I've actually been off and on working on this for months, only never to finish. I figured that being snowed in is a good enough reason to complete my unfinished business.
These are the highlights and best of from my road trip to Alaska and back in July and August of 2009:
Best City:Madison, WI- University of Wisconsin, bike friendly, nice weather, scenic. Very nice people, good food, tasty beer. What's not to like?
Honorable Mention: Calgary, Saskatoon, Edmonton (below)
Best Town: Jasper, Alberta- near perfect town nestled in the splendor of the Canadian Rockies. Every turn is a postcard. You have glorious peaks, glaciers, sparkling rivers and picturesque lakes. Moose, bear, marmot, dall sheep and elk. Can't go wrong with Jasper, unless you don't like pretty stuff in nature.
Honorable Mention- Mineral Point, Wisconsin; Sitka, Alaska (below); Haines, Alaska
Best Campground (Public owned):Wasagaming - located in Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba. Run by Parks Canada, it is large, but it has clean facilities, close to the town of Wasagaming and pretty Clear Lake.
Gordon Howe Campground, Saskatoon is run by the city of Saskatoon and simple and nice. I stayed in overflow and was the nicest overflow camping that I have ever been pushed to. Plus, how can you not like a placed named after a Gordie Howe?
Juniper Campground, Teddy Roosevelt National Park (North Unit). Isolated, quiet on the banks of the Missouri River with the bison.
Best Campground (Private owned):Robert Service- close to Whitehorse, it is clean, efficient and full of fun people. I stayed there twice. Most vagabonds that venture through Yukon end up at Robert Service sometime.
Honorable Mention- Garden City Campground, Skagway- Okay, it really wasn't that nice, but the owner was accomodating and pleasant, the showers hot. Plus, Emily made some friends the morning we started riding who fed us donuts and coffee.
Favorite Hostel: HI Edmonton- Great location, awesome staff, nice people staying there.
Honorable Mention- Maligne Canyon Wilderness Hostel, Jasper - No running water or electricity. And where else would you get awaken by the proprietor shouting, "There's a bear outside, don't panic if you hear a lot of noise!" Then he goes outside and starts banging pots together.
"Everything sounds better with 'Photograph' ". -Jim Rome.
I was listening to "Rome is Burning" on an Edmonton sports radio station and Rome was talking about how if you put Def Leppard's "Photograph" in the background, everything instantly sounds better. He proceded to do that with some of the show's worst call ins. It worked. See for yourself, play something terrible and put this in the back:
"North Carolina! Did you get lost?" - Random motorcyclists looking at my tag at a gas station in the middle of nowhere on the Alaska Highway.
"You didn't come all this way to sit at a redlight" - Emily's friend, Glenn (below, with Emma), as he sped through a red light in Juneau. Glenn picked us up on our ferry layover to take us to lunch and for a quick tour of Alaska's capital city.
Best Beer: Alaskan Amber - Juneau's best export. I snuck two cases home. The Smoked Porter is delicious.
6060 Stout by Jasper Brewing Company. Tasty, especially after a day of hiking and golf. Plus, the bartender kept offering free drinks to us sitting at the bar.
Amber Ale at Brewery Creek in Mineral Point, WI. They brew good drinks but also serves up good food there too.
Favorite Road:Haines Highway from Haines Junction, Yukon to Haines Alaska. It was the most scenic. You had Kluane National Park as your view. It wasn't bad.
Stewart Highway from Stewart, BC to Yukon. Lonely and Isolated, which I deem perfect.
Canada HWY 16: one of the trans-Canada Highways. Between Winnipeg and Edmonton, it's tiny towns and seemingly never ending canola fields. Beyond the Rockies, it is isolated ranches and large expanses of space between scenic little towns.
Best Meal: Frosty Freeze, Haines Junction- I understand that leather would taste good after 101 miles on a bike, but the fries and shakes and Frosty Freeze were divine.
33 Mile Restaurant, 33 miles out of Haines, Alaska- not really the best food, but a great meal because of circumstances (cold, wet, tired), company (Emma and Aaron) and timing.
Innisfree Cafe, Innisfree, Alberta- tried pyrogy for the first time and had great conversation with the owner, Grant (below).
Favorite Cafe: Sticky Buns- near Carcross, Yukon. This alone is almost reason enough to come to Yukon.
Honorable Mention: Highliner Coffee, Sitka. Good coffee, the staff was nice and they had wireless for me.
Favorite Hike: Skyline Trail, Jasper National Park - 44 km (about 27 miles), most of it above treeline. Experience alpine meadows, glacier fed lakes and spectacular views of the Canadian Rockies. Hang out with marmot and goats. Get your ass kicked climbing up to the "Notch" (below).
Verstovia, Sitka- lots of climbing to gorgeous views of Baranof Island and Mt. Edgecumbe. Plus, I had nice company on the walk.
Favorite Structure: Trestle at Lethbridge, Alberta:
High Bridge, Edmonton
Spillway and Dam, Fort Peck Lake, Montana
Provenchar Pedestrian Bridge, Winnipeg
Favorite Church: Christ Church, Whitehorse- nice sermon and the priest remembered my name after the service.
Honorable Mention- City Church, Edmonton
Things I miss: CBC- like Canadian NPR, the canola fields of central Canada, the freedom of being on the road.
Would I drive 4,000 miles to Alaska/Yukon through desolate roads and isolated communities again: In a heartbeat.