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This post is very image-heavy. Apologies for that, but I kind of ended up with a backlog…
If the preview and final order remain the same, what we’ve got, roughly is:
1) the sign at the Continental Divide – I was really hoping there’d be a nice one like the US has, but no
2) and 3) the longest bridge on the Alaskan Highway – metal grating is weird to drive on, by the way
4) some of the evergreens that are all over the place – I like them, though if they’re waving in the wind ahead of you, you know to grip the steering wheel pretty hard
5) the bay (“bay”?) the bridge above goes over
6) I jokingly titled this “how the windshield got broken,” or something like that, but it wasn’t really one of the patches of road like this where it happened–it was a fairly normal patch. Still, this wasn’t an entirely uncommon sight.
7) some pretty mountains, possibly out the side window? (should have posted pictures sooner…)
8) those deciduous trees – aspen?
9) and 10) the mountain view from outside my hotel room in Haines Junction – intimidating! but awesome!
11) I just thought this was a pretty picture, the little building and creek – it’s outside Anchorage, in a place called (if I’m not wildly mistaken) Arctic Valley. It’s where we were going to try picking berries….
12) Believe it or not, this is a ski slope
13) Here’s a view from near the top of the mountain at Arctic Valley. If you squint, you can see downtown Anchorage. Or..
14) … you could just look at this picture, which is zoomed in.
15) I thought this bridge with fishing pole decorations (permanent, as far as I can tell) was hilarious. It’s down the street from where I live, today and tomorrow. :D
16) This is Sleeping Lady, from which the brewery gets its name. (The mountain has a real name, but I haven’t yet learned it.) I actually took the picture from the rooftop patio at Snow Goose/Sleeping Lady.
(The first part of this was written in the morning. I’ll denote where the second part, written after a rather full day, begins.)
I spent yesterday slowly unpacking the car–slowly enough that it’s on the agenda for today, too–and shopping for various things I needed, like a shower curtain and laundry detergent. (Showering in the morning was an adventure.) I also got a couple of things I wanted, like candles and a pottery mug–my giant one is too much commitment for some beverages, and it’s still somewhere in the car, anyway. :) Target has these candles with wooden wicks. I love them so much. They crackle as they burn.
Anyway, I think the birds are starting to settle in, too. Phoebe’s broken blood feather finally fell the whole way off. She looks a mess and seems a little woozy, but I think she’s healing. I’ve got some vitamin-fortified treats in there for her. Grace is continuing to heal. And Francis is experimenting with his new squawk. He used to be such a nice, quiet bird. They all spent the day being really needy and really screamy, with little breaks for walking around the apartment and finding things to try to chew on.
Part of my shopping was, as I mentioned, at Target. Very standard move-in stuff. But the better part was at the Anchorage Market & Festival. This is the last weekend for it, and I wanted to see it before it ends for the season. That’s where my mug came from. Also, some vegetables that are now in my fridge (including a very large zucchini), some birch syrup, and a salmon quesadilla for breakfast. (I’d been up for hours, playing with the birds and by turns carrying boxes and putting things away. Mostly playing with the birds. And I hadn’t eaten, before I left for the market. Which, by the way, I found from memory!) It was pretty fantastic; I’ll go back when they reopen, next year. I posted this pic to Twitter, and people were amused:
I still don’t have much furniture–a Murphy bed comes with the place, and I bought a barstool, so I can sit at my counter–but I’m making do. One of my Rubbermaid-type boxes is serving as a plant table. (The plants may pull through. It’s hard to tell. I should buy dirt and a pot today, for the Christmas cactus.) And I have a couple of pretty things on there, along with the plants, as well. The spices I brought with me–an odd assortment based on their ages more than on what I’d do with each one–are all set up by the stove. It’s nice.
My landlord–or, well, my agent for the property company, who won’t be for long, because she quit (it’s all very confusing)–was super nice. She let me borrow some sheets and a coffee maker and a towel, when I moved in. That saved me buying sheets for a different-sized bed than I’ll be buying in 4 months. And her friend lives on the same floor I do, and we’ve chatted a few times. I think we’re going to breakfast this morning! (Which reminds me. I should wrap this post up and get a shower. My clothes will be out of the dryer soon.)
Looking at my last post, I meant to tell you some other things. One is that the gas station right after you turn off of the Tok Cutoff onto the Richardson Highway (it looks like it used to be a Texaco, and the owner just put together some of the letters to spell “ECO”) is pretty nice. Their gas is the standard high price for gas along the Alaskan Highway System, and they have an outhouse (with electricity!) instead of a running-water restroom (also fairly normal), but the owner is a super sweet guy. We got to talking–in part because I asked him if I could get to Anchorage by dark–and he welcomed me to Alaska and gave me a print of some sled dogs (two of them, twins), drawn by a friend of his who is the Iditarod artist. So I’ll get a frame for that, because it’ll make me happy each time I look at it.
The Glenn Highway isn’t at all like the Alaskan Highway. I had gotten really used to the former–and the Tok Cutoff is enough like it that I sort of lump them in my mind–so I was feeling pretty confident, and then all of a sudden, there were these really tight curves, 30-40mph dealies. It was a little hair-raising, because of course nobody in the opposite direction was going that slow. And just as I was beginning to adjust to that, I got dumped onto the freeway into town. I was totally unprepared for driving in civilization, which was more or less what I needed to do (although there’s some argument about whether anyone else on that freeway was exactly prepared for civilized driving, either, that night). It was all very strange and disconcerting.
The final trip mileage was 4202.6. The last day of that was between 600 and 610; it looks like it never made it to my Twitter stream, and the phone is in my room. I’ll look it up.
(This part is new.)
Today, I went to breakfast at Middle Way Cafe with my neighbor (the friend of my landlady’s I mentioned above). Great brunch location, with tasty (and mostly pretty healthy) food, as well as fresh juices. Then we decided to try picking berries, though that sort of failed–there were a few left, but only after a pretty long walk up a pretty large hill, which we might have tried to do, only we had no cell coverage, and she was on call. Earlier in the season, next time! But we went to get dinner at Moose’s Tooth, where I got a 4-beer sampler. Everything was good, though I got distracted and forgot to pick up a growler. Tomorrow, perhaps!
Around the end of dinner, a local gamer I’d been in touch with over the Internet called, and we agreed to meet and talk about the game he’s starting, which I’ll be playing in. Call of Cthulhu. It’ll be on Saturday afternoons for the next few months (unless that’s when my reference shift falls)! It sounds like a good group of people. And he gave me a whole bunch of advice and tips about living in Alaska, everything from “go ahead and buy that bear bell” to what kind of reel is easiest for newbie fisherpeople to what kinds of people to expect to run into around Anchorage. It was pretty great. I feel like I owe him cookies. :)
The birds are a little less whiny, despite my not giving them as much attention today–because I was out. I think Phoebe’s recovering, and Grace definitely is. They both seem alert (well, as much as Phoebe ever is) and curious and generally more like themselves, though maybe a tad needier than normal. I may ask the vet if I can come in on Wednesday or Thursday, so they have more time to really get situated and de-stressed. As much as I want Phoebe’s wing looked at, I just don’t have the heart to put them in the car. It’s going to kill me to do that to them. And it’s going to make them trust me less.
Other errands: getting George’s mechanic appointment set up, since the 3000 mile mark is pretty far gone. Signing a lease and getting a parking spot officially assigned and calling the utility companies. Getting an Alaskan license and registration (though I may put that off for another week or two), as well as dealing with Geico. Getting a pot and dirt for the cactus. Grocery shopping–and man is it going to be a big trip. Finishing with the car unload, including getting the stuff down from the luggage rack. I’m not relishing that thought, short and uncoordinated as I am.
But I still have two full weeks before I start work. I should be able to get all of this stuff and a fair bit of exploring out of the way before then. (Also, I’d like to look at some Web development books. And maybe tune back in to what’s going on in the library world. The mental break has been great–and will continue to be great for at least another few days–but I’d like to be sharp when I start.) I’m pondering driving down to Seward and/or Homer, after the car’s had its checkup. I’d like to collect some glacier water, which I can do on the way, though I don’t have enough vessels to get enough of it for brewing. (I also don’t have enough bottles. Or other ingredients. But the water’s pretty time-dependent, I would guess, what with freezing and all.) Also, I plan to go to the zoo and maybe the Imaginarium. And the Ulu Factory. And I’ll have to pick up a tourism guide to see what else I need to check out. Dale said he wanted me to “have seen everything, so [I] just share the good stuff,” by the time he gets here.
I’m in Anchorage. In my apartment building, actually. (We have free wifi, but it doesn’t extend up to my floor, it seems. Since I didn’t bring down my power cord–and, honestly, it’s super late and I’m exhausted–this is going to be a short post. I’ve got so much to tell you about! But it can all be told in a later post.)
The American border was no problem. I had to sign some forms, including one promising to take the birds to the vet–which I was planning to do anyway. Grace looks … about the same. Maybe a tad better, because she can’t keep irritating her face. I stopped by Petco this evening and got them a big cage, probably the first of two, since I think the cockatiels need to be separated. The drive back was an adventure, because the road my GPS wanted me to go down to get home (home!) was blocked by police, for some reason. I didn’t put the birds into their cage, because I don’t want to wake them. They’re so very tired. As am I. It’ll be a while before this knee is entirely working.
My plan was to stop in Tok, but I got there around 1pm, Alaska time. Maybe a tad after. It was too early to check in to a hotel, and I really wanted to get the birds situated in–or at least near–our new home. I figured, well, I could drive down to Glenallen and have a much shorter trip to do tomorrow. Or maybe I’d push on toward Anchorage, which, obviously, is the solution I went with. And I called my landlord. And, bam, things all worked out.
People have been so nice. I’m wandering into territory I wasn’t going to cover tonight, but, seriously, people are nice. Beyond talking more about that, I will also have to tell you about my apartment move-in experience (not that I’ve come even 1/4 of the way close to emptying the car, mind you) and my gas station experience and all about the Glenn Highway, which is not really anything at all like the Alaskan Highway. I’ll have to show you pictures–though I got a lot fewer per mile, despite such pretty sights, today, because I was a woman on a mission. I’ll have to give you mileages–all messed up on the car, now, but immortalized (for the week) in Twitter. I’ll tell you about my probable book club and table-top RPG–yeah, fer real, already!
I seriously can’t believe I made it here in one piece. The only damage to the car is that crack in the windshield–which did continue to grow, as it got warmer out, today, but only a centimeter or two–and probably some dinged up paint from all the gravel. I didn’t hit any wildlife (though I think I did see some moose, at the edge of the woods, today). I didn’t get mugged or lost in Montana or whatever other terrible things could have happened. The birds are probably OK–it’s hard to tell if Grace is just stressed or if she’s really messed up, somehow. Phoebe broke a wing feather right before the border, because she’s a genius bird with amazing timing. But she seems OK now, sans really-stressful-but-probably-necessary close examination. Francis is a little blue trooper. He held up the best out of all of us. Totally unfazed.
But, yeah, here I am. I’m going to go out and start exploring and making friends tomorrow. :)
This is going to be a short, photo-free post. I don’t want to overburden the tiny little stream of Internet this place is currently getting. (It was down when I got here.)
Lost my iPod, possibly during my window-related preoccupation. Am upset about that. Window crack has not grown any more from driving; temperatures dropping may do it. We’ll see.
Am much more upset about Grace. She is injured, with really raw patches above both eyes–I can’t tell if she and Phoebe were fighting or if she did it all with her pinata toy. (I know the pinata toy made it worse. She was sticking her face in it, and she came out worse than she went in.) But I spent the last 50 miles or so wracked with guilt and crying and apologizing to her for … well, I’m not really sure what. I kept them covered most of the day, because it was cold, and she got hurt, and I guess I figure I should have let them get a little chilly, so I could keep an eye on them.
Anyway, she looks awful. She’s acting like herself (now that that toy is gone) and seems alert and friendly, if thirstier than normal. Obviously, I’m taking her to the vet in Anchorage, but I’m much more immediately concerned about the border crossing. She doesn’t look like a healthy bird. I’m really, really worried they won’t let her across.
I’m calling my Pittsburgh vet and letting her know NOT to suggest people take birds on the Alaskan Highway.
Sorry to be all complainy. The first and last 50 miles were pretty terrible, yes, but the middle 200-some were gorgeous. I passed a bay (well, they call it that) with mountains over it and got pictures of some pretty things. Including two of local trees so you can see them. Photo post coming when there’s Internet. And my motel room looks out onto these gorgeous snow-covered mountains. I think there might be glaciers at the top. Photos of that, too.
Met some fun locals at the “lounge.” (I thought that was a place to get food, but it was a place to get drinks. I ended up with a free soup, though, which was super tasty.) We told logic puzzles and jokes. They liked my muffin joke. :D
Anyway, I’m safe. The windshield is just as intact as it was this morning–like you all said. If I make it across the border, I’ll text to Twitter/Facebook, and if I don’t, I’ll call Dale (I got a Canadian phone card) and have him post here. Maybe I’ll have him post here, regardless.
Thank you to those who wrote to tell me how common and harmless windshield cracks are. I still find it uber freaky on some visceral level–maybe just because that’s one less layer protecting my face?–but I am definitely reassured and ready to start today’s drive. (Or I will be when I finish this coffee, get a shower, and pack the car.)
One commenter pointed out that I sound weary. I am. 300 miles of driving a day, for 10 days, is a lot. Which I knew when I started, certainly, and I knew I’d be tired. I don’t regret deciding to do the drive, though. It’s a grand adventure, and for every setback (multiple rejections from motels and hotels, most days, due to the birds; the windshield thing; muscle aches; the cost of gas and other commodities along the drive) there’s a ton of positive things (gorgeous views; cold mountain air; nice people I’ve met; wildlife sightings; a new appreciation for geography). I think I’m just really ready to be in Anchorage, now. I’ve got a life to start, and I’d like to get on with starting it.
Patience is not one of my strongest points, though, and I knew that before I started, as well. ;)
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!
The show was named after the main character, you know, not after the town in British Columbia. Dale’s roommate tells me that it was actually in North Carolina. Who knew? (Maybe lots of people. I’m glad I didn’t ask anyone here about the show!)
Canada has Labour Day, which is a lot like Labor Day, only spelled differently. (:)) Again, who knew? So, no fix-a-flat this morning, and a few neat things I might have stopped for were closed. No big thing, but I wish I’d realized. I feel like a dumb American for assuming it was an America-only holiday.
Anyway, I’m about a mile down the Alcan, now. Two places turned me down, once I mentioned that I had birds (because they were out of pet rooms), making this the first motel where I didn’t ask permission. If Google is to be trusted, they’re pet-friendly, anyway. So, good. They’re also the least expensive place I’ve stayed in days, but still have a continental breakfast, coffee in rooms, fridge and microwave in rooms, at least one working washing machine (and semi-working dryer), and free wifi–so they’re also the best place I’ve stayed in a while, as well. I’ll leave them a good review when I leave in the morning. (I make it a general policy not to put a big flashing light on this blog, saying “I am here! I am here!” On the other hand, “I was there! I was there!” is fine.)
Dale suggested that I hang out in Dawson Creek for another day, just to rest and not be driving. I admit, it’s really tempting. My muscles are sore (more so today than many days because there were some pretty high winds), and I’m really very tired in the evenings. A day of rest would be fantastic. But I really think I’d like to get there on Saturday. There are a couple of things I’d like to do on Sunday, quite aside from being finished with the drive and in my new city and all. The longest driving days are pretty much behind me. Watson Lake to Haines Junction (day after tomorrow) is around 370 miles, which is the same distance as today, and everything else is shorter. It’s Monday. If I keep going, I’ll be there by Saturday. I think that’s the thing to do. (As much as it sounds like I am tired of driving–and, yeah, I sort of am–I’m still kind of psyched [and nervous] about this part of the trip. I feel about the Alaskan Highway the way I felt about the entire trip, while I was still in Pittsburgh, if that makes any sense. This is the pretty part, the part that requires preparedness, the part that I’ve been anticipating for so long. I’m intimidated and excited.)
I’ve looked over The Milepost for tomorrow’s trip. It looks like there’s a sufficiently large number of stopping points between here and Fort Nelson. Multiple gas stops, including Fort St. John, which a nice lady I was talking to this morning, who is from the northern territories, suggested I choose as a sleeping place, rather than Dawson Creek. She may have been right, but I was tired and flummoxed–more GPS fun–and ready for the break, honestly.
This evening I’ve done laundry, updated the map, and picked up fix-a-flat and a pair of cheap tennis shoes (I left mine in Madison, to my chagrin, and sandals just aren’t going to cut it for long; also, I toy with the idea of walking one of these 1km trails for a break, if there’s a nice enough day to leave the birds in the car). The weather’s dreary and cold, which I honestly don’t mind. Except for a couple of short spurts of light rain yesterday, the sky’s been clear the whole way. Besides, the car could use a rinse. And it makes me feel properly prepared, rather than over-prepared, for bringing my sweatshirt, light jacket, and medium jacket. :)
The drive today was kind of pretty. A number of businesses north of Whitecourt had “Arctic” in their names, so I guess I’m really north now. Also, for every deer crossing sign (which in Canada look more like deer standing around than like deer being launched by catapults) there was a moose crossing sign, which amused me. As far as the landscape, there was variation between hilly areas with lots of mostly evergreen trees, flat areas with mostly deciduous trees, flat areas with few trees, and hilly areas with what I think must be aspens (which I realize are also deciduous, but they don’t look like what we have in Pennsylvania, for instance). I’ve been describing the views as “alpine,” though I don’t know if that’s the right term. It looks a little like Anchorage, vegetation-wise. It made me feel relieved and, if you’ll believe it, homesick for a place that isn’t even my home, yet.
Photos: some magpies from outside my morning hotel, a raven who was sitting outside McDonald’s “singing” to people eating there, and a stretch of road I thought was visually interesting enough to photograph. (Nothing comes out in the picture like it does when I see it. I want to get more landscape photos, so you can see what I’m seeing. I’ll keep trying.)
Playlist: the rest of Sorcerer’s Stone and some Dr. Horrible and Girl Talk.
I just checked my phone, and it’s still on roaming. I was sure it’d be dead by now. So, neat; I’ll pick up if you call before I leave the service area. I can’t really say when that’ll be, but I suspect it’ll happen tomorrow.
Now, admittedly, 330 miles is a lower number than most of the days so far (not the lowest), but I still feel like today flew by, much more so than it should have–it was only, what?, 50 miles shorter than the previous day, after all. Either I’m really getting the hang of this–doubtful, honestly–or audiobooks are the most wonderful invention ever. Knowing that the GPS would interrupt me and I’d need to pay attention to some external details, like signs and crazy drivers, I decided not to listen to anything new–too much pressure. Instead, I have Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone on right now. And the next two are saved and ready to go on my iPod. I wanted to listen to them before, but something is wrong with the Audiobooks menu on the ‘pod right now. (Did you like how that was an abbreviation that didn’t take fewer keystrokes? I did. I feel very clever.) So I had to make them into playlists. It’s a hack, but it’ll do. It’s kind of fun to listen to the first book. The first time I “read” Azkaban, it was via audiobook–it was what I did while knitting my first scarf–so it’ll be interesting to see whether I like it or whether it bores me. (Yes, “the first time.” What? Liking YA books isn’t a crime, as long as you read real books too. ;))
The landscape hasn’t changed too too much. It’s a little hillier, and I noticed there are scrubby brushy looking trees outside the hotel. There have been beautiful lakes, ponds, and marshes throughout the drive–yesterday, they were all sort of unnaturally blue, because the sky was so bright–and that hasn’t really changed. There were some scenic overlooks that I really should have stopped at; I know to do so, tomorrow! I’ve been promised better views, from here on out. ;) Also, I can’t tell if the ducks are tiny or if I’m just having problems with scale.
In other bird news, geese are flying south. For some reason, I think it’s very funny when I see them, flying in the opposite direction of where I’m going. And, big news (of total unimpressiveness to the Alaskans, but bear with me, OK?): I saw my first magpie of the trip, just a few minutes ago, outside the motel! I was super excited. They have such weird vocalizations. And I think they’re pretty. (I also don’t hate pigeons, so, you know, eh.)
Anyway, things are good. I’m in Edmonton, Alberta, today and Dawson Creek, British Columbia, tomorrow (so after about noon tomorrow, I won’t get phone calls, probably); after that, I think the real adventure is on! While The Milepost may differ on this point, Google Maps seems to really believe there’s nothing between most of my stops on the Alcan. I’ll do a better job of provisioning–which is to say, I’ll buy two cups of coffee and a lunch before I leave town–those days. [There’s enough gas that RVs make the trip, so I’m not super worried, honestly.] Also, I seriously need to pick up that can of fix-a-flat. I still haven’t done it. Sorry. I will; I saw an auto store down the street! I just wrote myself a note so that I remember to do that and check the air in the tires before I get on the road! (Note to my worriers who aren’t from Alaska: should the car break down or anything like that, you should be aware that the Alcan is pretty famous for being a friendly place. Somebody will stop and help me. I’m not planning to need to rely on anyone’s help or better-than-my-own preparedness–seriously, I have two first aid kits, a bottle or two of water, a week’s worth of snacks, and enough fiber products to insulate the birds and myself for quite a while, even if it’s really cold, which it probably won’t be–but you should know that it’s available, should I run into any trouble.)
Numbers news: I’m more than half way through the trip. 2,237 miles. Not much more, with the GPS unit’s edits. Google Maps says the trip is 4,110 miles, total, and I could fully believe I’ve wasted more than 37 miles in wandering around towns and such. But the GPS really gets very little say, from here on out; there’s only one road from Dawson Creek to Anchorage, really (as long as I continue specifying my stops correctly), unless it tries to route me through Fairbanks (which I’ve decided against, by the way–Dale and I can do that trip either for winter stargazing or for … the heck of it … in the summer). Despite the extra hundred miles or so it’s added on, I still think it was a necessary piece of equipment, particularly with me driving alone (and therefore unable to read maps on the fly). Its taken me to hotels and gas and food, and it’s definitely helped me navigate, despite Chicago’s and Minneapolis’s miserable, miserable signage. (I <3 y’all who live there, I do.)
Gas is down to 91.4 cents a liter. That’s exciting news! I think I paid 103.9 cents at one stop yesterday and 99.9 at another.
Grace is falling asleep on top of her birdcage. It’s adorable. This was the first morning they really strayed away from the cage to explore the hotel room at all. I guess they’re getting this traveling thing down, too.
Anyway, I’m down to talking about my pets, so I think it’s time to sign off of this blog post. I miss people. Those of you who said I could call you when I got to Anchorage, I’m totally taking you up on that, just so you know! :) I may make some phone calls from Tok–and I’ll definitely go back to updating Twitter/Facebook–just to revel in the joy of 1) a working phone that 2) is not roaming.
It’s only 6! It feels later. But I was definitely at my motel before 5, thanks to the time change. I’m in Saskatoon, SK. It’s a kind of pretty-looking city to drive through, though I’m staying in the airport district–not the pinnacle of loveliness. I did accidentally park right in front of the room I ended up getting, so that was kind of great.
I didn’t do it yesterday or the day before, but I have once again updated the map. As you can see if you click on it, I’m very close to the half-way point; I’ll pass it tomorrow. 392 miles driven today, with only one stop–there were a couple of opportunities, but they involved driving way off the highway or being psychic enough to know there’d be a Tim Hortons or A&W at this one, when there was no such thing at the last three. Although it wasn’t that fun to do at the time, I’m kind of proud of myself. I didn’t know I could do more than 200 miles at a stretch.
Fewer miles to drive tomorrow–roughly 330–and I’ll cross into Alberta. Googling to find out when the time will change, for me, again, I have learned that the answer is “Eh.”* Alberta’s on Mountain, along with Saskatchewan, but there’s apparently an area of British Columbia that is all weird, being on Mountain sometimes and Pacific other times. So I won’t know what time it is for a few hours, around Dawson Creek. I think I’ll be OK, though. ;)
Gas is expensive. 3/4 tank is roughly $40–which makes sense, at a dollar a liter. And Canadian dollars are roughly equal to American dollars right now, though they (the Canadian ones) are a little lower. Just a little. None of this was terribly surprising, in any grand sense, but I admit to a little bit of sticker shock.
Also, I’m just going to throw this out there: the Midwest freaks me out. I don’t like the flatness of it. It’s lovely in its own way, definitely, with the various shades of grain and fields of sunflowers(!!)–but the scale of things is all wrong, because there are no clues on the horizon to help you parse anything. I need mountains or something. Buildings would do. Or oceans–lovely oceans! (They’re flat, yes, but somehow it works for them.) All this flat land unsettles me. And driving through Minnesota and even part of North Dakota, I was certain a tornado was going to sweep in and kill me. (The sky was darkening. I won’t say “I’m not crazy,” but give me half-credit on this one. There were even rain showers off… somewhere in the distance. Hard to say how far, like I said. But I had greater than no reason to worry! Don’t judge me! (:))) Luckily, no tornado paranoia struck me in Manitoba or Saskatchewan, despite it looking like the American Midwest (well, they’re connected, I hear) and also despite the wind. Today was less windy than yesterday, but only in that it was sneaky, ninja gusts, rather than a sustained gale.
The hills and trees I mentioned yesterday were a lie. It’s still fairly flat, though I went through some neat valleys. I got a picture or three–and I really hope one comes out–of this strange gulch that paralleled the highway for a few miles. It was neat. And, like I said, Saskatoon is pretty; there’s a fair bit of greenery around. So I don’t know whether to expect more flatness or more hills tomorrow. I’m definitely increasing in elevation each day–around 800ft, when I started the trip, to 2598ft at my current location. I choose to believe that’s why the gas mileage has been lower, though I think it’s probably time to put some air in the tires, as well.
The speed limit is usually either 100 or 110 km/h (a little over 60 to a little under 70 mph, if my speedometer is to be trusted), with drops to 80 as intersections approach. And they are still, largely, intersections, rather than exits. Most of them don’t have stoplights, either. (I’d be interested to see statistics on injuries.) So I can continue to travel at the same speed I’d been traveling in the US, without fear of being pulled over, which is nice. (I’ve seen a total of one police car, and that was in Manitoba. But I assume they’re out there. So I keep it close to the speed limit, even when I’m keeping up with traffic.)
Things I’ve listened to today: Dr. Horrible (I’m going to be so sick of it by the time I am finished with the drive) and other musicals (Evita, My Fair Lady), until a splitting headache made me stop–I actually pulled into Regina with the radio off; Girl Talk; the Juno soundtrack; the O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack (it felt appropriate); and a few random songs. Yesterday was much more of a girl band day, with some Pink and some Liz Phair thrown in around the standard musicals and mashups. I think I listened to all of the Grey Album, as well.
*I still pronounce “eh” as a soft “e,” not as a hard “a,” despite two days in Canada. But that’s not what I made this side note to tell you. This is: I saw a print ad for some kind of study guide that promised kids could get an “Eh+.” I chortled. I love–and I’m not being facetious, here; I am totally serious–I love the the Canadian accent. It varies a little, from province to province, it seems, but it makes me happy in all its incarnations. It sounds like it’d be impossible to yell in Canadian (other than cheering for your hockey team). I hope to keep that delusion throughout the rest of the trip. ;)