Bicycle trip North-west USA, Canada and Alaska

Alcan Highway


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Stuck in the Yukon!

The following E-mail was sent from the local library in North Pole, Alaska
(credits: Ashley Wright)

Date: Tue, 6 Aug 1996 12:02:40 -0800

OK, we have managed to log on again... we should explain how these computers work.. To email we first have to find a library and then using their computers we can connect to a VERY slow internet server, and then only for 30 mins at a time. So, anyway, the last time most of you heard from us we were in Juneau. Well, we left Juneau via the Ferry, and cycled up to Haines Junction over the next 3 days. We were planning to hitchhike from Haines Junction to Fairbanks along the famous Alcan (Alaska-Canada) highway. This wasn't a very good plan - there were hardly any cars going North up the Alcan, and none of them could fit two bikers and their bikes in. So the next plan was to take the bus, but this only went 3 times a week, and the next bus was two days away. So, next option, cycle some of the way up the highway and then take the bus. So we managed to cycle through two VERY cold days of rain and wind to another tiny town where the bus stopped. To make sure we could get a seat on the bus we made reservations and called up the company to confirm that the bus would arrive at 10:30am. The next day we a re waiting for the bus at 10am and one of the locals tells us (with some glee I think) that the bus went by at 9am!!! Over the next couple of hours it became obvious that he was right - no bus came. So now we had spent 5 days in the Yukon trying to get to alaska. All our canadian money had run out, the food prices were astronomical (eg $6 for a small packed of dusty crackers) and they didn't accept credit cards. But the worst thing was that between us and alaska was about 350km of road construction - they were completely rebuilding the Alcan this year. Other cyclists heading south told us horror stories about cycling over bedrock and rocks. Oops the 30 min limit is almost up... we will continue in a few minutes....

Haines Campsite at the US/Can border Chilkat pass, Haines highway Chilkat pass (1070 m), Haines highway Haines highway Haines Junction

Haines highway

Date: Tue, 6 Aug 1996 12:30:29 -0800

Subject: the saga continues...

..well as I was saying, the road was being repaved and we really didn't want to cycle North, especially as there were not very many shops between us and Alaska. Anyhow in the end we decided that we had no option but to continue up the Alcan - we certainly didn't want to wait around in the two-horse-town of Burwash Landing for the next bus (in 3 days time). I guess it wasn't all bad - but this time the rain and cold had been replaced by a mixture of cold showers and warm sunny weather. When it wasn't raining the scenery was actually pretty good - at one stage we had some great views of the highest mountain in Canada. Anyhow we continued north with another cyclists we had met earlier who was in a similar situation... a schoolteacher from somewhere in Eastern Canada. That night we camped by Donjek river and got an early start the next morning, as we had to start tackling the road construction. The canadian guy was a bit behind us, and we had spent about 4 hours cycling through the mess they were calling a road when who should pass us in the back of a pickup truck but the canadian dude! Now we were mad - we had spent ages (like 4 days) hitchhiking and this guy got a ride in less than 4 hours. Time to get serious - and i had a plan. No more passive waiting for the road - I was going to actively solicit rides. We were desperate - it had started raining again, the mosquitoes had caught up to us and the road was turning to mush. After telling our sad tale to a number of pickup drivers I finally hit the jackpot - a ride in the back of a large empty pickup all the way to Fairbanks! The ride was very cold - we were in the back of the truck huddled together with the wind screaming around our ears as the driver (a nice guy from Florida) zoomed along the very bumpy Alcan highway... ok gotta a go... same bat time, same bat channel...

Alcan highway Campsite Blanchard River Alcan highway road constructions pickup truck North Pole

Alcan highway

Date: Tue, 6 Aug 1996 13:00:07 -0800

Subject: the final chapter

Well, we are now sitting in the back of a pickup heading towards the frozen north, being slowly frozen solid ourselves. It is a long, cold ride, but eventually we arrive at the US border. More trouble. We have both entered the US two times in the last 3 months, and both times neither of us have had any hassles. But here, in the most remote outpost of American border protection, they decide to give us the full works. Fist question - how much cash do you have? I had the grand total of $35US on me, and they were not impressed. But I have a VISA I said, flashing the little hologram around. They were still not impressed - the card could be empty they said. It isn't, I told them, but they wanted me to prove it. WE need to see some receipts they demanded, and now I was getting really stressed out. The Florida couple in the pickup were waiting for us, but they said that they couldn't wait too long as they needed to get to Fairbanks before it got too late. I had thrown al my receipts away, but buy a huge stroke of luck I managed to find a credit invoice from the Ferry that I had kept when I cancelled one of my ferry bookings. I showed it to the man with the big stick, hoping that he wouldn't look at it too closely. He didn't, and finally we were released. My visions of rotting in Alcatraz prison while the full details of my credit record were investigated started to fade away as we loaded the bikes back on the pickup truck/portable human freezer machine. The next few hundred miles are a bit of a blur, but eventually we stopped at a small diner in another two horse town (Tok) and had a very late lunch. The Florida couple must have seen how cold we were (maybe it was the icicles hanging off my nose) and they made enough room in the front so that we could sit inside for the last few hours to Fairbanks. They dropped us off where we are now - at a small suburb of Fairbanks called North Pole (home of Santa Claus - yeah right! If Santy lives here then there is no hope for the children of the world - North Pole is sandwiched in by two huge oil refineries connected to the Alaskan Oil pipeline). Ok we will log in again soon.....

Date: Tue, 6 Aug 1996 13:15:04 -0800

Subject: epilogue

Well we will try and reply to all the message that you have sent us, but unfortunately quite a few of them have been deleted by the computer. We plan to spend a couple of days here in Fairbanks before cycling down to Denali National Park (the home of Mt McKinley - the highest Mountain in North America - it rises from 300m to over 6000). We plan to camp in the park for a few days before cycling to Valdez via the Denali and Richardson highways. From Valdez the plan is to catch a ferry across Prince William Sound to Seward, and from there cycle to Anchorage, where we will both fly out of Alaska from. The weather here is rainy and grey but it isn't as cold as it was back in Canada. It is weird - even in the middle of the night there is still enough light to read a book - the sun goes down at about 11pm and rises at around 3am - it never really sets. We are camping at a nice campground in a city park which we have all to ourselves. I hope you are all doing well and staying out of trouble. We will email again in a few days, all going well.


Ashley & Minko

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