Gold Rush

Trip Start Jul 17, 2012
Trip End Nov 30, 2012

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Flag of Canada  , British Columbia,
Friday, August 10, 2012

    Spent a day off in Fairbanks on Sunday getting some stuff bought – luckily most shops were open so stocked up on puncture repair stuff including a new compressor and some more waterproof bags for our gear. The rain and jet washing had soaked most of our stuff so we have had it all hanging around the hotel room to get it dry. Also got the blog updated and uploaded the photos. Got to say so far I have got a great impression of the States. Everyone is friendly and want to ask about our trip. We've had help whenever we’ve asked and of course Zak saved us on the Dalton Highway. On our first day in Anchorage during our bus ride the whole bus joined in chatting to us, including the driver, and several people have asked for photos. Can’t see that happening in Redhill !

    Leaving Fairbanks in sunshine at last we called in at 6 Robbleys – a tyre place – they sell the Safety Seal tyre repair kit which is renowned throughout Alaska. Well everyone who knew about tyres said so anyway: 'Get that sucker plugged and don’t cut the end off – you could tow a 747 from here to Canada with that thing!’ as Dan told us. We liked them so much we bought one each. An easy cruise south on the well tarmacced Alaskan Highway got us to Tok where we stocked up on even more tools and food. Everything costs a fortune - $5 for a 6 pack of cereal bars. We then took the ‘dodgy rd’ route option – the Top of The World Highway to Chicken which is an old mine now consisting of fuel pump and souvenir shop and a giant chicken (bit like Dorking). I took an instant liking to the place when given a free BMW GS baseball cap for the Dawn to Dawson motorcycle ride. Again, isolation doesn’t quite cover it – must be 100 miles in either direction before you get anywhere else. Bit like the home counties and greater London having just one shack and a fuel pump in the middle.

    We then hit gravel roads which were dry which was a novelty and not too pot holed so we could do about 40-50mph spraying up huge clouds of dust. We then got to the Canadian border and completed the formalities in 5 minutes flat. The guards were amazed that in the UK our bear spray would be illegal. After that a great ride down to Dawson City with amazing views across the Rockies and a quick ferry ride across the Yukon to deposit us in the town. Google maps had come up trumps and we soon located the RV site in the middle of town. Wandering out for dinner we saw about 8 UK GS’s outside a hotel but didn’t have time to chat – we needed food ! We had done 400 odd miles in 10hrs so were late arriving but found the last place in town serving (Klondike Kate’s) and had some Elk and Bison sausages ! Dawson is an old goldrush town preserved as it was – you’re not allowed to build any new buildings unless they are to the old design which the tourists obviously love. We managed to resist the tourist trap at the Downtown Hotel of the ‘SourToe Cocktail’ which is basically a pickled human toe which is placed in your glass. You don’t qualify for the certificate and membership of the club unless you down the whole drink and the toe must touch your lips !

    A patchy sleep awoken by heavy rain and then the pleasure of packing wet tents again ! Leaving Dawson we had another 400 mile day heading for Whitehorse. Well surfaced all the way along the Klondike Highway and the sun at last appeared with temps up in the low 20’s. Not much else to say except we have seen Elk and Caribou now – both of which are a bit dopey and will run in front of you. They are very dangerous and due to their weight can write off a car easily. Fortunately both of ours were minding their own business and surrounded by groups of RV'ers trying to take their picture. Had lunch at another touristy place just before the coach loads disembarked. Don’t look ‘em in the eye though – you’ll never get away from the questions about where we’re from, what we’re doing and how they had a BSA Bantam in the war etc.. ! Had French Toast with maple syrup which was just what the doctor ordered.

    Whitehorse is a bit non descript really although it is by far the biggest town around here – about 35,000 residents. It was also the end of our first day without rain. Got a basic hotel on Main Street and bumped into another 2 UK GS’ers – and we thought we were being original ! They were doing San Francisco to Deadhorse and back in 4 weeks. Bit too tight a schedule to enjoy it fully in my book – talking of which we are racking up the distance so might ease back on the daily hours a bit.

    Had a wander along the river and saw an old paddle steamer the SS Klondike. When the area was first explored the rivers were the only means of travelling so the boats were essential. The Alcan Highway for example connecting Alaska to the lower 48 states was only completed during the war – it was built in double quick time as the Americans wanted to have a supply route up to Alaska to fend off the Japanese. Checked out the local speciality Poutine – not happy with chips and gravy the Canadians add melted cheese too.

    Next morning we elected a 272 mile day to Watson Lake, famous for it’s sign post corner. Excellent road but the lack of gas stations caused a panic. At one point my satnav said no hotels or fuel for 123miles – about how far Watson Lake was away. Unfortunately we only had 110 miles left in the tank according to the on board computers ! We spent an anxious hour aiming for maximum fuel economy until we fortunately found a pump attached to a camp ground. You know when you’re in the back of beyond when the girl inside asks how much fuel you need to pay for. Not because she wants to tell you apart from others filling up – just because she doesn’t know the amount – it’s taken on trust. Can’t see that working out back home. Next we were headed over the continental divide and onto the start of the Rockies.  En route I clocked movement on the verge and slowed to see a little bear cub snuffling around. I’m no expert but it looked about 6 months old. It wasn’t fazed by us, or unfortunately the traffic. I was a bit worried about where it’s mum was though. When we left the hotel we were warned of 48hrs of rain coming our way – sure enough we did see an electric storm ahead but luckily it only lasted 10 minutes but we got some torrential heavy rain and hail as well. We left the Yukon and entered British Columbia and stayed at the Air Force Lodge in Watson Lake which is an old (but now renovated) air force base from the war – which makes it the oldest building in town. Place is run by Mike a friendly German who pointed out a customer’s crashed bike round the back – a victim of nodding off syndrome on the long monotonous roads.  Seems like a lot of Germans and Swiss in Alaska / Canada – may be they can relate to the weather ! The only place for food  was a truckstop where I had buffalo burger which was excellent. Next table along was a German truck driver..

    Next decision was which of the two routes south to take – the Cassiar Highway or stay on the Alcan. We went for the Stewart Cassiar and the northern 400 mile stretch down to Stewart. About 200 miles in we reached the first fuel stop and heard some people discussing that roadworks had shut the road 125 miles further south and it would be closed until 10pm – there had been no warning signs and the detour would be about 1000 miles ! Resigned to sitting it out we estimated what was the last place prior to the bridge – correctly as it happens – and holed up in the Bell 3 ski lodge cafe for 4 hours twiddling our thumbs and making 3 coffees and soup of the day last as long as possible. Got chatting to lots of other people who had the same idea including Jesse a biker from Idaho who was planning on riding 1800 miles to Washington in one go. He just power napped or used a bivvy bag when he was tired ! Eventually it was pouring down outside and the place had a bit of a Stanley Kubrick film feel about it – all we needed was a power cut and the weather to close in even more and we could have then been brutally murdered one by one! We then made for the bridge en masse hoping it might open early. Unfortunately it did but only by about half an hour so a big long queue formed with everyone chatting and even some black bears came down to the roadside right next to us eating berries. We saw about a dozen altogether during the ride. By the time we got going it was dark and we had been warned many times about animals on the road – they are extremely dangerous especially for a bike. We tried to take cover behind RVs and rode off getting steadily damper and colder in the rain. Was quite eerie seeing the Stewart Glacier loooming out of the rain. Got to Stewart at 11pm to find the hotel full and denying receiving a booking from us via email. We then took the 1 miles ride across the border to another motel in Hyder, Alaska but it was all shut. Back tracking we had to cross back through Canadian immigration. The border guard took pity and started ringing round the other two local hotels but with no luck, The only answer was again putting up tents in the rain at the municipal campground in Stewart. Deep joy ! Again, no food and a cold nights sleep in a damp tent. Got up, packed and after a hot shower and paying our 5 each bill we got going in the general direction of Jasper – not passing a junction, building or anything for 125 miles ! After a dullish day of 330 miles we holed up in a cheap motel to warm ourselves up and dry our kit – again ! Roads are back to normal now though – well surfaced and there is actually some civilisation. Next stop the Glacier National Park and the Icefield Parkway which is supposed to be one of the best roads in the world.
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Mark on

Good stuff, hopefully some easier riding for a while now as civilization looms. Remember to take some time to smell the flowers (or party, whichever is more appropriate!)

cristina baker on

I had been warned that you were doing this on the cheap, but being forced to do it on the cheap is different -- no food, not hotel room is not my idea of fun. But at least it is the adventure you were looking for.

American's friendly? Really?

v5rcb on

Hi Richard,
Great to hear from you. I write down a few lines each day but by the time I do the blog after about a week it all adds up to war and peace ! Keep tabs on us as it should get interesting soon - Mexico looms !

James on

Hey guys, great blog, good to keep up with your trip, and see some good pictures. Very inspiring.

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