Friday, July 25, 2008

The Dempster Day 4 - July 17, 2008

Start: Engineer Creek Campground
Finish: Klondike River Lodge / Dempster Mile 0
Distance: 194kms
Riding Time: 12 hours

I'd never ridden 194kms before, let alone over two passes on a gravel road, and with fatigued legs and 50 pounds of gear in tow. But, hey, I had nothing else planned for the day, so I gave it a shot.

The ascents were not as severe as those I covered on day 3 and the road was like pavement in some areas. I stopped to take a picture at the top of the first pass (which was called Windy Pass, though it was not as windy as the pass I had encountered on day 2). A swiss couple, Morlene and Philip, offered me coffee. They recently quit their jobs and sold their house to travel for a year. Sounded like a fun time.

I passed the 100km to go mark and recall thinking 'woohoo, only 100km to go'. I felt good, but I was looking forward to the prospect of finishing the Dempster in 4 days, which was becoming increasingly possible by the pedal stroke. My recognition of the milestone was more a function of that enthusiasm than a countdown.

My mental playlist for the day was comprised exclusively of the Ghostbusters theme song. That song packs a surprising amount of punch, even after 12 hours on repeat. I regard endurance cycling as therapeutic and interpreted the simplification of my mental playlist as an indication that my treatment was complete.

The scenery was unreal. The Tombstone Campground was nice enough to make me consider extending my trip so that I could spend a night there, but there were some particularly sinister looking clouds approaching from the south and I wasn't prepared to test my luck on a muddy road and meager food rations.

I decided to lay the hammer down and discovered that, given enough time and fatigue, 'forever pace' and 'hammer pace' merge. I carried on at the same pace. I ran out of water and was helped out by a nice couple from Kamloops, Cliff and Jennifer. At the 6km to go mark, the gravel turned to pavement. Sweet Jesus that felt nice. I actually felt emotional when my tires rolled on to the pavement.
I checked in at the first hotel I came to and was told that they were full and that the restaurant had closed five minutes ago. My utter disappointment and desperation must have shown as the hotel receptionist proceeded to show me the tuna sandwiches that were for sale in the cooler and to ask me if I would consider an overflow bunk room. I didn't know what that was, but it sounded like it was inside, so I jumped at the opportunity. I now have a better sense for how people live at the work camps near Fort McMurray.

I went to the lounge for a celebratory beer. There was a man in the corner finishing a 'cigarette' with some friends. They invited me over and I passively participated in the local banter until I was ready to crash.

It poured rain all night and I was glad that I had chosen to finish it off today. Cycling the Dempster in the rain would not be fun.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congrats Tori, you made it! I suspected you would (partly because I know you and partly because of your "the dempster (abridged)" post of a week ago)!

July 25, 2008 at 3:33:00 PM MDT  
Blogger Emma said...

Tori, I'm super impressed, not just by you, (which, of course, I am) but with the kindness and friendliness of all the people you encountered. Kindness of strangers indeed! Wow. Heartening.

July 29, 2008 at 4:17:00 AM MDT  
Blogger Sarah Marchildon said...

You are my newest non-sexual crush!

July 29, 2008 at 4:04:00 PM MDT  
Blogger Eric said...


Great meeting you this past weekend! Thanks for all the support of the team. I have read your Dempster journal and it brings back fantastic memories of hiking in the Tombstones. When you have a chance I would love to get the pictures you took from the weekend.
Keep the rubber side down

July 29, 2008 at 7:03:00 PM MDT  
Blogger tori said...

hoops - i think you've got more faith in me than i do sometimes!

emma - one of the greatest rewards from trips like this is renewing your faith in humanity. it seems the farther you get from metropolitan centres, the nicer people are to eachother.

sarah - awe, that's so sweet. i'm totally flattered, in a non-sexual sort of way.

eric - i'm hoping to get pics up this weekend. at first glance, i must say that i was not able to capture the beauty of the landscape through my camera lens. i guess it's just one of those things that must be experienced in person - but you'd know all about that.

July 31, 2008 at 1:08:00 PM MDT  

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