8-03-04  Muncho Lake, British Columbia to  Hudson's  Hope, British Columbia

            At the lodge for breakfast, I talked to a US airman from Fairbanks.  He and his wife were on their way to a new post at a South Dakota airbase.  We had been hopping past each other on the same route.  They had stayed in Whitehorse two nights ago.  Their U-haul and car were broken into and everything inside both vehicles was stolen, including maps and photo albums.  The U-haul was distinctive, and I’d seen them on the road several times.  We were splitting routes ahead, me to the south on the 97 while they continued on the Alaskan Highway to Dawson Creek.            

           The rain caught up again overnight.  Nothing to do but to try to get ahead of it.  I took couple of shots of the  planes on the lake and took off.

Float planes

           So, I drove into the rain and cold and didn’t last very long.  Somewhere around Toad Lake, I couldn’t feel my throttle hand anymore.  I pulled into a café for coffee.  The owner was a former biker, and right away, she had me put my wet gear in the corner next to a heater.  I drank the coffee but the cold had suppressed my appetite.  I talked with her for a short while and then headed back into the rain.  The specialty of the house was cinnamon rolls.  I really like cinnamon rolls.  I wish I could have repaid her kindness by buying one.

            Later, I passed three cars, one of which was the airman and his wife.  I gave them a wave.

            The road climbed, the air getting colder.  The rain was steady.  Near Summit Lake, a moose cow crossed my path from left to right, running like moose do.  They are big… you could pass underneath one if you had to.  I was moving slow enough to avoid her because I was in the clouds.  I wish I could have seen the area.

            I crested the range and dropped down, out of the fog and flattening out.  

            As I  approached Fort Nelson, the weather began to clear.  I stopped for lunch.  I left under clearing skies and finally saw the sun.  I enjoyed its warmth and my feet started drying.  I hung them out over the highway pegs to vent out the moisture from my shoes.

            As the road approached the outskirts of Fort. St. James,  I stopped in the town of Pink Mountain for gas.  The attendant was very interested in bike, asked questions, and pressed the motorcycle's levers, asking what each one did.

            As we spoke, a rain shower moved overhead with big droplets of rain.  I quickly remounted the bike, drove out of the gas station and dove back ahead of the rain.

            The next major town was Fort St. John.  Coming into Fort St. John, the road turns curvier, and it was there that I ran into my first butt head.  He was driving a truck loaded with liquid sulfur.  If I tried to pass, he sped up.  When he’d shut me out, he would slow down.

            Personally, I can't think of a worse job than having to drive a load of stinky, toxic liquid to wherever stinky, toxic liquid needs to be delivered.  In Fort St. John.  I think the only person with the mental capacity to drive a load of toxin would be the town idiot.  I guess if you're the town idiot from Fort St. John and the best in life you can ever expect is to be able to drive a sulfur truck and occasionally beep the horn, you take whatever small satisfaction you can from "winning" on the road.

            I passed the 29 just before Ft. St. John and continued in to buy gas.  After refilling the tank, I retraced my route north and turned west on 29 towards Hudson’s Hope and Chetwynd.

            This was probably one of the most interesting 40 km of the trip.  The road immediately began climbing and curving on pristine, fresh asphalt.  I was having fun, but a thunderstorm was approaching.  As the front of the storm came closer, I noticed a peculiar rotation in the clouds, like water swirling down a bathtub drain..  I started looking for a wide spot on the shoulder to observe and take pictures of what appeared to be an incipient funnel cloud..

            Before I could pull off, I saw a black opaque cloud bobble over the crest, settling in at my altitude and headed directly towards me.  I abandoned any thoughts of stopping.  Lightning was striking repeatedly at the peak, right where the road crested.  I hunched over, feeling too tall, and drove for the peak.  I noticed power poles with ground lines:  I hoped that they provided a better lightning path than I would.  I crested and rapidly descended.  Now I saw a white sheet of precipitation across my path.  When I entered the band of precipitation, hail ¼ to ½ inches in diameter pounded me.  The wind was howling, strong enough to rake the hail into 3 inch high windrows across the roadway.  The rainwater was a couple of inches deep in the low spots, and the wind kicked the bike in violent gusts.  I slowed to 10 mph and thought about stopping, worried about getting smacked from behind, but could not see well enough to pull over.  I shouldn't have been concerned.  I passed a line of cars coming in the opposite direction, almost at a standstill.  In fact, my first impression was that they were stopped.  I drove through some type of structure, and a short distance later, the rain ended as suddenly as it had started.  The road began climbing again as sharp thunderclap sounded behind me.  Into a construction zone, and the flag girl was awed.  I asked her if she’d been in the storm – "yes, and hail!"  Up near the top of the hill was a vacant parcel with a driveway of crushed stone.  I wanted a picture of departing storm, so I turned in…Big mistake.  What looked like dirt past the crushed stone area turned out to be clay the consistency of wet, worked potters clay.  {Thought, "alright, though, I’m on a dual sport!").  I was instantly stuck in 2 –3 inches of muck.  I tried creeping out in first gear, but the rear wheel spun and dug.  I tried rocking, but my feet were slipping and flying in the mud.  I thought about getting off the bike and pushing.  I rocked in first gear once more, gently.  The rear wheel lurched out of its rut and began fishtailing.  Again, my feet slipped and flailed.  Wild.  The bike was moving, though.    

          I nursed it back onto the stones and back out to pavement and took my departing storm photo.  At the crest of hill was a rest area with a gorgeous view of  the river valley.  I needed a rest.

Bad Storm

          Mud was chunked everywhere.  I had to peel it out of crevices, brakes, chain, everywhere.

Bad Mud

           I started back down the road and descended in series of swoops.  There was a second area of construction, with workers laying new pavement.  This road would be a gem by next year.  Out of construction, there was no wait in a one-way, one-lane traffic control area.  I had timed it just right to catch my side's passage .  Back up to speed.  A black mass ahead resolved into a black bear, forepaws on the roadway.  I downshifted and braked.  The bear backed up.  I stopped 30 feet away.  The bear looked at me for a few moments, and then began ambling across the road.  I began to dig for the camera, and at my  movement, the bear broke into that distinctive bear lope, shot into the ditch, and disappeared in the direction of the river.

            A couple miles later, a big doe stood on side of road.  I didn’t see her until it was too late.  Luckily, she didn’t bolt.  A hundred yards later, a buck’s head popped up out of the tall grass.  I slowed down.  Just prior to reaching Hudson’s Hope, two more deer were browsing on the shoulder of the road.  They never moved as I passed.

            In Hudson’s Hope, the first hotel was the Peace Glen Hotel.  I booked a big single room,  almost suite size, to lay out my clothes.  The owner let me borrow a hose to spray down the bike.  Even under a jet spray, it took about an hour to dig chunks of clay out with my  fingers and a pointed stick.

            The wife of the husband/wife team running the hotel was reading a book about the Horse Whisperer.  She’s a horse lover.  I told her Ramona was horse heaven, with the Golden Eagle Stables and a famous cowboy who’s name I couldn't  remember.  She said, “Casey Tibbs?  I thought he was from South Dakota.”  It turned out her father knew Casey.  Her father followed Casey's run of championships with 7 national rodeo championships of his own for bronc riding.

            It was a good hotel.

            The restaurant had good, cheap food.

            The owners were friendly.

            There was a pub.

            There was a liquor store.

            There was a laundry, and everything had to be washed.  Everything was wet.

          The wife sat down at my table while I ate dinner.  She asked if I knew what part of California The Horse Whisperer was from.  I wasn't sure.  She checked the prologue of her book.  He lives in Solvang, now, and was originally from San Luis Obispo.

            She told me that the current season has warm days and cold nights.  I asked her about the winters, and she said, “Global warming!”.  The area used to get –40 winter days.  It could snow in late August or early September.  Now, each year brought a brown Christmas.  She worked her horse in an indoor arena during winter.  She used to have to trailer her horse to get there.  Now, she rides the horse over.

            The weather report made it look as if the cold front that caught me for 3 days running would arrive again overnight.

            10 PM and only a slight afterglow of sun.  The days are getting shorter.

The Peace Glen Hotel

PO box 248

9608 Dudley Drive

Hudson’s Hope, BCVOC1VO