A Ride to Yellowknife

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Bicyclist, Aug 9, 2013.

  1. Bicyclist

    Bicyclist Been here awhile

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    I was in Dawson Creek, Alberta after riding down the Alcan from Alaska. Everyone with a motorcycle and a wanderlust has been there.

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    Accommodations are expensive in Dawson Creek, but less so at the Sleep Inn in Pouce Coupe, five miles from there, so that's where I flopped before heading for Yellowknife. The road north runs east of the mountains through the edge of the plains where wheat and rape are grown. Rape blooms bright yellow and the seed is used to make canola oil.

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    After Grimshaw, Manning and High Level are the only two towns in Alberta large enough to support any services. It's a long empty road, so attention to fuel stops is important. Just south of the Northwest Territories border, Indian Cabins has a trading post with a couple of fuel pumps.


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    At some point, a church was built and the abandoned building remains.

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    At the border, there's a nice rest stop which provides respite from the hordes of black flies that swarm the traveler.

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    Fuel is available in Enterprise, but I took the split and went down to Hay River for the night. Hay River lies on the south side of the Great Slave Lake and has all services. The lake was named after one of the First Nations groups living in the area called the Slavey Dene.

    Next day, I continued north. A new bridge over the Mackenzie River opened last year, replacing the ferry that had crossed for years. The ferry sits abandoned on the shore.

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    Just over the bridge lies Fort Providence, a fueling stop and the beginning of the Mackenzie Bison Sanctuary. The sanctuary is home to 2-3000 wood bison, one of two herds in the Northwest Territories. The animals are free roaming and there are numerous signs warning that they may be on the road. Fortunately, they're big suckers and can be seen from a distance giving plenty of time to slow down. I encountered one group on the road and saw several along the verge. The group on the road was easy enough to move along with a lot of horn beeping.
    #1
  2. Bicyclist

    Bicyclist Been here awhile

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    Rae, the next fuel stop is about 145 miles up the road. About 13 kilometers down a side road, it's a First Nations community with some services. Yellowknife is another 60 miles which is getting close enough to empty that the stop in Rae is good for peace of mind.

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    The 60 miles to Yellowknife is over some very bad road and there were numerous sections being repaired. The routine seems to be to scrape off the pavement, spread loose gravel, roll it and stick it together with something. They wet it down with calcium chloride to keep down the dust while they're working and the stuff forms a permanent crust on the motorcycle. In the loose gravel stretches where they're not working, it's a dusty and sketchy surface. None of it was a new experience because I'd encountered miles of the same on the ride to Alaska. Those are black boots I'm wearing.


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    Yellowknife is on the Canadian Shield, an area that was scraped down to rock during the last ice age. The terrain is solid rock except in the low spots where enough organic material has accumulated to form marsh. Trees are spruce and birch, skinny and none of them over 20 feet tall. Three Dene nations settled on a point of rock jutting into the lake, the Chipewyan, Dogrib and Slavey. Gold was discovered in the late 1800s, but it wasn't until the 1930s that the local gold rush took off and the whites showed up. Eventually, the mines became economically unproductive and were precipitously shut down, leaving people out of work and extensive arsenic pollution.


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    Diamonds were discovered north of town and a new mining rush began. Yellowknife now bills itself as the diamond capital of North America. The economy has shifted to serving the diamond industry and to government functions since Yellowknife became the capitol of the territories in 1967. The town is formed of two entities; Old Town out on the spit and the new municipal area on the hill overlooking it. The new area has water and sewage, but the old does not. Instead, they have water and sewage tanks. Twice a week, trucks deliver water and pump out the sewage tanks.


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    I was told that the tanks have something like R200 insulation. The toilets have a ball valve in the bowl. You do your business and then step on a lever to open the valve and drop the contents into the tank. Some water flushes the bowl, sort of. In Summer, the houses are connected to above ground plastic pipes to provide water.


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    In areas of marsh, houses are set on a bed of crushed stone and have to be jacked level every year. I talked to a guy who has an oil furnace, wood stove, pellet stove and gas heater. They use whichever fuel is least expensive. Wood costs $350 /cord. Life is tough in the North. I stayed at the Narwal B & B, which is the headquarters of an outdoor adventure business teaching kids kayaking and other outdoor skills. It's located between the new area and the Old Town. This pic looks across the water to Old Town.

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  3. Bicyclist

    Bicyclist Been here awhile

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    Here's how you plant a sign.

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    Old Town is a fascinating mix of old and new architecture. This is a pic of a house in the neighborhood of the B & B.

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    Here are some views from Old Town.

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    The Rock.

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    Native art.

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    New

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    Old.

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    The Wildcat Cafe from 1937.

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    View from the Rock. The town water tanks used to sit up here.

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    View of the new municipal area from the Rock.

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    Out on the end of the spit is a First Nations area called Ndilo, which means "land's end". About 250 people live there. They have a training restaurant where they teach culinary skills to Indians who want to work in the industry. It's sometimes open to the public and reputed to be one of the best deals in Yellowknife. I wanted to try the traditional bison stew, but they weren't open while I was there. Yellowknife does have some good places to eat unlike a lot of the North. Ain't cheap, though.

    So, that's my view of Yellowknife. It was seven 500 mile days in a row to get home. The Honda averaged 49 mpg over the 15,000 mile trip.
    #3
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  4. damurph

    damurph Cold Adventurer

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    Thanks for taking me along for the ride.
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  5. adit

    adit Bent and Broken

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    Great report and photos.
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  6. Bicyclist

    Bicyclist Been here awhile

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    Murph, maybe you remember taking this picture at Cape Spear.

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    Here's the bike on the westernmost place you can get to by road.

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    Thanks for the kind remarks, gents.
    #6
  7. ricard

    ricard Been here awhile

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    Thanks for the ride report. Your photos bring back fond memories of my visit last year. I hope the girls at the Narwal treated you well, and the waitress at Bullocks gave you some friendly abuse.
    #7
  8. GaryAK

    GaryAK Easy Going

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    George,

    Thanks for the excellent report on a route less traveled - enjoyed it. You've given us some ideas for future trips.

    Was nice to make your acquaintance and do a ride with you when you were in Anchorage.

    Awesome ride report - well done! :clap

    Gary
    #8
  9. Bicyclist

    Bicyclist Been here awhile

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    Thanks for the tip on the Narwal. I really enjoyed the University students there. :clap
    #9
  10. Bicyclist

    Bicyclist Been here awhile

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    Hi Gary, I was about to send you an e-mail to let you know I made it home. As somebody said, it's not getting to the destination that's important, it's getting back alive.

    Had a good time with you and was able to pass on some good tips I learned from you to other travelers.
    #10
  11. Oldone

    Oldone One day at a time!

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    #11
  12. robertyknwt

    robertyknwt Adventurer

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    Just saw this report. Great pictures! I lived in Yellowknife 1971-2001; never rode a motorcycle up there (although I DID have a snowmobile!). Now I'm living in Phoenix, but I'd LOVE to ride "back home" some summer to visit again. Thanks for sharing your Northern experience!
    #12
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  13. Rutabaga

    Rutabaga Been here awhile

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    Thanks for opening a new window to the world for me. Great view.
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  14. beemerphile

    beemerphile Long timer

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    Now see George, if you had bought that NC700X you'd have made the trip on 70 gallons less fuel. Of course, you'd have to fiddle with a chain...

    Lee
    #14
  15. Daytrader

    Daytrader Elitist Bastard

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    Nice report.
    Thank you.
    #15
  16. squonker

    squonker Stupid is the new norm

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    :thumb
    #16
  17. inverted

    inverted Berwyn rocks

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    awesome. I love it up there aside from the blackflies. I plan on riding up there this year, been there many times trucking but only walked around downtown for a half day....so much more I want to see.

    I was there about 15 years ago and I bobtailed around trying to find fuel for the KW....there were no cardlocks and I had to fuel up at a Shell station that wasn't meant for trucks. right next to the Shell there was a track hoe laying down huge rubber mats made from old tires, after he finished there was a loud horn that sounded a warning a few minutes apart then blam! scared the shit outta me, but no one else seemed too concerned. as soon as the dust settled the track hoe started removing the mats....when I asked what was going on, I was told they were blasting rock to make a level foundation for a new building. the mats kept the debris from flying around, people were just going about their business like it was no big deal. different world for sure
    #17
  18. Bicyclist

    Bicyclist Been here awhile

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    It is. Which, of course, is what makes it interesting.
    #18
  19. patiodadio

    patiodadio Motorcyclist

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    Good ride report ! Thanks for posting.
    #19
  20. Dessert Storm

    Dessert Storm Dances With Drunks

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    'No snivelling' :jack

    Great report, thanks for posting
    #20