Sorry for the long break, folks. Here we go again... Day 21. Chicken, Alaska to Haines Junction, Yukon territory - 382 miles total / ~25 on dirt.
I was headed towards Whitehorse - as directly as possible. Kate, was flying in the next day, and the bike needed a bit of love and adjustment to get ready for more two-up service. Plus, I could use a bit of rest before pushing off again. I hadn't had a rest day since Portland, 15 days ago!
By the way, Kate rides too, but she wasn't quite ready for this big of a trip on her 1969 CB350. She'll be pillion again for the trek back to the contiguous 48.
Anyways... Day 21.
My new buddy 'Dog' woke up just before 6am and started making noise around our campsite ... aka the parking lot of the Chicken Saloon. We only went to sleep 4 or 5 hours earlier - well liquored up, no less. Guess it's an early start today, whether I want it or not. It's freezing cold and raining. Nothing is open yet in Chicken, so I gear up quick and hit the road. Beautiful, despite the dreary weather.
The ride that morning offered some cool glimpses of permafrost vegetation. I love the trees that just look like they're going to fall over because the earth below them thawed a bit too much this year.
I was going to pass fairly near the city of Tok, Alaska on my way towards Whitehorse. Tok would turn out to be the most 'modern' city I'd visit in Alaska on this trip. I was frozen stiff by the time I got there, and the 'stich was starting to leak in all of its unfortunate leak zones [read: crotch]. The Beaver Fever cafe offered a nice, warm place to make some phone calls on non-roaming AT&T service and do some quick work stuff. Plus... with a name like Beaver Fever, how could I resist?
Once I was thawed out and sufficiently reminded of how great it was to be away from work, I pushed onward. The Alaska Highway from Tok to Haines Junction was crap. The pavement would undulate severely without warning and then disappeared entirely for huge stretches into gravel awaiting repair. You couldn't lose concentration, but the utter lack of curves or other interest made that very hard. The one glimmer of entertainment I did get along the stretch were these beauties - my first grizzly bear sightings of the trip. I saw two big ones, just a dozen or so miles apart from one another.
This one was lumbering along just 15 feet or so off of the roadway - heading the same way I was. I slowed down next to him and followed along with him for a bit. It was a remarkable experience. I was close enough that I could hear it grunting and the snap of the saplings as it scratched itself and trampled them. Its movements were gruff and powerful. Awesome creature.
Just before the border crossing, I heard CJ's voice in my head and picked up a case of beer. It'd be three times as expensive on the other side of that imaginary line. Hooray for USA!
By the time I reached Haines Junction, I was exhausted. A push on to Whitehorse, another ~100 miles, didn't seem prudent. Over really bad Chinese food, I considered renting a room at one of the decent-looking motels. Given that the rain had stopped, and it seemed like it might hold off all night, I opted instead for the Pine Lake Campground up the highway a bit. Good enough - especially considering that the fee was $12, and firewood was free. I love Canada's provincial parks. Rain really saps my enthusiasm. I was glad for a few of those PBR's and a dry sleeping bag. I couldn't wait to see Kate the next day and really begin the long trek home.