Cold Enough To Freeze The Balls Off Of A Brass Monkey: Dawson Creek, Here We Come

Posted on July 7, 2010


Tired & Cold, But On the ALCAN, Day 4 From Missoula

Before the politically correct crowd gets too exercised over the “brass monkey” expression used in the title, let Rudi set you straight, in a nautical kind of way.

A “brass monkey” is a triangular brass plate with a series of round dimples on it designed to hold iron cannonballs in place on the old sailing man-of wars used by the Brit navy a couple of hundred years ago. The plate would contract ever so slightly in intense cold and the dimples would no longer hold the iron cannon balls, so the balls were said to be “frozen off” and go rolling around the gun deck causing serious damage in a heaving sea.

What does any of this have to do with the trip? It illustrates what happens to a wandering mind when trapped inside a plastic helmet for hours every day, that’s what.

Rudi asked Jesse to describe this day’s ride and what he got back was “long, cold, and boring.” Two nights of little sleep and lots of shivering distort perspective, and after the sights of the Ice Field Parkway, it would be hard for anything to measure up.

Oil and gas exploration and logging are kings up here and everything reflects that on the road and in the small towns. Huge trucks, multiple industrial sites set in pristine woods, cell phone service in the campsites, all as a result of this activity.

Pampered Pooch in Pouch

We stop for gas at Grande Cache and meet a lively Canadian couple with their 16-year-old dog in a tank bag and exchange stories of dropping bikes in parking lots. He had just done that and cracked his fairing. The couple is from Edmonton, and were out for a day trip. They allow as how it’s pretty cold for this time of year. It had just snowed at Grande Cache two days earlier.

Grande Cache is famous as the home of the 100 kilometer “Death Race”. This is an ultra-marathon foot race over the nearby mountain passes and runners come from all over the world to test themselves in it. We eat our twinkies, drink our soft drinks, saddle up and move on up the road to Dawson Creek, the official beginning of the ALCAN Highway (Now the All Canadian Highway).

Our Heroes at Mile "O" of the Alcan Highway

Dawson Creek is the “official” start of the ALCAN, now known as the All Canada Highway, and it is 1,200 miles from the boys start in Missoula (and about 3,500 miles from Rudi’s start in Atlanta). This sign was moved here from downtown to prevent traffic jams caused by people like you know who, posing for hours for photos.

The highway was constructed in 1942-43 over ten months by the U.S. military since Alaska was seen as vulnerable to a Japanese invasion. Some Aleutian Islands were occupied during the war and battles fought up there.

Today’s highway is a much-improved version, fully paved and constantly maintained, open year-round, but still a 1,400 plus trip through rugged wilderness with gas and services few and far between even in the summer months. Bears, deer, caribou, woods buffalo are common sites along the road and a rider has to be wary. Two days ago, Jesse and Rudi agreed on the “100 mile rule”. When the odometer hits 100 miles, you begin to look for the next gas stop. AAA doesn’t cut it up here.

Camp at Charlie Lake, Fort St. John

It’s warming up and we camp at Charlie Lake, near Fort St. John, much too near the highway, and sleep well, finally.

Tomorrow we head into British Columbia.


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Rudi G  & Jesse