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Yermo

2010 Deadhorse Alaska Trip

'Tuesday June 1st, 2010 10:00'
This ride is over.
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2010 Deadhorse Alaska Trip

Ok, it's late. I had intended on writing an update but I'm beat. I'm in Prince George, BC, Canada and stayed at a restaurant way too late talking to a very interesting woman who is, how should I describe her, an environmental advocate (not an "environmentalist") who has a strangely balanced insight into the compromises needed to make the oil and gas industry, in addition to others, lessen their environmental impact by complying with government regulations. An intelligent and insightful woman named Robyn. It was a completely improbable meeting as I had just paid my bill and was getting up to leave when she entered and sat down at the bar. She mentioned something to the bartender about work and, completely out of character and continuing the trend of challenging the personally uncomfortable, I piped up "so what do you do?". I'm glad I asked. We ended up talking until the bar closed about topics ranging from work to this crazy trip of mine and some of the reasons behind it. "Since I'll never see you again, may I ask what are the reasons behind this trip? I hope it's not too personal.". So I told her a bit about the Nightmare(tm), the estate, and Gesa being killed. Enough detail so convey "yes, it was a Nightmare", but, again out of character, I kept it pretty brief.

It was by far the longest conversation I've had with a "stranger" in ages; definitely on this trip. I don't think she believed me.

We talked for hours. It was fun.

I'll try to write more tomorrow. I'm completely beat. My hopes and dreams of doing a serious mileage day have been shattered, but it's ok. It was worth it. I'll make Dawson Creek tomorrow but no further ....

(the next day)

I could not sleep to save my life. I went to bed around 1AM and woke up around 5AM unable to fall back asleep. Thoughts once again raced. Last night at the restaurant talking to Robyn she mentioned she had lived in a place called something like "Salmon" Idaho, or was it "Sammon"? Or something else. I'll have to look it up. She said I definitely had to stop by there on my way back and walk into a place and tell them Robyn said hi.

"Ok, I'll do that", I said. And I will if I can figure out what place she meant. That's the kind of thing I've wanted more of on this trip. Random interruptions to redirect me to go places I would never think of going. That's what I like about the way I travel. I like to leave open the possibility that things may take me in a direction I had not considered.

I haven't done that in my "real" life in a very long time. The times I have been successful, the times that have yielded the most rewarding benefits have been the times I have let life redirect me randomly. But with years and years of the Nightmare dominating my existence I've become very gun-shy. The thought of change, the thought of going in some random direction in a substantive way without planning for and addressing all possible downsides, stops me in my tracks. My sense of obligation, real and, probably more likely, imagined, confines me.

But when I travel and am Away for a while, life can redirect me and interesting situations arise that I could not have predicted. Who knows, maybe there's nothing worth seeing in this little town in Idaho. But maybe the going there will open up other possibilities. After all, I'm going to Deadhorse, Alaska for No Reason At All.

In a related topic, I also found myself thinking this morning about risk. In some ways this trip is risky. I have come very close to being wiped out of existence. That's one kind of risk. However, the risks, while severe, are limited and can be mitigated. The risk is physical, not personal.

A friend txt'd this morning "You're very brave". I got to thinking "Not really". In many ways I have become terribly risk averse. It's part and parcel to not letting my life be redirected. Ian moved away. So did Bruce. Both of their lives improved as a result. Sure it sucks that they are away and there was always the possibility, I guess, that our friendship may not have survived. Well, maybe if I had been someone else. But they risked it and both are doing much better.

Actually, come to think of it I can't think of a single person who has taken calculated risks, as opposed to stupid ones, who hasn't improved their lives. The ones I know who are miserable are all the ones too afraid of change fearing the Devil that they do not know. I am much more like them than my brave friends.

When I consider the thought of moving as Ian suggested, of Change, suddenly I am not brave at all. The big Changes are the ones that involve internal risk. Internal risk scary. Scarier than any trip to Deadhorse. Ian is far braver than I am. He's changed his life multiple times. He's lived overseas in Moscow and Korea. He's travelled all over. Me, I have largely stayed confined by my obligations too afraid to walk away from them.

Ian unafraid of the Unkown. If I'm honest with myself, I guess I fear it.

During my younger years and especially when the Nightmare became epic, so many people asked me why I couldn't just walk away. What I was going through was clearly torture; a seemingly endless nightmare that would end badly with my greatest possible reward being that I might not get blamed for it in it's entirety. Regardless, I endured for years on end. So many people seemed to hold that in such high regard. I could live up to my Obligations despite knowing that I would be blamed and demeaned for it. And on many occasions I was. So many nights being woken up by the building alarm or my mom yelling at me.

It dawns on me as I write this that while one might be able to spin it that I was stepping up to a nearly impossible challenge when no one else would, you could just as easily say that I was simply too afraid, too much of a coward, not to do it. I was too ensconced in an over developed feeling of obligation to ever consider walking away from one. The fear of being blamed that I would negatively impact someone else for doing something to improve my own situation was far greater than any other fear. I almost aborted this trip because of another real estate fiasco developing with my mom's house; but this time I said "no, I have to go". If this trip kills me, will I be blamed for it? Will I be remembered as the one who was irresponsible? Who did not do what he was supposed to and suffered the consequences?

This quality, this fear, makes me extremely reliable. If I am your friend, I am your friend for life. If I say I'm going to do something, I do it. But this fear also confines me and makes me a coward. In travel I relish risk and addressing it. I'm open to endless Possibilities. However, in life I am so risk averse I rarely venture anything and as a result have the life that I do, which is more of a life than a Life.

One epic motorcycle trip a Life does not make, but it is one of the rare times that I have ignored the fear of not living up to my obligations and Risked. These are the times I remember the most years later; not the the endless times I lived up to my Obligations.

Maybe this is the lesson I came out here to learn. That, in honesty, I am an emotional coward and that's why my life is what it is.

If I make choices that might negatively impact someone else but could change my life significantly for the better, is it cowardly not to do it? To pay deference to that other human being? Would my mom's life been that much worse had I not stepped up to the plate for so many years? Could I have had a Life? Can I still have one or should I just continue on slaving away on my Obligations that, in the end, don't do me any good?

I have a friend who is struggling with similar questions. It's funny how easy it is to see someone else's behavior and recognize it. And also, how difficult it is to see your own. That's why, whenever I talk to someone else and give advice, I always carefully listen. The things you see in others clearly are often reflections of things in yourself. More times than not, I realize I am in part talking to myself.

Enough introspection for now.

I saw a guy walking away from his BMW F650GS adventure bike this morning. I didn't have a camera with me, unfortunately. He asked me where I was going. "Starbucks", I answered. He laughed and asked "Where are you going on your trip?". "Deadhorse". "Really?", he replied. "I just got back from there.".

"How was the Dalton?", I inquired. "'orrible! Simply 'orrible", he said in what sounded like a British accent. "I wouldn't do it on a bike without knobby tires. In places the road is ok, but in others it's just a mudpit of misery". Then he went on to say that a guy on a K1300GT on street tires had made it but wasn't happy about it at all. "Just miserable", he said. He crashed pretty hard within the last 7 miles on the return trip. He bent his handlebars and injured his wrist. "'orrible", he repreated.

Apparently it's been raining up there a lot and that makes the road nearly impassable in places. Another data point. Some say it's a cakewalk. Others say it's horrible. I won't know until I go see.

What's the greater risk for me? Pushing through and making it up to Deadhorse, or would the greater risk, the braver thing, be to turn around and be kind of myself?

I don't think I'm that brave yet.

I find it funny that people here from hotel clerks to bartenders know that fools like myself ride up to Deadhorse. I guess it happens enough. Maybe I'll run into some riders on my way. It would be good to do that stretch in the company of someone else rather than alone.

Yesterday that which I have always feared about leaving happened. Anatoly sent me an email saying that a problem we had noticed with our servers was more serious than we originally believed. In our company, we create, produce, customize, sell and support desktop stock market tracking and investment portfolio management software. Our product, Personal Stock Monitor is for investing what Quicken is for Personal Finance.

We have our own servers and network which I built and run out of my house, which is set up more like an office than a house. That's my role in our company. Anatoly does all the desktop software development and I do all the server and network management along with all the server side and web application software development.

I also built the ecommerce and customer relationship management system we use. (In addition to a bunch of other code such as the forum and blogging software on the site here.)

So Anatoly tells me that suddenly some random customers who purchase our software are not getting their license key emails. The system generates an email with a unique license key used to unlock the stock market software after they buy it.

So using the hotel wifi and this cheap laptop I had bought for the trip I logged into the servers and started crawling through code I wrote over 10 years ago. I comment my code very carefully for exactly this reason. It had been working all these years so it made no sense that it should stop working. Something had changed. I figured there was probably some problem with the mail server, sendmail, that we use. I got Anatoly to send me an example of one of the orders that did not get sent out. That allowed me to crawl through the mail logs to see if any error messages had been logged. "Connection refused" it said for the email in question.

Oh shit.

Sure enough, I checked and our software problem wasn't a software problem at all. Our mail server was being hit by some kind of "denial of service" bot network. Basically what this botnet was doing was opening a connection to the machine and just letting it sit. Then it would open another and another and another until all available connections were occupied. This denied anyone else, including my ecommerce software, from using the mail server.

Doh!

I checked the sendmail configuration but it's been years since I've done any serious sendmail work and I didn't have any of my reference books with me, so I sent Duncan an email asking him if he had ever addressed this problem before. Duncan is a sendmail master having spent years tuning high volume mail servers. I knew he was at work, so I added some of my own tweaks and watched the server for a while. The attack continued but mail was flowing, slowly. At least we knew what the problem was and I would be able to hole up in Prince George and work on it without the threat of checkout time looming large.

This occupied about three hours of my morning. So much for getting any serious mileage done. In addition, this meant I would have to make sure that I stopped somewhere with WIFI. So I set might sights on Price George. "Perfect.", I thought, since I had wanted to revisit Prince George anyways.

The hotel let me stay until 12 at which time I checked out and got underway.

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I wasn't in the mood to stop much. The countryside looked much as it had. It went from arid conditions to a greener tree covered landscape. This was the kind of landscape that looks like what one, as an American, thinks Canada should look like.

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The rest stops were clean. The little bathroom outhouses were not.

What amazes me about this countryside, given how far north we are, is the abundance of flowers. There were fields and fields of yellow and white flowers. The photo doesn't do it justice. Very pretty.

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(yes, I know, he's so sensitive, he stops to take pictures of flowers.)

I rode on at nearly the speed limit. Yesterday's encounter with the Canadian Mounty had me cautious. Strangely most Canadians around here drive the speed limit. Given how crazy Canadians are in the states, I found this surprising. I meandered along barely going fast enough to keep myself awake when I passed a sign I didn't recognize. I turned around, owing in part to my new tank bag setup that lets me turn might tighter circles, and went back to take a look.

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Ok, this is something you see every day.

I continued on stopping every once in a while to snap a photo. As I moved across the landscape I would notice these expanses of white crystals. The first one I saw made me suspect it was some kind of pollution but after I saw a few more I began to suspect it was some kind of natural phenomenon.

They seem to start out as ponds like this one.

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And then evaporate into what I assume are salt deposits.

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I didn't investigate further. It seemed strange to me that water on the surface around here would contain such a high concentation of salt. Maybe it's something else. I don't know.

In this area of British Columbia towns are relatively rare, but I was disappointed to see how developed it has gotten since the last time I was up this way. Previously, this was Away. I mean there was nothing here. Now there are larger towns with traffic lights and billboards. At least they are still separated by a good number of miles.

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I eventually came upon Lac La Hach, a town that has a campground Duncan and I stayed at for a day or two. I remember we rented a little john boat and explored the rather large lake there. I couldn't remember where the campground was we stayed at, but I needed to make it to Prince George so I could work on the servers, so I didn't stop.

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I kept trying to capture how roads up here are "different". The "highways" up here are what we would call secondary roads. They are mostly two lane opposing traffic. And unlike the last time I was up here, the traffic was annoying.

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The landscape up here is dotted with lakes. Unfortunately there are so few good places to stop to take a photo.

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I noticed an odd street sign that I should have taken a photo of. It was the symbol for WIFI. A Canadian Tourist Information Center with free WIFI was just up ahead.

This was an impressive wooden structure made with huge beams, but the now legendary Canadian Highway Infobirth Girl was not there. I suspect she no longer exists.

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There was a coffee shop on the one side and a table outside next to an outlet. "Perfect!", I thought.

I got a cup of coffee and set myself up to work.

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A young woman went back and forth from the shop to the parking lot a few times. Each time she passed she would smile. It seems like people smile a lot up here. I can't tell if it's a social norm like in some asian countries or whether all this smiling is genuine. People up here do seem happier to me than their counterparts in the states.

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Notice the smile. She was very friendly. I've found Canadians in general to be very friendly and open. This is in contrast to the general idea that Canadians tend to be stand offish. Maybe basic politeness is mistaken for something else. I know I get negative feedback in the States all the time because of my politeness.

We got to talking about the cultural differences between Canada and the US. The two cultures are more different than you would think. It's apparent in so many sublte ways. The people I've observed here are less angry than Americans. Given the huge number of hitchhikers of all walks of life, I suspect people aren't as afraid here. People smile. They are polite like I'm polite. They seem more open and curious. They seem to like to converse.

And it seems Canadians, like Germans, love their flowers.

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I sat outside and worked for some hours. Duncan had responded to my inquiry and had sent me a recommended list of settings changes which I carefully applied. I restarted the sendmail server process and monitored the machine for an hour making sure everything was working as it should be. It seemed to be.

It was getting late and I wanted to make it to Prince George to another WIFI hotspot so I could check up on things one more time just to be thorough. The landscape became more beautiful the farther north I got.

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And the landscape was dotted with more lakes as clouds obscured the sun.

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It was 7PM but the sun was still very high in the sky but it was obscured by these unusually misty clouds. It looked more like a thick haze high up above the clouds than clouds themselves. I wondered for a moment if there could be forest fires somewhere.

Another curious thing I noticed which once again made me think, "Uh oh, foreshadowing", are the trash cans at all the rest areas. They all look like this.

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Ummmm. "Bear Proof".

Once again I'm struck by all the flowers. Each town up here has hanging baskets, and planters and whatnot of colorful flowers. One little town I rolled through had them lining the street.

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(Yea, I know. Flowers.)

As an offset, look!, here's a factory.

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"Yermos like factories.", I can just imagine Carol saying.

I did manage to snap a photo of the weird clouds and endless expanses of evergreens.

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Weird high hazy clouds.

I rolled into Prince George and rode around the town a bit looking for a cheap motel. The town was a bit different than I remembered it. It didn't look as foreign. A few Innuit looking guys standing on a street corner eyed me suspiciously but I quickly noticed the Starbucks. "Yea, not Away", I thought.

Downtown has been decimated. There are many empty buildings. I was told not to walk around at night alone. "I'm from DC", I said. "Oh, never mind", they would reply. I poked my head in a few bar and grills and a couple of restaurants and finally settled on a rather nice restaurant. It had a nice wooden bar and a good selection of scotches. The food was excellent. I have forgotten the name. Something like "The Cork Twist" or somesuch.

As Outback Rachel can attest to, I'm bad for business. I sat at the bar and ordered. A little while later the whole restaurant cleared out. I'm starting to develop a complex. The bartender and waittress were nice and we chatted a while. Just as I was getting ready to leave a woman walked in and sat at the bar commenting "It's dead in here". "Yup, I seem to have the effect", I interrupted. "Suddenly I feel the urge to leave.", she joked.

A nice interruption to what been a pretty isolated day. Even when you are an intolerable introvert, you just never know who you are going to meet. There are Improbable People out there. I have to remind myself of that from time to time.

Yesterday, I heard from Angela. She says that her three year old, Lillianna, has started including me in her prayers. "And please let Yermo stay on the road." So sweet. I'll be extra careful, I promise.

I'm back at the Starbucks now absolutely dead tired. Two Venti coffee's is not doing the trick. Today's ride is going to suck ... I hate riding when I'm this tired. I'm half tempted just to go back to the hotel and leave tomorrow ... but the road beckons. It's supposed to rain.

To those who want to see me in one piece again, I'll be careful. I haven't reached anything close to the hard part yet, but it's coming. I wonder how hard it'll be. A heavily loaded sport touring bike with street tires and narrow handlebars ... and all that mud could make for an interesting time. I honestly don't know if I'll make it. Maybe it'll be too hard ...


I'm now in Cache Creek, British Columbia, Canada about 300 miles or so south of Prince George. I didn't stop much and given that I didn't sleep much last night, I am quite wiped out.

Actually, I hardly slept at all. Morning came too early and I didn't feel well. My intention had been to get up around 7 and try to get out the door in time for the 9AM ferry to Vancouver. Yea, right.

I had really tried to fall asleep. Difficult thoughts raced through my mind all night. The previous day I had had some long conversations with Ian and Tanya which left me unsettled. Tanya insightfully said "It must be difficult to wake up every morning having to invent a reason for being." The existentialists dilemma that, without a Big Problem to solve, I now face every day.

At one point, Ian described this trip of mine as a "period of mourning" but cautioned that at some point I need to leave the past Nightmare(tm) behind and start looking forward. "Make some changes.", he said. "Maybe you should move; into DC maybe. You should travel, maybe take a two month intensive Spanish course in Santiago". Of all the places in the world, Santiago? "Improve your cooking and invite people over for dinner. It'll make your house feel different.". Points taken.

I found myself thinking I don't seem to do well with freedom. Everyone keeps telling me I'm free but I wonder if maybe I'm like the engines in my boat. I only run well when I'm under load carrying some burden.

We got onto the subject of kids and how I am much more comfortable around the little noisemakers these days than I ever have been previously. Because of that article I wrote about my time with Angela, Ian mused whether I would ever consider getting together with someone with kids. "These days, sure.", I said, at which point Tanya livened up and said if I wanted to be set up she knew a bunch of single women. A friend had asked me a few times, "Did they ever ask why you're single?". Not directly, but the topic came up.

We talked about a cousin of Tanya's who had, on a lark, put up a profile on plentyoffish.com. She's gorgeous so I don't get why she would do that. I mentioned to Tanya that I had read about POF in some business blog and that it made crazy cash. One guy, MILLIONS in ad revenue. Some ages ago I had taken a close look at it to try and figure out what it was that made that site so successful. It's not anything about technology. It's about everything he didn't do. It took me a couple of years to figure out. More on that later when I'm less tired. In order to do anything on the site you have to register, so I created some bogus profile "2serious4most" and a one line profile "This is not the man you're looking for, move along.". No one has picked up on the Star Wars reference. I was really surprised when I started getting contacted there by various women just based on that one line. Weird. One woman sent me a message thanking me for being the only honest man on the site. Laugh. Yup, that's me, honest to a fault.

I used to peruse profiles to see how women presented themselves, what they lead with, and how guarded they were. From time to time I would engage some in conversation asking them what it was like to put up a profile on POF. Some forwarded me messages guys had sent them.

Horrible.

So I've decided not to build a dating site. I just don't think I have anything to contribute to that genre. I told Tanya I would be loathe to put a real profile up. She said if I ever really put myself out there I'd be "snapped up like that" and she snapped her fingers. "You're 40, take good care of yourself, good looking .... it is what it is, not really a compliment". Thanks Tanya, I'll take it as one.

So I spent the evening pondering relationships and pondering continuing to be alone for the long haul. "I could certainly do something like a real profile on some dating site, but it wouldn't change anything.", I thought.

Tanya mentioned something interesting. We were talking about a mutual friend who Tanya feels a strange low level bond with. We had talked for some hours at an intellectual level when she said, "This intellectual stuff is fun, but at the end of the day it's about the low level bond. The just 'being' with someone else. I can be perfectly happy just 'being' around another human being. I don't have to have the in depth conversations." . She phrased it differently, but that was the gist.

Very interesting and it was something about Tanya I had never really understood.

It's also completely different for me.

I've never really understood why dating sites "work" but I guess if all most people need is a sense of "not being alone", then I can see how they would work. Here's a person. They seem like nice decent people. They're attractive. Why not?

It doesn't seem to work that way with me, however. I seem to need to feel a level of connection that's deeper, more intense, more involved and alot more than just some animal level of "togetherness". There is nothing that will make me feel lonelier than being around someone where there's no real connection. The thought of going on a "date" with some stranger makes me shudder.

I guess that's why setting me up has never worked, not even when I was a teenager. That's why a dating site would be irrelevant for me. These kinds of involved bonds are exceptionally rare and they take forever to form. I've got so many walls and so much damage it takes a very rare kind of patient human being to get through them all. The only times that has happened, and it's only happened a few in a lifetime, is where there's some barrier that provides the time. Like a bonzai tree confined, shaped and made beautiful through boundaries, these relationships only ever form as a result of constraint and copious time. Years. Unfortunately, the constraints that provide the time for these bonds to form also, inevitably, prevent the relationship from changing into anything else. I guess this is why one of my best "relationships" has been with a woman who is a lesbian. One of the most romantic weeks of my life was motorcycle camping in the redwoods with a woman who had a boyfriend. Yup, it's about constraints.

That's the best answer I can think of right now to the question "why are you single?", not that you asked.

Well, it's today's best working theory. Tomorrow I may come up with something different.

What does this have to do with epic motorcycle journeys? Not much.

These thoughts combined with worries about excess freedom and not having a clue where to go from here, conspired to prevent me from falling asleep and caused me to be quite down.

I answered some emails, packed up my gear ever so slowly. I made myself an omelette, based on Tanya's careful instruction. It finally came to pass that I was ready to leave.

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Ian and Tanya seemed happy. "No more guests!", I imagined them thinking. They had had guests for weeks on end. I was the last for a little while. I'm sure they enjoy not having a troll living in their basement.

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If the scheduling works out I think I'll try to stop by again on the way back. Maybe Ian and I can go for a day ride.

So after some further futzing and an embarrassing moment not being able to get my bike off the center stand because it was too loaded and the floor in Ian's garage was too smooth, I finally got underway.

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I rode to the ferry. Riding in Victoria is a bit frustrating. The traffic is terrible and everything goes oh so slowly.

The clutch on the bike is beginning to feel like it's on it's last legs and this "racing oil" in the engine completely changes how the bike vibrates. It's not a good feeling. I may be motivated to swap it out prematurely for some Mobil 1 15w50.

But I did make it. I was snapping some photos when a woman walked up and said "Here, let me have that". I handed her the camera and she snapped a photo.

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They were very nice.

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When the boarding call was sent out, we rode onto the ferry. I was going to put my bike on the center stand but the guy, I didn't get his name, said I should use a chock instead.

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He helped me tilt the bike to get the chock positioned so it stabilized the bike. It was very cool of him. When we left he helped me get it out again. I mentioned the blog to him. I hope they contact me here.

The size of the ferry was nuts. It had 7 decks.

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Looking out of the ship, this was the scene.

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We got underway. There are a crazy number of islands in this part of the world and the ferry weaves it's way between them.

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Trying to get more photos of my ugly mug I asked a young woman if she would snap a photo of me with the background.

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After about an hour and a half we could see Vancouver in the distance, and a horizon to horizon expanse of menacing clouds. Foreshadowing?

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I rode inland. Traffic was horrific and it took forever to get onto some less travelled roads. Unfortunately, the route I needed to follow to Canada highway 1 led me straight to the clouds. The photo doesn't do it justice but notice the clouds flowing over the peaks.

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I came upon Fraser Canyon. Duncan and I had been here 18 years ago. He has spoken of it often.

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Shortly there after I saw a couple of hitchhikers with an interesting approach. The guy is in a bunny suit and the girl attempts to balance a twig on her hand to get attention ... it did not seem to be working all that well for them, but it did get them mentioned in this blog.

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I was surprised by the number of hitchhikers. The other thing that surprised me is the number of really old vehicles on the road. These are not restored hobby pieces but vehicles that look like they've been run constantly since the '70s. There are so many old jap bikes on the road.

Fraser Canyon is cool. It's a good dramatic ride somewhat unlike others I've been on. There's a quality I can't quite put my finger on that separates this area from other dramatic canyons I've seen.

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The dramatic scenes continued through the canyon.

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I did about 300 miles today. I was tooling along minding my own business when a police car passed by in oncoming traffic. In my rear view I could see his lights turn on as he was turning around. I was the only vehicle on the road. Busted.

120kph in a 100kph zone. Doh! Before he had a chance to accelerate I pulled over on the side of the road and took off my gloves and helmet. I have to admit he was very professional and polite. Actually, everyone I've encountered up here has been polite, as polite as I am. Now that's saying something.

He checked my insurance and license. We chatted for a moment and he let me off with a "120kph is too fast. Enjoy Canada". I asked if I could take his picture but he said he didn't like having his photo online. Seemed like a good guy.

I rode on to Cache Creek where I found a cheap motel with WIFI. I had dinner at a family diner. There was very cute friendly young waitress. Cute? No, she was beautiful. Not Canadian Highway Info-booth Girl beautiful, but beautiful nevertheless. She smiled. Sometimes that's all you need to lift your spirits after a long hard introspective day without enough sleep.

It was largely an uneventful day. I had thought about maybe leaving on Thursday but because of some health insurance issues I needed to resolve I decided to stay an additional day. I am bureaucratically challenged and hate paperwork.

But it's good because it gave me an extra day to shop for supplies and resolve a few issues I have.

Back in Spokane, Kalee from Ed's Snowmobile and Motorcycle Shop went way above the call of duty to help us out. I know it's no longer done and is a bit excessively old school but I wanted to say thank you in some substantive way, so I had decided to send her some flowers, but I had forgotten to do it earlier in the week. Doh! I've always gotten a kick out of giving flowers ever since I was a kid.

As a teenager back in highschool I used to instigate what we called "flower runs". Me and a couple of friends would buy a bunch of flowers and then drive all over creation leaving them on doorsteps so that as our targets left to go to school in the morning they would be greeted by something to brighten up their days. We had this down to such a science. We would turn off the lights and engine, coast up to the target house and silently place said flowers and be off back into the dark. It was always done anonymously. This would keep us occupied for some hours as we would do this for half a dozen or more girls. It was always fun to see the stir it would cause at school the next day. I always particularly enjoyed leaving flowers for Terri, a.k.a. Talons. This little ritual is one of my few good memories of that time.

Once, on Valentines day, I had bought some roses for a friend and her sister. Their mom had always been really nice to me so I brought some for her as well. So I showed up on the doorstep, flowers in hand to say Happy Valentines Day. When I gave their mom flowers she burst into tears. Her husband hadn't gotten her any. Remember how I said I keep getting myself into trouble? Yea, I still can't win for losing. I became a lot more cautious after that. It bothered me, deeply. I still think about it from time to time.

It seems to me that the online florists business is ripe for re-invention. All I wanted was to find some nice polite white lillies to send, but nothing doing. Anything that says "delivered in a box" shows up frozen. I made that mistake once some years ago. Never again.

After spending way too much time trying to find the right compromise, I finally decided on a bouquet and hit send. It's much better if you can actually walk into the store and see the arrangement. There's always this apprehension about flowers that they'll end up not coming out right and the intent will get lost.

But I get such a kick out of doing this especially when it's out of the blue. There's a bartender who's been very kind to me that I would love to send flowers to as well, but I spent the morning looking and can't yet find the right bouquet. I might actually have to call an actual florist. Egads.

The tankbag I bought in Spokane is sort of working out but the strap setup Kalee and I improvised for it isn't working out well. Unfortunately, the Tourmaster Cortech bag uses some apparently non-standard clips. I was hoping that I could go to a motorcycle shop and find the right clips but the one BMW shop we visited had nothing of the sort.

The parts guy there suggested I try Mountian Equipment Co-op in downtown Victoria. Ian said it was a longish walk from the house so off I went GPS in hand.

She lies. I don't know why she lies but she just lies more than she tells the truth. I punched in the name and the result was "55 miles away". I've learned. I asked. "It's just 3 blocks up the street." 7 blocks later I was there, but not before I had stopped at a Starbucks for a cup of coffee.

Starbucks in Victoria are a bit different than Starbucks in the states. For starters, they don't put lids on coffee. The lids are stacked next to the napkins. Separately, I noticed the bathrooms. "Two women's bathrooms?", I questioned somewhat curiously. "Aha!".

I could just hear the Canadians thinking to themselves, "Silly American Tourist taking pictures of bathroom doors".

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But this makes so much sense. There's always a line in front of the womens bathroom, but so rarely in front of the mens. So you make one of them unisex and call it done. Seems like a good solution to me.

I did eventually find my way to the Co-op and against all odds they actually had the exact same clips that Tourmaster uses. In a little bit here I'm going to see if I can't try the clips and test fit the tankbag back onto the bike.

While I was there I picked up some cold weather gear. The forecast up north has dropped a bit. It's going to be cold.

On the way back I stopped in Starbucks again compulsively.

Too ... much ... coffee ...

I had had only a few blue berries and yogurt for breakfast and I forget to eat lunch. Ian and Tanya suggested we go to this Teriyaki place downtown. Against all odds, the place was packed. We sat and waited. "10 minutes", the waitress said. There were only three waitresses for the entire place. They were hoofing it never stopping for even a minutes break, but because of the load we ended up having to wait nearly an hour to get a table. Classic denial of service attack.

By this time my body started digesting itself. I think it's the brain that goes first. I kept thinking "What about their legs? They don't need those" but wisely no waittress got within arms reach. Man was I starving. But food eventually arrived and I was no longer hungry. Everyone survived, even the waitresses.

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The Ian, Tanya, Anouk and Arlo clan.

I head out tomorrow for points north. I've got to get up early to make the morning ferry back to the mainland. I don't know what kind of access I'm going to have while I'm out in BC. My cellphone data service doesn't work up here so I'll have to see about finding WIFI hotspots to use, if I can.

I have to clean the saddlebags. One needs to be fixed with some epoxy. It's got a huge crack in it. Also I've got to go through my gear and ship some of the heavier items back. I've also got to see about doing some laundry.

Ian checked the weather forecast in Deadhorse. "It's dry for the next few days but looks sketchy after that", he said. "It'll be raining and turned into a mud pit by the time I get there.", I replied. I have to admit I'm a bit apprehensive about the next two legs of the trip, going up there and coming back here. I think, if they are around, I'll stop back by here on my return trip. If I make it, the bike will need tires and an oil change. 6000 miles up and back, then at least another three to get back to DC.

And that reminds me I should call my insurance agent about travel and evacuation insurance.

It was a slow day. I did some work in the morning. I thought I'd have more time to work while I was here, figuring that Ian and Tanya both had alot to do, but as it turns out there haven't been the long stretches of time that I need to get into building the anonymous comments extension to the blogging software. It may have to wait until I get home.

So if you want to post comments here, just ask me for an account and I'll send you an invite or you can friend me on facebook. I guess that's been working out ok. I actually got friended today by a BMW rider I had never met. Interesting.

It continues to be a source of amazement to me how much positive feedback I'm getting about these articles. I originally started writing these because there were several women, all mothers, who were concerned about my well being. One mentioned that maybe I could write a blog journal. I thought about it and decided that a blog might be a good way to show everyone that I hadn't died yet.

To make it easier on me I try to write for someone as if I'm telling them a story.

Ian came back in the middle of the day and said he saw a racoon in the yard which ran away. "I was told that if you see them in the daytime it usually means they are rabid.", I mentioned. "Normally, that would be true, but this one was not acting rabid. Usually they'll look drunk and be stumbling around and acting weird. This one wasn't. I don't know what his problem is.", Ian replied.

Shortly afterwards I decided to take the camera and see if I could track it down. It had moved into a thick cedar tree and then moved off into the next yard. I gave up, went back to the kitchen to get a cup of coffee. A short while later I noticed the critter in the back yard, so I quietly and cautiously stalked the beast with the telephoto lens. It looked up just as I snapped the picture.

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It looked at me for a second and then sauntered off unbothered. Ian it ran away from but me it was unbothered by. The rabbits in my back yard treat me with the same lack of respect.

Ian, being a man of much motion, came down later in the day and suggested that we clean the bikes. It was kind of late and I wasn't feeling particularly motivated to do anything, but with Ian's prodding I got up and we started cleaning the bikes just as it started to rain a bit.

Kansas, Colorado and Wyoming had not been kind to the bike. It's a horror show of bug entrails. In a macabre fashion, other bugs would swarm around my bike and pick off their fallen breathren.

You know it's time to wash your bike when a small flock of birds lands on it to have a feast. I kid you not.

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The photo doesn't do it justice.

Little Arlo was designated Rinse Man.

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After alot of work and copious quantities of S100 the bike was more or less clean. Some of the bug stains just don't want to come off. Even after the last Alaska trip that wasn't the case. In some ways this was worse than that.

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After washing my bike I like to run it until it gets really warm and as much of the water that's gotten onto the engine and whatnot evaporates off. So, as I've been doing for years, I let the bike idle until it got good and hot.

Ian, continuing to be Mr. Motion and Motivation, suggested that I go ahead and change the oil since the bike was warm. I didn't feel like it but I could not argue with the logic. At least Ian provided with a stool to sit on.

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Changing the oil on my bike is a major #!$!@#@. First you have to remove the belly pan. Then you remove the drain plug to drain the oil.

Then it gets messy because for whatever reason BMW decided that, despite being a metal cartridge car type oil filter, it should sit in a hot oil bath behind a three bolt cover. There's no drain in the cover so when you remove one side of the cover oil goes everywhere and only gets worse as you try to remove the other two bolts. Of course you need an oil filter wrench which itself gets covered in oil as you unscrew the filter. Oil everywhere. Countless paper towels. Very resource intensive. Ted and Sarah would be horrified.

About 45 minutes later or though I did have the oil changed. We had gone to a BMW dealer earlier in the day to get the filter and oil. I figured they would have the BMW synthetic oil I always use which is just Mobil 1 rebranded, I believe. They told me that because that oil is not available with french and english labelling it's not available in Canada. Instead, they had some kind of 10w40 racing synthetic that they use in all their bikes. I usually run 15w50. On top of that all this stuff was crazy expensive. It would have been cheaper just to have the oil changed in the US. Oh well.

I reason that since I'm going to be travelling in much colder climates the 10w40, being thinner than 15w50, should not be a problem.

So the oil is done. The bike is clean. I have a new tires. All I need to do now is figure out a better way to mount the new tankbag and repair a serious crack that's developed on the saddle bag that fell and I should be set.

A little later today I plan on heading over to a climbing equipment store to see if I can get some clips to fit the bag so I can mount it better. I am not hopeful. Tourmaster seems to use their own kind of clips that don't fit anything else. At least it'll give me an excuse to walk around in downtown Victoria for a while.

We went in for dinner. Tanya had made an amazing chicken dish with an organic yogurt mint sauce along with an incredible salad to which she made a diet legal salad dressing which was incredible.

I need to learn how to cook better. You should have seen it. Delicious. It reminded me of back when a friend would make these wonderful feasts and invite me over to join her and her family for dinner when life for me was at its worst. Incredible kindness. Good memories.

Feeding the Yermo is always dangerous.

After dinner Ian asked if I wanted to see something cool. I figured it had to be another critter. I was right. Ian Watts, Critter Master.

He had noticed a humming bird that had made a nest in one of the trees in the yard. I have never seen a humming bird sit still before.

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It just sat there virtually motionless but you could tell it was watching us. Very cool. Ian always notices little things like this.

We walked around outside. I had long since noticed how much rock there is around Victoria. It's nuts. When foundations are made here they just build right on top the rock. Basements are blasted out.

Ian showed me how his house is just placed right on top of the granite. There's no foundation the way we know it back East.

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Ian and got to talking and I mentioned how he and I are very different in alot of ways. He's a man of motion. Once he gets up in the morning he's always moving around doing something or another. I on the other hand am a man of inaction. I guess I'm just low energy. Always have been. I can just Sit and Ponder. I go from Starbucks to Starbucks and am perfectly content to sit endlessly until I get a feeling I've been there long enough. Sometimes it's hours later.

So Ian asked if I had enough energy to help him adjust the suspension on his bike. So with a couple of shots of scotch in hand we walked out to the garage and futzed with his bike for a while. I don't have much experience in suspension tuning but my impression is that his forks have some excess stiction. They just don't seem to move the way they are supposed to. Ryan or Al would know much better than I.

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It's not right but I was starting to get tired and it was after 11 so we went back to the basement and chatted for a while.

I have alot of respect for Ian. He has always had this Zen like quality about him. He also values his state of being. He didn't like having computers in the house so he had an external office built to create a separation. He values his lifestyle and makes compromises that are kind to himself. He works hard but tries not to work too hard. He rests. He goes for walks. He swims with Orcas.

Me on the other hand. I am different. I guess because of how I was forced to grow up, never being allowed to make choices for myself and endlessly being forced to learn how to do things that I didn't want to, I am not kind to myself. I don't make choices with myself in mind. My best tool is my ability to suffer through just about anything. That's what I relied on to suffer through the Nightmare. Duncan endlessly wondered how I could have made it. But I'm good at that kind of thing. Micro (Mike Rowe) jokes semi-seriously that I am allergic to endorphins. Find something I actually enjoy and I'll go into anaphylactic shock.

But like a soldier whose come back from war or a prisoner whose been let out of a cage after far too many years, the skills and tools that served me well in war do not serve me in this new context.

Ian asked why I don't move away. "I've got to take care of my mom", I replied. Ian moved away and has a good life here. Sure, it has it's issues and problems, but every good life does. I wonder what he would do in my shoes.

"You could move away. A change would be good for you. Maybe you should move to Annapolis, or DC. You could even move to Santiago". "Santiago?", I thought without saying anything. I wonder why of all places on earth he would mention Santiago. Very strange. It's one of those cities that I've thought about more in recent times. Maybe, like Buenos Aires, it's one of those cities I should eventually visit.

Move away? Change my life? Do something different? Change the way you think then the way you act will follow.

I was telling Ian that I'm not any good at being good to myself. On my own I either seek out struggle. I seek difficulty. A friend who took her family on a cruise shortly after I left asked why I didn't go on a cruise, or go to a resort or do something "fun". Why this epic trip up some risky dirt road to visit some dirty cold rainy oil operation?

When left to my own devices that's what I do. Could I be kind to myself the way Ian is to himself? He certainly does challenging things, but he generally attempts to avoid pain and discomfort unless there is some benefit in it. Me, not so much. Difficulty and self denial are their own reward to me for some reason.

And maybe therein lies the bad association. I've had to force myself to do so many things that I didn't want to. Driven by obligations that were handed down to me I built up this skill, but possibly to a degree that in my mind if it's easy, if it's comfortable, if there isn't an epic struggle involved with it, I feel it doesn't have value.

Which is the exact opposite of what I was suggesting to Angela. "Just because it's easy for you doesn't mean it isn't of great value", I commented. I guess I do have the saving grace that I sometimes listen to myself talk.

I've had countless conversations with Anatoly about these piss-ant little programs that people have slapped together that have made millions. Stupid stuff.

We, on the other hand, apply decades of serious technical experience to create very solid technologies addressing the problem spaces we've chosen. The quantity, quality and technical superiority of what we create rivals what the fortune 500 companies can produce. Even in business I don't know how to do anything other than the Very Difficult. I don't see the Easy. I don't think I even know how. It's not good for business especially in the role I find myself in.

Behind us yet another set of critters was making some serious noise. There a gerbils here. It's amazing the kind of noise they can make.

I went to investigate and I found myself once again being eyed by some furry rodent.

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Soon I'll leave here and head out into the cold and lonely. The forecast for up north involves alot of rain and alot of cold as is to be expected. There will be mud, critters, ice heaves, sudden patches where Pavement Ends.

Ian keeps saying I can turn around any time. I don't have to go to Deadhorse.

But I set out to do this. I don't know if I really want to. It's a silly destination. There's nothing there. It's just the farthest point north you can go in the US by public road. Talk to any adventure rider and they will have heard of the run to Deadhorse. The countryside is supposed to be stark but beautiful. But there's nothing there. Just a dirty grimy oil operation with lots of tractor trailers coming and going. Ever see Ice Road Truckers? Yea, that's the place.

I keep hearing from people I meet along the way that I must be brave to take on a trip like this. I must have guts. I don't know. It doesn't feel like it to me. It's just a ride. A long introspective ride. Maybe it'll be a cakewalk. Maybe it'll be horror.

Like Ian was saying, maybe to get away I should spend some time in Africa, which is really away. For me that would take alot more guts. Or riding through South America. That's something that scares me.

From riders I hear alot of envy. So many have said if they could they would join me on this trip.

But I find myself thinking NOT going is more uncomfortable for me than actually going. Strange, eh?

But maybe this whole trip is just a manifestation of the messed up associations I learned over the years. Almost all of my "recreation" is like work. I used to go four wheeling and it wasn't a good day until we got stuck and had to, using hard labor, just dig ourselves out.

For it to be worthwhile it has to be hard ... for me ... and this trip has not yet been nearly hard enough I've found myself thinking. But what I have never thought through is how messed up that is.

"Allergic to endorphins", Micro always says.

I imagine myself stuck in the mud on the Dalton Highway somewhere in the rain, in the cold, grizzly bears in the distance ... trying my best to make progress not stopping until Deadhorse. And doing it all for no reason at all other than it's Far Away.

I could go on a cruise. Sit on some Carribean Island. Drink oddly colored drinks and watch the sun set.

But alone that thought is too much for me right now. Maybe in the company of the right woman, but she either isn't available or doesn't exist.

The comfortable easy thing for me right now is to go do the Difficult Thing on a motorcycle by myself. Yea, I think Micro is on to something. I think of Dancing Rabbit and that feeling I had walking into that place, that uncomfortable feeling.

I realize at this moment, probably for the first time, that walking into an Easy Thing, like a resort, a cruise, some far away island beach, makes me more internally uncomfortable than any Hard Thing I've ever done.

And challenging myself to uncomfortable has been a theme on this trip.

Maybe that's why I don't think of this as a vacation. Small parts of it, camping with Bruce and Ha, spending time with Angela, spending time here with Ian and Tanya or on Dancing Rabbit with Ted and Sarah felt like vacation. Come to think of it, isn't it strange that what I think of as vacation is spending time being included and welcomed at the dinner table in a family setting? There is something very telling there that I have never noticed.

Maybe this is why I've always, even since I was a little kid, understood that I was No Fun.

"This is vacation for me", I used to tell her as she put away the dishes after yet another fabulous healthy dinner during my very worst times a couple years ago. Those compassionate breaks from my life included in the daily lives of someone else and their family did me so much good. It was through her efforts, actually, that I became much more comfortable around kids, but that's a story for another time.

Like a solder who measures his self worth through the battles he has won, I believe maybe I measure my self worth by the Difficult Things I've done. I wonder if this could be a form of workaholism.

Whatever it is, as I sit here I feel that it needs to change, but it's too much for me right now. I'll be kind and let myself be me and press on.

But if the the opportunity ever presents itself, maybe I'll go on that cruise or island beach after all ....

As I mentioned, Ian and I had set up camp behind a hotel in this wonderful little spot next to a river. It was one of the best camping spots we'd ever found.

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Ian had wanted us to get up early so we could reach the San Juan Ferry with plenty of extra time. I woke up around 7:15 to the sound of a hot air balloon being inflated.

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I packed up my gear while Ian slept. The balloon rose high overhead.

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For the previous few days I had just been slow. Ian had patiently waited on so many occasions for me to get it together that I wanted to be ready before he got up. As it got close to 8AM I woke him up. As it happened, despite my head start I only finished shortly before he did. Granted, he has less gear, but still.

We had breakfast at the same saloon that we had had dinner at before. It was the worlds slowest breakfast. By the time we were done it was well after 9AM, later than Ian wanted to get going.

We were off to run through the Cascades. Route 20 continued on through passes and around mountains. As has been the case in so much of this trip the vistas were beautiful.

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There were many masochistic bicyclists in the Northwest, more than I have seen anywhere else in the country.

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As we rode along we saw countless small waterfalls pouring out next to the road.

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There were high overlooks, as have been present in almost every mountain range. Unfortunately, you can't really see the road way down below.

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Riding with Ian is simply great. Strangely we have exactly the same riding style, ride at the same pace. We can each anticipate the other. There's never any hurry or stress. We set up and carve corners the same way. It's extremely rare that either of us does anything that surprises the other.

It was sunny but cool. Cool like an early Maryland spring after a morning rain. The road was clear and traffic was light, although there were an annoying density of RVs that refused to pull over to let us pass. Interestingly, there are signs in this part of the country that say having 5 cars behind you waiting to pass and not pulling over at the turnouts is illegal.

Cool.

We also passed many signs, as one does in almost every part of the country, warning of deer. At one point however, there was a sign saying that there had been 97 deer strikes on a particular section of the road. I slowed down and saw this s