Alaska 2003

Thursday, Dezember 25th, 2003
After having breakfast together with Beth and Wolfgang we left. "This time for good." But I still had to pack my bags and I still had to go to the damned cinema. There's no leaving without going to the cinema first. I always get what I want - one way or other. I had exactly one hour to get ready, so we had to hurry. We went to Silverlake, I put all the stuff together. Half of it went into the car, the other half into the dumpster. The weather was horrible, I never saw a weather like this in L.A. It has been raining for almost three days. Like three years ago, when I left Germany, like two years ago, when I left Brazil and like six months ago, when I left Mexico. Good-bye-weather. I hate it.
We went to the cinema - too late again, like always in life - actually I wanted to watch "The las Samurai", now I had to be content with "Paycheck". But it doesn't really matter, which movie you watch or which girl you take with. The law just requires you to go to the cinema with a girl. The weather was perfect: The sky was grey, it was cold and raining. And it became even worse, I never saw so huge raindrops in California.
As we were at the car, we made sure that we were really ready. What was missing? Chains for the wheels... Warm clothes, as they were trapped in the trunk of a friend in Germany, after he experienced some difficulties with icy roads an too many PS. His 500SE endet up at the rail-guard. So I had just two pullovers for Alaska. Food was missing, the watertank I lost in Mexico has still not been replaced, the car-battery is almost dead. Money? Well... too much to die with, too less to live with, but at least we were almost ready. "Come on, let's go, we're done." "Sure?" "No, but who can change it?" We made a left on Highland and got to the 101. A few miles after L.A. the sun came out again. Just for a few hours, as it was 15.15 h when we finally left town, soon it began to get dark.

One hour later...

We had to stop in Paso Robles, as I had to deliver some stuff I sold on eBay a few days ago and there we also had our dinner. At least I had a dinner. Almut doesn't eat at all. We planned to sleep somewhere befor reaching San Francisco. In Santa Something we saw a huge parking from the highway. It looked very good, so we decided to spend the night there. As we finally had figured out the best place to park the car - I was wondering, why all the huge lot was empty - I heard Almut saying: "Oh, there they are, already." Hm, I expected them to come much later, we didn't even have the time to leave the car. The officer came to our car. "Good evening, Sir, how are you doing?", very polite like american police always was. "Well, I don't know, Sir", I answered, awaiting orders. "What were you plan ing to do here?" "Well, I was planning to sleep here, but I guess that won't work anymore." "This is a privat building, didn't you see the cones?" "Yes, I did, but there was enough space between them for me to pass, so I... Well, no problem, I'm leaving." He told me to wait a minute, while they check my papers. "We just have to check if you are on the list of FBI's most-wanted." Then he came back and said: "You are free to go. Have a good night." I'd rather have heared: "You are free to stay", but at least it didn't cost anything. Anyhow - this place would have been perfect. Clean, warm and dry.

Friday, December 26th, 2003
We went back onto the 101 until we reached the suburbs of San Francisco. There we set up camp between a gas station and an IHOP. It was Almuts idea, not to sleep on top of or next to the car. She believed it was better to sleep in the grass - or whatever that was supposed to be. It was 200, I was really tired and just wanted to sleep. After a quick search for my second pullover, I remembered that I left it in Germany. On the way to Alaska with one sweater - that's very manly, but also very stupid. But we would have enough time to course later, now I just wanted to sleep. Lying here in that corner beside the highway among some trash I was feeling like the king of the world again, like I always did when I was on the road. It is good to know that there are still some things, money can't buy.
At 530 I woke up because I thought it was raining. "Almut, get up, it's raining." I stood up and noticed, that it was not the rain, but sprinkler. "Fuck! How to stop that shit?" The water was cold, the air was cold, all my clothes were wet and also all of our sleeping bags. And that slimy sprinkler kept throwing water all over the place. I just kicked it to death, I couldn't help myself. How come nobody saw that? That is such a morronic thing to do, especially if one plans to pass the polar circle. And the temperatures have been dropping constantly.

The most morronic place we've ever found.

I had enough, we packed our wet stuff and hit the road. Shortly before dawn we entered the city. I only knew it from TV, and all I wanted to do anyway, was to cross the world famous Golden Gate Bridge. We had to search for almost two hours and I think the singns in San Francisco must have been made by a brazilian company, as there were no signs at all. And nobody told me, that there were more than one important bridge and that irritated me a lot, because I could see the bridge, but Almut kept sending me into the other direction. We needed some coffee and went to the gas station. "Sorry, can you tell me, where that fucking bridge is?" The corean guy looked at me and asked "Which bridge?" "Which bridge? The fucking Golden Gate Bridge or is there another bridge that is worth seeing?" "Just follow that street, you can't miss it. The road was the 101, we were on it since L.A. and left it for some reason after entering San Francisco.

This photo was a must.

After we finally passed the bridge, which I thought was much longer, we left the 101 and headed towards Sacramento. Almut wanted to see the Capitol, whatever that is. I wasn't feeling very well, as I left the car parked in front of a building belonging to the state. In L.A. I got some trouble because of the tanks and the last thing I needed was to have hundreds of policemen closing the road and taking away my car. It can take days until I get it back and there are not many days left until I have to be out of the country. But nothing happened, Sacramento seemed to be sleeping, all the policecars we saw in front of each entrance were empty and the dew and the dirt on all of them indicated that they haven't been used since at least a few days.

After a self organized sightseeing tour we went back, started the engine, which is the best part of a sightseeing tour, and headed to Carson City. There was another Capitol. Once in a while I got a message from Frank. Wolfgang called to ask if I've bought my return ticket. "Not yet, I'll do that before I leave the country. The most important thing right now is to get close to the border." Time it runs much faster than my old Diesel. But it also runs forever.
On the US50 we saw our first snow. The higest point were 7350 feet, arround 2500 meters. How cute...
We spent the rest of the day in the traffic jam between Sacramento and Carson City. It started snowing, the road were icy and many people left the road to install the chains. We had no chains - and I never needed chains, why should I need them now? At 1900 we reached Carson City. Tha capitol was already closed, but we tried to find a coin-laundry to get our sleepingbags fixed. They were still bitter cold and therefore unusable. And while I was doing that, Almut went to the supermarket and got the stuff we needed for the galley.

Traffic jam. But the scenery was really very romantic.

That's why we had to go all the way from Sacramento to here, we lost one whole day. I told Almut to sleep now, while I wted to catch up some miles for the day. "OK. Will you find the way?", she asked. "Of course I will." More than twenty miles after Carson City I noticed that I was driving exactly into the opposite direction and I got really angry with myself. I went back all the way, asked a taxidriver and found the way back to Sacramento - this time on the Interstate 80. It only took one and a half hours. 15 hours after we left the capitol in Sacramento we were standing there again.

Saturday, December 27th, 2003
I kept driving until 430. We spent the night on a rest area on the I-5 somewhere between Sacramento and Oregon. Almut slept on the front seats, I prefered my plates on top of the car. It was freezing, but Joes sleeping bag did a good job. This sleepingbag was meant to be used in Africa where it is either warm or hot. After he went back from Ivory-Coast to Germany, three years ago, he left it behind and so it became a part of my equipment for the rest of the tour. I don't know, how it is going to be further in the north. But it was the first time my "bed" was frozen in the morning, so I guess we will get some trouble with low temeratures down the road.

At a rest area on the Interstate 5.

I thought, diesel might be cheaper in Oregon. When I first came to California, the first thing I noticed was that the diesel was more expensive than in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, the streets were in worse conditions and the sales-tax was also higher. I was pretty sure that fuel would be cheaper in Oregon. I left enough fuel in the tnak to rech Oregon and we did it. But before we reached the first gas station there that had Diesel, the car announced that it would run out of fuel really soon. I stopped on the shoulder to transfer some corn-oil from the tank on the roof-rack to the main fuel-tank. That corn-oil was arround two years old, still from Brazil. The gas stations that carry diesel are becomming rare, so I decided to fill some of the tanks on top. Just to make sure that the engine will run, no matter what happens. Maybe we don't need it, but I know myself and I remember that once I ran out of fuel 10 kilometers from the finnish border and we had to push the car all the way, until somebody came by and picked up one of us. And I always wait for the next station, because I'm too lazy to stop and when it gets tough, the next petrol-station is ten miles away. So it is better, always to have more Diesel than we need than to need half a gallon and not to be able to get it.
The car was running well, the GPS indicated that the average-speed was 53 miles. My top average speed in Europe was 63 kilometers, I could never do more. That's the prove that the american Highway works better than the german Autobahn and in my opinion the reason for that is, that germans are simply too stupid to drive.
We had breakfast, lunch and dinner on board, so we spent the whole day and half the night on the I-5 drinving through night and rain, listening to the good old Abba-songs and the calm running Diesel. I can't describe that sensation not in german, nor in english, it's not describeable, simply great, see the road, the landscape, whole countries appearing in front of the star on top of the hood, comming closer and passing by, to be free to go wherever we want to go to. I could do that forever. In Salem we hat to leave the Interstate to make a picture of the capitol. Almut wants to see all of them, and we had much more time than we were expecting to have left. And we had to make two more stops to fill the tank. I never made so many miles in one day in any other country, there were always something to slow us down. Travelling in the US is better and easyer than anywhere else. And it is still cheaper than in most of the countries I've been. "Relax, sit back and enjoy", that seems to be the message. Great country! Too bad that they couldn't teach the Germans how to do that, it seems to be so easy.
We didn't notice, that we had already left Oregon. We were in Washington State. That was too fast, we can not cross the border to Canada before Monday, as I still have to buy my ticket and there is another capitol in Olympia, that has to be seen. Seattle was not far anymore and we would have to spend the Sunday somewhere.

Sunday, December 28th, 2003
We left the I-5 at 100 and found a place to stay over night. The only problem was the weather. That's not California anymore and the old problem has returned: You have always to think about the possibility of rain during the night and either use a tent or to be prepared to stuff everything into the car within seconds and get back to the road and drive until it stops raining again. That's why I love the desert. Life is so easy there, just stop wherever, whenever, lay down and sleep knowing, that evreything will be fine. No rain. Here it was different. The weather was unstable, it started raining, then it stopped again. Impossible to sleep that way. I covered myself and half the car with the tarp. I tried that for the first time, never done that before. That's the way it works. It was getting colder and colder. In the morning, Almut got up long before I did, like always. "I've been for a walk, on a winters day. I'd been save and warm, if I was in L.A...." I guess, soon the engine will have to run 24 hours a day. The old leaky battery that I bought in Mexiko for five dollars will hardly make it to Alaska and back.

10 o'clock, time to get up...

We had just a few kilometers to the border left. No border-crossing today, we still need some stuff. Deadline is tomorrow at 2400, that should be enough time. We passed the night near the St. Helens. As it was cloudy and raining, cold and wet, we decided to have a look at the Museum and spent some hours there. As the volcano was more than 30 miles away and as it is currently not working we didn't go there to have a look at. We prefered to go back to the I-5 and have a look at the capitol in Olympia.

The capitol in Olympia / WA. Of course it was closed, like all the others, but this time it was not our f ault.

To have a look at the Capitol was the only thing we had to do there, soon we were sitting in the car again, heading to Seattle. I knew this town from the movies. Well, everybody knows almost all big american cities from the movies. Sometimes it is a little bit strange to see, that they really exist.
At the evening we reached Seattle and started searching Hotspots. While I was talking with Frank I found a Starbucks. But Starbucks use to be too complicated, probably, because it is run by american women. The friendly lady behind the counter told me by accident, that on the opposite Side of the street there was a Tully's. Same thing, but run by AT&T. Less complicated and free - at least today.
The first impression of Seattle was very positive. It seems to be a nice town, altough the weather is kind of german: Cold, but no snow. But at least it is not raining anymore. The whole trunk is wet, I should have fixed that, but there was no need to fix it in California. It doesn't rain down there, unless Almut comes by. As soon as we left LA, the heavy rain stopped, so I heard. We took it with us when we left and now the Benz was marching through the rain, almost night and day. But inside it was safe and warm and we had good music, i.e. "California dreamin'..."
It was early in the evening, when we left the Café. Actually we wanted to go somewhere and have a pizza. But Almut said something about a certain Space Noodle or Needle, not far away from where we were, so we went there to have our dinner there. I saw that thing before, I just don't remeber the name of the movie. Was it Men in Black? I don't know. And it doesn't matter. The elevator took us to the top of the building with 10 mph, almost as fast as our car. That was the most expensive restaurant I've ever been, but also the most impressive one.

Now we've seen the Seattle lights from high upon Space Noodle...

...but the morning in the mountains of Alaska, as Slade sang it, is still missing. The secondary reason of this journey is to change that. Let's see, if it works. On the way to Seattle I saw a rest area, we planned to sleep there but we couldn't find it anymore. We also did not find the camping site and Almut didn't like my idea of sleeping behind one of the big trucks of a road construction area. So we went back to Tacoma. It was the last day in the US and so we checked in at a motel. "Vagabond Motel - Feel at Home", so it says.

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by Markus Besold