Top of the World Highway

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The road to Chicken was paved but had lots of holes and dips as it is closed during the Winter and left to the snow. The tourist season has not yet begun in Alaska and most places are closed. The saloon in Chicken was semi open and we managed to get a drink but I was disappointed in the lack of swing doors. However, the stories from the bartender made up for that:

There is a sign above the door, as you enter, that demands that all firearms are left in your vehicle or handed over to the bartender. We had thought this was a comedy sign but were informed this was a genuine rule as only a few years ago an argument had broken out between two gold miners over a claim in the valley. The argument became heated and led to gunfire. The dispute was finally stopped when the bartender fired the canon in the bar, leaving a hole in the saloon door.

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After leaving Chicken we started the long climb up to the Top of the World Highway and towards the border with Canada. Along the way we had our first encounter with a bear. It was half way up the bank on the side of the road, reaching for some possible food in a tree. We stopped and looked at it, it stopped and looked at us. I said to Badge “What do we do now?” , he replied “Get the camera out”. Not quite the response I was expecting. The heart rate was increasing and then I heard a car coming along the road. I flagged it down and asked if we could ride alongside it to get past the bear. The driver was happy to do so and then began rummaging behind his seat. He pulled out a pistol and placed it between his legs, reassuring me he would deal with any trouble. We rode alongside and when we got closer to the bear it turned around and began to climb away from us. It paused every so often to look at us but lumbered away, definitely looking rather afraid of us. The experience certainly got the adrenalin running but has reinforced the advice we have been given that the bears are generally scared of humans and run away.

We had a steady climb upwards on gravel roads to get to the Top of the World Highway. The temperature decreased the higher we rose and the landscape became reminiscent of previous Arctic trips. We camped on the tundra, marvelling at the small arctic flowers, and enjoyed the 24 hour daylight. The night was bitterly cold and our water bottles all froze in the tent. The condensation on the inside of the tent froze overnight, showering us in icy flakes when we arose in the morning.

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The wind was strong, making cycling difficult, and was bitterly cold, gusting down from the Arctic north. My nostril froze on the side of the prevailing wind. I was wrapped up in merino clothes and was even cycling in my down jacket. We crossed the border and entered Canada.

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Canada provided us with some less dangerous wildlife spotting and we saw a marmot, porcupine and fox.

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The cold conditions had caused a problem with our stove so we spent another very cold night up on the ridge.  A section of the road was closed as some snow still needed to be cleared. We had a diversion that meant a very steep down followed by a very steep up, on loose gravel. About half way up my humour was waning and I informed Badge, up ahead, how deeply unhappy I was with the current situation. The movement of his shoulders indicated chuckling, however, he did concede that conditions could indeed be improved upon. They did not; the following day began with big fat flakes of snow falling around us.

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The snow did stop and we began a well earned 4 miles of downhill to the mighty River Yukon where a ferry took us across to Dawson City and much wanted warmth and food. We have now washed off seven days of grime and filled our stomachs with delicious food. Tomorrow we ride towards Whitehorse.

 

 

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Glenn Highway and the Tok Cut-off, Alaska

The Glenn Highway was beautiful. The road wound its way around and up and down the valley, following the river closely. The mountains were spectacular and felt very close. It was a tough couple of days out of Palmer as the road steadily climbed. We camped fairly close to the highest point and arose to a frost on the ground and frozen drinking bottles.
The nights have been cold and some of the days have been hot. The wind is chilly when it blows. I am developing quite a peculiar tan that seems to favour one of side of my body.
Here’s a taste of the scenery
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Not everything has been beautiful though. We had a stand off with a turkey

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It’s a lot like Scotland really, only on a slightly larger scale.

 

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Even the gravel pit we camped in had a stunning view

 

 

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Tonight we are in Tok. Tomorrow we plan to head north. I know we should be heading southwards but there is a road that leads in to Canada called the ‘top of the world’ highway and it sounds too good to miss. It is paved for about 78 miles and then there’s 108 miles of unpaved. It has been shut all winter and the border is due to open on Monday, when we should arrive. Let’s hope it does. There is nothing but mountains and tundra on this route, oh and a small town called Chicken. Yep, Chicken. No grocery store so we have had to stock up for about six or seven days on the road. Chicken does, however, have a saloon…..

 

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Parks Highway, Alaska

The ride along the Parks Highway had a bit of everything: sunshine, rain, snow, moose, caribou, motorcyclists in leather chaps, campervans bigger than our house, trains, planes, mountains, rivers, and lots of pick up trucks. Oh, and amazing scenery

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Breathtaking scenery

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It was so good to be back in the mountains

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Extra clothing layers were required

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We saw prancing caribou

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And a moose (in the background, not the foreground….)

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Everything seems to be closed until the 15th of May. This does not deter us.

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Badge filmed a short Go Pro panorama at Summit, which is at the top of the pass on the Parks Highway. His directing debut!

Today we have enjoyed a rest day in Palmer. We have re-stocked and replenished, ready to head along the Glenn Highway tomorrow.

Le Grand Depart

We had a superb send off from the log cabin builders

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Who we caught up with along the way so we could see what they were up to. Their daily 40 minute commute took us just over a day to cycle.

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Well, we had not anticipated the sunshine and heat. The emergency sunscreen was pulled out of the bottom of the pannier and our water bottles were drained quickly. The first few days can be summarised in three words: hills, heat and mosquitoes. Good job there’s some stunning views to keep the spirits up.

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A couple of wild camps meant hauling our food up and away from potential bears.

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Tomorrow we enter the Denali National Park area. We’re excited!

Fairbanks, Alaska

And so we left the comforts of the Shire. An ‘expected’ journey.

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After all the preparation and worry about entering the States on a one way ticket, it was surprisingly easy getting through immigration at Seattle airport. Our luggage had a harder time though

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The snow has melted earlier than usual this year so we have clear roads and sunny skies. Good weather made bike mechanics less of a chore

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Bikes have been put back together and supplies have been bought, ready for departure tomorrow.

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We’ve eaten eggs sunny side up with pancakes, listened to country and western music, watched endless monster pick up trucks drive by, discussed chainsaws and eaten reindeer sausages. We’re definitely in Alaska now.