Day 23

August 18, 2009 – Day 23:  Dawson Creek, BC to Quesnel, BC – 325.62 Miles

Summit Lake Rest Area
Summit Lake Rest Area

The morning was overcast with light rain, just another wet morning.  I packed up, mounted up and headed out on new adventures.  For the past four days I had been retracing my route north, now I would be departing on a new route home.  Route 97 out of Dawson Creek would take me east through the town of Chetwynd and continue south-east to my first fuel stop of the day, McLeod Lake.  From McLeod lake I would head south across the Continental Divide and through Prince George eventually ending at the town of Quesnel, my stop for the night.

As I stood there topping off the tank I noticed the rain had lightened, a little, and the sun was doing this slow strobe kinda thing across the sky, time to get moving and find some stuff to shoot. I pulled out of McLeod Lake feeling good and looking for adventure, little did I know.  I was on a road following the ridge of the Continental Divide; it had a lot of character to it. Long curves, short curves, moderate elevation changes, I was really enjoying the ride.  The forest was getting thicker by the minute and the light was winking through the small windows in the branches over head.  I was riding though a tunnel in the forest and it was simply amazing.  I was able to pretty much keep the bike moving at the speed limit of 90kph (approximately 55mph), despite the wet road conditions.  As I was ripping through the turns, ripping being a relative term, after all I was on a Harley-Davidson FLHX not a Ducati 1198 Superbike, I thought to myself, this would be the place.

I reflected back to a conversation I had with my father months earlier during the preliminary planning of putting this trip together. We had been sitting at the dinette in the kitchen watching the news on TV.  They were reporting on a series of tornadoes that were hitting the Midwest.  I told my father that I thought riding across the country would be a fun idea for a future trip but I didn’t like the idea on being caught in a tornado.  He said the odds are better to win the lottery and fear of tornados should not hold me back.  I looked at him, nodded my head in approval and asked him what the odds of me hitting a bear on the road to Alaska were.  He looked at me with eyes wide open and a huge grin on his face and said, “I’d be more worried about the tornado.”  I looked at him and laughed and then added, my biggest concern in planning the trip had been wildlife on the roads.  I have done a lot of riding and driving in mountainous regions over the years and I have made contact with wildlife on the road more than a few times.  A dead rabbit on the road can be quite upsetting, and even downright dangerous, when hitting it at 60mph on a motorcycle; a dear could very easily turn deadly.  I told my father, my biggest fear during the trip would be to hit a bear on the road and winding up road kill for him and his family.  His only comment, “make sure you buy a lotto ticket before you leave.

Now, moving with the curves, the thought crosses my mind, this would be the place, I saw him out of the corner of my eye before I could even finish my thought.  From out of the thick ground cover on the left side of the road, charging at a lumbering rate of speed, and on a course that would put us both in the same place at the same time, came a big old black bear, big being a relative term, meaning more than big enough to cause some serious damage to me, the bike, and my day.  I immediately grabbed a hand full of front break while stomping on the rear at the same time.  The road suddenly became slick and I began sliding sideways toward the bear.  I thought to myself, this is no good and almost as quickly as I had grabbed the brakes I released them. I was actually in the middle of a sweeping right turn when the bear made his move and I was trying to use the full advantage of the turn, my brakes and the width of the road to avoid contact as long as possible.  Time really does slow down during a life threatening situation.  I found myself experiencing the entire event in slow motion.  The two of us were getting closer and closer to impact and I was running out of road, and time.  I braced for impact and hoped for the best.  I watched as the bear lowered his head, I assumed also bracing for impact, and pushed as hard as he could to get across my path.  My eyes followed the bear’s head until it made contact with the lower left crash bar on the front of the engine. The sound of crunching plastic and fiberglass mixed with the deep thud of fur covered bone on cold hardened steel was unforgettable.  As the bear’s head hit the crash bar, the force of the contact spun his body in a counter-clockwise direction throwing the right side of his body into the left side of my body, pinching my leg to the bike.  I felt the bike tilt violently to the right and then just as violently to the left, then back to the right again.  I continued wobbling down the road at a high rate of speed, grabbing and releasing brakes and trying to slow down while at the same time trying to stay upright.  I continued this contest for about 120 meters or so before coming to a stop in the middle of the road.

McLeese Lake
McLeese Lake

There I sat, in the middle of the road, still on my bike, and apparently, still alive.  I looked in my review mirror and there 130 meters or so behind me, in the middle of the road, lay a huge ball of black fur.  I got off the bike and stood there looking at the bear and thought to myself, I’ve killed him.  A sinking feeling came over me and I felt sick to my stomach, if I had only been traveling a little slower, if I had been more alert, if I had just paid more attention to the road, this bear might still be alive.  Here I had been through this very scary experience and my only concern was for the bear, I hadn’t even checked myself or the bike for damage and I found myself walking back toward the bear.  As I was walking I thought I saw the big fur ball move, I stopped dead in my tracks.  I stood as still as I could be and stared at the bear, he slowly lifted his head shaking it back and forth in a confusing fashion and looked directly into my eyes.  OK, I’d seen enough, I ran back and jumped on the seat of the bike, banging it into gear and taking off to the smell of wet burning rubber.

As I looked in my rearview mirror I saw the funniest sight, the bear’s fat old rear end was flying up and down as he was running as fast as he could in the opposite direction of me.  I do believe he was as scared and confused as I was.  I looked down at the speedometer, it read 75mph.  I slowed down to about 40mph and tried to regain my composure while reflecting on what had just happened.  I could just see that bear coming home to his family that evening.  “How was your day dear?  I came face to face with one bad ass creature today.  I tried to run away from him but the SOB came after me, faster than anything I have ever seen before.  He hit me so hard it knocked me out cold, and when I came to he was getting ready to come after me again!  It was plumb scary I tell you, plumb scary.  My thoughts became interrupted as I saw the sign, “Now leaving Bear Lake,” how appropriate, followed by another sign, “Summit Lake Rest Area 2km ahead.”  I decided to pull into the rest area and calm my nerves for awhile.

Taking a Break
Taking a Break

As I pulled into the rest area I noticed a small waterfall at the end of a short trail.  Ah, another Kodak moment.  I grabbed my bag along with my trusty tripod, and off I went up the trail.  Chimping some of the shots, I realized once again, how cool ND filters are.  In my opinion they are the most important filters in the bag; they just have so many uses.  Today’s use was slowing shutter speed.  The blurring of moving water is much easier to create in the camera, and I think looks cleaner, then it is to recreate it in CS4.   I returned to the bike and was stowing the equipment when a couple in a pickup pulled in a few meters down from me.  The man got out of the truck and walked over to my location.  He asked me if a leather saddlebag had fallen off of my bike.  I told him mine were fiberglass and then I remembered the two small bags that attach to the rear crash bar.  As I looked down at the left rear crash bar I realized the bag was missing.  I turned back to the man and confirmed I had lost the bag and showed him the matching bag on the right side.  He said he had found it in the middle of the road a few miles back.  I told him and his wife, who had just joined us with the bag, my story and then thanked him for his trouble.  He said the bear was most likely ok.  Apparently, bears have very tough skulls that can absorb a fairly strong impact.  I’ll say.  As he and his wife walked back to their truck, the woman turned towards me and asked, “If you don’t mind me asking, what was in the bag?”  It hit me as soon as she asked the question, “My tire repair kit,” but that’s a story best avoided.  I thanked them again and finished stowing the Manfrotto 055 MF4.  As I looked up to the sky I noticed the rain had stopped, stopped being a relative term meaning neither heavy or light, just wet.  Life is good, it’s on to Quesnel.

Just Another Lake
Just Another Lake

I arrived at the Sandman Inn at around 6pm.  After checking in I headed over to the little café across the street.  I sat there staring at my food wondering if my opponent was doing the same, and how he was feeling this evening.  After dinner I walked over to check on the bike and do some damage control.  I had given the bike the once over at the Summit Lake Rest Stop but this was the first chance I had to take a good look at the damage.  Surprisingly, it wasn’t that bad, the fairing cap that attaches the lower fairing to the crash bar was missing, broke off when the bear’s head hit the crash bar.  I got some Duct Tape from my tool kit and taped the fairing to the crash bar, I was good to go.  I definitely got the better end of this deal.  As I was applying the tape I noticed a single, solitary, bear hair sticking out from a seam in the fairing, I gently pulled the hair from the fairing and placed it in my shirt pocket.  When I got back to the room I removed the hair from my pocket and placed it in a small hotel key envelope, I then placed the key envelope in my wallet, it’s still there to this day.

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