|Since I've got a long way to go - 600 miles or so - over road conditions that I know will be slower going, I skip breakfast at Fast Eddys and get out at the first sign of daylight.
|As I turn off the ALCAN at Tetlin Junction onto Highway 5, the sun is just starting to get above the mountain tops.
|This road also has some construction on it but at at least they warn you ...
|and they ain't kidding when they say 'Loose Gravel'. As I've said before riding on gravel is a lot like a bank robbery - don't nobody make any sudden moves and won't nobody get hurt. You just have to keep a loose grip on the handlebars and let her wander a little bit.
|Sometimes it's just short patches that I can sort of glide over which are not too bad.
|The 'good' pavement ain't really that good but at least I can pick my way around the potholes and frost heaves.
|But one thing's for sure - this ain't the place to go down cause you'd be laying there a long time before anybody but a bear would come by.
|But regardless of the condition of the road, the views are just spectacular.
|I do have to give the Alaska DOT credit - whoever put the signs on this road were indeed realists.
|Once again they ain't kidding about the road situation and I just have to ease back on the throttle so I can pick my way through it.
|It's amazing to me how I am riding above the clouds as they have settled into many of the lower spots.
Finally I arrive at world famous Chicken - but it's not the kind you eat. A bit of the history of the place -
Chicken was settled by gold miners in the late 19th century. In 1902 the local post office was established, requiring a community name. Due to the prevalence of ptarmigan (of the grouse family) in the area, that name was suggested as the official name for the new community. However, the spelling could not be agreed on, and "Chicken" was used to avoid embarrassment. Usually the normal population is somewhat less that 20 year round and there is some gold mining still going on in the area.
|Once I get past Chicken and head up the hill I encounter nasty gravel so I really have to slow down and be careful.
|I knew that I would encounter gravel I just didn't know there would be 25 miles of it. Occasionally I can take my eyes off the road and grab a quick shot.
|But then like out of a dream, I come into some wonderful pavement in really good condition.
There's nobody up here, the views are incredible and the pavement is impeccable. It's almost too good to be true after what I've just ridden through and it goes on for over 15 miles of bliss.
|I make it to the border and grab another state line shot with BlueBelle. I have a little trouble getting her back up right as the road surface leans at an odd angle. Fortunately there are some riders coming from the other direction to help me with it.
I head for the Canadian border crossing and get the news. The Canadian Border
Officer tells me -
"Sorry, but this is the end of the pavement. At least our side is hard pack."
I can deal with hard pack a lot easier than thick gravel so I motor on.
|What I don't grasp at this point is that it is over 60 miles of hard pack - but at least there are some nice views now and then.
|I finally make it to the ferry at Dawson City which requires a careful descent down the gravel mountain side road which is not so hard packed.
|Its looks like I won't make this trip then the ferry man motions for me to come down. I am very thankful for that as I still have over 400 miles to go before I reach my motel for the evening.
|I'm way past due for breakfast so I figure I'll find a place that I can get some fuel for me and fuel for BlueBelle.
|They have both - gas for her and biscuits for me - so we are good.
|The road starts out okay and I'm beginning to think that I've made the right decision coming this way though it is twice as long. But soon the trouble begins as I encounter one road construction area after another - contrary to what the Yukon DOT site led me to believe.
|About 40 miles south of Dawson City, I come to one where I am forced to wait on a pilot truck and I am not allowed to pick my way through it.
Then the woman that is driving the pilot truck sends a tanker in front of us. This tanker is not spraying water on the dirt, they are dumping water in copious amounts. The Yukon DOT has taken the road surface down to what appears to the clay. Now with it freshly watered, it is so slick it is unbelievable. As the pilot truck takes off I am struggling trying to keep BlueBelle upright in the muck. I finally pull over as I have got to find a path myself. The woman in the pilot truck stops, gets out and comes back to me and says
"You've got to stay right behind me or we cannot go on."
I'm the first vehicle in the line I really hate to hold the other vehicles up. I just nod my head despite my better judgment. She takes off and I keep up but it is a real struggle. I don't see it, but she straddles her truck over a deep rut in the road. This rut is about 2 feet wide, 15 feet or so long and about 2 feet deep. So without warning it suddenly appears from beneath her truck and there is no time or way to avoid it. The rut is filled with wet mud from the water runoff of the tanker truck and BlueBelle comes to a sudden stop from 30 mph without me touching the brakes. I'm tossed off on the left side and I hit the ground really hard. When I come to my senses, I'm pretty sure I have broken some ribs as the pain is excruciating. I am having a very difficult time getting air so I force myself to slow down my breathing and take shallow breaths. As I am laying on the ground trying to figure if anything else is broken, the woman gets out of her pilot truck, comes over to me laying on the ground and says with a little laugh -
"Oh well, you almost made it"
and walks off. Fortunately some folks behind me in the cars get out , shaking their heads in disbelief and come over to me. One asks me
"Can you get up?"
"Nope, not by myself. I'm pretty sure I've gotten some broken ribs. But if you can help me we'll give it a shot."
They do and the only way I keep from screaming from the intense pain is to keep my teeth tightly clenched. My left arm is not working real well from the trauma, but I manage to make it over to BlueBelle to see what I've got. She is laying on her left side, with her left mirror completely ripped off, the left mirror cover in multiple pieces, her left saddlebag badly damaged and the left tipover wing appears to have been pushed back. Both tires are so deep in the mud that it comes over the bottom of the tires and rims. After several attempts, BlueBelle faithfully fires up and with help of three other motorists, I manage to get her out of the rut and back on level ground. The pilot truck woman comes over and says
"I guess I need to check you out."
"I am just fine" I manage to get out between my clenched teeth.
I painfully get back in the saddle and I ride the rest of the way out of the construction zone.
In situations like this there nothing to do but hike up your big boy britches and go on. I'm at least 4,000 miles from the Holler and a good 360 miles from the motel. The pain is intense and focused, but I manage to figure out a riding position that keeps as much pressure off my injured left side as I can. But I feel every road 'imperfection' and still have several more construction sites to get through. But at least they don't have pilot trucks that I have to follow. About 120 miles from my destination, the sky gets really dark, the lightening starts flash and the wind picks up. Though I don't want to dismount, I figure I'd better pull off and get my rain suit on. Two sweet young ladies pull over and ask me -
"Are you going to be okay in this storm?"
"Yeah, I've just got to get my rain suit on but thank you so much for stopping and checking" I reply.
It's a real struggle to get my rain pants on but I finally make it. But when it comes to getting my rain jacket on, I can't get my left arm to work. I struggle and struggle in the roaring wind but my left arm will not cooperate so I can slip it into the jacket sleeve. Fortunately a elderly couple pulls up and asks
"Are you all right? Can we help you?"
I explain to them what has happened a way back and they just shake their heads in disbelief. I ask the man driving
"There is one thing you could do if you don't mind. Could you help my jacket over my left arm?"
He quickly gets out of his truck and helps me get that accomplished. I thank him and then they pull off. Getting back on BlueBelle takes about all I've got left in my reserves, but I make it and head on out. About 5 miles down the road I enter into one of the worst storms I have ever ridden in. It is like riding under a water fall the rain is so heavy. I can't see through my glasses, I can't see through my face shield and I can't see through my windshield because it is raining so hard. I finally perch my glasses down my nose where I can just barely look over them, drop my face shield where I can barely see under it and position my head just looking over the windshield. This gives me a very narrow 'slit' to look throught to focus on keeping the bike between the yellow line and the white line. With wind at full tilt, sometimes I get blown to the other side but fortunately there is no oncoming traffic. It goes on like this for close to 120 miles until I finally reach the motel where it has let up to a slow drizzle.
When I get off the bike and walk into the office/restaurant, I can see that the original owners must have sold the place. I give the feller behind the desk my name and he tells me
"I can't find your reservation but we have rooms available."
Loosely interpreted in 'hotel speak' it means "We'll give you a room but it will be at walk-in prices" which are always higher than reserved rates. But it just so happens that I keep a list of all my reservations, the rates, and the confirmation numbers folded up in my wallet. Miraculously he can find my reservation just fine when I called his bluff by giving him my confirmation number. I get my keys and I ask him
"Is the restaurant closed?"
He replies "Yes, but we'll keep it open for you."
So I get BlueBelle pulled over to my room and get her unloaded as quick as I can which is very difficult given my current pain level.
|I walk back over to the restaurant and pick the first table I come to. There are 4 employees - one of which is the feller that checked me in - sitting there at another table having a discussion of some sort. I figure when they see me, one of them will offer me a menu and I'll be good to go. I wait, and wait, and wait and they pretend that I'm not there. I'm in no condition to sit here til they decide to do something, so I quietly gather up my stuff and walk out. There's a convenience store across the road and up the hill and I figure I can find something there to eat. They have some cold hamburgers that I try to heat them up their microwave (my room does not have one). I grab some chips and drinks and make my long painful way back to my room.
|It's not very tasty but I know I have to have something on my stomach at this point so I manage to get it down. My primary care physician has warned me before that because I am on blood thinners I can have serious internal bleeding if I take a hard lick like I just experienced. I know one thing is for certain - if I am bleeding internally I won't have to worry about getting me and BlueBelle back to the Holler. That will be somebody else's problem when the sun comes up. If I do wake up in the morning I will get up, get BlueBelle loaded and some how, some way make it the ferry. Getting into bed is terribly painful but trying to find a sleeping position that allows me to get some sleep is even more difficult. Of the 600,000 plus miles I have ridden in over 50 years on two wheels, this day will go down as the most difficult day I have ever faced on the road.