99 Problems and the Kindness of Strangers
Earlier today Phil dropped my bike on me – which pushed me off the side of a trailer. Never fear, I’m fine, I’ll have a bruise on my butt, and be pretty sore tomorrow though. The real issue is that I, and my bike, were on a trailer.
It’s been quite an adventure the past few days since we last posted from Whitehorse.
The ride from Whitehorse to Dawson City was uneventful. We stopped for a birthday giant cinnamon bun in celebration of Phil getting older. The now typical afternoon rain didn’t fail to arrive and we made good time to Dawson City – which is an authentic Klondike Gold Rush town. They’ve kept it with all the original shop fronts and many old buildings. We ate dinner at the Downtown Hotel, where Phil also joined the Sourtoe Cocktail Club. This involved drinking a shot with a mummified human toe in it. (Video to follow)
Dawson City is on a river, and instead of building a bridge, they have a 24 hour ferry. We went back and forth on that ferry many times! Reminded us of being kids – we always loved boats and locks. Our camp site was on the other side of the river from the main town, so after dinner we set up camp and walked back into town.
We went to the Casino, and watched the Can Can show, which was excellent. We were sitting with two tour guides from Holland America, Jason and Olivia, and they then took us to the local “dive” bar.
The bar is so popular that we had to line up to get in, even on a Wednesday night. The door guy said it was because the building was so old it was likely to fall down.
We made some friends in the line too.
We had a fantastic night in that little bar, and ran across “The Captain” who had given Phil his Toe shot earlier on our stumble home.
The next day we had a slow start for some reason…
We spent the day in Dawson City, doing some work on my bike (carb cleaner to the rescue) and also tried (unsuccessfully) panning for gold with our frisbees.
My bike hasn’t been running well. The charging system for my iPhone is no longer charging my phone, and the engine is lagging – especially at 3k to 4k RPM. At one point in Dawson City, my bike wouldn’t start, Phil tried to bump start it, and then after a couple of attempts tried the starter again and it started.
After the gold panning we stopped in town for gas and groceries the skies opened and it started to pour! We huddled in a doorway and ate our roast chicken with pitas and hummus, hoping for the rain to stop. We hoped in vain.
So we suited up and headed towards the Top of the World highway. There are two words to describe that journey. SPECTACULAR and MISERABLE.
The rain continuedÂ incessantly. We were soaked. And freezing. I was so happy to have bought a heated vest. My heated handgrips didn’t help much because my gloves were filled with water.
The Top of The World highway is a dirt/gravel road that follows the ridges of the mountains. The views were fabulous, but the road wasÂ treacherous, as one poor man found out. Â His motor home towing a car ended up off the road and down the hill…
The first sign of civilisation was the USA border, XXX kilometers from Dawson City. The border guards were lovely and invited us in to warm up in their office. We spent about 30 minutes there, learning about their office politics and the road ahead of us. The rain had stopped by the time we left the border, I still managed to drop my bike as I reversed the bike out.
The rest of the ride was better, but still cool as we were pretty wet. Our next stop was in the quaint town of Chicken, Alaska. The man in the Chicken Creek Cafe was incredibly nice and fed us hot chocolate, chicken noodle soup and roast beef sandwiches. Â The general store gave me a free hat because I was a motorcyclist, and the bar was full of hundreds and hundreds of hats.
Chicken revived us, and we decided to carry on to Tok (rhymes with “joke”). The sun doesn’t set until midnight or so, which means we can do a lot in the daylight. I foresee that the lack of sunlight will be an issue when we are in Central America and it gets dark at 6pm!
We camped in Tok and ate smokies roasted over a fire. Phil got the fire going very quickly – those boy scout skills sure have paid off! The hot showers were absolutely amazing after such a cold ride. Phil noticed that there was liquid all over the front left side of his bike, the tool tube, fairing and crash bar. I hopefully suggested that maybe his water bottle had leaked on it, but when we woke up and it was still evident, the realisation dawned on us that it was oil. It turns out that the many pot holes on the Top of The World did a number on Phil’s front suspension and had blown a fork seal, releasing fork oil all over everything, including his brakes.
The mechanical hiccups, along with the wear on our tires made us decide to go straight to Fairbanks, rather than detouring to Valdez first. This turned out to be a very good decision.
The ride to Fairbanks was fairly short, and pretty boring. A long straight road lined with trees. We were on the look out for somewhere with internet access so we could find somewhere to stay, and a Kawasaki parts supplier. We got to a town called North Pole, which is just outside of Fairbanks and the Golden Arches called to us. Macdonalds have made a master stroke in offering free wifi in all their restaurants.
We spent a few hours online, making couchsurfing requests and researching our onward trip to Prudhoe Bay. We kept hoping for someone in Fairbanks to offer to let us stay with them, but at about 10pm we decided we should just find somewhere to camp and went out to our bikes. As we were packing up the bikes, a few people came to talk to us, including a man called Robert, who has lived in Alaska for many years and rides motorbikes as well. While Phil was talking to Robert, I started up my bike, well I tried to start it, and it was not having any of it. We thought it just needed a bit of bump start love, but before he left Robert gave us his phone number and said that he had a trailer if we needed some help.
It wasn’t until we had the bike in pieces, and had discovered that the spark plug wasn’t sparking with the help of another motorcyclist who is heading to Prudhoe Bay and his voltmeter, that we realised we may just need Robert’s help.
While the bike was in pieces, we got a call from Art, a couchsurfing host, who had a bed for us. With that offer, and no hope of fixing the bike, we put it back together, covered it with a bike cover, both hopped onto Phil’s bike and rode to Art’s beautiful house.
We are staying in a basement suite – so not only do we have a bed, but also a living room, bathroom and kitchen!
Art is also a pilot – seems to be a theme with our couchsurfing hosts!
This morning we called Robert, and he was only too happy to bring his trailer to the parking lot and help us out. I could not believe how friendly and helpful Robert was. He actually thanked us for allowing him to try out his new trailer and making him part of our adventure! A true win-win situation. If you are reading this Robert, thank you so very much!
So that was how I ended up on a trailer, taking Cricket off at the Alaska Fun Center – where they have mechanics well versed in how to fix KLRs. They were really helpful and started working on our bikes right away, $350 later Phil has a new fork seal, and my bike is running again. It’s not running perfectly though, so we are going to clean the carb and the air filter tomorrow.
Tonight’s adventure is to go dancing with Art and two other Belgian couchsurfers who are staying here tonight, not sure what we’re letting ourselves in for, as I think Art is quite the ballroom dancer!