Camera: Kodak 66; Film: Kodak 120, Tri-X 400
Camera: Kodak 66; Film: Kodak 120, Tri-X 400
A Pandemic Roadtrip: Part 3
The only restaurant food I had on the entire trip was in Missoula. I stopped at a small, local shop on Hwy 93. I walked up to the restaurant, and was greeted on the sidewalk by an employee. Several menus were on display boards along the sidewalk; it could have been a drive-in. There was only one other customer, a fellow traveler on a motorcycle. I placed an order, and waited out on the walk.
Any drive through western Montana is a passage through some beautiful country. The temps had dropped dramatically from the day before, the skies were overcast, and a light mist hung in the air. Highway 93 winds north out of Missoula, skirting the western shoreline of Flathead Lake. Eventually, it passes through Kalispell and Whitefish. The only bad traffic was in Whitefish. Oddly enough, I think it was the worst of the entire trip.
The Portal was different. Most of the normal questions were not asked, although I was asked if I was transporting a firearm. Covid-19 questions were on the front burner, opioid questions came in second. In all my travels through Canada, this was the first time my car was searched. And boy, was it searched. An agent even opened a mouthwash bottle, and did not screw the lid on properly. My duffle will have a minty fresh scent for the rest of the trip.
I was a bit surprised about the overzealous border agent, but I chalked it all up to boredom. I was there for approximately 40 minutes, and no one else came through. I was given my orders: Take the shortest route to the Alaska border, no stopping for food, no stopping for pictures, and only pay for gas at the pump. During the search, they found that I had all the food needed to cross, along with plenty of water and camping gear. I was asked if I had lodging plans, and I said I only had one night planned – camping near Golden, British Columbia. They must have been satisfied, because they let me pass.
*A footnote: I am not complaining about the procedure, as much as I’m detailing the account for other travelers. The world has changed, even between neighbors. I am extremely grateful that the Canadian officials let me return home through their country. They did not have to, and I am fully aware of that fact. Still, it was a night and day different experience, from what I have been through in the past.
My first camp site in Canada was in BC’s Kootenay National Park. A little more formal of a setting than I had been visiting up until this point. Much of the facilities were closed. One tidbit of info: Just because a website says they have working showers at the campground, does not mean that one is allowed to use the working showers. All were shutdown due to the pandemic.
Notice, once again, I lost a front license plate to a souvenir hunter. The Nissan has been without a front plate since a visit to Tampa, Florida in 2016.
The Alaska Highway has been closed due to an aggressive fire just south of the Yukon border in British Columbia. The community of Lower Post, BC has been evacuated. The town of Watson Lake is taking in displaced residents and stranded travelers.
The fire, which is believed to have been started by lightening, is approximately 4000 hectares in size. There were 14 firefighters and an air tanker working the fire as of the last update. Heavy equipment is currently being used to protect the community of Lower Post. The fire is not contained, and the highway is expected to be closed for several days. The road is closed at KM 823 near Coal River to KM 968 near the Yukon border.
The Alaska Highway has also been closed at KM 133 near Wonowan, BC and KM 454 near Fort Nelson, as well as between Fort Nelson and the Laird River.
Travelers can still drive to/from the Yukon using the Stewart Cassiar Highway. It’s a route I highly recommend! Absolutely beautiful country, but the services are even more limited than on the Alcan. I once took the Cassiar while driving a ’73 VW Beetle, so don’t be discouraged, although I suggest bringing an extra five gallons of fuel.
We are in a wet, bubble up here in Alaska, so the news that the Alcan is closed due to fire, came as a bit of a surprise. We had an inch of rain at my place yesterday alone, and the high on Saturday was 55 degrees. Our normal high this time of year is in the low 70’s. Currently, August 2018 has seen 3.54″ of rain fall in Fairbanks, which stands at the 10th wettest August on record.
Alaska had 399,000 acres burn this fire season, which is lower than the past three years. The total is 40% lower than the median over the past two decades.
13 May 2013
What a beautiful day to be in British Columbia. Warm enough to have the window & vents open and cool enough for The Rover to purr along contentedly with no jump in the temp gauge in spite of all the major climbs. And we had a couple of those today.
We followed alongside the Fraser again this morning. Crossing it, as well as the Quesnel, Salmon, Crooked, Parsnip, Pine, and Peace Rivers.
The Bears Are Out:
I spotted three black bears today. One, I should have taken a picture. He was close to the road with the mountains and a frozen lake as a backdrop. Unfortunately, I was going downhill at the time, and had little interest in stopping & backtracking. A very cool sight regardless.
I decided to take BC Hwy 29 to avoid going east into Dawson Creek and Ft St John. 29 is a beautiful road, but it has some serious inclines.
Was stopped by an expat Brit in Hudson’s Hope when I filled up. He was driving a Disco, and would still be chatting with me if I hadn’t said I really had to get going if I was to get on the Al-Can tonight.
Then on top of a summit, when someone in Minnesota was calling The Rover a “lemon”, I stopped for a couple of photos. A young couple promptly swung into the rest area to say how much they liked the truck. We talked for a while, when once again, I had to excuse myself in order to gain some miles.
A side note: I was amazed by the feeling when I actually turned onto the Alaska Highway. As odd as it sounds, with all the twisting, turning, climbing and miles left to do, it was like I was finally on the final road to home. Currently, I believe I’m only 1300 miles away.
Piece of cake, eh?
Tacoma, WA to Williams Lake, BC
It was a long day. 400 miles with a border crossing makes it a full day as well.
Traffic up I-5 wasn’t terrible, so my plan to travel past Seattle on a Sunday morning worked rather well. I did stop just before the portal to fill up the tank, buy a new map of BC and splurged on a new Milepost as well, then picked up a gallon of gear lube because the t-case is leaking again. The guys in the OReilly’s loved the truck and were still talking about the film, “The Gods Must Be Crazy” when I walked out the door.
Taking WA Hwy 539 across into Canada was also a breeze. I pulled right up to the booth, answered the usual questions… although “When was the last time you were in Canada?” was new. Then I was off and running.
British Columbia holds some beautiful country within its borders. I had forgotten how much one climbs when you approach the Al-Can from this far west. I had also forgotten what a beast the Fraser River is. Damn, that’s a lot of water flowing between its banks.
I saw 25-30 deer today and one harem of big horn sheep. I also saw two “Badger Crossing” signs, which is a first for me. I wouldn’t expect a badger to cross such a specific section of highway, but I guess they do. As much as I would have loved to see a badger, it’s probably for the best that I didn’t. I may not be able to resist the urge to run over Bucky.
Most of the provincial parks have their campsites closed until May 15. I had planned on camping at the Stampede campgrounds in williams lake, but after driving through the grounds, I simply could not do it. They were awful! I did see a father & son from Alaska who waved me down, but I could not be swayed to camp there. Gambling that I’d find something else, I drove north again. Maybe 30 miles further on, I saw a campground sign at a general store/gas station. Turning around, I went inside to inquire. After getting a short tour, the man looked over my rig and said it would be $10. So I’m camped down by the creek and I’m the only soul on the end of the grounds. Somewhere off at the other end are a couple of other Alaskans, but I haven’t seen or heard them.
It’s a kickass site, and well worth the extra miles to get here. Plus their gas price is lower than most.