About 5 years ago, a friend and I were driving from Las Vegas, Nevada to Grand Junction, Colorado. At some point on Interstate 70, we came across the little outpost of Salina, Utah.
I vividly recall huge road signs warning motorists to turn off at the next exit and fill up (cars and bellies), and also empty bellies and bladders while you're able.
Why? Because the next 170 kilometres / 110 miles were devoid of any services at all. The actual wordings on the signs was
"NO BULL. NO SERVICES FOR THE NEXT 110 MILES"
We thought that was the end of the world! We pulled off, and did all the stuff you'd do if you felt it was the end of the world too!
O! How little did I know that that stretch of highway was no where near the end of the world. Since that trip, I've been on a whole bunch of highways all over North America with considerably longer 'end of the world' stretches.
In Northern Canada, you've got to really make sure you gas up EVERYTIME you see a gas station. On vast portions of the Alaska Highway in Northern British Columbia and Yukon Territory you come across settlements THAT DON'T HAVE GAS STATIONS! You don't automatically assume that just because a settlement exists, they'll be gas.. .no, no, no, no, no!
A SIDE FUNFACT. .. On my trip back from Watson Lake, Yukon to Vancouver, British Columbia, I had to drive to a little town of New Hazelton for sleepy time one night. The picture above was taken about 6 pm and I still had about 4 hours to go before I got to my hotel.
A few minutes after the gas station above, this was my company (the above picture), for the next 30 or so minutes...scores of black bears on the road, having their dinner!
I kept on praying that I didn't get a flat or have a breakdown. Can you imagine changing a tire with black bears who were just out for dinner time festivities? For many years to come Grandpa and Grandma bears would be passing on folklore of that summer evening when they all tasted "pre-cooked dark meat specially delivered to them via NISSAN!".
This is at the beginning of The Dempster Highway in Arctic Canada. It runs from Dawson City, Yukon straight north past The Arctic Circle to the Arctic Ocean.
The Dempster Highway is the only public highway that crosses the Arctic Circle in North America (The other, the Dalton Highway in Alaska, crosses the Arctic Circle but the last few kilometres of it are privately owned and is not accessible to the public).
The highway is 735 kms / 457 miles long up to Inuvik ...and with the extra 137 kms / 85 miles on the Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk highway, you get to the Arctic Ocean.
At the beginning of the Dempster there's a 'services' warning sign that reads.
"NEXT SERVICES 370 KMS" (about 220 miles).
The 370 kms point is at Eagle Plains, Yukon, which has a population of 8 humans and is located about 40 kms / 25+ miles south of the Arctic Circle. Because the Dempster is a 100% gravel road, the 370 kilometre / 230 mile trip takes about 6 hours.... on a road that is notorious for tire punctures and broken windshields from passing trucks. (I had a flat and a broken windshield when I drove on it).
In all my travels, the Dempster trip stands out as the most desolate and isolated I've ever been. There is absolutely NO SIGN of human existence in the first 370 km stretch and that includes NO CELL PHONE SERVICE! If you want to yak on the phone, go get yourself a satellite phone!
Just to be clear, the 500+ odd kilometre / 320 miles from Eagle Plains, Yukon to Tuktoyaktuk via Inuvik, isn't some hotbed of traffic either, only that there are a few more settlements (Midway, Fort McPherson, etc). There are also two ferry rides over the Peel and Mackenzie rivers, and you've got a few humans there, operating the ferries.
Ps. All of a sudden, the Salina, Utah stretch of Interstate 70 looks like ice cream, right?
This is just outside Fort Nelson in Northern British Columbia, Canada. Remember I said not every town has a gas station? If you could zoom into the blue highway sign, you'll see it says "Next Gas Station 176 kilometres" (110 miles). THIS MEANS THAT THE TOWN OF STEAMBOAT HAS NO GAS STATION!
A SIDE FUNFACT...I drove on this highway again on Christmas morning 2017. The temperature was Minus 40C (about Minus 40F)…..and the gas station at kilometre 176, was closed.....I didn't get gas until Laird Hot Springs, which is about 301 kilometres from here. You can't always trust that there'll be gas, my friends.
During the 18 hour trip to Whitehorse, Yukon (YES I SAID 18 HOURS!) on this day, the stretch between Fort Nelson and Watson Lake, Yukon (513 kilometres / 320 miles, was so isolated, I came across EXACTLY 3 OTHER CARS!
Just outside the town of Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec, Canada. This was on my way to the "Eastern" Arctic Ocean (James Bay) in Northern Quebec in August 2018. The stretch between Rouyn-Noranda and Matagami starts here.
The beginning of the James Bay Highway in Northern Quebec. It runs from Matagami to Radisson and when you arrive in Radisson, you can brag that you're at the Northernmost point you can drive a car on a paved road in the Eastern part of North America.
The James Bay Highway is about 620 kilometres / 390 miles long, and it meanders through extremely remote wilderness. Although it's in very remote land, it doesn't feel as desolate and isolated as the Dempster Highway to the Arctic.
...... Because it's PAVED!
It is a private road, owned by Hydro Quebec (which is a public company), and it's free to use. The original reason to build the road was to carry the extremely heavy loads Hydro Quebec needed to build the 8 dams and generating facilities they run on the La Grange River up, up in the north.
The first and only gas station on this route is at the 381 kilometre / 237 mile point. That station is open 24/7/365, FOREVER!! Without it, travel on this road would be impossible!
To make things more fun, at the beginning of the highway, there's a check in Centre where you're advised to write down your info and "such and suches", just in case something happens to you, they'll at least know where to start looking for you!
Cell phones don't work here, and so you'll find 5 SOS (SAVE OUR SOULS) roadside emergency phones located at different points on the route.
Even if you don't understand French.....trust me, you'll understand this!
The shot below is just as you exit the gas station at the Kilometre 381 / Mile 237 point. Although Radisson, which is 240 kilometres / 150 miles away, is my destination, this sign's here for folks who venture to drive on the Trans-Taiga Road to the Caniapiscau Reservoir.
The first gas station (unmanned) between here and there is a 'PURE' 500 kilometres / 312 miles away!
In my humble opinion, The Trans-Taiga Road is the loneliest and most isolated road in North America It's 666 kilometres / 416 miles long (yep, 666), it has absolutely no services on it, there are a few little housing facilities for Hydro Quebec workers who come out there to service the dams. It is 100% gravel. There are bears, foxes, lynx etc on the route and when you get to the end of it, after driving 666 kilometres / 416 miles, you'll be 745 kilometres / 465 miles away from the NEAREST TOWN! Caniapiscau reservoir IS NOT A SETTLEMENT!...it's just a Hydro Quebec Generating facility.
I'll keep quiet while we both let that statistic sink in.
A close up of the sign, just in case you couldn't read it from afar.
This is the beginning of the Trans-Taiga Road, just off the James Bay Highway. One day soon, I'll do this trip.
It, my friends, would be the farthest I'll be from civilization when I finally pull this stunt off. Pray for me.
No bull! It's 666 kilometres long.....If that isn't a sign, then I don't need sign!