North: The KTM Summer of Adventure – 7: Meziadin Lake, BC to Watson Lake, YT

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Camping wasn’t entirely horrible. The salvation from H.O.T. (Hell’s Own Tent) was the MEC sleeping bag and ground mat. Despite developing a bad list over the course of the evening, the H.O.T. did keep the mosquitoes out. No mean feat, at one point at night I woke up from a dream wondering why there was group of sportbikes running the highway at night. Only to realize the sound was masses of mosquitoes bumping against the mesh.

After yesterday’s boil-in-the-bag dinner, I opt for riding out to Bell II to fuel the bike and grab breakfast. I should have stuck with the boil in the bag. Pallid undercooked home-fries, thin slices of ham, artfully arranged stale toast, and a slice of star fruit as a conceited garnish, breakfast is served with ski-lodge pretense and washed down with black paint-thinner disguised as coffee.

In the parking lot, retiree’s exit a motorhome and dance-swat at personal clouds during a smoke break. Newly-weds fuel an aging Mercedes diesel. Highway 37 seems to have all but escaped the middle aged.

The brisk morning calls for a heated vest, but though the clouds threaten the rain never quite starts. Taking a look at the rear tire at one of my rest stops, I’m concerned by the amount of wear. Worn away by the miles, load, and the bike’s power, the tire is fading quickly and starting to lose its feel in corners, robbing the KTM of competence.

From Bell II the next gas is 234km hence in Dease Lake, well within Indestructible Sam’s range. Thank Buck 65 coming up on the iPod for the 990 Adventure’s new nickname. It seems to fit, though, given the machine’s willingness during the growing adventure. All the same I take a spare can of fuel with me, just in case. If ever a bike needed a fuel gauge it’s an adventure bike, big trail bike inspired beasts aimed for the back roads.

Are you listening KTM? The constant guess-i-mation the lack of a gauge requires is irritating, if not downright dismissive of your intended market’s needs.

. . .

“Are you alone?”, the woman is in her fifties with bleached hair and an accent. I’ll assume she’s Mama Z the restaurant’s namesake.

“Er, yes.”

Her hand shoots out, “Welcome to Dease Lake.”

The North is a friendly place it seems.

. . .

Twenty kilometers north of Dease Lake the North isn’t feeling so welcoming. The skies have opened and the road has transitioned to hard packed dirt. What was dust becomes an emulsified slick and the front end is sliding about on the sheen of mud. The further we go, the worse it gets. Ruts begin to appear in the road, the deluge continues, and with too much weight on the bike’s rear the front is step ping out properly.

I force myself to relax. Stand up on the pegs, keep my arms wide and loose, and easing carefully off the gas slow to a 30kph crawl. It’s a harder Zen state to achieve that it sounds. The Adventure’s fuel injection is a herky-jerky proposition making smooth rolls on and off the throttle to avoid upsetting the bike in delicate conditions an outright challenge.

Forty kilometers out of Dease Lake the road returns to pavement. I mark this as a favorite in the GPS labeled “S” for salvation.

The 37 doesn’t offer much in the way of alternate routes and this far north it’s become a bit of a slog. Fifty percent fabulous and fifty percent not, the former makes up for the latter hugely with scenery that stuns. There’s a lot of construction though, and I’m thinking the adage of “there’s two seasons in the north, winter and construction” is beginning to hold true.

Finishing off a final construction zone, the border between the Yukon and BC swings into view even as the evening sun breaks through the cloud layer. At 8:00PM it’s a poetic entry into the “land of the midnight sun”, but I’m just happy for the warmth.

It’s been a hard day’s ride and I’ve decided to stay in Watson Lake, the line up of bikes outside the Belvedere Hotel makes the choice easy.

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