It was to be a hectic yet simple long weekend. I was to ride my motorcycle from Grande Prairie, were I was working, to Saskatoon Saskatchewan for my daughters wedding. The wife was to bring the motorhome, both sons, a girlfiend, Priscilla, and pull a trailer to haul the bike home. We planned to meet me at the Eagle Creek Park campground, where the ceremony and weekend festivities were to take place.
I left Grande Prairie in a light rain, but so many of my rides seem to begin that way, I could hire myself out as a rainmaker. I was dressed in full heavy leather, had a face shield and had leathers over the crash bars to keep the feet dry so I was ready. The storm got interesting in Saskatchewan with the most spectacular forked lighting show I have ever been in. It was so close the question came up, as I talked to myself, does it ever hit bikers? By Maidstone, the rain was so hard most the cagers had pulled over to the side of the road to wait it out. Of course, there was one driving a SUV in such a hurry that when he passed me he went into a four-wheel skid, off the highway and through the ditch. Fortunately, for him, there was no fence, so he was able to keep moving, gain control, come back up onto the highway in front of me, and keep going looking for some other unsuspecting person to run over.
I was down to a crawl with four ways going but could see no point in stopping like the rest so I took the first turn off into Maidstone. The water on the highway was coming up and flowing through the vent I added to my windshield. I saw the Sandpiper motel stopped and walked in looking as though I had poor bladder control as the water streamed out onto the floor from my crouch.
I had no other clothes, as I was to meet the wife in Saskatoon, where she was to have the motor home, which was still on a hoist in Kelowna but that is another story. Barb was tending the front desk and told me to call her when I had my clothes off. (don’t get ahead of me here… those stories never happen to me.) She then ran my clothes through the dryer returning them a few minutes later warm and folded.
I was on the road the next morning, the sky bright blue and as the license plates say it is “the land of living sky’s”. When you ride a bike, however it could be just a little less full of living things intent on committing suicide on my face shield. The warmth of the morning sun had me feeling so good when two soldiers dressed in full fatigues lined up behind me at a Tim Horton’s, I bought them their morning coffee. Now there is something you can do for less than five dollars that solicits a very friendly reaction.
When I arrived at the Eagle Creek campground, I was given bad news, the motorhome was still on a hoist in Kelowna and the bill was running wild as the shop took advantage of the situation. It would be two more days before the wife could leave and that they would not arrive until the night before the wedding if she drove non-stop from Kelowna to Saskatoon. By midnight Friday I was worried and with no cell service, I could only speculate what had happened.
At two in the morning, the wife finally rolled in exhausted because the unit had lost, both power steering and brakes so they had to drive very slow or wait beside the road until after the long weekend. For the last fifty miles, when they approached a corner, she would call for the oldest son to help her turn the big wheel. “It is a good thing we were in Saskatchewan where there was only a couple of turns or we would never have made it.” She said as she slumped into a chair.
“I used the over drive off button to keep us slow when we headed down hill,” and yes there are at least two hills in northern Saskatchewan. Despite the challenge, they made it but now what? How would we get repairs and back on the road before the end of the weekend as everything was closed up tighter than a bulls bottom in fly season. We had to be on the road by Tuesday as both our boys had committed to work for a friend at Shambhala in Salmo, BC. We had no parts and my mechanical expertise stopped right after opening the hood, looking in and saying… huh!
Once again, Saskatchewanites came to the rescue with unbelievable generosity. Saturday morning I looked into the hood, scratching my head, thinking, “I wonder if there should be a belt around all those pulleys.” I decided to drive to the gate and ask if they knew where I could find a mechanic.
As I was riding my bike through the campground Ken Fitzsimmons waved me down and said, “You are dragging a tarp strap!”
“I am not dragging a tarp strap,” I said, “I am trolling for a mechanic. You don’t happen to be one do you?”
“No, I’m a welder but we have one at our camp.” Said the man who is often mistaken for a slightly slimmer Santa Clause.
Between my friends and I we have enough tools and expertise to fix anything. What seems to be the problem?”
After we had a look, he returned to a large cluster of tents that surrounded a fire pit, a full size fridge, a full size freezer, several barbeques and a slushy machine. Minutes later he returned with what seemed to be an army of MacGyver’s. Walter Beeching, mechanic, headed up the first team, followed closely by Brad Genge, air conditioning mechanic, Art Stacey, pipeliner, and Robb Dudar, carpenter and all around handy guy. The second team followed and acted as back up as the project, as they called it, began. The second team consisted of Fairhen Huxted, Stan McGafein, Larry Hansell, and dozens of wives, girlfriends, kids and others from all parts of Saskatchewan.
The team measured the size of belt required and checked most the pulleys then sent me to the city to find the right size.
I arrived back with a couple of belts, twelve minutes before I was to walk my daughter down the isle and the rest of the day was taken up with the marriage celebrations. The wedding was fabulous as other people’s weddings usually are.
Sunday morning trucks pulled up beside the motor home, and tool began flying out. It was then they discovered that the bearing on the air conditioner -compressor pulley had packed it in and because the shop in Kelowna had drained all the coolant from the system when the shaft began to turn it burned out the compressor as well. Most the parts stores were closed so after making the 60 k trip several times with substitute parts, bearings and pulleys that one parts guy or another would convince me might work the team drove to Saskatoon themselves but returned with the conclusion the right parts were not available and it was time for supper.
In the morning, the crew was returned with a new plan. The way the compressor was positioned if we by passed it the idler arm would not make contact with the belt but if we got a tight enough belt, it might be enough to run the power steering and brakes. We measured the length needed and I was off to Canuck tire, the only store in Saskatchewan that seems to be open on a long weekend. By beer time, which seems to occur most anytime in Saskatchewan, the job was completed. This called for the traditional prairie, all you can drink and eat celebration and they not only included us but anyone who was left camped there from the wedding.
Tuesday morning we loaded the bike in the trailer, broke camp and we were on our way back to BC once again thanks to their terrific prairie generosity. The weekend was complete, very hectic and not simple but enjoyable because of the people who live in Saskatchewan.
It’s Santa Claus and his wife. We hope your trip back was uneventful. We enjoyed meeting you and if you think you can last 3 days of us come out next August long weekend for Beechfest. We’ll let you know which camp ground allows us back in. If you bring the motorhome, we’ll bring parts. Keep in touch.
Well its Beechfest time again. You are a favorite topic. We all wish you a speedy recovery. Watch for a package. The Fitzsimmons,Beeching,McGaffrin, Pugimiller, Dudar, Genge, and Stacey families
Sorry we couldn’t make it this year we trust you all had fun. I am gaining strength every day and we are always open for visitors if you flatlanders ever make it through the mountains we would love to see you. Thanks for your messages of support.
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