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Drive to Alaska

by Barbara K. Almy (1233-4668-1323)

Following is the continuation from the last newsletter of the journal that Barbara wrote on her drive to Alaska in 1999. (See introduction in Newsletter 105.)

We drove to the S.S. Klondike II, de-commissioned in 1955. It's a "living" museum. Mom and her sister Haidi took that steamship from Whitehorse, YT to Circle, AK in June of 1946. Mom remembers that it took four days because of having to make several stops to pick up wood to power the steam engine. I took almost a whole roll of pictures of the boat. We took the tour of the restored ship and saw the state room where Mom and Haidi stayed. The tour lasted about an hour because it started raining and guide wanted to keep us dry, rather than taking us upstairs (outside) until it quit. Dad had told the guide that Mom had taken the trip in 1946. He replied that they get people all the time that had done it. Finally, about way through the tour he realized that Mom and Haidi had actually ridden on THAT VERY SHIP (not just one of the many paddlewheel boats that went from Whitehorse to Dawson in that era.) Then he got very interested and wanted to know how authentic their displays (re-creations) were. I.E: the dining room set up, state rooms, etc. After the tour we went into the gift shop to pay the $3.75 for the tour and I bought a T-shirt for the equivalent of $13.70 (US).

We had dinner at The Great Wall Chinese restaurant. It was good, but Canada's idea of Chinese food and ours is much different. At dinner we discussed the option of staying another night and taking the Yukon River Cruise. But that would make Wednesday a grueling day of driving in order to make it to Anchorage by mid-day on Thursday. So that Mom can unwind, wash and set her hair and generally prepare for the "party" on Saturday.

The decision was made to press on and make it to Anchorage on Wednesday as originally planned.

6-1-99*Day 5*392 miles*10 hours 30 minutes

We checked out about 6:00 AM to avoid a "mass check out" by a tour group staying at the motel. It was foggy, but soon lifted to reveal a gorgeous day. I asked Dad to stop the car for me to take a picture of a neat looking old homestead along the side of the road.

We had two separate construction delays for a total of about hour. We stopped at the Kluane (Klu-aun-ee) visitor center for a break. While Mom and Dad were inside using the potty facilities, I was outside finishing my cigarette. I read some literature about the "Yukon Gold Explorer's Passport", a contest that starts today and ends August 31, 1999. The deal is: That a person visits ten designated sites and gets an official stamp at each one for a chance to win the Grand Prize of 5 troy ounces of placer gold, a monthly prize of 1 troy ounce of gold, a silver medallion or a consolation prize of a T-shirt. When I first went inside Mom was signing their guest book. I asked her if she was signing up for the "Passport." She didn't have a clue as to what I was talking about. I took a passport book and then went into the potty myself. I then realized that there was no reason that all three of us couldn't participate in this "Quest." So when I came out I grabbed two more books. Seven of the sites are easily "do-able" and the rest will be if we decide to go home via Dawson City, YT. And that is something we have discussed. It is a place I have always wanted to go ever since I lived in Alaska. Since we picked up the form in Kluane and had already planned to visit one of the sites, The Burwash Museum of Natural History, that was our first stop. It wasn't huge, but it had a very nice collection of stuffed wild animals set in as natural a setting as possible. Dat thought it was the best wildlife museum he had ever seen.

Dad drove all the way from Whitehorse to the border, which we got to about 2:30 PM. The border guard asked how long we had been on the road. And then looked at the three of us and asked "And you're all still speaking to each other?!!

I took over driving and we arrived in Tok, AK about 4:30 PM. We checked the prices at three motels and chose the last one, The Saveway. It cost $55 for me and, with a senior discount, Mom and Dad's room was $54. It was a nice, clean place set well off the main highway. We were so pleased that Dad figures we will stay here on our return trip. We made dinner out of the Edam cheese that I brought, crackers, carrots, cucumbers, celery and Mom's cake for dessert.

6-2-99*Day 6*326 miles*9 hours

We left the motel 6:09 AM and stopped for breakfast at Young's Cafê where I got my first taste of reindeer sausage this trip. Mom picked up a very informative news magazine. Since we weren't in a big hurry we stopped for coffee in Glennallen, AK. We ran into snow mixed with rain on the way. We arrived at Steve's shop about 2:15 PM. Steve called Tina and she was freaked out, having thought we were arriving on Thursday about 6:00 PM. I don't know why she had that set in her mind.

At Tina and Steve's I got busy on the computer e-mailing Dick and Kathryn and Haidi to let them know we arrived safely. And then the Klondike Visitor's Association to find out if the ice is out of the Yukon River and if the Taylor and the Top of the World highways are open.

6-3-99*Day 7

I got a response from the KVA saying that the ice is out and the highways are open and in good condition. I only got one response and that was from a place in Dawson City saying that they are booked up for the night in question.

Mom and I went to Freddie's and Costco. When we got home she and Dad took a nap while I made lasagna for dinner. After dinner we watched the tape of the 1999 iditarod that I had brought with me. All thought it was a good show, hosted by Susan Butcher.

6-4-99*Day 8

I got a response from one more motel in Dawson City. They have rooms, but all are non-smoking. But smoking is permitted on the balcony.

Mom, Dad and I went to the University Center (shopping mall) to check out where Mom is going to have her hair cut tomorrow before the party. We also shopped at Safeway, K-Mart and Costco.

6-5-99*Day 9

I drove Mom to have her hair done at the University Center. While she was getting it done I wandered through Habitat, a large kitchen store, and then a pet store. We came home and got ready for the 50th anniversary party for Bill and Flo Tryck, (Mom's cousin). It was held at Molly and Charlie Tryck's house. It was a beautiful day but I hardly knew anyone.

6-9-99*Day 13

I left with Tina and Steve in his Cadillac about 7:00 PM to head to Sterling for our nights' stay at Joe O'Conner's Big Sky Fish Camp. We arrived about 9:15 PM. Mom and Dad had left Anchorage about 1:15 PM. Our accommodations consisted of a "house" with a kitchen with an apartment sized stove, refrigerator, coffee maker, a bath with shower, 2 bedrooms, each with queen beds and upstairs had 2 twin sized bunk beds. For the cost of $500 (including the guided fishing on the Kenai River) we thought it was a pretty darned good deal. In honor of Tina's upcoming 50th birthday and Steve's birthday a few days earlier than hers, Mom, Dad and I paid for Tina and Steve's trip.

6-10-99*Day 14

We met with Joe at 4:55 AM and drove to "Bing's Landing". We saw two moose along the way. It was mighty cold and windy at 5:30 in the morning. It was gorgeous sunny day, though. We didn't catch any fish (Tina had 3 strikes) but we had fun. Joe is a nice amusing fellow.

After fishing we checked into the King Salmon Motel in Kenai. Tina, Steve and I shared a smoking room for a total of $125.00. Then we went to Fred Meyer. As we left Fred's we saw Kelly Bookey, one of my favorite Kenai UPS drivers. We chatted for a few minutes.

We had a drink in our room and then walked over to the restaurant affiliated with the motel. We all thought dinner was good.

6-11-99*Day 15

Mom woke up not feeling too well and opted out of our fishing trip with Mike Turner, Tina's ex-husband. I think she had gotten too much sun yesterday with Joe. So only Dad and I went. It was again a beautiful day, but without the wind. And again we got skunked. Mike's boat only has room for four clients and he took a buddy along.

To be continued.

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