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August 6th, 2012 | Canada

The End of an Epic Ride…

Our arrival in Windermere today, on the shores of Lake Windermere, heralded the end of an epic ride for the “Prudhoe Bay Posse”…

The last three weeks have been a blur of traveling through some amazing scenery, in weather conditions both mild and sometimes grim; loading and unloading the bike; and of course, much fun and laughter with my three companions, Trevor, Chenty and Mark…

We had achieved what we had set out to do, and from here, I would begin the last leg of my North American ride, across the continent to New Jersey, and my friends would begin their last 1 000 km ride back to Salt Spring Island…

To Prudhoe Bay and Back… We covered almost 11 000 km in just 22 days, riding from Salt Spring Island to Windermere, via Prudhoe Bay in Alaska….

It had easily been the longest consecutive days of riding that I have made on my journey around the world… In the month of July alone, I have covered almost 11 000 km, beating the 9 600 km I had made in October 2011 while cracking through Australia…

Our ride started off gently enough, and then progressed into a long hard haul that at times had us all exhausted and in dire need of a rest…

Here is a breakdown on the days we spent riding from Salt Spring to Windermere…

July 14th and 15th – Salt Spring to Whistler, British Colombia, via Victoria on Vancouver Island – 350 km.

July 16th – Whistler to 100 Mile House, B.C. – 310 km.

The next day, we began to crank things up a bit….

July 17th – 100 Mile House to Smithers, B.C. – 700 km.

July 18th – Smithers to Dease Lake via Stewart and Hyder USA – 740 km.

July 19th – Dease Lake to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory – 650 km.

July 20th – Whitehorse to Tok, Alaska – 625 km.

July 21st – Tok to Fairbanks – 345 km.

Reaching Fairbanks was a milestone on our ride… It is the jumping off point for the 1 650 km ride to Prudhoe Bay and back… Did we stop to take a breather before the long and arduous ride to Prudhoe…?? Of course not..!!

July 22nd – Fairbanks to Wiseman on the Dalton Highway – 430 km.

July 23rd – Wiseman to Prudhoe Bay – 395 km.

July 24th – Prudhoe Bay back to Wiseman – 395 km. (Including the little incident that left me shaken AND stirred…!!)

July 25th – Wiseman back to Fairbanks – 430 km.

July 26th – R&R for me in Fairbanks, while the gang rode on to Denali National Park, 200 km away…

July 27th – Fairbanks to Anchorage – 625 km.

July 28th – Anchorage to Whittier and back to Anchorage – 240 km. (And a 4 hour boat trip to see the glaciers…)

July 29th – Anchorage to Valdez – 480 km.

July 30th – Valdez to Tok – 420 km.

July 31st – Tok to Dawson City, Yukon Territory, along the Top of the World Highway – 300 km. (Never again…!!)

August 1st – Dawson City to Whitehorse – 550 km.

August 2nd – Whitehorse to Liard’s River via Watson’s Lake – 680 km.

August 3rd – Liard’s River to Dawson’s Creek – 845 km.

August 4th – Dawson’s Creek to Hinton, Alberta, via Jasper – 635 km.

August 5th – Hinton to Windermere, B.C.  – 465 km.

Still surprised why I had no time to write…?? There wasn’t even time to scratch my mosquito bites…!!

Dwarfed by the soaring Canadian Rocky Mountains…

We had ridden for 22 days without a break, except for the day I spent alone in Fairbanks, nursing an ankle which was swollen to the point that looked like it belonged on a moose…!!

Our “Alaskan Raid” had been an unforgettable ride…

I experienced the joys of riding with a close band of friends, to places we had never been before, and the camaraderie that is built by relying on each other for even the smallest little things…

And of course, the enormous sense of freedom of being out on the open road, that can only be properly felt from the seat of a motorcycle… Preferably a big and powerful machine like the Big Fella, which can take you along difficult sections of dirt and gravel, as effortlessly as it can whip you along the paved highways and back roads of this vast and wild part of the world…

Rocky Mountain background… Trevor and Chenty on the Icefields Parkway in Jasper National Park…

The spectacular Rocky Mountains…

Over the past few weeks, I have ridden through emotional highs and lows, thankful that I could share most of them with my companions, and at other times, hanging back and riding a good distance behind them, preferring to deal with them on my own…

I have felt the enormous frustration of not being able to keep up with my writing, and through it, have an accurate record of the things we saw and the experiences we shared…

Mark “The Bear” Piff… My “roomie” for the past three weeks…

My companions pose with our bikes in front of the Athabasca Glacier…

Faced with an opportunity to do it all over again, I would prefer to have taken at least five weeks to make the ride, rather than the three we were able to do it in… I found my old habit of riding two or three days at a time, and then stopping to write about it all, with a certain degree of accuracy, very hard to break…

Time was never going to be on our side however, and I had to accept that my friends had a smaller window of opportunity to make their ride in, than I had… They had jobs to get back to, while for all intents and purposes, I had a lot more time on my hands…

The Gypsy Biker in repose… Some of the long rides we made were along very boring stretches of open road….

On our ride down from Hinton today, we rode through what was probably the most impressive stretch of scenery of our trip to the Arctic and back…

The Canadian Rocky Mountains that are part of both Jasper and Banff National Parks, are a majestic series of high peaks, that line highways 16 and 93… We passed hundreds of multi-coloured lakes, crossed many wide and fast flowing rivers, saw a variety of animals and birds… All of which had my heart singing and my soul soaring…

Mark leads us past the turquoise  waters of Peyto Lake….

It was a wonderful setting to complete our ride together in, and for the entire day, I rode at the back of the pack, letting Trevor and Mark lead the way down to Radium Hot Springs, and on to the home of their friends Stan and Karen on the shores of Lake Windermere…

There was another reason for riding at the back today… I knew that this would be the last ride we would make together, and in my own way, I was saying goodbye to my good friends who had made the last three weeks such memorable ones…

I preferred to keep them in front of me, rather than take the lead on this our last ride as “The Prudhoe Bay Posse”, the name that we had come to call our small band on our ride to the Arctic…

Them that took us there and back…!! Neither of us would have wanted to do it on any other bike…

We spent our last afternoon together taking a dip in Lake Windermere, and then enjoyed a wonderful dinner of roast chicken that Stan had BBQ’ed to perfection… We sat out on their deck, overlooking the lake while the sun sank behind the low range of mountains to the west of us…

The following morning, after just a few hours of sleep, I was woken from deep slumber by Chenty’s voice, telling me that it was time for me to get my act together if I was going to meet my friend Vince Ricci at 10.00 am as planned…

I hurriedly got my gear together while Stan and Karen bustled about in the kitchen above us, preparing breakfast…

The final photo of the Prudhoe Bay Posse… Trevor, Chenty, myself and Mark… They still had over 1 000 km to ride before they reached their respective homes…

I gulped down a cup of coffee and a toasted sandwich, and then together with our hosts, we all went out into the driveway to load the last few things onto the Big Fella…

Our goodbyes were emotional, and over far too quickly… There was so much I wanted to say, so many things to thank them all for…

But sometimes quick goodbyes are better and easier to come to grips with… For the next 150 km, my friends and the amazing times we had spent together, were constantly on my mind… I wished that we could have spent a quiet day digesting what we had achieved…

For them it had been the first leg of their “Top to Bottom Tour”, and next year, they would ride from their home down to Ushuaia and Fin del Mundo, joining the unique group of riders who could say that had ridden the Americas “From Tip to Tip”…

For me, the ride had meant much more than just that… It had allowed me to reach the last major geographical way-point on my journey around the world… And who better to do it with, than the people who had ridden more kilometres with me on my journey, than any other riders…

As I raced towards my meeting with Vinnie, and the opportunity to put my feet up for a few days at his home in Cochrane, close to Calgary, I felt the swirl of an emotional tide that was coursing through me…

Once I left Cochrane, I would truly be on the last big ride I would make before I finally arrived back in the same country I had set out from almost three years ago…

©GBWT 2012

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