THE ALASKA HIGHWAY
Completed in 1943 the 825km Canol road (short for Canada Oil) was built by the USA in order to have an alternative access to oil. In addition a pipeline from the oil fields to Whitehorse was built but shut down just two years later in 1945.
Now, the road is only maintained to the Northwest Territories border, after which it becomes a rough overgrown singletrack with a lot of river crossings. I heard of a bunch of guys riding all the way to Norman Wells (NWT) on fat bikes & pack rafts. Sounds like a great trip!
Then it got dark. But I wanted to make it to Teslin. All I could see is the white line of the road and I kept following it.
Against a grizzly: play dead.
If a black bear attacks you: you fight it.
I don't want to fight a black bear at... you know... at night.
DAY 16 (126km)
Teslin has the longest bridge on the Alaska Highway and aside from that there isn't much to see.
Before I took off I saw a man standing in front of the post office and asked him where is a good place to get breakfast. He pointed me to the Yukon Motel.
"Breakfast is paid for you." -the waitress tells me after I placed my order
And it was quite the breakfast, Ling and Tanya also signed my card.
"Every man who can cycle to Argentina deserves a free breakfast" -Said the postmaster
I had a tough day ahead of me, after literally sleeping on the ground with a deflated mattress I had headwind and snow.
And it got worse. But it wasn't the snow. I like snow. It was the wind.
You would come to a complete stop while going downhill if you don't pedal. Even if you make a turn you still get the headwind since it follows the valley.
At winter, rest areas undergo an amazing transformation. They are not rest areas anymore, they are human lavatories and garbage cans (but I guess not many people want to go and use the stalls when its -40C outside). I normally don't stop but this one seemed to offer break from the wind.
A lot of work to be done here before the tourist season starts.
The climb to the Continental Divide on the Alaska Highway
It's getting dark, it's snowing, the wind is still blowing relentlessly against me,
I see thumbs up sticking out of the few cars that pass me, trucks are flying by.
There is a guy cycling all day, eating and sleeping on the highway. Who could it be?
"The Dempster Highway Wild Man"
(as the truckers from Alberta called me)
Sleeping at the Continental Divide on the Alaska Highway, at night I heard a couple of vehicles braking. Must have scared the crap out of them! (Although I was a good 5m away from the highway).
Also sleeping on the ground tonight with the deflated sleeping mat :(
DAY 17 (140km)
The morning was beautiful but the headwind was still there. I head up another hill but I get a glimpse at the sun and the mountains, engulfed in clouds.
"5-7inches of snow on the other side" the highway maintenance truck said yesterday.
I see sand trucks passing me by. Bring it on.
Rancheria Restaurant was still open.
"I hope you can eat all that" said Linda, I ordered the biggest item on the menu.
To her amazement I ordered 3 pancakes when I was done with it. There was another cyclist few days ahead of me she said. Maybe I will catch up to him, but from what I heard he is going down the Alaska highway, while I will turn off at the Stewart Cassiar.
"It's on the house." There IS such thing as a free lunch.
The skies were a bit more clear, I could see more of the mountains but the wind.
The wind was still here.
The wind finally died down a little bit and I saw some sun. It was on and off with snow showers (good that it wasn't rain).
I am happy that other traffic finds me interesting, honking and waving. Sometimes I see people taking up cellphones, cameras and I even saw a guy driving with one hand and holding up an iPad with the other.
A snowplow truck driver with two hands on his cellphone and elbows on the steering wheel. Haha.
I stopped at Nugget City. I see the sign "Wi-fi 30 minutes $5, 1 hour $10"
The sign reads open, I go in and ask if they serve food. The guy gets up, looks outside and sits back down.
Not everyone likes cyclists. Probably a good thing though, I remember seeing some outrageous prices there. $15 for a cheeseburger (no sides), at Rancheria $15 gets you the superburger + poutine.
I stopped for dinner at Liard river lodge, the three guys renovating the motel asked me:
"Where do you sleep?"
How can I answer that question without them thinking I'm crazy.
"Beside highway signs, the back of the trucks, on the arctic ocean, in churches, on mountain summits, in the tundra, at truck cabs, on picnic benches, on frozen lakes, on the continental divide..."
"Is it uphill from here to Watson Lake?"
"Yes, but its not very steep." - he said.
Oh. It was steep.
A pickup stops by and asks me if I need a ride, but Watson lake is only an hour away.
I see a little bit of light on the horizon, should I take out the tripod and take a picture? Maybe one of me on the bike?
"It would look very weird if somebody passes by and sees me at night on a highway, biking with a tripod and a camera"
As if I don't look weird already, riding my bike from the shore of the Arctic Ocean. Haha.
I see lights. No. Not the northern lights. City lights.
Watson Lake. Tonight I will sleep in the forest.
There was a camp at Watson Lake in 1942 when the American army was building the Alaska Highway. A homesick soldier who lived in Chicago put up one sign "Chicago"
The trend caught on and right now there are over 70,000 signs in the sign post forest.
So, next time you walk, bike or drive into town and you see a sign missing, it could be here.
I planned to take a ride to past the bison herd and then bike back and through the Cassiar, but they were some 250km away so that would add two days and I am already running late. I am staying with Susan and Bary, warmshowers.org hosts and Susan drove up with me to see few bison which were close to town.
Up here they clear the grass by the highway so the bison don't impede traffic.
Then we saw this guy, chilling in the sun.