Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Some time in Whitehorse…staying at the High Country Inn

Some time in Whitehorse…staying at the High Country Inn

I spent 2 evenings in Whitehorse, both at the High Country Inn. This hotel has a very interesting history – it started out as a YMCA. When the YMCA failed, it was converted to a hotel and what a well done conversion it was.

The first thing that strikes you about this hotel is the staff. It is like the League of Nations! German, Filipino, Austrian and many more nationalities are represented … and they all have one thing in common, great customer service skills. Oh and something else…they have all fallen in love with the Yukon.

Gian checked me in to my room, he was so helpful and kind and I was blown away when I had the occasion to deal with other staff members because their service and genuine caring was similar to Gian’s. Then I met John, the general manager and I understood that this man encourages and celebrates good customer service.

Like every rider I was concerned about the safety of my motorcycle and was not disappointed to find out that the hotel has a great security camera system and that Whitehorse has a very low crime rate. I was able to look down on my bike from my room and was grateful for the assurance from the staff that they too would keep an eye out.

When I got to my room I was also surprised by the size of the room and the amenities. I was given a Jacuzzi room the first night and a room with a jet tub the second night. Both rooms were clean and comfortable. The beds were really comfortable and I slept well both nights.

I was also glad to find out they had a visitor’s laundry on the 3rd and 4th floors and took advantage of that!

The hotel also has the city’s only conference center which can hold 700 people and the only hiccup I experienced during my stay was trying to access the internet during my first visit. It appeared that a conference being held had many people taking part in a webinar and using the internet and they knocked out the internet on my floor. Other than that this hotel has everything a visitor could hope for.

The food was good and plentiful, the service top drawer and the hotel is clean.

John took me through the hotel which boasts a wheel chair lift to ensure the hotel is accessible to all. There is a beautiful baby grand piano in the entry way to the small conference rooms and a wonderful bistro but probably one of the most unique features of the hotel is the bar. Housed in a canvass tent that joins the hotel – the canvass walls can be rolled up in the summer and are closed up with insulated wall panels. There is a large deck with an out door bar too.

John and I spoke about the Rider Friendly Business Association and I am proud to announce that this hotel has joined our network. If you are riding into the Whitehorse area, give this hotel a try – you will be pleasantly surprised with the hospitality, of that I am certain.

Rooms at the High Country Inn will run you between $145 and $185 a night in the summer, winter rates are lower. Meals are affordable and the portions are a good size.

High Country Inn
4051-4th Avenue
Whitehorse, Yukon Y1A 1H1
Phone: (867) 667-4471
Toll-Free Reservations: 1-800-554-4471 (within
Canada & U.S.) 
Fax: (867) 667-6457

While in Whitehorse I had the opportunity to meet Richard at Yukon Harley-Davidson and take a look at their small but very well appointed shop. 

While there I ran in to the first lady riders I had seen and guess what – it was none other than Marlene and Wanda from the Edmonton Chapter of Women in the Wind and they were with Kathleen, a member of WITW from Oregon

After a chat with Richard who signed Yukon Harley-Davidson up for the Rider Friendly Business Association and a tour of the work shop, we gals went to Tim Horton’s for a bite to eat and to share some stories of the road. We were joined by a local rider and our bikes were ogled by many a local all of whom commented on the dirt we were all packing! Lori – a Yukon WITW member was not riding had joined us at the Harley shop and ensured we easily found the Timmie’s. She is planning on joining the other three ladies at some point during their trip but work would interfere for another week or so.

We had a great visit, took some photos and all headed out together – they to turn right and head for Anchorage, me to turn left and head back to my hotel.

Visit Yukon Harley-Davidson at
21 Waterfront Pl, 
Whitehorse, YT Y1A6V1
(867) 633-1903 
Fax (867) 633-5883

I also got to meet the gang over at Yukon Yamaha! What a gorgeous shop and a busy one!

This shop does it all, bikes, sleds, boats – they have ALL of the toys. Their parts department it well stocked as is their show room. Note the wooden – carved motorcycle above the over head door!

The staff is very accommodating and friendly; as a matter of fact, that seems to be a pretty common thread with all of the businesses I visited in the Yukon save for the odd gas station and restaurant – friendly and efficient service. I was a rather refreshing experience I must say!

Yukon Yamaha can assist riders of many brands – they can help you with gear, tires, oil changes and will do so with a smile and they are conveniently located just off the highway and close to gas! So…whether you ride a Yamaha or not, stop in and say hi.

Yukon Yamaha 
91311B Alaska Highway.
Whitehorse, Yukon Y1A 6E4
Phone: (867) 668-2101
Fax (867) 633-5883

One other wonderful experience I had while in Whitehorse was the opportunity to meet Jim Kemshead of Yukon Tourism. We went for a fabulous meal at Giorgio’s Cuccina.

This fine dining restaurant will give you a break from the every day fare available at many truck stops and fast food chains. They have a great wine list and an extensive menu filled with too many delectable choices!  Jim and I shared some appetizers – the crab dip was phenomenal and the shrimp were done to perfection. I had a bison steak and it was tender and delicious.

The restaurant is very busy and the staff is a part of the reason this place is so busy. They are friendly, efficient and gracious.

If you find yourself tired of the regular day to day fare of being on the road, get off the highway in Whitehorse and stop in to Giorgio’s – your taste buds will thank you.

Giorgio’s Cuccina is not a member of the rider friendly Business Association but their food is still magnificent.

Giorgio’s Cuccina
206 Jarvis St
Whitehorse YT Y1A 2H1
Ph: 867-668-4050
Fax: 867-668-5005

I want to thank Jim for the tour of Whitehorse, the hospitality and guidance I was shown. I can not wait to come back and spend at least 2 weeks – more if I can swing it - here in the Yukon. There is something very special here, but in order to experience it, to truly let it invade your soul, you need to get off your bike, take the side road, hook up with some locals and get some advice…the generosity of spirit of these people is what I remember as the norm when I was a young girl on the farm. There is here a sense of community, connectedness; and yet an independent; dependence. You are simply accepted here in the Yukon. No one looks down their nose at you, or judges you. The hustle and bustle attitude of the big cities doesn’t exist. After spending a week there I realize just how ’citified" I had become, how impatient and demanding. With all of the deadlines I have – sometimes I feel overwhelmed and then I remember, I asked for this by starting a community paper with the sole mission of fostering a sense of community among riders, right across Canada and really – North America.

I have experienced the best and the worst of the Yukon from the challenges of perma frost and the destruction it wreaks on some road ways to the lack of staff that can at times make customer service a challenge to deliver and save for a few of the businesses I attended, most were welcoming, non nonsense, practical people who just do what has to be done. The thing that amazes me is that they all love doing what they are doing where they are doing it. They love the Yukon, they are proud to be known as Yukoners.

These are amazing people from the man I flagged down when I was running perilously close to running out of fuel close to Whitehorse who offered to assist me by following me in case I needed to get a ride to get gas to the people I met on the side of the road, the flaggers and equipment operators, these are amazing people who have a spirit that is as indomitable as the mountains they call home. When they say Yukon - Larger than Life – they mean it, there is a magic here and I for one want to experience that again but in a deeper and even more meaningful way by touring the entire region and meeting as many of these fabulous people as I can…great segue to my next little tid bit from the road…

Rancheria owned by Linda & Dennis Bouchard is a property that was originally built in the 1940’s, like all grand dames of a certain age, she has become a wee bit shabby and taken on the air of a museum, until that is you smell the smells from the kitchen.

The Yukon is a tough mistress for small businesses. Truly, the bulk of their income comes from the three to four months of the year that we call tourist season. It is tough finding seasonal employees, it is tough getting maintenance done – painting, yah – some time soon, right now we are busy and in the winter, there are only certain things you can do in – 30 and - 40 weather…it’s a catch 22 situation for many, many business owners, so what do you do?

You get creative and you work with what you have and you focus on your strengths that allow you to have a business that can sustain you. The economy has hurt many businesses, the cost of fuel has slowed the motor home traffic and more and more vacationers are choosing to explore Alaska by motorcycle, bringing in the newest form of tourism – the dual sport rider, three to one bikes up here is a dual sport – as they are well suited to the roads they need to traverse. Don’t get me wrong you can do this ride on a Harley or a touring/cruising bike of any breed – but the dual sports seem to fare particularity well.

That and transport trucks – for restaurants like the ones at Rancheria, appealing to the trucker is good business sense and many tourists know that where there are semis, you will generally find good food. The dishes that come out of the Rancheria’s kitchen are enormous – everything here is hand made. The extreme costs of buying pre made goods and the storage of those goods make home made the answer to the challenge – BONUS for we – the traveller! 

Rancheria has other amenities to offer like a lounge and a motel and camping – this place is comfortable, you know; that favourite jeans or shoes kind of comfortable – where you feel like you walked into a different time kind of comfortable.

I sat back and listened to the customers and their comments as they ate and I gotta tell you, this place is special. If you find yourself on the Alaska Highway around kilometre 710, You NEED to stop in at Rancheria – if you don’t you are cheating yourself of a great rider friendly experience, and again – incredible food and wonderful service.

(I got to meet a buddy of mine who drives semi to Whitehorse once a week for Canadian Tire and he extols the virtues of the kitchen at the Rancheria as does Dewey in Watson Lake…now I do too!)

RV PARK – CAMPGROUND, Restaurant, bar, full service fuel 24 hours.

Mile 710, Alaska Highway, Y0A 1A0
Linda Bouchard

Phone: 867-851-6456 FAX: 867-851-6255
Email: relmestra@msn.com
Web Site: http://www.karo-ent.com/rancheria.htm

I encourage you, no I challenge you – to Ride the Yukon, it is an experience you will not soon forget…

To everyone from Jim Kemshead of Yukon Tourism to the owners and staff of the various businesses I have visited, to those true Yukoner’s, that showed me little glimpses of their lives and why the Yukon is special – thank you.

Rancheria & Yukon Harley-Davidson, I welcome you to the Rider Friendly Business Association® family – we are grateful to all of these fabulous businesses who have chosen to be rider friendly!

Come ride the Yukon and discover for yourself why I say this place is magical but be prepared to loose a little of your soul in the process cause I can attest that something about this place makes you start planning your return trip before you even finish your first!

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