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


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley announced two new cases of COVID-19 on May 11. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Two new cases of COVID-19 reported, one in the Yukon and one Outside

One person is self-isolating, the other will remain Outside until non-infectious

Courtesy/Yukon Protective Services Yukon Wildland Fire Management crews doing a prescribed burn at the Carcross Cut-Off in May 2020.
Prescribed burns planned near Whitehorse neighbourhoods to improve wildfire resistance

Manual fuel removal and the replacement of conifers with aspens is also ongoing.

Chloe Tatsumi dismounts the balance beam to cap her routine during the Yukon Championships at the Polarettes Gymnastics Club on May 1. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Gymnasts vie in 2021 Yukon Championships

In a year without competition because of COVID-19, the Polarettes Gymnastics Club hosted its Yukon Championships.

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Yukon Budget 2.0

If the banks that finance the Yukon’s growing debt were the only… Continue reading

The deceased man, found in Lake LaBerge in 2016, had on three layers of clothing, Dakato work boots, and had a sheathed knife on his belt. Photo courtesy Yukon RCMP
RCMP, Coroner’s Office seek public assistance in identifying a deceased man

The Yukon RCMP Historical Case Unit and the Yukon Coroner’s Office are looking for public help to identify a man who was found dead in Lake LaBerge in May 2016.

Yukon Zinc’s Wolverine minesite has created a mess left to taxpayers to clean up, Lewis Rifkind argues. This file shot shows the mine in 2009. (John Thompson/Yukon News file)
Editorial: The cost of the Wolverine minesite

Lewis Rifkind Special to the News The price of a decent wolverine… Continue reading

Letters to the editor.
Today’s mailbox: border opening and Yukon Party texts

Dear Premier Sandy Silver and Dr Hanley, Once again I’m disheartened and… Continue reading

Fire chief Jason Everett (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City launches emergency alert system

The city is calling on residents and visitors to register for Whitehorse Alert

Two young orienteers reach their first checkpoint near Shipyards Park during a Yukon Orienteering Association sprint race May 5. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Orienteers were back in action for the season’s first race

The Yukon Orienteering Association began its 2021 season with a sprint race beginning at Shipyards.

Whitehorse City Hall (Yukon News file)
City news, briefly

A look at issues discussed by Whitehorse city council at its May 3 meeting and the upcoming 20-minute makeover.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland met with MP Larry Bagnell and representatives from the Tourism Industry Association via Zoom on May 4. (Facebook)
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland met with MP Larry Bagnell and representatives from the Tourism Industry Association via Zoom on May 4. (Facebook)
Deputy Prime Minister talks tourism in “virtual visit” to the Yukon

Tourism operators discussed the budget with Freeland

Polarity Brewing is giving people extra incentive to get their COVID vaccine by offering a ‘free beer’ within 24 hours of their first shot. John Tonin/Yukon News
Polarity Brewing giving out ‘free’ beer with first COVID vaccination

Within 24 hours of receiving your first COVID-19 vaccine, Polarity Brewing will give you a beer.

Most Read