Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Brave New World Tour

 Not really touring. Not yet. We need to get a little momentum going in the Covid era before we start filling the calendar with shows, but here’s a start. We have left our hunkerage. We are on the highway.

DAY 1- Anchorage to Glennallen 
Scenery, scenery and more scenery. We've had so much sunshine this Summer that it was nice to see some interesting skies.

When you're planning to set up a tent you've never used before, a rainbow like this is not necessarily the sort of omen you're looking for.

It stopped raining, and mostly dried out before we set up in our little home sweet (generously donated 💕) tent. Instead of dodging raindrops, we were dodging mosquitoes. The tent is huge - the size of 2 queen size beds - so we took an RV spot to accommodate it. But since we're only using 1 queen size air bed, that left room to sit inside, use the campground's wifi, and hunt down a few mosquitoes before bed.

DAY 2- Glennallen to Tok
 The airbed leaked. We each had a million itchy mosquito bites. The RV next to us had a hugely loud fan (forced air heat?) that blasted off and on all night. Two o'clock in the morning, still awake, Mike wandered out to see if he could find a way to deal with the noise from the neighbors and Tania pumped the bed back up, knowing it would last three or four hours since we weren't all the way down to the gravel yet. We put a couple of foam pads we'd brought for backup on top of the airbed, applied earplugs and eyemasks (it doesn't get dark at all here in June), and managed to catch a few hours of sleep before the neighboring RVs started pulling out. By then we were deeply if uncomfortably asleep on our thin foam pads on not quite level gravel. But at least the rain stayed away all night!

With the ineffective protection of a citronella candle, Mike worked miracles to make us fresh tea and coffee. An apple and a campers' energy bar each stood in for breakfast and got us on the road despite the lack of sleep, with plans for a short drive and an early stop, and maybe shopping for a new airbed.

Here's our first stop of the day.
Fortunately, the scenery is spectacular.

Tonight's priority: 1 - Get enough sleep.
Tomorrow's priorities - Get the car looked at; the suspension is looking weird. (Sigh.)
We're in a motel with attached restaurant, and a mechanic right across the road, expecting us first thing in the morning. We're bathed, dined, dry... it's been drizzling almost all evening with thundershowers in the forecast for this evening, and we are not setting up the tent. I don't think we'll regret this. Even if the screaming child we're hearing now is moving into the next room.

DAY 3- Tok
 Not much to write about today in travel blog terms. The car has visited two of the many local mechanics.  
Both think it'll survive the trip with less than ideal alignment, and we'll probably have to get new tires for it when we can get the alignment seen to. But that took up enough of the day that we just settled in to enjoy a day in Tok and a second night in the motel. We bought a new airbed. We booked the car in for fresh fluids first thing in the morning, just for good measure, and then... back on the road. Back to our previously planned camping adventure on the long road home.

DAY 4- Tok to Destruction Bay
 Finally, some miles behind us! The tales we heard in Tok had us prepared for the worst road conditions imaginable, as a constant stream of broken RVs and trailers seemed to be limping in, needing welding after what their drivers described as incredibly rough road conditions. It was nowhere near as bad as they made it out to be. Still, we went very slowly, carefully weaving through the potholes. The few vehicles that caught up to us had no trouble passing because there was no one coming the other direction either. It was a long day, and when we discovered that the campground we were headed for had very limited tent space, was 10 miles beyond the nearest town, and we had gone through a time zone change so there was every chance it would be full, we actually stopped for another motel night! Not like us at all. Tomorrow night we'll make sure we get to a campground early. We have a new airbed to try out!

Tanana River overlook, leaving Tok behind.

Mike, getting all the "driving points" today.

Welcome to Yukon. Isn't it called Yukon Territory anymore? I don't know!

Our first Canadian stop for fuel and quirky ambiance.

"The road goes ever on and on." Could have been written for the Alcan (Alaska Highway).

One last very important stop for the day. Only because we'd had a few days delay between our final laundry load and our actual departure!

DAY 5- Destruction Bay to Teslin Lake
Making miles -- the constantly changing scenery, and the feeling that we're getting closer to home. Also, the efforts to capture so many stunning views without stopping. Here are a bunch of photos of the Alaska Highway winding through the Yukon, all taken through the car windows.

Not quite all taken through the car window. We stopped here. It felt soooo good to stand up!

Home, sweet campsite once again. This is in the Teslin Lake Provincial Campground, Yukon Territory. We found firewood already split, left behind by some earlier resident, so Tania decided to use the fire pit. It almost got the water boiling for tea. Mike eventually got the camp grill out to finish the job.

DAY 6- Teslin Lk to Teslin

Another one of those mornings where we suffered from the shortcomings of our campsite choice. Not that we had many choices. Most of the pitches were taken by the time we got there. The only spaces left were next to a highway rest area -- a double ended gravel pullout with pit toilets. Perfect stop for truckers to get a night's sleep in their truck. And one parked right next to us, and left its diesel running all night long. No sleep for the two of us, in spite of our wonderful new airbed! We took a short walk down to the lake shore before we left. There was supposed to be a nice beach, but it was completely underwater, as were quite a few trees. Decided we'd better drive to the next motel to, once again, make sure we get enough sleep to be safe to drive. This is getting to be a much more expensive trip than we had planned!

Underwater trees in Teslin Lake.

 Yukon Motel and Restaurant (and gas station and pretty much everything else) is a perfect Alcan stop. We checked in, pulled the trailer around to the back where our room is, and discovered that there's a BIG project underway -- sandbagging.

DAY 7- Teslin

 Fantastic night in the hotel, despite the constant rumble of the water pump shifting lake water that had made it through the sandbag dikes. Still worried about the car, we decided to take a day off the road to re-pack, hoping a new weight distribution (and unloading some stuff we decided we don't need that badly) will preserve the poor old motor and our sanity. The water was still rising, but very, very slowly. Spent most of the day on the re-packing, then went out to see a local attraction. The George Johnston museum was a nice little walk from the motel, and well worth the visit. Interesting and educational as any museum we've ever seen, I won't try to describe it all here, but I will add a link!

Even before getting in to the main rooms of the museum, we were drawn in by the extensive collections on display.

By the time we got back to the motel (after a very necessary stop for ice cream at the trading post) our beautiful sunny day was ending in penetrating rain and thunder. In the photo below (you can click to enlarge), that little bay behind the two tractors is the RV site. 

We managed to dash back to the motel before we got drenched. I hope this doesn't turn the tide on the sandbag battle, because we'd rather not get evacuated during the night.

Tomorrow we take on the Continental Divide.

DAY 8- Teslin to Upper Liard

Still more flooding, and near flooding, but at least we're gaining elevation!

We've been starting our days on a cup of tea (Mike) & coffee (Tania) and a fruit bar, so we felt justified stopping for an all-day breakfast at mid-day. Especially as it let us in for puns about Continental Divide breakfast. Even though it was a full cooked breakfast. First one in a long time.

Mike racks up more miles, still climbing up into the pass, now with rain, and slowly, steadily, more traffic. We'd been getting used to going for hours and hours without seeing another vehicle.

Now we get to wait in line with other cars, trucks and (mostly) RVs as we wait for pilot car after pilot car to guide us through the constant ongoing road work and flood abatement.

Then again, sometimes the road is all ours!

We'd taken advantage of our motel stay with wifi to do some advance research. There was another thunder storm rolling in, and we didn't want to deal with a drenched tent and possibly setting up and packing up in bad weather, but the motels and cabins in Watson Lake were all either booked up or too expensive.

 Upper Liard Lodge was a bit of a risk; it has very mixed reviews on Google, but we figured some people are expecting more than we do for a bed for the night. The owner warned us that there was no internet and no TV. Fine. Didn't tell us that there was a little refrigerator, which would have been helpful -- we might have bought something to put in it before we got there! It's a portable crew accommodation trailer that has been converted into 4 motel rooms with the addition of a pitched roof and a veranda. It was very nicely decorated, needed maintenance, but the shower was great and the bed ever so comfortable. 
We got settled in before we noticed... no curtains, just bamboo shades, in June when the nights are only a bit darker than the days. But that's no worse than in the tent, so not a problem. No bug screens in the window - now that's a problem. But the bathroom window had a (patched) screen, so we closed the other windows tight and left the bathroom door open for fresh air. Did our usual routine of seeking and destroying all of the mosquitos that snuck into the room and got settled in for a glorious night's sleep and an early start for the next day... Then the mosquitoes sent in reinforcements. We thought we'd missed a bunch, but when we killed these off and went back to bed, we were being buzzed again 10 minutes later. And so the night went on. Sleep finally happened from sheer exhaustion, but when we left at just a little past check-out time we'd had about 3 hours sleep and our ears and faces were swollen with bites.

DAY 9- Upper Liard to Muncho Lake

 After last night, we really needed a good but not too long day's drive. We were supposed to be setting off down the Cassiar today, an alternate route that would have saved us 100 miles but with much more challenging driving, especially at the beginning (starting from the North). We decided that was not a great idea on no sleep, so chose to stay on the Alcan instead. Several possible destinations presented themselves. Many people had recommended Liard Hot Springs, which we would have missed anyway if we'd taken the Cassiar. But it looked crowded. RVs were lined up at the campsite entrance... We pushed on to the Provincial campground at Muncho Lake.

MacDonald Campground at Muncho Lake. Yes!

DAY 10- Muncho Lake to Fort Nelson

  Muncho Lake was as close to perfection as we could imagine -- serene, wild, temperate... Some flooding, like all the other lakes we've been seeing, so no chance of a beach to walk on, but this was a great start to another day of driving.

Really soft shoulder.

These mama goats were watching over their kids sleeping on the edge of the road. Hated to wake them, but we did want to get some miles today.

While we wait for yet another pilot car to guide us through yet another patch of road work, here's yet another picture of another glorious summit.

 There was an RV park just on the way into Fort Nelson. We were wary of a repeat of our first attempted night of camping, right next to a very noisy RV that kept us awake all night, but we wanted the wifi and the showers so we risked it. We were told to go wherever we wanted on a big sward of grass at the far end of the site among scattered picnic tables. There were only two other tents when we got there; one had 2 motorcycles parked by it and the other a single bicycle, and the three riders were chatting in German. The bicyclist is Swiss, the couple with the BMWs from Austria, and they were just able to understand each other's dialects, they told us.
 After dinner when Mike and I sat in the shade of our tent to play a few tunes quietly together, the Austrians came over to ask us not to hide in our corner, please come out to play where they could hear us. After over two years almost entirely deprived of live audiences, it didn't take too much coaxing. Wine and potato chips were found for sharing (in our assorted camping mugs) and a very nice evening ensued. We made sure it ended early, though, knowing full well how difficult and how important it can be to get a good night's sleep in a campsite!

DAY 11- Ft Nelson to Dawson Creek

Another day...

Another fantastic campground.

DAY 12- Dawson Creek to Prince George

I kept trying to catch pictures of the famous chainsaw sculptures of Chetwynd as we cruised through the town, but it was not easy; really needed a walk around to enjoy them. I decided to share this one anyway mainly because I didn't get pictures of any of the three bears, nor the moose, fox, weasel, deer, beaver, wild horses... that we've seen. So here are the back ends of two chainsaw sculpture bears.
I didn't notice the dog poop bag dispenser behind them when I took the picture, but it seems appropriate!

This was our plan for the day. Plans are ever subject to change.

Most of today's route wound along lakes and rivers. Most of them were high, many threatening to come over the road.

And then... We hate check engine lights! So foreboding, and so uninformative. Decided to cut the day short and stop in Prince George, where we can get hooked up to diagnostics. Not today, of course. Today is Sunday. So, we bite the bullet once again and look for a hotel that will be both nice and inexpensive -- a combination that has been eluding us. And yet here we are at Grama's Inn, on the main drag heading into Prince George. They have a Sunday special. We are staying in a four room suite (living room, bedroom, kitchen, bathroom) that's costing us significantly less than the worst room we've had up to now. Sweet.

DAY 13- Prince George to Cache Creek

 A quick trip to a dealership to be reassured once again that although the car is not in perfect condition, it looks like it can probably handle the rest of the trip. So, with deep breaths, we continue onward from Prince George!

We are undeniably out of the wilderness now. The roads are lined with power lines and railroads, the towns much closer together, and the spaces between the towns are full of farms!

Is that more flooding threatening up ahead?

It's getting pretty close to the road.

Drive over one more ridge and suddenly we're in the desert. Cache Creek. It's too far north to be in Eastern Washington, but you can tell they're related.

Likely to be our last night of the trip if we can get a good night's sleep and an early start, and with both of us feeling worn and a bit under the weather, we splurged on a night in the Bear's Claw Lodge. There were a couple of possibly cheaper options which looked a bit run down... Just not feeling like risking it. Again, a highly recommended restaurant was closed (sigh), but the room was excellent. The temperature had gotten up to 97ºF during the day, and we couldn't wait to get us and the instruments into this blissfully air conditioned room.

 Tomorrow should bring us back into Washington State. Just one more hitch. We planned tonight's stop based on getting "home" to William & Felicia's (Pint & Dale's) house tomorrow for a nice overnight rest before going onward to tackle whatever challenges await in our own long-empty abode. But of course we wouldn't drop in on them without getting negative covid test results. And for the first time in all this pandemic, Tania flunked her test. Didn't believe it. Tried again. Same. Mike took one and got negative. Tania got two positives. Arrrgh!

DAY 14- Cache Creek to Washington!

 So... New plan is to get all the way back to the Kitsap Peninsula, with just a careful, distanced stop for dinner outdoors with our friends. An early start (by our standards) also got us out of Canada's version of Death Valley before the temperatures pushed up into the 90s again. It was much cooler on higher ground.

Ooh - is that a train?

Oh look, another train!

And a tunnel!

And more road work, and... another train!

And again...

Okay, I guess trains are nothing to get excited about around here.

Floods are still a little exciting. Common, but dangerous.

One more wait for a pilot car...

... This time we were being guided over a single lane temporary bridge over a chasm that used to be part of the road.

And then there are the Fraser Canyon tunnels. Lots of them.

We stopped in Hope BC to enjoy lunch and the view of the swollen Fraser River.

Having cruised past the myriad chainsaw sculptures in Chetwynd a couple of days ago, I was not going to pass up the chance to get a picture of one in Hope, while we were actually not in a moving car.

Nearly 9pm, after two years, three months and two days, we got back to our own house. Predictably, it was too musty to sleep in, so we pitched the tent one more time on our own deck. 

 We had one broken water hose and two broken taps, and by morning we were both testing positive for Covid, so we couldn't exactly run out to the store to get supplies or bring a plumber in. Fortunately, we have the best friends anyone could ever hope for. Food and drinking water have been delivered. We've been well enough, and had the good weather, to scrub and air the house, so we're in. We're comfortable, recovering and, amazingly, HOME. None too soon, either; we've heard that a section of the Alcan washed out just three days after we came through.