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New Website, New Blog, but the Old Blog Archive remains: September 28, 2023

After many years of wanting a real website, this month I finally have a website designed by the very knowledgeable Rey Rey Rodriguez ( TheMindOfReyRey ). My old blog,  Vacation-Travel-Adventure  continues with the same address but it is located in the "Archives" tab on my new website . The new blog which is a continuation but with much better resolution for 4K screens, it is now at .

Dawson City or Bust: September 15-18, 2017

The Chicken in Chicken, Alaska
Friday (September 15), we drove from Tok, Alaska, to Dawson City, Yukon Territory, stopping along the way at a strange but interesting town of Chicken, Alaska. It was a beautiful day, we had a lunch of chicken pot pie, of course, in Chicken. 

The residents of Chicken do not have running water, flush toilets, electricity, or phones. The year-round population fluctuates between 17 and 37 swelling to about 100 during the summer.

No MAGA caps in the Chicken Saloon!
Just about 2 years ago we took a car trip to some of the National Parks of Nevada and Utah. When we got to the furthest most point on our journey miles and miles from any repair shop that could replace the fuel pump on my 1991 BMW, my car failed. Today, it was deja vu.

The only thing in the 108 miles between Chicken and Dawson City is the US-Canada border crossing which closes around September 23 due to winter weather. About 50 miles into this drive and beyond the border crossing, our car’s sensors told us that the passenger rear-wheel tire pressure was low and we should “Check Tires.” The GPS works in our car so it knows that we are driving the “Top of the World” road and that there are no services anywhere.

A View from Top of the World Highway
Bear print next to a Caribou print along Top of the World Highway
A view from the Top of the World Highway
The car is Dan’s 2016 Mercedes which was sold to us with “run-flat tires” without a spare because Mercedes puts so much emphasis on the “never go flat” sales pitch. They also tell you that if the tire does lose its air pressure you can drive about 50 miles on the flat tire at a moderate speed. That only helps if you are living in a populated area. They don’t tell you that your tire will be ruined if you do that. Adding to the complications is the fact that my “Canada-wide” sim card isn’t Canada-wide. It does not include the territories of which Yukon is one of those territories. It’s like the phone company completely forgot about all the people up north. So we had a tire slowly losing air, no phone service, no roadside services, no spare. Instead of telling us to “Check Tires” the car’s sensor should have been flashing “you’re f_____!”

We did not check the tire but kept driving while keeping an eye on the slowly lowering air pressure in that tire. The tire lost about 1 pound of pressure every 10 miles or so. We did make it to the ferry at the Yukon River to cross into Dawson City.

Our first stop was at the air compressor at a gas station. At that point our tire had 29 psi in it. After the top off of air, we went to a tire place down the road where the owner told us to come back on Saturday morning “after 9.” Later that evening, we put more air in the tire and drove the 2 miles to that tire repair shop and left our car there for the night because we knew the tire would be absolutely flat by Saturday morning. We walked the 2 miles back to our hotel. Saturday morning we walked the 2 miles back to the tire shop only to be told that he can’t fix a never go flat tire, and he didn’t have a substitute new tire for us. He said we’d be fine driving the 333 miles to Whitehorse where we would have a better chance of getting it fixed/replaced. We didn’t have too much faith in him or the tire so we bought a small air compressor for the journey. Using Skype, we talked with Mercedes Canada who talked with their tow contractor in Whitehorse. Whitehorse towing said we should go to Napa Tires which was just a little farther down the road from the guy who said he couldn’t/wouldn’t fix our tire. Napa Tire repair said they didn’t have a tire guy in until Monday morning but they thought it could be fixed as we hadn’t driven on a flat tire. We made an 8am Monday appointment for the tire repair, and crossed our fingers that it can be fixed.

We had planned to stay one night in Dawson City, but now it will be 3 nights so we’re getting to see a lot more of it than we planned. Dawson City is a gold rush town established in 1897 when its population grew to 30-40,000 people. It’s interesting being here at the end of the summer season. Many businesses are closed and several restaurants and hotels will be closed by next weekend. As I said earlier, the “top of the world” road border crossing will be closing next week, too. When the border closes, the ferry stops because no cars can arrive from the west. Friday night was the first frost of the season here so the weather is definitely changing.

Our first night we saw a great display of the aurora borealis. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my tripod as it was 2 miles away in the trunk of our car. We watched the light show and gamely attempted to get a decent photograph.

Saturday night we had tripods and better luck with the aurora borealis. Because of our forced hiatus in Dawson City, we saw more fabulous light shows each night. The sky wasn’t completely clear, but the show was still fabulous. I even saw purple in addition to the more common green. The aurora borealis looked almost like a spotlight sweeping the sky behind the surrounding mountains. Eventually, it lit up the entire overhead sky—it was amazing.

From the Visitor’s Center we took a couple of fascinating tours of Dawson City which gave us access into several restored buildings now owned by Parks Canada.

Tools of the Undertaker's trade
The tools of the undertaker's trade are part of Parks Canada collection. Because of harsh winter temperatures as low as minus 50, graves couldn't be dug in the winter. Graves were dug in advance during the summer so that when spring came, bodies could be buried. The deceased were stacked into a building behind the mortician's shop. A Dawson City joke was that when you helped dig graves in the summer you could actually be digging what could become your own grave in the spring.

Inside the Red Feather Saloon

Inside the Post Office
The beautiful interior of the Post Office is original as it had too many windows to heat in the winter which caused it to be shuttered very early in its existence. Dawson City was one of places poet Robert Service lived and worked in the Yukon.

Klondike Kate's had their "last supper" on Saturday. We were there. Dinner was wonderful. Now they are closed until the spring breakup.

We took the ferry back across the Yukon River to hike to a paddleboat graveyard. Once bridges were installed across the rivers in the mid-50s, these boats were no longer needed for transporting goods or people from or to the Bering Sea which is more than 1000 miles from Dawson City.

The Yukon River
The Yukon River is the 3rd largest river in North America. From source to end at the Bering Straits it runs about 1900 miles.

Front Street in Dawson City

Many of the older buildings have shifted and sunk because of melted permafrost and former flood times.
Former Paddlewheel "Keno" now a museum
Front Street in Dawson City
Cheechakos means Greenhorns and that is definitely what we are. In contrast, Sourdough is the name for someone who has lived in the Klondike at least one winter. During the gold stampede of 1897-1899, miners made their own bread. For sourdough all you need is flour and water. The starter must not get too hot or too cold or it would die. You couldn't leave the starter next to the wood stove or too far from the stove. The solution was to carry your sourdough starter in your pocket next to your body which is almost the perfect temperature for the starter to thrive. So people who acquired that yeasty smell were those that had wintered over and were dubbed "Sourdoughs"--definitely not us.

Monday morning (September 18) we showed up for our tire repair appointment, and an hour later we were back on track headed to Whitehorse. The tire had picked up a small nail and that was what had caused the loss of tire pressure. Fortunately, the leak was very slow. We headed out of Dawson City along with the swans and geese that were headed south.