Friday, April 19, 2013

Uraling to Alaska - Day 14: Stuck in Watson Lake?

Late start today, went to do a short ride to warm things up so I could drain the final drive fluid and the accelerator cable behaved as if the portion leading to the junction with the throttle cables going to carburetors was broken!  Damn, thought somehow the cold had done it though it really hadn't been that cold overnight.

Ice-coated Valencia in the morning.

Luckily, I thought, I was carrying spare throttle cables!  I started dismantling things in order to get at the junction tube where the cables meet up.  In the process of yanking on things, I discovered the throttle cable was working again!  On the one hand, great!  On the other, I should have checked for frozen cables first before dismantling things and getting all my tools out!

So, I repacked everything, took Valencia for a warm up run and spent the time draining the still slightly contaminated FD oil and putting new oil until it ran clear out of the drain hole while I spun the rear wheel.

Buttoning her up, and packing up all my crap, I said goodbye to Allison and Don (the inn owners) and headed out around 10AM.  The roads were not bad at all in terms of snow coverage though there were stretches where it was snow-packed and caution was required.

I noticed my throttle wasn't returning to idle though, so I pulled over at a rest stop, worked the cables some more and sprayed some WD40 into the cable junction tube.  All seemed well after that!

I was now running over the same ground I'd covered yesterday afternoon before I discovered my wallet missing and noticed there were actually mountains visible now that the weather had cleared somewhat.

 Near Cottonwood Creek

It started lightly snowing about 50 kilometers south of the junction of the Cassiar Highway and the Alaskan Highway.  The roads started to get more and more snow-packed though still the were mostly clear so going was not impeded.
I thought, this stretch of snow would be the wrong I was.

So, now about 40 kilometers from the junction, it started snowing pretty heavily and the roads were completely snow-packed!  Valencia started acting a bit weird, her pusher tire doing a lot of fish-tailing.  Soon afterwards, while climbing a small hill, much more pronounced rumblings coming from the rear tire, rumblings I unfortunately knew only too well.  I had a flat tire.

I pulled over as much as I could, ended up in a spot just before a curve and with enough rooms for the occassional truck to get by me safely.  Dammit.

Due to angles and such, I could not get the rig onto its centerstand so I used my bottle jack instead.  I bit less safe but that was my only option.  Small issues, snow falling, cold tools all contributed to it taking over three hours before I got the pusher wheel swapped with the spare wheel (with a used tire on it).  

Yep, should have put a new tire on the stupid spare wheel, my fault and lazyiness.  Anyways, the air compressor's plug was missing parts, dammit, so I cut it off and rigged a new power connector using jumper cables.  What a pain, thankfully the air compressor worked and I inflated the spare AND it held it!

You see, in order to fit the new tire, you have to deflate it so you can squeeze it past obstructions.  It's a pain.

Anyways, three fun-filled hours later (during which no truck stopped, to include DOT trucks) and one cager later who did stop but had no tools.....I was done.  Packed everything back onto Valencia and proceeded onwards.  No way now for me to even try to get to Whitehorse, almost 500 km or 300 miles away.

I mentioned the spare wheel had a used tire right?  Traction was a bit hit or miss as the snow was now thicker on the ground.  I had to engage 2WD soon and it was pretty much that for the remaining kilometers till I got to the junction.  Man, that was a long, long, long 33 kilometers!  I sure didn't want to swap in a replacement inner tube by the damn side of the road!

Got to the junction, inquired there after amusing a couple of the locals by just being there on a sidecar in the middle of a snowstorm, and found out there was a mechanic 22 km away in Watson Lake, YT.

Off I went, heading away from Whitehorse along the Alaskan Highway.  Got gas first, then found the shop.  They said they didn't work on motorcycle tires!  Damn.  Still, one of the techs took pity on me and said he'd give it a shot.

Trouble was, he wasn't familiar with inner tubed tires and he managed to damage the first spare inner tube.  I took on a more active role from that point on and basically taught him how to change out the inner tube.  It was really the use of a semi-dry work bay that ended up being what I paid $20 for.  Oh well, inner tube changed out and now I theoretically have a working spare.

I left and found a room in a nearby motel: The Big Horn Motel.  Kind of pricy but when its snowing heavily outside and one is exhausted.....

Went to dinner, chatted with RichardM via text for weather conditions and such.  He thinks I should wait an additional day, I am not sure as the hotel clerk told me they don't plow on weekends unless conditions are really bad.

The "word" I heard is that the road to Whitehorse was a mess, lots of accidents and cars/trucks in ditches.  No proof or news coverage that I can find yet but that's the decision making environment I am presently in.

I examined, after dinner, my pusher's thread vice the repaired tire's thread, they're remarkably close which means I was not going to get more than say 5000 from the new tire I got in Washington!  Damn.

So, we'll see how things look in the morning.  I do have snow chains but really, can't go really fast.  RichardM said the roads were being shown as mostly clear on the way to Whitehorse, so if I can get clear of the snow around Watson Lake and the Junction, I might be golden.


I could get stuck in bad conditions, have to camp out somewhere between Watson Lake and Whitehorse on the Alaskan Highway.  The forecast lows are within my expected parameters, but again, the decision is to be made in the morning.

I could, also put the new street tire on the pusher wheel but it's a street tire and probably just as good on snow as the worn knobby tires I have on the rig now.

Hopefully there's a motorcycle shop in Whitehorse where they can perhaps supply me with new inner tubes to keep as spares and maybe swap in my new tire.  What would be great is if they have new tires that I can use but the odds of that are slim.

More tomorrow.  Wish me luck.  

Previously: Losing my wallet and phone near Dease Lake BC


Unknown said...

Having a problem and snow at the same time can't be good. Glad you got it sorted out and on the way again. Lovely scenery

RichardM said...

Well, Bobskoot said you were looking for snow. I think you may have found some.

From Watson Lake to Fairbanks is only a long days travel or something like 850 miles so if things get too much out of hand, give me a call and I'll drive out there with a trailer...

redlegsrides said...

George F: I hope the weather clears....if sunny tomorrow, might give it a shot to get to Whitehorse.

RichardM, yeah, where was this snow when I had decent thread on the pusher tire? :)

Thanks for offering the trailer option, good to have a plan B.

Unknown said...


there is also Plan C. If there is anything I can buy down here I have to know first thing in the morning. Shops should be open, but then closed until Tuesday. Then I have to figure out how to pack/ship them . . .

Roads look bad right now because of the snow storm. If it's bad for the locals, then it must be bad

Lucky you made it safely to Watson Lake. I can't imagine working in the cold for 3 hours, with no help

Riding the Wet Coast

redlegsrides said...

Bobskoot, thanks for plan C.

I hope to get new inner tubes to replace the ones expended today. I have patch kit as well.

The problem with you buying something is where to deliver it to. I already sent a tire to RichardM and its waiting for me. I just have to get there! :)

There's a motoshop in Whitehorse, I just hope to get there in time before they close, and have them put in my new tire onto the pusher wheel...I can do it too, if worse comes to worse. I hope the have inner tubes of the size I need.


redlegsrides said...

Bobskoot, the tire change would have gone much quicker had I been able to deploy the centerstand....two guys could have done it safely....oh well. Just sad that no one thought to stop except for the one guy in the jeep, who found me after I was almost done!

John Evans said...

Beautiful scenery. Following your route on mapquest, and looking forward to seeing it one day.

Gary France said...

Well, you wanted adventure and now you are having one, big time. It is these trials and tribulations that you will remember about the trip – no matter how bad they seem at the time, they are the things that you will look back on and smile. I was telling a group of people about you last night and how you like riding in snow. They thought you were crazy. I told them they didn’t understand…….

redlegsrides said...

Hi Gary, so did you start that particular conversation about me with: "So let me tell you about this nutter...." ?


yep, adventure was sought, now it's here....onwards!

Gary France said...

Something like that Dom.....

Martha said...

Wifey may need a prescription of prozac before this adventure ends! :)

I guess through the years, your "no shit, it really happened" stories got used up, so the Universe is refilling your story bank.

Keep on plugging away....tis true indeed, to go Alaska in July is a vacation, April? It is an adventure!

Bluekat said...

Good Heavens! What a day. Great photos though! and like Gary said these are the memories you keep with you.

Steve Williams said...

Dom: I can't help but thing of the story of the tortoise and the hare when I think about your trip northward -- you keeping moving on slowly, relentlessly, dealing with whatever comes along. It's the kind of adventure that stands out because of the way you've undertaken it -- foul weather, unlikely machine, and long route.

I'm also reminded of Walter Muma's 1978 trip from Toronto to Alaska on a moped -- his machine is piled on just like your URAL.

Here has a lot of pictures of the route on the web journal MOPED TRIP. You might be able to compare some of the scenes from then to now.

Hope you're having as much fun on the ride that I'm having reading it. You don't give much away emotionally in your writing. I would have had far more cursing documented by now...

And I would have abandoned the trip. You are THE adventurer.

Ride safe.

Steve Williams
Scooter in the Sticks

Learning to Golf said...

Almost makes me feel bad that I only had 1 small incident on my Alaska trip. On the bright side these are the stories you will be retelling into your 90's.

Continue to ride safely and the problems will be laughed at when you get home.

redlegsrides said...

John Evans, thanks, glad you're enjoying it!

Martha, its all good...I always make sure I stay safe.

Bluekat, I think some of the memories are going to start with "what the hell was I thinking about to do that...." :)

Thanks Steve for the link to the MOPED trip, will explore it once I get faster internet access. As to being the Adventurer, not quite. There were times, especially during the snow storm, where that ferry back to Bellingham was looking quite tempting. Still, one must persevere in the face of surmountable odds. I think I saw it on a historical British poster: Don't Panic, Carry On. That's what I am doing.

As to writing with emotion, haven't figured out a way to relate the tears of frustration, the worry of imagined mechanical issues, the fright of one's wheels suddenly going somewhere unexpectedly, the fury at careless drivers driving as if hazardous traction conditions are not present, the joys of meeting good people, the learning to talk to strangers and finding them welcoming, the ease of how UDF has become enjoyable....lots of things going the end of the day, hard to recall it all.

BeemerGirl said...

I think I would be sitting on the side of the road, working on that tire just thinking "WWWeeeeeeee". Or is that the screetching of incoming madness? I'm very surprised that no one stopped. After all the good stuff that happened yesterday, to have this come about today.

David Masse said...

Dom, that's an adventure with a capital "A".

I'm sure I don't have what it takes to do that.

Please keep an eye out for wildlife.

There was a story a couple of weeks ago in the National Post about a woman driving a pickup truck in Manitoba who stopped to see if some people stopped by the side of the road in a car needed help. She was attacked by a lone wolf that came out of nowhere, on the prairie, if you can imagine.

She was raised on a farm and her father had drummed into her how to deal with animals by staying calm. She did that, the wolf let go of her throat to get a better grip because of her down coat. She gave the wolf a look of stern disapproval and clamly walked back to her truck, with the wolf walking behind her as if expecting a ride in the truck like a dog.

She calmly but quickly drove over a hundred miles to check herself into the nearest emergency room. The bites on her neck were too deep to suture, so they shot her full of tetnus and rabies meds and let her rest up.

What a story. Though a later account suggests she may have brought on the attack.

Here's a link to CBC coverage:

That's one adventure you'd better not have to tell.