Canada – Alaska

Belleville – Calgary, August, 5th, 2004

We started our trip on July, 6th in Düsseldorf, Germany and flew into Toronto where we picked up our motorcycles. They were flown from Frankfurt, Germany to Toronto (for about 1000$ can. each) 3 days before us. The first place where we went was Belleville, Ontario to see Alex‘ friend Al and some other people she knew. After 11 days of fun, partying, having bbq’s and just hanging out with our friends in Belleville we decided to start our long trip through Canada.

At first we headed up north to Algonquin Park where we stayed for 3 days. We did some hiking trails and had more than one great view of the surrounding nature!! We also got to know a really nice family, Sean (a BMW-fan), Liz and their 3 kids who invited us for some beer and barbequed Marshmallows which we never had before. We saw a bit of the Canadian wildlife like squirrels, chipmunks and a couple black bears on the side of the highway, but we haven’t seen one moose! After leaving the park we went west on Highway 17 along Lake Huron and Lake Superior. In Rainbow Falls Provincial Park right on Lake Superior, about 100km east of Thunder Bay, we met Walter and Judy who invited us to a boat trip on Lake Superior what was just awesome!!

The next morning they also took us fishing with their „Starboat Enterprise“ but we had bad luck and didn’t catch a fish so we had time for a nice breakfast in one of „Canada’s places to be“. Pancakes for breakfast are even better when you are used to hot cereal with water every morning!! We stayed another day with Walter and Judy who spoiled us pretty much, but we enjoyed it a lot!! Thanks to Walter our laptop now runs with our motorcycle battery with no problems at all. It was hard, but finally we had to say goodbye and keep on going west.

We only passed Thunder Bay and stayed at another nice Park, Kakabeka Falls Prov. Park. After a few days of just driving through the pretty nature of Ontario with nice forests and lakes and trying to get as far as possible every day we finally left the huge state Ontario and got into Manitoba.

For 1.5 days we travelled with our friend Evan, a fun guy with a BMW, who we met on our last camp site in Ontario. In Selkirk, 30km north of Winnipeg we went to see Fort Garry to get to know some of the Canadian history what was very interesting. The European history is so much older than the Canadian, but it was still enough for us.

In Manitoba the landscape changed very quickly from forests and lakes into flat land, fields of canola, flax and wheat and prairie as far as you could see. It was not as bad as we where told it was. We actually thought it was nice for what it was, but to be honest: it did get boring after 2 hours of driving just straight! There was not much of a change coming into Saskatchewan and we didn’t spend too much time in these two states.

Getting closer to Alberta the region changed a bit into green soft hills and reminded us of a huge golf course. About 200km east of Calgary we went to see the Dinosaur Prov. Park, what was very interesting: a little canyon in the middle of Badlands!

Some more kilometres to go and we reached Calgary with it’s amazing skyline! We found a camp site close to Calgary and decided to stay for two nights. Unfortunately we had bad luck with the weather and had bad thunderstorms both nights so we didn’t get to know any of Calgary’s night life. But during the day it was really nice and we just walked trough the city and up the Calgary Tower. We also saw the Canadian Olympic Park what was a lot of fun!

Well, that’s how far we got so far. Now we are excited about getting into the Canadian Rocky Mountains!

About us: we are both doing great and enjoy travelling through Canada a lot!! So far we rode our bikes almost 5000km and they are running just fine! We only ride our bikes between 200km and 400km every day. That doesn’t seem to be very much, but it is just so much different than driving a car. We have to stop and take out gloves and helmets off for every single sip of water, for every little snack and every picture we take! But it is still fun!! We also have about one hour every day where we just have some small talk with people in the grocery store, at the gas station or wherever. They just start talking to us because of the bikes and/or the German license plate. Most of them like motorcycles (like Sean and Evan) or have relatives in Germany (like Walter). But sometimes it gets kind of annoying to answer the same questions over and over, but they are all very nice!

Sorry we can only keep you updated once in a while, but we don’t want to get our laptop out too often. And if we want to it’s either too cold or raining or the mosquitoes are killing us or we are just having a beer with our next tent neighbours! 😉

Hope to „hear“ from you some time!!!

See you, Alex and Henno

Banff – Jasper – Dawson Creek – Alaska Highway – Watson Lake – Campbell Highway – Dawson City; August, 17th, 2004

After being in a big city like Calgary we thought it would be nice to be out in the nature of the Rocky Mountains! We did have some nature at our first campsite in the Rockies really close to the Columbia Icefield. It was freezing cold that night!! But on the next morning when we went up to the glacier it was so crowded! Smiling Japanese people with their cameras everywhere! So we made our stay pretty short and went on to Banff National Park where we did some hiking in the mountains, but it was also very touristy there! Even the squirrels were very fat by getting fed by the tourists all the time! Through unfortunately not very curvy streets we went on to Jasper National Park and the Miette Hot Springs which were just like a warm swimming pool and also full of people! The scenery of the Rocky Mountains was really pretty, but there were way too many people everywhere we went!

After only four days we left the Rocky Mountains and went up the 40 to Grande Prairie where „we“ had our first flat tire! Well, Alex got a staple (a big one!) in – of course – the back tire and about 150km after the last and 130km to the next town. Luckily we had practiced at home how to get a flat tire fixed so it didn’t take us too long and we could keep going.

Our next stop was Dawson Creek in British Columbia where „Mile 0“ of the legendary Alaska Highway is located. We took this highway up north and it was the nicest road we have been on until that time! Although the Alaska Highway is quite a famous highway it was not very busy and the scenery was just beautiful! We even got to see a lot of wildlife like Caribou, Moose, a coyote, antelopes, a black bear, mountain goats and a herd of 40-50 buffalos right next to the road. It is kind of scary to have a huge buffalo bull only 3 meters next to you, but they didn’t care about us at all. Sometimes we felt like driving through a zoo. We only missed the names of the animals that we saw along the road and we have to admit that the scenery was a lot prettier than in a zoo!

At milepost 1021km we got to Watson Lake, Yukon, which is famous for it’s „Sign Post Forest“. 1942 a homesick soldier who worked at the Alaska Highway put a sign up of his hometown with the mileage on it. Since then many tourists added signs of their hometowns and they count more than 51,000 by now. We even found our hometown „Köln“!

After Watson Lake we left the Alaska Highway and went north on the Campbell Highway, our first „real“ gravelled road for about 500km and 380km without a gas station. Sometimes it was pretty rough and hard to keep the balance in the thicker gravel, but as well as the drivers as well as the motorbikes handled that one pretty well! We just looked very dusty and dirty afterwards…

The surrounding had changed quite a bit within the last few hundred Kilometres. The roads got curvier (=more fun!) and there was so much to see! Also the campsites have changed: at first we had showers with hot and cold water everywhere. Now we only have outhouses and wash ourselves in the next creek or lake where we also filter our drinking water out off. It gets a bit more adventurous now!

The northeast of British Columbia and all Yukon are having bad forest fires so we had a lot of smoke on our way through these areas. It was also unusual hot for being that far north. During the day it was up to 30°C and very cold at night – down to almost freezing point. That’s why we go to bed pretty early and even get up at about 8 o’clock – not our usual get up time when we are on vacation!

Our last stop in Canada before crossing the American border to Alaska was Dawson City, THE gold rush town of the late 19th century. The city was kind of cute in it’s old fashioned style and it was fun going to the saloon and watch the Can-Can girls. We stayed there for two nights, enough time to go in the internet and do our laundry…

In Dawson City we also got to know a Danish couple which is on tour for four and a half years now. They „just“ came up here from South and Central America so they could give us some good information on all kinds of things about travelling through North and South America.

Well, that’s it for today. Looking forward to get messages from you…!

You all take care! See you!

Alex +Henno

Dawson City – Fairbanks – Dalton Highway – Deadhorse – Dalton Highway – Fairbanks – Kenai Peninsula, 8-30-2004

… after being in Dawson City we crossed the most northern border between Canada and the U.S at an elevation of about 1400m in Poker Creek. Only two customers were working up there and we had no problem getting into the U.S. at all.

We thought we could have because we were with our own motorbikes, had no visa, no return flight ticket back home….

From there we took the „Top of the World“ Highway, a curvy road on the ridge of the mountains. But because of the thick smoke, the fires and the gravel we couldn’t really enjoy the ride or the scenery. On our way to Tok we passed the little town Chicken. The town was supposed to be called „Ptarmigan“, the Alaskan bird, but the inhabitants couldn’t spell Ptarmigan so they just called it Chicken. Funny story, eh!

Anyway, we stayed in Tok for one night and on our way to Fairbanks we had a short stop in North Pole! Where – you all know – Santa Claus lives! In Fairbanks it was still very smoky. We heard that we were witnessing the hottest summer and the worst forest fires Alaska ever had! In the visitor centre we asked for information about the fire and road conditions on the Dalton Highway. The Dalton Highway is an about 800km long road that crosses the arctic circle from where it still goes 480km farther north to Deadhorse/Prudhoe Bay. We were told that the conditions were pretty bad: rough road, huge potholes, trucks throwing big rocks at you, thick smoke,… The brochure about the highway says you have to take two extra tires with you, a plastic foil, if (not when) your windshield brakes, several litres of water, … All that made us thinking „ok, let’s go!“

On our first day up we had to stop and spend the night at the Yukon River because the road was closed ahead because the fire was going over it. But they opened it the next morning and we went on. We don’t know why they had opened the road again. It was still VERY smoky – we were hardly able to see our windshields – and there were fires right next to the road.

But it got better on our way up north and by the time we crossed the Arctic Circle we were even able to see about 300m far. About 100km north of the Arctic Circle we hat blue sky and clear air for the first time after two weeks of more or less thick smoke! Finally we could see the pretty nature of Arctic Tundra around us. Awesome!!

On our third day we made it almost up to Deadhorse where it was getting pretty cold (2°C) and foggy. Not the nicest weather for riding a motorcycle and tenting!!

Deadhorse is not a nice town at all and it basically only exists because of all the people who work up in Prudhoe Bay for the oil fields. If you want to get all the way up to the Arctic Ocean you have to take a bus tour for $37U.S. each. We decided to go only as far as we could get with our own motorbikes. So our trip up north ended right in front of a gate before the oil fields.

That was the point we wanted to be at. Where the Panamerican Highway – that goes from Deadhorse all the way down to Ushuaia in Argentina – starts! From here we could only go south. That’s what we did as soon as possible. It was still cold – too cold! – and foggy. This time the fog stayed all the way down to the Atigun Pass, but after that it got sunny again. Unfortunately not for long and we were back in the smoke.

Our last day on the Dalton Highway was a long ride back to Fairbanks again. We didn’t get there before midnight and just took to the same campsite that we had before we went north. With nice and HOT showers!! There’s nothing like a hot shower after 5 days without one!

After all the road was not as „terrible“ as everyone told us! 1/4 was even paved, 1/2 was in a good gravelled condition and only the last 1/4 was not as good with some potholes. The worst thing was when they had watered the road for working on it. It got really slippery and we got quite dirty… but that was a good way for our motorcycles to show that they are not only made for rides on a paved road! Well, also the smoke and the cold wasn’t too nice, but what do you expect when travelling through northern Alaska?! So far it was definitely the most exciting and beautiful part of our trip! Too bad we could hardly see any wildlife because of the smoke. Just some Caribou and Moose, but no Musk oxen that we wanted to see so bad!

At the beginning of the Dalton Highway we have met a nice couple, Jennifer and Erick, also travelling with a motorcycle (a Harley). They are from Astoria, Oregon, and they invited us to stay with them, when we get there! We are really looking forward to meet them there! Haven’t slept in a bed for 5 weeks now! 😉 We will also get our second set of tires from the tire company Heidenau that is sponsoring us sent to Astoria!

The Motorcycles are both still running very well! Back in Fairbanks we just had to change the chain of Alex‘ Suzuki (what was about time after almost 40,000km) and got the oil changed of both motorcycles as well.

Going south from Fairbanks we just passed Denali National Park. It was not worth going for a hike there because it was still too smoky for being able to see wildlife or the (as we were told) pretty scenery of the mountains.

Right now we are in Seward on the Kenai Peninsula south of Anchorage. We rode the Alaskan Highway #1 to get here and had a great view of the Pacific Ocean on the right and mountains with glaciers on top everywhere else – gorgeous!!

Today we went on the „Harding Icefield“ Trail and had another awesome view of a huge icefield!! There was just ice as far as you could see. It was really breathtaking!

We also have luck with the weather: it’s about 15°C and sunny! And finally no smoke any more!

We don’t know yet when we are leaving Seward. From here we will go to Anchorage, Whitehorse and then heading south on the westcoast. We will see…

You guys have a great day! See you all later!?

Alex and Henno

Kenai Peninsula – Whitehorse – Vancouver Island, 9-29-2004

It’s already been quite a while since we have left Seward – hard to believe, but there is so much to do that we never get to write a new entry! So it’s about time to tell you about what happened while we were on the road for the last few hundred kilometres:

On our last day in Seward we had gone on a „sea wildlife tour“; with a small boat on the Pacific Ocean. It was quite successful: we got to see lazy sea otters floating on their back in the water, dolphins jumping around the boat, „grunting“ sea lions and pretty puffins (birds); without a fence or wall around these animals. It was a lot of fun!

We had left the Kenai Peninsula in the rain, headed northeast an the Glenn Highway and had another beautiful view of glaciers and the slowly approaching Indian Summer.

In the north eastern part of Alaska we hit some forest fires once more, but thanks to the rain they were not as bad as we had seen them two weeks before that. In Tok we got on the Alaska Hwy again. We had no problems crossing the border to Yukon, Canada in Beaver Creek, but it was still raining…

At a gas station in Whitehorse we happened to meet Heiko and Rudi, two guys on a motorcycle with a German licence plate. You don’t see that too often! Heiko (33), a rather quiet, but very nice guy is on the road since end of April. He had started in Alabama, went through Chicago and up to Halifax where he had met his friend Rudi. Rudi is 69 years old and a funny and talkative retired teacher. Both of them crossed Canada a bit different than we did, went up to Alaska and were planning on going south to Tierro Del Fuego in Argentina as well.

Since all 4 of us wanted to take the ferry from Prince Rupert to Vancouver Island we decided to travel all together for the next few days. Right before Watson Lake – it was still raining – we turned south into the Cassiar Hwy (#37). Riding the bikes in the rain is not too bad as long as you have the proper rain gear, what we do. You even ride longer distances on those days because you don’t stop as often to enjoy the scenery and take pictures! (That’s why we don’t have photos from this area…) But since Henno’s and mine back tires were blank as a baby’s butt we were a bit concerned about the wet roads! After spending a cold night on a mountain pass we even packed our stuff while it was snowing – and it was really freezing cold!!! Just the thought of going south and warmer temperatures kept me going! Luckily it got at least a bit warmer a few kilometres farther south.

Our next stop was Prince Rupert from where we had taken the ferry to Port Hardy on Vancouver Island. The ferry left at 7.70 a.m. and we had to be there 2 hours ahead. So it was quite a short night right in front of the ticket office. People had told us that the 15 hours ferry trip would take us through the most beautiful scenery, but because of the rain and the fog we didn’t get to see any of that. Too bad!

We arrived Port Hardy at about 11 p.m. and were pretty tired. We just wanted to get to any campsite that’s close to the port and sleep. But right before we got there Rudi slipped out with his motorcycle on the narrow downhill gravel road and fell – good thing he was only going 35km/h. He immediately was in a lot of pain and had breathing problems. What to do now?? It was totally dark, we had no idea where we were at and we needed help really quick. While Heiko tried to light up the place with his motorbike headlights and I took care of Rudi, Henno went to the campsite, woke everyone up and told them to call the ambulance. 15 minutes later they were there and took Rudi (and me because Rudi hardly speaks any English, especially not under these circumstances) to the hospital. Meanwhile Henno and Heiko took care of Rudi’s bike which was not in the best condition and came to the hospital afterwards. Rudi had a partly collapsed lung und was treated right away. We stayed with him in the hospital to translate and just to be there until the treatment was over and Rudi fell asleep. We finally went to sleep at 4 a.m. This little accident has definitely showed us how fast things like that can happened and how important it is not to travel by yourself!

Heiko, Henno and I stayed for 3 more days in rainy Port Hardy. We visited Rudi and managed to get his bike sent to Victoria where the closest BMW-dealer was. The campsite people were really nice and helped us a lot. By the way, we even had a bear visit the campsite! He was so close to the tent that we could hear him breathing, but luckily he was more interested in the food in the campsite kitchen.

It was really lucky that Sean who Henno and I had met in Algonquin Park has given us his friend’s (Steve and Darlene) phone number in Victoria. They could help us to get an address where to send Rudi’s bike. While Rudi had time to recover in the hospital the other 3 of us had a nice 3 day ride to Victoria, 500km farther south to meet Steve and Darlene.

To safe money for camping they had offered us to camp in their back yard (there was definitely no room in the house), but their neighbours Barbara and John had enough rooms and beds left for us and offered us to stay there. It is just great how many nice and helpful people we’ve met!! So we got to sleep in a bed for the first time since we left Belleville! The same night we got there we could also pick Rudi up who had gotten out of the hospital and had taken a bus from Port Hardy to Victoria in one day.

Heiko, Henno and I stayed in Astoria – a very pretty town by the way – for one week. We got a long just great with Steve, Darlene and their kids Gwennie (3 years) and Gavyn (1). For the weekend we all went with them to see Darlene’s parents (Don and Gwen) who have a farm on Thetis Island. We had so much fun with collecting fresh laid eggs in the morning, feeding the turkeys and sheep and having a nice fire and deep fried turkey (their specialty) right on the Pacific ocean!

Monday morning it was finally time to say goodbye for Heiko, Henno and myself what wasn’t easy at all! Rudi is still there and has to wait for parts from Germany to get his motorcycle fixed, which is in Vancouver now. He feels a lot better, but since it was already his second accident during this trip he decided not to go all the way south to Argentina. He thought about going south as far as San Francisco, from there head east on Route 66 and go back to Germany from the east coast. Heiko will keep travelling with us.

Further in the U. S. A.

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