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September 6th, 2009 - Top of the world highway

“People who get up early in the morning cause war, death and famine.” Bansky

I woke up late again. Dempster took a lot out of me and resting up seemed like a good idea. Let’s backtrack a day or two so when you read this post, you are familiar with the characters.

When I got back from the Dempster and met up with Gib again, I found out that he wasn’t the owner of the lodge. Gib Acuna is a Californian who’s been traveling for over a year now and decided to go up the Dempster on his Fat Boy Harley. On his way back, he asked for a job at the lodge and he’s been working there for a month now. The best way to describe this man is to say he is a “people person.” He can start a conversation with a dead tree stump if you let him. He loves candy bars (he already ate half my candy collection) and to cap it off, he is the coolest guy you’ll ever meet. Pushing 61, he still jumps around like a 5 year old and has more energy than a humming bird. After 4 days, it feels like I’ve known the guy my entire life. He offered to let me stay at his place and as I never say no, I moved in right away. He has also shared his employee meals with me ever since I’ve been here, and I’m indebted to this man greatly.

Gib had a master plan to build a motorcycle park right at the gate of the Dempster highway, with campsites next to the river, mechanic shop, food service and entertainment! His idea was a brilliant one and the location he had in mind was unbelievable. You can’t go a meter on the Dempster without relying on the Klondike River Lodge, and he wanted to pitch his idea to the owner of the lodge. I helped him prepare his business plan, make a PowerPoint presentation, and we worked on the details for a long time. When “show time” came, he nailed it and the great news is: starting in May of 2010, there will be an amazing motorcycle campground at the base of the Dempster highway with full support, from tires to towing and rescue. He is the right man to do it and I’m sure it will be successful. I’m designing his website, logo, and taking care of the computer stuff while he does his construction. I wish him the best of luck.

I also met the owner of the lodge, Ross Weitzel. Ross is an interesting sort of guy who does his business on a hand shake. Up here in Yukon, there are no lawyers or legal complications, you shake the man’s hand and your word is your contract. He sponsored my lodging and my meals throughout my stay and reimbursed my camping fees. I liked the place to begin with, now I like it even more. The cook’s name is Brian and being a long time biker, he feeds me every night and supplies the beer while we talk all night and he has more stories than you could imagine. One hell of a nice guy.

The most revolting encounter I had was a conversation with a guy named Mario who was dating Christy, one of the waitresses. Mario is a German who moved to Canada some years back and is a farmer in Whitehorse, Yukon. He asked me what was all the world hunger stuff about and as I was explaining, he said something that I will never forget. “What happens after we feed everyone and no one is hungry? They are going to want more, they would want to eat beef, they would want a motorbike, and they would want a house. I am not ready to give up what I have so they can get what they want. It’s a cruel reality but that’s how it is. They have to be poor so we can be rich.” Is it the ignorance or the arrogance or both?

Brian marinated two moose steaks for me to take along for dinner and after exchanging numbers and emails, I finally got on the road. First stop was Dawson City and I got aboard the ferry to cross the river. Top Of The World Highway starts from the river bank and goes all the way to Alaska. It’s a gravel road with occasional potholes and some paved patches. The road was OK and the scenery beautiful, but to be honest, I didn’t see much of it as I was cold and the wind blew so hard I could barely keep the bike upright. I concentrated on the road and zipped through for hope of lower elevations.

At the American border, the drama started. At the border crossing, I stopped at the red light. I put both of my feet down and put the bike in neutral and as I raised my head, I noticed the border patrol man in his shack waving at me, so I took it as a sign to go to him. I covered the 20 feet or so and stopped at his window and turned the bike off.

He asked why I ran the red light and didn’t wait for the green light. I told him that he signaled me to come over and so I did. He said that he was signaling me to stop. I told him I was already stopped and there was no need to signal me to do so. The conversation went on and on as to who was right, so I finally asked him straight up “what is it you want me to do?”

He said to go around and come back to the light again and wait till it was green, then approach him. I’m getting pretty pissed off at this point but I did what he wanted. I crossed into United States and came back into Canada and stopped at the light again. On green, I approached the window and this time he asked me why I didn’t stop at Canadian Customs while I was turning around! I told him that I was instructed to turn around and come back to him and that he didn’t tell me to stop at Canadian Customs. He looked at me and said: “You people don’t have a stoplight in your country?”

That’s when I blew up and said: “Well I’m an American and we do have a goddamn stoplight in our country. We also have another thing called Freedom of Speech and expression. Watch me exercise it for you now: Go F*** Yourself.”

There was a silence and his eyes were starting to open up, so I went on by telling him that he turned me around for no reason and I don’t care if he’s going to let me in Alaska or not. I will write a complaint letter to the Department of Homeland Security and will see it through to the end. He looked at me for a second or two, then asked for my passport very firmly calling me ‘Sir’. I thought to myself that he was going to rip the bike apart but to my astonishment, he stamped my passport with a big caribou stamp and said “No hard feelings. We are just testing our new light system. Have a good day.”

Warning: You should never tell a man to go f*** himself if he is the only one with a gun in the middle of nowhere! I got lucky; do it at your own risk.

All in all, I enjoyed my stay in the Yukon and met some amazing people. Yukon with little over 30,000 in population is still a wild place. Hope it stays that way…

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There are 6 Comments

  1. Big T
    September 9, 2009 at 8:10 am

    Chris,

    Great posts and I’m glad you made your goal on the Dempster

    As far as Customs goes, There’s always some power mad dick who lets his iota of power go to his head
    I had a similar problem some years ago crossing to Victoria, BC. Some Customs guy just out of college wanted to run me in because I declared 3 bottles of wine, but I had 4. I just stared him down and asked if he didn’t have something important to do rather than impeding tourism. Off we went.

    Keep on riding there. About time you started south.

  2. lina
    November 14, 2009 at 9:52 pm

    iam not at all surprized about your encounter with my friend Gib; he is the most amazing person in the whole world-and it does not surprize me that his intuition about the “biker’s camp will be a welcome spot for all who ride in there. He is truly a gem of a guy !!!

  3. geoff
    September 16, 2010 at 1:12 am

    I dont know what it is about american customs, but there are plenty of those hard nosed idiots to make the rest of them look very bad indeed.

    • Chris Sorbi
      September 24, 2010 at 12:29 pm

      To this day, ive gone through over 10 countries on this bike and this border patrolman was the rudest of the bunch.

  4. Caitlin Weitzel
    October 28, 2012 at 5:57 pm

    I was bored and Googled my dad name. (Ross Weitzel)
    He was happy to read this and glad you enjoyed your stay.

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