We've just stepped over an imaginary line on a map, so the scenery in the Yukon Territory is pretty much the same as in Alaska, seeing how it's basically the same range of mountains. Although the views all around us are fantastic, it's taking us forever to escape the cold weather. The roads are lined with snow from the night before, but thankfully it hasn't stuck to the pavement.
Riding in Arctic temperatures? 'snow problem!
Instead of doubling back on the Cassiar Highway south, we've opted to take the Alaska Highway all the way through the Yukon and into British Columbia. It's bit of a longer route, but the pavement is much better and there are more services available than the Cassiar. Or so we thought...
We stopped for lunch at Destruction Bay and talked to the locals about the snowfall they received the night before. Everyone remarked how late we were out in the season, and we nodded, pretending it was the first time we've heard that: "Oh really? You don't say!". We're eating out (or inside) a lot in the Arctic because it is just too damn cold to stay outside, and the expenses are mounting because of it. It is not cheap up here, everything is about 1.5 times what it would cost in the south. The motto up here is, "Less for more!"
Beautiful mountains in the Kluane National Park
Our destination for the evening is Whitehorse, which takes us past the snow-crusted mountains of the Kluane National Park to our south. I didn't know much about Alaska and the Yukon before coming out here, and the one thing I'm taking back with me is how mountainous the region is.
Mountain riding in the Yukon Territory
It was a cold ride to Whitehorse and we set up camp in the outskirts of the city. We're staying here for a couple of days to recharge our batteries. Literally: I mean laptop, camera, iPhone batteries, etc. We spent the whole day in the public library catching up on blog entries and e-mails to friends and family back home.
Kilroy was here
Whitehorse has some of the same touristy Gold-Rush-style buildings as Dawson City and it was nice to get off the bikes and walk around the downtown core. Again, we treated ourselves to a hot meal at the Klondike Rib and Salmon Bake, promising that we'd tighten up our belts when the weather got warmer. In the restaurant, we read an ominous sign: "7 days till the end of the season!". We are pushing it right till the very end of tourist season, after which time most services and facilities geared to travelers would be shutting down for the cold winter ahead.
The hot food was soooo good. Neda had elk stew with bannock and I had pasta with bison sausages
The next day, we continued along the Alaska Highway, past the familiar junction of the Cassiar Highway and the town of Watson Lake, towards BC. The Alaska Highway was originally built by the US government as a direct response to the Japanese invasion of Pearl Harbor. They felt the proximity of Alaska to Japan left the undefended north too vulnerable, and two years and 1500 miles later, a road was built to supply troops, equipment and weapons to Fairbanks. Canada agreed to let the highway be built through BC and Yukon provided that the highway be turned over to the Canadian Army and Highway System after the war. What we ended up getting was a rough gravel road in such disrepair that the federal government had to spend millions more over several decades to pave the Alaska "Highway".
Jordi is one huge dude. Neda is 5'8", and she's wearing tall boots and her helmet in this shot!
Staying up here so late in the season, one of our worst fears is realized: running out of gas. Although there are petrol stations situated every 75kms or so, all it takes is one or two of them to be closed to put us in dire straits. We pass two gas stations that were shut down for the season with our tanks well below the empty mark. Thankfully we have spare gas, unused from our trip up the Dalton Highway, so we pulled over to fill our tanks. There we met Jordi, a fellow GS rider who shipped his bike from Spain to ride all across the Americas. He too, was tapping into his spare jerry can, so we chatted for a while.
Our Spanish is not so good, and Jordi's English is not much better, but we spoke the international language of Maps
Jordi is telling us how he bench-presses R1200GS Adventures in his spare time
Rotopax to the rescue!
I've got 3.78L in my Rotopax, but Neda's Touratech spare gas can only holds a paltry 3L. When you're empty, this doesn't really give you a lot of range, as the gauges on our bikes have barely budged at all after refueling! Then again, GS fuel gauges are notoriously inaccurate. Mine came with a sticker below the gauge reading, "For Entertainment Purposes Only"...
Aside from the freezing weather, now we have to contend with the dwindling services on the road back south.