The next morning, I arose to some dense fog, so I decided to walk downtown to grab a cup of coffee and a blueberry muffin. Across from memorial park, I stopped into the Blue Moose Coffee House. A funky hispter-esque joint, with a plethora of macbook pros and moleskine notebooks. I took my java and handheld cake across the street and reclined on a wooden bench in the midst of the square-shaped public green space. Someone’s loved one’s name was inscribed across the back rest. I wonder who this person was. I hope they did something great with their life, I thought. I hope I do.
Halfway through my coffee, I began to grow impatient. Some nasty storms were supposed to blow across the Yukon in a couple days, with snow and sleet and high winds. I needed to do six or seven hundred miles to get through before it hit. There is nothing worse than hitting snow on two wheels. After all, it was only early May. Most likely, I was the first motorcycle of the year riding to Alaska. Motorcycle adventures, due to one’s exposure to the elements, may be the purest form of the road trip. I didn’t have a metal frame and a roof with climate control to keep me comfortable and safe. I could feel the chill of the arctic jet stream, I could smell the fragrance of spring rhodedendron. On a bike, I was connected to nature in a much more profound, even spiritual way. And if it snowed, I’d be connected to that as well. Good thing I had heated hand-grips on this impressive feat of German engineering.
I departed from Hope, energized and ready to tackle the Fraser River Gorge. The sun beamed down into the canyon, creating a contrast between the glittering granitve and the dark lava flows. Thirty five miles into this twisting roller coaster of a road, a feast for the senses, I passed Hell’s Gate Airtram where my family had stopped to cross the bridge and eat fudge four years prior. We learned that fudge doesn’t have to be made with chocolate, as I previously believed, and took one my favorite pictures of my parents standing on the bridge spanning the river. Beautiful day and beautiful memories.
Today was beautiful, too, I debated stopping to reminisce but kept riding. North of Williams Lake and on into Prince George, the traffic got heavy. Countless oil and natural gas workers and their company trucks clogged the route and my peace of mind. Getting angry and restless, I pleaded with traffic gods to clear the way, but alas, slow going was the new normal. Afterall, I’m not the only person in the world. I stopped in Prince George, a bustling fossil fuel driven sprawl, for a sandwich and gas. I got back on the road and headed up highway 16 toward Smithers.
The landscape was beginning to open up and so was the road. The snow-capped Canadian Rockies rose majestically from the valleys of tundra and lakes. Out of the traffic now, I could cruise at a cool 80mph, and cool it was as the temparture began dipping into the 40s. 500 some miles into my ride that day, I began to look for lodging. Nothing in Vanderhoof or Houston. I kept on and began to ready myself for some road side camping, which I was prepared to do, if necessary. As the sun was setting and at 600 miles for the day, I entered the mountain ski town of Smithers. A billboard advertised 60 dollar rooms at the Florence Inn. Done and done. I pulled in the the motel and walked up to the front desk, shivering and in a post-long-haul-riding-day trance. The pink haired, chubby manager said that rate was for the off-season, but she’d make an acception since I spotted the advertisement. I thanked her, changed clothes in my room, and walked next door to grab a beer. I entered the Aspen Riverhorse Restaurant and sat at the bar beside two 20-something women. I ordered an IPA from the tongue in cheek named local brewery, Plan B. The women struck up a conversation, and they told me Liam Neeson’s survival thriller The Grey was filmed here. I hadn’t seen it at the time, but I’m glad those human-eating wolves weren’t around that day. I crossed my fingers, hoping for a smooth running machine over the duration of the pilgrimage.