Saturday, June 18, 2005

Whitehorse, Yukon

9:45 p.m.

A window seat at "Zola's", a great, artsy internet cafe on Main Street downtown. Some park rangers advised me to keep an eye on my bike. "We know the kids out front. You'll be the first one to get hit." So, I watched anxiously as the young men and women gathered out front, talked, smoked, drank coffee. When they disappeared from view, I imagined it was to hatch a plot to distract me, then make off with stuff from the bike, or my computer here on the counter, or everything!

But they moved on, and I realized once again, fear is a waste.

The past few days have been a riding marathon. I will try to catch up on entries based on my notes, but it's a trade-off. You can chase new experiences. You can write about chasing new experiences. It's tough to find a balance between the two activities.

I've realized again that merely moving down the highway does not a rich life make. You can move through this wonderful land and still miss EVERYTHING. I learned this traveling around the country 30 years ago. The impatience that keeps one moving, interferes with new experiences. Interesting word, "inter-fears". I think it is fear that keeps me moving at times. The road is familiar and, to some extent, predictable. To stop introduces the possibility of exploring the unknown.

This morning, I slept long. I was beat from the constant riding. I raced the last camper out of the campground. He had to stop to pay his fee, which with foresight I had done upon arriving. I won.

"I Can’t believe how warm and muggy it is. This is the Yukon???"

A few miles down the road, refueled at Stewart Crossing. Three other bikers arrived at the station. Asked if there was anywhere to get a meal to the south. They recommended "Penny's Place" at Pelly Crossing, an hour south.

Penny's is a pretty cute roadside stand with lots of patio-style dining tables, a landscape full of antique "stuff", outdoor toilets with walls decorated with Yukon travel information, and a menu with a creative twist.

I ordered a "Pelly Burger" (with Dijon, bacon, mushrooms). A group of about eight BMWs arrived from the south, and the couple I had met at Stewart Crossing pulled in about the same time. So suddenly there were bikes "everywhere". The Beamers were on a tour organized by "Edelweiss" out of Anchorage. "Edelweiss" provides the bikes, a guide and a support vehicle. Except for the Dalton Highway, their tour was covering much of the route I've traced since crossing into the Yukon two weeks ago. One young lady, stepping off a R1200GS like mine said she was from Munich, "home of BMW."

There were others from Germany as well; at least a couple of gentlemen in their late 60's or perhaps even 70's. Very impressive. I've been gaining a new perspective on retirement out here.

The Edelweiss riders recommended I try "The Raven", an outstanding restaurant at Haines Junction. I made note and said I would. (Only later did I realize Haines Junction was not along my route.)

The setting and company was very interesting, the food not quite so. I've heard it said that Canadians can't cook. I'm still gathering data, but thus far, it's not looking good. The burger was thin and dried-out.

Riding south through a seemingly endless expanse of rolling forested hills, occasionally I'd come to a scorched landscape with a simple sign: "Forest Fire of 1998" (or 1995, or 1985, or...) There have been many, and the acreage affected is staggering. Alaska was much the same. The northern landscape is surprisingly dry, almost semi-arid, and lightning touches off frequent forest fires. From the indications, regeneration is quite slow. I wonder with natural and man-made fires if we're not tipping the balance against regeneration?

Gas smells dirtier up in the north country (compared to California's formulation.) Which reminds me of other smells registered along these roads: lemongrass, "Christmas trees" (Dalton Highway), moldering smell of Portuguese cork-boiling plants, decaying animals.

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