Fear not! I am not dead! There simply wasn't anywhere I could update you all from.
Day 16 – A Day Full Of Excesses – 109.89 km
I started my day off refreshed and in good spirits after spending the previous night in a warm cabin. Unfortunately, I soon hit a nice long stretch of gravel road to beat me up again, 25 km long actually. Although not as terrible as I expected, the stretch of road went slow and was very shaky. In fact, my hands are still trembling from the aftermath as I type this! There was one really nice and long section of downhill, but let me tell you, rushing down a gravel road on a bicycle at 50 km/h is quite the adrenaline rush! You know that if you slip or hit a pothole it’s going to hurt… a lot.
I made it to the village of Dease Lake where I stopped at a restaurant called Mama Z’s. On the menu was something called the “King Mountain Burger”, a huge burger containing one pound of beef topped with bacon, cheese, mushrooms, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and who knows what else. What I found quite funny is that there was actually a warning on the menu: “Warning! Do not order unless you are extremely hungry!” So of course you can all guess what I ordered!
The waiter brought me my burger and said that it should fill me right up. Let me tell you my dear readers, I devoured that burger faster than a bear could devour me! When the waiter asked me if I was full, I told him that I could easily eat another one of those. “No way!” was his response. So then I asked him, “Want to bet? If I can eat another burger like that, you have to give me both for free, if I can’t, I’ll pay for both!” Needless to say, the waiter consulted the owner, both of whom seriously considered my offer. However, seeing that I was a hunger stricken cyclist and that I could probably eat a second burger, they declined my offer. Perhaps it’s a good thing, because had I eaten that second burger, and I know I could have, I probably wouldn’t have cycled much further!
I did however find out that there is a place in Vancouver where they have a burger with a whopping two pounds of beef, and if you can finish it it’s free. Guess where I’m stopping when I’m in Vancouver? Anyone want to bet me if I can finish it? If I win the bet, you have to make a donation to the Lance Armstrong Foundation! (Which you should do anyway, even a few dollars makes a difference)
Before heading out of Dease Lake I had to do some grocery shopping, as there really isn’t anything for the next 340 km. I figured I needed about three full days worth of food, which means breakfast, lunch, dinner, and of course snacks! Let me tell you, I think I overdid it a bit. I walked out of that grocery store with thirty-two pop tarts, ten packets of instant hot chocolate, three boxes of Kraft dinner, two pouches of instant mashed potatoes, two pouches of instant pasta, two bags of jelly beans, and two loaves of bread. Grand total: $33 CDN. Not too bad at all! I finally realized that I may have exaggerated a bit when I had some serious trouble closing my bag. Needless to say, I now have two bags with food hanging in a tree as opposed to one!
Coming out of Dease Lake I encountered some colder temperatures as well as quite a lot of wildlife. I would have taken out my jacket to put it on, but since it was under all my food, I decided I would rather freeze a little than have to repack all that! When I reached the place where I am camped for the night, which is simply a clear patch of ground not far from the main road, I saw fifteen deer and seven elk.
Day 17 – Where Do I Begin? – 125.92 km
Today was by far the worst day of the trip and quite possibly one of the worst days I have ever had the displeasure of living through in my entire life. Disaster struck in the morning and continued throughout the day up until this very instant. Today’s day quite simply kicked my butt, hard.
Yesterday my fuel ran out for my stove. Luckily I was in Dease Lake where I could re-supply. My little stove burns denatured alcohol, which can be found at any paint or hardware store, as well as Wal-Mart. There happened to be a hardware store in Dease Lake, which as my luck would have it was closed. My stove is also advertised to burn other alcohol based fuels such as rubbing alcohol or 150 proof alcohol. Since 150 proof alcohol is kind of expensive and would be a waste to burn, I opted for the rubbing alcohol.
I found out the hard way that my trusty little stove does not burn rubbing alcohol as advertised. Luckily I was able to fall back on my Boy Scout skills and constructed a fire with which I managed to boil my water with ease. I used the rubbing alcohol as a fire starter, at least one thing it’s good for. I made myself a delicious meal of Kraft dinner and of course bread.
Shortly after breakfast is when the fun started. I once again hit a stretch of gravel road, one of which I hope I never have to experience again. This gravel road was not hard packed as was yesterdays, but was rather quite loose. The first section consisted of a 5 km downhill. Since the gravel was loose I nearly lost control countless times. The second section was a nice 7 km uphill grade of 8%. An uphill grade of 8% would be bad enough, but combined with loose gravel, it makes it terrible. To make matters worse, at about 11 AM it began to rain. This meant I had to put on all my rain gear, in which it is very hot when the sun is out at the same time.
But wait, it gets better! It began to rain harder. Then it rained some more, and then it kept raining. By this point I am absolutely drenched, completely filthy, and kind of cold. Keep in mind that my stove doesn’t have fuel, so the only way I’m going to make myself a warm dinner is by making a fire. Well, as you can guess, that didn’t happen. Today’s dinner involved pop tarts, granola bars, bread, and jelly beans for desert. I guess I’ll just have to make do with what I have.
On a funny note, I participated in my first moose chase today. I saw a moose on the road, so I yelled some stuff at it in order to get it to move out of the way. The guy just started running along the road. I cycled after him for about three kilometers before he finally got off. It was actually quite a challenge to keep up with him since he was doing a good 25 km/h!
Right afterwards I hit another stretch of gravel road, once again loose packed and only a downhill of about 2 km this time. However, what made it really interesting is that at this point it was pouring rain. Let me just say that going down that hill was quite scary. I have never been gladder to have disc brakes, as those things can stop me in rain, slush, snow, or mud.
If there is one thing I hate more than anything in this world it’s putting a tent up in the rain. Well, guess what I had to do today? To make it even more fun for me, I had to battle wind at the same time. Could it be worse? Oh yes! Since there is about two feet of snow everywhere here it’s quite a challenge to find a bare patch of ground. Therefore the best I could do was a combination of grass and mud, just great!
It is now 11 PM. It has not stopped raining for even five minutes over the last 12 hours. I am tired, cold, and miserable. I don’t think I have never gotten so drenched in my entire life. I would have gladly stopped at a motel or even at someone’s house to ask to sleep in their garage. Unfortunately for me, I have not seen a single building for the last 70 km. I think that I’m going to sleep in tomorrow…
Day 18 – A Beautiful Day - 160.56 km
In the morning I suffered several hardships which led me to believe that today would be another bad day. It stopped raining at about 7 AM, but I promised myself the night before I’d sleep in and thus woke up around 9:30 AM. Dark clouds loomed overhead, and it was quite cold. The night before I had hung my food bag up in a tree so well that not only could a bear not get it down, but neither can I. Needless to say, I ended up climbing 20 feet into a tree in order to recover my precious food.
It also turns out that I’ve had some electronic failures. My phone gives me a message saying “GPS failure. Contact service provider.”, perhaps that’s why I can’t seem to get any service these past few days. My iPod is also giving me issues, the screen shifts off center and the thing just freezes. The only way I can get it to work again is to let the battery completely drain, then charge it up again. This is the second time it’s happened and it’s quite annoying. I didn’t drop either of these or get them wet or anything, they just decided they hated their miserable existence and thus stopped to function. No worries, I’ll simply have to locate the nearest Best Buy to exchange my iPod and Telus to exchange my phone.
The rest of the day turned out to be absolutely awesome. The sun soon came out, the winds died down, and the road was in great shape. There were some steeper hills, but they didn’t prove to be too much of a problem. The thing I find so strange about it up here is that there can be absolutely nothing for 100 km or even more at a time. I mean not a single house, gas station, building, anything. Just road, road, and road.
While stopped on the side of the road in order to take a drink of water an elderly couple pulled up to me and asked me if I had just seen that grizzly bear sleeping right next to the road. It turns out there was a big one lying pretty much right next to the road way, but I somehow didn’t notice it! Don’t ask me how it’s possible not to notice a big brown bear, but I guess it is!
On the other hand, today I happened to see six black bears! The first proved to be the most trouble. I yelled at him in order to try to get him to move, but he just wouldn’t. I’m not daring enough to just roll on past him and hope he doesn’t do anything, so I got a ride past him on the back of someone’s pickup truck. I managed to get a picture of him while driving past. The other four bears didn’t prove to be too much trouble. When far away I just start yelling and waving my hands, if they move, I just keep on rolling by yelling off some gibberish. If they don’t, which has only happened with that first one, I’d have to stop and back up.
I decided to push on further today in hopes of reaching some civilization. Seeing six bears was also quite a good incentive in order for me to not just pitch a tent in the middle of a forest. I made it all the way to Mezidian Junction, which just so happens to be one of the furthest things possible from civilization. It’s amazing this place is even on the map. It literally consists of five buildings: a house, a storage building, a gas station office, a restaurant/grocery store, and this big empty log building in which I am sleeping. May I add that everything here is still closed for the season!
I ended up setting up my lodging in this big empty log building which I came across. Initially I just setup my sleeping pad and sleeping bag, but upon seeing that the birds above are dropping hazardous wastes, I decided it would be wise to setup the rain fly from my tent. I would have had to set it up anyway in order to let it dry from the night before. As a side note, I saw my sixth bear of the day while looking outside of this log building, he was just minding his own business next to the road. Needless to say, my bear spray is within close reach!
I am still out of fuel for my stove and am thus living off of pop tarts and bread. I really would love to make a fire in order to cook up some pasta, but everything here is snowed in and it’s impossible to find firewood. It’s still the end of winter here! Hopefully tomorrow I can find some fuel for my stove as well as a restaurant where I can charge up my laptop, I only have 30 minutes of battery time left!
Day 19 – Desperate Times Call For Desperate Measures – 152.04 km
Next to the building I was sleeping in was parked an RV. Just as I, someone had decided this would be a good place to stay for the night. In the morning I went to go ask these people if per chance they had any denatured alcohol, and if not if I could simply have some boiling water to re-hydrate my instant mashed potatoes. As luck would have it this couple was from Germany and they didn’t speak any English. As further luck would have it, I used to know German but unfortunately was young at the time and forgot it when I learned English. So basically: no denatured alcohol, no water.
As I was packing up I noticed that I was down to my last six pop tarts, the rest of my food all required cooking. As the German couple was leaving they brought me a cup of coffee. For those who know me, I simply do not do coffee. Either way I thanked the man graciously and continued to pack up my things. That cup of coffee just kept looking at me, all hot with its rising steam. I unfortunately could not resist drinking any warm beverage and thus somehow managed to ingest that beverage. It was the first cup of coffee I have ever drank in my life and I sincerely also hope my last. It is by far the most vile beverage I has ever consumed, and I have no idea how some of you drink it daily and like it!
No matter, I decided to push on. At about two o’clock I found a suitable stream in a dry place where I could start a fire. Although it took me an hour to filter water, rather firewood, find stones, prepare a fire, and cook my meal, it was well worth it. Being as this was my first warm meal of any kind in two days I can honestly say that Kraft dinner has never tasted so good. Unfortunately at this point I was completely depleted of my supply of dry food, and to make matters worse, I also found out that my one and only water bottle had sprung a leak in the bottom!
As much as I did not want to push on today, I decided it would be best to make it to civilization. I rode 100 km without a bite to eat and very little to drink, but in the end it was all worth it. Three black bears later, which I all yelled and waved at, I made it to a town called Kitwanga in which I found a splendid campground. I was fed two burgers as well as two popsicles. I decided I was still hungry and rode to the dinner three kilometers down the road. Here I swallowed a roast beef dinner with fries, as well as a drumstick for desert. Luckily tomorrow I will finally be able to decently resupply. There is both a hardware and grocery store here in Kitwanga where I can make all the necessary purchases. The worst of my road is over as the rest of my route is fairly populated, or so I hope! The next two days should be fairly relaxing as I have only 170 km to go until I reach a town called Houston, where I will surfing someone’s couch.