SUCCESS IS WHAT YOU MAKE IT
The people at Eagle Plains Lodge took great care of us; opening the kitchen when we arrived after it had been closed and making us all dinner. They could only offer us one item and it was the most expensive thing on the menu (prime rib) but we LOVED it and devoured it and gladly paid for it. Breakfast was delicious and we all met up and discussed the goal for the day…..the Arctic Circle.
Originally we had decided to do the Arctic, 20 miles north of Eagles Plain and then head up to the Northwest Territory and dip our tires over the border there, an additional 40 miles up, but we scrapped that idea due to the experience of the night before. We heard that the road up to the Northwest T was like that last 70 miles we encountered the night before; wet, slippery and overall not good. Cathy, our ambulance driver, was also the Forman for the road maintenance crew up there, the first permanent woman Forman in all of the Yukon Territories. She went out early in the morning to scout the road conditions for us and promptly came back with her findings which helped us make our decision. But the 20 to the Arctic? No one was going to talk us out of that!
I had to assess my injuries from the night before and make my decision as to whether I was going to go or not. Hell Yeah! I’m going! I decided this is what Advil and Ben & Jerry’s was invented for! So I downed my Advil, got my gear on, and dreamed of possible Ben&Jerry’s waiting for my successful return. We all saddled up, revved our engines and we were OFF!
And it was a beautiful ride. When the 15, of us arrived at the Arctic sign the celebration commenced. Let me share with you some of the emotions that we all shared there. First, we celebrated for our Kathy, now in the Anchorage hospital with 3 cracks in her pelvic bone. She got so close in miles before she fell, only 70 miles short. And when you traveled the roads we traveled up to then, 70 is just around the corner. So we celebrated for her and cheered her success.
Then… we celebrated remembering the reason we rode. Breast cancer.
2 years prior was another ride organized by the same duo, Gin & Sue, and for the same reason. Cancer. It was the first dirt bike ride they organized after 13 years of organizing motorcycle fundraisers. I was the first to sign up but was unable to follow through due to an unscheduled dismount I had had 2 months prior that landed me in the hospital. That was The Dirty Dozen riders of Colorado. Cindy Fata was on that ride. And months after that success which raised close to $50K, both Cindy and Gin were diagnosed with breast cancer. And I’m happy to say they are both now survivors. In so many ways.
Cindy faced her chemo and radiation with the mantra, “I WILL ride to the Arctic Circle. I WILL ride to the Arctic Circle.” She successfully finished her treatments in May, just 2 months before we all started our Adventure for the Cure. Gin’s diagnosis and mastectomies were in Nov 2009, just months after the Colorado ride. 21 months later she is still cancer free.
And we celebrated them. Strongly.
That’s why we did this. And we stayed up in the Arctic for about 3 hours, celebrating Gin and Cindy, celebrating the people in our individual lives who we loved through cancer, fought with through cancer, lost to cancer. We celebrated them too.
Cindy’s love, John, also a Dirt Brigade rider, celebrated his love’s success and we celebrated his support of her. I celebrated my mother’s life and my cousins’ battles with the disease and for my friends and untold others. Each of us had a story we celebrated. Cheering celebrations. Quiet celebrations. Celebrations where one of us would walk away from the group and go into themselves, communicating with the past and with those we lost.
(Sue just read this part and broke down crying, remembering her pain as her love of 35 years, Gin, was diagnosed, dealt with, and ultimately was able to carry the banner of Cured. And remembering the bittersweet moments at the Arctic in celebration.)
And we celebrated together. As the Dirt Brigade Riders for a Cure. We ate lunch up at the circle, talking and celebrating life. One of us looked up and there it was again….the start of a beautiful rainbow. We ate as we watched it grow, arcing across the sky. We ate as we watched it become more vivid with each passing second, each minute. It spread a canopy of purple, blue, green, yellow, orange, red, as if to protect us. So bright. Colors so strong.
And under this canopy we released the ashes of our friend, Woody. A friend to all of us, even those of us who never met her. Woody was a strong motorcyclist who rode with Gin and Sue for over a decade, raising many a thousand of dollars. Woody was diagnosed in June of 2006. In her devastating battle towards health she pledged to join the Dirty Dozen riders in Colorado. She didn’t make it. We lost her June 13th, 2009. 2 months before the ride.
Gin, Sue and Cindy each took some of the ashes and sent them up to the rainbow while the rest of us watched and wept.
And then, again, we became adventurers. We each collected a rock from the hillside at the Arctic and collectively built our own Inukshuk. That’s ok, we didn’t know what it was either. Here’s the explanation.
Sue, Pink and I were trucking the 9 motorcycles lent to us by Yamaha and Kawasaki up to Anchorage in Pink‘s RV. We stopped at a gift shop in Teslin, Yukon where 5 years prior I had stopped. The cashier told me she liked the color of my do rag (the headpiece that bikers wear to protect our hair. Yeah, I know. It doesn’t work.) It was Fuchsia with flames. I wasn’t ready to part with it but I took her address and promised to send her one. Well, I’m a bad girl. I never did. So we stopped at this gift shop and went in. I asked the cashier if there was anyone still working there who was there 5 years ago. She said she was. I said that I had come by 5 years ago and the cashier then had……She interrupted me saying, “Liked the color of your bandana.” yikes! She remembered! I ran out to the RV and grabbed a bandana giving it to her. She was so touched that I remembered (and I was so embarrassed that she remembered). We told her what we were heading towards now; our ride for the Susan G. Komen Foundation. She was so touched by this, and by her bandana that she gifted us with a small statue of an Inukshuk. After she explained its meaning, we vowed to have it as a part of our morning ceremonies before each day’s ride. The Inukshuk is a statue of stones that the Innuit built to lead the way for others to follow and to wish for them a safe journey. Many travelers have taken up the tradition now as a way of feeling connected to the land and to announce to the world, “We were here.”
So now, our celebration warming us, we again became adventurers. We each collected a rock from the hillside at the Arctic Circle and collectively built our own Inukshuk.
Our time at the Arctic was coming to a close. I think it invigorated us. Buzzing conversations began about attempting the 40 miles up to the Northwest Territory. Some wanted to go, others wanted to go back to the lodge. Those who wanted to go grouped to the left. Those who wanted to go back to the lodge grouped to the right.
And there I was, stuck in the middle again.
I so wanted to go. I wanted to color in another territory in my map of states, provinces and territories that I have ridden through (49 states, 5 Canadian provinces and territories). But I had just crashed the day before and still wasn’t sure how I was.
Lowering my head, I moved to the right. It was a good choice. I was alright, but I did have to switch to a new bike (which had already been given the moniker, “squirrelly bike”) and I wasn’t really comfortable with this new mount. Also, I still hurt and needed to take it easy.
Well, as easy as I could knowing what was coming.
And this is the end of part 3. Part 4 next time I get internet service
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