This was a busy day even though I didn’t pedal much. In the morning I visited the Klondike paddleboat, the last and largest of the many Yukon River paddleboats that served the mighty Yukon River, hauling lumber, ore and other goods great distances over a roughly 60 year period ending in the 1950s. Amazingly, the Klondike drew only 4 feet of water, the shallow draft in an effort to keep from running aground on the river’s shifting gravel bars.
The Yukon has to be one of the world’s great rivers, in terms of width, volume and land area drained. Only roughly a hundred miles from its source, I couldn’t believe how big the river already was going through the city of Whitehorse. And this spot is 2000 very long river miles from where it dumps into the Bering Sea. Amazingly, chum salmon swim this far upriver to spawn.
The oddest thing about being in Whitehorse is that suddenly I was out of the wilderness and into a city, a small city, but a city nonetheless. I walked into a massive food store that had all the produce of stores in the lower 48, plus Maine lobster, Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, etc. Was I really just in a grizzly-inhabited wilderness 20 miles ago and looking around me in all directions when the road turned quiet save for a 30 speed bike pedaling slowly along? It made me wonder what the verve of my journey was so far. I guess like all bike tours I’ve been on, always dynamic, a different feel to every new day and curve in the road.
Cadence Bike Shop in town is a really busy place but they fit me into the repair schedule. In addition to a chain replacement they had to replace a derailleur that went bad just this morning. I am avoiding major bike mishaps left and right. Not a good place to break down. A lot of bad stuff can happen to a bike of this age.
With cool weather and my errands largely done (having forgot to do a bunch of other stuff til I started pedaling), I got going south and east again at 5 PM. The bike felt like a real load with all the groceries I had stuffed in the paniers for the couple days ahead. That was probably the last well stocked food store for the next 700 miles (literally). Suddenly, 10 miles out of town, the traffic dropped off to nothing. It’s as if Whitehorse, the biggest city and capital of the Yukon, never existed at all. Suddenly it was back to where the wild things roam; bear scat was common on the road shoulder again. I jumped to coyotes out of the ditch; they looked as skinny as the mammal they were fleeing from.
Even these 25 miles goes to show a person how much they are at the whim of gear failures on a bike tour. I felt my right shoe freely pivoting in the pedal about 15 miles in. The cleat had come detached from the shoe while I was pedaling (a first for me), apparently as a result of all the jostling on rough roads. And I didn’t have the tools to take the cleat out of the pedal. Fortunately I flagged down a guy in a pickup truck. It took four hands and a couple of his tools to take the cleat off the pedal and after I said goodbye to him, I reaffixed it to the shoe again. When we knocked the cleat free of the pedal disaster was averted in that the two little hex-head screws that I needed went flying but fortunately not into the bushes….where they would have surely been lost.
There was a good campsite 25 miles in and with the cloud ceiling descending I decided to nab it. There is a major beetle infestation in the Yukon that has killed hundreds of thousands of acres of conifers. Unlike many camping places that charge five dollars for a little bundle of wood, this place has cut-to-length firewood, as much as person would want to burn, apparently as a result of a government program to cut dead infested trees. After borrowing an axe I had a hot cracking fire in 5 minutes. What a wonderful start to the second inning of my big ride. Needless to say it’s considerably different than the Yukon holiday that this man is up to on the can of beer sold by the local brewery.