Got a little Dr. Seuss thing going on the story title tonight …
From Fox, Alaska, the Dalton Highway (“The Haul Road”) is 16 miles. Those were the longest 16 miles I’ve ever driven. I have been planning and looking forward to The Haul Road portion of this trip since March. I mentioned it before, The Haul Road is the road trip. Famed as the road built to lay pipeline, the Dalton Highway is a cross of pavement, gravel, and mud construction with more than its share of washboard and pot hole sections. When the pavement is good you go fast, when the gravel is rutted you go slow and when there is a big truck coming the other way you move over as much as you can. Our rig is performing great. The Sway-A-Way suspension designed for Baja racing showed us it could smooth out the bumps and grinds of the road. The rest of the gear remains at the ready but we’ve not needed any of the recovery or rescue gear. Lets keep it that way.
One of the mods we made to the rig was a CB Radio. As your recall, back in Houston we had it checked to make sure everything was working correctly. Well it paid off today. All the truckers running on The Haul Road are on channel 19. Of course that means we’re leaving the CB on 19 as well. As we started up the road, when we came up on the slower trucks working their way up the steep grades it was only a matter of announcing ourselves over the CB and they let us know where an when to pass them. The chatter also helps us keep in touch with what is ahead and behind us. There are no cell towers and no radio stations… CB is it.
Today marked a major milestone for the adventure. We crossed latitude 66 degrees 33 minutes north for the first time. We have entered the Arctic Circle. We made it to the marker and pulled in for another touristy photo opp. Dad and I jump out grabbed Hula Betty and the camera then quickly took a few shots. Why the rush. So far the bugs, mosquitoes and biting flies have been non-existent. However at the Arctic Circle marker they came together from all over Alaska and Dad was on the menu.
You don’t see a lot of scenery shots here. I thought about that for a long while. I’ve taken and deleted a number of panoramic pictures. The pictures have not been able to capture the size and magnificence of what we are driving through. At times the land scape looks to be painted by God and put there just for us. The fall colors (the dog days of summer were over weeks ago) have the oranges and yellows pressed against the green of the spruce with a hint of red and gold draped over the mountains above tree line. The drive at times becomes hypnotizing as you realize the road and the scenic grandeur seem to go on forever.
There are two fuel stops on the Hall Road were you can stop for gas. It doesn’t matter if you need it, you stop, you get gas. The halfway mark is Coldfoot. This is the truck stop of choice, your only choice for fuel and a good meal. Coldfoot Camp serves up good food and hot coffee. They are also the gas and diesel station as well as renters of the flop house rooms. They don’t run the Airport, that is on the other side of town. We know this because we took a wrong turn and found it.
At Coldfoot, Dad and I ate and chatted. After we ate our fill, drank our coffee and fueled the rig I went back for one more item. Apparently the Last Great Road Trip t-shirts are the hot commodity. Without any trouble a trade was made again and now I have a very cool Coldfoot Camp t-shirt. Alaska is the land of opportunity, at least for t-shirt trading.
Just out of Coldfoot, 15 miles or so, is the town of Wiseman. Founded around 1908 it is a non-oil-company town filled with 13 folks, 12 now since one recently left. These people live off the land and way off the grid. If you want lights and hot water out here you make your own electricity. The roofs all have solar collectors and you can spot the windmills just above the trees. The B&B we are in makes us feel at home with hot showers and lights. There is also the Wiseman Airport since every town in Alaska has an Airport. Unfortunately, no Internet so this post will be a few days behind.
A number of folks have asked me write about what Dad and I are doing together so here it is. Those of you who know my Dad know he has always been the strong silent one in the room. Well that is no different here on the road. The great thing is that both Dad and I are secure enough in our relationship to allow long periods of silence between us as we drive, eat and room together. The chats we do have are not going to solve world hunger or change the fate of mankind, but knowing that Dad is there next too me on this drive says more than than I’ll ever be able too write in this story.
Finishing up the day I’m sitting here next to the river in Wiseman at close to 10:00 p.m. quietly contemplating the mysteries of life. And while I can feel myself slipping into the rhythm of the river as it tumbles by, I’m no closer to knowing how many licks it takes to get to the center of a tootsie pop. The Haul Road, a peaceful river bank and the sound of a not so far off coyote howling remind me how lucky I am to be on this adventure with my Dad. Without him I could not have made the trip and this would only be one more dream in my head.