Day 95 (July 1): Canada Day!
So it’s Canada Day! Or so we think, at least. We know the long weekend is such to celebrate Canada Day. But we’re not exactly sure where it is today, July 1, or tomorrow because everyone is off work tomorrow. But maybe, as we’ve learned in the bush, Canada just likes to take it easy around things that are important to them, so they give everyone an extra day to enjoy their holiday?
We woke up at Wal Mart and did the next “first” for us. We took a shower in our camper in the parking lot. I fixed our hot water heater in Washington so we were no longer hostage to our stink. Usually when we boon dock we will try and shower, or at least go for a swim, every other day. Were traveling in mostly cool climates so we’re able to manage our stink a bit in them.
But two days without a shower, plus a good long sit by a campfire in the bush, was enough to warrant burning a little propane to warm up the water.
Prepping for the Alaskan Highway
While Lindsay washed her hair (yes, even that is possible in our tiny camper!) I made final plans in the McDonalds inside the Wal Mart. In my wrinkled clothes and flip flops I looked like I had slept in the parking lot. And I’m sure people probably thought that as well. But as much as people judge Wal Mart, I can assure you there was no judgment passed on me by either the employees of Wal Mart of McDonalds. Strange how judgment works, isn’t it?
My most important planning was ensuring that I knew exactly where we could locate fuel for every leg of our drive along the Alaskan Highway. We would be covering almost 1,500 miles from Dawson Creek to Fairbanks and with a range of 350 miles give or take about 20 or 30 I wanted to know when I needed to pull over even if I wasn’t on empty. We also had an extra 10 gallons of diesel in jerry cans so that would get us another 100-120 miles if we ended up in a bind.
I don’t like binds though. I’d rather over prepare for a drive like this.
So I did. I jotted down the fuel locations and then layered where we could expect to dump our tanks and refill our fresh water. We planned to boon dock pretty much everywhere along the drive so determining where to sleep was not an issue. We’d just pull over when we wanted to. Most important was fuel and water.
Charting and Starting the Course
Once I knew where to stop for fuel, water and tank dumps charting the course was a breeze. The Alaskan Highway is a single road that runs from Dawson Creek to Fairbanks, Alaska. There are some subtle intersections from time to time and many small country crossroads. But once you hop on the highway there is pretty much no way to get lost. Just follow the yellow brick road, they say… or something like that.
We left Wal Mart around 1PM knowing that we would have sunlight until at least 10PM. On our way through town we topped off on fuel and stopped at the tourism center where the official “Alaskan Highway” sign is located to mark “Mile 0” of the journey. We took our photos, ate a snack and headed off on the famous highway.
The scenery was pretty bland for most of the drive. By bland I mean, you need to plan to drive it yourself. It’s incredibly remarkable. But mile after mile passes and you keep telling yourself this is so beautiful and suddenly the beauty becomes less potent. We covered a few hundred miles with ease, hardly noticing the intermittent rain… or the fact that at 7 pm the sun still felt like it was early afternoon.
Traveling the Alaskan Highway With Purpose
I’ll have to write a post just on our purpose for driving the Alaskan Highway. It was two-fold, of course, like most of the stories of our journey. The first part was simply to take us toward a destiny we felt awaited us in Alaska at the top of the world. This is all over our site and we’ve shared tons of stories on how we simply feel Alaska is going to impact us somehow.
But the second purpose of our journey was to help people. We vowed to stop for every vehicle on the side of the road. This highway is so desolate that you only cross small towns every few hours. If someone is broken down it becomes a big deal. If you are the one broken down it’s a bigger deal.
So we decided we’d stop to help anywhere we saw a car on the side of the road.
By the end of the day we counted 7 vehicles. We didn’t assist anyone in each of these vehicles, however. Six of them were abandoned already. The seventh was a very nice couple from New Brunswick who knew more about solving the difficulty they were facing than we did. We were just moral support, I suppose. Plus we committed to following them the 40 or so miles to the next town to make sure they arrived safely.
As we’re learning, sometimes the giving is just a matter of grooming the heart. You commit to a thing like helping others and, whether you ever find someone to help or not, that commitment is a change in your spirit. There is not much we could do for someone broken down on the side of the road. We’re not mechanics (though I’ve played one many times both for our own truck and for others on the road!). We don’t have the space to give anyone a ride. We’re pretty much only prepared to stop and spread good cheer.
Kindness of Strangers
At one point I thought it would be amazing if we had enough money in life to simply leave a $100 bill and a kind note on the windshield of every abandoned vehicle we passed. Sure, $100 wouldn’t make a dent in the towing bill let alone the repair to some of these vehicles. But wouldn’t the kindness of a stranger you never met, nor ever would meet, take away some of the anger, depression and anxiety of being stranded on the Alaskan Highway?
It’s a goal of mine to become filthy rich someday just so I can bless the world in ways like this… I just don’t know how I’m going to make that happen yet.
We ended up driving almost 10 hours today. The sun didn’t set until around 10:45PM where we stopped for the night so we never drove in the dark. BUT we did drive in the most splendid time to be able to enjoy the wildlife of the Alaskan Highway.
It became a game for me to search the highway in front of me and the treeline to the left and right of the road. I didn’t know what animals to expect, but I was always looking.
In the end we saw the following:
4 black bears
Our favorite of the day was the male moose that ran almost 30 mph with us along the side of the road before crossing in front of us. The moose in itself was spectacular to see. They are gigantic! But when he decided to show off his speed it was truly remarkable!
We definitely recommend the evening drives for wildlife.
Setting Up Camp
By 11:30 we were set up on the side of the road on a gravel offshoot of the main highway. It was loud at times and it still didn’t get dark until after midnight. We ended up at Laird River about a half a mile from the provincial park that has thermal springs. We plan to sleep until we wake up and then drive to the park for a lazy morning. After walking Everest and going for a dip in the springs we’ll probably spend some time working until the afternoon rolls around and we head out for an evening drive into the Yukon.
We’re kind of hooked on the evening drive thing now. It seems reverse of what most people would do. But we loved how beautiful everything was in the evening and we’re looking forward to the chance to see even more wildlife.