Monday, July 15, 2013

Mozzies, Lorries, Backhoes and Bulldozers...

*Pictures to come later

Back in Fort McPherson…
We were hopeful. We woke up to the news that the road was finally open. Now the pressure was on the ferry man to get the boat going. We could see the traffic starting to stack up on the other side of the banks. This was wonderful! The banks had been empty for days. Now, it appeared that it was possible to move pass the road washouts.

The log jam was not cleared out completely, there was one resistant pile hanging on, with one very larger tree still hanging on the cable. Earlier they had loaded a backhoe onto the ferry, drove to the other side of the boat, hung the arm over the water and tried to clear debris that way. This was very exciting, as they did not counter weight the other end of the ferry, and the whole ferry was weighted down and heavy on one end, causing the boat to be way low on that end.  This cleared some of the jam, but not all.

Finally, a ferry man climbed on top of the woodpile with a chain saw. Talk about getting paid to do stupid thing! It was sort of like standing on pick-up sticks and removing the sticks…  I shook my head, I wanted out of there, but not at the expense of someone getting hurt. A reminder how you just need to do what you need to do this far north.  He climbed back in the boat and they rammed the woodpile again, most of it broke up and floated down stream. The northern peanut gallery broke out in cheers.

Playing dangerous with a chainsaw
The next thing that needed to happen was to complete the load ramps. The high river had washed away the dirt loading ramps on both sides. They were having difficulty in making a stable dock on the south side. Too much of the bank had eroded away, and all the gravel they were putting in was falling through and getting washed or saturated to where there was no stability. They worked on it for hours, and finally ended up with a bank they hoped would work. We spent the entire day watching them push dirt around with machinery. The best we could hope for that late in the day was Eagle Plains.
Now, all the people who wanted to get out of there were not so sure they wanted to go first! Dave the truck driver, said he would rather wait until it was more compacted down. We hemmed and hawed.  With skinny motorcycle tires, we would certainly sink further than a lot of folks.  I told Michael, I would rather drop my bike on the other side of the bank and have people have to help me up, then to be stuck in FM another night. We volunteered to go. It turns out this was a good move.
We waited for the entire ferry to empty, The ground was like oatmeal… we approached the south ramp and the ferry guys eyes got real wide.

Michael went first and dropped into the slop… and sunk. He throttled it to get through and fishtailed to the top. I went next, the ferry guys eyes got wider. I swam through the oatmeal, got purchase and made it to the top and didn’t look back We were finally on solid ground on the sound side of the Peel River.

We heard later that this was a very smart move on our part. When they tried to reload the ferry right after us, a truck pulling a trailer got stuck and tore the ramp up, even with repairs, it was too soft. The first car off on the south side ripped it’s bumper off completely, and several motorhomes scrapped the undercarriages trying to get off… some doing damage. Dave, whom we met up with in Eagle Plains for a beer later that night, said when his front two tires of his diesel hit the soft ground, he felt it sink and say “oh crap.” He had a vision of his truck being stuck half on the ferry and half on this soft sinking bank.

Once on the road, the road was a smooth ribbon winding through the bush, with only minimal ruts. We passed Rock River and couldn’t even tell the road was nonexistent just the day before. Every time we stopped the mozzies fed. Dragon flys kept hitting my windscreen with loud thunks.
We were told to keep an eye out for the porcupine caribou herd; it was migrating in the area. We kept an eye out, but had not look. We did catch more moose, and several folks saw grizzlies, but with my eyes focused on the gravel, it is hard to watch the road and the scenery consistently. Several hunters were success with caribou.

We rolled into Eagle Plains and got the last room available. We had Lead Dog Ale in the bar, and Dave joined us for road stories. We exchanged address and plan to stay in touch. I said hi to Jaz’s favorite friend in the bar.

Friday, July 12, 2013


We spent the day watching the ferry men ram the log jam with the ferry. We think, but are not entirely sure that the road may be repaired by tomorrow.

Ferry spent day ramming log jam and breaking it up in little pieces.. you can only watch debris float down river for so long. It is the hot ticket in town though...
Dave the trucker called Eagle Plains and learned that the culvert was salvageable. They had the culvert in place and stabilized with wood by 1 pm yesterday. They were waiting for dump trucks of gravel and fill to be hauled in to cover the culvert, and then they could resurface the road - the road maybe ready to cross as early as tomorrow afternoon. We were so thankful to Dave for keeping us in the CB-loop, that we gave him our last cold beer. Dave almost cried. The man has been sitting in his truck starring out his windshield for 5 days. He does not want to leave his truck because he has 1,000 liters of fuel in tanks on the bed. He is worried his about his gas. He thinks the road will be open soon.

If we could only get across the effing Peel River…

Locals are using small boats to go across. No way we can put motorcycles in those.
The tourists are gathering on the North side of the Peel River, with mutiny in the air. There is talk about boarding the boat. Of course it is all fantasy, but that is what DEET for days does to you.   

Savage DEET... note the image of the trail in the wetlands...30% DEET guaranteed to make tourists fantasize about mutiny.
The Canadians from other provinces are convinced there is a plot against the natives… the Europeans are incredulous, and the Alaskan’s are just tired… all of us have ideas how the job could have been done more efficiently. 

I got all the tourists to line up in protest. They are all watching the agonizingly slow work on the log-jam.
 The contractors for the ferry company are pointing fingers at the NWT transportation government office; the NWT transportation government office is pointing fingers at the contractors. It appears they argued for two days trying to figure out who was doing what and more importantly… whose fault it was. Finally today, they tried to work together to get something done. 

A full day of ferry-ramming seems to have finally cleared up the log jam. Tomorrow they must check the line for damage and re-anchor it. If the line is good, we may be able to cross tomorrow. None of us are holding our breath.

Finally, after two days of watching debris hang on the lines, workers mover to stop more debris from getting hung up.
The B and B owners brought us over a frozen solid turkey (like you have for thanksgiving). They were concerned if we had enough to eat. We thanked them and put it in the freezer.  I turned to Michael and said… it will take a full day for that bird to thaw out, and we couldn’t cook it until the day after… do the townspeople know something we don’t about how long it will take to get out of here? He shrugged his shoulders.

The plan is to be down at the boat at 9 am hoping like hell it is running. If we can cross the river, then we can camp at the washout until it is open.

(Note: This may be my last post for a while if the road opens in the morning - will try to catch up in Dawson.)


(Fort McPherson: Day 3)
We got up and evaluated. We had a very nice comfortable night, actually slept in. We need to make the most of our sleep time, as we can only stay here one more night. Room cost is a premium; I have paid less for a room at the Marriott in the heart of Washington D.C.

We have been adopted by a native woman that is well traveled and highly respected in the native communities. Her name is Roberta and she is the equivalent of the subsistence manager for the Indian nation Tr’ondek Hwech’in. She is staying with a friend in FM. She has come by and spent time chatting about the native battles with the Yukon Government over development of the Peel River. We also spoke of how the native groups are organized in Canada and how that differs from Alaska. She has boated most of the distance of the Yukon River (no small feat), and will be visiting us in Anchorage in a few weeks

Went to the grocery store and picked up a few things. Canadian Kit Kats are the bomb. The prices are incredible, the conversion rate from US to Canadian currency is nearly the same, so when you look at a price, it makes the mouth drop open. 
Half gallon of milk $7.69

Small box of cereal $9.75
We rented  videos because we knew were going to be here for a while, and the B and B has a DVD player, but no satellite reception – it is down due to the winds. The woman told me if the ferry opens unexpectedly and we find ourselves having to bug out of town quickly, leave the videos in a plastic bag on the loading dock of the grocery store.

Coming out of the grocery store we met up with fellow stranded German travelers Zig and Peter. These Euros have been having a bit of a rough go on the road. Peter was a bit emotional, on the verge of tears. He said it took them 3 years to save enough money for this trip, and now they are stuck and unable to do their trip. 

The Euro's - Peter and Zig on the right of Michael.
They rented a motorhome. Michael helped them put the mirror back on, it kept vibrating loose with road conditions, and they had no tools. We carry an assortment of tools on our bikes. On top of that it was a dry community and they had finished their beer! We told them we may become neighbors in a day or too and would look for them at the campground.

Peter and Zig's rental rig, and probably our new neighbors in the campground.
We got gas because now that we are at a supply standstill on the road  gas prices are going up.
While at the gas station, we ran in to Dave, a truck driver.  We chatted with Dave about road conditions, the truckers know the most. Apparently the folks in Eagle Plains are the hub of accurate information, tending to know more than even the Canadian Mounties. Dave echoed what Roberta said – the provinces do not talk to each other very well, information will be sketchy. Dave is the one that gave us the most info – about the current situation.

Dave, the one good source of info in FM
The washout occurred at a place called Rocky Creek. One of the culverts broke loose and the road washed out due to unusually high water from all the rain. The culvert floated downstream and banked. In order to repair this, special equipment must be brought in from Dawson, first to x-ray the culvert to ensure safe re-use, and second to haul it back up stream. All the appropriate equipment has arrived on scene, but now they are waiting for the river level to decrease in order to start. The road crews were anticipating a delay as long as 10 days, but may have a single lane open to let the stranded people through. All this is weather dependent. The forecast for the next few days is clear. There is hope! We thanked Dave for the update and headed back to our little house.

We are on the wrong side of this washout at Rock Creek - note the culvert downstream.
Someone came by to do their laundry, a cement truck driver. The native couple that own the house do not live onsite, a nice elderly couple, he is disabled and apparently this provides them a source of income. The owners gave permission to the driver to do his laundry. He shared info as well, and between him and Dave, we had a clearer picture of what was going on. The Canadians are worse at updating their websites then the Federal government is.

Roberta came by and invited us to tour the town with her. We hopped in her beautiful Ford Raptor pick-up truck (apparently only 6 are imported in the Yukon). First thing we did was go check out the situation at the ferry dock. Not looking good at all!

Grounded ferry at Peel River
We stood on the north bank of the Peel River and watched trees and large debris float by. The ferry men sat with us - watching the debris drift downstream, get snagged on the cable lines of the ferry, hit the ferry. One ferry man says to us “Go to Inuvik.”
Ferry crew was amused and thought we should go back to Inuvik.
The ferry guys lived on the other side of the river. They could use a small boat to maneuver around the debris and get home. We were stuck. There was a single motorcycle rider stuck on the other side of the bank. We were better off than him. He could not go south because of the road washout, he could not go north, because of the ferry being out. We could at least go back to Inuvik. The ferry man took pity on the single motorcycle rider and moved him into his house out of the mosquitos. The ferry man laughed. He repeated to Roberta, go to Inuvik. Roberta agreed with us…. We did not dare lose what ground we had struggled to accomplish.
Ferry guys transportation home, Notice the size of the debris next to their boats...
The Peel River ferry has a cable that goes from bank to bank due to the swift current. When the water level got high they stopped the ferry. The water level overtook the cable. With all the debris coming down the river it snagged on the cable and caused a log jam in front of the ferry. The operators wanted to drop the cable, but management would not let them… the cable costs 10k. Now the cable is stuck and snagged and stretched. They will probably have to drop the cable.

Ferry guys
This means that they need to string a new cable across the river (we are really hoping they have that in stock), cut the old cable and free up the log jam. They also need to evaluate the ferry for damage.
We watched the guy jump to the boat from a bulldozer. We saw and learned everything we needed to know. It appears that the ferry crossing is going to be the bigger deal.

We drove around town. It took 10 minutes. Saw everything to see.. 2 grocery stores, 1 church. 1 hotel, 2 gas stations, and the tent factory.
The one restaurant in town
We went to the tent factory and watched them make tents.
Supervising the tent making in Fort McPherson
Specializing in large canvas outfitting, but also bags and small items if you ask.
The cement truck driver was doing laundry and asked if he could get us anything. We jokingly asked if he could get us Lead Dog Ale beer from the Yukon (sold in Inuvik). He made a call and the beer was on its way. He left with clean laundry and later returned with our beer a few hours later! Got to love truckers!

The motorcycles were parked out front. The village was coming by to meet us.  Village kids are riding their bikes over here to check out our motorcycles and read the stickers on the side of the cases. They all want to know where we have been. 

We both emailed our bosses and told them we have no idea when we will return to work. We sat around and chatted with Roberta and Art most of the evening, and watched a couple of videos. Only 2 of the videos worked. It took hours to watch the 3rd video because it kept hitching. We had time.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Pucker Factor

We woke up fairly early and got the bikes ready to roll. The plan was to make it to 230 miles to Eagle Plains early so we could get rest for the 260 mile ride back to Dawson the next day. We had heard the ferry across the McKenzie River had closed down the night before for high winds, so the first thing I did was check the website for updated conditions. According to Canadian Highway websites all ferries were operating. We blew out of town without coffee.

The road out of town
It was a cold morning, cold enough to pull out all the heated gear. The wind was pretty bad, and the gravel was the size of marbles. We hit a spot of sloppy mud where the bike zigged and zagged down the road… Michael has started ranking the spots by the “pucker factor.”

Gravel like marbles
We get to the McKenzie ferry crossing and all is shut down. Europeans are milling in frustration, some having spent the whole night waiting. We got there at 10 a.m. and it was looking like hours. The sky was looking ugly. We walked down to the ferry and spoke with the driver; he suggested we waited it out in the employee warming hut/house.  We thanked him for the hospitality and head up the hill.
The little house reminded me of a fire station, living quarters were upstairs and a small kitchen and living room downstairs.

We hung out for hours in the ferry station house
We met the ferry captain, a burly guy named Rick, that was sticking to his safety guns, even though the phone was ringing off the hook… people wanting to know when things would start up again. Rick’s standard answer “when the wind stops blowing.” Rick has been guiding ferries across Canada for 30 years.  The folks at the station made us feel welcome, a friendly lot of men that basically live up here in the far north 5 months a year away from their families. They work in shifts to cover the generous ferry hours, baking bread in the down time.

Rick worrying about the conditions on the river
We chatted about all things Canadian, including the recent train wreck which was taking all the airwaves on the telly. Rick would get up and look at the “windsock” answer the phone and laugh, even though you could tell he was worried about the conditions. We sat in the station until 6:30pm.
While sitting there waiting out the wind, it starts to snow.  The ferry captain... "Think of it as big wet cold rain"... In response to Michael’s “It isn't really snowing right... Tell me that I'm not really seeing snow.”

Ferry terminal "windsock"
Then, just like that, an announcement comes that an attempt is going to be made to cross the river. We are thinking more about being stuck there longer… then what the word “attempt” might mean, we jump to our bikes and load them on the ferry.  The winds were actually white capping the water. The boat had to be brought in backwards. This meant we had to turn our bikes around on the slippery metal deck covered in mud. That was fun. You know it must be something when the ferry drivers congratulate each other for making it across.

Traffic jam at the end of the road. Europeans traveling rentals.
We rode the distance to the Bed and Breakfast in Fort McPherson. While waiting in the station I called around, it turns out there is only one hotel in Fort McPherson, the Peel River Inn, and it was filled. There is only one B and B, and she has only two rooms. We got one of them.  We at least knew we had a place to stay for the night. We learned that a second washout has occurred at Sheep River, we have no idea how long we will be here. We also learned the second ferry was not operating, due to high water levels.The other room went to a fellow stranded traveler, Art. He is from Dawson.  He is a gold miner that pans for a living these days. We spent the night chatting about the business of dog mushing and gold panning.

Art, our new displaced traveling friend.. he belongs in Dawson

Michael, thrilled to be on the other side of the river
Me thrilled to be somewhere other than a ferry station

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Shopping Inuvik

We spent an extra unplanned day in Inuvik . The closing of the Taylor Highway bumped our reservations at Eagle Plains. They could not accommodate us coming back, unless we stayed an extra day in Inuvik. We opted to stay and see the sites, rather than camp in Eagle Plains.

Catholic Church with unique dome
Gas station

The place to eat in town - The Back Room

Downtown Inuvik
We found a cappuccino shop and had a wonderful cup; we visited the grocery store and refilled our stash of fresh food. We found the liquor store and purchased a six pack of Lead Dog Ale from the Yukon. We did a little bit of clean-up: washed clothes, cleaned the bikes, lubed chains and cleaned out the filters.

Coffee shop - note all the buildings are elevated above ground because of the perma-frost
My motorbike is riding rough, I’m afraid there may be dirt in the fuel system or I might have bad gas. I’m hoping that I won’t have issues.  The wiring harness on the back of my bike fell apart; I no longer have a right rear blinker. The zippers blew out on my top trunk bag and can’t be salvaged.  Michael has blown a zipper on his Wolfman tank bag and his speedometer wires are giving him problems. We patched as best we could.

Main drag in downtown Inuvik - gift shop row
We visited all the gift shops – I got coffee mugs, and a nice fur parka for Poopy. Given the road conditions, I had the shop ship them back to Anchorage. 

My new coffee cups
Poopy sporting her new fur parka and mukluks
We found new stickers for our boxes. All this shopping and we ended up with a rare burden... change. Since we have no tax in Anchorage, we rarely collect change. And Canadian change is heavy.

$2 and $1 coins weigh a lot
We drove all around town to see what we could see. We considered a tour up to Tuk, but the airline fee was $1200 for both of us; we decided we would rather go to Hawaii.
The rest of the day was relaxing, visiting with the locals and getting caught up on blogging - a nice day. There is a large native gathering going on, similar I think to the Alaska Federation annual meeting. Next week is a large art show. Too bad we will not be around for that. We headed back to the cabin, the Arctic Chalet. We could not stay in the same place for two nights because of the conference. A nice long evening sipping beer and blogging was what I was looking forward to.  We broke open the Lead Dog.

I have no idea what they were selling...
Then Michael noticed he lost his phone. We ripped the room apart. We went through all the motorcycle gear, once, twice… three times. It wasn’t a big cabin. We took out the flashlight and looked under the beds. Nothing. We ripped the bikes apart. We spent an hour looking through everything… then we started again. We still did not find it. He came to the conclusion that it must have fallen out of his pocket while we were sightseeing. Do you recall that I said we covered all of town seeing the sites? We then left the cabin and putted at 10 miles an hour through all of Inuvik looking for his phone. I now know what every bush in Inuvik looks like. No luck. After an hour of searching town we gave up. The town was filled with way too many walkers… for us to find his phone. If he dropped it someone had found it. In his small case he carries his bank card and his driver’s license. On top of that, he does not password protect his phone and we are in International charging zones for any calls made on his phone. I feel a headache coming on. We go back to the cabin.
I call the phone company and suspend his phone. I call the bank and cancel his credit card.  5 minutes later he finds his phone in the window sill of the cabin behind the curtain.
He is not allowed to drink Canadian beer anymore

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Crossing the Arctic Circle by Motorbike

The amount of darkness between sunset and sunrise in Eagle Plains was a little more than an hour. We were told by the locals that if we went outside during this time (around 2 a.m.) that we would see the most amazing sky and witness both sunset and sunrise at the same time. This sounded worth exploring, so we set our alarm clocks and headed outside.  To our dismay, we noted Michael had left his tail light on for 8 hours (accidently turned the ignition too far when locking the handlebars). In addition, the sky was overcast and raining, no sunset watching going on. We went back into the hotel, knowing no sleep was coming on account that we would be thinking about the bike not starting in the morning.
Michael give a peace just outside Eagle Plains
Over breakfast, we ran into a half a dozen other dual sport riders all traveling in 2 x 2’s, some coming some going. We had run into Greg and Clay the day before and had coffee with them near Tombstone. They were traveling up from Arkansas. They also have the dubious distinction of being the only American’s we have run into on the road. Nice fellows with a 3-4 week travel schedule. Most of the folks we run into are European - German and English being the most frequent, and Australian’s the next. It is very refreshing visiting with the Europeans – I can’t help but think I was born in the wrong country. While visiting with the travelers, it was not lost on me that I seem to be the only woman riding the road… I always worry when I am the only gurl… it makes me wonder about my sanity level or lack of common sense.

One of the riders, a gentleman from Canada (can’t remember name or province), a well-seasoned Dempster traveler… knew the road like the back of his hand.  Spoke of the year the road was the worst he ever saw it (this was of course the same year I tried to ride it before). He gave everyone a crash course in how to handle the “Dempster mud”, and agreed with me that there are 5 kinds of mud. He talked about the black mud that when you hit it “acts like grease or a petroleum-based product”, and about other mud that is so slippery when wet, that if you try to put your foot down it will slip like ice.

Luckily, going up the road has been fairly dry. I asked him what he thought of the road north, and he warned up about a spot at the NWT border that could only be described as sand covered in gravel. Great, just what I wanted to here. Sand. I hate sand. He told us they had resurfaced the road, and it was dicey in that area. So of course, I spent the next few hours worrying about that section of the road. 

We loaded up the bike, and miraculously Michael’s bike started right up. Good omen. We hit the road and soon came to the Arctic Circle. The place Jazz and I called the last trip.
Standing once again at the Arctic Circle, this time with Michael.
From here on out, it was new territory for me. I couldn’t help but be nervous. This road had kicked my ass two years ago. The next 20 miles was the worst of the entire trip.

Mud and slime and slippy-slidy (is that a word?), bogs so deep that a rig was trapped deep in the mud with a tow truck trying to extract it.. blocking off most of the road.  We couldn’t lose speed going through the bog, so we passed on the left, where everyone else had passed, digging ruts and forcing us into paths where all you could do was give it gas and just keep looking forward (I am thinking in Ellen’s voice… just keep looking.. just keep looking). I felt a burst of panic and, of course I started to slow down, which makes the fight for steering harder. I shout inside my head… give it gas.. and trust that the bike will get through better if you going faster. I opened the throttle and felt the fight for the steering loosen up. I yell in my head again… don’t look down… look straight ahead. I hope like hell that Michael has no problems, because I am right on his ass.  We get through. After that, the next 20 miles of 3 inch mud sliding seems like nothing… a constant battle for steering, but no panic attacks.  It turned from a sloppy stew to a sloppy soup, which made it less scary and boggy, but your sphincter was still clamped shut.

We stop to feed the mosquitos. I know there are not enough humans or caribou above the Arctic Circle to feed all these mosquitos and wonder silently in my head just how the hell they are staying alive. Michael comments that the road was bad. I tell him it was not as bad as it was that year Jaz (on her Harley) and I rode up. He wonders aloud  “if it rains how we will ever get through, because it was bad after only one day of light rain, my front end was all over the place, white knuckle ride.” He decides to buy Jaz a beer when we get back to Anchorage.

This section from the Arctic Circle to the NWT border turns out to be the worst section on the 457 miles.We crossed into NWT. The mud goes away. The wind takes its place.
Me freezing my ass off from the arctic wind, Northwest Territories, Canada
The wind was horrible. The arctic wind had a nip and it was relentlessly pounded us for 30-40 miles of road. A 40 mph cross wind is bad enough when the pavement is dry, but when the ground beneath you is in flux (sandy and gravel), it is pretty scary. We found the sandy gravel referenced in the morning huddle. I hadn’t forgotten about it, but after the mud, I was not thinking too much about it. I felt it best to not go there. It turns out it was much easier to negotiate then the mud. But the wind…

Here is the series of thoughts that were going through my mind… I would think one thing… and then about two miles later I would adjust the thought to match the new condition.
It is bad to ride in gravel…
It is worse to ride in gravel on a corner…
It worse to ride in gravel in a cross wind…
It is bad to ride in gravel on a corner in a cross wind…
Gravel and more gravel
Peel River crossing near Fort McPherson
Finally we hit the first ferry crossing, and the gravel depth decreased. Did I mention how bad the mosquitoes were in wetlands? And the dragonflies are as big as magpies! They make a loud “thunk” when you hit them!
Ferry crossing
We crossed the Peel River and rolled into the town of Fort McPherson, where gas was $6.80/gallon, and the people were just strange. The road between the two ferries was very nice

Most northern ferry crossing and the town of Tsiigehtchic
We got off the last ferry and the road was “AA.”  
AA is what the local Canadian’s call the stretch between Inuvik and the most northern ferry crossing. I am told that a long while back, a couple of Americans from Arkansas came through Eagle Plains on their return trip from Inuvik. They insisted the road was paved with asphalt, because it is so hard and smooth. Of course what they were referring to is how compact the mud gets when it is pounded relentlessly by diesel trucks and sprayed with chemicals to decrease dust. Eventually it becomes an unnatural whitish color and looks a little like old pavement - easy to understand.  Even so, the Canadian’s now call it AA – Arkansas Asphalt.  About the only thing that can mess up AA, is when they decide to grate it, which decreases your 55 mph speed to about 30 mph. We hit grated AA for about 2 miles. The rest was a smooth sail into Inuvik. We got about 10 km from Inuvik, and I saw a site for sore eyes… is that tarmac?

Michael parked in front of the welcome sign
We made a b-line for our hotel and ordered a 12 inch delivery pizza for $38.
The amount of darkness between sunrise and sunset in Inuvik? Zip. The sun doesn’t set.

The Road Less Traveled

We arose from my favorite B and B in Dawson (5th Avenue B and B), ate breakfast and hit the road. We had a long day in front of us – 257 miles. Now that doesn’t seem very long, but depending on road conditions, it can be very long.
Getting ready for the road
On a side note, we decided to top off our gas in Dawson, just in case the little Klondike Gas Station at the start of the Dempster was closed. Great call! The gas station is now boarded up and closed. If we had not filled up in Dawson, we may not have made it without running out of gas. We carry an extra gallon for each bike, but that is cutting it close.
Along the road we have seen moose, fox, marmot, and tons of rabbit and ptarmigans.
The Dempster Highway is 900 miles of dirt, round trip
The Dempster Highway is a fairly young road, opening in 1979 to accommodate oil and gas development.  It is 457 miles of dirt road, which ranges easy to almost impossible to travel, depending on rain. We were planning on riding to Eagle Plains, one of only two places you can stay along the way. We were not sure if we had a room, this place fills up early season, and although they were booked, they were going to try to honor our reservation from the night before. Getting stuck in Tok, threw off all of our reservations by 1 day. We always carry a tent and sleeping bags in case we get stuck.

I think the prettiest part of the highway is Tombstone Park, near the beginning. If you ever make it out this way, make sure you take the time. We put the Go Pro on to film this section of the highway. It is absolutely amazing. Unfortunately, the mount broke on the GoPro and we lost it. We have no idea where it went.
Tombstone is gorgeous and my favorite place on the road
The road travels broad valleys, and alongside several braided rivers, very similar to Alaska.

As you climb above the tree line, you can see for miles. Ravens fly over this valley.
The road surface was mostly dry with large sections of gravel. I had one frightening encounter were I hit a deep patch of gravel at about 45 miles an hour and the bike jigged and jagged. It is moments like this that require you to be really focused while traveling this road. Rough patches will pop out at you quickly without much visual warning. I had a firm grip and rode it through… Michael said the nice thing about following is you can see best which places to avoid. Gravel gravel gravel... the road even had mountains that looked like they were made of gravel! The dust was bad; we were covered in white. The zippers on the gear started failing from all the dirt. Large supply trucks would pass and cause total white out conditions.

Gravel roads and gravel mountains
We came across one KLR with a flat tire. It looked like they had it handled so we pressed on, tired and dirty, hoping we had a room for the night. We stopped to top off our gas with our auxiliary gas tanks just outside Eagle Plains.

Flat tire for a fellow traveler
Missing GoPro and a broken mount
Topping off my gas tank
 The road got more rugged leaving Tombstone and heading into the wetlands. 

Mosquitos were horrendous. You couldn’t lift your face shield up if you stopped, even for a minute. The road got bumpier.

We slipped into Eagle Plains, and the gods were smiling on us… they had a room!

Eagle Plains, YT. Canada