That afternoon the night sky seemed to arrive in the timing we would expect more south. The sky again became overcast but we were on the road heading for our objective of 4 days before, Dease Lake. The trip that night was 245 miles on 37N AKA the Cassiar Highway. This is some of the most remote and beautiful scenery in BC. Can't quite confirm that because most of our passage was done under the dark of rain and night. For the most part the roadway is chip seal, though large spans still remain dirt or are in the reconstruction process, which for us meant mud. A mud laden with salt. The salt solution is used in the winter to control ice and in the summer to control dust. The combination produced a slimy ride, which I really enjoyed and I assumed my two partners were also. Turns out I think Joe was having a good old time but, Jeff had had it. I didn't realize that until he had suddenly pulled into the only gas stop between Stewart and Dease Lake. It was a small camp with above ground gas storage tanks adjacent to the pumps. A sign across from the tanks read "Mosquito Capital of the World". I looked over at Jeff and asked, "Are you running low?". At that moment the proprietor starting walking out his door saying something about being closed. His next exchange was "Are you out of gas?" to which I turned to Jeff for the answer that I sure this guy, pulled from bed on a rainy night, would love to have heard -"No". I guess Jeff had pulled in to try to have us stay at that location, but with the lack of communication prior to the owner walking out, and the now awkward situation, it was no time to discuss it now. I told Jeff that the worst was over and that we did not have more than 50 miles to our planned destination. So I apologized to the wet headed man who was already heading back to his door. And we headed to the hotel that was waiting for us down the road.
The next morning was sunny again. All night we had fans blowing on our boots and clothing to dry off the mud and water. When I walked out to my bike I found the reason my front forks had so much soft action the day before. I had blown out one of my seals. We had breakfast at the local eatery and started heading north. It was 150 miles to the Alaska Highway, which we made quick time of, arriving at the intersection in about 3 hours. This location is at the outskirts of Watson Lake, Yukon. We had crossed the BC/Yukon border just 2 miles south. Here we took advantage of the RV wash available at the service station to remove some of the mud we had gathered in the previous night's ride. I read somewhere that if you don't remove this stuff ASAP it will become a permanent part of the paint job.
At this junction we also met up with a guy on a R1150GS who had just ridden down from Inuvik on the Dempster Highway. He had 4 flat tires on the way but that did not seem to faze him much. It was our original idea that we would change tires in Calgary going up and coming back. The plan was to put about 7500 miles on the set we'd ride on north. I knew that would be pushing it, but a good portion of the ride was to be off road, so we assumed that it could work out. As I mentioned earlier, from the first time we rode on the chip seal surface we questioned if the tires would last. At the time my two partners went off to pick up my driveshaft in Smithers this question weighed heavily on Joe's mind again and he took the opportunity to go looking for more rubber while he was in town. Only problem for Jeff and me was that he could only find one tire. On their return, that fresh piece of rubber sitting on the back of Joe's bike made me a little uneasy about Jeff's and my hopes for a trouble free future. Our next and last chance for picking up a tire before heading more north was at Whitehorse - now just 260 miles away. So the plan was set to get there and locate a place to pick up a spare for both of us. We made good time getting there, but still pulled in at about 4:40pm. We had a listing of all the motorcycle shops in the town so we pulled over in front of a Dairy Queen for the phone. Right next-door was the Harley-Davison shop, which appeared to be closed. The phone cards we had were useless on this phone and I ran out of pocket change trying to call around to shops that were not picking up. Time was burning up and Jeff and Joe did not seem to care. They were a little hot and tired from the 410+ miles we had already clocked that day. In my head I was thinking that if we don't pick up tires today we may have to stay here overnight, and that was not the goal. So I got pushy and told them to get back on their bikes and follow me. I had the address of the Honda dealership, which I knew to be a large outfitter of all things Honda makes. The address was a highway number so I figured that in this small town it would be hard to overlook if we just drove down the road with the right street name. Well we made it there right at 5:00pm and the clerk told us that they were closed. We did a little begging and he sold us two Avon dual-sport tires for $310cn each. Same tire we're buying in the states at $110, but we were thankful to have them. After the smoke cleared I think everyone was glad I got out of whack, but that may still be up for debate. The truth is that after the driveshaft incident, the mud bath the night before and now this tire freak out, we still had not got into a good riding groove. But we had been getting good miles in and had a chance to catch up to our original itinerary, so we loaded up on food and gas and took off for Dawson City at 6:00pm that evening. We had 333miles to travel that night.
The more north we went, the later the light stayed in the sky and we were getting the fever. The longer days give extra energy, allowing us to get two days into one and heading north at 6pm seemed quite acceptable. Two weeks before we took off, news started reaching out that the North Country was going thru some bad dry weather. As a result fires were ablaze on a massive scale. We also read that some areas were cut off from traffic. In Stewart people had mentioned that BC was having the worst drought it had seen in 30 years. From the rain we had been through that was hard to believe. We had yet to see any of this disaster so far on our trip. But as we headed north that evening we could smell the smoke in the air. It was 9:00pm by the time we reached the Inuit village known as Carmacks. The sky was filled with smoke and the sun was now just a red ball low in the sky. We pulled in there to top off our gas tanks and grab a drink. Joe has this great habit of checking out his motorcycle every time he stops. This time it paid off. He noticed that he had lost the muffle-mounting bolt on his KLR. In addition he found some other bolts that had loosened up. He had to craft a wire part to temporarily hold the tail pipe and went around tightening any other offending component. Jeff and I checked out our bikes and found nothing out of place, outside of my front fork's blown seal. We mounted back up and headed more north.
Another 150 miles down the road the air was thick with smoke and we hit a roadblock set up by the forest service. The ranger told us that it really was not a good place to drive into on motorcycles but if we were not going to head back we would have to stay put for an escort truck. In about 15 minutes another ranger pulled up in a small pick-up and instructed us to follow him at a close distance and not to stop or turn off the road for any reason. The rationale for instruction became clear as we got down the road. The forest was on fire on both sides of the roadway. The smoke was thick and the air was low in oxygen. We could feel our heads getting light. Most of the woods were burnt out thru this area and we were seeing the flames lick the last of the smoldering remains. 5 miles down the road the ranger pulled to the side of the road and waved us on to continue traveling. Dawson City was now only 50 miles away. These forests fires are a natural occurring by product of that area's ecosystem. Every 30 to 60 years the forests burn to the earth bed and then begin again. As we rode through the Yukon we saw signs that indicated when a certain area of the forest had been consumed. Signs would announce "Fire 1957". This informative system gave the spectator a look into the building of a forest and how fragile the system was. Because of the freezing cold weather and this burning cycle, the evergreen never reached a diameter of more than 5 calipers. The trees were mere sticks standing side-by-side, forming an ocean of green. We reached Dawson City at about 12 midnight. The skylight had just dimmed out.