Waking early, I peek through the tent window. Try to make sense of where we spent the night. Setting up camp in the dark, I could tell we were in a field of sorts, but couldn’t find any signs to identify where we were, what kind of land I was calling home for the night.
Crawling out, I see fresh tracks a couple feet from camp. A moose walked by in the night, probably paused to wonder about the strange intruders on his turf. While Baylor inhales his food, I walk over to inspect the blue fire hydrant looking thing across the field. I don’t know what it is. Can only guess it’s some sort of oil or gas well.
A strange sleep site, even for me, I pack up camp quickly.
Driving under the morning sun, mountains give way to hills and flatlands. Semi-trucks outnumber RVs. Lodges double as work camps. The land is rich with oil and gas, the roads a hive of extraction activity.
Seeing a sign, I turn off the highway. Follow the dirt road to a lakeside campground. Nodding and waving as we pass campers and their owners, it’s obvious that we’re off the typical tourist trail. This isn’t the type of campground that attracts troves of travelers, rather the kind where people set up a trailer and call it home for as long as possible. Feeling like awkwardly uninvited guests, I park. Decide we’re already here – might as well have lunch and stretch our legs.
Splitting an avocado, I watch a tow-headed boy fishing on the dock. Imagine that 70 years from now he’ll have circled right back around to this exact point. Casting, reeling, shuffling about, muttering to himself.
Happy to get back on the road, I keep an eye out for the turn off towards Hudson’s Hope. Jack recommended this side route and I’m perfectly happy to skip the town of Fort St. John, follow the river instead. Stopping for gas I review the map one more time. Looks like we’re about 40 miles from town, the turn off maybe 10 miles before that.
The scenery a bit monotonous, cruising regulated by the flow of traffic, I slip into a relaxed, contemplative zone. Calculate distance and time. It’s only noon, we should be able to log some impressive miles today. Not iron butt impressive, but still we could set a personal record.
Smiling at the thought, I flinch at the sudden BOOM from below. Pulling onto the slim shoulder, I take stock from the bike. Rubber squishing out on either side, the rear tire is completely flat. Looking at the odometer, we’re halfway between the gas station and Fort St. John.
Spotting a road on the other side, I look for a break in traffic, get across the highway, park in the shade.
Thinking of the spare tube in the nose of the sidecar, I momentarily feel a strange excitement at this opportunity to learn to change it out. Tracing a finger along a gash the length of my palm, I run through options. If I put in the spare tube, could I slowly make it to town? It’s possible, but I’d have to inch along and with all of the semi traffic it would be an unpleasant and potentially dangerous trip. Could I somehow up my odds, patch up the tire with some combination of the small patch kit, glue and tape? Perhaps, but seems unlikely. I try to imagine what my more experienced rider family would do. Would they see an obvious side-of-the-road-solution? Most likely, but I can’t figure out what it would be.
Having knocked on the door of the home up the driveway to no avail, I pack essentials into the backpack. Write a note and stick it on the tank bag. Taking one last look at Rufio, I slide the backpack strap over my shoulder as a pickup pulls into the driveway. Several calls later, a tow truck is on the way.
Rufio settled in the moto shop garage, I stand at the counter. Learn that they don’t have a replacement, but will get one as fast as possible. I nod. Walk back out to Rufio under the guise of getting Baylor a treat. Blink back tears as I try to decide what to do. I’m a control freak at heart. I like having my wheels and my home with me at all times. Without that security I feel a bit lost. Stripped of mobility and camping gear, we’re definitely not finding a free place to sleep tonight.
The idea of organizing all that would be needed to get me, a dog and camping gear out to a camp spot threatens to overwhelm me. I take a deep breath. Pull myself together. Give in to the fact that that my motel dreams are going to become a reality tonight.
Still reeling from motel sticker shock, I turn mopily towards the stairs. Ready to flop into bed full of stress and worry.
Unable to break childhood habits, I walk by the pool before going to the room. Scent of chlorine filling my nostrils, Bay and I peer through the glass. Seeing the looping waterslide, sparkling water and bubbly hot tub I make a decision. Though it’s not what I had planned, I might as well enjoy this. Get my money’s worth out of this motel, happily sliding, soaking, bathing, sleeping, wifi-ing and free breakfasting.
There’s a lot I can’t control, but attitude is mine for the choosing.
And come morning you can bet I’ll be first in line for that waterslide.
63 days down. Many to come.