Day 11 – Fairbanks, AK to Dawson, YT

Distance: 388 miles / 625 kilometers
Time on Bike: 9:30am – 5:30 pm
Temps: High 14 (Dawson) / Low 8 (Richardson Hwy)

Wow, what a great day for riding today. I couldn’t have asked for better weather. There wasn’t a single cloud in the sky for most of the day. Hardly anyone on the roads and the farther I got from the city the less I saw.

After a quick checkout this morning I was off on the Richardson Highway. It’s freeway-like in Fairbanks and turns into a perfectly smooth, and vacant, two-lane highway all the way to Tok. The scenery is quite beautiful with snowy mountains lining the highway on the West side all the way down.

Stopped in Tok at Fast Eddies restaurant for lunch. I hadn’t realized how cool it was this morning until I got off the bike. I was actually quite cold and took a bit of extra time to warm up and eat a good lunch. Great burger topped off with a huge slice of apple pie. Yummy!

The last part of the journey, and the longest, was the Taylor Highway aka The Top of the World Highway. Wow! It climbs up out of the valley to 1200m (3500 ft or so) at spots. The entire highway  runs along the ridge line of the mountain range. It’s paved for the first third on the American side of the highway, then turns to gravel, then muck and construction right past the town of Chicken. The middle 1/3 of the road varies from deep sandy mix and wet clay to thick gravel. While they are rebuilding and rehabilitating parts of the road it gets a bit dicey for bikes. The combination of wet, slippery and deep mud are a challenge on two wheels. Luckily today there was no rain or moisture except for a few very short sections. I can’t imagine taking a bike through here if it had rained or was raining – it would be a complete disaster and virtually impassable. I think it would even be a challenge for cars and trucks in those conditions.

The new tires (Pirelli Scorpion Trail) work surprisingly well in the dirt and gravel in dry conditions. They feel just like sport -touring tires when on the pavement. These tires would not be very good in any kind of wet conditions with gravel or mud.

I was fortunate enough to see another moose today. She was feasting in a roadside marsh area. I also saw the biggest porcupine in my life. He looked like a big rotund beast. I must have caught him sunning on the road because he didn’t move until I was right up beside him. Unfortunately he did not hang around long enough for me to capture his portrait for posterity.

After hundreds of kilometers of gravel roads it was nice to arrive in Dawson. There is a hostel just before the Yukon river crossing at the ferry. I had a look since it was cheap. It looked fine. Then I zipped across the street to the provincial campground. For $12 a night it seemed like the best deal and the nice part is that due to being midweek it is virtually empty. After setting up the tent and such I wandered down to pay for the site in the dropbox and noted a sign warning of recent bear activity in the area. Yikes! Oh well. I guess anywhere up here is really a place of potential bear activity.

I wandered over to the ferry and took a jaunt around the town of Dawson City. It is so cool. It’s literally like walking back in time. The buildings are all period buildings from the turn of the 20th century and before. The frost heaved roads and well-worn streets and buildings are quite charming. I picked up a few supplies from a market and walked back to the ferry and the campground. The ferry runs back and forth across the river literally every few minutes which is very convenient.

Tomorrow is the real deal and the purpose of the trip – the ride up the Dempster highway. By all accounts it looks like it’s going to be nice weather for the ride tomorrow. No rain forecast for days – fingers crossed that holds true. I’ll be riding to Eagle Plains the first day and likely stopping there for the night to do the second half of the highway. Being that it is 400 kilometers for each part of the trip up I’ll probably be tired after riding gravel and will want to stop. I’m really looking forward to venturing out onto the tundra tomorrow.