This is a continuation of our family trek from Fort Mill, South Carolina to Fairbanks, Alaska. For other parts in the series, click on the links below:
Day One (Part One) – South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee
Day One (Part Two) – Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri
Day Two – Missouri, Iowa, South Dakota
Day Three & Four – South Dakota (Mount Rushmore)
Day Five – South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana
Day Six & Seven – Montana, Alberta Canada
Day Eight – British Columbia, Canada
Day Nine – YUKON TERRITORY
We woke up rather early at our bizarro Canadian rest stop and headed out towards a city called Whitehorse, population 25,000 people. We had no way of knowing it at the time, but apparently Whitehorse is not only the capital of Yukon, it is actually the only recognized ‘city’ in all of Yukon. Makes sense. Yukon has a total population of roughly 35k and almost three-fourths of them all live in that one spot. We booked a hotel for the evening, based on our search criteria of “two beds, non-smoking, pet-friendly, cost-efficient” … well, turns out the hotel that we got actually didn’t meet one of those demands.
Tucker, our friendly pup, could not stay. Luckily there was a dog boarding facility in the city, albeit some 8 miles out of town. The lady running the place was friendly enough but had a hint of French totalitarian to her. She seemed to have a real passion for dogs though, so we prayed for the best and left our four-legged friend in her care. Not bad for 18 Canadian dollars (again, whatever that means). As for Nooches, he’s a resilient cat. The temperature that evening wasn’t going to dip below 60 so we knew we could leave him in the car with food, water, litter, and the windows cracked.
Check-in was not until 3:00 that afternoon so we had to kill time. What better way to do it than seeing the sights and sounds of Whitehorse? We had breakfast at the Burnt Toast Café where I ate the Canadian themed “Maple Banger and Eggs” – a bratwurst injected with maple syrup – and my wife tried the French-Canadian “Croque Madame”. They were alright but still no substitute for country-lovin’ bacon and eggs. God bless America. The restaurant had a hipster feel but I can survive anything so long as hash browns are involved. The joint was pretty good, overall.
We next hit up the Whitehorse mall. It wasn’t a mall like we’re all used to – no this was … interesting. It was kind of like a flea market of sorts with random flooring, carpet, and walls separating the dozen stores inside. We checked out a toy store that sold nothing you’ve ever heard of such as an entire line of Hape toys. Right? It was a nice place, though. Which I guess is the theme of Whitehorse: extremely unfamiliar to a Midwestern American but nice enough that it didn’t bother me. There was also a Subway restaurant to keep the society recognizable to us but, c’mon, those things are located everywhere.
We got to check out the Yukon river up close, the same river that our new hometown Koyukuk river empties into. While sitting there, we continued to be annoyed by the one animal that had surrounded us for the previous two days: ravens. There are two things to know about Northern Canada and Alaska – there are a ton of bugs and there are a ton of ravens. First, look at the picture of our car. That is from one night of Canadian Rockies driving. Bug guts layered on top of bug guts. As for the latter? Big, fat, ugly, ravens. KAWWW. KAWWW. KAWWW. What a horrid noise from a horrid animal. Sometimes they don’t even make that well-known sound, but more of a gurgle-chirp that I usually pray means they are dying. I hate the sound and I hate them, mostly because I am a Browns fan and Art Modell convinced me to hate an entire species.
After that we stopped at Wal-Mart, but I stayed in the car and took a nap. Wal-Mart is everywhere, friends. I believe my wife and kids took an hour in the store because I felt pretty well rested after that. Somehow, just walking around and observing stuff in the town, we had killed enough time to get to the hotel. After washing up and putting on new socks, we went down the hall to the restaurant located in the hotel – a purely Japanese affair. This marked my third trip into Canada and for reasons that only the universe can explain, I have eaten sushi all three times. There must be some connection I am missing.
I washed it down with a True North beer, my attempt at experiencing the full taste of the Great White North. My wife, meanwhile, had to stay true to her roots with a Corona. I love her! After ordering a variety of things that my kids disdained, we finally left and got them Subway, after all. Back at the hotel, my wife and I were still hungry, so we went back to the restaurant and ate more forms of raw fish, rice, and noodles. It was a fun experience and gave me a great opportunity to test some of the little Japanese I remembered from working at Sumitomo four years earlier. The waitress was pretty excited that I guessed she was from Osaka (I mean, there’s only two cities in Japan that any American could guess), spoke a little Nihongo, and shouted “genke desu ka!”
I’m not sure that I’d recommend anybody drive this far North just to see Whitehorse, but it is a memory that I’m glad to have and its worth saying I’ve been there. Everybody was pleasant enough so, nothing harsh to say about this city of the far north.
Next up: We reach Alaska, spending the night camping in Tok! We’re a day and a half from our destination: Fairbanks!