Day 3: Fort Nelson, BC to Whitehorse, YT
As we prepared for the morning, filling the room once more with camp fuel fumes and watching the Weather Network (a favorite station of any motel-going motorcyclist), we peeked our heads out the front door every so often. The rain, which had lasted all night, continued into the morning. The forecast was not promising, so we had a decision to make. We could either stay with plan, take a dip at Liard Hotsprings and camp out in Watson Lake, or we could skip a day ahead, go straight to Whitehorse, where we'd reward ourselves with another motel room (I know, hardcore, right?).
We continued our deliberation as we prepped the bikes,
and noticed that we weren't the only moto-goers who'd taken refuge overnight.
In the first pic, you'll notice a 1200GSA hidden behind a Harley (a very nice, polite individual, I might add). This was Errol's bike. We met once more in the morning. He mentioned that he'd try to wait out the rain and head to Whitehorse when it subsided. We wished him the best and set out for the road ahead.
Later we'd learn that the rain in Fort Nelson didn't stop for 4 or 5 days. We hoped Errol hadn't waited that long.
After an hour or so of cold, wet riding, we started up a pass, where the rain let off and we were rewarded with our first glimpse of the wide open North.
... and sneak some KLR content in..
This midsection of the Alaska Highway between Fort Nelson and Watson Lake turned out to be some of the most enjoyable riding on the trip, and I'd love to see what it's like in good weather. The views were sometimes cut off by the overcast skies, and once again, rain gloves (and raindrops) meant very little on-the-fly photography.
Ah well, the cold rain meant more times to stop and take a leak.
It was about this time my Dad realized something was wrong with his windshield.
I guess that's what happens when you put some heavy bends into aluminum. Not far from Muncho Lake, we decided to patch it up when we'd arrive there, hit the road for another 80km or so, and took in the sights of Muncho Lake. The rain meant the camera stayed in the tankbag.
After passing through Muncho Lake, thinking there would be one more service center open past the Chalet (if you've been through Muncho Lake, you know the place), we turned around and returned to the gas stop we'd passed at the Chalet. We pulled up to the pump and were in for a rude awakening: their fuel price was $1.59/L, the highest we'd seen on the trip thus far, and the second highest fuel price we'd see on the entire trip, right after Tuktoyaktuk (but that's another story).
The Chalet was offering a 30 cent discount to anybody staying with them overnight, but for the poor saps who were just passing through, there was no discount. This, coupled with their outrageous demand for a minimum of $8/guest for their dining room put Muncho Lake's Chalet at the bottom of the list for biker-friendly convenience. I mean, sure, the cost of operation is high in a remote place like this, but there's a point between meeting operation costs and simply gouging travellers. If you're thinking of a trip up the Alaska Highway and need fuel, try the service center about 5-8km south of the Chalet (heading Northbound, it's the first one you hit). Something tells me they won't try to politely rape you.
Anyway, enough of my rant. The facilities were very nice and accomodating, so we bought coffee to go and sat on their front porch, not willing to spend $8 for their dining room (I ride a KLR; I don't know what Dad's excuse is). On the porch, we met some other riders.
They'd already been up the Dempster, caught it in the rain, and had a good time playing in the muck on the way up. Their tires were pretty street-oriented, and they'd not encountered any flats. After this conversation, we were a little more confident in the fact that we'd probably not need any tires on the way up or down the Dempster.
We carried on, fogging up our faceshields and letting the rain bead off (at least it wasn't bugs). Not long after Muncho Lake, we caught our first glimpse of Bison.
These guys get right-of-way in my books.
We made it to Liard Hotsprings in good time, considered a dip, but thought we were already wet enough, even if it was but a cold wet. We stopped instead on the other side of the road, where there's a nice sized rest stop/pullout.
Dad: "Three things you'll learn as you grow to be old, son: never pass up a restroom, never waste a hard-on, and never trust a fart."
Me: "Is this rule 1 or 2?"
Dad: "... you can always count on Travis for a comeback.."
Anyway, onward and forward we carried, through rocks, trees, and water.
Finally, we found the sign we were looking for. We were there. The Promised Land.
Welcome to North of 60... Weehoo!
It was starting to feel a bit more real. We were getting somewhere, not just in BC, but now into the real North. It takes a couple days to get there, but sure is worth it when you arrive. Fort Nelson was the next stop, once again searching for a late lunch to tide us over until Whitehorse.
The Harleys behind us at the pumps were hauling a bit of stuff and were from Florida.
Met a fella from Kansas, on his way back down after (I think) another Dempster voyage.
Really nice guy to talk to. He shared his experiences as he finished up switching back to Tourances from TKCs. He mentioned the service station there was kind enough to let him change tires in their covered shop, and that he'd left his fairly worn TKCs there for anybody that needed them to get somewhere. This whole moto network is a good'un.
We asked the gas station attendant where "the place" to eat was in town, and he answered quickly with a resounding "Bee-Jay's". We'd see what Bee Jay had to offer.
"The place," when you find it, rarely disappoints, and this was no exception (how's that for multiple negatives?). Locals were kickin' around here too, conversing over their afternoon coffee. The walls were covered with pictures of truck wrecks, as any good restaurant is, and the conversation was similar. Topics stayed around work, whether anybody was doing much oil exploration in the area, and local gossip about who'd gotten new trucks/cars. Of course, a traveller will always feel like an outsider when it comes to these conversations since they have nothing to contribute, but to hear them talk about "real life" stuff feels like home.
The Alaska Highway after Watson Lake once again gets straight and a little boring, but on the plus side, we got out of the rain for the most part in the afternoon.
A quick stop at the Continental Divide reassured us we were getting somewhere. This was Arctic Ocean water now.
It was Teslin for fuel, but not before crossing their long, windy, steel-grate bridge.
At least they warned ya.
And we stopped at the Yukon Motel for a fuel up and a quick road snack. It wasn't too far to Whitehorse yet, but far enough that we needed some sustenance.
And the Alaska Highway stretched before us still. Time for some more pictures.
As we neared Whitehorse, there was one stop we had to make as per Dad. At Wolf Creek campground, there was a house just across the way. My Dad had lived there back in the mid-70s when he worked in Whitehorse for the White Pass Railway.
Not wanting to be rude, we took pictures from the road.
It was only a hop, skip, and jump to Whitehorse. We rolled around the town for a little bit, trying to find a cheap but non-sketchy motel, which was tougher than one would think. We ended up settling on the Family Hotel.
After getting ourselves settled, we set out to wander the town, still light at 10:30.
The town had changed substantially, Dad said, but there were still landmarks that stood out. The old White Pass station was still up and operating, though not as a train station anymore.
It was nearing 11:30 and the sun was going down, so we decided it was time for bed.
The lights came on at midnight.
Final mileage, June 29th.
It was a big day. 961km. We considered riding around that night for another 40km, just to break the 1000 mark, but opted not to, just 'cause it wouldn't feel quite right. To be honest, I have a few days in the 960-990km range, but I've never broken 1000km. It's really not been that important to do so.
The room was stuffy, but sleep came easily. In the morning, we had some errands to run, a broken aluminum windshield bracket to sort out, and hopefully some mileage to add.