Alaska to Maine,
Ride of the Millennium
Map Days 13-18
Map Courtesy of DeLorme Publication. Thank You DeLorme for your Generosity!
NOTE: Each Number on this map represents each day.
APPROXIMATE NUMBER OF MILES: 6,000
(Day 13) Wednesday, January 26, 2000We were up at 7:00 am, with the temperature at 0ºF, but it warmed up later to the mid-20s. Danny Chevigny and Wilfred Casavant (Mayor of Plamondon) met us for breakfast before we hit the trails with Danny and Jarett Gauthier as our trail guides. As we were heading across Lac la Biche, Arlene Hrynyk and Monette Duplessis joined us and followed us to a stop on the shore where we met Lac la Biche Snowmobile Club members Jim Piquette, Pierre Gauthier, Luke Gumble and Raymond Tardiff (as you can tell, we're out of "the bush" now and into snowmobiling country). We all rode together about 15 miles across the lake, which was good riding except for the 6 inch high, hard drifts that made for a somewhat bumpy ride. [Don't worry "Meme" (Mike M.'s Mom), we velcro'd Mike to the seat, so he wouldn't fall off.]
Those of you interested in geography might want to get out your maps and check this out - Lac la Biche and Beaver Lake are only separated by a couple of miles of land (a portage), but Lac la Biche drains into rivers and streams that flow north, eventually into the Arctic Ocean, while Beaver Lake drains into rivers and streams that flow east and eventually drain into Hudson Bay.
We stopped on the trail and started a fire to cook kubisan for lunch, which reminded me (Kirk) of the fun hotdog roasts the St. Peter families used to have on the trail when all the kids were little (those sure were the "good old days"). While stopped for our cookout, we were joined by Jerry Bioulock (owner of Hillside Power Merchants, a Ski-Doo dealer), Gerry Pickard (the Ski-Doo District Manager for Alberta, Saskatchewan and Northwest Territories), and J.F. Guertin (Ski-Doo Regional Sales Manager for Ontario and Western Canada). A personal note to Rob Kieffer (an avid Ski-Doo rider back home) - too bad you didn't join us, huh Rob?
This whole gang took us to Bonnyville, where we were left in the caring hands of Gilles Choque, Dave Roche and Rick Kowalski, members of the Bonnyville Snowdusters Snowmobile Club. I have to tell you, we were starting to feel like the baton in a relay race, but we sure were "carried" with care and we weren't "dropped" once. Our three new trail guides, or "runners", took us as far as Ardmore (thanks for the email message Dave R., it was great riding with you three), where we were passed to Gary Wahn, Greg Spencer, Barry Meyer and Kirk (great name!) Matthews, who escorted us to Cold Lake, the end of the trail (and the end of the relay race) for the day. We are another 160 miles closer to home tonight. We stored our sleds at Rider's Connection in Cold Lake, a Ski-Doo Dealership owned by Brian Koluk. (The "Brotherhood of Snowmobilers" doesn't care what kind of sled you're riding.)
There was another nice reception in Cold Lake, with snacks and drinks (coffee for us three) and Cold Lake Snowmobile Club President Norm Rourke, club members Barry McLaughlin, Gerald Traa and Dennis Collins presented us with Cold Lake Snowmobile Club tee shirts. We spent the night at the Western Budget Motel in Cold Lake and our room had a kitchenette and gas fireplace - how romantic. When we got up the next morning and went to check out, we were informed at the desk that the Cold Lake Snowmobile Club picked up the tab for the room - Thanks go to all of the club members!
[We want to give recognition to all the wonderful people who have helped us along the way, and they truly deserve the credit, so please bear with us through all the names we listed in this update.]
(Day 14) Thursday, January 27, 2000 (Two Weeks Straight of Sledding!)Up again at 7:00 am (even tired Mike O.) with another beautiful day in the 20s here in Cold Lake, Alberta, near the Saskatchewan border. We think we're going to try and ride this jet stream all the way back to Caribou. Four of our trail guides from yesterday (Gary, Greg, Barry and Kirk) rode with us to Goodsoil, Saskatchewan, where we entered the Central Time Zone, only one hour earlier than Eastern Standard Time (EST) back home. We would like to say goodbye and thank you to all the great people and great riding on the trails in Alberta. On the way to Goodsoil, we traveled across Cold Lake, which is on both sides of the border, and got a real close-up look (within 50 feet) of a huge wolf running across the lake - wow!
Kenny Johnson from Northern Lights Snowmobile Club in Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan, escorted us to Meadow Lake, where we stopped at Extreme Speed R.V. (a Polaris dealer) to pick up some injection oil. Once there, Kerry Million, the manager, helped us out by shipping back some more supplies that we won't be needing anymore (sleeping bags, etc.) - Thanks Kerry. Kenny then pointed us in the direction of Chitek Lake, where we met Dale, Jolene and Carl Daniels and Stanley Blocea, who rode with us to Leoville. From Leoville, we followed the beautifully groomed trial to Big River, where we planned to spend the night tonight.
While eating dinner at the Big River Hotel, pondering where we were going to spend the night since the hotel was full, Dan and Leah Scriven from Timber Trails Snowmobile Club came over and gave us information on the trails east of Big River. To our great relief, they also booked us into a nice cabin for the night overlooking Big River and agreed to fax this update for us in the morning (since we are in such a hurry to get riding again!) - Thanks, Dan and Leah. We traveled 210 miles today, and tomorrow (Friday, January 28, 2000), we're heading from Big River to Carrot River, Saskatchewan. As you may have guessed, there are many lakes and rivers in this area.
Before you forget we even asked the question, according to "The Milepost", the Alaska Highway was originally called the "ALCAN", which stood for Alaska-Canada military highway, and this was the military name for the pioneer road at its completion in 1942. It was officially named the Alaska Highway in 1943, but quite a few people still refer to it as the ALCAN. You may have noticed that while we were traveling along the Alaska Highway, we often referred to "Historical Mile" and "Historical Milepost". Mileposts were first put up at communities and lodges along the Alaska Highway in the 1940s to help motorist know where they were in this vast wilderness. These original mileposts are still used today as mailing addresses and reference points, although the figures no longer accurately reflect driving distance.
Finally, a personal note from Kirk to "Uncle Al" St. Peter - got your email dated January 25th and now I know why you have such a "crappy" golf game. A second personal note - we did get a chance to "line 'em up" on the Athabasca River and boy, is Mike O. upset! He doesn't like looking at taillights! Hey, Reg, what did you send him in that top-secret box - a governor? Thirdly, we thought you should know (if you didn't already) that all the kidding you hear on the radio interviews and in these updates is just that, kidding. We three sledders are getting along just GREAT, on and off the trail!
(Day 15) Friday, January 28, 2000We were up at 6:00 am and on the trail by 7:00 am, with the temperature at 10ºF here in Big River, just west of the Prince Albert National Park in Saskatchewan. The temperature warmed up to the mid 20s and it turned out to be just another GREAT day of sledding on Snowmobile Route 66 on the Trans-Canada Trail System. The trail we followed today was a nice mix of woods, abandoned railroad tracks, and old logging roads (sound familiar to those of you who ride in Aroostook County?).
While we were looking at the billboard trail map at an intersection in Nipawin, Saskatchewan, we met Dwight Thesan, from Arborfield Pasquia Snowgoers Snowmobile Club, who led us to Thomas Motors, a Polaris dealer, to say hello and get a sticker for our windshield. We're getting quite a collection and are trying to get one from every Polaris dealer along the way. Since we didn't leave Thomas Motors until about 5:00 pm, we decided to call it a day and checked into the very nice Kingfisher Inn in Nipawin for the night. Even with the early stop, we traveled 240 miles today over great trails.
(Day 16) Saturday, January 29, 2000It was in the mid-20s today when we got up at 7:30 am in Nipawin, Saskatchewan. While checking over the sleds, we discovered that Mike M. and Kirk had done a little damage to their sleds yesterday (sorry, non-Polaris riders, but it was nothing major - the running boards were bent a little after hitting a "yes ma'am" with a full load on back). Bob Berezowski, the owner of Westside Welding and Machining Company in Nipawin, was kind enough to work on a Saturday morning to help us repair the minor damage, which was mostly preventative maintenance. We subscribe to the adage, "If you take care of your sled, it will take care of you!" The worst part of the repair work was having to listen to Mike O. lecturing us about running the sleds too hard (Mike O. lecturing us?! That Hurts!). We worked on the sleds until 11:00 am or so, ate brunch and were on Snowmobile Route 66 again by 1:00 pm.
We stopped for a late lunch/early dinner in Hudson Bay, about 130 miles southeast of Nipawin. However, since the Trans-Canada trails were in excellent shape (mostly woods), the weather was great, and we sure want to get home soon, we decided to push on to Norquay, just west of the Saskatchewan/Manitoba border, and another 100 miles south of Hudson Bay. We pulled into Norquay at 9:00 pm (after traveling 230 miles today) and found the town closed down, except for the Norquay Motel (whew!). The Assistant Manager, Glenda Lewis, even called the owner of a gas station in town (Terry Galay), so that we could gas up our sleds and get an early start in the morning. Terry met us at his station, opened up for us and let us fill up. Thanks to both Glenda and Terry for their help! When we told Gordon Minto, Manager of Norquay Motel, about our ride, he not only told us to use our room fee money for the two charities, but also gave us $20 out of his own pocket for the charities. Gordon rides his motorcycle for charities and could relate to our journey. Does any of this Canadian hospitality and generosity surprise you? Not us, not anymore!
(Day 17) Sunday, January 30, 2000This morning in Norquay, it started out at about 0ºF when we got up at 6:00 am, but quickly warmed up to the mid-20s again. We just cannot believe the BEAUTIFUL weather we've had for the last 6 or 7 days. We are almost hoping for a snow day, so we can have a break (not really!). This is our 17th straight day of riding and we are LOVING every minute of it. We're now almost half way home (about 3,000 miles). We were on the trail by 7:00 am and were into Manitoba by 8:30 am. So long Saskatchewan - you were not at all what we expected! We thought we would be riding in wind-blown prairies, but instead found GREAT trail riding along the timberline (the prairies are south of the timberline).
Because we couldn't find any Manitoba trail maps in Saskatchewan, we took a wrong trail for the first time in 3,000 miles - not too bad. We went about 20 miles out of our way, but as luck would have it, the detour was well worth it. While on our misdirected trail (we were NOT lost!), we came upon a herd of approximately 100 elk, which made Mike O.'s day, because he had been waiting to see elk ever since we left Tok, Alaska.
Then, as we were riding through Roblin, Manitoba, we stopped at an intersection to discuss which way to go (more like guessing, actually), and as the three of us were all pointing in opposite directions, Pete Mysko (who was just riding by) stopped his sled to offer his assistance. As it turned out, Pete just happened to be the owner of the (you guessed it) Polaris dealership in Roblin and his "Snowever Sales and Service" dealership happened to be (guessed it again!) just across the street from where we were standing. Since it was Sunday, his shop was closed, but he invited us over, put on a pot of coffee, and gave us trail maps of Manitoba. He then escorted us out of town and got us on the right trail to Dauphin, where we spent the night at the Canway Inn & Suites, and John Schur, Manager of this very nice motel, gave us a nice discount - Thanks, Pete and John! We traveled 230 miles today - 190 in the right direction.
Because the mapped trails from Dauphin tended to travel southeast toward Winnipeg, and due to the lack of snow in that area, we asked around to see if we could head east instead, across Lake Manitoba and Lake Winnipeg (two VERY large lakes east of Dauphin). Todd Rathwell, avid snowmobiler himself and owner of Smitty's Restaurant adjoining the motel, gave us directions and the names of people to contact along the way, so we could do just that (head east instead of south). He also gave us our dinners "on the house". We had chicken stir-fry, if anyone is still concerned about our diets. Thanks for the delicious meal and super help, Todd!
After dinner and watching the second half of the Super Bowl (great game and nice comeback, almost), yours truly is writing this update, while M&M are snoring up a storm. Just a quick personal note before I join them in la-la land. In case anyone was wondering about the sleeping arrangements, we always get a double room and M&M have to sleep in one bed, while I always get the other bed. After all, I have to write everything down at night, while they get to sleep! (Just kidding, I'm glad they're asleep right now!) Actually, we get a double room and a cot for the third person, and then we rotate who sleeps on the cot according to a rotation schedule based on our initials, something like "MKMKMK…" After almost three weeks of this rotation schedule, I finally figured out who was getting the short end of the deal!
(Day 18) Monday, January 31, 2000We were up at 6:30 am this morning and, after a big breakfast at the Canway Inn & Suites in Dauphin, Manitoba, were on the trail by 8:00 am, heading east in the ditches of Highway 5, south of Dauphin Lake. The going wasn’t too bad though, because the ditch was flat and well traveled by local snowmobilers. Plus, “ditch banging” is the price we’ve had to pay to stay north, where the snow cover is better. During this trip, we have repeatedly heard that this is the third year in a row that the snowfall has been minimal. Locations that normally have three feet of snow on the ground this time of year now only have 12 inches or so.
In Ste. Rose du Lac, we stopped at Worrall’s Air Cooled Engines (a Polaris dealer) to pick up some injection oil. Wayne Morrall, the owner, gave us stickers for our windshields and confirmed that we were on the right track. Our next stop was at Lake Manitoba Narrows Lodge, where we had coffee and a pastry. We usually don’t eat lunch, so we snack along the way. If you look on a map, you’ll notice that the three BIG lakes in Manitoba - Lake Manitoba, Lake Winnipegosis, and Lake Winnipeg - are long from north to south and narrower east to west. The lakes drain into Hudson Bay, which forms the northeast border of Manitoba. (We noticed there is also a “Cross Lake” north of Lake Winnipeg, which reminded us of home - especially Kirk, who has a camp he misses there!)
Our last stop on the way to Gimli, where we spent the night, was at Randy’s Tire Craft (yes, another Polaris dealer) in Lundar on the east side of Lake Manitoba. Randy Goodman, the owner, was kind enough to log on to the internet, so that we could see how dashing we looked in the photographs taken in Tok, Alaska and in Watson Lake, Yukon. (Although we had seen black and white faxes of the pictures, they did not do us or our sleds justice - well, WE might have looked better in the blurry fax!) He then, of course, gave us stickers for our windshields. Also, Kristina Goodman, the office manager, informed us that Lundar (population 1,000) is known as the goose capital of the world. Many thousands of geese migrate here in the summer, due to the vast amount of marshland. Being smarter than us, they go some place warmer for the winter.
After traveling 210 miles today, we arrived in Gimli, on the southwest shore of Lake Winnipeg, at 6:30 pm and spent the night at the Lakeview Inn & Suites, the most lavish hotel we have stayed in so far. After dinner, Mike O. and I soaked in the hot tub (Mike M. didn’t bring his bathing suit and was too shy to go in his “blue” underwear).