Thursday, August 14, 2014

Stewart to the ALCAN - Part 2, The Bugs

Bugs - why did it have to be bugs? I rolled over and imagined how Indiana Jones might have felt if his worst nightmare had been insects rather than snakes. Our peaceful little slice of Canadian heaven in the twilight of evening looked like a genocidal crusade the following morning - at least as far as the bugs were concerned. Imagine for a moment you are riding a motorcycle into a veiled curtain that gives way like smoke in a wind tunnel, only instead of smoke it's clouds of insects falling away to their twisting, turbulent fate - and those are the lucky ones - the ones that missed your windscreen, your radiator grill, your visor, your chest, your nostrils. Caked on every forward edge, mosquitoes, flies, moths, wasps and their myriad cousins slapped into our bikes and piled on.

From inside my helmet the view was pure Jackson Pollock. Guts in yellows, purples, reds and burnt umber splattered and sprayed disarmingly across my visor. If that weren't enough the smell was pure Australian abattoir. That is to say the stink was that of stale blood. If you've ever been in a morgue or tasted death at an autopsy (which, by the way, I have) you'll know what I'm talking about: rusting iron with a nails-on-blackboard olfactory skewer of ozone. (mixing metaphors - surely? - ed.) It came as something of surprise, if only because I'd never considered what a pomace of bugs would smell like.

Pulling into the Bell 2 Lodge (aka Swarm Central) we paused long enough to grab a bite to eat and chatted briefly with two gentlemen about my age and a little older riding Honda Gold Wings. Which way ya headed?, they inquired. North, we said, What can you tell us about the roads? Well, for the most part they're pretty good, except when the Canadians have decided for no good reason to rip things up and make life difficult for motorcycles along the AlCan. We just came across the Top of the World Highway, between Dawson and then on down to Whitehorse. It's all dirt, not bad, but not much fun on these things, they said pointing to their bikes. They weigh about 900 pounds without our luggage!

A Motorcyclist's Map of British Columbia (click to enlarge)
I wondered what I would be like in ten years time trying to pick up a half-ton motorcycle unaided. I'd wait for help is what I'd do. How are the bugs further north? we asked. Not nearly as bad as they are here! Honestly, this is by far the worst we've seen.

Taking them at their word we wiped ourselves off with our designated 'bug cloth.' My vision clearer and with the redolence of arthropod wafting about us we buggered off - northwards.

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