I reached the Canadian border and the guard looked skeptically at my plates.
“Let me get this straight, you rode this dirt bike from Arizona to visit your friend up here?”
I guess that does sound silly, but the truth that I was just doing it for the hell of it seemed even stranger.
He shrugged, stamped my passport and I went on going North. My headlight was useless, the night had turned completely pitch black and I was squinting to make out the lines on the sides of the road. I was wearing every bit of gear, plus waterproofs to stay warm and still I was beginning to shiver violently. My hands were frozen around my hand grips and my fingertips were numb. Riding all night wasn’t going to be an option after all, so I turned off the highway at town called Warner.
The town consisted of one main street with a hotel above a bar. I pulled up outside, shut off the bike and wandered in, decked out in my oversized bright yellow rain gear and looking very much like the Stay Puft marshmallow man.
There were about eight men seated along the bar and they all turned as I entered and stared at me blatantly. I’m assuming not many women pass through the town of Warner (I doubt many -people- do for that matter, it took the bartender a while to remember where they kept the room keys) and I felt a bit comforted knowing I looked like hell.
The room reeked of cigarettes and stale beer, but I was too tired to care and fell alsleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.
Renewed by sleep and a morning shower, I headed off again towards Edmonton.
Lethbridge is the first major city heading North and just when I hit the city limits, a man in a truck passed me flailing his arms and pointing at the back of my bike. I immediately pulled over and hit the kill switch. The bike hemorrhaged oil out into an enormous puddle. I was relieved to see so much oil really, that meant it still had plenty in it when I turned the bike off and serious engine damage was unlikely.
I thought maybe the drain plug wriggled loose and so set about removing the bash plate to check things out. I heard a voice ask if everything was alright and peered up to see a man and his daughter walking towards me. I told him I was fine, but my bike had seen better days. He took one look and declared it was a front shaft seal, which couldn’t be fixed on the side of the road like this, and invited me to breakfast with them and their friends. I was introduced around to the large group, most of whom were decked out in motocross branded clothing and I knew I was in good company. They were all motocross and trials riders returning from the races! I don’t think I could have picked a better place to break down!
Thank you Mark and Sherry for the delicious breakfast.
I hung out with their daughter Rachelle and her friends (who were pretty much all riders too) and by the time breakfast was over, they had come up with a solution for me. Mason, a trials rider from New Zealand, rode my overloaded bike effortlessly up a tiny ramp into the back of a volunteer truck and strapped it down.
The truck belonged to Josh Snider, a top motocrosser in the area, who I somehow didn’t seem to get a picture of…but this one I stole from the internet is way cooler anyway.
Photo by James Lissimore
Josh was headed North anyway and kindly agreed to take me along for the ride. He proved good company on the six hour trip and we were in Edmonton in no time. We drove through several torrents of rain and I have to admit I was a little glad to be in a vehicle for those long wet stretched of straight highway road.
Rob had invited a bunch of friends over for homemade lasagna and Josh came in and hung out for a while before continuing on. Thanks again Josh! And thanks to Rob and friends for the company and lasagna.
I spent a couple days relaxing and shopping for warmer clothing while we waited for ordered parts to come in. The West Edmonton Mall is a truly crazy place, I guess the Canadians need things to do during the long, cold winters and so they built this mecca. Besides all the stores and food court, the mall contains an ice rink, water park with live animal performances and an entire amusement park complete with roller coaster.
Mall photos jacked from the internet, I was having camera troubles…
Over the following days, Rob and I fixed the shaft seal leak, put on new more street-worthy tires and sprockets (courtesy of his roommate Jason, who had just bought a DRZ and was in the process of making it more dirt worthy) and took care of all the routine bike maintenance.
I look way too excited about changing a tire…
The next morning I was hoping to hit the road again…only to find a massive puddle of fuel under my bike. I was feeling stressed out about my bike problems and really wanting to hit the road again. Jason kindly let me borrow his DRZ and he, Rob and I set out for a session of stress relieving dirt riding!
Now, it had been raining a lot in Edmonton and there was an abundance of mud…something that I don’t deal with much in Arizona. I hit the first slick downhill and was instantly on my back sliding sideways down the slope. I dropped Jason’s poor bike three times before I started to get the hang of riding on mud, but by the end of the day I was having a blast!
That night Rob pulled out the carb to see what was wrong…
…sometimes dirt just gets in there and a simple cleaning will suffice, but he said that was not the case and it would need a carb overhaul. We called around, but it would be five more days til we could get the parts in and I was already getting itchy tires. I was already impressed by how friendly and generous the people of Canada had been to me, but now I wanted to get out and see the countryside!
The leak didn’t seem too bad, so I decided to ride on it and just turn the fuel tank off at stops until I could get back to the US where parts were more available…