Alaska to Maine,
Ride of the Millennium
MAP OF DAYS 1-6
Map Courtesy of DeLorme Publication. Thank You DeLorme for your Generosity!
NOTE: Each Number on this map represents each day.
APPROXIMATE NUMBER OF MILES: 6,000
Well, we finally started off on Monday morning (January 10, 2000). We drove to Bangor International Airport to catch our 11:20 am flight to Boston. Thanks to Michelle St. Peter (Kirk’s daughter) and Alyssa Gagnon, who came down with us to drive the car back to Caribou.
Mike McCarthy overcame his fear of flying, which was unfortunate for the man in the seat next to him, because he had to listen to Mike ramble on about our trip for the one hour flight to Boston. The second leg of our flight from Boston to Minneapolis was good except for the two crying babies in the row behind us (no rest for the weary!). Our final flight to Anchorage (6 hours) was pleasant, thanks to the nice lady who conversed with McCarthy all the way, so we didn’t have to.
We were met at the airport by Connie Pelletier (a former Caribou native) who came by to say hi, offer her assistance, and wish us well. Scott Kieffer (another former Caribou native) took excellent care of us. We loaded up his Chevy Suburban (the Alaskan Cadillac) with all of our gear and he drove us to The Long House Alaskan Hotel where we received a warm welcome and a 30% discount. Scott then gave us a quick tour of Anchorage (population of 250,000) where we met up with “Mortimer The Moose”, who was busily munching on tree buds in downtown Anchorage. We ended the day with Scott taking us to the Lone Star Restaurant for a great steak dinner at 2:00 am Caribou time. Thanks to Barrett Willey, owner of Four Season’s Yamaha in Caribou, for picking up the tab.
On Tuesday morning (January 11, 2000), our internal clocks woke us up at 4:00 am Alaska time. By 7:00 am, we were at Walmart picking up some final supplies, then we picked up our rental truck and finally headed to Alaskan Power Sports, the world’s largest Polaris Dealer, where we loaded up our three 550 Indy Trail Touring snowmobiles and a few miscellaneous supplies. Special thanks to Jim Wilke, the owner, for having the sleds ready to go and giving us a nice discount on the supplies.
While we were at Alaskan Power Sports, we were met by Quentin McCubrey, a former Caribou teacher for all three of us. Although it was great to talk to Quentin, Mike Ouellette was a little nervous that Quentin would remember that he still owed him a one hour detention.
We were on the road at 11:00 am, heading from Anchorage to Tok on the Glenn Highway. On the way, we stopped at Eagle River Polaris in Eagle River to pick up a few more supplies. As we were driving to the dealership, we almost went off the road in our excitement to quickly pull over to take pictures of 10 or 15 bald eagles perched in a tree on the side of the road.
The trip to Tok was absolutely spectacular. It was a beautiful, clear day and driving through the mountains was breath taking. We followed the Copper River and saw snow-covered mountains and glaciers. As an added bonus, we got a beautiful view of a “Sun Dog”, a rainbow-like phenomenon between two mountain peaks. We ate lunch at the Eureka Restaurant, where we met people who had heard about our adventure on the news.
We arrived at Northern Performance (the Polaris Dealer in Tok) at 7:30 pm. The owners, Greg and Candy Thurneau, and their three beautiful little girls (Natasha, Danielle, and Annaliese) met us and helped unload our sleds. They even allowed us to store the sleds in their heated garage - very nice! Greg joined us for dinner at Fast Eddies Restaurant, where he enlightened us with the history of the area and the way of life around Tok, Alaska. We spent the night at Young’s Motel and of course, woke up at 4:00 am (we hate jet lag!).
Wednesday morning (January 12, 2000) greeted us with -45ºF weather. We went to Northern Performance to put cargo racks, saddlebags, etc. on the sleds. We plan to set off Thursday morning (weather permitting).
Finally, we heard from Mark Baker that about $3,000 has been raised so far for the Pine Tree Camp for Handicapped Children and Pine Tree Burn Foundation - That’s Great!
We were up at 6:00 am with 8 hours of sleep, finally - AHHHH! The weather in Tok, Alaska was -50ºF with ice fog. We took our new sleds for a ride to “shake them out” and went 45 miles up the Taylor Highway (an unplowed road from Tok to Eagle, Alaska). The windscreens and cowling bibs worked great. Thank you, Kendall Sutherland and Cushman’s Embroidery for making them for us. To the right are some photographs taken at Northern Performance (the Polaris dealer in Tok, Alaska) of all three sleds and a close-up of one of the sleds with the windscreen and cowling bib. In the third photo from the top, Greg and Candy Thurneau (owners of Northern Performance) are the two people standing behind the sled with us. The last photo shows Mike McCarthy and Kirk St. Peter working on the tote sled, while Mike Ouellette tells us what to do (as usual).
On the ride up the Taylor Highway, we saw at least 100 caribou in herds of 2 to 10 at a time. We came back to Northern Performance by 4:00 pm and spent the next few hours packing our sleds and tote for an early start tomorrow (January 14, 2000). To the above right are some photographs taken at Northern Performance during the ceremony for the transfer of the Alaska flag at about 7:00 pm this evening. We are taking the flag back to Maine with us.
On Friday, January 14th, we were on the trail (the unplowed Taylor Highway - Route 5) by 9:00 am (1 hour before sunrise here). Greg Thurneau and his friend James joined us on the ride from Tok to Boundary, Alaska (population 1), near the border with the Yukon Territory in Canada. On the ride, we again saw numerous caribou, a few moose and 5 wolves running up the side of a mountain. We also passed through a town called “Chicken” on the way to Boundary. [Any kids who find the name interesting might want to research why it’s called that - we’ll let you know later on.] We arrived at Boundary Lodge at 1:30 pm, gassed up and went east to the border crossing to find out what the trail conditions were like, while Greg and James went back to Tok, Alaska. The trail east of Boundary was unbroken with at least 1 foot of snow, so we decided to spend the night at Boundary Lodge and get an early start the next morning on the Top of the World Highway to Dawson City in the Yukon Territory.
Louie Peet, the sole employee at Boundary Lodge and only year-round resident of Boundary, fired up the kerosene stove in our cabin so that by the time we went in it was heated to a balmy 20ºF (above zero). We enjoyed a nice MRE dinner, then bundled up in our nice, new -20ºF rated sleeping bags and were snoring up a storm by 7:00 pm.
Saturday, January 15th we were up at 6:00 am and the temperature was a relatively mild -20ºF. [It’s warmer on top of the mountains than in the valleys, without the wind - why this is true is another research question for any interested kids.] We had coffee and a light breakfast with Louis and set off around 9:00 am (still dark here, remember). The going wasn’t too bad for the first 15 miles or so - a little dangerous in spots where we had to creep along at 5 mph (along the edges of cliffs). We took our time because we didn’t need any trouble at this point in our quest. Just when the going started to get tough, breaking trail through 18 inches of snow, we met up with our guide, Sylvain Fleurant, who had come west from Dawson City and broke trail for us. In spots, he actually had to get off his sled and snowshoe ahead for 100 feet at a time to pack the snow down before he drove over it. Boy, were we glad to see him - there is no way we could have made it to Dawson City without him and his friend Ron McCready, because we were traveling heavy with extra gas, clothing, survival gear and a tote sled, and the snow kept getting deeper and deeper. Even with the trail broken for us, we got stuck 4 or 5 times going up a hill with at least 4 feet of very soft and fluffy snow. Pulling each other out in the thin air was exhausting, but once we got to the top of the hill (approximately a mile long), the riding was very good. The final 30 miles to Dawson City was easy because the wind blew the snow off the hillside, so we were on crusty ice. We got to Dawson City at about 7:00 pm, tired, but happy to finally be there, and we had the distinction of being the first people to cross the border and the Top of the World Highway in the new millennium!
Sylvain let us store our sleds in his heated garage and we checked into the Downtown Hotel. We had a nice steak dinner, then met with Sylvain and his girlfriend, Chris Ball. We were joined by Bill Holmes, President of the Dawson City Snowmobile Club, who was very helpful in the planning stages of our trip via e-mail and telephone calls. We presented Bill with a Maine flag that had flown over the Maine State Capitol Building. In return, he made us honorary members of the Dawson City Snowmobile Club. Bill is also president of the “Sourtoe Cocktail Club” and keeper of “The Toe”. All three of us joined the club with over 18,000 other crazy people, got our names in the ol’ log book and received our “Sourtoe Certificates” by following the rules, “You can drink it fast, you can drink it slow, but your lips have got to touch the toe!” Yep, that’s a real human toe, folks! The club was born on August 17, 1973, when Captain Dick Stephenson found a human toe under the floorboards of an old cabin he had bought. The toe had been 'pickled' in a jelly jar full of rum under the floor of the cabin for 44 years and had quite a history. Visit http://members.delphi.com/toe2/index.html for a complete history of the “Sourtoe Cocktail Club” with “yukky” color pictures of the toe.
Well, that’s it for now - signing off from the Downtown Hotel in Dawson City in the Yukon Territory in Canada. Depending on the weather (as always), we will set out soon for our next stop, Carmacks, on the Klondike Loop. We’ll try to send an update from there. We heard from Mark Baker that almost $4,000 has been raised to date for the Pine Tree Camp and Pine Tree Burn Foundation. Thanks for all the support here, along the way, and at home and keep those pledges rolling in.
It was -45 F here at Dawson City (population 2,019) in Yukon Territory, Canada this morning. We were up at 6:00 am and packed our survival gear so Sylvain could ship it back to Caribou (Thanks again, Sylvain). We donated our tote sled to the Dawson City Snowmobile Club and left Dawson City by 11:00 am. We traveled down the shoulder of the road on the "Klondike Loop" towards Carmacks. The shoulder had about ½ inch of powder, but was only about 3-4 feet wide. Therefore, our left ski was riding on the gravel road quite a bit. By the time we got to Stewart Crossing (110 miles from Dawson City), our left carbide ski runners (also called "skags") were badly worn (Kirk's fell off), so we installed the "Mike Ouellette/BMW" homemade wheel kit on Kirk's left ski for the ride tomorrow.
Thanks to Richard Schwab, manager of Stewart Crossing Shell, who let us store our sleds in his garage overnight. We walked to Whispering Willows RV Park (right next door to the Shell station), where Jerald Graham (the owner and a friend of Sylvain's), put us up in his beautiful log home for the night. Jerald cooked us a great steak dinner (Kirk's wife is concerned about his eating habits - steak, steak and more steak), we chatted with Jerald for a while, then off to bed - ZZZZZZ. Thank you for your hospitality, Jerald, and we want to thank Matthew for the washers we needed for our wheel kits.
It was -22ºF when we got up at 7:00 am in Stewart Crossing this morning. [A note to those of you who mentioned having a map at our web site to follow our trip, we heard that the folks back home are working on it, but no promises yet.] We called Chris Smeetom at Checkered Flag Recreation (the Polaris dealer in Whitehorse, Yukon) and he sent 6 sets of carbide runners via currier service to us at Sunrise Service Center in Carmacks. For you non-sledders, carbides or "skags" go on the skis and help to steer the sled.
We left Stewart Crossing at 10:30 am, with Kirk using one wheel kit on his left ski. Mike and Mike (or "M&M") were still O.K. with their skis until we had gone about 50 miles, then we installed the wheel kits on the left ski of M&M's sleds, as well, which only took about 10-15 minutes. We rode to Carmacks like that and would not have made it without the wheel kits, because the skis would have burned up. Thank God for Mike O's foresight and ingenuity - we were prepared! We arrived at Sunrise Service Center around 3:00 pm and the new carbides had arrived about ½ hour before us. [God is definitely watching and taking care of us; it seems all of the prayers of family and friends (and us) are being answered.] We removed our wheel kits and installed our new carbides on the left skis in Sunrise Service's heated garage bay at no charge - Thanks Guys!
We left Carmacks for Faro on the Campbell Highway (aka the Watson Lake-Carmacks Road) by 5:00 pm. The Campbell Highway is also a gravel road, but had a little more snow on it. It was still hard on the carbide runners, but not as bad as the Klondike Loop. We arrived at Redmond's Motel in Faro (population 500) at 8:30 pm. We traveled over 220 miles today - a good ride. Although the motel was closed (it's the only one in town), we called the owner, who not only let us in, but whipped us up a nice dinner in the restaurant (guess what Kirk had). Mounted in the restaurant was a 42-pound trout that the owner had caught in Little Salmon Lake (approximately 50 miles away).
(Day 6) Wednesday, January 19, 2000A little warmer, at -20ºF, when we woke up at 7:00 am today in Watson Lake (still in Yukon Territory, but close to British Columbia). Terry Scanlan picked us up and took us to his shop. With the help of Danny Mohr (the mechanic) we checked out the clutches, drive trains, etc. (almost 1,000 miles on the sleds this far). Everything was A-OK with the sleds (go Polaris). Terry gave Kirk a used ski because the left one on his sled was badly worn. We went back to the Belevedere Hotel and met with Michelle Philips of the "Watson Ink", the local newspaper. Michelle interviewed us for the newspaper and took photographs of us mounting the "Caribou, Maine/MKM/January 2000" sign made for us by Dave Bell, Sr., the Director of Caribou Public Works Department back home. Watson Lake has over 41,000 signs at a sign post location in town and invites visitors to post a sign from their home town, so before we left we contacted Dave about bringing a sign from Caribou. He readily agreed and it is now the second sign from Caribou, Maine (that we know of) to be posted at Watson Lake. By the way, we heard that today is Dave's birthday - Happy Birthday, Dave, hope you liked the hat with the "Alaska to Maine" logo (the one on this web site).
Before we left the Belvedere Hotel in Watson Lake, Kirk's wife Cheryl printed the Guestbook off the web page and faxed it to us. We don't mind telling you how touched we were (teary-eyed, actually) to hear from all of the people that are wishing us well - please keep it up, very uplifting! Cheryl intends to fax us the updated pages whenever we have access to a fax machine.
Watson Lake is where we leave the Campbell Highway and start on the Alaska Highway (which has quite a history for those of you interested). We plan to spend the night tonight at Liard River (136 miles from Watson Lake, at Historical Mile 496). We read in "The Milepost" (Trip Planner for Alaska, Yukon Territory, British Columbia, Alberta and Northwest Territories) about the hot spring at Liard River and couldn't pass up the opportunity to try it (we could use some thawing out)! Thanks for all your support and we'll keep updating you on our progress whenever we can. Oh, and keep the pledges rolling in - remember all the money pledged goes to charity, either the Pine Tree Camp for Handicapped Children or the Pine Tree Burn Foundation.
[According to "The Milepost", story has it that the town named "Chicken" in Alaska is so-called because the early miners who settled the town wanted to name it after the Alaska State Bird, the "Ptarmigan", but they were unable to spell it, so they settled for the name "Chicken". Guess they should have stayed in school instead of mining for gold in Alaska. We'll let you in on the temperature difference question later and if we come across other interesting tidbits, we'll try to include them.] On our way from Watson Lake to Liard River (136 miles), we saw 15 or 20 buffalo along the side of the road. We got within 100 feet or so to get 8 pictures. It wasn't until later that night that Rusty Stevenson (a salesman we met in the restaurant) told us buffalo would get aggravated and charge if you got too close. Ignorance is bliss. Besides, we don't see many buffalo in Caribou. [We haven't seen any polar bears, and won't - why not? This is another question for those curious school kids following these updates.]
At Liard River, we stayed at Trapper Ray's Liard Hotsprings Lodge, a beautiful new (1994) log motel and restaurant at Historical Mile 497 on the Alaska Highway (out of the Yukon and in British Columbia now). We had a fantastic beef stew dinner (no steak tonight for Kirk - but beef stew still has red meat in it - yum!) and then headed off to the hot springs. This was an unbelievable experience! It was a clear night with a nearly full moon and a 10 minute walk through the woods on a boardwalk led us to a pool (50 feet wide by 200 feet long by 3 feet deep), with 108ºF to 120ºF water. We got into the water in our birthday suits (the "Chip-n-Dale" guys have nothing over us three hunks from The County) and wallowed around for an hour or so (10:00 - 11:00 pm). All of our chilled bones from the previous 5 days of riding were completely thawed out and it felt great! [You were right though, Cheryl, there weren't any naked women in the hot springs this time of year - too bad!]
[We forgot to mention previously the meteorite that lit up the sky in the Yukon Territory on January 13th. Did it make the news back home? Mike O. was outside loading up his sled at about 8:00 am on the 13th (still dark here, remember) when he saw the huge flash in the sky (he mentioned that it looked like an explosion in his radio interview). It must have been an omen.]