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Yukon: Dust 2 Dawson

Mile 2990 to 3070

Dawson City was home to the 2016 Dust 2 Dawson (D2D), as well as the 23 “gatherings” before. To fill in on a little history for those who have not made it to Dawson City (politely pulling from the D2D thread so that more people can share this great story):

A couple riders from Oklahoma (Cash & Jim) planned their mega trip to Alaska in 1990. They had pre-paid for a local rally, but a month before the ride Cash suffered a major heart attack. Jim was able to save his friend’s life on the third try of the paddles after pushing on the paramedics. But that did mean their trip to the frontier was off. The local Alaskan club read the note they sent and kindly provided a refund. In June 1992 “Fighter” from the Alaska club was on a solo run to Dawson City and saw two Oklahoma plates at the Midnight Sun. Remembering the story of the riders from Oklahoma he went inside and found Jim & Cash, finally tackling their big trip north after rehab. They all agreed to tackle the 500 mile run up Dempster Highway together and reached the Arctic Circle on Cash’s 60th birthday. After that great ride, Jim & Cash made a pact that if either of them died, the survivor would return to the north with the others remains.

Unfortunately in 1994 Cash gave Fighter a call from the road in Whitehorse. Jim was on his BMW one night in October when a Suburban came and cut his life short. Cash was now retracing their exact route from 1992, right down to the campsites, cafes, and pictures from the same vantage points. Jim met up at the Midnight Sun in Dawson City with Fighter before giving Cash gave a heartfelt final goodbye next to a tree on the road to Eagle. The plaque posted at the tree now reads “May all your rides be good..and your final ride to heaven by your best!” The Dawson City reunion became the starting point for the D2D gathering.

Dawson City is just a cool little town straight from the old west. And fortunately for my first trek there, the weather was about as perfect as the motorcycle gods could make it.

I easily found the Goldrush Campgroound, my home for the next two nights. It appeared to be mainly an RV campground, but since tent spots were reserved the prior year newbies like me were allotted the slightly more expensive RV spots. You could see some of these RV spots inhabited by a half dozen D2D rider along with a row of their bikes.

I met Rick in the neighboring site who was traveling to D2D from British Columbia with his brother Pete. Since my site was ample, I let it be known that I was happy to share. Within the hour Wes, a rider from Anchorage, swung by and I was happy to meet up with him. Unfortunately I missed getting a snapshot of me, Wes, Rick, and Pete, but the first night me and Wes headed to Klondike Kate’s and had an excellent dinner.

Wes had driven across the Top of the World Highway today and said it was in fine condition, even though he drove it a bit slower since he paired up with a larger group of riders who wanted to ride it cautiously. While we were at Klondike Kate’s we meet Matthew, a rider from the Scotland, seated next to us. His adventure ride seemed even more fascinating that mine. Just like me he had started his ride in Los Angeles, but he headed South into Mexico first. Following that he took the Stahlratte to Cuba. The Stahlratte is this fascinating book that routes back and forth across the Caribbean and is a fun way to cross the Darien Gap if the timing aligns. Matthew told us his stories of solo riding for a month across Cuba before making his way across the US and up to Canada and D2D. The rest of that first night was spent exploring Dawson City, home a a number of good old fashioned saloons complete with fine whiskey and piano players.

Friday morning in Dawson City had no major events, but afternoon and evening hours were filled. Mid-day a Poker Run was scheduled so sign-up took place at the Triple J hotel. There was a nice turnout for this year’s gathering, with 300+ riders. The Poker Run was a way to bring many of them together to get out and around the area. The entry fee was $10, with the goal to get the best five cards for your hand. The fun part was that you had to ride around 60 miles of the old 1898 Klondike gold fields to collect those cards. First card was drawn at entry, and then you had about 3 hours to make it around the way points mapped out for you to collect cards 2-5 (a fifth wild card was at Dick’s house, who is the local Dawson guru and organizer).

My first draw was a 7 of clubs. Not good. So I set out to the first way point with the other riders, which was old Dredge #4. The road was mainly gravel – some areas were straight, clean, and flat. Others, much less so. Up to the dredge and well past you did have good roads. I mainly kept solo since you quickly found out that riding in packs meant that only the lead dog had clear riding. Everyone else behind dealt with a cloud of dust and the danger on these tight mountain roads was that you did encounter the occasional Jeep or other vehicle buzzing the opposite direction. If you skewed center to avoid a groove or pothole, you had to stay sharp with the dust cloud ahead of you to ensure you wouldn’t go splat against a steel box’s windshield.

Next waypoint was King Solomon’s Dome, and high peak radio tower lookout which had the worst road conditions of the ride. A 40 degree incline a tight access road uphill, filled with mudded grooves. Tough to ride with bikes going up and down. After that the flat roads also got worse. Many of them were just covered in what appeared to be junk paydirt ditched by the gold mining trucks to fill in prior poor roads. A little challenge to ride on with the stock tires I had on the V-Strom. But overall looking back (since nothing happened to wreak my bike) the ride through gold country was a very fun one especially if you enjoy dirt road riding. Then the route returned to pavement for a waypoint back on the way into Dawson City. I finally had a good card – an Ace of Diamonds – but certainly not enough to save the junk hand I was dealt that day. I would not be the prize winner for this particular Poker Run but all the same it was a really good afternoon.

Evening in Dawson kicked off with a banquet at the local ice rink attended by the mass of riders from D2D. I continued to meet riders from across the country with fascinating backstories on where they were from and the rides they were taking. Good company and good food all around.

Friday night at D2D ended with Biker Games over at the Triple J Hotel, the center of activity for the gathering in Dawson City. These games were a way to pull everyone together in a way still centered on the bikes, and to kill some time leading up to the midnight group photo of attendees. People slowly made it across the street from the banquet and many pulled their bikes into the narrow lot behind the hotel (to stage them for the upcoming group photo). Then each grabbed a space wherever they could find one to enjoy the ensuing couple hours of entertainment.

The games were all skill based and open entry to whomever had the drive to put their motorcycle abilities on display. First test entailed lining up four bikes and seeing who could handle their bike the slowest without a stall. Second test involved tossing on a blindfold and stopping your bike closest to the mark based on the cheers of the crowd. A few more humorous events ensued, with a great crowd hanging out throughout. After it was all a wrap, came time to pull the bikes in for a group shot I hung back on the railing besides the hotel to snag a reverse view of the mass of riders. To sum up D2D, not a rally, but a gathering of like-minded adventure riders. A way to see a great part of the North at the best time of year to travel there (not all years are as perfect as this one of course). And a fun way to meet others who may cross paths with you on the miles ahead. Well worth a trek if you can make it.

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