This felt like the beginning of our adventure. We had camped a short ways from where the ferry dropped us off, and we officially had no cell service or wi-fi. We had never been on this land before, and we had miles and miles of uncharted territory ahead.
The sun was shining, the weather felt perfect, our oatmeal was filling and the campground had hot showers. We took our time packing up our bikes and found gas a little ways in town. Prince Rupert seemed like a great city, with schools and art centers, rolling hills, lots of green grass and tucked between fjords and mountains.
We had seen miles and miles and miles of beautiful British Columbia coastline the day before, and it was exciting to be riding into the wilderness. The road was in great shape, and we passed so many folks on their bikes with just half-helmets or no helmets. It was Sunday, and also Father’s Day, so I imagined everyone was out for the best ride they’d had in a while.
We stopped in a town called Terrace, which was where the man we met on the ferry was from. It had a Wal-Mart and a McDonald’s, you know, “everything you need”. We decided to play it safe and eat lunch at Denny’s. I didn’t realize how fantastic of an idea that was because they had free wi-fi! We got an opportunity to check in with folks, post some Instagram pics. Our waitress was so sweet and grew up in Terrace, and thought it was such a great place to live and raise a family.
The weather continued to be incredible, roads in fantastic shape, and then we hit the first bit of construction. We all waited in line until our pace car led us through, and we had our first introduction to long stretches of gravel. I had never ridden this far on gravel before with my bike so heavily laden, and I was so nervous. The wheels bumped around, the back wheel squirreled around a bit, and I could feel my shoulders were tensing up. I tried to calm down and breathe, but there was a car creeping up behind me, and I didn’t feel comfortable going any faster. Bear was worried that they were too close, and wanted me to speed up, and I was just stressing out so much my left shoulder started to ache it was so tense.
This gravel stretch lasted for about 10 minutes at 35mph, and I was relieved when we finally hit pavement again. We stopped soon after to gas up, and fill up our auxiliary gas canisters. This was the beginning of the Cassiar Highway, and we were on our way to more and more remote country. Lots of folks had warned us of the long distance between gas stations, and some stations with no gas at all! Some were rumored to close early in the evening, so it became necessary to carry extra fuel with us.
We were starting to experience the longer days now, and the sun was still going strong. The clouds were gorgeous and the roads were freshly washed with rain. Our timing was perfect! We rode to Meziadin Lake, where there was a campground right on the water’s edge. It was so beautiful! The sun was just setting around 11:00 pm, and it was time to get the tent set up and cook some food.
This was the first time that I’d needed to test our our new mosquito repellent, the Thermacell. I had found out about this through an Alaskan bowhunter’s blog, and all of these woodsy hunter types swore by this thing. It uses Butane to heat up these chemical pads to clear a 15 foot area of mosquitoes, no-se-ums, horesflys, and any other biting critter. I was excited to try it out, because these mosquitoes were so thick and annoying!
I found where I had packed it away, plugged in the parts, and turned it on. I waited and waited to see results, then read the instructions that said: “Can take up to 30 minutes to become effective.” Dang it. We’d have to set up the tent with our helmets and gloves on.
We both have helmets with no-fog visors, they are like double-paned windows in that there are two layers of lens material separated by a silicone barrier around the edges. It prevents fog from accumulating on the inside of the lens when the visor is down. Well we were so hot and humid setting up the tents in our full motorcycle suits, helmets, and gloves, that we were sweating so much and breathing so heavily that our visors were fogging up. The bugs were so bad that you didn’t want to even crack the visor open, or zip open a vent, or you’d get bitten right away! We were already getting eaten up on our necks because they’d sneak down there when you looked down or moved your head in a way to provide a gap.
It was easily a half an hour later and still the Thermacell had no impact! There was barely a few inches above the chemical pad where there weren’t any bugs, and despite the warnings against using near food or water, I had it right next to me while I boiled our soup. I needed all the help I could get against these hell-skeeters, and I was becoming mad with annoyance at their continued bites. I would shake my head and wiggle my arms and legs in a twitchy dance to try and keep them from landing on me, but since my shoulder was so tense from the ride through the gravel earlier, my neck muscles on the left side spasmed, shooting pain from my shoulder to my neck to my forehead. I was now itchy, sweaty, and in pain and about ready to cry from frustration.
Bear tapped into some serious voodoo and instructed me to lay flat on my back on the picnic table. I was right near the Thermacell, so my face was safe from the bugs. Since my motorcycle suit was still on, the back pad felt great on my spine. He pinched my neck muscle in such a way that I was able to relax and calm down. My eyes started to sag, and my forehead relaxed. After about 10 minutes of this peaceful stillness, I was ready for bed. We cleaned up the dishes in the lake, since this campground had no sink areas for cleanup, and the brisk water reminded us that this was a glacier-fed lake.
“Welcome to the wilderness”, we thought, and wondered how we could possibly handle the rest of the mosquitoes up here without some serious chemical help.