Often we are asked how the bikes are fairing on the trip and we reply saying they’re doing well considering what we put them through. Of course when they actually break down we curse them as though they are crappiest crap on two-wheels.
At time of writing my bike is actually in the shop for the second time in three days but that’s a story for later. We’ll talk now about Dave’s bike suddenly needing some big repairs in Atlin, B.C.
But first let’s focus on the positive; Liard Hotsprings… sigh! Dave and I rode 227 km (142 m) one-way to experience what everyone was talking about. Liard truly is one of the prettiest settings of any public, developed pool we’ve seen. If you go in after 10:00 p.m. there’s no one to collect your money. Otherwise, it’s only a $5 entry. There’s also free camping, with free wild raspberries, across the street behind the hotel, which has a dark, sketchy, closed-for-good vibe, although curiously the front doors were open and we could use their bathrooms and even wander the hallways if desired.
On our way riding into Liard from Stewart, B.C. off highway 37, we rode through the leftovers of an old forest fire. The burned bark had been stripped clean from the pale coloured trunks, exposing white pin-like structures topped with brown tips. Dave said it was like riding through a giant porcupine. We saw five black bears; two were cubs and another we spooked up a tree. When Dave stopped to take photos, the bear hid for several minutes in a culvert. Dave waited for the bear to come back out but couldn’t get him to climb the tree again. We also saw about a million bison; they were all over the road causing semi-drivers to jerk to a stop and cyclists to pick up their pace.
After our night at Liard enjoying the springs, we headed back in the direction we’d come and beyond toward Atlin, B.C., a good 650 km (404 m) west. We made it about 400 km (249 m) before calling it quits and deciding to camp at Morely Lake—an idyllic rec site when there isn’t a handful of drunk rednecks partying all night. We’d gotten wet on the ride from rain and were chilled to the bone. Dave started a fire with pinecones and twigs found in the very damp forest. I made dinner: sunflower seeds and rice. It was all we had. We should have stopped for groceries in Watson Lake but got distracted by the impressive signpost forest.
In the middle of the night, we were treated to the stereo from one of the partyer’s trucks and some intelligent words from their mouths. All we wanted in the morning was a cup of hot tea and coffee. I set to warming up some water, which was when our stove ran out of fuel. We sulked over our tepid tea. After our meagre dinner the night before, interrupted sleep, a now a wet, breakfast-less start to the day, we wondered if people would still be envious of our trip.
Atlin, B.C., although pretty darn cute and charming, (if you don’t need anything from the grumpy guy who runs the Shell station), is not a bustling metropolis but we had stars in our eyes when we saw the little corner store had food on its shelves; it meant we didn’t have to eat birdfeed again. I stocked the food bags with snacks and a hearty menu for dinner. Whatever space was leftover we stuffed with a few cold beers and rode 25 km (16 m) south of town to a camping rec site in the sun. Dave’s bike was making metallic clunking noises. While he worked at finding the problem, I unloaded everything, changed out of my riding gear, strung up a line between two trees to dry out some stuff, started a fire and walked about ten steps to the shores of Atlin Lake. I love how easily a new place can feel like home once we have a few of our things out and about.
When I walked past Dave grunting around under his bike, I suddenly remembered we had no fuel to cook all our yummy food. This really pissed me off. Dave was sure there wouldn’t be a place to buy isobutene in town but after putting his bike together, he rode back in to try his luck.
Forty-five minutes later, Dave was back and looking quite furious. His bike was making the same noise but worse and he hadn’t found camp fuel. What he did find was a couple camping a few miles up the road at another site, who were willing to loan us their stove. We packed up our stuff and drove there to re-camp where we could hopefully cook some real food.
I shook hands with Bob and Sandra, thanking them for their two-burner propane camping stove. They talked with us while I made dinner and Dave took apart his wheel bearings. He emerged with a handful of rubble—crushed, broken bearings, which he placed on the edge of the picnic table. Now, several kilometres down a dirt road south of tiny Atlin, Dave’s bike was totally un-rideable. Bob kindly offered to put Dave’s bike in the back of their truck and at least get him as far as the junction to Whitehorse, which from there would have only been 80 km (49 m) north. But it was clear the bike wouldn’t fit in the truck with the canopy.
In the morning, Dave and I rode two-up on my bike into Atlin, where I called BCAA to use my membership for a tow to Whitehorse, Yukon. After hearing, “Your call is very important to us,” for over 20 minutes someone finally came on only to inform me my membership A) did not cover motorcycles and B) only covered 25 km (16 m), then it was $3 CAN per km.
Dave called three truck rental agencies in Whitehorse. The first two quoted him over $400 to do the return trip from Whitehorse to Atlin and back. The third quoted $169 plus 400 km free and they even had tie-down straps. Done and done. Now all we needed was to get Dave to Whitehorse to pick up the truck.
We were using the phone in Atlin’s visitor’s centre. There were a few people inside, including a couple we’d met in Liard hotsprings. I asked if anyone happened to be going to Whitehorse and the couple answered yes. Dave hopped into their RV for a free trip to Whitehorse while I got out my laptop and found a place to work utilizing my sudden free time, which ended up being a hardware store with a cute seating area in the corner selling tea.
Dave returned to camp about six hours later with a pimpin’ 2016 Dodge Ram 1500 Eco-diesel whose axels operated on adjustable air suspension. He parked and lowered the truck, stepping out with a big smile and said, “I love this truck.” Sometimes we really miss vehicles. They’re warm when you want warmth and air-conditioned when you don’t. They have four wheels, which some might see as the potential for four flats but we see as the potential for balance. They have tunes…
There was a single ramp in the back of the truck but the angle for getting the bike in, even with it lowered, was too great so we backed the truck up to a ditch and loaded it easily.
In the morning it was off to Whitehorse. My parents have a good friend, Joan Turner, with whom they had worked with in the 60s in Lake O’Hara, B.C. Joan lived in Whitehorse but was away that week. I was wondering where we’d stay for the time it would take Dave to order parts from the lower 48 and get his bike fixed but after checking messages in Atlin the evening before, I found a message from Lee Vincent—a woman I’d met once through paddling friends in B.C. I didn’t feel it was appropriate to ask her if we could stay with her having only met her once but I didn’t have to worry about it. She’d noticed from a Facebook post Dave and I were in the area. Although she knew nothing about our predicament she offered us a place to stay in Whitehorse as long as we needed. Dave had also met a woman, Cheryl Rivest, a goldsmith in Whitehorse, whose business partner, David Ashley, happened to be an ex-motorcycle mechanic.
We got settled in Whitehorse and went straight to the storefront of David and Cheryl to see what advice David could give about ordering parts to fix Dave’s bike. David gave some helpful info and allowed Dave to use his garage to fix his bike.
It’s important to remember the series of events that bring you to where you are. Forgetting to buy fuel for our stove was annoying. But if we hadn’t forgotten, we wouldn’t have met Bob and Sandra staying at the lake where we met Cheryl whose business partner was David, the former mechanic. We’ve noticed on our travels that almost always, the exact person or tool for the job appears when we need it most, even in places where we seemingly don’t know anyone. Thanks to Lee, Tim, Hunter and Fergus for letting us share their home for as long as we did and to David for his help with the bike and the delicious meal from his wife Linda. You know, if we keep getting this kind of treatment, we’ll just keep coming back…
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