Archive for the Alaska Category

Alaska Trip Finale: Stops in Utah; Home in Scottsdale, Arizona

Posted in Alaska, Arizona, ILX, Road Trip on June 5, 2016 by tysonhugie

Odometer:  171,688

171688

Total Trip Distance:  7,909 Miles

I can’t believe it’s over.  I did it.  After 16 days on the road and 7,909 miles traversed, I’ve successfully driven not only to Alaska, but to the Arctic Circle, and back.  It was a trip that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

arrival

I couldn’t (and wouldn’t) have done it alone, so I thank Jason for being such a great trip companion even though we took separate cars.  Also thanks to the many folks who followed along for the adventure online, and especially those who offered hospitality along the way.  In all I drove through 8 states and 3 provinces.  Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Montana, Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Alberta, Yukon Territory, and British Columbia.  I documented the trip in 13 blog posts including this one, so if you’re just now tuning in, feel free to keep scrolling backward to start from the beginning.  My nightly stops were at these locations:

  • Washington, Utah
  • Butte, Montana
  • Edmonton, Alberta
  • Pink Mountain, British Columbia
  • Teslin, Yukon Territory
  • Fairbanks, Alaska (x 3)
  • Teslin, Yukon Territory (again)
  • New Hazelton, British Columbia
  • Cache Creek, British Columbia
  • Seattle, Washington
  • Kuna, Idaho
  • Logan, Utah
  • St. George, Utah

I have to say it’s remarkable that I was able to take a 170,000 mile car on a journey of this length and never have to think twice about it getting me from A to B.  I didn’t need any of my 3 spare tires.  I didn’t check or add oil at any point on the drive.  As a matter of fact, the last oil change from 8,000 miles ago still says I have 40% life remaining according to the “maintenance minder” in the car.  This is why I drive the car that I drive.  Relentless reliability.

On Thursday morning, I departed Josh’s place in Kuna, Idaho and I had about a 300-mile day to my dad & stepmom’s place in Cache Valley, northern Utah.  I gave my dad a hand washing his Ford F-350 and then dined later in the evening at my favorite restaurant in town, called El Sol.  Ryan, who Jason and I met up with on the first leg of our journey, joined again for the occasion.

Friday, I made my way southbound and traveled virtually the entire length of the state of Utah from north to south, staying at my mom’s place in Washington.  Along the way, I paid a visit to my grandpa because it happened to be his 86th birthday.  And the final stretch took place yesterday, when I drove the last 400 or so miles of my very long journey home.  Phoenix welcomed me with 114-degree temperatures.  Welcome summer.

Here’s a 17-minute video that documents my journey in bits & pieces from start to finish.  Viewers beware:  It may cause motion sickness and it’s mostly just me shooting “selfie style” and narrating some of our stops.

Utah state line

utah_state_line

Dad’s 1990 F-350 XLT Lariat Dual Cab 4×4

dad_washing_truck

Dad’s new 2016 Honda Goldwing motorcycle.  Packed with tech!

goldwing

This thing even has navigation.

goldwing_dash

We took a night drive up to visit my Grandpa Hugie at Providence Cemetery.  He passed away in 1989 when I was only 7 years old but I still have great memories of him.

providence

gpa_grave

View of Cache Valley from my dad’s back deck

dad_view

ILX in grandma’s backyard

ilx_gma_backyard

The home across the street dates back to the early 1900’s and it’s the home my grandma grew up in

logan_house

Heading southbound on Hwy 89-91 which passes through “Sardine Canyon.”

sardine

Arriving in St. George about 6 hours later

stg_blvd

Visiting the nieces and nephews in St. George

mdx_rex

Arrival at home in Scottsdale

arrival2

Check out that nasty interior, too

interior

Two pages of handwritten fuel log, from start to finish.

gas_log

The nerd in me couldn’t resist putting this in electronic format so I could run some metrics on it.  I fueled up 41 times and spent a total of $826.52 on gas after taking into account the Canadian exchange rate.

gas_1

gas_2

Back in the U.S.: Stops in Seattle, WA & Boise, ID

Posted in Alaska, ILX, Road Trip on June 1, 2016 by tysonhugie

Odometer:  170,440

170440

Overall Trip Distance:  6,741 Miles

Back in the US of A!  It was a real contrast to our wide-open, no-traffic drive through the Yukon when Jason and I got stuck in 6 lanes wide of bumper-to-bumper traffic on I-405 in Seattle yesterday afternoon.  I’m starting to wonder if coming back to civilization was a good thing or a bad thing!  Nevertheless (or always the more, as my Grandpa would say), we have successfully arrived in the Lower 48 and it’s been a great (shorter) last couple of days on the road.

trans_canada_2

We got out of Cache Creek bright and early on Tuesday and made our way down the Trans-Canada Highway with the Fraser River at the base.  It was gorgeous scenery, turn after turn.  There were a total of about 6 or 7 tunnels of varying length as we made our way southbound.  The town of Hope was as charming as it sounds, and one stop we made there was at the wrecking yard for Jamie Davis Towing.  Jamie’s company is famous because it’s featured in the Discovery Channel “Highway Thru Hell” TV show.  Since the roads are so critical to keep commerce alive, and the weather conditions can be so rough, Jamie’s business deals with all sorts of hardships.

jamie_davis

tyson_at_jamie_davis

Jason and I were treated to some of the best hospitality I’ve ever received, a little ways down the road in Abbotsford.  This small B.C. city resides just on the north side of the United States border.  Pam’s beautiful place which overlooks the valley is home to two Acuras:  her 2006 TSX and 1991 NSX (and a couple of motorcycles).  She is a truly genuine Honda fan, and a gracious hostess.  Pam fixed us salads to-go and let us catch our breath for a few minutes at her home before we headed out on our way.

tyson_pam_jason

The border checkpoint at Abbotsford moved fairly slowly but we got through in about 25 minutes.  The U.S. Customs agent recommended that I stop at a gas station and clean off my license plate.  Ha!

washington_welcome

Jason and I weaved around through some beautiful northern Washington back roads before connecting with Interstate 5 which led us south to the Seattle area.  Our first stop there was to visit my friend Lance at his shop in Woodinville and take a look at a beautiful 1992 Acura Integra GS-R which he’s been restoring.  He even let me roll 234,567.8 miles on a quick test drive.

gsr_with_lance

Yesterday evening, I met up with some family members and friends at a bar & grill not far from my motel for a bite to eat.  They all told me I must’ve brought the nice weather with me because it’s been so rainy in recent weeks (it’s Seattle – go figure!).

i90

This morning, Jason and I walked to the IHOP next to our Motel 6 in Issaquah and shared one last meal together before parting ways.  He’d decided to continue heading south through Oregon and California, but I needed to head more east and begin making my way toward Idaho and Utah.  I got out on the road headed eastward on Interstate 90.  While attractions along I-90, I-82, and I-84 were pretty slim, it was nice to be able to set the cruise control.  The interstate climbs through a beautiful pass in the Cascade Range called Snoqualmie Pass at a little over 3,000 feet in elevation.

My car rolled 170,000 miles right at that location.

170000

170k_spot

Once the terrain leveled out a bit, I arrived in Yakima and met up with a long-time friend named Chris who works in the school district there.  Chris and I met 11 years ago at a Seattle-area Acura Legend meet and we’ve stayed in touch ever since.  He still has his Legend but has also added a couple of other fancy cars to the stable:  A Mitsubishi 3000GT VR-4 and a Mercedes-Benz 500SL.  I must say, he has great taste in cars!  We met up briefly to catch up and I got to check out his Benz up close and personal.  The retractable top is fully automated with the touch of one button, and the open/close procedure is quite the complicated sight to behold!

tyson_mercedes

From there I went on into Oregon by crossing the massive Columbia River.  In Oregon and New Jersey, gas is not self-serve.  I fueled up in La Grande and an attendant asked me if I wanted premium and how much to add.  I asked her to fill up the tank.  Another guy worked on squeegeeing my windshield while I waited.  It felt odd having someone else do those sorts of tasks for me!  Oregon and New Jersey are the only states with that law.  Actually, “all” gas sales used to be full-service until 1947 when California was the first state to adopt self-serve.  It caught on.

windshield_clean

This evening I crossed into Idaho and I’m staying the night with my good friend Josh who you all know as the 497,500-mile TSX guy from TSXTravels.com.  Josh and his Great Dane pup Abby are great hosts and I’m about to settle in for the night’s rest, but we took his TSX out for burgers at a restaurant called Ram and my friend Kevin met up with us for some chat, too.  Tomorrow, I continue on into Utah and chopping another 400 or so miles off on my return drive to Phoenix.  Thanks as always for following along!

tsx_travels_sticker

ilx_tsx

A few more pics from the last couple of days.

Downshifting to let the car’s engine brake for me on the steep grades of the Trans-Canada Highway 1

downshift

One of the many tunnels we passed through

tunnel2

Hell’s Gate Airtram – I would like to try this sometime.  I bet it’s like the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.

hells_gate_airtram

Another tunnel on Highway 1

tunnel

Green scene(ry)

trans_canada

Bathroom break in Yale, B.C. at the Esso gas station

yale_esso

Railroad tracks running through the canyon

train_tracks

Visiting Jamie Davis tow company

tyson_at_jamie_davis_2

Pam’s home in Abbotsford

pam_house

Pam with her immaculate Acuras

pam_garage

Pam fixed us a delicious salad.  My mom will appreciate that this was the best-rounded (and most colorful) meal I’ve had this entire trip!

salad

U.S. border delays as shown along Highway 1

border_times_2

More info on the delays

border_times

Trip timer has now maxed out!

elapsed_time

Out for a test drive in the Integra GS-R

tyson_driving_gsr

This Band-Aid was a clever way to “fix” a bruised Lexus RX

lexus_bumper

Dinner with family…

fam

… and friends!

tony_justi

That’s Tony and his wife Justi – and this is their immaculate 2005 BMW convertible.

ilx_bmw

Later that night, I met up with Stephen who drives this beautiful 1994 Legend GS

stephen_legend

With Stephen

stephen_tyson

More of Chris’ Mercedes.  I love this car!  Don’t mind the dirty ILX in the background.

chris_mercedes

tyson_chris_mercedes

I thought Yakima was a nice town!  Just the right size.

yakima_logo

Back in Idaho.  Feels like forever since Jason and I passed through this state a little over a week ago!

idaho

My Idahoan friend Kevin and his 2016 Mazda 6 after dinner.

tyson_kevin

Headed back to Josh’s in the famous TSX

tyson_josh_in_tsx

Quick shot with Josh

tyson_josh_with_acuras

Signing out for the night!

One More Canadian Night: Cache Creek, British Columbia

Posted in Alaska, ILX, Road Trip on May 30, 2016 by tysonhugie

Odometer:  169,628

169628

Day Distance & Time:  546 Miles; 9 hours 39 minutes

546

Overall Trip Distance & Time:  5,929 Miles; 98 hours

5929

We’re getting close to the States!  I hope that my friends and family members there have had a nice Memorial Day.  The weather eased up on us today and we enjoyed partly cloudy skies for our drive through British Columbia.  We got to see a lot of neat little towns tucked away in the mountains.  From where I sit at the Motel 6 in Cache Creek, I can hear the creek itself churning outside.  That sound is so therapeutic.  I might have to just lounge next to it for awhile this evening.  Here’s the view.

cache_creek

Today we traversed the Yellowhead Highway, route #16 in British Columbia.  If we’d stayed headed east on that road instead of cutting south on 97 at Prince George, it would have planted us back in Edmonton where we made a visit many days ago.  I can’t recall exactly, as the days at this point are all running into one another.  The remarkable thing is that either due to a primarily downhill grade, better fuel quality than we’d been getting, or simply a lighter right foot, my car got over 36 miles per gallon today over our 546-mile day.  Move over, hybrids!

36mpg

This morning in Houston (B.C., not Texas), we made a stop at the world’s largest fly fishing rod.  It’s six times larger than the average fishing rod and would require a river 15 boxcars wide to cast it on.  It took 270 hours for local volunteers to assemble.  That’s some community spirit!

tyson_houston_fishing_rod

Jason and I grabbed lunch at a restaurant called J&S in Vanderhoof and I tried a dish called poutine for the first time.  It’s basically French fries with some cheese and gravy on them.  It was delicious!

poutine

js_vanderhoof

Road conditions were great today, and it was nice to be finished dodging potholes and frost heaves.  Shortly after Williams Lake on route 97 headed southbound, the highway opened up to two lanes in each direction with glass-smooth pavement.  I’d forgotten what that felt like!  Short and sweet entry today, but tomorrow we cross into Washington and I have several visits to make.  From here on out, I may collect my thoughts for a couple of days at a time before blogging.  Just wanted to relay this last entry from Canada and thank you for following!

Beautiful morning leaving New Hazelton, B.C.

morning

Passing a variety of small lake towns, including this one – Burns Lake

burns_lake

Our lunch spot in Vanderhoof

vanderhoof_lawn

Junction of highways 16 and 97 near Prince George

97_sign

Must be in logging country!

log_Truck

I agree!

billboard

I liked this old cabin along Hwy 97

house

Another red Honda dealership sighting!  This one in Williams Lake.

red_honda_2

Getting closer to Cache Creek

cache_junction

Bathroom break in the woods!

bathroom_break

Arriving our destination for the night

cache_creek_2

Jason and I were ready to try some local grub so we hit up Herbie’s Drive-In up the street.

herbies

It’s cozy and the chicken sandwich wasn’t half bad.

jason_at_diner

I wandered around to explore the town a little (needed to get the legs moving anyway).  Check out this interesting castle-themed motel.  It’s currently for sale, but still appears to be in operation.

castle2

castle1

This place, the Wander-Inn Restaurant, is closed and has weeds growing in the parking lot.

wander_inn

I’d love to explore inside a place like that.

Cassiar Highway 37: Nightly Stop in New Hazelton, British Columbia

Posted in Alaska, ILX, Road Trip on May 29, 2016 by tysonhugie

Odometer:  169,081

169081

Day Distance & Time:  621 Miles; 9 hours 49 minutes

621

Overall Trip Distance & Time:  5,382 Miles;

5382

Kitwanga, British Columbia in 2006

kitwanga_2006

Same spot today

kitwanga_2016

I saw this poem in a frame in a gas station bathroom today and it struck me as something worth sharing.

Come drive the great Alcan Highway from one end to the other

Miles of splendor and adventure, become a vein of northern gold.

One time in the summer, let the Arctic sun steal your slumber.

Again in winter, challenged, by the frost and bitter cold.

What a great highway, with its very few by-ways.

Just think, you’re heading northwest to the Pole.

Don’t wait too long to drive it, prove you can survive it.

You should go now, before your dream grows too old.

Come drive the great Alcan, from one end to the other.

Give a thrill, bless your bones, far from home.

The people you meet, and the places you eat and sleep,

Make it worth all the miles, upon miles, you roam.

So come drive the great highway, give thanks for those By days,

Don’t complain, till it’s explained, how the whole thing was done.

Take the trip of your lifetime, celebrate the grand northern lifeline.

The great deed done under the spell of the midnight sun.

– J Hamilton Clarke, 1989

Okay, it took 88 hours in the car, but I’m finally getting fatigued.  And FYI, my trip timer in the car maxes out at 99 hours, 59 minutes, so sadly it won’t even be able to log my entire Alaskan trip.  Don’t these engineers at Acura know there are people out there (okay, just one person) who like to take 131-hour road trips?  Today dragged on for a lot of reasons.  But I’m happy to report that we’re safely at our nightly destination after having seen more of the great, beautiful north.

Jason and I have now “clinched” Highway 37 – the Cassiar Highway – in British Columbia.  That’s a term my friend Kevin uses when he successfully drives a highway from end to end.  And Jason and I did all 450 or so miles of the Cassiar, from the junction with the Alaska Highway in the Yukon, to the end point where it tees into Highway 16 at Kitwanga, BC.

cassiar2

By the time we got to the southern terminus, we were both pooped, so we only came another 20 or so miles east to a small town of New Hazelton to call it a night.  Luckily, despite being old, the place is well kept and the lady at the front desk couldn’t have been any friendlier.

bulkley_new_hazelton

From the point that we departed Teslin, Yukon this morning, the rain has been persistent throughout the day.  Those of you who were disgusted by my muddy car should rejoice because at this point, most of it has washed off.  We made our way south from “Nugget City” just west of Watson Lake and the Cassiar Highway weaved through green forests for seemingly endless miles.  Road conditions were very good considering how infrequently traveled that stretch of road must be, but the shoulders are narrow or nonexistent, the road itself is quite narrow, and there are no pavement markings whatsoever for many many miles.

hwy_37

We had zero cell service for the entire day which made us feel all the more removed from civilization.  And the settlements along Highway 37 are barely blips on the map.  Our first stop was in Dease Lake which had just one all-in-one gas station, grocery store, and small deli.  I had to wait for the cashier to ring up someone’s broccoli and whipped cream before she could activate Pump #2 for me outside to get some fuel.  I indulged in some potato wedges, buffalo chicken nuggets, and a corn dog to scarf down in the car on my way out.  Gas station diet.

dease_flyer

Roads got progressively better the further south we got, and I suspect by now we’ve seen the worst of them.  We are still about 14 hours / 800 miles from Seattle so it’ll be two more days before we drop back into the US of A.  But today’s scenery along the lakes, rivers, and mountains was beautiful despite the wet weather.  Jason and I both got antsy in our cars today.  I caught him taking a run around a rest area this afternoon to get some blood flowing in his legs again.  Tomorrow, we press on to southern British Columbia.  Stay tuned!

Rain (and a bit of snow) as we made our way east from Teslin this morning.

snow2

Fueling up at Nugget City.

nugget_gas

Legal drinking age is 19!

19_drink

Cassiar Mountain Range

mtns

Love the excessive use of quotes on this cork board posting at the Dease Lake gas station.

quotes

Are we there yet?

tyson2

The deli in Dease Lake

dease_deli

More of the Cassiar Range

cassiar_ilx

Taking time to stop and enjoy the flowers.

flowers

Lots of rain means lots of puddles on the roadside.

ilx_cassiar

Stop for fuel and hot cocoa in “Bell II”

bell2

Update:  Jason and I went to find dinner.  Turns out everything in town (all 3-4 restaurants we drove past) were closed, either because they were out of business, closed on Sundays, or closed because it was 9:30 p.m.

But, in the process we stumbled across this awesome one-lane historic bridge!

crossing_hagwilget

It crosses Hagwilget Canyon with the Buckley River.  Beautiful (and rainy!).

hagwilget_2

Nice little side tour to end the evening.

hagwilget

(We ended up getting microwaveable meals from the Chevron to cook at the hotel room, blah!)

Starting the Return Trek: Back in the Yukon

Posted in Alaska, ILX, Road Trip on May 28, 2016 by tysonhugie

Odometer:  168,459

168459

Day Distance & Time:  695 Miles;

695

Overall Trip Distance & Time:  4,761 Miles;  78 hours 31 minutes

4761

No big deal – just a little grizzly bear crossing the road in Haines Junction, Yukon Territory!

ilx_bear

bear

The southbound trek has begun!  And we’re hoping that some of that Alaska mud caked to our cars still remains when we make it back to the Lower 48.  Call it a souvenir.  Today was a back-track day – the only one we’ll be having, since tomorrow morning we head south from Watson Lake on the Cassiar Highway – Highway 37 – through British Columbia.

mountains

After fueling up at Chevron in Fairbanks, Jason and I made our way to the Canadian border under bright blue northern skies this morning.  The Customs representative was a little puzzled when he learned that we were traveling together, yet in separate cars.  It’s something difficult to justify – even to ourselves – but eventually we were sent on our way in Beaver Creek and on down the Alaska Highway in the Yukon, retracing our steps from a few days prior.

destruction_bay_2

Destruction Bay is aptly named – the roads in that stretch of the highway are among the worst we’ve experienced.  We had to wait twice – for 15 minutes each time – for a pilot car to guide us through some very long (and dusty) stretches.  Now that the 3-day holiday weekend is in full force, the RV traffic is starting to ramp up and most of the vehicles we saw coming northbound were touristy looking.

pilot_wait

I made a point to stop in Kluane National Park and Reserve to take a picture at an old log cabin that my dad & I visited in 2006.  Sometime in the last decade, the original highway through that area has been bypassed by a newer version.  The log cabin was visible from the new highway but I found an access road to the old stretch of road and went to the cabin once more.  The padlock on the front door had already been busted free so I let myself inside and wandered around the two rooms.  It was still fully furnished, though in pretty sorry shape.

The cabin in 2006:

cabin

With dad at the cabin:

cabin3

The cabin today:

cabin

Inside:

cabin_inside_2

We dined at the Kluane Park Inn in Haines Junction.  We were the only patrons.  The sight outside the windows was breathtaking.  Freshly-snowed-upon peaks surrounded us.  The menu was surprisingly large and also had a surprisingly Asian flair.  I didn’t want to risk anything too crazy so I went with a cold cut turkey sandwich and a Diet Coke.  It ended up being delicious!

kluane_park_inn

By this time we’d decided we wanted to press on to Teslin again and stay in the log cabins we stayed in on the northbound leg, so I called ahead.  I actually recognized the woman’s voice who answered.  “Is this Jessica?” I asked.  Sure enough, it was her, and she remembered me!  The people in this region are so dang friendly.  Jason and I hauled some butt to get on through Whitehorse and to our final destination for the day, which took us about 3 hours.  It’s of course still very light outside at 11:00 p.m.

Jason has been dutifully blogging about his trip, too.  Check out his version of the story at any time!  Here’s his blog link.

Fueling up at Chevron in Fairbanks

fairbanks_chevron

The Three Bears Outpost in Tok, Alaska. One stop shop for ammo & sporting goods!

3_bears_inside

Three Bears Outpost from outside

3_bears

View from a rest area

lake

More amazing views

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Fitting song for the roller coaster frost heaves after entering the Yukon.

bumpy_ride

kluane_4

Stove inside that cabin I visited

stove

Bedroom in the cabin

cabin_inside

Even an oven mitt still hanging up!

mitten

View of the old road that goes past the cabin, which has since been bypassed

old_road

Peaks in Kluane National Park.  Just can’t get enough of these.

kluane_peaks

Here’s how my car’s back-up camera looks when it’s covered in mud.

ilx_camera

Peaks in Haines Junction, to show Carlos they were just under clouds in my previous picture.

haines_peaks

Passing through Whitehorse

whitehorse_signs

Arrival tonight in Teslin for the night, fueling up.

yukon_motel

Catch ya later!  Hope everyone is having a great weekend!

I Drove to the Arctic Circle!

Posted in Alaska, ILX, Road Trip on May 27, 2016 by tysonhugie

Odometer:  167,763

167763

Day Distance:  391 Miles

arctic_map

tyson_arctic

It’s uncommon for me to get nervous about a road trip.  I’m a pro at this, or at least I think I am.  I’ve dealt with my share of road, weather, and traffic conditions and I’ve put several hundred thousand miles under my belt.  I’ve driven coast to coast multiple times, and now to Alaska twice.  But for some reason, the thought of today’s drive gave me a pit in my stomach and a feeling of uneasiness that I just couldn’t shake.  Maybe it was the fact that many of The Milepost guidebook’s instructions were in red font as a form of warning.

dalton_book_page

This is a direct quote from the book:

Despite recent improvements, the Dalton remains about 75 percent gravel, with tire-puncturing rocks, bumpy washboard, dust in dry weather, slippery mud in wet weather, and dangerous curves.  Services are few and far between.

This is not a road for the unprepared or for the faint of heart.  It’s straight out of an episode of Ice Road Truckers – literally.  The show was filmed there.

I told Jason last night.  “I’m 60% leaning toward starting our long drive home, and 40% leaning toward driving to the Arctic.”  He told me he was 85% for the Arctic.  So, I was swayed.  And we did it.  About a week ago, I was in Tucson, Arizona about 70 miles from the Mexican border.  And today, in the same car, I was so far north of the equator that on one day each year, the sun never goes below the horizon.  And one day each year, the sun never comes above the horizon.

The Arctic Circle is the southernmost latitude in the Northern Hemisphere at which the sun can remain continuously above or below the horizon for twenty-four hours; as a result, at least once each year at any location within the Arctic Circle the sun is visible at local midnight, and at least once it is not visible at local noon.

hilltop_gas

Locals had recommended that we fuel up at a service station called Hilltop in Fox, Alaska about 15 miles north of Fairbanks, so we did that first thing this morning.  Once again it was a “diesel or unleaded” gas decision with no variety of unleadeds to choose from.

We drove another 60 or so miles on the two-lane Elliott Highway toward its junction with the Dalton Highway.  Conditions seemed to get progressively worse.  In some spots, the road had completely caved in.  Road workers have done their best to mark the especially bad areas with orange cones for driver awareness until they can be repaired.  I was apprehensive about our weather, knowing that the cloudy skies meant that we may hit rain and thus be mud-bogging in our sedans.

dalton_sign

Pavement ended at the Dalton / Elliott junction.  The next sign we saw was “All Vehicles Drive with Lights On Next 425 Miles.”  And with that, we were off.  Headed northbound on the road that’s taken lives and obliterated vehicles.  We saw the carcass of a Mitsubishi Galant just a few miles down – crumpled and left by the roadside for some reason.

lights

The road surface was indeed wet and muddy but my meaty Michelin Primacy tires seemed to have a good grip.  More so than Jason’s, who reported from his walkie talkie that his Continentals were feeling a bit squirrely.  In some areas I was able to get up to 55 or even 60 miles per hour on the unpaved portions.  In other areas I had to quickly hit the brakes and pull evasive maneuvers to get around obstacles.  If ever there were a time to have both hands on the wheel while driving, it was on this road.

const2

In the 8 hour round trip, we saw minimal traffic.  Only two other “cars,” in fact – a Chrysler 200 and a Ford Taurus that were surely both rentals.  Everything else was a semi truck or construction related pickup.  At one point I was following a tractor that was doing some grading of the road on a gravel portion. It had left a huge berm in the center of the road.  I had to cross over it and scraped the underneath of my car pretty good.  Luckily it was pretty loose dirt and not gravel or larger rocks.

ilx_grade

In short sections, pavement did resume.  But Jason and I both found that the condition of the pavement was even worse than the condition of the gravel.  Huge frost heaves sent our cars lurching when hit just right.  I managed to forewarn Jason via the radio of a few particularly tricky areas but neither one of us avoided the potholes entirely.  Sometimes all I could do was grip the wheel strongly and grit my teeth.  I kept a close eye on my gauge cluster watching for any losses of tire pressure, just in case.

ft_hamlin_bridge

The countryside was beautiful as we made our way up and down steep 7-8% grades, across narrow bridges, and through various types of terrain.  For most of the drive, the Trans Alaska Oil Pipeline was visible from the road.  The pipeline is why the road exists, after all.  Eventually the clouds parted a bit and we saw a hint of blue sky which was a relief.  Our road sharply descended into a small valley with the Yukon River at the base.

We crossed over the wooden bridge and arrived at Yukon River Camp, a rustic lodge with a restaurant and a single gas pump.  To be on the safe side, Jason and I decided to top off there.  A man named Stephen who was running the store was kind enough to give us some tips and an update on road conditions up ahead.

yukon_camp_outside

Here’s Stephen.  Our gas was $5.49 per gallon.

stephen_yukon_camp

The next 60 miles were more of the same, and by the same I mean amazing scenery, rough roads, and a surreal sense of “Am I really doing this?” as we crept further and further northbound.  Pine trees cleared out and soon the terrain was more barren.  There was still snow on the roadside in various places.  The tundra up there is a rough place for any living thing to survive.  Temperatures can reach 80 below zero during the wintertime.  Somewhere along the way I managed to run over a rabbit that decided to cross the road at a very inopportune time.  Otherwise our wildlife sightings were nil.

arctic_sign

When we finally pulled up to the sign/marker at the official start of the Arctic Circle, I couldn’t believe we’d made it.  We were both a little giddy.  There was of course nobody else for miles around.  We took some celebratory photos and then enjoyed the scenery while having some snacks.  (Thanks Jason for sharing your Lunchables).

tyson_jason

A Ford 15-passenger van pulled up a little while later with 4 visitors from Pittsburgh.  They thought we were insane for having taken our personal vehicles on the Dalton Highway.  Their tour guide was unloading supplies to fix a bite to eat for his clients so I told Jason, “Perfect, we’re just in time for lunch!”  The guide laughed and said, “Yeah, did you bring some?”

tyson_jason_certificates

certificate

On the way back into Fairbanks, we stopped again at Yukon River Camp, but this time to stop in at the one-room log cabin that serves as a visitor center.  It barely opened for the season yesterday.  The worker there, Rob, filled out a certificate for each of us that acknowledged that we had in fact that we had “Crossed into the Land of the Midnight Sun.”  Awesome!  I might just have to hang that in my cube at work!

So it’s back to our cozy motel here in Fairbanks now for one more night before heading back to the Lower 48.

Thanks for coming along!

Pavement ending at the beginning of Dalton Highway

pavement_end

Speed Limit 50, Next 416 Miles

50mph

ILX at the entrance to the highway

ilx_at_dalton

tyson_dalton

Road conditions for part of the drive

road2

Distance marker.  Deadhorse is the end of the highway at the far northern end of Alaska, Prudhoe Bay.

road

Trans-Alaska Oil Pipeline as seen on the roadside parallel to us.

pipeline

Distances!  Getting closer to the Arctic!

arctic_60_miles

Inside of the Yukon Camp.

yukon_camp_interior

Check out this rig!

ford_van

Jason fueling up at Yukon Camp.

jason_gassing

Ouch!

549_gas

Never before has a “You Are Here” arrow sticker had so much meaning!

map2

Sign on the door to the restrooms at Yukon Camp

bathroom_sign

Long (bumpy) road ahead

road_with_ilx

When one of these comes barreling at you, you close your eyes and pray for minimal damage when it peppers you with rocks.

semi

Speaking of rocks, I took a few from the area around the sign because a friend asked me to get him a souvenir.

rocks_for_tj

Tour van arrived just as we were about to leave.  Otherwise we’d had the place to ourselves!

tour

The arctic.

scenery

What do you think of my two-tone ILX?

ilx_arctic

Rob at the Yukon Camp visitor center.

rob_jason

Showing us our way around.

rob

The scenery is very beautiful and the pipeline is very prominent.

yukon_pipeline

Crossing the Yukon River.

crossing_yukon_river

Snow on the roadside.

snow

Hope you enjoyed!  Who wants to detail my car when I get home?

Freestyle Day in Fairbanks, Alaska

Posted in Alaska, ILX on May 26, 2016 by tysonhugie

Day Distance:  Only 40 ish Miles 🙂

What a feeling it was to be able to kick back in a hotel bed this morning and not be hurriedly rushing to get ready and get out on the road for a long day of travel.  Today was our intermission in between hectic to-and-fro drives from the Lower 48 to Alaska.  Here’s a newspaper headline I’m not used to seeing back home.

fairbanks_paper

Once I finally dragged myself outdoors, I was pleased to learn that right next to our hotel was a Denny’s.  But this wasn’t just any Denny’s.  This, my friends, is the “Northernmost Denny’s In the World.”  The sign says so!

northernmost_dennys

The ultimate omelet hit the spot.  Finally some comfort food I’m used to after these crazy days on the road.

ultimate_omelete

While the town of Fairbanks doesn’t have a ton to offer in terms of riveting attractions – it’s largely just a community of friendly hard workers who are here and who make the most of living in a place that’s so rugged and remote – we still enjoyed getting out for a little informal self-guided tour of the community.  Our first stop was not very “Alaska” in nature, but I had to find a Starbucks so I could purchase a souvenir mug for my friend Jon back home in Phoenix.  We found one located inside a supermarket and I did my duty as a tourist by picking one up.

starbucks_2

Just so I could show Jon exactly where I bought him that mug, I took a screen shot of my location:

starbucks

Eight miles north up the Steese Highway from downtown Fairbanks, we visited a section of the Trans-Alaska Oil Pipeline (formely, Alyeska Pipeline).  This massive system of oil-pumping infrastructure stretches 800 miles from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez.  Do any of my readers remember the historic Exxon Valdez oil spill of 1989?  That’s when an oil tanker bound for Long Beach struck a reef and spilled 38 million gallons of crude oil over the next couple of days.  I was very young at the time, but I remember hearing about it.  Oil is very big business up here.

tyson_pipeline

The Mazda and Acura with the oil line in the background.

pipeliune

The next stop was to drop off Jason’s 2004 Mazda for an oil change at Kendall Mazda of Fairbanks.  The service people marveled a bit that Jason’s 6 had traveled all the way from New Mexico over the last 6 days.  I took a minute to wander through the showroom and noticed that every single new car in there had a $495 – $595 add-on to the sticker price which was for “Winterization Package.”  They also all have (as do most vehicles in Fairbanks) plugs dangling out of the front where an extension cord can give power to an engine block heater.

winterization

Can’t they at least make the cord a little less unsightly?

plug

Aside from the block heater, the Winterization Package also includes special coolant that’s good to 60-below zero.  When Jason got the call later in the day that his car was ready, the advisor recommended the package.  Jason respectfully declined since the car is soon going back to the desert with us.  I suppose living in a harsh climate is something not too difficult for me to comprehend.  How would these Alaskans feel if I put them in a sun-baked car in Phoenix in the summertime?  The average high temperature in Fairbanks is a whopping 73 degrees in July.  Brrr.

I felt like taking a peek at the local Honda dealership just for kicks, so we moseyed over there (on the other side of town – which amounted to about 5 miles) while Jason’s car was in the shop.  My ILX, though having driven almost 4,000 miles since its last 0W20 oil change, still tells me its oil life is at 70% so there’s no need for me to have any maintenance done at this time.  The Honda / Toyota / Subaru dealership happened to be right next to a restaurant called The Cookie Jar which came highly recommended by my friend Matt, so I stopped in there for a half-dozen chocolate chip cookies to take home.  They are most delicious!

cookie_jar

One interesting discovery I’ve made is how much time can change a community.  When my dad and I visited here in 2006, we stayed at a rugged yet very cozy place here on Airport Road called the Captain Bartlett Inn.  Formerly known as the King 8 Motel and dating back to who-knows-when, it was renamed Bartlett in 1977.  When we stayed there, it was already a bit run-down.  Here’s a photo of our arrival in the Legend coupe.

BARTLETT_2006

But I didn’t expect it to be completely gone now.  And it is.  Vanished!

bartlett

Yet for some reason my Apple maps on my iPhone still show it there, which was why I’d been confused during the drive-by this morning.

bartlett_on_map

As it turns out, the place was bulldozed in 2009 just 3 years after we stayed there.  The bar area inside the building had $1 bills stapled to the walls.  Before the building was torn down, the bills were collected ($2,100 worth) and donated to a local charity.  Here’s a video I found of the demolition.  The property is currently for sale and has a chain link fence around it.

bartlett_location_2

bartlett_location

We caught a movie at Regal Cinema down the street this afternoon, then dined at The Pump House.  It’s a restaurant on the banks of the Chena River that’s the most “Alaska” of any restaurant in town.

pump_house

A 9-foot-tall bear greets visitors after entering the front door.

grizzly

I went with the Alaskan Salmon (of course!) and it was splendid.

alaskan_salmon

salmon

We are livin’ good!

livengood

This is an example of a “pig” that goes within the oil pipeline to move the oil through.

pigs

For my loyal TSX-owning readers (ahem, Carlos, Conor, Josh):  Here’s an Alaska TSX for you.

tsx_in_alaska

“Rent a Beater” advertisement on a flyer at our hotel.  I want one!

rent_a_beater