Committed to making it to Watson Lake I blew through the town of Fort Nelson stopping only for refueling. Happy to be adorning my electric vest, I looked at the map and quickly realized that I had another 325 miles to Watson Lake.
But here’s where the riding got better. Just a few hours from the legendary Yukon Territory (YT), I was graced with majestic views of the Northern Canadian Rockies with its mountain peaks, glacier lakes, mountain streams and provincial park after provincial park I soon found myself scooting along the legendary Liard River. I have to admit that riding past Summit Lake, Muncho Lake and the Liard River Hot Springs I was blown away by the vast wilderness, and scenery straight out of a picture book. With the bike riding smooth and a nice pace, my long journey to Watson Lake was rewarding and exciting.
The brooding clouds created drama and accentuated the massive peaks of the northern Rockies. The rain kept hammering me though. Rain, rain and more rain.
But I was rewarded once again by wildlife roaming the rocky cliffs of Summit Lake. Stone sheep practically fearless roaming the highway and as I made the last stretch toward Watson Lake a massive herd of buffalo including one of the biggest bulls I’d ever seen just huddled together on both sides of the road just North of Muncho Lake. Even with the rain that peppered my ride and caused a bit of anxiety, just hanging out with the goats, elk and buffalo made the trip worthwhile. I could turn around now. But I won’t.
When I arrived in Watson Lake after nearly twelve hours and 552.9 miles I was dismayed when the restaurant staff told me they ran out of food. I had already unpacked my bike, adorned myself in civilian clothes and exchanged my thigh high boots for casual shoes. “You should go to the Watson Lake Hotel, they’ve got a barbecue special tonight,” the waitress strongly urged.
Great. The last thing I want to do is hop back on that motorcycle and ride to another hotel for a beer and dinner. I contemplated calling a taxi but resolved my insane thinking and rode to the hotel.
Halfway into my beer and dinner an estranged motorcyclists walks in. It’s Dave, the guy with the Suzuki I met just north of Fort St. John. He tells me that he and Gene had pulled over just north of town to get out of the downpour that I caught myself in and upon returning to their bikes realized that his rear tire had worn all the way through to the threads and belt. If it weren’t for the rain this guy might have tried to go on to Whitehorse risking a disastrous chance of a blow out.
“You were right about my tire,” Dave said. “I can’t go on and it’s Saturday night in Watson Lake and the chances of finding a tire are practically none. Soon Gene shows up and it’s all business. Either Gene will need to run to Whitehorse, find a tire and return. Or they wait until Monday and find a mechanic in town who can find a tire. Perhaps there’s a junkyard in town where they could find a tire that would at least get them to Whitehorse that night or the next day.
I suggest finding someone to throw the bike on the back of a truck and getting a ride to Whitehorse. Soon Gene is at the local gas station and convinces a trucker to throw the bike on. He’ll even take it to Anchorage. After finishing our beers the two went in search of tie downs and a plan to make it to Anchorage to find a dealer to install a new tire. They’d spend a few days in Anchorage and then turn around and head back to Minnesota.
I woke up the next morning wondering what happened to my new friends. I hope they made it to Alaska and home safely.
Photos: (1) Buffalo roaming Alcan south of Watson Lake, YT; (2) Brooding skies packed big rain for me today. (3) Dave contemplating rubber deficiencies and getting to Anchorage; (4) Legendary Gene from Minn. quick to solve problems and find a truck to haul Dave’s bike north.