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27 February 2004 1105 GMT
Alaska to Arizona: The ultimate roadtrip

Sarah Turner will spend six weeks driving 10,000 miles from Alaska to Arizona, raising money for Marie Curie Cancer Care.

Tuesday 24 February:

I was pleased to depart Grand Prairie. Don't get me wrong I had to pass through and I had once again had great hospitality, set up by Jen in Fort Nelson. I had stayed with her mother in a lovely house but I'm not s city person and longed to be back in the mountains.

I headed south towards Hinton and highway 40 the forest trunk road. This is fast highway to Hinton and then becomes a wonderful gravel road that winds through the foothills. But it was not to be a good start to the day.

Picture: Time to change a tyre
Leaking wheels plagued the day, but Kaltire came to Sarah's rescue. See Sarah's latest roadtrip pictures.

One of the wheel rims split open and the tyre started to loose air.

With no where much good to change it, I limped it to Hinton and called into Kaltire. They were great, very helpful and swapped the spare on (which is also leaking but not so badly) free of charge.

Not that I can't do it myself, but it did save me getting absolutely filthy by the roadside as the whole truck is covered in a layer of mud.

Meanwhile I'd put a call in to Hutchinson Defence, they make the most incredible wheels and had pledged me a set before I left, but they have to make them specially and their military orders were such that this got delayed. They did everything they could to find me something but to no avail. But all is not lost, a contact in Calgary should be able to help me out tomorrow.

Heading out of Hinton I perked up. The road was great, winding through the hills with great views across to the big peaks. I had chosen this road over the tourist route, down the Icefields right through the mountains, because of its remoteness. The Icefields Parkway is beautiful but I drove it on my last visit and decided to take a look at the other side.

It is quite different, this is logging and mining country and I passed huge open mines. The road twists and turns for mile after mile, climbing and falling between creeks we reached over 5,200 feet.

Picture: Foothills Forest
Colours of the Foothills Forest in contrast with the snow.

The colours were bolder than before, with purples and browns adding to the snow, pine and aspen. The road itself is hard work. The logging trucks leave corrugations that test the suspension to its limits and throw you around.

I learnt on my last trip just how much they can throw the Cruiser. Having nearly rolled it back then I was wary this time and drove each corner with care. I had also ensured that the electronics were secure in their Peli Case for protection and that everything else was strapped down firmly to save damage and injury should something get loose.

Tonight I stop half way down at Rocky Mountain House. Tomorrow I should make Calgary.

Monday 23 February:

Having enjoyed the hospitality and company of Jen and Dean Trydal in Fort Nelson it was lunchtime before I departed south. They are both Land Cruiser Fans and I admired Jen's 'engagement ring' - a 40 series Land Cruiser that Dean had fully restored, nestling in the snow.

Picture: Jen Trydal and her baby Skye
Jen Trydal and her baby Skye. See Sarah's latest roadtrip pictures.

There is a very strong Land Cruiser following in the US and Canada and it's via the clubs that I have so many contacts along the route.

The plan was to hit Grand Prairie, just south of Dawson Creek at the end of the Alaskan Highway. This would be a fairly fast, but boring drive, across the Alberta province border and down through open country. An area that has grown up around the oil and gas industry the road was busy with the associated trucks and pickups all the way south.

An uneventful drive, one of the legs that has to be done, but not one to admire the scenery. Having said that the gorge at Taylor is quite impressive and the red and white pipeline spanning the river makes a bold contrast to the surroundings.

Grand Prairie itself is now a sprawling industrial town and as I approached it in the dark it seemed to span the horizon.

Tomorrow I head south once more but should be able to pick up a forestry road that will take me almost to the US border.

Saturday 21 February:

I departed Dawson City just before daybreak, heading back down the Klondike Highway to Whitehorse. Following a very close encounter with a moose on my way in yesterday, I was scanning the banks for any signs of animals.

Picture: Five Finger Rapids
Five Finger Rapids, viewed from the Klondike Highway.

The temperature as I left Dawson was around -20C but it was definitely warming up and by the time I reached Whitehorse at around 2.30pm it was a balmy +6C.

The drive was pretty much uneventful. A bobcat wandered across the road ahead but by the time I'd 'woken up' the camera he was gone. I saw tracks of elk and moose but encountered neither. As I got further south a strong crosswind picked up and the truck was buffeted around, but unlike the Dempster there was no snow being blown across the road so it wasn't too bad. The road was thawing fast which made it harder to drive as it was now patchy ice and spray.

By the time I reached Whitehorse the Cruiser was once again covered in mud. Fuelling up I bumped straight back into Marco who asked me to join him for coffee, he should have been in Vancouver collecting a Land Cruiser he'd imported from Japan but it was delayed, the customs clearances not done.

Picture: Teslin Bridge
Teslin Bridge. See Sarah's latest roadtrip pictures.

Continuing south and east along the Alaskan Highway I was aiming for Teslin, about 100 miles from Whitehorse. Here I knew there was a motel where I hoped I could park up for the night, even though the RV park section would be shut.

The light started to go and with headlights covered in mud and then one of my driving lamps packing up visibility was less than good so I was glad to arrive safely, it is at dusk you are most at risk of hitting wildlife.

I pulled in and was greeted by the owner, who was very happy for me to use the car park for the night. A lovely site, a log cabin with motel and services and a 'wildlife museum' in a separate building.

I topped up with fuel and investigated the faulty light, it had simply become disconnected on the rough roads so that was easy. I also noticed that one of my headlights must have taken a stone and was smashed, but the tape I had covered them with had kept it together and it was still working. The lack of vision was due to the dirt which I shall address in the morning.

On the plus side the oil leak that was very bad after the day in Inuvik seems to have gone, I was warned that in the cold fluids tend to pump themselves out of any and everywhere so I guess it must have been pumping out of the breather and not the seal that I thought had gone again, so I shall do nothing for the moment other than top the level up.

I'm now parked up right beside the bridge, the longest span on the Alaskan Highway and one of my favourite manmade landmarks along the route. It is a wonderfully clear night, I've never seen so many stars in my life, no light pollution to mask them, and even I can make out the constellations, something I am very bad at.

Read back through Sarah's roadtrip diary »

Back to roadtrip index

 

 


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