September 24, 2009

Return from the Demptser; Going Home

It rained on and off all night at the Ethel Lake campground.  Who knows what time it was when I got up?, it is always light, even here,  hundreds of kilometers south of the Arctic circle, but I suspect it was early as the only other person up is the fisherman in the next campsite.  All night long he had kept me awake  with his really loud coughing up a lung smokers cough.  The fisherman was a Quebecois living in the Yukon since the 1970's.     We talked a bit, the fish weren't biting..  I don't like fish, so I never developed the passion for catching the smelly  slimy things, but we all must have our activities to break our routines.

On the Klondike Highway there are plenty of rest stops maintained by the territory,  basic no need to flush outdoor toilets, picnic tables and interpretive signs to tell you what you are looking at.  This one had been decorated by graffiti artists.  I had seen the same style and the logo 'just one' in Ross River.  I don't know why people get all wound up about graffiti, especially if it is well done.   I have a theory that all those ancient cave paintings and petroglyphs we revere are actually stone age graffiti. They are hidden deep in caves, so their dads wouldn't find them and make them clean them up.   If these crappers are ever excavated by  archeologists thousands of years in the future,  people and other lifeforms will travel from all over the universe to gaze in awe at the wonderful art.  That is, if the fascist park wardens don't scrape em all off. 

I arrive in Whitehorse about noon, it is the day before Canada Day (July 1) and the party is on.  I pull into the first motel at the edge of town.   I have to go the bar to register for a room.   The bar is full, and by the look of things the patrons have been here for a while.   Drinking is a major sport in the north, it seems that everywhere I go the people working in the restaurants, hotels and gas stations have a bit of glow on, 24-7. 

I have good intentions of doing Whitehorse, but end up crashing in the motel bed instead for 14 straight hours.  Watched some cable TV and slept some more.  I felt much better the following morning and loaded the bike and headed downtown.  Whitehorse was preparing for the Canada day parade, some of the streets were barricaded, and people were setting up folding chairs on the parade route.  Downtown Whitehorse is  fake rustic surrounded by typical northern utilitarian steel sided rectangular buildings.    All the big box stores and fast food franchises, including those that serve over priced coffee are here.   The public buildings are Ottawa Modern, and quite nice.   I am not homesick for urban sprawl yet, so I leave town ahead of the parade.

As I am heading south on the Alaska Highway I encounter more and more bikers heading north.  Most are Americans about my age, heading for Alaska.  When I came three years before it was all class A motorhomes towing Lexuses (Lexi?).  This time the motorhomes are few, but bike travel is still affordable.   Some of the bikes are loaded down like the Clampett's Model T when they headed for Beverly Hills.  I marvel that they made it this far, as some of them pay little regard to weight distribution, frame design or physics.   Maybe half are Harleys or fake Harleys. the rest are mostly Gold Wing style tourers  and dual sports.

Most are travelling in groups of three or four, but at the motels and restaurants the groups add up to dozens.  We all swap war stories.

 The Alaska Highway zig zags between the Yukon and British Columbia borders a few times before the Yukon is finally left behind.   The northern BC portion of the Alaska highway is the most scenic part, in Canada anyway, and much of it is provincial park.

On the trip back I see nothing but bears.  I probably see more bears on this stretch than all the other times I have encountered bears on the road combined.  One bear is in the middle of the road as I round the curve, and he is not going to move!  I get closer and closer but he just ignores me.  Finally after the beeping my horn a few times, the bear decides to get off the road at a leisurely pace.   Most of the bears I see are grazing something or other by the road side, some kind of bug or berry in season I suppose.  Most are half grown as well, probably sent packing by their mothers to make room for baby brother and sister.

There are some nice curvy bits of highway here.  One of the great pleasures of motorcycling is soaring through a twisty road, leaning the bike over as far as it will go.

At one of the gas stops I meet brothers, one riding his bike from Fort St. John to visit his brother who owns the gas stop and restaurant.  They tell me I should go to the Liard hot springs.  I take their advice.

I had been to Banff hot springs and Radium hot springs, which are basically a regular outdoor public swimming pool, except that the water is hot.  True, they are heated by underground hot springs, but that is no more obvious than is your water heater in the basement when you take a bath.  The Liard hot springs are different.  First you walk quite a distance over a board walk over a sort of  swamp with exotic year round vegetation because the water keeps everything from freezing.  The hot springs themselves resemble any mountain creek, but hot as a hot tub.  The closer you get to the underground source the hotter the water is.   Very cool, er hot.  Well worth the stop.

After Fort Nelson, the trip is pretty much over.  Now we are east of the Rockies and on the prairies even though we are still in British Columbia.  From here the road is pretty straight and a bit of a slog.  I land in Edmonton on July 4, as surprised as ever when returning from a long trip, that everything still looks the same.

 The End!

September 23, 2009

Riding to the Arctic Circle (part 3)

Not very far down the Dempster highway is a campground, and the 'Dempster Interpretive Center'.   I had only just arrived on the highway, but here was a stop with picnic tables, a rare luxury.  The lady running the interpretive center was rounding up people for a guided nature walk.  A naturalist was going to tell them about the local plants.   I passed, as I just wanted to sit, have some coffee, have something to eat and get psyched for the ride.  The interpretive center lady lends me a guide book on the highway.  She says I can bring it back on the way back, but it does not take long to read, so I return it right away.

When I travel on back roads or remote areas, I always carry some food with me.  Motels are scarce, and don't always have vacancies.  I don't adhere to a schedule and am prepared to camp in a nice spot, should I stumble across one.  Always having food allows me stop whenever and where ever I want.   I typically carry enough food for a few days,   plus, in remote areas once should always be prepared .   A few days food does not take much room if you carry the right stuff.    The hiking store sells food in pouches, just add water, the dollar store sells food in pouches, just add water.  I get Uncle Ben's wild rice and veggies or maybe tomato sauce and pasta in a pouch, a stick of dry salami, a block of cheese, a 'loaf' of Ryvita (a cross between bread and a cracker),  a can or two of beans, stew, chili and a box of granola bars from the grocery stores along the way.  This does not take up much room in my top case, and I could probably live on it for a week if I had to.


While I am vegging at the interpretive center, Mark and Evelyn roll in on a BMW 650 GS, a German cousin to my Austrian made KTM.  They are from Inuvik, and are returning home from the Dust to Dawson rally.  We chat a bit.  Mark bought the BMW a few years back and rode it to Inuvik.   There are no dealers there, but Mark has a friend who gets his bike fix by fixing Mark's bike for no charge.  A symbiotic relationship if there ever was one.   We will pass each other on the road to Eagle Plains, the next and only gas stop on the Dempster before Inuvik.

The Dempster is truly spectacular.  The road runs between two ridges, and from time to time climbs on top of one of them.   The vegetation is low and does not obscure the view.  Farther south trees are tall and close the road creating the effect of a tree tunnel with little to see.  Up here nothing gets in the way of the view.  Added to that is the total absence of anything man made beyond the road itself.  Off in the distance is a small lake still covered with ice.

Farther on I ride by what looks like a gravel mountain.  Weathering has broken up the mountain surface into little pieces. 

Stunning vistas.

  The unpaved road blends with the landscape like no paved highway can, with all its painted lines reflectors and bill boards.

Tundra is a dense mattress of plants growing all over each other, none are more than 12 inches high.

Eagle Plains is about half way up the Demptser, and about 30 km from the Arctic Circle.   There is a gas station (the only one), a garage,  a  motel and campground.  I opt for a room with heat and a soft bed.  I am really tired.  There are quite a few bikes here.  Mark and Evelyn arrive on their BMW.   The motel bar is large and empty, two sides are all window, it is like sitting outside but warmer :-)  It is  daylight all the time so you lose all 'feel' for  time.   You eat and sleep when you feel like it instead of what the sun is telling you.  The staff at the hotel have imposed some limits though, I am told I need to get dinner before 7:30 if I want a cooked meal.  I am reminded of the "Restaurant at the End of the Universe" in the "Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy" series.  This is the restaurant at the end of the world where the sun never sets.

The people I meet tell me the road from Eagle Plains to Inuvik is not as scenic as the part I just rode.  They also tell me how nasty the road gets when it rains.  The weather has been all cold, low teens C.  I am really tired.  I decide that I will stay in Eagle Plains an extra day and turn around and start back, leaving Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk for another day.

The following day I rest up.  The Arctic Circle is only a short distance down the road, so I grab my camera and head out.   There is a roadside monument.  I join a German couple touring in a rented motor home and a gentleman from Alberta in a camper at the marker.  We pass our cameras around so we can get pictures of ourselves.   I return to the motel and set the alarm for midnight in case I fall asleep again. 

June 28, midnight pacific standard time (not daylight savings) the sun is completely below the horizon, but only just.  It is still full daylight, there is no darkness in the sky anywhere.

  The next day, warm and rested, I head south again.  A few hours out of Eagle Plains there is an abandoned BMW K1200, a sport touring bike like my old FJ.  What was he thinking!  I stop and quickly see the problem.  Flat tire.  Large street bikes have alloy wheels and tubeless tires.  This set up is pretty trouble free, but if you do have trouble you will need a tire shop to fix it.  You can't fix a tubeless tire by the side of the road unless you have a tire machine and an air compressor.  There was no rider, he must have hitched a ride, and will be coming back for his bike with a truck.   A couple from Georgia riding matched Kawasaki KLRs, the Japanese cousin of my bike, also stop.  They trucked their bikes to Edmonton and rode the same route I did, but up the regular Klondike highway route.  I tell them about highway 4 and they think they might try that for the trip home.  As for me, I will stick to the paved route this time.

Going the other way on a road, pretty much any road, is like seeing a whole new road.  Everything looks different going the other way.  This is good because I am easily bored.    The Dempster was equally awe inspiring going back.  The vistas here are definitely worth the trip.   However, I had to admit to myself it would have been just as great sitting behind the wheel of a heated motorhome with one of those huge picture window sized windshields.  Being in the wind is not all its cracked up to be when the wind is blowing cold non stop.  It never did really warm up, every day of the trip I rode wearing all my gear and my Helly Hanson arctic long johns.
On the bike I wear a a nylon 3/4 length motorcycle touring jacket (Joe Rocket), denim shirt over sweatshirt over T shirt, rain/wind over-pants from an outdoor store (Marks Work Warehouse) with side zips all the way up each leg so I can put them on over boots, jeans, Helly Hanson arctic long underwear bottoms, thick socks over thin socks, engineer style high boots, and cold weather motorcycle padded gloves with gauntlets.   When the boots are well dubbined, this outfit keeps out the wind and the rain when I am on the bike.  As it gets warmer, stuff comes off and goes into the saddle bags, but not this time.
The KTM offers pretty good weather protection for what it is, a dual sport bike.  The short windscreen breaks the wind, and the wide and deep gas tank protects me between waist and ankles as well as any touring fairing.  The thing that is missing is that slidy thing you crank to the right for heat, along with a fan control to  blow hot air in your face at  force 9 like I have in my truck, and oh yeah, windows that roll up.   I am beginning to wonder if I am too old for this extreme stuff.  I have been riding steady for six days with a one day break, but it seems harder then when I did it before.
It is pretty hard to continue feeling sorry for yourself when the sun sort of comes out and there is all this scenery to look at.

I haven't seen a lot of wild life yet, a moose or two, a caribou and lots of deer.   I don't even try to take animal pictures on the road, for one, they are moving, usually rapidly, and so am I.  Even if they are standing, they will be gone by the time I have stopped and fumbled my camera out, turned it on, and waited for it to 'boot' and two, I don't think it is a real good idea to chase wild animals around waving a camera.  Especially if they are bears.  Bears that lose their fear of humans will end up getting shot.  I can't feel too sorry for the morons that get mauled because they got too close to a bear and did something silly, they usually survive, but the bears will be hunted down and killed.  My camera has 20X zoom, though, which lets me take great close ups without getting close up, but there is still the problem of stopping, unpacking the camera, etc. etc. when there is a roadside encounter.

After the Dempster is behind me and I am back on the Klondike Highway I pass by the Ethel Lake turn off at a good time and spot to call it a day.  Ethel Lake is 40 km down an access road barely worthy of  the name.  As you enter there is a sign that says "Abandon all hope all ye who enter here".  I went down that road to the campground on my FJ 3 years back and it was an unpleasant and scary experience.  On the KTM it was still a horrible road, maybe even more than before, but it was a blast to shoot down on a competent bad road bike.   I arrived at Ethel Lake just as it was starting to rain a bit, scattered showers.   I quickly set up my tent and had a look around.   The campground was almost full (about 15 spots).  It was as I remembered, like a post card from Canada's North, it could have been North anywhere, from Newfoundland to British Columbia.  Boreal forest, small lake with rocky shore, a guy fishing from an aluminum boat, and the obligatory Loon patrolling the water.  A golden eagle flew into a tree, and let me try out my 20X zoom.  Worked just fine, woohoo!


 End part 3.

September 21, 2009

Riding to the Arctic Circle part 2.

It was drizzly and cold as I left Ross River in the early AM. The dreary weather continued for most of the day.  From Ross River to the Klondike highway is another approximately 400 km, but about 80 km along the way is Faro.    Faro was the location of a huge open pit lead-zinc mine.  They have turned one of the old ore carrying monster trucks into one of those statue display things that small towns like put up.

Faro is about the same size as Ross River, but quite a contrast.  Martha Stewart has no fan base in Ross River.  Faro has paved roads, and many houses that would not look out of place in lower suburbia.  To be fair, Faro  was until recently a prosperous mining town and had a population in the 1,000s.  There are also a lot of empty houses in Faro, the population having shrunk to about 400.  The Faro-ese are going after the eco tourism trade.  There is a population of Dall sheep on the edge of town.  There is a blind a few miles out where you can go to observe them.  It was still drizzling and cold when I got there, and I suspect the sheep were all hiding in caves knitting sweaters for themselves.  Whatever, I didn't see so much as a mutton chop.

After Faro the weather starts to improve, it is now sunny but still quite cool.  Highway four follows the Yukon River to Carmacks, where it meets up with the Klondike highway that will take me to Dawson City.  Along the way is a marker and a sign describing the Columbia Disaster.  Click on the picture you will be able to read the story.  It sounds like a plot for the three stooges or trailer park boys, except that people were killed.

Highway 4 from Faro to the Klondike highway is mostly all paved, which was a nice break after all the gravel.   Just before I joined up with the Klondike highway I pulled off the road  to have coffee from my thermos and a snack from my hoard of road food.  As I was checking my by now very worn rear tire, I noticed a nail had buried itself into the treads.  I pulled it out, and was greeted by the sound of air hissing.  Oops.  Fortunately I was prepared, having brought all the tools I needed to remove and replace a tire and a spare inner tube to replace the holy one.   I always pack tire irons and spare tube on my travels, but had never had to use them, and was beginning to wonder whether I should lighten my load and leave that stuff behind. 

It was easy to fix the tire, easier than installing the tire in my garage almost. No mosquitos in the garage and instead of an air compressor, I had to pump up the tire with one of those small hand held bicycle pumps.  That took a bit longer.

By now I was cold and tired and looking for a place to stay.   Watson Lake and Dawson City are popular tourist destinations, and finding accommodations can be a challenge, especially if you wait too long.  I was still about 100 km from Dawson, and it was about 4 O'clock.  I had been to Dawson before.  It is a high end tourist trap.  The upscale kind where they sell you hand made artifacts of natural materials instead of gaudy trinkets made of plastic, but still a tourist trap.   About a ten to one ratio of stores selling overpriced souvenirs and hiking gear to regular store stuff.

As one approaches a popular tourist destination in the empty Yukon,  road side motels start appearing about 100 km before you get there.  The cabins at Moose Lodge are one such.  A nice warm little cabin to yourself with battery powered lights and a propane stove.  Just the ticket.  After resting up take a walk and smell the flowers.  Don't leave home without your mosquito repellent.

The Dempster highway starts about 20 km before Dawson Creek. there is a large gas station, store, restaurant etc. at the junction, but I ride into Dawson for a look around.  I had been sharing my tire woes with some other riders I met on the road, and one of them told me to go find 'Dick' at the downtown hotel in Dawson City, as he has some kind of tire thing going for motorcycles.

I arrive in Dawson to catch the tail end of the Dust to Dawson rally, apparently an annual event organized by a group of Alaskan riders.  They ride to Dawson via the top of the world highway.  I had been on this road on my previous trip, and it is a beautiful ride, well named, the road is mostly unpaved, but it is hard packed and easy to ride.  Most of the rallyists were on dual sport on-off road type bikes.  The whole town had been taken over by old guys wearing colorful synthetic fiber riding gear,  riding practical dual sport bikes loaded like camels, just like me.  Not Sturgis, nary a tattoo or bared breast, for that matter, there weren't any breasts, covered or not.   Took the wind out of my sails, here I thought I was doing something different, turns out I am only part of a large crowd!


Dawson City is a theme park in all but name (and corporate ownership), 'Klondike World'.  For those who don't know the story, the Klondike was the site of the great gold rush  of 1896-98.  A few local prospectors made a major gold strike, and when word got out people from all over the world came to the Yukon to get in on the action.    To get to the Klondike they had to travel by ship to Skagway Alaska.  Once in Skagway they had to climb up the side of a mountain, at the top of which was the Canadian border and Sam Steele of the Northwest Mounted Police.   To reach the Klondike, they went through the White Pass or Chilkoot pass, a thirty five mile climb, some of it straight up, over which each klondiker had to get a ton of supplies overland, or the police wouldn't let them into Canada.   Rafts and river boats carried them the rest of the way to the Klondike about 400 miles.  By the time they arrived  the gold had already been found, but there was this non stop party going strong in Dawson City. And  the party is still going strong.

Other than the few miners who actually found gold, the real beneficiaries of the gold rush were those who supplied the wants and needs of the Cheechakos (rookies) and Sourdoughs (those who survived the Yukon and stayed on).   The gold is long gone, but the flow of  Cheechakos looking for a Yukon adventure continues.   As ever, the merchants, restauranteurs, hoteliers and dancing girls of Dawson City are pleased to serve.

I was eager to get to the Dempster, but I had to find Dick, at the Downtown Hotel and talk tires.  As it turned out Dick had an assortment of half worn and new tires, one of which could be made to fit the KTM should it become necessary.  The tire was little better than the one on the bike, but it would get me home if I needed it.   Mingling with the other bikers I heard plenty of horror stories about how ugly the Dempster could be for a bike.   I had had a fairly grueling trip of non stop cold wet weather all the way from Edmonton.  I was almost ready to turn back, but the sunny weather and knowing that a tire lived in Dawson made up my mind.  This was supposed to be the start of my adventure but I was already feeling burnt out.

Before I left I poked around in the gay nineties themed tourist traps looking for something that would be uniquely Yukon.  I found it too, one of the Yukon's best exports besides minerals  remains literature.  I picked up a few books with local stories, printed locally.   Since the gold rush delivered Jack London and Robert Service to the Klondike, the Yukon has inspired excellence in writing and writers.  Pick up a local newspaper, apparently the residents also appreciate good writing because that is all you  will find, well written local articles interspersed with highly literate articles from quality magazines and newspapers from the more populated part of the world.  Quite a change from the typical big city papers that appear to be the unnatural offspring of a weekly supermarket tabloid and a bargain store flyer . 

Dawson behind me, I backtrack the 20 km or so to the start of the Dempster.  The  highway is actually an unpaved densely graveled berm placed over the permanently frozen ground (permafrost).   In the summer a small portion of the upper surface thaws, which allows plants on the surface to grow.  The lower part stays frozen year round.  This is the opposite of more temperate climates where the top layer freezes in winter, but the lower layer remains permanently unfrozen.   Building roads on permafrost is tricky, because the pounding from traffic will cause differential thawing and freezing, which in turn leads to major problems in keeping the road intact.

As far as riding or driving goes, the Dempster as I experienced it is almost as good as a fully paved road.  It was cool and damp, no dust but not wet enough to be slippery.   As with highway 4, I was looking at a 400 km stretch with no services of any kind.  The total length of the highway is about 800 km (500 miles) to Inuvik, where it ends.  Inuvik is on the Mackenzie River Delta about 100 km from the Arctic Ocean.  On the Arctic Ocean is the port of  Tuktoyaktuk, which is only accessed by land during the winter on the ice roads that are built and maintained after freeze up.  My original plan was to go to Inuvik and see if there was some way to get to Tuk, by air or boat when I got there.

End Part 2 -to be continued.

September 19, 2009

Riding to the Arctic Circle (part one)

The arctic circle is the point where the sun does not go set in summer or come up in winter, for at least one day...   I used to think that it was 6 months of daylight and 6 months of darkness, but you have to go to the north pole for that.   At the Arctic circle you will have one 24 hour period with no sunset, on June 21, the summer solstice.

The arctic circle would be my destination as I left Edmonton in late June, 2009.  To get there I would travel up the Alaska highway to the Yukon, and from there to Dawson City, where the great gold rush of the 1890's happened, and then up the Dempster highway to the arctic circle.

I had been up the Alaska highway and to Dawson on a motorcycle before, so I knew the way :-)  My first trip was on a street oriented sport touring bike, a Yamaha FJ100.  It was fine most of the time, but definitely out of its element when going got rough.  The AK highway and the highway to Dawson can be travelled on just about any kind of motorcycle, but there were all these unpaved roads, (here be dragons)  that I just  had to ride by..  Actually, I didn't ride by one, road leading to a campground (Ethel Lake) that turned out to be 40 kilometers of sheer terror.

This time I had a different bike.  I had traded the FJ for a KTM 640 Adventure.  This bike was made for nasty roads.  It is also a touring bike, with a huge 27 liter tank which meant I would not have to stop for gas for at least 500 km (300 miles).  This turned out to be important.

 From Edmonton the end of the Demptser at Inuvik is  2003 miles (3200 km) according to Mapquest.  Thats a lot of miles, straight north.  I would be passing through Alberta, British Columbia, the Yukon and Northwest Territories. 

To put this in perspective, going 2000 miles east would just about put me in Toronto, or to go 2000 miles south, I would be between El Paso and San Antonio Texas.  Why go up there when I could be going to the center of the known universe, or even to Texas?  Here's a clue.  The population of the Yukon is 30,000.  Northwest Territories 41,000.  No people!  No traffic. No trucks.  (well fewer anyway).  A perfect trip for a misanthropic old fart.

There is a fair amount of traffic on the Alaska Highway, being as it is the main road to all points north, including of course, Alaska.  But even so, it does not compare to the freak show that summer travel is in the more populated parts of  the continent.  Also what with the economy crashing and all, the usual AK highway  holiday traffic had fallen off considerably.  It was quite bad for the gas stations and restaurants on the highway.  Just about every second one had closed its doors.

The Alaska highway used to be a major adventure, and it still is, but more along the lines of a Disney adventure than the real thing.  The road is completely paved, barring the occasional stretch of road reconstruction.

Everybody stops in Watson Lake to see the sign forest.  People from every part of the globe have placed a sign from their home town Watson Lake's sign forest park.  It all began in 1942 when homesick US soldiers put up sign posts pointing to their home town along with the distance. This was common in most US army posts far from the big PX during WWII, but in Watson Lake the tradition continues.

The Dempster highway begins in Dawson City, which is reached by the Klondike Highway which crosses the AK highway at Whitehorse, the capital of the Yukon.  There is another way to get to the Klondike highway, highway 4, an unpaved road from Watson Lake that goes through Ross River and Faro.

Just to back up a bit, I had installed new tires on the bike in Edmonton before leaving.  There are very few bike shops in the North, (lots of Snowmobile dealers tho), and none past Whitehorse.   Most smaller dealers don't stock tires anyway, they order them as needed.  So a major concern was whether my tires would make the trip.  The type of tires an Adventure touring bike such as the KTM uses wear out quickly.   My tires were already showing signs of wear by the time I got to Watson Lake.   Maybe they would wear better on their natural element, dirt roads.

So I took highway 4, that is what I came up here to do!  From Watson Lake to Ross River is 400 km, with no services (no anything else either) until Ross River.  This alone would turn back most motorcycles.  My old FJ needed gas every 300 km.  No probs for mr. KTM though.   Riding 400 km with no resting places to have a coffee and a donut would eventually cause problems for the old fart riding it.  Of course I was carrying a thermos full of coffee, and a saddlebag full of nutritious junk food, but the pleasure of being able to sit down and relax in a heated coffee shop, full of lovely waitresses and ugly truck drivers turned out to be an important factor in making time on the road.

Gravel and unpaved roads are also more challenging than riding on pavement.  Plenty of rocks and trees to look at, as well as the odd abandoned car.   I almost got run off the road by a huge tractor trailer hauling god knows what, going hell for leather towards Watson Lake.  If I had of been in a car I probably would have ended up in the ditch just like the little silver car I saw.   Guess he wasn't expecting anybody else.

When I dragged my butt into Ross River I was pretty beat.  One hotel.  They did have a room though.  Only one debit macine in town and it wasn't in the hotel.  No problem, check in, go to the store, get cash with debit card (no credit card machine either).  The hotel was pretty typical for the north, looks like hell on the outside, but nice inside, especially the rooms.  No point in spending time or money on the exterior, just make sure it keeps the wind out.  It's dark half the year anyway.  You can tell the bar has seen a lot of action, lots of stories in those scarred walls and floor and busted chairs.   Drinking is, ahem, a popular pastime up here.   Not much else going on.  Church was closed :-)

 Things to do in Ross River.  Go for a walk down the world famous Ross River Suspension Bridge, which crosses, the un-eponymous, Pelly River.  Wave at the friendly people who wave back at you.  Watch the ferry take trucks across the Pelly River.  (On the other side  is the Canol road to Norman Wells).  Take pictures of spectacular scenery.   Go to bed.

To be continued.