3000 miles, 60 hours

We did it. 3000 miles, 60 hours. Nobody got hurt. Car is reusable.

Goodbye Anchorage AK. It was good to know you. Hello Bay Area. It is great to be home.

Arrived ANC 7:30 Monday night. Dinner at Snow Goose as suggested by planeannie. Tuesday – packing, movie Elyssium with Tommy and Matt from work.

Wednesday – packers / movers arrive – 2 guys and a truck of packing material, boxes. Yes they thought they would just pack Wed, and load on Thurs. Same guys, different truck. Yes, could be done it a day, given that lots / most stuff was already packed. See how it goes and decide at lunchtime.

Ok, this will work. Go get truck with packing crates, and another guy. Really nice guys. Work really hard. Most of moves are military so just do everything to their requirements – lots of wrapping, taping. Tightly pack everything into big standard size wooden crates for shipping – boat from Anchorage to Seattle, truck from there – 3-6 weeks transit.

All loaded, cleaned, and signed off by owner’s rep about 8:30pm. Guys thought this was an early finish – before midnight. Quick dinner and hit the road. Glenallen around midnight. 200 miles down, 2800 to go. Good start. Nice to be on our way Wed after all.

North to Tok. Brief discussion with nice AK State Trooper regarding local speed limit. Yes, sir, it won’t happen again. Thank you, sir.

Canadian border crossing. Uneventful. Actually in Yukon! Always thought that was a big blank space on the top left of the map. Never actually expected to go there! Surprisingly flat, sort of boggy looking with really ugly evergreen trees – just poles sticking up with odd bits of needles around. Farther south, trees start to look like regular evergreens.

? pretty glacier fed lake

Whitehorse – Dinner at a real Mexican restaurant in Whitehorse. Looks like mostly locals eating and the place was packed. The couple running the place are Mexican. Hot day, feels like Mexico. Interesting Mexican candies came with the check. Interesting – restaurant next door was empty.

Cassiar Highway

Watson Lake – gas station at junction ? only open 7-11 so had to wait until morning to fill up. Hotel was fine, nice lady night clerk. Surprisingly comfortable beds.

Dease Lake had been our stretch goal but just as well we stopped earlier. This a really long stretch of road with very little in the way of services. Lots of turn outs with bear-proof litter bins, pretty good rest areas every 100km or so. Love those “Canadian miles” (km – kilometres) – keep the math simple.

Critters – Surprisingly few critters to be seen. Small black bear standing at the side of the road watching the traffic go by. At dusk one evening, a fox darted across the road. Some birds. May have actually hit a bat that flew into the path of the car just after dark.

Interesting weather. Mostly pretty nice – sunny, clear or high overcast. One evening lower clouds and lightning but no thunder – yellow cloud-to-cloud lightning rather than vertical blue steaks. Some evening rain – pretty hard at times on two separate nights.

Opening the west – Huge project to run power lines up the side of the road. Several different towers types depending on the terrain. Pillars, inverted metal triangular frame structures anchored on one point with guy wires from upper corners. Some on steep slopes 100s of feet above the road. Great road. Some stretches under repair, some signed loose gravel, but not much of a problem. Fair to say entire road is “paved.” Before we left we talked to the guy who bought Stef’s snow tires. He had made the trip a couple of times, most recently 3 years earlier and there were some stretched that were not paved then. Said it was really beautiful and worth the trip.

Gas – never pass up, even if you are sure you are back in civilization. We passed lots that were closed by 7pm or were out of premium, even on major highways.

Prince George – pretty much in the middle of nowhere. Suddenly there is Canadian Tire, Tim Hortons, a couple of huge (200+ room) new hotels. Everything is on the north west side of the “city center”, one not very informative sign indicating off ramp to main street (we think), then over the bridge and you are back in nowhere. All the gas stations south of the bridge are commercial cardlock access only. Yes, there is no people gas until Quisnel after 6pm, and then most were closed.

Williams Lake – looks big in the dark. Lots of national chain fast food and hotels along highway. A little to early to stop so we pushed on. Not great decision, but we thought Cache Creek was similar size metropolis. Wrong.

Cache Creek – after midnight Fri night. Bar still open, but only little motels with names like Desert Inn. Nope, didn’t get the clue. Canada’s Best – office closed 11pm – 7am. Sandman (same chain as huge hotel in Prince George) lobby locked up tight,  on buzzer outside sign says “ring bell and wait – may be 5 minutes for manager” who didn’t appear after more than 5 minutes even though vacancy sign was on. Next – lobby door unlocked, phone on counter with sign to press 0 – guy answers, thumping around overhead, guy checks us in. Wifi available from Subway adjoining the motel, but no signal in room. Late so just shower and bed.

OMG – in daylight this place looks like Mars, or at least the outskirts of Reno. Red dirt, grey scrubby bushes here and there. The end is in sight. It would be possible to make it to the bay area from here today, but would take some hard driving and good fortune.

Fraser River – As we travelled south, the road follows the river and the mountains get closer and steeper. Increasingly breathtaking scenery at every turn. Sure glad we didn’t push through and do this after midnight last night. Tricky driving – lots of steep hills, tight turns, no passing lanes, no shoulders, no margin for error for weary drivers. And amazingly beautiful. Would have hated to miss it.

Memo to self – do your homework. OMG this is THE Hell’s Gate! Had seen it by rail many years ago and it was the highlight of the trans-Canada train trip. Until we drove by the sign, didn’t realize we were anywhere near it.

US border – sign said expect 60 min delays. Exactly right. If we had driven all night we would have been here about 5am. Doubt there would have been much delay then, but you never know.

Getting to I-5 slow –  didn’t follow directions from Google maps print out. By the time we use the phone for guidance we were already into suburban Sat am traffic. It gets worse. Road construction north of Seattle. Seattle traffic really heavy, but apparently this is just normal. Maybe Seattle isn’t such a great place to live after all. Slow by Tacoma. About an hour stop and go around Olympia – accident blocking 2 lanes.

Dinner in Eugene – nice tour while trying to find someplace to eat – cute college town. Huge shopping center on the east side of I-5 with good selection of better chain restaurants. By now that’s what we wanted. Baja Fresh in Oregon?! Must be getting closer to home.

Gassing up, the attendant asked if we had jumper cables – guess dirty car with AK plates would be prepared for anything, and we were. Handy self contained unit that connects and provides power. Took 5 minutes once the unit was extracted from deep in the trunk. Good karma points. Two nice ladies in a minivan really appreciative,

Great drive through Oregon – California passes. Serous accident tied up north bound traffic for miles on Oregon side. Thankful that we didn’t have to sit through that too as it was mostly big rigs and a steep down grade. Redding – best surprise is no surprise. Best Western Plus. Night clerk pleasant. Room fine. Wifi worked. Buffet breakfast. 90 degrees as we gassed up before heading out on last leg.

They don’t call it the Golden State for nothing – all the grass IS golden – not brown. Very pretty in a “you have to be from there” sort of way. Back in bay area traffic. No problem so long as you are paying attention to merges and highway divides.

Honey, we are home! Sooo appreciative of family.  Nice relaxing afternoon and evening. Real food. Good company. Just what we needed. Thanks.

CBB – things that we might have done better or at least differently.

  • driving – really have to take turns. Just establish a schedule and stick to it. Must be a really compelling reason to deviate.
  • water in the car was good – at least a gallon per day. Available to buy in most big gas stops
  • work out route with more than Google maps – gets turns ok, but doesn’t tell you anything about where you are when you are turning or where you are going.
  • Milepost – very comprehensive but hard to read in the car. Should have read it sooner, but knew that. In some ways it was a bit misleading – were anticipating more services along roads to be open longer hours. Guide is great for folks in campers or just day driving. Trying to drive 16 hours days, there were a few surprises.
  • Other information with “bigger picture” would have been good too, even though didn’t plan to stop. Some really beautiful lakes and mountains. May have beed some historic sites that it would have been nice to have in context.

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