August 3, 2008 – Day 8: Grande Prairie, AB to Fort Nelson, BC – 363.49 miles
- Entering the Turner Valley Oil Fields
It was a magnificent morning. The weather had cleared and the air was brisk. The forecast had called for isolated thunder storms throughout the early morning with moderate clearing by the afternoon. Once again, I was not disappointed. This stretch of the highway runs through the Canada gas fields. We could take a lesson from Canada when it comes to harmonizing with nature.
- The Road through the Oil Fields
From route 43 you can look west and see the Great Continental Divide. The road follows the divide up to the beginning of the Canadian Rockies through some of the thickest forest and wooded areas I have ever seen. A person could step off the side of the road and easily get lost, never to be seen or heard from again. Every now and then I would see white smoke, or steam coming from out in the woods. As I got closer I would see a road heading out to a drilling station or refinery that was out in the middle of the forest. You really couldn’t see the facilities but you knew they were out there. It was an excellent example of man coexisting with nature. It’s hard to explain, you really have to be there, and be there I was.
- The Town of Beaver Lodge
About 82 miles out of Grande Prairie you come to Dawson Creek, the start of the Alcan Highway. The weather was getting better and the ride was going great. I topped off the tank at Dawson Creek and started up the Alcan Highway with the ever present Canadian Rockies towering above me to the west. It’s hard to believe but I think the forest actually started getting thicker. Everywhere you looked it was nothing but trees. This was the loneliest stretch of road I’d seen thus far. I’d past one car since departing Dawson Creek and was coming up on a town named Pink Mountain.
- Mile O, Alcan Highway
I should have topped off here but the fuel was only 81 Octane and I knew there was another fuel stop in Sikanni Chief about 15 kilometers up the road so I chose to keep going. Turns out Sikanni Chief was out of fuel and closed for the day. A couple in an RV was parked across from the pumps and I asked them if there was any fuel between here and Fort Nelson. They assured me there was another stop about 30 kilometers up the road. I headed out feeling confident that I would find some better gas. When I got to the stop they were speaking of I was greeted with another sign reading “out of gas.” I looked toward the gage and saw that I was seriously running low on fuel. Well, I kept going, and praying, and then it happened. I sputtered to a stop on the side of the road 48 kilometers outside of Fort Nelson.
As I was sitting on the side of the road recalling the two vehicles I had see between Dawson Creek and my current location my thought was interrupted by the sound of rustling leaves on the other side of the road. From out of the bushes immerged a big old black bear I estimated to weigh in at around 350 lbs? I was keeping an eye on the bear seeing to it to keep the bike between him and myself when I heard the unmistakable sound of Harley’s off in the distance. I was saved! As the three bikes got closer I started waving my hands at the riders, one of the riders waved back, and they all rode right on by. I could hardly believe my eyes. Surely they realized I was not simply waving hello, not with two arms crisscrossing above my head in a semi state of panic, but sure as the fact I was out of fuel, they were not coming back. I said a few choice words to myself and trained my eyes back in the direction of my hairy black friend, but he was gone.
- Out of Fuel
Now I really started to worry, it was getting late in the afternoon, I was out of fuel, the only people I had seen in the past hour had just blown by me at 95 kph and now the bear I had been watching was nowhere to be found. As I was beginning to wonder if the bear had left or was just checking out his next meal, I heard the sound of another motorcycle off in the distance. As it got closer I started jumping up and down, waving my arms frantically and screaming at the top of my lungs. This time they got the idea.
As it turned out that they were a couple from Calgary also making the trip up the Alcan on their 2007 Yamaha RS Venture. The man’s name was Allen and his partner was also his wife and, navigator, Jimeen. They happened to be a little smarter than me and were carrying a liter of spare fuel with them. We poured the fuel into my tank and off I went up the road. As I was coasting to a stop about 20 kilometers later they blew by me honking their horn and assuring me they would return. Forty minutes later they pulled up with another liter of fuel. Jimeen, assured me that if I kept my speed below 60 kph I should be able to make it to Fort Nelson. As it turned out I coasted into the station.
- Side of the Road between Dawson Creek & Fort Nelson
- Side of the Road, South of Pink Mountain
Allen and Jimeen happened to be staying at the same hotel I was, the Woodlands Inn, and I offered to buy them dinner for all they had done. What a night that was, after dinner and drinks I got a bill for $168. A bill I gladly paid and was worth every penny. The high point of the day was the many beautiful images I was able to shoot before running out of fuel. As had become the norm, the lens of the day was the EF 16-35 but both 24-70 and the 70-200 saw action, as well as the little Sony.