Alaska to Maine,
Ride of the Millennium
MAP OF DAYS 19-24
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 19) Tuesday, February 1, 2000We were up again at 6:30 am and the temperature was about 10º F when we hit the trail at 8:00 am. First, we traveled the 18 miles across the south end of Lake Winnepeg. Although it was very foggy and we could only see about 200 feet ahead of us, the trail was well marked and we easily made our way across. From the east side of the lake, we traveled southeast on groomed trails to Lac du Bonnet, where we again picked up the Trans-Canadian Trail System. The snow cover is getting better the further east we go, so we can now head south on our planned route.
As we were passing through Seven Sisters Falls, the trail took us over the top of a LARGE hydroelectric dam. Kathy M. - we agreed that you have to get one of these for our Aroostook County Trail System - it was pretty impressive! Can you squeeze it into next year's budget?
The last leg of today's ride took us into Ontario. Good bye Manitoba - we're sorry we couldn't stay longer (we were there 3 days and 2 nights), because you gave us some great snowmobiling! However, if you look at your map again, Manitoba is a pretty narrow province in the south, unlike Ontario.
Speaking of maps, if you look at the border area in southeastern Manitoba and southwestern Ontario, there are a lot of lakes! The trails led us over many marked and well-groomed lakes, so of course we had to play a little. Mike O. waxed us this time (he must have been sneaking out at night to tweak his clutch or something), so now he has a constant grin on his face. He also mentioned that he saw one of the Lister Boys in the bush.
We arrived in Kenora, Ontario, on the north shore of Lake of the Woods, at 5:30 pm and spent the night at the Day's Inn. After traveling 215 miles today (and 3,700 so far), Mike O. and I again soaked in the hot tub after dinner. We agreed that it wasn't as majestic as Liard Springs, but soothing just the same. (We'll have to get Mike M. a bathing suit, since from now on we plan to drive by hotels that don't have hot tubs!)
A special personal note to Lindsey Peabody from Addison, Maine, who sent us an e-mail on January 31st - we were thrilled to hear from you! You know, over the last few weeks, we have been getting lots of messages calling us courageous, brave, heroes etc. It might make our heads too big to fit in our helmets, but believe us, we're just three ordinary, very fortunate guys doing something that we love to do. You, Lindsey, and your friends that go to the Pine Tree Camp are truly the most courageous, and you are OUR heroes. Any thanks that you and your friends may have should go to the generous people donating money to your camp. Please e-mail us again (and also tell any of your camp buddies to) and tell us more about the camp. What do you like to do best there? Do you pick on the councilors? Is the food yucky or yummy? Again, it was great hearing from you and may God bless you, "MKM"
(Day 20) Wednesday, February 2, 2000After we got up at 6:30 am today in Kenora, Ontario, on the north shore of Lake of the Woods, the first task of the day was to go to the Husky gas station/convenience store to gas up and get our seven-day trail passes. The weather was again beautiful and the temperature was about 25º F. We found that trail passes, both temporary and seasonal, seem to be quite a controversial item in Ontario. Issues such as cost and reciprocity with abutting Provinces and States are an important concern for sledders and the government. We paid $85 (Canadian) each for a seven-day pass, but we're sure to get our money's worth, whereas it will likely take us 5-7 days to cross Ontario.
Our next stop in Kenora was at Outboard Life, the local Polaris dealer, to get injection oil, trail advice and, of course, stickers for our windshields. Ron Christie, the owner, had us bring our sleds into his shop to strengthen the rear bumper. Since the cargo racks are attached to the bumper, and because we are almost doubling the load rating of the racks, the bumper mounting bolts were loosening up. His mechanics added a few extra bolts and we were "off and running", as good as new, and there was no charge for the work at Outboard Life - Thanks, Ron and crew! (As it turned out, it was a good thing we took the time for this "beefing up", for the next day's ride would put the cargo racks and bumpers to the test.)
We left Kenora at about 10:30 am and headed to Dryden, where we met Don Dingwall and Al Wice from Dryden Power Toboggan Snowmobile Club. They gave us great advice as to what trail to take to Ignace, our destination for the night. The sledding was the best we've had to date: great trails - mostly over lakes and through woods, excellent grooming, good snow conditions and, of course (we're getting spoiled!), perfect weather. After traveling 275 easy miles today, we got into Ignace at 10:30 pm and checked into the North Woods Motel.
(Day 21) Thursday, February 3, 2000We were up at 6:00 am, and by 8:00 am, with the temperature at 20º F, we were on the trail leaving Ignace for Thunder Bay, a city of 125,000 on the northwest shore of Lake Superior. At English River, about 40 miles southeast of Ignace, we followed a gas pipeline (similar to power line riding back home). The pipeline trail was ungroomed and very rough for about 90 miles, and our top speed was about 20 mph! This is where we were thankful that we "beefed up" our cargo racks and bumpers yesterday, because they never would have taken the pounding. However, as we got closer to Thunder Bay, the trails got better and better. The 90-mile stretch of bad trail was a little disheartening (especially since we had such GREAT trails the day before), but hey, that's all part of sledding.
When we arrived in Thunder Bay at 6:00 pm, we called the Polaris dealer, North County Cycle and Sport. Dane Goodfellow, the service manager, and Gill Haglund, the mechanic, came to pick up my sled and Mike M.'s sled to bring them to their shop, which is inaccessible by snowmobile, for a 4,000-mile check-up. Mike O. refused to have his sled put on a trailer for any reason during this trip, so he is going to wait until we get to the next dealer for his check-up. (Is he this stubborn at home, Kathy?) Thunder Bay is a special place for Mike O. because he was here in 1990 with Reg Thibodeau, and Rob and Scott Kieffer to compete in the "I-500", the world's toughest snowmobile race! After traveling another 195 miles closer to home today, we are spending the night at the Landmark Inn in Thunder Bay, Ontario and, as of this writing, we don't know exactly where we are heading tomorrow, except east.
We haven't been asking too many questions for the school kids following these updates lately, so here's a few facts about some of the places we've been and a few questions to leave you with. Except for our first day of sledding in Alaska, we've been traveling through Canada, which is the second largest country in the world; what is the largest? (Hint, it's not the United States.) Also, many authorities divide Canada into five general regions. We were in "Western Canada" through the Yukon Territory and British Columbia, then traveled in the "Interior Plains" in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. We're now on the "Canadian Shield", an area covering nearly half of Canada which contains some of the oldest rocks on earth. Although all three of us have sledded in "Atlantic Canada" before (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, PEI and Newfoundland), we won't be traveling in the fifth general region during this trip. Can you figure out where it is and/or what it's called?
Enough geography, now for the nature lesson. You might remember that on January 19th, we saw 15 or 20 buffalo on our way from Watson Lake in Yukon Territory to Liard River in British Columbia. Well, in northern Alberta and the southern Northwest Territories is the largest park in Canada (and among the largest in the world), Wood Buffalo National Park, which provides habitat for the world's largest free-roaming herd of bison (about 6,000). Canada first established this park in 1922 to preserve the last herd of wood bison. This park also contains the only natural breeding ground of an endangered, long-legged, white, wading bird that summers in the marshy areas of the park. What kind of bird is that? Finally, combining geography and nature, the park is bordered on the east by the Slave and Athabasca River (we sledded on the Athabasca River on January 25th) and near the southeast corner of the park is the Peace-Athabasca Delta, one of the world's largest inland deltas, where more than a million geese, swans, and ducks stop during the spring and fall migrations (talk about your bird droppings!). Next time we might give you some facts and ask some questions about lakes, since we've been traveling on or close to so many lately, so be ready.
Since it seems that we have been ending our updates with personal notes lately, here are three. First, yes, they have a hot tub at the Landmark Inn and Mike M. finally bought a "disposable" bathing suit in a small shop here (a real fashion statement), so now it's all three of us relaxing in the hot tub after a long day of riding - AAHHHH! (Sorry that this paper is so smudgy, Cheryl, but you know, it's awfully hard to write without getting the paper wet when you're sitting in the hot tub.)
Second, a personal note to those of you who want to know when, and by which route, we'll be coming home. The short, simple answer is "We really don't know." We don't want to set any deadlines (sorry) because we don't want to get into a position where we have to push hard to meet a deadline. The amount of time it takes for the last leg of our trip also depends greatly on the trail conditions we encounter along the way. At this point, we assume we are going to come into Maine through St. Pamphile, but if it's on a weekend, we will have to travel to Fort Kent to get through customs. We appreciate that the "Welcome Home Celebration & Dance", sponsored by the Caribou Snowmobile Club is "tentatively" scheduled for February 12th, with a back-up date of February 19th (in case we don't make it back by the 12th) and we want to thank the club for sponsoring this event and donating all proceeds (over cost) to the charities we are riding for.
Finally, Mike O. called home earlier tonight and has had a big smile on his face ever since. His oldest daughter Neali and her husband Scott told him that he is going to be a grandfather! He wants so badly to be with them now, but the hugs and kisses will have to wait a little longer. (We understand that Kathy was just a teeny little bit emotional, also.) Congratulations, Neali and Scott!
P.S. We sent some film back home awhile ago and we thought you might like to see some of the pictures we took on the first leg of our journey.
CLICK ON ANY PICTURE TO ENLARGE IT!
CLICK ON ANY PICTURE TO ENLARGE IT!
(Day 22) Friday, February 4, 2000We were up at 7:00 am (back to Eastern Standard Time, now that we're in Thunder Bay, Ontario), with the temperature around 15º F. During breakfast at the Landmark Inn, we were interviewed by the local newspaper. Then, after a very thorough 4,000 mile tune-up at North County Cycle and Sport, my sled and Mike M.'s sled were returned to us at 10:30 am (remember Mike O. wouldn't trailer his). County Cycle and Sport did a great job and gave us a nice discount - Thanks, Dane and Gill!
By 11:00 am, we were on our way to Nipigon, where we picked up a "pipeline" trail to Geraldton, our destination for the night. The pipeline we followed runs from Alberta to New York and consists of four underground pipes, with the two larger pipes at 4 feet in diameter - that's pretty big pipe! All four pipes carry natural gas, and the pipeline is about 300 feet wide and treeless. Again, these "pipeline" trails are very similar to Aroostook County's "powerline" trails, but without the poles and wires.
The ground surface above the pipes followed the natural terrain, and along the pipeline trail were many steep hills and valleys, usually about 100 feet from top to bottom, except for the dreaded "Dead Man Valley". (Why do they always have to call them that?) This gulch just happened to be about 10 miles deep, with an 89Ω-degree incline (a little exaggeration there, perhaps). We had to ride the brake all the way down and then, of course, we had to go back up the other side at full throttle. It was pretty intimidating when we were at the top looking down, but was actually kind of fun while making the run (TGIP!). After 230 miles today, we arrived in Geraldton, Ontario at about 11:00 pm and spent a short night at the Golden Nugget Motel.
(Day 23) Saturday, February 5, 2000Up at 6:30 am, we were on the trail by 8:00 am, but once we got off the groomed trails around Geraldton and back on the pipeline trail, the going was pretty slow (evidently, the groomer has been broken down). We found ourselves busting through 8-12 inches of soft snow, and finally, after about 40 miles of this (felt more like 1,000 miles), we hit groomed trails again, with smooth sailing into Hearst. The trails from Hearst to Kapuskasing ("Kap" to the locals) were excellent! About 30 miles before Kap, we stopped at our first clubhouse of the trip for coffee and story telling to whoever would listen.
We are just now starting to get into areas where more and more French is spoken. Interestingly, until several days ago, there was no French whatsoever, except for in Plamondon. So from now on, we'll be eating a lot of "potat frits", the only food we can say in French. (Hey Mom, how do you say "steak" in French?) After 280 miles of sledding today, we ended the day at 8:00 pm at the Mattagami Motel in Kapuskasing, Ontario. We hit 4,600 miles today, so we've finally made our goal of 200 miles per day. With 23 straight days of sledding and a 200 mile per day average, we're happy - another milestone, another victory!
If everything goes well tomorrow (Day 24), it is possible that we may end up close to, or maybe even in QUEBEC (tah-dah!). As good as that sounds, Quebec is also a pretty wide province, so we're not home yet, but it's looking good. We even thought that we could see Caribou from the top of a big hill today, but it must have been a mirage.
For the school kids - in our last update, we said that we might give you some facts and ask some questions about lakes, since we've been traveling on or close to so many lately, soÖhere goes. When we were in Manitoba, we sledded across the southern end of Lake Winnepeg, the third largest lake in Canada. What are the largest and second largest lakes? (Hint, they are both in the same part of Canada and it's a part we did not sled through.) Also, the day we sledded across Lake Winnepeg, we entered Ontario, where we traveled across many lakes to Thunder Bay, on the northwest shore of the world's largest expanse of fresh water, Lake Superior. The reason there are so many lakes and rivers in Ontario is because the "Canadian Shield" has been pushed, gouged, and scoured by glaciers from several ice ages, which left thousands of lakes and ponds. Do you think Lake Superior freezes in the winter? (What about the other Great Lakes?) You might remember that in The Song of Hiawatha, Lake Superior is called, "shining Big-Sea-Water", and the poet Longfellow gave another legendary name to Lake Superior, do you know what it is?
Finally, a personal note to our wives - as we begin the last leg of our LONG journey, although we are anxious to get home, we have been talking about how we're going to miss riding together, eating together, laughing together (we've been doing a lot of laughing the past month), and of course, having our "pillow" talks (and "snoring" contests!). So, we've been talking about having "sleepovers" at each other's houses on weekends for a month or so, just to wean ourselves from each other. (Is that O.K. with you, dears?)
(Day 24) Sunday, February 6, 2000We got up at 6:30 am and were on the trail by 8:00 am, with the temperature at about 15º F here in Kapuskasing, Ontario. We had good trails from "Kap" to Kirkland Lake, Ontario, where we got off the trail to get gas. (Kirkland - hummm, what a noble name for a town. There's a "King Kirkland" east of here - even better!) When we pulled up to the pumps at Speedy Lube to get gas, we saw the "closed" sign on the station door (it was a Sunday), but as luck would have it, the owner, Nick Bruneau, was inside and turned on the pumps for us. Of course, while we were filling up in Kirkland (I just LOVE that name!), other vehicles started pulling in, so Nick's day off may have been busier than he wanted - sorry, Nick, but thanks for the gas (and for the email message in our Guestbook).
The trails got a little choppy later on due to heavy weekend traffic, but we made good time until we got turned around a little on the way from Kirkland to the border. [I just had to throw that name out one more time. Maybe we should change Caribou's name. Hey, ëKirk' Tibbetts (another product of the great class of CHS '75), can't you use your pull at the Caribou Chamber of Commerce and Industry for such a worthy cause? After all, we can't let the ëMikes' get all the name recognition.]
Anyway, back on the trail to Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec (can you tell we've been on the trail a LONG time?) - there was no sign to point us to a side trail and we went about 10 miles before "Master Map Reader and Trail Master", Mike M., realized we were not heading in the right direction. Seriously, we would have gotten lost many times had it not been for Mike M. - he's got a GREAT sense of direction and NEVER misses a sign. Mike O. is usually too busy looking for wildlife - he can spot a deer 200 feet in the woods, tell you how old it is, when it ate last, and even what it's last meal was, etc. etc. etc.
When we got to the Quebec border, the trails turned from good to EXCELLENT (they must have different snow in Quebec). As we were riding on these perfectly groomed trails for all of about 5 miles, we actually passed a groomer heading in the opposite direction - a groomer grooming groomed trails!?! (Say that three times real fast.) Unbelievable! But wait, there's more - 5 miles after that we passed another groomer, grooming the same groomed trail that the first groomer was grooming. (O.K. enough of the grooming talk.) So, needless to say, we had a pretty smooth ride into Rouyn-Noranda, where we checked into the Comfort Inn at 8:00 pm, made our phone calls home, and had pizza delivered to our room (just like college guys). We also finally broke the 300 miles in one day mark by logging in 320 miles - we're comin' home, Mama!