconnect the trailer to get things squared up for the descent. I walked about 10 minutes UP a slippery slope to the first branch in the trail. I didn't get to anything special and didn't want to spend an hour or more climbing further up and do the whole loop. So I headed back down to the bike and worked up the courage to head down the hill. That went pretty smooth.
I did spot a couple bears and a moose along the way to McBride. The situations didn't really warrant stopping for photos, so I hope those weren't my only glimpses of large animals!
Not long after that, peaks of the Rocky Mountains started appearing in the distance and before long I was treated to some pretty awesome views. Didn't get anywhere near the pics I wanted to, mostly because there wasn't much shoulder and few places to pull over. Awesome ride though. I stopped in McBride for lunch and gas, kind of scoped out some possibilities for the rest of my trip and headed off.
About 10 miles from McBride, the scenery really started popping. Mountains everywhere and the sun was out pretty well today, so the vistas were magnificent. I stopped where I could for pics, but tried to keep moving as I really wanted a nice relaxing afternoon evening. The road up to Jasper was very cool and just kept getting better. I gassed in Jasper and called the KOA to make sure they had a spot before trekking the 45 minutes to get there. The ride between Jasper and about 10 miles shy of Hinton was absolutely incredible. I could spend several months just on that stretch of road and never run out of things to take pictures of. No words available, and I was floored to say the least. I was afraid to stop for pictures because once I stopped, I'd probably never get anywhere and it was already past the time I wanted to in camp. I'll be passing through there twice on the way back and once coming back to camp tomorrow night, so I will devote some time along that route, but there just won't be enough time to even begin to capture all of the very awesome sites.
Tomorrow, I'm going to head towards Banf. I doubt I'll actually get there though. It's about a 4 hour ride just going through, and the guy here at the KOA said that road puts what I was just through to shame! I can't even imagine what could possibly do that. I feel like my vacation started today (finally!) and the scenery up here makes me not feel so bad about missing out on Alaska.
I'll be returning here for tomorrow night and then start working my way south. For the most part I'm planning real short days and plan to enjoy them a bit. It looks like I'll be able o hit KOAs most of the way home which will save me a little.
With the relatively bland scenery yesterday, I had plenty of time for comptemplation. I decided to consider that my breakdown nightmare was an omen (or something) that something was gonna really go wrong on the way to or from Alaska and this was just fate's way of keeping me out of real trouble. Today's scenery confirmed it for me. I had planned on heading up this way in a couple of years anyway, so I'll just do Alaska another time - it will still be there.
I woke up to what looked like it would turn out to be a beautiful day, After a quick breakfast, I donned a lighter riding apparel and headed back towards Jasper on my way to 93 to head east towards Banf. Once in Jasper, I decided to try to knock out some of souvenir shopping before the crowds got there. I picked up a few things along with a tip on where to ride in the park from a fellow rider who was running one of the shops. I went down to another shop, trying to buy some more stuff and the clerk told me my credit card was rejected, the same one I'd been using all trip and even had just used it minutes ago. Not happy I pulled out my other card and asked where a pay phone was and was told it was across the street. Just what I needed on what was already going to be a day to short to see everything I wanted to.
I went across the street to the pay phones. Realizing I didn't have proper change on me, I had to go back across the street to a bank to get change. Returning to the phones, I put a coin in the first one. It wouldn't take it. I moved on the next one - it wouldn't let me dial a zero. On to the third, I finally got in touch with the credit card place and after an eternity of entering this number and than that number and then another number, I finally got through to a person. Just as I was about to get connected to someone who could deal with my issue, I bumped something on the phone and it hung up. I put more money in the phone and started all over.
I finally got connected to the a person in the fraud department. She asked if I had notified them that I was leaving the country. No, I didn't know I had to do such a thing. My account had been closed because of all the activity in a foreign country. If that's the case, why did they wait 10 or eleven days to be concerned? After about 45 minutes of this nonsense, the account was opened up again I was able to get on with my day.
There's 3 gates for Jasper Provincial Park. One coming in from the west on Highway 16, one from the east on Highway 16 and one going from Jasper into the National Park on 93 heading south. Thereís actually probably a fourth coming up on 93 from Banf. When you pass through either of the gates on 16, they ask you where you're heading. If you're just passing through to Hinton (or Tete Juane Pass going the other way) they just let you through. IF youíre going into the park, you pay the park entrance fee. Fine, no problem. I paid on the way from Hinton on 16. When I hit the gate on 93 from Jasper, there was a line of cars waiting to pay and no way for those of us who already had to get around, so we all had to wait. I didnít get that at all and after my dealings with the credit card company earlier, I was already in a grumpy mood. Waiting at the gate didn't help my attitude at all.
I soon came to the side route that the guy in the shop had told me about. I took it and started looking for photo opps. There were many, but in many cases found it hard to get off the road. Luckily, his was a road less traveled, so it wasn't a problem to just stop in the road and take pictures. I made the mistake of trying to catalogue which features I was shooting so the mountains would have a little more meaning than "here's another mountain". This became a burden very quickly because it was difficult to know which mountain I was looking at even with a map with most of them located. I spent about 2 hours trying to take photos this way and finally gave up. With all the other nonsense, I was really getting irritated, which just didn't fit with all the beautiful scenery around me. Those two hours got me all of five or ten miles. After that stretch I made much fewer stops to take pictures and tried to just enjoy the ride.
That helped my mood a little, but I was passing by bunches of great shots. But I'm afraid from a photo viewing perspective, it would have started to get a little tedious looking picture after picture of mountains, that all had the same feel to them. Sure they're all a little different and all magnificent, but I'm finding that mountains can be like wine or beer - all good and they all have their own "personalities", if you will, but they're all still just beer or wine or mountains in this case. I did what I could to find unique situations, but I really started taking fewer and fewer photos. I made it as far as the Ice Fields, which is where the guy at the KOA recommended I try to make. There were a few nice spots, but I could have missed them and not missed them.
After that, I pretty mush just boogied back down to Jasper. I was so looking for an early evening and it wasn't gonna happen. I got back into Jasper and fueled up and bumped into some other riders who I'd seen coming from Banf as I was heading towards the Ice Fields. I noticed that one of them had Alaska plates and I started chatting with them. He'd was on the tail end of a seven week road trip that pretty much wrapped the country - New York, Niagara Falls, the south, Texas, California etc. He was traveling with his wife and they had hooked up with another rider who was from Saskatuan. We chatted for a while. It's always fun exchanging stories with other riders, but this was eating into my evening. Since my breakfast of a couple of granola bars, coffee milk and an apple, I had had a Snickers bar and Gatorade to eat all day. It was around 5:30 by this point and I was ready for some dinner. I told them that I was staying at the KOA about an hour up the road - they had planned to put a couple of hours under their wheels before stopping for the night.
I found a little brew pub in Jasper for dinner. I love Brew Pubs, especially on road trips - just my kind cuisine. I had a beer and a buffalo burger. It was all right, but nothing special. I did get a "growler" ( two liter bottle) to take back to camp with me which I planned to knock off over the next couple of nights.
As I got back into camp, I noticed there were some bikers camped near my site. Cool. As I got closer, I noticed it was the folks I had met at the gas Station in Jasper. The guy from Alaska was towing a tent trailer behind his Goldwing and his wife was towing a cargo trailer behind her triked out Harley. Great, I'll have someone to share the evening with. We swapped trailer tips and did the show and tell about what we liked and disliked about our rigs. I went back to my camp for a bit to check back in with home and cracked open the beer. As much fun as it was chatting with these guys, it really ate into my kickback time. I packed up a couple things that I had set up for the two night stay and finished off the evening chatting with he guy from Alaska. I asked him if he was born and raised there or if he had gone up to visit and never went home. He said it was the latter. I expressed my feeling that once I got up there, I might just do the same. We said good night and figured we meet up again in the morning.
I had waken up very early in the morning to use the facilities - don't even know what time it was. After settling myself into bed again (always seems to be a chore), I woke up around 6:30. I was surprised to see that both parties were long gone - I hadn't heard a thing. And I though I was an early riser! I took a leisurely morning and fully intended to check out one spot in the area that I hadn't had a chance to yesterday. With only 250 miles (or so) planned for the day, I figured I'd have a couple hours to spare and still get to camp early that afternoon. Instead, I stopped in Jasper to get some more souvenir shopping done and mail some stuff home. It ended up being noon, before I got done in Jasper, so I head towards Clearwater.
When I had left Hinton, the skies were sunny and it was relatively warm, so I dressed for a "spring ride", with just the chaps, jacket and my summer gloves. Even in that, I was worn out trudging around the Jasper shops. Once I finally got out of Jasper, it felt good to be riding, but I noticed what looked like some pretty serious rain going over the continental divide. Once I got to the west gate, the rain was coming hard enough that I needed to add some layers. I didn't go to the rain pants, but added a warm pullover, my head scarf and some medium weight riding gloves. It came down pretty good for about 20 miles. I was pretty well protected as long as I was moving, but having to slow down for construction zones and whatnot, I received a bit more moisture. It was never a problem, just annoying.
I got light rain off and on through most of the way south on highway 5. Luckily, there weren't a lot of distractions to make me want to stop too much and I made pretty decent time, but I was still much later than I wanted to be. I reached the KOA in Clearwater and just got my tent setup and it was right around 6:00. I still wanted to run up into Grey Wells Park to see some of the falls and I knew it was likely going to be about 2 hours to go where I wanted and back. But if I didn't do it then, I would throw myself behind for tomorrow's "short ride" and site seeing.
When I got into Clearwater, the weather was perfect - sunny and people around camp were in the pool and wearing shots and tees. I stripped down to my jeans and jacket and summer gloves and headed towards the falls. There was very little traffic on the road and I did little to follow the speeds posted. I wasn't driving crazy or anything, but I wanted to get to a few key spots. I found the first falls in short time. There was a short five minute walk to get to the viewing area and it was very moderate. I got about half way there, took a few photos along the way and discovered the memory card in my camera was full. So I hiked back up to the bike, put in a new card and doubled back. The first falls were nice, but nothing real dramatic. I hiked back to the bike and carried on. I pulled into the second falls opportunity and discovered it required a 2.9 kilometer hike. Nope. no time for that and I moved on.
I pulled into the exit for what I thought was the third and final falls I wanted to see. I saw no obvious directions but saw a dirt road heading up a hill. so I just jumped on it. It wasn't soft like my experience the other day, but it was wet and slick and just kept going up. I got about a quarter mile up the hill and realized that I had made a mistake - but there were not really any safe opportunities to try to turn around. The road was just a little wider than a one lane road. I just kept grinding it out, hoping I'd come to some sort of turnaround point. Probably about a mile up this road, I found a slight shoulder and decided to try to get off and get turned around. I did and very carefully worked my way back down the hill. When I got back to the main parking area, I noticed an information board and checked it out. This wasn't a falls exit at all - the falls I was looking for was about 6 miles up the main road. Too much further than that and I would have not bothered.
I got back on the main road and buzzed up to the next falls. I was very glad I did, because it was magnificent. The skies had clouded over a bit and I actually hit a few sprinkles on the way up. When I got to the falls, they were lit up perfectly and had a natural "frame" built into the landscape. Anybody could get a great picture of these falls without even trying and I think I got a couple of keepers out of that one. I had the place all to myself and did try to spend a little time just enjoying the magnificent view. But it was 7:30 by this point and I hadn't had dinner, needed a shower and still had to unpack all my gear back at camp.
As I was heading back to the bike, I was feeling a chill in the air, so I added another layer and got back on the road. Once I got back on the road, it had begun raining a bit, and the roads were wet, so I had to take just a little bit easier coming back to camp. I spotted a rainbow climbing over a mountain and stopped to get a few pictures of that. I got back to camp a little after 8:00. I unpacked my stuff, checked to see if I had wi-fi connection at my campsite (I did) and ran over and grabbed a quick shower. I got back to my tent, built a fire, started logging onto my email and started eating some summer sausage and cheese I had leftover from a couple nights ago for dinner. The internet connection was very slow and by the time I actually got to getting an email home, it was 9:45. So much for a nice relaxing evening. I caught up on my journal, loaded my pics from the day onto my computer and spent what was left of my evening enjoying the campfire and the rest of my beer from the night before.
AS I'm making this entry, I'm pissed off beyond words. I finally made it to camp early enough to have a relaxing evening. Tonight was laundry night and I had planned on taking care of my internet and other business while I was taking care of the laundry. I hauled my clothes down to the KOA's laundry room, which was empty an hour before as I was checking in. Tonight apparently is everyone's laundry night as there were about a dozen people lined up to use four machines. Their secondary laundry room was "broken". So much for a relaxing night. I headed to downtown Revelstoke to their Laundromat and it wasn't mush better. They had nobody in attendance and no change machine. I tried to get change from a couple of places around the Laundromat, but I guess the businesses were all tired of dealing with the owner's lack of having change available. I went next door and after initially denying my request, I kind of went off on him a little, and he felt sorry for me enough to dig out some change out of his car.
The washers in this place are tiny and cost $2.50 each; dryers are .25 for about 5 minutes, so I needed about $10 in quarters and 4 loonies. Somebody pointed out the sign to go to the liquor store for change. Once I figured out where the liquor store I went and got some more quarters. An hour and a half after I started trying to laundry, I finally got it started. AN hour and a half later, I was about done. 8:00. Not a happy camper. At least I was able to grab some dinner while the dryer was going.
Other than that, I had a fairly good day on the road. I stopped in Kamloops to try to hunt down a few things that I needed, but a couple of them are kind of obscure and I wound up killing almost 2 hours there without 100% success. I did see a few sprinkles along the way but nothing heavy.
The roads between Clearwater and Revelstoke were pleasant and got much better after I passed through Salmon Arm. I didnít stop much for photos and there weren't that many opportunities anyway. I was bound and determined to have a nice long relaxing evening, but something still got in the way of that. I'm heading for somewhere in the vicinity of Cranbrook tomorrow. I wish there was a KOA there, because I could have just put off laundry for one more night, but I'll be staying in an unfamiliar environment and not sure what to expect for facilities and the laundry would HAVE to be done tomorrow.
I've had it with this country. I was planning on being here one more night before heading back into the states, but ma and Canada are just not getting along. It's just one thing after another and I' real tired of paying for this country's health insurance.
After last night's fiasco, I managed to get to bed a little earlier than I have been and as a result I woke up at 4:30. It was light enough for me to get packing, so I did. After showering and packing up, I was on the road by around 6:30. It was a clear but brisk morning and it just felt good to be out of that place. I hit a few patches of construction between Revelstoke and Golden, but not too many delays. The traffic was light and flowing. I stopped a few times for some photos and then gassed and had a little extra breakfast bite before heading on.
I got to Cranbrook around 12:30, ran a few errands, had lunch and was back on the road by 2:00. I had planned on stopping in Cranbrook, but the good time I was making prompted to try for another hour of road, since tomorrow's intended route would be slow going. I decided to head for Creston, about an hour away. On the way, I noticed a sign for a duty free shop which would take me about 20 miles round trip out of my way. I figured I had time so I headed down there to pick up some cigars for the guys back home.
I found the place and went in, made my selection and then discovered that I couldn't take them with me - I had to go back to the US to make a purchase there. I don't know how I would have possibly known that, but I guess I paid for that bit of ignorance. 45 minutes, I was back to where I had detoured. By this time, I wanted a cigar for myself for the night, so when I hit Creston, I tried to find a place that sold them. I've noticed that all the places that sell cigarettes have them hidden - I guess somehow this discourages kids form being tempted. So I figured the cigars were in a similar situation. I also have noticed that liquor (beer and wine included) are sold only at specially licensed places - grocery stores and most convenience stores don't stock it. So I figured that a licensed liquor store would be the place to find something like cigars.
After grinding my way through town, I spotted a liquor store and went in. NO dice. "Where can I find some?" He directed me to a place that may have them back the other direction. "Not any more" The gas station down the street, yes back the other way some more, might have some. I got there and again, no luck. Fine, no cigar tonight. I headed back to the campground I had targeted, base on some info at a information center in Cranbrook. I passed many other similar places to get to this one. B y the time I got there it was 5:00. Somehow, I managed to lose an hour even accounting for the cigar runaround.
So I pull into the place and there's a note on the door to go down to one of the campsites to find the managers. I did and walked back up to the office and got a site and paid for internet hookup. After getting basically setup, I ran back up the street a bit to grab some quick dinner. As I was putting out of the park, the manager jumped out of his chair and told me to slow down. I honestly was not moving very fast. In fact I was moving as slowly as I possibly could and still keep the bike upright and maneuver through the potholed gravely road. Just what I needed, somebody else giving me crap for no good reason whatsoever. As I got to the exit of the park, I gunned it a little out of frustration.
I was going to just get a sandwich and bring it back, but the first thing I found was an A&W and that sounded good enough. $10.50 for a burger onion rings and root beer. Ridiculous. I then went over to the grocery store to grab some milk for the morning and stood in line for 15 minute to buy an overpriced milk. I headed back to the camp to try to take a shower and try to relax as it had already got to be almost 7:00.
As I was coming back in to the park - as slow as possible - the manager jumped out in front of me a started going off on me. It took every ounce of patience I had to not just get in his face and take him out. I don't know what it is about this country that takes issue with me trying to sit and relax. It seems like that's all I've tried to do for the last week. He told me if I "pull that stunt" again he was gonna evict me. "Stunt? What stunt?" HE was referring to me gunning it as I left, I apologized for that and listened to a few more needless minutes of his "I'm the boss around here/drill sergeant" crap. When he finally let me go, I crawled back to camp, ready to kill.
I headed over to grab a shower as I had worked up quite a sweat in the sudden heat when I was setting up. I got back to my tent and tried to get on the internet. They had to issue me an account. I fired up the computer, found the camp's wireless connection. It was slow, but it allowed me to connect. I started up IE and all I got was the good old "404 Page Not found" message. Usually when you pay for internet, the first thing you get is a redirect to a log in screen, but nothing. Great one more thing. I walked my computer up to the office despite the fact that if I never saw that camp Nazi again I would be just fine. I got to their camper and apologized to his wife for bothering them and explained what was happening - or rather not happening. She was pretty clueless and after fumbling around for several minutes, she gave me my $2 back and apologized. That's all fine and good, but I really need some quality time on the internet. Or at least 2 minutes so I can check in home.
I had intended on running down highway 3 across the southern border to Oliver tomorrow and then jump back across the border the next day. But after the nonsense with Adolph, I've just had it with this country. Two nights in a row of ridiculous encounters with jerk off camp managers and having nothing but trouble with internet connections (it's been 3 nights since I've had much time and even that was very slow, so I couldn't get much done. So, I'm just going to head south from here down towards Sandpoint, ID and then cut west towards Winthrop, which was to be my stop the next night anyway.
This will actually help me take care of something else that needs handling. I've been chatting with some people in the Solar Panel industry in Sandpoint regarding the troubles I've been having to see if they can troubleshoot the issue. I was going to ship it up to them after my trip, but maybe I can just drop in on them and they can take a look and give me an idea what needs to happen. In the very least, it will save me one way shipping charges. If I can just access my email before getting there so I can remember the name of the place and try to find them. I may have seen an internet cafe on the way into town, maybe I can do some quick checking around before I leave town in the morning even though I dread spending one more minute in this country than I have to. There's some beautiful spots, but it just hasn't agreed with me.
I did remember correctly that there was a cafe with internet access. I stopped there for breakfast and to catch up on my Email and to map out my options for the day. The food wasn't exactly my style (a little too foo-foo for my taste) but it was good to have some internet time. I got the address for the solar company (Backwoods Solar) and decided to try to drop by.
At the border, the U.S. agents were a little more thorough then thier Canadian counterparts. They actually pulled me aside and did a brief inspection of the contents of my trailer. It was no big deal as they just had me open it while they did a quick scan of my stuff. No gear dump or anything like that. I continued south on 95 to Sandpoint, ID. Once I got in the area, I stopped at and information center to get directions to the solar place. They were a little out of the way and kept what I considered to be odd hours (weren't open for business until after noon), but I figured out how to get there and did so after lunch.
Backwoods Solar is out in the middle of no-where and operates out of an old residence that shares property with a couple other enities. One of these entities was an alpaca ranch. These llama type creatures kind of freaked me out a little - their face are very human-like and it felt a bit like I was looking at some twisted science experiment. After I got over my alpaca encounter, I found the Backwoods Solar office and found somebody to take a look at my solar set up.
He spent a good solid hour doing what he could to diagnose why I was having issues with the panel. Eventually, he kind of shrugged and decided his diagnosis would be: "It doesn't work". We both kind of laughed at his lack of detail, but I guess that Solar technology can be like that. We chatted breifly about what options I might have to get set up "properly". We could get too detailed as he did have other things he was supposed to be doing, but he got me in the headed in the right direction. I asked what I owed for his time and he waved me off. I tried again but he refused to charge me. I thanked him and promised that I'd be in touch when I got rebuilding my solar system.
I got back on the road knowing that Winthrop was out of the question. I went back to the information center to find out where I might find an RV type campground along the way. I got several options and decided to let my stamina decide my destination. I ended up settling in the WA border town of Newport.
The plan for this day was to head for Winthrop with a little diversion back into Canada. I was still jonesin' for a cigar and felt kind of cheated that I didn't have a duty free option at the border crossing at Porthill. I jumped on US 20 and headed west, enjoying a nice pleasant ride. When I hit Tonasket, WA, I locked up the trailer at a gas station and headed north towards the Osoyoos duty free shop. I kind of expected a little hassle as I may have not been eligible to get the duty free goods based on some of the rules of how long I was supposed to have been in the Country before returning back to the States. Aparently it's not OK to cross the border just to get out of paying duty. But I figured my "time served" would work if I needed to talk my way out of anything.
I crossed back into Canada, went to the duty frees shop. I found some cigars (both for immediate use and for sharing with the guys back home) and a few other things, did my business and headed back for the border. Again, the uS side was more thorough and I spoke for several minutes with the officer about my purchases. She was concerned about Cuban cigars, and I assured her they were not. She ckecked them out and let me go.
Between the day's casual ride and the detour back into Canada, I arrived at Winthrop right about the time I'd be settling in somewhere anyway. I spotted a grocery store just up the road from the KOA and decided to get some food for dinner. WHen I got back out to the bike with my food, I discovered that the bike was not going to start - again. Wonderful.
I tore things open hoping to find something simple but no luck. I was getting some odd reading out of my meter and thought that somehow I had wrecked my battery. I was painfully close to the campground (1/2 mile?) but even that was too far to push a 900 lb bike and 500 lb trailer, so I called for another tow. I made sure the campground had a space for me and eventually got towed to the camp. I wasn't paying for it, but I thought the $75 charge for 1/2 mile of tow was a little steep. They did have to spend a good deal of time getting it loaded on the truck.
The lady at the desk had allowed me to get a little situated before dealing with the paperwork. After getting settled in, I went up tothe office to get squared away. The lady was super nice about being flexible with my situation and had no problem with me working on the bike. I went back to my site and got set up and started figuring out how I was going to create a suitable workshop in a campsite. It was also starting to rain a little, so I needed to set up a tarp to create a dry environment.
I had a couple of small tarps, but even combined, they weren't really big enough to do what I needed. I hoped there was a hardware store up by the grocery store and the lady at the KOA said there was. I was a bit concerned that the store would close before I could get back there and the lady at the KOA was kind enough to offer me a ride. WE headed up to the hardware store (an Ace Hardware!) and they did have a tarp big enough for my needs. I grabbed it and some other related needs and we wnet back to the camp. I set up the tarp and got settled in for the night.
In the morning, I started really digging into the bike. I was pulling my hair out as nothing was showing itself and the odd negative readings I was getting from my bettery was throwing me for a loop. I finally broke down and bugged my buddy Hank again for help. He walked me through a few things but was having trouble with my negative battery readings - "that's not even possible" - and suggesdted that perhaps my meter was bad or needed a new battery. I replaced the meter's battery which didn't help. I told Hank that I'd head down to the Ace and grab a new meter and call him back.
On my way out of the park, the nice lady saw me hoofing it and offered to let me use her car. I was a bit taken aback - who DOES that? I politely declined stating that I needed the exercise. But I was a bit blown away by her kindness. I hiked the 1/2 mile or so back to the Ace Hardware. I found a suitable meter and grabbed a few other things that I might need. Once back in camp, I got Hank back on the line and eventually we got the problem diagnosed - it turns out the ignition switch had failed. Yes, the one that he had sent me to replace the one I thought was not working. So I put the original switch back in the bike and all was well again. I definately owed Hank a truckload of ice cream!
I spent the rest of the day buttoning things back up and fiddling with stuff around the campsite. I was much relieved that this issue was resolved quickly and actually spent the
afternoon pretty much just relaxing. I made a point of going up to the office and thanking them all for the staff's over-the-top assistance that night just in case I missed them in the morning.
I decided to give WA a decent look-see and planned to head over the Olympic National Park area. I followed US 20 all the way to I5. One of my favorite roads of all time. A nice flowing single lane highway with little traffic and just the right amount of awesome scenery - not so much that it was distracting but enough to want to pull over every 20 minutes or so for pictures. The Cascade Range was very cool and I stumbled upon many small waterfalls right off the highway.
I had opted to take the ferry across Puget Sound to the Olympic peninsula and chose the short ride from Edmonds to Kingston. The people associated with the ferry were really helpful to one whio wasn't sure what the drill was. The ferry experience was pleasant and I could say I did it. Not really much else to it.
I arrived at the Port Angeles KOA a little early, but not too. I decided that I wanted a nice solid meal and inquired about the possibility of a brew-pub at the desk. They weren't really sure what I was talking about and kind of pointed me towards a couple of places that might be what I was describing. Neither place was a brew-pub so I ended up finding a nicer restaurant for dinner. I was probably a little under dressed, but was given no grief.
I had a nice seafood dinner with a bottle of wine, half of which I took back to camp to finish off. I had a little campfire while polishing off the wine. I headed off to bed feeling like I was back on vacation.
I woke up to a chilly morning in Port Angeles. I decided to skip my granola bar breakfast and find something a little more substantial. I found a place just up the road and had an excellent full breakfast. After breakfast, I went to find the information center to see what I could find out were the best bets for sight seeing on my way to Bay Center. I found the information center down by the ferry station that heads to Victoria, but they weren't open yet - not until 9:30! It was about 8:4e5 so I decided to try to hunt down a few souvenirs at a couple of gift shops that were open. Not a lot of luck, but I did pick up one little item and went back out to wait for the information center to open. They finally did and they overloaded me with information. I nice older lady helped me to pare down the list so I might have a chance of seeing some good stuff and still make Bay Center.
The first on the list was to head west to Neah Bay and Cape Flattery. It is the furthest most northwest point n the continental US, so I figured if nothing else, that would be a cool thing to notch. I headed west on 101 (I've never seen a highway that you can go north and then west and then south on the same highway by just staying on the road, but that's how this one is labeled) and it passed by Lake Crescent. Great ride and beautiful setting. At that time, the lake was glass and the reflections were incredible. The best views I saw of the reflections happened to be during a stretch where we were following a flag car in a construction zone. There was a pull out and everything, but I knew it would not be cool to stop during the caravan, so I carried on. I found another place just past the construction zone that was nice, but just not quite the same. A little further there was another great spot, but it was kind of being spoiled by some kids throwing rocks in the water. After that, the water started to ripple as the wind was picking up a bit.
I headed up 113 to connect with 112 to continue west. I stopped in Clallanby Bay for gas and got permission to drop off my trailer for a few hours, so I could ride up to Neah Bay without it. It was a great ride that winded into and away from the ocean. Pretty slow paced road with lots of twisties. For the most part it was a30-35 mph ride. On one side is 100 foot or so cliffs towering over the road and the other side the ocean and Victoria could be seen all the way along. I passed through Neah Bay and headed for Cape Flattery. I wasn't sure what expect, but when I got there, there was a mile or so hike required to get out to the point.
This hike was 90% downhill out to the viewpoints and I was dreading the climb back up with every step down. The path was very pleasant in a heavily wooded area with ferns-o-plenty growing everywhere. Every once in a while I'd pass a hiker coming back and each said the view was worth the effort. I sure hoped so. I finally got out to the first view point and it was awesome. Freestanding rock formations in the middle of the bay, an island to the west featuring a lighthouse and a few ocean caves. I followed the light crowd from viewpoint to viewpoint and was impressed. The hike pack up wasn't as bad as expected, but it did require a few breaks along the way.
At this point it was 2:00 and I knew there was no way I was going to make Bay Center and see any of the other stuff. I hadn't had lunch and was kind of hungry and was hoping to find something in Neah Bay, but there just wasn't much to choose from and what there was didn't interest me, so I headed back to Clallamby Bay where there was a deli. Since I kind of dawdled ion the way up, I tried to make a little time going back. This was a mistake. AS I came over one of the hills, I spotted a State Trooper pointing a radar gun up the hill and right at me. AS I passed he scurried into his car and followed me and eventually hit the lights. I knew I was speeding, but I wasn't being unsafe by any means IT was a 35mph zone and I was probably doing 45ish. HE said he clocked me at 52 I don't think I could have possibly been doing that, but I didn't argue. HE was kind of a goober, but friendly enough and I thought for a minute he was just gonna warn me, but he came back with a ticket after researching my DL and registration. Damn! HE did tell me about a "deferment" program that Washington has that will allow you to not pay the ticket and if you don't get another violation for 5 years, it gets wiped out. I'll have to check into that. I kind of sucked that I happened to get popped because I've actually been very good about staying at least in the neighborhood of the speed limits for the whole trips and very respectful of the very low speeds through towns. I thought I was out of the populated area when he caught me, but apparently, there were some houses in the area and he said that people rip through there all the time. Just bad luck, but I can't argue that I wasn't speeding.
I went back to get my trailer and grabbed a couple of corn dogs. I had a pamphlet from the info center that listed most of the RV places in northern Washington. I found one in La Push, which was to be my next sightseeing destination anyway. I had seen a picture of the area hanging in one of the gift shops and said "I gotta see that!" There is an RV "resort in La Punta and I checked into it. They didnít have working wi-fi so I checked a couple other places. None of them seem to be hip to the wi-fi, so I called the La Punta place back and made a reservation.
About 40 minutes later, I pulled in and got directed to my site - about 100 yards off the ocean and a magnificent view. I found out that setting up my tent trailer in gusty winds is very challenging and will have to come up with some way to be able to tie off the sides of the "porch feature as the winds just cave in the sides. For now, I just piled all my gear against the sides and it will do. I'm not sure what the plan is for tomorrow yet. I did want to check out the rain forest in Olympia Park a few miles down the road and then I may try to make Northern Oregon. OF course, if there's enough distractions, I'll take my time and have another short ride since I'll easily be able to get home in time from southern Washington and there's nothing I'm dying to see in Oregon or Northern CA, so I can just blow back down I-5 if need be.
After my log last night, I guy from BC wandered by admiring my rig. He went and had dinner and came back and shared my campfire with me. It was great talking with him and it turns out that we're somewhat of kindred spirits, at least from a philosophical standpoint. We shared a lot of common threads in our life's paths. At about 12:30, his wife came by with their dog in tow and gave him a not so subtle hint that it was time for the dog's walk and for him to come to bed. It was nice to chat for several hours with somebody - I really haven't carried on any lengthy discussions with anyone since on the road and the company was welcome. But being up so late, got me off to a late start this morning.
I discovered that it's equally difficult to break down the tent in gusty winds, but I managed OK. I was hoping fro a bright morning so I could take advantage of the fantastic rock formations that this location treated us to. I took a bunch of pics and the sun tried real hard to come out of the clouds but it never quite made it while I was there. An hour later it was probably great, based on the weather I experienced on the road, but I had to get moving.
The third "don't miss" location that the older lady at the information center in Port Angeles mentioned was the Hoh Rain Forest, part of the Olympic NP system. I took the road towards it and noticed it was 19 miles to the park. The road was a very slow and mo too smooth. That and combining a few road construction projects along the way, it probably took about 45 minutes to get to the park. I went and found a mile long hike and began briskly walking through taking pictures about every 25 feet or so. It was a very pleasant area, but it wasn't really something that turned me on too much. If I had more time to explore it and relax and take it in, it might have been more impressive, but under my circumstances, I kind of considered it a bust.
I had seen a few photo opps on the way in, but decided to save them for the way out. I stopped 3 or 4 times and snapped the pics and finally got one of my favorite shots - the "road" shot. I always love to find roads that have interesting surroundings where I can stand in the middle of the road and take a picture - simulating riding on it. I've been trying all vacation to get some of these, and while there have been plenty of locations that would have been nice to shoot, something or other kept it from being "the" shot - signs, cars, graffiti, or in most cases, it just wasn't safe to stand in the road. But there was very little traffic on this road and I was safely able to get my shot. It looks a good deal like my shot from the Redwoods a couple of years back, but I still like it.
After leaving the park, I had hoped to make the Oregon Border for the night. Google said that it was a 5+ hour drive to my intended destination and I reentered highway 101 at 1:00. That should have put me there at sometime between 6:00 and 6:30. Although I was hoping to take 101 all the way to where it intersects at I-5, I chatted with a flag man at a construction zone and he said that taking 12 east to intersect I-5 much further north would be about an hour and a half quicker.
Traffic in and around Aberdeen was clunky and I had problems with several tailgaters. Once through town, I ended up behind a pickup that was content doing the speed limit- and there was no way to get around him, so we poked along. Once finally on I-5, the initial traffic was also gummed up for about 3o miles. It was moving, but at a little below the limit and I had a couple of drivers that thought that by tailgating me, it speed up all the cars ahead of me. I was really getting irritated, so I pulled off for a bit to take quick break. Once back on, I found a more comfortable pocket and was able to maintain the speed limit+ for most of the rest of my trip. I've found that a lot of drivers up here donít seem to understand the concept of fast lane/slow lane. Some drivers just poke along in the fast lane and make it difficult for others to get around the slow traffic that is in the slow lane. This type of behavior really adds to the congestion, because people that choose to go a little faster (some a lot faster) than the speed limit all bunch up behind the clueless pokeys. I really don't see it as being a hard to grasp concept of being in the appropriate lane, but maybe it's more complicated than I think, because I see a lot of people acting like they don't get it.
I wasn't able to check in with home last night, as the place I stayed had no internet and my cell phone got no connection. So I checked in with Mom in the morning (she insists that I keep in touch so she doesn't worry so much!). She informed me that one of my cousins live in Battle Ground, WA which is probably about 45 minute from my intended target location. AS I was nearing Battle Ground, it was already after 6:00 and I was ready to be off the road. I noticed a sign for a couple of RV places and decided to pull off there, which would make it easier to hook up with him if he was available. I went to one newer place just off the freeway. It was nothing but asphalt and a few patches of grass here and there - zero ambience at all. But, it was very close to food and very convenient so I tried to get a spot. Once I tracked the manager down, I was informed that no tents were allowed and she also referred me to an imaginary "No Motorcycles" sign that was supposed to be posted at the entry. There was a "No big-rig" sign, but nothing about motorcycles, but I didn't want to stay where I wasn't welcome anyway. I got directions to another place, which at least is set in the trees and is pretty quiet. No wi-fi, but at that point I was ready to get set up and planted anyway. Once there, I called my cousin and it turns out that he's away on some annual Coast Guard training this week, so I couldn't hook up with him. I was looking forward to throwing a couple back with him as I don't get to see him very often (or any of my cousins for that matter), but it just didn't work out this time.
I got my stuff set up, took a shower, made due with some beef jerky, cheese, crackers and cherries for dinner. I uploaded the days photos, updated my gas log and as of right now it's 9:30. Time to finish my cigar and beer and get to bed. I may try to hook up with another cousin who lives near Eugene tomorrow if I can track down his phone number. Not quite sure where I'm heading tomorrow. I might try to swing by Crate Lake as it's been probably ten years since I was there, but I'll have to see what the morning brings.
I woke up got packed and decided to have a real breakfast. I was trying to find a route that would get me through the Eugene area so maybe I could hook up with my other cousin for lunch and still make it over to Crater Lake and then onto Medford. By going through Eugene, it was going to be about a 3 hour detour to hit Crater Lake which would have me getting to camp pretty late. I had laundry to do, so late wasn't an option. I decided to hope to connect with my cousin. I-5 was just a pain to deal with. The first hour or so was congested going around the Portland area. I did take 205 to the east which I think was a very good decision based on what I saw from the 205 as people were trying to make their way into Portland from there, but it was still dicey.
After getting by the Portland area, I got into a fairly good pocket and as long as I wasn't caught behind one of those drivers that insist on going 1 mile and hour faster than the trucks and doing so in the "fast Lane", it went smoothly for a while. I hit the Eugene area and took the first exit so I wouldnít go past where my cousin might be. The exit left the freeway in only one direction (the wrong way), so I had to go a couple miles out of my ways to get back over to where the gas stations were so I could fuel up and find a phone book. Once fueled, I looked for him in the book and he appeared to be unlisted. Oh well, I guess that was a waste of time and now I decided to find and alternate route as I was just tired of I-5.
I decided to head back over to the coast. There are a couple of KOAs that were in easy range along 101. I asked one of the gas station attendants about which of the three reasonable routes would be the best. She recommended going down the freeway a ways and cutting over from there. I did and found myself on a nice scenic route with smooth going. I stopped for lunch along the way and just before I hit the coastal area, I saw an elk viewing area and there was a nice side herd grazing in the field. I stopped and snapped a few shots and got back on the road.
I gassed up in Coos Bay and proceeded south from there. Coos Bay was a congested nightmare and it stayed fairly congested all the way down to the Brandon area which was my target destination. I arrived at about 4:30 and by 5:30 I got setup enough to get my laundry going and catch up on the internet stuff. I should have a nice relaxing evening with a stogy by the fire tonight! One more stop along the California coast near Point Arena and I'll be heading home.
<edting note> Apparently I didn't finish my report at the time, so the last couple days will be vague as I'm writing them almost a year later.<>
I left the Brandon Area and continued south on 101 and then took the CA 1 cutoff towards the coast. Once I hit the tight twisties on this road, I discovered that the heavy trailer was going to be an issue. It became really clear that it was going to problematic