17 June 2018. Queue Diamond Dave…its Showtime! The big bad Dempster Highway awaits our trek towards Tuktoyaktuk. The story starts getting good here but first, let me Bob Ross the current scenario:
Mr. E Ville Genius, Dave aka Jeckyll:
Dave is the de facto leader and there is simply no other person I’d want more on the team on missions like this. Being near the edge and having to use cunning and skill to stay atop the crest of the wave feeds his ego. It also can lead to CRAPS (Chronic Restive And Pensive Syndrome) for those looking for a simple, mindless escape. Some of us…ahem…have already rained on his parade given the schedule compression and change of original plans. Especially since said changes will in effect neuter the Dawson Rally experience. The memory of coming up short in ’09 and not reaching Deadhorse/Prudhoe Bay is not lost. This time around, we were determined to be succeed. We had, in fact, planned to ride into Tuk in full Putin-esque
Mr Superficialisticexpialidocious, Kevin aka Honeybadger:
The most important thing you have to realize about Kevin at this point is that he has an affinity for tarmac. He has not been riding long; perhaps 3 years at this point. I’ve already covered how appearances are important to him, but it is paramount on multiple levels. For those of us that like push that button (incessantly), the rainbow paint job and installed-but-not-wired heated grips provide a continuous source of mirth. But we get a bonus this time around. You see, we each had to ensure our oil levels were correct before we left Saskatoon and check it every fill-up since. Kevin’s bike has been giving his right boot the perpetual money shot
since we left and yet his oil level is never low (overfull, of course). So picture a semi-novice, obsessive/compulsive rider who choked on spending $300 on Gaerne boots about to leave the comfort of pavement for days. I call it Self Induced “Oilboarding”….
Mr. Deepwater AllEyes-On, Mike aka Mike.
A relatively quiet guy, Mike is a former kickboxer that has overcome some serious health issues. Instead of blindly following the pharma program, he got into shape and became a triathlete to the point of representing the Canadian team in China. Bottom line is we’ll tease him but we don’t take it too far. He’s the fastest of the group, but a bit of episodic vertigo that was manageable on asphalt is going to keep him in check off it. And his bike is new to him for this trip, with no real familiarity to draw upon. Throw in a questionable electrical system and furry baggage hanging on for dear life, and the edge is closer than you think.
Mr. Pub Charmer, David aka Mr. Jones
A successful businessman and consummate entertainer, Mr. Jones is a British ex-pat that has made Canada his home. More at home perhaps on a sailing boat, this is his second tour with us; the preceding was the ’15 Maritimes Tour. Both times, he thankfully brought along an acoustic guitar which truly makes for an epic session around the fire pit after a long day’s ride. Clearly the brains of the group, he is riding a 2013 Yamaha Super Tenere decked out nicely for these types of excursions. This is prudent since he has to ride long distances solo to connect with the rest of the group. He managed to get invited on stage during the ’15 trip and did a set to an appreciative audience:https://photos.smugmug.com/Canadian-Mar ... 62-640.mp4
Mr. Showan Tell, Troy aka HomeMadeSin
I’m a sucker for an epic journey, especially if on a motorcycle. Had I not lucked into the dirt bike scene just before my teen years, I likely would’ve self-limited my options to a more laborious career and never realized the addiction of this brotherhood. I was late to the road scene, but definitely prefer the adventure/dual sport side of things and started with a KLR650. After becoming disgusted with the boat-like fully faired set-up in ’15, I quickly stripped the ’77 Wing naked. But this means I am running fully exposed dual (and genuine Weber) 40IDFs and I too, will be mostly unprotected. On the plus side, my set-up is the lightest of the old iron steeds by a fair bit.
Alrighty then, time to get the road on the show. We buy MORE plastic gas cans and bungies at a gas station on the outskirts of Dawson City. We fill them up and strap them the best way we can along with bottled water, snacks and the like. We are loaded for bear, or so we think. As we are preparing everything, a couple of riders on modern adventure bikes pull up to use the basic car wash nearby. It does not look good; mud and disgust at what they had just experienced. If these guys were having trouble, What are we going to have? We are on heavy, overburdened, old cruisers with minimal travel. Here’s a pic borrowed from an ADVRIDER experience along the Dempster on the day before (note the front fender was ripped off due to the polymerized mud):Mostly
undeterred, we keep calm and muster on. It’s about 30 minutes back East to the turnoff for the Dempster Highway toward Tuktoyaktuk. I love the special warning for us “murdercyclists”…
I’ll assume most of the readers have never been on the Dempster (or Dalton) highways. So I will do my best to show and tell the road conditions and issues. Here’s a shot early on, showing just how seductively docile it can seem:
Of course anyone that has ridden gravel roads will immediately know that a bright, dry day is not generally the best situation. We have to spread out to manage visibility (and breathing) for the dust cloud each of us generates. I get the initial benefit given the nakedness of me and my bike (particularly the carbs). And I’m moving at a decent clip as I am comfortable off road. What you also must realize is that the because of the dust, the roads are often sprayed with calcium chloride (a binding agent) to help reduce it. The side effect is the binder turns to a snot-like substance when wet (hence the mud-caked pic above). Therefore, weather conditions are of the upmost importance as you will soon see.
Starts out beautiful and absolutely perfect for riding…deceptive like seeing an attractive mate, well before the later cohabitation shock. The road is moist in this section, so no dust clouds for the time being. A bit surprisingly, Honeybadger is railing also.
I had to stop because some of the empty Gerry cans made a leap for it. Lots of fun tracking those down and strapping back on. But I’m doing my best to smash as many bugs as I can with the Klim:
The protocol is to keep an eye on the rider behind you. I was keeping tabs on Kevin, but it seems he wasn’t keeping tabs behind himself. We get a well-deserved lecture to keep it close as we are all carrying parts or tools that someone may need.
Just over 4 hours on the Dempster and Dave’s bike is having trouble again. This time, it’s electrical. Inconsistent, it takes some time to identify the culprit. We have spare ignitions, regulators, ballasts, you-name-it and perform various swaps and testing. We think the battery is not getting a charge, but we do not have a spare battery. The nearest parts store is in Dawson City, back about 5 hours. Fate simply is not smiling upon us…another deal breaker?
***This is a Ripley’s moment. You simply can’t make this up.***
Recall that I mentioned Dave brings a generator for his CPAP machine should we have to tent it along the road. Bingo! We use the generator to provide running electricity to run his bike. No kidding.
This crazy setup works and allows us to keep going forward, on to Eagle Plains – the main oasis along this route. We arrive late, but get something to eat and libations to drink. More importantly, we have a place to sleep. It was a very long day that isn’t fully captured by just a few pictures.
Dave’s frustrated because of his bike’s issues along the way and how we split apart for a while. We are all feeling the effects of a long day made longer by the repairs, Gerry cans breaking free and at least one low speed get-off.
The next picture tells the story. At the time, I was starting to get concerned about Kevin’s well-being. The dirt and gravel roads, coupled with the constant oiling of his right boot might trigger something deep inside him and break that controlled exterior. You can just see it…the eyes always tell the truth. This is a man working hard to hold it together.
The bikes certainly feel about the same…