DAY SIX: WEDNESDAY, JUNE 17
Sleeping while traveling has always been troublesome for me. At home, I sleep in spurts of thirty to sixty minutes, then find I need to roll around to a new position which wakes me up for those few milliseconds. Nothing changes when on the road, but it’s weird to open the eyes at 1AM, 2:30AM, and 3:45AM and see shades of daylight coming through the cheap curtains covering the motel room windows. We were far enough north that it just would not get very dark in the middle of the sleeping periods any longer. I was adjusting to the time changes pretty well as we went through them; the mind just was not comprehending well with the missing darkness of night each time I awoken while flipping like a hamburger on a grill.
As a regular coffee drinker at home, this was the first and only morning of the trip in which a hot cup of java was enjoyed as the world came to life around me. I chatted in the parking lot with a contractor who had been staying at the Blue Bell motel for weeks now. A single guy in his mid fifties, he worked fourteen hour days for months in a row with little time off during the non-snowing months in the Yukon. His earned money went directly into a bank account that financed his seven month yearly semi-retirement in the Florida Keys. Jim (the contractor) had done this for nearly twenty years in a row already. His wind-toughened face easily showed the stresses and pains he had felt doing this type of work for so long. Jim relished showing me the bison strikes against his truck when his vehicle was attacked by a herd he had to drive through the previous year when he went to a remote site for his job.
This morning provided not as bad cool temperatures but as the thermometer registered less than fifty, the heated gear was utilized as usual. The escalating temps most day required the constant shuffling of heated and layered clothing until just the Klim protective gear was worn over just a t-shirt and pants or shorts.
On the online forums, people constantly discuss the best route to Alaska of the two available choices: by the Alaska Highway or by the Cassiar Highway, a road I would take on the return trip south. Nearly everybody reports the Cassiar to be the most interesting and that in this direct comparison, the ALCAN is a boring road. Since leaving Dawson Creek, I had yet to find anything boring about the Alaska Highway and would recommend it as a route. This morning would be no different. I guess when being accustomed to riding straight boring roads with no scenery in the center of Indiana, one takes delight in any pathway that has any type of curves built in to it and a hilltop or more in plain view.
By Google Maps, Toad River Lodge was 2.5 hours west of Fort Nelson and a planned stop of mine from past research. I knew the motorcycles would need fuel by this point and that we would be eager to find a great breakfast to celebrate the morning’s ride by the time we would arrive there. Some people raved about the food; I was looking to do my own sampling.
This leg would not disappoint; offering many types of scenery in just a couple hours. From open fields to mountains, this stretch had it all.
There were many miles of hard pack gravel roads to commute on.
It was almost as if a constuction zone was created but there was no signage of work to be completed soon and perhaps it had been forgotten. In the dry conditions we rode it; it was very enjoyable to ride upon for miles. It was easy to get speeds to climb and maintain past 80 MPH if desired; the bikes simply floated along their paths. However, I think each of us found a great cadence at around 45 MPH as we simply listened to the sounds of the ground beneath us being traversed as we just enjoyed the brisk morning with absolutely no other traffic to create interruption. Our only concern was wildlife, that would make itself aware to us whenever our minds drifted too far away.
One of my favorite pictures of the entire trip; the remoteness of the entire days of riding is captured perfectly here; there was a section of road about eight miles long that was exactly like this:
We rode through the northern part of Northern Rocky Mountains Provincial Park and its many curves with smiles on our faces and the cameras constantly being used. We were treated with wildlife sightings of moose, bear, bison (or buffalo as others call them) and even big horn sheep that got away from view of the cameras too quickly to be captured.
This trio of riders was enjoying the morning’s ride led by myself when we came around that curve you see below. A quick pucker moment of downshifting, slamming the brakes, steering around wildlife hoping nobody comes the other way, and easing to the side of the road to get the camera out once again:
Rob was able to capture them much closer with his video when he decided to turn around and see how close he could get without scaring them off. Some animals were just not intimidated at all by man or machine; they stood their ground when you got close. Believe me, they let you know when you are getting too close to their comfort zones.
Lots and lots of big animals seen this day. This moose could very well have problems standing up in any of my rooms here at home; it was enormous and not at all phased by us riding so close by or taking a ton of pictures.
Eventually, with my stomach rumbling loudly repeatedly in protest for its empty contents, we came across the Toad River Lodge. I had heard a lot about their breakfast offerings from past visitors; they have become famous for their omelettes and their freshly made cinnamon rolls.
Once again, I feel the need to mention that writing these trip reports is almost mental torture. Thousands of photos were taken on this journey but only a few can be placed into this online journal due to space considerations. All I will say is that breakfast did not disappoint at all…and the cinnamon rolls…yep, what I heard was true. This is a highly recommended stopping point for human fuel.
Another thing to mention is that of course, these remote areas do not have postal service like we are used to down in the lower 48 states. The scattered trading posts become the general post offices for those that live in the fifty or so miles around them. Many of the remote gas stop or general store had something like this located within its confines:
After blowing at least an hour over fueling up, getting breakfast, and looking through the tourist-trap momentos for purchase (nope, still no oval stickers), we decided it was best to keep moving west. The ride all morning long from Fort Nelson all the way to the Contact Creek area as we first touched into the Yukon continued to be very enjoyable.
The above picture of the lake is visually intoxicating; especially viewed on the big screen here at home. It was easy to capture such pretty reflective photos. I have one here that is impossible to tell which side is up if I were to rotate it; the reflective properties that perfectly duplicated in the water. Like I have already mentioned, viewing the water alone is enough to justify the cost and time expense of this trip.
Somewhere around Liard River we found another gas station and pulled in to top off. I have heard from many others to never let the fuel gauge get below half a tank when doing this trip; as my legs needed stretching every forty-five minutes or so off the bike anyways, the trio of us never had issues with not stopping for gas. At this particular stop, I just finished pumping gas when this bison comes out of nowhere and starts taking casual interest in all of us:
Maybe he was upset at the wording on the sign, but this big guy decided to venture closer. We all kept an eye on him as he decided to walk through the same parking area we were in:
Bison can grow to over 2200 pounds. And they are fast when they want to be. And they can jump (this one scaled the fence above when it was chased away by this guy):
Apparently while not being afraid of people, vehicles, fireworks, or tooting horns, they have an aversion to dogs. Even the small yappy types from what I was told. They immediately flee or fight.
Keeping bison away from the fuel pumps so your master can make money is a hard job I guess:
The day progressed along with great riding, capturing of magnificent photos, and a lot more clowning around as the three of were becoming more comfortable with each other as riding partners. We have photos of one of us taking a photo of another taking a photo of another who’s taking a photo of something. It became almost too comical when we made a game out of the best way to remount our steeds after taking a photo:
I kept cautioning Rob that he may want to take it easy on mounting his motorcycle. After all, it was a BMW and I would hate to see the poor thing need to be shot on the side of the road or something after he killed it.
Next piece of incorrect info I had before leaving the house: As already seen, I like taking photos of the state and provincial signs I pass by for the first time on a motorcycle. I was told that the Yukon sign was at the initial Yukon border; just as other state and province signs were placed. That’s not correct for here. As you are heading west, the road swings into and out of the Yukon around six times until such a point that it angles northwest and stays in the Yukon for the rest of the trip. The powers to be decided not to place the Yukon sign for more than twenty miles past Coral River Spring Territorial Park, which is the first identifiable point past the initial Yukon border.
I kept one eye on the road, one eye on the sides for animals, and one on the GPS and I watched the marked trek jog in and out of the Yukon and back into British Columbia. The entire time I anxiously waited for the famous sign to appear that I had seen so many times in others ride reports. I actually thought that perhaps somehow it had been damaged or was being replaced and no longer standing.
The colorful welcome sign is placed about four or five miles south of Watson Lake; this is after the fourth time that the road goes back into the Yukon according to my GPS mapping:
Hey…I rode thousands of miles to get this picture. I have a right to have gotten a little anxious…hate to have to ride all the way up here again just to get one picture! (Okay, maybe that wouldn’t be so bad now that I think about it….)
Watson Lake brought a stop at the famous Signpost Forest. You can Google lots of info on this location, but basically it started with a soldier working on the initial Alaska Highway hanging a sign with an arrow pointing to his home town back in the 1940s. This was an amazing stop. We were there for about twenty minutes. We should have stayed for a couple of hours and just looked around more.
If you have a sign for your home or birth town, a special location, or something interesting, bring it. There’s lots of open areas to hang one for yourself. There are also areas to write something if you did not bring something to nail to one of the many available posts. I carry a Fisher Space Pen in my tank bag; it writes on anything, in any weather condition, and even upside down. I left a little anonymous personal note about the journey there like many others.
Somebody asked me how many signs are there. I have no idea, and no way to estimate due to size of this place. Maybe one hundred thousand? I just do not know.
One last photo, just to give you an idea to the randomness there (I liked the orange one, you can custom create one for your riding group at home and bring it with you if you like):
It started getting cloudier as the afternoon appeared to us but the road still provided some good curves to navigate:
I heard a lot about all the construction zones. Most that we encountered were manned by cute females for some reason, some had the traffic controlled by electronic means:
Some random animal shots taken this day:
As we approached the town of Teslin, we were getting a little low on fuel; as we came around a curve while descending a mountain we saw the famous bridge over the Nisutlin River and Teslin Lake junction:
As you can see from the picture, our empty blue skies were being invaded by rain clouds. After pumping gas and buying some food since we knew we would be on our own for dinner since we would be staying remotely at a lake house that night, we continued west. As luck would have it, we skirted the rain for approximately ninety minutes as we made our way to Marsh Lake, about forty minutes east of Whitehorse. Of course, less than five minutes away from our final destination, we got caught in the rain which continued on for much of the remaining evening hours.
I had made reservations for a beachfront cottage that supposedly had three bedrooms and two bathrooms, with no running water on site from a guy named Andrew. I had kept him in the loop all day long of our our progress through emails at places like Watson Lake and Teslin, at his request, so he could time our arrival so he would be there and have everything ready. We arrived in the pouring rain and waited over forty minutes for him to arrive. The case of water he promised to bring never materialized. There wasn’t a single bathroom….but it did have an outhouse in the weeds where the neighbors could keep an eye on you though. And the three bedrooms with a loft turned out to be a “master” in a closet with a futon that would not open all the way and two funky, mattress broken beds in a loft area. Overall it was comfortable; but way oversold in the description enough that when he invited us to rent it again on the way back home, I declined the opportunity.
Andrew was nice enough though to bring in soaked firewood for us to try to use in the fireplace since he did not turn the gas on to the stove on before he left (he had offered before leaving, but we had thought the firewood was dry and declined the offering). Part of the adventure I guess. Be careful of a beach house offering east of Whitehorse on Marsh Lake.
It did have a great view of Marsh Lake though; we spent the evening watching the waves of rain over the water.
Tomorrow would be our search for the elusive heating gear extension cable and oval stickers in Whitehorse; the first real nasty construction zone where multiple motorcycles had problems is encountered; and we make our run to the “old west” style town in Canada in search of a human toe cocktail (and the real truth behind it).
Mileage: 565 miles (or so)
Areas traversed: Watson Lake, Teslin