Once upon a time I rode my bike across Canada, a big country. Thankfully Canada is chopped up into nice little provinces that give you a gratifying sense of achievement as you pass through them, until you reach Ontario and learn the hard way just how gigantic that place is. Cycling across Ontario broke me in the head a little bit. Cycling British Columbia North to South brings back memories of cycling through Ontario – it never ends.
Bike touring is awesome, don’t get me wrong. But living simply isn’t always easy. I have been thinking for quite a while if I should even write about the not so awesome parts. But I think it's fair to tell you about the times when it's not all rainbows and unicorns on and off the saddle…
After spending a few days on a major trucking route we’ve become less sensitive to loud large vehicles flying past us at arms reach. There are still moments of “holy sh*t that was a little too close” but for the most part it seems that people don’t want to turn us into hood ornaments. And with that, let me tell you about being scared.
This stretch of the road was full of everything. Lots of hills and amazing mountain valleys with turquoise lakes, giant blue winding rivers, wild woodland bison herds and hordes of black bears, giant bath tubs in the woods (Liard River hot springs) northern lights (we missed them but they were out there), snuggly kittens and cute dogglings and the worlds best (so far) cinnamon buns at the Center of the Galactic Cinnamon Bun Cluster (Tetsa River Lodge). Oh and Watson Lake's amazing sign forest made up of about 82.000 signs (and growing) that people from all over the world have put up there. So cool!
People are awesome, people like our trucker friend Kevin who passed us heading in the opposite direction, flagged down an RV who then caught up to us to deliver a couple fresh oranges. How awesome is that! There have been other life saving gifts along the way that have turned our days around such as ice cream sandwiches on a 30+ day or homemade sourdough pancakes. People are good.
The Dempster Highway is full of surprises. After you get rid of any expectations you might have (e.g this is going to be an easy day of riding), you should also put on a really, really thick skin. Cause this might protect you from wolves that think you look like dinner.
So we’re riding along this amazingly flat road in the Ogilvie River valley (usually we’re pedalling up a hill or flying down one), the weather is nice (no thunderstorms and no crazy hot temps) and a wolf decides to make this a very memorable day for us.
Nyle was riding not too far in front of me when one of the many highway maintenance guys coming from the other direction stopped beside me to let me know… there is a wolf following me.
That was a long week. And we’re only halfway there, we’re currently in Eagle Plains. The Dempster has been pretty spectacular in scenery and merciless with wild weather. I’ll blame our slow progress on the thunderstorms that rip through our path turning our tent into more of a boat and the road into a muddy slip-n-slide. All we can do is take cover and hope that the storm passes quickly.
Inuvik means “place of people” in the language of the Inuvialuit people and is part of the traditional land of the Gwich’in, Inuvialuit and Metis cultures. It sure took us a little while to get attached to this place as we first had to deal with one problem after the next (non arriving luggage and missing bike part). However, Inuvik has sure grown on us. The people here are extremely welcoming, friendly and sharing. The sun always shines, like 24/7, unless it rains. That happens too and then the Dempster Highway turns into un-bikeable sticky mud (I would totally be ok missing out on that experience).
We landed in Inuvik around noon and instantly started tearing the bike boxes apart, it was go time. Granted neither of us are master mechanics so it was more like slowly and carefully take parts out of the box and try our best to remember what they looked like two days ago. Bike construction was going smoothly until I pulled Andrea’s front wheel out of the box and noticed that one of the end caps (little thingers that makes the hub quick-release compatible) was missing. These end caps are compression fit so I was surprised that it came apart in transit but I figured we would just find it floating around the giant bike box… somewhere.