2010 Yukon Solo Motorcycle Trip

Index   •   Home

Day 8 — Dawson City, YT to ... nowhere ...

Sunday was to be the Big Ride, roughly 465 miles from Dawson to Inuvik, NWT with 99% of it dirt or gravel or mud. My bike has a normal range of about 200 miles on a tankfull, so I carried a collapsible fuel cell with an extra 5 liters of fuel. Gas was supposed to be available at Eagle Plains, about 250 miles from Dawson City.

Inuvik (Pop. 3,500 approx.) is as far north as you can ride in Canada in the summer. There is another town a bit further north, Tuktoyaktuk (called just "Tuk" by the locals) on the ocean, but you can only drive there in the winter on an ice road. I planned to take an airplane or boat ride from Inuvik to Tuk so I could put my boot in the Arctic Ocean. But it was Not To Be...

I woke early Sunday to sunshine and clouds, though it was only 39F. I dressed warmly, dropped the air pressure in my tires, filled my spare fuel bladder, put my camera in my rainsuit pocket, and headed to, and then up, the Dempster Highway.

It was looking good, no rain yet, but enough recent rains to drop the dust factor to zero. I was optimistic that this was going to work! No sign that the road was closed, though I heard it had been closed on Saturday for a few hours.

With so many miles to ride, and some deadlines (like what hours fuel was available, as I'd need to refill twice), I was hesitant to stop for photos, but there were just so darn many gorgeous vistas. The following photos are pretty much in order, up to about mile 145.

I was told that a lot of this route is more scenic than the Rockies. Having seen both, I'd agree...

Trouble coming up! Shortly after I took this picture, a highway crew in a huge pickup flagged me down, and told me the Ogilvie river had washed out the road in three places up ahead. It had been closed Saturday for a few hours. Sunday was worse. The guys offered to let me try it, as they were just putting up the ROAD CLOSED sign, but warned me of three things:

  1. The 3rd washout was the worst, with water flowing more than a foot over the road bed, and starting to wash out some cuts which wouldn't be visible, but could be quite deep.
  2. There would be nobody there to help me if I tipped the bike over and couldn't pick it up in the fast flowing water, or get it started and turned around if necessary.
  3. If I made it through, I would be stuck in Inuvik, assuming I could get there, until they reopened the road. However long that might be. They weren't encouraging as to when the road would reopen.
The "Top of the World" highway, also running out of Dawson towards Alaska, had been closed for almost a week — which was to have been my route out of Dawson.

This was the 2nd of the 3 washouts. My bike is parked in the center of the road, and the water covered the road for about 500-600 feet, it appeared. At this point, I figured there was no point in going on to the 3rd washout, as I was already near the point-of-no-return fuel wise (170 miles from Dawson City). As it was, I just made it back to the Klondike Highway with a liter or two to spare, even after using my reserve fuel bladder (the olive drab lump under my glove in the photo above).

How fitting that my Big Disappointment came effectively at Dawson City, as it did for so many tens of thousands of Klondike gold seekers in 1898 and 1899. And to compound my misfortune, the Arctic Circle was less than 100 miles up the highway from where my bike sits in the water above. That was a photo op I was looking forward to...

I later met two guys on Urals who had been to Inuvik and were trying to ride back to Dawson City also on Sunday. They got stopped on the other side of the washout that stopped me. Even with 2-wheel drive sidecars they weren't able to get through, so I knew I made the right decision in turning back.

From the steel-grate bridge over the river whose name I will not speak aloud, you can see how it's so far above its normal banks it is, almost level with the maintenance yard parking lot.

My bike got really dirty. Unfortunately the calcium-chloride they put on the road to keep down the dust is a salt (and a poison), and when I got home I literally spent days trying to get it clean. The black plastic parts in particular, when cleaned, ended up with a mottled white stain on them. I discovered scrubbing with a toothbrush soaked in semi-gloss ArmorAll got them almost back to pure black.

I also used a whole spray can of Honda Cleaner & Polish in an attempt to get at the nooks and crannies my 4 hours of washing with a scrub brush didn't reach. I was moderately successful, but the bike will never really be "clean" ever again.

Copyright © 2010, by H. Marc Lewis. All rights reserved.