Bringing Up the Rear

Riding has a tendency to push your personal limits. Whether it is the distance you cover in a day … or your speed … or the cold weather … or how bad a road you can navigate successfully.

The problem is I seem to get a lot of help from my companions in that whole limit-pushing thing. I bicycled with a guy who was a champion long-distance cyclist; I’ve run with adventure racers and I’ve climbed with very experienced high-altitude climbers … and I am always bringing up the rear.

I’ve tried to find other, weaker, friends to play with, but I get bored so easily. I always come back to those I have to chase.

When I started in motorcycling, of course, I had to start riding with people who had ridden for years or, worse, with ones who have taken on the nickname of “extreme billies” — XBs for short.

The first day I learned to ride a motorcycle, one of these XBs took me for a ride on some of the trails that branch off the Copper Haul Road. It was years before my body didn’t tense up going down a hill in loose gravel.

Last summer, after taking a ride up to Tombstone on the Dempster Highway, we decided to take a detour to Keno. If you never go out of your way for any other community in the Yukon, do it for Keno.

Keno is a charming little town. Having spent my first Yukon years in Dawson City, I would liken it to a smaller, simpler, 1970s version of that town with fewer tourists.

None of the buildings have been tarted up, there are at least three sets of abandoned gas pumps around town of various vintage and only one commercial establishment.

The Keno City Snack Bar is the only place in town to buy a meal or an ice cream. The real fun, however, is looking at the books of old photographs and chatting with the proprietor. He is also one of the founders of the Keno Mining Museum, amazingly full of the interesting history of the town.

Back to the motorcycles: the other reason we went to Keno was to visit another of the XBs. The two of them decided we should all ride up the hill to look at the signposts. There are two roads up. One, the motor homes take … the other, they don’t. They didn’t tell me we were taking the other one.

I quickly caught on. Patches of washout, mud holes and branches arching over the road were the real clues. Losing sight of the other two bikes around curves and over rises reminded me that, again, I was bringing up the rear.

The 15-foot mud hole of indefinable depth that stretched across the full width of the road, leaving no option but to go through it, proved to be my undoing. I decided I didn’t really need to see the signposts that bad and it was a beautiful day just to sit and take in the views while my heart rate came back to normal.

Soon, they were back and we were making our way down the loose washed out. Almost at the bottom, a particularly rough patch with face level branches got the better of me and my GS kissed the ground for its first time.

It is a good day when I ride where I’ve never been before. The challenge makes the adventure … and bringing up the rear is really not a bad thing.

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