Here’s the daily map update on our route. The mileage is shorter up here because we’re going a lot slower each day as the roads are more challenging, and the wildlife is everywhere. It’s slower going, but the riding is amazing.
If you’re still reading the blog, thanks! I know that this trip’s blog has been less entertaining than past blogs, but we’ve been all business so far as we’re trying to front-end the miles in the trip to allow for time to explore the whole way home. It has been extremely long days of hard riding, and at night, it’s been all I can do to just get the posts up with some photos. It’s been difficult to even stop for photos because we have been so geared up to put in miles. Taking our time was just not an option the first four days with so many miles in front of us. Maybe we were both concerned that if we didn’t make massive time each day, it would be too easy to not complete our journey. I’m hoping to spend a bit more time on the blog going forward, so hang in there! Getting more into the groove will heat up the creative juices for sure…
Today was a roller coaster ride as much of the trip has been. It’s amazing how much mental and emotional gymnastics happen each day on a trip of this scale. Every day is affected by how you “think” about the challenges almost more than the challenges themselves. Or maybe that’s just me wrapped up in this thing called my mind. Probably a really good life lesson in there somewhere. I’ll try to find it and get back to you…
This morning was very rough after way too much beer followed by wine we didn’t “need” and a 3am bed time. Oh well, we were sort of celebrating our entry into the mountains after three tough days in the never ending planes. We needed it. It’s a vacation for crying out loud. The morning started out briskly at 42 degrees F. And I felt terrible. I tried begging Brad for another hour of sleep as I laid texting him in my luxurious bed, but my texts wouldn’t go through, so getting up was the only option. I didn’t want to be that guy. The night prior was the main culprit in my general condition, but I think all the hard riding had caught up with me, and I was also just cumulatively overly tired.
Everything hurt on the morning ride. My right butt cheek was killing me (probably more on that later), my eyes were watering all morning, and the cobwebs would not shake out. It was also freezing as we waited for the sun to rise above the mountains and start heating our backs. The ride from Lake Louise to Jasper was some of the most extraordinary scenery I have every ridden through, and all I could think about was getting to Jasper and finishing that leg. It was by far the longest 150 miles of the trip so far. It was literally like being in church as a kid where I’d look at the clock every ten seconds and could swear time was going backwards. Can time really be moving this slowly? It seemed impossible at the time and again on Day 4. The miles just refused to tick off. The ride through all that beauty was about survival and nothing else. We passed a restaurant about 90 miles from Jasper, and I made the call to keep going – I immediately regretted it, but we just had to keep going. It was worth it when we made Jasper.
We finally pulled into Jasper, and it was way past time to stop. We ordered massive breakfasts (the server actually warned me that what I was ordering was huge – I was ok with that). We took a longer than normal break so that I could finish the prior day’s blog, and slammed as much coffee as we could stomach. I expected the next 6 hours to be very long, very painful, and very hard just like the morning was. At least I was prepared for it.
Photos from the morning “survival” ride:
Wow, was I pleasantly, surprisingly, wrong. I’m not sure what happened, but I got a second wind that lasted throughout the rest of the ride and felt absolutely amazing. Just two hours earlier, there were actually creeping doubts about what we’re doing. Nothing major, but I was really low. Really low. All of a sudden, the miles were flying by, and I was back into a zone that I’ve found on prior long-distance trips but had not felt in this one yet. Instead of focusing on miles (kilometers for my Canadian friends), it was just enjoying each moment, each twist, each mountain and view, and the miles were merely a beneficial by-product. Everything was the moment, and nothing else mattered. It was incredible, and the scenery continued to amaze.
Photos from the afternoon leg:
This was also our first day of seeing real wildlife. As we pulled out of Lake Louise, we passed a bear just off the road, but were unable to get a picture as stopping that close seemed to be ill-advised. But, we were able to get a few photos of some of the wildlife. It was so cool to see.
You know you’re out there, when in one day, you see bighorn sheep, goats, bears, and elk. Add the bald eagle and numerous deer, and we’re doing well so far. Later in the day, we saw another bear (black bear) by the side of the road. We stopped to get a photo, but he looked at us, moved back about 50 feet, stood up to at least 5 or 6 feet tall and rambled off into the woods. It was awesome. From where we were, he looked really cute on his hind legs. I wanted to bring him home and snuggle next to the fire place. Probably not a good idea… Don’t worry bear experts, I’m kidding.
Here’s Brad checking out our first elk:
We continued on through the beauty, and made our way along the road. At one point, we were getting a bit tired, so we stopped when we saw a sign that looked like there might be some coffee available. It ended up being a great stop! We ended up at a Park service building and met Isabella and Tanya, the friendly Park Service ladies. We stopped for coffee but instead ended up making friends over tattoos and stickers. They’re no of course big fans of the Milwaukee Grand Cafes and promised to sport our stickers on guitar boxes and cars. I’m wearing my maple leaf with pride.
Prior to meeting Isabella and Tanya, we saw a sign that warmed our souls. Scenic Route to Alaska. Yes.
After leaving there, we continued on for a while before stopping for gas where we met Alex and Mike. These two guys are on their way from Denver to Deadhorse – the same place we’re headed – on two KTM’s with stickers touting their journey called “Arctic Bound 2011 – 10,000 miles. 30 days. 2 idiots on motorcycles.” Sounds like two other guys I know… Kindred spirits no doubt. They were kind enough to give us a few sticker for our rigs. And, Alex’s dad owns a company called Trailmasters, which makes motorcycle gear, and I think he made a sale to me in the parking lot. Alex, if you’r reading this, I gotta get those auxiliary bags. Any way your dad can ship them to Deadhorse? They’ll be much needed for the trip home!
This is one of the great things about these trips. Strangers come up to you and ask about the bikes and talk about past trips and dream trips and why-the-hell-are-you-doing-this trips. One Harley guy we ran into in a restaurant maybe said it best – “Oh yea. You GS guys. If there’s a road out there, you’ve gotta see what’s at the end of it.” I guess that’s right. Not sure why, but we gotta see the end of the road, and then get back home safely.
We finally made it to Grande Prairie, and we were both ready for a stop. Physically, we were both feeling extremely beat up, but mentally, I’m feeling about as good as I have the entire trip.
And I’ll sign off with a self portrait. Hey, it’s my blog. Leave me alone.