Saturday, September 24, 2005

 

Ride, Eat, Sleep - Repeat!


The past few weeks in the saddle since leaving Whitehorse have been full of ups and downs—literally and figuratively. The persistently wet, windy weather and continuously cooling temperatures alone have made the past few weeks a challenge, but coupled with the rough roads, mountainous terrain and lack of human interaction; at times it’s been difficult to stay motivated. For the most part the roads were lonesome and long but there were times when they were full of company. Never the less, achieving each days mileage objective became a reoccurring ritual with the same goal being an everyday undertaking: cover at least fifty miles a day, or more depending on the weather (particularly the blasted wind!), pack weight, and how good I felt, in order to cover the necessary ground to make it far enough south before the snow catches up with me. Every day and every evening started and ended similarly, just in a different place and setting, usually with different weather, and just a little bit closer to achieving my goal. After 3—almost 4—months on tour, either out of practice or boredom, I have developed a routine that I can do almost in my sleep, or half-asleep as is often the case.

Each morning around 7 a.m. after waking up and while still inside the shelter, I set to work rolling up the sleeping bag, bivy sack and Thermarest. After each piece of the sleeping gear is properly stowed I then break down the tent. Next, I go out and retrieved the bear bags from their place high up in a far away tree, and after that I make and eat breakfast as well as lay out food for the days ride. Then, once breakfast is done and my coffee is finished, I wash out my pot, spoon, coffee cup a and begin packing the bike. After all of my chores are done and the bike is completely packed I make certain that the campfire is completely extinguished by dowsing it with water and piling rocks atop the remaining coals. After everything is back on the bike the last thing to pack away is the shot gun. I unload it, lock it, break it down and pack it onto the bike. Then, after a quick policing of the area to make sure that I am not leaving anything behind, I set off to achieve the day’s mileage objective and cover as much unfamiliar territory as I can before finding a new place to sleep. This procedure takes about 3 hours—or a bit longer if the weather is crappy or I’m still feeling groggy. Each morning I try and see how efficient I can be by finding faster ways to get each job done and have more time to relax before chipping away at the day’s miles.

The same regularity applies to the ride as well. After at least two and half hours of riding I’ll break for lunch and sit about an hour. I usually try and find an overlook or somewhere scenic to break but sometimes, particularly when the weather isn’t particularly pleasant, I’m forced to pull over where ever I can to eat. Food is basically my fuel and it’s important to keep my tank topped-off or as close to full as possible. I eat frequently while riding as well. Depending on what the day has in store you (i.e.: a strong head wind, extra heavy pack-weight, hours of long, sustained climbing, etc.) the risk of “bonking” or running out of energy is always something that demands attention. I have found that if you ignore your stomach pangs and try to keep on pushing on, you’ll eventually hit the wall, and after you hit the wall it takes a lot more food to recover and keep going than if you continually feed yourself and take at least one long break to eat a bunch of food, drink water, and stretch your muscles. It’s comparable to keeping a cabin warm by heating it by fire in a wood stove. If you ignore the fire and let it get too low the cabin gets colder and colder, and makes it harder to heat up than if you keep adding wood to the fire and regulate the temperature. (Not to mention it’s a lot harder to start a new fire than to keep an existing fire going!) After the break is over and I am properly refreshed, it’s back on the road.

The second part of the days ride, usually, is a lot easier to handle than the first. With more miles under my belt than before lunch, my legs are more limber and the bike’s weight feels more familiar. I can deal with weather a lot better with more miles accounted for too. With at least fifty miles in, I start to look for a place to stay for the night, and can usually find a place to camp by 6 p.m. If I’m riding close to a creek or through a river valley or a beside a berry patch then I’ll keep on riding until I can find a place that I’m less likely to encounter a bear. Weather is also a factor when it comes to finding a place to camp. If it’s raining hard and it makes no sense to stop just to get the sleeping gear inside my dry bag wet, then I’ll keep riding until I can find a drier spot—an over hang or thick grove of trees—to pitch my tent and establish camp. Sometimes it means riding well into the night and way past my daily mileage objective, which makes it a lot harder to set up camp, string up my food, gather fire wood and cook.

Once I find a suitable place to sleep for the night, its right to work. I unpack, assemble and load the shotgun, get the camp-cord and set off to find a tree high enough to tie up my food for the evening. After I get the rope set and ready for the night, I build a fire pit and gather enough kindling and fire wood for a warm fire. Once the pit is built and the fire is ready for flame, I unpack my sleeping gear and pitch the tent. Next I grab the stove, cooking pot and food bag and set-off, far away from where I’ll sleep, to cook dinner. The same procedure with dinner follows as with breakfast, except that after I finish eating I leave dishes dirty and wash them in the morning before making breakfast. It’s a way to keep odors down—again to keep bears from wondering too close or into camp—and also it conserves water to use to help ensure that the fire is out before leaving in the morning. Once I am fed and everything that carries an odor is packed into the bear bags, I make my way to the tree where I have strung the rope up, well over 100 meters away, and hope that everything goes up without a snag. If everything goes well and I can pull the bags up, then I head back to camp to enjoy the fire before falling to sleep. If things don’t go well and there is a snag then I try and untangle the mess way up in the air from down on the ground, in the dark, or deal with finding a new tree to run the food up in, also in the dark. Either way is a pain in the ass, but eventually I get the job done and usually with enough time to enjoy the fire before heading off to bed and get rested up for the next days ride.

In the morning I awake and repeat the process all over again! This way of touring is fun and exciting but also a lot of work. Now that the daylight is dwindling, every second counts. If I decide to sleep in because it’s still raining, or if it’s a particularly cold morning and my sleeping bag still feels oh so toasty and warm, then that means it will be that much more difficult to find a place camp for the evening or I won’t be able to stay on schedule and cover the necessary amount of miles that I need to cover in order to reach my goal. It’s kinda like being a part of a pit crew at the Indianapolis 500; the faster the crew can get the car back in the race by doing there part as quickly and proficiently as possible, the better chance the team has of winning the race. Same follows with touring this late into the season; the faster I can get all of the tasks handled and things secured, the more time that I have to explore the surrounding area, enjoy the camp fire, read, relax, etc. And hey, I’m all alone out here! Sometimes it’s the only way to keep the monotony of these tasks entertaining!



 

Smithers, British Columbia



After almost three weeks since the last update I finally made it to Smithers! I rolled into to town late Thursday evening and then spent all day Friday recovering from the very WILD ride at Tom Buri's home here in Smithers. There are a lot of things for me to work on while I am here. I will update the site before leaving town for Prince George, Jasper, Banff, and then back down into the states. Alrighty-then, please stay tuned and I will update the site as quickly as I can type!



Monday, September 19, 2005

 

A Map and a Quick Update


Jason has been riding through some very isolated places and hasn't been able to access the internet to post updates.

I got a voicemail from him a few days ago that said he's gotten some pictures of bears (to whet your appetite for what's coming up).

The map to the left shows his route up until his last update in Whitehorse -- orange shows cycling and the blue lines are ferry rides. If you click on the map (and, by the way, on most of the pictures Jason posts) you can see a bigger version...