Sunday, July 29, 2012

Day 12 - Whitehorse to Squanga Lake

It was a particularly cold and blustery day for us getting started out of Whitehorse.  After clumsily maneuvering our loaded bikes down the elevator and out of the hotel, we stuffed our hands into our mittens and set off in the search of food.  While it was available, McDonald's was too good to pass up, and the novelty of "McDonald's Canada" hadn't worn off yet. 

"Ah man, the girls are always going after you,"  Mark observed after leaving McDonald's.  It was only kind of true.  One of the girls that took our order had her friend ask for my phone number--but they were probably closer to Mark's age--15.  At his age, the girls probably would be too shy to actually make a move, but I was easier to approach as the older, unattainable one I suppose.  I was definitely complimented, but not interested.  I had my eye set on someone else back home--though she was kind of a long-shot.

But I like the exhilaration of facing uncertain odds.  Our whole adventure was sort of a long-shot.  How could we even hope to make it all the way to Mexico?  I don't know, but we were damned confident that we could--or at least damned stubborn about giving it our best try, so off into the headwinds we two strapping lads went.

Out of the downtown area we followed along the Yukon River as it flowed lazily into Schwatka Lake.  Though we had our usual headwinds, it was pretty easy riding, and the river air was brisk and fresh.  On the other side of the road, a thick man who was built like a 1920's tough-man in gray sweatpants trotted along in the opposite direction pulling a sort of handcart--more like a box on wheels.  I didn't think too much of it, but when we stopped at a gas station for a short break several miles later, the clerk told us that he had talked to the guy, and it turns out that he had been pulling that cart all the way from Tierra del Fuego--the Southern-most tip of South America.  Whoa!  See, there are lots of people crazier than us.

We rode over gentle rolling hills lined thick with evergreens--typical scenery for us.  A little bit after noon the headwinds died down, which was a rare luxury for us.  Without the wind holding us back, we were able to use that extra energy to make good time, and also just talk to each other.  I didn't have a big brother, and I kind of made it through life figuring out a lot of things for myself, but I had decided to teach Mark a thing or two so that he didn't have to figure things out the hard way--starting with girls.  I started by telling the tragic tales of my failed attempts to woo girls in Junior High and High School, and then told him what I had learned since then that turned that around.  Mark eagerly soaked up my advice, as I imagine I would have if someone would have told me when I was his age.

Then, as he would be turning 16 that year (the legal driving age in the United States) I talked about finance and the fine balance between owning a car, and a car owning you.  A car can provide freedom of transportation, but can be a money sucking black hole that enslaves one as well.  I was trying to convince him that he would be better off saving his money as long as possible and using the old family mini-van as long as possible until he could pay cash for a decent car of his own.  He wasn't being persuaded so easily on that topic though as he had his sights set on an old 1987 Jeep Wrangler that he and our grandpa had been doing some work on.

We talked and talked as the civilization around Whitehorse had faded and we were back in the wild, though the car traffic was a bit more frequent, reminding us that perhaps we were making progress towards the more heavily populated areas of the Pacific Northwest.  That also meant that it was more likely that we would become some trucker's hood ornament.  As we coasted down a strait stretch, we had to slow as a long line of RVs, semi trucks, and cars all waited their turn to pass over a bridge laden with construction.  We weaved around the large orange traffic drums making our way to the front of the line where a traffic directing worker told us to wait.  After the last vehicle, we were sent after them down the single open lane.  I felt a little uneasy trying to quickly pedal over the bridge with everyone watching us and waiting for us to get off of the bridge so that regular traffic could continue.

The bridge had taken us back over the Yukon River flowing out of Whitehorse where a few miles later it emptied into Marsh lake--stretching for several more miles to our right along the highway as I taught Mark some of my favorite hiking songs from my days as a Boy Scout Leadership Trainer--which worked equally well for biking.  Trail songs have an interesting effect.  Usually it is more yelling than singing so that everyone in the group can hear, kind of like singing rock, and something about that has a big effect on one's energy and morale.  We were singing at the top of our lungs and cranking along to the beat, and having a blast.

"This is a repeat after me song!"
"This is a repeat after me song!"
"In Fourteen Hundred and Ninety Two!"
"In Fourteen Hundred and Ninety Two!"
"A sailor from New Delhi!"
"A sailor from New Delhi!"
"Was walking 'round the streets of Spain!"
"Was walking 'round the streets of Spain!"
"Selling hot tamales!"
"Selling hot tamales!"
"He said the World was round, Oh!"
"He said the World was round, Oh!"
"He said it could be found, Oh!"
"He said it could be found, Oh!"
"That hypothetical, calculating, son-of-a-gun Columbo!"
"That hypothetical, calculating, son-of-a-gun Columbo!"

Eventually though, we had burned out our extra energy reserves.  Gray, bald mountains loomed ahead of us marking a large bend that would send us Northeast for the rest of our day.  Our voices hoarse from singing, and our legs tired from vigorous riding, we decided it was time to take a little nap right there on the side of the road, which we hadn't done in a several days.

I wandered off into the trees to um... water the vegetation... and found myself again walking on the spongy, springy, ground covering like a foam-rubber mattress that I've referred to as "Moose Carpet."  Actually--and I could be wrong--I think this was the first day I actually coined the term "Moose Carpet."  I don't remember exactly how it happened, but Mark and I were talking in our goofy caricaturized Canadian dialects, and I was going off on something about "Mickey Moose" and how the forest was his "Moose House" and he liked "walkin' around oat der on da moose carpet without his hoofs on."


Mark's "Moose Antlers"

We were kind of on a whole "moose" theme for the day, with Mark even putting his gloves on his handlebars when he didn't need to wear them, saying "Oh yah, I'll just put deese here, and I'll blend right in with da mooses."

As the road bent Northeast, it also bent uphill, slowing our pace.  The rest of the day just blended into a blur of uphill riding through lush green forest with the occasional snack or bathroom break.






We had aimed to make it into Teslin, but after the last few hours of uphill riding, when we came upon a Canadian Provincial Park campground at Squanga Lake, we were ready to call it a day.

The campground was nearly completely vacant, but well-kept.  It appeared that there wasn't any kind of an on site camp host, but there was a large pile of cut firewood that was offered to campers free of charge.  Nice!  But the sign on the water spigot warned that it was pretty much right from the lake and should be filtered before being considered "potable."  Not so nice.  But at least we had a source of water to filter, so we didn't really have anything to complain about.  Besides, the free firewood pretty much cancelled out everything else, and we picked the camp site closest to the firewood.

With the free firewood, Mark was determined to get a fire going, so he worked on that while I set up the tent.  Right about the time that he got a small flame going, one of our only neighbors wandered up to get some firewood and we started to chit chat.  He commented that he had actually seen us riding that day as he passed us in his RV, and he invited us over to his camp site to have dinner with his wife and their friends.

Free food always trumps free firewood, so Mark let the fire fizzle out, and we gathered our things for dinner--but I don't just mean our dishes and eating utensils.  Strapped to our bikes from the very beginning of our adventure were ukuleles.  I carried a little soprano uke, what most people would consider to be the standard ukulele, and Mark carried a baritone uke, which is much closer in size to a standard guitar, and we each put a handful of rice in them so we could shake them and get a sound like maracas.  We are a very musical family.  On our previous bike tours, we had spent a great deal of time performing goofy musical numbers for the many characters we met along the way, but this time, we almost didn't have any time for that as we were constantly trying to keep up our mileage quota.  We had pulled out our ukes a few times here and there in the evenings after we had already set up camp, but really didn't have the energy to do more than practice a few chords.

In 2006 when Mark and my dad did a tour without me from Vancouver to Mexico, they came up with a new little ditty that they would sing to people they met loosely called "Riding Our Bikes To Mexico."  The chorus goes something like:

[C Maj.]
Riding our bikes,
Riding our bikes,
Riding our bikes to [G Maj.] Mexico!
Sun to our right,
Wind to our backs,
Riding our bikes to Mexi [C Maj.] co!

We certainly had NOT had the wind to our backs most of the time up in the sub-arctic, but we were indeed headed to Mexico.  When it was too windy to talk, Mark and I had spent a lot of time coming up with our own verses to the song, and Mark came up with some of his own.  Along with the ukuleles, it was a pretty catchy tune, and it was a fun and entertaining way to summarize our adventure up to that point.  We had practiced enough to be ready just in case someone asked where we had started...

For dinner, we were fed heaping plates of spaghetti with meatballs and garlic butter french bread, and our hosts kept piling it on until we were so full that we had to refuse.  Our hosts were getting rosy cheeked from their red wine, and finally one of them asked, "Where did you start?"

Mark and I grinned and whipped out our ukuleles.

Well, since you asked,
we flew to Anchorage Alaska,
which is many many miles from our home.

Then we started riding South,
and you heard it from the horse's mouth,
we are riding our bikes to Mexico!

And now we're
[Chorus]
Riding our bikes,
Riding our big bad bikes,
Riding our bikes to Mexico!
Sun to our right,
Wind to our backs,
Riding our bikes to Mexico!

There's mosquitoes in my face,
they're all over the place,
Riding my bike to Mexico!
They came from the grass,
I think one bit me on my ...arm,
riding my bike to Mexico!

I've got the wind in my hair,
I'm getting chased by a bear!
Just keep on pedaling pedaling down to Mexico!
There's a lake over there!
                        There's a lake over there!
There's a lake by a stream!
             There's two lakes over there!
There's a lake by a tree,
          There's a lake by a lake!?
                          There's a lake in a tree,
Theres a lake by some glaciers,
                Theres a lake IN a lake?
       There's a lake by a bear,

A BEAR!?

[Acapella Harmony] There's a lake in my pants.

...

Riding our bikes to Mexico!


And so on.


After lots of singing, stories, and laughing, we thanked our hosts for the hospitality, and they thanked us for the entertainment, and we went off to our own little camp where Mark got the fire started again and we played our ukuleles until our fingers hurt and our eyelids were heavy.

Elevation Profile Coming Soon...

Route: 67 Miles, 10 Hours

3 comments:

  1. It's great to see another post! I think you and Mark need to make a video of the two of you singing your song. :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. I love the songs. This was a good post.

    ReplyDelete

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