Whilst we had decided to eat out at an Italian resturant that night, the shopping expedition revealed some equally tasty italian meals that were easy to prepare and only one third the price. I also acquired a bottle of Canadian red wine something I had never tried before. Their wine is expensive by Aus standards. We had developed a big appetite after riding the chairlift that afternoon. On arriving back at the campsite we spotted some bikes with Alaskan rego plates and decided to make their aquaintance. Mark Rhodes and his two sons had been cruising around BC on a F800GS, DR 650 and a nice old 1990 600 Transalp. Their mate rode a Victory a bike that appears to be earning a lot of respect as tourer over here because they are reliable and appear to be a quality alternative to the Harley brigade. I acquired some good tips from Mark who had ridden extensively in North America especially Alaska.
The morning was cool and I reluctantly decided to don my Fieldsheer riding pants. Despite having a breathable layer like my jacket, the fact that they were black made them heat up real quick if the sun showed up. Well it did about 11am and what a change in temp. By 2pm we were boiling and had to switch back to the jeans with kevlar pads. The roads was undulating with tall snow-capped mountains on either side of the valley. Once again it was excellent riding territory. Prince George was about 370kms from Jasper and we made it by mid-afternoon in time to fuel up and visit some bike shops. Dells' Bell helmut had never fitted her well and was beginning to show signs of wear with a scratched visor. We visited the Harley shop whose helmuts were all........you guessed it black! A little probing from the blonde sales attendant who could not remember where and how far the other bikes shops were admitted to having never seen a BMW motorcycle. Oh how the world is changing!! And she works for Harley Davidson. After at least an hour Dell decided that the only helmut (HJC Flip-up) that fitted her was OK but it was black. We rode on for several hours directly into the late afternoon sun and made camp in the forest about 40 kms W of Vanderhoof. It was difficult to work out how the economy ticked as Prince George was a thriving town of 50,000 or more. Timber mills power generation and a few extensive ranches began to appear with a small amount of cultivation and farming. The mountains had disappeared leaving us with undulating plains of gravel glacial deposits. Despite having speed limits that ranged between 70, 90 and 100kph, almost nobody took much notice of them cruising at about 110kph. Fuel cost had not changed much since entering Canada at about $1.33/L
Yes the mosquitoes were horrendous and no there were no bears. I must have repeated this to Dell at least 5 times before we briskly got the tent up and zipped in even before the sun had set at 9:30pm. It was then that Dell revealed that her helmut was the noisiest she had ever owned. We had a close look in the morning and discovered that the visor was recommended for snowmobile use only and had air vents preventing the visor from sealing (presumably so that the visor would not fog up). The visor was also designed with some special antifog technology that made riding into the sun almost impossible. The next morning Dell decided to return to Prince George to see if she could do an exchange or at least get her old helmut back. This was a 2 hour return ride. I made coffee, had breakfast and returned to the tent as refuge from the agressive little blood suckers outside.
We both agreed that Canadians were much easier going folk and more akin to Aussies. Their mannerisms and general knowledge regarding worldly conversations were noticeably better suggesting that the US education system has failed miserably to widen the perspective of its citizens. However the old adage that says 'when in Rome do as the Romans' rand loud and clear. Travelling is very much about who you meet and where. And so far we had met some very fine people.
Dell returned at 11:30 am wearing her old helmut. They exchanged the old one without a blink with only comment being "too loud for you eh?" Dell summised that they knew what they were selling in the first place.
With half a day wasted, we decided to head for Stewart located on a 90 mile canal on the west coast. It was tad over 500 kms of glorious scenery, tall snow capped mountains and lots winding roads. But the last 30 kms down a narrow valley was better than anything Stephen Spielberg could have arranged. Stewart sits between massive mountains on a narrow spit of land originally established on some false pretences relating to placer gold. The scenery included tumbling blue glaciers with lots of evidence of recent avalanches, lots of friendly black bears feeding on the roadside dandelions and to top of off a very friendly modern (mobile) resturant that served trout on the adjacent lawns at 9:30 pm. The mosquitoes were out in force that evening and we managed a record time for getting into the safe haven of our tent.
The Salmon Glacier lay 40kms up the neighbouring valley. But it was in US territory again past Hyder. Despite a warning about the road being very rough and dusty we decided to ride up to the glacier known to be on of the largest in the world that was accessible by vehicle. After an hour of dodging potholes and creek gravel roads we were stopped by a young cocky fellow who had parked his overly long pickup truck right across our path proclaiming that the road was closed due to mining activity and the risk of avalanches. I sussed out that all was not right and decided to request a look at his authority to close a public road. Just then a huge mining truck came roaring down the steep road at breakneck speed and was dutifully let past by our man. It seems that mining companies can do whatever they wish in this part of the world without permits. I was a visitor and ended the conversation with a comment about our willingness to comply but with a warning that he would do well to get his managers to do a bit more homework if they wanted to avoid some further trouble.
After fish (Halibut) and chips for dinner we headed back to the camp ground to spend time with out neighbours from Vancouver Island. Steve and Penny were a delightful, happy couple who were heading back to northern BC to rekindle their memories having spent 20 years or more living in a small community near the Cassiar Highway more than 20 long years ago. We ended up camping with them the next night by sheer coincidence after a cold wet day of riding. There were so many beatiful lakes on this highway that one just wanted to stop, roll out the tent and begin fishing. That day we must have passed at least a dozen BMW's all heading south. This route appeared to be favourite return ride from Alaska. That night Steve and Penny had put their canoe in the water. He offered it to Dell and I to have a paddle. I quickly got my fishing line out and was secretly hoping to catch some dinner. And I was not disappointed. A medium size rainbow trout decided to take my lure making the little expedition worth while. This part of BC is considered to be quite remote with only First Nation (Aboriginal) settlements and roadside gas stations to stop for. The road is quiet and the scenery stunning. The weather had not improved much leaving us in a quandry every morning as to what to wear on the bikes. It was now official. BC was experiencing its coldest and wettest spring on record. And we were there to witness it!!! Wow.
Boya Lake was our destination for the day. If I ever had any concerns about what gear we were carrying it was dashed by a father and son (pillion) team who were returning from Deadhorse at the top of the Dalton Highway on a bog standard R1200GSA. He told me that they were trying to cruise at 85mph so that they could make it back to Minnesota for work in time. In 4 weeks they were covering what we would do in 8 weeks. Two other guys were returning from a trip to Inuvik in the Yukon. We were now able to to talk to lots of adventure travellers who were taking their trips to the remote north of Canada and Alaska instead of chatting to the Harley brigade with their shiny black regalia and polished chrome bikes.
Our trip was about to deviate to take in some seaside scenery at Skagway and Juneau. En route we had been invited to stay with Paul and Jeanine Baker (Snowdrift) who were both sucessful artists living near Carcross in the Yukon. Jeanine created art using glass and Paul with steel fabrication in the form of animals and birds. Most of his creations were achieved using old motorcycle and car parts as well discarded metal (spoons, wire mesh etc). They have been living in the Yukon for 20 years and had created an enviable lifestyle situated on the Lake Crag. Their house was simple and their lifestyle rich as they were both very talented artists. They welcomed us with a warm spirit into their place giving a glimpse of what it was like to live year round in the Yukon. I must admit to being a tad more than jealous of their lifestyle. Paul produced a filet of roast Moose for dinner. We slept soundly that night as it was the first time we had been in a real bed for some weeks. The next morning Jeanine paddled up the lake with her Bear dog running along the shoreline for exercise. Dell and Jeanine later went into town whilst I tried to fathom out why I was loosing travel in the my clutch lever. It seemed like I was sucking a bit of air through the master cylinder. I changed the fluid in the reservoir but was unable to improve the travel as I coudn't see how to get at the clutch slave unit located (somewhere) in behind the transmission. It looked like being more than a couple of hours works and may require some workshop facilities. All was revealed after consulting a couple of forums on R1150R maintenance.
It seems that the the presence of dirty clutch fluid was sign of contamination via a failing clutch slave cylinder unit and possibly a failing throwout bearing. All this was a worrying sign. Paul helped me find a few contacts and I eventually managed to order a new slave cylinder to be delivered to The Motorcycle Shop in Anchorage Alaska in a week's time. I could only hope that that dwindling clutch hydralics would survive for a week of riding the 1000 kms or so before arriving in Anchorage.