Thursday, July 30, 2009 (Day 4)
Today, Day 4, we started from Fort Nelson, after a nice stay at Super 8 “H”otel. We climbed to 1,250m elevation again. Most of the day was overcast with occasional sunshine, which was great. The temperature ranged from 10C – 15C. We are now in Watson Lake, Yukon.
travel was OK. Because of the severe winter conditions, the roads were not paved with asphalt like those in southern BC. I think they were paved with something called “chip seal”. They were gravels covered with hot tar. If you fall from the motorcycle, you are guaranteed that it will tear through even your protective clothing. There were lots of potholes. The highway department is busy repairing and repaving the roads. We were stopped many times waiting for the alternate 1-way 1-lane through way. There was one stretch of road construction that lasted 5Km of the very beginning stage of the “chip seal”. We were riding over about 4 inches deep of loose gravel. I initially had a few fishtail sways and also slid about 1-2m sideways. Riding my motorcycle through loose gravel is my deadly fear. Good thing I remember to let the handle bar find its own direction, and gently add more fuel. I got through it OK. One guy fell, a Scottish guy named Michael Whitfield. It turns out that we met before at Children’s Hospital. He is a Paediatrician. A proud Scot. He bounced up and pronounced himself perfectly OK without any injury and carried on. He broke the right side rear view mirror and the turning signal light.
So, it just further reinforced me the idea to skip the Arctic run on 800Km of gravel road (return trip) when we get to Dawson City on Day 11. I think I will just have beer and watch the can-can girls at the local saloons at Dawson City for the day.
This town is so small that there is practically nothing. This ancient hotel has large rooms with 2 queen size beds, with practically no locks on the doors. But it has satellite TV with LCD screens and WiFi Internet. We went to some joint for food, which was terrible, but the waitresses made it well by giving us a black forest cake for one of the guys’ birthday (2 days ago).
Along the way, lots of roadside eateries, gas pumps, lodges and motels were closed down or for sale. I guess the economy is not treating Yukon well. (I found out later that the Federal and Territorial governments give tons of money to the First Nation tribes here. They used a lot of the money buying the successful business ventures: the above mentioned motels, eateries, etc etc. BUT, they don’t put any effort in running those businesses. Therefore, they are all rat traps now. )
A bit of trivia. I was told the entire population of Yukon is about 32,000 and 24,000 of them live in Whitehorse. So, the rest of Yukon is pretty desolate.
The great moment of the day was for a stretch of about 1 hour, we rode through what seemed like a game park. We saw one juvenile moose walking across the road, one mountain goat climbing up the cliff right next to the road. Actually, all the animals we saw are all right next to the road and even on the road. We saw about 6 juvenile caribous with just horns budding (reindeers), about 20 rock sheep, at least 2 herds of bisons (buffalos) totally about 100, plus black bear cubs, deer, etc.
It is now raining and thundering. Let’s see what tomorrow brings.
Watson Lake is Mile 633 on the Alaska Hwy.