The Doctor's Notes by Dr. Gregory Frazier

Text: Dr. Gregory W. Frazier • Photography: Dr. Gregory W. Frazier

A Brazilian Honda rider was left with a broken right leg after taking a beating from robbers in Panama. Adding to his misery two weeks later, he crashed while riding in Colombia when he passed out from pain. His next two weeks were spent sprawled on a hospital bed, in a coma.

Leading up to that, the poor guy had rigged a leg rest for his leg cast on the right side of his motorcycle so he could ride. When he overcooked a curve needing some serious rear brake, he frantically tried to find the rear brake pedal, which consequently popped his cast and mind-warped him into the cosmos from the pain. Next came the rag-doll flipping and flopping and the slide down the pavement that raspberried much of the skin on his left leg and both arms. His Honda suffered more than minor road rash, too. The forks and frame were bent. The pavement sanded the front brake master cylinder from the handlebars; and from that point, after the hospital released him, his braking was reduced to gear down-shifting and stalling the motorcycle when he needed to stop.

This solo adventurer was the first motorcycle traveler I had run across in weeks. We quickly connected with a chat about where we had been and the problems we'd encountered. He related his horrific tale as we sat near our tents swatting mosquitoes, but all the while, I couldn't help noticing a ripe smell wafting from his direction.

Where we met presented us with 1,000 kilometers left to travel on the same roads. He was beat-up and bandaged, and the Honda was a royal mess too. It looked like it had been dragged behind an RV over 20 miles of bad road in Alaska, but his main complaint was stinky feet. With the bandages and full leg cast on, he couldn't get to his feet to clean them well, so he was compelled to keep his tennis shoes on all the time, even while he slept.

He suggested we ride together over the following days. No doubt traveling with him would prove interesting because of the unpredictability the man attracted, but the situation seemed a little too squirrelly, even for me - so I passed on his proposal.

On the other side of the same coin, in Fairbanks, Alaska, I met a BMW rider from Switzerland who also suggested that we ride together, up to the Haul Road to Deadhorse. He was waiting at the BMW shop having the front wheel of his BMW GS repaired by well-known BMW specialist George Rahn.

He said he wanted someone else along due to his justifiable fears of bears and the prospect of crashing with no one around to help on the Dalton Highway. Much of that road is gravel and notoriously treacherous when wet or under construction. He opined that if there were two of us we would be able to look out for each other or find help if needed.

I was still mulling this buddy-up idea when George stopped working on the front wheel and asked me to help with a lifting project. Once alone, he said, "Greg, I don't want to say bad things about this fellow, but he's getting his wheel fixed because he ran into the back of his last riding partner. Both of them crashed on a gravel section of the Alaska Highway. I fixed the other guy's bike yesterday, and then he took off on his own. But this guy here has never ridden gravel before, and you know what's waiting for anyone on the way to Deadhorse - four- to five-hundred miles of the stuff!"

Thanking George, I took his advice and told the rider I needed to stay over a few days in Fairbanks. He accepted my decision not to join him and said, "OK, maybe I'll see you on my way back down from the top."

Three days later I did see his bike, in the bed of a pickup coming into Fairbanks and making a return trip to George's BMW shop. The driver told me the rider had gotten to Fairbanks in a minibus after his motorcycle was attacked by a bear at a campsite near Coldfoot. The bear was trying to break into one of the aluminum panniers where the Swiss rider had stowed some cheese, in the mistaken belief that a locked aluminum box would deter a hungry bear.

The demolition job was fairly thorough: wiring and cables ripped out, the seat clawed apart, and the stubborn pannier torn from the frame. The bear never did get the box open for the cheese, but it did manage to keep the rider up in a tree for the night.

The truck driver laughed and said, "That must have been one hell of an adventure for that Swiss fellow - and some real stinky cheese."