The Yukon to Alaska

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July 26, 2010

I woke up late the next morning and went down the road to fuel both the bike and myself. I was talking with the waiter at the restaurant and mentioned that I was planning on taking highway 2 north to Dawson, and then following the Top of the World Highway across the border into Alaska to the Taylor Highway. This turned out to be a good thing, as he had heard that the road had recently washed out on the Alaskan side and was closed. He gave me a number to call which confirmed the highway was indeed closed. It would have been a solid day of riding to get to the border crossing, only to find out it was closed. It had been briefly reopened and closed again due to the continuing rain. I believe it re-opened again a few days later, but it was far from certain at the time, and would have been too late anyway.

My alternative now was to head south to Whitehorse, YT, and continue following the Alaska Highway northwest. I had wanted to take the Taylor Highway into Alaska and the Alaska Highway out of Alaska so I wouldn't drive the same road twice, but I had no choice now. I started down the road to Whitehorse, the largest city in the Yukon, all the while hearing Parliament's song by the same name playing in my head. When I got there, I stopped at a Honda dealership to pick up some chain lube after emptying my can. While there, I met a couple other ADVriders. We talked briefly before heading our separate ways.

There isn't much to see on this stretch of the Alaska Highway, lots of wide open roads. The road followed a wide valley floor, with the mountains in the distance. Kluane Lake was a nice respite from the usual, a light blue lake surrounded by mountains.

The road became rougher the further northwest I traveled. There were often large potholes, and more significantly, major frost heaves. I bottomed out my suspension numerous times from hitting some of these too fast, and it required constant attention to dodge the worst spots in the road. It was an interesting gamble: the wide open and mostly empty road inviting speeding, but doing so risked coming up on a frost heave too fast to slow down sufficiently.

I ran out of gas a mile or two from a gas station once while trying to see how far I could go on a tank, but I had a full container of gas to refuel from. I noticed that it was pretty difficult to get the bike restarted after running out of fuel though.

I finally reached the Alaska border and passed through customs. The road improved considerably, and I was able to ride faster. I passed through Tok, AK and switched to highway 2 heading northwest. Like the Yukon, it was lonely out here, with long stretches of uninterrupted highway punctuated by the occasional service station.

I continued towards Fairbanks, AK, with the intention of staying at the University of Alaska Fairbanks dorms like I had heard about. By the time I got there it was drizzling, and the thought of staying inside was even more appealing. I met a couple other ADVriders in the parking lot who were also staying the night there. They had just rode down from Deadhorse that day, and told me the road was getting a little muddy. I didn't think much of it at the time, but I certainly understood later. They also told me what the gas stops were (just after crossing the Yukon, Coldfoot, and finally Deadhorse), and advised me that the tour to see Prudhoe Bay wasn't all that great (Prudhoe Bay in the Arctic Ocean is only accessible via a tour; the public road ends in Deadhorse). They also told me that Deadhorse was a dry city, which initially seemed surprising, but made sense after thinking about it. The city is an industrial camp run by oil companies to support the oil fields, so keeping the city dry would make sense to them.

For the time being, I booked my room and took the opportunity to prepare for my trip up the Dalton Highway the next day. It was nice to shower, do laundry, and even browse the internet for a while, before going to sleep in a warm bed.

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Copyright (c) 2010 Paul Miner <$firstname.$>