12 June 2012 4.00PM 62 F Overcast
We tend to try and live our lives quietly and without drawing too much attention to our plans and our hopes (this blog not withstanding). Sadly, it seems I have become rather too easy to predict. Two or three of our friends phoned to speak to me a couple of weeks ago. As I wasn’t around, my wife tried to cover my tracks and baffle them with convoluted stories as to my whereabouts. It seems that my friends have sussed that if I’m not in Willow, then as unlikely as it may seem, it would appear incredibly likely that I am indeed somewhere on the road to or from Manitoba.
And so it was the case. Once again, myself and Big Blue have travelled 5, 307 miles in another quick dash to collect yet more of our beloved Seppala Siberian Sleddogs from Seppala Kennels. And I’m very happy to report that it was a trip without drama or undue excitement. Big Blue behaved itself impeccably – apart from its seemingly insatiable thirst. After 5 years in the US, it still amazes me that they still build vehicles that can only get 9 miles to the gallon ! For a few weeks prior to the the trip, I started coming over all sensible. I actually joined AAA for the first time and made plans to carry my spare wheel with me on this trip. Apparently, not having a spare on the other trips caused quite a bit of consternation amongst my friends. For all of the issues I have had with the truck, tyres have never been a problem – but there is always a first time. Although, I do subscribe to the Mike Ellis school of thought – I’m running a dually, I already have 2 spares, they just happen to already be on the axles.
Finally, and only one day behind schedule, I set off, truck packed with the essentials for an cross-country drive. Water, soda, trail mix, chewing gum, chocolate and bagels. I had spare clothes, spare boots, a sleeping bag, rain gear, MP3 player, camera, GPS and even an old fashioned map. The spare wheel was strapped down on top of the dog box and I very much hoped that it wouldn’t be required – as there were 4 different sets of rachet straps in use, tying it down. That didn’t stop me pulling over 4 times in the first couple of hours to retighten them or just check they were still taut – for most of the first day I had traumatic visions of the spare hurtling off the roof and embedding itself in the windscreen of some passing vehicle. That fear did lessen the further I travelled, but there were a couple of huge frost heaves on the road to Destruction Bay that I was sure had to have launched it deep into the undergrowth.
The weather was great for driving, and terrible for taking photographs of the wonderful scenery. The marvellous mountain views were obscured by a kind of heat haze and whilst still giving you some idea of the scale of the countryside, it lacked the detail that draw the eye. Equally, the wildlife was proving elusive. One moose decided to test my brakes, which worked fine, fortunately. Other than that, the run to Tok was easy and spurred me on to the border without my traditional late lunch at Fast Eddy’s. Crossing into Canada was painless but the same could not be said of the next 100 miles of road. The highway is a mess, holes here, there and everywhere, several sections of rollercoaster style dips and swoops and some kind of emergency patching which seems to involve dumping a truck load of gravel into a hole and getting the passing traffic to distribute it around.
As well as the road surface, my next problem arose as I tried to buy fuel at Beaver Creek. For some reason, my card was declined. Cue much fuming from me and a distinct lack of care from the retailer. Apparently this is a normal occurrence as they are the first gas station over the Border and banks decline around 10 transactions for them ever day. Happily, they took cash, doubly happily, they took US $ cash, of which I had plenty as opposed to Canadian $ of which I had none.
Still, truck tank now full, it was time to get to Whitehorse, to survive more of the roughest road I’ve driven across and to enjoy some of the prettiest land around. I have said previously that I think the stretch of road around Kluane Lake to Haines Junction is my favourite of the whole trip and each time I see it, that feeling is reinforced. Also, getting sight of my first bears of the trip helped that feeling too – watching a very cute blonde walking along the side the truck always makes me smile. Although this is the first time I’ve seen a blonde bear.
Having swooned over the blonde, I continued on my way in the gathering gloom and duly reached Whitehorse around midnight. Previous late night runs through the town mean I know where the 24 hour gas stations are, and I chose to frequent the friendliest one, (based on previous experiences) Goody’s lived up to their name, the guy on duty was great – now you may think that there’s not much involved in selling gas, but there is when the person buying the gas doesn’t have a bank card that works. He went above and beyond the call of duty, tried a couple of workarounds which didn’t work and then took my US cash. He also let me use the shop’s phone to try and clear the confusion up with my bank. It being midnight on a Sunday, of Memorial weeekend, I wasn’t too surprised that no-one answered the phones, despite trying the lost/stolen card phone number. Fortunately and somewhat strangely I felt, I was able to withdraw cash from the ATM so at least I had local currency as opposed to just the mighty greenback.
I adhered to my usual practice of driving for another hour or so before pulling over and taking a break in Hotel Ford.
Day 1 Miles driven 763 1 Moose avoided 3 Bears marvelled at.