Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Fox, Wolves, Some Caribou, Buffalo, Moose and a Badger Crossing. My adventures in the Wilderness that is the AlCan Highway

Most of you know (from the previous post) that my mom moved her from AK. As part of the fabulous journey, the good daughter, err, great daughter I am, I flew all the way up to AK (in a middle seat on a full flight with a delayed layover - did I mention what a wonderful daughter I am?) to drive with my mom down the AlCan HWY.

It started off fine. iPod plugged in? Check. Dog & cat? Check. Snacks? Check. GPS, lovingly named Ruby? Check. Maps in case Ruby doesn't work/dies, etc? Check. Beautiful Alaska landscape (especially leaving)? Check.

Here is a picture taken from (all taken with my phone from the car) of the insert long consonant heavy name here pass. It was lovely.

Around this time (and it was curvy) the dog seemed fine. I took this picture, turned back to take a picture of him (he's a little Havanese named Stewie) to find him covered in yellow vomit.

But not to worry! Mom saved the day with lemony scented wet wipes.

On we went. Further through the dips and valleys and glacier fields.

To snow! Now look carefully but we are actually NOT in the mountains here. Yep. No snow in the mountain curves, but get down to the valley floor and it's all over the road.

Also, if you look even closer, it's ONLY on the road.

(shakes head)

Sometimes things just don't make sense in AK (but more on that later).

Luckily, mom's got 4-wheel drive and we headed (safely) straight for that next mountain in the distance.

Hmmm. That snow is getting mighty thick here and Mom's knuckles are about the same color as it. Come on 4-Wheel drive.

Okay. Lots of snow AND a downhill road. Did I mention that to the left it goes straight down?

Okay, this has to be one of the dumbest things I've seen. Now, I don't know why it bothered me so much, but it did. These two mountains are flanking the highway. They are almost exactly the same elevation and equal distance from the road. (pay no attention to the one on the right looking farther away. It was the angle I took the picture at (ya know, iPhone in car isn't the greatest) Anyway, why does one have snow and the other not? Hmm? Weird, huh? Anyway, let me just say there's a story brewing in these mountains.

And this is documentation of the scariest part of our trip. You can't quite see it here, but underneath all that fat snow is black, black, black ice. And in case you can't tell, that's a steep incline to boot.

12 miles in second gear and a set of headlights behind us that disappeared (no there were no driveways it's full on wilderness out there) later and we arrived at a fancy little berg called Haines Junction. Really, it was a one-pump gas station, a decent hotel and a run down you'll probably find Norman standing in the shower type motel.

Now, thanks to the awesome roads conditions this far, it took us 14 hours instead of the anticipated 12 to get there. Mom goes in to the nice hotel, asks for a room and the guys says "We've got one no-pet room left." My mom isn't the greatest of liars. Which overall is a fab trait. But when you've been on the road for as long as we had, seen disappearing lights and a slippery hill of black ice, I wish she were. She didn't say anything but the guy could read her face and said, "Got a pet, a?" (how do they spell that Canadian "A"??) Of course she told the truth, and that was that. He sent us on our way. He said we could check the flea-bag motel up the road. (The Bates one - yeah, no).

This ends the picture section of the blog. Basically, Mom had enough driving and was about ready to pass out. We both had to use the little girls' but of course there was nothing in the "junction" so we got gas (it was a self serve thingy no bathrooms) and drove up the road (which was thankfully snow/iceless)

We pulled over, a dark 10 miles in either direction on a straight stretch and used the loo. In hindsight, Mom was smart. She just dropped trou directly behind the car. But being Miss Modesty, I hiked down the incline to the left, ya know, near the trees. Why? Why would I do that? Well, it was late and I can probably blame delerium. Anyway, I took over driving from here on (hence no more pictures... well, one more but that's later). So about a half-mile down the road, a wolf crosses in front of us. And where there's one... needless to say, I was a little disturbed by how close my bathroom excursion was to a pack of wolves! I could have been eaten!

The distance between Haines Junction and the next town, Whitehorse, is about two hours or a little over 100 miles. Despite some douche bag blinding me by refusing to turn his brights down and very large Caribou legs flashing in front of my headlights (because the legs were all I could see with his brights in my eyes) we made it and found ourselves safely tucked away in a hotel.

I wish I'd had my phone with me to take a picture of this store we stopped at somewhere around the Yukon Territory and BC border. It was pretty nice inside (a lot of places you go in and come out smelling like some horrible combo of grease, stale cigarettes and old lady perfume). In the bathroom, there was a sign above the sink that said, "Boil water before drinking." Okay, I'm cool with boiling water before drinking. But WHO drinks from public bathroom sinks? Maybe I don't want to know who. If you're one of them, don't tell me because I will be sad to find out.

The twelve and thirteen hour days blurred together. Pretty countryside that goes on for so long you actually stop caring and believe it to be the most boring thing you've seen in your life, a bear, moose, some buffalo (Oh! I have a picture of that!) and a badger crossing.

I know it looks like I'm taking the picture from the dirver's seat. But I'm not. I swear. Mom took this one. Animals in the road are one of the main reasons the AlCan is one of the scariest places to drive. They are big, fast, and come out of nowhere. (Well these didn't, but ya know what I'm sayin')

We were so happy to get into civilization once we got past the last mountain range near the border. We got through customs, drove through a little country town, happy to have mile signs again and was a whole two miles from I-5 (which on the west coast is THE freeway going from the bottom of CA to the top of WA), when this happened:

Yep, that'd be Mom's car all broken down. Who knew that an alternator can go out WHILE you're driving? I sure as heck didn't. This was a busy road too. I was lucky to pull off when I did (just before the car died).

We got to wait an hour for the tow, then get to the mechancis (who were awesome) before we could finish our trip. We were thrilled it was something that could be fixed so easily, but who wants that at the end of the trip? Although, at least it didn't happen on one of those middle-of-nowhere places in Canada. So bright side, right?

We got home late evening on the fourth day of our journey. All intact, and hardly worse for the wear, save for some serious exhaustion.

This is my second trip through the AlCan with my Mom, and she better not decide to go back because I'm not doing it again. (Okay, who am I kidding, like I'd let her go alone.)

I'm glad to be back to the land of the living (aka civilization) and back to my house, pets and husband.


  1. Okay, so that was a long post. But I swear I read it all. You're humor made it slip by. lol. So funny about the 'Bates Motel' and the other one where the guy wouldn't rent you the room. Kind of makes ya mad when you're so tired.

    And so sad that your mom's car broke down. :( But thankfully you weren't in the middle of nowhere, like you said.

    (Fav part is the wolf pack/potty break. I would have freaked. lol.)

    Lots of close calls and yet you made it with 'Mom' intact. Glad you're back. SAFE and sound.

  2. Min,
    OMG, I would've had totally not been able to drive on the snow covered roads. I'm a chicken when it comes to winter roads.

    I'm so glad you didn't get eaten by rogue wolves (hehehe), or run into any knife wielding psychos at the motel.

    Welcome back--

  3. LOL Well it was a long trip! :P I'm glad to be back though.