Charley Barnes Recounts His 10,000 Mile Honor Flight Northern Colorado Endurance Ride – Leg 3
Today's story will probably be the shortest of them all since we only rode about 500 miles before the first major breakdown. It was also a day that changed me forever.
Leg 3 – 580.7 Miles
Mike and I woke up the morning of Sunday, June 7 in Destruction Bay, Yukon realizing that we had ridden as far North as we were going to make it. We were actually pretty jazzed about turning our sleds around and riding South. As I mentioned in yesterday's story, the road North from Destruction Bay to the Alaska border was a major construction nightmare from what we had heard and that on top of another border crossing wasn't going to help our time and miles we had already lost.
As our ride coordinator, Erik Jon Barrett mentioned the day before, we still had a chance but had to get back on the interstate system back in the home country A.S.A.P. so that was our goal; to get back to the United States as quickly as possible.
We filled our trusty steeds to the brim with 91 octane and started to roll enjoying some of the most beautiful country man has ever seen. It was back through Haines Junction, Whitehorse and since we needed the miles anyway, I decided to take the long way and take Highway 2 down to Carcross which is where we would have gone anyway on the next leg to head down to Skagway, Alaska. Mike and I joked that Erik was probably screaming at us from Ohio when he would see the GPS pinging our way towards Alaska, and a border crossing...with no passport. As it turns out, he was cheering us on saying it would be a shame to not touch Alaska since we were so close. Then the next post on the ride page was, "Well, looks like they aren't going to Alaska." (Wish I had known then he was cheering us on because we would have done it.)
We just wanted to go to Carcross (risking an ass chewing) and then back up Highway 8 to Jake's Corner and back on the Alaska Highway. We rolled on through Johnson's Crossing, Teslin and then just short of Watson Lake headed south on the Stewart-Cassiar Highway towards Smithers, British Columbia where we would stop for the night and get an oil change the next day.
We pulled over to unload some coffee somewhere around Centreville, British Columbia. When we started the bikes, mine turned over very slowly before firing and Mike and I immediately looked at each other with that "that's not normal" look. Anyway who rides knows their bike and the signs of a dying battery. We got back on the road and I immediately started checking my volt gauge and noticed it was well below the 14 mark where it should be. It was about 10 and I knew right away this was bad...very bad.
I turned off everything on the bike that I could to save the battery and told Mike I had a significant problem and we would have to check it out once we got to Dease Lake. The voltage continued to drop and would then spike, drop, spike and then just started dropping fast. It was just out of Dease Lake, British Columbia that the bike said no more and died, ironically in one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen; Dease Lake itself.
We decided I would take Mike's bike down into Dease Lake, still about 30 miles away, to see if I could find someone with a trailer, a phone and maybe a prayer.
It was just about 100 yards away when I rounded the first turn I saw another big black bear on the side of the road and all I could think of was Mike back there by himself guarding my bike. Another mile down from there I had to slow down to avoid yet another black bear walking right across the road and my concern for Mike grew for sure. Then about 10 miles from town, another bear. I had never seen so many bears in one spot.
I got into Dease Lake and the only thing was open was a small gift shop. I turned into the parking lot, went inside and introduced myself to the man inside. Turns out his name was Ted Skubovius and the only reason he was even there was because his wife Jackie, who normally runs the shop, was ill and asked Ted to come back and close the shop for her. Another 5 minutes and he wouldn't have been there. Another prayer answered.
The moment was very awkward and he wasn't pleased at all. Ted said he would help but wasn't going to do it for free. After figuring it would be a 60 mile round trip, plus his time, he agreed to haul be back with a trailer he had for $50 in cash...American!
Sidebar: When I walked out of their gift shop, I noticed one of Mike's gas cans was gone. How in the world could I lose one of his gas cans? The bungee chord was just hanging there so I assumed someone stole the can while I was inside and was just baffled. I wasn't doing more than about 40 mph down the mountain and figured I would have noticed it bouncing out and down the road but never saw it. Turns out it DID bounce out and Mike would find it later when we came back down to Dease Lake after loading my bike.
Ted made it to where my bike was and got himself in position to load my beast up. Turns out Ted did most of the work himself and even put 6 straps on the bike even after I told him 2 would be fine. He insisted on keeping it secure so who was I to argue. The man obviously knew what he was doing.
By the time we got back to his place, I knew all about his family, his history, the history of Dease Lake and much more. It was clear that he had warmed up to me and my situation and I think was glad he was there to help. He decided it would be best to just keep the bike on the trailer and the next morning he would haul it to a local mechanic who was very good with bikes and we'd figure out what the problem was then. He gave Mike and I cups of coffee to take and even a bag of muffins his wife had made earlier that day since nothing was open. Ted even offered to let us camp in his backyard, but since it was about midnight we decided a hotel down the street sounded better for a good rest.
One thing I forgot to mention is that there is no cell phone service at all in Dease Lake and our only connection to the outside world was Facebook. They do have WiFi so iPhone's worked and Facebook. Never in a million years would I have ever thought that Facebook would be our lifeline to the outside world.
I got in touch with Erik and told him the ride was probably over since I was sure the problem was going to be severe and he refused to announce it. He told me stay positive, get a good nights rest and we'd see what the next day brought.
. . . As it turns out, it seems as though I lied about this being the shortest of the stories so far . . .