Aug 12, 2016—The morning we left Chicken, Ak my bike would not start. We had to jump it a few times before it finally caught well enough to idle then it stalled three times just getting out of the parking lot. On the dirt highway bringing us into Tok from Top of the World, it got marginally better but had no pep. I had a cold and a poor sleep plus we had over 500 km (310 mi) to ride that day. My bike needed to work.
Dave Sears wonders why no one told him about the family creek.
In Tok and Delta Junction we both filled our fuel tanks with the same pump at the same time. When we left Tok, my bike was down to four gears. When I tried to rev it high enough to get into fifth for highway speeds, it would just bog down and would almost stall. I’d have to knock it down to fourth gear, which had the revs running way too high. All I could do was keep riding to get closer to our destination.
A while later, we had 145 km (90 mi) to go to get to Fairbanks, Ak where I was looking forward to seeing a good old friend of mine, Ed Bueler, and his wife Jill and their kids Thomas and Vera. Ed and I had climbed mountains in past years and had had some epic trips. I couldn’t wait to tell stories and hear what had happened in his life during the last 14 years we hadn’t seen each other.
Huascaran (22,205 ft/6768 m), the highest mountain in Peru, SA, is one of the peaks I climbed with Ed almost 20 years ago. Dave and I passed this way on our South American trip this year and snapped these photos to send to Ed.
About 10 km (6 mi) out of Delta Junction, Ak my bike would not rev high enough to even get it into second gear. By this time, my nerves and Dave’s were fried. I pulled over onto the shoulder with my hazard lights flashing so traffic could get around me. Over our Sena communication systems, Dave, annoyed, asked what I was doing. I wasn’t sure why he had to ask me that as he knew my bike was having major problems. I answered sarcastically. So that we wouldn’t be fighting while I was trying to ride a malfunctioning bike, we pulled into a vacant hotel parking lot and let each other have it. It was becoming clear my Frankenbike was causing stress in our relationship. Dave hated that he couldn’t fix it and I hated that I’d bought it secondhand. This wasn’t the first time it was acting up and it sure wouldn’t be the last.
After we’d calmed down, I phoned Ed to let him know we were having mechanical issues. He said he had a truck with a hitch mount we could borrow if I wanted to call U-Haul and ask about a trailer. I did and we had a trailer lined up for the following day.
With a plan in place, I packed only what I needed onto the back of Dave’s bike then he followed me the 10 km (6 mi) back to Delta Junction where I asked the fuel station where we’d filled up if they would kindly store my bike in their garage until tomorrow afternoon. They said no problem and we took off for Fairbanks riding two-up on Dave’s bike. To cheer us up, we stopped along the way in North Pole, Ak—not because Dave nor I have a particular fondness for Christmas round-the-clock but because we were starving. As it happens, North Pole has one of the best Chinese food restaurants ever: it’s called Pagoda and it has been featured in Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.
The Bueler family welcomed us out on their lawn when we pulled up and seeing their smiling faces helped us put aside our troubles for the moment.
That evening, Ed and I enjoyed catching up telling stories about some of our climbs in the past. We had planned to stay about 3-4 days before we headed up the Dalton Highway, although that plan was looking grim with my sketchy bike.
The following morning, Dave and I used Ed’s truck to drive to U-Haul in Fairbanks to pick up the trailer, which only cost $25 USD ($33 Can) plus a ball mount for about $25 USD ($33 Can) and some tie-down straps for about $20 USD ($26 Can).
All set, we drove to Delta Junction 145 km (90 mi) away and found my bike where we’d left it in the fuel station garage. We loaded it up then turned on our heels to head back to Fairbanks. We wanted to get my bike into the BMW dealer as soon as possible. It was Saturday and they’d be closed Sunday. We hoped to be back on the bikes riding north to Deadhorse, AK, the world’s northern-most road-accessed settlement, by Tuesday.
An Alaskan local asked me, “Ain’t you supposed to be ridin’ that bike?”
Once at the Fairbanks dealer, (Outpost Alaska), we explained what was happening to my G650GS. Brad, the mechanic, was finishing up a job and immediately took my Frankenbike in to assess the problem. We stood looking through the shop door. My fingers were in my mouth, biting my nails. Dave’s arm was around my shoulders. We looked like concerned parents whose kid was in the emergency room, awaiting the news.
Eventually, we retired to the Outpost’s traveller’s lounge catching up on e-mails and watching TV before Brad and Gary called us over to the counter to say there was either kerosene or diesel in my fuel tank. Heaving a big sigh of relief it wasn’t anything too bad, I asked what would happen next. Brad flushed out the bad fuel, topped it up and also pulled a new fuel injector from a shop bike to replace mine, which had been damaged.
Later, though, we asked each other why Dave’s bike wasn’t affected; he filled up at the same place with the same pump. We can’t be sure where the bad fuel came from or when. It could have been any of the places we’d filled up in the last 500 km (310 mi), which was when I noticed my bike misbehaving.
But for now, my G650GS was back on the road!
Next posting we’ll see if the G650GS is succesful.
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