August 23rd - September 5thTable of Contents
August 23, 2001 Thursday. Somewhere in the Yukon Territories between Burwash Landing and Koidern.
I woke up this morning in the house of our hostess Judy Hall, who has written a book on edible plants and flowers in Southeastern Alaska. I stayed up late last night writing e-mails to a bunch of folks who I haven’t been in contact with in quite some time. I think I eventually called it a night around 1:30AM. Judy, Abby, Anna and I decided to go to the other place in Haines to get breakfast. It was a coffee shop that served light lunches, and breakfast foods. I got a ½ of a Black Russian sandwich. It was roast beef, lettuce, tomato, onion, a little mayo, on pumpernickel bread. It was tasty. All the produce was organic, and tasted incredibly fresh.
We lazily had breakfast. It was expensive, then headed back to the house. I finished a load of laundry, and put the pictures of Judy’s boat that had run aground on her computer. It took a little longer, because it was Windows ME, and it somehow didn’t recognize when I installed the driver, it had to be installed, and the driver installed after the fact. – Odd.
Then myself, and the sisters “A” drove down to check out Fort Seward. It was interesting, but most of the residences that were historic were now private, and one couldn’t really enter them. SO, we walked around, and looked at things.
Then the sun kind of came out, and I wanted to drive down to the Ferry terminal and back, just to relive the drive that I experienced getting off the Ferry a couple days earlier. It was again amazing. I think the thing that impressed me the most is the color of the water. It looked so clean, and fresh, like you could drink it, and bath in it, and come out fresh and clean like a whistle. Judy said that there is a lot of silt in the water from the Glaciers, and that is what causes the water to be the color that it is. It was amazing.
Later in the day, I passed Kluane Lake, and it’s blue color was even brighter and bluer. It is one large liquid sapphire ebbing and flowing with the moons gravity. Incredible.
After a little site seeing, we got some groceries, money, and went back to Judy’s to finish laundry, and pack up. Then on the way out of town, I got gas, and asked a gas station attendant how to get out of town. He said “You just, then spit out a mouthful of chewing tobacco saliva, head back into town, and take a right on main street.” Very nice.
I looked on my head for my sunglasses, couldn’t find them, and headed back to Judy’s. I remembered I had left them on top of the dryer. So, I got them, and we were on the road. The drive out of town was as incredible as Haines itself. Wonderful Blue, green, gray, white colors laid on top of snow capped mountains, above which blue sky and clouds mixed and held back only some of the rays of sunlight. Below these, forests full of pine trees, closer a wide semi dry creek then beech trees nearest the road. Then us in a Subaru Outback heading North.
It was a mostly cloudy day, so not much bright sunlight poked through. But along the tops of the Snow capped peaks, it was brighter. I speculate it was because the Mountains cut through the clouds, and around them in a narrow area the moister of the clouds was less dense, thus letting the sunshine through. It had a very interesting luminescent affect on the brightness and colors of the peaks and mountains below. It was very special.
As I was driving along the road, I was reminded of a feeling I had five years ago on my trip to the Grand Canyon. The road leaving Flagstaff towards Canyon Village has a very similar feeling to this place. – It was a feeling of incredible beauty and isolation, but nearness to something large and accessible. The road leading out of Haines to Haines Junction had much the same feeling as Flagstaff Arizona. It was very nice, peaceful, majestic, quiet, and homey.
So, for about 2 hours I drove for a while, then stopped and took snapshots, drove some more and took snapshots. I think Abby and Anna were getting a little impatient with me. But after we passed into Canada, the scenery changed from large beautiful snow capped mountains, and green pine forests to large beautiful mountains, and open grassy prairies. So, I was less inclined to stop and take pictures. I did however, regret not taking a picture of the “Welcome to Haines” picture, or the “Haines Junction” picture that was in the same setting.
I probably didn’t take these because of the company I was with. After a while of listening to nothing, and sort of half discussing the scenery, we broke out my laptop, and put in a cd. We listened to the Son Volt cd, then to the entire Lucinda Williams collection. Before this, Anna had just finished her book and exclaimed "What a terrible book, I just don’t understand how long it was.”
Right as we finished listening to Lucinda Williams, we arrived in Haines Junction. A half a tank of 87 octane gasoline cost 14.40 u.s. Ouch, expensive. Along the way, we stopped at Million dollars falls campground, and walked the 1/10 of a mile to the Falls. The falls were nice, but they weren’t million dollar. Maybe 100,000. But not million dollar. Anna pointed out to me that the million dollars was Canadian money. This made much more sense.
As they owed me 14 dollars for their split of gas, and food we needed to settle up the provisions, and what they owed me. I felt awkward about this, and kind of left it up to them. I probably should have been a little stronger with what I felt was fair, because despite them saying, “We will leave most of the food with you, they took a hummus container, the rolls of bread, the cheese, two pudding snacks, and several other items. It was weird, because we split things that I didn’t care for, and they left things that I really didn’t want. They left a bag of lettuce, and some tomatoes. Both of which we had left over’s of from Dinner with Judy. I don’t know I guess it was sort of fair. I just didn’t like the way it went, because they took the whole thing of cheese, and I am low on that, and will definitely want some tomorrow. The things that they left are the things that I really don’t want. – Whatever, live and learn.
We said our goodbyes, I wished them well, and started on the road for Fairbanks. About a mile out of Haines Junction, the road got terrible. It was quite rutty, and soft in places, and a couple times tooling along, the shocks bottomed out badly. This wouldn’t have been any fun at all if there were three people in the car, and it was fully loaded. As it was, the car wasn’t too happy about it.
The scenery was a little duller until I rounded Kluane Lake. As I mentioned above, the lake was an a shade of blue that I have never seen before in nature. It was almost too blue and unnatural. I stopped and took several pictures. The rest of the drive was beautiful, and somewhat challenging. In several places the pavement turned to gravel for a short distance, and got difficult to steer at the speed I was driving. I slowed down.
Earlier I had a bunch of thoughts about things that might happen that could be dangerous. I had bad visions of us having a flat tire, or driving off the road. They were bad thoughts, and exacerbated by the fact that we were very isolated on the road we were driving. I only have one spare tire, and I don’t have any fan belts in case I blow one of those. I will remember to get one when I am in Fairbanks in case something happens. I am not sure that I have the tools to replace a fan belt. But, at least I have a fan belt. –
Anyway, I drove for a while longer, and about 7:30 Alaska Time, 8:30 Yukon time, I found a place to spend the night off the main road, off another road.
Now I am typing and soon will bed.
August 24, 2001 Fred Meyer Parking Lot off Airport Way in Fairbanks, AK.
A long day of driving today was. It started off in an exciting way. About 5:00AM or so this morning, I awoke to a loud “Thump” as my car kind of rocked back and forth a little. The first thing I thought was that the creek I was sleeping next to had overflowed with the rain we got the night before. And that the “Thump” was a log or something tooling downstream into my car.
I quickly looked up, and through the condensation that had formed on the inside of my windows I saw a large dark ominous head peering in the windshield on the passenger side of the car. Through my groggy sleep filled eyes, I could see it’s fur slightly beaded up from the rainwater. It was smelling the air, and looking in at me. The thud that I heard and felt was it’s paw on the hood of the car right next to the windshield on the passenger side. It was a bear.
Unfortunately, because of the condensation, I couldn’t tell if it was a Black or Brown bear. My guess from the size of it’s larger wide head is that it was a grizzly, but then again, I haven’t seen any live bears as close as 5 feet away before, so it may well have been a black bear.
My instinct was to make noise, but I thought that with all the rain, and me being inside the car, it might not hear me as well, and ignore my noise. So, I reached forward into the front seat, getting within 3 feet of the beast, and honked the horn. I felt the animal take it’s paw off the car, and heard and felt it’s weight as it ran away.
Once my heart started beating again, I rested my head back on the pillow. A long while later, soothed again by the raindrops, the kid was able to sleep.
In the morning, I looked out the window. The bear tracks were still fresh in the mud. I could see remnants of a paw print on my car, and several that were made when the bear was walking, and quite a few more that the bear made running away. The tracks that it made just standing still had a large pad with four small toe pads. This was quite different than the tracks it made running away. These had long sharp claw marks at the end of each of the toe pads, and were much deeper in the ground. The imprints were obviously deeper because of the bear’s weight running away.
I took video and an mpg.
Then I drove down the road I was on and happened upon Luitenant Small’s burial site. He had died in a Jeep Accident while working on the Alaska Highway. That road was a dead end, so I turned around, and headed back through the Yukon.
At the first gas station I came to, I stopped and used the bathrooms, and bought some stickers for the car pod. I also had breakfast, and decided not to purchase gasoline, thinking that I would be able to make it to a bigger town, before needing it again. I had about a ½ tank. Then I drove for quite some time, listening to nothing, because there were no radio stations on the road, and kind of half looking at the road signs along the way. It was a long drive to Beaver Creek, where I decided to buy gas. I thought I would only buy a little, just enough to get me to Tok, where I was sure that fuel would be cheaper.
The drive along the way was incredible. I think the thing that most stood out on the drive was the richness of the colors. The sky was so incredibly blue, that I wanted to just take pictures of it. The mountains were dark gray or brown, except for the white snowcaps, and the occasional green trees lining the bases of them. The trees were incredibly green and woody. There were miles and miles of seemingly virgin pine, unscathed by the hand or axe of man.
The thing too that was great about these colors is the way that they contrasted with each other in nature. The white clouds were like surreal milky cotton balls, on the piercingly blue sky. This touched the earth at it’s highest points on the peaks of the mountains that were dark with bright white splotches of snow. At the lower elevations these mountains had trees lining them, and on the ground, the trees were everywhere and were everything. Occasionally, there would be a river that would flow through the trees, and reflect off the bright sun. This scenery went on forever, gradually becoming less and less dominated by pine and conifers, and more mixed with other deciduous trees. The snowcapped peaks gradually gave way to smaller hills, and the creeks and streams became more prevalent. After driving for 4 hours, I was actually a little on the bummed out side. I think it was the isolation, and not being able to touch civilization, for such a long stretch of time.
I stopped in Beaver Creek to get gas. I got a little, and went inside to pay for it. The woman at the counter asked “You tired?” I shook my head “You look tired, You got a headache?” I shook my head again, and my sour puss slowly turned into a big smile. “There’s a smile!” I said, “Just a long road.” – Then I told her the bear story, and she was a little shocked, and said “Was it a grizzly?” I said “I couldn’t tell” “That sounds like something you see on TV.” She said in amazement. I was surprised that she was shocked, I guess I figured that bear confrontations happened much more often in the Yukon.
Then I said thanks, and went outside. The woman cyclist who I had noticed packing up her things on the way in was still there getting ready to leave. I started up a conversation with her. It turns out that she was riding from Minneapolis to Anchorage. She had been on the road for two months. – Needless to say I was very impressed. I said “I thought I was extreme, but you are no joke.” – We talked some more, and it turns out that she had just graduated from College in Minneapolis with a degree in Linguistics and Spanish, and had always wanted to ride to Anchorage. She said that it will take me another week, then I will have gotten it out of my system. I said “Are you flying back?” She said, “No, I’m going to stay there for a while.”, pointed to the VERY sparse bags that she was carrying, and said “Can’t you tell”. It looked more like she was out for a Sunday Cruise then riding from Minneapolis. Again I was impressed. She said that she would become a waitress or something else for the winter, then decide if she wanted to stay next spring. She was Czechoslovakian, and had a very slight accent. We exchanged e-mail addresses, and I said that I would look her up in Anchorage. She said “I would very much like that.” She was cute, but looked a little older. Maybe it was the conditions of the road, or lack of sleep, but I would have put her at about 34 or so.
So then I was back on the road in a much better mood. Then four punk kids got on and were playing road games. Stupid, immature, and unaware. I tried to avoid them after they passed me and slowed way down, then when I tried to pass they sped up, and wouldn’t let me. Annoying.
Most of the rest of the day was driving without event. In Tok, Alaska I got another sticker, and filled up with gas. Then I was on my way again.
Only thing that sucked was that I had my laptop out, listening to tunes at one point, and I went around a corner, and it fell off my cooler toward me. I was so absent minded at the time I took my hand off the wheel, and veered into the other lane, before catching it and getting back in mine. – Close call. It was dangerous to have my laptop where it was, so I put it on the floor in the front passenger seat so it wouldn’t go flying. I guess I had angles around watching.
Finally I arrived in “The North Pole”. It’s actually a town outside of Fairbanks. I went to the major gift shop that was listed in the tour book, and called Pete and Allison. I got a hold of both of them, and talked for a bit. It was great to hear their voices. As a bonus Allison was hanging out with Sarah and Megan, and I got to talk with Sarah. Pete was with Reggie, so I got to talk with her. Allison couldn’t believe that I was in the North Pole.
I went in the shop, and took a picture of Santa Claus, and bought a postcard for Allison and Doug. Then I got Ice cream. The woman working there was overweight, but had a cute face. I asked her what her favorite flavor was, and she said “After you work here for a while, none of them taste good.” I got “turtle”, because they were out of Amaretto with chocolate covered pecans, and because I had never heard of it.
Then took some pics, and called Danielle Cox, Sonya’s friend that she told me to look up when I got here. As a funny confidence, Sonya is also in town, and we are going to hang out on Sunday. – Funny. I called and felt odd, because I kind of felt like I was imposing on her, last minute and all. But it worked out. I found accommodations in the Fred Meyer Parking lot, and will maybe call some other dude that I know through some friends in Ketchikan. Maybe he will let me crash for a night. Actually, the Fred Meyer Parking lot is listed in my tour book as a good free place to park and sleep. I was surprised by this, but as it turns out, It was pretty decent.
I will do a little touristy things tomorrow, and possibly make the 50 mile drive to the hot springs out of town.
Good Night. – Word for the day. Pousada.
August 25,26,27 2001 Daniel Cox’s apartment in Fairbanks, AK
Saturday 25th –
Last night I slept in the Fred Meyer’s parking lot. In the morning it was kind of rainy, and not too nice. I ran errands in the morning preparing for my trip to Prudhoe Bay. I went to the visitor center first, and asked one of the workers “What are some cool things to do in Fairbanks?” He circled some of the things on my little tourist map including: The museum at the University, Cheena Hot Springs, The Ice Museum and Theater, a swan observatory, and Alaskaland. I also asked about Denali National Park, and the Library. He circled the Bureau of Public Lands office, and the Public Library.
The Ice museum was about a block away, so I walked towards that. As I entered I spoke with an interesting man, who was actually the chair of the Fairbanks Ice Sculpture Association. I didn’t know this at the time. – As I was about to purchase my ticket, another woman who was in line asked “What is the difference between the day shows and the evening shows?” – The man said “At the evening shows he gives an actual demonstration, but it’s 10 dollars instead of 5.” I asked “Is everything else the same?” “Yes, you see the videos in that one also.” I thought for a bit, and decided that I would come back for that. The shows were scheduled for 6:30, 7:30, and 8:30.
Then I headed over to the bureau of public lands office, and got information Denali Park, and a booklet on the “Haul Road”, up to Prudhoe Bay. I think the road is called the “Something Highway”. – Oh, by the way, the bear on my hood a couple days ago was totally a black bear. The paw prints, and the size of it were both indicative of a Black Bear, not a Grizzly. There are recommendations in the book, and in the display indicating that it’s essential to bring two full size spare tires, extra oil, radiator fluid, and windshield wiper fluid. The woman also mentioned getting Visquine which one can put over one’s windshield if it is cracked by a rock. I asked where one would get Visquine, and she said “try Big Ray’s” across the street. She also gave me a park map + Newsletter about Denali. It is important to make advanced reservations if one is camping in the Park, because it often times fills up. I also found out information on where to get extra fan belts.
I looked around a little, and left. It was still drizzling outside, and my freshly washed jacket was repelling the water droplets like crazy. Excellent… I drove a few blocks to the Chevron Station and inquired about the belts, and a wheel. The guy couldn’t help me with either, but he gave me the Napa part numbers for the belts, and said I should try one of the local junkyards for the wheel. He also gave me directions to Napa.
I drove to Napa, bought the fan belts, and a quart of oil. He recommended a couple junkyards, and said that I could call from the phone in the office. I called one, and they said it would be 150 dollars, and a week to order it. I called the other, and they weren’t open until Monday. – Then I headed over to Big Ray’s still thinking I would purchase the Visquine. I also needed a camp shovel to replace mine that had broken. I ended up buying replacement parts for my stove and mosquito netting. They didn’t have the camp shovel that I was looking for. They recommend another place, that I went to looking for the shovel, and the stove part that Ray’s didn’t have that I wanted. I struck out with both of those.
Then I went across town to Sentry. Sentry had everything I needed plus more. A shovel, a compass, some nice wool mittens, a gas can, and two cans of large size fix – a – flat. Now I just needed to find the spare tire. When I walked into Sentry it was still raining. When I walked out, it had lightened up considerably, and the sun was out. On my agenda for the rest of the day was to go to Alaska Land, and the Ice museum later.
I first took a little trip over to the library to work on the web site a little. It was only open till 5, and I had about an hour to work. I worked hard and fast, but should have worked faster. Then I headed over to AK land.
I headed to AlaskaLand. Ate a nice pita in the parking lot, and then went in. AlaskaLand is a nice theme park that has a gold rush town, an Eskimo town, a playground for kids, a couple museums, an old steam powered riverboat, and an old train car. There was also old rusty mining equipment, and a Salmon Bake that goes on every day. A smaller scale train locomotive constantly circles the park and blows it’s whistle to let people know it’s coming. It was novel at first, and got annoying quickly. The admission was free, but some of the museums charged a small fee.
I walked around just exploring the park. The train car was very interesting. A former president had used it as an observation car. All the old wood was neat and antiquey feeling. I think it was Truman. All the buildings of gold rush town were still intact, but they were now gift shops. Kind of cheesy. A couple of them had grass (fireweed) roofs. One of the Native buildings also had a grass roof. It kind of reminded me of a hobbit hole. A group of kids walked by me, and they were giving each other piggy back rides, hitting each other in the rump’s, and horsing around, no pun intended. I remember what it was like to be full of testosterone, and not able to control myself. It looked like fun, if not a little teenagish.
I then walked to the train station, and looked at how much the ride’s cost. They were three dollars, but I wasn’t so interested. Then I continued to walk, and noticed the train was coming back into the station, and thought it would be a good picture. So did another woman. And I think she thought I was going to be in her way, so as I was getting ready to take my shot, she said “Excuse me”. I ignored her and kept on walking out of her way. I thought I could get a better shot further up the track anyway. Then some other people walked in her way, and she said “Can you please wait until I take this shot.” – They didn’t hear her, kept walking, and ruined her shot. The one woman walked right up to the track, and took a shot right where the woman was going to take her picture. The original woman said “Yea, thanks a lot.”
I walked around more after the train picture scene, and came eventually upon a dome that was a flight museum. It looked very cool, so I paid the admission, and went in. They had an old Huey that you could sit in. It was really big inside, and I played around with the helmet’s and had fun.
I read about Will Rogers dying in a plane crash in Alaska. And this other guy who was a self made man who was the top pilot for Morrison Knudsen. He also died trying to fly to the interior from Juneau. He crash landed on an island, and tried to go for help. He died of exposure. It was an interesting story, I think I got some pictures of the article. I will be able to go back later, and figure out his name. I just looked it up, his name was Wiley Post.
Then I walked over in another direction underneath the railroad tracks. I took some pics of the mining equipment, and listened to the old music that they were playing. It was fun. There was also some kind of water flow control thing, that overflowed and filled back up every couple minutes or so. I got it tipping and falling again with my camera. Then I ambled over to where they were serving the fish fry. It was an all you can eat buffet with Salmon, Halibut, a full salad bar, other accessories. It was 23.95. Too much for my budget, and I wasn’t too hungry. The guy gave me a piece of Halibut to taste. It was very good, but I said “Not in my budget, thanks though”. Then I walked back to the large dome, and went to the bathroom. It was about 7:00PM, so I made my way back to the Ice museum to catch the 7:30 show.
I got there at quarter past, Vladimir and Nayda were working. They were the winners of the 2000 Abstract multi block competition. It was cool to meet them. They said that they could start the demonstration now, It made me slightly uncomfortable that they would start the show ahead of schedule just because I was here. So, I bought my ticket, and walked to my car to offload my pictures. Then I came back at about 20 past, and they started the show. It was a video, then a slide show, then a tour of the existing sculptures, then a demonstration. The demonstration was the coolest. Vladimir got all dressed up, and started carving a head, and some flowers out of ice. It was neat how delicate he could make the sculpture, and how precise he could at the same time. He worked very fast. First with a chain saw, then a rotary tool that he made, then a hot air torch, then a little drill like thing. Awesome. He was covered with ice dust when it was finished. Very funny and very Russian. He smoked a lot too. I could smell it on him.
Then I left, and went back in and tipped them they were very thankful for that. They had earned a trip to the Olympics to represent Russia. But no one was paying there way to get to the Olympics. Not Russia, or USA. They had a 6 year visa for being in the states for outstanding talent. And were just happy to be here doing what they loved. The team has won gold medals the last 6 years in a row. I was impressed, and got pictures taken with them.
I went back to my car, ate dinner, and drove to Cheena Hot Springs. It was an hour drive, and by 9:45 it was still light out. The mountains were on fire from the sunset. I wasn’t in time to get a good picture though. I saw two moose on the road. They almost ran out in front of me, but stopped and crossed the street afterwards. Moose are huge. Hot springs weren’t too bad. It kind of felt white trashy. Lot’s of drunk people were in the big rock pool making stupid comments. The big pool was not as hot as I thought it was going to be, and after a little bit I got out. There was a sprinkler in the middle that was shooting out cool water. That was kind of nice. There was a fountain on the one side that was pouring down cool water that people were using to massage their backs. I took a turn on it, and it wasn’t that nice, because of the cool temperature.
I got out after a bit, and headed over to the hot tub. That was the temp that I expected. The surface temperature was cooler than the bottom, so it was nice. I spoke with some people from Arkansas, and from Fairbanks. The folks from Arkansas had scratchy smoky voices. They were nice enough though. They had a very long very loud motor home that disturbed me while I was in the parking lot later. They were mid 60’s, both very overweight, and the woman had a bad knee and a tough time walking.
I left and took a contrastingly cold shower in the tiny cramped locker room. Then the drunks came in. They were loud belligerent, and ignorant sounding. The one used the others shorts to swim in. They had his wallet in the back pocket. So it got soaked. He wasn’t happy, his buddy just laughed.
I left, and started packing my car. The parking lot was full of mud puddles, and was dirty. My sneakers were quite muddy and dirty. I put them in a bag, and dropped them in the front seat. I was organizing the rear of the car, and I happened to look up and was amazed. It was my first experience seeing the Aurora Borealis. The northern lights were odd. That is the good, probably the only apropos adjective that I can use to describe them. They were fleeting. I couldn’t really see them, as much as see through them. They were slightly like the effect that two different temperatures of water have when they are next to one and other, but not as abrupt and edge like. The color was slightly green and mostly white on the darks sky. It almost seemed as if they should have chimes and a harp playing to describe them. People describe them as being sheets. I think they were more like long liquid like mini blinds turned vertically. There was no real rhyme or reason for their movement that I think was the most impressive. They didn’t move with the wind, and there was no rain. Although they seemed like both those phenomena. More like the sight of wind having an effect on rain that one can see. But not ½ as rough. Very gentle, fleeting and at the same time, solid and ethereal. Sort of like a string held between two people where one person puts a wave in it, and it travels to the other end. Odd, definitely odd. Sparkly.
I was going to spend the night in the parking lot, but I was interrupted by the folks from Arkansas turning on the generator in their motor home. Very loud. So, I drove down the road, almost in a daze I was so tired, and found a spot to park near a river. I left the windows open slightly, as there didn’t seem to be many mosquitoes, and slept.
Library closed today. I drove back to Fairbanks, and played phone tag with Sonya and Danielle. Arranging dinner plans. I walked around for several hours at the university. There were a lot of cross country ski trails that were worth exploring. No running and no walking during ski season. Damages the trails. I found a couple who were sitting near the lake enjoying it. I chatted with them a bit. It was nice. A few kids were shooting off model rockets. I saw one go off, the parachute didn’t deploy, so it came right back down as fast as it went up. At the apex, the kids said “Oh no.” when they realized it wasn’t going to deploy. I kind of laughed. I think I probably walked 4 or so miles. Then I went to Safeway, and went in to get a couple things. A dirty dude in a car next to me was eating, and getting it all over him. He had tattoos, and paint all over himself, and in his hair. I was concerned he was going to break into my car. He didn’t. I said “What’s up” to him as I went into the store.
While sitting in the Parking lot, I saw a family of folks get into the car parked in front of me. The eldest daughter yelled at the younger siblings just as much as mom did. They both said “Sit your ass down” to one of the younger siblings in the back. Mom sat and smoked her cigarette in the front seat. The eldest looked like she was 16 years old. The younger boy sibling opened the door to the minivan, and a jar of pickles fell out and broke on the ground. Mom and older sister were pissed. They both said “If you were sitting still, this wouldn’t have happened.” “But I was” cried the little kid. Mom said something I couldn’t hear to the eldest daughter, and she screamed back “I can’t my feet are killing me.” – Then she opened the car door, got out, slammed it, and walked back to the store. I thought it was to get more pickles, but it was to get a plastic bag to put the glass in. Mom sat in the front seat and fumed both with her cigarette and her temperament, while the younger sibling jumped around, and got in the front seat. I felt sorry for them. I think I blessed them. They all needed it.
Then I called Danielle. She said to come over around 7:00PM. I had a couple hours to kill. I read the Anchorage paper for a little bit looking at the classified adds for jobs. I found a couple that were very low paying. Probably about ½ what I was making at Harris Interactive, before I left. Working for the state, or for the University. University would be appealing, because I would be able to get tuition waivers.
Then I went looking for an Internet Café. There was none to be found that were open at 6:00PM on Sunday. I drove in the direction of Danielle’s and found a regular coffee shop. I ordered a Chai Latte, of course it had caffeine. L Then I worked on the site a bit before heading over to Danielle’s for dinner.
Sonya, who was the one that originally gave me Danielle’s phone number was here, and I hugged her hello, and shook Danielle’s hand. Josh was also here watching Happy Gilmore. He had to go to work to lug baggage. He didn’t have a car, so he rode his bike to the airport. Danielle was blonde and had curly hair. She was very nice and upper management at Holland America Cruise Lines. Later Missy, Landon who Danielle was kind of hanging out with, and another woman named Kelly showed up. Dinner was grand. Mexican Food. Very tasty enchiladas, rice, black beans, dip. Yum. I had a couple beers. Alaskan Amber, also had one daiquiri.
Later Josh came back. He was an odd bird. One of the most interesting people I have met. Very non traditionalist way of thinking. He is a baggage guy at Holland America, and goes up to visit Danielle. If she is not in her office, he will stare in it for several minutes, just to mess with the other girls that work up there. They think he is strange, but he really just does it for effect. He said to me as he left. “Ryan, it was nice to meet you, I’ll probably never see you again, but Keep it real man.” – When he talked, everyone in the room, kind of just ended their previous conversation. Strange and interesting. I found myself just waiting to hear what he would say next. He said that he was out at work with the other baggage handlers, and a large plane was about to get in. The three other guys that he works with and he were standing next to each other waiting for the plane, and he gathered them around and said “Let’s take a knee boys.” – Then he said “Yea, then I said some words. It was awesome.”
Then he left, saying “I am too interested in sleep.” In the response to Missy’s question “Not into going out?” – I tried to teach everyone zoom Schwartz Pafigliano. No interest. I tried to get them to play black magic, or the moon is… No interest. I sometimes get the feeling that I had too much fun drinking at college. Not a ton of people seem to know the same games that I do.
Then we went to the Boatel. It was a dive bar with a decent juke box, and a free pool table. They had a view of the Cheena River, with a deck. Kelly had a jeep that she drove. It was a soft top, and the top was still off. I rode in the back, even though the seat was wet. I miss riding in them.
Bar was ok. I took pictures of everyone, and played pool, bought folks some pull tabs, played with a yo yo, danced a little with Kelly before she and Missy left. Talked with bartender who was cute, but a little chubby. Kelly had the short black spiky hair, and Missy who says silly stuff sometimes. With a three year old. I asked bartender for more music, and she gave me a five to put in the juke box. Put some good tunes on. Especially Van Morrison, Precious Time.
Then came back, and I slept on the couch.
Woke up feeling like crap. Dehydrated, and hung over. Plus insides didn’t feel good from Mexican Food. Danielle left early for work, and Sonya surfed for a while, as I tried to sleep in. I got a few more hours. Danielle left around 7:00, and I slept till 8:30ish. Woke up, took shower, put pictures on Danielle’s laptop, and got my mail. Sent some quick messages to some people. Showed Sonya how to delete her borders from her memory stick on her camcorder.
Then we went for a tour of the place she used to live on Ester Dome. They call the mountains around here domes. Kind of cool. The place she used to live was a tiny cabin. No running water. People used to come on campus to take showers, and hang out there for the rest of the day. It sounded like a lot of fun. Sonya really wanted to be back here permanently. I felt bad for her. It was totally in her voice, eyes, etc, that she wanted to be here. I could understand it, but couldn’t feel it. She said the first time she got off the plane, it was 37 below zero, and she thought it was awesome. That’s cold. They don’t get as much snow as we do in New York, even though they are prejudice against those in the lower 48 states.
Then we came back, and I e-mailed a bit more. Then called a junkyard and found a wheel. Drove there, they didn’t have it, drove to the museum to meet Sonya for the Inuk Eskimo Olympics demonstration. That was super cool the high kick was my favorite of course.
Then went to the junkyard again. Didn’t have it, referred me to another junkyard went there, waited a long time, got the wheel. Found out that Ford is really to blame for the tire Firestone scandal. Then came back, e-mailed, re-organized the car with the spare in the trunk, donut in the top, and bike also in the top.
Then ate, and journalized and e-mailed rest of the night.
August 28, 2001 Tuesday… Pulloff off the Dalton Highway between Coldfoot and the Antigun Pass on the way to Prudhoe Bay, Deadhorse, and the Arctic Ocean. (Above the Arctic Circle)
I woke up late after a long night of e-mailing people. I think I got to bed around 1:30AM or 2:00, I don’t remember. I can look it up, by looking at the last e-mail I sent, but I don’t think that I care enough about finding out to do that. When I awoke, I kind of was in a little indecision about whether or not I was going to start driving up to Prudhoe Bay today. Especially after sleeping late. (I woke up around 10:30) I think. I had heard from many people that it takes a full two days to get up to Prudhoe Bay, and another two full days to get back. – These people are overestimating, I left around 2:30PM, and I am more than ½ way already. I could have driven further, but I decided not to.
I was kind of hoping that it would be clear tonight, so that I might be able to see the Aurora Borealis. But, from the looks of things it’s a little cloudy for that. – You never know though. So, pretty much the summary for today is that I woke up, took a shower, e-mailed a bit. – Oh, I will mention Sachi. I met this girl on the Ferry from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert. Her name was Sachi, and she is Japanese. She has been traveling for almost a year. She was in Australia for 5 months, and then she came to the states, and now she is traveling around Alaska. She flies home in November.
Anyway, I talked with her briefly on the ferry, and she kind of caught me off guard when I asked her about Alaska. We talked a little about our respective agendas, and it turns out that they were very similar. I told her that I was going to Fairbanks, Denali, and then Anchorage, and she said “I want to come with you.” – That’s what caught me a little off guard.
Anyway, I caught up with her again in the Hostel in Juneau. She didn’t remember me, but I remembered her smiling face. Her name means happiness or something like that. I think it is very fitting. Anyway, she was on her way to Skagway, I think to Canoe from Whitehorse to Dawson City, and I was heading straight to Fairbanks from Haines. She called my cell phone, and left a message and also e-mailed me. It’s funny. I checked my cell voice mail to see if another friend wanted to meet me in Fairbanks to join me heading up to Prudhoe Bay. – I thought it was going to be her, but it turns out it was Sachi. – Funny.
So, I e-mailed her back, and said that I would take her to Denali, and we could hike together there. I e-mailed her with what I wanted to do in Denali, and said that we could share a tent if she was interested. – She was concerned about this, because she borrowed a tent from the Hostel, and was considering taking it, but as she wrote in her e-mail “It’s not polite.” – Different cultures are so interesting. – I guess Americans come off as rude and callous from many people’s perspective. I suppose it’s all a matter of frame of reference.
Anyway, I decided to head up to Prudhoe Bay and Deadhorse, even though I told Naraelle that I would wait to hear from her by Wednesday morning. – I kind of got antsy. – Maybe that I didn’t want to commit to spending time with one or the other. I don’t know.
So, I did my little rhyme thing to remind me of things I needed to get. “Gas, Food, Air, Water,… Gas, Food, Air, Water” – This was my little mantra, it slowly changed to “Food, Air, Water”, then to “Food, Water”, then to “Water”, then I was gone. Obviously, I filled the car up with gas, then went to look at the Air hose they had for filling one’s car. It had a nozzle on the tip, without a tire pressure gauge. I think the one that they had was generic air compressor, that would fit any hose that they put on it. The reason I think this, is because I went to another place, and asked if they had a tire pressure gauge that I could borrow, and she gave me the nozzle that fit the hose, which also had a gauge on it. Clever. – This gas station also had free air, in the same configuration (big generic nozzle) that the other gas station had. I wonder if trucks or something have different attachers for something. Maybe I will ask when I am back in Fairbanks.
Then I rolled to Safeway, and got all the food I needed. I used my Safeway card, and saved like a couple dollars. My favorite Hummus was on sale, so I got two. I got a warm loaf of French bread which I mawed on for a kind of faux dinner earlier. It was awesome. It wasn’t still warm, but it was quite tasty. I know it has a high glycemic index, but I don’t really care.
I also got ice to put in my containers to keep the cooler cool. These work quite well, as cool supplements, and only add a little water to the bottom of the cooler. Usually when I dump it out, it’s only like a like maybe a mouthful. I also filled up my water containers, including the large V8 container with water. I think I was way over prepared for this little drive. I guess it’s better to be prepared, than not prepared.
The road isn’t really all that bad overall. I mean there are some sections that suck hard. The ground is quite soft, and kind of steers your car wrong. Other places there are large baseball, tennis ball, and softball sized rocks all over the road. Those are rough sections, because when those rocks hit the inside of your wheel wells, it makes a loud Boom, or more like a “Chunk.” – It’s not a good sound. I know what it sounds like. It is the sound of a large pumpkin being hurled from a moving vehicle at about 50 miles per hour, the moment it makes contact with the front passenger side corner panel of a brand new Nissan Maxima. Definitely not a good sound.
Other parts are paved, and I drove about 75 or so on them. The shoulders are still gravel, and kick up a ton of dust if you get too far over. Other parts are very rutty, and still other parts are very gravely and dusty. But, I probably averaged about 55 or so, on this first leg. So, it’s a pretty good road. I don’t think I will flat out anywhere, but I suppose there is a chance. I did get a couple nicks in the windshield from Trucks as I was passing them. – Yes, I passed some tractor Trailers. I past most of the vehicles that I came upon. There was only one that passed me earlier, and I let a bunch go by right before I turned in here, because I wanted to get a picture facing the other way.
The terrain is varied. In the beginning it was mostly the same as the road coming into Fairbanks. Long kind of rolling hills with small short pine trees. I’m not sure why they grow that way, maybe it’s because of the muskeg, or very soft ground. It might not be able to support larger weight of the big trees, and therefore, all the trees are smaller. The further north I got, the more of the deciduous trees were yellow. A couple of places I saw some Orange ones. I should have taken a picture of a pair of them I saw today that were orange. They were beautiful, but I didn’t stop for feeling competitive with the truck in front of me.
Then further north it got flat, and now I am in the foothills of the Brooks Range. The Northeast end of the Rocky Mountains. They are nice, but not as impressive as those mountains around Haines. Maybe they will get bigger and nicer tomorrow when I drive through Antigun pass. I will see I suppose.
I love these silk weight tee shirts I got from Patagonia. I have been wearing the same one for about 4 days now. It doesn’t seem to get dirty, and doesn’t smell that I can tell. I guess in normal wear the sweat get’s wicked away, and doesn’t collect in the shirt making it stinky. Excellent. I will wear it for the next four days.
Danielle has a 2000 Subaru Legacy Outback. I am totally jealous of it. The small subtle changes that they have made make a world of difference even with the 1997. It seems like they raised the roof a little bit, because inside hers, there is a ton more headroom than mine. I guess I haven’t wanted for more headroom, but it would be super nice to have. They also changed the spare tire compartment layout. She has room for a bunch more secret stuff back there than I do. Hers sounds bigger and clunkier. She has 16in. wheels that I think help a ton. Plus the doors seem heavier and maybe a little stronger. It’s got a bunch of cool features. The fan controls are different. They take up a little more room, but they are aesthetically pleasing. The locks, and power window controls are different too. I haven’t drove it, so I can’t say if the place where they put the controls on the door is in the way, like it is in mine. It definitely has a lot of nice features.
The only thing about this road that is kind of annoying is the dust. When you pass cars going the same direction, or going the opposite direction they kick up a ton of dust. When I set up my car for sleeping, I wiped the top of my water jug, and came away with a finger full of dust. Not fun. It gets all in the car, and all over the place. When I get back, it will definitely get a bath. + an Oil Change. I am due again.
I am psyched that I got a full sized spare tire. I am also super psyched that the donut, and most of the stuff that I had before fit’s in my car top carrier. That was probably one of the best purchases that I have ever made. Very Happy with it. This time fitting stuff in it requires that I take each wheel off my bike and place them in separately. I think I am also definitely over the weight limit recommendation with the donut spare in there. The roof rack recommendation is like 100lbs. My spare probably weighs about 30 lbs, my bike about 25, and the pod itself is probably 20. I also have been carrying my tools, which probably weigh about 15 lbs, my camp stove which is maybe 5 lbs, fuel maybe another 3 lbs. Other sundry things like shoes, helmets, bike pump, trekking poles, probably weigh another 5 lbs. If I add all that up, it comes to about 103 lbs. So that’s over by only three lbs. – That’s ok I guess, but not when I have the 2 gallon gas container with gas in it. That’s at least another 10 lbs. To account for this, I took the camp stove, tools, and white gas out of the carrier, and put them in my car. I guess I am ok after all. Right at the limit though. It’s a shame too, because I do have more room up there for more stuff. Just can’t weigh anything. I think most of the things I have in my car, I pretty much need more often than the things I have in the car top carrier. SO I think things are pretty good now.
Well, it’s time to end this. Tomorrow I take a tour to the Arctic Ocean.
August 29, 2001 Happy Landing Camp off the Dalton Highway, approximately 80 miles South of Deadhorse.
Today was a long, hard day. It was as the conditions are in the North Slope, extreme. I woke this morning around 6:00AM, coerced by the incredible beauty of the Sunrise in the foothills of the Brooks Range. I wanted to sleep more, but I wanted to look at the incredible colors outside my window more. I got up, took some pictures, and then debated going back to bed, but I kept thinking that it might get better, it might get better. Then I was too awake to go back to sleep, so I got around, and had breakfast.
I did as much as I could in preparation for my morning visit to the office, but when I went to the office, I didn’t seem to have the urge to take care of the 2nd order of the business for the day. So, If you don’t need to do it, you don’t do it. I filled in the hole I had dug, and was on my way.
The terrain rose steadily into Antigun pass. The further north I got, that there were trees, the more they were yellow, and changing colors with the season. Soon, I got above the tree line, which is low because of the harsh terrain, and made it through the pass. It was just like any other mountain pass, barren, desolate, plus a gravel road.
On the other side, I drove my car swiftly through the valley leading to the Arctic Plane called the “North Slope”. The landmark that to me signified the end of the Mountains, and the beginning of the North Slope was Galbraith Lake Camp. This is an old pipeline camp pad that has an airport which still gets some use. It had a commode. I used it.
I then headed back out on the road. I was feeling very confident in my driving, and expertise in driving in difficult off road conditions, so I was pushing the envelope as far as speed. There were sections of the road, mostly paved that I was going around 75 or 80. There were also several sections of hard packed dirt and gravel that I was comfortable driving 60 or so on. I was zooming along thinking I was going to make it to Deadhorse, which was about 120 miles away at 10:00AM, by noon. I figured that I could average 60 miles an hour, and get there with plenty of time to hang and tour, and that I would make it back to Coldfoot tonight for dinner.
I passed several pickup trucks, and a couple big rigs. I passed a camper like it was standing still. I was zooming along and making very good time. Once I topped a hill, and I was kind of in the middle of a road, and a big rig cab came right over the other side. I swerved a little to the right, and got out of the way, but the tires slid a little, which made me feel slightly uncomfortable. I continued to zoom along though, thinking that I would just slow down more near blind sections of the road. This continued to work for me for a while.
I was still confident, and kind of scoffed at all the precautions and warnings that had been posted. “This was nothing”, I thought. “I eat this stuff for breakfast”, my bravado macho side thought. “These Alaskan’s don’t know what rough road is”. – These thoughts continued to fill my head as I deftly maneuvered the wheels of my Subaru between the potholes, avoiding the worst of them. Most of the time, if I was concentrating on the road in front of me, I could maneuver around the obstacles, and keep up my speed without any bottoming out, or rocks flying. It was good, I was making great time, and would be ½ way back to Fairbanks before bed tonight.
Then all the speed, time that I had been making, and my confidence came to an abrupt halt. I was coming off one of the fast sections probably going about 70, and I noticed a gravel rocky section ahead. I started to slow down, and got to about 57 or so, but that wasn’t enough. As I rocketed over the baseball and Rubik’s cubed sized rocks strewn across the road, I heard a “Fllfff, flada, flada, flada, flada”. I thought it might be a flat, but it seemed to still be driving ok. I slowed considerably, and then tried to turn. It was very difficult, I had a flat. I pulled off to the side of the road as much as I could, put the emergency brake on, and opened the door to look.
The drivers side rear wheel was resting on the rim. I got out of the car, and walked around the back to get out the full sized spare from the trunk. At that time, I heard air coming from the passengers side rear wheel. I walked around to it, and noticed it was leaking air badly also. Two flats at the same time. Bad Bad luck.
Quickly, I changed the driver side wheel. It was the worst, and already flat. I pulled out all the stuff I had packed in the spare tire compartment with the spare, as well as the jack. I was getting extremely dirty during this process. My car was a total mess, and everything I touched was caked with road dust. This of course was getting all over me, my hands, and jacket. The RV that I had just passed, passed me first. I bet they were laughing. I think I would have been. Then the first 18 wheeler. He was considerate, and slowed down significantly as he passed. I finished changing that tire, and tossed the one it replaced in the back. It got dirt and dust all over everything. My blanket, my sleeping pad, and everything else I had in the back. And I thought things were dusty last night. Ha.
By the time I was done changing the drivers side rear tire, I went to go look at the passenger side again, and it was flat. I figured that since it was a slower leak, that I might be able to use a can of the fix – a flat, and have four full sized tires on my car. – I didn’t want to put the donut on. It was tiny, had very little tread, and would significantly slow my progress. The fix – a – flat went in, and worked for about 8 miles. Then, that tire was completely flat. – It was donut time.
Now I was super cautious. I had both my spares on my car, and none to spare. One can of fix – a flat left, and my opinion of that was that it pretty much sucked. So, I had to drive the remaining 120 miles crippled, using a donut. Coincidentally, the last 120 miles to Deadhorse are the absolute worse by a long shot on the entire road. There are rutty sections that I bottomed out in. The rocks that caused my flat, those were baby rocks compared to some of the ones that were on the last section of road. – There were football sized rocks that were strewn along a good 30 yard sections. Over these sections, driving above 5 miles an hour is way too fast. – Driving at all, is way too fast. To top all this off, most of this last part of road is under construction, so there are large trucks digging, and evidentially trying to improve upon the crap that they have.
Since I was driving a donut, I was consciously going much slower than I was before. I was comfortable with nothing more than 45 in the sections that I would have previously driven 60. 45 was pushing it maybe a little. I think I spent more time in the 40 mile per hour range on the fast sections, and for the construction / rutty / rocky / dusty / everything else sections. 10 mph tops. – Yes, I forgot to mention the dust. Ridiculous. One could see a car 5 miles ahead from the trail of dust. In sections earlier in the day, I was following trucks that were spitting up dust, and in parts, my visibility was a good 10 feet. Oh yea, there were sections that were muddy too. I had wondered earlier what all the cars that were super muddy were doing, and how they got that way. Now I knew. I’m not sure if this water saturation was a conscious thing on the parts of the construction companies to stop dust, or if it was an effect of runoff from the Permafrost. Either way, there are muddy sections of this road, worthy of the Rooney festival. If you don’t know what that is, then just take it for granted. It ain’t pretty.
What I was hoping in making in 2 hours took me 4. I arrived at Deadhorse by 2:00PM. Quite frustrated, and tired. The last 20 miles were the worst. The road improved slightly, but I was so paranoid about driving that I kept going the 40 miles an hour. In addition, the fog was as thick as the dust from the trucks. I couldn’t see 40 feet in front of me. Each rock I went over, I kept thinking it had punctured on of my tires, and I was constantly testing them. Towards the end, I had convinced myself that my donut had a slow leak. But, I didn’t want to stop to look at it. I just wanted to get to a gas station, or someplace that would be able to fix my full sized tires.
I forgot to mention the pilot car / road worker incident. You know how sometimes in construction, there is a car that everyone follows to make it safely through the construction. Well, I came to one of these, and instead of a stop sign, a guy just kind of waved me down. I stopped my car where it was, and then he waved me forward. I pulled up to him, and he started talking. I could barely understand what he was saying, but grabbed the jist of it. He seemed jittery, like he was on caffeine, and had several cans of coke. Maybe some of the other kind too. He then started asking me questions about where I was from, and what the thing on my roof was. He thought it was a boat, even after I told him it was a car pod.
He had none of his top four front teeth, and spoke kind of like an Eskimo from Brooklyn. I think maybe the teeth helped that a little. Plus he kind of walked like he was a little off balance. He asked me what I was doing here, and I have him my usual, “I quit my job, because I was bored with it, and decided to come here.” – What were they paying you by the hour?” he asked. – “Oh, I don’t even know.” I said honestly. He said “You were salaried then.” – I responded affirmatively. He walked away to talk to the truck that had pulled up in back of me, and then came back. He kept saying things like “You got a big deal going on”, “Your having a great time”. He was kind of creeping me out. I noticed that he had two tears tattooed under the outside of his right eye. I was thinking that he was probably an ex – convict. I had heard that a lot of them get hired for work like this.
Then he came back up to my car, leaned a hand on the window sill, which I still had open, stuck his head in, and said “Got any Pot?” I said “Nope, not for me.” – His face had an expression of disbelief on it, kind of like he was expecting that I would have pot, or maybe that I was lying because I didn’t want to give him some. I don’t think I give off that air, but maybe I do. Whatever. Later, when I asked if they just dropped him off out here, and he did this all day, he told me how much he made. He said “They pay me 25 dollars an hour, and I work 10 hour days.” When it’s overtime, I get paid 37 dollars an hour, and when it’s during the holiday, like Labor Day weekend coming up, I get paid 50 dollars an hour.” “That’s going to be some serious green my man”, he said, and kind of did a little dance in the road. – Definitely creeping me out. I considered asking him if I could take his picture, but I thought that he might have the reaction of some of the isolated tribes in Africa, and think I was stealing his soul. – One does not take pictures of crazy people. So, I rolled up my window at an appropriate time, and started to read.
As I pulled into town, I figured that a gas station would have someone to fix my tires. I headed for the signs that said Tesaro Alaska. This happened to be a self service station on the extreme furthest end of town, and by the time I got there, I was a little pissed. As I got out of my car, a man in a Blue Jumpsuit was standing around his car, and said “What’s up Hollywood?” – He made me a little nervous, when he started saying “You want unleaded Gas?” I don’t think they have unleaded gas in this town.” – Then, “What are you going to do man?” – I noticed that he was standing behind the tailgate of his truck, urinating on the ground. I started to walk the other way. “There ain’t no one to take your money, and no one to pump your gas, ‘cept me, and Hell, I’ll fill you up.” – His partner emerged from the shack which I understood to function as the office. – “They got a credit card reader in there.” I was in luck.
I waited until they had finished, and filled my gas. Not before getting a little pleasant conversation in. Hollywood said, “Did you see the oil field yet”, I responded “no” – Well, Jerry here will loan you his badge, and you can go in, and check it out.” Jerry said “I would, but I gotta get in too.” – They seemed like decent guys. Hollywood was a little nutty. I asked where I should get my tires patched, and they recommended BMJ’s back the way I came.
I found BMJ’s, and the guy working inside smoked like a fiend, and swore even more. I would estimate that every other word out of his mouth was Fuck. “That fucking road will tear up any tire”. “Yea, it’s a tough drive with the road paved and all.” – “They oughta post a sign in Fairbanks for everyone thinking about driving to Deadhorse, Anyone without a fucking clue, turn your ass around right now.” I knew a girl from New York once, she was the most uninhibited fucking person I have ever met.” “I met her at a bar, and started talking with her, and told her I would take her out to dinner.” “Next day I called her, sober, to see if she was still interested, this was at like fucking 8:30 in the morning, and she said “Yea, that sounds great. You know, if you want to come over now, I am cleaning my house, and I don’t have a thing on.” – “I just looked at the phone with my mouth open, and could barely get out, “I’ll be right over”
He was a riot. He was able to patch my one tire, but the other wouldn’t hold air. He had one that he could sell me, but it was going to be 75 dollars, and I thought that I could make it back going slow, and with my donut. So, I said thanks for the repair, paid at another gas station, three doors down. (They share the credit card reader), and was on my way.
The town was difficult to read. Most of the stores that had signs out front, didn’t have storefronts, and the entrances were just kind of random doors with no signs on them. – I started looking for the tour place that was in the paper I got. I went into a couple buildings that looked right, but neither of them were correct. – Finally I went into the Caribou Inn. They also gave tours, but the “Oilfield Tour” which was more comprehensive than the Arctic Ocean Tour was only offered twice daily, and the last one for that day had already gone out at 1:15. I was left with an Arctic Ocean Tour at 4:30, or wait until the next day, and take the Oil Field tour.
I asked if I could call the other tour place, and he said fine, and that I could use the phone on the wall for local calls. I called around, and the place that was listed in the paper no longer gave tours. So, I was stuck with this place. I signed up, and asked if I could watch the video that came with the Oil Field Tour. He said Fine. “It’s good, it was put together by the oil companies, so it’s a little one sided, but it’s good.” – It was exactly as he said. He also told me that I could swim in the Arctic Ocean if I wanted to. – I thought that was a good idea, went to my car, donned my bathing suit, and snacked a little before the tour started.
Our tour guide was great. His name was Orion Johnson. He had just graduated the University of Madison, and was working up here, previously for the borough of North Slope. He hadn’t yet spent a winter up here. He said “The mosquitoes are like nothing I have ever seen.” – I put on Deet bug spray to the point of it dripping off me, and it doesn’t even affect them. – It’s like I had a sign for the mosquitoes, eat at Orions. – I have heard that Caribou can loose a pint of blood per day from the mosquitoes.
He had a lot of knowledge about the oil fields. I asked him about the ANWR legislation, and he said “In my opinion it’s political”. One of the large oil companies up there was also significant, in that Dick Chaney was the CEO of it before he became vice president. I got to take a picture of the building. He said that the newer oil rigs have enough crude in them to last for the next 30 years or so. But, because the price of crude has gone down so much, they are not even pumping it. – I said, so it sounds like there is really no need to drill in ANWR, since we had all this reserve in the West.” He said, You are right, there are places further to the west that are National Lands, that we wouldn’t have to change legislation to drill in, that would supply with enough crude to do what Bush plans to do in ANWR, and more.
He pointed out some large arctic cat looking like machines, and said that no part of their tires exert more than 7 lbs per square inch of pressure on the ground. – That’s what they use to do seismic surveys of the ground during the winter time. It’s much less impact than a human foot would be on the same landscape. – I thought that was cool. The machines also weigh at least a couple tons each. He showed us the old way of drilling support lines, and the new way. The old way was to keep the lines above ground, and every once in a while, build a ramp for the caribou to cross if they needed to. They also built a gravel road along side of it to maintain, and build it. The new way was to put the lines high enough so that the Caribou could walk underneath it. In addition, make a winter road with ice to manufacture the line, and once the ice melts in the spring, there is no evidence of the road being there. – Kind of cool.
He showed us the main port that stuff was bought into during the heyday. He said that there is only like three weeks that stuff can be brought in, and this year that the ice cap at Barrow didn’t open up until August 1st. Way later than normal. Workers were sitting in the hotel, basically on call for about a month. He told us about Arctic Cotton. Which is a grass that looks and feels like cotton, but it is a grass. It was really neat, and grows everywhere. He showed us the “figure eight” sculpture that was commissioned for 1 million dollars. Outrageous. He showed us the first pump that Exxon, and Arco both used to verify the existence of oil. He told us that there is enough Natural Gas up here that the oil companies can’t get to market to power the entire united states for 30 years or something. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 13 trillion gallons of Natural Gas. The largest natural gas refinery in North America exists here. It refines enough natural gas in one day to power the entire lower portion of Alaska and the Kenai peninsula for an entire year. The problem is that there is no way to get it to market. There are three solutions 1. To Go East, to a pipeline in Canada, then to the Midwest. 2. To build another pipeline to California through Canada. 3 To build another pipeline next to the existing one and refine the unstable gas into stable gas, and ship it from Valdez. I thought that since when oil is drilled, it comes up in the form of oil, natural gas, and water, that why not just ship the oil and natural gas combination to Valdez, and then separate them there. We both figured there was probably a good reason why they weren’t doing that. I thought it probably was because the tolerances, and pressures of shipping natural gas were different than shipping oil.
It was very informative. I also swam in the Arctic ocean. It was cold, but not unbearable. I couldn’t really swim, because it was so shallow.
I talked with Chuck and Linda in the Hotel, and sent some postcards. Then I ate, and started south. I am now super tired, and going to bed.
August 30, 2001 Thursday. North Country Merchantile Parking Lot in Livengood, AK.
I woke up early, and went back to bed this time. There wasn’t really a nice looking sunrise. When I eventually got around, I did my morning routine. I will mention the toilets in the Happy Valley work camp. They are plastic bags that advance lower in the container each time you operate a foot pedal. I had never used something like that before, but it seemed to work fine. Interesting. I suppose it’s more sanitary to clean up.
So, off I went, with four full size tires, and one spare donut. I planned on driving slow most of the day, because I was obviously concerned about flatting out again on one of the remaining tires. I didn’t want to have to depend on the donut. About 10 miles or so south of Happy Valley, the road improved tremendously. I can understand why I was driving fast on it the day before. In several spots, it was very hard packed. In these spots, it was probably easier to navigate than asphalt in some circumstances. Probably easier on the tires. It’s the kind of thing I love to ride my Mountain Bike on. Very fast, and very fun.
In other spots, I was still driving 10mph or slower. This was definitely not a precaution, but a necessity. I didn’t really have any problems driving slow, like I thought I would. I kind of drove how the road felt like it should be driven on. If it was bumpy, I drove slower. If it was smooth, I drove faster. I did this all day long. I started around 7:00AM ish, and it’s now 9:00PM ish. I took several breaks in between, but otherwise, I was driving all day. Probably the overall drive time was a good 9 hours.
I saw a bunch of ground like things. They could have been marmots, but I don’t really know. On the way back, I also saw a Moose by the side of the road. It was hanging out, eating some grass and stuff. I also saw a black bear cross the road in front of me. I tried to get a picture when I got up to where it crossed, but it had already gone out of eyesight.
I got a crack in my windshield today. I count myself lucky that’s all I got. Earlier in the day, when a truck was passing me, I saw one of the rocks it kicked up. The truck hurled a golf ball sized rock, about 40 miles an hour right in the path of my windshield. It would have definitely put a hole in it, but for the fact that I was about 10 feet short of being in the way. Several other times, I was peppered by passing vehicles. Big Rigs, and Pickup trucks mostly. I think I have about four or five chunks out of my windshield that weren’t there before. I am not sure if I have glass insurance. I will make a call tomorrow, and ask if I do. If I don’t I will probably ask to put it on, in hopes that another rock flings up and dings my windshield after I get it on. (I am too honest to submit a claim post ding pre insurance)
My car is filthy, inside and out. One can not read my license plate, and definitely not tell what state I am from. The car is pretty much two tone now. Brown and White. Brown from the mud, and white from the car. There is a layer of dust on everything inside the vehicle also. If I wipe my finger across the dash, it comes back with a good amount of dust. Same with pretty much everything in the car too. Including me. – That is of course, underneath the sweat and grime.
On the way back, I stopped at Coldfoot to fill up. I talked with the woman at the desk and told her how I flatted out twice. She said “Up near Happy Landing?” – “Yea”, I responded. “That section has been terrible for years. They are finally getting around to fixing it.” – “Are you going north?” “Nope, South” I responded. “Oh, they are closing down the road every other day for 12 hours, but you probably don’t care about that.” “Oh”, I said. “Yup, they are finally getting around to repairing it.” I also put the appropriate air pressure in each of my tires at Coldfoot.
Prior to Coldfoot, I stopped at Wiseman, which is the smallest, oldest, non – native community in Alaska. I spoke to Jack Reakoff who is one of the 29 permanent residents of the town. He is a hunter and trapper full time, just like his father was. He was a very interesting guy, who had a semi – native accent, something that was difficult to place. He was fond of saying “yup, you bet.” He was butchering a Dall Sheep that the game warden had given him that was too small for legal size. A hunter had killed it up on the North Slope.
His flyer reads:
Wolf – Lynx – Fox – Wolverine
Furs – Skulls – Parka Ruffs
Claw and teeth Hand crafts
I take all arctic grade furbearers, on my 150 miles of trapline in the Wiseman area. I personaly handle each animal to assure high quality
Necklaces are personaly made from nondible portions of furbearers and big game. Each necklace is of my design, using high quality world trade beads.
Wiseman, Alaska 99790
907-678-2007Mail orders Welcome –
(The spelling mistakes were actually in the flyer) Jack was a handsome guy, with peppered gray hair. He talked slow, and moved deliberately. He didn’t speak with much inflection, but what he said was very interesting. He talked about how Wolves are pack animals, and there is usually not a lot of fighting within the pack, until the Alpha Wolves are past there prime. Then the beta’s, or sub alphas usually nip at them. The older alphas usually die of contusions. There all bruised up, and can’t keep going after a while.
He also talked about Wiseman, and how it had been established back in 1908. It has been occupied ever since. At one time, there were only 6 old timers living there. Now it’s up to 29 including the children. “There are a lot of children”, he said. He said “before the road was finished back in 1977, it was real quite around here.” “People used to fly in and out with planes. They were much more cheaper back then. My dad paid about 5000 for his.”
“One time a
woman from California came up here to visit, and she ended up liking it enough
that she stayed down by the creek bed for a while. She was an artist, found a
rock, and made me this picture.” –
“Yea, people say that there aren’t too many women in Alaska, I’ve got them all over the place. Often times, they come up visiting from California and are all like mmmmm, and I say, Whoa, backup, I’m married.” – I get that all the time.”
Definitely an interesting, different guy. I was very impressed by the way he lived, and the self sufficiency. He said that he gets his dry, and canned goods via mail order. He said it costs 30% more than shelf price in Fairbanks, but the store at Coldfoot will charge double what it costs in Fairbanks. He said they get mail once a week, and it comes with that.
He said he runs his freezer 5 hours a day with the power he generates from his Solar Panel. He also gets power from his windmill. He is too far away from the river to derive any useable power from that. He also told me about using packing tape to get the air out of the plastic bag that he puts around the meat that he is storing. He said it keeps much better that way. It’s almost like a vacuum seal. Cool Guy.
The weather was nice in the morning, then got progressively dimmer throughout the day. It rained a little this evening also, and washed a little of the mud off my car.
I was on the last stretch of the Dalton Highway, before it turns into Route 2 south from Livengood to Fox, and Fairbanks, when again I heard the fateful sound of “fluta fluta fluta fluta”, and steering the car got difficult. I stopped, put on the parking break, and looked. The spare was going flat. It was donut time.
I changed my third tire, and thought about the long 81mile trip still had to go from Livengood to Fairbanks. The road was still dirt that entire section, and I would have to drive 35 or so miles an hour. It would take me about 3 hours. I didn’t have it in me. Thankfully, there was a convenience store right off highway 2 out of Livengood that does tire repairs. Unfortunately, the guys that do it, weren’t around. SO, I decided to call it a day of driving, and asked if I could sleep in the driveway, until they fixed it, and I take off in the morning.
The woman said yes, and that’s where I am now. I am going to use the bathroom, and then ask where they are, and make payment arrangements. 15 dollars if it’s off the car. Not bad. Good Night.
August 31, and September 1, 2001 Friday and Saturday.
The continuing odyssey of the flat tire adventure continued on Friday when I returned to Fairbanks. I successfully changed my spare with my donut at the roadside convenience / tire repair store in Livengood Friday morning. It was easy, but for the fact that it had rained all night, and the entire driveway / parking lot of the convenience store was soft 2 inch thick Alaskan Mud. I got out of my vehicle to go and see if I could find my tire in the morning, because as I had left it the night before, I had agreed with the clerk that “If they can’t repair it, then just refund my money.”
I could barely make my way up to the work area that tires were changed in, because it was so slippery. I saw my tire, it was full of air. Great! – The walk back to my car was more treacherous than the walk up, because it was going downhill. When I got to my car, I had one of the two inches of mud on the bottom’s of my Chaco’s. I left them where they were next to my car, and drove up to the repair area in my socks. – Thankfully it was a little more hard packed in the repair area. I donned my Adidas, and changed my tire. I used the hydraulic jack that was laying on the ground, as numerous other tools, toys, and junk.
My donut was filthy, and I didn’t want to put it back in my car carrier. – Did I mention that it was raining? – Yea, I debated for about 30 minutes or so in the morning to get up because of the poor weather. I found a plastic bag in my carrier, and put it in the trunk. I placed the tire, and my sandals, that I picked up as I drove by in the rear on the plastic bag.
The drive back to Fairbanks was mostly uneventful. It rained the entire way, and at one point I stopped to eat a little breakfast. I tried to stay relatively unmuddy, but wasn’t too successful. When I got back to Fox, the road turned into pavement. It was like no other feeling in the world. My perpetual headache that I had had for the past 3 days suddenly subsided, the aches in the back of my neck, and lower back seemed to be massaged by the gentle car on the road feel, that was so foreign compared to the constant bumpity, bumpity, shake, shake, crunch that had plagued me throughout my Prudhoe Bay adventure.
I was overjoyed to finally be able to listen to NPR again. I didn’t listen to any music or radio on the trip up the Haul Road. One because there were no radio stations, two because I didn’t have any tapes, and three because had I plugged in my laptop, the cd player probably would have been skipping all over the place. I knew the frequency that the NPR station was on, 89.9, but the reception was partial and staticy at best during the drive back. I left it on though, listening to Alex Chadwick on the top’s of hills, and listening to static in the valleys. I caught parts of three shows. I think they were Morning Edition, 51%, and something else, which I was unfamiliar with.
After being secluded for the long times on the road, and knowing that there was really nothing for miles in any direction, except possibly road, and other weary travelers either coming or going, I understood how people can go a little nuts from sensory deprivation. I can understand how Tom Hanks in Castaway had the need to create a picture of another human face on a volleyball he called Wilson. When I finally heard the first little traces of NPR on the radio, I had a mixed feeling of elation at hearing the familiar sounds on the radio, and desperation to join society again, just to be in close proximity with other people.
I have the utmost admiration, in fact, I am in awe of anyone who has done multi-day solo trips into the woods, or spent long periods of time alone. I just read the story of a 50 year old guy who paddled the Pacific Ocean from Australia to England. His trip took him 125 days. He braved 50 foot swells, torrential rains, lack of sleep, sharks, and numerous other hardships. I think the most difficult thing would be to be by oneself for that long. To be honest, I think the physical strain and lack of sleep would pale in comparison to the intense loneliness. – It was an intense feeling for me to return to pavement, and civilization, and my trip was only a paltry 3 days.
As everything was filthy coming back to Fairbanks, I proceeded to get gasoline, and wash my car. Even after 8 dollars of coin operated washing, the car is still shedding dirt. It seems to be ever seeping forth from it’s every pore. The insides of the doors, are dirty, the undercarriage and wheel wells are still muddy. After I washed it, I went back to Danielle’s, and was surprised to find her at home. – I found out later she has Saturday’s and Friday’s off. Not Sunday’s though. Then I washed myself off. 3 days of dust, mud, and dank had taken it’s toll.
While I was in the shower, it stopped raining outside, and the sun came out. Now it was time to call around to find out about replacement tires for the Subaru. None of the places in town I called had the Firestone FR410 in stock. -–Anyone who carried it said that it would be 2 weeks to order it. Also, to add to my dilemma, people kept telling me that replacing a single tire on a 4 wheel drive vehicle was dangerous. It would put the front and rear axle out of alignment, and tear up the transmission. Several places I talked with said that “One has to replace all four tires”. – I was getting quite concerned. Four tires was a much more significant expense than I had planned for.
Danielle had invited me to go to Angle Creek to climb on some rocks with her. – Oh, I forgot to mention that we went out for Lunch after my shower, and had some tasty sandwiches. Our waitress was a little cuckoo. I saw her putting ice into a Soft drink dispenser. She was talking to herself the whole time. Danielle said she had really bad breath too. Her voice was really rough, like she had been smoking a pack a day for the greater part of her life. When I couldn’t finish half my sandwich, she said “I’ll let you put it in the take home container, because I have that cough and all.” – That’s exactly what you want to hear from your waitress.
Danielle and I were talking about her Niece, who she had taken care of for a year. As it turns out, her sister isn’t the most stable person, and Danielle looked after her 9-year-old niece from 98 to 99. As we were talking about it, she became emotional. I empathized with her. It must have been tough going through that.
So, I eventually called the junkyard where I purchased the spare tire from, with the intention of asking about returning the spare tire after it had been flat, and patched. He said “You’ll need to come down, and talk with Glen about that.” – I asked him about tires, and changing four of them on my Outback, and he said “It would behoove you to come down, and check out what we have. We get new tires in here all the time.” I did, dissing Danielle, and skipping Angle Creek in favor of taking care of my tire thing. (Labor Day weekend was coming up, and places weren’t going to be open again until Tuesday.)
On the drive down, I was already paranoid about driving, because I didn’t want to “Tear up the transmission”, as numerous other tire salesmen, and car part workers indicated that I would. As I was driving down the road, I accelerated to 45, and the rear end really started shaking badly. The faster I went, the worse the shaking. Crap, now I was super nervous I was screwing up my car. I definitely didn’t want to deal with that expense. Visions of me shelling out big bucks to replace my transmission and clutch to a greedy car mechanic plagued my head. I think this fear is a common one shared by people who don’t have a brand new car covered by a warranty. I think the fear is that having a car is an essential expense. It is essential that one be able to drive to work, school, etc. especially if you don’t live close to these things. When faced with the daunting expense of replacing this mode of transportation, or maintaining it, most people don’t have the skill set, or the know how to fix things themselves. So, they are essentially at the mercy of a mechanic, whom they might not know, and who might only be interested in getting the most money possible out of them. – Heck in my case, folks know I’m from out of town, and passing through, so all they see is the desperation in my eyes, and money in my wallet.
So, after hearing from several other autoworker types that I should change all four tires, I basically looked around, until I found someone who told me I didn’t need to. – This was again Glen from Action Auto Parts. Glen was one of the senior workers at the Junkyard, and had been working there for 20 years. His knowledge, work ethic, honesty, and trustworthiness, and extra effort to help out everyone who came into the shop impressed me. He was the kind of person whom I admire. The kind of person who has found out what they are excellent at, who does it, and does it well. I would say he is “self actualized”. He was also extremely busy. His excellent reputation preceded him. He must have gotten 3 calls in the short time I was there. In addition to that he helped, every customer who had a problem, and several of those who didn’t. Finally when I got him to take some time with me, he walked me out, and explained the principals of four-wheel drive, and what people I have spoken with meant when they were talking about “tearing up transmissions”.
He explained that placing one larger or smaller sized diameter tire on either of the axles is not a big deal. – Think about your “hideaway”, as he called the donut. It’s diameter is actually larger than the diameter of the tires on the car. – “Now, they wouldn’t have done that unless it was ok to do it.” – “The thing that people do that screw up their transmissions is they replace a pair of tires on an axle at the same time. That may put the normally horizontal differential between the two axles an inch or so height difference from the other axle. This will kink and bind the axle, and cause problems.” So, the long and the short of it is that he said “You should replace the tire with the same one you have, to keep the tread pattern the same, but as it is, you don’t have a problem.”
I was overjoyed. My feeling was such that I still didn’t really 100% understand it, because if two tires on an axle would screw things up, than why wouldn’t one? – But if Glen said “You don’t have a problem, then I didn’t have a problem”. – Before I had gone into the store, I looked inside each of the wheels, and noticed some dirt. – I hoped that the vibration in the rear end was just caused by the mud drying as the sun came out.
I went to a gas station that had a free use hose outside, took each of the two rear wheels off, and cleaned the dried up mud out. That turned out to be the trick. – My advice for people in my situation, is don’t be paranoid, that only increases your vulnerability. Car pirates can smell fear. – In addition, when you are level headed, you can think straighter. Something like, “Well, when I originally put the spare on, it wasn't vibrating, and I drove back from Fox at faster than 45, and never experienced vibrations then.” Hmm, there was a lot of mud under my car, I remember that movie ‘My cousin Vinney’, where they had a similar problem.” “I think I will see if there is mud in the wheels, and try to clean them out.” – BINGO problem solved.
When I got back to Danielle’s, she wasn’t back yet. My key didn’t work, so I sat in my car and read National Geographic Adventurer for a while. 45 minutes later, I called Danielle. She was on her way back from Angle Creek. She got back, took a shower, then she took me out to a couple of her favorite pubs. We hit the “Red Fox”, which was down the street from her, and then drove to Fox, and hit the “Howling Dog.”
Red Fox was like any other sports bar. It was kind of slow. Not like a night at Woody’s, or most other Rochester Bars. Most people were polite, and relaxed. I felt a little like I was “from the big city” when I was there. We played darts. Not cricket, but 301, which I found extremely boring. I won most of the games. Then I convinced Danielle to play foosball, and two other people who we had played darts against. After a little bit, I got back into the swing of playing, and made some good shots.
“The Howling Dog” is now my favorite place in the greater Fairbanks area. It was awesome, reminded me of that dive we went to in Aruba on the south side of the Island. All sorts of stuff hanging from the ceiling, including an impressive array of Brassiere’s, fake breasts, and license plates. The bar was wood, and had 40 years worth of carvings in it, that were recently covered over by thick layers of shellac. The bar was facing you when you walked in, and stretched a good 30 feet long. Towards the left end of the bar, there was a poll table area, then further down, a “pull tab” area, and at the extreme end, a barbecue with great smelling food. Later Danielle and I dined. I got a pulled pork sandwich, and she got Jambalaya. – Pulled pork didn’t touch Dinosaur BBQ’s. But it wasn’t bad.
At the other end of the bar, was a stage, a dance floor, and at the far end, a patio. The stage was covered with “Pope Carpet”. The official carpet that President Regan and the Pope used when they were in Fairbanks. The band was headlined by a crazy woman, who sounded like a man. She was dressed from head to toe in tye die, had a bandana on her head, and played guitar. – She reminded me of my what I think Janis Joplin looked like on stage. – It was awesome. Danielle and I laughed as people danced around in a frenzy. I like dancing for that reason. It’s really unabashed flailing arms and legs. Displaying the energy of the music in gesticulations of your body in reckless abandon. I like it when people smile when they dance.
We got back at around 1:30AM or so. We were unsuccessful at seeing the Northern Lights on the way home. I stayed up and surfed around a little bit. Danielle went straight to bed. Definitely check out the pictures of the Howling Dog, on the web site. They are hilarious.
Saturday, September 1st.
I woke up late, and didn’t feel 100% super. Danielle and I went to the Farmers Market, then to a sporting goods store to look at the custom Nalgene bottles. I think the place was called the Barking Dog. It was also a bike shop, sporting goods store, and outdoor store. I bought a guide to climbing in the greater Fairbanks area, by Kevin Justice. Sonya was looking for the book when she was here, so I figured I would leave it with Danielle, the next time friends visited her who liked to climb.
We got back, and I decided to head out to Angel Creek to go climbing. It was a good hour drive, and I almost turned back a couple times, because it was raining most of the way out there, and the clouds didn’t look too promising. But, joyfully the weather was quite pleasant when I got there.
It was a good mile and ½ walk to the Rocks. When I was packing up my car, a little girl in one of the other cars, was screaming and having a tantrum. “BUY I HATE THE WATER!!! I DON’T WANNA GO!!!!” – I kept thinking “Shut that kid up!” – The parents totally didn’t know how to discipline their child. After I got all my stuff, and headed out the trail. When I passed them on the trail, Mom and Dad were both trying to coax their daughter along, saying “do you want a piggy back ride?” – “Do you want something to drink?” – “You’re doing good”… “Keep going”. The kid intermittently screamed kind of like a motor cycle engine heading down the road. WwwaaaaAAAAA, wwwwaaaaaAAAAAAA, wwwaaaaaaaAAAAAAAAA! – Adults, learn how to discipline your children. They will thank you for it when they get older.
The hike to the rocks took about 45 minutes. The first one I considered climbing was called “The Pumpmaster” – There were a couple people there who called Anchorage “The armpit of Alaska”, I responded with “Well, if I had to be in the armpit of a state, I would prefer the state be Alaska.” Pumpmaster was all granite, quite flaky, and I didn’t see a good route to top rope off of. I continued up the trail, and found another rock. I thought it was “The Main Rock”, but it was unlabeled in the book. I found a route that I liked, and set up a top rope on it. The place that I wanted to set my anchors was too far from the edge, and I didn’t have enough length to the leashes.
So, I found another place to put them, which was right on the edge. It was a little sketchy to set, so I roped in at the original anchor, and walked out to the edge to set the protection. There were no trees to set any anchors on the top, and very little places to set any good pro. Plus the gear that I had was minimal, so my options were a little slim. I didn’t feel like walking to the “Main Rock”, because there were already several people over there, and I thought this route would be nice. It was maybe 40 or 50 feet up, with a nice overhanging section, followed by a good rest spot, then another overhang underneath a large crack that was too wide to use as a hand jam, but big enough to pull against in each direction to work.
I set up a sling around a little outcropping that was directionally solid. I wouldn’t use it as pro if I was leading the route, because if I was to pull up on it, it probably wouldn’t hold. Then I was lucky to find a small crack that my #7 chock fit in perfectly. I tested each with my weight and they both held. Neither were bomber, but I trusted them. I looked for a third, but couldn’t find one, so I used these two. I found the middle of my rope, put it between each of the two locking carabineers, tied in, and rappelled down to the base. I did the one route once, and got to the top without a problem. I would have probably rated it a 5.7 or 5.8. A couple spots were easy, but the crux move was the second overhang underneath the large crack. That was at least a 5.9 move, and caused me some problems.
Then back down to the bottom, I tried the route to the left 10 feet. It was a little off route, and I would probably swing a little if I took a fall, but I was confident in the first 20 feet. Self-belaying is a bit like lead climbing. Each spot one decides to place protection; one must stop, place the pro, and clip in. This gets infinitely more difficult the more consistently difficult the route. Because if there are no good areas to stop and rest, you have to place your pro in an unsure place, and trust that your sketchy footing / handholds will stick until you clip in again.
The worst, is that if you fall from these spots, you are falling to the last spot you set your protection to. This can sometimes be 5 feet, and other times, upwards of 10 feet. The more the distance from the last pro, the greater the fall. The fall is twice the distance from the last protection, because you are falling to that spot, and falling that distance past it, so the force placed on the protection increases exponentially.
When I self belayed, up the routes, I made a figure 8 with the rope, and clipped myself in with that, then with the other part of the rope, I attached my Grigri to. These little devices are awesome. I would pull up all my slack, climb 5 feet, then pull in the slack, repeat. Pulling in the slack involved pulling the rope down past the friction of the carabineers, then pulling it through the Grigri. Not bad.
The route to the left was much more fun, and probably a 5.11 at the crux. I worked it a little, but was a little more nervous about taking a fall on the pro that I used as anchors than I would be if I had a bomber tree to set a sling around. I worked it to the limits of my comfort, and then made the traverse back to the other route.
By this time it was getting on 7:30, and Danielle and I were still going to see a band I had heard about on the radio called Split Lip Rayfield. I didn’t know when they were going on, but I assumed they would go on around 10:00PM, like any normal band. It ended up that I assumed wrong. They went on at 8:00PM, but we will get to that later.
After packing up, I headed back down the trail, I heard a helicopter, and assumed that they were passing through. As I turned the corner around Pumpmaster, I heard the rotors closer. Each step I took I got closer to the sound. The chopper wasn’t moving, it was hovering. The noise was deafening. The further along the trail I walked the closer I got to it. I saw the beast above me in the sky. It was a military chopper with a large red cross on the front. It still looked intimidating though. It looked like it had missiles that could blast the ground to bits at any second.
I took out my camera, and started taking pictures. I shot a bunch of little video clips. I walked closer, kind of feeling a little afraid and nervous. If something went wrong with the helicopter, and it crashed into the ground, I would certainly be killed. But I kept on. When I got within about 40 feet from the area directly beneath it, I began to feel the wind that it put off. At 35 feet, I took my hat off, because it would totally fly away if I didn’t. I moved to about 20 feet away, stayed at that distance, and braced myself against the downdraft. Branches of trees came flying off, and hit me in the shins and legs. Leaves and dust flew all over the place in the tumult. I felt like I was back on the Dalton Highway being passed by a big rig, but 10 times the speed.
Trees were shaking and moving like it was a tsunami. As the little rocks, leaves, and dust flew through the air, occasionally they would hit my face, and sting like tiny little bees. Thank goodness I had protective eyewear on. The entire time, the blades of the helicopter cut the air and caused an incredible sound, it sounded somewhat like 4000 whips cracking in unison in a canyon that echoes like the Swiss alps.
I noticed that someone was getting out of the side of the hovering airplane. They were lowering, what I assumed to be a medic. Either this was a training exercise, or someone was hurt down the trail. After about 7 minutes of lower, pause, lower spin a little, pause, lower, and finally land, the Medic made it to the ground, and released the anchor to be hauled up by the chopper. It pulled away to a safe distance.
The trail around the rocks was at a good 30 degree steep decline, and with the granite rocks constantly shedding little pieces of themselves, walking was dangerous at best. I walked down the trail. At ground zero beneath where the helicopter had hovered, several trees six inches in diameter were freshly broken and felled 4 feet from their base. The ground seemed to have been vacuumed from all it’s dust, it was in a radius of about 40 feet from this area. The trees that were left standing were devoid of most of their leaves, which were also in a circular pattern around the drop zone. Another 20 feet down the trail, a 65 year old Japanese woman had fallen victim to the dangerous terrain. She had slipped, fallen, had a serious hip injury, and sprained her wrist.
When I got there, she was approaching stable condition, but she was unable to walk, and immobile. I asked one guy if they were ok, and he kind of blew me off, and said “Yea, Fine”. I felt like a vulture, took several steps back, and took some pictures. There were five people in the clearing. The injured woman, a younger Japanese woman; probably a granddaughter or some relation to the latter, the female military medic who had air dropped in, a Forest Service medic, and another guy who was taking the woman’s blood pressure. I’m not sure, but he might have been the tour guide for the tour the woman was on. He seemed like that kind of person, and a little concerned, like a paying customer had hurt themselves. Never good for publicity.
Before I was about to walk down the trail, I addressed the group, in particular the woman who air dropped in, and said “Do you guys need anything?” – She said “We might need your help carrying her down the trail.” Then the forest service guy said “Yea, that would be great, I’ve done this before, and we could use all the help we can get.” I said “OK”, and hung out waiting. They all seemed kind of in the process of making a decision about what would the best course of action would be to get the woman out. They wanted to airlift her out, but she was afraid of the helicopter. – I can totally understand that. I was a little afraid of it myself.
I think the Forest Service guy might have had a problem with women in authority, and tried to overcompensate for it by being very self-deprecating towards her. He kept saying, “This is your show. As far as I’m concerned, this is your program.” And then, “I’ve done this before. I used to be a forest fire rescue worker.” The woman who dropped in seemed a little unsure, but managed to get them to figure that this was the best place to carry the woman out of. I imagine that in any stressful situation like this, the most difficult thing is dealing with different personality conflicts. I think that even more than addressing the issue of the person who is hurt, is managing the people in the situation. I think I would be good at it. I have often thought that I would be good in the military also. But I don’t think that I would ever want to be involved with that lifestyle.
The other option was to carry her the 1.5 mile trail back to the parking area. This was rooty, muddy, rocky, and slippery. Although in about 400 yards down the hill, it flattened out, so it wasn’t as difficult terrain as the area around the rocks, that we were still in. The walk took me about ½ hour from the clearing, with about 30 lbs of climbing gear on my back. I imagine it would have taken at least twice that carrying her on the gurney. I wasn’t really looking forward to carrying her back to the parking area, but I figured it was my duty. – My thought was that I would probably be a little later for the concert than if I kept heading down the trail.
After a while, the woman said “I think we will be ok sir, thanks for waiting.” – I took this opportunity, said “Thanks, and good luck”, and walked down the trail. A ways down, I experienced the air drop of the heli again, when they lowered a gurney, and some other medical supplies to the forest service guy. The big wind again, leaves, stones, and 4000 whips again. Very cool.
As I headed down the trail, I passed, or saw 5 other people who were there representing medical assistance. They had plenty of people to get the woman out of there, whatever method they used. I told them that “They are about 100 meters up the trail”, and walked on. As I got back to the parking lot, I heard the chopper as it was on the ground in the creek. As I approached, I looked through my footage, and tried to decide what to delete to get the chopper taking off. – I didn’t find something in time, because about 30 seconds after I came out of the clearing, the copper took off. Leaving a mist of creek water, and leaves in it’s wake. Very Cool.
I drove back, called Danielle on the way and told her my adventure, got back and took a shower. Then we called the Blue Loon to see when Split Lip Rayfield was playing. They went on at 8:00PM. – I was way off, Danielle was right. I was surprised they went on that early on a weekend. Must be an Alaska thing.
We got there, and negotiated ½ price admission fee, because we got there so late. – Turned out good, because they played for at least another hour. I love bluegrass music. They had a Mandolin, Guitar, Banjo, and Gas tank Bass. – They were awesome. The only thing about Bluegrass, is that it gets a little monotonous after a while. Most of the songs sound similar, and kind of run together. The band was awesome. They were from Wichita, KS. Cool, I think I might buy a CD. I am debating whether or not to see them again tonight. They are playing at 7:30 at the University.
Then we came home, I surfed a little bit, and went to bed. My eyes were a little tired and dusty from the helicopter kicking up dust.
Sunday and Monday, September 2 – 3rd, 2001
Yesterday Danielle had to work, so I got up, and went to the local coffee shop to work on my web site. (Actually, Joe’s wedding site) But it was packed there, so I went to Gulliver’s books, and found that they had a café’ upstairs. I got a cup of herb tea, and sat down to work on the site. – Most of the morning I spent writing in my journal for the last couple days.
Then I started getting into the wedding page. Doing the tables the way I want to is very difficult. I spent most of the time looking over the examples that I had downloaded the night before. A couple times I thought about getting up to get some food. The first time up, I decided on a bowl of soup. But, they didn’t have any, even though their menu said they did.
The second time up, I thought I was going to get a bagel. The woman behind the counter, said “You want a bbq chicken wrap”, I said “If you give it to me for the price of a bowl of soup, I’ll take it.” She said, with a squint in her eye, “come back in 10 minutes.” I said “OK”, and sat back down to work. A couple minutes later, she came over with the chicken wrap, and said “I’ll give it to you for half price.” I said “Cool, how much?” She said, “HMMM, how about 2.75.” “OK”, I responded, as we walked to the register. When we got there, I said “How about 3.00.” She said “OK”. Three dollars was still cheaper than a bowl of soup, and the sandwich was pretty big. So, I felt like it was worth it. It was really good, and totally filled me up. I typed for some more, and then they started getting ready to close. It was 6:00PM.
I went home and talked a bit with Danielle. Then I dialed in, to check my e-mail, and voice mail. I hadn’t heard from Sachi, and expected to hear from her yesterday, or today. I called around to the Hostel’s, and no one had heard of her.
Then I headed back to the coffee shop, because they were open until 9:00PM, I thought. I got there, and ordered a hot chocolate. The woman was kind of rude. Oh well. I sat down, and started working. Progress was slow working with the tables. The examples I was working from were complicated, and difficult to read. Plus, I didn’t really know how I wanted to layout the content that I had. I worked at putting peoples pictures up next to their names, and a little description of them for the Bridesmaids, and Groomsmen. That didn’t look too good, and I thought it would totally take much more time to load the page. I finished all the headshots of each of those groups, then it was around 9:00PM. I thought the place was closing at 9:00PM, but it seemed to be staying open later.
It was interesting to people watch / listen. A couple in the corner were arguing. I kept hearing little one liners from the woman, like “If you hadn’t spent it all”, and “It’s always all about you”. She was a charmer for sure.
When I was sitting there, a guy who was working at the bookstore, came up and asked me if I was from Boise. I said, “No, but I recognize you from the bookstore.” He said “I’m supposed to meet someone here from Boise.” – “Well, it’s not me”, I said.
He got some coffee, and came back to sit down near me. Then he asked where I was from. – We chatted a little bit. – Then I realized he was totally gay, and hitting on me. When I couldn’t deal anymore, I said “I don’t mean to be rude, but I want to keep working on this.” He said, “of course”, and left me alone. He told me his name was Lee, and that the place was open until 10:00PM.
Around 9:50, they started closing up. I got my stuff together, and headed home. I dialed in, and checked voice mail. Still no message from Sachi. I went to bed.
Monday, Labor Day.
Today I really did little of anything, except work on Joe’s wedding page. Seriously. I spent the entire day on Danielle’s couch, with the laptop sitting on top of my refrigerator. I am done with the main page, and the miscellaneous page, but the participant’s page is giving me some serious grief. I don’t know why. I had it working fine, and then I changed one thing, and I haven’t been able to get it back since. I spent several hours just trying to get it back.
Then I worked on the other two pages, and got them going. I went to dial in, and load up my images, but I can’t connect with my machine. I hope it’s a connection speed / timeout issue, and not an issue with my box.
I will have to try again tomorrow from an internet café’. I think I will go to the Library tomorrow. That will get me out of the house, and I will be able to sit in a normal chair while working on this stuff, instead of squinting at my laptop screen from a way’s away.
I had a pita for lunch. I haven’t showered in two days, and have been wearing the same clothes. I would love to be able to get this done, and move on to Denali. Plus, I am wearing out my welcome at Danielle’s.
Sunday, November 11, 2001 for (September 4th)
Transcribed from hand typed journal entries in Denali Park.
I’m not too sure when I last wrote in this – Tuesday, I was in the library most of the day working on the web site. I got very hungry, but stayed there from 10:30 – 5:30. I talked to Joe before and got some info about people from his wedding.
Then I tried to go to the internet café’s to hook up my laptop, but neither in town allowed this – I went back to Danielle’s + couldn’t Ssh to my machine through Harris, then I thought to hook up w/Danielle’s ISP and was able to do that, so I stayed up really late + was on target for leaving yesterday around 12:00 noon.
September 5th, 2001 (entered November 11, 2001)
Wednesday – I woke up and planned to do some updates that Joe had sent me (Priests name and # of kids his sister had.) I did that and rushed to clean out my car. I was close to being ready to go, so I called Denali to get the scoop. They said it was raining badly, and told me the different times that the camper busses leave from their Information center.
It was a better idea for me to get prepared for my hike, and then leave early the next day. I bought groceries and filled up my tank, then around 5:00PM, I called Danielle to see if she wanted me to make dinner. She was game, so I made lemon garlic wine chicken. It came out ok, but the sauce needed more butter + time to kind of congeal together. As it was it was kind of lemon garlic chunky. But it was pretty good. I chopped fresh Basil and put it on top of rice and chopped up chicken.
Danielle wanted to go to the Pumphouse. It was karaoke night. We went and I was in a rambunctious mood. One of Danielle’s’ friends was there and she talked with Danielle. Her name was Melinda. She was beautiful! Beautiful features and nice straight brown hair. She was TINY though, she couldn’t have weighed more than 100lbs. I talked with her a little and we had fun. She said “Were you going to sing a song”, to which I responded “I’ll do it for a kiss”. She agreed, so I signed up for Johnny Cash Ring of Fire. Later waiting, I played pool and sucked pretty hard. I kicked ass at darts though (Danielle)
When I got up to sing, I said “Hi, I’m Ryan from Rochester NY. In Rochester, we have a little dive bar called Marges Lakeside Inn on the shore of Lake Ontario. In Marges there is an old Juke box that only plays 45’s. My good friend Pete has memorized several of the numbers of the songs. This one is #126.
Then I sang. It was ok. The kiss was nice.
Danielle wanted to go to RedFox to see Landon. He was there with his friends. Garth was going to school to be a Photo Journalist, and we talked at length about pictures and photography and such. Specifically digital cameras. Later we played a video game with two girls. It was trivia, then we took over and played three blind mice. That was cool. It was a 3 in a row of sequence. I liked it a lot. I think I may have played before, conventionally of course.
Melinda came, but I didn’t see her. I was playing the stupid game. I was mad I didn’t see her afterwards. Cest laVie. Then it was way late, and I said “Time to Motor?” to Danielle. She agreed and we took off. She wanted to leave an hour earlier, but didn’t. I didn’t say anything cause she was there w/ Landon.
She said I was supposed to – Whatever. When we got back, I had creative energy, so I updated the website w/Menu Bar + other things. And I sent e-mail to the group about Joes Wedding Site. Then Bed.
*Note, I didn’t really say that to Melinda, nor did I sing Johnny Cash. – Those were the things that I thought I should have said after I didn’t say them. I was pissed off at myself actually that I didn’t think to say those things until the moments had passed. – From now on, always take those risks. I’m sure I write more about this later.