Over the course of nearly three days, I made my way from Jasper, Alberta to Whitehorse, Yukon. I took the long road-- the Cassiar Highway. Off HWY 37 is a spur, 37a, that takes you the small town of Stewart, British Columbia. Keep driving through Stewart and less than a mile later, right past the wharf, you cross into the Unites States and the smaller Alaskan town of Hyder.
This is where I take issue? Where are the Minutemen, Homeland Security or Immigration and Customs? I mean, I just drove into the United States from Canada with no hassle. Of course, I had to go through Canadian Immigration on the way back into Canada where once again I was subject to silly questions and procedure (I was in Hyder all of 20 minutes). I asked Canadian Customs where US Customs was and her reply was, "They always say they're coming, but we'll see."
I mean, anyone can easily drive into our country from Canada and threaten us. Never mind that Hyder only has a population of 97 (2000 Census) and the road ends less than a mile into town. There is no airstrip in Hyder. US Mail comes twice a week from Ketchikan, Alaska (though I haven't figured out if it lands in Stewart or if it is a float plane). You would have to boat down the Portland Inlet and around the southern tip of Akaska to get to the nearest American town, never mind Seattle. Where's the uproar? This town is a threat to our National Security!!
- Stewart and Hyder are small and not much going on there. At the height of the silver boom in the early 20th century, 10,000 people lived at the end of the Portland Canal. Toady, the two towns combine for about 600. The road in is spectacular however. It drops to sea level from over 2200 feet. In this narrow valley is Bear Glacier and over two dozen sublimely beautiful waterfalls cascading from the ridges high above.
- The Cassiar Highway I describe as lonely. 70-90 miles between gas stations. The towns (Iskut and Dease Lake) are tiny and remote. Logging is huge. Signs along the road indicate when an area was logged and when it was replanted. The road is pretty well maintained, but you can tell that winter (and logging trucks) takes its toll on the asphalt. The views are nice. Not Icefields Parkway spectacular, but serene and humbling in the knowledge that you are so far from society.
- Alaska Highway also remote. Also lonely. But more (and larger) towns and more cars. Whitehorse is unremarkable. Nice clean town with good history, but nothing stands out that's good or bad. The guy in the bike shop in Skagway did tell me that Whitehorse has the best mountain biking in the region.
- Envy: Lot's of motorcycles. I've seen more BMWs in Yukon/Alaska/British Columbia than I have in the last two years. For good reason. They are good all purpose bikes that can take a beating. I met one guy who lives in Asheville and was riding the Haul Road (even more remote than the Cassiar) all the way to Prudhoe Bay. I want to go!
- Skagway. Four cruise ships were docked on Monday. The town was overrun with people. It's small to begin with and then each ship has twice the number of people of the entire town, so I was frustrated and annoyed by the tourists. There was no quiet place to eat, read or relax, which is what I wanted to do while I waited for my afternoon ferry for Sitka.
- I tried to get an oil change in Skagway. There was no mechanic, just a guy named Chet "on call". I called him and he said he could do it in two or three days because he has to order the oil filter from Juneau. The idea that it would not be in stock never occurred to me since I have three auto parts stores within a three mile radius of my house (plus two quick lubes and who knows how many mechanics).
- In case you are wondering: since leaving Hendersonville, about 4,800 miles put on my chariot, whom I've since named Pomp or Pompey, after William Clark's nickname for Sacajawea's baby, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, who in the first two years of his life journeyed across the continent and back on his mother's back with the Corps of Discovery.
Non-Road trip Shout Outs:
My good friend who lives, works and trains in Colorado Springs, Ryan Kirkpatrick, home for his Grandpa Kirk's 90th birthday ran, won and set a new course record in the Bele Chere 5K on Saturday.