Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Dempster Day 2 - July 15, 2008

Start: Fort McPherson
Finish: Eagle Plains
Distance: 181 km
Riding Time: 14.5 hours

I arrived at the Peel River ferry crossing, 11 kms from Fort McPherson, in time for the first ferry of the day (9:00am). I was the only one there and they made a special trip just for me. The crew was very friendly and seemed excited to see a cyclist. One took a picture of me with my bike and another chatted with me through the loud speaker that they use to communicate with cars. It was funny.

The road after the river was rolly, but gradually ascended. My skinny tires struggled with the loose gravel, convincing me that wider tires would be more suitable. Unfortunately, the nearest bike shop was 1,000 kms away. Not that it mattered, my bike frame wouldn't accommodate anything wider than 28mm.

...<i>At first I was afraid, I was petrified</i>...

I came upon some road construction, and was generously offered a ride to the end of the 15km construction zone by one of the workers. I declined. About 500m later, when I was pushing my bike up a steem incline into a head wind on what felt like beach sand, I sort of wished thought maybe I'd made the wrong decision. The track that I left behind me as my tires sunk into the inch or two of sand looked like soundwaves weaving in and out of each other. I pushed my bike for over an hour.

...<i>kept thinking I could never live without you by my side</i>...

One of my tricks to manage long distance rides is to say "I'll <take a break / eat / drink> in <5 kms / at the top of the hill>". My attempt to appropriately calibrate these road-riding rules of thumb to pedaling/pushing-up-a-steep-pass-on-a-gravel-road was not successful. I knew I would pay for that tomorrow.

...<i>It took all the strength I had not just to fall apart</i>...

The reward that came with the hills and wind was a notable improvement in the scenery. Notwithstanding the fact that thsese are two of a cyclists greatest challenges, the tradeoff was well worth it. After 850m of NET elevation gain and a lot of pushing my bike, I reached the NWT/Yukon border, which was at the top of Wright Pass. If I could have named it myself, I would have called it windy pass. Though I'm sure it is not cake walk to do it in the other direction, the advantage today was definitely with the northbound traveller.

...<i>I used to cry, and now I hold my head up high</i>...

The descent into the Yukon was slow on account of the loose ball-bearing-like gravel that coated the road. I recalculated my expected arrival time into Eagle Plains to take into account the slow progress moving up Wright Pass. It was now looking like a midnight arrival, rather than the 7:00pm that I'd hoped for.

...<i>Did you think I'd just crumble? Did you think I'd just down and die?</i>...

I pressed on and the quality of the road gradually improved, as did the scenery. Just as I forced the last few drops of water from my bottle, a swiss tourist named Reto rolled up behind me and asked if I needed anything. Yay! He filled both of my water bottles and I learned that he's here on a two month holiday and his girlfriend in Calgary in a few weeks. I ran across Reto a short while later, at the Arctic Circle and learned that he was heading to Eagle Plains as well. We agreed to enjoy a beer together later if I made it before closing. I celebrated my arrival at the Arctic Circle by pounding back a can of Coke that I'd been saving as some late-day-rocket-fuel. That high fructose corn syrup tastes so good when it hits your lips.

...<i>Oh no, not I. I will survive</i>...

The kitchen was closed by the time I rolled in to Eagle Plains (pop. 8, seriously!), and I had to raid my food stash for dinner, taking away the cushion I had on my food rations for the next two days. Given that there would be no services whatsoever for the next 370kms, this further invested me in a four day itinerary.

Fortunately, the lounge was still open, thanks to the time zone line I crossed at the Yukon border, enabling me to enjoy a beer in the company of my new friend, Reto. I know that beer isn't a recovery drink, but that frosty bottle sure felt nice on my tender palms. 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm impressed and amazed, almost beyond words.

July 24, 2008 at 4:27:00 PM MDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gloria Gaynor would be very proud Tori... She probably wasn't thinking about the Dempster highway when she wrote that song, but I suspect she would approve.

July 25, 2008 at 8:46:00 AM MDT  
Blogger tori said...

thanks ione.

chris, i was thinking more about the cake version than the gloria gaynor one - but i'll take whatever nods of approval that i can get.

July 31, 2008 at 1:12:00 PM MDT  

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