Pat was the service station owner where Jeff's bike had been towed. When I started to listen in, Pat explained that we were located right in the middle of the two closest BMW dealers. It was either 969 miles to Anchorage or 967 miles to Edmonton. For those of you keeping score, that's about the same excursion in miles from New York City to Jacksonville, Florida for either leg. Now, we did not know for certain why the fan motor was not staying on. It was either a bad motor or something wrong with the electrical system. About a year earlier, Jeff's bike had a similar problem and it ended up frying the engine. Then, BMW was gracious about the situation and replaced the entire power plant, free of charge. This was fine by Jeff, but in the exchange BMW never admitted to what the problem was. Whether this was the same weird type of total meltdown or just a fan motor that ate too much dust on the dirt roads we had just enjoyed was an unknown. Transporting Jeff's bike seemed like the most sensible way to solve this predicament. Pat was also the local U-haul dealership, but as luck would have it, had not one box truck or van to offer us for transportation. The second option would be to do as my friend Bob from Stewart, BC had recommended for me to do - mount the bike on a wooden pallet and ship it out. The latter may have been a good option. We saw a lot of 18-wheelers returning from the north with empty trailer beds.But this option was much more trouble for the planning stage. About 275 miles to the north of our current position was Whitehorse, YK. It held within its boundaries the closest U-Haul dealership. It was too late at that point to call and inquire about the rentals available, so we headed to the closest hotel/motel and made arrangements to get a room for the night. As it turned out, the room was about 60 feet from that 11th wonder of the world, the Sign Post Forest. Imagine walking out your front door and seeing that sight. Who needs God's green earth?
One of the best things about putting an IBA plate holder on your bike is the interesting people it brings to you. Back in Chicken, Alaska I bumped into a Canadian riding a V-storm. He had crashed his ST in the 03 Ironbutt and was trying the V as an alterative to the touring machine. This gentleman also held one of the few 2000 in 24 certificates. My problem is that I can never remember anyone's name that I meet for a short time. For instance, take the two IBA members we met up with at Watson Lake. That night we had a meal in a restaurant down the street from our motel. We were close to missing the serving time, so after acquiring the room I raced across the highway on my bike and parked it right by the front door in an attempt to place an order before closing. During our meal two guys walked over and sat right at our table. Their first question was who had the IBA plate frame? We ended up trading stories and downing beers for a couple of hours that evening. Although I still can't remember their names, I do recall that they were two of the Three Amigos. (Who?) In 2003, while I was preparing to ride my 50CC I did as much reading on the topic as I could. The Three Amigos' 50CC story was posted on the IBA site at that time. What was nice was that they also remembered my tale, which I had posted to the site later that same year. These guys were on their way to Prudhoe Bay in the ultimate coast to coast, having started their journey in Key West. Apparently that ride's parameter has built in beer time for its rest components. Like I said, you meet the most interesting people!
The next morning we headed back to Pat's station to have him call Whitehorse U-Haul directly for us to hold a truck. Luckily they had two on the lot. At first, Jeff suggested that he could take the bus to Whitehorse but after breakfast we found out that the bus was not running that day. So in an effort to speed things along I offered to strip off all my travel gear from the GS and pack the two of us up the road 275 miles north. Jeff ended up sitting on a thin back pad, which we laid across the tubular bar frame of the rear packing rack. I'm almost certain that I made some kind of a record for two people on a BMW GSPD. I kept the extra fuel cell on so that there would be no need to stop. I think we did the whole trip in about 3 hours - you do the math. Pat had warned us not to let the U-Haul people know that we planned to ship motorcycles in the truck. He said that it would break the deal if they knew. So I pulled into the back of the building and Jeff removed his Aerostitch and helmet before going in. When I was sure Jeff had possession of the vehicle, I headed downtown to the Wal-Mart parking lot for an open space to push my bike into the cargo bay (Hal). When we got back to our room in Watson Lake we found that our motel room door was unlocked, but discovered nothing was missing. Phew! Earlier in the next day we had loaded Jeff's bike alongside mine in the truck. In so doing we discovered why U-Haul frowns on shipping motorcycles in their vehicles. The side tie down rail was separating from the box wall. Not all that bad, but with almost 1000 miles ahead of us, we knew the stock hardware would not do the job. I told Jeff that I had an idea and headed off to the hardware store for some carriage bolts and a small bottle of white out all-purpose correction fluid. Jeff was not convinced. We then drove over to the local RV repair garage and greasy spoon. While we enjoyed a delicious Yukon breakfast we had the service mechanic drill through the truck's box wall into the tie down rail and bolt thru the assembly for a more secure interior-mounting rail. After breakfast Jeff and I took the white out and touched up the bolt heads to match the white side panel of the truck. It worked so well I would suggest this fix up to anyone attempting to employ this method of transport. Before we took off we called ahead to the BMW dealer in Edmonton to announce our arrival in 24 hours and to say that it looked like the fan motor was fried. It was about 10:00am when we finally got on the road. For the next 967 miles we took turns driving and sleeping, stopping only at gas stations for our needs. This length of the Alaska Highway is by far the most beautiful and interesting of the entire run.
We saw more animals in those 24-hours then we had for the whole of the journey. As much as I would have liked to ride that stretch on my beemer, I can say that looking down from the cab gave a perspective that facilitated the observation. We saw buffalo, moose, mountain sheep, wild horse, caribou and bear. Much of the way we were stuck behind RVs that pounded on their brakes at the first sign of movement. A few times tractor trailers traveling with us had to make emergency stops with their air horn blasting full in order to avoid running into the rear of a pack of mindless tourists mesmerized by the wilds. If we were on our bikes, it's possible that passing the traffic could have kept us away from this hazard, but riding a motorcycle anywhere near this unpredictable pattern could have proven deadly. We also drove through a major thunderstorm that would have been an unpleasant experience while on a bike. We rolled into Edmonton at about 9:30am and went directly to the BMW dealer's service area.
We were greeted with a "do you have an appointment look" on the mechanic's face. So we went hunting around for the service manager. This was a big dealership that carried many brands of bikes and off road machines. The manager helped us get the bikes off the box while informing us on how busy he would be that day. When we mentioned that we had called the day before he replied that we did not call him. This turned out to be true. The dealership is so large that an incoming call to the service dept. can end up anywhere - like the sales dept. Some time later one of the salesmen admitted taking the call and forgetting to pass it along. He also failed to pass along the note about the fan being most likely in need of replacement, so we now informed the manager of this possibility. He said he'd get a look at the bike when he could, perhaps before noon, so Jeff and I headed over to a nearby hotel for sign-in and breakfast. Later we cleaned up and headed out to return the truck. About 1pm, Jeff called in to see if the dealer had found the reason for the fan failure. No, haven't gotten to it yet. OK, it's a big place with lots of work and we did just walk in on them. But most BMW dealers have a rider in distress policy that bumps a traveler to the head of the list. So we kept our hopes up that we'd hear news sometime soon. About 5pm we started getting antsy about our situation. We headed over to the dealership to stand in front of the counter where our manager worked. That's when we noticed that there were two managers behind the counter. Our guy gave us some attention and said that he'd put someone on it now; like 7 hours later. In 20 minutes he came out looking for us to tell Jeff that the fan is burnt out. Wow, how did he manage to track that mystery down? Now, with every part resource in North America closed down for the evening, he picked up the phone to inquire about the part procurement. AH, what do you know - no one was open! So Jeff and I headed out for an Edmonton dinner. That night while waiting for our dinner, I called my wife to see how things were going back on the home front. She had some surprising information about Joe. He was home! My wife did not know much about the Joe disappearance and so did not know to inquire more on the topic from Joe himself. While Jeff and I had our food we talked over how Joe could have made it back to the east coast in what would have been 4-5 days. Our guess was that he rode plus or minus 1k per day to make it back by this time. At least we knew he was safe and that we wouldn't have to worry anymore about what had happened to him. The next day Jeff and I jumped on my GS and headed over to the dealer for some more customer encouragement. By now our buddy was giving us the cold shoulder. Later we get the word that they can't find the part in Canada and were told that they may need to get the part from Germany. So I got on the phone and called my dealer, Hermy's, in Pennsylvania. While Hermy had me on hold he found 5 units in BMW's New Jersey warehouse. I reported this info to the counter with little response. Now we were starting to get the impression that we were unlikeable. Jeff and I both felt like there was an odor of anti-American smell in the air, at least coming from service manager #1. By the end of day 2 they still had not positively located a fan for Jeff's bike. How about the ones in the NJ warehouse? Good question. The next morning we again headed over to play the waiting game. This time we talked to the other service manager. He was a friendly guy that had what he thought could be good news. He believed that BMW Canada had dismantled a F650 that they had at their headquarters in order to get the fan we needed. He also said that he believed that they had already sent the fan and that it should be there that morning. Apparently someone from BMW headquarters took our plight seriously and went into action in the true BMW spirit. On our original travel schedule this day was set up for servicing the bikes at Dave's shop in Calgary, only a 2-½ hour ride away.With the news just delivered to us by our associates at BMW Edmonton, I felt secure in leaving Jeff at this dealer to make the ride to Calgary to keep my appointment. Later while my bike was getting put back together at Anderwerks, Jeff pulled in with a working fan and the wind back in his sails.