Whitehorse to Dawson
So this day was one hell of a mixed bag. Mostly good weather, until it wasn’t. Mostly good road, until it wasn’t. Mostly good luck, until it wasn’t.
Paul got up and washed his bike. I took the time to go to hike a local trail that had been recommended. It was nice, and it got my legs stretched out a bit.
Paul came back and we got on the road at about…10am. The first signs of trouble came as I was waiting for Paul to get rolling. My boot slipped in the gravel and the bike started to go over. I fought it a bit but finally gave in and rolled off as it hit the dirt. No damage, as the engine guards and hard cases did their jobs admirably, but damn was it hard to get back upright. I wrenched my back just a tad, but nothing more than a bit of tenderness really. Too bad the hot spring was yesterday…
Prior to leaving I had looked at room availability in Dawson City and come up empty. This was a bit concerning, since there’s no other options up there and you’re hours away from anyplace. I called Melissa and she was kind enough to poke around for me while we finished up packing and gassing up. I also reached out to Kim (who knew that we weren’t fully equipped for camping), and she volunteered to share a campsite and trade my one-man tent for her three-man for the night if need be. Not ideal, but nice to know that we’d at least have some sort of option for the night in an emergency. Just as we were done gassing up, though, Mel called to report that she’d booked us a room on AirBnB. Sweet! We were off and running, secure in our lodging situation.
We hit the road to Dawson, which is called the Klondike Highway and is in surprisingly great shape. The only thing that really differentiated it from a country road in rural California is the fact that you can drive 100 or more miles between villages/services. We made two stops for gas along the way, and generally took it easy and enjoyed the scenery. Traffic was fairly light, although there were more cars than I expected on a road that goes more or less nowhere. After the second gas stop we started driving though long sections of gravel, which wasn’t ideal, but also wasn’t much of an issue for me (or even for Paul on his ‘wing).
At about this time we passed through a zone of cell coverage and got the news that the B&B had declined the reservation and that there were no rooms available anywhere in Dawson. Awesome. Melissa continued to work from her end, and we kept going to Dawson because we could see the rain clouds forming up ahead.
But then…Moose Attack! Well, actually it was browsing the growth at the edge of the forest on the side of the road. We stopped and took a picture, high-fiving each other for finally sneaking up on an unsuspecting moose.
It started to rain just outside of Dawson, followed by strong winds. We rolled into the City in pretty heavy rain and Mel called to say that she’d got us a room at the Dawson City River Hostel, but we needed to get there ASAP. So we kept rolling through town to the (free, 24 hour) ferry at the end of the main street. A few minutes later our bikes were tucked in to an unused area on the car ferry and we were cruising across to the far side of the Klondike. Off the ferry and the hostel was right in front of us.
We were greeted by the weirdest conglomeration of signs, art, detritus, and hand-built shacks/sheds/lean-to’s and other structures, all of which together formed the hostel grounds. Tired, wet, and dirty, we eventually found the office and made our way in to meet the owner, a German ex-pat named Dieter. Damn was he weird. And then the bottom fell out…
I reached in my pocket to get my wallet to pay for the room. No wallet. I’ll spare the details, but I looked everywhere. It was nowhere to be found. Contrary to common sense and my normal traveling practice, I had everything in one place. Driver’s license, credit card, debit card, cash and passport card. Save the lectures. I know why this was insanely stupid, and I know not to do it. I’ll blame a bit of road fatigue and complacency which had led me to consolidate things into their normal places of the last few days, rather than keep them separated out like they had initially been. As best I can tell, this whole thing happened at the second gas stop. I went to stick my wallet back into a chest pocket on my jacket and missed. Because I’m wearing an airbag vest over the jacket I can’t see that pocket and I just assumed that the wallet went in properly. Again: road fatigue. I suspect that the wallet slid down and sat in my lap while I rode, likely falling unnoticed to the ground when I stood up on the pegs while driving through a gravel stretch. Once on the ground it would be virtually unnoticeable (except maybe as trash). Between the rain and other vehicles, I have no doubt it would be lost forever almost immediately. I reported the loss to the RCMP the next morning (Sunday) and called the local service stations to leave my name and phone number in case it’s turned in. I suspect that it will soon be encased in new asphalt and some archeologist for whatever species supplants humans will discover it a million years from now. Paul loaned me some cash from his stash and will cover my gas until I can make it to a Wells Fargo in Fairbanks on Tuesday. Proving once again that a good riding partner is invaluable. I should note that I had my passport in my saddlebags, so I’m still mobile and have ID.
While it’s certainly not the end of the world and is, at most, a bit of an inconvenience, that was a pretty major blow. I gotta say I felt embarrassed and angry in pretty overwhelming waves, but I calmed down a bit as we unloaded the bikes. So the next blow was the cabin. “It didn’t have rodents” is probably the best thing I can say about it. No power, no heat, bunk beds and a gappy wood floor. It was like walking into the camp cabins in Friday the 13th, just before Jason Voorhees discovers his true love for stabbing the daylights out of his fellow campers. It was time to find the outhouse, with a serious case of Bladder Urgency clamoring for my attention. I half-ran, half-peepee-danced through the maze of buildings looking for the camp bathroom. No luck. I ducked behind a convenient tree and soothed my angry bladder right there for all to see. About 10 minutes later, Paul told me that he’d done the exact same thing. Dieter needs to up his signage game, apparently.
About this time, as the rain continued to fall, Kim texted to find out if we’d had any luck. I let her know about the hostel and she headed our way, since the campsite was soggy and gross. By the time she got checked in and her dog settled in her cabin, I had calmed myself down a bit and we were ready to head back across the river to Dawson. The rain abated and a pleasant (but weirdly bright) evening set in.
We walked back to the ferry and into town. First stop was the Jack London Saloon, reknowned for its Sourtoe Cocktail. (Note that “sourdough” is local term for a person that lives above the Arctic Circle year ‘round, so the name of the drink is a play on that.) The Sourtoe is not for the faint of stomach or clear of thinking. It’s just a shot of booze with a mummified human toe in it, and it makes the saloon a shit-ton of money. We, like everyone else in the bar, decided that it was just an opportunity for a story that was unlikely to ever come up again. So at 9 o’clock we lined up with about 100 other people and waited our turn for the ‘toe. I went first, then Paul, then Kim. All were successful, if that’s the right word for this particular endeavor. I will say that my mustache acted like a hair force-field, protecting my sensitive skin from the monstrous cargo in my glass. We each got a certificate and our names entered in the Book of the Toe (seriously). When I say it’s a Thing To Do, I mean it. I am person number 90,305 to take part in this stupidity, according to their Book. Would I do it again? Probably not. Am I glad I did it? You bet.
From there we went to Diamond Gertie’s Saloon and Casino. Paul was insistent on seeing the can-can show, and I must admit that it was pretty spectacular. We got a late dinner, which was tasty, and Paul gambled a bit. By then it was midnight, and well past time to call it a night. So we walked home in the midnight twilight, but on our cold weather layer, slid into sleeping bags and crashed out.
Starting Odometer: 36211
Daily Total: 326
Running Total: 3,984