Alaska Trip – Day 3


We had agreed to awaken at 5AM and depart as close to 6AM as possible.  One of the headaches of camping is waking up stiff in the morning and then having to pack up a tent, sleeping bag, pad, etc back onto the motorcycle.  Only ten minutes behind schedule, we were the first to move out of the ant-infested campground to start our day.  The weather started perfectly, albeit a shade cold.  Heated gear was called for, and happily, it answered.

Old US 10 going west out of Columbus, MT was a great ride to get us back to Interstate 90 first thing in the morning. In what I hoped would not become a daily morning pattern, I found myself dodging kamikaze wildlife.  The road became a dodge-ball course of rabbits as it seemed like a very large horde of the bouncing fuzz balls decided to chance crossing the road as close to motorcycle tires as they could.  For the second day in a row, my bike was struck by wildlife.

Unfortunately, one exploding Thumper would not make it back home and instead leave a reminder about its life all over the motorcycle which required engine cleaning at the next gas stop.  I learned a long time ago that leading any motorcycle ride puts you at greater risk since you are in effect clearing the ditches of wildlife as you approach.  Now two for two days, I wondered if the upcoming animal strikes would be getting bigger as more bears and moose would soon be seen.

After an hour on I-90 in dropping temperatures found the three of us pulling into a McDonald’s parking lot just outside the entrance to Yellowstone.  Replenishment by sausage McMuffin with egg and a warm drink was enough to reboost the spirits.  A little further west brought us to the turnoff to US-287 which became our exit point from interstate riding until our return to the lower 48 over two weeks later.  Going into Toston brought us into a sloppy mess of what was once eight miles of road that had been reduced to washboard gravel with dumped pockets of pretty thick gravel.  Standing up for better control, my heated gear unplugged.  Some idiot…meaning me…had taken off the 1 foot wiring extension that allowed the gear to work flawlessly while riding standing up the last time they cleaned the bike before packing for the trip at home.  I could semi-stand and stay plugged in…something not comfortable at all to do.  Try finding a extension cable like this…we tried throughout the rest of the trip…no dice.  Should have had my wife mail it to me on the road.  Retrospect is so easy.

Montana has some very beautiful countryside:

Rob starting to get a feeling for what addiction looks like.  This was our fifth stop of the day for rest, and the fifth time that the search for a signal occurred by one of our riding party:

Want to open a gas station and make a killing?  Put one on the other corner across from Stoney’s Kwik Stop:

This gas station had one heck of a line of RVs waiting for gas.  We asked the bull statue which way was Canada…he pointed the wrong way so we ignored his answer and rode in the direction that the trusty Garmin Zumo 660 would tell us to blindly go.  The Zumo revolted later in the day and exacted its revenge for something I must have done sometime that day.

Our crossing into Canada was north of Eureka, in Roosville.  Do I have a tale to tell here.

Riding up US-93 to the Roosville border crossing, a motorcycle pulls out in front of me about six miles from the border.  Dilly-dallying along for a moment, the rider realized three motorcycles were behind him and he eventually gunned it.  The trio behind him gunned it as well and we all fell into a loose formation.  At the crossing, each line had several vehicles in it, so I waited patiently behind the rider ahead of me.  Turn bike on, inch forward, turn bike off, wait three minutes, repeat.  Rider in front of me gets his turn to talk to the customs agent…and off comes his helmet and I can see he’s getting the third degree a little from the agent.  Finally after double the amount of time, he moves forward, and I get my time with the very serious border crossing agent.

After answering the six questions to the agent’s liking, I pull around the corner shown in the image above and dismount next to the Welcome to British Columbia sign in the second photo below and get into a conversation with the rider that had been in front of me.  And who does it turn out to be?

A guy I chatted with over the winter about possibly riding up to AK with together.  The ironic thing was we knew we could not sync up a meeting beforehand, even though we chatted online about the possibility of trying.  Of the tens of thousands of possible available seconds on this one particular day, what’s the odds of one specific person pulling out and being in line directly in front of me at that one second of time?  Once we figured out who the other was, laughs and hand shakes were exchanged at the irony of this meeting.  Fate.  Sometimes it sucks…and sometimes it surprises you.

The BC welcome sign with the still undamaged Faith:

Roughly 22 miles north of the border is the intersection of 93 and the Kootenay Highway.  For some reason, the electrical gremlins jumped on the bike when I crossed into Canada.  Not only was my video camera refusing to operate properly (well, the way I wanted it to work…not the way the manufacturer wanted it to work), but the GPS started showing what I knew to be incorrect information.  Fifteen minutes went by at a parking lot at this intersection as I fought with both devices to no avail.

The decision was made by the three of us to find a place to get a cold drink as well as some hot food.  Don’t remember the name of this place, but the food was excellent and the waitresses a hoot to talk to:

I treated my riding friends to dinner at this pub to celebrate our first full day of riding as a group; the stop also had a take out liquor store connected to it as well.  The waitress made a big deal about the tip we had left; upon questioning she stated that the locals never leave tips there and she was very appreciative.  The more time we spent in Canada, the more we kept hearing this.  What’s up with you Canadians, eh?

Rob picked up a six pack sampler of locally brewed beer while I fought with the GPS to give us the wisdom of which way to go.  Common sense said to continue west towards Cranbrook…but the Zumo kept telling us to go back east towards Fernie.  What did we do?  We said hell with common sense and followed technology like the robots we are all becoming.  Jeffrey and Rob made it very clear early on they were going to be followers on this journey and would blindly follow me anywhere.  So as I fought technology repeatedly, they took lots of photos, made lots of jokes, and even left me sitting there cussing while they would disappear to get their selves a nice hot coffee or a candy bar at the local store.  Guess that’s why their vacation was so relaxing.

After riding for forty minutes to Fernie through some rain, new oiled blacktop, and around some simply amazing small mountains, I surrendered to my brain and realized it was taking us the wrong way.  All of had grown tired from the day’s long ride, so we pulled into Mount Fernie Provincial Park where a $28 campsite was found.

I had thought that all provincial parks had free firewood (wrong information #2) but the onsite ranger informed us we were wrong and that we owed him $8.  I tried to give the ranger $10 and tell him just give us $10 worth.  No dice.  He specifically said he can’t “sell parts of a $8 load”.  WHATTTTTT?  I even told him to keep the change and just give us $8…but he was adamant about not taking tips and refused (much different than waitresses there!)

At least the ranger gave us a lot more than he probably should have for the $8 and Toonie I got back (that’s their $2 coin for you non-Canadians).  Let me also interject here to say that Canadians have much cooler money than the boring cocaine-laden notes we use here in the states.  Much more water resistant, colorful, and just overall more fun.

Problem is somebody had to then split the wood.  Now I’m not saying I did all the firewood chopping here, but I’m not finding any pictures of anybody else doing all the work.  I think Rob and Jeffrey were setting up bear traps or something off to the side.  Maybe they decided to go snipe hunting.  I think they did it wrong…they found their way back way too easily.

A roaring fire helped us keep our feet warm while the simply atrocious local brew helped to keep the bellies rumbling in retaliation.

This stuff tasted AWFUL.   Tasted like recycled water with a grapefruit dipped in it.  Jeffrey likes to think he’s a beer expert…and in comparison to my alcohol knowledge, the guy is the king of brew expertise.  Even he passed on it after tasting it.  Save your money and buy some crap like PBR or Miller Lite instead that is at least somewhat drinkable around a campfire.

So far the GPS displayed mapping is wrong, the video camera isn’t working the way that I want it to (wife agrees…I’m stubborn), waitresses are not used to tips, and the local canned alcohol sucks.  OH MY GOSH…WHERE ARE WE???  If things don’t improve soon, I’m voting we turn around and go ride Indiana for awhile and look at soybean fields!

Tomorrow…a bucket list item.  Ride the Icefields Parkway.  Plans are again to get up at 5AM, be on the road by 6AM, and on the Parkway by 8AM.  What’s that they say about the best made plans?  Not going to happen as planned.  Nope…the decisions of the United States banking community decided against that.

Mileage:  550 miles give or take…
Areas traversed:  Kalispell, Fernie
Gas:  $45.73
Food:  $82.12 (bought dinner for the trio)
Lodging: $28
Firewood:  $8

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