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Whitehorse and Beyond

July 31, 2013

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345Canada – Day 4 of drive to Alaska – Sunday, July 21

From the looks of the campground parking lot, it looked as if it must have been gently raining nearly all night – there was a thin layer of water on top of the mud everywhere – it looked really slick and messy. I was grateful to have a picnic table to put my bins on while I rearranged things to pack up, and there was nothing I could do about Tula’s feet (or mine for that matter!) – we got a little muddy!

I had about 170 miles to drive to Whitehorse, which looked like a major town in the Yukon. I was going to get the oil changed there, or would have to hang out there if no one could do it on a Sunday – with another 400 miles after Whitehorse of no civilization, I couldn’t take any chances. So we started the muddy drive to Whitehorse. The highway was still kind of rough in places, and all the rain didn’t help. But, the rain finally did let up and things were clearing up. We stopped at a rest area about halfway to Whitehorse, and I saw something that at first glance looked like a garbage truck. But I looked more closely and realized it was one of the strangest RVs I’ve seen – kind of a cross between a garbage truck and a tank! It looked like it could go anywhere. I was walking Tula when I saw an older lady walking toward it, so I asked her if I could take a picture of their vehicle. It turns out she and her husband are German, and they had this rig shipped from Hamburg, Germany to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and they had driven across all the Canadian provinces (something I would enjoy doing – haha!), and were now headed for Alaska. After that visit they were planning to head to the ‘lower 48’ and during the winter months would go to Mexico…or maybe South America! They’re on quite a journey!

I continued along my way, and on the outskirts of Whitehorse, I nearly hit a bear! It walked very purposefully (big strides) right into the road – there was no one in the oncoming lane, so I swerved around the back side of the bear since it looked like it was ready to walk right into my car, and then it stopped dead in the middle of the road to scratch its ear, and I almost hit its hind end! But, no damage done – I did not want to be the third member of my family to hit a bear (son-in-law Josh and sister-in-law Mickey have both hit bears that walked right into them!) After that near-miss, I stopped at the very nice visitor center (they told me it’s not uncommon for bears to scavenge through subdivisions for garbage), and asked about oil-change possibilities on a Sunday. She told me the 2 places that do oil changes and other auto repairs are closed until tomorrow, and definitely recommended I stay put in Whitehorse and not take a chance venturing into the wilderness. And I agreed with her – my first thought was disappointment to have to “waste” a whole afternoon and evening, but at least it looked like a good place to have to kill time. But, I had noticed a Wal-Mart on the map that she gave me, and I headed over there because I know they sometimes have auto repair facilities. And, I was in luck! They could change my oil – I would just have to wait an hour and a half or so while they took care of people ahead of me. And that was fine by me. I shopped a little to replenish some groceries, and walked Tula and had a bite to eat. Tula came into the waiting area in Wal-Mart with me, and laid by my feet while I read – I cannot remember the last time I read in the middle of the afternoon! Lots of people wanted to pet her, and said what a well-behaved dog she is.

And then I was very happy to be on my way again. I put on another 300 miles or so – listening to CNN and all the media coverage of the royal baby (although reception went in and out), and it was a pretty drive through the huge outdoors – mountains, rivers, and so much space and hardly any vehicles. It tends to make one feel very small and insignificant! I passed a tiny Catholic church that was started in 1954 (by the first Catholic priest in the area) – they didn’t have much money so simply converted an old Quonset hut used during the construction of the Alaska Highway and turned it into a much-photographed church. It was getting to be time to think about stopping somewhere for the night, and all of a sudden I came upon a very green grassy campground – a welcome sight after all the mud. They had campsites available, and I was really happy to settle into a non-muddy place. It was a very self-sufficient place – the owners live right there in a pretty cabin, where the office, and shower/bathroom facilites also are located, and there’s a generator shed to provide all their power, and a grassy airstrip, and a helicopter(!) and countless moose antlers on the roof. Everything was pretty and wood-paneled inside. It was fun to wander around a little after I got set up. It started to rain again after our little walk around, but by then it didn’t matter, and I enjoyed another night being lulled to sleep by the rain on the roof of the van.

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