End: Alaskan inside passage.
Handing over the bag of sunflower seeds, my shift is over. With the sun shifting, our little corner of shade is now over run by heat. No where to sit or hide, tanning is now mandatory.
The last few days have been quite different. Not to mention another game entirely, hitchhiking is more a mental game than cycling was. The hopes of a vehicle making the bend and heading west is enough to get me excited. Jumping up with my sign, I try every technique in the book. Looking happy, looking sad, jumping up and down and dancing. We get many laughs but no rides.
The morning was great. Apart from another heavy dew collecting on my sleeping bag, soaking it almost useless and making my feet cold, I was for once well rested. Sitting up I found the tree we slept under to be covered in ants. Oddly enough not one bite throughout the night, a complete surprise after facing fireants back home.
The morning came early, another 3:30am wake up call. Learning to ignore the sun long enough to catch a few more hours, we were up at quarter to six. Only one thought ran through my head, are we going to make it all the way? Are we going to be able to get rides over to Prince Rupert in time for the ferry? Already what had been a great morning turned into a game of doubt,questioning our motives as I sat on our duffle back smearing peanut butter on a tortilla. Hours passed, not one ride. Such a small amount of traffic traveled the road on a Sunday morning and especially west. I became pessimistic, spending time kicking rocks and tapping rhythms on the sign. Our window of time was closing and my nerves were becoming shot. Throwing the duffel bag over my shoulder and grabbing my camera bag, I began to walk over to Dirk. Calling it quits and preparing to make the hour walk back into town, an unexpected car came to a stop. As I watched from a distance, squinting against the sun, I could see Dirk’s reactions become more and more excited. I grabbed the bags and ran.
Our first ride of the day gave us a boost of confidence. A nice woman whome was driving back to a town called Burns Lake didn’t think twice about giving us a lift. One of many towns we needed to cross as we took highway 16 to the west coast, Burns Lake marked a good increment of distance from where we sat. So much conversation and history, we were happy to sit and listen. Learning about pine beatles destroying the surrounding forests in BC and the only things to kill them would be fire and harsh -40 degree winters. Forests of black dead trees marked the destruction of these insects, creating a major fire hazard for the environment. Following a bend on the road, we all happen to see this rather smart or fickle moose. With one hoof over the cement guard rail and her snout looking for traffic, this enormous animal pulled back as a car sped past, deciding she would rather not cross. We all laughed, crazy moose we thought. I sat back and relaxed, a far better ride than a bus and more fun with a new friend.
Making it to Burns Lake, we got a tour of the city and was dropped off at a grocery store. Happy our luck changed, we grabbed some food and headed to the end of town. Posting up and throwing the thumb out, we each took shifts. As Dirk and I made the rotation once, I see this car slow and turn into the parking lot. Curious and hopeful, I approached Dirk talking to this vehicle. We were asked to hold our sign up for a picture. I laughed and said why not, it wasn’t like we looked horrible in our Canada shirts sporting a clever sign. The driver happened to be a really chill dude from the states that was making his way to Whitehorse. He was happy to give us a ride as long as we could fit. I had a smirk on my face as I climbed in the back seat positioning myself around the bags and his bike. Luckily I am a skinny guy, crammed in this nook like space, I had to shift positions every twenty minutes to keep my legs and arms from falling asleep. The ride was long but enjoyable with all the talk. Another adventure enthusiast like ourselves, he happened to also be a film student. I was stoked to talk and just swap stories. Charging down mountains on bicycles and taking on whitewater on a canoe, this guy was pretty gnarly. As his turn approached, we pulled off to a gas station on the corner. Appearing to be the last watering hole for some distance, we figured it was a great spot to repeat the process. Shaking hands and wishing each other luck, our paths split and we once again threw the thumbs out.
Having a good combination of method and luck, we man’ed our posts. Right in front of me was this sign stating, “No hitchhiking. Is it worth it?” All I thought was we were not going to catch a ride now. After seeing that,would anyone want to stop? Apparently this highway we were traveling is dubbed the highway of tears, a name given to it after a number of native girls went missing after hitchhiking along it. As I scratched my beard, I was pretty confident no one will mistake me for a girl and that we would be a little safer. After this moment of pondering, not even 10 minutes after being dropped off, a red car comes to a stop. Dirk jumps up in the air and I grab the bags in excitement. Looking at my watch all I could think of is wow… we can really make it… we can get to the ferry in time.
Jumping in, she hauled ass. All our rides happened to drive at a reasonable speed over the limit, but she made great time. Dirk and I laughed as we passed all the traffic whome denied us further back on the road. Throwing the peace sign and smirking as we passed, we made sure our faces were either pushed against the window or hanging out just so they see us. We had a good time jamming to music and taking in the scenery. The mountains began to reach into the sky, grabbing the clouds and crying waterfalls of fresh snow. Magnificent landscapes glued my face to the window. I was sad I couldn’t photograph it all yet happy we were going to make our departure. My doubts from the morning began to vanish as the distance to Prince Rupert shrank.
She was nice enough to take us to the market to grab food and taxi us over to the port. We owe our day to her and every ride we caught. Only spending a combined 20$ to cover more than 450 miles of highway and make it to port on time, we made out like lottery winners. If we would have taken the bus, a total combined cost of 180$ would have killed our remaining budgets and spirit. This explained our crazed moods as we shared our story with ticket office and the customs agents.
We are on our way to Alaska, only time and luck will get us into the Yukon and on over to Anchorage.