Day 25 – Sunday, July 19 ( Surrey to Golden, BC)

Surrey to Golden

The temperature was quite warm ( 21 C, 70F ) in the morning when I left Surrey, however, it got considerably hotter as I drove east. At one point the temperature reached 37 C ( 99F ).

I left Surrey at 9:30 am and stopped in Langley to attend a church service at the Bethel Mennonite church. On my way, I stopped at a blueberry farm, in order to buy some blueberries for a snack during my trip but they informed me that the smallest amount they sold was a 5 quart basket for $10. 5 quarts was far too much for me because I didn’t have anything to keep them cool and I was afraid that they would just rot in the car. As I was about to leave, the owners, a couple of East Indian men, stopped me and gave me a pint of blueberries. I tried to give them $5 for them but they would not take the money. It was a humbling experience. Below is a picture of the farm where I stopped.

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I found that the church service was quite interesting. The message was about dealing with conflict and that sometimes we just need to “ agree to disagree “. After the service, I continued my journey through the Rocky Mountains towards Calgary.

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I took a route slightly out of the way, towards Kelowna, which is in the Okanagan Valley. One of my aunts lived there until she passed away and I wanted to see the location of her house. The valley is at an elevation of approximately 400 m ( 1300 ft ) and it generally stays warmer than other areas in the Rocky Mountains. It has very fertile land for growing crops and it has a climate that makes it a popular location for retirees. I stopped for a bite to eat and I noticed that there was a humming noise coming from my wheels. I am familiar with this noise, which is slowly getting louder. It appears that I will have to replace a wheel bearing when I get home.

I was continually impressed by the spectacular views. British Columbia is a large province and everywhere you go you are surrounded by mountains with many diverse landscapes.

The Trans Canada Highway was quite busy at this point and it wound it’s way through the mountains, which made it difficult to stop and take pictures, so I just enjoyed the scenery. The traffic was quite slow because it was mainly 1 lane traffic in each direction and the large trucks had a hard time ascending the mountains.

By 8:30 I was near Golden, BC so I decided to find a campsite there for the night. The view from my campsite was spectacular.

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It is a 3 hour drive from Golden to Calgary, where I plan on spending a day to visit with friends and see some of the sights.

Day 22 – 24: Thurs – Sat, July 16 – 18 ( Surrey, BC )

The temperature in Surrey was warm and sunny while I was there.

I spend 3 days visiting with my nephew Tim, his wife Shannon and their 2 children, Warren and Kevin, as well as Shannon’s parents, George and Pauline Leduc.

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I had a wonderful time visiting with them, but it had to come to an end as it was time to start my journey home.

I took time to clean my car, repack everything and have the tires re-balanced.

Day 21 – Wednesday, July 15 ( Prince George to Surrey)

Prince George to Surrey

The temperature was 11 C (52F) and it was raining when I got up. It rained for the first couple of hours as I travelled south but then the rain stopped and the temperature got warmer. By the time I reached Surrey it was 27 C (80F).

I headed south on Highway 97 when I left Prince George and the scenery still consisted of forested mountains and valleys, however, there were many grain and livestock farms along the way.

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After a couple of hours I left the 97 and continued on Highway 1 and the terrain changed to a desert-like atmosphere, with scrub brush and burned grass even though there is a large river running through the mountains.

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The road wound back and forth through the mountains and even though the posted speed limit was 90 to 100 kph in some sections of the road, there were many times when I couldn’t safely drive at that speed.

As I was winding my way through the mountains, I could see a freight train driving along the tracks located near the river’s edge

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After a few hours the terrain changed back to forested mountains and valleys only to give way to the larger cities in the south.

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I arrived at Tim and Shannon’s house in Surrey at 6 pm. We had a wonderful dinner and Shannon’s parents joined us afterwards for a visit.

I will be staying here for a few days before slowly heading back home.

Day 20 – Tuesday, July 14 (Dease to Prince George)

Dease to Prince George

The temperature was 11 C (52F) when I got up and by the time a stopped for the night it was 22 C (72F).

I noticed that it had gotten dark at night and I had left the area of 24 hour daylight.

I had a sound sleep and and I got up refreshed. It had rained during the night but my tent was dry because the campsite owner had allowed me to pitch my tent under the canopy. I started to cook some oatmeal while I packed the tent and bedding in the car. After packing, I finished the oatmeal and left the campsite. I topped up the car with with gas and left for Prince George.

It rained, on an off all day, for short periods of time while I drove south. It would rain for a few minutes and then I would enter an area that was totally dry and then, a little later, it would rain again.

As I drove further south, the scenery was spectacular. The densely forested mountains and valleys were impressive.

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One of the main differences is that the trees were significantly taller in the areas that hadn’t been burned down by a forest fire. Many of the trees were more than 10 m (32 ft) tall, some being much taller.

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There were also a lot of wildflowers and berries of various colours alongside the road that complimented the green of the trees and the shrubs.

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I kept taking pictures even though they couldn’t adequately represent the scenery. It is truly amazing that the eye is naturally capable of focusing everything that it sees and it has a wide peripheral vison. A camera is not as sophisticated but it can give the viewer an idea of the picture that it is portraying.

Unfortunately, I didn’t see any wild animals along the road except for the odd rabbit or squirrel.

When I got close to the west coast of BC, I took Highway 16 south-east towards Prince George where the traffic became busier and the towns got larger and closer together and some of the forest gave way to grain and livestock farms.

When I got to Prince George, I checked into a hotel for the night. Tomorrow, I should be able to drive the 8 hrs to Surrey, where I will be visiting with my nephew Tim, his wife Shannon and their two boys, Warren and Kevin.

Day 19 – Monday, July 13 ( Whitehorse to Dease, BC )

Whitehorse to Dease

The temperature was 13 C (55F) when I got up and it and got as high as 18 C (64F) before cooling back down to 13 C in Dease, BC.

I had planned to get up early, however, I had slept in my car because it appeared like it might rain and I was too lazy on Sunday night to pitch a tent and pump up my air mattress. I slept quite well because I was able to stretch out and I made myself comfortable. When I finally got up, it was 7:30 am and my appointment was for 9 am at the Canadian Tire store.

I started to re-organize the car when I noticed that the passenger front tire was flat. I got out my 12V compressor and started to pump up the tire to see if it would hold pressure. I continued to get things ready to leave while the tire was filling up and I soon noticed that it was holding pressure and starting to inflate. My backup plan was to put on the spare, however, that would take more time than pumping up the tire. I got it to 170 Kpa (25 psi) and then I drove to the Canadian Tire store which was 25 km (16 mi) away, while monitoring the conditions in the car and stopping once to check the tires. I got to the store a little early and explained to the service manager that I needed the tire fixed as well as the oil changed. He told me that it should be finished by 10:30 so I went to have breakfast and write up my blog. I returned at 10:15 and found out that they hadn’t started working on my car because there was only one mechanic available. The other mechanics had called in sick. He told me that it would be ready by 11:30 so I went for a coffee. I returned shortly before lunch and the car was ready.

Low and behold, there was a nail in the flat tire. Dempster highway: 2, Ralf 0. I may have to come back to challenge the Dempster again, but next time I would bring an off-road vehicle like an army jeep or a tank!

With the oil changed and the tires in good condition, I left Whitehorse for my journey to Surrey, BC, near Vancouver, just as the song ” Country Roads, take me home !” was playing on the radio. How appropriate.

I took the Alaska Highway back east and turned south on Highway 37, just west of Watson Lake. I filled up with gas at the intersection because I had been told that the next gas station was 237 km (150 mi) away. I took some pictures of the Alaska Highway, however, it was the same road I had taken to get to Whitehorse, so they were similar pictures.

Highway 37 was in relatively good condition but it was a little rougher and created more tire noise, because it has more stone in it than than most pavement. There were few pot-holes and the first 30 kilometers followed the contour of the rolling hills but after that they had built up the valleys and cut through some of the hills to make the road flatter. Pat had mentioned to me that I would not fall asleep on Highway 37 because there are no flat areas or straight sections for an length of time and she was right. Between keeping an eye on the road and looking for animals that might run on to the road, I was kept wide awake.

The one thing that struck me when I started driving south on Highway 37 was the amount of wildfire damage that had occurred in the area. I drove for about 20 km and all I could see was the burnt remains of the forest that used to be there, however, the brush was already starting to grow back.

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The scenery was spectacular. The road primarily winds through the valleys in-between the mountains, so I was surrounded by mountains all of the time.

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I reached the town of Dease at 9:05, and it was closed, so I drove to the RV center next door and was able to get a campsite for the night. It is a very nice campsite with showers, restrooms and laundry facilities. The owner suggested I put my tent under his large tent next to the pavilion to keep it dry, because it might rain. This was a wonderful turn of events, because I had assumed that I would be sleeping in my car in a rest area or vacant road, somewhere along the way.

I still have 18 hours of driving to get to my destination in Surrey and I will be heading for Prince George. I’ll see what tomorrow will bring.

Day 18 – Sunday, July 12 ( Tok to Whitehorse )

Tok to Whitehorse

It was another cool morning. The temperature was 12 C (54F) when I got up and it got cloudier, cooler ( 10 C ) and it was raining near the Alaskan border, however it warmed up to 18 C (64F) when I got to Whitehorse.

I got up early, because I knew that I would lose and hour as soon as I crossed the Alaskan border.

As I packed up my tent, I noticed that the pressure in my passenger front tire was a little low so I drove to 3 gas stations in the vicinity before I found one that had an air compressor. The tire was down to 172 Kpa (25 psi) and it should be 250 Kpa (36 psi), so I knew that I had a slow leak because I had pumped up the pressure in Dawson before I left and because it had been a little low then. It appears that the Dempster got me again but not as bad this time.

With the tires all at a good pressure, I went for full breakfast at Fast Eddy’s and then headed for Whitehorse at 7 am Alaskan time.

It seems rather repetitive, but the scenery was captivating. I have spent a good deal of my time driving, while keeping an eye out for animals ( especially the big ones that might challenge me to a game of chicken ) while enjoying the scenery and keeping my eyes on the road.

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Even the sight of recent wildfires, were interesting.

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The road condition on the AlaCan (Alaska Canada highway, aka Alaska highway) varied. It was mostly paved, some areas with smooth pavement, some areas (especially in the Yukon) with a rough pavement ( more stone than tar ) and a few areas that were under repair from the heaving of the permafrost. The worst section was a 40 km (25 mi) stretch that was under repair and it had sections that were so bad that I had to slow down to 30 kph ( 20 mph ) while dodging potholes only to find that I had miscalculated and hit a bigger one than the one I was trying to avoid. Between the potholes, the stones catapulted from the tires of other cars, the undulating pavement and the road debris, I am surprised that there wasn’t more damage to my car. I had suspected that I would have some stone chips or a cracked windshield by now and that hasn’t happened. The flat tire on the Dempster was a stoke of luck, although, a bad one. I won’t be surprised if I need new shocks, tires, idler arms, windshield, etc., by the time I get home. It might just be time for a new vehicle by then.

It is interesting that the US Border patrol office and the Canadian office are about 30 km apart. I reached the border after opening time, which is 9 am. The border is only open from 9 am to 9 pm. I’m not sure if that is Yukon time or Alaskan time. There were 3 cars ahead of me and it didn’t move for 20 minutes, so I shut off the engine and worked on a crossword puzzle.
When the line did start to move, it didn’t take long to meet the border patrol agent from St. Catharines that used to work at the Lewiston bridge. A few questions, a couple of funny comments and I was on my way.

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There was a lot of spectacular scenery through the mountains and I took many pictures as often as I could using my stop and dash routine of pulling over, putting on the flashers, unbuckling, taking my camera, turning it on, checking traffic (there was never any when I did this), getting out, taking the pictures I wanted, getting back to the car, putting on my seat belt, turning off the camera, putting it away, checking for traffic (again no traffic), turning off the flashers, turning on my signal and I was on my way again. It had almost become a game. I also took advantage of some pull-offs to take the pictures but the routine was almost them same.

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Unfortunately, none of my pictures do the scenery justice.

It took about 8 hours for the trip and I pulled into the campsite in Whitehorse about 5 pm ( Yukon time ) and called Pat McKenna, who had invited me for dinner and we arranged to meet at her house at 6 pm. Pat has been a great host and I have enjoyed our conversations and her awesome meals. We had a moose stew with garlic mashed potatoes, green beans and a warm onion bun, all of which she had made. We also had an excellent desert cake, covered with fruits and berries, that she had made from scratch.

After dinner and stimulating conversation, I returned to the campsite to wash my car again and do some laundry, in preparation for the next leg of my trip to Surrey, BC.

Day 17 – Saturday, July 11 ( Dawson to Tok, Alaska)

Dawson to Tok

It was a cool day again. It started out at 10 C (50F) and then warmed up to 15 (59F) by the time I reached Tok, Alaska.

When I got up, I packed up my tent and headed into town for breakfast. While I was there a 70-year old gentlemen named Ron Roesler from Kansas joined me and we exchanged stories for a hour while having breakfast. Ron started an online trading company years ago and he is now retired and was heading to Fairbanks, Alaska with his dog, Polo, to go fishing for a week. He had a very interesting background and I enjoyed listening to his stories.

After breakfast, I took the ferry across the Yukon River in order to take the “ Top of the World” highway to Alaska.

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The road is similar to the Dempster highway and the scenery is also spectacular, however, the road is shorter than the Dempster and it is also very lightly travelled.

Along the way I saw this fox who looked like he could use a good meal.

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A little while later, I saw this marmot on the side of the road.

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The “ Top of the World” highway winds around the top of the mountains and there are some sheer drop-offs in several places. It is not for the faint of heart or people with a fear of heights, but the scenery is beautiful.

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The highway takes you through the mountains to the U.S. border, which is at an elevation of approximately 1250 m (4100 ft). At this point the there is another time change. Alaska is 4 hours earlier than Niagara. When it is 8 am in Alaska, it is already noon back home.

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At the border the highway had been recently paved on the U.S. side, up to the cut-off going to Eagle, which is a town at the mouth of the Yukon. From there the road was unpaved again and in a lot of places it was rougher than the previous section of unpaved road.

Shortly after I crossed into the U.S, I met a bicyclist peddling up to the US. border so I stopped to talk with him for a while. He told me that he was from Switzerland and that he was riding to Inuvik and then back down to Watson Lake.

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As the road slowly wound down the mountain sides, I came to the town of Chicken where I stopped for lunch at the Cafe next to the RV Campsite before continuing my trip to Tok. The burger was quite lean and tasty. This big statue is the town symbol.

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While I was at Chicken, I saw this tourist trying his hand at panning for gold.

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The road south from Chicken was mostly paved with a few short sections that were under repair. Although the road was paved, there were sections that were “ undulating “ like rolling waves and driving over it felt like a disney ride constantly going up and down.

I finally reached Tok in the early evening and located a very nice campsite where I set up my tent. There was a fellow at the campsite from Lafayette, Louisiana, who was taking a 6 week vacation to ride his Harley motorcycle to Alaska and the Yukon before heading back home via the west coast. We chatted for quite some time and I enjoyed hearing about his trip, his work and his family. I’ve met a lot of very wonderful and interesting people on this trip, which alone have made this trip an excellent adventure.

Tomorrow I will head back to Whitehorse, where I will get the oil changed in my car and the tires checked before making my way down the heart of British Columbia.