Yukon Ho!

/ Sunday, 30 May 2010 / CanadaNorth AmericaYukon

I didn’t think I was actually going to make it here with any gear due to some of the hoops that I had to jump through, but I am safe and sound in Whitehorse, Yukon – yup – way up there in the North. I arrived late Saturday night at 2am and fully intended on sleeping in the airport until security tried to kick me out. I politely told them I wasn’t leaving until my bike was put back together, and eventually one of the guards came back to apologize to me for his actions. I rode across the street and camped in the bush, getting 6 hours of sleep before knowing that today’s day has a lot of boxes to check off on the to-do list. But first, let me write while I load up on coffee.

I ended running into Tim, my cycling companion the day after I lost him, while he soaked in the water at Ainsworth Hot Springs, and I ended up at a community campsite in Nelson. His ride, 13km was a easy downhill breeze compared to my 40km sweat inducer at 9:30am in order to meet another time line – a ferry! The Kootenay Lake ferry is the longest free ferry ride in the world crossing from from Balfour, to Kootenay Bay. The crossing takes 35 minutes, and has a cafĂ© on board, seating areas, and can hold a few dozen cars, bikes, and people. The ride is truly beautiful with the picturesque landscapes offering snow capped mountains trees and hidden houses on the hill. Our ride had the sun shining upon us and made the cans of beer I picked up that much better. The ferry crosses every hour and a half during non-peak season, and I had to push myself hard to make it in time. I picked up a flat just outside of Nelson, and kept riding on it the entire way, stopping20100524_172128 to inflate every 5km as I found it easier to deal with than losing 45 minutes to an hour to repair the puncture. My energy levels have drained over the past few weeks, and this ride took a lot out of me with the added stresses.

After the ferry, we didn’t make it much farther than a picnic bench. A friend of Tim’s who lived in a nearby village, Riondel, came to pick us up and we relaxed on the beach, and enjoyed many hours of good conversation and downtime. A few friends were travelling across the country to the Sasquatch festival, and were to have met up with me by this time, however suffered car troubles in Calgary, and didn’t end up leaving until 5pm of that night. With my legendary cellular service that appeared randomly for 2 minutes every half an hour, I frantically sent text messages with directions on where to go. They arrived at 1:47am, however I was sound asleep. I got the message at 4am and walked around the village hoping to find them. They weren’t there, and were at the ferry terminal – so we had a chance to half a far too short visit the next morning with them before Tim and I finished our last day of riding together.

20100525_191740It was an incredibly fun ride, weaving and winding through mountains, even though there were minimal shoulders on either side, riding the 95km into Creston, BC. I left motivators on the side of the road for Tim to pick up while riding, and he looked definitely wiped when we finally made it into the town. Not bad for a first timer, 300km in 4 days – hoping this memory will stay with him and encourage him to tour again, perhaps meeting me somewhere in another country! We both slept hard, but awoke early to part ways, but not before visiting the Columbia Brewery across the street from the campsite.

The Columbia Brewery has been in operation for almost 60 years, with a few upgrades here and there along the way. It merged many smaller breweries in the area, and now produces an impressive amount of beer on a daily basis (17,500 dozen beers numbers were being tossed around freely). They took us to where Wort was mixed, the carbonation centres, and the packaging/quality assurance section. It looked very automated, and polished. Apparently Canada has a 98% return rate on bottles, and they touched a few times on how they reuse their materials, glass for further bottling, Co2 for further usage, Hops eventually turning into farm feed. The best part was the end when they showed us a few commercials from the 80′s, 90s and sampled some of their beer. I was wobbly at 11am when I left, catching a few photos with the Sasquatch, hugging Tim goodbye, making my way to my terminus point before a 4 day rest period, Cranbrook.

20100526_100321I had another “should I hitchhike” moment, during my 110km ride northeast on Highway 3/95 because I was under time constraints, wanting to get to my Warmshowers host before it got dark. I arrived 4 hours later than expected due to my speed dropping to 7km/h in some spots due to serious head winds. I stuck with it, rewarding myself with 2 Pepperoni Pizzas that I wolfed down before stopping for the night. Glad I had a few days off, I stayed up late at my hosts house transferring data from my old laptop to a newer one that the host offered to accept as a maildrop for me. I’ve done migrations many times before, and this was easy. However a few days later I realized I am missing some video footage. Nuts.

My Warmshowers hosts in Cranbrook really rolled out he carpet for me, arranging for bicycle maintenance appointments to be performed at the local Bike Shop, accepting mail, and letting me leave some of my gear in their place while I headed off the Yukon. Still, after I left they continue to help out with making sure I am able to complete this leg on the tour, more on that shortly.

20100524_113253Amazingly, my bicycle made it through the tune up with minimal parts replacement. I had packed an extra chain with me since Prince George, knowing it would have to go on eventually so it got the swap treatment. Because of the worn chain it also added extra wear to one of my sprockets, causing slippage with the new chain installed, so a new one I had worn out one of the sprockets of my rear cassette so had to put a new one on, but otherwise I still ride with all original components on my bike (brake pads, the tires that I swapped out for rugged Marathons, and saddle doesn’t count). I wonder if I will have an all out breakdown eventually sort of similar to a used car, with all parts breaking at once. I also had the chance to get my wheel bearings packed to make rolling smooth.

The workers at the bike store, Fun Hawgs treated me fairly with reasonable shop fees and low replacement parts prices. They buy/sell/trade all sorts of sports equipment, and should have what you are looking for in the Cranbrook area, make sure you tell them I sent you over there! Bonus points to them letting me bring my bike down again the next day to pack it in one of their boxes, and use some of their tools to accomplish this feat. The owner even helped me get it to the airport! I’m sure it would have been a lot easier if I didn’t have my extra stem, speaker holders, front rack, and fenders on the bike, as most bikes come ‘naked’ like this from the factory. Eventually I got it in, taped it up nicely before all hell broke loose.

I had some spare time while resting, and wanted to fix up some of the issues on this website before I left as finding internet access in remote areas will be difficult. Specifically, the website loads very slowly, and serves packages in a not so optimized manner. I use the WordPress blogging platform, and while it works wonderfully, it taxes the server by calling many queries to a database, and performs reads on many files for layout and templates. I started utilizing techniques to merge these files together, and cache frequently looked up information in an attempt to make this snappier. It worked! Until I did something to take down the whole website. That’s right, no blog postings, no photo gallery – just an error message spelling doom and gloom. Not the news I wanted before leaving on a trip.

I tried frantically to fix it, and managed to get a copy of the raw database, and frustratingly attempted restoring from old backups before finally making it work when I had arrived in Vancouver. Losing the website would have sucked, this is the memory of my trip, and I started thinking of other ways to mirror/replicate the data – I simply don’t have time nor the patience to go through what I did this weekend with the site again. Measures are in place now, they’ve been tested and I also had an opportunity to add some new features to the site – new header images, a different menu structure, and a cleanup of old junk. There are a few layout issues remaining with how videos and photos look, but those can wait. I also need to get my Statistics page working, as I’ve got 53 days of stats that I want to share with you. Maybe July now? If you find anything broken please share it with me in the comments section below or contact page. It’s always a work in progress, I’m not sure what I’ll do when I’m happy with it and there are no more bugs!

With the stress of a broken online presence weighing upon me, the airport didn’t make me feel any better. Searching my bicycle box, they managed to destroy my careful packing job, taking away my EMPTY fuel canisters, and my MSR Dragonfly Stove. Airport security played the “it’s the airlines call” while the airline said “it’s the security’s call’ and sent me on a loop. I gave up, leaving it at the airport, with my Cranbrook Warmshowers host picking up the confiscated parts, giving them a piece of his mind, and then throwing them on a bus to Watson Lake. I need coffee in the morning, and have a feeling I won’t be traveling past bistros and cafes in the north here, as I did in Southern California the last time my stove ceased to work. I am considering making a penny alcohol stove out of a few pop cans. Security was an incredible waste of my time, taking away these essential components, yet when they found my first aid kid with a scalpel, scissors, and syringe inside, they waved it through without issue – where is the logic with that!? My spork obviously isn’t a threat, but a canister with no lid on it is. I flew into Vancouver frazzled, hungry, and upset. Welcome home, I guess.

20100525_210836Stress levels diminished when I fixed my website, had a few beers, and had a chance to see my cat! He recognized my voice and stayed with me most of the night, while I chilled out at a friend’s place. Vancouver was serving up its legendary rain so I opted to stay indoors most of the time, tying up loose ends, visiting with few people (not enough people at that), and prepping for my trip. I returned to MEC my sunglasses and lenses I no longer needed after trading for them with an RCMP officer in Houston, BC – my failed laptop to Costco, and received a 100% refund from Taiga Works on my rain pants which did a wonderful job of keeping rain _in_ my pants. I met with the manager, who was very concerned as to how the problem was occurring, and echoed that the owner of the company wanted to make sure that I was happy with my purchase, and that they stand behind all their products. A friend and I both own other Taiga Works gear (sleeping bags, stuff sacks, gaiters) which all perform above and beyond my expectations, so I assume there is a defect somewhere in the zippers on these pants and this gesture made me feel looked after. I picked up another pair of pants (cheaper) from another store and some mesh pants, shirt, and hat cover to prepare for the army of mosquitos and black flies ready to snack on my blood up here in the north. We’ll see how the budget pants fare when it rains – of course Murphy’s Law says it will be a dry summer and I won’t have to use them for 3-4 months.

Airport Security in Vancouver this time took away my 3/4 empty bottle of toothpaste because the container itself was over 100ml (120). I wasn’t going to argue with the paper pushers this time around. Airline travel is extremely frustrating with all the ‘safety’ precautions. If you want safety, don’t even let us on the plane! My cigarette lighter can be used to light things up (why aren’t these banned anyways? oh yeah, cigarette companies making a stink), shoelaces (Choking Devices!), rings (brass knuckles!), T-Shirt (slogans supporting free thinking! if they are really concerned about security. They rooted through all my bags, again didn’t blink at the first aid kits, and I walked onto the plane with a blade screwdriver in my pocket. Again, absurdity. I’ll just find alternate means to ship my components when I’m ready to come back down to the south rather than waste 30 minutes of my time watching these people touch and fiddle with my possessions. I was happy that I managed to evade paying twice for transporting my bicycle however, as this trip seems to have its expenses climbing at a much faster pace than expected.

20100525_163557Somewhere along the line I lost a few screws to my fenders, so will need to acquire these before heading across the Yukon over to Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. It’s a 1800km ride through two routes, one offering a hard pack gravel road, and one offering a paved alternative. I’m not sure which one I want to take yet. I do look forward to that end point after having a conversation with a cyclist a week before telling me of various places to see in the city of Yellowknife.. Coincidentally a few days later I ran into a man who knew this cyclist – he was visiting from Yellowknife with his father on a bit of a Kootenay Loop driving vacation. Small world, or just small community – your call. The plan from here on in is to trail blaze a route across the North, with a crew of cyclists who are here to film a documentary on sustainable travel. I’ve yet to run into them, and hope they don’t want to leave before the intended June 1 departure, as I need a bit of a rest and want to check out what Whitehorse has to offer. Certainly I must visit the legislative building. As it looks right now, it has the amenities of a bigger town, box stores, a historical area of old buildings, and community farmers markets. No cellular service whatsoever up here, so I’m on my own it seems, looking for open wireless connections. Photos will appear randomly and I’ll attempt to post as things move forward. I’m not done with BC yet, just for now.

It’s hot, there is no bugs so far from what I can tell, and has some windy. This is all uncharted territory for me, and I’m walking around, and pedaling around with a big grin on my face.

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