Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Day 28 - Good Times in Construction Zones. Welcome to Canada!






Day 28 - Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Start: Tok, Alaska
End: Whitehorse, Yukon Territory
Trip Miles Today: 384
Total Trip Miles: 6286

Well, my trip is now over 6000 miles and counting. Not exactly “epic” in the classic sense but pretty epic by my standards. I’m pretty sure that I’ll break 11,000 miles by the time I return home and 12K is not out of the question. Every epic with which I’m familiar has the protagonist engaged in battle with forces that try to undo him. Like that day, two weeks ago, when I crossed Summit Pass in the freezing rain and slush, I found today to again be a battle against the elements. The elements today consisted mostly of road conditions and a bit of weather thrown in for good measure. As I mentioned during the Northbound leg of the trip, the 125 miles from the Alaska-Canada border to the East end of Kluane Lake in the Yukon, is the area in most disrepair and the area with the majority of construction activity on any portion of the highway. When re-entering Canada this morning the construction zones were already on my mind but, unprovoked, the nice lady at Canadian Customs advised “be really careful in the construction zones, we’ve had several bikers down in the past few days.” As if I needed reminding. Basically these construction zones (5 of ‘em in the first 125 miles–varying in length from 3 to 8 miles) are where the old paved road has been completely torn out and a dirt/gravel/mud path takes their place. Sometimes there is 2 way traffic and sometimes it’s one lane only with either flagmen or pilot cars. Also, the condition varies from very hard, stable dirt with embedded stone to something that is like a slurry of pea gravel and mud. The pea gravel-stone-mud ones are the worst, especially just after rain or the water truck has come through to keep the dust down! This mushy stuff is just waiting to toss unwary motorcyclists. The first construction zone after crossing into Canada is the very worst for these conditions. I came pretty close to dumping the bike but judicious throttle application saved the day. Others were not so fortunate. Late in the day I spoke to some German Tourists, riding 2 up on a Moto Guzzi, and they had laid the bike down in that very area. Like the Canadian Customs Lady said “be VERY careful in the construction zones.” On top of the fun of customs and unstable road surfaces, I got pretty well doused with rain in the area around the aptly named “Destruction Bay” (named by Alaska Highway road builders in 1942 when, while building the first highway, some mega storm came along and trashed everything.) Not only did I get doused but, when the storm came up the temperature dropped down to 40 deg. (F) for almost an hour. Good thing that I had the foresight to put on my NEW heated vest which works flawlessly!

The route today was simply to go nearly 400 miles down the Alaska Highway. No turns, no side trips. Just pounding out miles. Still contemplating what to do for a route to Prince George – Cassiar Highway or Alaska Highway to Dawson Creek, then over the Yellowhead to Prince George. Cassiar Highway is about 100 miles shorter and reputedly has better scenery, but has some unpaved stretches 20 miles or so in length and less in the way of services – lodging, gas, etc. I sure would like to run into some riders who have come up the Cassiar to see what they have to say about the condition of the road. In any case I’ll have to make a decision after tomorrow. We’ll see.

That’s about the story of today. I’m holed up in my absolute favorite hotel of the whole trip, the SKKY Hotel in Whitehorse. Hope I can get some more sleep that last night. Here’s a travel hint for everyone. Don’t stay in hotels occupied mostly by construction workers especially if there is a bar nearby. Noisy crowd, they.

Thanks for dropping in. Hopefully more tomorrow.
Jack

Many more pictures are available at http://jackb1.smugmug.com

The 2009 Ride to Alaska for The Austin Hatcher Foundation is supported by RevZilla.com , Philly's Premier Destination Motorcycle Gear and Apparel store and by Hermy's Cycles of Port Clinton, PA.

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