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Sun Aug 26 2012: Top of the World to the North Pole

It's a grey, overcast morning as we leave Dawson City to head west. Just outside of the city, a tiny ferry called the George Black waits to take us over the Yukon River. It only fits about 4 RVs at a time, but it runs quickly - taking just 5 minutes to cross the river. And the price is right - it's free! During the winter, the ferry stops running and residents just drive or snowmobile across the ice to get to the other side.

Boarding the ferry from Dawson City to the Top of the World Highway

Across the Yukon River, the patchy pavement quickly turns to gravel and starts to climb up above the timberline. We're on the Top of The World Highway, one of the most northern highways in North America. It probably got its name because most of the road rests on the spine of the mountains that overlooks the Yukon to the north and colourful valleys on both sides of the ridge.

The view is duplicated on the other side of the road!

It's hard to choose which side of the road to look, all the different coloured trees in the valley look like they've been painted by Seurat. The gravel is fairly hard packed, but is only open in the summer. There is very little traffic on this fine Sunday morning, but half-way through the ride, a red R1200GS Adventure blasts by us like we were standing still. I manage to glance at his plates as he passed us and was surprised to see another Ontarioan! What are the chances?

Trying to see the pointillism of it all

Top o' the World to ya!

Looking down into wonderfully coloured valleys

About 100 kms in, we reach the Canada/US border where I experienced the absolute most friendliest border crossing! The border guards were all, "Sure take a picture", and "Yeah, you can rest right over there"... It didn't seem like they saw a lot of traffic, but when they did, they told us there were a lot of BMW motorcycles in the mix. As if to prove his point, the red 1200ADV from Ontario was parked right up behind the building. We chatted with Brian, from Huntsville, ON, he was on an 18-day round-trip from Ontario to Alaska and back! Wow, that's a lot of riding!

Brian is waiting for his two other riding buddies that he left behind in the gravel dust, he told us to watch out for them

This border crossing is interesting, it's one of the few customs buildings jointly run by both the US and Canadian governments. The RV on the left is coming into the US and the minivan on the right is crossing into Canada.

More BMW motorcycles at the border

Neda went over to chat with the new GS riders, two 1200s and an older F650GS. Turns out they were from Florida, flew into Anchorage, rented BMW motorcycles and were on their way to Dawson City.

Neda chatting with the Floridians

It's official! We're in Alaska (not Hyder, Fake Alaska)! This trip is now INTERNATIONAL!!!

From the US border, or Boundary, Alaska, as it's named, the road turns into the Taylor Highway. Same gravel, same twisty, mountainous curves, same amazing scenery, and once again, another BMW motorcycle from Ontario blows by us! This time, an R1200RT! Oh, the humiliation! I intercom Neda, "Seriously!?!" :) This was presumably one of Brian's riding buddies, he was a big man and he made the gigantic RT look like a small bicycle underneath him!

50 kms later, we see the sign for Chicken, Alaska. I'm not really sure you could call it a town, just a collection of buildings in a big gravel lot. We pulled in and saw Brian and his riding crew as well as a couple of Harleys. Motorcyclists seem to make up the majority of the tourists at this stop. We had lunch (fish and chips, not chicken) with Brian, Heinz and another 1200ADV rider, all from Huntsville, ON, as well as Baltimore Jim and his partner Phylis from Aspen, CO, who have both put on a gajillion miles on their Harleys. Had a great time exchanging travel stories!

Heinz pulls out of Chicken on his miniaturized RT

Did you know the residents of Chicken originally wanted to name their town, Ptarmigan, but they didn't know how to spell Ptarmigan! Chicken Ptarmesan?

After another 100 kms, the Taylor Highway reaches the Alaska Highway at Tetlin Junction. We don't get passed by any more BMW motorcycles from Ontario, although at this rate, I fully expected a C1 to come zipping in between us. We keep on riding north until we hit the North Pole. North Pole, Alaska, that is!

Not sure why Giganta-Santa is wearing pasties...

North Pole, Alaska is nowhere near the magnetic north pole, but they play up the whole Christmas theme with roads like Kris Kringle Drive, and all the poles that their road signs are mounted on are striped white and red like candy canes. Jeez... We do fall into tourist mode though and stop into the Santa Claus house to see their real-live reindeers and pose with several dozen SoDS (Santas of Differing Sizes).

And not one of them with a red nose

Given how cold it's getting, this seemed entirely normal

As we ride north of the North Pole (is that even geographically possible?), we enter Fairbanks as the gloomy weather has now turned to rain. Wonder where we can go from here...?

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