Thursday, September 16, 2010

Alcan Highway - Fairbanks, ALASKA

Caribou with broken antler.
Days 26-27
At Fort St. John, I got an oil change, which set me back a few hours, but was well worth it since there was a tremendous amount of fog on the road and the visibility was 50 yards max.  Then I set out on the most intense driving I have ever experienced.  Yes the Alcan Highway is incredibly long, wild, and scenic, but it has countless unmarked pot holes, and can be quite rough.  But I should  not complain since twenty years ago it was all gravel.  From Fort St. John to Fort Nelson to Watson Lake to Whitehorse is roughly 850 miles.  That was my route yesterday.  Today was Whitehorse to the US border and to Fairbanks, Alaska for another 600 miles.  AT LAST I could say I had made it to Alaska; a la Etta James.   One infuriating tid-bit is that I bought a monthly access plan so that my phone would work in Canada and it never worked past Grande Cache in Alberta.
Its tough to see, but this is a restaurant with a ceiling covered in 7,800 hats!

The road: Imagine openness, semi paved roads, a range from flatness to 11% grade, drives through parks and around lakes.  Some signs read WIND GUSTS, AVALANCHE COUNTRY, FIRST NATION (reservations), CHAIN on/removal stops, BREAK CHECKS, EMERGENCY RUN OFF SLOPES etc. Then there were loads of game signs, which were accurate.  I saw a black bear, about 8 meese (inside family joke), mountain goats, coyotes, foxes, owls, hawks, eagles, and even a pig.

How to: To drive on the Alcan successfully requires caution, but SPEED.  When there is open space you FLY.  For some of the drive I had to drive at night to gain time since I was told that bad weather was going to roll into Denali and potentially obscure the view tomorrow.  So I quickly learned that if I kept up behind an 18-Wheeler, which already drives quickly, that I would be protected from anything in the road and have extra illumination from their lights.
Me in my previous life
Alaska Border: I came back into the US and was not only proud (of myself and vehicle) to have made it, but grateful.  The roads were already better, I was no longer nervous about carrying the shotgun in Canada, and from here on out, weather permitting, I had a bunch of adventure in addition to the driving.  I came to Fairbanks about 6PM, with a clear view of Denali!  I cannot wait to see it up close tomorrow, God willing.  But Alaska is also a bit weird.
Moose eyes
Can you tell I am pleased?
I arrived to a "hostel" that was advertised in the Milepost (a guidebook/log of all mile posts throughout Alberta, BC, Yukon, and AK) and was shown my "room with strangers" room.  I follow the rude man beyond the Inn-like buildings into the back and hidden section of the parking lot.  Next to 3 rusting but functioning trailers was a tree with a ladder and a tree house in it.  I thought it was a play house, but from inside this tree house I am typing and going to sleep tonight.  Its nice you know, it blocks the wind, but there is no door knob (it is a nail that closes the door) and probably holds a lot of spiders! Anyway, me and a very unlucky man are staying tonight here before we write a claim lol.  It would definitely fail any and all hospitality/fire codes.  But even more strange was that the host showed me the lobby with living room and computer.  Sitting in front of the computer, and on Facebook, was a short, plump, Native American hooker, wearing fish nets, all black with unmistakable "hooker" boots.  She smiled at me.  I asked the host if he could recommend a local place to have dinner and he said McDonalds or Pizza Hut -- Golly!  I went with Pizza Hut and am now going to sleep.

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