Where did I leave off? Ah, yes: Hoping for dry.
Well, it wasn't!
It rained through the night in Dawson, and was still raining in the morning, which set a tone for the morning of fear that we could be facing the legendary "evil mudbeast" personality of The Dempster
The first 100 km (ish) were cool and wet, with the rain continuing intermittently, and temperatures hovering between 8 to 10 C. The scenery was jaw-dropping from the gate, with the low clouds providing a measure of scale against the backgrounds, and the vibrant green forests blurring into the blues of distant rains. The mountain formations were incredibly varied, with ragged jagged ridge lines reminiscent of Utah, right next to smooth conical black rock mounds reminiscent of Nevada crater country, and creeks and lakes which hold their own against the Canadian Rockies.
The road surface was much better than expected -- and even moreso than expected in rain -- and although our bikes were quickly caked in a fast-hardening layer of calcium chloride mud, there were no stretches of bad traction for us today at all. That said, everyone we talked to about conditions on the Dempster always seemed to have the opinion that the worst stretch was just coming up for us -- but regardless of where we were or what direction they had been travelling. My only conclusion was that the drive in a passenger car must be a very different experience.
On top of Ogilvie Ridge, we noticed a small white speck on my rear tire, which looked to be a little flat rock smaller than your pinkie nail stuck on the surface of one of the tread knobbies. I couldn't scratch it off with my finger, so grabbed by Leatherman pliers to tug at it, and a pointy, pyramid-shaped (but blunt-tipped) pebble came out, nearly a full centimeter long. It was like pulling a tooth! Amazingly, it didn't puncture the tire, but it must have been close. Needless to say, I felt good to be hauling a spare rear tire.
We stopped again for a break at the site of Yukon's first commercial oil well, and re-attached the right handguard on the Triumph, whose end bolt had vibrated out and gone. Satisfyingly, I was able to supply a bolt and suitable combination of washers -- and Loctite! -- from my toolkit. The wiser of the two of us also took the opportunity to dump some spare fuel in the tank.
The rest of my day was about solving the riddle of Badger's true fuel range. There are so few opportunities to run to empty -- needing to be carrying extra fuel, on a sparsely trafficked road where it's safe to sputter, and ideally loaded up for travel so it's meaningful -- so I was keen to take advantage. Here's how it played out:
- 315 km: Low fuel warning light comes on. Remaining range indicated as 30 km.
- 345 km: Range ticks from 10 km to 0 km.
- 370 km: Celebratory fist pump, tempered by the realization that there is sill 13 km to Eagle Plains and the odometer is just that wrong.
- < Rider continues onward in disbelief >
- 383.7 km: Arrive Eagle Plains, fill up with 22.997 liters.
After supper, we organized access to the car wash hose between the gas pumps and heli-pad, blasted the worst of the day's mud off, and shook our heads at a 3-week old 1190 rider headed south who stopped for gas at 9:00 pm with the intent to carry on to Dawson, solo, into the grizzly zone and then into the dark. Bad decisions, dude, and I hope you made it OK.
Day total: 426 km, 8h00m
Trip total: 3,185 km
Start: Dawson City, Yukon. End: Eagle Plains, Yukon.
Soundtrack: Shuffle, with some well-placed Black Keys and "Gimme Shelter."