Alaska Adventure 2005 – Cruising the Alcan

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Day 12

  • Sunday, July 3
  • Destruction Bay, YT to Watson Lake, YT
  • 436 miles

We stumble into the restaurant at 7 AM and George and May are on duty. We’re in awe. George makes us ham and eggs just as he had promised to do the night before and May serves us. It takes a serious amount of coffee to get us jump started and May keeps it coming. We say our fond goodbyes and head out on the Alaska Highway. We travel through vast valley spaces of untouched forests interrupted only by the occasional abandoned cabin, boarded up gas station, and out-of-business restaurant. We wonder what people do to earn a living in this remote area but it’s actually no different from the many remote rural areas we’ve ridden through in the lower 48 during previous rides.

We are told that we’ll finally find decent roads East of Whitehorse and we do. The roads are on firm ground as the terrain changes from tundra and taiga to fir forests. And then, just as we are thinking that we might finally get a dry day on this trip, it rains. Oh well.

We stop for lunch at a place called Johnson’s Crossing, a little resort in the Yukon Territory, and we get a real surprise. A guy comes rolling in on a Honda Super Cub 50. His name is Nordy and he’s from Japan. We ask where he’s heading and he replies, “Prudhoe Bay”, which is on the Arctic Ocean at the end of the same treacherous 550 mile gravel road we road past yesterday. We ask where he started from and he replies, “The southern tip of South America, six months ago.” Ok, we’re not worthy! Here we are on these big, powerful sport touring machines, all impressed with what we’re doing, and he comes Nordy on his tiny two stroke. The fairing on his bike is covered with decals and well wishes made with a Sharpie that he’s collected along the way. Simply amazing!

It’s our second day of travel on the Alaska Highway and we are deep in the middle of serious nowhere. This road is the only way in or out of this region and the side roads that branch off of it dead end beyond nowhere. The Alcan is frequented by RVs and motorcycles and little else: various Harleys, lots of BMW GS dual sports, Honda Gold Wings w/ trailers, sidecar and trike rigs and lots of two-up riding. As we meet other riders at gas stations, we compare the grime levels we’ve achieved while we share information about the road ahead or behind.

We roll into Watson Lake and pull into a gas station. As we fill up, we notice a fair number of mosquitoes paying attention to us, more than any other place on our trip. We swat them, hop on our bikes and head out of town to the big provincial campground. We follow a gravel road to the shore of Watson Lake. It is utterly devoid of campers and rangers and we pick the most primo site in the place. We’re puzzled as to why such a nice place is abandoned as we dismount and begin unpacking our camping gear. But it only takes three minutes to figure it out as we are mobbed by ravenous mosquitoes. It makes Skookumchuck seem like a pleasant family picnic in comparison. We hastily vote to vacate the place, slam our helmets back on our heads and blast out of there to look for a motel back in town.

We find rooms in the 3rd motel we try in Watson Lake and wow, what a fleabag! It looks and smells like it caters to nothing but lumberjacks, fishermen and truckers but it’s better than being eaten alive in the woods. Hell, there are even mosquitoes inside the attached restaurant itself! The rooms are so grimy that I refuse to sleep in the bed. I toss my camp mattress and sleeping bag on top of the bedspread and call it good. It smells and looks like fish guts have been smeared on the walls. I’m not kidding.

After supper, we walk over to the Sign Post Forest which was started by some homesick guy who was a worker on the Alaska Highway during World War II. He nailed a sign with the name of his town on a post and others followed suit. There are now signs from all over the world and the site covers multiple acres in the center of town. Pretty cool.

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