Day Four - Saturday August 18, 2001
Whizmo and Gizmo Get "Hyderized"
Prince George BC - Hyder AK
7:10 driving time - 467 miles
Let's begin with last night.
As we like to do on our trips, we took in a movie last night in Prince George. We had several choices but decided on "Planet of the Apes" starring Mark Wahlberg. In a minor plot twist of the original Charlton Heston classic (the first of a series of, if I recall correctly, four sequels and a 8-episode TV series), Mark is plunked down on an ape-dominated planet where human and ape roles are reversed. Now Mark is pretty nice looking and it doesn't take very long for two very attractive females (one an ape that looks like Janet Jackson) to fall completely and totally in love with him. And in the course of winning their hearts, he somehow manages to reverse centuries of ape-human hatred and the two species are all lovee-dovee by the end of the movie. Mark does all this within 36-hours of setting foot on the planet. I'd tell you more, but I'm sure you're headed for the door right now to take it in so I won't spoil it by telling you that at the end he jumps time again and lands, you won't believe this,...oh, sorry. Never mind.
A good motorcycle tour is a lot like a good movie. It starts slowly and builds to a climax. Today was the climax for us - we reached our farthest point from home and achieved our objective. We made it to Alaska via motorcycle. The next four days (including an extra layover day in Prince Rupert and a day on the ferry) have us headed home.
This morning, we had a long day in front of us, so we tried to get a little earlier-than-usual start. Now we don't exactly get a late start as a rule as we try and be rolling by 7:30 or before. But today we were gassed up and headed westward from Prince George by about 6:15. As usual, we postponed breakfast until we'd put a hundred or so miles in the bag..
The hundred-mile point was Vanderhoof where to asked the very pleasant waitress at the North Country Inn if it really got as cold as yesterday's breakfast waitress had said. "Colder!" she said. "'Bout 45 below at the worst." Brrrr. This is awfully pretty country, but I'd have trouble with 45 below. I didn't think about it at the time, but this is probably Celsius too, which makes it even worse. Colder than a witch's....sorry, gotta watch those too-colorful clichés.
You might wonder how we decide where to eat. As in most of the decisions on tour, it is done jointly. I decide and Whizmo agrees. I kid. Normally, we just eyeball a few places from the road, but we try and use guidebooks if we can. I'm carrying the British Columbia Handbook published by Moon Travel Handbooks. These are the same publishers who do Road Trip USA, the bible that Gizmo and I have used on other US tours. We really like the Moon handbooks because they are organized around routes, so you just progress through the book as you drive along. We've also found their restaurant recommendations to be excellent. We recommend these books highly (www.moon.com).
After breakfast, we had our first major mishap. Gizmo stopped to rid himself of some breakfast coffee and headed for some bushes to do his business. Wouldn't you know, there was a freaking bear in those same bushes! Gizmo was so surprised by the bear that he then fell down. The bear then lunged for Greg's right ear as you can see in the picture. Let me tell you, it was tense. Ever resourceful, I gave the bear a shot of Lemon Pledge (my faceshield cleaner) and that seemed to confuse him for a moment and we made our getaway. I'm telling you, them boot bells are as worthless as a screen door in a submarine. (Seriously folks, we are surprised at the lack of wildlife sightings. We were expecting to be chattering our ABS systems to avoid elk herds and sliding our tires on bear droppings at every corner, but we've seen zilch, not even a deer. This is in contrast to last year's SW BC tour where we saw quite a bit of wildlife.)
Most of the day was spent riding in wonderful crystal-clear weather through broad river valleys with snow-capped peaks on either side of us. It was wonderful, easily one of the finest motorcycle riding days I've ever experienced. The Highway 16 (Yellowhead Highway) route basically follows the old route of the Grand Trunk Railroad (not to be confused with the late-60's rock group called the Grand Funk Railroad). So we wound back and forth over the railroad - I guess we crossed it maybe twenty times during the day.
This is lake country and
the towns we're traveling through are big on fishing. Virtually every
hardware and convenience store sells fishing licenses, tackle, bait, and all the
other accoutrements necessary to fish. Most of the towns have big signs as
you enter and leave with beautiful fish sculptures made with nothing more than a
In addition to fishing, there are many farms in the river valleys. They use these gigantic plastic tubes to bail hay; I've never seen anything like this back in the states.
Eventually we wound our way to the town of Smithers where we had lunch at the Java Coffeehouse, also recommended by the Moon book. Smithers sits in a beautiful location surrounded by mountains and looks like it has a nice ski area above town. It's not Aspen, but I'm sure it doesn't cost like Aspen either.
We finally reached the turnoff where we left the main Prince George - Prince Rupert route and headed for Stewart and Hyder on the Cassiar Highway. The road immediately became less traveled and more remote. We also encountered our first organized rain showers, but they never lasted more than ten-minutes or so. (Gizmo and I are pretty much rain pros now - we can ride in rain for hours without serious discomfort.)
final run into Stewart/Hyder we encountered the most spectacular scenery of the
trip with glaciers coming down nearly to the road and towering waterfalls on
either side of the road. This area reminded me of the Alps in Switzerland
|Driving between mountains on either side||A one-lane wooden bridge near Stewart||Narrow canyons with vertical rock faces|
The geography situation in Stewart and Hyder is bizarre. Stewart is the larger of the two towns and sits at the end of a long fiord/canal with towering mountains on either side. It advertises itself as the "Most Northern Ice Free Port in North America". When you leave Stewart, you head down the canal for a couple clicks and come to Hyder, basically a wide spot in a gravel road. No one stopped us coming into the US, although we did have a two-sentence conversation with Canadian customs going the other way. It was weird posing for shots at the border where you could basically walk back and forth without anyone batting an eye. Two other motorcyclists from Portland showed up on a pair of Kawasakis and they were doing basically the same thing as us - just taking pictures and recording the moment they motorcycled to Alaska.
Downtown Hyder at Rush Hour
Two New Contests!!!!
Ok, everyone put on their thinking caps...we've got two new contests that I'm sure you are going to love.
Hyder has a tradition of "Hyderizing" visitors. Inquiring readers want to know, "Just what is this process?" As you can see by the pictures below, the effects of Hyderization are profound and immediate. Please describe, in as much detail and nuance as you can muster, exactly what the process is.
Sign beckons you into the Glacier Inn where the awful deed is done
Gizmo's turn, and Contest Updates
Contest #5 from yesterday was:
'Fish' can be spelled 'Ghoti' by the following rules:
'f' comes from 'gh', as in 'enough';
'i' comes from 'o', as in 'women';
'sh' comes from 'ti', as in 'nation'.
The first correct response 'Who was George Bernard Shaw' was from Josh Brown of Seattle Washington, in 39 minutes! Congratulations, Josh! Other folks correctly identifying the quote included Brian Lawlor, Chuck Israels, Mark Daniels, and Brad Fuller.
Today's consolation prize goes to Stephen Marra for 'Who was Laurence Ghotibone?"
I've received quite a bit of advice on the bear bells. Stewart Bonn, a long-time virtual vacationeer and well-known naturalist, checks in with this advice:
Lori and I just returned from a weeklong backpacking trip in Glacier National Park. Spectacular spot but the most frequent response by just about everybody we told prior to going was "Aren't you afraid of the bears?" In my exhaustive preparation I seem to have overlooked what many believe is a significant issue. Turns out that Glacier is one of the few places in the lower 48 where you can encounter brown, black and my personal favorite, the Grizzly. Several books and lots of web pages later, I learned (definitively) that:
- Bells are a way for the locals to make money on the tourists. Unless you put the bells right next to a microphone with a powerful amp and speakers, the bear can't hear the bells over his own heavy breathing.
- You could carry a firearm but doing so may be more dangerous than the bear alone. This idea really pisses off the eco-terrorists who believe that the grizzly was there first so they have a right to kill you naturally but to use a gun is not natural so tough luck.
- The pro's carry (eg all the park rangers) -- Counter Assault Bear Spray. The idea is to fire the spray when the bear is 30-50 ft away and charging you. It creates a cloud of pepper spray 25 feet away and the bear walks into the cloud, detects something unpleasant is in your direction and withdraws.
It is not for close range. If the bear gets that close, lay face down and hope you come out of it with only a flesh wound. Fortunately, we never had to test its efficacy.
Should you decide you want to get some spray do not, repeat, do not use it while you are riding on your motorcycle unless you spray in the direction from which you came. Shooting forward would defeat the purpose.
Good luck, Stewart
PS I have lots of experience with mosquito repellant, as well. Let me know f you need additional input.
Thanks Stewart. The bells come off tomorrow. I will try to sell them to an unsuspecting tourist. And I always spray downwind.
Here's more advice on the bells from a fellow motorcyclist, Gregg Miller:
Greg, you don't need a slower companion, you need a louder one. Get someone with a Harley and there won't be a bear withing 5 miles (unless he thinks it's a cute bear in heat). I'd recommend adding only one Harley rider, though. When they gather in groups they tend to beat up guys who wear bells on their boots.
Thanks Gregg. The bells come off tomorrow. I will try to sell them to an unsuspecting biker.
EXTRA BONUS CONTEST - EXTRA BONUS CONTEST - EXTRA BONUS CONTEST
Contest #7: Many of you complained that the 'Flowers on the Wall' contest (#1) was too easy. OK, we got the message. Here's an extra bonus weekend music contest. Listen to this audio clip (MP3 format), then tell us:
The most successful single this artist released
Til tomorrow ...