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Thread: San Francisco to Alaska, and back. July 2012.

  1. #49
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    Sunday
    A dull, damp start to the day as we left the University and headed back South on the Alaska Highway. Being a Sunday the roads were quiet, and the first hour or so out of Fairbanks had some bends to play on. I did a double take and a u-turn to look at what I thought was a Bull Moose, but it was only a youngster. We were all on the look out for one with the huge antlers, fruitlessly we now know, as it was too early in the season! At Delta junction the first coffee and fuel stop saw many of us adding extra layers, at the same place we'd been desperate for ice cream and shade a few days before! Knowing that the next 100 miles to Tok was fairly straight and boring meant IPod for me and cruising speed, reflecting on the past couple of days riding. The rain had held off, and started to brighten up as we passed through Tok and to Tetlin junction. Here we turned left onto highway 5, the Taylor Highway.



    This was Tarmac for the first 30 miles or so, then dirt just before the strangely named town of Chicken. Town is perhaps too great a term, as a cluster of houses and a shop is all there is. The shop is touristy, as is this is one of the Goldrush areas and as such serves the RV's and their passengers who drive this way. And the GSer's, obviously.



    An old digger, and a lump of wood.

    A quick coffee and shed some layers, take a photo or two. The road out of Chicken is narrower and twistier than the Tarmac that preceded it, and was immense fun. Just watch out for the dust! The Taylor Highway became The Top of The World Highway, as we came to what must be one of the most picturesque border crossings of the trip. We left Alaska and entered Yukon, again. There were black clouds scudding about, but we managed to miss getting wet.





    Smile!

    The road snakes down to the Yukon River, where a ferry takes you across to Dawson City. The road is only open for the summer, and I meant to ask whether this was because of River or road conditions in winter. The current was pretty strong, and the ferry takes a pronounced arc to get to the other bank.



    There was quite a queue of RV's waiting for the ferry, but they squeezed the bikes on over two crossings. Dawson looks every bit a Wild West Gold Rush town, and to some extent this is nurtured for the tourist trade. Some of it obviously just hasn't changed! The streets are all dirt with raised boardwalks for pedestrians and the buildings have wooden facades that look like every cowboy film you ever saw.The bikes were all parked in a line outside our hotel, and were attracting plenty of attention as we checked in.
    “Hey, where y’all from?”



    Chris suggested watching the Burlesque show at Diamond Tooth Gertie’s, as one of those things that just had to be done. We ate there before the show, reasonable food, not ridiculously expensive. The show was fairly tame, and the incessant yelping from the girls started to grate on me after a few minutes. Still, good authentic entertainment though! We didn’t stay long.

    I got a message to skype my kids. Their Grandad, my ex Father-in-law, had passed away. He’d been ill for a long time, so it wasn’t unexpected. He was a true gent, and had always been straight with me, even after the divorce. I was unhappy that I would miss paying my respects at the funeral, and felt wretched at the fact that I wasn’t there for my two at such a sad time for them. They put on a brave front for me, which made me feel even worse!
    I told the others, who said the right things, and someone suggested a “Moon Pig” email card, which was inspired. I did find myself close to being miserable for a couple of days, even though there was nothing at all I could do.
    Mark
    Just when you've got this rat race licked, here come faster rats!

  2. #50
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    Monday
    Chris had scheduled another rest day in Dawson City, and he offered to take any of us that were interested to see Dredge No. 4 that used to work the area.



    Dredge Number 4.



    A Moose family near the dredge pond.

    Now having an interest in mineral extraction ( the clue is in the site name) I was keen to see what this was. I had seen the manual "panning for gold" methods, but was quite unprepared for the scale of the dredging operation. The method of work was very simple, but the conditions the workforce had to endure must have been hellish. I could see similarities in the washing of the aggregate with the processes still used today, but am thankful that we've moved on somewhat! It was a very interesting and informative few hours, and the ride back put the strange landscape of the area into focus. On the way to the Dredge I had wondered about the endless low mounds of clean rocks, like glacial moraine but without any fines. Turns out it was all the oversize from the rear conveyor of the dredge, and this strange phenomenon is even visible on google earth.



    A lazy afternoon followed, wandering around Dawson, catching up on blogs, emails posting photos. I ate the biggest ice cream I'd ever had, sat in the sun on the
    boardwalk outside, watching the River flow by. It was pointed out that I was wearing a considerable amount of it, but that's to be expected.



    Mark
    Just when you've got this rat race licked, here come faster rats!

  3. #51
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    Tuesday
    Most of us filled up at the petrol station on the way out of Dawson City on Highway 2, the Klondike Highway. Most of us suffered poor performance as a result! Probably the lowest octane of the trip, who knows? There were a fair few miles to travel, all the while entertained by empty spaces and rolling hills.
    The road was reasonable and the weather fair so good progress was made. I pulled in at Pelly Crossing to fill up again, and managed to leave my GoPro on throughout, thus using a large chunk of battery filming the ground. Ho hum.
    I thought I was about to witness a pile up, as an RV decided at the last minute that he would stop for fuel, oblivious to the rig behind him. Howling tyres and blaring air horns indicated the truck driver's displeasure.



    With the bike running a bit better on fresh fuel, and the sun breaking through the clouds, we piled on South. As the road ran mainly parallel with the River for a few miles, the viewpoints had signboards giving you a brief history of the area. Most seemed to be about the paddle boats that plied the river to and from Dawson. "Five Finger Rapids" was obviously named in Clive's honour (Gaz had christened him "fingers" for some reason) and worthy of a photo opp. There was a path down to the rapids, but as the signboard helpfully warned us it was half
    an hour of a walk, we declined. Apparently this had been one of the places on the river where teams of horses and block and tackle would be used to pull the boats up the river, until someone had the bright idea to dynamite a channel.







    The Klondike Highway meets the Alaska Highway just North of Whitehorse, and a few of us pulled into the truckstop opposite the airport for lunch. We were quite spread out, but as everyone knew where we were intending to stay tonight and the Alcan led to it, everyone was fairly relaxed. After fuelling up, and photo stops, I found myself on my own for the remaining afternoon's ride into Teslin. The weather turned grey and drizzly as I got closer to the motel but not enough to bother us. I was very surprised to find that I was one of the
    first there, not realising I had been pushing on.



    I took the time to have an explore around Teslin, and the shore of the lake. There were some inviting looking quad tracks disappearing into the woods, but I sensibly managed to stay off them. I also tried to take some arty photographs of the long, mesh decked bridge, with limited success.





    The rooms at the motel had a splendid view down to the shore of the lake, but this had a flip side in that the mosquitoes inhabiting the shore of the lake had
    a splendid view of their prey.
    We ate in the cafe attached to the truckstop, so the food was filling if not gourmet, then Gaz and I fought the cash machine in the shop to get some Canadian
    money for the next few days.
    Mark
    Just when you've got this rat race licked, here come faster rats!

  4. #52
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    Cheers Mark. Good reading

  5. #53
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    +1, really enjoying it. Thanx again for taking the time.

  6. #54
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    I'm still hooked. Would love to ride the US one day.

  7. #55
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    The run over that open deck bridge at Teslin junction, 2 up on D/S tyres is an "interesting" experience
    still no deid

  8. #56
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    Thanks for your kind words guys, glad you're enjoying it!
    Should get some more done this weekend, need to finish it before Gaz finishes his "Recce" thread.
    Mark
    Just when you've got this rat race licked, here come faster rats!

  9. #57
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Nutty GSER View Post
    I'm still hooked. Would love to ride the US one day.
    You can't be persuaded to join Bilco's trip next year Nutty?
    I'm sure he wouldn't mind a GS 'Lite' coming along.

  10. #58
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    Wednesday.

    A murky, misty start to the day as we set off from Teslin, heading vaguely East, and suprisingly, North! The mesh bridge and damp conditions certainly focused the mind.
    Our breakfast was to be at Rancheria, where we had stopped on the way out, what seemed like weeks earlier. The sun came up and burned off the mist, and with no wind the lakes we passed at the side of the road were like mirrors. I had been on the lookout for a photo opp where a mountain was reflected in a lake, and a promising looking site was approaching to my right. As I slowed, one of my son's songs started on my iPod, and my thoughts turned to the two of them struggling with the aftermath of their Grandad's passing. I took the photo
    through blurred vision, and sat for a few minutes lost in thought. I'm glad none of the others came past at that point.




    The breakfast at Rancheria was well up to the usual standard. We just managed to get all our orders in before a horde of cyclists arrived, I'm not too sure how much cycling over there appeals, it's an awful long road to pedal! Onwards past Watson Lake, and the Alaska Highway changes from highway 1 to highway 97, and followed roughly the Laird River.



    We flirted with the border between Yukon and BC a few times, before heading South properly into BC. The scenery was outstanding, mainly lakes, rivers and woods, but with some decent
    sized hills knocking about. I turned off the road and down a jeep track to do what bears do, and must admit to being a little spooked by the forest not 100 metres from the main highway. Needless to say I didn't hang around, though I did have a laugh at myself later.



    A few miles later, a large black shape at the bottom of the embankment moved. A quick double take revealed it to be a Bison, and a big one! I sat taking photos
    while it completely ignored me and ate grass.



    Riding further, a sign indicating twisty roads ahead started my throttle hand twitching. We'd been on fairly open roads for a while, so the opportunity to use more than the middle of the tread was inviting. Sure enough, the road got twisty, and with elevation changes, excellent! I was setting myself up for a
    downhill right hander when a big RV came round the corner and flashed his lights.
    So, is he flashing at me for riding like a knob, or is there a FECK!!!!














    A bison as big as a caravan stood smack bang in the middle of the road!I would still have been able to stop, even without the advance warning, honest........
    Somewhat humbled, I rode past the rest of the herd of probably 20 beasts, calves included. They gave the distinct impression that they owned the road and the verges. Given their size, I'm prepared to agree.



    After skirting the end of the snappily named "Laird River Corridor Provincial Park and Protected Area", we rode further South into "Muncho Lake Provincial Park". Now this was definitely an AONB, to use our parlance. The hills had become mountains, and Muncho Lake itself was nestled at the bottom of a valley with barren and twisted slopes to the sides. There were wide run off channels and boulder fields to the east of the road.. I suspect someone with a more geographical bent might give a better description, but it looked like a moonscape to me.
    The lake was glass calm, and as I passed a hotel on the shore I saw a ski boat at the top of a slipway, and a sign advertising waterskiing. Very tempting, but
    that pale green water was likely to be very cold, and my arms had a lot to do for the next few days. I shut the idea out, and rode on.



    Toad River was a small settlement based around an airstrip. The truckstop, campsite and lodges on one side of the road, the "airport" buildings on the other. The actual landing strip ran parallel to the road, and was barely as wide as it.



    The cabins looked unfinished from the outside, but the insides were clean and functional. Sadly the store/cafe didn't have a drinks licence so no beers tonight, but as we were enjoying our post dinner stroll, Johno spotted some beavers in the pond at the back of the campsite. Everyone grabbed their cameras and we watched them hard at work. Nothing like looking at beaver at the end of the day.





    Mark
    Just when you've got this rat race licked, here come faster rats!

  11. #59
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    Some great pics there Mark and always good to see Alaska from a different perspective other than mine. I'm biased anyway as I love the place and these pics are an example as to why

    Roll on 2015 and must get down to sorting it out
    www.unchainedtours.com

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    With hope, one can think, one can work, one can dream.
    If you have hope, you have everything."



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  12. #60
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    Thursday.



    You wouldn't want to argue with these two!

    The road out of Toad River was outstanding! Through Stone Mountain Provincial Park there were plenty of twists and turns to keep you occupied as the road climbed, then descended what I'm guessing was Stone Mountain. The inevitable roadworks stopped me for a few minutes while the sign man chatted about my Go Pro and the bike. I warned him that there were likely to be a few others heading his way, as the call came that it was clear. The roadworks was to remove a small landslip that had fallen onto the road on a blind bend, I was very glad to have been warned of it!
    Following a Subaru with local knowledge for half an hour was fun, as the driver kept up a steady 70 on the straights and attacked corners with some gusto.
    The roads started to straighten out as the day wore on. There was plenty of evidence of the Fracking phenomenon which has been in the news at home so much. We passed numerous well heads at the side of the road, but I didn't think them intrusive. The average plot one of them takes up is only the size of a house, and the pipe work is all low level. The number of trailers stacked with pipe lengths and pump sets parked in a compound just before Fort Nelson gave an
    indication of just how big an industry this is over there.
    Traffic started to get heavier around Fort St John, not helped by a truck going off the road and turning on its side. The crane lifting it back onto its wheels closed the carriageway down to one lane.
    We reached the end of the Alaska Highway at Dawson Creek, having now travelled its full length in one direction or another. I missed the sign in the centre of town, as I was busy trying to remember the name of the motel we were staying at that night! After a couple of laps of the houses we found it. Whilst unloading
    the bike I noticed some misting around the final drive seal. Whether this was as a result of the grit from the Dalton, the altitude, or the heat we were now experiencing I don't know, but it wasn't enough to cause a problem.



    About the same time, Little Mark noticed his wallet was missing. This made him unhappy, which was a very scary thing to behold. He worked out that he had last had it when he fuelled up, some hours and miles ago. Two men had come over talking to him (hey, where y'all from?) which had distracted him from his usual routine. Had they done that to steal his wallet? Had he not fastened the pocket he kept it in? Whichever way it was gone, with all his cards and a considerable amount of cash. He and Geoff went to sort out the logistics of wallet loss, while the rest of us went to a restaurant for something to eat. Afterwards, it was suggested that we adjourn to the bar next door, which had some, erm,
    "entertainment" to offer.
    Being of sheltered upbringing, I've only seen a stripper once at a stag do, and I've never been in an actual strip club. So, purely on the grounds of research, I allowed the more worldly wise of our party to lead me in.I left after a couple of pints, the girls were pretty enough, and the gymnastic moves they could do whilst unhindered by clothes were impressive, but I found it as erotic as watching paint dry.
    Mark
    Just when you've got this rat race licked, here come faster rats!

  13. #61
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    strippers eh? i'da probably left early too Mark

    great write up mate. feeling bad for little Mark, been there, it's shit.

    love the trucks. proper tackle is that.

  14. #62
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    Quote Originally Posted by UturnTony View Post
    strippers eh? i'da probably left early too Mark

    great write up mate. feeling bad for little Mark, been there, it's shit.

    love the trucks. proper tackle is that.
    Unbelievably, there was a positive outcome eventually

    Don't worry old son, we'll see plenty next year and when everyone is taking pictures of canyons and mountains, you'll see me looking at the trucks..........sad I know
    www.unchainedtours.com

    "Of all the forces that make for a better world, none is so powerful as hope.
    With hope, one can think, one can work, one can dream.
    If you have hope, you have everything."



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  15. #63
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    Friday
    Traffic was building as we left Dawson Creek, but within a few miles it quietened down. The landscape had flattened out and the roads were wide, straight dual carriageways as we approached an area/ the town of Grand Prairie. I suppose the clue is in the name? As I was riding along I was reminded of all those "American roads are dead straight and dead boring" comments I had heard in the past. Here was a dead straight, dead boring road. The fact that it was in Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada was a minor detail. So I decided to take a picture or two of this dead straight, dead boring road as I'm going along.



    The road had been clear behind me when I started this operation, so imagine my surprise when my mirrors were suddenly full of red and blue lights. I pulled into the hard shoulder, cursing myself roundly for getting caught. The patrol car pulled in ahead of me, and the officer jumped out, hand on holster as they do, then stood in the middle of the road and flagged down a pick up truck, indicating to him to wait on the hard shoulder too. Now I was confused. Then I realised there was another patrol car behind me that had also flagged a vehicle down.
    Radar trap.
    My mind hadn't registered the two plain looking white cars in the central reservation as Police cars, the light bars are lower profile than ours, and the lettering down the
    side quite small. Easy to miss, if you're not looking. Doh.
    Happily for me, photography wasn't mentioned, just the small matter of exceeding the speed limit somewhat. After a very long chat, where the very interested officer asked all about our trip, and also how it compared to riding in Europe as he fancied doing that himself, he went to confer with the other, more senior officer in the other car. He came back very apologetic, saying that he had to write a ticket, and explained what my fine payment options were. He also suggested that it was unlikely that I would be pursued for the fine if I ignored it once back in the UK, but that doing so could jeopardise any future return to Canada. He chatted for a while longer before shaking my hand and wishing me well for the remainder of the trip. All this time, nearly 15 minutes, the occupants of the pick up truck were sat waiting for their turn! I'd seen the others go past, and waved them on, so now I set off to catch them up, with an eye on the speed limit obviously.
    Unfortunately I missed them so spent the majority of the day riding on my own. As I headed towards Jasper the scenery began to climb towards the sky again, and the roads got more interesting. It was warming up as well, clear skies and bright sunshine. Tourist traffic was starting to build the nearer to Jasper I got, and the town itself was heaving with people. The Hotel address was a hardware shop according to my Zumo, and after a couple of fruitless laps I stopped to ask a delivery driver. The hotel was around the corner, set back from
    the road enough to be hidden from plain view.
    A brief wander around the town confirmed that Jasper is a tourist hotspot, but also summer sports seem far more popular than winter. I was surprised at this, don't know why, but I was.By the time I got back to the hotel, the others had all turned up, and a bit of "changing rooms" was going on. Apparently, the two worst snorers should be in the same room, thus giving their previous room mates a decent nights sleep.
    I refute this allegation absolutely. I don't snore. Unless I sleep on my back, or have had a drink, or if the day has a 'y' in it. Hence I was now sharing a room with Alex, who was said to snore like a hippo with a nose full of seaweed. I didn't notice myself, but then I could sleep through world war 3.
    Jon and Alex had also had a brush with the law today it seems, but Alex had sweet talked his way out of it. A touch of the Blarney I think?
    My diary suggests we spent too long in the bar that night.
    Mark
    Just when you've got this rat race licked, here come faster rats!

  16. #64
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    Next video.
    Mark
    Just when you've got this rat race licked, here come faster rats!

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