Delta Junction to Dawson City
As I write I am sitting outside my little log cabin beside the camp fire made from old wood lying around outside and I am feeling very content and happy with myself. The sun has just set and twilight is descending on Delta Junction Alaska. Last night I stayed with couch surfer Lara Fawn. Lara made me feel very welcome in her little mobile home which actually does not look in the slightest way mobile and has been on site for over 20 years. Lara moved up from Minnesota to seek out a new life for herself in Alaska, she is an art teacher and a painter. We chatted for a while when I arrived and then Lara brought me for a quick tour of her property. 20 meters from her site you start to get into virgin forest, we walked past the site impacted by man and entered the virgin wood, it was almost magical as we stepped in Lara took her sandals off and walked on the green soft carpet of moss that completely covere the floor of the forest. I took my shoes and socks off too just to feel it. It’s was soft and spongy and completely dry!
We went back inside and Lara cooked us up so me food. She had a surplus of salmon and wanted to use it up as she wasn’t intending to spend winter in Alaska this year, she had designs on Hawaii. She kept the mobile very well inside and it was very cozy. We had baked salmon, with a cranberry, walnut and feta cheese salad which was very good, we had a good chat and it got late so Lara turned in for the night and I stayed up to do a spot of writing and pondering.
The next day I got up and Lara had gone to work, so i set about doing a small bit of work for her as she had been generous to host me and leave me to my own devices in her home. All lot of trees had been felled on the site and chopped up into logs I dragged some of them up and made a small pile, so they could be chopped later. Then I got my gear tougher and headed off to check out Delta Junction.
Delta Junction is a small town and is the terminus of the Alaska Highway which starts at Dawson’s Creek 2,237Km away. I always get into conversations with the locals due to the Honda, its a great conversation starter. One such conversation started outside the Buffolo Centre Drive-in buger joint. I got talking to a guy called John, he loved what I was doing and was a cyclist himself, after a good chat and some laughs John said, Where are you staying tonight..? Hmm I said I wasnt sure I had no plan, as is fairly typical of me, he said “well I am the owner of this place and I have a small dry cabin out the back if you want to stay in it!”
“Wow, great” I said so he brought me round to check it out.
The cabin was a small one roomed log built structure, with 2 chairs a small table and 2 camp beds. There was no electricity or no running water, but it was a perfectly good cabin and I loved it.
I decided to stay. I took a walk around town, visited the visitors centre and the small Sullivan Roadhouse museum. I returned to the cabin, and sat in the porch on a small chair and began to read. It was a nice warm late afternoon. Later I took a spin to see Lara at the library and bid my farewells. I returned to the cabin and lit an nice fire and began to relax. John and his son joined a little later and we sat round the fire and shared and couple of beers and talked about our travels. And that’s where you find me now. it’s 9.50 pm, John and his son have gone home for the evening and I am sitting round the fire chilling out and thinking about turning in for the night. tomorrow I get up and head for Tok and then the top of the world highway towards Dawson City Canada.
I got up around 8 and hit the road around 9.30 towards Tok. Tok was approximately 100 miles from Delta Junction. I made it to Tok around 2pm. Not much to see here I thought. I checked my email. I got a message from Clint on the KLR, he was also headed for Dawson. So I made a decision to head out the road towards Dawson. Next stop was Chicken, I had no idea what was in Chicken except that I could get fuel there and rough camp it. Chicken is a very small mining town in the east of Alaska. Remnants of the Klondike gold rush are scattered right across Alaska and the Yukon Territory in Canada, one such artifact is the old dredger which can be seen in Chicken.
Downtown Chicken as its called consisted of a tumbledown row of cabins, one of which was a small cafe, next door was a door with two shelfs, this was the liqour store, a small gift shop the Mercantile Emporium, and of course the Chicken Creek Saloon.
Incidentally the most sought after souvenir from Chicken is a giant novelty condom that reads “I got laid in Chicken”.
Outside the cabins there was a dusty boardwalk, and a railing, for tying your horse to I presumed. It had such a rustic charm that I liked the place straight away. And apparantly there are 2 permanent residents in Chicken.
When I rolled up into Downtown Chicken I was immediately surrounded by people (at least 2 anyway.. ) asking me where I had come from and having a very respectful giggle at the bike. Then a voice arouse from behind the crowd
“Where the fuck are you going on that piece of shit?”
Who’s that Dick? I thought to myself, I looked over and seen this grumpy looking guy sitting in a chair on the dusty board walk outside the Chicken Creek Saloon,
“Argentina” I responded! A laugh followed,
“On that piece of shit,?”
“Honda cub” I responded, “the greatest motorcycle in the world, over 60 million sold, can’t argue with that” I continued.
Where are you from?
“Ireland” I said,
“ha that figures, where are you staying tonight?
“Haven’t a clue” I said,
“Well anyone dumb enough to ride across the world on that piece of crap needs some help, I’m staying in a cabin out the back, you can sleep on the couch”,
“cool, great” i said, still trying to figure this guy out, but always willing to take up offers as they usually lead to interesting circumstances.
“But move your bike out of here it’s embarrassing me” came the proviso.
Of course it was only embarrassing because he had rode in on his BMW 1150 and I was tackling the same roads as Iwas on my little 90.
His name was Dick, as i had correctly assumed for the start. I sat down with Dick and we shared a flask of his Single Barrel Jack Daniels in the bar. We soon got to know each other and a great laugh talking rubbish and watching the madness of Chicken unfold in front of us. Dick loved to come to Chicken a couple of times a year to ride the Top of The World Highway (one of the most revered motorcycling roads in the world), and to “get drunk and have a hoot” “You never know what happens in Chicken, anything can happen here, you just sit back and watch shit happen”.
Great I thought sounds like my kind of place!
..and happen it did, the main thing in Chicken is blowing up ladies underwear with explosives in a cannon. The cannon which now consisted of just a large block of steel with a charging hole in it, the previous cannon having been blown apart by excessive use of explosives ..and underware I presumed.
A pair of “panties” were acquired and were swiftly packed inside the homemade cannon with a considerable amount of gun powder. “Fire in the Hole” was called and they were summarily blown to smithereens. They were then ceremonially hung from the ceiling of the Chicken Creek Saloon along with all the other knickers that had met a similar fate.
This was how things were done in Downtown Chicken, during the summer months this little place is packed with girls more than willing to have their panties blown off them outside the Chicken Creek Saloon. I regretted arriving a little late.
The bar was closed around 12, due to the house rule, if the bar was not making $50 an hour it had to close, a few rounds were bought to try keep up this target, there not been so much people at this point in the season. There was no mains electricity in Chicken or piped water, the little “town” was powered by diesel generators and water taken from the river. The fuel had to be paid for so if people weren’t drinking they were kicked out. Good policy I thought for a bar. We had started around 5 pm anyway and I was a well cooked chicken at that stage anyways.
But before we called it a night we headed outside with some booze and had a bonfire using several gallons of gasoline and only a couple of sticks. I retired after an hour or so, and fell asleep on the couch in Dicks cabin. Dick having gone to bed earlier, poor old sod was tired and he didn’t like the cheap whisky in the bar, since we had polished off his Single Barrel JD.
The Top of The World Highway.
The next day I got up in preparation to ride the Top of the World Highway, I hadnt given it much thought actually, I heard they was some gravel sections, that’s as much as I knew about it. I filled up and hit the road.
I said goodbye to Chicken and headed for the hill out of town, the 25 deg incline hill was no problem to the Honda. I heard later they had bets on whether it would actually make it up the hill. Cheek.
As it turned out the Top of The World highway, was an amazing ride, and in my opinion way better than the haul road, there were loads more bends and twists and a great view over all the mountains, you can see for 40 miles over the landscape, and you can make out the road snaking it’s way over the hills and mountain almost 20 miles away.
The fall colours our were still out in force stretching out over the hill, reds, yellows, oranges.
I drove on ripping up the gravel on the Honda it was great fun, it seems so wrong to be riding these roads hard on the Honda but, the bike was well able to handle it and I didn’t feel as if I was pushing it too far. I never push it too hard as this little maschine has to take me many more miles, though I knew the tyres weren’t having such a great time. The bike copes well in all conditions probably due to the narrowness wheels, it just cuts through the gravel and always has grip.
The Top of the world highway crosses the Canadian border and this is where you enter the Yukon territory.
Just before i got to the border i stopped at a “town” on the map called Boundary. Which consisted of a couple of shacks, one of which was rather ancient looking so I stopped to check it out, where i met a equally ancient looking man, a real character of Alaska. He introduced himself by saying.
“Im the Mayor of Boundary”,
“oh really” i replied,
“Well I’m the only person in Boundary so i guess that makes me the Mayor, dudnit!?
Couldn’t argue with his logic. He was in his late 60’s I guessed with long hair and a long grey beard with black bandana on his head and was wearing some old tattered dusty denims.
I took some photos of his little bar and his old cabin dating from the gold rush era and pressed on.
I made it to the Canadian border at around noon and passed through no problem. I was now in Canada! I pressed on towards Dawson City another 65 miles from the Border.
I rode on and stopped here and there and had my usual lunch of cereal bars and bananas. As I approached Dawson City I boarded a little ferry to cross the Yukon River, and headed for the Downtown Hotel.
Dick had invited me to stay with him at his family home in Dawson when I left Chicken, so I figured I would take him up on his offer. He used to own and run the Downtown Hotel, but sold it and now works there occasionally as the maintenance manager when he’s not playing on his bike or making some ingenious modification to his home.
Dawson City is a quaint little towed located on the confluence of the Yukon and the Klondike Rivers. The settlement ballooned in the later part of the 18 century as a result of the Gold Rush, people came is droves and it swelled to 40k in the space of 4 years. Much of the town still holds it’s 19th century charm with old wooden style buildings, dusty wooden boardwalks and dirt streets.
Dawson City beautiful little town and there are plenty of things to do and see in there. Much of its attractions are related to the Goldrush as you would expect, but there are plenty of outdoor activities to undertake on the rivers and mountains. I find the whole history of the Klondike Gold Rush very fascinating, both from a human nature stand point, as to what drove men and women to flock to this area and to endure so much hardship getting there, but also to what was constructed to facilitate the prospectors and miners from tent cities, towns, railways, cable cars, roadhouses, river boats, dredgers. All manner of equipment was invented to undertake the journey and mine the gold. A collapsable boat for example was one such invention that led to the demise of a few unlucky individuals on the Yukon.
And all this was done in pursuit of a metal that had little or no industrial use for man and resulted a lot of wanton environment destruction in search of this elusive and ultimately useless metal.
I spent a couple of days with Dick and his wife Joanne in Dawson, the first night they had the new owners of the hotel over for sashimi, and the next night we went to barbecue at his neighbors house. I was the vagabond guest of honour. While there I was also invited to come to the Downtown Hotel for lunch by the new owner of the hotel a Chinese man called Daniel.
While at Dick’s I undertook some essential maintenance. Dick was kind enough to give me the run of his house and his garage during my time there. I switched my tyres front to back, as my fast riding stint on the top of the world had taken it’s toll on the rear tyre. It was a good exercise anyway. It’s always good to dismantle your bike every now and again so it doesn’t seem a big deal when it has to be done in anger on the side of the road, should the necessity arise.
The last blog was left with a small piece of my own advice or lessons for what it’s worth so I will finish this one in a similar manner.
Never be afraid to accept people’s offers. Some people refuse out of politeness, awkwardness, fear or just want to keep themselves to themselves, but such offers are made with good willed intention and more often than not they were meant for you, and not accepting them means you are restricting your experiences and missing out. I almost always accept people’s offers if I trust them and it always leads to positive experiences.
Till the next time…
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