I can now check the Dempster off my bucket list, but the adventure continues. After hitching back to Dawson City, I hung out with Linda and Peycho for a couple of days to regroup before starting another segment of the ride.
I got lucky. For the first time, Dawson City had a day for tourists to go pan for gold just like the ole gold rush days (1896-1899). Bonanza! On my third pan, I struck it rich. I found one of the biggest nuggets of the day. Unfortunately, my plans to retire early were dashed when my nugget tipped the scales at only $75. Of course that would only get me through the first year.
Linda and I stayed under the stars with Peycho the first two nights then decided we needed a bit of pampering, so we headed to the hostel across the Yukon River.
Morning coffee heated on the wood stove.
The mighty Yukon!
Free ferry service back and forth between the town and hostel 24 hours a day. Across this ferry is also were the Top of the World Highway also begins.
From Dawson I rode straight uphill to the Top-of-the-World Highway. It’s a 66 mile ride to the most northern boarder between Canada and the US. I was lucky to have the sun on my back the entire day. A couple days after I finished this pass, I met a woman in the campground who asked if I was the woman who got chased by a grizzly riding this pass. What? Are you kidding me? Turns out an RV came along just in time and saved the day. So, ya, shit does happen!
Chicken proved to be a little slice of heaven, or rather a big slice. I indulged in a few slices of wood-oven baked pizza, blueberry pie with ice-cream, a huge chocolate chip cookie plus an enormous cinnamon roll and to top it all off, a beer on tap. Sick! And, then to help burn if off, I did a little pole dance in the Chicken Salon. An Aussie hanging out asked if I wanted to “blow my panties up” in this little contraption made and patented in Chicken. The remaining panties are then hung from the ceiling of the bar along with hundreds of other obscure items. I told him that I’d love to, but then I’d have to come back and retrieve them in the morning as they were my last clean pair. In the end, I decided against it.
Best Little saloon in Alaska!
Linda and I rode together to Tok where we hung out for two nights in the Arctic Tent before continuing the journey. Josh, our dorm mate from Florida treated us to a royal b-b-que. Delicious!
Our friend Josh with a sweet southern drawl.
The ride goes on! I’ll keep you updated as temperatures plummet at night here in Alaska and Canada.
Final destination Haines, Alaska then on the Alaska Marine Highway ferry to Bellingham- a five day, four night ride through the inside passage. A good way to reflect and decompress before hitting the ground running once again.
During the entire ride on the Cassiar and also heading west on the Alaska Highway from Lake Watson to Whitehorse, I kept asking all the bikers that I’d come across riding south if there were any bikers heading north. All of them told me there is a Canadian about two days ahead and a “crazy” Bulgarian about a day ahead. I knew that I probably wouldn’t catch up with the Canadian, and I wasn’t sure that I wanted to catch up with the Bulgarian.
As I approached the visitor center in Dawson, a bike overly loaded was leaning against the building. I saw it and instantly knew who it belonged to. I went in and walked straight over to the man hunched over his phone checking messages. Are you the Bulgarian bike rider, I asked. He seemed confused but said, “Yes.” The rest, you will see, is history!
Me, Rene and Peycho heading out of Dawson on a rainy day.
Another biker, Rene from Germany, rolled up to the visitor center as well but he was only going to the junction to the Dempster then heading south. We decided to ride together and stay the first night in the abandoned house- protected from the rain- and start the Dempster the following day. And so begins the Adventure…
So, the boys rode with a rack of beer between them and managed to find a fifth of unopened Vodka in the abandoned house. What luck! That, coupled with a couple grams of pot (legal in the Yukon) and a pack of cigarettes “we” were good to go! Of course all of that was polished off before we even began the ride the next day.
During the ride to the junction, it was obvious that I was a much faster rider – not because I’m all that but because Mr. Bulgaria was virtually carrying his house. After a couple of hours of riding together, we decided to split up and then meet back up at the end of the day to camp. And so this was the basically pattern. I did have to wild camp one night on my own. I rode from 10am to 10pm that day. If a griz was going to maul me to death, I wanted to be in REM sleep.
Designated camp grounds usually have an enclosed space with a wood stove.
Eagle Plains and beyond…
For virtually my entire ride, everyone told me that I’d better hurry because “Winter is coming!” You’ve got to be kidding me, I thought. It’s only mid-August for Gods sake. Now I know that when people in the know tell you what’s going on, believe them!
I rode into Eagle Plains on the first full day of rain. Luckily, the amazing woman in charge of the Highway on this section of the Dempster allowed us to sleep in the garage under shelter. From there on out, because of the harsh conditions, Peycho and I rode together. We holed up in another abandoned house on a lake for almost a full day waiting for the rain to stop. As it turns out, this “crazy” Bulgarian is indeed different, but in a very eccentric and endearing way. He follows his own rules and lives on the fringe without hurting anyone. I learned more about the history and politics of the Serbian people and their surrounding neighbors than I’d even imagined on this trip. Who knew that I’d be downloading a book about the Ottoman Empire on this trip!
We finally made it to Inuvik. The Mackenzie ferry stopped running because of high winds. Luckily, they made an emergency run about two hours after we got there so we were lucky to jump aboard and make it to the other side to continue the ride to the end.
Dang, because of snow, mud and freezing rain, we couldn’t ride to Tuktoyakuk. So, we did the next best thing and hitched a ride. I also met up with my friend Linda from Seattle who was also in Inuvik and the three of us got a ride together with the same family.
Back to Dawson
All three of us were lucky to hitch a ride back to Dawson the following day…two loaded bikes plus three people PLUS all of their stuff! Unbelievable. It took us a full day to get back to Eagle Plains – the half way point. It was now snowing and the roads were a foot of slippery mud. A semi jackknifed closing the north bound route and there was a critical accident that briefly closed the south bound traffic in the morning. A huge group of travelers were now stuck in Eagle Plains and who knew for how long! Folks cooked together outside, people shared their food with us and invited us for beers, heck- the family even offered Linda and I the extra bed- AND, we shamelessly took it! It was a true moment of community and solidarity that none of us will soon forget!
And, finally, the road was opened south and we all made it back to Dawson city safe and sound.
The Dempster was epic! There are other stories that I would love to share with you over a glass of wine or a cold beer or just a good cup of strong coffee, but until then the journey continues. Each segment is equally magical and challenging and pushes me to a new normal. Stay tuned for the next installment as soon as I get back into WiFi land. I can’t wait to tell you what happens next!
Thanks for participating in my journey from afar. It’s comforting knowing friends and family are out there rooting for me!
I left Prince Rupert the moment the sun came out and rode 95miles to Terrace. Suddenly, my whole mind-set changed as I rode through gorgeous scenery on a good road with a wide shoulder and few cars. This is what’s it’s all about I thought as I left the rain behind, at least for a day.
In Terrace I had a Warmshowers host who said that they would be on vacation but she told me to find the hidden key and stay as long as I’d like! Crazy, right! This was a life saver for me. I washed clothes, cooked food, slept late and escaped two days of lightening and thunder storms. But that’s just the start…at the same time, I found out from two Seattle friends that there had been three murders (an Aussie and US couple and a man from Dease Lake – a town I would ride through in 3 days) and two missing youth on the exact same highway that I was about to start riding up the next day!
Everyone told me that this has never before happened in British Columbia. All of a sudden the bear threat slide down a notch and serial killer rose to first place. No worries, I registered with the police then took off on a side route to Nass Camp that would link up to Highway 37 – the Cassiar Highway.
Another fantastic ride! The plan was to camp here and then ride Cranberry Junction to 37 the next day. The problem is that the weather begins to change and huge rain clouds move in. The campground looks completely destroyed from the previous two nights of windstorms and there is no one around. To further freak me out, I hear from locals that Cranberry Junction, which is just an old logging road, is impassible by car because of all the fallen trees and branches and if I ride, I’ll be the only one there. Oh hell no! In my head, this is where the killer has escaped to. Now, I’m super creeped out and just want to be back in that warm, safe, cozy Warmshowers house back in Terrace.
Just when I start to panic, a single woman drives up with her dog in a small car and a canoe and a huge storage rack on top of the car. She comes over and says she’s also creeped out. I tell her we have a warm house in Terrace if we can rig my bike on top of her car. Just then a fellow drives up and the three of us go to work to make this happen. Success! We finally make it back at 10:30 pm exhausted!
Now, word on the street is that the two missing teens are actually the killers! There are lots of rumors and speculation, but I say screw it and head out anyway. I have to get north and the clock is ticking.
As soon as I start riding again my fears almost completely evaporate. Over the next seven days I bike everyday anywhere from 5 to 7 hours a day ( which translates to 50-70 or so miles a day give or take) completely by myself with the occasional passing car. I try to camp around people but the days are mine!
Until about day four on the Cassiar, I had not run into a single bike tourer and then I started to see one or two people a day heading south. So far, six weeks into my trip, I still haven’t found a single person riding north. I guess the universe wants me to do this along. We’ll see!
Biker from France with his DIY bear horn
German family cycling from Whitehorse to Vancover.
A French couple driving the America’s in their 1948 Citroen.
A German cycling Alaska to Argentina.
A Brazilian couple (of Chinese descent) riding up from Brazil.
Steve from New Zealand who rode down the Dempster.
Adam from England riding Alaska to Argentina after a year on the rode. I follow him on Instagram. When he rode up to me I said, “Hi Adam!” I think he was a bit surprised, as was I!
The Scot on the road for two years said this has been the most remote and isolated part of his trip.
People and connections
At the end of the day, it’s the people you meet that really make the trip. We are wired for connection and that becomes clear when you are on your own. Someone everyday has helped me out, motivated me or inspired me with their kindness. In fact, that’s the only reason that I am here. Everyone has been concerned for my safety if not because of murders on the loose or threatening bears then just plain old incessant rain. It really does take a village.
This nice man (overalls) gave me a lift to my campsite after a long days ride. I was too lazy to ride the final 20 miles after already putting in 70 miles.
These two supervised the fixing of my first flat tire on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere.
The French family I camped with one night. We had so much fun!
The Alaska Highway
And so, the killers escaped to Manitoba, and I made it to Watson Lake and the Alaska Highway.
I’m now in Whitehorse gearing up for the second and more remote part of my trip, the 450 mile Dempster Highway. Heading up to Dawson City tomorrow where I will get my head around this ride before taking off either alone or accompanied by another biker on the 10th of August.
En Fin (Finally)
I have been so hungry at times that roadkill starts to look good. I’ve been so sweaty and stinky that I couldn’t sleep because of my own stench. I have had whole conversations with myself out loud in Spanish with just the bears as my witness, and I’ve cried for miles on end for what might have been but never was. And yet, I wouldn’t trade a single moment of this glorious ride for all the gold in Dawson City. I call this “cycle therapy.”
I spent eight days on the gorgeous island of Haida Gwaii and all but one was rainy. One day it poured for about 12 hours straight. I lost it! I wanted to go home. I told myself as soon as it lightens up I’ll take that road everyone talks about then I’ll call it a rap. Of course, at the end of your rope, just as you’re completely losing your shit, is where the magic begins! At least that’s how it works for me.
A nice lady invited me to stay in her studio, a Cuban guy sailing from Alaska with a French family invited me to coffee and surprised me with a few chocolate bars. How did he know that I love chocolate! I went to a community bike fix program started by a teacher and Warmshowers host. I learned a ton about Haida culture and customs. I leaned that entertainment on a Friday night entails going around to the various bonfire parties. If they don’t know who you are, they ask who your mother is since it’s a matriarchal society.
By the eighth day the sun came out and I didn’t want to leave. Part of the reason I didn’t want to leave is because the “vacation ” part of my trip would be over when I left the island. Now the games will begin!
I took the seven hour ferry ride back to Prince Rupert last night which got me into town at 6am. Tomorrow there is sun in the forecast, so I’ll leave. There is rain and thunder predicted the rest of the week.
On this next leg of the trip, I’ll still be in British Columbia. In fact B.C. is so big that you can fit California, Washington, Oregon and a little bit of New England inside her massive boarders. It’s as wide as Texas with only two highways heading north. I’ll be on the Cassier Highway otherwise known as “Bear Ally.” Not to worry, I know exactly what to do if I see a bear, scream and run!!
She-RA jumped ship…now I have the mighty eagle feather to protect me!
I’ll be following the Skeena River up from Pr. Rupert the first day. Apparently, it’s the longest un-dammed river in North America. Who knew? I imagine it will be about two weeks until I’m able to post again. By then I should be in Whitehorse.
Feel free to keep sending good vibes…I receive the positive energy even without WiFi.
My ride got off to a great start. I left Bremerton on a sunny Wednesday morning accompanied by two friends (one whom I’ve known since kindergarten -Mark King) and a send off committee of three (a life-long friend, Wendy Dreaney and my sister and niece), as Wendy said, “I feel like we need a marching band.” Perhaps if I make it back!
Yes, the first day was sunny. The second day was a torrential downpour. We got soaked and had to re-group under shelter half way through the day. I’m happy to report that this has been the only day of riding in the rain for two weeks, although I’ve had nights of rain – ugh!
Apart from camping, I’ve been enjoying “Warmshowers.” What the heck is Warmshowers you ask? Well, it’s a brilliant network of social exchange for bikers. I send a request through a legitimate on-line platform and fellow bikers invite me to stay with them if they are available. It’s a fantastic way to meet like-minded people and get the local scoop on politics, economy, industry and where to go and what to see. They also go above and beyond to offer a warm meal and a breakfast to send you on your way. Here are some of the people I’ve stayed with and homes I’ve been in so far.
I’ve also had some interesting camping situations…
First Nation People and culture
The First Nations people and culture has been fascinating. One of my favorite places so far is the island community of Alert Bay. I was able to talk with several Namgist people and learn a bit about their history. I also stayed with a Namgist family and had dinner with them. Ya, we broke bread – Italian bread with spaghetti!
Friends Along the from Way
I’ve met loads of very friendly people. Lots of RV travelers from all over the world have given me their cell numbers in case I run into problems. The southern part of Vancover Island is very populated but once you get beyond Campbell River in the north amenities are few and far between. My most memorable encounter was with a kayaker namer Annan who I met at the ferry terminal in Port Hardy. I went to the terminal the night before the 15 hour boat trip to Prince Rupert to ask if I could just camp there. Annan came ashore after two weeks of paddling to ask the same question. After not running into any cyclist the entire two weeks, I was super excited to meet Annan and exchange stories with this brave ocean going explorer. As you can see, we tented side by side – it was the only stretch of flat we could find! My tent is the one with all the duct tape.
I spent two nights camping in P.R. Before jumping another ferry to Haida Gwaii, formally called Queen Charlotte Islands. More on this to come.
So far so good…I’m mentally preparing for the ride up north, the great distances between towns and the animals I’ll meet along the way!
If anyone wants to say hi you can send a greeting on WhatsApp at 206-402-2599 or text me a message at my Canada number that’s only for texting at 778-674-2886. It’s nice to hear from people as I’m days on end by myself. You can also see some photos at Dee LaFountaine on instagram if You’re interested. Thanks for your support. It’s always easier knowing people I know and love are out there!
Please ignore this post if you already read it. I’m having technical difficulties!
I’m excited to finally dust off this old blog, as well as my bike, in anticipation of a new adventure. I’ll be leaving Bremerton, Washington on my bike June 26th and making my way North towards the Arctic Ocean.
I saw the route in a youtube video a couple years ago and said to myself, “I’d never do that.” But then I read a couple blogs of other people who had done it and said, “Heck, why not?” As it turns out, my work site is closing for the summer, so I figured this ride was meant to be.
I invite you to join me as I bike to the northern tip of Vancover Island, take the ferry to Prince Rupert, cross over to Haida Gwaii (formally Queen Charlotte Island), then up through British Colombia, the Yukon and NW Territories to the Beaufort Sea (part of the Arctic Ocean).
Yes, I know. There are will animals out there. Did you know that Vancover Island has the biggest population of cougars in North America and maybe even the world! Plus, a huge black bear population. Who know? I was freaking out about the Yukon. I didn’t know I had to freak out about Vancover Island. Not to worry…I have bear spray (well, not yet) and I will hang my food (after I buy some rope). Seriously, I got this…kind of. That said, if anyone out there has a bear canister they can lend me for the summer that would be cool. My friend, Matt Clark, who is also a biker, sent me a link just yesterday of a biker who was chased by a grizzly on the Yukon Highway, the exact same highway that I will be on. Thankfully, that bear will be gone by the time I get there!
How long will this take me you ask? I have until mid-September until work starts, but, it could start snowing up north by mid-August. So, my plan is to finish by the first of Sept. fly back to Vancover and then spend a couple weeks of “vacation” just coasting back to Seattle and enjoying a leisure return. Years ago I biked from Banff to Jasper in the Canadian Rockies. It was my first self-supported solo ride. I wasn’t prepared at all (but had a blast just the same). I ran into bears at every turn and snow over the pass. Of course now those are my best stories!
I hope to interview First Nations people along my route. If there is anything you would like to know – let me know! If you have any questions about this ride or anything else – let me know. I know what’s in my head, and I assumed everyone else has the same information. I’ve been alerted to the fact that that’s not true, so what you ask everyone else may also want to know.
Last but not least…my Crownhill grade school buddy, Mark King, (and his brother-in-law) are joining me for the first two days of the ride out of Bremerton. First day Port Townsend second day Port Angeles. So happy to have such a loving community send-off! We Crownhill/Bremerton High folks stick together! From there I take the ferry to Victoria. If anyone else is heading north this summer and would like to meet up that would be AWESOME! Let me know. My WhatsApp number is 206-402-2599 (which is different from my regular cell number which I won’t be using). See you on the road!!!