Part 4 - Somebody just had to do it
Why not us? And that’s why we are here. Far north of the northern Polar circle. 69° 26‘ 20“ N, 133° 01‘ 45“ W, with two Milwaukee classics under our butts. 2 hell bent riders and a support team for technical, morale-enhancing and documentary assistance. Finally it’s a kind of test of what a Harley can put up with. Mud, gravel, Bullfight arena - we rode it all. But minus 35 degress Celsius and roads of solid ice? Wait and see. So this was the day and the moment. We found our way to the local airfield. James Gruben Airport. Promising some elbow room and even less traffic. So finally we have the bikes on the road. Preheated in the truck, as far as you can talk of preheating at a -10 degrees inside the truck. So why not say pre-defrosted. The batteries had been charged onboard the support truck. Kick them chunks of steel to life. Ignition. Pressure point. Kick. KICK! Kick harder.... nothing. OK, the bikes had been sitting in the deep freezer for a long time now. Give ’em another try. Nothing. And again. Nada. Nope. Zero. Zilch. No sign of life. We try a pull-start. Kinda funny seeing a Harley being pulled on a 10 m rope tied to a MB Vario truck - but hey, who gives a damn if it works. Which it doesn’t. Not even after the fifth try. Looks like we gotta pack up the bikes.
But with a plan: get ’em running at a heated place. And then: back on the road. Good plan. Followed by an even better question: Where do we find a warm wrenching place up here? We try our trusted gas station, the Esso Arctic Service Station in Inuvik. We noticed when we gassed up the truck that they have a garage. Maybe it’s heated. Yes. There‘s heating. But heating is something very relative up here. Maybe they should call it unchilling. They say, we can use the garage if we don’t mind the snowmobiles. Why should we? And indeed: there’s enough space to park the two bikes in some relatively unchilled air. Talking about relativity of heating systems below 30: the floor is a hellishly slippery mix of oil and ice. Snow brought in, melted and got refrosted. Now Paul and Peter, the two official pilots for the ice riding skid and slip between the bikes and start the resurrection mission.
Now, anyone interested in details?OK, we asked for it. Why dontcha grab a well chilled liquid of your choice and join us for a short ride through the wrenching dimension. Let‘s start with the '48 Panhead. Peter diagnoses a blocked gearbox and sticky, unworkable controls. Looks like some residual humidity brought over from Germany has frozen in the bike‘s innards. The cold kept the water from emulsifying with the oily stuff. The oil got all gooey with the cold. Plus the water went solid. Who could blame the gearbox for conking out. Nice thing to have in moments like these is a blow torch. After 15 minutes of giving the tranny a good frying, the bike is ready for an oil change to less sensible stuff: 0 W 30 now fills the 'box. Automatic transmision fluid was the other choice - but was declined for safety reasons. And guess what: some hefty kicks later the Panhead is back in business and on a quick test ride into Inuvik and back. One bike is ready to roll. One down, one to go. Quickly the V-twin doctors isolate the the comatose S&S Super-E in Pauls '05 Shovel as the culprit.
Frozen residual water, humidity, we had that before. Therapy: open combustion chamber, inject starter spray. Kick. Kick again. And Again. Once more. Krattakratta-kervrooooottt-vrott, here we go. We decide to let the bikes stay in the warm ...erm... uncold garage. The next day we are in a hurry to get to Tuktoyaktuk. So much in fact that we forget to load up the ramp for the bikes at the gas station. No prob, with five dudes like us on the scene, even a Harley is man-handled from the truck onto the road in seconds. Yessssss. The throaty roar of two big inchin‘ fire breathing V-twins cuts through the super cooled arctic air.
When the road gives an icy crunch and 50 weight turns into liquorice; when the sun despairs of ice-encrusted homes you have finally arrived. Where the great whiteness waits for you: welcome to Tuktoyaktuk, NWT, Canada.
Do refrigerators north of the arctic circle need electricity at all? Come in and find the truth in the tropic of light.
Welcome to the paradisical gardens of hardware; open your gates, ye high cathedrals of 90 proof liquid pleasures.What do you get from a milwaukee tractor in the arctic? A big heap of problems. steel, rubber, oil, everything frozen solid, gooey, stiff, unusable. What next? Find garage, warm everything through, change oil. seal again. Ride on.