We got up around 9am; Denis and Dan were due over around 10am to help and instruct with the moving of stuff. We had a cup of tea and packed all our stuff up, and Dan arrived around 11am, followed by Denis just before 12pm. We loaded everything on to the truck then said our final farewell. Denis wished us luck; something I was starting to think I needed. After some peanut butter and jam sandwiches, we proceeded to move all of the heavy stuff out of my top box and in to Ed’s, to help give me a fighting chance on the ice. The worst place you can have weight is high up and far back, and the contents of my top box wasn’t exactly light. I was hoping this would give me a new lease of confidence but I had no such luck. Once again I couldn’t get over 20mph and I was a nervous wreck, and because I was nervous I was stiff, which isn’t exactly ideal when riding on ice. I’d worked myself up and it was completely psychological; I just had to get over it. I really wasn’t enjoying the riding though and soon became worried that it was going to take forever to get anywhere at the speed I was doing. Luckily the worry was short lived, as we left the town and the road changed; the trucks had been gritting the road but they’d been turning round just outside of town. I was so happy that I could finally get some decent traction.
Sadly it didn’t last though, and the surface soon alternated between ice, snow, grit, slush, and the occasional but rare bit of tarmac. I decided to stick to the dark bits; there was more chance of road showing through and more chance of traction. This decision however lead me to have no trust in the white bits, and I was terrified if I happened to end up on any. The silly thing was even if both colours gave exactly the same amount of traction, I’d still get nervous as soon as I was on the white stuff. I’d built up a notion in my head that any white on the road was slippery, even though it wasn’t. And is if ice and snow wasn’t enough to contend with, there was other traffic too. I got nervous as soon as a car or truck came in to sight, in either direction, and instantly slowed down and pulled over in fear that I would come off. ‘Last Christmas’ became my comfort song. I started singing it to help take my mind of the worry and to ease my nerves. I say singing, I mean monotone stressed talking. I had to talk to myself to ‘breathe’, ‘relax’, and ‘don’t be such a tit’. I did however learn something amongst all this stress and nerves: Power and control. I span out (mentally), and immediately rolled off the throttle to slow down and stop. This unfortunately made the bike wobble badly and instead of crashing I said out loud ‘power through’, and gently gave it some throttle and it sorted it out. I couldn’t believe it! It’s definitely a big learning curve for me. Whenever I lose it and save it, I don’t want it to be from luck, I want it to be from skill that’s become habit. To get to that point would make my day and I’m sure I’ll get there; it just takes time and practice.
As we continued on we saw something on the road in the distance, and on closer inspection discovered that it was a fox. I thought he was going to chase us and bite us at first, but it turned out that he was just very curious, and very tame. He came right up to us sniffing around the bikes, and seemed extremely interested in Ed’s spider.
Ed’s glove then fell on the floor so he had a go on that; breaking off the toggle and munching on it.
He then had another sniff around then decided to have a lie down.
Not content with lying down he then got back up and wandered around the bikes some more, before sitting down and staring at us
Every time I went to my camera box he got up and came over, probably thinking I had food. He was in good shape and certainly didn’t look like he’d been starving, with a full coat and big bushy tail. It definitely looked like people had been feeding him. We didn’t feed him though, I don’t think it’s right and we didn’t want to encourage him to be on the road in case he got run over. Despite a fox killing all of our chickens at home, I do still like them.
We eventually went on our way and stopped at Contact Creek, where we got fuel and a coffee, and after chatting to the owner discovered that little foxy did indeed get fed by people in the camps. There was nothing else for us at Contact Creek, so we decided to push on to Fireside. It was 3.50pm and forty five miles away, which we guessed would take us an hour and a half; it was tight in terms of daylight but we decided to risk it. The owner then warned us about Bison being on the road, there was a five hundred strong herd in the area. She then commented that at least there weren’t any bears as the Bison had scared them all off; a bonus… I guess? So as if riding on ice wasn’t bad enough, we now had to watch out for Bison too. Great. We left Contact Creek and the road surface continued to alternate, but mainly between ice and compacted snow. We continued on then sure enough there were the Bison, about seven of them on the verge. As we approached them I thought to myself ‘I don’t know what’s scarier, riding on ice with road slicks, or being stared out by seven one tonne beasts?’ I then decided that riding on ice with road slicks WHILE being stared out by seven one tonne beasts won the ‘most scary’ competition. The last thing I wanted to do was to come off and spook them. We rode through steadily and quietly, and I made a quick secret check behind me to make sure we weren’t being chased.
We then encountered an even bigger herd, around twenty or so, but luckily they were all on the verges too and not on the road; that would have been interesting. This time I glanced at one and thought ‘Wow, their horns are really big and sharp’, this was quickly followed by ‘Please don’t fall off, pleased don’t fall off’. Luckily I didn’t fall off and we slowly rode through them as they grazed and stared at us. Twenty seven of the herd down, only four hundred and seventy seven to go!
I surprisingly had no major wobbles on the way to Fireside, just the odd twitch here and there, which was mainly thanks to me being selective with where I rode. The light started dropping and continued to do so very quickly, much sooner than we thought, and we soon stopped to see how far it was. We had hardly any light and we didn’t know if we should continue or not as I still didn’t have a headlight; fourteen miles, we could do it, just. It was quite possibly the longest fourteen miles I’ve ever ridden. It was verging on brutal. It was really icy and what didn’t help was the fact that I couldn’t see anything out of my visor. The pin-lock wasn’t working and it’d completely iced up, plus the only light I had was my erratic LED strip, which gave me a snapshot of the road every few seconds. In a way it was good not being able to see the road because then I couldn’t see how bad it was: Ignorance is bliss. But on the other hand if I couldn’t see how bad it was then the nervous part of me thought that it was probably all bad: Ignorance is not so blissful after all. I had to keep flipping my visor up so I could check my path ahead, but it was so bloody cold and we were doing such a decent speed that I couldn’t breathe. I even got Ed on the intercom and said ‘Have you tried breathing with your visor up?!’ To which he replied ‘Yeah, it’s horrible!’ And not only could I not breathe but my cheeks were freezing and I thought my nose was going to drop off. We kept on going though and I was so happy when we finally saw the lights for the services. I was also really happy with how I’d been riding; it’s amazing what you can do when you really need to. I knew we had to get there and I wanted to get there as quickly as possible. I stayed focused and got on with it, and my confidence came back in the process.
We arrived at Fireside shortly after 5.20pm, where we were greeted by one of the owners, Micheal, who had a look of confusion of her face; the last thing she expected to see was two motorbikes. ‘Well come in then!’ She said, and we followed her in to the trailer, where we got a hot drink and ordered some food from the other owner Norma, who was Micheal’s sister. I asked if we could camp and she said ‘In a tent?! In this weather?’ ‘Yeah’ I replied. ‘We’ve got good sleeping bags’. ‘Well the campsites full of snow…’ ‘Well unless you’ve got any cheap rooms?!’ I replied. She then said she’d have a word with her sister and see what she could do. Ten minutes later she came and brought our food over, and gave us the good news that we could ‘camp’ in one of their hotel rooms for the same price it would be to camp outside; $15. Perfect. The rooms were winterised but we had the use of a toilet in another block, and a nice comfy bed to sleep on; good news considering my Exped had shat itself the night before. We thanked her and finished up our food, before heading to our room around 7pm to watch a film before bed. A little luxury while ‘glamping’.
We got up around 9am but neither of us wanted to, we were far too comfortable. We packed our stuff up then went and got some breakfast, and after I settled up, Norma very kindly gave us a loaf of sourdough with lots of condiments to take with us. She said sourdough was good as it lasted well on the road, so should help keep us going. It was so kind and thoughtful of her, we really appreciated it.
Before we left we went and signed the wall outside, then waved goodbye as we headed for Liard Hot Springs.
It was around 1pm when we left and it was noticeably mild. The road was much better than the day before too, with lots of tarmac showing so we could get a lot of traction, eventually clearing completely.
It was so nice to eat up the miles, but at the same time I missed riding on ice and snow, you really had to concentrate and give it 100% of your thoughts. The ice then came back momentarily and I decided that I didn’t miss it after all; it’s a love/hate relationship. It was a really nice ride, with lovely scenery, and we stopped by a river with ice floating down it which was really cool.
There was hardly any other traffic on the road too, and before we knew it we’d arrived at Liard; a very short riding day even by our standards. We went to investigate the hot springs first, which looked very inviting, then went back to Liard Lodge for a hot drink.
After asking if we could camp and being told yes and it was free, we went to scout it out and found some small empty ‘chalets’. We decided to go back and ask if we could use one, and were delighted when we were told that we could, it was still free, and that there was also electricity and a heater we could use too, result! We went and dropped our stuff off then went back to the hot springs, for a highly anticipated dip.
Taking my clothes off in the cold wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, and I quickly and carefully tiptoed to the stairs and made my way in to join Ed who was already in there. It was really hot at first but you soon got used to it, and all my muscles began to relax; I’d been looking forward to this for ages and I wasn’t disappointed, it was absolutely lovely.
After a nice hot soak and a roasting in the top pool, we ventured down to the lower pool which was a little bit cooler. We stayed there for a while but it soon started to get dark so we eventually decided to make a move; it was then that I really wished I had a pair of flip-flops, the floor was freezing! It instantly set in to my bones and I rushed across it as quickly as I could without falling over, before drying off as quickly as I could and hurriedly putting my clothes back on.
We were both famished so headed back to the lodge, where we decided to treat ourselves to dinner. It was really tasty food and the company was good too, as we got chatting to a guy called Grant who worked there. He was really lovely and a pleasure to talk to, as are most of the people we encounter on our adventures, luckily. We finished up then headed back to our ‘room’, where we watched a film before going to bed; the hot springs sure wipe you out!
After a very good nights sleep we got up in the morning and went back to the lodge; tea and breakfast were in order. Unfortunately my card wouldn’t work when I went to pay, but thankfully Grant was there and said it was no problem; it’d been playing up recently so he just said to come back and try later. We got our stuff together then walked to the Hot Springs as my bike decided not to start; suspected dodgy ignition barrel. Luckily it wasn’t far and before we knew it we were up to our necks in deliciously hot water, lovely stuff!
And not only was it lovely, it was completely empty too, brilliant! I must say taking my clothes off had been a little harder this time, as the temperature had dropped to -10c. Brrrr! It was super hot this time as our skin was much colder, but after the initial burning we soon got used to it. We were told the top pool had ‘hot spots’, which I soon discovered as my legs began to burn, it was ridiculously hot! Needless to say I couldn’t stay there longer than a matter of seconds, and retreated back to where it was a sensible temperature and my skin didn’t feel like it was going to fall off; they don’t call them Hot Springs for nothing!
After thoroughly roasting ourselves we headed back down to the lower pool to cool off; a welcome relief. We decided to explore the smaller end of the pool, and swam under a fallen tree. We followed the water round until it narrowed and wound round; it was really cool, like something out of the film ‘Pans Labyrinth’ (which by the way if you haven’t seen already you really should, it’s brilliant). It was really shallow and quite cold in places, and we went down it as far as we could until it became so shallow that we were forced to stand up. There was steam everywhere and it was really eerie; it was a fun but spooky mini adventure.
After being in and out of cold spots we were rather chilly, and decided to sit under the waterfalls that came from the hot pool; so good! We stayed there for quite some time, enjoying the force of the water on our bodies and watching the water do cool stuff as it flowed over our hands.
We were there for about two hours in total, and only one other couple turned up the whole time we were there: Gotta love ‘off-season’!
We eventually got out, albeit reluctantly, and did the quick run over the icy floor followed by a rather unpleasant drying session; just when I thought a travel towel couldn’t get any less appealing, I discovered that mine had got wet and was frozen solid. Nice. And that wasn’t the only thing that froze…
We walked back and got to our room around 4.30pm, stinking of sulfur from the hot spring. Unfortunately our free accommodation didn’t have a shower, but at least we both smelt as bad as each other.
On the camping menu for dinner was homemade tuna pasta bake, which was easier said than done as everything was frozen in my -14C top box/freezer; what a mission! After much battling to scrape the sauce out of the jar, it was eventually a success, and we were both finally happy with hot food and subsequently full bellies. We’d run out of water so I went to the lodge to fill up my bottle and saw Grant outside. I said hello then said that I’d go and get my card to settle up, and before he could say anything I scurried off and reappered minutes later with my wallet. Grant was still outside and immediately said ‘Don’t worry about it, it’s already been taken care of’. I was completely taken by surprise, all I could say was ‘Seriously?!’ ‘Yeah’, he said. ‘We know you guys are on budget’. Amazing! I thanked him profusely; yet another random act of kindness which was appreciated as much as the last, and will be appreciated no less than the next.