Week 5 Review from Janine

Written by Janine Marek, the Ignite Possibilities Tour Bus Driver

Here we are folks. Week five is now in the review:

Have you been keeping track of how many times I’ve told that the Alaskan highway is beautiful? I can actually feel the north starting to sink its claws into our souls. If you are a tree hugger I’d highly recommend you travel north “someday”, that is if you can endure really looooong extend sections of roads with nothing other than natural beauty to entertain you. I’ve spent many glorious mornings enjoying a coffee as I marvel over God’s handy work, seldom disappointed other than when the excessive swatting of insects messes with my tranquil moment.

We left Whitehorse Saturday 24th on the final leg north, stopping first to try our hand at picking Haskup berries. Saturday night “home” was a forestry road close to Little Fox Lake. Sunday 25th we slept in a beauty of a spot overlooking the Yukon River but unknowingly parked right beside the loading dock of the Minto mine. Minto is a copper/gold mine 20 ks up the river on the other side and we learned this at 5:30 in the morning as the first truck rumbled (what felt like right over us) down the embankment to be loaded onto the river barge! What a goings on! But what a thrill to watch this unique morning commute take place! Monday the 26th found us sleeping in an abandoned RV park at the junction of the Dempter and Klondike highways.

Tuesday 27th we were in Dawson City, Wednesday the 28th after a hard core day of being a tourist we were in a gravel pit close to Minto but this time opted out of the 5:00 am wakeup call and Thursday 29th we drove back to Whitehorse stopping for several hours to play at a lake lot offered to us by “Lu” the owner of the local glass blowing shop. Thursday/Friday home was once again the Days Inn parking lot where we prepped for the weekly business/wifi feeding frenzy. Whew! That week was full and went in a blink!

As I play leapfrog with the cyclists along the highway, I relish in the slow pace of this part of my job. I continue to pinch myself regarding my good fortune as I scan the scenery, checking ditches for animals or parking pads. I had to laugh when I passed a sign posting a 50 kph speed limit, I checked my speed and realize I needed to pick it up a notch. Can you imagine driving that slow for this long? We’ve traveled well over 3000 kms this month and 1460 of them have been on the Alaskan Highway. On Saturday we changed roads though and began our journey up the Klondike highway, which starts just outside of Whitehorse and it takes us to Dawson City, immersing us into the gold rush history. It also took us to the Top of the World Highway which has been the destination of this cycling journey. For me, when I see the word “highway” on a map I automatically assume pavement comes with the designation. Being from Alberta I am admittedly “road spoiled” and was surprised to find out this is not to be the case on northern maps. Major highways can be gravel, oil base, asphalt or have a finish that they call a cold mix which is basically small rocks with a light donut glaze. It doesn’t matter what the finish is though, they are sure to come with potholes a plenty. This is to be expected and those living north of 60 are used to dealing with extreme weather and are ok with it, so much so that they have bumper stickers everywhere proudly proclaiming “I love potholes”.

The travel days can be long and I continuously scour hill and dale for wildlife as a form of ongoing entertainment. I’ve seen a wide array of birds in all kinds of shapes, colors and sizes. My favorite so far is the loon. I get goosebumps well I guess they’d be “loon” bumps whenever I hear that distinctive call. Lots of chipmunks and squirrels, oh my goodness for squirrels, they are everywhere and come in many shapes, sizes and “bushiness” of tail which apparently is how you tell the different species apart – a talent I’ve yet to master. I have found however that they are much like the gophers back home in that they will wait till you are… just… about… right … there…, then bam! they book’er high speed trying to beat you across the road. Some aren’t as successful at this extreme sport as others. We’ve also seen martens, porcupine, artic fox, an artic fox with lunch in his mouth (I’m betting “road squirrel”) and a fox that thought he was a dog. (he was in an RV park, by the office, watching campers come and go). We’ve seen lots of black bears, I thought we were passing a grizzly once but it turned out to be a black bear – brown, we’ve seen various kinds of sheep, a caribou cow and calf which was really neat, several kinds of deer, and lots of buffalo. The only thing we’ve yet to see is a moose but I hear tell they head to the high ground to dodge people for the summer and will return in the fall to once again wage war on the unsuspecting passing vehicles.

Another thing I’ve noticed is that as one drives north the Rivers start to flow north as well. This feels weird and can mess with the senses! We stayed at Marsh lake a while back and I was told that it was the start of the Yukon River We have been playing peek-a-boo with the Yukon for a long time now. It is deep, wide, fast and beautiful and has its sights set on the Bering Sea as its final destination. After many days basking in its glory, I learn that the Yukon is the 3rd largest River in all of North America (next to the Mississippi and Mackenzie). I’ve also learned traveling its shores, that it got a little too big for its britches this year. So as a result the north has been dealing with some of the worst flooding in over 100 years. Heavy late snowfalls coupled with excessive early rain caused the snow to melt fast and furious, thus wreaking havoc along the shores of this beauty of a beast. The locals are worried as they say August is when the actual surge hits due to the summer glacial melts. Good grief I sure hope not!

On July 27th. WE MADE IT!! One month to the day this cycle trek started we made it to the Top Of The World Highway. This infamous highway (which is yes, gravel) is located on the other side of Dawson City. Where taking a ferry is the only way to cross the Yukon River. This was a fun day; we woke with excitement and anticipation of reaching goal. The ride to the ferry was easy, the ferry ride unique, but once off the ferry that is where the rubber met the road and the cyclists were greeted with a 20km straight up grind and four different weather patterns to cycle through! The girls and I in the attempts to keep them motivated would ride ahead, stop, get out to take pictures (everybody works better for a camera), and cheer them on…I was designated the official “pot banger” and would bang whole heartedly while whoo hooing and ye hawing as they passed– then we’d load up drive ahead and do it all over again. Once to the top and when the road leveled off you could look to the right and see the mountains of the North West Territories and look to the left and see the mountains of Alaska. There were lots of hoots, holler’s, high fives and pictures to be had with what was now the first leg of the journey officially complete. At the top we were all a little surprised though to find that there was no actual sign post to stand in front of stating we’d made it to the “Top of the World Highway”, this was at first a little disappointing but then Jorja suggested that being on top of the world should be an induvial triumph and not one determined by a sign post (which is pretty impressive wisdom for a 16 year old).

As I drove through this final day of cycling it had me feeling nostalgic, I was reliving the excitement felt by accomplishing such an aggressive dream. I learned 13 years ago the difference between a goal and a dream is a plan, I also enjoyed the pride and the sense of accomplishment that came with making that plan and seeing it through to fruition. Treks like this really are a big deal!

With goal met and energy spent we head back to Dawson City to become full on tourists for a day. We did a progressive meal dining at the only three restaurants open at that hour as what felt like early afternoon was already 9:30 at night in the land of the midnight sun. The next day the family went touring and I found a barber, a beer and a hill to climb – not necessarily in that order, and enjoyed the day immensely visiting with the locals. Turns out Yukoners are known as “sour doughs” which I found interesting and when asked where the moniker came from, was told it dates back to the gold rush era when having some of that live dough literally meant sustaining life (your own). Everyone in the north had sourdough starter kits and protected them like gold (pun not intended) but apparently next to the nuggets the sourdough was a pretty precious commodity.

Ok, times up, so much more to talk about but week six is patiently waiting to be discovered and that will start leg two of the journey which will take us from top to bottom of BC. Sights today have been set on the reaching the Cassiar Highway. We’ll drive from Whitehorse and start cycling south in the morning. Cycling through BC should be interesting, I’m sure it will throw a few surprises our way. Stay tuned and enjoy as the adventure continues.