Five Flats in Eighteen Days

This is what happens when you take a Honda Civic along the Dempster Highway.  

 Flat #1 (Near the Yukon-NWT border)    

At least it’s pouring rain.


Flat #2.  Just south of Fort McPherson

I had to cross the river by ferryboat three times that day.   Once, to cross.  The second time, to back-track to the nearest garage to fix my flat. The third time, to cross yet again,  to return where I started from. 

The third time on the boat, the ferry operator, a typically stoic native, just looked at me and cracked up and started laughing. 


Flat #3 (Near Engineer Creek)  

Second flat in one day (see Flat #2).  



Flat #4 (Approaching Dawson City)

Almost on pavement again, but that one sharp stone had to find my tire. 

Of course it did.


Flat #5 (Bonus Round:  Paxson, Alaska)

I had just finished 120 miles of white-knuckle driving on sharp gravel along the Denali Highway, and thankfully reached pavement again. 

Only to have the front tire go flat…in the freaking parking lot.

For @#$& sakes.    

Next time, I use a truck!  


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34 Comments on “Five Flats in Eighteen Days”

  1. Steph Says:

    Ahahahahaha! That’s nuts, Friar! I would have been screaming and tearing out my hair. Although, yeah, sometimes things are so ridiculous you have to start laughing. Ah, that poor little Honda.

  2. Friar Says:


    Oh…I admit, there were times I may have said the occasional (ahem) “colorful” word.

    Especially when you’re in the middle of butt-hole nowhere and the nearest gas station is 60 miles away. Assuming they even have the tire you need.

    I think I was the only Honda Civic in the Yukon Territory. Seriously…I didnt see a single other one.

  3. Steph Says:

    Other than the tire trouble, was it nice up there? Colin really really wants to go. I’m not so sure.

  4. Friar Says:


    Definitely, worth going. I think it’s one of the most beautiful places in North America!

    (The secret is to go in mid August..all the R.V. tourists are heading back home, south for the winter…and it’s a lot more empty. Plus the bugs are mostly gone by then).

  5. Steph Says:

    Hmmm. It sounds very tempting! Um, is it cold, though? I know you seem immune to that!

  6. Karen JL Says:

    I’d totally love to drive to Alaska from here (Vancouver). I think it would great. We’ve done LA to Vancouver right along the coast (and passed those Oregon sand dunes) and it was a gorgeous trip. So I think going to Alaska would finish off the west coast nicely. 😉

    …were you traveling with a teddy bear?

  7. Kelly Says:


    Is that Winnie-the-Pooh on your roof?

    OMG I love the story but Winnie on your roof totally distracted me.

    You are a Renaissance Friar for sure. A lesser man would have Photoshopped him out long before worrying about tan shorts and Colorado shadow-confusion. Sweet!

    That car may have a curse. (The pouring rain shot is very lovely, though.) Or maybe it just liked having its picture taken. 🙂



  8. Friar Says:

    It late August-Early September up there…in peak autumn colors. Wasn’t that cold. Some days were warm (in the 80’s, in my shirt sleeves). Other days were cool..and it froze some nights.

    But freezing is good..I had zero bugs that time of year.

    @Karen JL

    Depending on road contruction and how you like to drive, the Yukon Border is a good 3-4 days from Vancouver, I reckon. The only rough stretch is 800 km of hard-packed and gravel on the Steward Cassiar Highway, between Waston Lake and Smithers, BC.

    But it’s actually pretty do-able, and once you get to the Yukon/Alaska, the rest of the roads are excellent and paved (Except for the Dempster, of course).

    @Karen JL and Kelly

    Yes! That’s Junior, my travel bear. He goes EVERYWHERE with me. And I take photos to prove it 🙂

  9. Steph Says:

    Oh, Friar, you’re too sweet for words. Your travel bear?! Great chick magnet!

    Our Honda Fit would be perfect for this drive in terms of being able to sleep in it and pack stuff, but I hate to put the mileage on it so fast. I should ask Colin about this. I could also do the cold if it meant no bugs. I’ve winter camped before in -40. Nothing I can’t survive, anyway. Also, I’d love to take the dog with us. I”m curious now. I’m getting a map out.

  10. Friar Says:


    Hondas are great. I lived out of that car for three months. I had a kitchen tent and stove, three seasons of clothing and food…basically everything.

    They have these excellent self-serve campgrounds in the Yukon…with free fire-wood. Actually, better than the campgrounds down south.

    Both Yukon and Alaska are absolutely beautiful, but if you’re limited for time, Yukon is less touristy and more natural, I’d be checking that one out first.

    You dog would LOVE it…!

  11. Hmm … does AAA service the Dempster Highway, I wonder? …

  12. neyellen Says:

    Hey Friar,

    Sorry I haven’t been by to comment. I have been busy doing print magazine research. I’m trying to divide my time, 50:50, between online and offline.

    See, now you’re getting spoiled with all your comments!

    You’re pretty brave to do something like this alone. I don’t travel in the middle of nowhere all alone. Of course, it’s different for a woman. But you never know when you’ll run out of water! Or break your leg. You crazy greenhorn.

    Do you sleep with your little bear?

    That is a nasty car for rough riding it. A nice 4-wheel is better.

  13. neyellen Says:

    My gravatar is stupid. I need a better one. That picture I have on my website only shows my teeth in gravatar mode. I could always shoe my shoes, like Kelly. I was thinking of taking a picture with my hiking boots on.

  14. Friar Says:

    Wasn’t so bad doing the trip alone (I’m a husky guy, though, and I realize this makes things easier and safer, compared to being a single woman).

    Anyways, I had all my camping gear, plus enough food and water and my tent…I could have lived right there with a flat time, for a week. (and someone was always driving by within 30-60 minutes).

    Hiking off the side of the road was a bit scary, though. Yeah, if I broke a leg….nobody might find me for days (or months?).

    Good question….On the 700 km stretch, there are two garage/tow truck services. Fort McPherson, and Eagle Plains. But are they covered by AAA? Dunno.

    I bet you being towed would cost $$$$ BIG TIME. .

  15. Kelly Says:

    Lesson: Bring extra tires. And someone who likes to change them.

    Do they have good lighting for putting your makeup on at the campgrounds?

    Joke, joke. Sort of.

    I watched a PBS reality series a few years ago where the folks were supposed to be out in a frontier town to see if they could make it… a lady and her two daughters actually smuggled in makeup (and got caught, natch). At the time I thought, those spoiled cheats, what difference does it make when you’re learning to milk a goat?

    Then my late thirties hit. Now I know, stick me out on the frontier and I too will smuggle makeup and risk being kicked off your stupid show about how rough people had it once. When they had it that rough, the mirrors weren’t as good. I could not go a day without my undereye lotion. Seriously.

    If you are too young to understand, bookmark this page. You will be back.


    Friar, my daughter would think you are the coolest guy in the world for travelling with Winnie. He’s her mega-hero and best buddy.



  16. Karen JL Says:

    Thanks for that link!

    And if we ever do make that trip, it will thankfully be in an SUV. So hopefully less worry about flat tires. Good to know how rough it can be though. 😉

    re: the teddy…too cute.

  17. Ellen Wilson Says:

    Harems and makeup. What can I say?

    I was going to get a lot nastier. But you know, I’ll let it rest. HA!

    Breaking down and all…

    Me and my wit. Never rests.

    Breaking down and all..

  18. It is very bad for me to stop by here. Very bad. Feeds my wanderlust. Damn you and your adorable bear too. I have to make lots of big paintings right now and stay put for a bit, and all I can think of at this moment is packing, provisioning and sleeping under the stars, or on a boat…I take a pink pillow myself…and my sable brushes…and my boots…see I am practically pushing them into the bag…grrrrrr…nasty trick Friar!!! Bad bad man.

  19. Friar Says:

    Most of the campgrounds had a hand-pump for drinking water, and outhouses, and that’s it. You’d have to bring your own make-up mirror (Careful, you might break a nail!) 🙂

    There are actually tons of motels in Alaska. In the Yukon, not so many. If you go North of Dawson City, you’ll pay over $200 a night (which I did once….due to the heinous bugs and it was WORTH IT!)

    PS. I’m surprised everyone thinks my bear is cool. I thought I’d get made fun of.

    If I could do it in a Civic, and SUV would be no problem (I have a Honda CRV right now..wish I had it back then).

    Wow..another person who thinks the bear is cute? (This puzzles me!)

    Oh..oh. I can see the harem starting to act up again! I’m just glad I didnt’ show any butt crack photos 🙂

    It was also bad for me to post this. It brought back all kinds of memories of that road trip. Now I’m stuck in this @#&! office.

    It did give me a lot of good subject matter for my paintings, though.

    PS. Mabye I’ll write about catching Arctic Grayling up there, to get everyone all wound up again. 🙂

  20. Hahaha….you certainly copped it there. Good job you are a man that can help himself. It is a wonder you had enough spare tyres for all those blown ones. Gee, is there a fuel station in Alaska at every street corner?

    Or did you come prepared with five spares. LOL.

  21. Friar Says:


    All I had was the cheesy tiny “spare tire” that comes with the Honda Civic. It’s not even a full-sized tire. It’s the tiny wheel that you’re only supposed to drive for 30-50 km till you get your real tire fixed.

    Yes, they do have gas stations on the street corners in Yukon and Alaksa. Unfortuantely, there aren’t too many street corners 🙂

    I had some white-knuckle drives, driving long distance on sharp gravel, just praying the spare also didnt’ go flat.

    Once, the spare DID start to go flat (it was a slow leak). But lucky, I met someone going the same direction, and he had a tire pump. He was nice enough to follow me…pumping up my tire periodically, until we got to the next town over 100 km away.

    Next time I was up there, I had rented a Chevy Blazer and didnt’ have these problems.

  22. Ellen Wilson Says:

    Looks like you got it under control.

  23. Friar Says:


    Well, as long as Kelly or Janice dont’ start up (and they seem to be behaving themselves for this post!) 🙂

  24. Karen JL Says:

    Guys would probably make fun of you for the bear. Chicks think it’s cute.

    Because you weren’t ashamed to post the pics with the bear, it shows you don’t care if you show the world your ‘sensitive side’.

    Chicks dig that too. You can trust a man that has a teddy bear.

    …I think. As long as he’s not luring children with it. You don’t do that…right? 😉

  25. Friar Says:

    @Karen JL

    I’ve gotten so many strange looks when I take the bear out (like on top of the Empire State building) that I no longer care what people think.

    And you’re right…guys will make fun of it. But the women (especially the married moms) seem think this is adorable (Go figure..???)

    And don’t worry. The bear prefers to hang out with me, not with other kids! 🙂

  26. Friar,
    I see you teasing me with your Arctic Grayling…and your cute little teddy…I am not giving in….not going to wonder whether you camped under the Northern Lights, or if the sleeping bag was warm and the air chilly, and the water crystal clear, or if the stars were brighter still…nope not me…not going to drool on the screen… 🙂

  27. Friar Says:

    As a matter of fact,

    I did camp out with the tent open, in the chilly early autum night, laying on my back, staring at the green-blue dancing northern lights till I fell asleep.

    I did catch fesity artic grayling off the side of the road, at dusk. I ate a few, but they were such beautiful fish, I let most of them go.

    Aww…GEE WHIZ. Now you got me longing to head back up there again!

  28. Wait, I’ll grab my pink pillow!!!!And my boots!!!Auughhhh, damn. I am supposed to be painting…

    If you do not make that Northern Lights night a post I will personally Horn Scrape you!!! And the fishing at dusk…. We have phosphorescent waters in the Gulf and on the North Carolina Outer Banks. We can trail our fingers through the water under the stars at night and make echoing constellations of bright green bits of light.

    I am done for now!!! You rat!!! Crap. I will be opening a beverage soon and dreaming again…dangling the call of the wild in front of me…..that’s just…..just… Friar of you.

    I am beyond distracted. 🙂

  29. Friar Says:


    Well, it’s a two-way street. I wasn’t gonna write too much about that stuff..but now you’ve planted the seed in my head that maybe I should. (Aww…Geez). Now I gotta write more posts! Dammit! 🙂

    I’ve never seen the phosporescent waters down south. That sounds really coo. Actually, the South Easter States are one of the places I’ve never really been.

    The furthest south on the Atlantic I got to was Cape Hatteras in early May about 8 years ago. Went swimming with my buddy. The water was cool, but not unreasonably so. We stayed in for 45 minutes.

    We noticed nobody else was swimming. Too cold for them. When I got out, someone came up to me and said “Y’all must be Canadian, huh?”

    Yeah, aboot. Eh?

  30. Chuckling…Hatteras in May!!! Brrrrr.

    Well, I did say pretty please.

    The phosphoresence is really cool. So are dolphins that show up on your bow to guide you into port during an unexpected downpour.

    I was lost in so many wonderful images there for awhile.. I have caught myself in our web of the the wild…honestly,Friar, start scribbling…tell me some more stories…please…I have never been to the Yukon. I did do some Pacific Northwest a few years ago. Until then, I had not seen glacier sand, or eaten freshly caught salmon cooked by true Indians over open fire on a handmade wooden rack….yum and double yum. : )

  31. Friar Says:


    Hatteras in May is about as warm as our own beaches get all year. I remember swimming in P.E.I. where I went in up to my knees and couldn’t feel my toes.

    I went to the Yukon for the first time ever, in 1999 and I’ve been back twice. I’ve really fallen in love with the place…I’m hoping to go back within the next 1-2 years.

    Fresh caught salmon is great. I had some over a fire…in Indian didn’t cook it (but an Indian had given it to us!) .

  32. Who lives up there? I just took a look at the map and is way way up there. Who are those 29,000 people in that territory? Brrr. One of the photos looked like some from the Silk Road. Did you cross the arctic circle?

  33. Friar Says:


    Yep…about 29,000 people live up there (and 20,000 of them are in Whitehorse!). That’s about the only real “city” up there. It has a McDonalds, Wendys, and major hardware and grocery stores, hotels, golf courses, etc.

    The rest of the population is spread out over the whole territory. Watson Lake or Dawson City might have a few thousand people. The rest are villages of a few hundred, or less. A lotta “towns” just a restaurant, gas station, and a few houses. Indian hunting camps. That’s about it.

    Yep…I did cross the Artic circle (latitude 66 degrees). You can drive as far as Inuvik (68 degrees latitude). It’s the only road in Canada that you can do this.

  34. I saw Whitehorse and Dawson City on the map. I guess timber, hunting, maybe mining? Support services. It was getting kind of sparse near Whitbey, but this is beyound that.
    I’m going to go look at your new watercolor post.

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