Skip to content

Homeless Al inspires sympathy, sows confusion

Marilyn Sanford got a call from her friend Randi not long ago. The RCMP had whisked Al, another friend, back to the Alaska-Yukon border near Beaver…

Marilyn Sanford got a call from her friend Randi not long ago. The RCMP had whisked Al, another friend, back to the Alaska-Yukon border near Beaver Creek.

“That really pissed me off,” said Sanford.

Al is a solo biker. Sanford and her partner Sherman Thomas met the old fellow on one of his previous solo bike journeys through the Yukon.

They offered him food and a place to rest for a short while. Sanford would not give his last name.

But Al always had trouble when he crossed the border, she said.

He rarely had ID or any money.

So, Sanford drove to the Canadian Customs office to check on Al. The RCMP cruiser lights were flashing as she pulled up.

Sanford approached the first RCMP officer she saw.

“What do you think you’re doing with Al?” she asked.

Al recognized his friend and shouted her name.

“He had his arms out, I ran over to him and hugged him, and he said “I don’t know what they’re doing with me, Marilyn.”

The RCMP officer, Constable Jean-Luc Bedard, finally got a word in.

“They said they were just trying to get him a room in Beaver Creek,” said Sanford.

Al was travelling alone through Beaver Creek on his way to Alberta to see his brother.

Al has been homeless in Anchorage for 35 years.

That’s also about the last time he saw his brother, said Sanford.

“We tried to get some information out of him — about exactly where his brother is,” said Sanford.

Al stayed at the 1202 Motel for a few nights, while Sanford did some research and called the RCMP in Lacombe, Alberta, where Al said his brother lived.

There was no one there by that name, said the Lacombe RCMP.

Al suggested calling his nephew in Toronto.

The nephew said Al’s brother had moved to Red Deer.

And that’s where Al is headed now.

He was last seen on the Alaska Highway near Whitehorse.

He’s travelling alone, and light, with all his belongings strapped to his bike.

“I told him, at least you should catch a ride on a truck as far as Edmonton,” said Sanford.

“He just won’t do it.”

Whitehorse residents were worried about the aged biker making his way down the snow-dusted highway in light clothes.

Sanford is upset becasue people judge him on his mental health and his unconventional travelling plans.

But he does draw attention, she said.

“He does sleep just on the side of the road,” she said.

“What he does is he walks his bike and, when he’s tired, his bike falls over with him. And he just lays there and sleeps for 15 minutes.”

“His mental health is 95 per cent,” she said.

Sometimes he has slips, she added.

“But he’s smarter than most people.”

He’s does some prospecting near the border, said White River Chief David Johnny.

Al travels between the border area and Anchorage pretty often, said Johnny.

This time, Johnny’s sister Sanford helped Al find some identification amongst his gear.

Sanford found Al’s birth certificate when they were at the Canadian Customs office.

It said he was born in Toronto, Ontario.

Once Al knew he was good to stay in Canada, he made a confession to Sanford.

“The first thing Al said when he came across the border was, ‘I don’t feel alone anymore.’”

Contact James Munson at