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This is a picture that comes up for Tok, in Google Maps

Check out those mountains

Here’s my first crack at a schedule. As expected, I don’t manage to get there as early as I might like. Then again, there’s a little wiggle room in there, with only one really bad driving day. (Two, if you count the final day of Alaskan driving.)

  • 8/31 – Montpelier, OH (chosen semi-randomly, pet-friendly motel) – 281 mi
  • 9/1 – Madison, WI (hoping to rely on the kindness of friends) – 336 mi
  • 9/2 – Melrose, MN (another pet-friendly motel) – 367 miles
  • 9/3 – Winnipeg, Manitoba (haven’t chosen a place to stay; hostels are in “shady” area, motels expensive; may go past the city entirely) ~360 miles and the Canadian border crossing
  • 9/4 – Saskatoon, Saskatchewan – 486 miles (dear god that’s a long day) ((but Firefox says I got the spelling on the first try!))
  • 9/5 – Saskatoon (I may just sit out the next day, because that’s a lot of driving time, the day before – we’ll see)
  • 9/6 – Edmonton, Alberta – 326 mi
  • 9/7 – Dawson Creek, British Columbia – 370 mi – this is the beginning of the Alcan, and when I get around to buying a copy of the Milepost, I may well change up everything following this point
  • 9/8 – Fort Nelson, British Columbia – 283 mi
  • 9/9 – Watson Lake, Yukon – 318 mi
  • 9/10 – Haines Junction, Yukon (stopping in Whitehorse) – 367 mi
  • 9/11 – Tok, AK – 293 mi (a couple of passes to cross that day, plus customs, so I’m comfortable keeping it short – also, this is the northernmost point of my trip – 63°20’5.3″N, compared to Pittsburgh’s 40°26’20.5″N … and for those who are rusty in geometry or geography, there are 90°, total, from the equator to the pole.)
  • 9/12 – Glennallen, AK – 139 mi (fair bit of deep valley driving)
  • 9/13 – Anchorage, AK – 181 mi (a few more passes, kind of intimidating – if the Subaru doesn’t work out, this may be slow going)

Now, if we get the Subaru, or if I am over-estimating the difficulty of the passes, there’s no big problem combining the last two days. Honestly, I’m going to want to–I’ll be so tired of driving, by then. But I don’t have really solid information about that part, yet.

So, best case, I’m looking at rolling into town the evening of September 11. But I think my estimate of the 13th is probably more realistic. If anybody knows someone in one of these towns–Madison excepted–who doesn’t have cats or mind visitors, I’d be most obliged. I’m not sure I’m gutsy enough to couch surf, tempting though that is, but the hospitality of friends-of-friends would be greatly appreciated.

Other than “almost 500 miles in one day? you’re crazy!” does anyone have any thoughts? :)

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I’m still fiercely debating shipping the birds versus taking them with me. Is a day of sheer terror on their behalf (and, yes, some financial investment) better than 15 days of “driving gently,” only being able to go to motels that allow pets (rather than hostels and friends’ places), not being able to make stops longer than 10 minutes (and risking some well-meaning know-it-all calling the ASPCA on me, even so), dealing with Canadian and US border guards, and constantly worrying that someone will side-swipe me and the birds will be killed? (To be fair, I’m going to constantly worry that someone will side-swipe me whether the birds are there or not; that’s just how I approach driving. It’s a notch up the fear scale, certainly, but it’s not like I am normally unafraid on the road, anyway.) Also, as the climes get colder, it may get to the point where every time I open the car door, I’m at best ticking them off and at worst risking them getting sick.

Will I save enough in hostels and friends’ offers of crash space to make up much of the cost of shipping? (Because, let’s be honest: friends offering crash space might feel like they’re willing to put up with birds, but I’m not likely to take them up on it, knowing what loud and messy little terrors these guys can be.) Is the freedom to get out of the car, stretch, see a few extra sights, and maybe eat a leisurely salad instead of a burger (or salad-in-the-car) for lunch worth the money and the risks inherent in shipping? Is shipping even actually more risky? I don’t know. It probably only feels riskier because I’m not there to keep an eye on the process.

I’m asking here, because I’m interested in people’s opinions, but I’m also going to call my birds’ vet, obviously. Just knowing what I know, I am leaning toward shipping, a bit. American Airlines is out, since they go through Dallas–and what are the chances of Dallas being below 85 degrees Fahrenheit AND Anchorage being above 45 degrees Fahrenheit, at 1:30pm and 7:30pm, respectively, in September (or any time, really)? I’ll have to call Delta, but I’ll wait until calling the vet.

Dale’s flying with Ella the chinchilla when he comes up. I can’t find any information implying that chinchillas are not allowed on planes, but I can’t find much implying that they are, either. There are, you know, competitive chinchilla breeders; they must get around somehow. I can always call the airlines, if it comes down to it. And talk to the vet about that, as well.

These details, they are beginning to stress me out. Not making this decision, but making the waterfall of decisions that come after this one’s made, you know?

Dale and I looked over people’s advice, both here and in other fora, about the car decision–keep Grover, or get AWD. And, while a lot of people were pretty convinced we could make do with a front-wheel drive vehicle, we ended up listening to the people who told us to play it safe, even though there were fewer of them. Here’s why: I’m a nervous winter driver, and the day Grover nearly failed to make it up Forbes (between Murray and Shady, which those who are familiar with Pittsburgh will recognize as “a bit of a hill,” but nothing particularly severe–still, though, I nearly backslid into a cop car) was the last day I drove in wintry conditions–thinking back, I’m pretty sure Dale’s done all the winter driving since then, because that hurt my confidence in myself and my vehicle. And I’ve been quietly freaked out when he was on the road in either car, in winter weather. Frankly, we’ve gotten by with Grover and the Honda here because we just don’t go out in bad weather, outside of Dale’s drive and my bus ride to work. (Which has its own hazards–I still have this tremendous bump on my right calf, from slipping on the bus floor one wet winter day when it was overfull.) I would rather not feel so trapped for so much of the year, you know?

So Dale and I test drove cars last night. We have a quote we can live with for a pre-owned 2009 Pontiac Vibe. It’s a good car, and we could be happy with it. We don’t have a quote for it yet, but we think we prefer the Subaru Forester. Same gas mileage (but bigger tank), one more star of safety rating, slightly higher customer satisfaction numbers, a little more comfortable, and the reflection in the rear-view mirror does not remind one of a tunnel. :D It’s possible that the incentives for buying the Subaru new will make its price more competitive with the Vibe, once we get the interest rates for both. Anyway, one way or the other, I do think we’re doing this car upgrade thing.

I scrubbed Grover down really well yesterday, and I think it was worth it, because they’re willing to give us what we owe on the loan for the trade-in value. Edit: The dealer… a nice person would say “mis-calculated,” and a less-nice person would say “misrepresented” the value of Grover. They’re giving us what I expected, which is still good, but seems disappointing after thinking they were giving us the whole loan’s worth, particularly since the Subaru dealer uses the same appraiser. I think he felt bad about it–or knew we would be upset–so he cut down the price of the Pontiac pretty hard, making the total loan lower than he quoted last night, even with the difference in Grover’s worth. But the interest rate is more than I’m prepared to accept, meaning we’re extra double plus interested in a Subaru, which has a 2.9% interest rate promotion going on. Now that I have a number for the monthly payment, I can compare better.

It feels good to have some progress on one of the many decisions we have to make before I leave at the end of the month! (I should really get moving on this packing thing, though. :))

A reference librarian at the Anchorage Public Library (funnily enough, another Pitt grad :)) sent me bunches of information. And she was so nice! I’m looking forward to visiting the public library up there.

These I had found on my own (hey, I’m a librarian, too, right?):

  • Travel to Canada – useful for bird and other border-crossing requirements
  • National Climate Data and Information Archive
  • – Historical weather data for Canada

  • Alaska’s largest newspaper, Anchorage Daily News – I didn’t think of this one as an apartment resource. And housing. I drooled over some cute houses, really close to campus, a few minutes ago.
  • The Milepost – Like I said, it’s a must-have. I’m considering buying and reading it, rather than just using the online parts.

Other resources she suggested that I want to check out:

Not much other news–I haven’t really made much progress on the car thing (other than setting up a meeting with a local dealer), the route thing (other than kind of deciding for myself that I want to go the short way through Canada, as I typed up the last entry), finding an apartment (other than trying to get someone with a cool townhouse to let me apply for a lease), or packing (nothing to put in parentheses, here, sadly). I still have to write up some PHP, CSS, HTML, JavaScript, and MySQL before I’m fully graduated ‘n all. Working, dealing with paperwork, and meeting people for fun things like parties and waffles have taken up a lot of time. You know how it goes.

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