Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Top of the World to Alaska

We decided to wait til a bit late to leave Dawson City to avoid a long wait at the Yukon River ferry. It didn't work well. We got to the ferry about 11 and still had to wait about an hour.

Across the river we started the famous/infamous "Top of the World Highway". The road goes up giving views of the river and islands. Then it goes on for miles essentially on mountain ridges. We were lucky to be on the road on a day that was clear and sunny. The scenery is varied views of valleys and various mountain ranges near and far.

The road on the Canadian side was unpaved the majority of the way but otherwise no worse than others we have been on.

We crossed into Alaska, this time with the bus, Roxie and more or less all of our worldly possessions. So we made it for sure.

The road on the Alaska side was narrower, unpaved and generally less well maintained. You need to understand that these roads have no berm and there are no guard rails anywhere. This is in an area where there are soft shoulder signs periodically on the narrow, winding roads up and down steep hills with areas of sharp turns and often steep drop offs. As you might imagine, meeting another vehicle in these areas is a challenge. Fortunately volume of traffic is small and we didn't meet other vehicles very frequently. Usually both vehicles will slow way down and quite often one of the vehicles stops at what is hopefully a slightly wider point in the road and the other can crawl past managing to stay on the road without hitting the other vehicle. Progress on the American side especially was very slow. We probably did not average more than 20 miles per hour.

Lore has it that you are likely to suffer damage to windshields, headlights or other areas on the front of the vehicle. We did not seem to have any such damage and did not use any rock guards, mud flaps or other attempts to protect our tow car which would be at highest risk. Our only defense was to drive slow and carefully. We did get very dirty though. We were covered with dust and even our bay compartments and engine compartment were covered inside with dust.

We passed by the tiny but somewhat famous town of Chicken, Alaska without stopping. Apparently many stop to sort of celebrate having made it over the "Top of the World". We weren't ready to stop for the night and talked of maybe stopping for coffee but decided that it looked like just another tourist trap and more trouble than it would be worth so we drove through and stopped along the road and made some coffee and took a break by ourselves. A few miles after Chicken the road was paved except for a few gravel sections and frequent rough spots. So instead of moving along at 20 miles per hour or so we could go at 50 or more then slow suddenly for the bad spots. Still it was a relief to be on something approaching a normal road.

We decided to push on to Tok. Which we did but only after a detour. It seems hard to believe that we could turn the wrong way at a major intersection but we did. Our GPS had been off track during the afternoon but it had never before told us to turn the wrong way at a major intersection so when it said turn left when we thought we should turn right, we talked about it for a minute and decided that "it must be right". So we turned left and immediately saw a sign telling us we were going the wrong way. So we drove 7 miles to find a place where we could take off the car and carefully turn the bus around without going off the road.

So we arrived in Tok perhaps not in the best mood, noting that fuel prices were higher than expected. We went to a campground that our guide indicated would meet our needs for a moderate price. They wanted $30 for a basic electric hookup site. When we objected they said they had sites with no electricity for $20. In some circumstances these are not high prices, but we felt that in the middle of nowhere with no tourist attractions or other draw we decided to look for something else. So we went to the Chevron Station one of at least 2 fuel stations offering a free nights parking if you buy fuel. We bought 60 gallons of diesel fuel for $3.79/gallon which is typical of this town and according to a couple of Alaskans not atypical of Alaska. The 60 gallons will get us to Anchorage (even with our planned detour to Valdez) the one place in Alaska that we have been led to expect to find cheaper fuel. The parking behind the Chevron Station was back in spaces with picnic tables and away from traffic. We were even able to get an unsecured wifi signal. The high point of our evening was a meal at Fast Eddies that was tasty, filling and affordable.


  1. just found your site, we have been living in our rig for 1 1/2 years now, have not made it to alaska, we have been hearing that canada is awful going thru customs...true?

  2. We wrote about our experience of entering Canada in our first post on June 1. It took a few minutes but not really a hassle. It helps to have some idea what is allowed. Some information is available on the Canadian Border Services site at http://cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/noncan-eng.html or http://www.customs.gov/ .