Monday, June 29, 2009

AK '09 - Day 9

Since I am now west of my time zone I don't have any trouble waking up early. This morning I was up at 4:30 but laid in bed for an hour. Then I checked email and packed things up. I was in the lobby at 6:31 for breakfast and missed the cereal station that also had the oatmeal. Oh well, maybe next time.

I was on the bike  and on the road by 7:00. A few miles up the road on 16 I found a gas station so I filled up the tank. Unfortunately the pumps didn't accept American Express so I had to go in after filling up. It's sort of nice to be able to fill up and then walk in. It seems to be a much more trusting environment in Canada. With the tank full it was time to ride.

I had planned to get to Grand Prairie between 4:30 and 5 local time so I'd be ahead of the guys. I wanted to make sure the hotel we were supposed to be meeting at had Internet connectivity. Along the way it dawned on me that if I could find an internet connection I could track John via his spot. Then it would be possible to adjust my arrival to catch them along the road. The route was simple. Leave Saskatoon on 16, once through Edmonton I'd take 43 toward Grand Prairie. The guys would reach 43 at Mayerthorpe.

Since I had a pretty good head wind much of the day I wasn't getting really good mileage so it didn't seem likely that I could make it all the way to Edmonton on a single tank of gas. I ended up stopping in Vegerville because the GPS showed a Shell station there. As I rode through the town it dawned on me that this town is like any other rural town in North America. Good hard working folks who still wave at people. After I filled up the bike I decided to go inside and get some juice and a snack. The cliff bars were starting to get boring. While looking at the peanuts, a fellow with a very thick french accent struck up a conversation with me about my trip and my bike.

He had an R1200RT which I saw as I was riding out of town. Nice. We talked about when he flew his bike to Iceland for a month long trip with his 5 year daughter. And then he told me he had given up his job in Quebec as an engineer to come out to Vegerville to work as an electrician. The money was a whole lot better plus he got $60K of it tax free. He said he was making $284K by working here. I can't believe the things people tell me. While I was talking to him I pulled out the laptop just see if I could find the name of the town where the day's routes would intersect. While looking at MapSource the wi-fi indicator popped up saying there was connectivity so I tried it and it worked. I pulled up the Spot page for John  and saw they were indeed on the road and making reasonable time. So I ended my conversation with my new friend and headed out of town. He was even nice enough to give me an easy but quick short cut out of town and back onto Hwy 16.

As I got to Edmonton, the sky began to darken. And I encountered a trash truck going down the road with his trash bin on fire. The smoke was so bad at least 3 different cars almost got into bad wrecks. I just wanted to get by the truck as quickly as possible so I didn't get wrapped up in a wreck. Then there was the hot oil (tar) truck that I got stuck behind in traffic. And finally the lack of a bypass, Hwy 16, which is a real hiway in Canada, goes right through town with stop lights and all. Unbelievable. So my impression of Edmonton is that it is a smelly, dirty, congested town. Definitely not a place I want to visit again.

Once I turned onto 43, there was a since of anticipation and excitement. The solo part of the ride was coming to an end but the real adventure into Canada and Alaska was just beginning. And I was going to get to enjoy it with friends. So I pressed on until Whitecourt where I stopped at a Super8 to get Internet access. I had to talk the clerk into giving me the access code as they had had problems with someone using their Wi-Fi from the parking lot and committing crimes. Once I logged on I found John aprroximately 30 minutes behind me. So I went to the gas station to fill up and then waited. I began to think I had missed them so I went back to the motel parking lot and checked. The tracker showed them very close to Whitecourt and the update time was 15 minutes earlier so I packed up the laptop and headed back to the hiway. Just as I got to the light see them rolling through the intersection to I make a right turn and falling in line. I have caught them.

We ride for several miles and then stop for a short break at a roadside pullout. Then it's back on the road for the final 100 miles. At first it wasn't bad but the last 60 miles had a really strong headwind, plus a rough road, plus it just being the end of the day. It seemed to take forever. Finally we rolled into town, there was a mix up on getting to the motel but we made it. Then there some comotion during check-in but even that was overcome.

Total mileage for the trip today was 610 miles. It was neat to see the landscape change so drastically. I started in the flat lands with long straight roads. And I finished with steep hills and the occassional wide sweeper. As we move further northwest it can only get better. Tomorrow we'll go to Dawson Creek, do laundry and take photos at the start of the Alcan. Whether we stay in Dawson Creek or we rolled forward is up in the air. But it's sounding like we'll make it a short day tomorrow and stay in Dawson Creek. If we had only gotten there this past weekend we could have been in town for D2D.

It's 9:49 local time and it's very bright outside. Once I put away this computer though I don't think I'm going to have a problem getting to sleep.

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