First, I’d like to thank Ronald Schulten and Sarah Olson for their generous donations.
If you go to northern Alaska, you have to visit Chicken. It is laid back, fun and in the middle of nowhere. With the population of only 27, Chicken was settled by gold miners in the late 1800s and in 1902, the local post office was established requiring a community name. Due to the prevalence of ptarmigan in the area, that was the name suggested as the official name for the new community. However, the spelling could not be agreed upon, and Chicken was used instead to avoid embarrassment. I was pumping gas when a Cessna 150 pulled in next to me and started filling up. The highway is also used as a runway for aircraft. You don’t see that in New York City.
From ,Chicken I rode southwest towards Tok to spend the night. Gib told me about a motorcycle campground named The Eagle Claw in Tok and I wanted to check it out; I also wanted to check my voicemails after 2 weeks. I got to the campground and saw a sign that said “Pick a spot, we will be around later.”
This campground is a marvelous place. Clean as it can get with teepees, cabins and tent sites. There’s a steam room, an unbelievably clean outhouse, dish station, ready-cut firewood, and real flowers on the table. There was also a stove and a pot to warm up water for cleaning dishes at the station. I was the only person in the whole area and no one came around, so I made a good fire and put Brian’s moose steaks on the coals. Dinner of moose and mashed potatoes and hot chocolate for dessert capped off the night. I packed up in the morning, turned the bike’s switch to “on”, pulled the clutch in, and heard a snap.
Lots of people made fun of me for taking spare parts with me, but dammit I was right. In the middle of nowhere, I had a brand new clutch cable sitting in my saddle bag and the tools to pull off the job. I got to work and unloaded everything again since I had to remove my seat to take the tank off to replace the cable. The weather was perfect and I was amused that my preparation had paid off. The new cable was not an exact fit but I made it fit anyway.
I loaded everything back up and stopped at the cabin to pay my camping fees. I knocked on the door and waited for a while, but no one was home and there was no drop box anywhere. I remembered seeing an ad for the place at the gas station where I filled up the night before, so I went back to the station and got the number and called the owner. She was a very nice lady and even told me to not worry about the camping fees, but I went back anyway and left the money in her car. If ever in Tok, don’t miss this place.
Crossing back into Canada was a breeze and the Alaska Highway was in its best shape. I stopped in Beaver Creek for a sandwich and met two guys on BMWs. Stephane Vachon is a French Canadian who’s been living in Panama for the past 15 years, and Oliver Fecht is a German teacher from south of Munich. I walked in and sat next to them at Buckshot Betty’s. I think it was Buckshot Betty herself who was serving us since she wasn’t very nice, but the food was great.
Oliver went looking for a campground. Stephane and I went to find a hotel room for him so I could use his internet connection before I would head out of town to pitch my tent somewhere in the bush. The single bedroom was $90 but the double bed was only $69, so Stephane invited me to stay. Stephane is riding a GS1200 BMW which he bought in Florida and has been touring Canada and Alaska for a while now. He was heading back to Whitehorse, so once again I found a cool travel mate. After answering emails and updating the website, we both crashed and before I knew it, the sun came up. It was -2C outside with a good frost covering everything. The morning started cold and stayed cold well into the afternoon. We hooked up with Oliver at Betty’s and all rode south together, changing lead every now and then. I wore everything I owned and had to bust out my ski gloves since my fingers were freezing, but it was a beautiful ride.
At the Haines junction, we said our goodbyes to Oliver as he rode south for Skagway while we went toward Whitehorse. We are staying at a hotel in Whitehorse (courtesy of Mr. Vachon) as I’m writing this and will go our separate ways tomorrow. Stephane will go to Skagway and take a ferry south, and I will head for Prince George in British Columbia. Stay tuned…
Ambitious ride. I did two years around the world, so I know a little about what you are feeling now in the beginning. My advice is don’t work too hard at first- pace yourself. And don’t spend too much time thinking about finishing; just deal with today every day.
I’ll keep an eye on this.