5,257 Miles

1 July 2012      4.00 PM     70F  Sunny

Eagle eyed readers or those with an awesome memory may well recall a couple of similarly titled entries in the last 18 months or so. Those who do so will doubtless recall the protestations that such a trip would likely never be taken again. So, it seems obvious enough that as a whole year has passed since the last trip, I should be on the road again. Destination – Seppala Kennels in Rossburn, Manitoba. Purpose – to bring home a couple more dogs.

Having done this trip a couple of times previously, you’d think that getting organised would be a simple enough matter and not likely to cause any complications. Try telling that to the landlady at the Guest House in Rossburn that I cancelled, amended and rebooked my stay in, every night for about 3 weeks.

One of those delays was the addition of a couple of sets of fancy new driving lights to the dog truck. Ford’s original equipment lights are, well let’s just say poor, in the interests of not being rude. Sometimes, peering into the darkness, I have wondered if I’d be better off just taping my headtorch to the front bumper. Anyway, the guys at Alaska Safety did a great job and “Big Blue” was all wired up and ready to go.  Aaaah, but not so fast young man,  it wouldn’t be a Duncan epic drive across a large swathe of  North America if there wasn’t some kind of truck malfunction/hiccup. Taking place before I’ve even left home however, could be considered a pretty bad portent of things to come.  On the way home from Wasilla, the truck went into “limp home” mode and I went into meltdown mode. A begging phone call to Kendall Ford resulted in the first available service appointment, 5 days hence. Seeing as we were already in Wasilla, and not knowing what was wrong with the truck and definitely not wanting to set off home and be stranded, I decided just to head straight to Kendall’s and dump the truck on them until they could look at it.  Handing over the keys, I gave it the full sob story, trip to Canada, truck still under warranty, etc, etc and the Service Manager vaguely promised to “see what they could do”.  Lo and behold, early the next morning he phoned to say truck was sorted, one of the sensors had become detached and all was now well. Manitoba, here I come.

Except, in the intervening 12 hours, a friend who knew I was going, posted me this link . So, as it turns out, the truck not being ready to go was actually a good thing, as otherwise, I’d have set off and not known that the Alaska Highway was closed in 3 separate spots and been sitting, stranded and with no clue as to when the road would reopen.

Fast forward a week, and the Alcan was back in business, the backlog of traffic had cleared, I had re-rearranged my B&B booking (for the umpteenth time) and I was finally on the road.

There is always a sense of excitement coupled with a very slight touch of foreboding as I ease through the big metropolitan connurbations of Wasilla and Palmer and out into the quieter rural road that masquerades as the Glenn Highway, also known as AK 1.

The super busy Glenn Highway, mid-June

Despite it being in what I had imagined as the height of the tourist season, the road was remarkably quiet. Concerns about being stuck behind convoys of RVs as they tootled along, enjoying the scenery, proved to be groundless. In fact, almost the opposite was true. The previous trips in early May and late September certainly seemed, to my addled memory, to have more encounters with other road users.  The plus side of the reduced traffic was a smooth drive at a good average speed.

Can’t remember where you are going?

On the approach to Glenallan, the road seems to become almost fluid in its nature. Presumably due to frost heaves, there is a long section where the road ripples ahead of you, like a rolling riptide. My stomach reminds me that lunchtime has come and gone and mentally I debate pulling up to the Tok Thai Food Wagon in the parking lot of a Glenallan gas station. Sadly, my cautious nature prevails upon me to keep driving rather than risk eating from an unknown roadside foodtruck, with the prospect of 2 weeks of driving still ahead of me and no desire to have an upset stomach. If only I had read the reviews the Wagon has received, before my trip, I would have had a nice Thai lunch rather than a bag of chips and a candy bar. Still, I plan on an early dinner at Fast Eddy’s in Tok as a reward anyway.

With the traffic remaining light, I made good time and was fast approaching Tok, maybe just a little too fast for the State Trooper’s liking. Fortunately, he was obviously in a forgiving mood, as he just gave me a finger wagging and a flash of his Police lights as he passed.

Truck refueled, driver refueled, next stop was the Canadian Border which was passed through without incident this time.

Welcome to the Yukon

Driving past Destruction Bay, I approached the stretch of road that was washed away a couple of weeks earlier. The road crews certainly had done a good job, if it hadn’t been for all the debris and tree trunks littering the side of the road and creekbeds, you would never have know that this spot had been impassable just a few days previously.

Generally, the road is in fair condition. It wouldn’t be the Alaska Highway if it was all smooth sailing but some sections are definitely a bit rough. The Yukon Highway Department does have an ongoing repair program, and they mark bad spots on the road with a little orange flag. The trouble is that the little flag can signify a slight dip in the road or a full size pothole that could swallow an 18 wheeler. It certainly keeps you on your toes.

Reaching Whitehorse around midnight, I fill the truck again and head east into the oncoming gloom and a slight drizzle. I finally get the chance to try out my new LED lights and am very impressed with how well they light up the road ahead and the ditches on either side. The downside is that when switching them off for oncoming traffic, it reinforces just how poor the original headlights are.

After another couple of hours, I start to feel tired enough to want to stop and after reaching “my” rest-stop around 2.00 am, I pull over and settle down for a power nap on the back seat.

Day 1      Miles 764          Moose 1  Porcupine 1

 

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