July 16: Where the Streets Have No Mud

Wrangell MountainsIt’s about 9:20am on the 16th and I should be on the road.  I’m in Whitehorse, Yukon, and apparently Whitehorsian alarm clocks function differently than others I’ve used in the past.  I set it for 7 so that I could wake up and do some laundry before I left (believe me, I really needed to do laundry) and now it looks like I won’t be out of here until about 11.  Maybe that’s alright, though, because the sleep felt great.I’ve ridden through my fair share of rain, and consequently mud, the last few days.  I’ve also seen some amazing things and met some great people.  I started the 14th near Wrangell-St. Elias and, after having an amazing breakfast sandwich made by the cabin host, Patty, I went back to my cabin to get my things ready to go.  As I was shutting down motocompy to take him to the bike, I unplugged the mouse and touched the screen and…nothing.  Checked a few things and…nothing.  Called my brother, Jon, and talked through the problem and…nothing.  So, Motocompy is now a bit crippled.  I have the mouse plugged in at all times and in order to perform most functions I need to pull over and click around a bit.  Oh well, maybe that’s for the best.  After wrestling with that for a bit I jumped on the bike and headed towards the park.

Wrangell is, according to some Alaskans, the most beautiful section of Alaska.  It is, according to me, much less busy and touristy than Denali and that’s a plus.  Sadly, I will never be able to really comment on its relative beauty as I only made it about a mile into the park.  I road over the Copper River, got a little ways in and found myself riding in soft mounds of dirt.  Hard gravel is OK…soft dirt isn’t.  I decided to turn around and leave and got stuck in the process.  I couldn’t get off the bike or it would have tipped over (I didn’t have enough room to put the side stand down) so I had to wait for some other folks to come and help give me a push.  Riding next to Wrangell was amazing though and I got some great views of the snow-capped mountains which dominate that landscape.  ConstructionThe not so fun part of this ride was the construction.  I think I ended up waiting for about an hour at various sites.  On a scale of “1” to “Awesome”, I give Alaska’s roads a “Rather Poor”.  I made it through and found myself in Tok, AK.  (Someone told me that Tok got it’s name from the Army Corps of Engineers during WWII.  It used to be called Tokyo Junction…they didn’t like that so much so they took the “oyo” off.).  I had dinner with a couple of other bikers in Tok, Jim and Jan.  They’re up from Colorado, touring around Alaska.  Good dinner, great conversation.

FireI haven’t wanted to cover the same roads on my way back as on the way up, so I turned north towards Chicken, AK, and Dawson, YT.  Plus, my girlfriend was named after a teacher who moved to Chicken in the twenties to teach the local children, so I was somewhat obligated to go there.  The ride up was strange but beautiful.  Forest fires had devastated much of that area and the vast areas of burnt forests made for an interesting view.  Oh, and the fires are still going.  I road through an area that was burning.  No fire crews, no traffic adjustments, just signs that said “Slow Down” and “Limited Visibility”.

I pulled into Chicken late that night and what an experience that ended up being.  I parked in front of the row of three shops they had and found a group of guys standing outside of the saloon.  I found out quickly that they were all bikers who had ended up there on the same night and were standing around talking and drinking some beer.  I had a great time talking with them all, sharing stories and finding out who they were and where they were from.  Chicken is strange…no other way to put it.  The public restrooms have a sign above the door that reads “Chicken Poop”, and the Saloon has a tradition of collecting articles of women’s nickers, placing them in a small canon packed with black powder, blowing them up and then pinning the remains to the ceiling inside.  Video below to prove it.  Strange.Chicken  I woke up early, took a quick tour of the area, which included a view of the old schoolhouse and the “massive” post office.  SchoolhouseMy mission in Chicken complete (and then some), I headed east on the dirt/gravel “Top of the World Highway”.  Rain quickly turned the road to mud and I found it slow going for the first hour or so.  This section of road took me across the border (where someone backed into me…nothing serious), and lends some amazing views of mountains, canyons, forests, and…gravel roads.  I made it through, though, and found myself at the banks of the Yukon, waiting for the ferry to take me into Dawson.   The ferry was a fun experience and I probably would have spent a bit of time in Dawson had it not been raining.  It was raining, however, and I pushed on for Whitehorse, some 330 miles to the south.  It rained pretty hard on the trip down, until I made it to Carmacks where the sun took over and I was a very happy man, riding on well-paved roads in the sun.

I pulled into Whitehorse last night, had some dinner, thought about working on my post, and decided to go to bed instead.  My load of laundry should be done soon, so I should get moving.  I’ll try to post something later today, but no promises…I’m in Canada, eh.  My cell phone costs a bit.  Lots more pictures of Flickr. GPS upload is again being amazingly slow, so none this time.  Hopefully more later on.

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