July 15, 2007

Whitehorse Run #2

Just got back from a three-mile (or so) hill run. I am in Whitehorse, YT, again; on my way back to the States. I left my hotel and went up toward where the main road intersects with the Alaska Highway, which I'll be heading back to Monday. This turned out to be a massive hill, called Two Mile Hill, though it is perhaps a mile long at most. Counting the distance from my motel to the start of that hill, I think the run was about three miles. The elevation here is high enough I had a hard time getting enough oxygen, especially going up the hill, so there was a bit of walking - but not too much and I'm happy with the run.

Actually, I ran this evening because I was already in running gear, having spent the better part of the afternoon washing everything I own except the motorcycle. As it turns out, the Dalton Highway (road to Arctic Circle) is covered in calcium choloride as an effort to keep dust down. It is itself a fine grey dust, once it gets on you and dries. It would not have been so bad had I not goine through a couple of showers on the way up to the Circle - the calcium makes the road slick as hell and huge amounts of mud splashed up on my and my bike and gear. By the time I got to the Circle, the bike was pretty much grey from one end to the other. Well, despite using a power washer at a car wash once I got back to Fairbanks, the grey stuff really ingratiated itself into my gear. So I spent today washing and washing. I even emptied my bags and put the bags and straps into the front-loading washers. This all worked like a charm and I'll start out fresh tomorrow with clean gear. I have a few straps that I left on the bike which I may just toss out and get new ones - the grey dust is that bad. And once you touch the grey dust, it doesn't wash off your skin easily.

In Fairbanks, Lee and I stayed at this bed & breakfast. It is the strangest place I've ever stayed. It is decorated very much like my sister's mother-in-law's house. Not a very comfortable experience for me at all. We probably should have found a campground and tented it, but both of us were disinclined after the mosquito-ridden experience of the night before.

Anyway, I'm having quite an adventure coming back, even though I had been hoping for an easy trip home (well...to Minneapolis, at any rate). I did not rest well either at the Circle or in Fairbanks, as my gallbladder chose to act up again during this time. That has since calmed down and I'm feeling much better.

Though I had only one minor problem with the bike going up, coming back became a different story. After leaving Fairbanks, my buddy Lee and I were alone - the rest of the group having gone to Anchorage in our absence - and we were making good time toward Beaver Creek, just across the national border, in Yukon Territory. We had left the satellite phone in Tok, Alaska, at the campground where the other half of our group would be staying the next night, for them to have, because we weren't sure we'd be hooking up with that half again. Well, I should have kept the phone.

I was between the American and Canadian border stations in a 20-mile stretch of no-man's land when my drive belt broke! Lee continued on, to find a phone and call for help, and I found myself very, very alone in a beautiful part of the Yukon, twiddling my thumbs near - get this - Snag Creek. Yeah, I'd hit a Snag, all right.

I was beginning to wonder if I'd have to camp right on the spot when Lee came back. My roadside assistance would be sending a flatbed tow truck from Whitehorse the next morning, and that would take about seven hours to get to Beaver Creek (I was about eight miles short of that town). So I hitched a ride into Beaver Creek and got a pretty bad motel room for the night.

The next morning, Saturday, Lee left early, to make 600 miles toward home, and I spent most of the day waiting for the truck to show up, which it did at 4:30. The driver, Justin, collected me, then we headed back past customs to get my bike. The trip to Whitehorse should have taken about eight hours max, but my strange luck continued to fire: we hit blasting and re-construction of the Alaska Highway at Lake Kluane and had a 90-minute wait for the pilot car while the giant GIANT bulldozers moved freshly blasted mountain off the "roadway".

But wait! It gets better! We got going again, only to find at the next bit of construction (two miles further along), that the tow truck's differential was burning itself out. My rescue truck now needed rescue. It was about 11:30 when the driver managed to find and borrow a satellite phone from the road crew and call his boss to come with a second tow truck - a three-hour drive up from Whitehorse, minimum.

In the meantime, I gathered the absolute essentials (toiletries, air compressor, and medicines) and hitched a ride with the first people to come by who could take me. This turned out to be a fanstastically lucky hookup. Nice guy by the name of Bruce Hill and his wife Rachel were in a little camper van and had room for me. Over the next three hours, we chatted a lot - turns out he's a Harley rider, too, and is scouting terrain for coming up here on his bike next year or year after. He and I both think we want to come back to this area via the Marine Highway, so we can see some great glaciers and such on the way up.

I got dropped off in Whitehorse at 3:30 a.m. this morning, and crashed 'til 11. I called the tow company and was able to gather up the rest of my belongings, sans bike, and proceeded with the deep cleaning. Tomorrow, I'll coordinate getting the bike to the Harley dealership and be there when they open. They should have a belt (I have a very common model) and get me on the road by 11:00 at the latest. I have to make time, as I have a job in Minneapolis soon. I am keeping my fingers crossed about that belt being available. The OTHER half of the grop has a belt, but I have no idea if they made it into Whitehorse tonight (as planned) or not, or if they'll go to the dealership in the morning. At this point, I'm on my own - and I rather like it this way.

More exciting stuff later, I'm sure; my internet time has almost run out.

1 comment:

joe sleeper said...

That sounds like quite a trip you are having. Are you taking pictures? Do you Flickr?