2015 Yukon or Bust Motorcycle North #2

Let me start again by saying that I have driven the Alaska Hwy more than a dozen times, including 3 times by motorcycle; and the Stewart Cassiar at least 6 times, this last time being the first on a motorcycle; and once on the Dempster, via motorcycle, in 2014.

I first drove the Alaska Hwy in 1981, so I’ve seen a few changes. Having said that, these main northern roads have not changed that much over the last 25 years. Road surfaces are constantly improving and the highways are continually being widened and straightened, and yes, the oil and gas industry are making inroads, but just here and there. The road side gas and burger stops are for the most part, still in the same locale, although many are boarded up due to tightening regulations. This part of the world is vast and can be harsh and that has seemed to slow the masses from moving in. Amen to that. We are planning to go again this year. What can we say? It’s kind of our back yard, and we like it

I strongly recommend, you go north on one of the two highways and return south on the other. You’ll thank me! Unless, of course, you’re getting on a ferry in Alaska, that’s a good option too. Both roads are about the same distance from the decision points, Prince George in the South, and Junction 37, near Watson Lake, in the North. Both are truly historic, at least for this part of the planet. Our social history, in North America is young, when compared to Europe, but our geography is just as old, beautiful, and has isolation in vast amounts, if one seeks it.
I must say we really enjoyed the Stewart Cassiar Hwy, which I will refer to hereafter as Hwy 37. Finished in the mid 1970’s, it stretches 874 kms, all paved, although a bit different pavement than the roads further south. A tad more … gritty. It is a far narrower, winding road, with trees grown in close to the road. You’ll see bears and other critters just like the Alaska Hwy, and a lot more birds (This link will show you what I mean). Traffic is a bit lighter on Hwy 37, and the road had very little construction happening during our ride. We did get all kinds of weather. From sun burn to almost frost bite. Fabulous. The Alaska Hwy is very wide in comparison, and has more construction and traffic, which makes sense as it is the more travelled of the two. Liard Hot Springs is just about a day’s ride from Whitehorse, and well worth the stop. I guess you could say there are more tourist attractions on the Alaska Hwy, if that’s your gig, but the relative quiet and wilderness of Hwy 37 is in itself, the real attraction.
Gas is no issue on either Hwy as there are more than enough stops, but pay attention to timing. Heading north we chose to do Hwy 37 first. At Prince George one takes Hwy 16 due west to the well-marked junction for Hwy 37 north. Once you turn off Hwy 16, onto Hwy 37, Kitwanga is just across the Skeena River Bridge, next is Meziadin junction, where you can turn off to visit Stewart or get “Hyderized” in Hyder Alaska, followed by Bell, Tatogga, Iskut, and Dease Lake; all good pit stops. These places are no more than a few hours a part. After a great meal, and sleep in Tatogga, we made it to Jade City which is only a few kilometers from the now mostly abandoned Cassiar town site and asbestos mine. One of these trips, we’re going to ride up to the old mine and have a look. Nearly 25 years ago when the mine was just shutting down we were running on fumes and decided Cassiar was our only hope for fuel, and it was. A kind gentlemen with a tidy tank saved the day. There is also lodging in Jade City, which to this point is a town with no powerlines; however, the power supply is on the way; we saw power poles being planted just a few kilometers away. Bet they are happy about that…maybe. Hard to emphasis too much the joy of riding this road; as stated by a fellow rider at Dease Lake, on a KLR, “I could ride this road all day.” Which was met by a reply from another road warrior “That’s great, because you will be.”
Jade City Rocks with no Power ... yet ...

At Junction 37, we connected with the Alaska Hwy just as a thunderstorm let loose. If you don’t like the weather up north, just wait a few minutes, it will change. Of course, it could get worse. Next came Rancheria which ended up providing the only hotel stay that was a little disappointing. The greasy spoon was fine, a decent burger with all of the artery clogging potential one could hope for, and nice people, as seems to always be the case in the north, it was the room, with walls made of toilet paper, allowing us to share farts, vocalisations and eventually mild aggression, with the neighbors, that was the only downside. Sweet…but not really. We call ‘em as we see ‘em.

The Alaska Hwy feels like a real highway after the Stewart Cassiar, which is much narrower and winding, with very little truck traffic, or traffic at all really. After Rancheria, you’ll pass through Teslin, a great place to stop for eats. We chose the restaurant closest to the bridge; just turn right, if you’re going north, and find a parking stall. It can be busy there, and a half dozen motorcycles lined up, plus all the usual tourist types, is common. Coffee is help yourself, if you want, and the food was excellent. Within a few hours, you’ll be rolling into Whitehorse, after passing by the exit to Carcross; the road to the world’s smallest desert. The actual city of Whitehorse is just off the Alaska Hwy, and easy enough to find, if you can read large overhead signs, in English. It is quite busy along the Hwy, with many little businesses along the way, for a dozen kilometres. You can drive right by the bustling city, capital of the Yukon, population 20,000, if you don’t take one of the two exits, 2 Mile Hill or South Access. That would be a shame as it does, apparently, besides all of the regular city amenities, have Canada’s largest Canadian Tire. Who, in their right mind, would want to miss that?

Just a few pics of some of the road food you can dig into, or not, as you ride the northern highways. I know, kind of a blatant Timmy’s ad but it is what it is. We like coffee, and maybe they’ll see this and share the love. Free coffee…yahoo! Hey, a person can dream.

 

We spent a week in Whitehorse, at the grandparent’s castle, as we like to call it. It’s a big old concrete and block structure, always morphing, and what a great place to hang. They started their northen lives and family there in 1961. Park the bikes under cover and gaze out at the Alaska Hwy, a stone’s throw away. Nice.

If you have thought of going north, even if it’s just a tickle in the back of your cerebral cortex, then follow through. There really is no bad time… okay, true enough it can be a tad cool, before June and after September, but other than that, weather is what it always has been in the north; unpredictable. That’s half the fun. It will be an adventure long remembered. Motorcyclists from everywhere, will be doing the same thing. Like I always did say, some places on those northern highways you can feel alone, but you won’t feel lonely, at least not for too long. Around the next corner, hill, or petrol stop, rest assurded some KLR, BMW or Harley, will roll into sight, and you will be grinning. You will be right where you’re supposed to be. That’s what we do, isn’t it? Ride to live, and live to ride. Go north my friends, go north. Can I get an Amen?