Halfway across Montana, Harley rider Tony says he wants to stop and visit some old friends near Harlowton. They have a large sheep ranch. Nestor and I ride on. We have a tight time schedule if we want to make Deadhorse and get back to Houston by the end of the August.
Nearing the Canadian border, we talk and decide to make the crossing early the next morning, a Sunday. Will be less traffic with less stress. Finally find a room in Shelby, MT after passing through several small towns. Seems there is a regional swin meet going on and families have taken all the motel rooms for miles around.
Next morning, Well... the Canadian officials let us in...YEAH!
From the border, we head up to Calgary looking for Route 1A which is the old road north to Banff and the ice fields. Crossing a First Nations land, we stop for gas, asking a local where the station is. Not visible or obvious from the road, but is on the back side of a large metal building next to the Subway shop and highway maintenance shop.
Only one other person in the shop when we order a sandwich. By the time we leave 20 minutes later, a couple of dozen persons have gathered, unsmiling, watching the two palefaces with motorcycles. Seems they are having a problem with outside drug dealers coming in and corrupting their youth. Smiling politely, we wave our goodbyes, taking our Metamucil and ibuprofen with us.
After hearing and rejecting the $500 a night motel rate in Banff this holiday weekend, we opt for camping in a roadside turn out. Nestor's first night for roadside stealth camping. We actually pitch our gear behind a couple of low dirt mounds, placing ourselves out of sight of the busy divided roadway, just yards away. As dusk falls, a couple of eighteen wheelers pull in. Turning off their lights, but leave their engines pulsating, each driver catches a quick forty winks.
Early the next morning we are treated to a wonderful sight as the sun breaks over the mountains, creeping its way down the barren rocks toward tree studded slopes of green.
The view behinds us.
And in front of us.
Rolling north, by midmorning we stop at the Athabasca Glacier. Blue skies are cloud-less but the air is crispy cold.
Too many tourists wandering around to leave our bikes unattended for a walk-about.
A quick photo will have to do and we are gone.
After Jasper, we drop down out of the mountains and ride forested areas toward Grand Prairie.
As dusk nears, we start looking for a campsite. All gates leading away from the main road are closed and locked. We see a lot of oilfield activity here, trucks of all sizes and types. Asking security at a dusty production camp, we are directed to a river side camp where many Newfies (Newfounders) have parked their travel trailers while working in the Alberta Oilfields.
From freezing cold near Banff and the glacier this morning to summer heat down by the river. When riding Canada in the summer, your elevation determines the weather.
Nestor unloads his gear to set up a tent. No need for a heavy sleeping bag, will be a warm night.
After Grand Prairie we cross into British Columbia heading to Dawson Creek where the Alcan (Alaska / Canadian) Highway starts.
Far side of a green field something raises its head. It's looking at us.
Using the telephoto lens, can zoom in to see its a mature Mule Deer. Must have heard our bikes and lifted his head to see what the racket was. His antlers are still covered in velvet too.
In Dawson Creek we stop for a photo at the sign indicating the start of the Alaska Highway.
Both Vstroms are running strong.. Only glitch has been the lid rubber gasket on the Beast's eight gallon auxiliary fuel tank has expanded from the gasoline additives and will longer seal properly. This allows gasoline to slosh out the top on rough pavement. Not good.
We're directed to Northern Safety, an industrial supply house with some really helpful workers. They search their parts bin, coming up with three solutions. The old expanded gasket has a square cross-section. Solution one has a round cross-section, but the diameter is too small. Solution two, also round, but thicker. That works better. Looks like it will hold, but will it go soft and expand like the old one? Solution three, a Fix-A-Gasket kit. Using the old gasket, splice it and glue the ends together using the chemicals in the kit. Not knowing for sure which solution will work best, I buy all three. $25.00
After a night of laundry and showers in Dawson Creek, we ride up past Fort Nelson, to take a detour north. Destination? the border crossing with the Northwest Territories.
In a remote section we spot our first black bear. A young cub wandering in an open turn out. Caution: where there is a cub there is a good chance there is a watchful Mama bear near by. Everybody here knows mama bears are the most dangerous of all bears.
We rode a 100 meters or so into the NW so we could say we were there, then turned around to ride back south and continue on northwest to Watson Lake.
Getting closer to the Yukon province, the terrain switches from very flat to rolling hills, then to mountains.
Riding along the blue waters of a long narrow Muncho Lake was spectacular. Hard to keep one's eye on the road with such a beautiful sight on the left.
Beautiful blue sky, no rain, not too cool, great day to be alive and riding.
Coming around a curve we are surprised with a herd of Rocky Mountain Sheep licking the salt along the roadbed. All ewes and kids.
Not a mile down the road, we come across a bachelor herd of sheep grazing along the road also.
The boys club here.
Both rams and ewes have horns, but the males are wall hangers.
Another first for Nestor, riding a steel grated bridge. Always an un-nerving experience for the first time motorcyclist. The grating wants to steer the motorcycle, jumping between one row to another. The natural tendency is to tightly grip the handlebars and fight the grating. Bad idea! The best technique is to relax your grip on the handlebars and let the bike find its way across. It will without falling over if you keep the speed steady.
Nestor gets it right the first time. There will be more bridges and longer bridges like this one.
The next first for Nestor was stopping to watch a huge bison grazing along side the road. When I ask him to park near so I can take a photo with both of them in it, he is hesitant. The animal is bigger than Nestor's bike.
"Are you sure this is safe?"
I guess the practice this Welding/Tire Shop is, drop your tire out in front of the shop and someone will fix them.... eventually... maybe?
Both bikes are pulling strong, no more issues. The fuel gasket is holding tight.
Before we left Texas Nestor noticed a gel cushion in my office. He commented that the only issue he had with riding all day was how hard his seat was. Suggested he take the Egg Sitter and try it. Is not designed for motorcycle use, but why not...
After a week of riding Nestor exclaimed that the Egg Sitter was the best addition he could have made to his bike. Every night he made sure that little gel pad did not get lost or left behind.
When I ask Nestor to stop again for another group photo, he really questions my sanity.
This is his first sighting of an adult black bear... and close by too.
"Quick, snap it and lets go!"
The rule when in bear country:
Never shut off your engine to photograph a grizzly.
Leaving BC, we cross into the Yukon, skies are clouding up....
and on to Watson Lake, home of the Sign Post Forest.
From Watson Lake we rode thru heavy rain and more rain. The only thing on our minds now was that gap of clear weather straight ahead.
By nightfall we reach Beaver Creek, Yukon, near the Alaska border. Snag Junction Provincial Park campgrounds looked quiet and inviting.
The rain slows to a drizzle as we doze off for the night.
Next morning I see Nestor coming out of the picnic pavilion. He says it was drier in there than on the ground. So he didn't bother with a tent last night, just stretched out his pad and sleeping bag on the concrete. We were too tired last night to see the No Camping sign above the shelter entrance.
The morning air is crisp and cool on Snag Lake. Hey, no rain. Hoorah! A great day for entering Alaska, the border crossing is only 25 miles away.
After brewing some coffee while munching on granola bars, bikes are packed and readied.
Next up, Alaska.
More of Nestor's Alaska ride to come,