North: The KTM Summer of Adventure – 17: Stewart to Prince Rupert, BC

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Last night I snuggled into the coziness of the Bayview Hotel, which is part of the Ripley Creek Inn complex. A restored period piece sitting above the Bitter Creek Café, the Bayview Hotel is refreshingly authentic, comfortably homey and decidedly inexpensive, and the café below puts the weak offerings of Bell II’s cuisine to shame.

Fresh bread complemented by the creamiest Baba Ganoush I’ve ever sampled joined my table briefly. On Chef/Owner Debbie Kremzar’s menu, and mine, fresh oven baked salmon in a maple mustard grain reduction. A meal to linger and reflect over as the trip begins to trail off. There are themes emerging.

Not only those well-worn saws of the travelogue of grandiose scenery, warm people or great (and less so) accommodations, but less touched upon themes. History and its interconnectedness with the present in places like the Yukon, seems one. Heroes may be another.

Not heroes like the grandiose media entrepreneurs such as the world sweeping phenomena of Sir Ewan McBooreman. To hear various tourism and motorcycle industry representatives tell it, there was far more behind the curtain of that particular Oz the Great and Powerful than three men, three bikes and a couple of support vehicles. Not to diminish the efforts of the team behind A Long Way Round and A Long Way Down, their accomplishments are huge, but their preparation was great and their advantages were many. As a result they persevered though conditions many wouldn’t have. It will take a bit more time riding in the dirt before I exclude myself from the long list of the latter.

To me, the heroes are the ordinary people who have, at their own expense, and with no promise of payback, set out to see the world or capture their piece of it. Yesterday at the Junction of the 37 and 37A, we met up with a group of four Germans, riding the Pan-Americas highway from top to bottom. Their bikes drove home how spoilt I’ve become as a member of the “media”; an old model BMW GS, a Yamaha TDM, a MZ dirtbike – all topped high with gear and spare knobbies. These are intrepid people with a dream who prepared and persevered though the Dempster, saw Inuvit, and regarded it as the starting point for an adventure touching the North and South apexes of two continents.

They don’t know how much they’ve inspired me. Upon meeting them I was shy, tongue-tied and simply offered up a business card as an explanation of what I’m about. Then we rode onwards to Stewart, through scenery that threatened to wear out the word magnificent.

Back at the café, dessert was a chocolate panacotta that would devastate the palate of the most fiendish choc-o-holic, accompanied by a lingering glass of wine, and my developing a list of what would be needed for a more sweeping adventure. This trip’s scope has grown; it’s not just about seeing how far I can go on a stock Adventure bike with the most minimal preparation (the shopping list for gear was purchased the day before departure at MEC and Canada Tire), now it’s a dry run and a gateway to more intrepid undertakings. Or so I hope.

These thoughts stay with me the next morning, even as we bid Rob a hurried farewell at the junction as he’s heading northwards again, back to Alaska. Indeed I’m distracted enough that I carry on past “Cranberry” and the turn off to the Nisga’a Memorial Lava Fields and my cut off to Prince Rupert. That’s okay; instead, I ride on with Grant, fine with the company and not overly worried by the added distance.

The Junction of the 16 and the 37 a couple of weeks ago seemed a daunting invite to deserted northern highways – today it’s a place of stiff farewells, handshakes with new friends, exchanges of contact information and a parting of ways. Grant is in “I just want to be home mode” after five weeks on the GS Adventure. It’s so tempting to say, “But there is so much more to see!”

There’s always so much more to see. The world proffers constant temptations leading you onwards around the next corner, but those other loves of life, home, significant others, and friends, are the touchstone. The place you return to and share your adventures.

. . .

Here’s a measure of where I’ve been, in Terrace I can’t get over how busy the traffic is. The GPS sends me on the convoluted way through town to the 113 recently renamed the Nisga’a Memorial Highway.

The 113 is a sportbike’s territory of good pavements and convulsions of turns, and the 990 Adventure willingly demonstrates its road holding ability.

We live on an occasionally violent planet. In days, landscapes can change. We saw it in the Yukon as we rode across the bed of a not-so-ancient lake. Here in the Nisga’a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park (Anhluut’ukwsim Laxmihl Angwinga’asanskwhl Nisga’a) is further evidence; a desolate moonscape of rocks and boulders, the result of an eruption of the Tseax Cone c1750. The lava flows dammed the Nass River raising the water level 12m above the existing highway; resulting in the destruction of two villages and the loss of approximately 2000 lives.

Lichen clings to the boulders and the trees occasionally weave their roots between them; a lack of vegetation that drives home how recent this geological upheaval was. That brings to mind another theme, maybe the overriding one for travel – we are only capturing an instance in our minds. Come back again, and by the hand of man or nature it may all be different.

Pulling into “Rupert”, the locals are familiar enough with the place to drop the “Prince”, I realize that reflection and a 600km day in the Adventure’s saddle has gotten the better of me. I’ll be staying with a friend here for a few days, enough time for pick up shots, and then will start the final leg onwards via ferry to Port Hardy and then the bike drop off in Nanaimo.

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