We gathered our stuff together and started down to the hungry jack breakfast served in the hotel restaurant. Afterwards we headed out to pack up the motorcycles. The ravens were still crying out and I lightheartedly told Joe that they were warning us about our day ahead. Joe turned his head away from his packing to look at me, grin and say, "don't joke". I did not let it go and started translation for Jeff what they might be saying. "Go back" "outsider". We finished packing and began on our way. It was a beautiful day with clear skies and a warm touch to the air. We continued east on 16 to the junction of 37, first passing through Smithers, a high-end ski/fishing village in the middle of nowhere. From here on the landscape turned to extraordinary and the animal population starting showing themselves. I had read that near the junction was a village that called itself the totem pole capital of the world. I kept my eyes open, but missed its location. Traveling north on 37 brings you past the junction that takes you Hyder, Alaska, the most southern point of the state. It was about lunchtime and I kept repeating in my head the catch line from Ron Ayer's Rally (the Hyder Seek) "Just for the Halibut". So I talked the guys into a detour to this fish heaven and halibut capital of the world. (Are you starting to pick up a theme here?) The fish was great but the scenery was outrageous. This small fishing enclave was tucked between snowcapped mountains. It was like being in a large room surrounded my mountain walls. In addition the small town itself has the one-horse town appearance from out of a Hollywood set.
We turned out of this valley very pleased with our 80-mile diversion. On the way out we stopped to photograph a small glacier that was parked roadside and soon after had to slow down while two black bears crossed the road in front of us. This was truly a remarkable place and I remember thinking that I'd like to come back some time. About 60 miles out of Hyder a distinctive rap started broadcasting from the right foot peg of my R100GSPD. Within 300 yards I had slowed to a stop. With the engine off I walked the bike another 3 feet pulling the clutch in and out to confirm my instinct and then turned my eye to the speedometer. Ah 45,499 - the dreaded drive shaft u-joint failure. I was well aware of this problem with a BMW GS driveshaft at this given mileage. When I purchased the bike I was assured that the joint looked good and was well greased. There was no fixing this thing where I was, so I turned to Jeff and asked him for the one extravagance that he had made a point to bring along, a satellite phone. As you might guess, anywhere past Calgary cell phones are of no use outside city limits. Never really convinced that the satellite phone was a necessity, I graciously ate crow while accepting the overgrown block of plastic that on that day saved my butt. Before leaving, I made sure to cover my bike with towing insurance and at that time pulled out my AAA Plus card to read up on calls from Canada. The whole process would have been without trouble if I had known how to lock in the phone's antenna in place before calling. This lack of understanding had me make several recalls and re-explanations to the good people at AAA to obtain the help I was requesting. About this time we saw a motorcycle traveling south on 37. It was a BMW F650. The rider immediately pulled over and dismounted. The gentleman was from New Jersey. He had just been on a ride across Canada and was heading down to Washington State for the BMW rally. His name was Duane and that night he planned to travel Terrance, BC to get his tires changed the next day. He was very helpful in giving me some names of people to call for parts. We told Duane about Hyder and said that it was not to be missed. He was very interested but felt he would fail to make his tire changing appointment if he took the time to go and said that he would probably have to pass it this time thru. We assured him that we had things under control with a truck on its way to pick me up, so he left us there. About an hour and a half after my call an AAA contractor from Stewart, BC (Stewart being the less-attractive sister village of Hyder on the Canadian side) show up in a small box truck. We loaded my bike into the back while I told Joe and Jeff to ride ahead north to our next pre-arranged stop and we would meet up later. Our plans were to keep in touch using the BMW owner's message service. So we parted company 60 miles outside of Hyder with the intent to get together again somewhere down the road.
I got in the passenger side of the truck and began a conversation with Bob, the local functional drunk, that as it turned out ran all important business in the town. Bob was the owner of the gas station/truck/car repair shop as well as being the local truck distribution center. All shipping coming and going by truck came and left thru Bob's station. In addition, Bob's was also the bus stop for the Grayhound line. Well, Bob right away had me all sized up. When I started inquiring about the shipping of parts and such he came back with a mouthful. Bob said to me, "What you're going to do is pack that thing on a wooden pallet and ship it right back where you came from because, first of all, I don't work on motorcycles anymore and second, by the time you get the part you want you're only going to find that it's the wrong one and I don't need no one crying on my shoulder about how you can't afford to stay around any longer and I don't give out no loans!" What Bob didn't know was that I come from New York City and I had lots of practice dealing with drunks both functional and dysfunctional. So I smiled and continued asking about where I could park the motorcycle so I could do the repairs. This set Bob back a little and had him come back with a dialogue on how small parts are shipped via the bus service but, he added, not to expect anything to get delivered in a timely fashion as he was sure I had grown accustomed to. When we pulled into his service station he told me that I could leave the bike in the back of the truck overnight and instructed me to take the stuff I wanted with me, then pointed me in the direction of what he thought was the cheapest place to stay in Stewart.
The air was warm and I put on my riding jacket, grabbed one side case and the tank bag, as well as my helmet, to walk over to the location Bob had just directed me. Four blocks away I got to the door of this establishment to find a sign instructing me to go to the main hotel another 3 blocks down the main street. I was at this point breaking out in a heavy sweat. I entered the hotel doors looking like a guy that had just broken down 60 miles north of there and had no place to go. I was told that the rooms Bob had before mentioned were not for rent, but they could fit me in at the main hotel, which was air-conditioned, thank you. When I got to the room I pulled off my sweat drenched clothes and bolted into the shower. While dressing I dug into my tank bag to retrieve a toothbrush and found a card my wife had planted for me to find. This had the unexpected reaction to drive me into the dumps. For the first time I realized that I was on my own with a hell of a lot of hay to bail. At that moment I'm sure I could hear those ravens calling again outside my window. I headed down to the lobby to start making a phone call to my wife to tell her what had happened and thank her for the card.
Now this is where the story takes an unforeseen twist. I called my wife and was surprised that she was all ready to hear from me. First thing she had to say was that Dave Anderson from Anderwerks was looking for me and that he thinks he can help me get back on the road. I was beside myself with questions. How did Dave Anderson know where I was and how did he know I was broken down? My wife did not have the answer to this, but told me that Dave had called her saying that he was in Hyder and would like to meet up with me tonight to discuss my predicament. When I got off the phone still witless as to how Dave had located me, I turned toward the hotel lobby front doors to see Joe and Jeff walking over the threshold. I called out "what is this?" and Jeff explained that after talking it over with each other they had decided that they should not leave me behind. I was sure glad to see them.
As you probably guessed by now, our new acquaintance Duane had decided to take our advice and head down to Hyder. He, as things worked out, met up with a vacationing Dave Anderson. As Duane graciously has a habit of doing, he struck up a conversation with the motorcyclists from Calgary that were riding BMWs. As the conversation when on Duane mentioned my name and Dave remembered that there was a Dave Derrick from New Jersey that had service done at his shop just that week. And that's how small the world can be.
I met up with Dave and his buddies that night and we diagnosed the technical aspects of the breakdown all while the crew maintained their night's objective of getting "Hyderized" (a practice of drinking a special libation know only in these parts). As it turned out, Dave's shop had the only available driveshaft in all of Canada. (Shipping from the US would have added a week to its delivery date) Dave had one of his people bring it to the airport for next day shipment. It was flown into the nearest Air Canada location, which was Smithers, a good 200 miles away. Before leaving the area Dave instructed me on the install. We had to wait two days for the part to come in for pick-up.
Hyder turned out to be a great place to stay and discover. First, it is in the heart of bear country. It is in fact the ideal place to view the bear feeding off the salmon from the riverside. In addition, Hyder is also the location of one of the world largest glaciers. This glacier is more interesting because of its accessibility. The park service maintains an autoroute that provides passage to the top of the glacier with spectacular views.
When the part came in we received a call to pick it up and Jeff and Joe drove down and back to retrieve it. In the meantime I had discussed with Bob the use of his rear yard for my repair area. I laid out a plastic tarp and proceeded to dismantle the R100GSPD. Dave had informed me that I needed a 27mm socket to do the installation. I did not have one so I headed down to the Stewart's hardware store and found all by itself with the dust of years encrusting it, the very 27mm socket necessary to complete the job. I was able to borrow a torque wrench from the family that ran the hotel, which saved me having to ask Bob for any more favors. Joe and Jeff returned with the part at about 12 pm the next day and I went right to work on the install.
This was the first time I had done this job and those of you that have completed the task know the trouble I was about to get myself into. The driveshaft has a universal joint on both ends and a spline fitting that is received into a blind fitting at the end of the swing arm housing (the housing is about 12" in length). To make matters more difficult that housing is offset at the bottom. What I did not tell you so far is that a week before going on this trip I had a cast removed from my wrist and was also recovering from a broken collarbone. So every turn with any force really made me wince with pain. This, along with the almost impossible task to align the spline at the end of this shaft, made every attempt seem more futile. I gingerly made hundreds of efforts to align the shaft fittings, all while the ravens flew around calling out. I could not help but announce to Joe and Jeff that there would be no disrespect paid to the black birds for the rest of the trip. I got smiling agreement as a response. After about an hour of this frustration I suggested that the two of them go pack up their stuff and ride ahead. This time I was sure that it was only a matter of time before I'd hit on the lucky alignment. I think that I had finally convinced them to go right about the time I pulled the all time Zen and the Art of Motorcycling move. I closed my eyes and put my face skyward and then imagined the two fittings in my head. As I brought them together in my minds eye, I did so also with my hand - and bang - right on. At that moment I noticed that the ravens had gone away.