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 > North Star Trek - Captain’s Log – A Winter Exodus

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Dave Pete

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Posted: 11/08/13 05:41am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Joe we loved our stay there, and the cold was just part of the experience. Even so, when it was time to go we couldn't wait a few more months. We had sold our home (the comfortable place the stay) and were in an apartment, so even more reason to go.

The highway is usually best in winter with fewer RVs and other travelers and with washboard and/or potholes filled in with hard pack snow, which typically provides excellent traction at temperatures below 0F, as you probably well know.


With Wyoming our home and family waiting, we said go. Day 3 is next!

Dave Pete

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Posted: 11/08/13 05:46am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

CAPTAIN’S LOG - DAY 3

North Star Date: 11/29/2012
Location or Route: Whitehorse, YT to Watson Lake, YT.
Travel Miles: 273 (Cumulative 862)
Weather Conditions: Clear skies quickly became overcast for the rest of the day and just after mid-route the wind picked up causing blowing snow over the road surface. For the last 60 miles or so the wind died down.
Road Conditions: Mostly bare first half of the day then mostly patchy hard-pack and ice. The wind buffeted Ruth’s Jeep, making it less secure on some icy patches. The truck clung well to all surfaces, but required more accelerator pedal finesse and less cruise-control.

10:45 AM (-27F/-33C)

After a good night’s sleep in a comfortable bed and a warm room we enjoyed a hot breakfast at the restaurant downstairs, packed up and readied ourselves for departure. Truck wouldn’t start. We hadn’t been able to plug-in and I had figured using the remote start to run the engine for 20 minutes every six hours would suffice; it didn’t. Ruth’s car started fine and we used it to jump the truck. Yesssss! Go Jeep! Even so, it took most of an hour to generate enough charge for two truck batteries and the amperage required for the intake manifold heater (which replaced glow plugs on this Cummins Turbo Diesel). So we got that going for us, which is good.

12:11 PM (-27F/-33C)

We’re on the road again. We just fueled and the fuel attendant came out to assist us. He was a really nice older guy - about my age - and after learning of our trip plans wished us God-speed, even while countenancing a hint of pity. I had looked ahead online and our next destination, Watson Lake, was -37F/-38C.

2:11 PM (-40F/-40C)

Minus 40 is where the two temperature scales, Fahrenheit and Celsius, come together. The current temperature is either -40, or below -40 (because my display gauge only reads that low), or above -40 (because after the truck-jump this morning the gauge may be stuck on “inaccurate”). I keep tapping my finger-nail on the plastic covering over the digital display to see if there’s a stuck needle or something, and the reading doesn’t change, so I think it’s -40 or below, or a little above.

In the atmosphere, water vapor condenses around tiny particles, like dust or space debris. The resulting liquid water droplet becomes bigger and bigger until it resembles a raindrop and falls out of the sky. You see, as the water droplet becomes bigger, it adheres to itself in a round shape, much like people, through the principle of hydrostatic cohesion, or something like that.

If there were no gravity, the water droplet would be perfectly round and would not resemble a raindrop. When it is in an updraft, also known as a rising column of air, and is equally balanced against gravity, it is in what is called a “zero gravity state”, like on a roller coaster, and it is perfectly round, like some people on roller coasters – really, check them out next time!

As it is carried further aloft, the water droplet may become colder than freezing and still remain in its liquid state until it bumps into something like an airfoil or tin foil or something like that. Then due to the principal of crystallization or crystal worship or something like that, it freezes instantly and then airplanes fall out of the sky on account of icing. At least that’s what 28 years of Air Traffic Bulletins have instilled in me. This H2O state is something called “super-cooled water”.

Overnight, my case of bottled drinking water on the floor of the truck had sat very still – unmoving even – and had dropped to about -40F&C (which is Canadian for friggin’ cold), yet the water had remained in its liquid state. In essence, it had become “super cooled water”! As I picked up one bottle I could see it wasn’t frozen, then as I jostled it while twisting open the cap it began freezing and I watched the ice-crystals form from top to bottom right there in my hand. It was froze! Fascinating!

So I picked up a second bottle, jostled it and watched it freeze. Then a third and a fourth; who needs TV! I had heard of this happening before, mostly from old Flight Service guys who were trying to sound knowledgeable, but I had never actually witnessed it. I ended up thawing water bottles over the defroster ducts all day long.

While driving today I had the following thoughts - based on food stuffs available from yesterday’s lunch which had also been left in the truck cab overnight.
• Frozen Carrots are good, somewhat soft, like a cooked carrot, but edible none-the-less.
• Frozen celery should be thrown out.
• Frozen cookies can be eaten frozen or thawed and make for a delicious treat.
• Bread thaws faster than the ham slices in between, but frozen ham sandwiches are quite edible. One should be careful here as too much frozen ham can lower core body temperature.
• Frozen orange slices make for a delicious treat.
• Frozen apples should be saved until tomorrow and then thrown out.
• Baking pecans are somewhat bland as is, but lightly roasted in the oven and added to the rest of the mixed nuts makes for a delicious treat. Frozen mixed nuts are quite edible.
• Freezing string cheese improves its texture.

4:11 PM (-11F to -19F/-24C to -28C)

After one particularly windy rest stop that felt relatively warm outside, I repaired the truck’s still stuck on -40 temperature gauge by shutting of the engine and allowing the computer to reset; it had warmed up considerably: -11 to -19. I don’t think we had so much crossed a surface frontal or air-mass boundary as we had just arrived at the top of the cold surface air and were now in the warmer air aloft; we had been driving through some higher terrain.

6:11 PM (-24F/-31C)

Just pulled into Watson Lake. We fueled up and located an acceptable hotel with accommodations to plug-in the vehicles overnight. On the truck we power an engine block heater, two battery heaters, an engine oil pan heater and a transmission oil pan heater. On the Jeep we have a trickle charger for the battery - not that it seems to need it; Go Jeep! So we got that going for us, which is good.

8:11 PM (-24F/-31C)

Ruth and I have decided there is nothing at all wrong with hotels - except maybe bedbugs, and generally the pillows, and sometimes you’ll find whiskers in the sink, and we’ve all seen that 60 Minutes program with the ultra-violet light source that those news investigators carry around with them. But it’s not minus 33 in this room!

We unplugged the strawberry air-freshener we found in one room outlet, mostly because it is over-the-top obnoxious and because Ruth can’t seem to get the song “Strawberry Fields Forever” out of her head, but also I needed to charge my Mobile Device (I just like saying mobile device). But, we wonder what the air-freshener was trying to cover up!

The restaurant provided adequate overly-processed food. The combination of its effects, along with our limited mobility, is starting to have a negative influence on how we feel. We’re looking forward to getting off the road and back into our exercise routine.

Day 3 Pics

* This post was last edited 02/06/15 02:46pm by Dave Pete *   View edit history

Dave Pete

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Posted: 11/09/13 05:24am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

CAPTAIN’S LOG - DAY 4

North Star Date: 11/30/2012
Location or Route: Watson Lake, YT to Fort Nelson, BC.
Travel Miles: 319 (1181 Cumulative)
Weather Conditions: Overcast skies with light snowfall on and off all day. Very windy over the mountains at times, especially in the vicinity of Liard Hot Springs and Muncho Lake Provincial Park.
Road Conditions: Overnight we had 1 to 2 inches of snowfall accumulate on road surfaces. Throughout the day, mostly ice and snow packed with some stretches of patchy bare pavement. Half and half mix of plowed and unplowed on the fresh snow fall areas. Some areas without gravel (in the north it’s graveled, not sanded, and it’s snow machine not snow mobile, but we don’t have time to talk about that right now), but most areas were graveled, especially on grades where the extra traction was needed.
Animals Observed: Many bison, a fox, a herd of wild horses, many caribou, one cow elk near Fort Nelson at dusk – are elk this far north?

7:11 AM (-15F/-26C)

Looking out the second floor hotel window we can see our vehicles parked nose to nose; it’s so cute. Apparently they slept well throughout the night, all plugged in and comfortable and under the watchful eye of the hotel attendant on the security monitors. Using the remote, we watched as the truck started without incident. There will be no jumping vehicles this morning - so we got that going for us - which is good.

We did some stretching in the hotel room and then made our way downstairs for breakfast. Snow is falling.

8:11 AM (-11F/-24C)

We pulled out of the hotel parking lot and took the short drive over to see “Signpost Forrest”. That’s a place where people from all over come to hang stolen signs of all kinds on posts and on structures in a kind of domestic tribute garden to themselves.

We easily located our Wyoming license plates, which we had hung on a small structure on the north perimeter during our trip here in 2009; CJ3B for me and Lil’ Willy, and SMYL for Ruth and her smiley-face-yellow Jeep. Ruth was pleased to see nobody had removed them to make space for their own. She didn’t know that when I hung them I had attached a mattress tag to each, stating penalties under the law for their removal. I keep several of these tags available for just such use; you too should consider it - just don’t get caught removing one.

8:39 AM (-11F/-24C)

Because we had already fueled the vehicles last night, we were able to get right onto the highway leaving Watson Lake and headed southeast bound toward our planned destination for today - Fort Nelson, BC.

Speaking of compass directions, you recall yesterday we talked about the truck’s potentially inaccurate outside air temperature reading of -40. At the same time, the computer display for the compass was reading “N” for North. It appears likely that heading north may have been the cause of the bitterly cold temperatures we’ve been experiencing all along!

After resetting the instruments, not only have we noticed the vehicles are now traveling in the correct direction, but we’ve seen a significant increase in temperatures! Today we’ve had a nice comfortable range of 1F to -11F. This illustrates the importance of not relying too much on electronic technology. If we had checked our course earlier against a magnetic compass, we may have been able to shave off a day or so from our overall travel time.

It’s just shocking what effect an inaccurate gauge can have on temperatures in the atmosphere! Maybe when we get home we’ll mention that to the scientists, in the event they haven’t considered this possibility regarding the global warming issue. And, if we bring the irregularity to the attention of the Dodge engineers, along with the over-optimistic mileage figures the computer always provides, and the fact that the GPS map ends just north of Edmonton (two things we discovered on the way up here three years ago), maybe they’ll show their gratitude by giving us a new truck!
(Disclaimer: The temperatures previously reported have been accurate and obtained from multiple sources, not simple reliance on inaccurate truck computer displays. The imbecilic comments made above are solely for the purposes of making a joke.)

11:11 AM (-7F/-22C)

Over the past several miles we have shillyshallied back and forth numerous times across the Yukon and British Columbia dividing boundary. Now, we just traversed it to the south for the last time. We won’t be seeing Yukon Territory again. So long old friend!

12:11 PM (1F/-17C)

We are 35 miles from Liard River Hot Springs (pronounced Lee-Ard). Up ‘til today, we’ve had no desire to don bathing suits and get wet in these extreme temperatures, but now it is an almost balmy one degree above zero Fahrenheit! I radioed ahead for Ruth to consider a break from our weary travels and to take the half-mile walk in the wind to the springs for a relaxing warm bath - not forgetting about the open-air changing rooms and how our feet froze to the concrete floor during our first experience with this place three years ago. We are not yet “home, home on the range”, so I guess I shouldn’t dwell too much on trying to coach Ruth against uttering discouraging words. Besides, the FCC can’t fine you if they can’t find you. “10-4 good buddy, over and out”!

1:21 PM (0F/-18C)

Oh my gosh, I made it back to the truck; that was probably the scariest time of my life! We had just pulled into the Liard Hot Springs parking lot and before taking the half-mile hike over for a soak, I wanted to see if the camper furnace would light.

Because of the gusty winds, I radioed for Ruth to sit tight in her car and I made my way around the back side of the truck. I had my faithful butane barbecue lighter tight against my chest on an inside coat pocket next to my water bottle and toothpaste.

Just as I was preparing to reach up and release the back roof-latches on the camper and swing open the door, the wind picked up and plastered me spread-eagle across the back wall of the camper.

Increasing in intensity, it just wouldn’t let up and I found myself unable to move. Flattened as I was against the frigid aluminum, I fought hard to stay conscious as I felt the heat slowly drain out of my body.

How long I remained there, pressed up against that malevolent RV I don’t know; I was drifting in and out of consciousness. At one point I thought I saw the Care-Bears. Would Ruth sit tight – or would she come to my rescue?

After what must have been many hours I thought I could hear my name being shouted out over the howl of the wind. “Wha? What is that?” I murmured. It was Ruth! My Angel! When I hadn’t returned after a few minutes she had come to my rescue!

She’d tied one end of the 50’ extension cord around her waist and the other end to her car door handle. Fighting her way against the wind, and the cutting shards of ice and wind-hardened snow blasting around her in the blizzard conditions, she made her way inch by inch in the direction she had last seen me go, and where she believed the truck to be.

Upon finally reaching me, she got ahold of the far side of my coat and with her grippy-finger gloves, and a supernatural strength - brought on at times like these - she pried me off the camper surface against the force of the wind. We both tumbled onto the protected side of the truck and camper. Then she hoisted my 225 lbs. of almost-dead weight up into the truck, turned on the heated seat to try and help revive me and then clawed her way back up the extension cord and climbed into the safety of her own vehicle.

After I regained consciousness and the ability to speak, I raised her over the radio. She was sad when I suggested we not take the hike to the hot springs and a warm bath after all. But I was able to convince her we still had a long way to go and we had to make time. Perhaps I will surprise her with a romantic trip to Thermopolis Hot Springs in Wyoming for our anniversary in February.

3:32 PM (-11F/-24C)

Approaching Summit Lake; will these mountains never end? We need to get out of the mountains before dark! It’s been very windy and the roads are winding. They’re also narrow and snow covered and our travel speeds are down to 25 and 30 mph. Some of the grades are steep and the ground blizzards caused by nearby or passing vehicles are causing terrifying periods of whiteout blindness, especially when produced by those evil tractor-trailers! The hours are beginning to wear on us. “Shut Up”! “Don’t talk to me”! “10-4”.

6:11 PM (-6F/-21C)

After driving into cell phone coverage close to Fort Nelson, I called ahead and secured lodging at the Ramada. We fueled up and then found our way to the hotel. We got the vehicles plugged in and the saddles removed and finally relaxed in our room.

This was a hard day, nine hours on difficult mountain roads, the last few hours in the dark. But there are not many winter lodging opportunities between Watson Lake and Fort Nelson, so it had to be done. We are past the most difficult sections of the trip, so we got that going for us - which is good.

Day 4 Pics

* This post was last edited 02/06/15 02:47pm by Dave Pete *   View edit history

Dave Pete

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Posted: 11/10/13 06:16am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

CAPTAIN’S LOG - DAY 5

North Star Date: 12/1/2012
Location or Route: Fort Nelson, BC to Dawson Creek, BC.
Travel Miles: 283 (1464 - Cumulative)
Weather Conditions: Overcast with light to moderate snowfall on and off all day.
Road Conditions: Overnight snowfall accumulations of 2-3 inches. Mostly ice and snow packed with some stretches of bare pavement. Mostly plowed and graveled or sanded. Many ground blizzards in moderate snow by tractor trailers and other vehicles causing blinding conditions at times.
Animals Observed: a herd of Caribou, one Mule Deer, and a Sasquatch (Bigfoot).

10:11 AM (-4F/-20C)

Ironically, on my first “official day of retirement” - December 1st - I had to work late in the hotel room and get an article off to the editor. We finally went down to the office for the continental breakfast that the desk clerk had been so proud of last night, promoting it at least eleven times during our check-in.

Lo and behold - there was Dan Aykroyd! You know - Saturday Night Live Dan, of Ghostbusters and “Jane you ignorant strut” fame? He must own this hotel! I had forgotten he was Canadian until Ruth mentioned it. Yeah, he was on the telephone talking business to a woman named Jane, when we came in to get our breakfast cereal and teensy-tiny ham, cheese, egg and biscuit sandwiches and pineapple-zucchini muffins. No fresh fruit? Must have fresh fruit!

While we ate, Dan’s business call got louder and louder and went from initially very pleasant and controlled to angrier and angrier saying such things as, “Jane, if she doesn’t like our work she can just get somebody else!” and “She wanted all white cabinets and we decided a little black smear in from the edges would be nice!” and “Well, she wants perfection, and if she wants us to come in and fix it now then TOUGH TITTY!” - and milk just about came out of Ruth’s nose.

I’m looking around in a bit of amused shock and Ruth has her eyes closed in concentration, exercising extreme control trying to keep from laughing out loud, and the desk clerk and continental breakfast lady are wandering around picking up things and wiping off counters and stuff, acting all nervous and apologizing to Ruth and me for Dan’s outburst like it happens all the time and they were expecting it or something.

It had been many years since we’d heard the expression, “tough titty”, and it was so comical, used seriously by a grown man in that cute little Canadian accent that Dan used on Saturday Night Live.

We have to side with the client this time, because we think this guy was the same master-craftsman who installed the kitchenette cabinets we found in our room.

(Disclaimer: The hotel and staff were wonderfully accommodating. Rates were reasonable and we would definitely stay here again. The events described above are for purposes of humorous writing but pretty much happened exactly as stated.)

11:11 AM (-4F/-20C)

Five minutes out of Fort Nelson - flashing highway sign reads BLOWING SNOW – LIMITED VISIBILITY – SEVERE WINTER CONDITIONS AHEAD. “Oh Fuuuuuuudge!”

12:11 PM (-5F/-21C)

Road conditions pretty good so far, even boring - monotonous. Waylon Jennings makes for some good road music.

1:11 PM (-6F/-21C)

Road conditions still good, still monotonous, but – we did see a tractor trailer rig down in the oncoming lane’s barrow-pit nestled in about three feet of snow, so that was cool. Yeah, he’ll be there ‘til spring; couldn’t grab the camera fast enough. AC/DC makes for some good road music.

2:11 PM (-7F/-22C)

Road conditions are still good, not so boring at times. Saw where a snow-plow truck had taken a corner too sharp and dropped his right rear tires off the edge of the road surface. He tilted nose-up at a precarious angle with the left side of the plow pointed heavenward. I couldn’t grab the camera fast enough. Traveling Wilburys makes for some good road music.

3:11 PM (-6F/-21C)

Road conditions worsening in places. Ruth’s CB radio batteries finally died. I’ve taken to communicating with her using my headlights flashing simple messages in Morse code. At first it was kind of hard, and a bit confusing. It’s surprising just how long it takes to flash out, “Breaker one nine sweet chil’ ‘o mine you got a bubba with a big white trailer”.

She caught right on however, and soon was tapping out “10-4 Good Buddy” with her brake lights in record time and with limited errors. Everything was going fine until I misunderstood her message “Gas” as needing a potty-stop when what she really meant was she needed to refuel her Jeep. I can’t seem to get her attention now. Michael Martin Murphey makes for some good road music.

4:11 PM (-5F/-21C)

We just refueled in Fort St. John. It was dark now and we pulled out of town for an expected easy 47 miles to Dawson Creek. While stopped I put fresh batteries in Ruth’s CB radio; she’s talking to me again.

5:11 PM (-5F/-21C)

Just outside of town we came to more flashing highway signs about “steep grades” and “mandatory chain-up” for combinations of five axles or more. I counted mine: one, two, three and four. Whew! That was close – I HATE chaining up; that’s probably the worst thing about carrying chains!

The chain-up staging area was filled with rigs and cars of all kinds. You could see a line of headlights coming down the steep hill and another line of tail-lights going up. Some were military youngsters on their own Alaska exodus and you could tell these by how they would weave in and out of the other traffic.

The situation looked eerily similar to the miner’s trail over Chilkoot Pass above Skagway during the Klondike Gold Rush of 1898! I was also reminded of an amusement park ride where the sign says, “You Must Be This Tall To Ride”, except in this case it would have been a limbo-bar that read ,”If You Can’t Go THIS Low – You MUST Chain-Up”!

So in the spirit of C.W. McCall, I “put down my bottle and mashed my foot down on the throttle” and from a standstill, began the trip up that hill.

I have two greatest worries about this trip, please don’t tell Ruth. Both have to do with the fact that I’m cheap.
1. My two diesel truck batteries are nearing the end of their life-cycle. I didn’t want to pay Fairbanks (or Canada) prices for batteries when these still appear to be perfectly adequate and lower 48 prices are easier to take. I wouldn’t have even considered that gamble if we didn’t have two cars.
2. My truck tires were new when we came up here and are now three years older. Any experienced winter driver knows new rubber is always more grippy than used rubber. I have adequate tread, but just barely.

Since departing Fairbanks and needing that battery jump in Whitehorse, I have seriously questioned my decision to put off buying new batteries, but too bad - so sad!

Now however, I am seriously thinking about kicking my own smash for such tire-buying stupidity in the face of this hill! Ruth goes ahead and I take a position at the back door.

We start out good enough; the grade says 8%, but it sure seems worse than those 8%’s we came down earlier today. The road is fairly well sanded (yes, we’re into less gravel and more sand now), but due to chain use and lots of traffic the snow pack is somewhat loose and I’m concerned about breaking traction.

The Cummins turbo-diesel pumps out gobs of torque (610 foot pounds) and muscle (345 horsepower). Dodge had sucky automatic transmissions for many years, but the newly designed 48RE installed in my 2006 is awesome! The shift-points in the “Tow/Haul” setting are perfect, and it is very strong. As the engine speed holds at about 2200 RPM, the 10,000 lb. truck and camper combination drags that 10,000 lbs. of cargo-trailer kicking and screaming up the slope. Speed about 25 mph, doing fine, now hold her steady. I flash out “give me room - don’t hold me back” in Morse code over the headlights.

There are only two sets of headlights behind me. What’s that now, the road steepens? RPM holds steady but speed falls off, down to 20 mph - now down to 15. Don’t break traction, don’t break traction. Why is the speed less but the RPM the same? Is the tranny fluid too hot? Wish I had a temperature gauge for that. Oh great – am I going to burn out this transmission?

Damn you Spike! Why did I ever listen to you and bring Lil’ Willy on this trip? Why did we haul all those damn family photos and kid’s school art projects all this way if we weren’t going to do anything with them but haul them all back! Why did I have to buy that EXTRA utility trailer? Why – Oh Why was I so stupid? Don’t break traction, don’t break traction!

(Informational: Spike is my friend who said bringing Lil’ Willy to Fairbanks was a good plan because there are great trails all over the area to go four-wheeling. Lil’ Willy is our 1954 CJ3B Willys Jeep and the extra utility trailer was purchased in Alaska as a souvenir to be pulled behind Lil’ Willy - both of which are inside the cargo-trailer along with our household goods and all the other heavy items mentioned above.)

Just a little further - I think I see the top. Where is Ruth? Is that a Care Bear? Oh My Gosh it was just an illusion - there’s a whole ‘nuther hill ahead - and look at those big trucks coming down! From behind, headlight 1 and headlight 2 fly around me and quickly dart in front before the downhill traffic hits them! I swerve to miss them. Military Youngsters, damn you!

What’s that warm feeling? Did I turn on the heated seat? No time to check – keep your eyes on the road. How are the gauges, I wish I had a transmission oil-temperature gauge, don’t break traction. That’s a pretty warm feeling.

About four hours later we reached the top. I wanted to pull over and cool the transmission, but Ruth was ready to fly, “C’mon slow-poke” she flashed over her brake lights. I got on the radio and said “Hunny, do you know where we packed my brown pants”? “Don’t worry about it” she replied, “it’s dark and I’ll walk behind”. So I’ve got that going for me - which is good.

Day 5 Pics

* This post was last edited 02/06/15 02:49pm by Dave Pete *   View edit history

GarySandra

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Posted: 11/10/13 11:45am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Having made five trips to Ak with another planned next year, I have wondered what it would be like to travel in the winter. Sounds like it would be quiet an adventure. I am looking forward to "The rest of the Story"

Dave Pete

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Posted: 11/10/13 06:39pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

That's great GarySandra.

When we wrote these email messages last year, tomorrow's forum post was originally on December 2, which kind of aligns with February 2 - Groundhog's day. Pay particular attention to the date I ascribe in the Captain's log. You'll see why.

Even more important, tomorrow's post contains content that is particularly aligned with the fact that tomorrow is Veterans Day. It only dawned on me just now as I was pre-reading and editing tomorrow's post; it was not planned out to fit like this.

I believe whatever drives the universe will show us just such coincidences if we pay attention. I thought it was really cool so decided to mention it. Perhaps after tomorrow's post you will too. [emoticon]

Dave Pete

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Posted: 11/11/13 04:44am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

CAPTAIN’S LOG - DAY 6

North Star Date: 2/2/2013
Location or Route: Dawson Creek, BC to Edmonton, AB.
Travel Miles: 367 (1831 - Cumulative)
Weather Conditions: Overcast with light to moderate snowfall on and off all day. Sun occasionally visible. Moderate snow and poor visibilities right at Edmonton on the way from the grocery store to the RV Park.
Road Conditions: Overnight snowfall accumulations of 2”-3”. Most of the route was bare pavement with occasional fresh snow, slush and ice. Occasional ground blizzards by tractor trailers and other vehicles.
Animals Observed: One huge manmade beaver in the town of Beaverlodge, AB, and one Sasquatch-like man crossing the road in Dawson Creek.

6:00 AM (-4F/-20C)

Woke up to the sounds of Sonny and Cher singing “I got You Babe” on the hotel clock radio. The song ended and two DJs came on to discuss the upcoming day. I laid there with my eyes closed - just sort of half listening.

“Okay campers, rise and shine and don’t forget your booties ‘cause it’s cold out there today.”

“It’s cold out there everyday, what is this Miami Beach?”

“Not hardly, and you know you can expect hazardous travel later today, you know with that blizzard thing!”

“That blizzard thing, well - here’s the report. The National Weather Service is calling for a big blizzard thing.”

“Yes they are, but you know there’s another reason why today’s especially exciting.”

“Especially cold.”

“Especially cold, oh okay, but the big question on everybody’s lips…”

“Yeah their chapped lips.”

“On their chapped lips, do you think Phil’s gonna come out and see his shadow?”

“Punxsutawney Phil!”

“That’s right woodchuck-chuckers…”

“It’s Groundhog Day! Get up and check that hog out there.”

My eyes flew open, “Groundhog day?! What the?” and I glanced over to Ruth’s side of the bed – Oh thank goodness, she was still there; I wasn’t all alone; for just a minute there I thought…

I nudged her and she rolled over and smiled at me - but it wasn’t her! It was that librarian lady in Ghost Busters!

I screamed, “Who are you and what have you done with Ruth?” She just put a finger to her lips and went “Shhhhhhh”.

I cried , “Where’s Ruth?” and she just looked at me. Then she turned into the most hideous monster I’ve ever seen and came rushing at me like she was going to kill me!

I ducked under the covers and began muttering to nobody in particular, “I’ll never make fun of Dan Aykroyd again, I’ll never make fun of Dan Aykroyd again, or any of the original cast members. I’m sorry Bill Murray, I should have credited you sooner with the phrase ‘so we’ve got that going for us – which is good’.” The universe seemingly appeased, everything got all quiet.

I slowly lowered the covers. Ruth was staring me dead in the eye and demanded, “What is WRONG with you?” Swinging her legs off the side of the bed, she stood and strode toward the bathroom, entered and closed the door on me. I got out of bed, walked to the window. As expected it was still snowing. Another day just like yesterday.

11:11 AM (0F/-18C)

So here we are at Dawson Creek, British Columbia - Mile “0” of the Alaska Highway.

During World War II, the United States shipped war planes to Russia along this route, through Alaska over to Nome and across the Bering Sea, for the Ruskies to use in fighting Hitler on the eastern front of the war; it was called the “Lend-Lease Program”.

After Japan attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor, and then at Atta, a tiny native community at the end of the Aleutian Island chain of Alaska in the little remembered “1000 Mile War”, and threatened to come all the way into mainland Alaska, the US realized they had inadequate defenses in place for our 49th state.

It was then that the US Army, with approval from Congress and President Roosevelt, and of course Canada, decided to build a road from Dawson Creek to Delta Junction, which would connect to Alaska Highway 2, currently in place between Valdez and Fairbanks. It was called the Alaska Highway, also know as the ALCAN.

The stoic World War II era Army Corps of Engineers and soldiers that cut this road out of wilderness swamp, much of it done during winter months under similar conditions to what we have joked about, make me shake my head in disbelief and amazement at what humans can do.

As we laugh and have fun, here in the early 21st Century, let us never forget what those who came before have done to allow the amazing lives we lead. All our luxuries, all our rights, all our freedoms are not made available as a matter of course; they are hard fought against those who would enslave us for their own selfish reasons.

Never forget, and don’t easily give up your freedoms for promised security. Stay self-sufficient; depend on your selves and your families and others in your local communities. Don’t become too specialized with the resultant dependency on others.

Honor our fighting warriors of yesterdays past, and of today. And while you’re at it, give a word of thanks to others in our service industries: a teacher, a cop, a fireman, that waitress.

12:11 PM (0F/-18C)

East of Dawson Creek; roads turning good; highway speeds up to 55 mph; sun dimly visible through the overcast. The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band makes for some good road music.

12:26 PM (2F/-17C)

Just left Beaverlodge and saw the groundhog (actually a huge manmade beaver alongside the highway with these big teeth)! Did NOT see a shadow – the sun was back behind a heavier overcast – spring should be right around the corner. So we got that going for us - which is good.

Just east of Beaverlodge the highway divided with two lanes in either direction. Highway speeds are now up to 110 (that’s in kilometers per hour, which is Canadian for 68 mph). “Barbie’s Merry Christmas” makes for some good road music.

2:22 PM (5F/-15C)

We’re back on the map! The GPS map! Out of the wilderness and into civilization; now we know how Moses and the children of Israel felt! My long lost mapping software female navigator SAL (Search and Locate) spoke up and said, “What are you doing Dave?” I said, “Hello SAL, it’s nice to have you back. Can you tell me how to get to Edmonton please?” The Rolling Stones makes for some good road music.

3:11 PM (7F/-14C)

131 miles to Edmonton. Called ahead and set up reservations with “Glowing Embers RV Park” on the western outskirts, and only eight minutes from the West Edmonton Mall, largest Mall in North America. We’ll camp tonight and maybe the next night, and take a day off from the road. Maybe go Christmas shopping at the mall!

5:43 PM (4F/-15C)

We stopped at a grocery store and picked up some fresh produce, some bread and a broiler chicken at the deli. It’s snowing pretty heavy. Visibility is reduced and there is now more than one road to drive. It’s good to have mapping software. “SAL, show us the way to the RV Park”. “Yes Master”. I like that girl. Ruth followed behind her “Bubba with the big white trailer.”

7:11 PM (0F/-18C)

We’re tucked away all nice and cozy in the camper. We got plugged in, enjoyed a nice meal; it’s nice to be back with our old friend. The furnace is working great! It must have just been choking on the extremely cold temperatures. We were able to check the plastic windows and we did find some damage. We’ll make a full appraisal when the weather further improves.

I had to use the dustpan to shovel out some snow on the top bunk in the right-front corner where it had blown in through the cracked plastic window. I had left the canvas walls unzipped when we packed it down at Talbot Arm that night of the monster attack. I guess I was thinking of evaporating moisture between the fabric and the window, or maybe I wasn’t thinking and just reacting to the mind-numbing cold of days gone by. Oh how we love those insulating curtains Ruth made. It sure cozies up this camper!

Day 6 Pics

* This post was last edited 02/06/15 02:50pm by Dave Pete *   View edit history

Dave Pete

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Posted: 11/12/13 05:24am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

CAPTAIN’S LOG - DAY 7

North Star Date: 12/3/2012
Location or Route: Edmonton, AB.
Travel Miles: 0 (1831 - Cumulative)
Weather Conditions: Irrelevant - We didn’t travel.
Road Conditions: Not important - we stayed off them.
Animals Observed: Just West Edmonton Mall shoppers.

Six days did Dave and Ruth travel along the Alaska Highway, and on the seventh day they rested.

In the beginning, along the fair and frozen banks of the river of Ta-Na-Na, we looked upon the chaos of our apartment and of our remaining household goods, and whilst withstanding the trials of the last load-out, and the tribulations of the camper furnace not lighting, and of the truck batteries not powering in the depths of the excessively cold night and throughout the first morning, and we tried to make order out of the trip we were about to take, and lo, it was without form.

But eventually we got underway, and after a few hours of driving in the daylight the sun set and it was dark, and it was the end of the first morning and it was the beginning of the first evening, but there was a full moon and we witnesseth the separation of the day and of the night, and got through customs okay, except of course that they exact a high price for our 2nd Amendment rights.

And we made our camp at the Talbot Arm on Destruction Bay of Kluane Lake - in the wilderness territory of Yukon - and we had outrun the frigid temperatures, and we watched the changing lights of the sky and we recognized the warmer temperatures of the chosen campsite, and we decided these were good, and we called it the first day.

And on the next day we got up in the middle of the night, to try and bring warmth to our little camper and to restore life to our frozen bodies, which had been overrun by the Minus 33 Degree Monster - yea even unto the 33rd Degree Mason - the beast spoken of by the weather forecaster David, yea that creepeth over all the land from the north.

And we eateth at the cafe and brought sustenance to our bodies and we cleanseth the teeth, and when we got underway we saw the clear skies turn to broken and to overcast, and we saw the sunlight shining on the firmament of the mountains and it was beautiful, and the clouds reduced the beauty of the sun but little, and the awesome scenery was no less amazing.

And we rolled into Whitehorse and found an Inn to accommodate our freezing bodies, yea even the “Gold Rush Inn” - known throughout the wilderness of Yukon as an historic place - and we took a warm bath, and we took a warm bed, and we shared in hot food, and we saw that these were good and we called it our second day.

And in the morning we awoke, and we found that the truck had given up the ghost, yea even the Dodge Ram 2500 with the Cummins Turbo-Diesel, and we were sore afraid. And lo, we were able to bring life back to the troubled conveyance, and we breathed fresh life into its worthy soul from the depths of the little yellow Jeep, yea even the little yellow angel - which remains as a constant companion - yea even a Guardian Angel of the spirit of Ruth.

And so we drove in frigid temperatures, and we discovered new ways to eat frozen foods, frozen foods of every kind, each after its own kind and after its own seed, and we took in nourishment of all frozen kinds until we came to the lake of Watson, and we knew that we must find a place that would consent to let us plug in, so as to keep the worthy truck alive throughout the banishment of the cold and lonesome night.

And we did so and we were plugged in, and all set up in the comfort of yet another hotel room, yea even at the house of Andrea, and we contemplated our condition and we saw that it was good, and the morning and the evening were our third day.

And on the morn we witnesseth the signs and the signposts of the Signpost Forrest - in the south of the wilderness of Yukon, and on the shores of the lake of Watson - and we came upon the mountains and the high lands which separate the wilderness of Yukon in the west, and in the north, from the plains of the great continent, and we crossed the great northern Rockies of the Ca-Na-Da.

And we saw the Elk, and we saw the Fox, and we saw the elusive Sasquatch and many Bison, each of their kind and also many Caribou, each of their own kind, and of their own seed.

And at the top of the mountain we were sorely tested by the awful winds of the evil place, yea even the hot waters of the devil’s abode - known from before the beginning of time as “Liard” - and tho’ we were sorely tempted, we abstained from the lustful pleasures of the body in the hot springs, and we stayed on the righteous path and continued our journey, and we traveled for hours in the darkness, and in the final hour we were rewarded by the lights of the city in the civilized region of Columbia, yea even of British Columbia - in the Fort of Nelson - and we saw the Christmas lighting of the joyful people of Nelson, and we fueled the mighty beast and we fueled the little yellow angel, and we saw that it was good and the morning and the evening were our fourth day.

And after a comfortable stop at the Fort of Nelson, and in a grandiose accommodation, yea even an accommodation of the ancient Ra-Ma-Da, yea even an accommodation fit for a king with even a king-sized bed, but with unleavened cabinets and a kitchenette, and after hearing a voice in the backroom of the continental breakfast, rising in anger and in long-suffering righteous wrath against a woman of non-perfection, we journeyed again along a road less traveled.

We made our way up hills and down dells, and up excruciatingly difficult grades of poor traction and soiled clothing, and we finally made it to the top and saw that it was good. And so we came to another Inn, yea even an Inn of Comfort - known in the Creek of Dawson as the Comfort Inn - and it had been a hilarious morning, and it had been a terrifying evening, and we called it the fifth day.

And as we departed the Creek of Dawson - in the morning of the sixth day - we marveled in wonder at the works of mankind and at the fruits of his labors, and we saw the road that man had built, and we marveled at the service of man amongst his kind, and of each type of service, each in kind and in its own way, and we recognized how each kind of service increases upon the next.

And we reflected on how we had opened the stores of food, and had removed the frozen rib, and how Ruth had convinced Dave to eat a frozen apple, and we decided it was good.

And we had seen that we were naked, and we could see that we were in danger of frostbite, and so we had clothed ourselves with down, and with microfibers, and with fleeces of every kind.

And therefore we had the strength, and we had the temperateness, to move on down the highway at an ever greater pace, almost as it were on the wings of angels, yea even of a little yellow angel in the spirit of Ruth. And we came ever closer, with each passing mile, to our home and rightful place, and we looked upon our progress, and we felt it in our depths, and we saw that it was good.

And thus our journey over the Alaska Highway, and even unto the town of Edmond was ended, and we were fatigued, and we were in need of rest, and of solace, and of rejuvenation, and for buying additional stores of unblemished foods.

And so we replenished our supplies, and we brought forth fresh produce, yea even fruits and vegetables of every kind and fresh meat, and we partook and replenished our souls and we nourished our bodies.

And we basked in the warmth of the little camper furnace, and in the light of the twelve-volt battery, yea even of the 120 volts of AC current, from the post which riseth up from the earth. And we retired to our bed, yea even the bed that had suffered at the hands of the -33 Degree Monster, and we saw that it was good, and we called it our sixth day.

So we took our rest, and we made a day off from the road, and we paid the price for two nights at the RV park, yea even the park of glowing embers, known in all the land as the “Glowing Embers RV Park”, on the west side of the great city, yea even of the town of Edmond, and we parked the huge beast for all of one day, whilst we took the little yellow angel to the east - to locate the Mall of Greatness on the west of the town of Edmond - and we came unto the Great Mall, and it was the seventh day and we shopped!

The West Edmonton Mall is North America’s largest indoor mall. It includes a huge Amusement Park, Ice Rink, Casino, Hotels, multiple Food Courts and a Restaurant Row, Water Wave Park, Movie Theatres and an IMAX Theatre, two Miniature Golf Courses, a Submarine Ride, a Sea Lion Show, and much more. This is not a joke.

We spent eight hours there, most of it just walking. It felt so good to move after six days of travel and after a few weeks of curtailed exercise in Fairbanks when it got too cold to go outside and continue our walking routine. We also took in a movie and had dinner before heading back to camp. The West Edmonton Mall makes for a nice rest stop.

Day 7 Pics

* This post was last edited 02/06/15 02:51pm by Dave Pete *   View edit history

Dave Pete

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Posted: 11/13/13 05:36am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

CAPTAIN’S LOG - DAY 8

North Star Date: 12/4/2012
Location or Route: Edmonton, AB to Lethbridge, AB.
Travel Miles: 313 (2144 - Cumulative)
Weather Conditions: Clear skies and strong easterly winds initially, lessening through mid-route and strengthening out of the west at the end of the day.
Road Conditions: 3”-4” of snowfall two nights ago was blowing across the highway for the stretch from Edmonton to Red Deer, melting and refreezing on the sun-radiation warmed surfaces, and along with the high winds caused extremely hazardous driving conditions. Mostly bare and dry from Red Deer to Lethbridge.
Animals Observed: Cattle, and quite a number of Rush Hour Calgarians.

“Breaker one nine sweet child o’ mine, you got Superman here, c’mon?”

“C’mon back, you big handsome hack, you got the flower in a plain yellow wrapper, c’mon?”

“Yeah, that’s a big ten-four there Sunflower, well we better get this caravan onto Highway 2 and take it southbound to McCloud; from there it’s eastbound to that Trestle-Bridge town and another night on the shut-down, ten-four.”

We had wind in store on December four when we left that Edmonton town; from a little know joint, name o’ Sandy Point on the western belt go-around. I was running front door, not tired and sore, ‘cause we had our rest at the Embers, we were back on the road with our regular load and a banshee blowin’ cross-winders.

“Yer rig taking this wind ok Superman?”

“That’s a big ten-four Sunflower, it’s stuck to the road like glue. You’re little yellow angel might have more trouble; how’s that wind hitting you?”

“It takes a strong left arm, but don’t be alarmed, I’ll keep it pointed out straight. If we stay on task and don’t go too fast we’ll be there before it gets late.”

“Ten-four Sunflower”

By the time we got to that Stampede town, the wind had-a come on down, but now we had in sight, a new foe to fight, in the thick of those Calgary clowns. So for now I’m retired, and I don’t want re-hired, and I don’t need a rocking chair, it’s just me in the lead, on my worthy ol’ steed and the flower watchin’ out the back door, ten-four.

“Hey little flower, you okay back there? You wanna ride up front for a bit?”

“Negotory good buddy, ‘cause I’m feeling okay, I can stay right here all day. We got miles to go, so I’ll watch your back door, let trusty ol’ SAL show the way.”

11:27 AM (0F/-18C and -17F Wind Chill)

The wind was only about 15-20 knots at the RV Park near Edmonton, but as we got up onto the highway, we saw significant increases to maybe 30 or 35 knots of steady crosswinds right out of the east as we drove southbound. All the snow from two nights ago was blowing across the sun radiation warmed pavement, melting and refreezing, and drifting in places. It was very treacherous driving and there was quite a bit of traffic, now that we were back into the higher populated areas and on interstate-like highways.

There was a great deal of tractor-trailer traffic and of course cars and pickups of various kinds, each slowing down and speeding up for their various personal reasons. We saw several accidents where people had been blown off the road, or were driving too fast and had lost traction and ended up out in the barrow pits. There were at least two multiple vehicle accidents.

We stayed in the flow as much as possible and just fought our way through it. CW McCall makes for some good road music - but I didn’t dare listen to him, or to anybody else for that matter, as I wanted to devote all my concentration on driving and the traffic around me – and of course on taking snapshots.

3:17 PM (35F/2C)

We took an exit at Red Deer, south of Edmonton by a couple of hours, and fueled the vehicles, also refilling the propane tanks. Temperatures are above freezing; snow and ice is melting off the rigs and the roads. The wind has died down quite a bit too, but even though the road has improved, traffic is taking a very long time to spread out after so many miles of reduced speeds. Beethoven’s Symphonies performed by the London Symphony Orchestra makes for some good road music.

3:51 PM (42F/4C)

We’re north of Calgary and starting to see and smell lots of cattle. These are some of the sights and smells of our great plains that we have sorely missed over the past three years. Looking out over the vastness of this land reminds us of our beloved high-plains of eastern Wyoming. You cannot take a picture of this scene and get the right idea; you have to view it peripherally for it to make any sense: side to side, and top to bottom.

The temperature is rising rapidly; already up to 42F! This morning our Fairbanks friends were at -37F; that’s a shocking 80 degree temperature differential! May God have pity on your souls! We are not with you physically, but our hearts remain with you and our thoughts will never be far.

“Ruth, do you remember that guy I used to work with in Fairbanks?” Uhhh… what was his name?”

5:18 PM (45F/7C)

We hit Calgary at rush hour, eight lanes of 10-20 mph bumper to bumper traffic for over an hour. After getting through the metropolitan area I got on the phone with Bridgeview RV Park in Lethbridge and received self check-in instructions for when we arrive after business hours. SAL says we’re less than two hours away.

We stopped at one exit to use the camper facilities (gotta love a house on your back). We were standing out in the wind in long shirt sleeves and smelling the moist earth and melting snow and breathing in the fresh water-vapor infused atmosphere of a place that actually gets air-flow (that’s High Plains speak for wind).

7:11 PM (47F/8C)

We pulled into the Bridgeview RV Park just west of Lethbridge and picked a site. Setting up camp, we’re walking around in shirt sleeves; no gloves, no hats, no ear muffs. We’re not making well-coordinated mad dashes from one inside warm place to another. The snow and ice are gone from the trailer and vehicles. What’s left over is a filthy coat of two-thousand miles of road grime.

“Hey! Let’s warm up those last two meatball subs you made and have a nice little dinner in the camper.”

Day 8 Pics

* This post was last edited 02/06/15 02:51pm by Dave Pete *   View edit history

quoyfab

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Posted: 11/13/13 02:25pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Thanks for the daily narratives on that adventure, dave pete.

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