Lost Bags and Lost Balance

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I temporarily misplaced a few items in Dawson City. I phrase it that way only because that sounds less boneheaded than, “I left my bag containing all of my camping gear sitting in a parking lot and rode 40 kilometers before realizing it.” By the time I realized my mistake and rode back to town, it was gone. I figured it was gone for good and some lucky hiker or hobo would soon enjoy sleeping under the endless Yukon sky in an MSR tent, swaddled in a North Face sleeping bag.

In case it did turn up, I left my name, contact number and description of the bag with the hotel, RCMP office and visitor’s center. Unfortunately, it was a relatively new number and I transposed the last two digits. When I returned to Dawson from Inuvik with still no word on the bag, I had pretty much written it off.

I decided to ask at the hotel desk upon check out anyway.

“Oh, Yes! A grey duffle bag, right?” the manager said. “We filled your message inbox. It’s at the police station.” A good Samaritan had turned it in, and there is now a very confused Alberta resident wondering why the Mounties and some hotel in the Yukon are so certain that he’s lost a duffle bag.

I rode over to the RCMP office to pick it up. On a Saturday morning, there was nobody there. I tried the doorbell with no results. I tried the office number on the door with no results. Eventually I picked up the yellow hotline phone and the ringing was answered by a polite and cheerful female voice, 550 kilometers away in Whitehorse. The Whitehorse dispatcher informed me that she didn’t know when they would be in at the Dawson office, but it would be some time today and that the officer on call was for emergencies only. She let me know, in the most polite and cheerful way possible, that reuniting idiots with lost luggage did not fall into the “emergency” category. I left a correct number and she assured me the officer would call when he arrived at the office.

Since I now had another day to kill in Dawson, I decided to take the ferry across the Yukon River and ride the aptly named “Top of the World Highway” which runs along the crests of the mountains above the tree line to the most northerly land border station in the United States at Poker Creek, Alaska, population three. When I returned to civilization, there was a message from the RCMP officer on duty informing me that he was in the office and my gear was waiting for me.

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I roared out of own early the next morning, eager to make it to Whitehorse in time for dinner and drinks with my friend Dana who was still there gearing up to walk the same route I had just travelled by motorcycle. I stopped for gas at a tiny Hamlet called Stewart Crossing and was swarmed by a mass of mosquitoes, bees and black flies as soon as I removed my helmet. I quickly fueled up and pulled out of the gas station in a hurry to avoid the bloodthirsty swarm. When I snapped my visor shut, however, I found that I had inadvertently trapped a huge black Yukon beetlebug roughly the size of a sparrow inside the visor with my face. Not knowing if this particular insect was of the stinging/biting variety, I immediately pulled over on the soft shoulder across from the gas station.

I flipped up the visor and swatted at the bug, knocking the snap-in lens out of my sunglasses. As it went sailing away towards the grass, I reached out to try to catch it, losing my footing in the soft sand of the shoulder. Down went the bike, sending me rolling ass-over-teakettle down an embankment where I came to rest on my back at the bottom of a ditch. I rose, dusting myself from the impromptu slapstick routine, to see a hitchhiker staring at me from the road. This was: a) highly embarrassing, and b) fortuitous, as I now had an extra set of hands to help right the bike.

“It is not easy to hitchhike here,” he said in a thick French accent. “There are many bug.”

Determining that the only damage was to my ego, we quickly had the bike back on two wheels. I thanked my hitchhiking friend and, while I was unable to offer him a ride (as if he would have even taken it after the uncoordinated mess he had just witnessed), the least I could do was offer him the use of my bug spray.

He waved as I rode off, shouting, “Have a good road!” He may have simply incorrectly conjugated “ride,” but in any case, I thought that sounded almost poetic. Despite the comedy of errors that was the previous two days, I decided I would heed the advice and have a good road.

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