Riding the White Horse
Let me start by explaining the bug situation here. It’s minimal so far, every 2 minutes or so you have a bug come at you during the day, and in the Wolf Creek Campground I am staying in, they come in swarms for a few minutes and then let you be. The mosquitoes are good enough to bite through the fabric of your shirt, as proven by the blood stains showing in various parts. Gross. However, my dear readers the worst is yet to come. It’s going to get worse and worse as the days get longer and longer and I get off the beaten path. They’re still eating through my mesh pants that I picked up from MEC – so I may just have to accept the fact I’m going to be covered in bumps and sores shortly.
I, or should I say we didn’t make it to far off the beaten path whatsoever today, Monday May 30th. I’m now travelling with 4 other cyclists, 2 who have never toured before, who are here to film the riding, peoples reactions, and interview people on sustainable transportation in the north to be eventually turned into a documentary, hoping for the end of the year as a release date. The other two, have toured a few times, one of them the author of a few touring books. The other, is only along for the ride until Fort Nelson, BC where the ride is going to get really bizarre, with a 4-5 day stretch of no services whatsoever. We’ve got a few weeks ahead of us to start convincing her to go for the full route. For now I’m travelling Highway 1 – The Alaskan Highway that spans over 2,450 kilometres from end to end. The “Alcan Project” was a response by the American Army to the perceived threat of Japan during the Second World War. It provided an overland supply link between Alaska and the lower 48 states. Nothing more than a rough trail at one time when it was built in an astonishing 8 months and 12 days, it’s fully paved and is the busiest route in the territory. 18 wheelers are RVs are the majority.
I took the time to cycle around Whitehorse on the weekend, quickly going from end to end of the not so busy downtown area a few times and back, before meeting up with these cyclists for the first time. I’m not sure how 30 days is going to fare with me, but I’ve got the opportunity of moving forward, riding on my own if I decide I need some personal space, and potentially meet up later. I’ve been laughing, I’ve got so much free time up here – gone are the time constraints of having to get to this location by this time to catch this vessel or meet this person. It’s a downtime for me and I’m looking forward to letting my creative juices bubble and output many projects as I go through the not so travelled route of Whitehorse, YT to Yellowknife, NWT. Filming the documentary will be exciting, and so far we have meshed well.
Watching for 4 on their First Day Fumbles has been interesting. It was 54 days or so ago that I went through similar problems, struggling with meeting time deadlines, making sure I had a good place to sleep, ingesting the proper food. These guys have experienced way more mechanical problems in one day than I have in all my tour. 2 flats on one road bike, before even starting the ride due to a spoke poking into the tube, and two separate derailleur incidents with the hanger wrapping itself into the rear wheel, one breaking a bunch of spokes in the process. I convinced the pair of filmmakers to hitch back to Whitehorse and get it fixed, and meet us at a campsite not far from where we were, only 15km out of the city, and well within the limits still. Hoping that since this day occurred all mechanical problems will disappear from this point forward and we’ll be able to do what we all came here to do. I’ll just re state that I am glad I chose a rock solid bike such as the Surly Long Haul Trucker. It’s gotten me into and out of some pretty hairy situations with only minor scratches. I seem to be the only one riding with a touring bike which may say something to the problems that others may experience on the way.
Whitehorse Legislative Building was a mediocre experience. Built in 1976 it doesn’t contain the same charm that the B.C. one offered. There were a few art pieces, and I managed to get into the room where they have their meetings – snapping a few photos in the process. Highlight was the stained glass mural covering the entire length of the building. I passed on heading to the cafeteria for lunch.
I did notice that Whitehorse has many cyclists. Bike lanes are scattered here and there around the funky downtown corridors, getting people from A to B. I’m not entirely sure how many people bike in the winter, but judging by the spare tire selection at the local store ‘Icycles’ there are obviously some people nuts enough to do it. It was truly bizarre at 11pm watching people skateboard, barbeque, play Frisbee, and cycle through the parks – Sunsets just after 11 so far, and rises a bit before 5, leaving a whole lot of light for people who wish to be outside. I can see how sleep deprivation can sneak up on you. I retreated to my tent at 9pm tonight knowing that I will have to force myself to sleep, using the Zorro mask, and earplugs. I wonder how the bears go to sleep, and when they awake, as I’d like to be out of my bush camping spot as I try to save the $12 camping fee per tent. 4 bears are known to be in the area, I’m not worried – and have taken precautions by placing my food in the backs of the garbage cans including my toothpaste and other toiletries. There is some fear among the newcomers about bears, and I’ve been doing my best to try to make them not be worried about it. Some are carrying flares, bear bangers, and spray. I have nothing.
I’m very lucky to not suffer from any allergies – Pollen is everywhere, covering steps, tables, cars, bikes, laptops in a matter of seconds. I’m wondering if I can collect it and use it for a purpose of energy, If I had internet access I’d look – but no, Rogers/Fido does not offer any service here. 1 month of silence from me!
Whitehorse offers a look at its history of trade routes via steam ships. Proudly on display in the east end of town is the S.S. Klondike– It’s been restored to 1940 conditions. Apparently when they were dragging it down the road, they used 8 tonnes of soap to help it slide easier before restoration. Crazy Klondike’s! Also the Visitors centre offers an impressive look at the Yukon’s many rocks and minerals that can be found with little effort. There must have been 5 dozen different types, of varying size, colours, and textures. With a population of 25,636 it is an important area for people travelling in every direction, with routes heading to Alaska, British Columbia, and to the top of the World, in the Northwest Territories via the Dempster Highway. It certainly is the most populated area, with the next biggest cities population being 1,900.
Expect a bit more writing than usual, due to the new found time. I left the Nintendo DS in Cranbrook, laughing today that now I’d finally use it. Figures. I’ll use that time fiddling with the new components I have access to, a Zoom H2, a Zoom H4, both audio recorders, a GoPro HD video camera, something I’ve been eyeing for a while, and a Canon D 7D Camera/Video Camera. I’ll also be learning a lot about filming scenes, lighting, and having fun.
A callout to the gear heads reading this – I’m on the hunt for some Schwalbe Marathon XR 26×2.00” tires. I have been looking for them for a while, and finally found a folding edition recently, but only one. I’d much rather prefer the Wire wound type, but am not picky – considering these tires are now out of production, with the replacements ‘Dureme’ brand not field tested with enough data for me to drop $200 on a set.