Driving the Dempster Highway back from Inuvik to Dawson City was uneventful. The road was bad but not extraordinarily so. We spent a night along the way in the campground at Eagle Plains, as the lodge was overbooked. The campground was a large, windy, cold, gravel lot. The motorcyclists, camping in tents, must have had a less than stellar night. The public showers at Eagle Plains were dirty and, as the shower in our camper is outdoors, we decided to stay unwashed. I fantasized about a spa at Dawson City.
We finally stopped at the Visitor Information Centre in Dawson City because we couldn’t find a place to stay. After making a few phone calls, the woman behind the counter smiled brightly and said, “It’s a good thing you have a camper”. We had arrived at the start of Discovery Days in Dawson and everything was booked. Shelving my dreams of a hot bath, we went off to a rather bleak RV park, washed the truck and settled in. The showers were coin operated. I got $20 worth of coins and hit the showers.
My great grandfather was in Dawson Creek during the gold rush. He was one of the smart ones who staked a claim, sold the rights and went home with a pocketful of money. The claim was #15 on Eldorado Creek. My great grandfather built a fine home on a city block in Nanaimo and called it Eldorado. His car, and that of his son and grandson, had BC licence plate number 15. I inherited a small gold nugget necklace that I wore for years until it became too fragile. We took the Bonanza Creek Road out to check out the old claim and discovered that the area was still being mined.
It was at the bank in Dawson City, where I stopped to replenish my cash, that I met a good-looking young man who told me he was a miner and had been in Dawson City for 5 months. He was so drunk that he could barely walk, and I watched him leave the bank and go into a door marked Tavern. Some things remain the same in Dawson City.
One of the benefits of 24-hour daylight is the vegetables. The super market in town, a general store really, sells vegetables and fruit imported from down south. They are not appealing. But about 15 kilometers south of town is a farm that sell vegetables that taste fantastic, are fresh picked and washed by the family in an revolving contraption that looks like something used to wash gravel in placer mining operations. We stocked up both times we were in town.
We weren’t sure which way we would go after Dawson City. Our intention had been to go to Haines, but work once again got in the way, so we drove the twisty Top of the World Highway to Fairbanks. The highway has some Andes-like drop offs and spectacular views but was somewhat anti-climatic after the Dempster. We cleared customs going into Alaska, fearful that the customs officer would ask if we had fresh vegetables and take them from us so we didn’t carry contaminants into Alaska. He didn’t ask. We were grateful, but figured worrying about vegetables was a bit silly considering the mud on our truck. Going from Colombia to Panama, the authorities insisted that the truck be clean. If that was the case in the Yukon and Alaska, no one could go anywhere.
When we finally hit the pavement of the Alaska Highway, with a center line and white lines marking the shoulders, I had the urge to leap out and kiss the road.
In the big city of Fairbanks, we dealt with an oil change and small repairs to the truck, then got to work. First, we had to wait for the man we were meeting because he had unexpectedly been called away at short notice to fly some moose hunters out to a nearby lake. Capi and I played ball on the runway and she swam in the water landing strip. There are planes everywhere, on the land and in the water, but no tower. The nearby houses all have hangars attached, and the roads have signs pointing out that cars give way to aircraft. The hangar in which we were working is being converted into a legal grow-op so while Bill looked at a Beaver and reviewed the paperwork, I cheerfully filled out forms for the FAA, in an atmosphere that smelled distinctly like pot. Alaska is a world unto itself.
It wasn’t raining in Fairbanks, it wasn’t muddy, and we got to eat in restaurants and spend two nights in a hotel room that had a TV, shower, Wi-fi and a Starbucks in a bookstore across the street. Nevertheless, we were happy to push on to Haines.
Windy weather, paved road.