Day 5 – Whitehorse, YT to Tok, AK

Distance: 628 kilometers
Time on bike: 9:30am-8:30pm
Temp. Highs and Lows: 0 degrees for most of the day/15 celcius in Tok, AK

Well, I must admit. Last night was the first time I have camped in almost ten years. It was really fun. It’s so nice to sleep with all the fresh air. The Robert Service Campground was perfect. It had showers, a cool little food and coffee shop and an all around ‘hippy’ vibe. It was close to the pathway system and I really should have gone for a run (been completely wasted by the end of these long riding days).

I had been watching the VFRdiscussion forum lately and a guy from the San Francisco Bay area was riding his VFR up to Alaska. Said we’d watch out for each other. Well, I know the lovely sound of a V4 engine and heard one pull into the campground. Low and behold, it was him. As luck would have it our paths crossed – me going farther West and he was returning back down and heading out for another round. Good guy. He even brought over brew so we could sit and chat – although it was Bud. I guess beggars can’t be choosers.

Met a guy in the campground from Edmonton (another Mike and another teacher) who was returning from the Dempster highway. He seemed to think that using some common sense and trying to plan for nasty weather was all that was needed to make it up the highway successfully. No horror stories from him which is reassuring.

Preparing for the ALCAN today was interesting. I was up and ready to go in about 1/2 an hour. My partner who has been along for the ride was a bit too focussed on getting his packing ‘just so’. After about one and a half hours – I had my shower, breakfast, stopped to talk to a few people – he was still monkeying around with his stuff. Call this the beginning of the end….

As we set out from Whitehorse the weather immediately took a turn for the worse. It cooled off to just above freezing and started raining profusely. Oh well, I knew it would be coming at some point – well, here it is!

It continued to pour all the way to Haines Junction. About every 10 minutes my riding ‘partner’ decided he needed to stop to change layers, add layers, monkey with his GPS, etc, etc. Over the course of the day this would add three, yes three, hours to the day. This combined with relentless bitching and whining about being cold. Dude! It’s the Arctic, what did you expect? Needless to say I was fine but our pace slowed and slowed.

A bit disappointing that the weather had socked in at Kluane National Park. It looks absolutely stunning but was hard to see through the thick veil of fog, sleet and rain. I’ll see if I have better luck on the way back down to try this area again in better weather.

We stopped for an almost two hour lunch in Destruction Bay. Two hours? Ouch! Someone, who shall remain nameless was cold. I had some great discussions with a feller from Nova Scotia (another teacher – retired, notice a theme with the travelers?). This is his third trip across Canada on his old 80s Goldwing. He had been separated from his riding partners and they really disappeared. No one, including the RCMP could find them – he’d been calling for two days. Apparently they passed each other and they were now almost a day’s ride ahead. They were soon to be reunited.

Also talked with a group from South America who were riding bottom to top of the two continents. Talk about a long journey. There was also a nice feller from Ontario who was coming back down from Inuvik and the Dempster, also on a KLR, so he said I’d be just fine! 😉

The ALCAN is another story altogether. I’d hardly call this a ‘highway’ anymore. It looks like it was built in WWII. It’s a complete disaster. They are patching it to keep it useable. Unfortunately, rain, sleet, mud and a newly excavated highway are not a good combination. It was slippery and in spots quite treacherous. As we approach one of the many tens of kilometers of road work we were greeted with an ambulance rushing someone out and followed shortly thereafter by their bike on a tow truck. Not exactly the sign I was hoping for. Apparently, according to the road crew, they were ‘seriously hurt’ and were almost medi-vac’d off the highway. Yikes.

While it was slow going and there were a few hair-raising moments here and there the journey through was a success. There were certainly some ‘check your shorts’ moments. Almost 100 kilometers of broken road, mud and frost heaves but we made it successfully.

When we got to Beaver Creek we took a rest, again. Got some fuel and my ‘partner’ discussed just stopping there for the day. Um, no. Tok is the destination and the difficult riding was done. Again, another step towards the beginning of the end. This combined with a flippant remark from me that ‘better be prepared for our Canadian summer’ – didn’t go over well.

Crossing the border was a cinch and from that point on my ‘partner’ took off, never to be seen again. I couldn’t believe it. I’d waited for half the day for him while he was cold but when we got on to the nice paved roads again he left me in the dust. In retrospect this was a good thing since he never stopped for a picture, to check out historical sites or anything. I’ll be better off going forward. Not sure why so many riders are bent on speeding through their vacation, oh well.

Even with the extra hour I gained by crossing the border into Alaska I got into a room at 8:30. 9:30am to 8:30 pm for a half-day ride. Ouch! I stayed at Fast Eddy’s Motel and Restaurant. It was seventies chic but very clean and well looked after. A great place to crash for the day. I was completely exhausted from the tough roads, weather and ‘company’. Tomorrow will be a completely different ride. Off to Valdez.