Wednesday, October 7, 2009


My apologies for not resuming the blog when Dee and Cal resumed their trip, but now that they are back home, I wanted to reflect a little on what I learned.

From the outset I was appalled at how little I knew about our neighbors north of the 49th parallel. That is why I initially created the Google map, not actually thinking I might continue to follow along with new points each day. That idea evolved later. At first I was just trying to figure out where Saskatoon was. Since then, I have learned so much about the western Canadian provinces, and even took this as a prompt to relearn the names and general outlines of all the provinces and territories. It was also cool that I was able to travel to Canada (Vancouver) myself during this time, and in this way meet people from all over Canada.

To be honest, my knowledge of the North Central States was not a whole lot better, thus I learned about this part of our country as well. Here is where I gained a new understanding of the role of the French in the early history of the region, as well the importance of rivers in exploration, not to mention the crucial role of railroads in westward expansion. Somehow the viewpoint of the trikes made all of this more apparent, like seeing things from a covered wagon perspective rather than from a speeding automobile. It is also fascinating to see how some of our major Interstate Highways still follow the old corridors.

Geography and history were not the only topics I explored. Ecology and biodiversity were interesting subjects, as well. Compare, for example, the Inland Temperate Rainforest of British Columbia with the Sand Hills prairie of Nebraska. What a fascinating contrast. A few simple observations about road kill led to reading about timber wolves, and a comment about bears and mothballs to finding out more about grizzlies (and from there about thinhorn sheep). I also gained a deeper awareness of the importance of preserving natural habitats.

Some trivia facts were merely that, trivia, such as where the towns of Hazard and Anselmo, NE got their names or where the "real" center of the U.S. is. Likewise for the pronunciation of "ch" in names depending on their origin. Other "surprising" facts are hardly trivial, such as the names of the longest river in the country and the third largest man-made lake, or that wolves are social and grizzlies solitary.

One of the most valuable lessons was a renewed appreciation for Native American (aboriginal, First Nation) peoples and their cultures, especially their religious observances (at Bear Butte and Lac Ste. Anne, for example). Reading about legendary Americans such as Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull was humbling and inspiring. Preserving their cultures and languages could be as important to the world as preserving biomes and biodiversity.

From Dee and Cal I learned the importance of consistency and flexibility. My new moto for the coming months is "Go with the flow, and keep on trikin'," to mix metaphors. I also learned from them that weather is a more formidable adversary than terrain. Some barriers, such as hills, have to be met head on. No way around it. In other situations, it is better to wait for the wind to change or the rain/snow to let up (and take full advantage of a tail wind if one comes up, of course). Finally, it is not the destination; it is the journey.

Oh, yes, one more thing: if you have had an ice cream today, life is good.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Hungry Hill

The Bulkley River Valley

The Bulkley River is a major tributary of the Skeena River and is paralleled by Highway 16 in the region of Smithers. Despite the fact that its major tributary, the Morice River, is actually larger, the confluence was still called the Bulkley by Poudrier, a government cartographer who, it is rumored, never saw the region.

And for another piece of trivia, the inhabitants of Smithers are commonly called Smithereens.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Ursus americanus kermodei

Dee and Cal missed seeing the Kermode bear (Ursus americanus kermodei)), which fascinatingly is a subspecies of the American Black Bear. They are neither albino nor related to polar bears, nor the "blond" brown bears of Alaska's "ABC Islands". This color variant is due to a unique recessive trait in their gene pool, and about 1/10th of their population have white or cream-colored coats. From what I can tell, they are found only in central British Columbia.

Because of their ghost-like appearance, "spirit bears" hold a prominent place in the Canadian First Nations/ American Indian mythology of the area. (See also Touching Spirit Bear.)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

On the Road Again

After three weeks on the Alaska Maritime Highway System (ferry), Dee and Cal are on the road again, starting out with a bang, riding 91 miles to Terrace, BC. They are on BC-16, which is part of the Yellowhead route of the Trans-Canada Highway.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

B.C. Border Crossings

Another trivia question: how many times have Dee and Cal crossed a border into the province of British Columbia? By my count the number is seven (7), once from Alberta, five times from Yukon, and once from Alaska. They have crossed the border out of BC six (6) times: five times into the Yukon and once into Alaska. That makes a total of thirteen (13) BC border crossings so far. All this is assuming they made it off the ferry in the wee hours of this morning. The coverage map shows Verizon service right around the Prince Rupert area so hopefully we will hear something from them yet this evening.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Alaska's "First City"

The picture Dee posted of the entrance to Ketchican claims that it is "Alaska's 1st City." Yet Sitka claims that it is "The First City in Alaska." Which one is correct? Without going into the details of determining exactly when a given city is established, it is clear that Sitka is the older. Ketchican's history dates to 1883, while Sitka's history begins around 1800. How, then, can Ketchican claim to be Alaska's first city?

Well Ketchican calls itself "First City" simply because it is the first stop in Alaska for ferries and many cruise ships traveling north through the Inside Passage. Its vibrant native Alaskan heritage, scenic location, and picturesque hillside houses and staircases make it a popular destination for travelers. It is also known as the "Salmon Capital of the World."

Ketchican is situated on Revillagigedo Island, 90 miles (145 km) north of Prince Rupert, BC. It is separated from Gravina Island, where Ketchikan International Airport is located, by the Tongass Narrows. In August 2005 the 2005 Highway Bill provided for $223m to build the Gravina Island Bridge (nicknamed "the Bridge to Nowhere" by its critics) between Ketchikan and Gravina Island. The bridge would have connected the island of Ketchikan to Gravina island where the airport is located so you can drive to the airport rather than taking the ferry across the waters. After years of national and international ridicule over the expense of this project, the Alaska government ultimately chose not to build the bridge, and will spend the appropriated funds elsewhere.