2010 Alaska Sunk
Part 6 of 15
Weather turns Catastrophic!
The Comfort Inn
I didn't want to leave the flea bag motel but the old lady was booked solid for the day. The rain was not about to let up. I was wet like a duck. I felt like a duck. I was walking like a duck,...and ….Quack! Quack! ...I had become a duck. I packed the bike as best I could and headed towards Regina to fill up with gas. Some travellers going through Regina on the Trans-Canada Highway don't know that you have to get-off the main highway in order to get gas on one of the service roads. I didn't see any convenient service road exits and I didn't feel like leaving the Trans Canada anyway so I thought I'd continue riding and get gas beyond the city limits where, in fact, there were no gas stations as I was about to discover. In no time at all, I was again in torrential rain and still in the dark at only seven degrees Celsius. More importantly, my gas tank was on the “E” mark. Bloody Hell! I slowed down to sixty kilometers an hour to conserve what little gas I had left. My Harley soon began “jerking and coughing” meaning that I was out of gas and I had to switch to reserve. I think the Harley service manual said that I can do between thirty and fifty kilometers on reserve which isn't very much when you're in the middle of no-man's land between Regina and Moose-Jaw Saskatchewan. It's not exactly the place where gas stations grow on trees. And, of course, I'd never tested how far I could go on reserve, before. About half and hour later I came across a sign saying “Pense 10” pointing to the right. I saw a grain elevator, a few lights and a couple of pick-up trucks so I took a chance on whether or not they would have any gas there. If they hadn't, I knew that I wouldn't be coming back anytime soon.
I saw a wooden shack that sold newspapers, potato chips, chocolate bars and hot coffee and it had a single solitary old-style gas pump out front. The only person I saw in Pense was an old Indian lady that ran that store and she let me fill up with gas and sip on hot coffee. She saved my skin that day.
When I got back to the highway I turned west towards Moose Jaw and continued on. Less than ten minutes later after climbing a fairly steep gradient I saw a brightly lit, clean, brand new gas station complete with six shiny illuminated pumps; a washroom and its very own restaurant. I didn't know whether to laugh, cry or get angry so I laughed and shouted as loud as I could into the wind ...“I'll take that wonderful old Indian lady over you guys anytime!” ….then I gave them the finger and rode on.
Weather turns Catastrophic!
I'd never seen clouds so black. They were hanging so low in the sky I felt I could stand on the pegs of the Harley Davidson and touch them. The wind was getting stronger and it was taking all of my energy to keep from blowing off the road. The rain was hitting my face so hard it felt like nails were being hammered into it. I was now riding with my right hand on my throttle and my left hand against my glasses trying to stop them from blowing-off. Trucks pulling camper-wagons were beginning to pull off the highway onto the shoulder but it was no use me doing the same because there was no shelter - no place. The sky was laced with forked-lightening and the thunder-claps were even stronger than those at Obotonga. I put both hands on my handle-bars momentarily to steady my bike against an extra gust of wind and my glasses were gone instantly and forever. I saw them momentarily against a black sky being blown far away by the wind. I saw that police had detoured traffic through a field of mud because part of the highway had been washed away. While taking the detour I dropped the Harley into sixteen inches of soft mud and I was not able to lift her upright again. Two truckers waded through the sticky mud to help me get out of there. They told me they rode Harleys too. I felt my energy levels draining to an all-time low. I wasn't sure how much more of this I could take. The Harley was self-cleaning because once I got back on solid asphalt the downpour simply washed all the mud off her right away. Nonetheless, I continued on. Thank God I'd packed a spare pair of glasses.
I came across a “scenic look-out” where a few camper trucks had pulled off the highway to rest and one guy was playing his radio and letting others listen-in. The epicenter of the storm was Maple Creek, Sask. very close to where we were standing. The Premier of the Province of Saskatchewan had just declared a state of emergency. Parts of the Trans-Canada Highway had been washed-out. Railroad tracks had been uprooted in parts. Fields had turned into lakes, and some people were being evacuated from their homes because their basements were completely flooded. People were being asked not to travel wherever possible and there was I, stuck right in the middle of this mess. I was truly wiped!
The Comfort Inn
I retained all my faculties. My road-sense, my reaction times and reflexes were still good. My sense of balance; my road vision and my hearing were not impaired in any way, but apart from that, the relentless rain and continuing cold had turned me into a zombie. I just didn't seem to have much life left in me. The weather provided no relief. My mind was a blank. All I did was sit on the bike, like the little rider on a toy plastic motorcycle just like the ones you used to play with when you were a kid. I rode for hours on end at a steady speed until I needed gas or something to eat. It was taking me three times longer than normal to get on and off the bike and five times the amount of effort required to do these simple tasks. I was not enjoying this anymore. I wasn't even sure where I was, except that I did remember seeing a signpost at the side of the road some time back saying, “Welcome to Alberta”.
It was a sight for sore eyes. The Comfort Inn in Medicine Hat. I pulled in their parking lot. I put down my side-stand and I hit the kill switch on the Harley. In order to get off the bike safely and without falling to the ground I had to plan each fundamental movement well in advance. I walked into the lobby and two clerks at the reception desk were laughing out loud. I suddenly realized that it was me they were laughing at. Me, and the mini-lake of rainwater I had deposited on their shiny marble floor. When I saw the humour in the situation I began laughing too. What a sight I was!
I was given a wonderful room with a great big fluffy dry bed. I didn't get anything to eat. I didn't get anything to drink. I took-off my clothes; dried myself off with the driest of my wet towels and climbed into the most comfortable bed in the world. I slept for twelve hours.