Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Can't let go of the past...
Any of you who know me also know how much I LOVE Alaska. I've spent a lot of time up there working and playing, exploring and studying. For whatever reason, my grandpa was going through his computer recently, and found a mass email I had sent a short time after my trip to Alaska in '04. For those of you who have never made that road trip, this will give you an idea about it. For those of you who have, you'll be able to relate---although I never took this route after '04.
This is the email:
Sorry about the group email, but it's all I have time for this time. I've heard from some of you separately and, hopefully, I'll get to talk with all of you at some point this summer, but I thought I'd just send an update to all of you. I've been here for a bit more than 3 weeks I guess. The trip up was OK. I traveled alone in my '83 Toyota Tercel Wagon, which I got for $400 back in November. It's been well worth the money, but it isn't without a few bugs. When I left Utah, I was aware that my left front CV boot was torn, but I figured I could make it to Anchorage before getting it repaired. (Based on the fact that you don't turn very much on the way to Alaska--???) I spent the first night of the trip in Whitehall, MT with my friend Travis Thomas. The road in between Twin Bridges and Whitehall was shredded and under construction so I got plenty of the rocks and dust in my CV boot. By the time I arrive in Whitehall my CV joint was making a lot of noise. Knowing how bad the roads can be through the Yukon and Alaska, I stopped in Helena on day 2 and had my axle replaced for $200--more than I would have paid back home but what else could I do at that point? I was full of energy on day 2 though and drove about 16 hours to Whitecourt, AB, Canada. Even when I got there, I felt I could go further. But after getting fuel and stretching my legs a bit, it was 11:30 PM and I decided to rest. The gas station attendant was really nice and said I could spend the night in the parking lot, so I set up camp near a dumpster around back. I was a little nervous being in a foreign town and right next to a noisy trailer park full of people yelling and kids running all around me, but I slept in my car and it was nothing short of 5 star accommodations--minus the shower and free continental breakfast. Oh well. I left Whitecourt on day 3 and drove 18 hours to Watson Lake, YT, Canada. I got there at about 10:30 PM and found a nice gravel pit just outside of town to park and sleep. No shower that day. It's not like I had been sweating; I hadn't even begun to smell up the car with road trip B.O. On day 4, I woke up and fueled up at a gas station in Watson Lake, a town of maybe 500 people. (A generous estimate). I found that they had a shower there that I could use for $5 Canadian. I gladly paid it, knowing that a shower would make me feel fresh and energized for the long day. I hadn't seen too much wildlife at this point but a few bison and some bighorn sheep as I passed over the Northern Canadian Rockies. This is an extremely beautiful and pristine place that everyone should visit at some pint. In the summer and fall it's full lots of wildlife, as I had found on my previous trips home. Anyway, day 4 was a big day. I saw elk, caribou, lots of moose, a coyote, and probably some other cool stuff that I can't remember. It was a bit scary too because I had to drive through snow storm which I hadn't expected. My car does pretty well in the snow, but this was an exceptionally fierce storm which made the roads icy and had my pretty nervous about going on. After filling up with fuel in one village, I had almost opted to wait out the storm for what might have been all day. Instead I decided to move on though and took it nice and easy--around 25 mph--for a couple of hours until I had passed the storm. Once I crossed the Canada-Alaska border I was sure I was home free and celebrating with my car that we had made it with scarcely a problem. I drove to Glenallen, AK, which is about 180 miles NE of Anchorage, and stopped for fuel and to call my mom for Mother's Day and tell her that I had made it. I started off to make the rest of the trip to the big city and about 30 minutes down the Glen Highway, my charge light came on. I about put my fist through my windshield because I had thought about carrying a spare alternator for the trip, just in case. I had even been pricing them for 2 weeks leading up to my departure from Utah. To avoid spending $70, I didn't pick one up and just HOPED nothing would go wrong. The lesson is that the little voice inside our souls and minds, whatever each of us calls it, may actually be telling us something that we should listen to. So, I was 150 miles away from my final destination with a bad alternator. I pulled off the highway at the village of Chickaloon, AK. There was a store open with a sign advertising an on-duty mechanic. Well, the on-duty mechanic was actually just a guy selling batteries and belts. But I was lucky they were open since it was already about 10:00 PM by then. All they could do was sell me a battery for $86. I took it and just put in in the trunk in case my battery wouldn't get me 120 miles to Palmer, AK--home of the Alaska State Fair. I was able to save juice by driving without radio or lights for about 45 minutes, but eventually, I had to turn the lights on. There were lots of moose through the mountains alongside the road, as I got closer to the Matanuska Valley. And if you haven't seen my car, let it suffice to say, it would lose in a fight with a small dog, let alone a 1200 lb. moose. Well, God was looking out for me because I made it to Palmer, even though I had ignored the earlier inspiration about buying a spare for the trip. I pulled into Shuck's Auto Parts--the Alaska version of Checker Auto--at 1:00 AM--(Technically day 5 now). They were of course closed so I spent the night in my 4 wheel hotel and woke the next morning, anxious to purchase an alternator. With luck, they had one. Actually, I can't believe how popular my car is in Alaska. I see them on the road everywhere. I think they must have been the cool 4wd station wagons before Subaru came out with the Outback Wagon. Anyway, I put in a new alternator and tested my old battery. It was good. Wow! A guy from Palmer, who talked with me while I was fixing the car, needed a battery for his truck at home. Lucky for him, I happened to have a highly recommended battery in my trunk for sale. I told him he could have the $86 battery for $50 so I wouldn't have to take it back to Chickaloon. He was generous and gave me $60 so I wasn't out much. Well, I drove the final mileage to Anchorage and met up with my friend Tim and his sister. They're both working with me and we went and got an apartment. It's the same place we stayed last year. It's nice because it's a month to month deal--no contracts. So, what have I done so far? I've gone whale watching in Seward, about 125 miles south of Anchorage. The water was really rough and choppy that day and, for the first time in my life, I got a bit of motion sickness to ruin the trip. I didn't actually throw up over the side--like a couple of my friends did--but I was definitely close to it. Without a bike up here, I'm pretty bored--at least I will be until work starts. ...................
The rest of the letter was boring and had nothing to do with the trip.
I'll try and scan a photo of the famous car into this entry in the next couple of days.