I don’t know what to say about the Alaska Highway. It was a highway, much the same as you’d see anywhere. Since I last left off in Watson Lake, the bike and I have done about 1600 kms and we are now in Anchorage, Alaska. The bike gets serviced on Wednesday and I’ll be here in Anchorage until Thursday morning – heading south to the Kenai Peninsula.
Here’s a map of my travels from Watson Lake, Yukon:
You have to love good internet access. That map just took about 20 seconds to upload. The photos in my last post, done in Watson Lake, were each taking about 15 minutes. Anyway, A = Watson Lake; B = Whitehorse; C = Destruction Bay; D = Tok, Alaska and E = Anchorage.
So, I set off from Watson Lake some days ago – you lose complete track of the day and date when you’re on the road – in rain which was not heavy, but enough to make me slow down a bit. I had hooked up the heated jacket that morning and was so glad I had; the difference is amazing. Also flicked up the heated grips to “high” and therefore only my legs were cold. Because of the heated jacket though, the cold leg stuff was bearable and didn’t even notice it after a while. The rain passed after about an hour and the rest of the day, and days since then, have been bright and sunny. I have made it to Anchorage with the bike just a few kilometres overdue for the service. I saw no bears, no deer, no elk, but did see a couple of moose, standing way off the road, thankfully.
I also saw a couple of rabbits, which ran across the road in front of me in a kind of emu-like death wish. I was pondering such behaviour as I rode along, and speculated that some creatures will not feel they have actually escaped you unless they attempt and subsequently survive this animal version of the running of the bulls. Rabbits are not as bad as kangaroos or emus in this regard. Rabbits will just put their heads down and their little fluffy cottontail arses up and go like hell. Kangaroos, on the other hand, will hop adjacent to you until they feel the time is right (and often it isn’t) then dart across in front of you. Emus are the nightmare. They watch as you approach, then run across the road. When safety is within reach, and their feet are hitting the other side, their tiny little brains incomprehensibly tell them to do a complete 180 and return to the starting point. Next thing you know, splat, and feathers everywhere.
Anyway, this is about my Canada/Alaska trip, not the annoying road habits of Australian native fauna.
Because the Alaska Highway, being a highway and nothing much else, is difficult to write about, I’ll tell you about the towns where I stopped. From Watson Lake I went to Whitehorse in the Yukon, a distance of 438 kms. I find I like to keep the day’s riding at around 500 kms if possible. There is a group called the Iron Butt Association; you get a badge or something if you can do 1600 kms in 24 hours, or 2400 kms in 36 hours. I will never be a member of that club. I don’t see how one would enjoy the ride.
Whitehorse is a city of about 20000 people and evolved out of the gold rush over 100 years ago. It seems generally devoid of the usual commercialism, fast food joints and rip-off tourist traps which unfortunately exemplify towns like this. A lot of the buildings are designed to emulate the era of the gold rush, something they have achieved with remarkable success.
That was Whitehorse. I would have liked to stay longer, but needed to get to Anchorage by Wednesday and also needed to have a couple of days up my sleeve in case anything went wrong. Somewhere after Whitehorse I took this photo. I guess the nice things about the Alaska Highway are views like this, constantly:
Next stop was Destruction Bay, still in the Yukon. This isn’t even one street, just a collection of buildings on either side of the Alaska Highway. I loved it. Approaching Destruction Bay I suddenly hit the anchors and immediately checked my speed; here’s why:
Yep, he got me. I’d been speeding but for obvious reasons didn’t get a ticket…
Main drag of Destruction Bay:
There is a lake nearby where I got some photos:
Destruction Bay, so named after a storm destroyed some buildings there, is windy for 362 days of the year. I was fortunate enough to get one of the three calm days where there was no wind to stir up the water. The result is the reflections of the mountains in the lake, as you can see in the above photos.
The following day I crossed from Canada to Alaska, destination Tok (rhymes with “poke”, not “clock”). Of course, the border crossing was not without dramas. The customs blokes were much more friendly than their counterparts down south. However, they asked me if I had a Carnet for the bike. Carnet is “Carnet de Passages en Douane” which roughly translated means “Notebook for Passing Through Customs”. It’s kind of like a passport for the bike and you have to pay a percentage of the value of the bike as surety that you will export it after your trip. I am aware that a carnet is not needed for certain countries, including North America, and told them that was my understanding, but was happy to get one if required. They (phew!) said it wouldn’t be required as customs in LA had already allowed the bike entry. They asked if I had insurance and I showed them the card. Then after a bit of banter about my heated jacket they told me I was right to go.
In the unlikely event that any Tokians are reading this blog, I will take the risk: I didn’t really like Tok. Perhaps I was still in mourning after leaving Canada. Although the people were friendly enough, the place itself struck me as a kind of disorganised shitfight, but not in any way I can actually put my finger on. However, it was in Tok that I saw a motorcyclist riding down the road without a helmet! I quickly ran to the iffy internet access point and Googled “Are helmets required in Alaska?” The answer, I can tell you, is “no, provided you are over 19 years of age”. I satisfy that criteria, so rode helmetless two blocks to the gas station to wash the bike. Oh, the freedom, and I was immediately reminded of my youth when we rode around our property without helmets. No helmet, no rego, no licence. Have I ridden through the rest of Alaska without a helmet? No, too dangerous, but I reckoned a couple of blocks couldn’t hurt and in any case couldn’t resist the temptation.
Anyway, to backtrack a little, I made a goat of myself immediately after arriving in Tok. The motel had an area around the back which was covered in gravel. Thick, VERY thick gravel. I was trying to park the bike around the back, and turned the corner to suddenly be confronted with this:
There was no going back so I slid, fishtail-like, the entire length. Once I’d got there I couldn’t get out due to the thickness of the gravel.
If you zoom in on these last two photos you will see I have put a quarter there to give you some idea of the proportion. For you Aussies, a quarter is about the size of a 10 cent coin.
You’re probably wondering how I got the bike out, because obviously I did. Three burly men came to the rescue and pushed it out for me. The shame was somewhat allayed when they told me a man had done exactly the same thing yesterday, and they had to push his bike out too!
This is Tok:
Well, I left Tok yesterday to ride the 512 kms to Anchorage. The road was mostly good, with only a few short bits of gravel, and improved markedly the closer I got to Anchorage. The views, always beautiful, improved too:
A fellow view-admirer took this photo; the smile says it all.
I’ll tell you more about Anchorage in the next day or so. By the way, thank you to everyone who leaves comments on my blogs. ‘Bye.