Monday I woke to sunny skies in Delta Junction, and it was time to head for Canada. I hoped to reach Dawson City in the Yukon, via the redoubtable Top of the World Highway, a distance of 470 kms. This road crosses the US/Canadian border and a lot of it is gravel.
It was so warm I hardly used the electric jacket. Filled up in Tok, then took the turnoff just outside of town for first the Taylor Highway, then ToW Highway. This part of the road was good, tarred and in excellent condition, until not far from a tiny little town called “Chicken”, when the gravel commenced. I had to stop in Chicken. It’s basically a row of shops, and down the road a bit further is a campground which sells fuel. Here’s Chicken, Alaska:
One of the shops is actually a bar, and has the above sign outside.
The town even has a resident “Attack Chicken”. Sounds ferocious. I did not see this chicken, perhaps it was asleep. Phew.
I spoke to a fellow rider in Chicken who was on a V Strom 650 and had just travelled from Dawson City. He told me the road was terrible on the US side and excellent on the Canadian side. Helpfully, it had rained earlier, so the road was slippery as well as potholed, narrow, and winding. To make things interesting, the narrow road had a 1000 foot drop on one side (my side, of course) and to make things exponentially interesting the numerous RVs felt as though they owned the road. AND I had the bloody great heavy yellow thing on the back! It was a slow and careful ride. I stopped after one of the particularly yukky bits and took this photo:
This one is looking back – you can see the road just travelled in this photo, complete with the 1000 ft drop:
None of my photos seem to reflect just how foul is this road, so I took some close-ups. This is actually on one of the better sections, but you get the idea:
Before long, however, I was close to the Canadian border. The female border guard asked me where I was from, checked my passport, and frowned because the Canadian in BC (you’ll remember Mr Dour) was so busy being Dour he forgot to stamp my passport. So she stamped it anyway, it was no drama. She asked if I had any cigarettes, alcohol, weapons, or if I was leaving anything in Canada. She wanted to know if I was taking the bike back to Australia. Then she told me to have a good day and “be safe out there”.
This border crossing is very remote, perhaps one of the most remote in the world. I wondered how they would get people to work up here, so far from anything, then saw an airstrip a few kms away. I guess they fly them in/fly them out, much like the oil workers. Must cost them a bundle though. Here are some pics of the view just before the border:
The bloke in Chicken was again right, once I crossed into Canada the road improved markedly, so I had two very good reasons to smile. There were gravel breaks from time to time, but the road was good and well maintained, and I was able to keep up a good speed most of the time. What a difference.
Dawson City is on the other side of the Yukon River and there is no bridge. Instead, vehicles are transported by a free and very efficient ferry.
I decided to stay at the Downtown Hotel because this is the gathering point for motorcyclists in Dawson City. I needed up to date info about the Dempster Highway, Canada’s version of the Dalton. The Dempster begins just outside of Dawson City and ends in Inuvik in the Northwest Territories. It is almost as long as the Dalton, but is reputed to be a better road and with better views as well.
Anyway, here is the Downtown Hotel. When I arrived there were quite a few bikes already there; all were BMWs.
I walked in to the hotel to check in, and in the course of that process said to the girl behind the desk, “See State of Origin’s on tomorrow night”. Not only did she understand every word I said, she even knew what I was talking about. Yep, she’s an Aussie, from Innisfail in Queensland. That was okay, got settled in, and because I was back in Canada I was forced, nay, compelled, to go to the bar for a bottle of the world’s best beer, Molson Canadian. They sell these in the US, but only in six-packs. I only ever wanted one, but they refused to sell them singly, for some reason 😦 Asked for the beer and the AUSSIE behind the bar said, “That’s a familiar accent”. Wow, the place is alive with Australians.
This town is amazing. It is as though I was transported back to the early 1900s. I later found out that the whole town is a National Historic Site and has been since the 1960s. This means a number of wonderful features: there is no commercialism with the associated advertising and neon signs. There are very few street lights. The roads are all compressed gravel, not a sign of tar anywhere. Every shop and business is, or must be, built in line with the character of the place. Here are some examples:
None of the buildings are facades; they are all working businesses but in a historical setting. This is something Canadians do well. I’m remembering that Whitehorse is similar. They are able to present these historical places in a way which is authentic and devoid of the usual in-your-face commercialism typical of this kind of tourist attraction. Dawson City is more of a town which was left in the in the early 1900s and deliberately remains there, rather than a town built to emulate those times. It works well and hats off to those who have maintained this.
Remember in one of my earlier posts, perhaps the first, I quoted Jack London? Jack wrote that he would “rather be ashes than dust” and was a Yukon resident famous for books such as “Call of the Wild”. Jack once lived near Dawson City, and I found his cabin. It was discovered near here in the 1960s, at a place called Henderson Creek. The cabin was transported to Dawson City and reassembled – this is the original building:
I will be back to camping tomorrow. I need to find somewhere to store the yellow thing before I do the Dempster Highway. I found it was a bit of a handful riding the ToW Highway yesterday because of the extra weight. If I can do that, the next stop will be the Dempster. Still dithering about this one, but don’t want to dither too long. The weather looks like it might be good for the next few days, so want to make the most of the opportunity.