Day 1 August 19, 2000

It took all morning to pack and then some. Bj and Dad decided to drive to Coeur d'Alene, Idaho where Bj attends college. Bj made this same trip twice before. He drove out last summer in his new Ford Bronco accompanied by his life-long friend, Eric Jenks. Also on the trip was his Nikiski-based buddy, Maciah Edwards, which was fortunate because the Bronco lost a drive shaft half way across Canada. With a little help from his mechanic-wise friends, Bj was back on the road a day later using a junk yard replacement.

The second trip for Bj was the drive back this spring. With Eric again as his companion, they drove from Idaho to Anchorage in an remarkable time of 48 hours!

Dad's last trip was waaay back in 1964. Shortly after the famous '64 quake, the Jordan family packed into a Plymouth station wagon and cruised all the way to Alabama. I wonder if the highway has changed much in 36 years? I sure hope so!

It was nearly 3PM Saturday afternoon, August 19, 2000, when we finally got started. In the next hour we covered a good 20 miles. That's because we stopped in Eagle River to say goodbye to Bruce and Hazel Arndt, Bj's grandparents. Luckily, Paul and Marilyn Asicksick were visiting as were more relatives, Roger and Roberta Smith. We swapped some stories and stole some cookies and continued on.

But not too far. The next stop was Birchwood to see the Jordan grandparents. They weren't home, but two bags of cookies were. We took 'em.

 


Bjorn and Dad's bumper pose

Jane had followed us out that far. It was at Birchwood we exchanged hugs and kisses and goodbyes. My goodness, she is going to miss her husband!

A cool part of the trip is the fact that we bought an "inverter". It provides 115v power from the cigarette lighter. That cigarette lighter is powering the laptop computer as I type. Typing is a challenge, though. Every bump requires a few corrective back spaces.

Here is an example... now is the time for all good men to vom to theaidc of their cougtry

See what I mean?

Another technological feature of the trip is the digital camera we brought. We plan to take pictures along the way to include with this text. We can charge the batteries from the cigarette lighter. Thanks to Windows 98 and USB, we can also download the pictures to the laptop. Watch for updates of the trip at http://alaskalife.net/sjordan/ (assuming we can upload the pages!) Ed. - 8-24-00 Only pay phones were available to travelers in Canada, so the page was built in Coeur d'Alene.

The first picture taken was of the Matanuska Glacier, about 80 miles north of Anchorage.

After an hour of driving, I asked Bj, "What are we going talk about? We have 2500 miles to go." Bj said, "We'll have plenty of new things to talk about, like the road kill we see!"

The time is 6:46PM. We are at Glenallen. Glenallen is a T intersection. The sign says Valdez to the right... Canada to the left. We turn towards Canada. I'm sure glad Bj knows the way.

We had not gone far when a road sign said - Tok, next right. Like there are other rights to choose from. Anyway, Bj blows right by the turn. I look at him and said, "Bj, you missed the turn!" He looks back and says, confidently, "Yeah, right, Dad. Nice try"

All the years of word games with my son had brought us to this moment. He wasn't about to fall for the oldest, you-missed-the-turn-to-Tok, trick in the world.

"Bj, I'm serious. We should have turned ... unless you want to got to Fairbanks."

He pulled over, turned around. Whew! But I was smiling on the inside. Not because I was right about the turn, but because I finally added some value to the trip. This soon- to-be-21 young man beside me doesn't really need his dad here. But I am happy to be part of this trip.

8:40PM Our first wildlife sighting... momma moose and her calf dining on pond scum or whatever it is at the bottom of this bog. Made me think of dinner.

9:01PM Tok Junction We stopped for gas and chow. Texaco got the gas money (where's the Phillips pump?) and Fast Eddy's Roadside Inn got the VISA slip for a halibut burger (me) and a crispy chicken burger for Bj. Their burgers were huge. Maybe that's why it took "Fast" Eddy so long to make them. Anyway, we ate well and scoped out the clientel (see www.mytrailerpark.com).

We were back on the road and headed for the Canadian border - Port Alcan. It was quite dark and starting to rain.

 

11:36PM Port Alcan The first thing we saw past the border was a series of indoctrination signs. The most important, of course, is the change to the metric system most noted on the speed limit signs. Generally speaking, its on a 5/8 scale. 100 KPH is 63 MPH; 40 KPH is 25 MPH, etc. So, when you see a sign that says 70, you divide 70 by 8 (think quickly now) and then multiply by 5 (45MPH). 45MPH? We can do 70 here! Maybe we'll plead ignorance or poor math skills if we get caught!

So, its nearly midnight (nearly 1AM in the Yukon Territory - we must remember that we are visiting under the grace of the King of Canada and behave ourselves). At the end of town, we see a Westmark Inn. We check in. They have a room. Its $90. "Don't worry", says Bj, "That's only $55 in American money!" (the 5/8 rule). I smile.

The next order of business is to call Jane and tell her we are OK. The room has no phone, or TV for that matter, so we go to the pay phone down the hall. Bj produces a calling card, but it doesn't work. OK, we'll use coins. Bj actually has some Canadian coinage. So I call the operator. The first minute will be $3.00. I have $1.60. The front desk helps us out with change and the call is made. We exchange 3 minutes of news, love and hugs.

Day 2 August 20, 2000

Mileage - 83002

8:38AM Yukon time. We are up, showered, coffeed and on the road. Time to make serious inroads in this foreign country.

There's one thing I quickly realize about Canada. There is sooo much of it!. The road is OK, but there are many patches of loose gravel. The speed limits signs look weird. The construction related signs look different, too. More icons than words. Must be the influence of the French. Well, I have heard there are many French people in Canada. I haven't seen any. Not that I could tell. I listen for clues. You know, French sounding phrases, like "fwah dooo mon doo sacre bleu". That kind of stuff. Maybe it will help me find a French person. There may be other clues. Like these road signs, they are so close to ground, usually just propped up. I conclude that the French must be very short indeed.

 

We stopped at Kluane Lake. The highway follows its shores for 20 miles (excuse me, 32 kilometers). The water is remarkably clear.

10:47AM We are still in Canada. They call this particular place Haines Junction. The road sign says Haines, Alaska RIGHT; Whitehorse, Yukon Territory LEFT. Hmmmm. We consult the atlas. We turn right ... I mean left.

 

12:26PM Whitehorse Now we're in the big city. Bj recommends a place called Boston Pizza. OK, but I am real leery of any place with the initials "BP". Turned out to be an outstanding meal. He had the man-sized lasagna, I the seafood fettuccini. MMmmm. And the best part, there was more than we could eat. The waitress was very friendly (I think she liked Bj) and told us where we could find some outdoor basketball courts. 

So, after lunch, we went down the road a ways and hooped it up. Now we can say we own the courts in this town. Well, Bj does.

 

An hour later we had another treat. Just off to the right of the road, not even 100 feet away appeared a grown black bear. I was shocked. I hadn't seen a wild bear in several years. A few miles later, a red fox bounded onto the highway and almost became part of a Winnebago. Not so wise a move, little red fox. We also saw two porcupines (porcupair?), but they were flat.

4:02PM We're still in Canada. There's lots to go around.

4:10PM We just entered British Columbia. Its still Canada, though. Hmmm... better weather. Still haven't seen any of those Frenchmen.

Roadkill Report: Porcupine #3. All resuscitation attempts were unsuccessful.

8:04PM Yukon Territory time Stopped for gas at Junction 37 just before Watson Lake. We were going to try and figure our gas mileage from the credit card slip until we realized the gas units were in litres. A litre of gas must be 5/8 of a gallon, right?

 



<--- Some parts of the road match my 36 year old memories.

Watson Lake looks like a nice place. The wildest feature was an astounding collection of road signs - I mean thousands of them - all mounted for your viewing pleasure. Looked like you could pay some money and walk around them. We drove on.

Saw some possible French Canadian people. The first one was crossing the highway, kind of hunkered over. At first I thought it was a sasquatch, but then we got closer and decided it may be French. Then there was a couple by the road. The guy was rather goofy looking and sticking out his thumb and the gal was sitting down looking grumpy. Seemed pretty Frenchy, so we took their picture.

The plan is to try and reach Fort Nelson 335 miles (that's a whole pantload of kilometers) from Watson Lake. Should be able to make it by 11PM or so. If we're successful, we'll get a room and try to call home and see what Brett's not been doing.

Roadkill Report: Squirrel #1. Looked like a professional hit.

9:35PM Plan falls short. We decided to stay at the Highland Glen Lodge at Muncho Lake. At first we just wanted a bite to eat, but once we got inside, we just felt too tired. The place is beautiful. We had a sandwich and hit the hay. Of course, we called home before we crashed.

Day 3 - Monday, August 21, 2000

Mileage - 83731

8:11AM We woke to a beautiful day. As soon as we started making tracks, we got stopped for construction. It was OK, though, because we were in a rugged canyon - the scenery was great. We would have missed all this had we pushed on last night.

No shortage of wildlife here. Sheep, goats and elk are all over the roadside, literally. The Stone Mountain area showed us elk at almost every turn. We also spotted some French Canadians, at least we think that what they were.

This is definitely Miata country. The road is twisty and rolling as it winds through the canyon.

The traffic has been surprisingly light. At one stretch we were behind 7 vehicles, but the line dissolved soon. Bj has been very patient with the pace.

 

I developed a new picture taking technique. One simply holds the camera out the window as the car is rolling, press the shutter release and hope for the best. Check out this roadside goat--->


 

10:08AM We are still in Canada. Or Knada, for short. Saw a hawk.

We saw signs written in French warning drivers (probably French drivers) of what happens when Ricky the Ram meets Dodge Ram --->

The sheep we hit didn't make any yellow explosions, though.

We reached Fort Nelson just after 11AM, and spotted a nice basketball court right away. We shot around for 20 minutes. A young lad stopped to watch. I said hi and he said hi. I asked if he was from here and he said yes. I said, we're not. I asked him if he was French Canadian, and he said No! with a snort. I asked him if he liked basketball... and we spent another 20 minutes shooting around. His name is Andrew and he lives for his computer, so he told me. I took his picture with Bj, then gave him a business card so he could look up our website.

After a loading up with a tank of gas, we said "au revoir" to Fort Nelson. Had some interesting spelling there. A business named "Metalic Recovery" and a power plant proudly labeled as a "licenced facility". Its the French influence, I tell you.

4:17PM Feels like we haven't gotten very far. The road has been monotonous and punctuated by construction breaks. Fort St. John (population 15,000 I see in the MilePost) has a 20 minute wait for those heading south. We were about 50th in line. No hoops around here. This is energy company territory - Westcoast Energy to be exact. Plant works and piping everywhere. A long bridge at the town exit - I hold my breath and make a wish... that the air smells better on the other side!

4:54PM We reach Dawson Creek. Bj takes my picture at the Milepost 0 sign signifying the start of the Alaska Highway. We eat at Boston Pizza (because the one in Whitehorse was so good). Bj has a hot ham and cheese sandwich while I sampled the Cajun shrimp fettuccini. 

Once the meal was done, we found the local hoops court. Ha! A far cry from the nice setup at Fort Nelson. The basket was shaky and the court was rough, uneven asphalt. But, hey, hoop is hoop. Bj and I shot around and played a game of horse. Guess who won?


Later, down the highway, a pair of deer (one a speckled fawn) stood by the roadside. Couldn't get the camera up in time. Otherwise, the trip mellowed out. Flattened out.

I thought it might be fun to work on Bj's vocabulary. The first challenging word I thought of (don't ask me why) was flaccid. Eclectic followed that, then diuretic. Try using those three in a sentence! OK, don't.

Thought we'd cruise through Grand Prairie. Not so, not so. The interchange was a little hard to follow as we had to take highway 40 north to go south on 43. Oh, well.

I stick the camera out the window ... French Canadian sighting? You be the judge.

8:27PM We're on the road to Edmonton. Here's the plan. We get to Edmonton about 12:30AM and get a room for the night. In the morning, we check out the world's biggest mall (and maybe buy Jane a present?). Then we head to Calgary. The next big town will be Great Falls, then turn west and head for Coeur d'Alene. Sounds French. Hope to be in Coeur d'Alene by Wednesday sometime.

Roadkill Report: A whole deer. Well, most of it.

Day 4 - Tuesday, August 22, 2000

10:00AM Leaving Edmonton We got into Edmonton around 1AM out time - 3AM local. It took a long time to find a place to sleep. If we wanted to sleep in a grain elevator, a rail car or a warehouse - no problem. We stopped for gas and received some instruction to a hotel farm. Not a real fancy place ... but it was lights out anyway.

After calling home, we went up the street and bought some window cleaner. A little Windex, a little pick axe, and the bug glue was gone. Fortunately, the little buggers were splatting clear as they kissed their glass goodbye. Otherwise we would have been driving blind.

It wasn't easy finding a route out of Edmonton. I had to do some serous navigating while Bj fought through the weekday traffic. It was a little tense. Finally, we emerged on Highway 2 South and began the journey to Calgary. How soon until we get there? I'd like to say 3 hours but our ETA estimates have been too optimistic so far.

This is one long straight road. We pass the time with jokes and imitations. 

This is Bj imitating his younger brother, Brett.

Is it funny, or not? I'm not sure but we laughed pretty hard.

The weather station says its 23 degrees in Edmonton, 22 in Calgary. Strange. Feels like 73 to me. The 5/8 rule says 23c makes it 15f. Hmmm, guess the 5/8 isn't so universal. OK, let's see. 0c is 32f. 100c is 212f. so 100c units = 180f units. OK. It looks like a 9/5 rule. 23/5 is 4.6; x 9 is 40.5. That's still too cold. Oh, yeah. Need to add 32 degrees. 72.5f. Feels right, must be right.

11:53AM AST Man, we have been driving straight south for 121 miles. No curves, but a whole country full of cows. Its a good thing the cows do not get to vote. They must out number the humans 40-1. With cows passing laws, things would change around here. Like the names of these towns. Edmoooton. Cowgary. Whiteholstein. And forget the 4AM milkings. Make it 10AM, bring the coffee and warm up those hands!

The arm extends ... the wind ... the risk ... the shot ... French Canadian?


4:24PM AST We're well south of Calgary. Coming into Calgary was like driving into Bartertown and the Thunderdome. There are big plumes of gas fires outside town. 

Also, we were struck by the contrast in the wide open spaces and the congested subdivisions. The houses looked nice, but they are planted like corn.


We stopped at Subway in Fort McCleod. Didn't stay long. We are pretty quiet. I have a headache and I think Bj is wearying of the drive. Its really monotonous. The road is yardstick straight, just like the horizon. As we near the border, its like all the trees want to stay in Canada. Maybe they're Democrats. (That wasn't nice, but as I said, I have a headache.)

Despite my pounding head, I take a turn at driving. Bj is out (asleep) in minutes. Poor kid has over 2,000 miles under his belt and has done a fine job of driving. I get to make an important turn off to Great Falls. After that, it Highway 200 dead west. In fact, its absolutely dead west. Two lane road. Through little hamlets that can't have more than a couple families. Each has a drastic reduction in speed limits posted just outside of town. I respect those.

Roadkill Report Rabbit #1: Was a rabbit. We saw him cross the road in front of the truck ahead of us. Did he make it? Nope. He came shooting out the split between the double right rear tires like processed meat. Hare razing experience.

Roadkill Report Rabbit #2: Moments later, another rabbit dashes in front of the Bronco. We wait. No thump. He must have ducked, tucked and rolled just like they teach in lucky bunny school.

Just after Lincoln, Montana, Bj is back behind the wheel. Soon we are in Missoula. Bj spots an outdoor court that's lit by nearby light poles. Game on. I lose at HORSE, but get Bj as far as R. My left handed drive where I pass the ball under my right leg and shoot left handed finally went in. Tore him up. But, I still lost. Won the free throw contest, though, my ONLY victory of the trip. We leave tired, but in a better mood. In contrast to Edmonton, the route to the hotels is well organized. We sleep well after calling home. Except I woke at 4AM, my headache worse than ever. Four aspirin, four hours of sleep, all better.

Day 5 Wednesday, August 23, 2000

Mileage is 85251.

10:17AM AST We feel much better. Stayed at the Thunderbird in Missoula. We tried The Holiday Inn. They were full up. Firefighters. There were several fire trucks and state vehicles in the lot. The Thunderbird, tastefully lighted in blue neon, turned out to be clean and well-appointed. Cable TV, pool, shower without the water saver nozzle ... We slept hard except for when the trains came by and each sounded the whistle four times as they passed through.

The first thing I did this morning was take a walk. It was nice to escape the sense of urgency felt so far in the trip. Coeur d'Alene is only 157 miles away. A walk in the park. Bj switched on the cable and Naked Prey was showing. I'd just mentioned the movie to him before we left as a remarkable film of survival that I had seen when I was about his age. It was nice to see him relaxed enough to watch something.

Anyway... as I was about to discuss, I went for a walk. Missoula is a pretty town, at least at this end. I stopped in an ACE Hardware store and bought Bj some wipers, and oil treatment for the Bronco. For me, I bought an adapter to make it easier to use my laptop in the car and an Exacto blade to use removing my stitches.

Stitches? That's right, I haven't mentioned my stitches. A week before we left, I was at my parents place, following our fine family tradition of playing whiffle ball. The favorite bat is an aluminum pipe. Over time, as frustrated batters pounded the end into the soil, the tip became jagged, the protective plastic endcap long gone. My nephew, God rest his soul, swung at a ball and the bat slipped from his grasp. End over end it flew until it connected with my face which was hovering over third base. The bat punctured my cheek and raked my gums just above my teeth. The stitches I mentioned were installed at the emergency room later that evening. I left two of them in for this trip because they were holding the deepest part of the laceration together. I'll get that last stitch out today, but not while we're driving!"

Back to the trip. It's now 11:12AM AST and were are about 100 miles out of Coeur d'Alene. There is quite a pall of smoke. Visibility is about a half mile. We saw some fire last night. Soon after, a string of fire trucks came by. Pall is the fourth vocabulary word for Bj. Added turgid after that. Now we have eclectic, flaccid, diuretic, pall and turgid. Sentence, please?

Once we reach our destination, I plan to get a room to use as home base until Bj finds an apartment. Once I have a home, I can upload this missive so you all can read it. Lots of pictures, eh?

1:12PM AST At last we are here!  If nothing else, I have learned to spell Coeur d'Alene correctly. What a beautiful town. It reminds me a lot of Lake Tahoe. The lake is really big, and its edges are made up of fjiord-like intrusions into the mountains in the area.

Bj takes me on a tour. We see his last residence, the house where Lynn Alexander (a softball friend of mine who helped Bj get started last year) lives, the Schlotske's Restaurant that Lynn manages (and owns) and then a drive through the Northern Idaho College campus. After getting Bj's parking permit, student ID and Financial Aid chores done, we check out the  college baseball field. It is absolutely beautiful. Can I go back to school now?

We check in to the Coeur d'Alene Inn. Very nice. We'll here until we find him and his roomies a place to rent.

7:17PM AST We go to the moving picture show! The Cell. My mind or yours? Too bad one of the characters is really sick and twisted. Some grody stuff, that's for sure.

9:42PM AST Dinner at Red Lobster. Great service, but... they offered me a larger New York cut for just a little more. I said yes. I trimmed fat. Bj's seafood pasta was pretty good, though.

Day 6 Thursday, August 24, 2000

The family next door (must've had 10, maybe 12 kids) in our hotel was up and going at 8AM. I went for a walk (temp 73f) and found a grocery store called Tidyman's. They had a expresso bar, thank goodness. After that, I got Bj going on his apartment hunt. 12 places picked so far, now its time to call for appointments.

Today I want to take some pictures around campus. Hope to post results.

Day 7 Friday, August 25, 2000

We played some hoop today. Some college guys asked us into a scrimmage. Bj and I were the smallest players and I was the oldest, doubling the age of any of them. But, we did fine. Bj can play with anybody.

The courts here are beautiful. They're surrounded by large trees and the lake is just a short jog away.

Day 8 Saturday, August 27, 2000

Today's highlight was closing on Bj's rental. Papers were signed, keys exchanged and rules discussed. 

After that, I asked for a visit to the Coeur d'Alene Casino which is about 25 minutes south towards Moscow. Bj dropped me off for about three hours while he moved his stuff into the new place. There were no table games. There was bingo, keno, horse race bets. And, about 300 slot machines. The slots didn't have the familiar video poker and traditional games, rather there were several variations of one game. The one game was three lines of symbols. For each bet, you get an additional straight line. So, there were three horizontal possibilities, three vertical and two diagonal. I played that for a while then went to a keno style game where you choose 6 of 25 possible numbers. I chose my favorite softball uniform numbers and on another card my favorite basketball numbers. Badda bing, badda boom! $82.50! And that wasn't the end of it. I felt so flush I went and bought Jane some gold earrings and sat down to play some more. When I looked up, the bag with the earrings was gone. Major bummer.

Day 9 Sunday, August 27, 2000

I'm in the Spokane airport awaiting the arrival of my plane and the departure of flight 488. But... the flight is delayed. Departure has been bumped from 5:30PM to 6:30. And now ... 7:30PM. That means I have time to finish this page. I found a seat near an electrical outlet, so I am good to go for now, except I'm really looking forward to getting home!

Bj was kind enough to drive me here. Road construction slowed our 32 mile drive to 50 minutes. We had a Coke, sat around, then finally said goodbye. No sense in him sitting around waiting for me to leave. He has a new home to spruce up! Here's a couple pictures of the place he will be renting until May.
 

The place is about 1000 square feet with 3 bedrooms and one full bath. It lacks a washer and dryer, but so did every place we checked out. The garage is huge, two trucks will fit easily. The ceiling is about 10' high. Also, there was a large box stuffed with old Playboy magazines in the corner of the garage!

Final Note

The plane didn't show up. Nearly stuck overnight in Spokane. There was a call for volunteers to give up seats on the following flight. Another call. I was the last one to get on the plane. The last seat available was in First Class. Darn! Some folks spent the night in Spokane. Whew! Despite the delay, I made my connecting flight to Anchorage. I am so glad to be home even though I really enjoyed this trip.