Our trek through Canada has taken us through Alberta, British Columbia and the Yukon, all vast open spaces. Taking the eastern access highway, 2 days riding from Edmonton saw us reach the official start of the Alaska Highway at Dawson Creek, where the ‘mile ‘0’’ sign is proudly displayed. The 1,422 mile Alaska Highway was built in 1942 as a supply road for the military taking just 10 months to complete. An engineering marvel at the time, it may give present road builders some food for thought. The Highway now is asphalt and in pretty good condition for the most part, kept clear of snow in the winter as it remains the main supply route in this part of the world. As we ventured along the highway travelling on average 430 km a day the settlements became smaller until it became a gas station with café attached and maybe a motel/RV stop. Place names such as Pink Mountain, Toad River, Watson Lake provided us with overnight accommodation. As with accommodation fuel has become notably more expensive which could account for the sign we saw on a gas pump.
Forever on the lookout for large wildlife, we were at first thinking that the signs telling us about the wildlife were more prolific than said animals themselves. Then we spot our first bear, then another, all wandering along the roadside together with a couple of moose and a lone wolf, and once again we are awestruck. To be riding along in their territory feels like such a privilege. A few times we have stopped at a safe distance to watch and to take photos but we are ever mindful as to how fast they can move.
We agreed that it would not be a good time to stall the bike.
Our ultimate goal on this trip has been to reach Deadhorse at the end of the Dalton Highway, the most northerly point on a navigable road. At the moment the road is closed at the northern end due to flooding and today there is snow. They are hoping to re-open the road at the end of this week. Finding ourselves with a bit of time in hand we decided to detour off the Alaskan Highway at Whitehorse, heading north on the Klondike Highway to the gold rush town of Dawson City. City is a bit of a misnomer but we decided to stay over for a day to explore. A number of buildings from the gold rush days have been preserved or restored and a walk round town in the sunshine made a nice change. The most popular place in town in the evenings is Diamond Tooth Gerties, complete with gaming tables and a thrice a night show (all different) featuring Miss Gertie and her can-can girls who proved a hit with the male audience. Bombay Peggy’s, originally an establishment of very friendly ladies is now a bar and hotel. As a change from motels we stayed in a B&B called Juliette’s Manor where Patricia provided the best breakfasts we have had since we left home. A trip to the local supermarket provided another pleasant surprise – we were able to buy marmite for the first time in 7 months – Jim is happy!
From Dawson City the only way to go is across the river on the ferry which is free and then it is onward
and upwards on the ‘Top of the World Highway’. 80 km of good ripio then an awful section of road construction at the end of it to negotiate before the ripio returns. The scenery is breath-taking in its vastness and beauty and while the temperatures dip down to 3.5c, the sun is shining and we tell ourselves again how fortunate we are.
After 105km we reach the USA Alaska border post, where we are asked where our green cards are that we should have been issued at the Mexican entry point. Oops!! 20 minutes later, with fingerprints and photos taken we get our green card in our passports and the border guard obligingly comes out to take our photo with the sign of the most northerly USA border post, population 3. Then it was Alaska here we come. First thing to do was to put our watches back another hour so now we are 9 hours behind the UK, acknowledge that road signs are now in miles rather than kilometres, then to settle back into our seats for another 150 km of glorious scenery.
Along this section of road there is only one stop off point, the little settlement of Chicken. Story has it
that the original name was to be Ptarmigan after the local bird of the area but no one knew how to spell it, so it became Chicken instead. Another community that came into being because of gold and we did spot 2 men pan in hand in the local stream, hoping to find their crock of gold. Stopping off at the café in Chicken we eaves dropped on a discussion about dredging, panning, claims, and the shortage of .22 ammunition!! At this point a new member joined the motonoodles team. ‘Crispy’ the chicken joined Slobster the one clawed lobster on the handlebars with Sam the jellybaby keeping watch out front.
Before we knew it we had arrived at the junction to rejoin the Alaska Highway. Total mileage to date…….37,692 km.