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This circus is over and everyone is headed home or at least elsewhere. It’s 18 months, more or less, until the next Alcan, the winter Alcan5000 in February, 2020. People are excited and saying they’re going to be in the next one. But first they have to go home and rest after this one.

Jim and Colin are ready to leave and waiting for the final equipment swaps, tie downs and adjustments to be made. Slowly the cars file out. The bikes are moved to the transporter who will bring them to Seattle. Others, the real moto addicts, just pack up, get on their bikes and head south. Finally, the parking lot is empty and the shuttle bus has taken the last people to the airport. What a couple of weeks. Continue Reading »

We do the TSD early in the morning. It’s the usual stage in the airport area of Fairbanks which has both a water strip for the float planes and a grass strip for the back country tail-draggers. Something for everyone. Including blocked roads for construction that the stage route instructions doesn’t know anything about.

We do a checkpoint for the TSD and end up missing some very reliable competitors that have gotten lost in the construction blockages and abandoned the stage. It looks like everyone has had just about enough of the rally for this year. Back to the hotel and meet up with Diamond Jim who is driving my truck back to Seattle while I take a side trip to Sebring for the enduro. Continue Reading »

We’re up and out of the hotel by 8. We have a checkpoint in the Valdez TSD, another Alcan5000 fixture. In the winter when Valdez some years gets enormous amounts of snow, this TSD can be very tricky. There are some years where the huge amount of snow that Valdez gets is plowed into banks that completely hide street signs and intersections. It’s not uncommon to see two rally cars going both ways on a TSD section. One of them is wrong.

The tsd finishes and we head back over the Thompson Pass with Andy Newell’s motorcyle support trailer behind of truck and the U-Haul behind Andy’s now ailing truck. He’s had an overheating problem and he has yet to find the cause of the overheating. We collectively think that his truck has a blown head gasket. He hopes not. Continue Reading »

The Copper River Princess Lodge is quite a bit above the usual Alaska overnight. It’s owned and operated by the Princess Cruise Lines and tries to carry the cruise experience on to land. With varied success. Great restaurant. Suitable bar. Expensive souvenir shop. Total crap wifi. Why would a cruise ship company have any knowledge of wifi anyway?

We’re headed to McCarthy, AK, the farthest east town accessible by road in Alaska. It’s also the location of one of cable tv’s most manufactured reality shows which is saying a lot when you consider Gold Rush, The Deadliest Catch and Ice Road Truckers, all cable tv reality show staples.

We’re headed there not because of the reality show (more inspite of the reality show) but rather because it’s gravel road that we haven’t been on. There’s not many of them left for us to explore. Continue Reading »

 

We’re up and out by 8:00. The ferry crossing to the west side of the Yukon already has a line, 2 lines actually and since the ferry is small, the rally takes 4 or 5 crossings to get to the other side. That means another mad dash to make the start of the TSD in Tok, Alaska.

The hope had been to stop at Fast Eddie’s in Tok for lunch but that plan is scrapped after the delay at the ferry crossing. We’re sweeping the run to Tok and wait for everyone to cross and start on their way over the Top of the World.

The Top of the World Highway is a magnificent road. It climbs up out of the river valley to a series of ridge line the make the road the highest point in the area. This provides some spectacular shots of the Yukon River valley shrouded in low clouds. Continue Reading »

Our beautiful day yesterday has changed to overcast this morning. The good news is that the rain hasn’t started yet so breaking camp won’t have to be done in the rain. As usual, the riders don’t waste any time packing the sleeping bags.

The tents, on the other hand, are a bit problematic and a couple have to be repacked in order to fit into their carrying bags. And a couple have to be unpacked in order to retrieve personal items (like cell phones) that got accidentally packed.

Pat does another great job with breakfast. But breakfast is just coffee for a lot of the riders. They’re chafing at the bit and as soon as their ready they start up the road. Menawhile we just pack the trailer, police the site and we’re gone. Continue Reading »

We made it to Watson Lake last night by about 8 PM and got dinner in the bar. Spring rolls and a donnair wrap with plenty of beer. The dining room and the bar are packed with Alcan rally people and that has displaced some evacuees from the hotel. The evacuees aren’t happy and the rumor is that they have some mischief planned for the rally vehicles. Jerry gets some security for the parking area and we hope for the best.

Normally, we wouldn’t take the rumors very seriously. It’s quite rare for there to be any mischief or problems up here. But yesterday we had a scary situation on the 11% Grade TSD. Steve Perret and Katherine Hansen were manning a hidden checkpoint and had parked there car in a pull-off about 200 meters down the road from where they were hiding. Within ear-shot of there hiding position, a truck pulled up to there car, broke a rear window and stole their clothes and computers. Luckily, they missed there passports, credit cards and money. Continue Reading »

The fires are now a quite close to Dease Lake and as recently as last week, we weren’t sure that the rally would be able to get through Dease Lake which was then under a mandatory evacuation order. Luckily for us (but not so much for the locals), the evacuation order had been lifted for Dease Lake and we continue up the Cassiar Highway across the Yukon border.

Though the evacuation order has been lifted, the smoke is so bad on the way up to Dease Lake, that some sections of the road are dark enough to appear like dusk after sunset. There are instant tent camps set up for the firefighters and the only gas station is jammed. Continue Reading »

The day starts with a big TSD stage, the 11% grade. This stage was run in the 2012 Winter Alcan and because of a fatal highway accident, the stage was canceled and the rally was split in two. This year there are no problems and after Colin and I do our checkpoint, we continue on to Dease Lake.

Along the way the rally has a second TSD, the Blackwater TSD, which dumps the rally into the famous Blackwater Run. The Blackwater Run is a 110 mile forest road the is more single/dual track than road. It is one of the greatest roads in the Canadian north. In the winter. In the summer, not so much.

Colin and I don’t have a checkpoint on the Blackwater TSD so we carry on to Dease Lake. But the competitors do the Run and the after action report that night at the MTC is very favorable. If they really liked that, we think, they should do the Winter. Few roads compare to the Blackwater Run in the depths of winter.

The fires are now a quite close to Dease Lake and as recently as last week, we weren’t sure that the rally would be able to get through Dease Lake which was then under a mandatory evacuation order. Luckily for us (but not so much for the locals), the evacuation order had been lifted for Dease Lake and we continue up the Cassiar Highway across the Yukon border.

Though the evacuation order has been lifted, the smoke is so bad on the way up to Dease Lake, that some sections of the road are dark enough to appear like dusk after sunset. There are instant tent camps set up for the firefighters and the only gas station is jammed.

The Alcan south of 37 Junction has been closed because of a fire that stretched across the Alcan so the usual southbound Alcan traffic has been diverted down the Cassiar. We fuel up and head for the Yukon border, a favorite photo stop. By the time we get to the border the smoke has disappeared and the sky is back to a mid-afternoon overcast day. The truck stills stinks of smoke but at least the visibility has improved.

The route itinerary shows us doing Telegraph Creek but the road to Telegraph Creek is closed and the entire Telegraph Creek area is under a mandatory evacuation order. That’s probably good turn, though. It’s already mid-afternoon and the Telegraph Creek round trip is between 3 and 4 hours. I’ve never made it to Telegraph Creek and I’m disappointed, but if we did the round trip, we’d arrive in Watson Lake at around 11 PM and that probably means no dinner and we’ve already missed lunch. Maybe some other time.

At 37 Junction we take a left and head to Stewart, BC where we’ll spend the night. The road down to Stewart is spectacular and though we come this way in the winter rally, no one ever goes down to Stewart because of the potential for an avalanche to cut off Stewart for days at a time.

Avalanches aren’t a problem in the summer, obviously, and we cruise into town about 8:30. Check into the hotel and head to the Eldorado Pizza joint for a pretty good pizza and the required beers, Rickard’s Red. Then back to the hotel for some sleep. Gotta get it when you can. There are probably going to be some late nights later in the rally.

Obi-wan

The rally does a ceremonial start at the portico of the Totem Lake Hotel. The real start of the rally is the first TSD which starts about 60 miles north of Kirkland in a rest area on I-5. This is where the first mistakes of the rally are made.

There’s a lot of tension and excitement in the parking lot and that results, occasionally, in some monumental errors. In 2008, we started our first stage a minute early because we weren’t paying attention to rally protocol.

A TSD rally stage has a mythical car zero that starts at time zero. So in order to find your start time (cars start in one minute intervals), you add your car number to the start time of car zero. For example, if the start time for car zero is 9 AM, 9:00:00, and you car number is number 1, your start time is 9:01:00 and so on through the entire field. It’a a fairly common rookie error to forget that the is a car zero and start on the wrong minute. Continue Reading »

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