Alaska to Florida Adventure: Day 2
May 19, 2015 – 1:58AM Yukon Territory
Through the darkness the highway smoothed out and light posts appeared intermittently, enabling us to pick up speed and finally reach Whitehorse. Reluctant to stray far from the deserted main road, we swung into a sleepy Walmart and parked among a dozen or so other RVs and trucks near the rear of the lot to grab some shut-eye (I got none; it was below freezing and I can’t sleep when my fingernails are blue).
The northern summer sun is an early riser (first light at 4-ish?) so by 4:15AM we were back in business. Megan drove the next bit since it was a long straight haul which allowed me to drift in and out of semi-sleep most of the morning.
We stopped at a gas station around Teslin and bought a Canadian Canada Dry! (We’re dorks. We can’t help it.)
After Teslin, Megan and I swapped seats to go over a funny bridge and then the road went crazy the rest of the day (we traced cliffs and lakes with meager traffic guidance, even fewer places to pull over, and too many blind turns; there were times where I could barely keep my eyes open but putting the Jeep in park in the middle of the highway felt like a bad idea. To be safe, we drove so slow we could’ve been going backwards).
All of the Bears
Goal #1: get out of the Yukon. We cheered when we passed a white sign that read “Super, Natural British Columbia Welcomes You!” (Our brains didn’t register the comma on the sign, though, so we read “Supernatural British Columbia Welcomes You!” So much cooler.) Leaving behind a territory and entering a province, rest stops and gas became even less frequent (didn’t think it was possible) but it was okay because we mastered reading the Milepost backwards and therefore were more confident (the Milepost is written south to north-opposite our direction of travel). And besides, Day 1 had been an excellent sensei.
More nature! (BEARS; brown, one grizzly, multiple black. Oh, and bison.) His Highness tried to jump out the window and play with them.
“That’s a bear, Your Majesty, not a dog. You can’t play with him. See? You scared him and now he’s running away.”
At one point Megan wanted to blow up a back-seat mattress she’d bought so we could take turns actually sleeping. At a rest stop, she inspected the provided motor (with which to pump up the matress) and I let the deer-dog sniff around when my attention was drawn to the bridge we had come by moments ago. A vehicle stopped abruptly to let a bear cross. The animal then climbed over the concrete barrier like a huge toddler and ambled into the trees on our side of the ALCAN.
Quickly gesturing our dog into the passenger seat, I secured his leash so he wouldn’t actually go play with nature and explained what was going on to Megan who was fighting with the motor and losing (there was smoke; how on Earth did she set something on fire??).
Megan: “Will you help me with this?” Me: “I can’t! I’m watching for the bear!”
Toilet Paper Fairies
Anyone who’s traveled the ALCAN can tell you that rest stops across Yukon and British Columbia typically look like small concrete houses with a tall skinny chimney sprouting from the ground around back. The inside was very much like a port-o-potty except, if you looked down the drain, it was connected to a humongous very non-portable cavern (the chimeny must vent the stink).
Some had quite a few rolls of toilet paper (guess maintenance doesn’t stop by very often) but several only had empty rolls. Whenever we found a potty house that was low or out of paper, we proudly donated a new roll (spread the comfort and joy of clean toilet paper like fairy dust? Check).
The Spider House
There was one particular stop with a few potty houses side by side (not concrete, smaller and definitely more awkward). Megan wanted to use one so I waited while she proceeded to open and shut every potty house door until she reached the last which she closed resolutely and returned to where I leaned on the Jeep.
Me: “You don’t have to go?” Megan: “The inside is literally spider webs. I opened the door… and EVERYTHING MOVED.”
Day 2 Soundtrack: We started the Welcome to Night Vale episodes since I’d never heard them.
When the Sun Sets in Night Vale
Let’s fast forward through some blackened, stripped mountainsides that looked like we missed out on a few landslides and the Northern Rockies Lodge (‘twas “fancy” because the toilets flushed) to Fort Nelson. It was a quiet, unassuming town which turned out to awesome because it had people and food places. (But not Subway. Subway was closed.) However, Megan was convinced we could make it to Pink Mountain so, after a pit stop, we left.
Several Night Vale episodes later, night caught us and took our road stuff (signs, street lights, etc.) however it was thoughtful enough to leave us with camouflaged companions (the night zoo was back). The Jeep plunged into a hilly stretch with no visible point of reference like an itty bitty submarine creeping along on the ocean floor with nothing to see beyond what the headlights could touch (the atmosphere actually made the Night Vale episodes a tad creepy.)
We spied bright lights shining in the distance like an occupied football stadium (think Citrus or Rose Bowl). This beacon turned out to be Buckinghorse River Lodge but it was filled to bursting with RVs and truckers and already too late to check in. Thus, we carried on in search of a nearby park (we wanted a place with a toilet; that was our only criterion).
After missing the park entrance and almost going down a black pit (it might’ve simply been the continuation of the road but it was too dark to tell and we weren’t taking any chances), we doubled back and scoured the roadside brush until we both pointed victoriously at the park’s unlit half-hidden sign (“Buckinghorse River Provincial Park Campgrounds“) next to an even more obscure driveway. The exceptionally narrow driveway opened to a large area with ample parking space and picnic tables. Also, there was no office, only a sign that resembled a covered bus stop which conveniently provided envelopes and a drop box for payment (paid parking based on the honors system? This is a thing?).
Best part? Potty house! There were no lights around or in it so we lit it up with the Jeep’s high beams to make sure we weren’t walking into Spider House, the Sequel.
Megan stretched out on the Jeep’s back seat under a blanket and I struggled to get warm sitting shotgun with His Highness curled up beside me in the driver’s seat. Less than a stone’s throw behind us, a stream hummed quietly in a vain effort to sing me to sleep.
Next in the Alaska to Florida Adventure: The Swedish Bakery & Some Luxurious Bees
[Did you wanna read the AK to FL mayhem from the beginning? Start here: Road Trip Manifesto: Go Big or Don’t Go.]