Alaska 2014

NOTE:  When Sharon adds comments, they will be in {curly brackets}.  Comments added AFTER coming back to San Jose are in [square brackets].


Report 25. Day 25. Thu, May 29. Beaver Creek, YT to Glenallen, Alaska and Tolsona Wilderness Campground.

It's Thursday morning May 29th. Sister Shirley and husband Jerry are flying in Sunday June 1st. Can't wait.

When I empty the "black water" holding tank, I run in a couple of gallons of fresh water and a special chemical to combat the smell and help dissolve toilet paper that will be put in over the next days. Yesterday, a real helpful fellow said he uses a mixture of 1/3 cup of dishwashing liquid and 1/3 cup of calgon or something like that, to give a good smell and prevent the emptying valves from sticking. Note to self: Google that for exact details.

Sharon is hearing Varied Thrushes, and I can't seem to hear them. I don't think they're that high in frequency that it should be a problem hearing.

This morning we're bound for Glennallen, Alaska and the Tolsona Wilderness Campground RV park. We stayed there in 1998, and it'll be fun to see if it's as I remembered it.

As we leave, I see that last night's camp is called White River RV Park. We drive over the White River bridge. In early times, a fellow came through here and said there was so much volcanic ash that it made the river white, so that's how he named it.

And all the time I thought it was named after my high school buddy and next door neighbor Paul White. Or my other buddy Ron White. Or our classmate Pat White. White-ever.

Wait, my seventh grade teacher, Mrs. Bonnelle White, who was famous for saying, "Bobby, bring those baseball cards up here to me. You may have them back at the end of the day." {I remember meeting Mrs. White when we went to Bob's High School reunion. This tiny elderly lady came walking up to Bob and said, "Bobby, do you still have those baseball cards?" Amazing that she remembered that after 40 years. He must have been a rascal.}

Going to Alaska, I need to practice my Alaska jokes. So here goes the first.

There was a murder suspect brought in for questioning in late July in Nome. He was at a table with a light shining in his eyes, and the detective asked, "Where were you the night of September through April?" Laugh. You know it's funny.

I'm so disappointed. We've been on the road almost ten minutes and no bears.

Sharon asks the interesting question are the caribou that are here migrators, or like the Canada Geese in San Jose, do they live here year round now. Survey says... no answer yet.

The Taiga forest here is really low. There are power poles off to the side of the road about twenty feet carrying wires, and some of them look like a giant gopher tried to pull one under, making it only about 7 feet tall. We pass over a part of the road that has some construction going on, and it looks like there are lots of air vents stuck into the earth. Later we learn that that's exactly what's happening. It's testing whether keeping the permafrost at the same temperature as the air will alleviate all the highway waving and buckling.

Sunrise is just hitting the tops of the mountains. Beautiful.

Suddenly we both spot something black in the road ahead, in the oncoming lane. Black bear? We get closer, and closer, and it's a big piece of tire. First of the day. Woohoo.

It's about ten after six when we again see a black spot in the ditch on our right, and it's spelled BEAR. He gets about halfway up the terraced side, turns, looks at us, goes a little further, flirting with our camera that is just getting ready..., and its gone into the woods. Hmmm, do I think of this as forest or woods? Definitely forest.

Continuing on, we are now on the worst road of the trip. I'm going 11 mph and it is slightly too fast.

We see a pair of birds, thrush-looking in shape and size, but they appear to be dark, maybe grey. They both have the entire width of their tail tipped in white. Checking our bird app and checking my memory, I come up with Eastern Kingbird, but two things are off. First, Sharon saw a malar stripe - like a moustache, though I didn't notice this feature. And we both noticed no white at all except for the tail stripe. I argue that the partial white ring going around the neck could be taken for a malar stripe if seen quickly, but Sharon's having none of it. So we never agree on what it might be. That happens in birding and marriage. Get over it.

About 6:30 Sharon picks up a pair of swans in a lake on our left. I thought they were little pockets of snow. We pull over and get photos and video. They seem to be dipping their heads into the water, then lifting them back out in unison. Some kind of new dance. {The Milepost says each pair of swans will have their own lake or pond as they are very territorrial and will chase off any other swans and even loons.}

This morning, its slow slow slow going. There are lots and lots of individual pot holes and wavy pavement, and we have to go 10 mph or even slower sometimes.

We get our second rainbow in the last ten minutes. It shows up as a kind of spot, rather than a bow. {"Rain spot" or "Spot bow"?}

Seven o'clock and time for a bathroom stop. This secion of road we're working our way through is called the Shakwak Highway Project. What a great name. I'm sure it's local native American.

Coming to a section of the road that's being worked on, we are stopped till a pilot car brings the oncoming traffic towards us in a single lane. Then it's our turn, and he takes us forward a couple of miles, and we are released to continue the 10 mph rapid pace we have been doing. Wheee.

As we approach Beaver Creek, we begin to see signs. Buckshot Betty has year round rooms.

We stop at Ida's 24 Hr Service. Except somebody has climbed up on the top of the building and scratched through the 24, just leaving it a mess, so it says Ida's Hr Service. We assume that it means they are very slow.

I go in to tell the gas clerk that I want to fill up and it'll be more than 100 dollars. I do this because in San Jose, if your total is going to be more than 100 dollars, you have to run it through twice. What a pain. For us big truckers, that is. Anyway, the clerk -- Ida, in my mind -- is a large east Indian fellow with a huge belly. I walk up to the first window and say do I pay for gas here? And he points to a door to my left, and says through there. I go through there, turn 90 degrees to the right, take two steps, and I'm looking into the same room over a countertop, at the same fellow. I say do I pay here and he says yes, with his huge white moustache and whiskers. I thought it would have been funny if he had said no to my question, when the only answer possible is yes. As a joke on me, the customer, you see. To ease the fact that we're about to pay $8 or so a gallon for Ida's gas.

After I fill up, I go back in and said, "Are you Ida?" He doesn't miss a beat, and says no. I say do you know where she is? And he says "Six feet under." Pretty funny.

Earlier, we went by this church built around a Quonset hut that Sharon really wants a photo of, so we backtrack and get a couple of shots. Very cool. {WWII Quonset hut from the road building.}

Sharon refers to the Milepost description of the Alaska Highway and says that the swans of this area are very likely Trumpeters.

We hit the road again, and on our right I see two signs sticking in the ground, identical, brown with white spots painted at the top, marking the boundaries of a road I figure. Then I think are those...? And Sharon answers THAT unfinished question with "Two bald eagles on the right." I stop and get a couple of nice shots. Very serene, they are, sitting there looking around.

8:00 am and we have a lake on our right, with one swan. Our theory is that his mate is sitting on a nest somewhere, and continuing a little further, we were right, there she is. Beautiful.

Fifteen minutes later, we are stopped on a gravel road, in a pilot car situation. We are waiting for the pilot to connect with people on the far end. He'll lead them here, then peel off, and lead us through the one-lane area. A sign says 15 minute wait, but if you use basic calculus, you can figure out that the wait will be up TO 15 minutes. But that's too many words for a simple sign, so...

I get five nap minutes while waiting, then the pilot car is here, he turns around, and he takes us in the "oncoming" lane as we notice the right half is oiled up real good. Stay away from THAT.

It's 8:41am, the odometer is 10477, and we cross into Alaska. WE'RE HERE!

We take quite a few photos of our arrival, as do several other cars full of travelers.

I watch a couple set their camera on a rock, pointed towards the Alaska sign, and after they finish, do the same thing. I take a little too long to get to my position, and here is the resulting fine photo, and the redo. I'm partial to the photo on the left, though Sharon gets her wave completed in the one on the right. Hmmm.

We (re)learn from a sign that Alaska has its own time zone, one hour behind Pacific Time.

Delighted we are, as we take off and celebrate the perfectly flat, wonderful high-speed highway. Yaay!

We subtract one hour from our clocks and watches, and clear customs a little after 'new' 8 am. Odometer is 10477. {"NO PHOTOS" at the border crossing}

We come upon a road crew of 3-4 trucks. First a guy free-cuts a little channel perhaps a half-inch wide. Then two guys, one behind the other each blow the dust out of it. A fourth guy fills it with oil or asphalt which quickly hardens. We want to know where the guy is who plants the trees. Anyway, the distance between channels is maybe 10 or 15 yards, and we think it's to allow for expansion of sections so they won't buckle or warp. We think.

Another sinking power pole comes along. Permafrost, at random, picks a pole here and there to suck half down into the ground.

Wow, unleaded gas is $4.43 a gallon. Sharon: Is that cheap? Bob: Yes, we were paying like $7.50 in upper Yukon.

8:20 am. Sharon says boy are we muddy now and is she ever right.

We come to Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge, and it welcomes us. There are cliff swallows here.

I check my iPhone and there is no service here. But this is way better than the no service we were getting in Canada.

We take a breakfast break. It's 10:22 in San Jose and 9:22 here.

As we continue on, Sharon reads that a moose can lose a pint of blood a day from mosquitoes in a day. I'm wondering, is that one mosquito, or a family?

After Canada, Alaska roads are like heaven - wide, double yellow striped in center, white stripes outside of driving lanes, and a place to pull over

I get sleepy, and Sharon is too, so we pull over and I take a twenty minute nap before hitting the road again. A Northern Flicker (woodpecker) shows his awesome self.

We roll along and about 12:30 we turn left on the Tok Cutoff, heading for Anchorage, with only one more night on the road.

Sweeping around a right hand curve, we see a big billowy rise of smoke. As we get closer, we cross over the Tok River, and thed ust cloud source keeps moving to our left. I figure it's a big rig moving rapidly over a dirt road. But then the dust cloud stops. Hmm. Don't know what that was.

We pass Swan Lake, and soon thereafter we get lots of bumpy sections of road. A big sign says BUMP. Somebody added an apostrophe and an 'n', and then GRIND below that.

Porcupine Creek passes below us as we put on our book on CD again. There are nine CDs, and I swear sometimes an entire CD goes by and nothing happens.

About 3:30, Sharon gives me a break and I do a great nap, then we change back.

We arrive at the turnoff, and I almost miss it. Actually we were stopped in a pilot car situation, and we just bailed out of the group and did a right turn. Driving the mile or so off the freeway, it begins to feel familiar, especially when we come to the little bridge that crosses the creek.

We set the trailer up, at 10889 odometer reading, in the Tolsona Wilderness Campground. Good Wifi, right by the creek, and a million mosquitoes. Plus two or three ravens having an argument atop a nearby pine tree.

Good night, All.
Bob and Sharon

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