Much of the day before was spent eating dust from riding last in line, so he announced that he'd be heading out first. This plan would give him a chance to do some fast and hard riding on the dirt roads we had come upon the previous day. At the end of the Dempster was a NAPA service center where we would meet up and have our tires changed. Not a bad plan. If something should go afoul we would be riding at the most 30 minutes behind, so we would not be abandoning him. Joe took off while Jeff and I got a take out breakfast at the restaurant.
That morning, the fire smoke still filled the sky. The sun was again a red ball in the heavens. Jeff and I filled our tanks and headed out south. Much of the environs as far as the (smoke encumbered) eye could see was scrub brush about 1' to 3' feet in height. From the day before and still up to this time we saw nothing in sight alive, not even a bird. But now as we rounded a descending corner, we approached and then passed a fox on the roadway. It appeared to be the perfect example of its species; with a beautiful mane encircling it's cartoon-like face and pronounced boots on its feet. Our CBs were now in good working order and as we discussed the creature Jeff remarked that our oil should be warm enough to check out its level. Right then we happened on a turnout on the roadside just about long enough for two 18-wheelers to pull over one in front of the other. We drove in and parked towards what would be our exit side of the space. While bending over to check his oil sight glass, Jeff saw something move by what was the only tree standing in sight, about 30 feet to our rear. He said "Hey Dave, what's that moving over there?" As I turned my head towards the location that Jeff was staring, a mature brown bear came out from the scrub brush and walked directly to the other side of the roadway. While the bear kept a covert eye on us, it lumbered to the embankment on the opposite side of the dirt road and made like it was looking for berries. Still, every few steps it turned its head towards us for a shot at our doings. I pulled out my pocket camera and picked off a few snaps. Through the camera's viewer I noticed that the bear was now picking its head up, and then its shoulders. I clicked one last shot of the beast and as I pulled the camera away from my face I could see the bear now on its back legs in an upright position! Jeff and I quickly rethought our situation as the bear came running full force back across the road from where it had originally emerged. As we pinched our butt cheeks to hold back our fright and jumped on our bikes, we turned back for a last look to see a cub falling out of that only tree by the side of the turnout, as I had said, about 30 feet away.
The ride back down now took on a much more vacation-like pace. We pulled over more and did away with any angst of the unknown, which gave way to a much more enjoyable ride compared to the day before. This relaxed attitude allowed more to come into the mind's eye and made the passage seem like all new scenery. Still, we made it to the Dawson City NAPA only a little later than we had planned. Joe was in the process of reinstalling his rear wheel when we pulled in. As we prepared to remove our wheels Joe announced that he was heading to Dead Horse, the end of the road above the Arctic Circle in Alaska, and that he'd be leaving without delay. OH? Our plans were to stay in Dawson City again that night. That would put us back on our prearranged schedule. Dead Horse (Prudhoe Bay) was not on our itinerary. But having missed the last End of the Road at Inuvik, Joe was determined to make the next one. After being robbed of this achievement the night before, I couldn't blame him for wanting this prize. And it really did not put a kink in the plans. We intended to hit the Arctic Circle marker in Alaska, which is on the road to Dead Horse. If Joe wanted to put the steam on and head to the top, more power to him. We made sure that we all understood how to use the BMW owner's message service and said our good luck n' good byes. If Joe pushed it, he could be at Fairbanks that night, a day ahead of us. This would make it possible for him to meet up with us on our way down from the AC, or soon after. As we intended, Jeff and I spent the night at Dawson City, getting in a fine dinner and staying in a nice hotel.