I’m finally off on a major bike trip – from Whitehorse, Yukon to Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. This isn’t the trip I’ve been planning and postponing, planning and postponing again all summer due to lousy weather, but it’s one that offers good weather for all but the first day. As it turned out, that first day wasn’t as bad overall as I thought it was going to be.
I didn’t get away until 9:15 yesterday morning, for no particularly good reason. The load on this trip is dramatically larger than when I rode to Chicken, Alaska in early June. This time I’m carrying 10 liters of gas which I’ll need between Fort Simpson and Fort Providence, and the top half of the load this time is camping gear. Although I’m planning on staying in hotels, having a “Plan B” strapped to the bike is mandatory (IMHO) where I’m going.
The forecast was for a 40% chance of showers in Whitehorse and Watson Lake, with much better at Fort Nelson so I expected some clearing after Muncho Lake. The roads were wet but it wasn’t raining as I headed south on the Alaska Highway.
Like most cruisers, my bike (a 2009 V-Star 1100 Classic) has a very poor range. I get a consistent 235 km on my 17-liter main tank if I stay at 105 kmh, and I can get another 60 km from the reserve tank, which I don’t like using. That means a lot of fuel stops are necessary. This is Walker’s Continental Divide Lodge, at 12:55. I had planned on having lunch here but the kitchen was closed (I think because it’s been an extremely slow year on the highway, so it’s not worth getting anything ready).
Rancheria Lodge is only a few minutes further, so that became my lunch stop. An excellent mozza/bacon burger with a large bowl of pea soup was only $10.95. A total of 5 motorcycles, 2 RVs and 2 cars came through the restaurant while I was there. Motorcyclists may not spend much on fuel but they out-spend other travelers by a large margin when it comes to meals!
Contact Creek Lodge, south of Watson Lake at Historic Mile 590, was the next fuel stop, at 4:00pm. They’ve done well by providing the cheapest fuel in the region for many, many years.
A major bison-jam down by Coal River stopped me for a few minutes!
Me at Muncho Lake. For a few hours I traveled with a couple from New Brunswick on a Harley. I do rather like traveling with other bikes, for both the camaraderie and safety (2 bikes are easier to see than 1, and if you have a problem help is close by).
The sign at the Northern Rockies Lodge. They’ve taken full advantage of their fuel monopoly since the 4 other lodges at Muncho Lake closed – $1.849 per liter.
The Racing River at 7:40pm.
About an hour out of Fort Nelson, at about 8:45, a nasty storm hit. It was one of the wildest electrical storms I’ve seen in many years, and an icy rain came down in torrents. The rain was so cold it produced a ground fog on the road and visibility was extremely poor.
I had planned on staying at the Fort Nelson Hotel, with its pool, hot tub and lounge, but by the time I reached Fort Nelson all I wanted was a bed that I could park my bike a few feet from, as everything has to be brought in. So I ended up at the Blue Bell Inn, perfectly reasonable for $100 plus $12 taxes.
That was the only long day I have planned – I put on 937 kilometers in 12½ hours. Time to head out for breakfast now, and then it’s off to the infamous Liard Highway. With the rain we got last night, though, I’m open to the possibility that the Liard will be a muddy slop-hole and I’ll have to reverse the route I have planned.