AK -> MN Day 1 Top of the World Highway

Dateline July 12, 2017

Day 1 of the return trip from Alaska.  Near Ivory Jacks, Goldstream Road, Fairbanks.  Kickstands up at 06:20.  The forecast the night before was for mostly sunny skies, but this morning we were riding under heavy clouds and and threat of light rain.  Normally this would not be of concern, but I am hoping to ride the Top Of the World Highway today, and it would not be as much fun in the rain.

July 12 route mapI didn’t put on the helmet cam since it was so cloudy and foggy, but the ride was still beautiful (except the 60 miles north of Tok which is kinda boring).

The area north of Delta Junction is prime moose habitat and shortly after I reminded myself of that, we spotted a cow and her calf, plus a pair of young moose. No chance for pictures since they were all close together and the cow was too close to the road for comfort.

We ran into some bridge construction but the delay was very short.  Otherwise, this section of highway from Fairbanks to Tok is pretty nice.  Just like any highway in the Lower 48

We stopped for an early lunch at Fast Eddie’s in Tok, AK, to plan our meet up on Thursday. Our lunch was pretty good, and the forecast now looked better for our area, though it was still quite cloudy.  I was hopeful that I would not meet rain on my leg of the day’s journey.

Our route takes us about 12 miles out of Tok to Tetlin Junction, where we split up, with me taking the top of the World (TOW) Highway to Dawson, and Jack riding the Alcan to Destruction Bay on Lake Kluane.  We’ll meet up again on the 13th, in Whitehorse.  We decided to meet at Earl’s Restaurant in Whitehorse, where we had eaten on our way up to Alaska.  It’s a known location that we can both find.  ETA: 13:30 on Thursday the 13th.

I was a little nervous about the TOW Highway, but figured it would be OK. What the heck, old guys riding Harleys make it, so can I.  The road conditions were better than expected. I knew most of it was paved to Chicken, and while there were numerous frost heaves and rough pavement, it wasn’t too bad.

But I ran into gravel about 10 miles before Chicken, and heavy road construction the last 3 miles.The flagger waved me to the front of the line, and I did my best to keep up in the mushy gravel. At one point I thought she pulled over and we were through, but she was just stopping. When I started to pass she got pretty excited. I felt dumb. Oh well, I got back in place and followed to the end.

The road into old Chicken was near the end of the construction zone, so I missed it. Shoot. We’ll anyway, I stopped in the Chicken RV site and got gas. I guess I didn’t want to linger there long anyway.

The first five miles out of chicken were rough to. Big belly dumps hauling gravel from up the highway always. They really beat up the road. I usually rode at 25mph.Got used to it after awhile, and was able to cruise at 35-40 mph.

The scenery was by far the best I have ever experienced in my whole life. It was a chore to keep my eyes on the road, but also a life preserving necessity. I took lots of video.

Nine miles before the border we were treated to a stretch of new pavement. What a treat that was.  Then once in the Yukon, the gravel road got a little better. It was more like a packed clay surface. I was able to ride a lot of this at 50 mph.

I shot a lot of video, stopped for some pictures, and just took in the awesome sights. Holy cow, was this ever beautiful.  The road follows an ancient mountain ridge line, high above the surrounding eroded mountains, with long views to the right and left as I passed along its length.  It was so neat to see the ribbon of road ahead of me on the ridge as a moved Northeast along the route.  I tried to capture it on video, but you really have to be there to experience it.

The TOW ended at the bank of the Yukon River…literally. I had to ride a ferry across. We waited for 15 minutes and when I rode aboard, I was waved to the front and had an wonderful view of the trip. I was also the first one off.

(Disregard the date stamp on the video–my camera defaults to that date whenever I switch batteries, and it;s putsy to reset it, especially when there are mosquitoes on the feed.)

 

Room at Dawson BunkhouseI checked into my room at the Bunkhouse, which is a no frills true bunk house.  I had a small room with balcony access, a nice bed, a small table/dresser and a chair.  It had power for charging my device batteries, and a shared toilet/shower facility.  I knew this going in, and it was clean and reasonably priced for what it was, so I was happy with it.

Downtown Hotel, Dawson City, YT

Dawson’s Downtown Hotel

 

After getting settled in, I needed a beer and something to eat.  I had heard about the Downtown Hotel and its piano player, so I had to check it out.  It was kinda early, (about 6:30pm) so it wasn’t very busy yet.  But, they piano guy was doing his magic.  I had a beer and enjoyed the show.  I did my part and dropped some cash in the tip bucket too.

I was tired from the long ride today, and wanted to see some of the sights and get a bite to eat.  I asked some locals for a recommendation for good non/bar food, and they recommended Klondike Kate’s.  It was a busy little place, but since I was dining alone, I was able to get a small table in the corner.  I was attempting to stay close to my low carb diet so I had a burger (sans bun) with mushrooms, a great salad, and some veggies.

I was told that my visit to Dawson would not be complete without a stop at Diamond Tooth Gertie’s casino, so, I decided to check it out.  It looked kinda fun, so and got a ticket to the show which was good for either performance of the evening.   Since i was planning to leave Dawson early in the morning, I decided to gas up before the show.  Gas stations tend to close early, and I did not want to risk it.

The show at Diamond Gerties  was an old time dance hall show and was kinda cute..  You can see a video here (not mine, but it’s representative of what I saw).


 

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