The next morning, as I was loading my gear onto the bike, which really is a complicated process, I noticed an older couple packing a Harley-Davidson Touring Heritage Softail. Dick and Linda walked over to say hello, as fellow motorcyclist do, if anything to check out the other’s ride. Dick handed me a business card that read, Riding for Jesus and on the back had a map of the USA with John 3:16 lining the bottom. Dick and Linda has just returned from riding in their fiftieth state. They took the glacier highway cutoff over through Stewart and into Hyder, Alaska, which is the farthest South on can cross into Alaska by road. Although, the road stops at Hyder, so to see the rest of Alaska, hundreds of miles on the Cassiar and the Al-Can are required.
I marveled at Dick and Linda’s riding accomplishment, although cringed a little at the motivation to proselytize people along the way. I mentioned I was a minister, visiting religious communities on a multifaith pilgrimage. Dick shot me a concerned countenance, that I can imagine marked his disapproval of my interfaith seeker misguidedness. I felt a bond to them through the Church on Two Wheels, however, simultaneously feeling slight repugnance. As an ordained Presbyterian minister, why is it that the people who cause the most discomfort in my soul are fellow Christians, albeit conservative fundamentalists?
I wave goodbye to my new friends, and commence my work of the day. It’s 42 degrees Fahrenheit. My left foot upshifts to 6th gear. 80 miles per hour. No traffic. This is what I’ve been waiting for, I thought. I turn my hand grip warmers on high. I lifted my visor to feel the crisp, cool mountain air kissing my face. Too cold, but worth it. What adventures await me today?
I dominate the Cassiar Highway. I wind up and down the mountains. Roll over frost heaves and gravel sections without thinking, thanks to the sport suspension setting on my motorbike. Wildlife abounds. Deer carribou, and bear. Tons of bears. They must be coming out of hibernation to eat the grass on the side of the road.
I stop after seeing one. I get the video camera out and record it’s lethargic, playful ambulation across the tarmac. It’s a black bear, so I feel comfortable fliming 50 yards away. No danger with this guy, he walks like he’s drunk. The bear leisurely stands on top of the lane lines, looks around, chills out, and eats grass on the other side. I like him. He loves life. Do I? There was such a contrast between his lassez faire attitude and my anxious traveling intensity. Maybe I should slow down enough to enjoy my surroundings and my time that is such a gift.
Traveling demands a balance of moving from one place to another, meeting deadlines (whether self-imposed or not), and embracing the peace of moving, of change. The possibility of danger always exists with travel, the possibility of difficulties and set-backs. The trick is to deal with the anxiety and fear that danger creates, accept it, and channel those feelings into the pure enjoyment of the moment. Once one accepts change as the norm, relaxation and peacefulness in the midst of the change is attainable. Allow the great professor that is change to teach the lesson of being human.
I bid farewell to my friend, the bear, and remount. One hundred ninety miles into the day’s ride, only seeing a few other vehicles on the road, the engine sputters and cuts out. On the fly, I pull in the clutch and press the ignition button to the left of the right grip. The engine fires briefly and quits. I slowly roll to a stop on the burm. I just ran out of gas in the middle of British Columbia with no one around for miles.
But I meant to run out of gas. I wanted to gauge fuel range, and it turned out to be about 190 miles, fully loaded. I dismounted, un-bungied my 1.5 gallon emergency can of gas, and filled the tank. Hopefully, I will find a gas station in the next 50 miles, I thought, if not then I’d really be stranded in the middle of BC.
Finally, I arrived at the Bell 2 lodge, probably only 10 miles to spare. I pulled in and paid almost 7 dollars a gallon. While filling the tank, I saw a helicopter land behind the lodge. I headed into the lobby to pay and grab gatorade and a cup of soup. I asked the attendant, Jane, about the helicopter. She said the area is one of the best heliskiing destinations in the world, and they were returning two Norwegians snowboarders from their runs. I responded, “I think I’ll stick to motorcycle riding. That sounds safer.” She laughed.
Back on the Cassiar, I found myself entering one of those heightened states, when time ceases to exist, senses are heightened, when a person is really doing what they are supposed to be doing on this earth. Some artists call it flow, and my brush I used to paint my masterpiece on the canvas was my BMW 1200GS on the chip and tar surface of the Cassiar. Or maybe I was just having fun.
In what could’ve been 5 minutes or 10 hours, I arrived at the end of the Cassiar, when it dead ends into the Al-Can. I made it to the Yukon! I stopped at the Beaver Post Restaurant for a bowl of spaghetti and had an in depth conversation with a man and his daughter about my trip and the performance specs of the BMW. I left, without getting petrol because it was a confusing automated payment pumping system that I was too impatient to decode. I set out on the Al-Can with aspirations to make it to Whitehorse.
On the Al-Can, I ran into more traffic, but still sparse. About 50 miles into the ride, my gas gauge tettered on empty and a deep tiredness grasped my body. At 60 mph, I saw a building to the left, what looked like a lodge, but I didn’t notice a gas pump. I turned around at an overlook, deciding to take my chances. It was Rancheria, YT. A lodge, a restaurant, and gas pumps. This was my bed for the night. I filled up, got a 60 dollar room that overlooked a majestic frozen-but-thawing lake, a few honey brown lagers, and settled in for the night.
I walked out on my room’s deck that overlooked the lake and let the wildlife abundance wash over me. I made a video journal entry out on the deck and talked about the bears and the cold. The temperature got as low as 42 degrees during the ride. And I talked about missing Emily, my family, and friends. The road is exciting and lonely, and I have many, many more ways to go. I felt like a modern cowboy riding my trusty, high-tech iron pony. At least, I would soon see my good friend from college, Molly, in Fairbanks and my Uncle Frank in Anchorage.