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!


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