Road Trip USA 2009 ...
Canada and Alaska
I was very worried about crossing the border into Canada, as I am a British citizen riding an American registered motorcycle. I spent a sleepless night working through all the different scenarios before settling on Eureka as a town where I could spend a few days getting any missing paperwork in order. It was a good choice, when I stopped for breakfast at the Lion of Lincoln cafe in Eureka there was a Hayden Panettiere, the cheerleader from the TV series Heroes, look-a-like also having breakfast. I thought 'hey this might be a great town to stop for a while in' but as soon as she started talking about hairstyles and clothes I lost interest. I don't think my Texaco supplied deodrant, I managed to spray unleaded gas all over myself at the gas station, or unwashed bug covered bike jacket would have helped my cause much anyway! It was time to get the wheels rolling again!
The border crossing turned out to be the easiest I have ever made, as I drove towards the border on US 93 I saw a sign 'You are now leaving the United States of America, please report to Canadian border and customs'. I thought 'that's interesting, I wonder how they know I have left the United States'. At the Canadian border I did not even get off my bike or remove my helmet, I rode up to the window and handed over my passport. The guy took a brief look at it, when I offered to show him my registration and insurance he said 'no, I trust you have it all in order'. It turned out he was more interested in the bike and accessories than he was in me. We talked for about ten minutes about the bike, then when another car approached said 'welcome to Canada' and off I went.
I continued up route 93 to Radium Hot Springs and then into Kootenay National Park. After paying my entrance fee, which was more expensive than the parks in the United States and you pay for each day you are there rather than paying a set fee for one week, I started the climb over the pass into the park. The views were spectacular!
Entering Kootenay National Park from Rock Springs, this is going to be special, Canada
I think the ride through Kootenay, Banff and Jasper National Parks has to rank as one of the highlights of the trip. The road runs right between two huge ranges of the Rocky Mountains, you feel dwarfed by the massive mountains almost as if they are pressing in on you.
It just gets better, Banff National Park, Canada
There are also a few historical stops along the way, like the memorial to Sir George Simpson.
Memorial to Sir George Simpson, 1792-1860, Banff National Park, Canada
Another more poignant stop was the memorial to a Japanese World War II civilian intern camp that was located in the park. It was something I would encounter again later in the Museum of the North in Fairbanks, Alaska where they had an extensive exhibit on how the native Aluetians were rounded up and interned during the war as they 'looked Japanese, so may be at risk from racist attack'.
Memorial to War Interns, Banff National Park, Canada
That night I stopped at Lake Louise campground, the campground was surrounded by a 10000 volt electric fence as it was right in the middle of the route grizzly bears take when waking from their hibernation. There was a poster from 2007 showing the bears in the field behind the campground. I spent a few hours sitting there safely behind the fence hoping they would make an appearence, but alas they did not.
View from my campsite, Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Canada
After a cold night I headed up to Lake Louise, I started talking to a German couple. They had been up to Lake Louise every morning for the last week hoping to get the perfect photograph, and I could see why it is a beautiful spot. They also advised me to take a detour to Emerald Lake so I added that to my morning ride. The lengths some will go to in order to get that photograph is funny. I saw the couple below trying a different angle, she was holding onto him to make sure he didn't fall into the water as he lent forward. The mean part of me kept on hoping he would slip and end up going for a swim in the icy water!
The lengths some go to for the perfect shot, Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Canada
I would have liked to seen his photograph and compared it with my own rather more lazy approach to photography!
Is this the perfect shot? A view of the massive Victoria Glacier, its 9km away and 80m thick, Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Canada
On the way to the Emerald Lake I stopped at the Spiral Tunnels which replaced the dangerously steep track, together with 'safety' switches where runaway trains were crashed without blocking the main line, over Mount Stephen. I was lucky enough to arrive at the exact moment a train approached the tunnel. In the photograph below there is one train, it approached from left to right in the bottom of the photograph then made a big sweeping turn before entering the spiral tunnel at the top of the photograph and then re-emerging from the tunnel in the middle of the photograph below itself. One tourist there told me they used to clear the forest to allow people to watch the trains, it is a pity they don't do that now! Just as I was leaving a beat up van with Alaska plates pulled up, as they opened the doors I got a very strong smell of dope. I told them to hurry so they could see the trains, one kid said 'whoa that's cool man' but the others seemed more interested in whether they were on the correct road to Vancouver. There are only two roads in the area so its hard to see how you could possibly get lost! Maybe that stuff does rot your brain!
Spiral Tunnel, that's the one train in the picture! Jasper National Park, Canada
The next stop on the way to Emerald Lake was Natural Bridge, having already seen the Natural Bridge I considered riding by but thought what the hell I'll stop and see what it's like. It wasn't exactly on the same scale but at least this one didn't have an interstate running across the top. In a few years they will have to change the signs though as there wasn't much bridging left to the bridge.
Natural Bridge, not as big as the others I've seen but pretty none the less! Jasper National Park, Canada
Emerald Lake was definitely worth the detour, the water really is a deep emerald colour. It is also the location of the famous, well maybe famous only if you are a paleontologist or interested in paleontology, Burgess Shale. There were a number of boards describing the importance of the finds to the understanding of evolution and extinction.
Emerald Lake, the colour of the water really is emerald! Jasper National Park, Canada
Emerald Lake, Jasper National Park, Canada
From Emerald Lake I had to ride back to join the Icefields Parkway at Lake Louise. The parkway turned out to be almost too much for one day, even though it is only about a hundred and thirty miles long it felt like I needed to have a break at the halfway point just to try and absorb what I had seen before carrying on. It is just one stunning view after another.
Surrounded by the rockies, Icefields Parkway, Jasper National Park, Canada
Brrr it's cold, Bow lake, Jasper National Park, Canada
There are also a few side trails where an easy walk takes you off to see something other than glaciers. The Sunwapta canyon walk was quite tough in bike boots carrying my helmet and heavy jacket but definitely worth the slog, at least that's what I told a couple gearing up for the walk. I hope they agreed once they got there.
Sunwapta canyon, smaller than the Grand Canyon, not as grand as Bryce but worth the walk, Jasper National Park, Canada
I also saw more wildlife in Jasper and Banff national parks than I saw in Yellowstone, I finally got to see my first black bear. A female and her cub were crossing the road, so I stopped well short of where they were crossing to make sure I didn't stress her (the park goes to great lengths explaining that this land is the animals home and how you should behave when encountering animals). Next thing a tour bus pulls up behind me then the driver decides to get closer so he drives around me on the hard shoulder right up alongside the bears. The female got frightned and ran off leaving the cub, which then got really stressed out. I think the tour company should loose their licence for such disregard of the rules. This encouraged the car drivers pictured below to get closer by getting out of their cars. I really cannot understand why people clammer so much to get a picture they will probably never look at again! If you want a picture of a bear just google it, or better yet buy one from a professional wildlife photographer!
My first black bear and cub, Jasper National Park, Canada
The road climbs up the Sunwapta Pass at 2035 metres, on the ride up the pass it was difficult persuading myself to take it easy. There were some great corners including a long sweeping left hander, but I just kept on saying 'where there's snow there might be ice' and kept my speed down. A lot of the time when riding I have to remind myself that I don't want my trip to end prematurely with a stay in hospital, so its always steady as she goes!
View of the road from the top of the Sunwapta Pass, Icefields Parkway, Jasper National Park, Canada
After the pass I stopped at the Athabasca glacier, where you can walk right up to the glacier or with a guide go for a walk on the glacier (aparently every year people ignore the warning signs and walk on the glacier and a number have lost their lives, most to hypothermia). If you are a global warming skeptic one trip to this glacier will change your mind, they have placed markers showing how the glacier has retreated as a result of global warming.
Athabasca glacier, evidence of global warming, Jasper National Park, Canada
A few miles down the parkway the meltwater from the glacier goes over a small but pretty falls.
Athabasca Falls, Jasper National Park, Canada
I stopped for the night at Snaring River campground, my RV driving neighbour Harold wandered over and asked if I had any tools he could borrow. I lent him my tools and together we tried to get his RV auxilary power working. He had just bought the van but couldn't remember how the battery should be connected, after trying to figure it out we eventually gave up. I said 'sorry I couldn't fix it' and he said 'no problem, it's nice to see someone who will give you the time of day' which got me thinking. My experience of Canadians are that they are not as friendly or open as Americans, there is no 'hey how are you doing' or anything like that and they seem surprised when you want to talk to them.
View from my campsite, Snaring River, Jasper National Park, Canada
I wanted to take route 40, the 'Scenic route to Alaska', north to the start of the Alaska Highway but as I didn't think that my rear tire would last the whole of the Alcan I decided to ride into Edmonton to get a replacement. The ride was incredibly boring, flat, straight and in a tree lined channel. I met two, blue dungaree wearing, Texans in a rest stop. I thought they were truckers but they were tourists heading for Jasper, they agreed it was one of the dullest drives they had ever made and that they passed the time by joking 'didn't we see that tree before'. I stayed at the Glowing Embers RV Park, 'Glowing Embers' sounds to me like the perfect name for a crematorium, 'here you are sir / madam, the glowing embers of your loved one'. I was very worried that I might be stuck in Edmonton for a while waiting for an appointment to get my bike serviced and a new rear tire fitted but when I called Riverside they said they run a first-come-first-served program on Saturday so I made sure I was frst by arriving two hours before they opened! While waiting for my bike to be serviced I chatted with the local bikers, I was amazed how many rode brand new sport bikes (later I found out they are probably oil field workers). One guy rode in on a SV-1000, I said 'hey I ride one of those back in England'. The other guys were giving him a bit of stick for only riding 3000 miles in the last two years, so the guy said to me 'how much have you ridden' and I said '9000 miles in the last month'! All the bikers told me I had to ride route 37 out of Edmonton as this was the best bikers road in the area.
After a day off I headed off on the Grizzly Trail (route 33) and route 2 to Dawson Creek and the start of the Alcan rather than riding the more direct interstate route. On the way out I made a detour to ride 37, if that is the best bikers road in the area I feel very sad for those GSXR owners in Edmonton. It was bumpy and relatively straight! Route 33 and route 2 went through some very muddy small farming towns, most of which appeared to be empty.
View of busy city center from Kimiwan Bird Walk, Alberta, Canada
I stopped in Wanham for some coffee but the cafe and shop were closed, while having some water a cat came over so I petted it. Eventually a guy who looked like he had stepped out of Saturday Night Fever, open shirt, hairy chest, big cold chain, greasy hair came over and said 'well since the cat trusts you I thought I would come over and talk, are you lost'. I said 'no I was just looking for a cup of coffee', he said 'just go through that door over there and they'll give you coffee, monday is games day'. I said 'no it's ok' and got set to go, I was worried I would go though 'that door over there' only to emerge in twenty years time also looking like a Saturday Night Fever extra!
Another tiny plains town, Wanham, Alberta, Canada
I decided to stay in a hotel in Dawson creek, a little bit of luxuary before I hit the tough Alcan. I went to the Dawson Creek Motel to have a beer, I think there may be a little too much inbreeding going on in Dawson Creek. The regulars all seemed to spend their days playing the electronic gambling games, one guy told me he had already won $112k on the game and I'm pretty sure before long he will loose a similar amount as he did not seem to have a good grasp of the odds of wining. Most of the other talk centered around how a couple had 'won their case against the government and could start getting their checks again'. After a couple of beers I quickly left.
Mile 0 of Alaskan Higway, Dawson Creek, BC, Canada. Oh no I'm going the wrong way, look at the arrow!
I expected the Alcan to be narrow, rough with a lot of road works and no traffic aside from trucks and a few intrepid travellers. What I was confronted with on leaving Dawson Creek was heavy bumper to bumper traffic on a smooth, well paved and marked road with passing lanes. The only diversion from this traffic was Kiskatinaw Bridge, the longest curved wooden bridge in America. This bridge and the road leading to it was how I imagined the Alcan would be.
What I expected the Alcan to look like, curved wooden bridge, Kiskatinaw Bridge, Alcan, Canada
After Fort St John the traffic eased up, the road ran pretty straight through a tree lined channel so there wasn't a lot to look at. The biggest challenge aside from the steel meshed bridges, where the bike felt very loose, was staying awake! I have never felt sleepy on a bike before, but there were a couple of times when I had to shout and sing to try and make sure I didn't just drift off the road and became a little white cross marker like those in Montana.
What the Alcan is mostly like, good surface through tree lined channel, Alcan, Canada
I stoped for lunch and a chat with a BMW rider in Fort Nelson. He had improvised two Walmart water coolers on his bike which looked to be a good idea. I think I am becoming a bit more insular, in the begining of the trip I would talk about why I was doing the trip where I had been and where I was going but now I am just saying something like 'oh just traveling'. I think it may have something to do with never being in the same place for more than two days, you just don't have time to really make a connection.
While in Fort Nelson I decided to take a longer break than my usual lunch break so I headed to the museum, it was a very random collection of objects that did not have any explanation of how they were connected to Fort Nelson or the Alcan, there was just no context. It did have a marvelous collection of historic cars including an old Ford Model A that had recently driven the length of the highway!
Museum, Fort Nelson, Canada
After three hundred miles of franky quite boring riding in a tree channel I needed a change and the Alcan provided it as the road went through the northern most section of the Rocky Mountains. The Rockies here somehow look older and more worn, sort of slumped on the landscape. They looked like they had witnesed the passing of many people and tribes. They are quite different from the more brash, brutal Rockies in Banff and Jasper national parks. It was quite eerie and spooky riding through this area.
Stunning views of older more worn looking Rockies, Northern Rockies, Alcan Canada
The Stone Mountain Provincial park also provided spectacular views of pyramid shapped stone mountains (hence the name) that seemed to emphasise the age of the area. I had planed to stay at Summit Lake campground but on approaching it I saw a sign that said it was closed. As I rode by the campground I noticed some RVs had decided to unofficially open the camp, but as it looked very cold I rode on.
Not what I wanted to see, Summit Lake campsite closed. Stone Mountain Park, Alcan, Canada
Oh well on we go, fantastic pryamid shaped mountains seem to emphasise age of the mountains. Stoney Mountain Park, Alcan, Canada
Eventually, after gingerly riding through some wet mud covered road works, I arrived at Toad River Lodge. As I was booking in, I was told that the tent area has its own power and water supply and a little basin. Surprised I jokingly asked 'and WIFI?' and the guy said 'yes that will be up and running soon', and I had warned my family that I would be out of touch for a while as I was riding into the wilderness of the north! It seems that you cannot escape technology anymore, not even on the Alcan.
Toad River Lodge, better choice than Summit Lake and they have WIFI, Alcan, Canada
My campsite had a fantastic view over a huge beaver dam, so I spent the evening watching the beavers and birds to a back drop of the Rocky Mountains.
View of the Rockies over a beaver lake behind my tent. Toad River Lodge, Alcan, Canada
After watching a fantastic sunset I was surprised to see that a number of people had stayed in their RVs watching TV! Come see the great outdoors, by staying in your air conditioned RV and watching it on the Discovery Channel! One of my resolutions that I have made on this trip is that I will never own another TV, everytime I get to a hotel and watch something I become more convinced that this is a good resolution as there is just so much drivel on the things. I will miss the sport and documentaries but that is a small price to pay for freedom from slavery to the box! I hope it is one resolution I will keep!
Sunset over a beaver lake. Toad River Lodge, Alcan, Canada
The next morning's ride started off with a great ride down a road flanked by mountains on one side and a river on the other, my favourite combination, through Muncho Lake Provincial Park. On the way I met a BMW 1200GS rider who told me there are a lot of bears on the road and that he had almost hit one, twice. I thought about saying to him 'maybe you should slow down then', but he had already jumped on his bike and roared off.
Day starts off with another fantastic road, Alcan, Canada
But soon after the road dropped down off the mountains and back into the trees.
But leaves the mountains for the forest again, Alcan, Canada
After it crossed a fantastic old steel riveted bridge at Laird River it was back into a tree lined channel and the battle to stay awake.
Looking back at the Rockies over a steel decked riveted bridge, Laird River, Alcan, Canada
So when I got to Watson Lake the famous Sign Post Forest was a welcome attraction. Or should that be distraction? This was started by a homesick US Army GI in 1942 and people have been adding signs from all over the world ever since. I looked everywhere to see if I could find a Bath sign but the forest is not exactly organised by country or even continent. I guess that's why it is called a forest. If I had known of its existance when organising this trip maybe I would have 'borrowed' a Bath sign and brought it along, it would have been interesting trying to explain to customs why I had a road sign in my bags. Every corner of the world appears to be represented.
Sign Post Forest, Watson Lake, Canada
Sign Post Forest, and I don't have a Bath sign, Watson Lake, Canada
After Watson Lake it was another long, hot, flat, boring ride through trees. I got badly dehydrated, tired and hungry so when I stopped at a 'historic' point I carelessly dropped the bike on the gravel. I thought I had put the stand down but it wasn't fully down so the bike just rolled off it and onto its side. There was only one other vehicle there, an RV, the guy just looked at me, waved and drove off. So I started removing the luggage to make it a bit lighter, and after a few goes started thinking 'I'm not going to be able to lift this'. Then I noticed the guy in the RV had actually been watching a huge grizly bear in the clearing, only fifty meters away. That was all the encouragement I needed to lift the bike, very nice of the guy to leave me alone with a massive bear!
I decided to stop early at Continental Devide RV park and campground as I was very tired, what a contrast to Toad River Lodge. This place had massive potential but they didn't seem very interested in exploiting it. I did have a few (expensive $5 per can) beers in their Pub which featured some pretty bad taxidermy and some really syrupy country and western love songs, man those cowboys sure do get lonely! I met a fellow retired programmer from Alaska, she drove the Alcan twice every year from her summer cabin in Haines, Alaska to her winter home in Florida. That's three thousand miles each way! She tried to persuade me that I should look for work in Alaska saying there was lots of work for programmers up there as not many people were willing to live in Alaska. She also talked about her daughters job at BP and how British companies differ from American ones, expecting loyalty and doing extensive background checks. When I told her that I was from Bath, she said she liked it but said that it looked 'too new, like they built it yesterday'!
The next morning I set off early. It wasn't before I reached Teslin Lake, still shivering from the ride. In the morning it's freezing cold and when the sun comes out it's boiling hot! I think this lake and the small town of Teslin is the cultural highlight of the Alcan. The lake is one of the sources of the Yukon river which flows all the way up to Alaska.
Arriving at Teslin, Alcan, Canada
View of Lake Teslin from above the village, Alcan, Canada
Teslin also features the small but excellent George Johnson Museum. The museum is extremely well put together and managed by volunteers from the local area, the volunteer working when I visited was a rather attractive brunette girl who was also a KLR650 rider! We spent some time talking about heated vests as well as George Johnson! George Johnson was a native of the local Tlingit people, he seemed to be quite a character. He bought a camera which he used to document Tlingit customs and life at a time it was undergoing massive changes as a result of contact with the outside world including during the time of the Alcan's construction. He was also the first person to own a car in the Yukon! He decided he wanted a car despite there being no road on which to drive it so he bought it and had it shipped up river by paddle steamer to Teslin. Apparently they had to modify the steamer by cutting a hole in its roof. He then paid some friends to clear a few miles of bush as a road and charged people a few dollars for a taxi ride from one end to the other. He also used it on the ice in the winter, painting it white during the winter as camouflage. His few miles of bush road were incorporated into the Alcan.
The excellent George Johnson Museum, Teslin, Alcan, Canada
I rode around the small town, it had a strong police prescence. It seems whenever I go the native people, or First Nations as they are called in Canada, have a big problem with alcohol and drug abuse. People here still try to live as they have done for thousands of years, by subsistence fishing and hunting so during the summer the town is almost deserted.
View of the Lake Teslin from the village, they fish for salmon here 2300 miles from the sea! Teslin, Alcan, Canada
I rode into the 'big city' of Whitehorse, fearful of being confronted by rush hour traffic in the city where most (twenty four thousand) of the Yukons thirty two thousand people live. Instead I had a really easy ride into the heart of the city where I parked on main street (try do that in any other town) and had a buffalo burger and huge milkshake at a local fifties diner!
Downtown Whitehorse, megalopolis of the Yukon! Whitehorse, Alcan, Canada
Having 'done' one cultural thing that day, visiting the George Johnson Musuem, I decided to skip the local attractions and head off on the Klondike Highway to Dawson City. Every time I tried to stop on the Klondike Highway, for example at Fox Lake, I was immediately attacked by swarms of huge mosquitos. I did stop at Five Finger Rapids but the view was ruined somewhat by a massive RV (towing a Humvee) running their generators to power their TVs and air conditioners.
The theme was continued when I camped for the night at Tatchun Creek, to begin with the campground was only occupied by myself and a small Bigfoot RV. It was nice and peaceful until three large RVs arrived and ran their generators non stop until midnight starting them again at seven in the morning, completely obliterating the nature they paid so much to see. I hate to make generalisations about people but it seems to me that their is a simple correlation between the size of RV and how big an a&^hole the folks are driving it!
Yukon's Five Finger Rapids! Klondike Highway, Canada
Leaving the campsite early to escape the sound of generators took me through my first taste of Beringia landscape. It was amazing seeing the Yukon divide and flow around so many tiny islands.
Yukon flowing through Beringia, Klondike Higway, Canada
At Stewart Crossing I had a choice to make, do I make the trip off the Klondike Highway along the Silver Trail to Mayo or not. After reading the information boards at Stewart Crossing and talking with the owners of the small Bigfoot RV from Tatchun Creek, who had also left because of the generator noise, I decided its only a eighty mile round trip.
Entering Mayo after riding the Silver Trail, Silver Trail, Canada
Reaching Mayo I was glad I made the trip as it had a small but interesting museum, the lady running the museum told me she used to live in Ottawa but had decided she had enough of the big city so when her brother invited her to live in Mayo she jumped at the chance! We talked for a while about what it was like during the winter, her favourite time of the year!
Mayo Museum, Alcan, Canada
I particularly enjoyed the comic manner they used to describe how the geology of the area developed
A geology leason in humorous form, Mayo Museum, Alcan, Canada
A geology leason in humorous form, Mayo Museum, Alcan, Canada
The city seemed to have its own problem of alcohol and drug abuse amoung the First Nation people, despite the posters everywhere trying to persuade people not to take drink or take drugs. Despite it being only eleven in the morning one guy could hardly stand. I had tea ($2 in a plastic cup with coffee creamer is not tea by any civilised nation's standards) at a roadside trailer like those you see in England. In fact I think they probably were English as they also seemed to be serving the same over priced dog burgers you get in roadside cafes in England!
On leaving Mayo I came the closest yet to meeting my maker, I was riding along when next thing a 4x4 comes flying over a blind rise on the wrong side of the road. I thought about just stearing for the bush and hoping for the best, but held my course as he swerved violently for his side of the road. He only just missed colliding with me head on at eighty miles an hour!
As I approached Dawson City it looked like the air was full of smoke, but it turned out that it was seeds from the Cottonwood trees which float around like snow. On the outskirts of Dawson City you ride through massive piles of gravel, these are tailings from the gold dredges that operated along the creeks. I stoped to read the information boards explaining how they were made. The board explained that the dredges were not designed to look for gold nuggets which passed right through but no matter how hard I looked I just couldn't find that one nugget that would set me up for a life on the road! Damn guess I'll have to work again one day!
Riding through gold tailings, Klondike Highway, Dawson, Canada
Entering Dawson, Paris of the North, Canada
My campground was located right in the middle of town, before renting me a site they said I should take a look as there is no grass only rocks. Sure enough there were only ping pong ball size rocks on which to pitch my tent, they gave a pretty good massage for my back at night though.
Camping in Dawson, the view from my tent down a street, Dawson, Canada
Being in a city meant it was time for a beer. So I headed off for the Downtown Hotel where the beer was cheep and the barmaid Australian, what else would she be wherever you go the bar staff are always Australian! She had been living in Dawson Creek for a few years and loved it, especially the winter! She asked a customer 'how are you doing' and he said 'great until I crossed the border and saw a damn foreign language on my countrys' signs'! It turned out he was Canadian with a real hatred of the French, probably worse than any Englishman has hated the French! He had developed this hatred during a tour of duty in the army in France during the sixties. Normally that would put me off someone but he was quite funny so we spent sometime talking.
First stop for beer tonight, Downtown Hotel, Dawson, Canada
After way too many beers the barmaid suggested we go to see the show at Diamond Tooth Gerties 'because everyone does it'. It was an old time can-can show, fortunately Gertie did not do any can-can because she was more opera singer than dancer if you catch my drift. Although I enjoyed the show I didn't hang around, not at $6 a beer. I headed off for another bar where there was 'live music', well more like badly performed blues versions of popular songs. The beer there was also horrible lager stuff in a bottle so I called it a night and stumbled back to my tent!
And then onto Diamond Tooth Gerties for some risque Can-Can dancing, Dawson, Canada
The next morning was set aside for cultural activities, walking around the small town visiting historical sights.
A river boat waits for the next gold rush, tourists, Dawson, Canada
Collapsing church, Dawson, Canada
Collapsing Wagon in front of collapsing hut, Dawson, Canada
Some of the buildings also had small historic displays, one of which caught my eye for its' gruesome content.
Gruesome story, Dawson, Canada
I also spent a lot of time talking with RV owners trying to get some information on what conditions were like on the Top of the World Highway. Most told me that there was 40 miles of very bad dirt road and that conditions were terrible especially on the Alaska side of the road where it joins the Taylor Highway. I was also worried about getting on and off the ferry from Dawson City across the Yukon to the start of the highway. Most of the RV guys thought I was slightly mad even thinking about doing it on a bike, I decided to give it a go anyway as the alternative was a ride all the way back down the Klondike Highway to Whitehorse.
I warned my family that there was a good chance of me falling off, but that I was going for it anyway and just hoping I didn't break anything on the bike or on myself. It turned out that getting on the ferry was a cinch, each morning they build the dirt bank to match the river height and I simply rode on with a huge RV that was towing a 4x4 with a Rhino ATV in the back (all the toys).
View from the ferry across the Yukon, Dawson, Canada
View of Dawson and Yukon from Top of the World Highway, Canada
The road up to the border was easy, mostly tar with a few areas of well maintained hard dirt. Strangely it reminded me of the Brecon Beacons in Wales! Maybe it was all the mist and rain that made me think of Wales!
It's cold but pretty up here, reminds me of the Brecon Beacons in Wales, Top of the World Highway, Canada
The border crossing was easy but this time I was asked to remove my helmet, asked why I was there and my passport barcode was scaned into a computer. Once all the formalities were over the border guard lightned up and he told me 'the sun always shines on Dawson' in response to a comment I made about leaving in sunshine. I think it must be quite lonely up there for the two border guards. After the border it did get rougher, with loose fist sized rocks used to fill pot holes but on the bike it is easier to ride around these than in a RV. I also discovered that on dirt the throttle is your friend and brakes your enemy, when in doubt give it some welly.
Shortly after joining the Taylor the road starts to descend into the valleys on hard packed but slippery mud.
After the border gets muddy and decends, Taylor Highway, Alaska
Beautiful valleys and lakes, Taylor Highway, Alaska
The roads are lined with pretty flowers, Taylor Highway, Alaska
I stopped at Chicken for some 'free coffee' and bought the only souvenir of the trip so far, a Chicken Fire Department T-shirt!
The Gold Panner, Chicken, Taylor Highway, Alaska
I also had to get the obligatory 'I got laid in Chicken' photograph, which was kindly taken by a bunch of ladies who were taking similar shots of their husbands. When I asked why they, the ladies, didn't also get a photograph they just laughed. Why is it that it is always the man who 'gets lucky'?
Unfortunately not true and didn't seem much chance of it happening either, Chicken, Taylor Highway, Alaska
Having missed the gold dredge in Dawson I was really happy to see one in Chicken. It was huge, it must have been some sight and sound seeing these behemoths floating along chewing up gravel and spitting it out the other side!
A huge gold dredger, Chicken, Taylor Highway, Alaska
After Chicken the road was surfaced again. I had surprised myself with how easy I found riding on dirt, well at least hard gravel and dirt roads! It was at this point that I started thinking about tackling the famous Dalton Highway. At Tok I stopped at the Information center where I got a lot of information on Alaska and its' attractions.
Arriving in Tok, back on the Alcan, Tok, Alaska
Despite having not riden far I decided to call it a day at Moon Lake campground just north of Tok. I met a young German couple that I had already seen in Dawson City and we spent a few hours talking traveller's talk of routes and destinations over a beer.
View from campsite, Moon Lake, Alaska
From Moon Lake it was a short two hundred mile ride to Rivers Edge RV Park in Fairbanks, Alaska. The road from Tok to Fairbanks is not very photogenic but it did pass Eielson Airforce base where I was provided with a nice air display of F15 Eagles landing. After setting up my tent I went to the Museum of the North at the University of Alaska, it had a very good collection of artifacts from the different native tribes of Alaska. The ivory carving from the Aleutians was especially interesting. My favourite part of the Museum, aside from the brilliant special event The Last Polar Bear was the art section.
The piece below made me laugh, especially the last item featured! Maybe it's just my crude mind, or maybe not as the exhibit had a warning that 'some items may not be suitable for children'!
Um not sure about the last one, Museum of the North, Fairbanks, Alaska
A more serious piece that I liked was a modified American flag that had quotes justifying action in Iraq from various 'leaders', I use the term very loosely, like Bush, Rumsfeld and Rice. Hopefully works like this will persuade people that similar action is not required in Iran or North Korea!
Deeper than the last, including quotes from Rice, Rumsfeld, Museum of the North, Fairbanks, Alaska
That evening I decided time for a beer. First I had one in the local posh resturant, too posh for me so I moved on. Then I had two very nice Amber Ales in Brewsters, a resturant chain, and listened to the two rednecks at the bar discussing their arsenal of weapons. I found comments like 'Obama has been the best thing for gun sales' and 'When I tried to teach my English wife to shoot and she cried and said she couldn't do it I told her ok you have just sentanced every animal in a ten mile radius to death because I won't leave my wife unprotected' very funny. They were discussing all the details of how to modify an AR 15 to make it fully automatic and more reliable and of course each tried to out do the other on how good a shot they were or how they were being responsible citizens by teaching their ten year old grandkids how to shoot. The conversation was a bit dull so I wandered off in search of another bar, I came across a small beat up tin building with a number of beat up old trucks parked outside with a sign that said BBQ shack. When I went inside I thought, hey this is the place for scum like me! There were dead animals, decorated hand saws and an identical print of the topless girl who used to adorn The Cock, our residence bar at University on the wall. They also had IPA on tap, so I started sinking a few pints trying to avoid the stares from the old, drunk guy in the corner who looked to be spoiling for an argument. After a while I got talking to two 'brothers', they weren't actually related but were regarded each other as brothers. The quieter of the two was an ex-con who worked in the oil industry, when he had an accident his 'brother' dropped everything at home and came up to help him. After three or four pints I was feeling fine, and I think I left the bar. I say 'think' because the rest is a blank, I woke up staring at the campground sign lying under a tree covered in mosquitos. I haven't been that drunk, and I'm not sure how I got that drunk, for a long time! The next day I had the worse hangover I have had for a long time as well so had to stay in Fairbanks another day to recover! Fortunately I had managed to keep hold of my wallet and keys!
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