Ok! We made it to Fort Smith NWT. But since last post a lot happened. We left Fort Mc Murray yesterday morning at 9:30 AM. We were told that leaving before that would throw us in the worst gridlock in Canada. The road is wild enough without bumper to bumper traffic. The stay in Mac was great. The accommodation was first class at the Sawridge Inn. Thanks to Frank from Alberta Travel North who really took care of us.
The last thing we did in Mac was to go on a flight tour over the oil sands.
Untill you see this, it is impossible to see the magnitude of this site. It defies imagination.
As far as the eyes can see they have marked the eland for exploration. the surface looks like a giant checkered tablecloth.
We flew over a camps that lodges 8000 crews.
this thing is in the middle of nowhere. it is so massive it is hard to describe. The plants themselves, whether it is Suncor or Syncrude are at a scale that can only be seen from the skies.
Like I said we took of from Mac at 9:30 and made it to the beginning of the Ice road. It was so nice to see this stuff again.
The road literally turns into ice and is like this till Fort Chipewyan for over 200 kms.
You go over rivers, marshes and all sort of land types. This road is not thee in summer and it is easy to see why. It goes up and down and around and the tundra like scenery reminds me of my dear Labrador.
The temperature stayed around -25 to -27 most of the day with a blue sky that was mesmerizing.
About an hour into it. I am leading and I do not see Joe or the SV anymore behind me. I wait for a minute and turn around.
There right over a crest I see the SV in my lane and behind the bike. Joe hit a groove and went down. In the process of sliding down the road, the left passenger foot peg hooked up and bent the frame holding it right up. To the point where the peg was right behind his leg touching it. Not good! If he rides like this and falls on the left side again. there is a hell of a good chance that he will get the peg frame to puncture the rear of his leg and in the process hot the femoral artery. Not good! This spooked him out and he slowed right down. Hell! I was worried too.
Later, about an hour and a half later,before Fort Chip, I am in the lead and we are clocking about 50-60 Km/h most of the time. We were just about to come across our first one lane bridge before a river crossing. I see a B train dump truck that we had passed a while ago and that had passed us again when we stopped for pictures. The part of the road at that point is over a swamp/ marsh. I slow down and let the bike come to a stop about 10 feet behind the truck. In my mirror I see Joe coming. I know he is is coming too fast. I was hoping he remembered not to hit the brakes in a hurry. With the trailer's lights covered with snow i guess he did not notice the truck stopped. I had told him that if he finds himself in a spot where he cannot stop to aim for the snow bank. He tried to steer around the truck to pass him or clear it on th driver's side but he could. He hit the trailer at about 20 km/h.
The plastics on the 800's having been at -27 all day were brittle to say the least. "Bang" he stayed up but the bike went down......without everything that use to be a front end.
Dash and instruments? Gone!
Body work? Gone.
No need to say Joe was pissed and disappointed. 2500 kms into a 10,000 kms trip and looks like I will be riding the rest alone.
We loaded up the bike in the trailer and Joe rode in the truck till we hot Port Chip. There we had the Park staff loaning us their house for the night. We had to stop at the Warden's office to pick up the key. I stopped in the parking lot and a guy drove in in his truck. I hear "Paul!" I am thinking "Huh? I do not know anyone here"
He is part of a group of riders who trailer their bikes to the beginning of the ice road and rie to Port Chip every year,
Note: I must say that the reason they trailer to the gate is that they have the real long ice studs on the tires which makes the bike unridable on anything else than ice.
accompanied by support ruck and cargo truck to bring materials and goods to the school in Port Chip. Their group is called North of 60. Great bunch. They asked me to join them at the school and if I wanted to put the bikes in the school's wood shop warm for the night and to join them in their potluck.
We ended up spending about an hour there with them. They were also a blessing as we did not have anything to eat. The only food place in town and that we counted on was closed.
I left my bike inside and Joe's in the trailer. When we got home We decided that I would try to fix the bike so he could ride it. In the morning I would ask Steve the shop teacher if i could use his tools to somehow make something so Joe could have a shield. He will not be able to ride on public roads where there is traffic without a light, but at least he will be able to ride the ice roads to Inuvik and Tuk.
In the morning we got up ( Joe was down and out and also stiff an hurt.) and we made it to the shop.
I had two things to do. First I had to figure out a way to hold the screen.
I used a piece of Metal and duct taped it between the mirrors. I cut the shield on the band saw so it could fit and he could also tun the bars without the shield hitting the body work. (What was left of it)
Her is the result. Works like a hot damn. I tested the bike to make sure the forks and bars were not bent and also tested the heated grips. All was fine.
the second thing was to fix the foot peg subframe that was bent. I could not, so we hacked it off with the a grinder. the subframe will have to be replaced anyway
We were told by the North of 60 Riders that the first 55 kms of the ice road to Fort Smith was a narrow and really rough road that was barely a lan and a half wide, and to be careful as meting a truck or car was dangerous. So we decide to put the Support vehicle in front. The north of 60 guys were also riding to Fort Smith, so we would see them on the road.
That is one understatement. Ruts, rocks, roots, grooves and deep soft snow was just the start. then many humps and lumps and bumps with curves and crap all over. This was by far the roughest road I have done in winter. Judging by how fast the north of 60 guys passed guys it was obvious that their studs were the best. But hey? We are out here to have it tough and tough is what we have.
Then Joe took his first tumble of the day. did not break anything as their is nothing left to break. His back is sore and so is his wrist. I can see he is bagged and that he is pushing it.
Then we come to the first big river crossing. The ice dropped four feet and left the river ice ramp in a pretty steep angle. The X5 goes up and makes it up.
I look for line. take off in second gear for torque an not "wheel breaking HP"
and make it up. Joe comes up in first gear, stats fishtailing and then loses grip. He slides backward down the embankment and down he goes.
There was a guy who drove to the bank to check it out as he has to pull a trailer next week through this road. I talked to him and he says there is no way he will make it up this hill. But he stayed there just in case we needed help. I made it up with Joe's bike. By this time he was bagged and really struggling. remember that he has NEVER done ice riding. He has beeb doing awesome. Most if not all i know would not even dream of doing this. So Hats off to Joe for keep pressing on.
We kept on going and the road got really fraking bad. it had been forty clicks so far and it had taken us close to 3 hours.
We slowly crawled our way towards the end of the 55 kms from hell and after about another half hour I took my fist dump at about 15 km/h. No harm, no damage and was back up in 5 minutes and kept it. Joe told me that watching me falling helped him. Hell! it helped me. I knew I would, I just did not when. You can't ride in stuff like this and not fall. Anyone who says he does not is full of shit.
DO not get me wrong, these guys have been doing this for nine years and it is an awesome cause. But their ride is 400 clicks and that is it. There is not toughing it that way on a 10,000 kms trip covering two provinces and two territories. After we got out of the 55 kms from hell, we were stopped on the side of the road putting the GoPro camera on my bike to film me going 100 km/h on the snow covered iced road to Fort Smith when a big Dodge dually 350 pulls over and asks us if we are OK. it was Ziggie!
At one point i am looking at Joe's in my mirrors and it is obvious he cannot go on anymore. I pulled over, walked to him and told "Joe? Loading time! You stop here. this is too much for you right now and you will only screw up your back even more or hurt yourself. Get off the bike for a couple of days and live to ride more!"
He looked at me and said "You read my mind, I was just about to stop!"
We loaded up the bike and got out of this mess.
We had about 150 something kms to Fort Smith and I gunned it. 100 km/h most of the way.We made it to the Pelican Rapids Inn in Fort Smith NWT, unloaded and ran to the restaurant and ate.. We had not eaten all day..
Tomorrow we are heading to Hay River NWT. ABout 260 kms of ice again.
Right F%%#@ on!!