Thursday, August 26, 2010

From Whitehorse to Dawson Creek

We dry camped our way down the Alaska Highway for four nights of five nights to reach Dawson Creek, BC. 

Spent one night at the Continental Divide.  Here you dump your RV tanks in the parking lot and the fluid flows in opposite directions.  Ha ha ha!  Tasteless RV joke!!  Ain't we a riot?

Spent one night at Liard Hot Springs Provincial Park, at one of the largest natural hot springs in the province.  Nice, nice.

We thoroughly enjoyed the crafts and history exhibits at the Teslin Tlingit Heritage Centre.  We particularly like their style of masks and clothing among all the Native tribes.

We noticed the fireweed going to seed on August 23.  Traditionally this signals the end of summer, with "termination dust" (the first snow) following soon thereafter.

Now we're spending two nights back at Dawson Creek Mile Zero campground.  Tomorrow we take the trailer to the local suspension shop for some (hopefully) minor maintenance to the trailer springs.

The wildfire situation along our route has improved markedly.  Thus south we go!

Current itinerary
 - Four days to Anacortes, WA, where we will join friends for a ferry ride to Friday Harbor.  One of our favorite pass times in past times.
 - Fifteen miles to the Camping World at Burlington, WA.  Finally replacing the awning that the city bus snatched from our home last May.
 - One day to Olympia, WA, our former home, to see friends and the local Costco, in that order.
 - One day to Eugene, OR, for a second solar panel on the roof.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Show Me the Way to Go Home

As we prepare to drive east and south back to the US, we have become acutely aware of wildfires along our path of travel. 
We have already given up taking the Cassiar Highway, which was closed today due to a month long fire.  Other wildfires menace that highway further south.

Smoke from hundreds of wildfires in southern British Columbia cover a wide area.  Even taking a 500 mile detour to Edmonton will not help, as the smoke reaches that far east.

Current plan  - drive the 900 miles to Dawson Creek, BC, north of the fires.  Which will take us about one week.  At that point, review the situation for the road ahead.

When we return home, I will write a letter to our Embassy.  Surely the Canadian government must take some action to protect American citizens from inconvenience.  I smell Lawsuit!

"I'm mad as hell and I'm not gonna take it anymore."

Bruce  (mad)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Dawson City, YT

We thoroughly enjoyed our four days in Dawson City, home of the Klondike Gold Rush at the end of the 19th century.  Unlike some theme parks, this town combines historic buildings protected by the Park Service and year round residents living on tourism and gold mining.

We arrived at the start of the Discovery Days Festival, a legal holiday in the Yukon Territory.  The town held a parade, pictures of which you can see here, along with others of the town.  Pics here.  The parade offered an unusally eclectic and inclusive view of their lives mingled with the past and present.

We also took tours of the historic buildings and saw the  floor show and cancan girls at Diamond Tooth Gerties (the only legal casino in the territory).  Visited the cabins of Robert Service, the "Bard of the Yukon," and Jack London, who wrote Call of the Wild and White Fang, among others.

We drove the famous Top of the World Highway to the Alaska border.  The Taylor Highway on the west side of this road was mostly closed, cutting traffic on the TOW Highway to a trickle.  We saw maybe 20 vehicles on our roundtrip from Dawson.

We attended the Danoja Zho Cultural Center, which presents the culture and traditions of the local First Nation people.  They lived in this area for millennia before the stampeders displaced them downriver. 

And so we turn south to Whitehorse and the gradual journey home.  We hope to take a different route, the Cassiar highway, if we can get past the fire which has blocked the road for almost one month now.


Friday, August 13, 2010

Criminal Behavior on the Way to Dawson City, YT

We arrived at Dawson City without incident.  Spent one night on the way in the parking lot of the tiny Visitors Center in Stewart Crossing, YT.  We parked between two of the three "No Overnight Camping" signs.   

We were desperate.  The local campground had closed.  No one in this town of 45 bothered us, tho Jenna woke up early with visions of SWAT teams descending on us. 

But still.  What if the Mounties arrested us and deported us via the nearest border, i.e. Alaska?  As convicted felons, we could not reenter Canada!  How would we drive back home?

So we slept in our clothing, put a muzzle on Clancy, and fled from town at first light.  Close call that one.  We live on the edge!

More about Dawson City in our next post.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Down at Fox Lake

After three days on the road, we settle in for the night at a lovely little pullout on Fox Lake, on the Klondike Highway toward Dawson City.  Ten feet from the lake, water lapping at the shore.  Nice!

In the morning, we ready ourselves for departure, only to discover that one of our front jacks won't retract.  Uh oh, can't go down the road like that. 

Next day, Bruce backtracks 40 miles to the city of Whitehorse, where he searches in vain for a technician to make a service call out there.  Phone service problems throughout the Yukon, coupled with an upcoming holiday, throw a spanner in the works.  He returns home with instructions on a temporary fix.

Fix works - drain the fluid from that leg, which raises the jack.  Ha ha!  Then we drive back to Whitehorse where we find someone to fix it.  Turns out as faulty wiring in the hand control for the hydraulic jack system.  Fixie fixie we hope.

Back on the road tomorrow.


Friday, August 6, 2010

Fairbanks #3

Bruce took a two hour ride on a Segway.  Rode through the outskirts of Fairbanks, along with three young fellas.  These fun transportation devices move along at 12 mph.  In Fairbanks, you can ride them whereever you can ride a bike.  A good time was had by all, as evidenced by pictures and videos soon available here.  BTW, you can find city tours on Segways in many cities.  One of several companies offers "Guided Segway tours in Paris, Munich, Chicago, Washington DC, Atlanta, San Francisco, Budapest, Vienna and Berlin!"

We spent several hours at the University of Alaska's premire Museum of the North.  They offer exhibits on Northern culture and environment, including a moving exhibit on the Army's forced relocation of Aleutian Island Natives during WWII.  Many Natives died living in deplorable conditions far from the environs they knew.  Most tellingly, German POWs fifty miles away in camps lived better than these American citizens.

The museum also contained exhibits on Native crafts and the effects of climate change on the Arctic.  We stayed till Bruce got cranky.

We returned to the Fairbanks Visitors Center for Athabascan dancers and dog mushing.  The dancers hoofed around in barn dance fashion, accompanied by a fiddle player and guitarists.  The Natives adopted these instruments brought over by the Hudson Bay Company (!).  While they didn't say, we figured they also learned the folk dancing from traders too.  We could have been watching folk dancing in Arkansas, where we once lived.  Some of their dances did portray their lives as hunters.  They invited the audience to join them on stage, which we did.

Tomorrow we leave Alaska for Dawson City, Yukon.


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Fort Yukon, Ak, above the Arctic Circle

Big day today.  We flew in a ten passenger twin prop airplane to a Native village eight miles north of the Arctic Circle.
pic 2 here

Chilly Willi it wasn't.  This was day three of a relative heat wave.  85 degrees doesn't sound bad. Till you stand in the intense summer arctic sun. 

Still not so bad compared to 100+ in the East.  Till you spend 90 minutes in the sun baked wood smoke filled airplane.  Smoke from fires like these.

We finally reached Fort Yukon, a Native village of about 500 souls.  Most of them are related by blood or marriage.  Just seven square miles.  While only 145 air miles from Fairbanks, no roads reach Fort Yukon.  Travel by boat along the Yukon River, or via commuter plane like the one we used.  Permafrost surrounds the village, making for hard going during the warm weather.  The villagers use snow machines much of the rest of the year.

What to think of this village?  80% unemployment.  Milk costs $23/gallon.  35 cents/kilowatt for electricity. (In California we pay about nine cents/kilowatt.)  Natives hunt and fish for their food.  Tho salmon runs and moose populations are declining due to climate change and overfishing and overhunting.  Eskimo tribes likewise worry about declining whale

Most of the houses were rundown, tho our guide said that they contained microwaves, TVs, and computers.  Thus the outer world intrudes, likely raising expectations.  The village has lost half their population in the last few years, due to economic conditions.

On the other hand, a few days later, we attended a Native dance demonstration, which included people from Fort Yukon.  They warmly described their village life, with closeknit families and dancing celebrations.
I certainly couldn't judge their lives.  They seem to lack the conveniences of modern living, but value their subsistence way of life, which means "to face the world on one's own terms, not on terms defined by outside cultures."  More on this link

They have lived this way for thousands of years, far longer than western societies.  Time will tell whether they can maintain this life in the face of environmental, political, and cultural pressures.


Monday, August 2, 2010

Fairbanks, AK

We drove straight out from Denali NP to Fairbanks, AK.  What a nice place.  Like the old saying about a woman's skirt, "Big enough to cover the essentials, but small enough to keep it interesting."
In these first few days, we toured the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center.  One of the nicest visitors centers we've seen, with elaborate displays about life in the northern climes and the Native villages.

At the Cremer's Field Wildlife Refuge, we saw sandhill cranes that migrate to Alaska for the summer.

As well as a line of RVs with people waiting for days to snag one of the limited permits to hunt moose.  No doubt these were non-Native people.  Natives are exempt from severe hunting and fishing restrictions as they hunt for food on their traditional lands, classified "subsistence."

On the drive from Denali, we saw some smoke off to the east from the highway and figured some woods were burning.  Turns out this months long fire burned just about five miles south of Fairbanks.  Here is one day of ash on a chair outside our RV.

Tomorrow we fly to a Native village just north of the Arctic Circle.