Sunday, November 30, 2008

Day 8 - Boise, Idaho to Jackson, Wyoming

9 Days (8 driving), 3,712 miles, and 16 mountain pass crossings later, I am finally in Jackson, Wyoming.

[ Idaho ]

[ The top of Teton Pass...finally there ]

[ Heading down the pass towards Jackson ]

Dana and I rolled into Jackson this afternoon. Most of the day was similar to yesterday; all major highways until the last 75 or so miles. It was snowing lightly in Teton Pass, but the road was plowed and all went smoothly. Once we hit the top of the pass, we were both full of excitement. There isn't much snow here yet, but I have my hopes up that it will come soon. We met up with our third roomate, Mike and moved into our condo. It is amazing. We are still in shock that it is actually our home for the next five months.

[ We're home! ]

[ Entry way ]

[ Living room ]

[ Upstairs - two queens and a king ]

[ Kitchen ]

[ The family hard at work - Me, Dana, Mike, and the Elk]

The car is very dirty and a little beat up, but it never let me down once. It proves to be very reliable. Both of the fog lights are cracked and one of the headlights, so I have some work to do. I also got a couple of dings in the windshield, but otherwise, all is good. All of these were from rocks getting kicked up by the trucks.

The trip was an amazing experience. I'm looking forward to a winter in Jackson, Wyoming.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Day 7 - Portland, Oregon to Boise, Idaho

It was nice to have a day off from driving yesterday. Somehow I still managed to log 150 miles though. My father and I spent the day exploring Portland. I dropped him off at the airport in the evening and then visited my long time friend, Jason who just moved to the area. I also picked up Dana from the airport last night.

[ Had to put clear tape temporarily over 3 cracked lights ]

[ Exploring Portland ]

[ End of the trip dinner with my father ]

Today Dana and I drove to Boise. It was a long day, especially being the only driver (we were each in our own vehicle). Eastern Oregon is pretty much all desert-like. We saw tumbleweeds, tree farms, dams, and lots of wind turbines. I think that tells you how exciting it was. Dana's car pretty much lost the Mercedes on every long uphill...although it is 23 years younger. It gets a little more frustrating going slow when there is actual traffic. Aside from the hills, it held it's speed surprisingly well.

[ Eastern Oregon is exciting ]

[ Lunch break with Dana ]

[ Dana thought it would be fun to chase the birds ]

We stopped for lunch in Arlington, population 524. It was about 60 degrees out. A HUGE change from the weekend. I think the highlight of our day was stopping at the Pheasent Grill. One of the specials was called "Pheasant Droppings". We didn't go for it.

[ The Pheasent Grill ]

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Day 6 - Squamish, British Columbia to Vancouver, Washington

Happy Thanksgiving!

We woke up in Squamish to the tall mountains towering overhead. It was dark when we came into town last night. We noticed that the lenses on both of my fog lights and one of my headlights have been cracked from kicked up rocks; probably from all the big trucks. After grabbing some coffee, we got on the highway and headed South.

[ Squamish, BC ]

We stopped to take photos at Britannia Beach and then made a quick visit to Horseshoe Bay. It was a small ocean side town with lots of cool little houses and a small boat harbor. There was a little floating police station in the harbor.

[ Headed out to sea ]

[ Boat yard ]

[ Danger ]

[ Taking photos ]

[ Falling apart. I thought this building looked pretty cool ]

[ Old boats ]

[ Horseshoe Bay ]

[ In comes the ferry ]

[ A floating police station ]

We passed through Vancouver, BC and headed onward to the border. We had a little mishap at the border and ended up in the "Nexus" lane. We didn't realize this until we had passed a long line of cars and it was too late to turn around. I guess we were supposed to have a special card and a background check to use this lane. The car was temporarily impounded and we were pulled inside to have a lecture on proper border crossing protocol. Basically, don't get in far right lane. Moral of the story: we still got through faster than if we had been in the correct line.

[ Vancouver, British Columbia ]

[ Entering Seattle ]

Once back in the states, we met up with my college friend Mark who is just started grad school in Seattle. The three of us found a restaurant downtown for Thanksgiving dinner. It was fun to catch up and it was nice to get out and see some of the city. Downtown Seattle was dead.

[ Checking the oil ]

After dinner my father and I continued South to Vancouver, Washington. We are just outside of Portland. Tomorrow we will do a little work on the car and then go exploring. He will be flying home to Alaska tomorrow night and on Saturday I will be meeting Dana to caravan the rest of the way to Jackson. My total trip length is around 2,500 miles now.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Day 5 - Quesnel, British Columbia to Squamish, British Columbia

After yesterday being rather uneventful and boring, we decided to change our drive from the planned route. Instead of going straight South, we decided to take the Sea to Sky highway through the mountains past Whistler and down the Pacific coast. The Sea to Sky highway is a narrow, winding road with hairpin corners and some 14 percent grade climbs and descents. Much of it was without any sort of guardrails or barriers.

[ My father ]

The first couple of hours was pretty boring... all farm fields and rolling hills similar to yesterday. Once we got off the main highway and onto the Sea to Sky Highway, it all got better. It started out climbing through a canyon with huge limestone cliffs.

[ Rolling hills and farmland ]

[ We encountered a hay fire ]

Once through the first pass, we came out into the Fraser River Canyon. This area is wide and open. The semi-desert landscape reminded me of Nevada. We saw a couple of real cowboys driving a herd of horses up the canyon.

[ Entering the Fraser River Canyon ]

[ Scenic. Who would have guessed? ]

[ Are those horses coming up the road? ]

[ There were about 20 total ]

[ Shoulda been a cowboy ]

Eventually we left the Frasier River and started up another mountain pass. There were a number of small single lane wooden bridges that led into a several mile steep, twisty climb. I had to put the car down into second gear to keep any speed. Once over the top, the decent was just as steep as the climb. There were a number of logging roads visible zig-zagging up the mountains. These roads looked steeper and more treacherous than the road we were on. I couldn't imagine taking a logging rig up anything like that.

[ Top of the first big climb ]

[ Duffy Lake log jam ]

[ Trying to catch the sunset ]

Once through the mountains we followed the valley down past Whistler and continued down to Squamish. We stayed at a little Inn that oddly had no phone or clock in the room.

[ Group Shot ]

Adding to Canada's claim to fame list, we passed the World's Largest Skis and the World's Largest Goldpan...again!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

TV Commercial - Canadian Police Chase

I've seen this commercial on TV a couple of times since we've been in Canada. I got a kick out of it.

Day 4 - Fort St. John, British Columbia to Quesnel, British Columbia

We slept in this morning and took our time getting back on the road. Today’s drive was a combination of farmland and mountains. We drove 370 miles today. Overall, today was pretty mellow and very uneventful. I didn’t even take many photos, which is rare for me. There was more traffic, warmer temperatures, and very sloppy roads due to the warm weather. It was in the low 30's. Originally our plan was to stop in Prince George, but we decided to pass through and continue onward to Quesnel.

[ The roads were sloppy ]

So far, Fort St. John had the cheapest diesel we have seen yet. It was more than 60 cents less per liter than in the mountains yesterday. Keep in mind that there are about 4 liters in a gallon! I’ve been keeping pretty good track of my fuel consumption and have found that my car gets an average of just over 26 miles per gallon with the ski box. Not too bad. I’ve been impressed with how reliable it’s been. The only issue I’ve had with the car is getting it started in the cold. It’s pretty sensitive, but as long as it can be plugged in, there are no problems.

[ I liked this wall ]

The first leg of our drive was to Dawson Creek. This town is mile zero of the Alaska Highway. This section of highway was mostly rolling hills with farm land and some oil patches. At one point we had to take a detour due to a rolled semi truck. We saw a minivan with it’s four-ways on going in reverse down a hill (in the same direction as traffic) on the edge of the highway. It was an odd sight…my only guess is that no other gears worked.

[ Mile zero of the Alaska Highway ]

[ An ally in Dawson Creek ]

[ This guy had quite the truck...he didn't look too happy though ]

We ate some lunch and took a quick walk around Dawson Creek before continuing South to Prince George. This part of the trip put us back into the Rockies. It started snowing pretty hard for a short period, but it didn’t last long. We saw another semi that had gone off the road. Once we were through the mountain pass, we were back in clear skies to see the sunset.

[ In the Canadian Rockies once again ]

[ Can't say I'd be happy... ]

[ Clear skies again ]

On a side note, Canada loves taking claim to large objects. So far, we have passed The World's Largest Golf Ball, The World's Largest Gold Pan, The World's Largest Weather Vane, and The World's Largest Glass Beehive...strange right?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Day 3 – Watson Lake, Yukon to Fort St. John, British Columbia

This morning started with another visit to the sign forest. We were able to locate the sign we left 18 years ago. It had been relocated, but was still hanging.

[ The Sign Forest in the morning ]

[ My father pointing at his sign - Medford Lakes Neeta School (Top Sign) ]

We have driven far enough South/East that it was light out for the start of our drive. Today we crossed through the Canadian Rockies. It was definitely the best day of driving we've had yet. The road itself was pretty smooth. The first couple of hours were on unplowed roads, but we were able to keep our speed up and had no problems. The drive reminded me of winter rally racing down logging roads. I couldn’t believe that we were actually on a highway.

[ The Highway ]

[ Plume of Snow ]

[ Chillin' ]

Northern British Colombia is amazing. We were surrounded by evergreens and huge snow covered mountains. We passed some more wild life today including a herd of probably a hundred wood bison, some caribou, a couple foxes, a deer, and a moose.

[ Driving through the Canadian Rockies ]

[ Wood Bison ]

[ Caribou ]

We stopped for lunch at Liard Hot Springs Lodge. We had passed several lodges and gas stations, but it was the first one open in over a hundred miles. The food was great. I had pan-fried perogies with sausage, onions, and bacon pieces. My father had pork chops.

[ We passed many closed lodges and gas stations ]

With less than half a tank of fuel, we decided to fill up before continuing onward. That’s when we learned that the lodge had run out of diesel. The next open town, Fort Nelson, was another 200 miles ahead of us…the last one, just after Watson Lake, was 120 miles behind us. Luckily after making some phone calls, the owner found us a lodge 40 miles South that was closed, but would sell us some diesel if we made it there within the next hour. Due to our time constraint, we didn’t get to go check out the hot springs.

[ Getting robbed at the pump...I converted it to be about $5.25 USD per gallon ]

[ Muncho Lake ]

[ Following the Curves ]

After filling up with outrageously priced diesel, we were able to continue on to Fort Nelson. From there out, the highway was pretty much wide open for the next 230 miles until we reached Fort St. John. There were lots of long straight sections which made driving in the dark much easier than the last couple of nights. The driving lights we installed were well worth the trouble. It was too dark to really see our surroundings, but the stars were bright. We also saw a number of oil rigs burning brightly. There were a lot of steep hills as we neared Fort St. John. I was amazed at how long and steep some of the downhills were. I got the mercedes up to 135 kilometers per hour tonight (About 82mph). With the help of gravity, that's pretty much max speed.

We arrived in St. John at about 10:30, an hour later than we thought due to an unexpected time zone crossing. We drove about 535 miles today making our total trip distance around 1500 miles so far.