Mawlers’ Big Adventure ’04:
On the Road - Faro to Dawson City

Friday, 30 July 2004

By the Numbers
  • Distance Driven Today: 801 km (approx)
  • Gas Purchased Today: 85.921 litres
  • Total Cracks in Windshield: 3 (holding steady)
Wild Woolies
  • Elk: 1
  • Moose: 3
  • Rabbits: several
  • Ground Squirrels: uncountable

So this is to be a long day. Fittingly, it starts in the rain, which has been going steadily all night. We hastily stuff our very wet tent and ground cloth into the truck and set off.

Road Conditions
We learn from the locals that they recognize three basic road surface types: Dirt/Gravel, Seal Coat, and Pavement. Well, it takes us a while to figure out that middle one; what the heck do seals have to do with roads? Is there a walrus coat?

We spend several days trying to figure out “seal coat” until, somewhere between Faro and Dawson City, Lea Ann blurts out “seal coat!” and we both nod knowingly. Seal coat makes sense because they use tar to seal down the gravel on top of the road bed.

Perhaps the realization relates to the road alternating between gravel, seal coat, and pavement in 1 km stretches. Of course, the road is marked on the map with a dotted line, so they must have sealed the dots...

In our original itinerary, or rather, in the itinerary we had hastily sketched and were using prior to yesterday, we were driving straight from Faro to Dawson City. This leg of the journey is over 500 km. After talking with the lady in the Watson Lake Visitor’s Center and receiving the Yukon Passport game, we decide to make it longer.

Of course, we cannot simply drive directly to Dawson City without coffee. So we stop at Pelly Crossing to get two large mochas. Pelly Crossing is hardly more than the espresso stand, but it does feature Duke the Dog. Duke is extremely friendly and has the most wonderful blue eyes. There must be wolf in his wood pile somewhere.

After Pelly Crossing, we drive a long way to Stewart Crossing, which they spelled wrong, and take a right. Then we drive a long way. And then we come to Mayo.

Mayo is a pretty small town that was once famous for mining. It sports some highly productive farms, considering the hyperactive far north growing season. In fact, we find some huge flowers that would be just small plants down south. You know, your average “garden variety” plants…

After getting our passport stamped and taking several hundred pictures, we depart Mayo, bound for Keno. No, we are not gambling, there is a town up the road called Keno, but we are gambling that Keno has gas, because I let the gas dip below half. Keno is past Elsa and both are famous for their long history of silver mining, though the mines in both towns are closed.

Got Mayo?
While Mayo is small, it is big enough to have its own nursing center. Yes, it has the Mayo Clinic.

Keno now has a pretty neat museum that includes an excellent butterfly display. The town, however, probably has 20 permanent residents. No gas, no restaurant, nothing; I guess we get gas back in Mayo. The fellow running the museum has been there 35 years, even though the mine closed in 1989. At one point he looks at us and says, “I need a vacation. Get the heck outta here and go some place nice.” Yeah, I think this place could get to a person.

The museum guy stamps our passports (that is three!) and sends us up the hill to look at the signpost. Does every place have a signpost? And why do we keep going to see them?

This particular signpost is 11 km outside of “town”, up a big hill with very sharp gravel. Even I take this one slowly.

Near the top, we see the signpost and I decide it can wait. Instead, I see an old deserted house in the distance, at the top of the next rise. I believe in making our own destinations, so we drive the mile or so over to the old house. This little diversion requires engaging the 4x4. I knew it would come in handy!

We get some great pictures and nearly freeze to death up there. Oh yeah, we stop and take pictures of the signpost.

"If Elsa is a hamlet, then Keno is a piglet." (quote on wall in Keno museum)

So, we hurry down the mountain between 20 and 40 km/hr and take a spin through town. Actually, the place is so small that we take a sp through town, but head out quickly, back the way we came.

Arriving back in Mayo, we stop at the gas station, deli, and convenience store. I get ready to pump the gas and Lea Ann goes in to pay and see if we can get some food, since everything in Keno had been closed since 1989.

Apparently, gas closes at 5 pm in Mayo. No kidding. Lea Ann buys some food, but gas is “closed”. I still have trouble believing it. I guess we will get gas back in Stewart Crossing. Did I mention that we were below half when we headed out for Keno earlier today?

Lea Ann takes advantage of the deli to get us vegetarian sandwiches, which are actually on the menu. Yes, they are making custom sandwiches in the deli, but gas is closed. In an attempt to seem more like a New York deli, the cook mutters “damned vegetarians” under his breath. Carnivores! I swear.

We make it to Stewart Crossing without incident and, again, I set to pumping gas while Lea Ann goes in to pay. She is taking longer than I expected, so I decide to move the car away from the pump (there is a sort of rush at the pump), when she comes out and asks for money. It seems that the credit card machine in Stewart Crossing is not working. Trouble is, we are short of money. We scrape the car for change and come up with CDN$56, which is two dollars shy of the bill.

Looks like we will be washing dishes or something. But the cashier says she thinks the Amex lines are working, so we try that and it works. Finally, carrying all those different cards comes in handy. I had little desire to become an indentured servant in Stewart Crossing.

From here we have a rapid, but largely uneventful drive to Dawson City.

Unless you count the moose. And we did count the moose and came up with three. There was a mother (cow) moose and two babies! They crossed the road ahead of us, but I could not get the camera ready in time and they disappeared into the bush. Oh well, it was still an excellent punctuation for this end of the trip.

Dawson City is still a somewhat crazy place. We decide to go have a beer at 11 pm, or so (who knows what time it is up here) and locate a place on the map. First, we decide to get more actual cash at the ATM in town. Hey this town is big enough to have an ATM!

At the ATM, we meet an odd couple who are completely drunk and gambling away their last dollar. In fact, the guy of the couple cannot get anymore money out of the ATM because he only has CDN$100 in his account. These two have a rented an RV and have driven here from Anchorage and all he has left in his account is about USD$75! So the girl gets out CDN$200 (she stops to show us, saying "these look just like pesos!") and off they go to get more drinks and play roulette.

We pointedly go in the other direction, finding the pizza joint that is supposed to have beer. They do not have beer. They end up having a large burly biker guy who does a great impromptu stand-up routine as he takes our order, which we end up taking back to our hotel room at The Dawson City Bunkhouse.

The Bunkhouse turns out to be a great hotel. The pizza was good. They gave us an extra soda. Life is good.

see it on a map

The previous installment:
Watson Lake to Faro Pictures

The next installment:
Faro to Dawson City Pictures

Back to Great White North Trip main page

Back to Mawler Home

All materials © 2004 Lea Ann Mawler & Stuart Mawler