In the morning we headed to service the bikes early and with a bit of searching found the shop among a cluster of attached industrial buildings. No one looked to be around so we pulled around the back of the building and found a few bikes lined up outside a closed garage door. We hung around for 45 minutes at which time the garage door opened. Turns out the staff, who had been there the whole time, were on its own and it being Monday they weren't in any hurry to start the day. Once we were checked-in they made a qualified job of servicing our rides.
We had been questioning if we had warm and dry enough clothing from the ride up. The soaking thru Illinois put the idea in our heads that perhaps we needed a shopping trip to add to our apparel outfitting. So we called up a taxi, headed downtown and found some great outdoor gear stores located all on the same street. We all purchased boot gaiters in an attempt to keep the wet weather from our feet. I also picked up a lightweight polar sweater that I ended up wearing almost every moment of the trip from that time on. Next on the agenda was a cable for my CB. We got directions to the closest Radio Shack a few blocks away. Calgary is a very nice city, exceedingly well planned and people friendly. The store was inside an indoor mall off a main pedestrian street. This mall was huge. It took up two buildings and was connected by a sky bridge. Turns out that the mall had two Radio Shacks, each one as hard to find as the other. We were directed to the other store when the first one did not have the cable I needed. Talk about being caught in a labyrinth. I guess these buildings make sense in the cold winter months but I felt like a rat in a cage trying to navigate through the maze of stairways and halls. We headed back to pick up our bikes about 4 hours later and found our rides ready for pick-up. Never did get to meet Dave.
The next day we started out early. The day before felt like a waste of time. It was nice to have the oils and tires fresh for this leg of the trip, but we could have done another thousand miles before we needed the service. So having squandered a day away we were eager to head in the direction where the adventure lay.Pulling away from Calgary towards Banff brings you past the Olympic village set on a higher elevation from the city. As we crested the mountain roadway at this place we saw in the distance a familiar site - rain clouds. It was a way down the highway so we did not stop to gear up and when the rain finally did start up we kept driving thinking we could get through without much damage. When we finally did pull over to put on our rubber gloves and close up our jackets it was too late. That morning I had not even put on the boot gaiters we had just purchased the day before and by now my feet were swimming. So much for water resistant boots. In addition, the temperature had steadily kept dropping as to produce the perfect recipe for a common cold, which I enjoyed for the next few days. We had driven that morning from Calgary to Jasper, which has some of the most animal populated roadways in the Rockies, and saw absolutely not one living thing. All the wild life was too smart to be out in such weather. What scenery we did manage to see through the cloud cover was spectacular. The rain discouraged other travelers from the parks roadway, which made for a speedy passage. By the time we got to Jasper the clouds were breaking and the air began to temper. We stopped there for breakfast and to warm our souls. Jasper had some beautiful low-lying clouds that bordered its Main Street. We could just make out the mountain background that a clear day would have made a paradise.
From Jasper we headed east on 16 towards Prince George. Most of the scenery was pleasant but unremarkable. The road was populated more than we imagined it would be, mostly by small villages comprised of a few homes and a gas station/food store that supported the local Inuit inhabitants. Here we were introduced to the chip seal road cover we had read about in the travel guides. Up this way they apparently quarry the stone from the local rock and in so doing underprocess the end product. This makes for a very aggressive road surface that is tuff on the tires. Later in the trip we started questioning if our tires would last. By the time we arrived in Prince George the weather had warmed to the 70's and we stopped for a full lunch to give our bodies a break. Prince George is the last large city in BC as you head north. It has about 10 motorcycle shops and just about everything else you need. Be warned this is where the cost of things starts going up. After lunch we headed to a few shops to find fork tube guards for Jeff's bike. The mechanic at Anderwerks told us that Jeff's F650 needed some protection from rocks hitting the fork tubes if we planned to ride on dirt roads for any length of time. We could not find anything that was a perfect fit so we bought tire tubes, crazy glue and tie wraps to make what ended up to be a pretty good shock boot. That afternoon we continued on 16 to Burns Lake - 628 miles for the day.
We started to see the effects of the longer day as we approached Calgary, but by the time we came into Burns Lake a surreal night sky had taken hold. We pulled in around 9:30pm; it seemed more like 6:00. The Burns Lake Hotel looked like a good choice on paper but when we got there we were a little put off by its antiquity without the charm. The building was circa 1930 with a 1970-update interior. What was unnerving was the local population, many of whom seemed to be milling around without anything to do. The gravel parking lot surrounding the three-story building sat on the most prominent corner on Main Street. Still we could not but feel that our property was an easy target. At first we questioned whether we should consider different accommodations, but the Inuit family that ran the hotel seemed pleasant so we asked if there would be a safe place to leave the bikes overnight. They were more than willing to help us come up with a defendable fortress made of mini-vans. We had arrived too late for dinner so we consumed some convenience food from a bag and pulled down the room shades against the still sunlit sky.