We had a bad day: The crash.
For starters, the drop score is now 7-4(or 5, depends who you ask). I’m losing. I’m losing really, really badly. And I’ve now had the first drop that occured while moving, actually damaged a bike, and unfortunately, also damaged Jayne’s brain. We crashed. Jayne has a concussion and a few bruises. I walked away with a slightly ripped jacket. We had a bad day in the Arctic.
The events of the fateful tuesday started right at the Arctic circle, where the night prior we thought it would be a neat place to camp.
Jayne and I arrived at the Arctic circle after a six hour ride up the Dalton highway from Fairbanks. We had avoided rain all day for the first ride in awhile. That was a nice change. It was overcast though, and since camping at the arctic circle sounded pretty novel, we decided to forego any further riding that day and get an early start in the morning. Things were going well. Then Jayne’s bike wouldn’t start again. Profanity uttered.
I reached into Jayne’s bike aka ‘Cricket’ and wiggled the suspected faulty spark plug wire. The same wire that had just been ‘fixed’ at the alaska fun centre. Cricket fired right up! What a relief. We set up camp.
It was even more of a relief when we hadn’t even finished eating before the rain came. Did it ever. Several times I awoke during the night from the downpour. The rain stormed on us till late morning, finally allowing us to escape the tent around 11am. It was cold out, the coldest it has been all trip. Felt like the arctic should I suppose.
The cold highlighted my lack of hand guards and made-in-china heated grips. The heated grips I couldn’t change, but I was able to make some hand guards out of a plastic milk jug I found in the bear-proof dumpster. In fact, you wouldn’t believe how good these looked and worked! (well, you can believe it when you see it. No way to upload photos at the moment). The cold also made us want to get on the road ASAP. I felt it would help speed things along nicely if I knocked my bike over. So I did. Drop #6 for Phil. Groan. Seconds later, Jayne’s bike wouldn’t start. Groan! Then it started raining again. GROAN!
Jaynes bike issue was short lived however, as a quick wiggle of the faulty spark cable an the bike fired right up! Finally! Now we knew for sure how to fix the spark issue should it reccur again. Onto the highway, and within minutes we were even basking in some sunshine, reflecting off the alaska pipeline beside us. It was turning beautiful out. Then Jayne’s bike died again. Except this time a quick wiggle didn’t work.
Even a vigorous wiggle to the spark plug wire didn’t get any spark back. The bike just sat there turning over, with no hint of wanting to start. After much failed wiggling and other such non-fixes, I tore apart my bike so Jayne and I could start swapping parts. This was the only way to truely isolate the problem and the side of the Dalton highway, just north of the Arctic circle was the place to do it. In taking apart my bike, I accidently tore apart my fixed fan switch, leaving very little wire left to work with. Profanity uttered. Anyways, almost two hours passed while working and we now knew this:
Jaynes spark cable and igniter coil were NOT the problem. Those pieces worked just fine on my bike, but mine didn’t work on hers. We also knew that we couldn’t solve this any further without a multi-meter, and there weren’t any multi-meters on the side of the Dalton highway, just north of the Arctic circle. The decision was made to tow Cricket into Coldfoot, about 18 kilometres north. So we started re-assembling.
While rebuilding our bikes, of course, it started to rain again. But this rain was different. This rain came with incredible good luck. A big pick-up truck pulled up beside us. “you guys look like you’re from Argentina”. It was Scott and Sam. We had given these kind folks stickers a couple days back, and they recognized us in our struggles. Soon we had their truck backed up to a gravel embankment and rolled Jayne’s Â bike on in. We ate lunch with Scott and Sam in Coldfoot while deciding what to do next, and had the lady behind the counter call Deadhorse for us to cancel our room that night. There was no way we were going to make it all the way from Coldfoot up to Deadhorse on one bike… …But we could ride two-up from Atigun pass, a couple hours up the road. That idea sounded much more plausible.
Our ever-evolving plan was now to have Jayne ride in the truck up to the pass in the truck. I would ride along behind. We would pick up a multi-meter along the way from a friend of Scott’s. If there was still snow in the pass (oh, btw, it had snowed 5 inches in the pass that morning) and I couldn’t ride through, we’d load my bike next to Jayne’s until we reached where Scott and Sam planned to go hiking at the other end of Atigun pass. From there it was just a bit more than 150 miles to Deadhorse. We still had a room booked since the lady in Coldfoot hadn’t gotten through to cancel it. Good thing since it would cost us 200$ either way. On the return trip, we would stop at Jayne’s bike and diagnose the problem with the freshly borrowed multi-meter. If repairable, we ride home. If not, we camp out for a couple days till Sam and Scott returned, then drive back. The plan was great and with ample space in the truck, we left all extra gear to make room on my bike for Jayne. But the great plan wasn’t to be. We crashed 30 miles up the road.
We started riding from Atigun pass at 10pm, but of course the sun was still up and it was clear skies. The Dalton highway had presented us a great variety of textures of road along the way, this new one was wet dirt with water-filled ruts. For the most part I could ride in the middle out of the ruts. The ride was going well and we were excited to be so close to Deadhorse. We got to a particularly muddy, rutted section and at this particular point there was a semi-truck oncoming, so into the right rut I went. It was squirrelly, but no more so than much of the gravel or other slick roads we had been on. I was going about 25 mph. Then both wheels slid right, and I think Â I caught the edge of the rut with the front wheel.
“We’re going down”.
Down we went.
I got up right away. Jayne did not.
Jayne was flat on her back not far from me, and wasn’t responding, nor was she protecting her airway. I did a jaw thrust to open it while the trucker ran over. He quickly turned back around and radioed for help. Jayne’s left arm raised itself eerily, involuntarily. She still wasn’t responding, but was now breathing. Her visor had popped off, so I could clearly see her eyes twitching. I kept holding her jaw while I looked over at the bike. The windshield was broken and front fairing bent and torn, but my milk jug hand guards still looked ok. Phew. Then Jayne woke up. Win-win. She was out for maybe 30-45 seconds, but it sure felt a lot longer.
With some luck, there was an off duty paramedic driving right behind the truck. Jayne was able to move and had no tingling. We rolled her and cleared her spine. All good. No deformities either. So we got her up.
“Where’s my bike?”
There were other questions, but the answers all lead back to Jayne asking:
“Where’s my bike?” or “We had a crash? Is my bike ok? Where’s my bike?”
Over and over and over . Concussion for sure. Her helmet was crushed at the point of impact, certainly could have been worse. But for now Jayne had no memory of the past week or more and no short term memory at all. Worse than a goldfish. Jayne was driven to a work camp nearby where she was assessed by the camp medic and determined she needed to go to Fairbanks. I was able to ride my bike about halfway to the camp before it developed an electrical fault of it’s own and started to cut out when I put it in gear.
A couple workers from the camp and one of the paramedics helped load my disheveled bike up into the back of a truck. In doing so, the paramedic got his thumb caught in the wheel and tore his thumb nail clean off. I can’t even make this stuff up.
I arrived at the camp and the boys unloaded my bike while I ran in to check on Jayne. Her memory was still shot. The camp medic recommended being driven to Fairbanks. Being flown was discussed, but dismissed. All symptoms pointed to concussion and nothing more, so a medevac seemed inappropriate. Still, there were camps along the way should her condition have deteriorated. A gentleman named Greg Davis was in charge of the camp and he arranged everything for us. We can’t thank him enough.
The 7 hour drive to Fairbanks was courtesy of Del, an employee at the camp just at the start of his night shift. His job that night was, ironically, to fix the portion of road we had just crashed on. It was a long drive, waking Jayne every hour and checking her pupils. Of course, every time I woke her I had to repeat the story of what happened over and over. I began to dread waking her just to avoid having to try to calmly repeat myself. It wasn’t her fault her brain didn’t work, it was mine, so I just kept re-telling the story until she fell asleep again.
Del dropped us at the Fairbanks memorial hospital at about 7am, and carried on his way. Thank you Del. At the hospital, they did a CT scan of Jayne’s head to rule out any bleed. It was clear. She also had some new bruises to add to the ones she got falling off the trailer a couple days back. Her right elbow was sore too, but did not appear broken. We caught a cab back to Art’s house, who was again most welcoming. Art has been a true saviour for us.
I put Jayne to bed still confused and without memory. She woke up about 8 hours later and asked “where’s my bike?”. I told her again, but this time didn’t have to repeat myself. Â Jayne was back.
Since then we have been staying at Art’s place, waiting for our bikes to arrive. Jayne’s just arrived this afternoon courtesy of Scott and Sam who are back from their trip. I had stopped and left them a note on our way past their truck after the crash. Thanks guys. Scott also left us a multi-meter so with luck we’ll finally figure out Cricket’s problem. It started again when they dropped it off. Damn thing.
My bike is on it’s way down courtesy again of Greg Davis. We’ll see what exactly is broken. I never really focused on it at the time.
Jayne is sleeping lots and feeling “fuzzy”. Her elbow is sore but useable for day to day things. She’s recovering well, but still has little memory of our bad day.
I have a small scratch on my knee. I’ll likely make it.
What comes next? We’re not sure. We have to fix the bikes for starters, then see where we’re at. Then we’ll discuss where we go next. The journey has had a hiccup. We just need to drink some water upside-down for a bit.
More photos to follow at some point.