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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.

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.

Distance: 329.2 miles (from the gas station in Pittsburgh). George has also passed the thousand-mile mark. And made slightly above her rated highway miles-per-gallon pretty much the whole time, which is awesome, considering that she’s loaded down!

Not much else to report. I went further than I’d planned–into Indiana, instead of stopping on the Ohio border. I didn’t sleep a lot last night, so I sort of had to stop when I did, to stay safe. No sense in worrying about trying to get ahead of schedule, yet: tomorrow’s stopping point is set. (Safety note: I wouldn’t have gone further today even if that weren’t the case!) I have a couple of pictures, but they have to stay on my phone until I get to a better place to send them–this motel blocks Verizon’s wireless, it seems. (Besides, Gmail’s down.) Dale has the “real camera,” so all of my pictures will be taken with the phone, until I find myself at a Costco, to pick up a new camera.

The birds did great. The plants seem a little wilted. I’m dehydrated, but will be having some water before I sleep tonight.

Playlist (roughly in order for today–and I probably won’t keep track every day): Eve 6 (great roadtrip-starting music), Dr. Horrible, Once More With Feeling (the Buffy musical :)), 2 Girl Talk albums, Repo: The Genetic Opera, Dr. Horrible, a little KT Tunstall, and a little iPod randomization.

Administrivia: I deleted the Platial map from the sidebar and replaced it with Twitter (which doesn’t help you much if you use RSS or Facebook, but helps anyone who comes to the blog directly). It’ll give a more up-to-date view of what’s going on. Also, I’m starting a Google Map of the trip. It’s less elegant than Rob’s solution for his cross-country trip, but costs me less in equipment and setup time. :D

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October 2021