To ride to Haines we must re-trace our steps on the Alaska Highway as far south as Haines Junction. The scenery is just as wonderful as it was when we came up, but we are making time now, and the miles go by at increasingly higher speeds. Jan's riding skills have improved immensely over the past three weeks and I find it difficult to keep up with her over the many sections of road construction. The frequent pavement breaks are loose gravel, and to ensure I don't put my Cavalcade down, I slow to at least 30 mph at each break. With her third wheel Jan blasts through with no concern for stability, barely slowing from highway speed. Between pavement breaks I am forced to ride as fast as 75 mph to keep her in sight. The improvement in her riding ability in such a short time period is amazing. We pass and re-pass Julia and Eric several times as we each make stops to add and delete clothing and rain gear, take pictures and push through the construction areas.
The BMW apparently has one last trick to play. Other than the mandatory daily shot of gear oil for the shaft drive, it has run well since Anchorage. But not for long. Two hours after we filled up with gas at Eureka Lodge yesterday, the engine started missing. Not much at first; just for a few seconds every half-hour or so. Jan described it as "running out of gas" and even switched to the reserve tank at one point, although she had plenty of fuel left. Thinking there was either moisture in the fuel system from the bike sitting in Anchorage for a week, or perhaps a tank of bad gas, I add Heet and it seems to run better for the next hundred miles into Tok.
An hour from Haines Junction the problem seems to worsen, and in my mind I analyze the potential causes. It's been 300 miles and a new tank of gas since the problem started, so I doubt that either moisture or bad gas is the source. It could be a fouled spark plug, clogged fuel filters, or perhaps the timing needs re-set. At any rate, I am cold and tired, and within a hundred miles of stopping for the night, so we continue on.
As we ride south we pass familiar names and places – Pine Valley Lodge, Swift River, Burwash Landing, Destruction Bay and Kluane Lake - before turning in for the evening at Haines Junction; the spectacular peaks of the St. Elias Mountains towering above us, illuminated by the evening sun. As tired and cold as I am it is impossible to not pause and admire the beauty nature has spread before us.
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