Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Dempster Day 1 - July 14, 2008

Start: Inuvik
End: Fort McPherson
Distance: 186 kilometres
Time: around 10 hours

The dogs at the mushers lodge were stirred by something and started barking at 5:00am, biving me an earlier start than I'd planned. By 5:30am I was on the road. Not knowing what the roads would be like or what kind of speed I could maintain, I welcomed the early start.

It was foggy and cool, bordering on cold. I quickly realized that I had left my gloves at home. I winced at the thought of how my hands would feel after hanging on to my handle bars for the next 736kms of gravel road.

Almost two hours passed before I saw a car. After that, they were still sparse - maybe 45 minutes between cars, on average. The loose gravel on the road had arranged itself into between 0 and 4 tracks of variable riding quality, separated by thick ridges of gravel. The light traffic meant that I could spend most of my riding time in the middle of the road, where the best tracks could generally be found. From time to time, I'd have to make room for a vehicle, which involved skidding through a ridge or two of gravel. It didn't take long to get pretty good at this.

I was banging out the kilometres so fast that I wondered if my bike computer was accurate. At one point, it occurred to me that, at this pace, I could probably ride the whole Dempster highway in four days - if the good weather held. This would enable me to carry less supplies - which would mean travelling lighter and faster. It would also mean that I might get away with camping only one night. I enjoy camping, but I was nervous about the bears. You won't find 'outdoors skills' on my resume, and I'm not convinced that badass excell skills are going to be particularly helpful in the event of a bear encounter.

VLOOKUP(bear_encounter,tori's_intuition,likely_reaction)=cry

The landscape was predominantly trees along the road that took me south to the Mackenzie River ferry crossing, near Tsiigehtchic (pronounced just like it looks), which is a Gwich'in community of about 190. One of the crew on the ferry offered me coffee, which was a real treat.

Pit stops were quick on account of mosquitos that were very quick to pick up my trail. Although I had brought my ipod in anticipation of having difficulty dealing with the solitude, I found that it was unnecessary. My brain generated its own meditative playlist of music, memories, musings, and observations.

...drive on, don't mean nothin'
...holy crap, was that a fox?
...my children love me but they don't understand
...flashback of listening to the fox and the hound with my sister
....and I got a woman who knows her man
...car!
...drive on, don't mean nothin', drive on

I arrived in Fort McPherson (pop. 900) earlier than I'd expected and lined up a hotel room. There's only one hotel in town and it appears that they fully understand the price elasticity of consumer demand for hotel rooms at this location on the highway - where there are no alternatives for 180 kms in either direction.

The restaurant was closed, so I rushed to the grocery store to grab some dinner and stock up for the rest of the journey down the Dempster. No more groceries for another 550kms. I treated myself to some expensive nectarines. My suspicion that this was somewhat of a luxury item in these parts was confirmed when the cashier held the bag up and asked "pears?"

I saw another rider. He wasn't particularly chatty, but I determined that he was i) from Germany, ii) moving in the same direction, and iii) taken two days to get to this piont.

2 Comments:

Blogger Sarah said...

Sounds absolutely amazing. And that's just one day! Looking forward to hearing about the rest of the trip. Will you post pictures too? I'd love to do some bike touring at some point..

July 24, 2008 at 11:46:00 AM MDT  
Blogger Hoop said...

Awesome vlookup formula Tori... Very cool first day.

July 25, 2008 at 8:33:00 AM MDT  

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