RubiKon Adventures

Tales and travels of "GrizzLee", "Looksha Lori" & "Yukon Johann"

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Our Life Behind Bars – Father & Son Doing Time in the Northern Frontier (Mile 4439 to Mile 5228)

Days 21-22 (July 19-20, 2013)

The Long Ride Home

I said a long sad goodbye to Johann. He had airfare to Whitehorse, from there he would change planes and fly to Vancouver, where his mother would pick him up and drive him home to Seattle He would be home in less than 8 hours. I was looking at a minimum of 5 days and over 2,100 miles before I would arrive home.

 I stopped by Advanced Northern Mechanical in Dawson to check with them and tell them again where we left Johann’s motorcycle along the road. They were going to go and retrieve the bike and ship it back to Whitehorse. I tried to give them GPS coordinates, but they didn’t have a GPS. Hmmm… so I did the next best thing, I told them that according to my GPS the bike was located about 79 miles along the Klondike hwy. Good enough they said. They reassured me that they will find it. I told them I would leave a rock cairn there and the bike would be hidden in the bush on the opposite side of the road.

I left Dawson in a pretty somber mood. I knew I would have a long time to reflect on the previous day’s events.  The ride toward Stewart Crossing went by pretty fast and as I got closer to the site of the accident, I must admit that I began to cry a bit. I saw the bike and recalled the images of Johann in his mangled riding gear. It was like someone turned on a faucet. I couldn’t help myself. All the planning, all the time, all the dreams… it all seemed to be in vain now. It took me awhile to compose myself. And because I was stopped and off my bike walking around gathering rocks and off the road grabbing some brush to camouflage the bike, I had a few drivers stop and ask if I was alright. I must have been a pathetic sight to see… a grown man with tears in his eyes out in the middle of the bush, scurrying around in the brush. Not something one normally sees while traveling down a remote road. I must have looked out of place doing all this in my riding gear. Oh well, I really didn’t much care at that point.
Pelly Crossing (A Native Village on the Pelly River)

The weather ahead looks iffy at best

The Pelly bridge

Fireweed and the Pelly River

My Steed
From there, I took off hoping to reach Carmacks to have a hamburger at the Coalmine Campground at a decent hour. The Coalmine campground is a special place for me. For those that have never been, it is located in Carmacks, a native village located along the Yukon River. It is the only place where the Klondike highway crosses the Yukon river between Whitehorse and Dawson. When you paddle the Yukon river, such as we have done, it is an oasis of sorts out in the wilderness. They have a nice campground that is relatively bug free, hot showers, a phone and they have real food. Good food. We always treat ourselves to a hamburger, a large order of fries and a soda. They have other things as well (Ice Cream, for example), but the burgers are the best in the territory.
Arrival at Five Finger Rapids

However, before arriving at Carmacks, I had to pass through a few rain storms and I made a stop to view Five Finger Rapids. Something must have clicked at the rapids, I found my mind wandering and myself reminiscing about our paddle trips and how I feared the rapids every time. The rapids are a couple of hours downstream from Carmacks, and they are not particularly challenging if the paddler approaches them correctly. However, like motorcycle riding, one wrong decision and/or a lapse in judgment can lead to disaster.  Being the cautious type, I studied them and talked to others on how to proceed safely. The first time Johann and I paddled the river, he was 11 years old, paddling his own kayak. No problem for him and he asked why all the concern. As a little boy, he had no idea what thoughts race through a concerned parents mind. Even though I was scared for his safety, Johann went through the rapids with smile and screaming wildly with joy. I smiled back and was thankful that he was having fun and came through safe.

Again the weather looks doubtful
So I arrive at Carmacks and the place was just jumping with people. Upon further notice, they were all firefighters. They were dirty, sweaty and HUNGRY. They were rejoicing that it had rained. The road to Faro had been closed and the paddlers were advised not to proceed down the river because of the smoke and fire dangers. This was a route that Johann and I were going to take on our way home. As it was, we wouldn’t have been able to ride it because of the fires. I don’t know why, but I found some comfort in knowing that. Maybe it was because Johann wasn’t with me and it didn’t really matter now. In all the hustle and bustle, the owner walks by and yells to me Welcome back, where’s you boy?”. I couldn’t believe it, he recognized me. He even came over to chat a bit. I felt like I was home. And I truly believe I was. There are some places that just feel right, like you belong. This the feeling I’ve had on my 1st visit to the north. It has never left me.  We exchanged pleasantries and then he went on his way to work his business. I told him, that I would more than likely be back next year and he asked if Johann wanted to work there next summer to which I replied, that I am certain that Johann would like to and that I would check with him.  I had my burger and answered numerous questions about my bike and my trip. It was hard to show enthusiasm, but I did my best
The Coalmine Campgrounds Canteen Restaurant

The Canteen restaurant has the best burgers... But don't take my word on it.
"I've travelled a lot around on this planet, I'm always hungry and the best burgers I ever tasted between Melbourne, Australia and Inuvik, Canada is at the canteen of the Coal Mine Campground. Recommendation: Double Cheeseburger and Bacon." ~ Uwe Seeger, Ichtershausen, Germany
 "Try the chicken burger, the best I've ever tasted!" ~ Joe Sarnorsky, Oshawa, Ontario, Canada
 "The best burger I've ever had" ~John Palmer, Queensland, Australia
"The best burger in the Yukon Territory" ~ GrizzLee, Sammamish, Wa

Somewhere north of Fox Lake

Things are looking up. 
Rainbow just before pulling into Watson Lake
Leaving Carmacks to Whitehorse, it began to rain off and on. Stopped and took a few pictures before Fox Lake. I arrived at my buddy’s house  (Shawn) in Whitehorse.  We had a couple of beers and talked about our adventures. I slept really well that night and woke up much later than I wanted. Shawn, being the great guy he is, made a delicious breakfast before I left. As I told him how much I feel guilty and responsible for Johann’s accident and maybe I was a careless parent, Shawn pointed out that living a life in a shell, is not living and these things happen. He reassured me that I was a great dad and he sees a special relationship between Johann and I that he hasn’t seen with other dads. For that, I should be grateful. As I left Whitehorse, it began to rain. It rained all the way to Watson Lake. I was hoping to get a break in the weather and camp, however, I opted for a warm, dry bed at the Air Force Lodge again. I talked with the owner, Mike, and of course he asked about Johann. I told him what happened and  then went to bed. But not before checking the weather forecast, as I was unsure if I was going to go to Liard on the ALCAN Highway or take the Cassiar highway down. The weather looked pretty crappy in either direction. The forecast indicated that good weather was just south of Bell II. So that is where I planned to go the next day.
Until next time...

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