Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Roel's view from "On top of the World"

Given that Roel has been dreaming of arriving in Alaska for years, it was only fair that he got to be the one to write about it :) 

On "Top of the World"

The town of Dawson City was busy as we rode off the little ferry that took us back into town after camping at the other side of the river. We decided to spend some time in town to relax. We parked the bikes and noticed Jerry, Jay and Mike sipping their coffee in the sun. After a chat we took off to brew our own. It was great to see so many travelers, especially on motorcycles, out here in the middle of nowhere. But the rustic old mining town had a great feel to it. People walking around in traditional clothing, taking their hat off as they greet you and stop for a chat. What happened to these days where people were just nice to each other and had time to talk to one another? It was like stepping back in time and we loved it. In the afternoon, we took a final ride through town, said our goodbyes to everyone we had met and took the ferry back over the river to start our long ride on the “Top Of The World Highway”.

Pretty good dirt to match the stunning views on "Top of the World" Highway
 After a few miles the road turns into rough dirt and slowly starts to climb.  Sometimes it seems as if we are riding towards the sun, which at 7pm, is still high in the sky. The vistas are becoming broader and more and more beautiful as snow capped mountains start shaping the horizon. It’s one of these moments that you would love to capture on camera but you just can’t.

Most of the road is good, apart from some spots with loose gravel that get our blood pumping. Azure is getting better and better on dirt but I can hear her breathing deeper and faster when the going gets tough. 

A bit more gravel, foretelling of what was to come on the other side of the border, barely visible in the distance
One and a half hours later we ride over a beautiful road that winds up and down snow covered hills. Coming around a bend we see a little shed on the road. The Alaskan border! Where we thought that the border guards in Glacier National Park had worked it out, these guys really seemed to have found the most beautiful border crossing into the States.

Azure considers the views and prepares herself to ride what we've heard are pretty awful conditions on the US side of the "Top of the World Highway"
However many border crossing I have done in my travels, they still tend to get me nervous. As the light goes green I ride forward and a nice older man asks for my passport. After giving it a quick look over he asks where the bike is from, writes down the license number and off I go into Alaska! Azure follows 30 seconds later. For a minute I can’t believe that we are here. I’ve dreamed of this for a long time and after traveling for over five years now, we are here!

With crossing the border the views get more beautiful. The road however, gets instantly worse. We were warned for this in Dawson City. The Americans are working on the road and they are at the stage where the top layer consists of big sharp rocks that are trying to have a go at the tires as the tires are trying to find their way through. The breathing on the other side of our communication system gets deeper again and a few OMG’s follow. There is no end in sight, yet, and the layer of sharp rocks seems to be getting thicker. I can here Azure crying now. I encourage her to keep going and try to coach her through as good as I can. At a turn off we take a little break and take in the views before getting on the bikes again and get over the last bit of rough road. I am so proud of her to just keep going especially knowing that she is hardly able to touch the ground whenever the bike skids.

As the road improves the breathing goes back to normal again and before long we ride through beautiful pine and birch forest with the smell of new leaves filling our nostrils. The sun is doing its job and for me, if this road went on forever, I would be happy. Then it turns and we roll down a hill into the gold-mining town of Chicken. An ATV is parked along the road and I pull over to check if everything is OK. A 16 year old girl with a pistol on her belt assures me that they are alright end we roll into town. “That was a 16 year old girl with a cowboy style pistol on her side!”, I shout through the intercom. Welcome to Alaska!


We pull over in Chicken and cook our meal. Mashed potatoes, peas and organic pork cutlets. After a long ride it was a real feast. Our search for a nice spot to camp lasted about 2 minutes as we rode into Old Town Chicken, consisting of a bar, a cafe and a giftshop. 

Downtown Chicken - note the "Free Camping" sign on the right :)

The “Chickens” are very nice and offer us a free camp spot next to the cafe. (Very good business practice.) As I park the bike next to our neighbor for the night, I spot a moose in the bushes. We did not see any in Canada again but as soon as we cross the border... Bingo! We watch the cow graciously move through the forest stripping the new leaves of the trees as she goes. What a sight! It’s 12:30am and with the last rays of sun we set up our home for the night.

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