Alaska 2003

Sunday, January 4th, 2003
It became warm outside. Checkout was at 1100, but we preferred to wait until the reception called to kick us out. There is a junction right in Tok, the 1 that leads to Anchorage, the 2 leads to Fairbanks. As we had to drive the entire Alaska Highway, because it would be stupid to leave it, once we were almost at it's end now. I still don't know, why it is called a Highway. It has only one lane in each direction, Highways usually have two. Nevertheless, the second lane is not necessary, as there is too less traffic. Alaska Road would be a better name, like the sister-road in Europe called Arctic Road.
We had to go to Fairbanks and from there back to Anchorage. The Alaska Highway ends there at the so called "Delta Junction". 111 Miles left, we should be there before dusk. The streets were kind of slippery now. I figured out that roads don't get slippery as long as the air is dry and temperatures are low, altough they are icy. But it is dry ice. Now it was becoming wet. We started at 1400 in the "morning", the sun was already about to set again, which doesn't mean that it would became dark very soon. It takes hours until the sun goes down, basically the sun is either rising or setting all day long.

After approximately two hours we reached the Delta Junction. The sun was gone, the sky kind of red. That was the End of the Alaska Highway as well as the End of the Panamerican Highway. We accomplished both of them here, it took a few days for the Alaska-Highway, exactly two years for the Panamericana-Highway. It starts in a nice country, goes through some less nice countrys, also through some horrible ones and ends up in the greatest country of the world. Altough it is easier to start in Alaska and finish in Argentina, I'm glad that we did it this way, Kansas and NASA are right: "Per aspera ad astra". There was also a sign, marking the finish of our routes: The End Of The Alaska Highway - Mile Post 1422. Now Entering The Richardson Highway - Mile Post 266
The little Tourist-Information corner was closed, which makes a lot of sense, as there are no tourists here at this time of the year. The only tourist I saw was Almut and she also saw just one and that was me, I guess.

At the end of the Alaska Highway.

At the Delta-Junction we made a left. One road leads to Anchorage and I don't know where the other one leads to. It probably goes straight to hell or to the North-Pole or it ends in the snow in the middle of nowhere. We kept driving through the night and it became colder again. At the morning it was not as cold as it used to be in the mornings before. The night was clear and very cold. Not as cold as in Watson Lake, but still.

The landscape was amazing, and even more amazing was the sky. We saw some northern lights again, brighter than the las ones we saw in Kanada. It would have been a nice picture from outside, with the Mercedes in one of the corners, but I wasn't feeling like getting off the nice warm car and face the temperatures outside. But step by step I'm getting there, the pictures were better than the ones I made in Haines.

Strange clouds Aurora Borealis I Aurora Borealis II

We were thinking about where to stay over night. We were undecided like californian girls, but the fact that there was no Motel helped us a lot. We parked the car at a rest area, right in front of the Denali National Park, put as many tarps foam mattresses and sleepingbags together as I could find in the trunk and we slept beside the car. Of course I left the engine running all night long.

Monday, January 5th, 2003
It became too cold to sleep in the early morning. Almut was out for a walk, like every single day. She has a mass of stored-up energy and doesn't know how to get rid of it. I mean, what's the point in running arround? We've got a car. I know some better ways to use that energy: She could clean the oil off the engine every day. That would make sense. I just don't like the idea of letting a woman get that close to my car's heart...
The sleeping bags couldn't handle the cold, it was too much. I already experienced some difficulties in staying warm during the night in this thing back in Argentina. But there we had +5°C (41°F), now we had -25°C (-13°F) at least. How should that have worked?

The tempreature inside the car was much pleasant. But I still had to put the sleeping equipment back into the trunk. I don't like to do that even when it is warm, now it was a torture, it seemed to take hours and hours. But at last everything was prepared to take off. That was the first time on this trip, that I got up before the sun came out, it was nine or ten o'clock.

We started the day with Slade:
"I've seen the morning in the mountains of Alaska
I've seen the sunste in the East and in the West..."

This morning alone was worth driving all the way from California to here. No doubt. But we were not finished, yet. We still didn't fulfill the plan, as we haven't been at the Captain Cook. Almut came up with the idea of having a dinner at the Captain Cook. It was two years ago, back in Argentina. We headed towards Anchorage to make this idea come true.

While we were driving through Fairbanks, we saw an Army-Surplus-Store from the road and made some shopping. They als had the Red-Army-Fur-Cap I was looking for, but the price made me change my mind. Swedish-Army-Caps are OK, too. We also had to replenish our supplies, so we had another stop at the SafeWay. There my foot began to thow and started hurting realy badly. God damned German-Army-Boots, no wonder, we lost the war against Russia. Before leaving to Anchorage we found a coin-laundry and while the machines were doing the washing, I wrote some reports.

At the petrolstation I replenished the Diesel and the engine oil. As my hands became very rough because of the cold and neither skin lotion nor Diesel helped, yet, I had to try more effective things, such as 15W40 motor oil.

On the Highway to Anchorage.

In Anchorage it was very warm, not even -15°C (+5°F). "What is that all about?" I am german, so I'm supposed to be complaining all the time. And that's what I did, sitting behind the steering wheel, next to the open window, one arm outside. "That's what they call winter? They must be kidding, it was colder in Mexico..."
The streets were slippery again and the sky was kind of cloudy.

We found the Captain Cook by accident. We parked right in front of it, left the engine running and went in. There was one restaurant, but from our guide we knew that there must be also another one on top of the building. We went into the elevator, but it didn't bring us to the highest level, which was the 20th. The highest one we could get was 18 and that was a construction area. We went back down and asked for how to access the restaurant. "They're closed on Mondays". "What?" "They are closed on Mondays, Sir." "Wait a minute. They can't be closed on monday, without telling me that. I didn't drive thousands of miles to have somebody closing restaurants..."

We had no choice. We made a reservation for the next day and took a seat in the Café, after having a long conversation with Jon, the portier. Afterwards we looked for a Motel to stay over night. It was so warm, that it wasn't really necessary to leave the engine running all night long again. For the first time this year I swiched off the engine for longer than five Minutes, for the first time the engine cooled down completely. I wasn't sure, if it was a good idea. Let's wait and see...

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by Markus Besold