8/19/15 to 8/24/15 (11,217 miles)
The next few days were all about driving a long way with not so much to see. Much of the scenery was wheat or grass fields, but sometimes one must just deal with whatever to get from point A to point B.
Whitehorse, our first stop, is the capital of Yukon Territory and is a city of about 20,000 people. We didn’t have much time here, but we visited the world’s longest fish ladder (1,200 feet) built to get salmon past the hydroelectric dam on the Yukon River. Whitehorse also has a hatchery to attempt to boost the number of salmon, as the population is declining. Research is conducted at the fish ladder, as scientists try to understand why fewer and fewer salmon are returning to their spawning grounds. By the time the fish reach the salmon ladder, they have traveled about 1,900 miles from the Baltic Sea, and they don’t eat again after they enter the river. The ones we saw looked pretty ragged.
We also made a trip to the airport to see Whitehorse’s weathervane. They have mounted a DC-3 on a pole, and it swivels with the wind. They think it might be the world’s biggest weathervane, but they don’t make that claim. We thought it was amazing.
Just before Whitehorse we left the Klondike Highway and joined the Alaska Highway. On Wednesday we drove on to Watson Lake, and, for the first time in a lot of days, we encountered no gravel. That was a good thing, as there is no room for more dirt on the truck or trailer.
Watson Lake is home of the Sign Forest. During the building of the Alaska Highway a homesick American GI posted a sign for his hometown, Danville, IL. Since then, many, many people have posted signs here. A lot of them have obviously been stolen from roadsides, as there were a lot of official signs here. The total number of signs is mind-boggling. At last count there were 76,000 of them. As with Grand Canyon, it is impossible to take a photo of this display.
On Thurday’s drive south to Fort Nelson, we stopped at Liard Hot Springs Provincial Park for a soak in the hot spring. It was wonderfully relaxing, and we really enjoyed it, but we got over the relaxation pretty efficiently.
On this stretch of highway we saw more wildlife than any place we had been other than Denali National Park. There were bison, caribou, a fox, a bear, and a lynx. We were still looking unsuccessfully for a beaver.
Fort Nelson, British Columbia, was our next stop. This is a small community that was growing with oil and gas activity, but recently it has declined substantially. We went into Dan’s Neighborhood Pub for a beer, and, while the bartender was bright and cheerful, the clientele was limited and somewhat grim.
On Friday we moved on to Dawson Creek, BC, that was the beginning point for the Alaska Highway. There are two competing “Mile 0” monuments, and there is a good bit of information about the building of the highway in various museums. The USA and Canada built this 1,420-mile highway from Dawson Creek, BC, to Big Delta, AK, in less than eight months at a cost of $67,000 per mile in 1942. They started from forests, mountains and rivers, and began by surveying. As we read the accounts and looked at the pictures, we tried to imagine how such a thing could be accomplished in today’s world. We couldn’t get a picture of this.
Vehicles that were used in the construction project have been abandoned all along the way. They made an interesting museum of the effort.
From Dawson Creek, we drove to Onoway, a very small community whose claim to fame is that there are fifteen golf courses within a ten-minute drive. Here we stayed in a farmer’s field. The farmer, Bert, was friendly and interesting, and our neighbors, Stephanie and D.C. invited us to their site for a campfire. We spent an enjoyable evening here.
Departing Onoway, we drove to Lethbridge, B.C. This town has the most convoluted road system we have ever experienced. Exiting the highway to get to the RV park required a U-Turn. We think five years of living here would be required to know one’s way around.
And then we left for the Lower 48. Crossing the border required that we surrender all our produce. We had crossed into the USA two previous times, and we had done as much Internet research as we could do to determine what could be brought into the USA, but on two previous crossings, nothing was taken. This time there were no other vehicles crossing, so we thought the agents were bored. We had to stop, deploy the slide room and allow an inspection during which our vegetables were seized. We were not bothered, as we understand how disruptive the odd tomato could be to world peace.
Stephen had filled our fresh water tanks, so we stopped at a Flying J Truck Stop, bought DEF (Diesel Exhaust Fluid) from a pump at $3 per gallon instead of the $8 per gallon we paid in Canada when we bought it in jugs, and washed the trailer. We were both past disgusted with the amount of dirt we were carrying from northern Alaska and Yukon.
With no further drama, we drove the 370 miles and landed in Bozeman, where we will await the arrival of Jean and Vicky Burton on Wednesday. The drive south was reminiscent of the drive north on the Cassiar Highway with a lot of smoke from forest fires blotting out the scenery. There were mountains and rivers, and we could see them vaguely through the smoke.
During our time in Alaska, the motor that raises and lowers the rear stabilizers quit. When we arrived in Bozeman the prongs on the stabilizer drive shaft that allowed us to extend and retract the stabilizers manually had fallen off, so now we could not use the rear stabilizers. Stephen took the motor off and tore into it, discovering that one of the small springs had broken. A trip to Ace Hardware provided the bits he thought would allow him to repair the motor. For an investment of only $10, he was able to play happily for a couple of hours. Donna thought this was better than Legos. Stephen succeeded in rebuilding the motor. We wonder how people without handyman skills manage to travel with RV’s.
On Thursday we will drive into Yellowstone National Park with two, probably, tired Brits in tow.