A Town Named Chicken?
~Sunday, July 3, 2022~
Day 749 (Travel Day)
Day 13 of Alaska Trip
Today’s the day we finally cross the border into Alaska! With the major push of long, exhausting days of driving and our short stays in most places, we can’t believe all the hours of planning has come to fruition. Today we leave Canada in our rear view mirror until the first week of September and head to the town of Chicken, Alaska. Yes, there really is a town called Chicken and how it got its name, we have no idea…..yet! By tomorrow, we’ll know everything about it to share with ya’ll.
But before we launched onto the Top of the World Highway, we had the business of dumping and gassing up back across the Yukon River into the town of Dawson City. We were prepared for the sticker shock, having no choice other than to completely fill up. There is absolutely NOTHING between Dawson City and Chicken. There was virtually no wait for the ferry going INTO town, with the line to head back the other direction was already insane. We have that to look forward to I suppose. I guess we have that to look forward to.
For a $5 fee, we were able to dump at the Gold Rush Campground (wouldn’t recommend staying there though) and great that they offer the service to non guests. And because we have fresh water at our next spot, it was even better that we didn’t have to carry another 400 pounds on our 4-hour drive to Chicken. The cashier was nice enough to recommend a cheaper place to get gas “just beyond the bridge”. Even though it would be an extra 5 minutes out of our way, it was worth the $20 in savings. Ironically, it would end up being our most expensive fill up yet since we needed nearly all 32 gallons of gas to keep Hank going ($250 Canadian).
When we finally approached
the landing to take the ferry back across the river, it was then we realized we should have taken care of all this business the night before. The wait…..3 hours. At least Jeff had a good book to read, but for myself, I only had about an hour left on battery power on my laptop to do some writing. The rest of my time was spent stitching. Once we boarded, it was nice to see the familiar faces of the staff that had helped get us across the previous 4 times. Yes, they too become your friends. With the rain we had yesterday, and the higher water levels, the workers were working hard to maintain a level ramp for us to land on. This time, they would need big 4 x 12 chunks of wood and us putting the truck in 4 WD to prevent bottoming out the hitch and the trailer. The combination seemed to do the trick. When you finally make it off, everyone feels a sense of accomplishment. Our gesture of a wave was our way of saying “thanks”!
From there we immediately hit the Top of the World Highway (Highway 9). What a cool name isn’t it? It is one of the farthest north highways in North America……..all 175 miles of it. Today, we would be doing only a 103-mile portion where within 5 minutes of being on it, the pavement turned to gravel; the hard packed kind and a sign that read, “This highway is not well-maintained. Proceed at your own risk.” Well, then, I guess this won’t be a slow and simple Sunday drive.
The current fires in Alaska are making for worse smoke, thus hazier skies much of which we could smell today. We even got a glimpse of them fairly close to the highway and wondered if maybe they were caused by lightning since there’s nothing out there? When you drive these long isolated roads, you feel like it’s something worth celebrating when you DO finally pass that fellow traveler, giving a wave and a smile as if it were a high-five……like “we’re all in this together brother!” I’d like to think that if any one of us became stranded that there’d be a helping hand and a knowledgeable mechanic!! 😝
As we fly by the many motorists with 1 or 2 spare tires on their roof, we’re amazed at the number of motorcyclists. Today would be a first of seeing one with not 1, but 2 spare tires strapped behind his seat. Seeing this guy, so prepared, made me wonder why more don’t follow suit. And it doesn’t even take up that much space.
We’re becoming quite the experts in anticipating those steep grades that are not always marked ahead of time. Some were as much as 9%. Inevitably, I always feel sorry for Hank when he’s put through these kinds of conditions; all that effort to maintain a decent speed, only to have to pull all that weight back up again. He definitely takes the prize!!!
A good five miles before arriving at the U.S./Canada border, we saw a sign illustrating a marijuana leaf with a slash through it. I suppose they give you fair warning to smoke all of it before crossing. Now that would make for one interesting encounter at border patrol! 🤪As we veered the turn, it was nice to see some familiarity with the American flag and the Imperial System once again. O.k. now where is the big “Welcome to Alaska” sign? Where’s our photo op? With the expectation of having one, it was a bit of a disappointment. So I guess the “Poker Creek, Alaska” sign would have to do.
As we approached the agent, there are what seem to be large yellow sensors that you have to go through first (maybe it’s scanning the inside of your vehicle)? This agent was more personable than the last, yet stern in her tone when we were asked for our passports, followed by a series of questions……. “Any tobacco, firearms, liquor, fruits and vegetables or firewood.” When Jeff responded with, “Yes, we have 5 pieces of firewood”, she then asked if there was any bark on it. “No”, Jeff answered. Then she said, “I’m not sure why I even asked you that because I can’t let you in with it anyway.” Evidently the guy ahead of us was really ticked off, since he had quite a load of it. From there, we were directed to a pullover spot to dump it along with everyone else’s pile. Enjoy your bonfire courtesy of your uninformed tourists AND for the first time, we are actually behind our family and friends in California, now being in the Alaska Time Zone, giving us a bonus hour!!
Once we were through, it was 20 miles to our RV park and paved roads……Uh, oh! Spoke too soon. We’re back to gravel. Does anyone know why they alternate surfaces? I must say that after miles of nothing but trees, shrubs and roads, it was a relief to see even a small number of buildings and chicken sculptures that make up the town of Chicken. With our many layers of dust and mud that came along for the ride, we finally arrived. I was so happy, I could have kissed a chicken! 🐓 We pulled into the first RV campground we saw, Chicken Creek RV Park otherwise known as the Gold Panner, thinking it was ours, only to be directed to the one just a mile further. With a population of 30, we were quite surprised to hear there were not just 1, but 2 RV parks. Anyway, it was nice of her to offer their services if we changed our mind. When we made it to Chicken Gold Camp and Outpost, we couldn’t help but notice the large chicken that greeted us. It will be nice to have 20-amps of service and handy water (though not at our site). Our initial and brief encounter with one of the staff was not the warm fuzzy greeting I was looking for. We were handed our car tag and directed to the water station to fill up Billie Jean, though felt a little guilty filling up our 40 gallons with their limited water supply; there is no well, so all of their water has to be hauled in and treated.
Adjacent to the water station were shower rooms appropriately labeled “Roosters” for the gentlemen and “Hens'' for the ladies. No politically correct LBGTQ labeled bathrooms here. As expected, our site #8 is in a big gravel parking lot. In fact it looks like it was previously an old parking lot maybe used for mining and decided to turn it into an RV resort. We met the owner who was very welcoming, but our neighbors, not so much. After long moving days, as we always do, we let Sadie out off-leash to get familiar with her surroundings before tethering her up (which she hates). Within seconds, Sadie met the neighbor’s friendly dog to which the owner said, “You know there’s a leash rule at this campground.” O.k. then, I guess this was an indication of how the next few days were going to go, though we won’t let her rain on our parade. She would just be one of the handful of people we’ve met on our journey who has chosen not to be pleasant. If it’s any consolation, the other campers were normal, happy people!
After setting up and the fact we had plenty of water (though we still have to conserve), the first business at hand was my much overdue hair washing. Ahh…..the joy that water brings, making me feel whole again.
We’ve missed the “midnight sun” by 2 weeks, now that we’re past the Summer Solstice. But being this far north is still giving us a lingering sunset that runs horizontal, lasting until the late hours of the night to where it maxes out at twilight status. Definitely not easy to adjust to.