Leaving the Yukon with no Gold
It’s only been 8 days since I’ve been in the Yukon but I’m afraid I have to say goodbye for now. There are a few other highways I’ll explore later on in life, such as the Top of the World Highway, and the Dempster Highway – Just now is not the time. I’m about 12km from the British Columbia border still on the Alcan Highway, which will morph from Highway 1 to Highway 97. In fact, it’s not the first time I’ve done this, there was a 63km stretch with no services, no parks, or rest stops that advised me I was in British Columbia – Still I could see Yukon signs on the road, so I suppose they don’t take it all that seriously, and it must be a nightmare to deal with road work considering it’s so far away.
Throughout the past few days it has become quite scenic, with lakes doting the landscape, and tens of thousands of trees. Adding to the terrain are some pretty awesome hills which add to the complexity of the day. I’m tuned up properly for it, and can deal with them without issue, however the team are still experiencing issues. Problems with bikes (more chains breaking, dropouts bending, hangers snapping, derailleur’s ripping off) and their energy levels is quickly turning into a game of leap frog, where I wait for in some cases a day to see them again before they catch up.
I ended up waiting one day for them in Rancheria, about 20km away from the Continental Divide – where two rivers split in two different directions. Rancheria was built to service the needs of trucks and busses passing through the recently deregulated Alcan Highway. In1946 the British Yukon Navigation Company started a bus service from Dawson Creek, British Columbia to Whitehorse, Yukon. The company financed the construction of 4 of these lodges for the passengers. Rancheria was one of the first to open, constructed of logs, and remains of old army barrack buildings, and wall tents for lunches.
The present owners were a friendly couple that offered a lounge with some of the best tasting restaurant food I’ve ever had in my life (The super burger must have been 8 inches tall, and the breakfast required a rest period of 30 minutes to move after ingesting it), internet access, and satellite TV– letting me catch up on the Stanley Cup Finals. Their campsite was well kept with free firewood, treed lots and seclusion for those who wanted it. I didn’t.
They had a grizzly bear roaming the campsite just a few hours before so I hung out in the RV area, and for one of the first times this trip, I second guessed my decision to ride to Yellowknife. I didn’t get to sleep till well after 3am finally muting my wild imagination.
Heading into Watson Lake, 120km away was a fun ride. On the side of the roads were many hills covered in rocks with peoples names, comments, designs, and slogans. Some of them were dated and were 7 years old from what I could tell. There were far too many to take, and looking back I should have taken the 2 hours to collect some rocks and do a Tired of I.T! banner, but seeing as I didn’t start my ride till 2pm, I wanted to ensure I’d get into the town before stores closed.
Earlier on that day, we had an explosion with Steve’s MSR stove. The O-ring in the pump was leaking, and we managed to launch pressurized fuel all over a table, causing hilarity and panic. I’m sure my idea of running for the camera instead of running for the water was the right decision, as we all made it out with no scars, and a hose clamp fixed the pump easily enough.
I’m looking forward to picking up my stove today before heading south towards Muncho Lake, and Liard Hot Springs – this next 550km is considered the most scenic of the highway. Based on travellers reports, pictures and videos I’m anxious to get going and hope to see some Caribou, Elk, Buffalo, Bear, Bison, and whatever else. My daily spending has gone through the roof not being able to deal with hot coffee, porridge, or even boiling rice – Let’s hope it actually is at the Greyhound station this morning.
Watson Lake, the town has a population of approximately 1,900 people has a few unique offerings for travellers. The World famous SIgn Post Forest is a collection of 10,000+ street signs and license plates from all over the world. In 1942, a homesick soldier named Carl Lindley decided to nail up his hometown sign to a board at the corner of mile 635 of the highway. Pretty soon others followed, putting up their own hometown sign along Carl’s Danville IL post eventually taking over a little over an acre of land, with maze like streets continuously growing with each additional placard. I’m hearing conflicting reports of 10,000 and 40,000 – so lets pick a number in the middle.
Across the street, is the Northern Lights Centre, which offered a 50 minute video presentation of the Aurora Borealis, and the Canadian space program. Some impressive pieces of equipment were on display, like segments of Canada’s Arm, used on the present space shuttles, and Astronaut’s suits. They shared space with Service Canada, and I spent some time using their ultra high speed internet connection to download a few large files for an upcoming project that I’m about to embark on.
I ran into the crew who were staying at the ‘Downtown RV Park’, a gravel area with no power, with the owners overcharging them $25/night per tent. I considered myself lucky for heading the extra 2km down the road based on a recommendation to ‘Campground Services’ which contained private, treed lots complete with power and water at each site, a grocery store, free internet access, and a price of $10/night. I ran into a group of motorcyclists who were pretty astounded at my journey, telling me that the Semi drivers, are always in awe of the RV’ers, The RV’ers confused at the motorcyclists making the journey around, the motorcyclists thinking the pedal bikers are nuts. Funny how we all think the same, but just using different mechanisms for getting around. A friendly guy from Seattle, James told me a story about a guy down the road who was 60 and pushing a cart crossing Canada for something to do. I hope to run into this guy and have a chat with him! James also gets karma points for letting me use his stove. I made a Ichiban, Rice, Chicken Noodle, something concoction, filled my belly and went to sleep shortly thereafter.
I’m showered, laundered and stocked with food ready for what comes next. The food store, while overpriced supplied the basic staples for the next week. I stood outside peeling off cardboard, extra waste that would frustrate me later, and people watched. Things got rather interesting at 5pm when the store closed. I noticed that if I was able to catch peoples eyes, or make certain facial expressions that I could make them react due to the closing of the stores. It seems people just want an audience. I couldn’t handle watching more than 10 minutes of desperate looks – people needing a can of tomatoes to finish off the stew they had been working on, or stocking up for breakfast. I’ve been unable to talk to any of the locals here as they seem fairly reserved – perhaps it’s me from riding with a crew the past little bit. Who knows.
Hoping to have some Stat’s & Logs of the Yukon leg of this journey up soon, a few technical problems are preventing me from showing a visual map.