AND ON THE 5TH DAY THEY RESTED

Dawson in the Yukon and a day of rest after the eastbound ride over Top Of The World. In the morning we walked into the Midnight Sun Hotel and restaurant. The waitress asked, “How many?“ “16,“ I said. Her jaw dropped, one eyebrow raised. Then she just threw her hands up in the air and said, resigned, “Just sit anywhere.“ She was wonderful.

After breakfast some of the Dirt Brigade riders motored around the scenic road surrounding Dawson others went panning for gold while a few of us walked around town, soaking up the local color (which was grey, as in cloudy). Yep, I walked the town. After TopOfTheWorld I wanted a day with both feet planted firmly on the ground. The Midnight Sun restaurant which is also the local Chinese restaurant offered us a great discount on dinner and in the evening we all met up there and had a FEAST! My GOD I never saw so much food come out from a kitchen in my life! And yes, I tasted all of it. It was delicious. Dirt Brigaders were photographing the food left and right. I swear we have more collective photos of all the food we ate during this ride than we do of scenery.

Dinner over and a quick stop at the Downtown Hotel and Bar where we watched our Laurie and Brendan enjoy a SourToe cocktail (a shot of your choice with a petrified human toe dropped in it). After dinner the agenda consisted of finishing laundry, showers, sleep and we prepared ourselves for……

THE DEMPSTER HIGHWAY
25 miles out from Dawson and then you turn left to start the Dempster Highway trek. You mark the beginning of this journey by taking photos with the Welcome To The Dempster Highway sign. Then you mount your bikes and start the engine and notice the next sign:

“There are no emergency medical services on this road.” It also informs you that the first fuel stop is 370 kilometers ahead at Eagle Plains.” (roughly 225 miles)

As the smallest of our bikes could only go about 80 miles without a stop, this could be a problem. And guess who was riding this peanut tank? Yours truly. These bikes are not built that close to the ground so this was the only bike that my feet could get CLOSE to the ground on. Our follow truck, named Jethro, was equipped with a 60 gallon gas tank for ‘on the road’ fill ups. Jethro was donated to us to use by Motoquest Motorcycle tours of Alaska. They also donated the diesel to run Jethro which was a major financial donation for them to do! This enabled us to focus more on raising money for the Susan g. Komen foundation. Driving Jethro was the most wonderful young man most of us have ever met. Brendan. This 23 year old was so knowledgeable about dualsport riding, about motorcycle mechanics, about the area (even though he was raised in Colorado) and about people. He cared for us, laughed with us, watched over us. He also brought down our average age since all of us ranged from age 45 to 64.

Get ready. The story gets interesting now.

First it was quite fun. We said goodbye to pavement at the start of the Dempster. We shall see it no more as we travel this road. Gravel, ruts and frost heaves abound numerously, but we were all maneuvering around them skillfully. An amazing feat when you remember that most of us were practically virgins to this dirt bike sport. We slalomed through a town called Tombstone. Not a name I wanted to encounter on this remote and infamous road. We were joined by another biker named Jordan who was camping near us in Dawson. We didn’t want him to attempt this road alone so we had him pack in with us in the back, just in front of our truck, Jethro. He had been riding since the east coast, but many of us questioned his bike choice for the Dempster. It was a huge BMW R1200GS. Quite heavy and not set up with 50/50 tires (50% dirt / 50% road) like our mounts.

The night before, many of us made conversation with the RVers who were camping near us. On these roads its customary for people to share stories of the road conditions and difficulties that they had come across. We heard stories of a couple on a Harley riding up the Dalton Highway to Prudhoe Bay just a day or two before. They crashed and the man died, his wife on the back seat injured. They were medevaced out. We also heard of two bikers, a husband and wife, on our Dempster who the day before crashed, he injuring his ankle. A passing motorist (and believe me, there are not many of them) stopped to help them and suggested they drive up to Eagle Plains with him and retrieve their bikes tomorrow as there was a bear with 2 cubs circling them all. About 100 miles in we passed them, loading their bikes onto a pickup truck.

Things were going great and I wasn’t too concerned with these stories. My experience with these AlCan related stories is that most of them are true, but they’re not meant to scare you. Like New Yorkers who are often accused of complaining, these stories are meant to boast. Look at what I accomplished! Look at what I survived!

And surviving we were! And flourishing!

UNTIL THE RAIN HIT

The gravel became slick and slippery. The ruts were now filled with a mushy chocolate pudding mixture of dirt and gravel, making it hard to see how deep they were. The suspension on these bikes are made for these ruts and I was doing great.

Until I wasn’t.

I have never heard of a TankSlapper before in all my 26 years of street riding. It’s basically when the motorcycle shakes its head violently left to right almost hitting the ground with each direction change. Sort of like a front wheel fishtail shake with the handlebars oscillating from full lock right to full lock left. It happens generally when your front tire hits a slight bump and knocks it out of alignment.

I hit a rut. It turnout out to be deeper than I thought and my front tire quickly sank. I throttled up to push myself out of the rut and my front tire hit the lip of it, sort of like a slight precipice. And that’s all it took. I felt the wobble and told myself to relax, not grip the handlebars -not fight it, but in a snap the wobble became violent. I tried to stay holding on as the bike violently and quickly steered itself from left to right to left to right and then…

Crash hard to the right and I was down, sliding in the mud. I prayed that I would stop before the road ends and drops off to…well….somewhere lower than the road. I prayed that the bike would come to a stop before it slid into me, pushing me over. I prayed as I slid. I stopped sliding. And laid there. My eyes were closed and I started an inventory of my body as the others came running up to me. Toes, moving. Check. Ankles moving. Check. But painful. Legs have sensation. Check. But ouch. Fingers, arms, everything seems to be moving. Good.

“Trapper! Trapper! You okay?” (Yes, that’s my biker name. Trapper.) How scared they must have been to see me laying there with my eyes closed. I eventually spoke and they started to help me up but I wasn’t ready yet and denied the help. One of our riders, Rita, ran up and quickly; took charge of the situation as she has been trained in accident scene management. With her help and guidance I eventually rose to my feet and we looked at the bike. The front cowl and speedometer was gone. The right bark buster was a few feet away. It was decided that I should join Brendan in Jethro for the last 70 miles of our trek, as we weren’t sure of the condition of the bike. Or me. Rider John suggested also that I just enjoy the last 70 miles in the dryness of the truck, but I found out later why he felt that way. He wanted us to get going fast as he and Sue saw that bear with her cubs a few feet away. I’m glad they didn’t tell me. As they helped me out of my gear and into the truck I became aware of more aches and pains and was secretly glad of the respite.

Brendan and I were driving along and were a bit behind the bikers as the truck can’t maneuver this road as well as a bike. 20 miles after my accident scene we saw our bikes on the right side of the road and our bikers on the left side of the road. And Kathy laying on the ground. We were in shock as Kathy, at age 60, was one of our stronger riders. A tank slapper had gotten her too. Rita was called into action again. Kathy was fully conscious but not getting up though. Rita thought maybe a broken pelvis was sustained, and that worried us as that could cause Kathy to bleed out internally into that region. We grabbed our satellite phone but it was not getting through due to the extreme cloud cover. We activated our Spot Finder which is supposed to send a message out in case of emergency but got back, “message failed.” Again, no service. We were worried. Sue Slate hailed down a passing car driven by a First Nation family who lived in the area. They had a radio phone and they called ahead to Eagle Plains for an ambulance. At this point also, our BMW friend Jordan decided he had had enough and turned his wheels around to camp at the side of the road for the night. He knew it was too dangerous for him to continue. We believe he headed back down the road as we didn’t see him after that.

THE DREADED DOUBLE DROP

Sue Slate and her partner Gin Shear are the organizers of this event and have organized many such rides, albeit maybe not this challenging, since 1993 raising a collective 2.4 million dollars for breast cancer research. They decided that Gin, Rita and another staff member, Shirley, should stay with Kathy and wait for the ambulance while the others get up to Eagle Plains. On the way up we passed the ambulance and hailed it down as Rider Mike promptly and accidentally dropped his bike in front of it onto the bike’s right side. There’s a technique in picking up a bike that enables anyone of any size to pick up any bike and Mike quickly got to it. Put your back low against the bike’s seat, grab the handlebar with your left hand and pull it to the right, grab whatever you can on the back of the bike with your right hand and start stepping backwards, pushing the bike up as you go. Then just let it fall on its kickstand. Perfect Mike! Go! Go! Keep going! Great! Now let it fall on its kickstand! Yep. That’s it. Yep. Uhhhh, you forgot to lower the kickstand before you started. While he was lifting it again, Sue (known as Mama Sue) was ordering the ambulance driver to inform the trio left behind that by NO means should they ride up! They were to wait for Jethro to come back and get them and their bikes. The driver, Cathy, now officially scared of Mama Sue, did as told. The ambulance got there, decided that a helicopter should be called and Kathy was medivaced out by air to Dawson where she was stabilized, then sent onto Anchorage hospital.

Meanwhile, the rest of the troops slipped, slid, and white knuckled their way up to Eagle Plains. The collective sigh of relief by all riders as we pulled into the parking lot was surely audible to Australia!

And the trio left behind? Bless them, as they were out there in the cold and rain for over 5 hours. But they did see the most amazing rainbow grow in the sky as the helicopter took off. The first of many amazing rainbows we experienced.

Tenting at Eagle Plains was on the agenda, but agendas were made to be broken. We all spent the money and got ourselves rooms for the night, four to a room as their were only four rooms available.

Tomorrow…..the Arctic Circle

http://womensmotorcyclistfoundation.org/blog/

www.GoPINKMagazine.com

And this is end of part 2. Part 3 next time I get internet service
Please donate and support our ride:

http://www.info-komen.org/site/TR?pg=fund&fr_id=1120&pxfid=175589

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