An adventure in Dawson City brought total strangers together

The television ad featured a big touring motorcycle. I was 64 years old, I had never owned a bike before, and I knew this was one I could ride. The Spyder RTS had two front wheels and a drive wheel. I went to the dealer the next day and bought one.

That was six years and 150,000 kilometres ago. Riding my bike has proven that there is always something on the other side of the hill that I just have to see. And when I get there, there’s another hill.

The roadside memorial for the Humboldt Broncos bus crash. | Derek Quittenton

This summer I completed the Dust to Dawson (D2D) summer solstice ride. For four days in Dawson City, I never saw it get dark. I was one of about 100 motorcycle riders from all over North America and a handful from Europe. Nearly all the bikes were the adventure touring types: Triumph Tiger, KTM, BMW 1200 GS, and my dream bike, the infamous world rally champion, the Honda Africa Twin. 

Klondike River, Whitehorse. | Derek Quittenton

The D2D is a standout for adventure tour bikers. For 28 summers, travellers have arrived for a summer solstice gathering in June. I put up my tent and joined the street party. The whole city was wrapped in an aura of happiness. The weather was perfect, the crowd was friendly, and the beer was cold.

Derek Quittenton on his Spyder in Skagway, Alaska. | Supplied

At 12:47 am, we sat around the picnic tables, sun hats on, in shorts and short-sleeved shirts. My neighbours were an American husband and wife team on monster bikes, matching green and cream Indian Chiefs. A skinny, young engineering student from Holland rode an unbelievably small Honda 250 cc all the way from Halifax. There was not a single Harley. Gadzooks! What? Get my Harley dirty? 

The Spyder at the end of the motorcycling season. | Derek Quittenton

Then there was me, with the only Spyder RTS. 

A pair of RCMP officers in a patrol car cruised by the campsite. I waved them over. “You guys have been invisible,” I said. “Where have you been?” 

They laughed. The female officer asked, “Is this your first time for the D2D?” I nodded. She shook her head. She explained that the D2D is the money maker for Dawson City for the summer. Stores, bars, taverns, and restaurants make a third to a quarter of their annual income during these four days. 

Conflux of the dark Klondike River, mineral laden, with the white glacier silt of the mighty Yukon River, Dawson City, Yukon. | Derek Quittenton

“It’s the quietest time of the summer for us,” she added. “All you guys want to do is drink beer, tell lies about where you’ve been, and just have fun. None of you is stupid enough to ride after drinking. Once in a while, we have to walk one of you back to your tent, if you can remember which one it is!” 

The aptly named carhenge in Lamont, Alberta. | Derek Quittenton

I invited the pair of them over for a beer after their shift. “We’ll get right on that,” was the officer’s reply, and she and her partner drove on to their patrol.

I didn’t hear, see, or feel any toughness or tension the whole weekend. It proved that a bunch of total strangers could come together and have a great time. I’ve now experienced the motorcycle touring fantasy I saw on television.  I heartily encourage you to go for your dream. Got to love my bike!

Featured Image: Bishop Brook Pond Falls in Newfoundland. | Derek Quittenton