The ride to Aspen that saw my Honda ST1000 die with the bike being replaced the same day by a BMW K1200RS bought on credit card, a ride across Canada where another journalist crashed the bike I was to use not 20 minutes out of the parking lot, an epic tour through the western US that on a social level did for motorcycle travel what the Poseidon Adventure did for cruises… My personal riding history is littered with a disturbing pattern of rough departures.
Planning doesn’t help. Build contingencies upon contingencies, but when the fates push you off course you’re simply left with a sense of loss and a tattered itinerary. Planning for a ride to the Arctic Circle began in January, giving the destiny a chance to work up some really good stuff… You know the epic sorts of portents that would send those who believed in omens running screaming in the opposite direction.
A staffing change at KTM left us a 990 Adventure short, but that was just a warm up. BMW handed us a replacement F800GS, saving the day and the trip. Then there was a last minute service for the R1200GS Adventure, putting strain on a dealer who was a mechanic short during the busiest time. And finally the strange burning odor that needed to be diagnosed from the F800GS, which had seen some indelicate use as part of an off-road test fleet.
Back at the local dealership for an inspection, we found ourselves stating, “It doesn’t need a ride, it rides just fine. Just smell the bike. Smell it!”
It was Kevin who spotted and diagnosed the problem, a broken radiator mount and missing bolt that had the fan shroud melting against the exhaust header of the F800GS’s engine. Parts from Germany, too many days away, zip-ties and a mechanic’s elbow grease? Priceless.
Seven o‘clock and we’re finally on the road, we’ve made our departure from Vancouver, which isn’t to plan. Nothing really will be on this trip, any trials to this point are trivial, because ahead of us all along our proposed off-road route, British Columbia is suffering from wildfires. We are now the bad omens.
A deep superstition is forming, if we plan a route, the wildfires will move to block us. So, for the sake of BC, the Yukon and Alaska, we’re taking it day-by-day. We’ve a goal, the Arctic Circle, but we’ve departed from planning as much as from any physical location.
So here we are, riding at night and breaking another part of the original plan – we swore not to. To miss this though would have been tragic, the full moon is hanging high and bright, filtered through the haze of a province burning and beams silhouetting the hills. We stop at the Hope slide, under the guise of taking photos, but more to take it all in. In the gray half-light of the moon the devastated field of rock debris is an alien landscape, beneath us is buried a highway as if to prove that beautiful moments, come unplanned and out of disaster.