Kelly's 2011 Alaska Journey

Day 5 - Wednesday, 5/25

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The weather services online had promised nicer weather, though it was still overcast. Fortunately, it was significantly warmer than yesterday. Not only did I not need heavy clothes or electrics, I later was able to remove the overpants and jacket liner. It was HOT!

Common sight
As the miles wore on, it occurred that the views, while nice, tended to get a little monotonous. Roger had warned me that it'd get this way:

Oh, it's pleasant, but for the most part the road is essentially an open space carved through trees. The trees are nice, but hundreds of miles of them seem sort of the same.

Dead Trees
Today's botany lesson: I'm seeing a LOT of dead pine trees. Clearly there's something at work here.

Bark beetles or some other parasite is killing the trees. This will make hardwood succession MUCH faster. As I pondered the miles and miles of just trees for scenery, occasionally something interesting like a bridge (of metal, being slippery) over a wide river would show up, or sometimes the the trees and clouds would break open, giving a view like:
Scenic Vista

I realized that I'm spending less time exploring, looking at unique local things than I usually do on a bike tour. Maybe it's more time writing the blog and sorting through photos than ever before, or maybe it's because the KLR, while highly modified, really isn't a touring bike. A touring bike has more weight for stability, is much smoother with four cylinders than the one the KLR has, etc. So maybe it's simply making me more tired than usual.

making dust
I was pondering that thought, as I pulled into the Wonowon gas station. There were two bikes, one of which was a KLR. It turns out that the riders were on a long trip too, and the other KLR was bone stock. They claimed to have gone 1000 mi / 1609 km yesterday, though I have to imagine he meant 1000 km. A thousand miles on an unmodified KLR would be brutal, and could possibly qualify as torture as defined by the Geneva Convention.
Here it
They marvelled at the distance I've travelled and have yet to go, and also to all the modifications I've made to my bike.

On the other hand, a lot of these little towns really haven't got a lot of interesting things. Ft. Nelson, where I am at this evening, has a museum. But it's tiny. Still, it's more than most have had.

Moose on
the loose
Regarding my going through photos- I came up with an idea today that seems to work well. When sifting through 10,000 images from the helmet cam, many of the thumbnail images look the same. And I never remember the time of day that I saw a given thing, thus the time stamp doesn't help. So now when I see something on the road that I want to remember later, I simply put my glove in front of the lens for a few seconds. Then scrolling through folders of 1000 images each, I just look for the glove. Much easier.

As Fort Nelson got closer, the sun came out. And for the first time on my ride, so did the wildlife. After passing countless signs warning of moose, what do I see? Deer, caribou, a large crane bird, a handful of bison, and a black bear.
Black Bear

All were close to the road, though none seemed to pose any danger. The caribou still had velvet on their antlers, and the bear was larger than those in Yosemite. But, like Yosemite, some twit had stopped his car very close to the critter so he could get a better look. No respect for wildlife.

Today's ride was fairly short- Only 290 mi / 467 km. I'd thought of using the afternoon to head to Ft. Liard in the Northwest Territories, as that's a province (state?) I haven't visited. But a guy at a gas station said that the road into the territory wasn't paved, and was "very muddy" with all the rain they've had recently. I don't want to get bogged down. So I went back to my main plan of having my oil changed on the bike.

Sled Ed's Shop
This was a lot more complex than it sounds, evidently. There's only one offroad quad shop in the area, and they won't work on motorcycles. Their insurance prohibits me from just using an oil drain pan, and they haven't got any kind of a bike stand. So they referred me to "Sled Ed", some guy who lives 14 mi / 23 km out of town, way up a dirt road.

It turns out he's the only unofficial bike mechanic for 300 mi / 483 km. I bought some oil, went to a bank for some Canadian money, and headed up. It was only upon arrival when I realized I'd left the oil filter back at my hotel room! After another trip down and back, and we were working on the bike. Well, *I* was. I managed to get my clothes filthy in his garage, but the job got done.

Oh, speaking of wildlife: The reports of colossal mosquitoes are entirely true. While working on the bike I was stalked by a couple of the parasites. I managed to kill two, but swatting at one just seemed to provoke it into challenging me to an arm wrestling competition. These things are BIG. If one does manage to feed off of me, I'll likely wind up being a pint low.

All of the oil changing activities ate up most of the afternoon. I'll do some asking around to see whether it's a good idea to head to Ft. Liard tomorrow morning. It's only about 250 mi / 402 km round trip, and I'd like to go. The problem is, the only gas is 35 km across the mud, and my tank won't hold enough to get me to the border and back. We'll see. The road condition web page says:

Km 254 to Km 0, Check Point to the BC Border is in poor driving condition, soft areas between KM 125 to 185, watch for flag persons and follow their instructions.
Watch for bison Km 0 to Km 160
No service station at Check Point.

A phone call may be in order.

I've noticed that the days are rapidly getting longer the further north I go. In Ft. Nelson, the sunrise is at 4:21 am, and the sunset is at 9:51 pm. It doesn't get dark until well after 10:00! I've been looking at the time of sun rise and set on the GPS. Going just 290 mi / 467 km north has yielded 29 more minutes of daylight.

After showering and getting ready for a walk to a restaurant, I find that I've forgotten to bring walking shoes. All I have are my motorcycle boots. Shoot. Still, there wasn't any room in the bags in which to carry them anyway...

I've been finding that having a smallish breakfast, skipping lunch, and having a reasonable early dinner is a good way to go. Often lunch times go by without seeing any civilization- So it's just as well that lunch doesn't seem to be necessary. I've been trying to walk (in the motorcycle boots, of course) to a restaurant for dinner, in efforts to get a little blood moving through my system. I look for quaint local things as opposed to the tedious chain restaurants. I'm finding that those quaint spots are variable in their creativity and quality. Some are good, but most are pretty pedestrian. Tonight's was no exception. It had a western theme, complete with wagon wheel chandeliers, guns and antlers on the walls, etc. Sadly, the food wasn't as interesting. With luck, options will get more better.

Total riding distance today: 340 mi / 547 km   Running total: 2040 mi / 3283 km

Stay tuned...


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