Sep 2007

Last Night on the Road (Hopefully)

camping on the pacific
Under the stars over the ocean, children screech and laugh, fighting their parents for a few more minutes of play before bedtime. Single flashlights bob through the dark like massive fireflies, and camper doors slide closed on their metal rollers as people hunker in for the evening. Right beside me, a couple sitting at a picnic table psychoanalyze their mutual friends. Behind me, traffic has slowed to just the occasional vehicle braving night driving on the winding 1. Directly in front of my little tent, a hundred feet below, the mighty Pacific!

It feels great to be back on the left coast and so close to the end of this expedition. I couldn't pry myself away from Suzanne and her kitties until three pm today, so I'm four hours down the road from Boulder Creek, four hours up the road from Venice Beach. I turned in here just in time for sunset, and set up camp in the overflow area, which is actually primo real estate on the jagged sea-battered cliffs of Los Padres National Forest just south of Big Sur.

Of course, there's no internet connection (or phones) here on the edge of America, so by the time I post this, I will hopefully be home. I say hopefully, because old Henkeroo is having engine problems. I was going to move him after pulling in, and he refused to start, backfiring angrily twice. A connection somewhere has no doubt been shaken loose on these nasty earthquake-pocked California highways. But he ran smoother today than yesterday, and until I stopped, I was optimistic he'd get me just a little further before I either retire him or send him for a major overhaul. It wouldn't shock me to have mechanical problems on the very last day of the journey. It wouldn't shock you, either, would it? There's nothing I can do about it now but get a good night's sleep and prepare for a possible long day tomorrow.
highway 1
The road today getting here was beautiful. I did the 1 last year, but it was enshrouded in fog all the way from Washington to California, so I didn't see much. Today, I took advantage of some of those vista turnouts to, well, view the vista.

I rode through fields and fields of ripened strawberries sweetening the air with their perfume, and thought of the plastic quart boxes of California strawberries I saw at the North Mart in Inuvik for $6.87. It's miraculous, isn't it, that a quart of strawberries from way down here can find its way way up there and cost under ten bucks? Well, miraculous to me after covering that distance one lonely kilometre at a time.

It was great to see Suzanne. She's such a character! She's passionate and sensitive, an artist in every sense - and by her own admission, a true misfit. The combination of a broken back and homelessness has caused her to retreat into her little arthouse cocoon, and caused her to become very internal and insecure. She's got great talent, but perhaps lacks the belief in herself that some of us get through reassurance from our partners and loved ones. Her poetry is heart-wrenching. The excerpts of her memoires that she's read me are powerful and poignant.

She lights up when she talks about her book, which she's been struggling to complete. The nagging issues of homelessness, though, prevent her from really diving in deeply to get that first draft finished.

She showed me some old black and white photographs today that were taken in 1966 in Montreal. Oh my god. What a stunningly beautiful young woman! In one, she's posed melodramatically in a cemetary, naked, elongated on a hill, headstones scattered in the background. The lines are absolutely perfect. You can see why Leonard wrote the song. Who wouldn't have been inspired by that body?

I gave her a quick computer lesson so she can take advantage of technology to help expand her present world beyond the beautiful but dark and somewhat gloomy woods where she's camped. She published her first blog today over at
Suzanne's Angels. I hope you'll take a few minutes to read her story in her own words. I've also encouraged her to publish some of her poems there, so hopefully they'll be coming soon!

I've never ridden for a "cause" before or done anything like this, but I'm inspired to do more. I haven't finished taking pledges yet. I'll continue until Suzanne has found a reasonable home and has ample resources to become self sufficient again.

Suzanne calls me an activist. I've never considered myself one. I have so many people in my life who have raised the standards of human decency, I'm just trying to maintain those standards and do the right thing. I once meditated on the word "decency" and found it to embody kindness and compassion and generosity and selflessness and empathy and patience and honesty, and ultimately, love. I think we all have that in us. When we see a person suffering, we have a difficult time turning our backs. It's really that simple, isn't it?

Today in Santa Cruz rush hour, I glanced over at a family van in the next lane full of little girls waving excitedly at me. I waved back and beamed a huge smile they wouldn't have seen through my helmet. At moments like that I wish I had a blazing crest on the back of my leather jacket with angel wings on wheels. Who knows what some misfit little girl might conjure up in her imagination...

Suzanne's camp in the redwoods

suzanne in pink
I'm in my little tent at 2 am in the redwoods, still a little wired from today's ride through heaven and hell.

A reminder never to take the 101 through San Francisco at 3pm to the 9. Hell on wheels.

But heavenly, coming across the Golden Gate Bridge in a cloud.

Henk's getting tired. There's a disturbing clank and grind going on in lower gears, and once today when I stopped for gas, he refused to start on first try. I'm praying he'll just get me this last little leg home.

Suzanne was happy to see me. Happy to have some conversation and hear the adventure. She's been very isolated up here in these dark, quiet woods, unable to come and go as she pleases because her truck is not exactly a vehicle for running errands and she's a few miles out of town.

She's been wanting to contribute to the
Suzanne's Angels blog since the beginning, but didn't quite have the technology at her fingertips. I'm helping her with that tomorrow, so if you go over for a look, you'll be able to read her story in her own words.

Back in California

My chair is a mossy rock, brushed clean of twigs, and my penetrable walls of old oak and eucalyptus welcome the graceful crossing of deer. My light is the September full moon, though the glow of my laptop oozes a manmade hue into the godly night. These woods embrace like an old friend, and the healing springs break down boundaries inside. Longed-for relief to my aching firehorserider body; welcomed shedding of literal and ethereal skins.

I rode a long day today from Chemult in central Oregon, where the one old mountain man I met couldn't fathom the ride I'd just done.

"I grew up just over the hill and I live 300 feet from where I was born. I 'aven't been nowhere. I don't like to travel. Couldn't stand all that sittin' in a car. I like to watch things on tv though."

I rode into a blessed hot afternoon along the 97, then the 5 south. I'm finally back in California. Where else would they let you relax and reflect in a hot spring naked?

I counted twenty six items of clothing, including my helmet and boots, that I had on for most of the journey. I've even slept nights in layers. To peel them all off and wear nothing but my locker key around my pinky is almost as liberating as the ride itself. An evening with the hippies and hedonists of Harbin is ecstasy.

I'm at the end of my journey and quite ready to be out of the saddle.

While I blasted my physical body to smithereens with rounds of hot and cold in the candlelit soaking sanctuary, a full moon ritual was taking place in the warm pool with twenty shadows joining hands and singing oms in harmony. Layers of memory peeled away like paper pages leafing by, fleeting images of a well-lived story.

My neck began to release the tension of the wind I've carried for five and a half weeks. My fingers, semi-permanently ossified in a throttle-holding grip began to lengthen and relax with the help of a little self-massage. My trapezius (trapezii?) softened in the hot water and let go, at least for tonight. I hold my fear in those two long flat triangular muscles, and hunching against the cold ratchets up the rigidity.

It's been a good adventure.

Was I outside my comfort zone? Way outside. Several times after passing the Arctic Circle, riding into infinity, I asked myself where on earth I thought I was going. I never thought that Dempster would end. It's difficult to describe that kind of remote, except perhaps to say that there's remote, and there's Arctic Circle remote. It's out there. Even the Alaska Highway feels like civilization in comparison, and until this trip, the Alaska Highway was my great example of existential riding.

Were my beliefs brought up for questioning? Ha! Believe me, the irony was not lost on this long time vegetarian that my rescue squad had just come from killing three buffalo to feed their families. The gods have a great sense of humour. When they took me to their friends house in Fort St. John for ribs, I stopped questioning and enjoyed a wonderful home cooked meal prepared with love and generosity for four hungry travellers.

Were my perceptions shattered? Over and over again. I've always been so in love with the solo journey that I was uncertain how the week on the Dempster with a companion would go. Travelling alone is not so much about shunning companionship as it is about embracing solitude. But I enjoyed every minute with Kevin - so much so that I'd do it again anytime. Having someone to share the grief of burning pelvic tissue and endless gravel, someone to wake me when the northern lights had been turned on by the Indian we met at Eagle Plains, having a friend to share a laugh with and a swig of Courvoisier with - a guy who also happens to go to great lengths to ensure that his friends are happy and safe - and celebrating the victory of finally reaching Inuvik over a couple of Molson Canadians at the Mad Trapper made that portion of the adventure ten times richer than any solo trip.

Did I face my fears? It's easy to become fearful in this world. Reading a newspaper is enough to keep most of us locked up inside. It's easy to allow others' fears to become my own. That's part of the reason I do these trips. I can feel myself becoming fearful, untrusting, cynical, and I sense how paralytic that could make a person. For a couple of weeks before setting out on the long journey, I have to get myself mentally prepared. A lot can go wrong, and something always does. Of course, I'm afraid of breaking down on the Alaska Highway on a cold day. I'm afraid of riding in snow. But both happened and I'm still here. The long rides in solitude don't so much give me courage as they allow me to be alive, in the moment, and when I'm right here right now, I've discovered there is nothing to fear. And that's a life-altering realization.

Suzanne's Angels

Just wanted to post this as easy access to Suzanne's Angels.

Now that I'm getting close to the end, I need angels more than ever.

Remember, I'm still just taking pledges. Once I've arrived in Venice, I'll let you know how to give your money directly to Suzanne.

Headin' South

I should be watching the half moon rising up over the lake where I'm camped, one of the warmest in Canada, in Osoyoos, and the stars dancing on the dark water rippling in the dry wind; but my laptop needed feeding. Nature waits for no thing. Not for technology, not for people, robots, feeding their needy machines, not for me, plugged in under a slanted cobwebbed roof. Plugged in, but oblivious. Oblivious, but not unaware. The moon keeps rising, Canada geese honk into the warm night, first official moments of fall, gathering energy for the pending long flight south, and coyotes in the surrounding grape laden desert hills howl their indifference.

My days since leaving on August 19 have been full. If I haven't been riding, I've been setting up camp or tearing down camp. Both series of rituals take an hour on each end of the day. Somewhere in there, I try and grab a bite, although my nutrition always suffers on the road. My priority is to get somewhere safely, then have a good night's sleep.

Market fresh cuisine is not easy to come by out here, and trying to maintain a vegan diet is next to impossible. I'd have to live on beer and dry toast. So I live on bad coffee, toasted blt's without the b, usually made with Wonderbread, limp l and unripe t. And french fries. There are a lot of french fries out here on the road. Fries go with everything. And fries are sometimes the only vegetable on a menu.

When my rescue squad stopped in Quesnel to eat at KFC late at night en route to Prince George, there were "salad" and french fries on the menu as the vegetarian options. It's been a while since I've entered a KFC, and I should have expected that the menu would contain a lot of "C" but I thought that by now, 2007, where at least one family member of most families is vegetarian, that they'd have some sort of "KFV" on the menu.

So I ordered a large fries, thinking I'd get one of those little paper bags with a large handful. The saucer-eyed boy behind the counter, who claimed to be 16 but didn't look a day over 12, handed me a heavy shoe box in a plastic bag with several plastic-wrapped napkins, plastic forks and knives and paper pouches of salt and pepper.

"What's this?" I asked, thinking he'd handed me Mark or John's or Richard's nugget dinner combo or double breast delight.

"It's your fries," he offered, without blinking.

"You've gotta be kidding."

It was enough to feed the entire rescue squad after they'd worked for 2 hours loading 5,000 pounds of buffalo into the trailer.

Tomorrow when I start out, my odometer will surpass 99,999 back to 00000. Imagine a 1997 Buell S1 Lightning going 100,000 kilometers! That's Henk, my trusted firehorse, loyal companion, fearless road warrior.


Videos of Breakdown and Rescue on the Alaska Highway


Awaiting Rescue on the Alcan

henk on alcan
Everyone has his or her own definition of adventure. For some, it’s an African safari, for others, an expedition up Mount Everest. I know some people for whom a trip to the spa is adventure enough.

For me, an adventure is a journey into the unknown, well outside my comfort zone, where personal beliefs are brought up for questioning, fears are faced, perceptions are shattered, and I'm left forever changed by the experience.

If I were to always follow good advice and do the "sane" thing, what a wretched mess of flesh and bones I'd become!

People like to warn me of all the possible things that could go wrong out here. I can't tell you how often I'm scolded for being ill prepared, for not carrying a weapon, or in today's case, by the woman working at the trucker camp who looks as though she could use a good adventure, for stupidly being on the Alaska Highway on a motorbike at this time of year.

Yes! Just to confirm the fears of the naysayers, I broke down!

I didn't set out from Venice Beach on August 19th hoping to break down in the middle of nowhere on the Alaska Highway on September 16th, but I've done enough of these solo odysseys now to know that at some point along the way, due to weather or mechanics or myriad other unforeseen circumstances, I'll have to rely on the kindness of strangers to get me to safety.

And it's happened to me often enough now to know that when these situations arise, the kind strangers are always, ALWAYS there.

I suppose that's exactly the reason I started
Suzanne's Angels.

It all began with an oil change in Whitehorse on Saturday. While chatting with Red, the mechanic, I spotted a crack in my drive belt. I told him I didn't want to ride like that, but he said it would be four days to get the part in from Vancouver. Patrick, the other Harley doctor, took a look at it and assured me the Kevlar threads had not been torn, that it was just the rubber, and I'd probably get another 20,000kms out of it.

I decided to ride to Prince George, where I could get the drive belt replaced, along with a new rear tire to replace the one balding by the minute on the chip sealed pavement of the Klondike and Alaska Highways.

My ride to Liard Hotsprings from Whitehorse was beautiful and uneventful, and when I arrived, Kevin was already there soaking his Dempster-rattled bones. We shared camp, then set out the next day in the cold rain for the next leg.

Kevin was anxious to get home to his girls in Christina Lake, but knowing the dangerous conditions I was riding with (mountain passes, heavy downpour, fog, gravel, balding tire), and Kevin being Kevin, he followed behind in his truck with the trailer.

I've never travelled with a support vehicle, but now I know. What a comfort knowing that if anything at all were to go wrong, I had a capable friend on the road right behind me.

I rode around Muncho Lake and over Summit Pass in the rain. There were parts of the highway shrouded in fog, and at one point, I pulled over just to let Kevin know I couldn't see a thing. My visor was fogged up, my glasses were fogged up, my eyeballs were fogged up, and I was cold. There was fresh snow on the mountains not far from the road.

I envied Kevin in his truck, reggae music playing, heat blasting and food to munch on. I hopped in for five minutes, long enough to feel the heat but not long enough to get too comfortable.

We took it really slow through the mountains, then rode into Fort Nelson in the pouring rain.

Kevin made sure I was comfortably ensconced in a room before heading back out for his marathon ride through the night toward home. I was sad to see him go. We'd shared an incredible adventure, and from this point on, I knew I was truly alone in the north.

Yesterday, I woke up to snow in Fort Nelson. The forecast was for more of the same, so I ventured out, not feeling I had much choice.
henk snowed in
Two blocks down the street, I thought I'd give up. The snow wasn't sticking to the road, but it stuck to my visor and I could barely see. Lifting my visor was no better, because then my glasses would get covered. Taking my glasses off didn't work either because the snow stung as it hit my face and eyes.

It took me a few minutes to get over my fear. I took comfort in the fact that an hour (or 100 kms, which might take me 2 hours) down the road, it was reported to be sunny. The one thing in my favour was that there was almost no traffic, so it didn't matter how slowly I crept down the Alcan.

It was miserable.

Not far out of Fort Nelson, I came upon a lone cyclist, pumping his legs up a hill, covered in wet snow and soaked to the bone. I pulled over to wish him well. He'd started in Whitehorse, and had also been up to Inuvik - all by his own power.

Whenever I get to thinking I'm doing something truly adventurous, there's always someone more adventurous to give me humility and a welcomed reality check. When we crossed the Peel River ferry en route to Inuvik, the workers told us about a Japanese woman in her late 30's or early 40's who's been travelling solo on some kind of 650 motorbike for 5 years. She was on her second bike and had crossed over 100 countries. That girl, I have to meet!

Talking with the cyclist gave me the confidence I needed, and I carried on slowly through the snow.

After about three hours and 150 kms, the sun came out! It wasn't enough to dry my gloves or warm my frozen fingers, but it was heaven compared to what I'd been through. I'd make it to Fort St. John, and perhaps even to Dawson Creek!

Then it happened. Right here in the middle of nowhere, three hours from Fort Nelson, two hours from Fort St. John.

The throttle lost its power. I gave it a pull and recognized the empty revving in the engine. I'd lost my drive belt on the Trans Canada crossing Saskatchewan several years ago, and knew that empty feeling all too well.

I pulled over, stopped the bike and got off. I had difficulty taking out my cellphone with frozen fingers, and I didn't know who the hell I'd call from this remote spot, but I've been programmed to get cellphone to ear in the event of an emergency. Of course, the phone was dead.

I had a fleeting thought of being eaten by bears or freezing to death.

The first vehicle that approached slowed and I flagged it down.

Three guys jumped out, and you'll have to go over to
Suzanne's Angels posting from Monday, Sept 17, "Stuck on the Alaska Highway" to find out what happened next...


henk in snow
I received the strangest phonecall this morning here at the "legendary" Fort Nelson Hotel where I hunkered in after a miserable day on the Alaska Highway.

It was eight fifteen and I was fast asleep. I picked it up thinking it was someone else's wake-up call.


"Hey, you still sleeping?"

"Uh. Yeah."

"Oh, well, how's your trip?"


"You're up here again this year."

"Um, who is this?"

"It's Gary. We met at the hotsprings last year. I seen your bike parked out front of the hotel last night and thought, no, can't be, then I saw the plates and I came in and asked the front desk guy if it was a girl riding that bike and he said yeah, it was a tourist. There's only one bike like that up here so I know the manager of the hotel and he put me through to your room."

"Oh. Hmm. Well, thanks for the wake-up call. I'm sorry I have no clue who you are. I'm still asleep."

"I was managing the lodge. We sat and chatted."

In my grog, it didn't even ring a bell. Now that I'm awake, I'm sorry to say it still doesn't. "You're not there anymore?"

"No. Working for Northern Telecom here in Fort Nelson now. You won't be going anywhere this morning. It's snowing like a bugger out there."


"Yup. If you're still around tonight, I'll take you to dinner. Left my number with the guy at the desk. Call me."

I got up, not because I intended to leave at eight fifteen in the morning in the snow; I suppose I was afraid that if I went back to sleep, I'd go into hibernation.

Devil River Queen

slide and ferry

I feel as though I've been bathed in gold light. The Yukon from Dawson to Whitehorse is in infinite yellow splendour. I made record time getting to Whitehorse in five-and-a-half hours. I had to. The ferry in Dawson lost an engine and I was stranded on the wrong side of the Yukon River for over an hour, delaying my departure until 2:30pm.

In the Land of the Midnight Sun these days, darkness falls around 9. The days are getting markedly shorter and the colours are changing hourly. Now it's a race against winter.

I spent the last few days decompressing in Dawson after the week on the bumpy mucky "highway" they call Dempster. It's an easy town to love and difficult to leave.

dawson sidewalk
It doesn't take long to feel like a local in Dawson. People are more welcoming than anywhere I've ever been. Having soy lattes at the Riverwest Bistro in the morning is a social event that can easily drag on until noon.

But not everyone is happy in Dawson.

I've heard tales of an evil creature lurking on the waters of the inky Yukon River spewing venom so icy cold it could freeze the Bering Straight. Oooooh, it's enough to give you chills.

My friend Kevin is one of the softest spoken and kindest people I've ever known. He wanted to cross the river at midnight the other night to ride up Dome Road for some northern lights.

The five-minute ferry in Dawson joins the end of Front Street and the Klondike Highway with the Top of the World toward Alaska by crossing the silty, swift-flowing Yukon River. The River Hostel, where we were staying, is on the opposite side from town.

At that time of night, there's hardly any traffic crossing the river. The ferry was on the other side, so Kevin left his motorbike running to warm up and so they'd know he was there.

When the ferry approached, the pilot kept flashing a searchlight on him.

"Yeah, yeah, I see you," thought Kevin, innocently.

When he boarded, she appeared beside him, a hulking shadow, her eyes piercing the darkness like glowing swords.

"Turn your light off you idiot!" she hissed. "Your light was in my eyes the entire way! I had to land this thing blind!"

"Oh, gee, I'm really sorry. I had no idea," Kevin said.

(There are no signs instructing motorists to wait in the dark.)

"You think you can pilot this thing?" she spat. "If you think you can do a better job, be my guest!"

The river turned thick and green and Kevin shook in his dirt bike boots.

"No, no, listen, I'm sorry. I'll know better next time."

Now any reasonable person could excuse such an outburst once, allowing for an off-night or a migraine. But the next night, Kevin and I were on two motorbikes trying to get across the river at midnight.

We turned our lights off.

And waited.

And waited.

We waited an unprecedented half hour before the ferry budged from the sand on the other side in our direction - a truck had just showed up behind us and they couldn't very well inconvenience all the staff getting off work at Gertie's.
When we boarded, one of the night ferry guys warned us both "Hold onto your brakes, it could be a rough landing."

I was actually scared. In three visits to Dawson, dozens of trips across the river, I've never been told "it could be a rough landing."

I didn't dare turn around, but I snapped a photo in my rearview mirror to make sure Kevin was not being hurled into the depths by the scary river monster.

We held on tight to our bikes and made it to the other side without incident, though neither one of us dared steal a glance behind as we drove off.

When we were safely wrapped in our sleeping bags in the bunk beds at the River Hostel, Kevin decided with a laugh that she would affectionately be referred to from here on as the Devil River Queen.

The locals call her Crazy Mary.


Quick Hello

I'm back from Inuvik and in an hour en route from Dawson to Whitehorse. There's rain in the forecast for Whitehorse so it could be cold and miserable, but if I don't leave today, that rain could easily be snow. I'll be back in touch from there!!

Kevin took this shot of me riding the Dempster. Fun little zippy mosquito of a Honda 450X.

I'll tell you all about it tonight...


The Far Far North

Well, I'm finally here. Inuvik, on the Mackenzie River Delta, Canada's largest fresh water delta near the Arctic Ocean, 2 degrees north of the Arctic Circle, 736 kilometres up the Dempster Highway, over 7,000 kilometres from my starting point in Venice Beach, California. And yes, it's a looooooong way from Venice Beach to Inuvik! Hard to believe this is the same planet. I'm in awe.

Yesterday, about halfway through the day of riding, I thought the Dempster would never end. It's a rough rough road and I was grateful both for the loaner zippy, light little Honda 450 dirt bike and for my friend Kevin as my companion on this leg. It couldn't have been done on Henk. And I wouldn't have done it alone. No way. I can't believe people undertake the Dempster on anything but a dirt bike or a Unimog. There is always a vehicle on the side of the road with a flat. And everyone who lives in Inuvik has a story to tell about a trip up or down the Dempster, most involving a flat tire or two or three and hours or days stranded in the remote wilderness without phone service or immediate help.

The Dempster is the only public highway in North America to cross the Arctic Circle. They call it a highway, but that's really stretching it. The road is shared by both the Yukon and the Northwest Territories, and talking to people in each territory, each claims that they take better care of their side.

Having done the whole expanse now, I can tell you the Yukon is the side I'm looking forward to on the return. On the border of the Northwest Territories, there's construction, fresh deep gravel, and the entire way from Eagle Plains to Inuvik, gravel mounds piled into four lanes running parallel with the traffic. The southbound lane is clearly the more well-travelled route at this time of year, so yesterday, heading north, I was forced to ride partly in the southbound lane, then hop over a gravel mound to the northbound lane (more gravel, just not quite as deep) when a vehicle passed. We had to stay hyper alert, and by 9:30 at night when we arrived in Inuvik, caked in dust, we were exhausted.

All the effort, though, is worth it. I'm still trying to understand what it means to be this far north; still trying to absorb the enormity of it all.

When we got to the sign for the Arctic Circle, Kevin and I got off the bikes to take photos and ask ourselves what the hell we had done.
arctic circle
We bumped along for two solid days of riding from Tombstone, hardly seeing another vehicle until we reached Eagle Plains, the halfway point where we camped on night two. The lodge at Eagle Plains has a bar, so we celebrated our achievement so far with a Yukon Gold and a Sled Dog Ale, and mingled with the locals until midnight.

Of course we met Mark, the foreman in charge of highway maintenance for that 100km section. He went immediately on the defensive about the state of the road to Eagle Plains.

"Hey, we're supposed to have six guys working that stretch. This summer it was me and two other guys. We do the best we can with the resources we've got."

I told him that no, we're not here to complain, we'd loved the road so far and had been pleasantly surprised with how easy it had been. He was shocked to receive a compliment. He's used to listening to truckers vent their frustrations on him.

"They bitch and complain constantly. They'd complain if we paved the road that it's not like it used to be."

I asked Mark why he likes the Yukon. He took his time answering, and when he came back from the washroom halfway through our conversation, inspiration had hit.

"This is what I love about the Yukon: I can be 50 miles outside of Whitehorse out in the bush and I can have a campfire and nobody's gonna say shit to me. There are no rules. Fuck you."

Robert Service perhaps articulated it a little more eloquently in his poem The Men That Don't Fit In.

I love the Yukon too. And now that I've seen just the tiniest slice of The Northwest Territories, it feels like the Yukon on steroids.

Outhouse Races

Today's the beginning of the northernmost leg of the journey. I'll be hooking up with my friend Kevin, who's driven up to Dawson City from Christina Lake in his truck towing two little Honda off-road cycles. I'll leave Henk at our "base camp" in Dawson City with the truck and trailer. We'll probably only make it to the campground at Tombstone today, just 75km up the road. There's no hurry. This is the most remote riding I will have ever done, and I want to savour it.

It's been cold at night and in the mornings here, but the afternoons have been gorgeous. The fall colours have begun in the hills, and I'm anticipating some awe-inspiring views from the dusty, dirty road that is the Dempster.

Dawson City is one of the most fun-loving, down-to-earth places I've ever been. I think I've made a couple of believers out of Kevin and Ron, who flew in on Friday for the weekend for his birthday. Ron wants to come back next year, and is already trying to formulate a plan that incorporates making a movie or justifying the expense with a business of some sort...

We were here for the weekend of the greatly anticipated local extravaganza of the outhouse races, and in a moment of inspiration, Kevin suggested that rather than be spectators, we enter. Ron and I, in a moment of loss of judgement, agreed wholeheartedly.

It was not until I was sitting on the outhouse seat being dragged around town, declaring to the world "I am the Queen Crapper!" that I began to question our decision. But by then, it was entirely too late.

We threw together our version of the outhouse in half an hour with stuff we'd procured from the "free store" at the dump. The rules were that the outhouse had to look like an outhouse, with two windows, a hole in the seat and a sloped roof. It had to have a "theme" and we needed five team members and a team cheer to compete. After decorating our "walls" with large playing cards, we decided we'd be called "The Royal Flush" and that I would be the Queen Crapper on the seat. There were no archives of photos to go from, so we just did the best we could with our limited planning and resources.

royal flush
When we got to the starting line at Diamond Tooth Gertie's, we were still in need of two team members. We recruited a couple of sixteen-year-old local girls, thinking they'd be great for the scavenger hunt portion of the race where we'd have to run into businesses and collect postcards, bits of information, fortune cookies, and numbers.

Out of eight teams, we proudly and purposely came in last and won a book called "How to Shit in the Woods."