It rained over night, and although it sort of stopped, I had a feeling it wouldn't stay that way.
As it turned out, my predictions of rain were only half-right. Some rain, I expected. The hail I did not.
God damn, did this suck. Even when it did stop raining, the humidity was still high enough that I wasn't able to really dry out.
Once I got onto 35 and started heading north, though? Was that . . . clear skies?
It was! In the early afternoon I rode out from under the storms, and into nice clear sunlight.
I'm still not sure what to make of this, parked at a little highway rest stop.
Other then that, there was nothing to see. The road was almost endlessly straight, turning only rarely, with no elevation changes to speak of. This was a Sunday, and I wanted to spend the next day at the Library in High Level, updating and internetting. Assuming that they'd be open Monday, I called it a day early, camping ~40 miles south of the town.
Unfortunetly for me, this weather system was moving south to north. Meaning that even though I'd ridden out of it that day, it caught up with me overnight, raining a good deal. While I was in my tent, this was fine, not a big deal. I waited it out some, waiting for a dry spell to get packed up, and pushed on north.
I got into High Level in the rain, driving aimlessly around town trying to find the library. When I did eventually find it . . . Closed on Mondays. Srsly?! WTF! What is this shit with everything in Canada being closed Sunday and Monday?
Anyway, with no real reason to stay there, and hoping to get ahead of the weather again, I kept on going north.
Cold, rainy, windy with epic bugs. This was northern Canada, alright.
Passing into the Northwest Territories, Highway 35 became Highway 1. After riding for a few more hours in alternating cold drizzle and cold rain, I stopped off at one of the few tourist attractions there seemed to be, Alexandra Falls.
I took these all with my little point-and-shoot. It was still rainy/drizzly, and I didn't want to risk my Canon in this questionable weather. The mosquitoes were fairly epic as well; as soon as I'd stop moving they'd manage to find their way into my helmet, which is VERY unplesant. When I got off the bike to take these pictures, I whipped off the helmet and put on that mosquito hat thing as fast as I could.
I wandered up and down the river a little bit, taking pictures, and at one point getting way too close to the falls. For reference, when I took this video I was standing on that rock outcropping in the bottom-right of the above picture.
A quarter-mile down the river was another smaller set of falls.
I wish I could have seen this in the sunlight and not-crappy-weather, I bet it would have been beautiful.
Anyway, there wasn't a whole lot else of note that day. I kept heading north, through Enterprise, and all the way up to Hay River. Along the way, I managed to (again) ride out from under the storm front, and it did clear up some.
I got to the library there just half an hour before they closed, so I used the time to quickly do an "I'm still alive" post before heading out. I stopped at the Laundromat to do what you do there (Laundry day! See you there! *don't know these words*! Underwear!). Everything was absurdly expensive this far north; I think it cost me a total of $9 to wash one load of clothes. And even then, they weren't totally dry. I figured it would be okay and I could finish drying them overnight; god how wrong I was. Looking back, I should have found an ATM and gotten more change and just finished drying everything completely.
I rode about 10 mile south of town, turning down what looked like a logging road, but eventually ended in a small open-pit quarry that looked long disused. It made an okay campsite, and breezy enough that it (sort of) kept the bugs away. Sort of.
I headed back down to Highway 1, and then went Northeast. I was still playing with that same storm front that had been drenching me for the last two days, and now that I was heading mostly east, there was little getting away from it. My only hope was to burn as many miles as I could before it consumed me completely.
I managed to stay dry for the first few hours of the day. And at some points, it was even really nice out. As I passed a road construction crew, I noticed that everyone was wearing mesh mosquito-proof clothes.
Eventually, pavement ran out, as Highway 3 (up to Yellowknife) stayed paved, while my route, Highway 1 did not. At least the weather was still mostly nice. Cool, and a bit humid, but it's amazing how sunshine keeps your spirits up.
As long as it was dry, the road wasn't bad at all. Some parts were a bit loose, but what was trickier was avoiding the random potholes left by large trucks pounding the road into submission. Usually I could maintain 45mph+, as long as I kept a sharp eye out.
Even though the weather ahead looked great, I knew that soon the road would turn in a different direction. Looking behind me wasn't a pretty site; it appeared I'd left town just in the nick of time.
My luck did run out a short time later, and I got into the rain. It was patchy at first, but soon the rainy parts got longer and longer as the dry periods in between got shorter and shorter.
The road wasn't quite as bad as I thought it would be wet. It was a very hard-packed clay and this was still fairly fresh rain on it, so while it was a little greasy here and there, it was solid and pretty reliable. I stopped to refuel the bike's main tank during one of the last dry periods I'd have for a while.
The next four hours were just . . . lousy. I know that it looks like clear sky ahead in that picture, and that was one of the worse things about it. Off to my right, and seemingly just in front of me were these beautiful patches of clear, sunny sky, teasing me endlessly. I always felt like dry weather was JUST around the next corner . . . only to have the road take another southward bend back into the rain. And this was road that had seen a good deal of rain more recently, so it was getting softer the farther I went. The 45mph times were gone; I spent most of the next five hours in third gear, picking my way in between sections of mud and potholes large enough to contain minor countries.
And as if just to rub it in, remind me what I COULD be riding on if I'd just been a sane person and taken the Alcan;
The road turned north for a bit, and got paved. It was a break I sorely needed; I'd been dodging rain (and more hail), and potholed clay roads for the first 7 hours of the day, so just the feeling of being on pavement, with sunshine on me again was . . . awesome. I was sore, hungry, cold, and just a little dirty.
But tempered by the fact that I knew it wouldn't last; This was the section of road heading north to Fort Simpson; I was going south, to Ford Liard.
At this point, I had maybe 1/3 of the main tank left, and both of the red spares were empty. Perfectly enough, right at this junction of the Mackenzie and Liard highways, there was a resort/fuel stop! . . . Which was closed. GODDAMIT.
It was 150 miles south to Fort Liard at this point, and I had maybe 60, 70 miles worth of gas left, if I was lucky. I had no choice but to make a detour 40 miles north up to Fort Simpson for fuel. Then the extra 40 miles I'd have to ride BACK to get to where I already was. But I didn't have any choice at this point, and on a minor upside, the weather to the northwest looked a little better then the weather to the south (Where I was heading) And there was NOTHING around me, at all, save for Fort Simpson. It's hard to describe just how alone this place is, riding for 7 or 8 hours at a time without seeing a single thing. Besides the trees, of course.
I headed north, getting to the Liard river ferry just as the weather started to turn lousy, even up here.
This place had seen a good deal of rain recently, and the "road" going down to the river was quite sketchy.
Ah, mud, how well I know you.
Fort Simpson wasn't anything to mention; no cute girls, nothing worth talking about. I rode in, refueled, and road back out.
Okay, Firefox just crashed on me and almost ate this whole post; fortunately the auto-save feature actually worked this time. I think it's a sign that I should end this here, and break it up into multiple posts.