03-06-2010, 05:42 PM
Joined: Nov 2007
Location: Bisbee, AZ & Banamichi, Sonora
Today we finally get in to Alaska! Dawson City was wonderful; from the lovely walk around town in the evening and fish & chips at Sourdough Joe's to a bit of TV and a good nights sleep in a actual bed.
Waking up was a different matter as the sky was completely overcast. I met Dennis on the porch of the hotel and asked him about the “Top of the World Highway”. He said the Canadian side was gravel, but good, and the American side was dirt and needed some work. We'd be okay, he said, if it didn't rain. I eyed the sky skeptically.
The first order of the day was to find some gas before we headed out to the ferry. Strangely enough there was none to be found in town and we wound up heading back down the road for about 5 miles to find a gas station. Once we gassed up we rode back down through Dawson City to the ferry stop.
I was pleased that I'd made the trip down to the ferry dock last night as I'd been able to see what the procedure was to get a ride. The entrance to the ferry was gravel, but at least it was well-packed from all the RV's that routinely make the trip.
I was surprised at the smoothness of the ferry ride, quite nice actually. The good part about being on motorcycles was that we were able to wonder around the deck instead of being trapped in a car.
I was a little nervous about the docking procedure as all I could think of was a sudden stop and being thrown forward with my bike on top of me. The landing was as smooth as the rest of the trip had been and we rode down off the ramp, across the gravel and onto the Top of the World. Unfortunately just as we landed I felt the first raindrops on my face.
We started out on some relatively nice asphalt and I was beginning to think that the condition of the road had been blown way out of proportion.
Soon enough, however, the road surface began to deteriorate and we were in serious gravel. The rain began to come down harder and the temperature began to drop.
This day was rapidly becoming one of the most miserable that we'd experienced so far. At least the scenery, which would've been better in the dry & sunny, was still excellent. At this point it was still at least in the lower 40's.
After what seemed like forever I finally saw what had to be the border crossing up ahead.
As we sat at the border waiting for the guards I looked at my thermometer and saw that it was 39 degrees. Coupled with the rain I was completely miserable, it made the whole border crossing experience just not as enjoyable as I'd anticipated.
We huddled up for warmth and took some pictures. Poker Creek is the northernmost land border crossing into the United States. I'm guessing that the border guards live up here on some sort of schedule as the closest town is Chicken, some 43 miles distant. While we were there we noticed a Canadian who appeared to be a bit disgruntled. Evidently he was from Ontario and was a smoker; he had quite a few cartons of cigarettes stashed in this motor home, for personal use, and the border guards were giving him trouble. He finally got across the border but had to pay some sort of import tax for his smokes, I'm guessing he'll think twice next time. This border crossing is only open from 9:00-9:00; we also ran into a couple of riders who'd left out from Dawson City the night before and tried to make the border. They rolled into Poker Creek 5 minutes after the border closed. No problem, they just set up their tents and camped until the border opened up the next morning. They awoke early, cooked some breakfast and basically did all the things that you do in the morning. Just as one of them dropped his pants to take care of a little business off the side of the road Motor homes started pulling up. He said he now understood what zoo animals had to deal with.
As soon as we get back into the US we realize that the road is much worse than it was on the Canadian side; I wouldn't have thought it was possible. At one point I noticed that my load had shifted, I got off to secure my stuff and found that I'd lost one of my Nalgene's I was using for carrying fresh water – Bummer.
As I rode along I found that I was getting quite a bit of mud kicked up into my face. Combined with the poor road conditions this just added a little bit of “excitement” that I really didn't need.
We finally arrived in Chicken, thoroughly soaked and unable to enjoy it. The one bright spot was that a guy had found my Nalgene on the road and brought it down. He also found a SPOT locater and was looking for its owner as well.
Our spirits low we headed back out. So far we'd made 112 miles in just over 3 hours; only 266 to go. The next few hours are a blur of cold wetness. I saw us get down to 37 degrees at one point as we rode through a cloud. We finally made it back to the Alaskan Highway and stopped at Fast Eddies in Tok for lunch. We all had an Alaskan burger to celebrate. I decided if the weather didn't clear up by Delta Junction, in another 110 miles, that I was going to pull over at a hotel and wait for morning. Amazingly, about 30 miles before Delta Junction the weather cleared and the temperature went up 15 degrees. I still vowed to get a hotel, only now it would be in Fairbanks.
Upon arriving in Fairbanks I started looking around for a hotel. We pulled over into an empty parking lot to talk about our options. Houston decided he wanted to check into Post housing on Fort Wainwright, it didn't sound like what I wanted to do so we said our goodbye's in the parking lot and went our separate ways. I don't even have any pictures.
I really had no idea where to find a hotel but I remembered from my planning that there was a Comfort Inn in the same area as the campsite I'd originally planned to stay in. I finally came across the hotel, out in the middle of nowhere with an empty parking lot. It looked good and I was dreaming of a hot meal and a soak in the hot tub until I found what the nightly rate was, $150! A little more checking found an Extended Stay for $135/night. I asked the desk clerk if there were any such thing as a cheap hotel in Fairbanks; she asked me what my idea of cheap is and then laughed when I told her anything under $100. Isn't it amazing how far up your idea of cheap can go? All of a sudden $17 for a campsite got really attractive.
If I disappear and someone finds my notes, I'm at the Ice Alaska Campground and I think they serve people as stew. Seriously, the place is spooky.
As I pulled into the campground I noticed that there were a few campsites that were occupied but I didn't see any people. As I made my way toward the rear of the campground I came upon one person; at first I thought she worked at the campground since she stopped me and asked me if I was looking for a campsite. I told her yes and she pointed out some nice ones. Later I decided she was just a friendly person who was not quite all there.
As I cook my dinner the family down the way has already started a shouting match and the bath buildings are a warren of darkened rooms & dead ends. There's a noise that sounds disturbingly like an industrial bone saw. I finally see one other camper and he just gives me a glassy-eyed stare.
We'll see what tomorrow brings...if I make it through the night.