7/15-day Motorcycling Adventure by Bonbon Hu (65)

Sunday, August 2, 2009 (Day 7) 

Today is a non-riding day for a few of us. 

The weather is beautiful today. This is Klondike wilderness. I went to bed at 10 pm last night. 2 riders went out visiting the local pubs and saloons, and reported having a great time, (and took a photo of the hotel in bright sunlight at 12 midnight.). 

Paddlewheeler Graveyard

Abandoned paddle-wheeler

This morning we slept in till about 7 am, and had a leisurely breakfast. The portions of food are so large, that I think they are catering to Americans and Germans. In answer to Edwin’s query: the majority of tourists are middle age or older Americans, and young Germans. We loitered around town, checked out the visitors information centre. Then we set out for a hike, took a ferry as foot-passengers, across the Yukon River, walked along the river bank, and came to the Paddlewheeler Graveyard. At first, I was wondering what my fellow riders want to see in a graveyard. It turned out that before the Dempster Hwy was built, the route to Inuvik was by the steam boats with big Ferris wheels up the Yukon River. Since then the dead (abandoned) boats were left in a place by the river. The historic facts were so-so. But it was a good leisurely hike for about 3 hours. Of course I was bitten by insects twice. Must not have been mosquitoes because I didn’t get a big reaction from it. I was using a lot of “OFF” sprays. 

Mountain and River

The views of mountain and river………They are great. I think the reason that they are not famous is really because the Rockies (Jasper & Banff) far exceeds in grandeur and beauty. But, there are a lot of Europeans here on vacation (RVs) totally absorbing the wilderness which is not available in Europe. 

Back in town we had a so-so lunch at some tourist restaurants. (Of course, the locals won’t eat there. Ha Ha.) Once again I notice the cost of living is so high. At the prime of middle of July, there are not many tourists. I talked to John Valk, the owner of the bike shop that I bought from, and a partner with a travel agency that organizes the motorcycling adventure tours worldwide, this morning, wondering whether his business has suffered with this recession. He said the BMW motorcycle sales are the same as before, but the bike tours are down. He said it used to have close to 30 riders every trip in the past, and now we barely can make 10. He said it is a shame, because with the tourism down, this is a perfect time for such bike trips with lighter traffic and better ambience in choices of motels/hotels. 

 

John Valk had local connection with a bike garage owner. They changed their brand new knobby tires that they brought up in the support truck, and installed them on 2 GS (adventure bikes) motorcycles. One set was for John Valk, the other for Dr. Michael Whitfield. They took off this morning, just the 2 of them, without the support truck, to go to the Arctic Circle, about 400 Km north of us, 100% gravel roads, spending the night in Eagle Plains, and returning tomorrow evening. 

Chicken, Alaska

The other riders are still pondering whether to ride the shorter ride to Chicken, Alaska. Neat name, eh? The lady rider had declared, like I, that she would not ride to Chicken tomorrow. The party-goer probably won’t go, but will spend one more evening in local saloons. 

I will leave my luggage with the other Chinese rider, Dan Lee, either tonight or tomorrow morning, for him to make sure it gets on the support truck on the way to Whitehorse on Day 9. I will be leaving the group one day earlier to return to Whitehorse. I cannot take the luggage on the backseat, Hee Hee. 

The guys are so nice. They have all shared with me their experiences and lessons, and taught me how to handle the gravel roads, although only 40 – 50 Km of it on this section of the Dempster Hwy. I wish they had taught me that one week ago. I am still learning every day. It’s a very exciting life. 

I have learned to use the motels’ hairdryer in low setting to dry the wet gloves and boots!!! 

High Noon

It was hot in the afternoon, reminding me of the movies like “High Noon” & “OK Corral”. The streets are deserted. The guys wanted to visit “museums”, old mine sites, etc. I came back to the hotel which is nice and very quiet. I am having some wine, doing the laptop stuff, listening to my iPod. I was debating whether to jump into the hot-tub or not. I had eventually decided against it, not because of the temperature. It was because my swimming trunks wouldn’t dry in time for me to pack the bags. I hate the thought of plastic wrapped wet swimming trunks in this heat for 2+ days. Yuk. 

The 68-year-old rider, Klaus, was born in an area that was Germany/Russia. That town had changed hands many times during the years. He is officially a German. He came to Canada when he was 27. As a German, he kept dual citizenships. He was saying that in Canada, he still thought of himself as a German. When he visits Germany, he could hardly wait to leave and come back to Canada. He asked me whether I have such feelings. I replied that I feel very loyal to Canada which gave me such good opportunity in education and making a living. I have no loyalty to Hong Kong where I grew up because it was British Colony. I didn’t get back to China for the first time until I was 55, so I was a tourist/visitor to that country. 

There are a lot of motorcyclists here as a stay over, going and coming from all places. The fun part about talking to them is that they all brag about how far they travelled and the hardship they endured. The more pain the bigger the badge of merit!!! 

I am enjoying every minute of this trip because I think this is probably my last big adventure. I am realizing that I am aging. I will definitely not be able to do the same adventure trip in Baja today as in 2005. I may still be able to do the South Africa trip but with lots of moderation. I don’t think I can do any of those 2 trips in another 2 years. I am very happy that I am ticking off my Bucket List one by one nicely. I am giving thanks to “upstairs”. 

Tonight we went to a Greek restaurant on the main street (3 blocks length). I had lamb chops. Not bad. 

In response to Frankie SF’s query about the map declaration of the Dempster Hwy : You may have missed one of my earlier journals. Yes, the road is supposed to be paved ……… but ….. not with asphalt, but with gravels bonded together by tar, called “chip seal”. The road repair and repaving had torn up many sections of the hwy and were in different stages of the chip seal process. Until it is covered by tar, they are loose gravels. 

I walked over to the saloon. The owner was there entertaining our group of 

Sour Toe Drink

 riders. He was daring us to have the house special drink called “Sour Toe”. Besides the forgettable potions of alcohol, there was a preserved (in salt) toe in the glass. One was supposed to gulp down the drink and touch the toe with the tongue. Nobody in our group answered the challenge. He then produced a cigar box of 6 preserved toes in salt. It turned out that he had one big toe cut in an accident and preserved it, and came up with such an idea of a drink. I don’t know how he got the other 5 big toes. Urban legends had it …….

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