Stealth Camp south of Jade City[MAP]

Double rainbow (hoping for no more rain), Cassiar Highway (Day 128)

Double rainbow (hoping for no more rain), Cassiar Highway (Day 128)

What an incredible day of extremes. Not only do I have to put up with Norbert’s verbal diarrhoea, but I have to suffer through every piece of weather that the gods can throw at me. We started off this morning in 40-50km/h gusty headwinds. Then Norbert and I had an argument about peanut butter. I told him I wanted to make it to the next food store at Good Hope Lake by today, but he argued against it. For me it was easily within a day’s ride but for Norbert it would be a long day. And Norbert didn’t like riding too fast as he didn’t like to get a sweat (why the hell he chose to ride a bike then is beyond my understanding). He offered me his remaining peanut butter ration, but me; ever so self-reliant, bloody minded and bloody stubborn wasn’t about to dig into Norbert’s food supply when I possibly had all the food I could need within 60 miles.

It was at this point that Norbert wondered aloud as to how I always seemed to know when the next food stop, albeit rarely open food shop, was going to be. I sheepishly showed him the milepost list that I’d had in place of a map for the past two weeks. He questioned why I had kept it from him, as if it was some sort of betrayal of the trust that we had built up over the last few days. I let out a small bitter laugh and admitted how much it killed me to know exactly at what mileage we would pass another food shop, and have my hopes dashed again and again to find that it was closed. Not good for the psyche.

“We’ll probably get sunburnt today” were the last words I said to him as I took off again. I rode with extra purpose, no longer checking to see if he was keeping up with me. It was sunny at last. Then five minutes later I got hailed on, so hard that it stung my face and chilled me to the bone. Luckily the hail only lasted for five minutes and then it was just a very heavy rain for a good half hour to ensure that none of my clothes remained dry. And then back to the heavy wind. Well at least I didn’t get snowed on. And at least it got up to a balmy 9 degrees Celsius, not the usual 1 or 2 degrees that we’ve suffered through over the past few days.

I eventually got to Good Hope Lake and bought a bunch of stuff and had a long toilet break. It was enjoyable to take a dump in a proper dunny rather than shitting in the woods constantly with a frozen arse. I helped myself to a wonderful sugary coffee. As I was paying, a guy wearing hunting gear asked me if I was the guy on the bike.

“You better watch out man, I had you in my rifle sights back there as you were coming down the hill. I thought you were a moose”.

I asked with a naive laugh what he was talking about, there’s laws about not shooting animals within twenty metres of a road.

“Not around here there ain’t…”,

At least it's not raining, Cassiar Highway (Day 128)

At least it’s not raining, Cassiar Highway (Day 128)

I haven’t seen a lot of wildlife so far on this ride from Fairbanks, I figured that the animals know it’s hunting season and make themselves scarce. Now I will be the first to admit that I’m not an animal expert, I used to watch my fair share of David Attenborough documentaries when I was younger, but I’ve never heard of a bicycle-riding moose. Maybe in these parts there are some though. I’m going to try to keep an open mind about these things.

I walked outside to drink my coffee and found a forlorn, tired looking Norbert sitting, waiting for me. Another guy that had overheard the hunter talking at me walked out of the shop and approached me, smirking,

“What kind of a hunter does he think he is? Mistaking a guy on a bicycle with a yellow helmet for a moose??”

Norbert and I continued to ride on into more rain and now some of the most beautiful scenery I had seen for days. Snow covered mountains and a whole bunch of colourful lakes beside the road, all made more beautiful by the impending sunset. It was that time of the day again, looking for possible places to camp; a small patch of bare ground hidden from the road. Right on cue, as we come around a bend in the road we spotted an old shed, beside one of the beautiful lakes, no walls but with a tin roof still completely intact. For once we’re completely out of the rain, just the usual bloody wind trying to pull our tents down.


Stealth Camp South of Dease Lake[MAP]

Norbert and I rode in silence today. I was sick of listening to his verbal diarrhoea. Last night as I was setting up my tent, he would just keep talking and talking in a low monotone voice. My hearing’s not so good when there’s background noise, so I kept on having to stop what I was doing in order to listen to what he was saying. But he dribbled on so continuously that it was impossible to set up my tent. I got to the point where I just decided to ignore him and instead just throw a “yep” and a “hmmm” into the equation now and then in order to keep him happy. I eventually climbed into my tent to get out of the wind, and even though I was out of sight, he kept talking. It was only when I quickly threw a “goodnight” into the mix that he finally shut up.

Add to this the pessimism that flows out of Norbert’s mouth constantly and things were starting to get me down. Before riding with Norbert, I’d ride on regardless of the weather ahead. If there were rain clouds ahead of me, I’d not think twice about continuing towards them, and never would I consider bad weather as being an unlucky sort of thing. But with Norbert I’d get a running commentary on the weather ahead and “What have we done to deserve this?” sort of comments thrown about. We’d be riding, soaked to the bone in a drizzling rain and Norbert would feel the need to predict how much worse our situation was about to come; “Looks like there’s bad weather up ahead”, he’d say, pointing to a dark and stormy mass of clouds hovering above the road several miles ahead.

When we got to Dease Lake we stocked up on groceries at a large gas station.

After he’d packed his food panniers he suggested that we split up as I hadn’t talked to him all day. He rode off while I talked to a woman in a campervan who was fishing at the lake with her husband. My mood was sour. I took it as my own fault that things hadn’t worked out with Norbert. We’d ridden together over the toughest parts of our journeys and we’d ended up hating each other. I’m glad I didn’t bring any good friends along on this journey, I would have probably murdered them by now.

I got back onto the road again, feeling quite lonely and depressed. It was friggin’ cold. Ten minutes down the road I found Norbert talking to another cyclist. I stopped to say hello and it turned out that it was another Austrian. Good for Norbert. They talked in their own language and when I realised I wasn’t going to be included in the conversation I got back on the bike and kept riding. It was getting dark already and before long it had started raining heavily. I got soaked to the skin once again. My arms and wrists got so cold that I started to get wrist cramps. The first cramp caused me to almost fall off the bike in shock. It felt like someone had wired 240VAC to my handlebars and was having fun flicking the switch to see if I’d crash. It rained heavily for over an hour. The Cassiar had now turned into a mud pit and I had trouble keeping my thin tyres from getting stuck in the truck tracks. It was 6:30pm and I was now desperate to find a camping spot. Right on cue, the rain stopped. A moment later I came across a truck stop area, just a wide patch of bare ground beside the road, overlooking the valley. I set up my tent quickly, the rain would be back, and got into some dry clothes. I couldn’t even be bothered to tie my food pannier up in a tree.


Stealth Camp South of Iklit[MAP]

I barely slept last night, it rained a lot. It was a long night. I made an early start in my damp clothes; 7:30am, and got treated to a beautiful sunrise. That was about it in terms of sunshine, as it turned to shit not long after. I struggled to keep my bike straight on the muddy road. I stopped for a chocolate milk at a small town and was kept company by a hungry looking husky. The wind picked up and it felt like I was riding into 50km/h headwinds with spitting rain to boot.

Further down the track I found an empty camping ground. I asked the man at the gas station whether I could take a shower, my first since Whitehorse. I was trying to recall the last time I’d ever smelt someone with as much body odour as me. I came up blanks. It was a proud moment.

The shower was one of those coin operated ones and it ran out just as I was washing my legs. It was still heavenly though. I would have thought the hot water would restore the feeling in my toes, but they just stayed numb. They’re still a healthy looking pink though, so I assume it can’t be too bad. I had to wash my hair three times to get the mud out of it.

When I returned to the road it started raining in earnest and the roads got even muddier. My derailers clogged up and I had to waste quite a bit of drinking water in order to flush them. I was dirty and stunk of mud once again. Just as well, it’s probably my bad B.O. that’s been keeping the bears away. I had considered actually urinating on my bags, maybe that would mark my territory. But even that was a bit too feral for me.

My so-called waterproof socks failed me once again. I eventually made it back onto paved road, but by now I was getting the painful hand cramps again. I can foresee that the cramps are going to make any sort of repetitive wrist movement a hell.

I found a not-so-good camping spot about 15 metres from the side of the road and was treated to the occasional truck blaring its horn as it passed within metres of me. I had to put a heavy rock on each of the tent pegs. The wind was so bad that my tent kept collapsing over the top of me throughout the night. Not a nice way to get woken up, especially when I feared there were bears about and my food pannier was lying just outside my tent. I hope that even bears don’t go out when there’s bad weather.


Stealth Camp South of Hwy 37A Junction[MAP]

It rained a helluva lot last night, my cooking stove, which I always leave out with my breakfast grits soaking, was floating in a puddle of water. I made an early start again, with a constant rain that had not let up since yesterday. All my clothes were still wet from yesterday (or was it the day before?). I was ready to give up. It was crazy to suffer like this. I was ready to pull out my “TIRED AUSSIE NEEDS RIDE” sign once again. The Cassiar highway had beaten me. And yet I was now riding through some of the most spectacular scenery I’d seen for a while. I couldn’t care less. I hadn’t pulled out my camera for days; the effort and time needed to let the camera lens demist while my fingers quickly froze was not worth it, even with this spectacular beauty all around me. The messy mud road was destroying my spirits and sounded like it was destroying my bike. I could barely ride for a mile without the chain starting to slip because of the mud. According to my map I had another 30-40 miles of it to go.

I finally got to the Bell 2 gas station. I decided that I’d hang around the entrance for a while and see if I could find someone to give me a lift to the end of this damn highway, and even further if possible. I went inside and bought some Snickers and two coffees and got myself warm. By the time I walked out, the rain had lifted and the sun was trying to burn its way through the clouds. It was like someone was teasing me to go on, or maybe deciding to give me a little bit of slack. I got back out onto the road and to my excitement found that my map was out of date. I’d expected mud for miles but was treated to a freshly paved road. I even managed to get up quite a bit of speed for the first time in ages. On one of the downhills, not paying so much attention, I spotted a mother bear and its three cubs just beside the road. I almost fell off my bike in surprise. The three cubs ran for cover, the mother took a few steps to follow them and then stopped and watched me. I kept going, now with a shit-eating grin on my face. When I stopped at my next rest stop, the woman I’d been talking to at Dease lake showed up and offered me her mixed fruit and nuts. The world conspires…

The woman and her husband were driving a massive RV tour bus thingie and it reminded me of Norbert. While we were on the Alaskan highway we made plans together on hijacking one. The plan was that one of us would play dead on the side of the road while the other snuck onto the bus. It’d be a non-violent bus takeover. We’d let the retired owners back on board, ask them where they were heading (as long as it was south) and then send them to the back of the bus to watch satellite TV and drink coffee. Norbert would provide entertainment and I’d drive with the foot heater on full blast. By the end of the trip they’d be thanking us for the favour we’d done them. But like everything, Norbert and I bickered about what colour bus we’d hijack. That was when we weren’t bickering about food, or about the accuracy of his bicycle computer.

I asked her if she’d seen any other cyclists and it turned out that Norbert and Co. were at least a day behind.

I camped in what was probably a truck stop, a large cleared dirt area by the side of the road with a rubbish bin at one end. I set up my tent in the scrub at the opposite end. After eating I hung my food pannier over a tree about 20 metres away from my tent. As I was passing into the pleasant realms of food-karma-inducing sleep I started to notice the sounds of an animal in the brush behind my tent. I could immediately tell it was a large animal from the twigs cracking as it moved. For some reason I didn’t consider the possible seriousness of the situation and continued to drift away, only half listening to the background noise of the animal. Several minutes later I sprang awake when I realised how close it was to my tent. I did the only thing I could think of: clapped my hands as loudly as I could and yelled at the top of my voice. Whatever it was, it pissed off very quickly. The sound of it thundering through the undergrowth was incredible as it was obviously something big and maybe not so surefooted. I could still hear it running about 20 seconds later.

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