Dawson City, Yukon Territory (Canada)
19 August, 2014
Day 1 (25km) Top of the World
I wasn't really supposed to be here in the first place, I already completed a 3700km ride from the Arctic Ocean on the Canadian side but how could I possibly skip Alaska? I booked the last ferry leaving from Haines, 36 days from now and kind of had an idea of where I wanted to go.
Over the last 7 days I hitch-hiked from Vancouver with the bicycle and all my gear and now it was time to start riding again. But first I had to keep a promise to a friend who told me:
"If you get to Dawson City, have a pint at 'The Pit'"
There was live music, the following track is from Driftwood Holly and Harmonica George. Being in Dawson is like stepping back in time, old buildings - some of them leaning due to improper insulation from the permafrost, abandoned machinery from the Klondike Gold Rush and interesting characters roaming the streets. But I was too excited to go into Alaska, at 6pm I headed up The Top of The World Highway - the northern-most border crossing in North America.
While Zig-zagging up the hill (not because I had two pints but because it was steep and I really hadn't biked much in the last two months) a man with a mini-pickup drove up to me to offer me a ride. He used to work at the mines but now cuts firewood for a living. I continued up, the first 21 kilometers are uphill, I was hoping to catch the sunset at the top.
I later met him again, he drove with his friend to the top and offered me some pizza and beer. I've been getting a car license plate from each province I biked through but now I thought it would be too much to carry, so I gave him my British Columbia Plate, he said he will put it on the front of his truck :)
What a great day. I set up camp just meters from the road, knowing nobody drives up there after 8pm, since the border isn't open.
Day 2 (53km) Alaska
Unlike normal highways, Top of the World jumps from ridge to ridge, offering some spectacular views. While enjoying one of them, a cyclist caught up to me. Babbette from Holland has been cycling all the way from Calgary, Alberta and I cycled with her, barely keeping up. Man, those hills were steep.
She wanted to camp near the border but I still wanted to go. At the top of the hill we met a filming crew from Los Angeles, here to shoot a new Ford commercial. For some reason I did not expect to make it through the border, but I did!
What do I do now? I really had no idea where I wanted to go but the good news is that I wont need to worry about that for another three days.
I met Joe, a cyclist from Victoria, BC who cycled up here and was planning to do the Dempster Highway. After some 30 minutes of chatting I just pointed up to a flat spot beside the road:
"Wanna just camp there?"
So we did, Joe had never seen the Northern lights and tonight he got to see them. He woke me up, I looked outside for 10 seconds and went back to sleep. Those hills were kicking my ass! Joe took a nice shot of the lights, however!
Day 3 (72km) Chicken
At about noon I reached the town of Chicken. Originally it was supposed to be named Ptarmigain but the people could not spell it, so they just named it Chicken (I can't spell it either!). After a lunch of chicken noodles I met Gabor and Sal, who are hitch-hiking from Alaska to Argentina. Gabor has already hitch-hiked from Austria to Portugal and then across the Atlantic Ocean.
For the remainder of the day I was unable to find a flat piece of highway, it was always up or down. At sunset I found a nice bench overlooking the Fairmont mountain and decided to stay there.
Day 4 (89km) Tok
At noon I finally reached the Alaska Highway, Tok was some 20km away so I got there to try the Legendary Alaska Burger, as Joe suggested few days ago. Talking to a man who rode a KTM bike from the Dalton, I was warned about the mud. Rain was in the forecast for the next week or so, which could mean a nearly impassable road. A bit discouraged I decided to just continue to Delta Junction, then Fairbanks and turn back unless the weather improves.
After riding through a bit of rain, I discovered that none of my rain gear was waterproof anymore.
I set up camp at a pullout beside the road.
Day 5 (149km) Delta Junction
Riding on the ALCAN was great, it was relatively flat, I had tailwind and at the same time a great view of the mountains. The rivers were now a fraction of what they are in spring and summer when the snow melt fills them up entirely. When the Alaska highway was built during WW2, it was zig-zagging a lot to make it more difficult to bomb by the Japaneese. After its completion, the route had to be re-adjusted to avoid some of the boglands - which while navigable in winter, do not do well when the ground isn't frozen.
Other than that signs for scenic pullouts caught my attention but stopping at the pullout - you couldn't see anything. I guess they must have ran out of money after they put up the signs so they couldn't clear the trees.
I met the Alaska Highway wild dog, running out in the middle of nowhere and chasing cars! Later I met a man from Singapore who has been walking for 2 years. He started from St. Petersburg, Russia and is headed for Nome, Alaska (on the Bearing Sea), that is where Christopher McCandles initially wanted to go. XuweHan will instead find a raft and float the Yukon river to his destination.
At Delta Junction I looked south to see the snowcapped mountains of The Alaska Range. Nope, I will not be going to Fairbanks.
I'll detour south to ride The Denali Highway and I'll see from there.
Somebody invited me to stay at their cabin for the night, instead of heading down the highway looking for a place to camp (good idea considering it was all military property south of Delta for a bit)