End: Fairbanks AK.
An early night, 10pm my eyes closed. Still light out, the everlasting twilight would soon creep in, absorbing the detail of the land.
Falling asleep with my phone inches from my face, the screaming of the alarm invaded my dream. An early morning was again for breakfast. Rolling about, I wished to sleep for weeks on end. My pillow, my dim room, the familiar rattle of my ceiling fan. Home, a place I have not seen in months.
My bag packed and loaded into the car, I wandered back into the house to meet Pat and Rita in the kitchen. I joined them for some toast and coffee, having a light conversation before we had to hit the road. Rita needed to be in work today, making our departure early and a long drive ahead. Dirk and I had no problem with the early takeoff, Haines Junction is our stop, one quarter of the way back to Haines. This was the major junction along the Alaskan highway, forking off to Fairbanks or Anchorage. A great spot to find a ride. A spot we will test our luck once more. As we said farewell to Pat and snapped a couple group shots, we were again on the open road.
Following the yellow line with my eyes, I watched the highway stretch into the distance. The mountains, now visible and towering, I finally had the chance to appreciate them without the fog. A picture perfect landscape. Rediscovering sections of the road, I laughed when I recognized the strip we nearly met the herd of elk head on. Noticing numerous tire streaks scaring the road, I realized we were not the only lucky ones.
The watering hole, our stop at the junction. As Rita filled her car, we unloaded our bags. Tossing them to the side, I set up my camera to snap the last shot of the Haines gang. Mad adventuring people, crazies set out to live life and make memories. Hugs and goodbyes, friends that will be remembered. Watching her pull away, all I could think about was the many people that helped us get to where we were. All whome has made this trip so much better. As the dust faded from the road, we turned to grab our bags and walk to the edge of town, thumbs out.
The morning grew hot as we took our shifts on the roadside. Tired and with depression setting in, the hours piled up as we sat waiting for the one vehicle to save us. We just spent our time kicking rocks, the only pass time to keep our sanity. Dirk soon made a trip to a shop nearby and scored a piece of cardboard. I smiled as this became my new task. I scribbled the word Alaska. Big and visible, a timely task for the ball-point pen. With a new ray of hope, we grabbed our packs, our new sign and headed for a new spot. Again we waited, sign up and thumb out.
The afternoon sun was now overhead as I hid underneath the cardboard sign. Looking at my watch then at Dirk, we both new we might not be leaving the junction. Four and a half hours had passed, not one vehicle slowed. Just the common shrug of shoulders and hand gestures from the drivers as they passed. We decided to head back into town, a defeating walk. Into the bar we went.
We spent a good hour, maybe two on the bar searching for ways to get to Alaska. Dirk scanned the web as I sat thinking of were we might have to camp, preparing ourselves for the worst. After a cola and some chips, we decided to head out for one last try. Not expecting much, we took our time across the street, stopping for a bag of cookies from the shop. The same watering hole we started the day off at, we posted up and dropped the bags. These must have been lucky cookies for after we had one each we heard a voice yelp out from behind us. This old 1980’s truck turned in with the window down and a bearded dude hanging out.”Where you heading?” he asked. Alaska, we yelled back, holding up our sign. “Yea, but where in Alaska?” As the excitement started to sink in we fished around for a response only to come up with the town of Tok. He said awesome and we grabbed our bags in a hurry.
Shane was his name. A bearded comrade whome was on his way to Fairbanks from Haines. As he filled up his truck he stated how he was glad to run into us, a long boring drive he was not looking forward to alone. We were equally excited and glad to leave the junction behind. Without even a discussion, Dirk and I tossed our bags in the back, both agreeing we are off to Fairbanks. My stress was non existent, my worries gone.
The ride was long, holding on as the road sent the truck all over the lane. Frost heaves Shane stated. Huge fluctuations in the road caused by the unstable ice that would form under the asphalt during winter. Cracks and sudden hills were marked by orange flags, littered along the highway. A long ride I thought as I tried to grasp my concentration. Looking over at Dirk, his head bobbed, out cold.
Nothing but the wild Yukon was now infront of us. Magnificent mountains and forests as far as the eye can see. The road wrapped rivers and grand lakes of turquoise, reflecting the mountains in the mirror like water. I was in awe, scanning the land and making a mental note of places to return one day. It wasn’t until we stopped for gas in the small border town of Beaver City when I snapped out of this trance. Bellies growling, we all ran into the shop to grab a bite to eat. Out of the kindness of the shop keeper, we gained a meal without spending a penny. Warm chicken pot pies, a home made meal that has been so foreign to us. Smiles on our faces and hunger at bay, we set out once more.
The Alaskan border then gave us excitement as the customs agent began his series of questions. With our American passports in hand, he fished for answers as he suspected us to be hitchhiking. Not saying he was guessing wrong, but he seemed amused with our story and welcomed us to Alaska. With a laugh and the first sighting of a moose, the drive then became serious. The sun setting, moose now posed a danger as they became active. As the largest antelope, hitting one could spell disaster, even in a large truck. Eyes peeled, we scanned the road sides, prepared to slam on the breaks at any moment. So many moose crossed our paths tonight. Black pelts and unpredictable, we were lucky.
We made it into Fairbanks at 1am. The long ride was over as we pulled into a small cabin. So tired, the three of us climbed up stairs and called it a night.