Sunday, September 27, 2009

Getting to Alaska

In my last liner update, I'd ridden through a week of rain and hail in Alberta and the Northwest Territories, before finally making it down into British Columbia, and spending a wonderful night recuperating at the Liard Hotsprings. The place had been packed well beyond capacity, so much so that the ranger pretended that he hadn't seen me come in without paying, and I camped in the Day Use area with a bunch of other bikers.


The hot springs are very far north in BC, so far north that the next day, it was only a short time before . . .

I swear, I was there too, this wasn't just a story of my bike traveling around on it's own.

Soon after I did swing by that famous signpost forest, which is the only thing of note at all about the little town that it resides in. I think the signpost forest is bigger then the town itself.

All I did was park, take this picture, and then left. I just didn't feel like walking around and being touristy that day, and the weather was too nice to not be on the bike. So west I headed, in the direction of Whitehorse.

Oooo, pretty.

Yay road! I should also mention that after taking this photo, I experienced my first wheelie on this bike. I was doing my best to take off quickly, and just gave it a bit too much clutch. Me not being a very experienced rider, as soon as I felt the front end going up I instantly pulled in the clutch to drop it back down; I didn't want to see what would happen with 100lbs of crap hanging off the back and sides of the bike. Lets keep both tires on the pavement, m'kay?

A few hours into the day, I was getting a little bit saddle sore, so I turned off the road at a rest stop that promised hiking and photo opportunities. There were some RVs parked there, with seemingly no one in them, and pit toilets that I made use of. Looking to stretch my legs a bit, I headed down a path, which turned into a boardwalk winding it's way through the trees.

The boardwalk ended at some scenic overlooks for a series of small waterfalls. It had rained in this area pretty recently, so the water was brown with silt.

Free camping in this area is so easy that even the least adventurous person ever could find good, easily-accessible places to camp for the night. I finally pulled off the road at what a sign told me was "Screw Creek", and set up where it looked like others had camped before. There was a sign up indicating that there were Inuit ceremonial facilities in these areas, and requested that hunters and hikers be respectful of the land.

The creek looked pretty good, clear, fast-moving water, so I took the opportunity to boil a couple of pots to refill the water bottles and make some dinner.

Although the first pot I boiled I forgot to put the lid on it, and ended up with what can only be described as mosquito soup.


There had been a few sprinkles of rain the previous day, so packing up the next morning I layed all my stuff out to dry for a while. You can see the thermarest over there on the left, and then my gloves on top of the spare gas cans on the luggage rack. And, me being me . . . I left those gloves there all the way though packing up, and leaving. It was a full day later that I realized they were missing. *Sigh* They were expensive, too.

The only fortunate thing was that the weather was, and there's no other way to put this; fucking perfect.

It was ~80 degrees, maybe just a hint of a tailwind, just enough clouds to make it interesting, and a nearly completely empty road that was aaaaaaaaaaall mine. It was so warm that only by riding could I stay comfortable; even without the liner, the Phantom suit that I'm wearing is quite effective at blocking wind. With the vents open, as long as I was moving, it was comfortable, but stopping wasn't fun.

So the obvious solution was to not stop riding :D

More evidence of recent forest fires in this area.

As I got closer to Whitehorse, clouds did start to collect on the mountain tops, and I could see then enveloped in rain.

It was spotty and fairly inconsistent, so while I got the very occasional sprinkle, it was never enough to require putting on the liner or rain covers on the luggage. The majority of it looked to stay up in the hills.

I passed through Whitehorse earlier in the day, and although I didn't do much besides stop for gas and supplies, I did like the town. It was a small town, only 20,000 or so, but it was still large enough that it was clear it was there for reasons other then being a kitschy tourist trap to old people in R/Vs looking for that "small town" feel. At this point, I had little knowledge that I was going to be spending about a week there, but we'll get to that later.

Now, somewhere northwest of Whitehorse, I came across this driveway. It made so little sense when I rode by that I had to turn around for another look. But actually reading it all just left me more confused.

Just . . . what?

Can anyone make heads or tails of any of this?

Goats in America, huh?

I had actually gotten off my bike to get better photos of these signs, and was about to walk up and flip over some that had fallen over to see what they said, when a highway patrolman (or something like that) drove by in an un-marked Tahoe. He rolled down his window, and although I couldn't hear him very well due to my bike still running and having my helmet on, he conveyed to me that he thought I should probably clear out of here. I tried to ask why (as he seemed really nice and friendly, not being the brutish small-penis-cop that I'm used to dealing with), and although I couldn't make out the exact words, he indicated that the owner of this property might be . . . not that stable. He punctuated his thoughts by mimicking pumping a shotgun, and then I understood!

I got back on the bike and GTFO of there.

I actually have no idea where I camped this night. But I must have, because looking at the distances on a map it's a bit unreasonable to do it all at once, and also my camera says I took these on a different date. So;


What's more perfect then scenery like this, huh?

One thing that was very noticeable about the Alcan was the number of abandoned or out-of-business gas stations and roadside stops along the way.

Some of them looked really old, but a lot of them were obviously closed very recently.

From talking to locals and people at the remaining open ones, a lot of them shut down in 2006/2007. All of these places are off-the-grid and rely on generators for electricity, but when fuel prices shot up, it killed these places with one fell swoop. Running on generators makes everything expensive, and when gas was $4/gal in the states, it was almost three times that this far north in remote areas. There was no way these places could make it, and the ones that are still around are hanging on by the skin of their teeth.

Mid-day, went through Destruction Bay, and ran into some road work. Motorcycles are encouraged to move to the front of the ques, so that we don't have to deal with the dust nightmare of twenty closely-packed cars.

This place is big . . .

It was getting overcast as I rode on, and while it never rained heavily, there were some substantial sprinkles as I got to . . .

W00t! Made it!

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