Entire Route So Far
Photos and Videos To Be Posted Later
Today, we woke up at 6:15 AM and had breakfast at the motel. The guy at the table next to us had the most preposterous Canadian accent, so much so that I wondered if I’d wandered onto the set of “South Park.” Then we headed down to the airport where I dropped Chatchai off. From this point onward, was to be all on my own. I went to Wally World to purchase nail clippers and the place was a ghost town. I even overheard a manager asking an employee if anybody had bothered to turn up for work today. Apparently, Bellingham Washington rises somewhat later than 8 AM. Then I was on my way. I was very nearly to the Canadian border when I realized my gas tank was almost empty. I hadn’t been paying attention, since I didn’t drive much yesterday, and the idiot light came on to say I was under 1/8 tank. The deal was Chatchai was supposed to pay for all the gas while he was accompanying me, but I guess he conveniently “forgot” about that last tank. I can only slightly blame him as I would have done the same if the tables were turned.
I crossed the 49th parallel just ahead of schedule, at 8:45. The border crossing was a nonevent. I had to wait about 2 minutes to see a guard, who asked me only the most perfunctory questions. I had noticed the Peace Arch while driving past, and asked her if there were any way to go back and see it. She suggested parking at the welcome center and walking back. I tried to do this, but discovered that the arch is, apparently, meant to be seen but not approached. This is too bad, because it’s actually quite beautiful, lying in a little park with well tended flowers, but there is no foot path or any other obvious way to get to it. The inscription, “BRETHEREN DWELLING TOGETHER IN UNITY,” struck me as bittersweet and darkly ironic. I thought about crossing the road to make my way down to it across a wide swath of green lawn, but hesitated, noting that I was being watched by uniformed personnel from on both sides of the border, and it was not even obvious exactly where the border might lie. An innocent infraction seemed like the sort of misstep that might have been overlooked in happier days, but I decided not to press my luck.
An hour’s drive brought me to Vancouver. I had hoped to stop and see several attractions, but the traffic was just too heavy and I’ve never been one to enjoy driving in the city. Plus, big cities don’t seem to lend themselves well to my “making it up as I go” M.O. All the same, Vancouver looked truly beautiful and I made a mental note to return on a long weekend, with better plans in hand. I pressed on up Route 99, the “Sea to Sky Highway.”
Route 99 covers some of the most picturesque scenery I’ve ever driven through. Snow capped mountains, lakes, that sort of thing. Maybe half an hour out of Vancouver I saw a sign for the “Britannia Beach Mine,” offering underground tours daily. I decided to stop. The Mine was the largest copper producer in the British Empire, having dumped some 50 million tons of processed ore into Howe Sound over the course of its lifespan, killing everything in it. Remediation efforts are currently underway, since 2005. Admission was $30 CAD, which I thought was a bit steep, but that included an underground mine tour which was pretty fun. We rode into the mountain on a little train, then got demonstrations of the old mining equipment, such as pneumatic drills, old lighting equipment, blasting techniques (that one was theoretical only), etc. Afterwards, I noticed that they had a gold panning setup and I panned for gold for maybe 20 minutes. After sorting through seemingly tons of pyrite, I found a little gold flake, and am saving it in a zip log baggie. But I think the hourly rate for computer programming is much better.
I passed through the ski resort of Whistler, famous for hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics, without stopping. Shortly after that, the road became steep, winding, strictly two lane, and breathtaking. I will post some still photos when I get a chance. I filmed the entire drive with my dash cam and hope to get the chance to post highlights when I get back to California. Approximately 6 hours after I left Seattle, I came to the end of Route 99, which dumped me onto Route 97, the traditional western approach to the Alaska Highway.
Tonight, I am staying in the municipal campground at a town called 100 Mile House. This region seems flatter, nondescript, and frankly somewhat boring compared to the earlier stages of today’s journey. Many of the communities around here have names following this pattern, such as “50 Mile House,” “70 Mile House,” etc. I assume these were stopping points on the road when it originally opened in 1952. I got the tent set up in record time, under five minutes, but I still got devoured by mosquitoes, just like the nice lady at the gas station said I would. After that, I deployed one of my eight precious packets of “Off Deep Woods Towelettes” for the first time, at Mother’s recommendation. They seem very effective but I don’t like the greasy/powdery/carcinogenic feeling they leave on my skin. I suppose it is only marginally better than dying of blood loss.
I am now at approximately 52 degrees north and I can tell the light is getting longer. It’s after 9 PM and the sun just set, but it’s still broad daylight. I was just chatting with a retired Vietnam vet from New Hampshire, who’s staying in the next campsite over. In looks and demeanor he reminds me a lot of my Uncle Charles. I suppose they are of the same generation. He gave me some tips on how to avoid trouble while camping out in the Yukon. You do often meet interesting people while traveling.
Tonight, I’m going to watch some TV that I brought with me on a memory stick. I occasionally have cell service out here but it is heavily metered, so no photos yet. The next few days I need to cover a fair bit of territory. I have severely underestimated the distances out here, and the amount of time it takes to travel them.
Entire Route So Far