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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.

The weather has been gorgeous the whole trip so far. It looks like it’ll hold until Edmonton, where suggests “cold and rainy.” That’s two days out, though, so it’s hard to say. It’s still hitting 80 degrees Fahrenheit and has been all through every state/province so far; George has a thing that shows the external temperature, and it got up to 82, in Manitoba, yesterday. I figured I’d be wearing my jacket by now. Not complaining, just sharing my experience. :D

As I move north, I’m noticing some autumn colors in the trees–when there are trees. North Dakota was a little sparse, as was a lot of Manitoba. Half of Wisconsin was sparse, and half was this beautiful, hilly, tree-y area with rock upcroppings(?); that was where I first noticed some color change in the trees. Part of my drive yesterday seemed to be moving into some hills and tree-covered areas, as well, so I’m pretty excited to see what today holds. I’m a smidge further south than I’d originally anticipated (I did ponder driving through Regina–locals seem to pronounce this with a hard “i”–but decided against … and the GPS decided for, so that’s where I’ll be this afternoon–I’m hoping to make Saskatoon today, which will put me right on schedule).

The schedule in my head now looks kind of like this (though I still haven’t sat down and really examined The Milepost the way I’d hoped to):
* 9/1 – Indiana/Michigan border – 329.2 miles
* 9/2 – Madison, WI – 283.9 miles (that’s a measure to my morning coffee, not to my friends’ house)
* 9/3 – Fargo, ND – 553.9 miles (that will be the record for the trip)
* 9/4 – Brandon, MB – 348.9 miles (see? shorter? not worth it to drive so much in one day that I can’t the next)

* 9/5 – Saskatoon, SK – 385 miles
* 9/6 – Edmonton, Alberta – 326 mi
* 9/7 – Dawson Creek, British Columbia – 367 mi – beginning of the Alcan
* 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 (and customs)
* 9/12 – Anchorage, AK – 320 miles

I was going to try to go a little further per day to get into Anchorage by Friday, to sign the lease on my apartment. But I just don’t think it can be done. There’s little enough between stops that, unless I want to sleep in the car, I’m kind of going to have to go with these locations and mileages. It sounds like the woman at the rental company might be willing to meet me on Saturday. So, fingers crossed, there. Also, that puts me in town in time for the last farmer’s market of the season!

The other thing that occurred to me, while I was driving, that I meant to mention, was that maybe this is the right way to do this move. I think a flight and, bam, I’m in Anchorage… that might be a little too sudden. This really gives me time to think and transition and absorb the change. Also, I’m on the road all day and too tired when I get to the hotel to really be doing much, with respect to the library world. It’s a good break.

I do wish I had a travel companion. The birds are by turns wonderful/adorable and miserable/screamy, much like a travel companion might be. But they aren’t interested in my snark about Minnesota drivers (seriously, people, you have all this space out here–use it and don’t merge in front of me and then slow down!), and they don’t tell me jokes or sing along with musicals with me. (If the government has a monitoring device in my vehicle–there’s no reason to believe they do, except that it’s funny–I pity the fool who has to listen to it. All of Dr. Horrible is more or less sung in my range, but some of the other things I like singing along with aren’t.) I could make better time with another driver, as well, obviously.

So, if anyone’s reading this blog and pondering doing a similar trip… take someone with you. For real. If you have an unemployed friend with a penchant for travel, offer to buy their ticket back home. It would be money well spent, not just logistically (more driving per day) but also for companionship. I’m not desperately lonely, but I’m missing conversation… as Dale can tell you. I think we spent an hour and a half or more on Skype last night. … I’d just call more people when I take breaks, but I think Verizon would be really terrible to me, as far as roaming charges go. :/

Anyway, didn’t mean to end on a complainy note. Really, the trip’s been going well. I’m tired, but holding up. I like Comfort Inn a lot. Motel 6 is also fine–the one in Fargo seemed like some sort of weird dorm, in some ways–though I wish they had wifi. Super 8 is my least favorite, just because that one branch was built out of cardboard; I’d give them another chance, figuring that can’t always be the case. But, yeah, I’ve been sleeping OK. The birds are holding up all right. (They get really grumpy after about 4pm, on the road. But so do I, so that’s OK.) Like I said, beautiful weather. So, you know, things are good.

Also, I’m far enough north that all the motel parking spots have electrical outlets.

So, here I am, in Brandon, Manitoba. The GPS disagrees with Google Maps on big decisions, and I don’t know why. It wanted me to drive back down I-29 and get on I-94, this morning. (Since I’d already wasted a bunch of time driving past Fargo–it did not impress me–and then driving back, when I learned that there aren’t motels between Fargo and Grand Forks, I was disinclined to acquiesce to its suggestion. Also, I wanted to get out of the US before the holiday traffic started.) Now, it has me taking 1 all the way across Canada, rather than going the faster way to Saskatoon, then hopping on 1 (aka the Trans-Canada Highway). I didn’t really notice until I was committed to the route. So, there you go, I guess I’m taking the south road.

Things have been going OK, mostly. Some bloopers: The GPS thing. The motel-search thing. Grace broke a blood feather, and it bled (just a little) two nights… pretty much up until I bought styptic powder, which I have not yet (knock on wood) applied. The other night I got a beer with one of my Madison friends at BW3 (does anyone know where the third W comes from?) and had a hard time walking straight–who knew “pint” was not the standard size? Today, I drove away from a gas station with my fuel thing open; I heard it making noise and realized it just before a car full of guys–who seemed friendly and hippie-ish–passed me and indicated it. I think they saw the tail end of a curse word–one of the obvious ones–because they moved from pointing helpfully to laughing sympathetically, then drove off. Also, we could solve the continent’s power problems by installing wind generators along the Trans-Canada Highway in Manitoba. Seriously, the cross-winds were terrible. Are terrible, always, I suspect. And the non-highwayness of it is very strange, to me. There are traffic lights, which isn’t so strange after life in northern Virginia, but there are these weird cross-roads where people have to speed across the highway… two of those people, right in front of me, were tractor trailers; I had to pretty much stop, to keep from hitting them. All over ND and MB, it’s super flat, and it’s hard not to get distracted by the antennas when I see them–they’re huge, and they must have awesome coverage. (No, seriously, it seems like Canada has taller antennas.) Which is to say, I had to correct so as not to drive off the road, one or two times, so now I try not to look at them.

I found a fruit stand! I can’t get the photo off my phone, because Canada is apparently a “roaming” area for Verizon (not just “extended network”). Eventually, I will. It’s notable because there were none between Pennsylvania and Manitoba! I had this fantastic Wisconsin cheese and some Triscuits, but no tasty fruit to go with them. The first couple stands in MB had signs that said “turn now,” rather than “turn in 3km”; the people who planned well made the sale! (Maybe I will spin this into a library-themed post, at some point in the future.) Other photos I promise: a field of sunflowers (out the side window), some kind of giant grain-processing thing (out the side window … taken because man are those things huge!), a poor picture of the Budweiser plant, and probably some other things. I didn’t get any photos of it, but the soil in North Dakota is this weird blackish brown.

The Canadian border crossing was painless. I had to park and go into the office, but nobody wanted to see the birds or make me fill out a form or anything. They just wanted to see the health certificates and have me wait five minutes, and then I was on my way.

Two days without being able to really post–I know more happened. But I’m super sleepy and kind of distracted. I’ll share my pictures, and that’ll be the end of today’s post. I’ll do what I can to find Internet-enabled accommodations tomorrow, as well, since the phone’s spazzy.

There’s the car, packed. There’s Grace, in front of the Pittsburgh skyline from 279. There’s a truck being dragged, so that it faces like it’s driving toward you, which terrifies me. There’s the Chicago skyline from … maybe too far away to see it well. And there’s a mobile chapel, which I found rather strange (note the antenna … whoa). My Twitter stream has a picture of me in front of the Wisconsin sign (Dale’s right–it was an awful picture of me) and a picture of a car dragging a big cheeseburger and ice cream cone, which seemed odd.

Seriously, I’m distracted, so, you know, sorry if the phrasing and paragraph structure are a little weak. I’ll compose better tomorrow. ;)

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

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? :)

The decision of what to drive isn’t made, yet, but the decision of how to drive is almost entirely separate, anyway. I can start thinking about that in parallel.

Google Maps gives me roughly two routes for land-based travel:

The first–drive straight west for a while, turn right, and go up through Madison, WI, and large portions of Canada–is 4071 miles long. At the speed I plan to drive, that’s roughly 11 days. (Yes, I’m familiar with Hofstadter’s Law. I’m planning for 2 weeks or more.)

The second, going through Seattle (an option I’m considering largely due to the convenience of using US currency and staying in hotel chains I know are pet-friendly for as much of the way as possible), is 4902 miles long. That’s 13 days.

I’d like to take a day or two, in there, to chill, be a tourist, and not really drive anywhere (so, 13 and 15 days, respectively). Where and whether I can depends, a bit, on which path I take, of course. There’s a third option: ferry from Bellingham, which is north of Seattle. As far as I can tell, this is a terrible idea–it’s expensive, takes possibly longer than driving, and … actually, if the trip planner is to be believed, it’s not even possible, unless I leave earlier or drive faster. And the birds would have to stay in the car. The whole time. … No way.

One other possible wrench in this plan is, if my newest Ravelry friend is to be believed, the possibility of snow along the Alaska Highway. Now, looking at historical data for the Yukon, it seems like snow in mid-September is not really a problem. A kind professor tipped me off to the existence of the Milepost, a sort of travel guide for the Alaska Highway–which looks like it stretches into the Yukon, as well–and I don’t see a lot of evidence that snow is of great concern. … I think I may ask an Alaskan librarian for help with this. I know a couple, now, and it’s an excuse to get to know a couple more, right?

If I don’t hate driving by the time I hit Tok, I may go up to Fairbanks and down through Denali. That would be an awesome drive.

Also, this whole thing could be done more efficiently–and would be a whole lot more fun–if someone were able to join me for any leg of the trip. I realize flying back to Pittsburgh from Anchorage is expensive–believe me–but maybe someone wants to go to Wisconsin? Or from Wisconsin to Dawson Creek, BC? … No worries, if not. I’m prepared to do the drive myself, but I figure it can’t hurt to ask.

Last, but not least, I have put in requests for bids from pet shipping companies, for the birds. I don’t think we’re going to deem that especially economical, but who can say?

As always, feel free to leave comments/advice/complaints/suggestions/recipes/lolcats.

Hi, I’m Coral, and, in a week or so–when I have finished library school–I will begin preparing to move to Alaska with my boyfriend, three birds, and a chinchilla. This includes selling most of my belongings, maybe buying a 4WD car (or maybe not), and driving across the country. Undecided: am I taking the birds with me or finding a way to ship them? (Probably the former.) Am I driving the short way, or going all the way to Seattle and trying to take a ferry? Is Dale coming in December or waiting until spring?

These questions remain unanswered. But if you’d like to follow along with Dale and me while we make these decisions and watch my progress as I drive across the country, feel free to follow this blog!

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October 2021