Just hopped onto a ferry from Haines, Alaska down
the -sunny!- Inside Passage to Prince Rupert, BC. The only way now
is 'Vorsprung durch Suedwaertsfahren, Baby' as nobody ever said
in the Audi commercial. West is no longer best.
I briefly need to tell you what I can see at this
exact moment in time, out of the window of the MV Taku- the Alaska
Marine Highway ferry- cruising along at a steady 17 knots just south
of Juneau, Alaska. Towering snow capped peaks, harsh blue sky, chilled
emerald water, razor sharp sun burning holes in my head; Orca whales
racing the boat....
So, I should be in Vancouver by mid July and in
Mexico by mid-August, or earlier if the nasty Winnabagles don't
leave me alone. Following is my report covering Montreal, Quebec
to Dawson City, Yukon Territory (both in Canada). Alaska will follow
in the next episode....
Up the Revolution
Up the Revolution, Lenin Rules OK, the Proletariat will crush the
Bourgeoisie, Keep the Red Flag flying etc etc etc.... Well, I was
wanting to increase the readership; I'm sure I've got at least one
person at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, USA (as opposed
to Langley in the Berkshire Massif, England...) who now also has
to read my ramblings.... You are Welcome sirey doody!
Since New York the wife has travelled 13,000 km
(or 8,000 miles for our friends from Virginia) - including Alaska-
and there were 3 weeks between the wife's last 2 services, the latest
one even involved new brake fluid and fork oil. She was so excited,
as indeed I was.
Anyway, I have been driving far too fast - not in
absolute terms, but with regard to distances covered per week. However,
when you are driving, the nasty mosquitoes -some the size of small
domestic birds- can't get you (they are firmly splattered across
the front of the wife instead) and the electric heated vest works
overtime and keeps me lovely and warm. It has been quite cold and
I have worked out that my riding clothes are no longer waterproof
(a fact I never had cause to examine in Africa). Furthermore, snow
storms (only brief ones, mind) and motorcycle riding are not as
compatible as my throat and a nice can of ice cold Windhoek lager.
When reading this report and any abuse certain members
of society may or may not receive, one should realise that these
are my personal opinions. I came across many different groups of
people, some of whom are (As with everything, the exception proves
Canadians: So far, a great group
of people... friendly, hospitable, interested and interesting.
BMW riders: I have stayed with
several people from the BMW Motorcyclists of America group. All,
(except one... see below) were absolutely wonderful in their friendship
and hospitality. I owe a lot of people a lot of favours. Maybe,
one day, I'll be able to pay you back. Thanks!!!
The exception: the first one in
Montreal, who took a fancy to me...
Unfortunately for him, I do NOT like men in general
and particularly not aging, ugly half-Germans. Fortunately for him,
he didn't have the opportunity to find out what it would have been
like to be the recipient of a more forceful example of my displeasure
with regard to his advances.
Harley riders: A strange bunch.
It is my (totally unfounded in empirical evidence) opinion that
people who ride Harleys, only do so because of... the lack of their
personality and/or size of certain parts of their anatomy. I used
to think these were cool bikes with a great sound.... but the more
I see - and I have seen a fair few - I shudder (or would be if I
were 'riding' one) as to how uncomfortable they are and generally
how prattish you look when hanging onto one. What's wrong with an
interesting personality and a good line of chat anyway?
Other motorcyclists: Most are very
pleasant and we all seem to form some sort of 2 wheeled brotherhood.
Winnabagle drivers (the fat/99% of them
variety): If you have never been to North America, you
probably don't know what I'm talking about... RVs (recreational
vehicles) are large 55 seater coach-size-tin-boxes-on-wheels (one
brand of which is Winnebago... hence 'Winnabagle'), normally towing
a trailer/car also, driven by large people local to this continent
(although the German subspecies has also been spotted). These people
use these monsters to travel on vacation.
You might be thinking that it would be great to
go on holiday with your extended family (as of course you could
fit 50 or so people), but NO.... you don't UNDERSTAND, these tanks
generally carry 2 (TWO) -admittedly 20 stone/150kg plus types- normally
older, dangerous, blind people on their "vacation".
The other day, one drove like an African bus driver
(in other words: he drove in my lane towards me), causing me to
swerve onto the hard shoulder. I sat on the hard should for a full
7 or 8 seconds showing him the "the bird". He was cheerfully
waving to me. Only at the last very last second did he recognise
my hand gesture and reciprocated. Remind me to carry some stones
in my tank bag, so I have something to throw at people like him.
I do try to remember that these creatures also carry guns and hence
cannot be abused too much!
While we are into abusing people:
A few days ago, on one single day I was asked on 3 different occasions,
whether I had really driven all the way from England. These people
were big, but the status of their transport remained unknown. Now,
what do you say? Do you point out the fact that there is a large
damp patch, known in the lingo of those in the know, as the 'North
Atlantic Ocean' separating Europe from North America or do you pretend
to be a confused Albanian and that you merely stuck a GB sticker
on the bike for a laugh? (It has indeed been reported in the past,
that I walk on water, but an entire ocean on a motorbike? Not even
I could do that! Where would you camp for the night? What about
Anyway, what of my route? You could even get an
atlas out and follow my progress on paper. Now that would be really
exciting wouldn't it?
After crossing the Canadian border, the drive to
Montreal reminded me of the Pas de Calais in northern France. Boring
as you like and everything in French. I must say, the French Canadian
accent would have your average Parisian turning in his or her grave
(assuming of course they were dead). Even my accent is better and
I speak French with a German accent!
Lake Superior was large and lake-like (you know
the sort... water etc) and had mosquitoes and particularly black
flies that did not know they were meant to stay away when they smell/come
into contact with insect repellent. I won’t describe the displeasure
encountered when snorting a mossie up your nostril. You should try
it some time.
Land of Living Skies
Imagine the flattest, straightest, most boring (although
I did see a JCB carrying a portable toilet), least interesting scenery
in the world.... Well it's called 'The Prairies' and I drove these
1000 miles from Kenora in Ontario to Calgary in Alberta across Manitoba
and Saskatewan in 2 days. Lonnggggg days. Saskatewan vehicles have
'Land of Living Skies' (reference to the huge bird migrations that
pass overhead) on their licence plates. That might well be true,
especially compared to what is below the horizon. I did spot a few
people who were probably related in more ways than one, and definitely
enjoyed waving at the sky: You know, passing birds, aircraft etc.
The stay in Banff was excellent (although it would
have helped being able to speak Japanese) and the drive through
the Rockies to Jasper was just 'ahhhh, superbbbbb'. Here I encountered
the above mentioned snow storm (ish). The new windscreen from Montreal
and the electric vest from Winnipeg have since truly proven their
When I wasn't staying with BMW people I camped out.
Paying silly money for a naff campsite isn't my scene (I would also
have had to communicate with my winnabagle mates...) and most of
the times the views are truly, awesomely (sic) better away from
these tarmac parking lots. So far, touch wood, I have only spotted
bears from a distance while driving. I hope not to be woken by one
The views were particularly good on the Cassiar-Stewart
Highway and there were more than a few clicks of dirt to get my
'The Sperminator is in town... to sort out
all your pregnancy problems...
' Honest guv', I heard this on the radio in luvely,
Whitehorse, Yukon (in many ways similarly 'luvely' to Swako - from
previous African adventures). I even spotted one local chappie lying
fast asleep (= comatosedly drunk) at midday in the crowded supermarket
car park. The ambulance was attending to him, but they seemed in
no hurry and he did have his own pillow. Why not, that's what I
say... Flat, not too dirty, no ants, mossies etc., fresh air, views
not too bad either, just be careful of the nasty cars that might
run over you....
I rode for a couple of days to Dawson City (also
in the Yukon Territory) with ‘Guy’, a just retired American
chappie on a Honda Goldwing. He insisted on telling me how much
he was worth ($1.8m), but, hey, he was camping and generally doing
stuff he didn't do before because he had been so busy earning $$$$.
A pleasant enough fellow, but frustratingly positive. So many inane
platitudes. Everything was 'wonderful'.... the views were wonderful,
the rain was wonderful, the potholes were wonderful, scratching
the wart on my left buttock was ... no only kidding.
Dawson City really was 'out there'. Something else.
An old town, made to look old, but in spite of my large Winnabagle
mates, it still possessed a very bohemian feel. Lots of (gold) miners,
who looked rough and like to DRINK! I spent 6 excellent (we can't
mention the w-word...) days checking the sights and sounds and meeting
the people - both local and out of town.
The Summer Solstice was superb. The sun had barely
set on one horizon, before it was rising on the other. A friend
from England asked me in an email about stars and northern lights.
No chance mate. It never gets dark at this time of year!
As I walked into the bar at the Westminster Hotel,
also known as the 'Pit', a man flew out of the other door and was
pinned down by another equally rough looking type -true wild west
saloon style- the barmaid doing her best to separate them. One was
the owner and the other the manager of the aforementioned establishment!
I discussed this event with another patron who informed
me that the owner was ‘English’. (Before I continue,
for those who haven't met me, I possess an English accent...) I
contributed that I had heard the gentleman (the owner - covered
in dust from his scuffle) was from the Isle of Skye, which is commonly
found in the suburb of England known as ‘Scotland’.
The patron ignored this observation and enlightened me with his
view that all Englishmen were ‘arrogant’ and ‘ignorant’.
Now there's a thought: Ignorant... This conversation went on for
about 5 minutes! He never actually asked me where I was from!
Top of the World Highway to Alaska was calling. I had to escape.