RubiKon Adventures

Tales and travels of "GrizzLee", "Looksha Lori" & "Yukon Johann"

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Our Life Behind Bars – Father & Son Doing Time in the Northern Frontier (Mile 5999 to Mile 6762)

Days 24-25  (July 23-24, 2013)

Not Dead Yet
Morning came early on this day. I was anxious to find a rear tire and be on my way. I made a few inquiries on ADVRider and got some leads as to where I might find a tire. Prince George has no BMW motorcycle shops. Surprisingly, every shop I called was open on this Monday. I check around and found a KTM dealer, but they had nothing, neither did the Harley dealership. I was becoming a bit disappointed and concerned. The last shop I called was a Yamaha shop. Bingo!! They had a tire for me. It wasn’t what I wanted, but it will have to do. So 2 hours later, I have a new Shinko 705 installed and I am on my way. I am feeling confident about my ride and even think I could ride some dirt roads on the way home. Yes!!  I had lunch and rolled out of Prince George about 1:00.
The rocky mountains along the Robson Valley are stupendous

I decided to take the Robson Valley route on the Yellowhead highway. I know it was shorter by taking hay 97 south, but I was looking at 2 days to get home to Seattle, so I decided to take the more scenic route. I am glad I did. The weather was perfect and the road was lonely. I saw several bears along the way and came upon the remains of a charred semi that had rolled off an embankment and caught fire. It wasn’t pretty. I only hope the driver was alright.

Last camp on the trp. See the empty beer bottles
I ended up in camping near Clear Water that evening. It was to be my last night out on the road. So I celebrated by getting some beer. I found some local IPA that sounded good. Once at the campground, I downed two beers before I even had my tent setup. The beer hit the spot. I had a quiet evening and finished off all six beers. I slept like a baby that evening.

Kelly Lake.. Always refreshing

Who's dat?
The next morning I awoke, refreshed with sunshine and was giddy with excitement. I knew if all went well, I would be home today. I would meet up with my son and the trip would be over. My arse was extremely sore from 3.5 weeks and over 6700 miles on the bike. I was looking forward to a break and sleeping in my own bed.

 I took hwy 24 over to 100 Mile House and then south to Clinton. From there, I took the Pavillion Road from Kelly Lake over toward Lilloet. I was now retracing our ride on the first day.  It was wonderful and the views were fantastic.  I rode through Fountain Valley and back through Lilloet.
Coming down the back side Pavillion Road toward Fountain Valley

The Fraser River flows through this magnificent land 
In Lilloet, I was nearly hit by a cager who wasn’t paying attention. I had my GoPro on at the time, so I have it on video.  I wound my way through toward Lytton and had some sheep dash in front of me. I would have stopped to get some pictures and possibly some video, but I had another idiot in a pickup on my ass.. nearly kissing my rear tire. I was afraid that he was going to hit me. The road was narrow, curvy and bounded by cliffs. As soon as I could pull over, this guy took off past me like a banshee out of hell, sliding his truck around corners and such. I hate to say this, but he was driving like he was drunk and as far as I could tell, he was a native. I wish my cell phone had service, I would have called the RCMP and reported him.

From there, it was a relatively benign ride through Hell’s Gate and the Fraser River Canyon. All very beautiful and a ride that I had done a few times before. In fact, I have driven this route many times on our way north. So the wonder and excitement was nothing new here for me. I was wanting to get home now. And the traffic was beginning to increase. I had to be more cautious of other drivers now.
Fraser river as it passed by Fountain Valley

Beauty eh?

Some of the best motorcycle touring country in the world

Home at last

The family dog is checking for some signs of life
I had an uneventful crossing at Sumas into Washington State. I arrived home in my driveway around 7:30 pm. I MADE IT!!! I was spent, tired and hungry. It was great to meet up with Johann. I had tears in my eyes and we hugged each other and chatted about my solo adventure ride over the last 2100 miles. I couldn’t believe that I had made it. This was a dream that I always wanted to do. Despite what happened with Johann, it all turned out OK. He was home safe and I was now home safe. We could now take some time to reflect on the trip together.

Not dead yet!! The ADVRider double salute says it all.

Gretchen... I love this big girl.

Hey, there he is,.. father and son reunited. He even has his boot.
It has been fun to post this report and relive the trip. As I sift through the hours and hours of video and pictures, I can recall nearly every mile and nearly every corner we rode on this trip. I am putting together a series of videos that highlight sections of our trip.  It was magical.

The story isn’t over yet. We are both waiting for the Dakar to arrive and assess the damage. Both of us are looking forward to getting it back into tip top shape for our next riding adventure together. A door has been opened for both of us. He has embraced this adventure riding activity with enthusiasm. I think I may have a riding buddy for life. Only time will tell. It will be neat to see what the next couple of years bring as he goes through many life changing events. College, career and more than likely girls… As a father, I only hope that he remembers his old man and wants to continue on with more of these types of adventures.

Father-Son Bowron Lakes B.C.  2005
Father-Son Mt Rainer Washington, 2005

Father-Son B.C. Paddle Expedition 2004
I feel fortunate to have had these unique opportunities over the course of his life (and mine) to share with him and be a part of the grandest adventures I have ever had. Not every child has the attitude or aptitude to do these kinds of things. We can both thank his mom as well for being supportive and patient with us “boys” over the years and encouraging these types of adventures. Not every mother is so understanding and so willing to let their children embrace the kinds of challenges and adventures that we’ve shared together. Lori is too be commended for her role in our adventures. Not only has she not ever said, no.. never once… She encouraged us every time, helped us with gear, food and logistics.  

Father-Son Yukon, 2007
Thanks for riding with us.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Our Life Behind Bars – Father & Son Doing Time in the Northern Frontier (Mile 5228 to Mile 5999)

Days 22-23  (July 21-22, 2013)

After a good night sleep in Watson lake, I took off toward the Hwy 37, the Cassiar Hwy.  Just outside of Watson Lake I nearly hit a young bear, maybe 100 yards from the Sign Post Forest. The bear ran unexpectedly out in front of me and darted back into the bush. Undaunted, this bear started feeding on the side of the road. So I put my GoPro Camera to use and attempted to get my camera out for some more video. Unfortunately for me, the creature ran when the next pickup truck drove by and I was unable to get even a picture of this cute little creature. Shortly there after the sky opened up and it began pouring rain. It poured and poured until I got to Good Hope Lake. From there, Jade City wasn’t too far and I stopped in to say hi to my friend Kendra and a new employee there, named Jessica. I wanted to dry off a bit and they always have free coffee and cocoa. So I stayed a bit to chat They told me that they may be opening a restaurant across the road from the store. I told them tha tit would probably do good business in the summer and that I look forward to having a burger there on my next visit. I said my goodbyes and took off, only to be created by more rain showers. Form here on, all the way to Dease Lake I would be in and out of the rain. Once at Dease Lake I grabbed some lunch and the weather began to show signs of improvement.

Leaving the Air Force Lodge at Watson Lake

A break in the rain at Good Hope Lake

Jade City, free coffee and good company
It was still heavily overcast when I left, but as I go toward the native village known as Iskut, I could tell that I was out of the rain for good this day as I could see blue skies of in the south.
It was pretty uneventful, save for the few times I stopped to take some pictures and film some video. I happen to play leap frog with a couple that each had their own motorcycles. The lady had a lowered F650 GS while her husband had a big Harley and a tent trailer.
The Cassiar Hwy...somewhere near Kinaskat Lake

My overloaded steed

This rock looked a bit phallic (strange)

My arrival near Bell II Lodge

My camp at Mezidain Lake
Later that evening, I met up with them again at Mezidain Lake Provincial Park. Camping was tough there as the campground was nearly full. I happened to run into the couple and they invited me over to their spot. I said I’ll have a look around and eventually found a spot with a view… one of the last 2 campsites left. After dinner and some visiting it was off to bed. But I found it hard to sleep. All the light coming into my tent was keeping me awake. This time, it wasn’t sunlight. No, no, it was nearly a full moon and the moonlight was brilliant and lit up the lake and the sky and reflected off the midnight clouds. It looked like I had a fluorescent lamp on outside my tent.
Earl and an apprentice carving a totem pole out of Cedar
The next morning, I quickly packed up and headed to Gitanyow (A Ksan village near Hazelton). They have very old totem poles. Some over 200 years old. There happened to be two wood carvers working on a big cedar Totem Pole. While younger of the two men worked, the older gentleman introduced himself to me. He told me they were replacing totem poles as the older ones rot and fall over. They also introduce new ones. He briefly gave me a quick lesson on how to read totems, and discover the meanings and symbolisms of the poles. One thing he mentioned to me, something that  I would never forget is how, the white man came and initially destroyed and/or burned the totem poles when the first white men arrived in their country. These folks he told me were missionaries and they viewed the totems as statues to gods. Nothing could be farther from the truth he told me. The totems, tell a story, each of them unique. The most important figure in a totem is the individual sitting on the ground, holding all the others up on their hands, shoulder hands/or head. The least important person would be placed on top. In many totems, one sees the white ma at the top. As the white man was the least important person to them. White people thought they were being honored  as they were at the top of the totems. In any event, the elder gentleman’s name was Earl. He asked me where I was from and I told him Seattle.  He told me he helped carve and oversee the totem pole found at the Seattle center. It was carved in 1970. The Seattle Totem features from top to bottom a hawk, bear (holding a salmon), raven and killer whale. Earl was rather proud of that carving and told me he likes Seattle very much and l had lived there for many years. I asked about the carving they were currently working on. He said they have been working on it for 5 months. The artwork was fantastic and I watched as the younger gentlemen took Earls instruction to make the finer details seen on totem poles, like feathers and how to make the character look like it was in motion. I found it odd that I run into Earl out in the bush. Of all the people I could have run into, Earl was the man for that day. I felt honored that he even gave me the time of day. After talking shop about the totems, he told me about the sacred headwaters of the Stikine, where the Nass, the Stikine, and Skeena rivers start flowing, all within 300 yards of each other. These are large rivers of the north, the lifeblood for many of the natives that live up there. He told me that I should make it a point to go back there and see the place for myself. Something I plan to do soemtiem. Ealr also told stories of how they battled Shell Oil and the Canadian Gov’t to stop mining on their lands and prevented them from building a dam on the Stikine River Canyon. This was incredible canyon Johann and I had ridden down to the town of Telegraph Creek a couple of weeks earlier. Earl finally told me, that he didn’t much care for the white man and their ways. I think I surprised him, when I told him that I agree completely. There are some sacred places that we should let be. The Stikine region is one of those sacred places.
Earl stated that they have been working
on the totem for nearly 5 months

The village of Gitanyow the community of the Gitxsan people

Some of thee totems date back well over 100 years or more.

I parted ways  with Earl and shortly after getting back onto the Cassiar hwy, another little bear darted in front of me. This time, the bear startled me and I nearly dumped my bike.  The little black bear just sat there staring at me a bit while I struggled to get my camera out for some more bear footage. However, just as I was nearly ready, the bear took off for the forest, disappearing as fast as it appeared.

At the junction of the Cassiar and Yellowhead Highways, I gassed up and headed toward Smithers. From there it was long slog to Prince George… about 5.5 hours later. As I was gassing up, I inspected my tires, particularly my rear tire. Back in Watson Lake I made a mental note of how much tread I had left. I was carrying more with now as I had some of Johanns’ gear with me. I noticed that my cleat was nearly gone and that some cracks were forming in the rubber. I was a bit uncomfortable going the last 1000 miles or so home on this tire. It happened to be Sunday Evening and all the bike shops are usually closed on Sundays and Mondays.   

Instead of camping, I got motel and wi-fi to begin my search for a bike shop that would a) be open on a Monday and b) would have a tire for my bike.

Stay tuned to see what the next 2 days had in store for me.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Our Life Behind Bars – Father & Son Doing Time in the Northern Frontier (Mile 4439 to Mile 5228)

Days 21-22 (July 19-20, 2013)

The Long Ride Home

I said a long sad goodbye to Johann. He had airfare to Whitehorse, from there he would change planes and fly to Vancouver, where his mother would pick him up and drive him home to Seattle He would be home in less than 8 hours. I was looking at a minimum of 5 days and over 2,100 miles before I would arrive home.

 I stopped by Advanced Northern Mechanical in Dawson to check with them and tell them again where we left Johann’s motorcycle along the road. They were going to go and retrieve the bike and ship it back to Whitehorse. I tried to give them GPS coordinates, but they didn’t have a GPS. Hmmm… so I did the next best thing, I told them that according to my GPS the bike was located about 79 miles along the Klondike hwy. Good enough they said. They reassured me that they will find it. I told them I would leave a rock cairn there and the bike would be hidden in the bush on the opposite side of the road.

I left Dawson in a pretty somber mood. I knew I would have a long time to reflect on the previous day’s events.  The ride toward Stewart Crossing went by pretty fast and as I got closer to the site of the accident, I must admit that I began to cry a bit. I saw the bike and recalled the images of Johann in his mangled riding gear. It was like someone turned on a faucet. I couldn’t help myself. All the planning, all the time, all the dreams… it all seemed to be in vain now. It took me awhile to compose myself. And because I was stopped and off my bike walking around gathering rocks and off the road grabbing some brush to camouflage the bike, I had a few drivers stop and ask if I was alright. I must have been a pathetic sight to see… a grown man with tears in his eyes out in the middle of the bush, scurrying around in the brush. Not something one normally sees while traveling down a remote road. I must have looked out of place doing all this in my riding gear. Oh well, I really didn’t much care at that point.
Pelly Crossing (A Native Village on the Pelly River)

The weather ahead looks iffy at best

The Pelly bridge

Fireweed and the Pelly River

My Steed
From there, I took off hoping to reach Carmacks to have a hamburger at the Coalmine Campground at a decent hour. The Coalmine campground is a special place for me. For those that have never been, it is located in Carmacks, a native village located along the Yukon River. It is the only place where the Klondike highway crosses the Yukon river between Whitehorse and Dawson. When you paddle the Yukon river, such as we have done, it is an oasis of sorts out in the wilderness. They have a nice campground that is relatively bug free, hot showers, a phone and they have real food. Good food. We always treat ourselves to a hamburger, a large order of fries and a soda. They have other things as well (Ice Cream, for example), but the burgers are the best in the territory.
Arrival at Five Finger Rapids

However, before arriving at Carmacks, I had to pass through a few rain storms and I made a stop to view Five Finger Rapids. Something must have clicked at the rapids, I found my mind wandering and myself reminiscing about our paddle trips and how I feared the rapids every time. The rapids are a couple of hours downstream from Carmacks, and they are not particularly challenging if the paddler approaches them correctly. However, like motorcycle riding, one wrong decision and/or a lapse in judgment can lead to disaster.  Being the cautious type, I studied them and talked to others on how to proceed safely. The first time Johann and I paddled the river, he was 11 years old, paddling his own kayak. No problem for him and he asked why all the concern. As a little boy, he had no idea what thoughts race through a concerned parents mind. Even though I was scared for his safety, Johann went through the rapids with smile and screaming wildly with joy. I smiled back and was thankful that he was having fun and came through safe.

Again the weather looks doubtful
So I arrive at Carmacks and the place was just jumping with people. Upon further notice, they were all firefighters. They were dirty, sweaty and HUNGRY. They were rejoicing that it had rained. The road to Faro had been closed and the paddlers were advised not to proceed down the river because of the smoke and fire dangers. This was a route that Johann and I were going to take on our way home. As it was, we wouldn’t have been able to ride it because of the fires. I don’t know why, but I found some comfort in knowing that. Maybe it was because Johann wasn’t with me and it didn’t really matter now. In all the hustle and bustle, the owner walks by and yells to me Welcome back, where’s you boy?”. I couldn’t believe it, he recognized me. He even came over to chat a bit. I felt like I was home. And I truly believe I was. There are some places that just feel right, like you belong. This the feeling I’ve had on my 1st visit to the north. It has never left me.  We exchanged pleasantries and then he went on his way to work his business. I told him, that I would more than likely be back next year and he asked if Johann wanted to work there next summer to which I replied, that I am certain that Johann would like to and that I would check with him.  I had my burger and answered numerous questions about my bike and my trip. It was hard to show enthusiasm, but I did my best
The Coalmine Campgrounds Canteen Restaurant

The Canteen restaurant has the best burgers... But don't take my word on it.
"I've travelled a lot around on this planet, I'm always hungry and the best burgers I ever tasted between Melbourne, Australia and Inuvik, Canada is at the canteen of the Coal Mine Campground. Recommendation: Double Cheeseburger and Bacon." ~ Uwe Seeger, Ichtershausen, Germany
 "Try the chicken burger, the best I've ever tasted!" ~ Joe Sarnorsky, Oshawa, Ontario, Canada
 "The best burger I've ever had" ~John Palmer, Queensland, Australia
"The best burger in the Yukon Territory" ~ GrizzLee, Sammamish, Wa

Somewhere north of Fox Lake

Things are looking up. 
Rainbow just before pulling into Watson Lake
Leaving Carmacks to Whitehorse, it began to rain off and on. Stopped and took a few pictures before Fox Lake. I arrived at my buddy’s house  (Shawn) in Whitehorse.  We had a couple of beers and talked about our adventures. I slept really well that night and woke up much later than I wanted. Shawn, being the great guy he is, made a delicious breakfast before I left. As I told him how much I feel guilty and responsible for Johann’s accident and maybe I was a careless parent, Shawn pointed out that living a life in a shell, is not living and these things happen. He reassured me that I was a great dad and he sees a special relationship between Johann and I that he hasn’t seen with other dads. For that, I should be grateful. As I left Whitehorse, it began to rain. It rained all the way to Watson Lake. I was hoping to get a break in the weather and camp, however, I opted for a warm, dry bed at the Air Force Lodge again. I talked with the owner, Mike, and of course he asked about Johann. I told him what happened and  then went to bed. But not before checking the weather forecast, as I was unsure if I was going to go to Liard on the ALCAN Highway or take the Cassiar highway down. The weather looked pretty crappy in either direction. The forecast indicated that good weather was just south of Bell II. So that is where I planned to go the next day.
Until next time...