Canada - Yukon and BC
Onwards to Canada - Yukon Territory and British Columbia. Entered Canada via the Top of the World Highway. 40 miles are gravel on the Alaska side, but a great road none the less. Its narrow and twisting, with only a few RV's and bikes for company. The Canadian border / customs post is kind of strange - right up in the mountains all by itself. On the Canada side the road runs along a ridge with great views down over the hilltops on either side. The lanscape here is more rounded - not quite as rugged like Alaska. It may have been coincidental, but the sun was shining on the Canada side - nice to see. A short ferry crossing takes you onto Dawson City - an original gold mining town, although slightly recreated for the tourists, but still has a nice feel. The campsite was right in town here, which is handy for an evening stroll, but resembled little more than a gravel car park with a small area for tents.
Onwards to Whitehorse. Again a nice town on the banks of the Yukon river. Everything in these parts stems from the gold rush so its fairly heavy tourist country. July is probably peak tourist season, but not overly busy. Can recommend the campsite in Whitehorse - close to town, riverside setting and tents only - all for $12. So good I stayed two nights.
Skagway was recommended in the tourist blurb, so a 200mile detour was in order. Its back in Alaska (way down in the southern part) so back through immigration / customs. Although the day way bright, getting there involves a high mountain pass. For me this was above the cloud base - god it was cold. Seems like fog is a good reason to use your hazard lights in the US. Couldn't find the switch on the KLR!! Skagway was heaving with tourists - a disapointment to someone like me with a mild dislike for tourists. Seems like Skagway is Cruise central in Alaska - there were 4 large cruise liners docked in the port. Strange people tourists.
Route 37 south - the alternative to the much hyped Alaska highway. Definetly the better bike road. Although the scenery's great, not a whole lot to do but ride - 300miles a day is typical right now and easy to do. On the way down the 37 I noticed a strange thing - darkness. Actually it was at Dease Lake campground at 3.00 in the morning. I had grown accustomed to 24 hour daylight - what a great concept. The other great thing about the 37 was my first sighting of a bear. I had become more relaxed about bears / camping, but this one was pretty big and shaggy - definately not cuddly or cute. It was just wandering about in a layby at the side of the road. Considered going back for a photo, but sense prevailed and kept going. Saw a second one later the same day - this one was small and black and probably was cute.
At the bottom of the 37 things change - civilisation!! More habitation, more farming and more traffic. Nobody here drives to the speedlimit - so the KLR at 60mph (which is the speedlimit) feels slow. Watching the mirrors and letting the big 16wheelers pass is all part of the fun.
From here its onwards to Vancouver. Have to recommend highway 99 - pretty much all ofthe way from the 97 to Whistler. This is the only road so far worthy of a sports bike - even on the KLR it was good riding. Stunning scenery also (Marble Canyon) - but hard to ride fast and gawke at the same time. It was also the hottest day so far - blue skies and sunshine. Whistler got a brief whistle stop tour (ha ha!!). Looks really nice - they are hosting the 2010 winter olympics here. T-shirts available now. Even in summer this place was buzzing - can only imagine what it would be like in winter. Major roadworks (sorry - I mean construction) from here to Vancouver.
First stop in Vancouver - Burnaby Kawasaki for two new tyres (or tires even). Front was OK, but rear well squared off after 4500 highway (99% straight) miles. Some obscure Taiwanese brand - Kenda. However they were cheap ($70 / 80 each) and the guys in the shop recommended them. Dunlops were $150 each. They did a great job of fitting them right there and then, even though their shop was fully booked. Great service and really friendly bunch. I have to say that after 500 miles, they are performing well.
Had a quick cruise round downtown Vancouver - it was kind of hot so looked like everyone was on the beach. Think it was Friday, so I guess a great way to spend the afternoon.
Vancouver Island gets a brief visit - about a 2 hour ferry ride ($40 for me and bike). At 280miles long its reasonably large. Effectively one paved (that means tarred) highway from top to bottom with all other minor roads being forestry track - more gravel. After 60 miles of rough gravel - time to wash the bike yet again. A soap and rinse can be done on the KLR for $2 at the local jetwash. Good value and nice to be riding a shiny machine again. For me it was a case of a quick brush down. Finished off here in Victoria. Its certainly worth a visit and the centre is very reminicant of the UK. Had a change of accomodation here, securing a room at the University of Victoria. $32 gets a private room. Good value and something I need to try again in the future (UCLA?).
Slightly different ferry route back to mainland - only $39 this time.
Interesting facts about Canada:
i. Distances and speeds are in Km / Km/h which is a pain, but temperatutres are in deg C which is nice (32deg C in Vancouver - bit hot on the bike).
ii. A loonie is a $1 coin, a tooie is a $2 coin. Campsite showers need a loonie for 5 minutes hot water.
iii. The Yukon river rises 15miles from the Pacific Ocean, but empties into the Bering sea, 2300miles away.
Hence, onwards and downwards to the lower 48. To enter Canada took all of 30 seconds. To enter the USA from Canada took me 30 seconds also, but only after a 1 hour wait along with everyone else in the queue. Oh well!!
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Posted by Graham Shee at August 09, 2008 06:27 PM GMT