The trip through Canada was uneventful – 2,400 miles, 48 hours border to border, and $1000 worth of petrol! Gas prices were astronomical – $4.59 in places — and they added a dime to each of my American dollars if I didn’t want to use my card for a $4 cup of coffee. I made just under 800 miles the first day and spent the night at Smithers, where I slept in the front seat of the Jeep for 5 hours behind a hotel. It was Canada Day weekend, a celebration akin to our 4th of July, and lodging was at a premium. The next day and one thousand miles later, I was in Haines Junction where, again, I pulled over and tucked in behind the steering wheel for yet another 5-hour bit of shut-eye, only this time I took ibuprofen PM to ease the muscle cramps in my back and put myself to sleep without further complaint. I’d have driven on, but the sole gas station was closed until 6:30 the next morning. I was up at 5 a.m. and discovered a card-lock station about a mile down the road, filled up and was on my way, crossing the border into Alaska at 9:15 a.m. Pacific, 8:15 a.m. Alaska time. Canada has some of the worst, most terrible, awful roads on the North American continent due to frost heaves, which makes maintenance an ongoing nightmare. The moose and bison and elk and other crazy night critters like to sleep on the center line so night-time driving is not advised except during summer when there’s continual daylight. I ate twice; a chicken sandwich from Tim Horton’s drive-through Thursday evening and a grilled cheese halfway up the Cassiar on Friday.
Oh yes, the Cassiar. Upon arriving at Cache Creek, I overheard someone mention highway 97 being closed due to wash-out. That was MY route! I hooked up to internet at $15 a minute (yep) to find that had I taken the exit to the Alaska Highway at Prince George, hours later I’d have had to turn around at Chetwynd and go back. The alternative was to reroute east through Yellowknife or take the Cassiar. Years before, I’d sworn never to take the Cassiar route again after a trip in the mid-’90s cost me $800 cash in tow fees – the Cassiar had those famed ruts and pot holes folks tell fish tales about. I’d driven up with the girls in my Olds, a beautiful little, champagne-colored grandma car, and had decided to take the Cassiar because it was scenic and, beings it was October, I was looking forward to a beautiful day trip through the western half of British Columbia. Shortly after committing to the route, at the point of no return, the pavement ended and the worst driving experience of my life was upon me. Hundreds of miles of bathtub-sized potholes and dips and humps lay ahead of me and that poor pampered vehicle just was not up to the task. At the foot of a hill, just before a bridge, a tie rod broke and I managed to squeeze into a small space that left only my left rear wheel on the roadway. Mind you, the road was only wide enough that you always gave a semi the right-of-way, so the girls and I got out and we whistled and picked berries and threw rocks into the river…waiting…waiting for somebody to drive by and take the message one direction or another that we needed a tow truck; hours and hours and hours of waiting. The days aren’t nearly as long in October as they are in July, and by the time the tow truck arrived it was dusk, getting cold, and the folks in the last car to stop and ask if we needed help mentioned that just around the bend mama brown bear and her two cubs were headed to the river…. Anyway, the $800 bill was the worst of that trip, and the rest is history. The guy at the garage in Stewart B.C. only charged me a pitiful $40 to make the repair. By garage, I literally mean a shed with dirt floors. But he was honest, kind, and well-wishing this crazy woman and her daughters a good trip as we headed once more up the Cassiar toward Anchorage. But I digress. I took the Cassiar. To be honest, I was relieved to find the road had been improved, paved for the most part, and the potholes not nearly as bad as they had been in the past. Canadians are proud of their gas, I guess, and this was the most expensive part of the trip as far as fuel prices. I definitely, still, recommend AAA Auto Club – they pick up the tow tab.
I made great time. Surprisingly (and fortunately!), Canada Day is such a big deal that nobody was on the road. At Teslin Junction at the end of Cassiar, I asked the gas station gal what the deal was, it was like everybody had fallen off the face of the earth. She said brightly, “It’s CANADA DAY!! Everyone is celebrating!” Yes, but don’t they have to GET there? Oh, she said, they all took yesterday off to drive and today they’re safely there and drinking, setting off fireworks, having BBQs, and drinking some more. I saw one police car on the highways; they were en masse at all the big celebrations to capture the bad guys drinking and driving. This resulted in my owning the road on Friday – no motorhomes driving 45 mph on the hills, no lines of traffic wending their way through the mountain passes, and freedom to exceed the 55 mph speed limit with perceived impunity. In that regard, I put the little Jeep through its paces and Kelly will be glad to know it’s got a little oomph. Not much, but I was definitely impressed. Cruise control and air conditioning cost you in fuel efficiency, but my foot and leg needed a break from the gas pedal. It was a choice.
Anyway, I rolled into the driveway at 2 p.m. Saturday, unloaded my toothbrush, hopped in the shower, and crawled into my bed. Kelly left the dishes done, the toilet seat down, and the garbage emptied. He’s such a great guy.
Oh my, it’s good to be home. A bit of advice: if you drive though Canada and use the road-side rest stops, take toilet paper….