It turns out that the Toad River Lodge is a campers paradise! Brian and I couldn’t believe our luck when we stumbled upon our campsite in the dark. Overlooking a beaver dam or beaver lodge (according to Brian 😛 ) our campsite was equipped with a sink, power outlet and a sheltered picnic table. Honestly tent campers, it doesn’t get much better then this!!! We liked Toad River so much that we found it near impossible to leave. The first day of our stay we awoke to the enthusiastic quacking of ducks swimming along the shore. I spent most of the day updating the blog and sipping coffee at our picnic table while Brian indulged in video games. As evening fell we watched as a herd of elk crossed a nearby farmers field and enjoyed watching the beavers work on their home.
Brian lit the campfire and we invited our motorcyclist neighbour Hal to join us. Hal, a retired Vietnam vet, self-professed radio geek, dog musher and emergency paramedic entertained us for the evening with wonderful stories of living, camping and hunting in Interior Alaska. By the time we put the fire out and bid him goodnight it was 12 am, and the stars where shining above in the clear black sky.
We didn’t get much sleep that night. We had been awoken at 6 am to the sound of children jumping up and down on a trampoline. Good times… Have I mentioned that if I don’t get my sleep I can’t ride?? A waking up cranky and exhausted is a recipe for disaster. Since, our next ride from Toad River to Tetsa River was expected to be very challenging, Brian granted me another rest day. Little did we know… Brian’s tire had a slow leak. The next day after we woke up, broke camp Brian discovered that his back tire was flat. Ugh…how could this happen again?? This was bad news! Bad!! We only had one patch left and 200 km to cycle before we would reach Fort Nelson! Against our better judgement we began to cycle uphill and out of Toad River. My intuition was telling me not to ride…and that we would find ourselves stranded on the side of the road. In addition to Brian’s flat, my bike would no longer shift into my lowest gear without slipping and getting stuck between my gear cassette and my spokes. Stuck halfway up a hill I yelled “Brian!!! My gears won’t shift!!” Brian parked his bike and walked back down the hill to meet me. Flustered and confused I admitted to Brian that I was had a bad feeling… my gut was telling me not to cycle to Fort Nelson with Brian’s slow leaking tire. He agreed, assured me that he was willing to risk riding to Fort Nelson in order to make me happy. Brian knew how badly I wanted to complete this section of the ride. As I was pained to make a decision we eventually decided to flip a coin – heads, we stay, tails we continue to ride to Fort Nelson. I called tails… but when the coin hit the ground the queens head was facing up. Brian said….”the truth is if you really wanted it to be tails we can continue on…” I confessed “no…I want to play it safe and catch the bus”. Unfortunately it was Tuesday and the bus was not due to pick up in Toad River until Wednesday at 11:40 pm. So, we set up camp again and started a campfire and settled in for the night. Around 9 pm we received some unexpected guests. A family of 13 had decided to camp in the small site adjacent to ours. Thirteen people in piled out of a mini van and a truck and set up two ginormous tents on a campsite that couldn’t have been larger than 500 square feet. Did I mention that they were loud??? Yes, their teenaged and tweenaged kids yelled and argued while setting up camp. In the morning we were subjected to the same preadolescent squawking as they ate breakfast and broke camp between 6 and 8 am. I think I drank 8 cups of coffee that day! I had my last cup of coffee while warming myself near campfire at 8 pm. It was freezing and we still had to wait 3 1/2 hours before we could catch the bus. Truth be told, the bus didn’t arrive until 12:30 am and we finally made it to Fort Nelson at 3 am. By the time we offloaded our bikes and set up camp at the nearest RV Park it was 4:30 am. We awoke the next morning to the sound of a chainsaw buzzing and then suddenly a tree fell near our tent. Aparently they were doing maintinence. We spent the next few hours in Fort Nelson searching for bike parts and indulging in the modern convienences of civilization…ie frappacinos and free wi-fi at the local library. As we where leaving the library Brian noticed that the movie theatre next door would be showing Planet of the Apes the following evening. So, we decided to stay one more night and enjoy a real hollywood blockbuster! Much to my surprize the movie was awesome!! I find myself imitating Ceasar from time to time “NO!!! Ceasar is home.” Brian’s ape impersonation is quite good, no joke!
After 2 rest days, and the chance to pigout at a free community BBQ it was time to leave Fort Nelson. We got a late start, leaving at 2:30 pm on a Saturday afternoon, but we made good time and set up camp at a pull out just 64 km south of Fort Nelson. As I was pitching the tent that evening I heard a crash and Brian yell “Oh no! No!!! My back rack is broken!” Sure enough his back rack had snapped in half. The next morning we attempted to fix it using a combination of appoxy and bundgy cords. While the rack was only a minor convenience during our 60 km ride. Admittely we were tired… it took us all day to cycle 6o some km and we eventually pitched our tent in the grass on the side of the road when we couldn’t find a campsite. This roadside campsite turned out to be one of our best. The high grass made nice bedding and seemed to dull the sound of passing traffic. This next morning we woke to the voices of other cyclists in conversation. The male cyclist yelled “Katherine! they must be cyclists!”. Later we would meet up with the rest of their crew at the Buckinghorse Lodge. We got a farely decent start that day, although Brian had another flat tire and it was an extreme annoyance. As you can imagine, by this time we were sick of changing flat tires and Brian’s back tire seemed to have a slow leak. Instead of changing the tire we decided to pump it up every 15 km. Take my advice! If the tire is flat, change the damn thing! It will make your life a whole lot easier. We were cycling at a snails pace and Brian was so tired from cycling on the flat. Sometime around km 45 the dark clouds that had been chasing us finally caught up. For over 30 minutes we cycled uphill in a thunderstorm, to afraid to get off our bikes, we crindged and ducked as pea sized hail began to fall from the sky. By the time the storm had passed we were soaked and chilled to the bone. We stopped briefly to brush the hail off of our panniers & clothing and put air in Brian’s back tire. It tooks us 1 1/2 hours to cover the next 15 km. Since Brian’s flat tire was hopeless we walked up almost every hill. At one point we saw a moose….in fact Brian attempted to engage the moose in conversation. The cow moose seemed a little to interested, so I crossed over to the opposite side of the road…Brian continued to chat with the animal as he cycled past. An hour later, we flew down a hill, the wind chilling us to the bone. Finally we had arrived at Buckinghorse Lodge…aka heaven! It was warm, and the food was fresh. With chattering teeth we changed into dry clothes and ordered a couple of bacon cheese burgers. Did I mention that they served home baked buns and fresh cut fries? YUM! The staff was friendly and offered us free camping for the night. We pitched our tent and promptly fell asleep. The next morning we changed Brian’s tire and found a staple inbedded in it. Admittedly I was releived to find that this time there was actually a reason for the leak. In addition to offering us great service and hospitality the owner of the Buckinghorse offered to weld our back rack for us. Unfortunately it was aluminum not steel. Instead he loaned us some duct tape and wire. With these tools Brian’s macgyvered a repair job that was nothing short of genius ;P.