Day 18 – Sunday, July 12 ( Tok to Whitehorse )

Tok to Whitehorse

It was another cool morning. The temperature was 12 C (54F) when I got up and it got cloudier, cooler ( 10 C ) and it was raining near the Alaskan border, however it warmed up to 18 C (64F) when I got to Whitehorse.

I got up early, because I knew that I would lose and hour as soon as I crossed the Alaskan border.

As I packed up my tent, I noticed that the pressure in my passenger front tire was a little low so I drove to 3 gas stations in the vicinity before I found one that had an air compressor. The tire was down to 172 Kpa (25 psi) and it should be 250 Kpa (36 psi), so I knew that I had a slow leak because I had pumped up the pressure in Dawson before I left and because it had been a little low then. It appears that the Dempster got me again but not as bad this time.

With the tires all at a good pressure, I went for full breakfast at Fast Eddy’s and then headed for Whitehorse at 7 am Alaskan time.

It seems rather repetitive, but the scenery was captivating. I have spent a good deal of my time driving, while keeping an eye out for animals ( especially the big ones that might challenge me to a game of chicken ) while enjoying the scenery and keeping my eyes on the road.

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Even the sight of recent wildfires, were interesting.

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The road condition on the AlaCan (Alaska Canada highway, aka Alaska highway) varied. It was mostly paved, some areas with smooth pavement, some areas (especially in the Yukon) with a rough pavement ( more stone than tar ) and a few areas that were under repair from the heaving of the permafrost. The worst section was a 40 km (25 mi) stretch that was under repair and it had sections that were so bad that I had to slow down to 30 kph ( 20 mph ) while dodging potholes only to find that I had miscalculated and hit a bigger one than the one I was trying to avoid. Between the potholes, the stones catapulted from the tires of other cars, the undulating pavement and the road debris, I am surprised that there wasn’t more damage to my car. I had suspected that I would have some stone chips or a cracked windshield by now and that hasn’t happened. The flat tire on the Dempster was a stoke of luck, although, a bad one. I won’t be surprised if I need new shocks, tires, idler arms, windshield, etc., by the time I get home. It might just be time for a new vehicle by then.

It is interesting that the US Border patrol office and the Canadian office are about 30 km apart. I reached the border after opening time, which is 9 am. The border is only open from 9 am to 9 pm. I’m not sure if that is Yukon time or Alaskan time. There were 3 cars ahead of me and it didn’t move for 20 minutes, so I shut off the engine and worked on a crossword puzzle.
When the line did start to move, it didn’t take long to meet the border patrol agent from St. Catharines that used to work at the Lewiston bridge. A few questions, a couple of funny comments and I was on my way.

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There was a lot of spectacular scenery through the mountains and I took many pictures as often as I could using my stop and dash routine of pulling over, putting on the flashers, unbuckling, taking my camera, turning it on, checking traffic (there was never any when I did this), getting out, taking the pictures I wanted, getting back to the car, putting on my seat belt, turning off the camera, putting it away, checking for traffic (again no traffic), turning off the flashers, turning on my signal and I was on my way again. It had almost become a game. I also took advantage of some pull-offs to take the pictures but the routine was almost them same.

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Unfortunately, none of my pictures do the scenery justice.

It took about 8 hours for the trip and I pulled into the campsite in Whitehorse about 5 pm ( Yukon time ) and called Pat McKenna, who had invited me for dinner and we arranged to meet at her house at 6 pm. Pat has been a great host and I have enjoyed our conversations and her awesome meals. We had a moose stew with garlic mashed potatoes, green beans and a warm onion bun, all of which she had made. We also had an excellent desert cake, covered with fruits and berries, that she had made from scratch.

After dinner and stimulating conversation, I returned to the campsite to wash my car again and do some laundry, in preparation for the next leg of my trip to Surrey, BC.

Day 17 – Saturday, July 11 ( Dawson to Tok, Alaska)

Dawson to Tok

It was a cool day again. It started out at 10 C (50F) and then warmed up to 15 (59F) by the time I reached Tok, Alaska.

When I got up, I packed up my tent and headed into town for breakfast. While I was there a 70-year old gentlemen named Ron Roesler from Kansas joined me and we exchanged stories for a hour while having breakfast. Ron started an online trading company years ago and he is now retired and was heading to Fairbanks, Alaska with his dog, Polo, to go fishing for a week. He had a very interesting background and I enjoyed listening to his stories.

After breakfast, I took the ferry across the Yukon River in order to take the “ Top of the World” highway to Alaska.

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The road is similar to the Dempster highway and the scenery is also spectacular, however, the road is shorter than the Dempster and it is also very lightly travelled.

Along the way I saw this fox who looked like he could use a good meal.

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A little while later, I saw this marmot on the side of the road.

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The “ Top of the World” highway winds around the top of the mountains and there are some sheer drop-offs in several places. It is not for the faint of heart or people with a fear of heights, but the scenery is beautiful.

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The highway takes you through the mountains to the U.S. border, which is at an elevation of approximately 1250 m (4100 ft). At this point the there is another time change. Alaska is 4 hours earlier than Niagara. When it is 8 am in Alaska, it is already noon back home.

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At the border the highway had been recently paved on the U.S. side, up to the cut-off going to Eagle, which is a town at the mouth of the Yukon. From there the road was unpaved again and in a lot of places it was rougher than the previous section of unpaved road.

Shortly after I crossed into the U.S, I met a bicyclist peddling up to the US. border so I stopped to talk with him for a while. He told me that he was from Switzerland and that he was riding to Inuvik and then back down to Watson Lake.

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As the road slowly wound down the mountain sides, I came to the town of Chicken where I stopped for lunch at the Cafe next to the RV Campsite before continuing my trip to Tok. The burger was quite lean and tasty. This big statue is the town symbol.

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While I was at Chicken, I saw this tourist trying his hand at panning for gold.

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The road south from Chicken was mostly paved with a few short sections that were under repair. Although the road was paved, there were sections that were “ undulating “ like rolling waves and driving over it felt like a disney ride constantly going up and down.

I finally reached Tok in the early evening and located a very nice campsite where I set up my tent. There was a fellow at the campsite from Lafayette, Louisiana, who was taking a 6 week vacation to ride his Harley motorcycle to Alaska and the Yukon before heading back home via the west coast. We chatted for quite some time and I enjoyed hearing about his trip, his work and his family. I’ve met a lot of very wonderful and interesting people on this trip, which alone have made this trip an excellent adventure.

Tomorrow I will head back to Whitehorse, where I will get the oil changed in my car and the tires checked before making my way down the heart of British Columbia.