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You are in: Norfolk » Features

08 March 2004 1323 GMT
Alaska to Arizona: The ultimate roadtrip

Sarah Turner from Hingham left the UK on Thursday 5 February, to drive 10,000 miles from Alaska to Arizona, raising money for Marie Curie Cancer Care.

Tuesday 2 March

I knew that flag that P&O Nedlloyd sent me would be of use. A full-sized affair it's far too big to fly, but it's great as a curtain across the windscreen when parked in public areas! I folded up the bunk and got ready to hit the road once more.

Picture: Crusing through the Colorado landscape
The red rock typical of Colorado and further south.

Heading south and east for most of the day the landscape was to change quite dramatically. I started the day high on snow covered plateau again flanked by the Rockies. As I headed south the land opened up and the snow decreased.

I picked up the Interstate highway to cross Wyoming, heading due east the land was still fairly high, around 6,000ft or more but pretty much what I'd expected, rolling plains, with some snow.

The winds that Wyoming is renowned for seemed to be absent and I had no problems at all, making good progress. I finally headed south on a scenic highway.

As I crossed the Colorado state boundary the scenery changed again. Suddenly I had all sorts of rock formations and sandstone cliff faces. I found my way into Fort Collins, just outside Denver and stopped for a truck wash.

They definitely seem to have car washes sorted over here, Drive through bays, covered or enclosed with high pressure hot water. Only slight hiccup was that I'd left the passenger window ajar, but as everything that mattered was either in the Peli case except the phone which was inside a waterproof bag it was no problem, I simply wiped the spray off the seat cover.

Now cleaned up once more I headed out to meet Brendan Lally, another Land Cruiser fan with Irish roots. In all a long day, again nearly 500 miles on the clock but uneventful and good weather all the way.

Monday 1 March

It's been a real rollercoaster of a day, and I don't just mean the twisting passes through the mountains. I left camp at around 07.30 and headed south in good weather. I had realised that I should have given the Cruiser an oil change a couple of thousand miles ago, so I headed to Helena where I was sure to find a drive through 'lube' centre.

Picture: Continental Divide on Interstate 15
Continental Divide on Interstate 15.

The weather changed to virtual whiteout at one point, then back to blue sky and the temperature was varied too.

Approaching Helena another Truck threw up a rock which hit full impact in the centre of the passenger view. It hit so hard as to shatter the laminate and send glass splinters flying all over the passenger seat. Thankfully it missed the camera but I now have a golf ball sized hole with cracks running in all directions.

At the moment it is OK but they are sure to spread. Cross your fingers, if they get too bad that will be the end of the drive as I will not find a replacement screen here.

I pulled into the express lube armed with filter and cans of Rock Oil, hoping that they would be happy to do a labour only job, to discover that it was Walmart… now you really can get everything at a supermarket! They guys were very helpful and I was soon on my way again.

She might have had fresh oil but the Cruiser has been unhappy for much of the day, nothing serious but she doesn't like the winter diesel, a mix of petrol and diesel, and the engine is rattling well. Hopefully I can find some better fuel tomorrow.

Picture: Icicles form on the wheels of Sarah's Land Cruiser
Freezing conditions cause icicles to form on the wheel arches.

She is also covered in icicles which catch the wheels of rough roads, a product of the weather, thawing and freezing all day Leaving Helena I headed south on a main interstate for a while. Again the weather changed by the minute, climbing into the mountains I again hit blizzard conditions before decending back into blue sky.

The landscape has been as varied too. Surrounded by mountains at around 5,000ft I found myself once again in arid conditions with barely a sign of snow, then back into rocky passes and then onto miles of plains covered in around four feet of snow.

Finally as I crossed the Idaho - Wyoming border I climbed to 8,500ft on icy roads across the Rockies once more. As darkness fell I passed a motel sign with a very old Land Cruiser parked beneath. But it wasn't accommodation, instead a historic building and home of Dukes Murray. The Land Cruiser was 1968 and restored to its original condition.

I headed south again through Jackson and found an RV park run by Rod and Candy Huskey, they kindly let me park my little truck in a corner for the night… I have mad good progress today, despite the weather, covering 498 miles, I should reach Denver tomorrow.

Sunday 29 February

Picture: Border crossing at Piegan, Montana
Border crossing at Piegan, Montana

I was finally heading for the border. I awoke around four, cold in my sleeping bag, the temperature had dropped to -15C outside, it was probably colder in the car. I pulled my jacket over my bag and dozed off again.

I departed my camp site around eight, headed south to Cochrane and then south on highway 22 towards the border crossing. This lower part of Alberta is semi arid and it seemed strange to have a dry landscape, almost clear of snow with a backdrop of the Rockies to my West.

This is ranching country and it is easy to envisage the early settlers with their wagons encountering the 'natives'. At one stage I passed a wind farm, there must have been around 60 or more turbines but not a breath of wind to turn a single blade. It was considerably further to the border than I had realised and it was early afternoon when I pulled into the remote border crossing at Piegan, Montana.

It had occurred to me a few days earlier that I had not actually checked the regulations, I'd been so busy checking that I complied with everything required to get the car into Canada that I'd forgotten about the US border crossing. As it turned out it was no problem, apart from being the wrong side for the booth.

Picture: The Rockies stretch across the western horizon
The Rockies stretch across the western horizon

I'd had to move east to cross as the preferred crossing right on the edge of the Glacier National Park is closed in winter, but I headed back towards the mountains as soon as I was able.

The road wound its way though the mountains, both it and the railroad following the Flathead river. The snow was piled deep by the roadside, in places it must have been six feet or more, but the land had more colour, the pine was a mix of green and browns and there were several deciduous trees, aspen and another with orange twigs which added to the colours.

I made good progress on clear roads, having covered over 440 miles I found a track off the highway on which I could camp up whilst I still had a little remaining light.

So here I am, about a mile from the road in the forest wondering what creatures I will find. It seems to be mainly deer though I have also seen my first Golden Eagles today.

I estimate that I am about two-thirds of the way down through Montana so should head into Wyoming tomorrow.

Read back through Sarah's roadtrip diary »

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