Day 4: Whitehorse, YT, to Tombstone Mountain Campground, YT
The day started in a non-riding manner. Before setting out on a 1500km gravel excursion up the Dempster, Dad felt it prudent to get his windshield brackets sorted out instead of having them cobbled together with zipties. We dropped by the Suzuki/Kawasaki dealer, conveniently just a block away from our motel, to see if they could recommend a place to do aluminum welding. They mentioned that Duncan's was the place to get 'er done, so off we went to find Duncan's in the industrial section of town.
We arrived, and after a little conversation about whether they could weld aluminum, the decision was made that instead of welding the existing weak brackets, new ones would be constructed of stainless, thus making what they considered a bulletproof bracket. They just needed the originals to make copies of.
So, could we have them done today?
Well, probably by closing, yep. (The next day, of course, was Canada Day, which meant everything closed everywhere.)
A day? To spend twiddling our thumbs? Ack. We didn't like the sound of that. One of the guys there mentioned to come back around lunch time. Chances were the brackets would be done by then. This sounded a bit more reasonable, and we spent the morning getting a few errands done (picked up a siphon, looked for more fuel bottles for Dad, and tried to find a spare headlight bulb for myself).
It was an antsy morning. We both just wanted to be on the road, but the brackets had us chained to Whitehorse. We got a little short with each other, which I guess is understandable due to our strained temperaments, and both of us felt like the real solution was just to get the heck out of town. Something about being around civilization just brought out the worst in us. In any case, we had a set time to make it back to Duncan's and that was that. Deal with it.
Dad ended up getting in contact with his cousin's former husband, whom he'd not seen for nigh on 30 years. He took us out for lunch, and we chatted (myself mostly listening) about the old days: the Whitehorse of the past, the Dezadeash Lake days, and the North in general. It was fantastic to get to know another contributing member to Dad's past, and hear of all that had changed in the surrounding area since Dad's last stint up there. We thanked him for his generosity (a paid-for meal for a traveller is priceless) and set off to Duncan's to check on our brackets.
Were they ready?
Yep, you betcha.
After paying a princely sum for two hunks of stainless, we got to work attaching them to the bike.
Good as new and about a million times stronger (no exaggeration). Thanks Duncan's!
It was about 1:30 or 2 by this time, if I remember correctly, and our bikes were loaded up, ready to put some miles under our tires yet. What normally happened in these situations is we'd plan a destination that would be really nice to get to, but was pushing the limits of how far we wanted to travel, then we'd set a more realistic destination a bit closer to where we were. As it happened, we always seemed to make it to our dream destination, pushing forward past the realistic one.
Our dream destination for the day was Tombstone Mountain Campground, 70km up the Dempster, and 550km from where we were. Ah, plenty of time. It doesn't get dark up here anymore.
Of course, we had to endure some Northern roads before the payoff.
On one long, straight stretch, I had a slight run-in (not to be confused with a run-into) with a moose cow and her calf. They bolted out of the brush like a steam locomotive with tender in tow, payed no regard to passing traffic, and galloped (as awkwardly as moose gallop) over the chip-seal to the leeward side. This happened far too close for my liking, myself grabbing tight the binders to keep me from denting the moose.
After the narrow escape, I turned around on the bike, gave my Dad the universal "my-heart's-a-pounding" signal, and looked for a scenic venue to grab a drink, my breath, and scoop out my undies.
That'll do just dandy. Onward we carried along the Klondike Highway (fairly unremarkable in all respects),
and ended up at the Kondike Junction.
Now we were getting somewhere.
A grin crept across my face as pavement soon led to gravel. We'd made it to the Dempster on Day 4. We were well ahead of schedule and there wasn't nothing yet to do but soak it all in.
It's nice how they planned to have all kinds of spectacular scenery in the first 50km of the Dempster too, just to whet one's appetite of things to come. I wonder if they trucked the mountains in or grew them naturally.
Anyway, we found our campsite, happily paid our $12 (including firewood), and sat down for a meal among the ruthless mosquitos.
As we got ourselves settled, Dad struck up a conversation (as he's quite good at doing) with neighboring campers who had taken their DRZ, KLX250S, and a support vehicle, up the Dempster and were returning home to Whitehorse. Of course, talk centered around how underrated the DRZ was as an all-purpose motorcycle, although the other fellow did mention that a KLR would make a nice supplement to a DRZ if one wanted to do longer distance journeys. All in all, it was a pleasant conversation with a really laid-back dude. We appreciated his company. Heck, we appreciated most folks' company along the way. Although it's nice to have a riding buddy, talking with locals and other travellers sure adds something to the experience.
It was also at Tombstone that I finally understood the term "swarming" when it referred to mosquitos. As soon as the sun set, the ravenous winged beasties came out in numbers that I was not expecting. The fire kept most of them at bay, but even so, we made it an early evening and hopped in our tents.
Final mileage, June 30th:
Not bad for starting at 2-ish. Tomorrow we would see how far we could make it on the legendary Dempster. It was Canada Day, and it sure sounded like a good idea to make it to Inuvik to celebrate that fact. The Dempster would have its say in our decisions too.