It is amazing how a day can change.
It was Friday night of a Discovery Day weekend and I was pretty upset … relationship issues.
I’d spent from about 10 in the morning to 3 in the afternoon telling my troubles to a good friend and now was home cleaning the refrigerator.
A half-hour into it, I realized I had to run away, at least for a while. It occurred to me that the Haines/Skagway loop on my motorcycle would put enough wind in my face to let go of some of my troubles without turning into some sort of logistical nightmare.
It is a four- to five-hour ride to Haines. The last-minute preparations included making ferry reservations and packing everything I needed onto my bike.
I fit what is usually a week of exquisite anticipation into two hours. By that time, the fridge was defrosted and reloaded and I was on the road.
I arrived in Haines Junction around 7 p.m. and, I have to admit, got a little nervous when the station attendant advised there were no services until Haines (250 kilometres is pushing it for my Shadow, particularly on a road with good pavement and long, wide curves.
Mountain speedway equals more speed equals more gas, you see.
The solution was to stop at Madley’s, the store that sells everything, and pick up a small gas can and a bungee cord to strap it to my bike. After adding four dollars worth of spare gas, I was on my way.
I lost my “funk”, and the magic of the trip began about a half-hour out of Haines Junction, right about the time the bike hit “my” legs of the bicycle race. That would be the start of Leg 3, just after Dezadeash Lake and just before the climb to Pringle Tower.
I’d never seen this part of the road except in the other direction or when my focus was on riding or supporting another rider.
Today I was totally in the landscape; my focus was the road, the mountains, the expanses and the details. As I started climbing, I succumbed to the colder-weather accessories: ear flaps on the helmet, neck leather and an extra shirt.
It was good.
It felt, with each passing mile, like I was pulling the minute observations (made while working hard at 20 to 50 kph on a bicycle) into the wide pristine panorama.
The experience that on some other road would have been just snapshots, taken from a point-and-shoot camera, became holographic memory scenes where I could walk into each second of the longer passage of time.
I was seeing and smelling the big pictures you always see from a motorcycle, but because of my previous slower passages through this landscape, they now had a tapestry-like quality.
As I approached the summit and the Three Guardsmen, my thoughts were pulled to examining the slopes that stretched away from the road on either side. Which of them would be a good ski route? Is that a 20-degree slope? or is it closer to 30 degrees? I found I was dreaming about winter and snow and mountains.
The landscape on the Haines Road is awesome.
The coolness of the mid-August night meant deepening of colour contrasts on the tundra and frost touches at the higher elevations. In this photographer’s magic time, I was wishing I had the skill to capture the images, to save them for the next time my heart needed them.
I arrived in Haines by 10 p.m. (9 p.m. Alaska time) and went straight to the Fog Cutter. In this true-Alaskan bar, the shot glasses look like small tumblers and they stay open till 5 a.m.
While consuming a couple of tequila and some bar appies, I talked a local woman into a drink after her baseball game. We talked about kids and tournaments and small towns – instant rapport.
We shared how we all seem to want to make life better for ourselves and our communities.
I left the Fog Cutter for a street dance at the fair grounds. I missed the Elvis impersonator, but not a great band from Seattle or the fire spinners.
The magic that had started on the summit multiplied as time passed. I met friends at the fair grounds, slept out under the stars within touching distance of my “baby” and, in the morning, had a wonderfully artistic latte at the Mountain Market.
The ferry to Skagway and a sweet reconciliation in Tagish, topped off what had turned into an absolutely stellar 24-hour adventure. And I still had the rest of the weekend to lay in the sun.