Part 6 - Riding the River with minor Obstacles
It’s decent riding over here, especially now that we found out that riding works better without a helmet. A neoprene face mask to cover neck and mouth, woolen hat, parka-hood on top. Goggles? Nope. Double glass or ventilated - the difference in temperature is too big, every goggle gets fogged in no time. Once again, this is the hour of the Canada Goose Resolute Jacket: thanks to the hood with it’s tunneling effect and coyote fur fringe it keeps out the cutting cold - almost. The breathing, the humidity, the temperature generate icy cristals which build up inside the hood. They fuze with other cristals. And settle down where there’s some hair. Which is – beards aside – eye brows and lashes. Ice grows until the eyes freeze shut. But it still takes longer than goggles going fogged. The ride on the ice doesn’t show any bigger problems – but the steering of the Panhead is getting harder every mile – or should we say with every degree of cold? Like if someone had exchanged the bearing grease for chewing gum. Only the Panhead is affected. Why not the Shovel?
Some hard thinking reveals this: The Panhead has the old school ball bearings. You know: just balls, no cages. And these needs a lot of grease to install them. Lots of grease means lots of stuff to go solid. A real problem in case your front wheel happens to slip into one of those murdering grooves in the ice. But the Wreckers are experienced riders. They know their horses and spool off the miles as if they were riding on a german autobahn. Which is quite close to reality: 30 meters wide, 4 lanes, traffic close to none. Sometimes a pickup, occasionally a truck carrying gas or food. Up the Mackenzie we ride. The trees get bigger, the banks rise – but before we start to get this „winter sleigh ride through the Black Forest-feeling“ there’s a harbour ahead. Or at least what’s left of a harbour during the arctic winter: ships. Cemented in the ice. And riding through: the Wrecking Crew on their Big twins. Harbour - this does mean as well, that we are pretty close to Inuvik. And pretty close to our last und final farewell from the ice road. So let’s have a break on the ice road. We shoot another set of photos, gas up, top up the oil – which has been dripping from Peter’s Pan for some time now.
Not much, but dripping. Trying to mop up the oil we are reminded how cold it is out here: the drop of oil solidifies to a liquorice candy-like state before hitting the ground. And it sticks so hard that we need a knife and some fierce stabs to pry it off the ice. There’s another experience with the cold we make at this stop: even after a two hours ride the engine, the oil pump, the pipes can be touched with bare hands - they just don't heat up. They're warm, yes - but cooling down within seconds. Back to the dripping oil: returning to the garage would be a helpful idea for the dedicated wrencher. And yes, it’s the rocker box that is leaking: the cork gasket shrinks with the cold. And who are we to blame a gasket for shrinking at minus 35? Our mission is still not finished yet. We plan to head a bit more south, down the Dempster Highway, direction Dawson City. Before we can get going we need to buy some silicone. But there’s one last night in the way. We pass it by way of tender 12 oz steaks, some pitchers of domestic beer and sweet sleep.
Breakfast is at seven a.m., we get packed, pile everything into the support truck, fix the leaking gasket with silicone. We put the tanks back on the bike and are ready to ride. A last run through Inuvik closes the Ice Road chapter. We have been to the other end of the road, we were frost-bitten, stunned; cursing, wrenching, taking pictures, filming, ... And we will be almost unable to explain how everything felt like to those who weren't there . The friggin‘ cold, the pure light, the endless landscape, the odd people, the strange experiences. We will miss it. Maybe in a few weeks, maybe quite soon, maybe when rolling down the Dempster Highway, across the Richardson Mountains, southbound. Because there always will be Another End Of The Road somewhere out there.
What remains of these days? A giant icecube of memories: rides of a lifetime on the iceroad, the grandness of nature busy at work, friendly, open hearted people, frozen shut eyes and vistas painters would die for.We will be missing it. Not right away maybe, but years later a crystal sharp jolt will shake our hearts when we see these pictures again. But, the tires have spoken: we must go on and follow the beams of our headlights. Let’s go.