Max, at his last Moroccan campsite just south of Tangier, Morocco.
Where are Kevin and Ruth now? Waiting to board the ferry to Spain.

Where are Kevin and Ruth going next? Heading towards Seville, Spain.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Third day driving on the Dempster Highway... we didn't get very far!

The Dempster Highway is an unpaved highway stretching 736 km (457 miles) from Dawson City, Yukon to Inuvik, Northwest Territories. They started building it in 1959, and it was completed 20 years later in 1979.

I had read that the Dempster Highway is "well maintained", but I guess that is all perspective. When it rains, it is not "well maintained", and the highway becomes a mud pit in a lot of places.

The Dempster Highway...

We are currently in Eagle Plains as I post this...

Here is our report from Wednesday June 27...

We slept well, even though it had rained all night long, and it was still raining when we got up in the morning. We even slept in, not getting up until almost 8:00am which is not like us at all. 

We thought about just waiting it out, but the sky honestly looked like it was going to rain all day. And, we were only about 115 kms (71 miles) from Eagle Plains where there is a gas station, repair shop, motel, campground, and... internet! So, we decided to do some driving in the mud.

I fired up Sherman and backed him down off the leveling blocks. When I went outside to pick up the blocks, I quickly noticed that we weren't going anywhere! At least not until I put some air in the right rear outer tire. It was totally flat. I had noticed yesterday when I drove up on the blocks that the tire looked low, but I didn't expect it to be flat.

I carry a good quality pump, but it's designed for topping up a tire... not filling a big one from empty. Still, it will do the job, it just takes some time because you have to let the pump cool down when it gets too hot. 

I put the awning out so I wouldn't have to get wet, and started filling up the tire. 

Filling Sherman's tire.

Parked in the clouds and rain.

Of course the question now is.... where is it leaking from?? I ran my hands over the tread but couldn't feel anything abnormal. But once I got it full, I could hear a little hiss in between one of the treads. The ground was too wet and muddy to lie in to try and see what it was, but at least I know where the slow leak is coming from.

We finally set off at 10:36am.


An hour later, at 11:36am, we had driven a total of 26 kms (16 miles). The road was in terrible shape, and getting worse as we went along. Now, it seems that 20 to 40 km/h (12 to 24 mph) is the best we are comfortable doing! Which is fine, since we are in no rush. But it's no fun, and you can't see any scenery, so we pulled over at around noon at a turn around area having driven a total of 33 kms (21 miles) in about an hour and a half.

When the rain finally let up at about 5:30pm, I went outside and took some photos of what was to be our overnight spot.

Sherman is going to need a serious bath when this is over!

Not an ideal overnight spot, but it will do.

The road out front.

The tire with the slow leak is holding up, but it will have to be topped up before we set off again. We are now only 82 kms (51 miles) from Eagle Plains, but the road is simply not enjoyable to drive so we will wait out the rain here. We have enough supplies that we could feasibly sit here for four or five days or probably longer if we had to. 

Later on, a pickup truck towing a travel trailer pulled in and also spent the night.

So, a bit of a lazy day for us, but it was better than driving in the rain and mud. Thursday was a bit better, but not much. Stay tuned and I'll post that report soon!

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  1. Wow, you're brave to continue on with a leaking spare? At least you've reached Eagle Plains and hoping the rain lets up. What an travels and take care. Does the cold temp have anything to do with tire leaking...I'm curious. I'm thinking the tires might get cold and brittle. Weather map doesn't show us how cold it is or any weather activity at all.

    1. If it is anything like the Cassiar Highway they use crushed rock on the roads, leaving many very sharp shards of rock. It was not unusual for us to get two flats in the company 4X4 on a trip on that road.

    2. Rita, it is one of our back tires of which we have two on each side so for the distance that we were traveling and the fact that the leak was a slow one, plus traveling at a slow speed there was no danger in doing any damage.

      No, the cold temperature wouldn't have anything to do with it, remember the temperature regularly goes below -40C/-40F in the winter here. Plus, it isn't cold to start with, lows at night about 10C/50F and highs during the day 15C/60F or higher. You need to google temperature or weather for Fort McPherson or Inuvik and it will give you the weather for this area, whether they are correct or not is a crap shoot.

      Croft, it is probably worse than the Cassiar but again, if you travel slow you are less likely to have a flat. This leaky tire was not due to the road as such but an old nail that had been in the tire for a while and just finally wore the head down or broke it, which would have probably been exasperated the rough roads.

  2. A bit of a set back but you guys are well seasoned roadies. I guess changing a tire like that is heavy work...

    1. Not much of a set back, more like at sit back and wait kind of thing. You need to have lots of patience when driving this road.

      Kevin didn't need to remove the tire in order to plug it, which made it easier.

  3. We had a similar scenario like you when we traveled the Top of the World Highway in the rain and slippery mud. We had nowhere to pull over so we drove at a snail’s pace so as not to slide off the cliff until we reached Chicken, Alaska. When we arrived we were completely covered in red mud. Lol! But so was everyone else who drove into Chicken that day! Hope you won’t have any more tire problems the next few days.

    1. Nope it isn't fun driving in conditions like that. It was nice that we were able to boondock along the way whenever the roads got too bad.

      Sherman is cleaner than most of the units we have seen. We will have to get a picture of one of them. ;-)

  4. Man, that road looks AWFUL! I hate mud under any circumstances -- walking and hiking in it are more usual than driving in it, though! Glad you just had a slow leak and not a blowout, like we did. Our inner rear dually totally shredded in a very violent manner. It was scary, but since it was a dually, my husband was able to maintain control of our motorhome and get us safely to the side of the highway. We then had to drive nine miles on the one remaining tire to get to the tire shop, and that was scary, as the temperature was 100 out, causing our remaining tire to build up pressure. Thankfully, we made it without blowing out that one too!

    1. The road wasn't too bad until later in the day, we stopped before we really got to the bad stuff. I can't imagine people driving in it but there were still the odd ones out there on the road and they were literally covered in mud.

      We have had the same thing happen to us years ago in Mexico and both times it was a rear dually so we kept driving very slowly until we got to a repair shop, luckily we weren't going fast either time it happened and it wasn't a blowout but the tread separated on both occasions. Glad you got to a shop safely and were able to get it replaced. Definitely not fun!

      Kevin got our slow leak repaired with a plug kit that we had and it has been as good as new since and holding air with no problem. :-)

  5. I hope your trip south is better, the Dempster can be a "well maintained" highway when it is dry, in fact even a pleasure to drive. It is sure spectacular from a scenery point of view.

    1. Well I suppose it is a well maintained road for the average truck, not so much for a 28' motorhome but if you are patient and drive slowly it can be done, we are proof of that. Yes, the scenery has been spectacular. We are definitely glad we made the drive up now we just have to be patient and wait for some good weather in order to at least get back to the main Dempster Highway from up here in Tuk but unfortunately the weather gods aren't helping us out!


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