Cassier Highway Day 1
This was Monday, and it was a long day (for me), around 500 kms. I made it a third the way up the Cassier Highway and fortunately it was all good road. Here’s the start:
The highway is pretty much all tar, and the first half is excellent: no potholes or gravel, so I was able to make good time. There was no gas (from the commencement of the highway – above photo) for the next 243 kms. Only stopped for one break, then got to Bell II Crossing. This consists of a few buildings, accommodation, some (standard only) gas and diesel pumps, and a roadhouse. Very remote, and seemed to be staffed entirely by young girls. I wondered if the remoteness of the location gets to them after a while, but they seemed happy enough.
I have to admit being quite nervous about what the following day will bring in terms of the road conditions. I know the first half of the highway is good, but the second half can be changeable. Got talking to a fellow traveller who said she and her husband are in an RV and heading north tomorrow also. She said another RVer had just done the northern half in his RV – about 500 kms – and the road was so bad it took him two days. So it was with some trepidation that I set out the next day. First of all though, some photos of the day and the accommodation:
As I was taking the above photo, the owner of the RV poked his head out and said, “What kinda bike is that?” I told him it’s a BMW etc. He said, “French bike is it?” I corrected him on that, then remarked that it was good to hear a broad Aussie accent this far from home. We had a bit of a chin-wag, he and his brother had been down in southern Canada waiting for things up north to warm up a bit, and he reckoned it was colder down there than up here. They, like me, are headed to Alaska.
I had seen about five bears along the way, but couldn’t stop anywhere to get a photo, until this. Guess you’ll have to zoom in to see him more clearly(ish).
Cassier Highway Day 2
I planned to do around 500 kms today to make it to Watson Lake in the Yukon. Went into the roadhouse and had some french toast on wholewheat bread and coffee. Yum. Saddled up the yellow thing and the rest of my belongings, filled the tank almost to overflowing, and hit the road. I wanted to get an early start in case the conditions slowed me down at any stage.
Lots more wildlife today: I saw numerous bears, two elk, or maybe they were moose, a deer with a white arse, and a chipmunk. The chipmunk and the bears were the only ones that didn’t run when they saw me. The chipmunk just sat on the side of the road, staring into space. I don’t think it was dead, although maybe it died standing up, and rigor mortis had set in.
It was cold. I STILL have not set up the heated jacket. Serves me right for being lazy, but I’m tired at the end of the days and in the mornings just want to get going. Even with the heated grips and three layers plus jacket I was cold. Anyway, I shivered for a few miles, scanning for wildlife and grumpily musing about how there’s never a hot flash around when you need one. Then, up the road, some excitement: a mother bear and her two cubs. Just happened to be a pull out (!) …that’s what they call them…so pulled out the bike and also pulled out the camera. They were about 100 yards away, but you’ll need to do the zoom thing again because I sure wasn’t getting any closer.
After I got the photos, the next problem was how to get going again, because the bears were kind of in my way. I wasn’t going to mess with a mother and her two cubs. Nothing else for it but sit and wait, but they weren’t going anywhere. So I waited for another vehicle to come along, which it soon did, and ducked in behind them. The bears exited and we were all on our way.
I’m sure she knew I was there all that time, but I wasn’t taking any chances.
Went along some more, and the road got worse. I was going downhill at a good speed for the conditions, when at an 8-10% downhill grade suddenly came onto some freshly laid dirt which then been wet, so it was mud, and stones! No signs, nothing. The bike started to slide around and it took all my concentration to keep it upright. Had to, because with the load it’s a good 550 pounds, so there’s no way I could lift it back up if it went over. This went on for a few hundred yards, and there were quite a few patches of the same further on. Stopped after one and got these photos:
It was not long after getting through the mud parts when the road got worse in terms of potholes, some filled with gravel and some not. Big potholes too. Not all were signed. Towards the last of the Cassier there was about 10kms of gravel. I haven’t ridden on gravel for many years, and that was on 125cc-250cc bikes. Very different story but I reckoned the premise was the same, gear down and power through it, even when the instinct is to slow down.
I was mighty glad when I crossed into the Yukon, From there a few short kms to the Alaska Highway – excellent road – and Lake Watson, where I got a motel, kicked back, and chatted to friends via internet. I slept soundly, relieved and content.
This is by no means the worst road I will face, but now I have an idea of how the bike handles in those conditions. I’ll leave you with some photos of the bike after the day, now it looks like a real ADV bike!