Day 14: Coldest Ride Yet
Adventures, as I’ve said before, get interesting when unplanned events or circumstances turn the routine into something more. Today qualifies as “something more.” We left Watson Lake shortly after 7 a.m., expecting a long day on the Highway based on a road report from another rider that highlighted considerable construction delays west of Whitehorse. Temperatures were cool when we fired up, in the mid-50s according to my not-very-accurate Harley-Davidson thermometer, but not cold and the sun was shining, so we expected a good ride except for the ubiquitous sporadic road destruction.
As we rolled west, though, gray then black clouds began to build and the temperature began to drop. We stopped on the Highway’s gravelly shoulder, popped opened the saddlebags and added Harley-Davidson emblazoned rain gear over our heated gear. Soon we found ourselves riding in a mizzle–a misty drizzle–in temperatures we suspect were in the upper 40s, though it may have been a couple degrees less. The rain gear over the heated gear is the perfect combination for weather like this, leaving us warm and dry with only raindrop speckled face shields and rain-slicked roads to contend with. That iffy weather combination lasted off and on until the final 100 miles of the ride when the pavement dried and gray overcast skies began to display hints of welcome blue. We finished the ride with amazing views of the snow-capped St. Elias Mountains to the west, along which we’ll ride tomorrow.
It was chilly when I made my morning pie and coffee stop in Teslin, home to the longest bridge on the Alaska Highway. A big slice of hunger-killing cherry pie at the Yukon Resort where we’ll be staying in a couple weeks on the return trip didn’t warm me up, but the coffee and over-heated dining room did.
So the weather didn’t fully cooperate with us. But the Yukon Highway Department did. Shortly after we left our petrol stop at Whitehorse, we passed a convoy of road crew trucks headed the opposite direction. Although we came upon some recently resurfaced and extraordinarily dusty sections of recently repaired road, the resurfacing crews had apparently completed their assigned tasks, and we were never seriously slowed down or stopped by the much despised orange-vested flag person. The result of this good fortune was that we didn’t need the extra hour or so I had added for today’s ride and arrived before 4 p.m. at our Haines Junction motel.
I asked Gwen, one of the co-owners of the meticulously kept Raven Hotel, if the Village Bakery, which I had visited three years ago with Marilyn, might be hosting a musical performance tonight on the stage I remembered graced the outdoor seating area. “Yes,” she said, “and they’re also having a salmon bake, which you might still be able to get a ticket for.” After unburdening our dirty bikes of the dusty bags and packing away our now-dry rain gear, we walked the two blocks to the Village Bakery, bought tickets for dinner and a show and are, as I write this, getting ready to enjoy fresh salmon and some local musical talent. When I return tonight, I’ll finish the day with a Jack and a final addition to this post, reporting on this evening’s gastronomical and entertainment outing.
Day 14 Part Two
The Village Bakery is probably the best place to eat in Haines Junction and the salmon and salads tonight demonstrated that. Perfectly cooked salmon hot off the grill; an array of salads that included quinoa with corn, chilis and lime, fatuoush, a bean medley and a pineapple Thai salad; delicious fresh-baked, melt-in-your mouth bread smeared with artery-clogging butter; and a Village Bakery brownie with cream cheese icing I didn’t need but ate anyway was easily the best meal I’ve had since my too-kind sister-in-law stuffed us with schnitzel in Wichita 10 days ago. Our dinner companions, Jim and Brenda from Norfolk, England, and Rachel-the-traveling-physical-therapist whom we had met earlier on the road at Liard Hot Springs and the Sign Post Forest, provided amenable table conversation about various travels while we savored the salmon.
Regarding the entertainment, well, the food was delicious. The musician, a poet-singer-songwriter from Whitehorse, named Gordie Tensleeps, was, well, loud, though that might have had something to do with my proximity to the speaker. He had a slight musical resemblance to Bob Dylan, but only slight. To his credit, he could blow the harp and pick the guitar with knack and inventiveness. Did I mention the food was delicious? I’m not sure whether Gordie’s a frustrated poet who wants to be a musician or frustrated musician who wants to be a poet. But the food was delicious and I wish Gordie well in his musical journey.
Tomorrow, our own journey takes us north through some beautiful Yukon country into Alaska.