I still can’t figure out how I feel after the last three days on the Alaskan Highway. It all started so well leaving Dawson Creek, a beautiful sunny day with only a bit of frustrating wind to hold me back. Traffic wasn’t bad, the road was nice, the scenery was green, and all was well. Except for those evil looking clouds in the distance…
By the early afternoon, those evil looking clouds were no longer in the distance. In fact, they were pouring evil cold rain on my head. Now, rain itself isn’t so bad, especially a fairly mild rain. It’s easy to walk around town or run to your car and not get too wet. Riding through it on a motorcycle or a scooter is something entirely different though. First of all you get completely soaked because of your speed – I mean, really soaked. It’s like standing under a shower, everything gets wet regardless.
Next, you lose a ton of visibility. The clouds block the sun so there’s low light, then your dark tinted goggles work against you. Except they’re covered with water on the outside and condensation on the inside so it doesn’t matter much either way. Then there’s the rain pelting you with raw physical force, smashing into your face and causing constant pinpricks of pain. Don’t forget the constant pitter-patter on your helmet, either, like sitting under a tin roof.
And of course, there’s that whole coefficient of friction issue, where now the road surface is much more slippery – except you don’t know how much more slippery, how much each different road surface is affected, whether you will slide off that shiny bit at an angle in that turn or if it’s actually grippier than the rough bit… Oh, and you’re on the Alaskan Highway, so let’s add random spots of gravel, mud, faux-gravel, and all sorts of other crazy crap that you aren’t sure how to deal with most of the time.
Okay, you have a picture in your head now. Expand it – don’t forget that 90% of the vehicles on this road are semi-trucks or RV’s, so you have these huge things whipping past you at twice your speed. They throw water up at you everywhere which sucks, but isn’t remotely as bad as the vortex trailing behind them that tries to either push or pull you across the road randomly, almost completely overwhelming at times.
Then add the fact that it’s in the high 40’s, you’re soaking wet, riding at 40MPH, and freakin’ freezing. So cold that you have a deathgrip on the handlebars with hands you can barely unwind, feet that would be numb except they hurt so bad (don’t worry, keep telling yourself it’s not below freezing so they can’t be frostbitten… can they?!), legs so cold and cramped up that you can’t even get off the scooter without falling over when you stop… Yeah, it’s awesome.
Seriously, it is awesome. Why, I don’t know. It just is. Maybe it helps when you sing “you are my sunshine, my only sunshine…” over and over again for hours. Powerful song.
In any case, that was my first few days on the Alaska Highway. Setting up camp in the rain was no picnic either, and of course packing up in the morning in the rain is always a pain. Let’s just say that when the rain stopped but the evil clouds stay, I didn’t quite celebrate… but when I came around a mountain this afternoon and saw a patch of blue sky far in the distance I almost cried. Hours later when I finally reached it I rode down the road counting down the seconds until I rode into a patch of sunlight, it was so beautiful.
Now I’m sunburned because I didn’t put on suntan lotion this morning because it was pouring rain. I just can’t win, eh? At least I got to take pictures today!