Joined: Feb 2008
Location: Playing Hooky
Day 6 - June 20
Up at 4:30 local time with early sun.
First rays of sun through the trees hitting the VStrom at 4:30 AM as I pack up. [Canon SX130]
Slept ok, wasn't cold. Usual breakfast then pack up, on the road by 7 am.
Junction 37 looks unchanged - there's a car at the abandoned weigh station, looks like camping. Fuel at Nugget City then on towards Teslin.
Hands getting cold. Pull off and add down shirt which helps but pretty chilly when I reach Rancheria.
Rancheria is looking pretty busy these days - compared to 5 years ago, they've done a bunch of renovations on the little restaurant, and have some motel rooms. It looked like they were pretty much at full capacity, with road work crews and tourists, including (so the owner said) some bus tours stopping - and eating all the home made pie. Everyone always seems very friendly at Rancheria.
Stop for a coffee and gas. Contemplate grip heaters - put them on.
Refuel in Teslin.
Among other things, Teslin is famous for its bridge. Many of the bridge decks in northern BC and the Yukon are metal grid - lightweight, strong, easy for snow to melt and fall through. It's also very unstable for a motorcycle - thus the ubiquitous Sign of the Shaky Motorcyclist: [Canon SX130]
(Actually, the Yukon has two distinct types of Shaky Motorcyclist sign; there's a different one indicating rough gravel too. Unfortunately I didn't think to stop and get the photo of that one, to have a complete set.) How challenging the deck is, depends on the particulars of the metal grid. Some use a sort of diamond lattice with all metal sections at the same height; these seem to be fine to ride across, with good control. Others - in particular the Teslin bridge (built in 1944, it's the longest bridge on the Alaska highway - 1466 feet of cantilevered steel) have a rectangular grid - and have the longitudinal metal stringers, higher than the cross stringers. This results effectively in "channels" which motorcycle tires fall in to, and if your front drops into a different channel than the rear, it gets very wobbly! To make matters worse, the side rail on the bridge are quite low; if you somehow wobbled over into them, it looks rather like you'd just go over the side. Oh, and, the bridge is rather narrow. So, best approach is hazards on, feet down, first gear, and hope for no oncoming traffic. Here's a shot of the bridge: [Canon SX130]
Just as I'm pulling out, a big green van with Idaho plates pulls in. Yep, it's Lisa from the Fort Nelson Tourist Info Centre. She's stopping to check out the wildlife exhibit I suggested here in Teslin. I tell her if she's going to Whitehorse, to look for the campground on the edge of town. She says she's headed that way.
Arrive in Whitehorse 11:20 local time. Tourist info directs me to the Suzuki dealer. Oddly, they don't have VStrom stock size tires available (?).
[RANT] OK! Seriously? Suzuki Canada, are you listening? You market the DL as an Adventure Tour bike, you'd better back it up with at least minimal service. Whitehorse is the place where everyone riding north does their tire swap (well not everyone - but a lot; it's the last major centre if for instance you're heading for the Dempster Highway; so it gets a LOT of motorcycle maintenance stops). You have a Suzuki dealer, and they do not stock a single correct size rear VStrom tire? Are you kidding me? And when I walked in and inquired, the parts guy had to have me walk out and get the tire size for him. WTF? Dude? You're the dealer, you have the parts manual in front of you! Seriously, I counted no less than 9 VStroms in the campground over the next two days - you've got two on your floor, where I'm talking to you - and you don't know / can't look up the size, and don't stock it, anyhow? Best they could offer was either of two 16" tires in very wrong profile, which would fit the rim. Usable as a last resort but that's about it. [/RANT]
They have something that could work but I decide to shop around. Yukon Motorcycle Centre (what was the HD dealer, 5 years ago) has the right size but only in TKC-80s. Not suited for what I'll be doing, and don't know how that would mix with the TrailWing front. Onto Honda - where I get my choice of two dual purpose tires in the correct size. I go with the Scorpion Trail and get the gear off the bike - they take it right in for the change. Better than I had hoped for! Plan to camp here tonight. Bike is back out with new tire in under 30 minutes - been in town less than an hour and problem solved.
Thank you, Whitehorse Honda!
Back to tourist infocentre and get info on Robert Campbell hwy - no services = no fuel for 370 km Ross River to Watson Lake. That's too close to my estimated max range including spare tank, of 400 km. Maybe South Canol is possible, Ross River to Johnson's Crossing? Get info. Will look at other options on map tonight.
Try sending email via the guest wifi at tourist center. You have to get an individual logon and it's good for 20 min. Some email comes in, but I am not sure if the one I tried to send goes out. Also get some mystery, roaming cell signal. Tells me $0.90/minute and only seems to work in downtown but may try it later for 2 min call "I'm alive!"
Get beer - I'm starting to cook alive in my suit, must be 25-30C out? Back to Robert Service campground and get a spot for 2 nights.
The campground here is very nice. I think it's actually run by the city. It has all the usual amenities, plus a "living room" [iPhone 5]
Decide I want to base myself here and explore a bit, and it's walking (30 min?) to town - being here for midsummer might be fun?
Set up tent and lunch of salmon thai salad and beer (before it gets warm). A few tiny sprinkles - they feel good, sit in t shirt and absorb them.
After a break, get the camera and walk into town. It's about 20 minutes along the river, nice.
Tour the SS Klondike sternwheeler and take a few pictures.
A few of the Klondike photos [Rolliflex 6008i; 80mm Planar]
Wander into town further and come across -- well from a distance it looks like a C1 roofed over motorcycle. Parked at the side of town's main street, clearly broken and being repaired. Check it out - English fellow and his wife doing a RTW tour, the bike is this modified Motto Guzzi. His cluch cable just broke and he's fixing it. Have a brief talk - have to check out his website guzzioverland.com later. Sounds like it's been quite a trip.
Spoke with Kev a bit. I'm sure his rig gets a lot of attention! When he said he was from the UK it made a bit more sense, but really, it all looked very Mad Max. His website is http://www.guzzioverland.co.uk/.
Kev, just finishing up his clutch cable repair in downtown Whitehorse: [Rolleiflex 6008i, 80mm Planar]
Rain starts coming down heavier now. Walk back to camp. Hey, the unexpected rain is a good chance to try out my fancy new Siltarp, right? Well, all the ways I had practiced pitching that before, assumed ground I could drive pegs into. Not here! I give up for now and make supper in light rain. At least it isn't cold. Supper tonight is "wild thyme turkey in country gravy with mashed potatoes". It's pretty good!
After supper still raining and I become determined to find a way to set the tarp up. Finally with rocks for anchors and using the bike handlebars as one tie point, I get a decent little wind and rain shelter set up. Pop the little folding stool under it and sit down to read. I'm impressed - I'm totally out of the wind and rain but not cramped, very nice.
This was the first time I'd included a tarp in my gear. The ability to very rapidly set up a shelter for cooking etc, separate from my tent, was worth the space and weight. The tiny folding stool was also worth it, allowing me to sit comfortably out of the weather under the tarp shelter. [iPhone 5]
Check the bike, and notice the chain seems to be overly slack. Should have been adjusted when new tire was put on. I could do it myself, but I'd have to use the stock toolkit wrench (tiny, not much leverage) to loosen and re-torque the rear axle bolt. Decide to at least ask the Honda shop first - will check tomorrow.
Into the tent about 11 and asleep immediately - it's not dusk yet (sunset is 11:45 pm, and surise about 4:20 am, I checked). Comfortable night.
Total 456.1 km