We didn’t get out of the campground until after 10 am but still no sign of Ben & Ellen or Sara. We would liked to have said good-bye. There have been reports of road construction and some gravel segments of the highway between us and Dawson Creek. I can make better time on the road bike but, if there is construction or gravel or most anything else out of the ordinary, then the mountain bike is the best choice. Plus, today there is a stiff headwind; 20 mph gusting to maybe 35. To keep our options open, Betty will leap forward only about 10 miles at a time and stop even sooner is she sees that I need to switch bikes. While on the mountain bike the highway drops down into the Peace River Valley. The bridge has a sidewalk which is raised 8 inches above the road surface, but the winds are so gusty I cannot be sure I won’t be pushed off into traffic coming from behind me. I pushed the bike most of the way across, about one-half mile. It was a tough climb out of this deep valley; a long pull of over 2 miles and signs warned that the grade will reach 10%. It must be a “bear” during some winter conditions. At the steepest part of the climb, I took a rest & water break. When I started to resume biking, it was difficult getting the bike going fast enough to maintain balance on that steep of a slope. After a couple of failed attempts, I waited until there was no traffic in either direction, pointed the bike across the slope, quickly got my shoe cleats locked in then turned uphill to resume the crawl out of the valley. I think that might have been the steepest slope on the entire Alaskan Highway. Betty is waiting at the top so I switch to the road bike. It seems to me that the road bike does better than the mountain bike in a direct headwind, but a crosswind pushes the lighter and taller road bike around more. Now I am descending down into the Kiskatinaw River Valley, a tributary of the mighty Peace River. As my downhill speed increases, I pass a sign warning of dangerous crosswinds on the bridge. The best choice seemed to be in the middle of the lane and let traffic behind me cross at my speed. It worked well, a pick-up driver waved when he passed me at the end of the bridge. While crossing, I only got a quick glimpse, but that deep, rocky canyon was awesome. The climb up and out of the valley was child’s play after dealing with the Peace Valley less than an hour before.
The relentless headwind makes for slow progress. Passing by a hay field, a mama bear suddenly appears at the end of a drainage culvert about ten feet away from me. She rises up on her hind legs and sniffs as two young cubs pop out of the culvert. When I see that she does not seem aggressive, I stop and get the camera out of my bar bag. The three bears go loping across the freshly cut hay field as I try to get a picture. All three looked great with long, black, shiny hair blowing in the breeze as mom made sure they were out of harm’s way. Just within the past 30 miles, we have been seeing evidence of farming and occasional home sites with large, green, well-kept lawns; we are slowly easing back into a more heavily populated part of the country. When I catch up to Betty at a Rest Area, I suggest we stop for the day. It is 6 pm and I’ve had enough wind for one day.