Monday, July 28, 2008

Reunion Journey, Day 3 - Chicken AK to Dawson Creek YT

It was a dark and stormy night in Chicken, Alaska, at the beginning of the Top-of-the-World Highway. We were to arise and depart early, in an effort to avoid oncoming traffic, which is blocked at the border until the Customs Station opens at 8am.

About midnight it began to rain, and our spirits sank.

Then we arose and drove off, and found that the 6am departure suggested by Bob was an absolutely brilliant strategy. Thank you, Robert, for suggesting this approach! In the course of the two hour, 40 mile drive to the border we met only one westbound vehicle, allowing us to drive most of the way in the middle of the right of way, with 3 or 4 feet of clearance to the edge of the abyss. That was a good thing, because the road was wet and somewhat slippery, and visibility was limited in patches of fog. Fog is more difficult to navigate with no yellow line to follow, so it was doubly beneficial that we did not have to worry about oncoming traffic.
Bob arose early and did an early morning reconaissance in his car. He came back reporting that there was much improvement over his previous trip, with a lot of new gravel, and some widening in the tightest spots. Indeed, he was correct; we found the ride much improved over our 2005 experience. But the biggest difference was the lack of oncoming traffic. Thank you one more time for that, Bob

The photo was taken along a relatively level stretch of the US road. On the more rugged stretches, there was no safe place to pull over, and Keith didn’t feel safe stopping in the middle of the road so Kathy could take a picture. The good news was much fresh gravel, so the road surface was not quite so rough as we remembered it from 2005. But then, this road is always a fresh adventure.

A Wet, Narrow, Slippery Road to the Border

Along this drive we encountered many runny babbits out for an early breakfast, and a couple of herds of caribou near the border. Most unfortunately, we frightened the caribou away from the road, so the coaches following us did not see them. We apologize.

Fresh Caribou Tracks Near the Border

Shy American Caribou Disappear into the Brush at Our Approach

We arrived at the border just at 8am, and were met by the Canadian Customs Agent as he was unlocking the gate. The guard was very pleasant and polite, and our border crossing was expeditious. On crossing the border we lost an hour, crossing from the Alaskan into the Pacific time zone.

A Friendly Canadian Customs Agent

More Caribou, of Canadian Nationality
Blue Sky Added in Photoshop to Enhance Contrast With Animal

Past the border the road widened, and was paved for some stretches. But the rain and mud continued, and the fog was even thicker is some places. The wider right of way was much appreciated, as it was necessary to stay to the right in the fog, when oncoming traffic could not be seen in time to get over.

As We Proceeded On, the Road Got Rougher and the Fog Grew Thicker

About 11am we arrived at the free ferry crossing the Yukon River. The approach to the ferry landing is at the bottom of a 7 mile downgrade which drops 2000 feet from the hills above the river, fortunately on pavement.

The Klondike River Empties into the Yukon at Dawson City

We arrived just as the small ferryboat was unloading, so we drove right on and were in Dawson by 11:30. We were delighted that we did not have to disconnect the car on the ferry.

Dawson City Seen From Ferry Landing Across the Yukon River

Driving on the Ferry Boat

Midstream View of the Yukon

After stopping for gas ($1.64/liter), we registered at the nearby campground, then drove a couple of miles out of town to a car wash. We did not do a thorough job, but did get off most of the caked mud, after a half hour of work, during the course of which we inserted 10 loonies into the coin operated pressure washer.

When we crossed the border, we pulled over for a few minutes to let the rest of the coaches catch up with us. When Keith shut off the engine, the CB quit working. We soon discovered that the entire coach electrical system was dead. We had 12 volt power only when the engine was running. Normally Keith would address such a problem immediately on arrival at the campground, but on this day, his afternoon nap was first priority. After napping, he removed the cover from the coach battery compartment, and immediately discovered a broken battery terminal. After a trip to the local NAPA for a new terminal and a half hour of labor, all was fixed, and we now are firing on all 12 volts, if I may mix my metaphors.

We enjoyed a pleasant dinner at Sourdough Joes. Kathy had a tasty but small and pricy piece of salmon (3 COWS), while Keith ordered a Ruben (2-1/2 COWs). Both were accompanied by somewhat soggy fries, Keith’s at extra cost. We came back to the camper about 7:30, and immediately went to bed. Tomorrow we are going to Diamond Tooth Gerties for the show. Gerties is an old time saloon/gambling hall/girlie show, where Kathy can gamble and Keith can gawk.

Don’t touch that dial!

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