Mawlers’ Big Adventure ’04:
On the Road - Dawson to Eagle Plains

Saturday, 31 July 2004

By the Numbers
  • Distance Driven Today: 409 km
  • Gas Purchased Today: 72.043 litres
  • Total Cracks in Windshield: 5 (2 more today!)
Wild Woolies
  • Animals: 0, zip, zilch
  • Bar Flies: the stools were thick with them

When we set out from Dawson City, we were a little behind schedule. Ok. Actually, we were way freaking late. We always intend to set out early (setting our alarms for 6 am). And, we always get a later start than that... 7 am, 8 am, sometimes even 9 am. But today, we woke up at 10:30... We barely even had time to shower and pack up our junk for the 11:00 check out.

We had some errands we needed to run in Dawson before we left, and we wanted to try to find an internet cafe so that Stuart could post his weekly essay for his class, and so we could keep you all updated on our whereabouts and with new photos. There is an internet place we found last night, but it is closed on Saturday. That's a good way to bring in the tourist business. At the visitor center, they told us about each of the hotels (except ours) having an internet terminal in the lobby, but they also said there was a new internet cafe kind of thing on 2nd Avenue. So, we headed there.

Indeed, they did have an internet connection. And, they let us hook up our laptops, which is a huge plus. We have a portable USB drive, but this is much easier. Yes, we have a portable USB drive. And a multi-format data card reader. And two laptops. So what of it???

RVs Out to Get Me
The original crack in the windshield is growing every day, but today takes the cake. Leaving Dawson City on the Klondike Highway, we pass two monstrous RVs. Each one kicks up a rock that hits and cracks our windshield. Two for two!

We are actually beginning to get a little concerned that we will need to replace the windshield during the trip. Either that or buy goggles and make sure to keep your mouth closed. Good thing we brought floss.

So, after... well... hours of errands and writing and posting and getting email, we set out. At 4:00.

When we get to the head of the Demptster Highway (the route to Inuvik), I decide to call the hotel and ask how late we can check in. It's 369 km to Eagle Plains from the head of the highway, and there is nothing between the two. Ok, I take that back. There's a tiny (smaller than a single-wide) park outpost in Tombstone Park at 72 km on the Dempster. Then, there's nothing. Ok, I take that back. At 259 km, there is an overlook. With two outhouses. But, there is no phone, no gas, and no lodging (besides a tent) between 0 km and 369 km in Eagle Plains.

When I talk to the folks at the hotel, they tell me the front desk is open until 11 pm. I estimate our time of arrival to be between 10 pm and midnight. The lady tells me the bartender will be there until midnight. I'm concerned... What if it takes longer? What if we get there and they're all gone? I try to rationalize that 6-8 hours should be plenty to get there. It's only 369 km, which would take only a little over 6 hours at 60 kph, which is slightly slower than a banana slug crawls. But still. Who knows what the road will look like. It's marked the low end of secondary on the map. Just to make me feel worse, the fellow at the gas station at 0 km tells us that we should pull off the road whenever we meet oncoming traffic, and our speed should be about 40 mph... refer to snail's pace above.

We set out, and find that the road is not so bad. Still, just to be sure, I fuss and nag like a little old woman whenever we stop to take a picture. "We don't have time. We don't have time." So, for the whole 369 km, we stop only a handful of times for only the most spectacular views. And, it is spectacular. The Dempster goes through a valley between mountain ranges. Some of the mountains are soft and green and others are very sharp and starkly grey and stony. Peaks recede as far as you can see in either direction.

Road Conditions
People, books, the internet, and everything else warned us about the Dempster Highway, but it really was not so bad. It was a classic gravel road, to be sure but it even approached a four-rut road! There were some dicy moments, but slowing down to 100 km/hr solved most problems.

So, as we pull into Eagle Plains a little before 9 pm... Yes, I said 9 pm... I try to think of what we can do to stall before we go in to check in. We have obviously been going fast. So, we get some gas, get ourselves together and go in. We check in, but the restaurant is closed already. The bar is open, and we agree to have a beer and then go to bed. When we go into the bar, though, it is full of people. No table available and no 2 chairs together at the bar. Because I'm feeling hungry and anti-social, we decide to eat raman noodles (this is why we went to the big box stores in Edmonton) and some trail mix. Did I mention we bought a car-lighter-thingy-kettle that boils water in about half an eternity? Perfect for making raman noodles in the styrofoam cup.

So we listen to the radio station (there's one FM station. No AM, and no other FM, and the FM station claims it's from Vancouver) while our water boils. We prepare our noodles. And, we have no spoon. We have a truckload (very literally) of stuff - a kettle that plugs into the lighter, raman noodles, a cooler, apples, cheese, books, maps, camping gear, a mess kit. But no fork or spoon. But that's ok. We'll just drink the noodles. It's not the end of the world. We get out the swiss army knife (I said we had camping gear) and stir the noodles when they're through steeping, And we slurp. After a minute or two, when I've slurped off all the juice, I take the swiss army knife and use it to shovel noodles, sort of like using a knife for peas, only sharper and less traditional.

Playing Games
Not only is there a "Yukon Passport" game, but there is a "Dempster Highway" game. This one is to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Dempster Highway. Again, we need to get a "passport" stamped at specific locations, including Klondike Lodge, Tombstone Territorial Park, Eagle Plains Hotel, Natainlaii Territorial Park, Fort McPherson Tent & Canvas Shop; Tsiigetchic General Store; and Inuvik Visitor's Center.

The prize in this case is a Northwest Territories' Diamond and more Yukon Gold. Thank heavens we have some reason to drive up here.

And, then, Stuart does it. He sends me into the biggest laughing fit I think I've ever had. Tears streaming, choking on my noodles, can't breathe for laughing. He opens the pouch and takes out the leatherman. He's eating his noodles with pliers. I dissolve rapidly, and it takes me many minutes to catch my breath and be able to continue eating my noodles. He looks at me as if there's something wrong with me for thinking it's funny that we're sitting, in the middle of nowhere, parked outside a bar, with our car running, eating raman noodles with a knife and a pair of pliers.

Well, maybe it is normal.

see it on a map

The previous installment:
Faro to Dawson City Pictures

The next installment:
Eagle Plains to Inuvik

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All materials © 2004 Lea Ann Mawler & Stuart Mawler