Alaska Adventure 2005 – Braving the Wilds of British Columbia

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Day 13

  • Monday, July 4
  • Watson Lake, YT to Pink Mountain, BC
  • 468 mile

We depart Watson Lake and head into northern British Columbia. It doesn’t seem possible but the Highway travels through an even more remote area. At some point, we stop at a nice quiet spot along the side of the road to take a leak. The sun is out and the air is warm and breezy. Two of us leisurely walk into the nearby trees and unzip. After a few seconds, we notice a few skeeters. No big deal.

Then a bunch more show up and the task at hand is halted as we have to engage in some self defense swatting. Then comes literally a cloud of mosquitoes. The two of us quickly emerge from the trees swatting like mad which accomplishes nothing except to lead the skeeters right to two more victims. I’ve never seen guys buckle up and blast off so fast in my life. We are overwhelmed and on the verge of panic, African Queen style. Gravel is spewing from our tires as we blast back onto the pavement. It feels so good as the wind sweeps away the last of the nasty ass bugs as we rocket down the road. The panicky feeling quickly subsides, my breathing begins to slow back down and a sense of relief comes over me. Whew! But then a feeling of puzzlement creeps in. Something’s not right with my bike. The back tire of my bike is getting all squishy on me and in a matter of seconds, it goes totally flat. I have to fight to keep the heavily loaded bike from wobbling all over the road and it takes all my concentration to bring the bike to a safe halt. A feeling of dread sinks in. I’m the last in line and my three riding companions are racing away from me. Honking the lame ass horn on my ride does no good. Worse yet, I think of the mosquitoes we just escaped from. Oh God! Will they find my shriveled, blood drained corpse alongside the road? I don’t want to die like this.

Well, first things first. I waste no time in getting off the bike and unpacking my mosquito repellent bandanna. Off comes the helmet and I drape it over my head and slap my baseball cap on just as the skeeter hordes arrive. The only exposed skin is my face with my riding gear and gloves providing adequate protection. The assault begins and I reactively walk rapidly away from my bike only to discover that the little bastards have stopped swarming me. That’s odd. I walk slowly back toward the bike and it is literally covered with mosquitoes. Is the heat of the bike throwing off their senses? Well, regardless, it looks like I can safely wait for the troops to come rescue me but then I wonder how the hell they are going to be able to help me fix a flat. They’ll be eaten alive. Ok, one thing at a time, we’ll figure something out — focus! I walk back to the bike, quickly grab a snack out of the top box and hastily retreat, leaving the little morons to crawl all over my bike looking for blood. I’m so sure that Paul and the guys will notice my absence any minute now and come racing back to rescue me that when a guy on a dual sport pulls up about 15 minutes later and asks if I’m ok, I say sure. He waves goodbye and takes off in the direction my companions are heading. It then occurs to me that he might actually see my buddies and tell them just that. (Which I find out later is exactly what he did.) Doh!

After half an hour or so, I’m getting pretty bored so I figure to pass the time by assessing my options. My cell phone has no coverage whatsoever so that’s of no use. I do have a patch kit but one not nearly as good as Pablo’s so it might not get the job done. I have a portable 12 volt air compressor but its power plug is made for a cigarette lighter socket and while I do have such a socket on the bike, it hasn’t worked on this trip. I also have a BMW style power socket that does work and I remember that I have a spare BMW plug in my tool kit. I’ve got a Leatherman tool and some electrical tape so I could actually swap out the power plug on the compressor. Of course, I figure that as soon as I unpack all the camping gear off my passenger seat to get at my toolkit and dig through my top box so I can get at the stuff I need, the guys will show up. So I remind myself to be patient and to sit tight. As long as I stay 100 feet away from the bike, I am blissfully left alone by the little monsters who continue to attack the ST.

An hour goes by and no rescue is in sight. Oh well. At least trying to fix the flat will give me something to do. I rehearse mentally what I need to get off the bike in order to minimize my exposure to attack and then I take action. I approach the bike and execute the first set of tasks. I figure I’m in and out in just under two minutes. I depart with my tools and return to my safe zone down the road a bit. I chop the old power plug off, strip the wires, install the new power plug and tape it up nice and neat. I walk briskly up to the ST, plug in the pump, hit the switch and I’m rewarded with the sound of compression. Cool! I unplug and retreat once again. Now comes the tire plug task. I unpack the kit, examine what I need and think about the steps in order. Here goes. I kneel behind the bike and spin the tire. I spot the nail in the tire, extract it and prep the plug. As I’m working, I only get the occasional skeeter trying to find some skin to puncture and when I get up to plug in the pump, I notice that the hungry hordes have left, either out of a sense of failure, or boredom, or due to injury from trying to stick their needles into steel. Thank God for that!

I rev up the compressor, start pumping air, and the plug holds. Yes! I strap the gear back on the bike and with a real sense of accomplishment, I saddle up and head down the highway. I then remember that I’m now running on a rear tire sporting two plugs in it. So I take it easy and count my blessings to date. I arrive at a roadside lodge near the Liard Hot Springs and a kid sells me some expensive gas out of a can – no gas pumps. How’s that for rustic? I ask about some fix a flat to add to the tire in case the plugs start leaking but he says they are out and his dad won’t be making a run to the nearest big town, many hours and miles away to the South, until next week.

Still no sign of the guys. I head down the road but I’m soon halted by yet another Alcan construction project – joy. I sit there for fifteen minutes and now it’s been over two hours since we parted company. The flagger finally waves me on and halfway through the lengthy construction zone, I spot Paul coming toward me on his FJR. He waves, does a u-turn in the gravel and leads me through. Once we hit pavement, we pick up the pace. Along the way, we see an amazing assortment of wildlife, the most we’ve seen on the entire trip. So on this particular day, we finally find the legendary mosquitoes everyone warned us about as well as the wildlife we were told to expect.

Many miles down the road, we find Trev and Jeff waiting at a roadside station. They figured I must have gone sightseeing or something since the guy on the dual sport said I was just standing around enjoying the view. Really? WTF? I’ve never done such a thing on all the trips we’ve done, at least not on a bike, and Pork Chop is positively mortified when he realizes that he didn’t notice me pulling over. (When he did look in his rear view mirror, he saw a headlight but it turns out to have been the dual sport guy.) It certainly does make a strong case for two way radios, something Paul and I had discussed and ultimately vetoed. Oh well. No harm done and I’m still savoring the notion of my Alaska Highway self rescue, me being the very non-mechanical, club webmaster and scribe.

At the end of the day, we can’t find any gas nor any fix-a-flat. We’ve stopped at 3 stations along the Alaska Highway, each one at a wide spot in the road called a town on the map, which is an extreme overstatement. We’re starting to wonder if we’re going to have to camp out and wait for the fuel truck to come through the area in the days ahead but we finally find some at Pink Mountain. As we unpack our gear at the campsite behind the little store and gas station, we realize that we’ve transitioned from wilderness to rural. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen that.

While we’re having a beer around the campfire, a helicopter comes in and lands on the roadside store’s lawn. I predict that it’s doing a booze and beer run and that’s confirmed by the store clerk. She says the pilot told her he was charging these guys, who were on a fishing expedition way out in the wilderness, by the minute for his services. We shake our heads in wonder, eat supper across the road at a funky, rundown restaurant and walk back to camp, admiring yet another glorious sunset. What a day of adventure touring it has been. Oh, and by the way, it rained on us today as well.

For the record, here’s a list of wildlife we saw today: two juvenile black bears, one coyote, wild horses, wild bison, stone sheep, two juvenile foxes, caribou and mule deer.

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