Barbara’s flight home was scheduled for 1:50 AM on Sunday. The good news was that the hotel had a shuttle. The bad news was that she was leaving. We had had a wonderful trip together. There were disappointments – we didn’t get to drive the MacKenzie River and we didn’t see the Northern Lights. We really needed to practice doing TSDs before we came. But, all in all, it was a wonderful trip. I was to miss her greatly on the solo drive home.
Colin and Ramona, Ohio Root, John and I have formed up a convoy to travel together for the first couple of days back east. The first day is to Whitehorse a mere 725 miles.
We meet up at 6:00 for a quick breakfast and then into the cars for departure in the dark. John has a detour to the airport to drop off Gretchen who is flying out and will meet up with us on the way. Out of the hotel, north on the nearly empty and dark streets to a fuel stop. Then onto the freeway to Wasilla.
After all the driving we’ve done in the narrow, ice-covered roads in the far north, the freeways are actually irritating. This really must be a sickness if you’d rather drive the roads of the far north rather than the wide, maintained freeways of Anchorage. A sickness, indeed. I hope there’s no cure.
Off the freeway at Wasilla and east to Palmer. It’s just dawn and the light is coming up. We’re following a river towards Glenallen and Colin calls the first moose. They’re along side the road and they’re very hard to see. Fortunately, they’re down and and resting after the nights feeding.
There are are always moose along side rivers. They feed on willow shoots and branches (eats, shoots and runs or is it eats shoots and runs). That’s why they’re such a danger on the road at night. Their coats are very dark, they’re very big, they can be very cranky, they’re very mobile, and they’re not very bright. Unlike they proverbial “deer in the headlights”, moose don’t seem to care about headlights and have a terrible propensity for walking in front of cars. The old saw about moose is, “You don’t want to hit a moose. You wreck the car and then you have a pissed-off moose on your hands. If you live through the crash, you might not live through the pissed-off moose.”
Up the river valley. More moose (17 in all). Some deer. A couple of caribou. But it’s light now and we’re climbing out of the valley away from the river. The only danger now is snowplows, graders and loaders. And the occasional truck. On to Whitehorse for the night.
As we pass Destruction bay, Ohio slows and pulls over to the left hand side of the road. I pull in behind him to see if there’s a problem. He had stopped near a roadside memorial to a young man who died (details unknown) that was built by his family. It’s beautiful place dedicated to the young man’s apparent love of the area and the culture that envelopes it. Some pictures and then retreat to the car to escape the frigind wind. On the road again.
The next day, we stop for fuel in Watson Lake. There’s not much to Watson Lake but it is an intersection of two roads – the Alcan and the Campbell Highway that heads north to intersect with the Klondike. And it has the Sign Forest.
The sign forest is a huge collection of signs, license plates and other detritus left by travelers. We seen it many times but I never left anything to the collection. Colin volunteers a license plate from his wounded A4 (which is still running along), we sign it and nail it to a post near the entrance to the forest. Take our pictures.
On day three of the trip, we part company. The previous night, Ohio had gotten too tired to drive and decided to stop at a truckers motel in Pink Mountain. I had stopped with him but I wanted to keep driving (I had 4,500 miles to drive to get home). On to catch John and Colin.
I knew that fuel was going to be an issue on this leg and I was hoping to just make it into Fort St. John. Just about 15 miles short of Fort St. John I caught up with John and Colin. The low fuel light is on. I’m hoping I can make it. I don’t want to add fuel from the jerry can kin the dark on the side of the road.
Just a mile short of the town, the car stumbles. Climbing a short hill, it stumbles again. And again. Then nothing as I crest the hill. At the botton of the hill there’s a gas station. Coast in engine off to the first available gas pump. Thank ya, thank ya, thank ya.
The next day after Dawson Creek, we part company. John and Colin are heading back west toward the west coast. I’m going on east towards Edmonton. At least, three more days to go to get home.
The plan is to make Saskatoon, the enter the US, a night in Normal, Illinois, then home on Friday night. A couple of long days but this trip is wearing out.
I stop in Saskatoon just as a snowstorm is ending. The city is buried in about 8 inches of snow and the snow removal crews are blocking streets and really not helping much. I stop at a Best Western as soon as I enter the city. No room. Move on a couple more motels. Still no room. One desk clerk gives me a map of the hotels in Saskatoon and I strat checking them off. Finally, in desparation, I ask why there aren’t any rooms in town – it’s the Briers. WTF are the Briers?
The Briers are the All Canada Curling Championships and every curler(?) is in town to slide stones on ice for fame and glory. Even rooms in crack houses have been rented out for months. On to Winnipeg. This return is starting to really lose it’s charm.
A long run down through Manitoba to the US border and then down into North Dakota to I-94. It’s dark by the time I make it through Minneapolis and find some place to stay for the night. Two more hard days and I should be home.
The enext morning I text Yvon to find out where he is. If he’s in the moid-west, maybe we can meet up for dinner. He can’t deviate from his route but I can. A few minutes later, he texts back that he’s in Chicago leaving for Alabama. That’ll work.
We start trying to work out where we can meet. Since I’m spo far north of him, we decide that he’ll probably be stopping south of Nashville and I can probably catch him there. A long run down through Illinois and then across Kentucky to Tennessee and Nashville.
By the time I reach Nashville it raining and as I head south out of Nashville, the rainfall reaches biblical proportions. The road is crowded, narrow and under construction. I really don’t need this.
I had expected the truck stop that we are meeting up in to much closer to Nashville but it turns out to be a bout 60 miles south. Ugh! The good news is that there’s an Econolodge right across the street.
I finally get there. Find the hotel. Endure the ridiculously long and precise check in procedure. (Come on! It’s only a room in a very old Econologe. How complicated can this be?) Call Yvon and meet up for a steak dinner.
He’s looking great and we have a nice meet up. It was worth the drive and the extra miles. Finally off to bed.
The next morning were greeted by a rolled semi flatbed on the street right outside the motel. A truck tried to take the exit too fast and his load shifted causing the truck to roll on its side. There’s a crowd of truckers watching and kibbutzing the recovery process. Call Yvon to say good bye, load the car and head for home.
The last day. The route takes me over I-40 to North Carolina and I-40 is definitely not my favorite road. Boring until the Gorge. But the weather has cleared overnight and Yvon and I chat along the way using a new wireless headset I’d bought for my mobile.
About 4:00PM, I roll into the driveway and turn off the car. It’s been 4,600 miles home and about 9,200 miles total. It’s good to be home. I wonder if the dog’ll remember me.