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We made it to Watson Lake last night by about 8 PM and got dinner in the bar. Spring rolls and a donnair wrap with plenty of beer. The dining room and the bar are packed with Alcan rally people and that has displaced some evacuees from the hotel. The evacuees aren’t happy and the rumor is that they have some mischief planned for the rally vehicles. Jerry gets some security for the parking area and we hope for the best.

Normally, we wouldn’t take the rumors very seriously. It’s quite rare for there to be any mischief or problems up here. But yesterday we had a scary situation on the 11% Grade TSD. Steve Perret and Katherine Hansen were manning a hidden checkpoint and had parked there car in a pull-off about 200 meters down the road from where they were hiding. Within ear-shot of there hiding position, a truck pulled up to there car, broke a rear window and stole their clothes and computers. Luckily, they missed there passports, credit cards and money. Continue Reading »

The fires are now a quite close to Dease Lake and as recently as last week, we weren’t sure that the rally would be able to get through Dease Lake which was then under a mandatory evacuation order. Luckily for us (but not so much for the locals), the evacuation order had been lifted for Dease Lake and we continue up the Cassiar Highway across the Yukon border.

Though the evacuation order has been lifted, the smoke is so bad on the way up to Dease Lake, that some sections of the road are dark enough to appear like dusk after sunset. There are instant tent camps set up for the firefighters and the only gas station is jammed. Continue Reading »

The day starts with a big TSD stage, the 11% grade. This stage was run in the 2012 Winter Alcan and because of a fatal highway accident, the stage was canceled and the rally was split in two. This year there are no problems and after Colin and I do our checkpoint, we continue on to Dease Lake.

Along the way the rally has a second TSD, the Blackwater TSD, which dumps the rally into the famous Blackwater Run. The Blackwater Run is a 110 mile forest road the is more single/dual track than road. It is one of the greatest roads in the Canadian north. In the winter. In the summer, not so much.

Colin and I don’t have a checkpoint on the Blackwater TSD so we carry on to Dease Lake. But the competitors do the Run and the after action report that night at the MTC is very favorable. If they really liked that, we think, they should do the Winter. Few roads compare to the Blackwater Run in the depths of winter.

The fires are now a quite close to Dease Lake and as recently as last week, we weren’t sure that the rally would be able to get through Dease Lake which was then under a mandatory evacuation order. Luckily for us (but not so much for the locals), the evacuation order had been lifted for Dease Lake and we continue up the Cassiar Highway across the Yukon border.

Though the evacuation order has been lifted, the smoke is so bad on the way up to Dease Lake, that some sections of the road are dark enough to appear like dusk after sunset. There are instant tent camps set up for the firefighters and the only gas station is jammed.

The Alcan south of 37 Junction has been closed because of a fire that stretched across the Alcan so the usual southbound Alcan traffic has been diverted down the Cassiar. We fuel up and head for the Yukon border, a favorite photo stop. By the time we get to the border the smoke has disappeared and the sky is back to a mid-afternoon overcast day. The truck stills stinks of smoke but at least the visibility has improved.

The route itinerary shows us doing Telegraph Creek but the road to Telegraph Creek is closed and the entire Telegraph Creek area is under a mandatory evacuation order. That’s probably good turn, though. It’s already mid-afternoon and the Telegraph Creek round trip is between 3 and 4 hours. I’ve never made it to Telegraph Creek and I’m disappointed, but if we did the round trip, we’d arrive in Watson Lake at around 11 PM and that probably means no dinner and we’ve already missed lunch. Maybe some other time.

At 37 Junction we take a left and head to Stewart, BC where we’ll spend the night. The road down to Stewart is spectacular and though we come this way in the winter rally, no one ever goes down to Stewart because of the potential for an avalanche to cut off Stewart for days at a time.

Avalanches aren’t a problem in the summer, obviously, and we cruise into town about 8:30. Check into the hotel and head to the Eldorado Pizza joint for a pretty good pizza and the required beers, Rickard’s Red. Then back to the hotel for some sleep. Gotta get it when you can. There are probably going to be some late nights later in the rally.

Obi-wan

The rally does a ceremonial start at the portico of the Totem Lake Hotel. The real start of the rally is the first TSD which starts about 60 miles north of Kirkland in a rest area on I-5. This is where the first mistakes of the rally are made.

There’s a lot of tension and excitement in the parking lot and that results, occasionally, in some monumental errors. In 2008, we started our first stage a minute early because we weren’t paying attention to rally protocol.

A TSD rally stage has a mythical car zero that starts at time zero. So in order to find your start time (cars start in one minute intervals), you add your car number to the start time of car zero. For example, if the start time for car zero is 9 AM, 9:00:00, and you car number is number 1, your start time is 9:01:00 and so on through the entire field. It’a a fairly common rookie error to forget that the is a car zero and start on the wrong minute. Continue Reading »

Kirkland, WA – August 19, 2018

Yesterday, Sunday, is registration/tech/orientation day. The hotel parking lot is filled with the last arrivals and is buzzing with activity. Friends getting back together for the first time in years. Newbies introducing themselves. The tension is starting to rise.

Jerry gives a welcoming drivers’ meeting. Peter Schneider gives a novice class in the fundamentals of rally. Better late than never. Why would you get some experience before starting a 5,000 mile/10 day rally. I didn’t.

Finally everything is loaded, tightened, oiled, secured and packed. Munchies and snacks are bought at Whole Foods across the street. For the ones that refuse to be extorted by WF/Amazon, there’s an EarthFare next door.

The last parts and spares bought from the O’Reilly’s next to the Cafe. The parts and spares won’t be the ones that the teams will need. That’s not how the rally gods work. But there is an air of completion. Everyone is “prepared.”

Then the last dinner at Cafe Veloce. Tomorrow, the circus moves on.

Obi-wan

I’ve been way behind on posting and I promise to catch up. But, in the interim, there are new pictures on the Gallery pages. Click on the Photos/Videos link at the top of the home page.

Later dudes and dudettes,

Obi-wan

Today, another long slog. Get on I-90 and stay on I-90. (The route is I-90 to I-405 in Seattle.) The goal tonight is Ken Maynard’s place in Anaconda, MT with an ETA of early evening. The route is South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana. Like I said, a long slog.

Leave Rapid City and stop in Sturgis, famous for its annual, mid-summer motorcycle rally which fortunately ended last weekend. Back in the day, the rally was a group up of hardcore Harley riders. But over the years, the rally has morphed into an aging boomer Harley group up more like the winter Daytona Bike Fest than a hardcore biker rally. Now, you’re more likely to see an RV hauling a trailer with a chromed-up bio-diesel HD three-wheeler than a tricked out Softtail.

There are a few stragglers, probably those waiting to get bailed out after excessive festivities the previous week, but the town is empty. I stop in a liquor store to get a bottle of Balvenie single malt as a thank you gift for Ken in Anaconda where I’m planning on spending the night. Back on the road. Continue Reading »

It’s overcast, mid-America gray, and raining slightly. Which is good. I would rather overcast days for the boring slogs across the continent. There’s not much to see and driving for 10 to 12 hours per day through the heat and glare of the plains summer really wears me out. Even rain is okay – in moderation that is. A good ole summer gully washer is definitely on the no-no list.

Things go fine until I get closer to Omaha when the occasional shower turns into a serious gully washer. The good news is there isn’t much traffic and the road is 3 and 4 lanes wide. The bad news is most of the traffic is 18 wheelers and the spray that they kick up. Continue Reading »

When you click on the satellite tracker icon  on the top of the blog page, the Inreach tracker screen loads and shows just a mass of location points for trips going back years. In order to de-clutter the screen, turn on filters by clicking on them Filters button and then clicking on the date range dropdown as shown below:

You can use a starting date of August 14, 2018 to see just this trip.

Obi-wan

 

 

No matter how many times I do this and how many different routes I try, this drive west is still boring. Today, the route is down I-85 to I-26 to I-40 in Asheville. Stay on I-40 to Nashville and then turn right onto I-24 to work up to I-70. Then west to St. Louis.

The Gateway Arch on the horizon and a new, gleaming cable stay bridge over the Mississippi. Plenty of time to admire both of them since traffic is moving very slowly, if moving at all. Otherwise, a boring drive though the rain just after St. Louis is a nice attempt at excitement. I knew I shouldn’t have washed the truck.

After 850 miles, I’ve had enough. There are the usual clutch of hotel billboards for exit 148. I pull off at exit 148, the Ozarkland exit. Don’t ask. I have no idea.

Two truck stops, 4 hotels, a Denny’s and Ozarkland, in the state that brought us Branson, Missouri. But there’s fuel, a not-terrible Caesar salad at Denny’s and a bed. It’s been a long day. Three more long driving days to Kirkland.

Obi-wan

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