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Across Northern Canada

June 14, 2010


The ride from Ft. St. John to Ft. Nelson was as had been described to us: long, straight and not much happening.  The Alaska-Canada Highway is not in as good condition as most of the other roads we’ve been traveling.  Filled potholes and other patches make the pavement uneven.  The 2-lane road travels through a 300 yard-wide swath cut through forested rolling hills.  The trees are a mix of conifers birch, and aspen.  Occasionally we get a glimpse of mountains in the distance, but the trees largely constrict the view.  So we look for animals.

 At a gas stop we met a pair of solo motorcyclists.  One, on a BMW sport-tourer was on a whirlwind trip from Chicago to Alaska.  But although Chicago was his home, he had just completed a trip to Florida and Maine, and returned home to re-supply before setting out for Alaska.  The bike was a new toy for him, so we understood.  At the same stop we also met a rider from Bulgaria who now lives in Kitchener, Ontario.  He was riding a Kawasaki dirt bike that was so fully loaded and overhung with gear that you had to look closely to see a bike underneath.    We rode with him for a while, but his pace was slower than we needed to maintain.  I was just debating about how to part in a friendly way, when he must have realized he was holding us up and waved us to go on ahead.


The road out of Ft. Nelson began much the same yesterday’s, but within an hour we began to see mountains off to the west, and we began climbing gradually to meet them. The Northern Rockies started out looking like the Adirondacks, with rounded, wooded mountaintops with only an occasional rocky outcropping,  Along this part we saw many isolated bison  and one or two small herds grazing by the roadside.  Higher up,  the mountains broke above treeline and became sharp, rocky peaks. It was also quite cold even though it remained sunny.  At this altitude, lakes and streams were the same brilliant turquoise we had seen in Jasper—I assume this indicates a relative lack of organic matter in the water. Although beautiful, it was quite bleak. We encountered only the occasional trio of bighorn sheep foraging along the curbside for not much.

In the afternoon, the skies clouded up and began to threaten rain, but it never amounted to much.  We had to stop for construction.  Canadian road repair procedures differ quite a bit from the states.  Rather than make detours, they tend to entirely rip up long segments of highway at one time (3 to 10-mile stretches), restrict travel to one lane, and hold traffic at each end for long times.  We have had delays of 15-20 minutes at some spots.  Maybe the difference is between rural versus congested areas instead of anything else.  In any case it gave us time to suit up for the imminent rain that never came.

Fuel is holding up OK.  So far, everything the preliminary research showed has materialized although some of the places are clearly open only at the whim of the owner.  Unfortunately, not every fuel stop has premium gas, and we find that not only do the engines suffer pinging from the lower octane, they also deliver much lower fuel mileage.  Yesterday, we managed to get 145 miles on a tank before switching to reserve.  Today, on a tank of low octane gas we only got 125.  We intentionally passed by a gas station that seemed to have only regular since we were within range of our destination for the night, but we didn’t quite make it.  So we made use of our extra fuel cargo for the first time to take us home for the night.

Today we’ll start off with some maintenance and then hit the road across the Yukon.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. Gord (RAT) permalink
    June 15, 2010 10:51 am

    Well … in order to arrange a detour … you need to have alternate roads ;-)>


  2. aran permalink
    June 15, 2010 11:54 am

    probably not a bad idea to use up those reserve 1 gal tanks now and then… keep the gas fresh. 🙂
    wish your USB port would magically start working again.

    thanks for the ride reports.

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