The ride out of Seattle to the Canadian border was over pretty flat terrain with no headwind, making for easy riding and it went quickly. Things became more interesting upon entering the Frazer River Valley in British Columbia with its grand views and majestic mountains. There I encountered thunderstorms, making it even more impressive as I rode the winding road that followed the river.
As I went further north, towns became smaller and farther apart. I noticed that there was a “mile house” about every 100 miles and decided to gas up at the next one.
However, the next 100 mile mark came and went, and no mile house. Going up a long hill, the engine began to sputter and then quit.
“Hmmm,” I said, “Out of gas.” I reached down and turned on the valve for the reserve gas and tried to kick start it, but to no avail.
I wheeled the bike around and coasting it down the hill, popped the clutch to jump start it. The engine caught and I made a tight circle to head up the hill, but again the engine died. Twice I jump-started it and twice it refused to run up hill.
This was confusing because the reserve for gas was in the back of the tank and should work better going uphill than down. But I decided not to waste time on the logic of the matter and rode back down the hill, heading for the last gas station I’d passed.
After tanking up, I retraced my route and rode up the long hill again. At the crest I was startled by what I saw: two cars had hit head-on, each one a bit too far over the center line. As I looked at the wreck covering both lanes, I felt a chill go up my spine.
“If I’d been able to make it up this hill, I probably would have been involved in this accident,” I thought.
This was somewhat illogical, for how could I know the timing? And yet there was a sense of certainty to the thought, an understanding that I had been protected by running out of gas at the right place. Another Jesus sighting? I tucked this thought away in my mind with the other experiences, sensing that it was important.
That night I slept on a picnic table in the rain. Before turning in I’d talked with another camper, one who was sleeping in a nice big motor home. He’d told me that in this area there had been a lot of Sasquatch, or Big Foot sightings. That piece of information had done nothing to help me sleep well.
When I woke during the night and peered out from under my plastic cover, I saw mists rising off the forest floor and imagined a big dark hairy form coming through the fog to visit the campground. But no such thing happened. It was more the mists of the past, the fear and memory of moss-covered monsters in a cave that came to me.
The next day as I went further north, the road deteriorated, at times being only gravel. My plan was to go to the capital city of Alaska, Juneau, by catching a ferry in Prince Rupert, a city way at the top of British Columbia. It was a trip of just over 1000 miles.
When I turned off the “Alaskan highway” to head towards Prince Rupert, things became more primitive and the weather more rainy. I came down one muddy slope to a bridge with a wooden floor made of logs running lengthwise. I eased onto the mud-slick surface, trying to balance on the rounded logs, and was able to stay upright most of the way. Then my front wheel slipped into a gap between two logs and down I went.
After struggling to my feet, I looked back and there was a big logging truck, loaded to the top, coming down towards the bridge. The driver gave a blast on his air horn, but didn’t slow down—maybe he couldn’t with that huge load. I got my motorcycle up, put it into gear and running beside it got to the end of the bridge and off to the side just as the truck hurtled by. I stood there panting and trembling, thankful to have made it off the bridge in time.
As I rode on in the rain, and dusk came on, I realized two things. First, my headlight no longer worked. The fall on the bridge had probably damaged it. Second, I was not going to make it to Prince Rupert that evening, so I’d better find a place to stay for the night.
Fortunately, being quite far north, darkness came late and not completely. I was able to ride on until about 10 pm when I found a rest stop in a grove next to the road.
There was a picnic table to sleep on– just what I wanted. I parked my bike next to the table and made up my little tent with my poncho. I climbed into the sleeping bag with all my clothes on, used a stick to prop up the plastic over my head and drifted off to sleep. I dreamed of bears, but none came.
Picture of the Fraser River Valley, from the internet