Archive for July, 2011

Day 24

Now, I know never to trust the Internet doctor, but I appear to have every knee related injury ever invented! But it does appear to be a cycle related injury rather than a bite. So I’ve had today off just mooching around Terrace.

Whilst walking around Terrace, along their covered pavements, I could hear Rush being piped from overhead. And this seemed fairly typical of Canada. Like many new countries they have an almost zealous national pride and will promote anything Canadian over other nationalities even if that happens to be a dated, prog-rock trio. And whilst waiting for the train at the rather cute station I was spoken at by an elderly couple who wanted to know how much I loved Canada. They also wanted me to know how disgusting it was that Canadian tax payers were paying for the sponging Queen and her family to keep coming over to Canada. Charming couple.

Apart from that, Terrace was quite nice. A nice little Saturday ‘farmer’s’ market selling the usual tat – I saw dream-catchers and there was a face-painting stall, a nice public library and a nice cafe. There, see, nice. I even had a haircut. That wasn’t quite so much ‘nice’ as ‘Sir, Yes, Sir!’ Still, it should last me for the rest of the year.

Rather than exacerbate the knee I got the train to Prince Rupert. Spectacular scenery from Terrace to Prince Rupert all accompanied by the occasional train horn/whistle. Very evocative. I arrived at Prince Rupert at about 2030 and since the ferry from there to the top of Vancouver Island is leaving at 0730 I stayed at the closest motel to the ferry terminal. This being small town Canada it was still quiet and surrounded by woods despite being only a few minutes from the ferry. I even saw a couple of deer en route.

The motel had a bar attached to it so I popped in for a bite to eat and a quick beer. No food, but some nuts. They were playing a guitar and a tea-chest base and mashing up some good ‘ol music, yeehaa! Actually that’s a bit unfair. They were two fisherman who seemed to be playing for the hell of it and in the process entertaining the eight of us in the bar. That they pulled off an acceptable version of Johnny Cash’s Own Personal Jesus was, I think, more down to the simplicity of the song, lack of the enthusiastic tea-chest base player and the guitarist having quite a good voice. I made my excuses and left.


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Day 23

So a short ride today – about 95km, but the dreaded headwind was back with a vengeance. That’s all of the Cassiar Highway into the wind and now half the Yellowhead Highway. I shall be traveling by sedan chair from now on if this wind continues. Snapping bears from between the silk curtains as my bearers trot, or maybe run, past them.

Not wanting to burden you with the pragmatic realities of this cycling lark, but I seem to have done something nasty with my right knee. I thought it was a bite from one of the millions of dread mosquitos, but it’s been hanging on for a while now and it certainly makes things a little less enjoyable. No swelling, but very isolated in it’s effect. Any doctors out there? Is it arthritis, mange or just malingering? Answers on an electronic postcard, please.

Tomorrow it’s off to Prince Rupert (cooeee!) and then the ferry to Vancouver island. From what I’ve gleaned from the interweb, it looks like a lovely place, but I’ll let you know when I get there what the sordid reality is like.

Sorry it’s not a particularly exhilarating read, but not a lot happened today, so here’s a photo of me riding a bike, yesterday.




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Day 22

Well that’s the Cassiar done. Tick.
There’s absolutely nothing between the Meziadin campsite I stayed in last night and the end of the highway at Kitwanga. That meant another 150k+ day in the saddle, and I must admit I’m kind of feeling it at the moment. Hopefully a good nights sleep will fix that. I’m in quite a cute little campsite in Kitwanga, but with no wifi so this will have to be uploaded later.

More bears along the way and as you can see from the photos they were about as cute as can be. From a distance. Never get between a mother and her cubs, apparently. And, Steve, these photos were taken just after they’d been honked. That’s right, you’re looking at a photo of not just one honked bear, but a whole family of honked bears. There’s no stopping him now!


This cuteness was somewhat offset by me witnessing the death of a poor bird. It happened just in front of me as a startled bird flew straight into the path of the car that had startled it. Thankfully it was pretty instant, but sad nonetheless. Maybe somewhat warped, but I’ve taken to calling roadkill Pom Pom. Such vibrant colours!

A couple stopped and asked if I needed any water or anything today. It turned out they had been on the road for about 10 years. They were lovely and said they always stopped for cyclists to see if we needed anything as we couldn’t carry much. They were probably in their mid-thirties and funded themselves with the odd book they had written and by renting their apartment. Pleasant people and I wish them happy travels.

Randomly, I also met the mayor of Smithers. Turns out he’s a keen cyclist despite having two steel rods in his back. He cheats though; he had an electric motor on his bike. Pah! Never trust a politician. I have chafing, but does that mean I’ll be getting an electric motor? No siree. I’ll just get a saddle with a hole in it!

Well that’s it until tomorrow



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Day 20

Well that was a long day. About 150km. It started off poorly, dipped slightly during the middle of the day and by the end was really awful! No, I’m kidding. The middle was awful too. Stop, stop, really it was fine. (still a fecking headwind. Quiet Coombes!)

Anyway the main thing is the bears. Loads of them. Well, six. What is the collective noun for bears? Not that they were hanging out together; wearing hoodies, and carving their initials on passing beavers. No, these came in singles. And to be honest I was a little nervous of them. They were all by the side of the road, and probably weren’t the least bit interested in me, but better safe than sorry, so I waited until they’d either moved on or a passing car slowed down and I could use it as a shield. They were brown bears I think. None of them appeared grizzly, anyway. I did manage to whizz by one of them before I’d noticed it. I honked him. To this day, that bear remains honked. (“Who was that soggy, wheezing, asthmatic on a bike?”, “They call him, The Bear Honker!”, “They should call him The Soggy, Wheezing, Asthmatic on a Bike.”, “Not really the same ring to it, has it?”)

So having slogged my way over 150km, I’m now in Bell 2 Lodge. It’s an over-priced, out of season snow/ski resort, which will be lovely when the season comes in. I figured by cutting out one night’s accommodation I would save some money. I figured wrong. Still, in the grand scheme I’m still under my daily budget.

Anyway, you don’t want hear about my finances, do you? You want to see bears! Well here they are…



Just look at the size of those beasts! Micro-bears, I think not!


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Day 21

By toughing out a 150k’er yesterday it meant that today I only had to do a 95k’er. Very nice day it was too. The sun shone, the wind wasn’t too strong and for most of it the roads were tarmac (or paved as they call them here). With In Our Time on the iPod the time flew by. I now know about Cleopatra, The Zulus and the neutrino. That’ll be an episode in Doctor Who, you just wait. So that’ll be my mind and my body getting a workout. If I can just solve world poverty it’ll be successful day.
To cap it off, the last 4k I had to pop the bike in the back of a truck to be taken through some road works. Result!
So now I’m here…

The Meziadin Campsite, and as you can see it’s a lovely spot. And cheap. At $16 it somewhat cancels out the huge price at the last place.

But there are more important issues that need to be reported. The War of the Roads seems to have escalated. The Bees, whilst still sacrificing themselves for every hard fought inch, appear to have enlisted the help of the Caterpillars. These furry, brown and yellow cylinders of death are running headlong into the middle of the road from both sides. I’ve yet to observe actual contact between the two sides, in part because I’ve usually passed them before I’ve noticed them, but mainly because they tend to get squished by the almost infinitely more robust trucks. This doesn’t seem to deter the others. No, they are a plucky bunch. Where one leads the others follow, that, my friends is Esprit de Corps. I will keep you posted.

Your correspondent at the front.


Ps looks like I got the publishing order wrong again. The days are correct though.

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Day 19

I know this is getting a bit dull, but will this fecking wind just stop! There said it, let’s move on.
And what about those fecking hills! I ground up about 2 kilometres on one hill on gravel. Canada. It’ll be lovely when they finish it.

Met a chap called Steve who was cycling around the area. He was from Washington, BC and seemed to be carrying everything he owned on his trailer. We cycled together for a few miles and it was quite nice to pass the miles together, but he was too slow up the hills so I had to kill him and leave him at the bottom of one of them. Ok, not kill him. But he was certainly history.

After that it was another day in the saddle. Hills, wind, scenery. I finally stopped in a place called the Tatogga Resort Campsite just south of Iskut. The word ‘resort’ is somewhat self-aggrandizing, but it’s quite a sweet place that caters for a lot of huntin’ and fishin’ types. They have a plane and a helicopter here which can fly you into even more remote spots so that you can have at bears, moose or fish that think they’re safe in those remote spots. They don’t stand a chance!
My cunning idea to get them to helicopter me and my bike to the bottom of the Cassiar fell apart when it turned out that they charge about £1500 per hour and that it would probably take about two hours to get to the bottom. And they charge for the return journey! So £6000 just to escape the ever present headwind seemed like less of a good deal. Damn, I’m going to have to cycle this thing after all!

There have been no physical changes as far as I can tell. No super-muscled thighs, no shrinking of the waist, no rugby ball sized calf muscles. The only thing I’m sporting at the moment is a fetching cyclist’s tan – white everywhere apart from the forearms and legs below the thigh. Sexy! Ok so it’s only been 19 days, but I’d have thought 19 days of constant cycling should have brought about some sort of Hulk change! Maybe after 119. There will be no photos until my legs look like Arnie got to work on them!

Here are some photos.

They have a stuffed moose in the restaurant.


And this is the little cabin they put me in with it’s own little wood burner. Cosy.

No beaver jokes please!

Thanks so much for all the comments and please keep them coming. Next time I do this I’m going to do it in company, but in the meantime you chaps are my virtual companions.



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Day 18

What a day! Just 80km, but such a strong headwind (Force 3-4 gusting 5) that each km was a grind. There was a close encounter of the moose kind, however. I was head down, pedaling away and just round the corner these two were waiting. They didn’t want to budge until a car went by. A bit of a stand-off. I didn’t try the horn. They seemed a little leary; might have even had a blade somewhere. So I thought, don’t make matters worse with a honk.

I’m in Dease Lake which is, as I’ve mentioned before, the biggest town on the Cassiar. Don’t tell anyone, but it’s not that big. I’m writing this in Rumors cafe which also doubles as the laundromat, triples as a store, and quadruples as the post office. Some might say greedy, but they know how to maximize the use of a building in these parts.

Anytime I stop to either camp, or buy something, the people I meet tend to ask the same questions, and if I deviate from the usual response and try and be ‘funny’ then the whole conversation crashes to a halt whilst they a) try and understand me, b) figure out if what I said was funny or c) both. So now I’m starting to pretty much read from a script. ‘Yes, that’s my bike, yes it’s pretty tough going. I’ve come from Anchorage. I’m hoping to get to South America. I probably won’t make it tonight.’ (wait for laugh – nothing). ‘It’ll probably take about 12 months. Yes, all the gears are in the hub like a Sturmey Archer…’ (to be fair, I don’t think the Sturmey Archer has travelled much outside of UK but I keep mentioning it just in case I meet a Sturmey Archer engineer and we can have a long and interesting conversation about hub gears). So that’s what my conversations have become. That is why you MUST send me comments! You are my only hope of a decent conversation. Even if they have the frequency of a postal chess game, it’s better than, ‘Wow, that’s a long way’, for the umpteenth time.

The forecast is for more strong headwinds for the next seven days which has forced me to reconsider my daily mileage and consequently how long it’s going to take me to ‘do’ the Cassiar. I think it’s going to take me about ten days at this rate. The time’s not the issue, it’s having to lug about all the food I need. I’m stocking up on Pot Noodles, Snickers (Marathons, Bin), and pepperamis. Not the most appetizing breakfast! If I’m lucky, there will be food stops along the way that aren’t on the map, but that hasn’t been the case so far. The weight loss program starts now! I wonder when the next bus to Prince Rupert leaves…!

And now the Beard Cam…





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Day 16

On the road again.

Made it about 110km/72miles from Watson Lake to Boya Lake campsite. A beautiful little place just off the highway. Peaceful apart from the dreaded RV generators (oh, there goes another one!). Come on people turn the tv off and have a look outside the window.

Canada Day was marked by the giving and receiving of a small canadian flag (made in China) by the camp supervisor to me. Sadly I wasn’t the only one who was singled out for such largesse. I suspect she was giving them to all the people who were camping here last night. For a moment I felt special.

I met two/three fellow cyclists today. One Canadian chap, Steve, who is cycling around Canada for charity and not just for the he’ll of it like me. And then a couple who are on holiday and generally cycling around the area. I incorrectly guessed they were from Holland, but they were kind enough to agree that Switzerland was only a couple of countries away and that close enough was good enough, especially when you’re in a country roughly the size of Europe.

A lot of things make me smile or laugh when I’m cycling along. Most of them too fleeting to mention, but since the Bear Honking incident I have had Katy Perry’s ‘I Kissed a Girl’ track going round my head. All together now, ‘I honked a bear and I liked it. Hope the Mounties don’t mind it’!

So in keeping with my comment to Paul (trying to write this blog with song lyrics), I’m off to climb every mountain, ford every stream, follow ever byway til I find my dream. A dream that can last…

I’m off now having written this one from the shores of Boya Lake with the sun sparkling off the water, the wind rustling the silver birch leaves and the birds chirrupping in the woods. And here’s a picture




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Day 17

Felt like quite a hard day in the saddle because of the strong headwind, but made about 85km to reach Dease River Crossing. There’s a campsite here and that’s it. The next big stop is Dease Lake which is only about 65km down the road, but it’s the main ‘town’ on the Cassiar. It’s true that there are no places to get food on the Cassiar, apart from at Dease Lake, but that said you don’t have to load yourself up like it’s a bank holiday weekend where the shops may be shut for one day longer than normal, and ooh do you think the bread will last? No, a few pot noodles and a little stove will see you right as ninepence. I’ve yet to try the freeze-dried, back-woods, only-use-it-if-you-haven’t-shot-your-supper chicken curry, but it actually looks quite nice. I may eat it in a hotel instead of room service.
The scenery along the Cassiar is certainly breathtaking, but when you’re cycling, and you’re looking at the same bit of breathtaking scenery for quite a while then, well, it’s a long time to have your breath taken from you, especially if you’re trying to pedal up a steep bit of it. I think most of the travel guides have been written with car speeds in mind, and not the often pedestrian cyclist’s speed.

Oh, I forgot to include the other division of vehicles in my hierarchy (see Day 13) – the motorcycle. As far as a cyclist is concerned, this category breaks down to two types – those that wave and those who don’t. And this generally polarizes the different type of bikers and their bike. The ones who wave are the ones on the fully kitted out, trans-continental, all-terrain tourer. Think Ewan McGregor and his mate going round the world. Now whether it’s all show and they are, in fact, just popping up the road for twenty Bensons, I can’t tell, but they certainly throw a spirited wave my way.
The ones who rarely wave are, and I know I’m in for all sorts of trouble if they read this, almost without exception Harley riders. Just too cool to wave. Too cool to have the right tyres. Too cool to where the right clothing. Cool, but totally in the closet! Harley Davidsons are camp bikes! There I’ve said it. And I certainly don’t mean it in a pejorative sense. It’s just that the owners of them don’t seem to realize the whole Village People thing going on. Leather trousers (I saw chaps at one diner), handle-bar moustaches and often fetching neckerchiefs. Screaming! Maybe I’m wrong, and the reason they’re not waving is that underneath the cool shades they’re winking at me as I Lycra past them!

There, hope that’s cleared up the whole Alaska Highway Hierarchy situation.



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Day 15 – rest day

Yes, another rest day. “All he does is rest. Shirker!”. In my defense I needed to stop and get some provisions for the next leg, and I was feeling a bit tired and then I stubbed my toe and at one point there was even a bit of something in my eye, so all in all just impossible to carry on.

Not much happens in Watson Lake. Any town that makes a feature of some poles with road signs on has to be scraping the bottom of the barrel. See…


So instead of boring you further with Watson Lake here are some photos I promised last time.

First a moose crossing the road. See if you can spot him/her…


A porcupine up a bank…


The Grouch will be making an appearance in 2km. He must be struggling for work.


And finally, should you feel the need to give an impromptu lecture, then the Canadian authorities have provided you with outdoor lecture facilities…


Or maybe a press briefing on how you managed to evade a savage bear attack by honking at him.

I’m off now to cycle the Cassiar Highway. I don’t expect much in the way of internet access, but I’ve said that before and been somewhat surprised. Only somewhat.

So pip pip until the next time.



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