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The drilling didn’t seem to do anything. The crack has grown while the car sat in the parking lot.

It’s really very hard to take a picture of a crack in a windshield, and I think the camera was trying to “help” me by focusing inside the car or on the reflection or something. But if you look, you should be able to see both the original chip from the gravel and the smaller hole from the drill, with the crack clearly extending out on either side.

New and improved windshield crack

New and improved windshield crack

That sucks. I hope disappointment is the right emotion, here, rather than worry. (You know me well enough by now, if you’ve been following this blog, to realize that I am worried, too. I’m like that.) I don’t really mind being stuck in Whitehorse, if that’s what this ends up meaning, though that’s still five hours of rough driving ahead of me. I mean, it’s non-ideal, costing me either another night’s lodging and my Sunday in Anchorage or else a really terrible Friday, driving all the way up to Tok, to stay on schedule. Or some combination thereof, if they can’t do the repair that afternoon. I know better than to try driving the Alaskan Highway at night.

Everyone here is so cavalier about windshield cracks. I feel like a wuss for worrying about it. But where I come from, those are considered to be kind of a big deal, or it always seemed to me they were, anyway. You can’t pass inspection with a crack in your windshield. And there are all of those commercials about how you’ll hit a bump and the world will end, if you drive around with even a tiny chip out. (We had a chip in both the Ford’s and the Honda’s windshields, and I kept hearing those commercials and worrying they’d grow. They were itty-bitty, though.) I’m hoping I’m just a sucker for advertising. And a worrier. After all, I’ve hit loads of bumps today–those stupid tiny red signs that say “slow” give you roughly 5 meters of warning and expect you to be going less than 20km/h, I think; I love that they warn drivers, but I wish they did it in a useful way.

Anyway, obviously I’m in kind of a bad mood, now. I had really hoped that drilling thing would fix it nicely and I could stop worrying about this. Sorry for complaining. I hope to be in a better frame of mind, next time I post. Keep your fingers crossed on the windshield front, for me, please…

That’s how many more miles I have to go. (I’m quoting the windshield repair guy. And I’m getting ahead of myself.) Today was, as expected, full of mountains and rivers and wildlife. I saw enough buffalo that I don’t even get excited about the baby ones anymore. Only one individual out of the 3-4 herds I passed was thinking of heading into the road, and it seemed to believe (rightly) that the Subaru was bigger than it was. I suspect it crossed pretty soon after I was gone, though. I also spotted some caribou–one crossing the road and a few along it, including one right on the edge of the road at a slow point, so I got a good look at him. I kept my word about not trying to photograph wildlife; the temptation to do something risky would be too high, and, frankly, you can go look at pictures of caribou and bison yourself. :D

On a sad note, the birds along the Alaskan Highway are either really stupid or really brave. I clocked a raven who wouldn’t get out of the road, even when all of the other ravens (eventually) did–I couldn’t stop in time, so I tried to position the wheels so they wouldn’t hit him, but he was still awfully tall and definitely clunked his head, at a minimum–though he walked away afterward. Something was definitely wrong with him before I came along, but I still feel really guilty. And there were all of these smaller birds that were always so slow to get out of the way; my own birds were getting pissed at me, for all the breaking I was doing. It’s possible that I hit at least one, though I’m really hoping I didn’t–I didn’t hear any hit, anyway. Even a stupid seagull took its time getting out of my way, though he did fly off in time. Is there really not enough traffic to keep these birds with it enough to fly away when they ought to?

On my way up the first mountain, a speeding truck kicked gravel up at me. This wasn’t the first speeding truck, and it may not have been the first gravel (well, it definitely wasn’t, since I heard two or three separate hits from that one truck), but it was a good hit, catching the windshield right near the edge, so that a really nice crack could form. It grew throughout the day, to the point where it was really freaking me out. And, by all [two] reports [from people at stops along the way], Watson Lake is singular among all my many stops in that it does not have a windshield repair place. (Let’s not even joke about a Subaru dealer, either.) It’s tiny. But I asked at the tire place–tire repairs are a big thing along the Alaskan Highway, of course–and the lady said there’d be someone at the hardware store who could point me in the right direction. Two stops later (one to get better directions to the hardware store), I pulled into a lumber yard, and an older gentleman–friendly, just like about everyone else up here–explained to me that he could drill a tiny hole right at the end of the crack, to relieve pressure, and that this procedure often lasts people a year or two. Apparently, there’s a layer of plastic between two layers of glass in a windshield. I had spent the whole day worried that another gravel–or, far more likely, a bird–would shatter the whole thing, and I was happy to find I’d been wrong.

While the gentleman with the drill and the lady at the tire place both agreed that it was better to do something than not, nobody seemed to believe there was any real danger from it. It turns out, people up here drive around with cracked windshields far worse than mine, and it goes OK for them. “Can you see OK?” the lady at Coal Creek asked, and when I answered in the affirmative, she said “Well, there you go, eh?” It seems very probable that I’d have made it to Anchorage OK even without doing anything–and that I’ll still do so, even if this drilling thing doesn’t stop the crack–but I feel a little better, having done something. Whitehorse has a Subaru dealer, so if it’s still growing tomorrow, I’ll stop in there for their opinion. And if it seems all good tomorrow, well, like I said, only 1000 miles more to go. Haines Junction tomorrow (a longish drive–planning to start early and take a long stop in Whitehorse), Tok the next day, and Anchorage the next! Anchorage definitely has a Subaru dealer.

I’m in the Yukon Territory now, but I think the official point where the Alaskan Highway really says “you’re there, for good, this time,” isn’t until sometime tomorrow–there is a lot of weaving back and forth between BC and YT, first.

There was a bit of rain today and a bit of fog. Even with that–and even with the worry about the windshield–I enjoyed the trip. The views were amazing. I only bothered getting pictures for you from roadside stopping places, rather than trying to take them through the bug-stained windows (stained, I tell you! even with 2+ days of rain and a washing every time I get gas, there are visible smears).

Er, one of those is sideways. Sorry.

Also, I’ll get you a picture of the window crack now, after a day of growing and a drill bit, … uh, later. The camera was full (because I didn’t buy the memory stick), and I’m sleepy. :)

The phone really is dead. I turned it off until I get past the American border.

Playlist: Chamber of Secrets–it’s much better, post-whomping willow. And the Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack.

Today was the prettiest drive yet. Enough trees and mountains for anybody!

There were some rough patches of pavement, several areas with construction taking the road down to one lane, a few steep grades (and when they say “80km maximum,” whoa do they mean it!). My planned second gas stop was out of gas, so the last 100 miles made me a little nervous. That’s just because I’m paranoid, though; I was above half a tank. I pulled into Fort Nelson at just over 1/4 tank. Things were fine. I guess I figured there’d be mountains and construction, or something. But I’ve definitely learned my lesson. I have all of tomorrow’s gas stops listed out, with the two I like best highlighted and plenty of backup plans, in case they’re out. (Not sure they’re the cheapest, but one has the word “toad” in it, and the other claims to have tasty buffalo burgers.) Since I paid $1.25 a liter, just now, the whole concept of “cheap gas” is kind of foreign. I hear it gets less expensive from here on; we shall see.

My first stop, today, at Fort St. John, was nice, as promised. Aaand… that was my only stop. I’m not sure why I decided “They don’t have gas” meant I couldn’t get out of the car, but I did. That’s a definite way to make even one of the shorter days of the drive seem long–having learned that lesson, I made myself a list of pull-offs with nice views and even one with a .6 mile hike, for tomorrow. It may be too cold to leave the birds, honestly–I have it on good authority that it snowed a couple of days ago in one of the areas I drive through tomorrow, though odds are it’s already melted.

I’m a little nervous about tomorrow’s drive. It’s one of the more mountainy days. And at roughly 320 miles, it isn’t precisely short. But I’m planning to start early and take my time, so it should go fine. The Milepost makes it sound like sheep just stand around on the roadside to be gawked at, along with buffalo, caribou, moose, and bears. We’ll see. I’m not going to try to take wildlife pictures, unless something walks out of the woods while I’m already at a pull-off. But I’ll keep my eyes open, both for things in the road and for things along it.

There are still a fair number of people on the road, even though it’s the tail end of the tourist season. It’s not what you’d call congested, but there’s a reasonable number of cars. And RVs. And gas trucks. The signs claim there are log trucks, but I haven’t seen them.

I tried to listen to Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets today, but it was too painful. I hate Lockhart, and I hate Dobby, and I hate that whole bit with taking the flying car to Hogwarts. It’s my least favorite of the books. (Sorry, if any of you are fans. I agree that the ending is pretty fantastic.) I may start it back up tomorrow, or I may stick entirely to music. Today, I filled in with lots of Cake, the Joss Whedon musicals, and the Spiffy CD (CMU AB Tech’s sound check CD, which is … eclectic).

And now, pictures!

The first two [if it ordered them right this time] are from a pull-off half-way down this insane curvy grade thing. I thought the bridge looked neat. I don’t know how many details of it you can see, but there’s a gas processing facility there. The striped “bridge” next to the blue bridge is a pipeline. (Dale, if you zoom in on the picture, full size, all the way to the right (above the branches) are two of those “towers with fire at the top” I was talking about. Anybody: what purpose do those serve? Why would gas places want to burn anything off?) The next is a cliff I thought was pretty, though it got a little washed out in the photo. The next really didn’t come out the way I’d hoped–very few of my in-car pictures do, since I’m looking at the road, not at what the camera’s showing–but I thought it was probably worth sharing, just so you could see what I was trying to do. :) And the last is one of the mountains I saw, early on. Rumor has it I drive through that range tomorrow.

Wish me luck!

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September 2009