Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Breaking news from the Yukon (almost)...

Double Vision…

I met Richard, and his wife Ursula, on their own Northern Adventure. They’re traveling in Stella’s twin from Vancouver. I learned where they were from after Richard said, “we’re from the island.” Like an idiot I asked, “which island?” Naturally the discussion moved to Westy Talk. This is standard protocol for all Westy enthusiasts. I was pleased to see that he had the Michelin version of my Yokohamas. After a few minutes on the topics of our travel plans, reinforced sidewalls and Westy accessories, we wished each other safe travels. It was time, once again, for the rubber to meet the road.

DOA in Smithers, B.C.

First the good news. The dreaded Vanagon Syndrome has apparently been cured. Note the striking differences between the before and after photos. That is if you can tell which one is before and which one is after. I can't.

The bad news? The soldering gun I used to install the famous capacitor indirectly uncovered a weakness in my charging system.

A little background: I began noticing over the last week that the digital readout on Stella’s 1100 Watt power inverter never rose above 11.8 volts. The norm in San Diego was always 12.2 volts. You’re probably thinking, “So what? 0.4 volts? Get over it.” Well, I was thinking the exact same thing. I chocked it up to excessive IPod use, emergency radio charging, and nighttime laptop and lighting use. I figured it would jump right back up to 12.2 volts if I backed off on even one of those activities. Not to be. The issue turned out to be near catastrophic alternator failure. You could literally put your hand on it with the engine running and feel every moving part begging for mercy. Like I’ve always said, better here than in the Yukon. OK, I said it once. To myself.

So here I sit in Smithers waiting for parts to arrive at OK Tire and Auto. But hey, I’m not complaining. Not even a little. Learning this in a town with a reasonable level of service available, as opposed to where I was headed next, is nothing short of damn lucky. Did I mention it was damn lucky?

So, where to next? Well, once John and the OK Crew get the alternator from Vancouver installed (best case May 28th), my original plan was to head to the Nisga’a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park. This particular area is known for numerous bear sightings. For those of you who haven’t given up on the oft promised amazing wildlife pictures, Nisga’a could be the answer. According to Kim from Thyee Lake, and a trucker I ran into while soldering Stella’s capacitor at a rest area, both have spotted the elusive Spirit Bear near the lava beds. The Spirit Bear, or Kermode Bear, is a sub-species of the American Black Bear and is known for 1/10 of its population having pure white coats. The goal is to capture a photo of a white Kermode Bear. You might be asking, “Who cares? That’s just like a polar bear.” Well, I haven’t seen any of those either! So far I’ve seen a chipmunk, a picture of a moose on a sign and a blue jay! I remain hopeful.

The inside scoop on what to see in northwestern B.C…

As I mentioned earlier, my original plan out of Smithers was to see Nisga’a, then continue north directly to Whitehorse in the Yukon. Wolfgang’s recommendations on northwestern B.C. quickly switched me to plan B, which will temporarily postpone Kermode Bear "hunting." He stopped by my Riverside Park site while passing through on his motorcycle to inquire about Stella. He was kind enough to spend 90 minutes with me sharing his Canadian travel adventures, as well as some detailed direction on the must see sights in this part of B.C. One amazing tale spoke of how he and his buddy were swamped by a 2 meter tsunami while paddling through ice floes on their way to Petersburg, Alaska. Their kayak was overturned when a nearby glacier did a little unexpected shedding. They managed to salvage most of their gear, including their tools, repair the damage and continue on to Petersburg. Nothing like laughing in the face of adversity. Nicely done Wolfgang and thanks a million for the info on northwestern British Columbia. I would have missed 2/3 of your recommendations if we hadn’t spoken. Check back for pictures from Prince Rupert, Atlin, Kincolith, Hyder, Warm Bay, Kluane Lake, and more. The Yukon can wait!


  1. I'm so jealous! Sounds like you are already having some adventures and you haven't even made it to the Yukon. I've driven down the AL-CAN once and it was a very memorable experience. My mom lived in Fairbanks and I helped her move back to the lower 48. I believe we actually stayed in Whitehorse. Somewhere along the AL-CAN there was an amazing hot springs. I think it was in the town with all of the license plates on poles. Can't remember the name, maybe Whitehorse. I'm sure you will find it. Take care.

  2. Sounds like despite the occassional glitches that things are moving along nicely and you are meeting some of the worlds nicest folks! Yes I am still awaiting the wildlife photos, especially the polar bears, but I have patience. I am glad to know you are well. Pete.... you should have been a writer!! Love you!

  3. Pete, you have me ready for my own excursion.. Stay smiling and keep Minneapolis and beer in mind if you're able!

  4. Pete, How about a weather report from above the lower 48. Prudhoe bay is a crisp 29 degrees. Is that still one of your destinations.

  5. Hey man! Good to see you are catching those issues early. I'm excited to see pictures of the spirit bear, though it may defeat the purpose of it by seeing it in a photo. Enjoy all of the quiet sunsets, I'm continually jealous.
    And my mom's right, you're a pretty good writer.
    Take care!

  6. Hey Pete - Glad you're loving life! Let me know when you're back in San D and we'll hit Morton's and you can tell me all the stories you can't post! I think I still have a couple books that I need to return to you...