Highway 16 End to End to End MS
By Greg Van Tighem
April 24, 2014 – Editor’s note: Jasper, Alta., Fire Chief Greg Van
Tighem finished his cycling journey along Highway 16 on April 14. The
first part of his trip, which raised awareness of and funds for Multiple Sclerosis,
took him from Masset, B.C., to Jasper, and the
second part took him to Winnipeg. Now, after a whirlwind expedition,
Greg is recapping his experience. You can see more on the website www.endms93.com and follow Chief Van Tighem on Twitter at @_gvt
By Greg Van Tighem
April 24, 2014 – Editor’s note: Jasper, Alta., Fire Chief Greg Van
Tighem finished his cycling journey along Highway 16 on April 14. The
first part of his trip, which raised awareness of and funds for Multiple Sclerosis, took him from Masset, B.C., to Jasper, and the
second part took him to Winnipeg. Now, after a whirlwind expedition, Greg is recapping his experience. You can see more on the website www.endms93.com and follow Chief Van Tighem on Twitter at @_gvt
April 22, 2014 – By April 5, and with fewer than two days left in my End to End Fat Bike journey across western Canada, the plan was to be at Mile Zero of Highway 16 at exactly 4 p.m. on April 7. John from the Winnipeg MS office, my brother Tom and a CBC crew were supposed to be there to greet me.
I had just more than 100 kilometres to go to Mile Zero at Portage and Main in Winnipeg. I wasn’t feeling the rain on that second-to-last day, although it poured for more than three hours from Westbourne, Man., to Portage La Prairie. My target for the day was Headingley, which is just outside of Winnipeg. By the time I got through Portage, the rain had stopped so I changed out of some wet clothes and carried on, now on Highway 1.
Outside of Headingley, my brother Tom picked me up and we took a drive up Portage to scout out the route and traffic to Mile Zero. Stopping along the way for a bacon cheese burger at The Grove Pub and Restaurant; their ‘Stafford Burger’ is officially the best bacon cheese burger on Highway 16!
The next morning I toured the town of Headingley before meeting with the Chief Doug Hansen for a fire hall tour and, as it turned out, a donation from the Headingley Volunteer Fire Fighters Association – thanks Headingley FD, much appreciated!
The ride from Headingley into Winnipeg took fewer than two hours, so I stopped along the way to check out another bacon cheeseburger joint; it was good, but The Grove was still champion! Earlier that morning, I sent out a Facebook message encouraging people to Like my page and pledge cash, I wanted to have 1,000 Likes and $10,000 before I reached Mile Zero.
Arriving at Mile Zero – the intersection of Portage and Main – was rather uneventful. The traffic was crazy busy, so I couldn’t linger. I pulled my bike off the road at the street sign and was met by Tom and John for a few quick photos.
After a short interview with CBC (which never made the air), we were welcomed by three players from the Minnesota Wild hockey team – Zach Parise, Jason Pominville and Nino Niederreiter – who where in town to play the Winnipeg Jets. Minnesota’s goalie, Josh Harding, lives with MS. After a quick photo op, they were on their way to get ready for the big game.
Then, believe it or not, I was off to attend a yoga session with Tom and Rachel before going to the Tavern United Fort Garry for a few pints of IPA and a welcome from the MS Society, along with a few friends, including Melisa Hill from Jasper.
My final stop was Tom's house for a bath and bed – the yoga workout killed me!
Twenty-nine days on the Fat Bike, beginning in Masset, Haida Gwaii, rolling through British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba with high winds, heavy snow, traffic, ice, rain and what have you. . . and it was over, done! Wow.
I'm still about $80,000 short of my fundraising goal but I still have five months to complete the endms93 project, so there is lots of time to cook up some more fundraisers!
I am at 12 per cent of my goal right now, so if you haven’t had the chance to send a pledge yet, here is my fundraising link.
Thank you, one and all, for your amazing support and encouragement!
Thank you Freewheel Cycle Jasper for the amazing Fat machine, the Kona Wo!!
April 22, 2014 – Yorkton, Sask.,'s fire command and engine crews escorted me out of the city and into a huge blizzard. The chief was a bit apprehensive of letting me leave in such poor conditions, but I assured him I would be OK. The snow was coming down wet and heavy, making travel on he shoulder slippery and slow. The driving lanes were also wet and slushy causing a lot of spray and splash and before too long, I was basically a drowned rat. A few miles out of Yorkton, the snow plow turned around and plowed the shoulder in front of me almost all the way to Saltcoats, then turned around, honked, waved and headed back – nice! By the time I reached Langenburg, I had to find a gas station to change out of my wet clothes before I froze to death.
At the Manitoba border, I was met by Russell Fire Department's engine one, rescue and a large welcoming banner.
Deputy Chief Rick and the Russell Fire Department hosted a barbecue at the station, which was attended by the mayor, Reeve and a few town folks. After a delicious chicken cordon blue dinner and a slide show from endms93, the mayor and the Reeve presented personal donations and the fire department presented me with a $500 donation from their association. THANK YOU VERY MUCH!
The next morning, a fog had rolled in so fire command took me to the next town straight south down 16 to Binscarth, Man. My next stop was Foxwarren, home of Edmonton Oilers' Ron Low.
At the intersection of Highway 83 South, I was met by a crew from the Birtle Fire Department in Birtle, Man., which presented a donation and some encouragement and well wishes before I pushed of to a lunch meeting at the Shoal Lake Fire Hall with Michelle and Dillon. Back on the highway and with wicked head winds, I was more than happy to eventually meet up with yet an another amazing person on stage two: Chad Davies, deputy fire chief for Station 2 in the Rural Municipality of Harrison and my host for the night. We loaded my fat bike into Chad's truck and he took me on a tour of the RM of Harrison's fire halls and local attractions, then we headed north to Sandy Lake to spend the night with Chad and his family. Chad described Sandy Lake as a quiet lakeside community where most of the population appeared in the summer months in the form of cottage owners and tourists. As we arrived in town we witnessed the RCMP in the middle of what appeared to be an armed take down on Main Street – nice try, Chad!
Chad's wife Melissa organized an amazing Ukrainian dinner, the best on Highway 16, with a great bunch of people.
The next morning, after yet another delicious Ukrainian breakfast, Chad and I were off to find Highway 16 again so I could resume my journey east, and get to Neepawa for lunch and the famous town of Gladstone to meet up with my brother Tom and Rachel. After I left Neepawa, I was treated to a wind shift and a steady tail wind all the way to Happy Rock (a.k.a., Gladstone).
Tom arrived and the weather was warm and sunny. There was lots of daylight left so we decided I would keep going as far as I could and he would pick me up before dark and take me to a motel in Portage la Prairie.
That night we had dinner at Boston Pizza, a few IPAs in the motel room and the next morning Tom dropped me off back where he picked me up; unfortunately, it was pouring rain!
April 21, 2014 – Not far from Lanigan, Sask., Highway 16 takes an abrupt left turn – in fact, it heads straight south for about eight kilometres until the hamlet in Dafoe, then a sharp left sends the highway east again. My target for the day was Foam Lake, which is about 115 kilometres from Lanigan and south of the largest inland salt-water lakes in Canada, the Quill Lakes.
After a coffee, pie and ice cream pit-stop at the Dafoe truck stop, I pointed my fat tires east again and into the familiar head wind.
A few clicks up the road I passed by Kandahar, Sask., which apparently once was a thriving community with a famous steak house, school, hospital and more. Today, Kandahar is a tiny hamlet with about seven residences and some old derelict buildings. I was intrigued by the name so I looked it up; Kandahar was named at the turn of the century for a British military victory in Kandahar, Afghanistan.
My next stop was Foam Lake, home of NHLer Bernie Ferdorko; no one was at the fire hall and there was only one motel in town so it was a quite night and an early start to a 95-kilometre ride to Yorkton in the morning.
Yorkton Fire Protective Services had offered to host me, and about 10 kilometres out I was met by fire command and shortly after that by a couple of engine crews that escorted me into the city of Yorkton to the nicest fire station on Highway 16.The fire crew set me up with a dorm room, shower and a huge steak barbecue, then a tour of the station and equipment.
The next morning (with fresh snow!) Chief Trevor and Deputy Chief Greg treated me to the best breakfast on Highway 16: Ukrainian style cabbage rolls, perogies, eggs, bacon, kobasa, toast and coffee, and the firefighters' association presented endms93 with a large donation. Thank you, Yorkton!
April 18, 2014 – Oops. It looks like I confused a couple of people with my ever-so-slow updates – my apologies!
Actually, I completed my Highway 16 ride and arrived in Winnipeg on schedule last Monday at 4 pm!
But I still need to finish my day-to-day, so here goes. . . .
The hill up into Battleford, Sask., was killer and that wasn’t helped much by the massive head winds. I arrived west of town and was met by the Andersons, Linda, Malcolm and daughter Lindsey, who told me to follow them up the road into their place but I don’t think they realized how slow I was, so they had to wait a few dozen times. The North Battleford Fire Department (NBFD) met up with us and led the way into town.
The Andersons treated me to delicious dinner, a hot shower and a comfy bed. The next morning, an MS donation and a big breakfast were waiting for me and I was off to the fire hall to meet the NBFD crew for coffee, before heading out with Chief Hendrick. My Jasper friends who have a place north of Saskatoon (Randy and Gail) had promised me a hot lunch somewhere around mid-day near Borden or Langham. A few hours later, I arrived in Borden in blowing snow and cold temperatures so I took refuge in the Model T Bar and Grill and waited for Randy and our tailgate lunch. Randy and Gail arrived and cooked up some chicken and pizza with Saskatoon Berry Pie and ice cream for dessert, mmmm! I’m not losing any weight on this trip!
It snowed on and off for the rest of the day so the ride through Saskatoon was a bit hairy and shortly before Clavet, I got a flat tire, which I fixed in my motel room. The next day brought three more flats. Randy and Gail showed up again with a hot lunch, this time home cooked Ukrainian with an ice cream cone for dessert – peanut butter/chocolate ice cream with a chocolate dipped waffle cone – mmmm, still not losing any weight!
We decided to go back to Saskatoon and purchase two new tires and tubes, and thankfully the Saskatoon Kona dealer Spoke and Sport had everything I needed and gave me a heck of a deal. Back on the highway and the final 40 kilometres to Lanigan, Sask., where I got a motel and a much need hot bath.
April 14, 2014 – Vermillion, Alta., to Saskatchewan. . .
After a great night's sleep at Lakeland College's historic Alumni House, I was off early for a healthy A&W breakfast with my old friend Dale Myggland who drove down from Wainwright, Alta. Leaving Vermilion, I was treated to a west wind, which was a very nice bonus.
A few miles outside of Lloyd, which straddles the border between Alberta and Saskatchewan, I met up with Fire Chief Tod Gustofson and ex-Jasperite Doug Rodwell and his son Wyatt, who escorted me into the Alberta side of town for lunch.
I had a media session at the Lloydminster Hope Statue with Johanna and some local MS folks scheduled for 1:30, so it was a quick lunch. When I arrived at the statue I was surprised to see a large crowd and met Myles Schiller from Investors Group who presented me with a backpack full of sports drinks and energy bars, and the single largest donation yet received on Highway 16. Thank you very much, Myles and Investors Group!
After a few presentations and media interviews, I was introduced to a very special young man: eight-year-old Nicholas, who is raising money for the MS Society by selling MS bracelets that he makes himself. Young Nick's fundraising goal is $1,000 – Wow! We figured out that if he kept fundraising every year, by the time he reaches my age he will have raised $1 million for the MS Society! Great work, Nicholas – keep it up!
After the presentations ended I was escorted out of town by the fire department and headed to Lashborn, Sask., where I was picked up by Doug and brought back to Lloyd for dinner with some MS Society staff and clients, and an evening at the Rodwell home. First thing next morning Doug ran me back out past Lashborn and I began the ride to North Battleford and an overnight visit with Malcolm, Linda and Lindsey Anderson.
April 6, 2014 – Sorry for the lack of activity folks! It has been difficult to post blogs: no wi-fi, no time, too tired. . . I will be updating in a couple of days so please bear with me.
Right now, I am one day away from the completion of Highway 16 End to End!
Check out endms93 on Facebook!
March 31, 2014 – After leaving my friend Art Erickson’s Wabamun, Alta., home, I was met under the giant dragonfly by Masters Cycling champ, Jack Almond.
Jack set the pace to Spruce Grove where we were joined by fellow Hinton MS Bike Tour participant and real estate tycoon Travis Hawryluk, who bought us all a healthy lunch at A&W.
|Chief Van Tighem (left) and Alex Stieda|
We were to meet CTV, Global, Edmonton Fire Rescue, Alex Stieda, my niece Colleen and a few of Art’s Jeep club buddies at the edge of the city at three o’clock.
I guess Jack set too fast a pace as we were over an hour early! After a few interviews and some greetings and visiting, the four of us headed up the Yellowhead Highway to Station 10 with a fire department escort. Unfortunately Colleen's van wouldn’t start, so she had to meet us later. Jay Davies and the crew at Station 10 prepared an amazing Jambalaya diner.
|The Yellowhead Trail||Preparing Jambalaya at Station 10|
Colleen picked me up at 6:30 a.m. and delivered me to the CTV station, then to the east end in a snow storm to head to Mundare. Five and a half hours later I arrived in Mundare, but not before I was pulled over by Trevor at Cold Lake Fire Command and presented with a roadside donation; Thanks Cold Lake!
Mundare Chief Glenda Dales had offered me three accommodation options; stay at the home of one of her firefighter, stay at the fire station or stay at the lodge, which was managed by another of her firefighters. Assuming that the lodge was a motel and thinking it would be the simplest option, I choose the lodge. After touring town for 45 minutes and not finding it, I asked a local who indicated that the lodge was the seniors' manor!
Glenda picked me up for a photo shoot and news interview at the giant sausage, then we went to the fire station for a top-notch steak barbecue with a slide show by yours truly!
The next morning I met with the nice folks at Stawnichy Meat Processing and was presented with a couple of cash donations and a few other tasty goodies.
Then it was back on the road for a meeting with the staff and students of the emergency services technology program at Lakeland College, a visit to the Legion for the famous steak night and a great visit with a bunch of folks from the fire school that I hadn’t seen for a long time!
March 28, 2014 – Sorry folks – I have had limited Wi-Fi and time to get any posts out, but here is a quick update with more to come when I get a chance!
After leaving Hinton, Alta., I was hosted by the Edson Fire Department. I stayed on a couch at their station, then started a looong roll to Wabamun via Wildwood, where I stated with fellow MS Advidory Committee member Art Erickson. The next morning I was met by Jack Almond who joined me on his road bike; then Travis joined in near Spruce Grove and Alex Steida joined near Edmonton. We were escorted up the Yellowhead Highway to Edmonton Fire Rescue's Station 10 where I spent the night .
Wednesday morning I was up way too early to attend a CTV interview, then my niece Colleen dropped me off at the east end in a blizzard. The ride to Mundare was a tough one – it was cold, snowey and windy, but the Mundare Fire Department helped me forget the pain with an awesome steak barbecue!
Yesterday, the fat bike ride to Vermilion via Vegreville to see the giant egg was one of the best days yet: tailwinds and sunshine! After a visit to the fire college and a guest appearance at the Legion steak night, I am off to Lloydminster and beyond!
March 23, 2014 – The first day of Stage 2 – from Jasper, Alta., to Winnipeg – started out at 10 a.m. at the Jasper Fire Hall with a $500 donation and a ride out from Dave Neilson of the Jasper Lions Club.
I had my first flat tire 10 kilometres out and, guess what, my spare tube did not work out (wrong valve), so I called Derek at Freewheel who found one in his Surly pack, then I called my son who delivered it. A long time later at the Overlander Hill, I was met by some fellow Fatties (and Rockhoppers) from Hinton – Sandra and Paul Pelly, Mike and Braydon Langford and, closer to Hinton, a group from the Hinton Bike Club including Christopher Read. Closer yet, we were met by a Hinton Fire Department engine and a bunch more bikers.
We arrived at the Parkland Mall to a great reception by the Rotary Club, who were hosting a barbecue that raised almost $1,400 – WOW. (Thank You)
The Hinton Fire Department hosted a lasagna dinner (the best on Highway 16) and then put up with an hour of my slide shows. Thank you Hinton for your hospitality!
Today, I woke up to a snow storm and freezing temperatures. Yikes. . .
March 19, 2014 – Here are some highlights from Stage 1:
It all started on Pyjama Day; right after the pancake breakfast, I got a ride from Jasper, Alta., to Prince Rupert, B.C., from my sister, which alone was a highlight; spending two days on the road with Margaret.
Then, on Highway 16, I enjoyed the best fish and chips at Dolly’s Fish Market, and the best smoked salmon and black-tailed deer sausage at District Chief Jeff Beckwith’s house.
I flew from Prince Rupert to Masset in a '60s vintage De Havilland Beaver aircraft and cycled through a snow storm in Haida Gwaii (the first snow storm in 20 years).
I crossed over the Hecate Strait from Skidegate back to Prince Rupert on BC Ferries and saw two humpback whales. I pedalled for 45 kilometres in a Skeena River outflow, with headwinds of more than 70 kilometres per hour, and ate Hungry Hill for lunch.
I met John Klie, Dave Jephsen and Maurie Hurst at the Terrace Fire Department and was a host on the ‘Open Connection’ show at CFTK TV Terrace.
I slept in the Smithers, Vanderhoof and Prince George fire halls, had an ice cream cone at DELICIOUS TREATS in Smithers – best one on Highway 16, so far!
I enjoyed the best bacon cheeseburger on Highway 16 in Smithers at the Alpenhorn Bistro and Bar.
I stayed with Rotarian and old friend, Garth Schienbein in Burns Lake and received a $500 donation from the Burns Lake Rotary Club.
I cycled through a blizzard east of New Hazleton, had a traditional German schnitzel dinner with Vanderhoof Fire Chief Joe Pacheco, enjoyed a smoked rib dinner with the fire chief in Prince George and slept with a teddy bear at the Prince George fire hall.
I met a very inspirational person in Prince George – tourism’s Sufey Chen – and was interviewed for PG-TV.
I got picked up near Dome Creek and was hosted by Brian and Eileen at the Beaver River Ranch in McBride, then was brought back in the morning to start again.
I was hosted by Ed and Caroline Duchoslav at the 2many Beaver Farm in McBride and had a couple of Jasper Brewing Company’s Mile Zero IPAs courtesy of Shirley Dorin.
I enjoyed a hot lunch with Su Young Leslie and Deb Bottomley in Su’s Jeep on the side of Highway 16 near Crescent Spur, and enjoyed a great lunch with Janice Walker and Bob Milligan in their beautiful home east of Dunster.
I was hosted by Ian and Barb Wolsey in Tete Jaune Cache and had the best supper and breakfast on Highway 16, cooked by Barb.
I was stopped by Travis Anderson near Mt Robson and he gave me a handfull of cash for MS. Then I was pulled over by Michael from Three Ranges Brewing Company and he gave me a growler of IPA and some brewery bling and told me the brewery is taking up a collection for the cause.
I met up with Jake and Julie Derksen near Moose Lake and they joined my on their fat bikes – Julie rode all the way to Jasper with me.
Outside of Jasper, I met up with Bob Covey, Pete Angibrandt and Mayor Richard Ireland and we rode into Jasper, followed by a parade of emergency vehicles and well-wishers. Then we enjoyed a steak dinner and a few pints of IPA with good friends at the Jasper Brewing Co. and, last but not least, I finally had a hot bath and slept in my own bed on March 14!
All in all, I rolled my Freewheel Kona Fat Bike through more than 1,000 kilometres of snow storms, rain showers, wind, mud, slush, heavy traffic and sunshine in gear from the North Face and Wild Mountain, and didn’t get cold or to wet.
And had I had fun! Thanks for the support, folks!
Stage 2 commences Saturday, March 22, when I head for Hinton, Alta., and a fundraiser barbecue!
See ya there!
March 17, 2014 – The final day of Stage One turned out to be a busy one with lots of visitors.
A light snow began to fall as I was leaving Tete Jaune Cache up Yellowhead Highway 5 to the intersection with Highway 16; just my luck – I was hoping for a dry 106 kilometre ride in to Jasper.
As I was descending the Terry Fox viewpoint hill I was passed by Jake Derksen who quickly turned around and pulled in front of me. Jake refilled my water and ran along side me shouting encouragement as I began climbing the next hill. The snow fall increased and the road became wetter and, as I got closer to the Robson Flats, another vehicle pulled over in front of me. This time it was Michael from the Three Ranges Brewing Company in Valemount, B.C. Michael was hoping I would have stopped in the day before to try out their Angry Beaver IPA, but since I didn’t, he tracked me down and handed me a growler, a glass and toque from Three Ranges; thank you, Michael!
Not long after, yet another vehicle pulled over and this time it was Jasper Log Builder Travis Anderson who offered me a big smile, a handshake and a cash donation. Thanks, Travis!
The next vehicle to pull over was a mini van full of Derksens and fat bikes, Jake and Julie and the girls had driven back from Valemout to take turns riding in with me on their Pugsly. Jake rode for the first few wet miles, then Julie took over and would not give the fatty back. In fact, she rode all the way from Red Pass into Jasper with me. I had a hard time keeping up to her but I am sure she shaved one hour off my arrival time!
As I arrived at the Park Gate, the rain was letting up and in the distance the sky was blue and inviting us back to Jasper. The gate attendant greeted us with welcome back posters, a smile and a handshake. Closer to town, Bob Covey from The Jasper Local News joined in on his almost Fat bike, then Mayor Richard Ireland joined in on his Kona Wo Fatty, then shortly we were surrounded by fire trucks, police and bylaw cars and an ambulance for the last couple of blocks into the Jasper Brew Pub for a steak dinner, a couple of IPAs, and lots of socializing. Thanks everyone!
Then it was off home for a hot bath and my own bed – nice!
One week of office to work and to stay in road shape – that is, ride the bike that goes nowhere. Then Saturday morning I set off for Hinton and a fundraiser barbecue scheduled for 4:00 p.m., then onward east on Highway 16 to Winnipeg.
March 16, 2014 – I got off to a late start from McBride; it's a good thing it was a short day. I'm not sure if it was the soft bed or the rum, but I slept in and woke to a large breakfast with Ed, Caroline, Shirley, Brian and Eileen. My first stop after leaving the Beavers Ranch was the McBride Fire Hall for a photo then off into the blue sky and clear highway.
Not long after, I was met by Bob Milligan and Janice Walker and invited to lunch at their home, just past Dunster, and I couldn’t say no. Two hours later, I arrived in Dunster and was treated to a panini sandwich and a good but short visit as I had to make Tete Jaune Cache by 6:00 to meet my next hosts, the Wolseys. I arrived to an amazing dinner, dessert and a couple of New Belgium beers and some great conversation on cycle touring, hiking and skiing with Barb and Ian.
The next morning, Barb served up a healthy breakfast and I was off on the home stretch to Jasper to finish off Stage One of my endms93 Highway 16 adventure. Of course it was snowing again!
March 15, 2014 – The ride from Prince George to McBride in British Columbia is more than 200 kilometres long and, in March, there really aren’t any populated stops in between. That means either a really long bike ride, a night sleeping under a tree or I needed someone to pick me up half way and then bring me back the next morning. Thankfully Brian Wallace of the Beaver River Ranch stepped up to plate.
After a brief meeting, photo session and Twitter lesson with the very talented and upbeat Sufey Chen (sufey.org) from Tourism Prince George, I hit the road – or should I say climbed the hill – to exit Prince George for McBride. A short distance out of the city in a flash blizzard, I was met by Dave from CKPG TV for a television interview. Big thanks to Dave and Sufey for helping raise awareness for endms93.
Light snow then light rain were replaced with blue skies and sunshine about 40 kilometres out of Prince George. About 115 kilometres later, I was picked up by Brian Wallace and Eileen MacDonald and whisked off to the Beaver River Ranch for an excellent dinner and some great hospitality. Brian cooked up a big breakfast first thing the next morning and drove me back towards Prince George to set off once again for McBride.
At about 1:00 p.m. and 50 kilometres west of McBride I was pulled over by two of Jasper's finest, Su Young Leslie and Deb Bottomley, who treated me to a roadside feast of elk stew, coffee, apple crisp and cookies. Thanks, girls!
Shortly before six o’clock, I finally arrived in McBride at the home of Ed and Carolyn Dutchoslav and, again, was treated to a feast; this time baked salmon and a couple of Mile Zero IPAs, courtesy of Shirley Dorin.
Next stop Tete Jaun Cache.
March 10, 2014 – Today I made it to Prince George, B.C., which means I am the first person to ride the famous Prince to Prince route – from Prince Rupert to Prince George – on a fat bike and in only six days, most likely a new world record.
I left Vanderhoof at 9:30 after breakfast with Fire Chief Joe Pacheco. It was a frosty morning but the sky was blue and the road was calling. One hundred kilometres and six-and-a-half hours later, I arrived in Prince George to take part in their national sport: motorists splashing cyclists (I lost).
After meeting the station crew at Prince George Fire Rescue and completing the required bike cleaning, repairs and gear sorting, Fire Chief John Iverson took me for an awesome dinner. We got back to the station to discover that the crew had made me up a cozy bed including a teddy bear – nice touch!
Tomorrow I have a media session, bright and early, then I am on the road again and entering no-mans land: 265 kilometres of nothing, no human life forms or structures to be found. I'm not sure where I will be sleeping, but Plan A is a pick up from Burns Lake Fire Chief Jim McBride. Plan B is to sleep under a tree and tough it out, Crazy Larry style.
We will see what happens. Either way, I likely won't have Internet access for a couple of days.
March 9, 2014 – I have had a couple of days with limited Wi-Fi.
Earlier I had hoped to make Telkwa, B.C., to visit ex-Jasperite and fishing guide Lorne Currie and his wife Brenda, but I only made Smithers by dark so I checked in at the fire hall (thank you, Kelly and Keith).
Unfortunately, the valley was fogged in the next morning.
I tried a couple of times to get out of town but it wasn’t safe to be on the road with minimal visibility. I was offered a ride from fire command up to Hungry Hill, an area along Highway 16 that was named for a 1,500-pound grizzly bear that ravaged local farms in the late 1990s, and out of the fog. . . but into the rain.
Next was a ride through Six Mile Hill and then it was supposed to be all downhill to Burns Lake, B.C.
Five soggy hours later, I met up with Burns Lake Fire Chief Jim McBride, three kilometres from town and eagerly accepted a ride, a warm fire hall and some warm, dry clothes. Jim is also a friend of my brother Bernie’s and a Rotarian and, to my surprise, we were joined by my old friend Garth Schiebein, Burns Lake Rotary President Sandy Dore, and Laura Blackwell, the publisher of the Lake District News (also a Rotarian) who collectively presented me with a cheque for $500.00 to the MS Society. Thank you so much!
I knew that Burns Lake to Vanderhoof, B.C., would be a long day but I didn’t expect the conditions to be so bad! It looked good at first – blue skies and sunshine, which started melting all the snow and ice on the road shoulder, creating streams, rivers and small lakes on the side of the highway, resulting in a very wet day for me.
If I wasn’t getting splashed by passing vehicles, I was being forced to ride through the large puddles and soaking myself.
Thank God for the North Face clothing from Wild Mountain Jasper or I would have been in big trouble. As it was, I stopped at Fraser Lake Fire Hall in Fraser Lake, B.C., and borrowed their dryer to dry my pants and boots.
I arrived at Vanderhoof in time for dinner with Fire Chief Joe Pacheco and some great networking. Tonight I’m sleeping on the couch at the fire hall and will be up early to head on to Prince George, B.C.
March 7, 2014 – I departed the City of Terrace, B.C., late Thursday morning after a one-hour recording session at CFTKTV (thank you, Sarah), a quick radio and newspaper interview, and a meeting with Fire Chief John Klie.
Due to the late start, Terrace Fire Command transported me to St. Croix Creek, located about 30 kilometres out. It was a great day for biking; the road was bare and dry all the way to New Hazleton, B.C. Little did I know that it would snow overnight in Hazleton and I awoke to three inches of the white stuff.
A few miles out of town, the temperature dropped and the snow started again, but I had a surprise visitor in firefighter Darren Andreychuk, who pulled over and offered me a hot coffee and a cookie – nice!
The weather took a turn for the worst around Morristown First Nation, B.C., heavy snow, and limited visibility and ice under the snow on the shoulder made biking very difficult and dangerous. A passing motorist stopped me and offered a ride, which I accepted – safety first!
I arrived in Smithers, B.C., went straight to the fire hall for a meeting with Fire Chief Keith Stecko and Deputy Fire Chief Kelly Zacharias, discussing fire department operations and discovered that we have many similarities and challenges.
Next, I had a bacon cheeseburger at the Alpenhorn Bistro – so far the best on Highway 16 (not counting Shirley’s).
It is still snowing, so tomorrow could be interesting. Hopefully the plows are out?
March 6, 2014 – Any day on a bike is a good day.
Today was exceptional. I started out with a ride over the summit down to the flats with Prince Rupert Fire Command, and that's when the fun began – the wind-fun, that is. I rode about 50 kilometres along the Skeena River flats in the most incredible headwind.
I have never experienced such strong gusts. I averaged eight kilometres per hour (km/h), and the wind averaged 60 km/h, but I sucked it up and enjoyed every minute of it. My motto was: if I cant change it, go with it and make the best of it.
Then the hills began, and a few sketchy parts where the CN Mainline seemed to be part of the highway, but the Kona Wo performed flawlessly and I eventually made it to Terrace by 5-ish p.m., in time for a quick ice cream cone, though no luck finding an IPA.
|A CN Mainline seemed to be part of Greg Van Tighem's route along part of Highway 16.||Greg Van Tighem enjoys a well-deserved ice cream cone!|
I also paid a visit to the fire hall to meet some of the crew.
Next on the agenda was a steak dinner with Maurie and a much need soak in the bath. Tomorrow I am up early to meet with the folks from CBC TV, then a coffee with the fire chief and an interview with the newspaper, then I have to make fat tracks for Hazleton.
March 5, 2014, Prince Rupert, B.C. – After a very short night’s sleep due to a structure fire that kept us up until well after 3 a.m., my host from the Prince Rupert Fire Rescue Department in Prince Rupert, B.C., Deputy Fire Chief Jeff Beckwith dropped me off at the Inland Air Charters Float Plane Base, where I boarded a 1960s vintage De Havilland Beaver for the flight to Masset, B.C., in Hiada Gwaii.
|A structure fire kept Greg Van Tighem up with the Prince Rupert Fire Rescue Department until 3 a.m.||Greg Van Tighem boards a plane for Masset, B.C.|
Once on the ground, I loaded up the Kona Wo and looked for the Mile Zero sign and a quick breakfast then headed south on snowy Highway 16. I made the first tracks in the snow for more than 10 kilometres. There were six inches of fresh powder on the road and no traffic; in fact ,I was passed by fewer than 30 vehicles all the way down to Skidegate, also in Haida Gwaii. The sparse traffic was a bonus as the conditions for the most part were sketchy, cold, snowy, fog and icy, with gusty headwinds. The lady I spoke to in the restaurant at breakfast said it rarely gets below zero this time of year and seldom snows at all. She figured the bad weather was a gift, just for me.
A few hours down Highway 16 is the small town of Port Clements, B.C., where I checked out the fire hall and had a cup of coffee and a Nanaimo Bar at Harmonies Café with Kaz, a local volunteer firefighter and village councillor. Port Clements is famous for its Nanaimo Bars and for Jasper Street.
|Greg Van Tighem braves the elements – including this unusual snow storm!||The fire chief in Jasper, Alta., visits the Jasper Street in Port Clements, B.C.|
Finally, after more than eight hours and 130 kilometres, I arrived in Queen Charlotte City on Haida Gwaii just before dark with a sore butt and a big appetite. The Kono Wo and some of my gear was absolutely covered in frozen slushy ice, which made a bit of a mess in the motel room when it thawed out. First stop in Charlotte after getting the room was for a beer and a burger, and – finally – a hot bath!
I'll be up at 6:30 a.m. to get back to Skidegate to board the ferry by 7:30 for the trip back to Prince Rupert for a (hopefully) quite night at the Prince Rupert fire hall.
Feb, 28, 2014, Jasper, Alta. – This past week has been a busy one: packing, shopping, training, posting, researching and general preparing for departure day. Yesterday morning, Derek at Freewheel Cycle Jasper tuned the Kona Wo – new cables, computer, chain and a few other tweaks and twists. Then later, Shirley treated us to a six-course Asian-inspired gourmet dinner.
|Derek at Freewheel Cycle Jasper.|
After participating in the Third Annual Find the Common Thread PJ Day Pancake Breakfast, my sister Margaret and I left Jasper in a rented Nissan van. And now, after nine hours on Highway 16, we arrived in Smithers, B.C. Tomorrow we are off to Prince Rupert to hopefully find a flight across the ocean to Masset to start the ride towards Sandspit in time for the Tuesday morning ferry ride back to Rupert.
Bed Time, Bonne Nuite.