Friday, May 1, 2015

Trip to Yellowknife

Antidisclaimer. (Would that make the following declaration a Claimer?)
I am responsible for all content here. No one twisted my arm. No person posted anything here but me.
My life experiences are my own; so there.
The brain is capable of completing incomplete memories. The stories told here are based in truth. Some are even based in fact. If it didn't happen that way, it should have.
If anyone is offended by anything I post on these pages, get a life. Then contact me and we will work it out.

Shannon DeWolfe

In the beginning...

When I was in the 9th grade (I think it was the 9th grade, many moons have passed since then.) I stood surveying a Mercator projection Map of the World on a wall of one of my classrooms. On that map was a town at the end of a thin line for a road. It was smack in the middle of North America in longitude but was very far north latitude. Into the permafrost north. Caribou north. Polar bear north. Colder than a witch's tit in a brass bra north.

It was the name of the town that struck me; Yellowknife. I made a promise to myself to go there one day. I don't know why. It was just one of those teenage desires fueled by curiosity I reckon.

I investigated the town a bit in the World Book Encyclopedias Mom bought for my sisters and me when I was in the third grade. From the star on the wall map I had learned Yellowknife is the capital of the Northwest Territories. From the XYZ World Book I learned there was a year round population of about 6,000. It was at the end of a dirt/gravel/mud road open only during the summer. (That was then. It now has a population closer to 30,000 and the road is paved.) I learned from the NO World Book that a group of people called the Dogribs called this area home long before the town was founded. Now I had two interesting names to fuel my curiosity. Yellowknife and Dogrib. Copper ore mining was the number one reason for the town's existence in 1972. I think Japanese tourism has surpassed copper as a source of income for the locals these days.

My initial curiosity was satiated and I didn't think much about it for awhile. Life, as it will, led me down many paths over the years. After a tough time at home and in my head, I quit high school, got a GED, and joined the Navy. While I was in the Navy I married. That lasted fewer years than my remaining obligation to Uncle Sam. It wasn't OK then but, from the vantage point of maturity and hindsight, I can truthfully say, it was as it should have been and is as it should be. Thank-you, Nancy, for having the good common sense to part our ways.

Days and life experiences happened. For the most part I was a pretty happy guy. I didn't then and I don't now make friends easily. I dated infrequently simply because I was introverted or stupid or maladjusted or whatever I was. Anyway, I turned to motorcycles more to release tension than anything else I think. I spent most of my free time on two wheels. My favorite pastime of my late twenties and early thirties was long distance riding. I piled the miles on. I would get out of work on Friday and ride all night and most of the day on Saturday, make camp or get a cheap motel room, sleep a few hours and turn around to get home Sunday night.

Some weekends I would ride in a big circle. Some weekends I would go in a straight line. One Memorial Day weekend I traveled a straight line to a motorcycle rally in a place called Land Between the Lakes, Kentucky. It was there I met the Two Dogs. I was 28.

I've got to tell you about the Two Dogs. More about Yellowknife in a moment. The two are related.

The Two Dogs are a motorcycle club unlike any club I've ever known. There is no obligation to do anything (except enjoy life) for any member. To become a member get sponsored by a member and endure a stupid hazing ceremony (no pain, only embarrassment). That's it. You are now a Two Dog, brother. woof woof. There are no dues. The club is financed through raffles among the members. The club is not sanctioned by any organization. There are no bylaws. There are no club officers. Well, there is the Prez. But the Prez and Preach and a couple more founding members just kind of ramrod things whenever 15 or more of us can be in the same place at the same time. Rule number one: there are no rules. Rule number two: see rule number one. My kind of outfit.

Now, here's the Yellowknife connection. At one of our reunion rides, I was about 34, just before I met Marsha, my patient and forgiving wife, we were sitting around the campfire talking about where we would go (to ride motorcycles, of course) if money and time were no object. Everyone offered up their exotic destination. Copper Canyon (Deputy Dawg has made this Mexican Grand Canyon an almost annual pilgrimage since then). Hawaii. Germany. Australia. Alaska. Tierra del Fuego. When asked, I blurted out through the tequila haze, "Yellowknife. I'd go to Yellowknife." It surprised even me. I hadn't thought about it before I was asked. In fact, I had not thought about Yellowknife for years. I was asked and I spoke.

The first response was, "Where the f*** is Yellowknife?" I'll attribute that question to WTFIT, even if it wasn't you bud. I recounted my teenager's curiosity about the place and the promise I had made at the ripe old age of 15 to see that place one day. Many grunts and nods of knowing approval ensued and Don Jose Cuervo continued on his appointed rounds.

Since that night sitting with the Two Dogs, I have had in my heart an ever stronger desire to go to Yellowknife. I don't mean the, "I would like to go there someday", kind of desire. It is much more like a, "I have to get things in order so I can go to Yellowknife", kind of desire.

My original intent was to ride my 1971 H-D FL Police Special. The cool factor would have pegged the meter. I mean, can you imagine riding into this winter-locked town with a Texas plate on this older than dirt motorcycle? I would have been the celebrity visitor, eh? Alas, 'twas not to be.

Days and life experiences happened. I hurt my back. I don't mean I pulled a muscle. I blew out a disk between L4 and L5. If you are not so afflicted, I cannot describe with enough emphasis the daily pain and careful movements necessary to prevent another episode of extremely painful muscle spasms in the lower back. I've lived through several such episodes caused by such strenuous tasks as drying my feet.

While I do ride my motorcycle during periods of, shall we say, relatively little pain, this injury totally rules out a 6000 mile solo trip into permafrost country. I have ridden to New England and the Desert Southwest with no problems. But if something does happen I only have to make arrangements to ship the bike and fly home, in agony of course, but it could be done. A trip to the North Country cannot be taken so lightly.

So, the trip to Yellowknife just simmered there on the back burner waiting to be added to the soup of my experiences.

Tune in again. More to come...