DAY SEVENTEEN: SUNDAY, JUNE 28
Ah, what a beautiful day this entire day would turn out to be. Nary a cloud in the sky all day, the weather was magnificent and even became quite warm as the hours progressed. We actually left the Bulkley Valley Motel fairly late in comparison to our overall trip standards. 8:00 AM nearly struck before the bikes were loaded and we continued our riding adventure east on the Yellowhead Highway; otherwise known as Canada 16.
Today’s expected final stop would be Jasper, a very upscale touristy city sitting on the north end of the Icefields Parkway. Knowing the higher expense of stopping for the night there, we had gone around the city and rode to Hinton on the way north for our desired night’s lodgings a couple of weeks ago. Tonight, I would get a chance to get a more detailed look at Jasper and examine some of its shops and hopefully a restaurant that would get a great recommendation from me.
The first couple hours of the day would find us riding next to the serpentine Bulkley River, which at times appeared to me as only a very wide stream. This river was visible from the road during much of the morning’s ride, finally emptying into the fairly small (by past Canadian observances) Bulkley River between the areas of Topley and Burns Lake. Prior to getting anywhere close to the end of this river, my stomach was once again alerting me of the need to eat.
We rode into Smithers, a very attractive sleepy town on this early Sunday morning. It had appeared that this town had gone through some major renovations as of late…there were many beautiful park areas mingling alongside this highway. Everything looked clean, refreshing, and inviting. Even with the vast amount of retail that we saw, it was apparent that this town’s keepers maintained a strict code of expectations to ensure that this town remained attractive to passerby.
My Garmin Zumo had been working wonderfully for the last week; today would be no different as I sought information from it regularly. This morning, a search while riding of breakfast stops showed an available Subway restaurant. Having only discovered that I really like their first meal of the day menu on this trip, I flagged the eatery as our stop for food.
At the corner of CA-16 and Main Street sits Subway. We arrived at 8:50 AM only to find the front door locked. The posted sign showed a 9 AM opening time, so we simply used the time to peel off more layers of clothing as the morning was warming up very quickly. The lone college-aged girl inside the restaurant opened the doors several minutes early and did a great job of providing us a hot breakfast.
Overall, the ride today had good overall scenery but due to the amount of traffic on 16, and the limited amount of pull-offs, not many photos were taken along the route today. The Yellowhead Highway felt like any other busier highway around; definitely not offering the seclusion or remoteness feel that we had grown accustomed to over the last week or more. Even out on this busy road way though, moose were a concern as the many signs reminded us:
The 230 mile jaunt from Smithers to Prince George seemed to occur unexpectedly quick, with only two quick rest stops to bend the knees and to give the ribs a rest from the bike’s vibrations.
Prince George is just like any other mid-size city having a population of just a shade more than seventy thousand residents. Overall, it was architecturally boring and a quick commute through it; especially on a Sunday. The most exciting thing we saw in the town was a one block detour off the path due to a minor fender bender in an intersection in the downtown area. By this time, it was getting warm…as in over eighty degree heat and on the east side of the town I pulled to the side of a gas station parking lot to allow us to have a needed water break.
The entire trip I had not received one inkling from Jeffrey regarding any needed stops for restroom, food, water, or fuel. Oops, back up…he did ride up next to me on I-90 our first day together in South Dakota to indicate he was getting low on fuel; we then realized our two bikes were consuming at about the same rate and getting nearly the same mileage so he did not warn me of a need to stop any more. So, I simply stopped when I needed to…which averaged about each hour to stretch the legs.
This gas station found us both peeling off any additional under-layers and riding in shirt and protective jackets. We each indulged into the calories of a melting Snickers and slammed at least a bottle of water each. I had not given thought of looking to see if we needed to fuel up…it just did not cross my mind for some reason. Of course, fifteen minutes after leaving and seeing “No fuel for XXX miles” and a “Jasper – 360 KM” (or however many high miles it would be) signs once leaving the city, I immediately realized there was no way we could make it to the next advertised fuel stop. I once again called upon the now trusty Zumo to save us…and found a resort coming up that had fuel.
We turned into the Purden Lake Resort. The $2.00 per liter unleaded charge came out to $6.92 per gallon once all the variables were factored in. This turned out to be our most expensive gas of the entire trip…even more expensive than the cost at the Yukon River Camp which I totally expected to be much higher than usual (which it really wasn’t).
The Yellowhead Highway continued east, skirting many very small towns just off the main road. Mountains once again started appearing as we came back into the Canadian Rockies and the riding scenery became very enjoyable to see. There are even some mountain passes to ride through, until you eventually come around a curve and see a mammoth mountain looming up in front of you:
Believe me, this photo does it absolutely no justice, even in high resolution. This is Mount Robson. AT 12,972 feet, it is the highest point in the Canadian Rockies. And you ride on the highway almost to the base of it before the road curves away. There are some GREAT photo opportunities around this. The photo above was taken about a mile before the curvature of the road to the right takes you to another photo pull-off on the south side of the road or to the actual formal viewing center rest area on the north side of the road. On retrospect, I wish I would have pulled into the viewing center and gotten another photo or two. This block of granite, being so close to you, is indescribable.
Forgot to mention…the yellow/black gates you see in the photo above on the road are utilized in wintry weather when road passes become impassible; the authorities lower them and refuse to allow you to pass. You will see these all over the Rockies in Canada as well as on some roads in Alaska. I even recall seeing these on my Colorado trip last year as well.
The mountains continued to make their selves seen:
As you come to the British Columbia and Alberta border area, you also come to Jasper National Park and the park gate access on Highway 16. I completely understand the need to pay fees to enter National Parks and that these collections go to maintaining the land and providing recreation to visitors. And I agree with it. And gladly pay it. However, I decided to have some fun with you very young lady working the window as I pulled up and asked how we could get to Jasper without paying the $19.80 toll for our two motorcycles. She said it had to be paid to enter the park. I promised her I wouldn’t look at any scenery for the next twenty minutes until we got to the town…would that allow me to enter without paying? She looked at me and busted out laughing. I then asked how do I get to Jasper without paying? She said turn around…there was an 800 mile bypass back to Prince George, Dawson Creek, Grand Prairie, Hinton, and into Jasper that would save me twenty dollars in toll money but would cost me probably one hundred bucks in gas and a day or two of riding.
Nice to see that some Canadians guarding entrances have a sense of humor. She wouldn’t make it as a Canadian customs agent. Not mean enough.
Once we got into Jasper, I hit the Zumo up for hotel information. As we rode through town, you could just tell that every place was going to be expensive. There wasn’t any of those mom-and-pop motels that looked like they were significantly cheaper. After cruising the main road slowly (with all the traffic and pedestrians, you aren’t flying through this town), I hit the link on the Zumo for the Best Western. We finally pulled in, parked under the main canopy, and went in to register.
There were probably twelve other people in there waiting in one of the lines. The ladies working the counter did a great job getting people checked-in quickly. Of course, we didn’t have any reservations like everybody else, so we became the cog in the fluidly moving system that they had going.
This Best Western is humongous. You can tell there are hundreds of rooms in this resort complex. We asked about availability, and the lady started going through choices. I kept hearing numbers like “$279”, “$335”, “$405″ etc. I started getting that feeling in the stomach where you know it’s going to be really expensive to stay some place but you just have to pay it. I showed the reception lady my Best Western Rewards card and playfully said…”Come on, do us a favor. What’s your best rate?” Which led to a little known secret.
At this particular hotel, they have basement rooms. Rooms are big and are just like their big suites without the dividing wall between the main rooms. No real windows, but does have a ladder mounted to a wall that allows you to climb up it and get out a small window near the ceiling in case of a fire. With my ribs, this was not going to happen and my wife would just have to collect the life insurance on me.
The rate for the basement rates was much cheaper…$179; it was a very significant reduction in price versus a room at or about ground level. If you stay here and want to save a few bucks, ask for the basement rooms. They are very nice and very spacious:
Sometimes you just don’t feel lugging stuff to a washer and wasting hours washing and drying. Having merino wool socks helps when traveling…very comfortable and dries in just a couple of hours.
Wool, in the heat of summer? Yes. It keeps you warm in the cold and cool in the heat. Merino wool that is. You can wear it for weeks without washing it and it doesn’t stink. Look it up. Little known secret for riding comfort, hiking comfort, whatever comfort. I recommend washing it more often…just because.
After getting settled in, we walked the main avenue in town where most of the restaurants and shops are. We stopped at Jasper Pizza Place due to Jeffrey talking non-stop about wanting to get pizza. They have an additional seating area on top of the roof with good views, so we went to the top and enjoyed the view with our fellow tourists.
Some of the other people. If you look in the far back, and squint really hard, you’ll see a very famous celebrity in the next picture:
Actually, I’m just messing with you. Nobody famous in the photo.
I have to say it was a great meal…even though Jeffrey decided not to get pizza. My meal was an awesome Italian dish with shrimp:
Sorry, I was starving. Had to get a bite of the bread to hold me as I dug for the camera. Don’t you hate half-eaten photo shots?
Very highly recommended food and a great place to eat. After about an hour, it was time to do some shopping before the stores closed up for the evening. Did a little window shopping and walking in some of the stores…where I noticed they sold a lot of the same things that Jade City did. Bought a few more gifts and went back to the Best Western; where about five seconds was all it took for Mr. Sandman to win his fight with me.
Tomorrow, we take a much different trip through the Icefields Parkway and discover an awesome waterfall. The mountains disappear for good. The wind comes back to the adventure; a new forest fire breaks out and threatens to cause severe problems.
Mileage: 510 miles
Areas traversed: Prince George, Jasper