Rudi & Jesse discover what travel up here is really all about.
Jesse decided to start Day 6 of our trip with a bang. That’s the sound his KLR650 made when it hit the parking lot gravel, the victim of excessive packing force by Rudi’s large-muscled son. Did Rudi enjoy this? He’s not talking, but numerous parking lot drops due to heavily laden bikes is a common conversational theme among riders up here.
It didn’t take long for the guys to recover, but their departure was delayed by a herd of 60 woods buffalo partially blocking their route just outside the hot springs park. “Stay In Your Vehicle” shouts the warning signs when viewing wildlife alongside the road. Inside a motorcycle? Just try not to look too appetizing is more like it (for a bear), or interested in the young calves (for a buffalo).
They sighted seven black bears before the morning was out, two of them cubs, a black and a brown. The little brown guy started at the sound of the bikes and bolted for the woods and Mama! Cute butt.
Do you know how to deal with a bear attack? Rudi does. If it’s a grizzly, you play dead in a fetal position with your hands covering the back of your neck. If it’s a black bear, you make noise and fight back. How do you tell what kind of bear it is? Before it charges, Rudi suggests you ask the bear to turn around. If it has a big shoulder hump, it’s a griz, and if it has a big butt, it’s a black. You can then get on with your defenses.
Rudi is relying on bear pepper spray and the strength of Jesse. Jesse is relying on bear pepper spray and the fact that he can outrun Rudi.
When the road finally cleared Rudi and Jesse made fast tracks for Watson Lake, where they would make a decision that alters the trip in several major ways. They would leave the Alcan Highway and take a flyer into the Yukon on a road far less traveled. Locals shun it, except for the First Nation people who live there and the mining trucks that make riding on it miserable.
Why go this route? Look at the map. Rudi thinks the mountain range was named in the honor of his passing through the area. “Selwyn Mountains”. Has a nice ring to it. Rudi is related to Bob Selwyn in an offbeat way and he craves the attention.
There is romance in maps. Ancient maps used to say about the land beyond knowledge at the edge of the known world, that “Beyond here, dragons dwell”. Rudi believes this is still true and has the map to prove it. Look again.
Proof enough for Rudi that this route is “meant to be”. Jesse just craves the fact that the damn thing is 245 miles long and 225 of it are dirt, mud, and gravel. This is what he came north to do, not ride pavement that can be done anywhere. Let’s get on with it, says Jesse.
So they do. Rudi sees a sign just after turning onto the Campbell Highway: Ross River 410km (245 miles or so). Rudi’s motorcycle doesn’t carry enough gas to go 245 miles! So does he turn around and buy a small gas can at the station 100 yards back?
Noooooo ….. He decides to coast down as many hills as possible over the next five plus hours to try and save fuel. He is resigned to waiting on the side of this forlorn piece of shit road with a beer in one hand and bear spray in the other while Jesse continues on and, hopefully, returns with a gas can near the end of the day. This makes life more interesting for sure.
Rudi almost crashes twice in the first 20 miles where road construction has turned pavement into a muddy, rutted mess where only hard throttle application keeps the front wheel from flying off into the bushes. Jesse has the same problem but thinks it’s fun. Rudi, meanwhile, is changing his underwear.
Then it gets better and the boys take turns leading over hard packed gravel, slippery mud, and constant deep potholes, hitting 50 and 60 mph in places. This goes on for hours, until Rudi looks back and finds that there is NO JESSE! Rapid heart rate, lump in throat, what will I tell Celeste moments, as Rudi struggles to turn big Bertha around on the narrow road and begins to ride back to find out what has happened.
Rudi sees two figures in the distance: A person standing by a bike. So at least Jesse can stand, so the crash maybe wasn’t so bad. Rudi pulls up as Jesse is zipping his fly! You’ve got to be kidding me. You stopped to take a piss without telling me and me having a heart attack and now so pissed off myself etc etc etc. Jesse just says we need a signal for this event since it’s going to happen a lot on these roads. We eat a snack, Rudi takes a bio break, and the ride is resumed, a bit more soberly on Rudi’s part.
The coasting strategy pays off and the boys make Ross river at 6:30 p.m. only to find the only gas station is closed.
A first nation family tells us how to use the auto pay at the pump and we find the shack by the tank and pull the plastic and fill our tanks.
We are pooped.
The Canol Hotel beckons and we decide it’s time for a break from camping anyway. Nice clean small rooms, decent small town food, and a grog for Rudi, ends the day. The boys have learned a lot, both about the bikes’ ability to handle these roads, and about themselves. 225 miles of tough gravel riding is a small thing when it comes to the Dalton Highway, the Haul Road, but it’s a start to building some confidence. . A good day.
Please join Rudi & Jesse to help the environment by reading the message below, and taking action on it.
This trip, and this blog, are raising money for our favorite environmental non-profit, Georgia River Network. GRN advocates for, and protects, all rivers in Georgia. We produce videos for them to help raise awareness and money for their projects. If you are enjoying our trip blog, please join us in giving whatever tax deductible amount you can by going to our fund raising site at:
The site is safe and secure and the folks at Georgia River Network make sure your donation has an impact.
Rudi G & Jesse