June 18 – Tok, Alaska

This has to be – so far – the worst road I have ever rode on – there were frost heaves every 100 feet and they went on and on. I drove 10 mph and no faster – worst part was that this was one of our longer drives – 292 miles.

There were some good roads but it sure was tough – no broken shocks or parts. Scenery was great!

We did see a Grizzly and her cub – quite exciting.

We stopped at a rest area for lunch and as we pulled in I said “oh sh_ _!” This was also a fishing spot and once I pulled in there was no way I could turn around. Had to unhook the car and back around – second time in two years that I have gotten into that kind of pickle.

Got through Customs without too much of a hassle – answered a few questions and they motioned us forward.

Arrived in Alaska and had to stop at the sign at the border and have our picture taken.DSC_0078

We have arrived in Alaska! I would like to dedicate this trip to my mom and dad (Carmella and Rolland), who always wanted to go to Alaska (and they did camp too) but due to a variety of circumstances and their passing in 1999 and 2000 never made it. Bless you mom and dad – I made it in memory of you!

Arrived in Tok on fumes, I didn’t want to pay higher Canadian prices for diesel and so I kept going and going – not too many fuel stations between here and our last stop.

Tok RV Village is a nice campground with full hook ups and lots of spaces, all gravel but level and trees to provide some scenery. A little bit more expensive than the past few campgrounds but well maintained.

Even have trails into the woods around the campground.

Tok is a trade center for the Athabascan Native Indians and is a stopping point for most people coming to Alaska to replenish their supplies. There are some museums here but we didn’t visit any. They say you see Tok twice, once when coming into Alaska and second when leaving.

Monday partly cloudy and 45 this morning. Temp did get up to 72 today.

Went to Visitor’s Center to gather information for the state.

Then did the grocery store, which Brenda realized was double the prices she had been paying in the lower 48 (“Outside” as they call it here). I explained you have to cover the cost of all that shipping to get supplies so far north.

They have a bike trail along the Alaskan Highway that I was able to ride 10 miles with the bike today. Trail was longer but that’s all I could make.

Tuesday is time to cross off a bucket list item – “visit Chicken, Alaska”! Because the road is so bad we decided not to take the motorhome but drive it all in a day and since the daylight last all day continue the drive to Dawson City in the Yukon. Turned out to be 370 miles round trip.

We left at 8 AM and the road to Chicken was paved but lots of frost heaves and potholes. 2 hours to do 70 miles.

Chicken is something else – a small mining community (5 in the winter, 30 in the summer) that still mine gold. Individuals can pan for gold in the area. In the winter there is no road service and they are isolated until the snow melts.

The name of the town came from the fact that the people wanted to name it Ptarmigan after a bird that was common in the area but no one knew how to spell it, so they settled on the name Chicken, which was easier to spell.

Lots of chicken themes.

Couple of gas stations and restaurants and a bar and a gold panning company. Home of the Pedro Gold Dredge and Tisha’s schoolhouse. It looks like a raw frontier town.

Did find them reconstructing the road as we entered Chicken – again you single file it through the construction zone.tok6

We visited the area for a while and headed east on the “Top of the World” highway.

This is a gravel road that runs along the tops and ridges of the mountains so that you are on top of the world and can see the many mountain ranges in the distance – all a beautiful shade of blue today.

The American section of the highway was in terrible condition – rough, dusty, wet and on and on.

Just before we got to the border and customs, Alaska had just paved the road for 12 miles – whoever built this road is wonderful – the smoothest ride since we left the lower 48.

Through customs without any problem – people in front of us had to dump a half pickup of firewood (can’t transfer wood from one country to the other) – people needed to read the rules.

Canadian section of the highway was great – best views and road conditions – they do know how to take care of gravel roads.

Arrived in Dawson City and had to take the George Black Ferry (runs 24/7 and is free) across the Yukon River. DSC_0070We wandered around the city – impressed with the keeping of history with the wooden boardwalks, historic accurate buildings and dirt roads. It is a designated a National Historic Site.

Dawson was started as part of the Gold Rush in the 1896. The town had mud streets, saloons, churches, brothels, gambling houses and theatres.

Ate fish and chips (that seems to be the main course in Canada) at Sourdough Joe’s.

We also had started the Yukon Gold passport (way back in Watson Lake) to get a stamp at each visitor’s center or museum and when you get 20 you are entered in drawing for a 2 oz. gold piece – we will be getting junk mail now – we did finish the book and turned it in – also got a pin for my hat.

Locals dress up in character costumes.DSC_0106

Will have to return to Dawson City someday and spend a few days to learn all about the gold rush history.

Returned across the river by ferry by 5 PM (return trip to home will take almost 6 hours) and want to get home before dark (11 PM) and the border actually closes at 8 PM – that’s my biggest concern.

Made it through customs without a hitch and arrived in Chicken by 8 (need gas). DSC_0045Thought we might as well eat something (hoping for fried chicken) but it wasn’t even on the menu so we did reindeer brats. The restaurant doesn’t serve beer and the bar next door doesn’t serve food so we had the restaurant bring the food over the bar.

Ended up meeting another fulltime couple from Chicago (he sold his porta potty business at 49 and retired) and we had an enjoyable visit – they were definitely Democrat.

Saw a porcupine, moose and calf, DSC_0140 (2)and lots of rabbits on the way home.
Got gas and made it home by 10:30 in the daylight.

Wednesday is cleaning day – Brenda wanted to do some deep cleaning in the coach and I needed to wash the car from yesterday’s gravel excursion. Besides it raining outside and we can’t do much. I did get the car washed later.

In the late afternoon we stopped at Golden Bear Motel for a talk on dog sledding. The speaker Hugh Neff, who won the Yukon Quest in 2016, another Chicagoan came here about 20 years ago and has been mushing for the last 15 years. Great talk about the trials and joys of mushing – he was a good speaker with a good sense of humor. He also has raced in the Iditarod, a 1000 mile race in Alaska.

I will say that Wi-Fi sucks here in Alaska – only get 3g and I didn’t realize how slow that is. Can’t publish my blogs for sure.

Thursday is off to Copper Center to see Wrangell St. Elias National Park.

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