Thursday, June 16, 2016

Guardian Angels

Whitehorse is a good place to wander and take a break from the road. The city has all of the features, facilities  and amenities to make it a very livable place.  I think that the presence of the river enhances the attractions of the city.  My goal for the day was to make the Alaskan border at Tok.

A stop at Haines Junction for a break and a quick tour of the information center was in order.

 I didn't know if this Copper was an original or not, but still a fine piece of art, nevertheless..
 A carving from the local First Nation

Clearly the Wolves were represented in the local tribal structures...

This moosehide dress was flawless, and the beadwork was excellent.  I wondered how many hours it took to tan that hide. A dress to last for many generations.

It was a quick stop at Haines Junction as my goal for the night was to reach Tok, Alaska.  I wanted to make the border crossing and then be able to find a suitable campsite.  During the afternoon, I dealt with a series of cloudbursts, and I seemed to be spending more time taking off and putting on my rain gear than I wanted to.  Also, I was hearing what I thought was some chain noise.  I planned to adjust the chain when I arrived in Tok.  I ran into more rain and I began to hear more 'chain noise' from the back end.  By the time I arrived at Tok, it was late in the day, and I was wet. I adjusted the chain, and rode the bike around the parking lot.  I thought I had adjusted everything, and the noise seemed to be gone.

About 4 hours later, after leaving a very sharp and long left hand sweeper, the rear end of the bike let go.  My rear tire began wobbling terribly, and my first thought was that "Heideneaus don't go flat",  and my second thought was " Oh Shit!"  as Tess headed for the outside lanes, and the guardrail.  Through the grace of my long suffering Guardian Angel, I managed to bring Tess to a stop, using prayers and a bit of front brake. I was up against the outside guardrail, facing traffic.  I don't know what those folks who rushed to  pass me were thinking, and thankfully the oncoming traffic saw what was happening and avoided me.  I sat on Tess and shook for awhile, and said a silent prayer of Thanks, again.

I was directly across from a magnificent glacier and while I tried to figure out what to do and regain a bit of composure, I thought that for the grace of God, my bike and I could be over the ledge and seeing that ice sheet from a very different angle.

It took a few hours for someone to finally stop and lend me a telephone to make a call for  a tow truck.  I think that I was in a bit of shock, so I essentially sat beside my bike on the side of the road, and waited for the right Soul to put two and two together and ask if I needed help.  Of course I was mad at myself for not diagnosing the failing bearing noise, while I kicked myself for not planning on having a burner phone or proper Sim card for my phone while I was in the States.

During the two hour interval, I had debated about using the SPOT 3 system, which I did have.  I had set it up, I thought, so that a HELP message would generate a tow truck, or perhaps a state trooper to investigage.   At first, I was hesitant to use the HELP message, thinking that it would be the first time, and probably concern my kids more than solve the problem of being stuck 150 miles from the nears BMW shop.   The SPOT 3 system was set up so that at the end of each day I would sent a simple "I'm Okay" message to my kids.  What I did not realize that sending a HELP message meant that it was repeated every five minutes until overridden by an OKAY message.

To its credit, the system works, and to their credit, my children  were organized and attentive to the HELP message.  The GPS coordinates pinpointed my location, and they very quickly alerted State Troopers in communities on each side of the "accident" site.  While I never did see a State Trooper, they apparently did find tourists who mentioned that they had seen me standing beside my bike. I guess that was enough for them to stand down.

And, as I mentioned, a very kind Wasilla man and his daughter had stopped and allowed me to use their cell phone to call a tow truck, who eventually arrived to load Tess and me on for the long ride to Anchorage.

 The consequences of a high speed crash in any vehicle are clearly life-threatening.  The bearing failure was probably exacerbated by the downhill left-hand sweeper which I took at speed.  Certainly the results could have been catastrophic for Tess and I, and I thank my Guardian Angel, yet again for saving my hide.  I am yet again grateful for my intelligent, caring and resourceful children who had my sorry ass covered as I sat on the side of the road and tried to figure out what to do.

This part of the ride has been instructive in that a terrifying experience such as this could have been brings one closer to one's values and beliefs.  Simple yet necessary regimes such as regular maintenance records and schedules, clear and effective communications, and preparation for conditions are not to be taken lightly or ignored.