12th September 2012

Tough Miles Blog 11: Vancouver to Alaska

Jon here:
We arrived in Vancouver at 1am on the 8th August, narrowly escaping a heavy downpour by timing our fuel stop perfectly. It’s never good turning up in a new city late at night, especially when the hostel is on a street littered with junkies and there’s nowhere to park the bikes. It would appear there are parts of Vancouver with some serious drug problems. It had been a long day, and I felt Petes pain as I turned and watched him drop his bike on the pavement. Neither of us said anything, we just picked it up and carried on looking for somehwere to park for the night.

The following morning we finally managed to wash our motorcycle trousers, for the first time this trip, gross. Believe it or not they didn’t come up too bad, and even smelt fairly fresh. After a spot of Tough Miles admin work we wandered down the road and settled in to the Cambie hostel boozer, where we arranged to meet Krystle, a friend of Petes from a previous India trip. The evening/night soon turned into a blur, not ideal for the early start I planned for the following morning ride to Whistler.

My alarm went off at 7am, but I could barely open my eyes. I felt like a drunk mole that had been hit by a truck. We managed to be on the road by 1pm. The pack up was as tough as ever, trying to drag all of our luggage down 3 flights of narrow steps and then load the bikes with every man and his dog stopping to ask about our trip. Once we finally hit the road the crisp mountian air and sweeping bends of Highway 99 soon lifted the hang over. It was an emotional moment for me over the intercom as we entered Whistler, but whilst rambling on I soon realised Pete had me on mute, standard. Having spent the first three months of this year living there for the ski season, it was amazing to think I had flown home to the UK and ridden this poxy motorcycle back around the world. I can’t describe the look on Jos face when she saw Pete and I arrive on her doorstep……….

With one look at the bikes her opening line was pretty funny “I’ve never seen anything like it”. This made us chuckle and think back to a comment Romanian Mike previously said to us over a spot of dinner….. “A DRZ will never get you any women”.

Having set ourselves a fairly tight time schedule, and knowing we would stop in for a few days on our way back down, we only gave ourselves one night in Whistler. The following afternoon we continued along Highway 99, then Highway 97, finally setting up camp just outside of Lillooet on the edge of a stunning lake. This was our first chance to dry and air the tents, and we both new the camping expedition up to Alaska had finally begun.

The ride from Whistler to Alaska was a long hard slog. The DRZ 400 is hardly the bike of choice for spending 10 hours per day on asphalt highways. Pete and I joked about how nice it would have been for Suzuki to provide 2 GSX-R’s….maybe next time? Many days we were covering over 500 miles at full speed. Despite wearing ear plugs, with the noise of the wind and the drone of the Yoshi pipes we often felt partially deaf getting off the bikes. The only comparable feeling is coming out of a night club at 7am, feeling slightly dazed and wondering where the last 8 hours have gone. I can’t emphasise enough how appreciative we were to have the custom made seats coutesy of Bill Mayor Saddles for this leg of the trip, without them I don’t think we would be able to walk.

So having left Whistler on Fiday 10th August, the route we chose on the way up took us through Lillooet, Vanderhoof, Prince George and White Horse. The scenery was amazing and the number of bears on the side of the road made us wonder if we should be carrying some kind of weapon, or at least bear spray! After 4 nights of nervous camping we finally crossed the border into Alaska on Tuesday 14th Aug. This moment had been a long time coming, a huge milestone, we shook hands and sat down under the sign “Welcome to Alaska”. Despite seeing barely a single car for the last 4 days, as we took a moment to reflect on how far we had come a minibus full of Germans pulled up to ruin our photo. Typical, and with a chuckle, Pete turned to me and said “let’s get out of here”.