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Part Two: Top Of The World – Alaska/Yukon Canada

Part 2:

Day 13 (Fairbanks): Two days to rest and check out Fairbanks.  Visited the local fair which exhibited a plethora of confused pasty faced, saggy-panted youths and shit-house hippy folk music. A band called ‘Celtic Confusion’ reminded me of a Billy Connolly joke, “I’m not a S’elt ya S’unt”.

Day 14 (Fairbanks): Fairbanks has great food (at ‘The Pump House’ – fantastic fish) but is in essence a bit of an extended rectangle of strip mall outlets.  It does have a great camping/bicycle shop so spent most of the day buying lighter gear at ‘Beaver Sports’.

Day 15 (32 miles) (Fairbanks – North Pole – Fairbanks – down the road):  Headed out of Fairbanks only to get a flat tire less than 17 miles out (in a place quaintly named ‘The North Pole’ – a toy manufacturing marketing ploy).  A very kind man from one of the shops (Santa) was driving back to Fairbanks and offered a lift so I decided to go back and stock up on the right equipment (at Beaver Sports again) and cycle out again (I hate riding the same road twice!).  Therefore after more purchasing I tried again at 4pm and once I had made some reasonable headway, saw a B&B sign and stayed the night there.  Mario the young German dog sled runner and the retired ex-army pot-bellied Alaskan guy with tiny dogs did all they could to convince (unsuccessfully) that they were interested in women.

Day 16 (62 miles) (Camp – to Delta Junction):  Another day of punctures along the flat benign sealed highway.  A staple and a shard of metal went straight through the rear tire.  Was prepared this time but it makes for a shitty day having to change out the rear tire twice.  Found a camp  ground just short of Delta Junction with hot showers and Wi-Fi so coughed up the $22.

Day 17 (73 miles) (Delta Junction – road side 73 miles away):  A lovely road that was mostly flat and the legs pumped away mercilessly at the miles despite the intermittent rain.  Couldn’t make it to the campsite at 85 miles so it was ‘Guerrilla’ camping and trying to burn sodden wood to dry out some clothes, unsuccessfully.  ‘Guerrilla’ camping is a bit of a misnomer in that most in Alaska are camping pretty well anywhere they feel like it.  Have done an assessment of the love-handles and can report a discernible reduction in the amount of grippable material.  Am yet to form into a mile-devouring peddling machine nor quite regained the Adonis-like svelte profile of my youth, but getting there.  Am also getting used to the staple diet of cereal and chocolate bars, boiled noodles and the odd monster-burger.

Day 18 (38 miles) (Road side – Tok): Tok (pronounced Toke as in, “Don’t Bogart that joint my friend, pass it over to me”… for a toke).  This is the place to fuel up your personal RV bus.  Many of these vehicles are visible from space, some even towing large 4WD run-abouts – just in case some of the towns you visit won’t accommodate the turning circle of your touring leviathan.  Most have names printed on them like ‘Raptor’ and ‘striker’ where they should perhaps be called ‘Old fat guy’ or ‘Zimmer’.  In Tok you spend the night in any one of a dozen motels (mine has a steel frame that shakes the whole building every time someone moves) and then get the hell out.  Your correspondent is heading for ‘The Top of the World’ Highway tomorrow.

Day 19 (60 miles) (Tok to ’49 mile’ Campsite 17 miles from Chicken): I thought I was hard-core but regrettably I have to admit, I am not.  At 20 miles after the turn off from the Alaska Highway, along the Taylor Highway on the way to Chicken, I met a cyclist from Russia (Vladeslav Ketov), an old guy (“cyclist, poet, man”), who had pretty well cycled all over the world through 93 countries since 1993, cycling around each continent (with the exception of Australia and the Antarctic). [Later he is Christened ‘Vlad The Impedaler’] Today was a great cycling day.  Good road surface and no traffic with rolling hills (some large but climbable), good weather and lovely country-side so really couldn’t ask for more. The campsite is picture-perfect by the river with a small patch for the tent. I have some Spam in a packet (what an innovation and why did it take this long?!).  SPAM with noodles is a highly recommended serving suggestion.

Day 20 (17 miles) (‘49 mile’ Campsite to Chicken):  Tough little stretch of rolling hills and arrived at Chicken. Had the 1/3 pound buffalo burger and spent the rest of the day in the Chicken Creek Bar drinking Amber ales and talking to the owner, or more precisely the owner talking to me as when Susan holds court in her place, her word is law.  You got to be tough to survive up her and the locals have this self reliant certitude about them.  The tour buses cruise through for souvenirs – anything with ‘Chicken written on it.  Later in the day the old gold miners and the camper tourists fill up the bar and a couple of guitar players emerge to put down the Dixie Chicks tunes.  The owner’s daughter is back from university where she has an ice hockey scholarship. “Your legs must be hard” says she (the saucy little darling).  Your correspondent: “Indeed, hard and getting harder” (Susan the owner/mother would no doubt sever my manhood).  Later in the evening the manners are slipping in the bar as the camper-van girls get a few on board and the panty gun (a paint ball gun adapted for purpose), is fired off a few times.  The remnant threads are hung on the trophy ceiling and walls.  Your correspondent was of course tucked up in bed thinking pure thoughts and pondering how to cure all known diseases by that point. (If you are 18 or above go to www.buff3yinthebuff.com and pay your $14.95 for one month’s membership for alternate versions). It’s all happening in Chicken.  Camped in a “walled tent” out the back of the shop that had a stove.

Chicken Cafe

Day 21 (38 miles) (Chicken to Boundary):  Hung over so cycling not the best idea in the world. The road winds up and up through a magnificent valley and follows the river gradually up and onto the ‘Top of the World’. At Boundary (3.5 miles from the border), Jim the miner has bought the café/car but not sure what to do with it yet.  The boys are down by the river sucking, blasting and sifting river banks for gold that is now fetching A$1,800 an ounce so all are very excited.  The feds have evidently dragged off a few miners for blasting and gouging the hell out of the river illegally.  Jim has kindly offered to put me up in a cabin that serves as a ‘museum’.  It has an old piano and some old tins in it.  Heading across the border into Canada/Yukon Territory tomorrow morning.

Day 22 (108km) (Boundary – Dawson City):  A most beautiful road (‘The Top of the World Highway’). Magic scenery either side of the road.  Across the border into Canada and rolling across the ridges of the mountains.  Showers occasionally, magnificent rainbows.  A rollicking final ride of 14km downhill into Dawson, with a couple of moose on the road half way down the hill, then onto the ferry across the Yukon River in the city.  Covered in mud but happy to have made it to Dawson but will pay for the distance tomorrow.Alaska has been great and the Alaskan people have gone above and beyond to be helpful and friendly.

Day 23, 24, 25 Dawson City:  Recuperation.  Ensconced at the Downtown Hotel and all the gear is washed etc.  The casino in town is cheesy/touristy but the town is a pretty and very sleepy museum piece; a grid of coloured wooden buildings (of which the Downtown Hotel is one – see photo).  It also has a glut of colourful local characters (read ‘drunk old dead-shits’).  A good Thai massage that was murder on the legs and some soothing cream (Deep Heat’) and am almost recovered for the ride to Whitehorse.  Dawson is a great pit stop for a few days to refuel.

Gerties Casino Dawson City

Day 26 (85km) (Dawson City – Roadside Camp): While the ‘deep tissue massage’ from Laura the Argentinean masseuse was nothing short of complete and utter torture, it appears to have done some good for the legs.  Note for aging cyclists: don’t get dehydrated and do stretch once you get off the bike each day. If you don’t do this you will get lectured by Laura the Argentinean sadist as she grinds her fingers into the non-gaps between muscle and bone until you are a yelping blob of pulped flesh with only faint remnants of your self respect left intact.  I won some money on the roulette table at Gertie’s Casino two nights in a row (Gamblers always fibbing about how much they win, suffice to say my winnings were right up there in the high tens).  I feel for the community organisation running the place, as the gambling proceeds reportedly are fed back into community projects… on further reflection I couldn’t really give a rat’s.  The showgirls will miss me terribly I’m sure (refer photo – that arm nonchalantly draped over my shoulder is not some token gesture for the tourist photos – its love!).  I reluctantly checked out of the lovely Downtown Hotel and the legs spun with ease along 85km of mostly flat road.  My camping technique is improving.  Am now assiduously taking Bear Grills’ advice and urinating around the camp-site to discourage bears from investigating (Bear says it has something to do with testosterone in the wee).  I can now pitch the tent, perform my perimeter peeing and have some pretty ordinary noodles on the boil in next to no time.  So much so that finishing a ride early on camping nights leaves bugger-all to do.

Day 27 (72 km) (Camp to Moose Creek): Regrettably one of the legacies of spending three nights at ‘Diamond Tooth Gertie’s Casino‘ is that as the pedals turn the one song stuck in my head is, “Hanky-panky, nothing like a good spanky”).  Occasionally ‘Hey Misbehavin’’ emerges, offering only fleeting respite but inevitably the endless cycles of, “Treat me like I’m a bad girl, even when I’m bein’ good to you” return.  The ‘Moose Creek Lodge‘ at the end of the day is a lovely little compound of café and a few cabins. The daily special of buttered chicken and pasta/vegetables, a hot shower and a rocking chair on the porch sees your correspondent very comfortable indeed.  The coming ‘fall’ is at least reducing the number of mosquitoes but the sunset is marching inexorably forward (at a rate of 8 or 9 minutes a day – 9:51pm today) so my thoughts are turning to getting myself southwards fairly smartly ahead of the coming cold.  I rock and ponder. One thing, however, is certain; when all is said and done, there really is nothing like a good spanky.

Day 28 (94km) (Moose Creek – Pelly Crossing):  The road is not particularly interesting – a corridor of pines close to but out of sight of the river.  Pelly Crossing is a first-nation settlement with a shop and a campsite and I stock-up and pitch camp.  I am literally and figuratively miles away from previous work thoughts of ‘cashbook and the journal’.  I’ve been on the bike for almost a month and very much enjoying no longer being governed by ‘ends of months’ and dividing my time on the planet into ‘quarters’.  Those quarters have a habit of filling up and passing very quickly and before you know it, years are gone.

Day 29 (108km) (Pelly Crossing – Carmacks): Am followed to Yukon River along a flat road but when going against the flow there is always an imperceptible gradient on the road (or the water would probably be flowing the other way – all that physics training not gone to waste after all).  The wind today blew face-wards constantly sapping energy and slowing progress.  I cross the Yukon River (for perhaps the last time I think) just before the town of Carmacks and check into the Carmacks Hotel and a restaurant with the blandest chunk of fish ever plated.

Day 30 (90km) (Carmaks – Camping): Had intended to stay at the Braeburn Lodge 75km down the road but got a weird feeling as I had lunch (admittedly a great soup and a reasonable and very large burger) that Steve the owner was a bit of a prick.  It turned out that the rooms were “not available” for some reason so the easy 75km ride was extended to a lake side unofficial camp 90km down.  Managed to light a good fire despite the wet wood and then proceeded to melt my shorts and almost melt the shoes when drying them next to it. [Note to new campers: Do not melt your clothes]. Steve is confirmed as a bone fide Prick.

 

Day 31 (100km) (Camping – Whitehorse):  A quick spin down the straight road and I have completed the Deadhorse to Whitehorse run.  Resting up here for a few days.