Here we go! I'm currently blogging from inside my toasty warm little metal box of an oasis stationed, for the time being, in Haines, Alaska. It was quite the experience not having web or phone for a few days. Refreshing actually. I didn't have radio either (I thought I fixed the radio, but the speakers, or some sort of wiring is not working well making the stereo awful and scratchy to listen to), so the past three days of driving have been just me and my thoughts with a background of engine and road noise. I didn't mind it, though. I think we sometimes get caught up in thinking that we have to have music running in the background all the time when we drive, but I imagined all the people who traveled across the country and to Alaska before the radio/CDs/mp3 players existed. They just traveled along with their thoughts. It really wasn't bad at all and now that I'm used to it, I kind of like it. Plus, I like being able to hear the noises that the Brave is making. Make sure it's running well.
Trying to boil down the last few days is going to be difficult... also, lots of pictures. Sorry for the massive dump of pictures. There are hundreds, and this is just a few! Of course many of them are just me taking pictures of beautiful landscapes out the front window, so I'll spare you those ones... for the most part.
I left on Monday morning after some quick troubleshooting on the fridge (thank goodness it was only a blown fuse. It is working perfectly now!). I headed out of town and cruised along without any trouble, stopping in Palmer for gas. Little Bit is a perfect companion. She lays right next to me with her head on my knee, or beneath the driver's side dash by the steering column.
About 26 miles from Glennallen, the most godawful noise abruptly erupted from my engine compartment, accompanied by my power steering going out. So I immediately pulled over, opened up my engine hatch and looked in. There it was- my power steering pump had just snapped off. Go figure. So I called my Dad: "Hey Dad, guess where I am." "Where?" "Laying underneath my Winnebago... the power steering broke." I decided to lash the broken part out of the way of the rest of the engine's moving parts (thank God for zip-ties!), and continue on to Glennallen where I guessed there were probably some mechanics and other fixing-broken-engine-parts type places. I got on the road and called my Dad to let him know that it drove fine sans-power-steering, and near the end of our conversation he says, "You should turn at your next available left" ... which confused me- how did he know what was at my next left? Did he mean in Glennallen? Huh? And then I saw it- there was my Dad, phone to ear, standing on the side of the road. To my immediate left: the Tazlina airstrip and his red Cessna 180 parked right there. I couldn't believe it! I was totally baffled at first. How-what-when?! I thought I'd gone through some sort of time warp. How did I just tell him that I was broken down, and then three miles down the road there he is? Turns out he was flying around following me. Taking pictures of me (see picture #3 on this post- he took it), landing here and there, conniving a way to intercept me. He had landed in Tazlina and was waiting for me to pass by when I called him about the power steering. Crazy. I broke down three or so miles away from where he landed, and he had no idea I had pulled over with engine trouble!
So we called a welder in Glennallen who said he could probably fix it. The bracket which held on the power steering pump had just broken in half. 3/4 inch solid metal! Just broke. Whatever. Dad got in the plane and headed to Glennallen, about 26 miles away, and I drove off in the same direction. He got there well before me and called a nurse from his unit who lived in Glennallen and had a hands-on type of husband. She told us to come on down, and that her neighbor was actually a welder. The same welder we had called from Tazlina! Unbelievable. I picked Dad up from the Glennallen airstrip and we drove to her house where they helped us get the bracket off the engine, fed us a delicious dinner and took us to the neighbor to have him weld together the silly bracket. The bracket had to cool after being welded, so it couldn't be installed until the next morning. I took my Dad back to the airstrip for the final-final goodbye and he sailed off into the setting sun.
I spent the night in their driveway hooked up to their power via extension cord. The next morning she fed me coffee and a cinnamon roll (!) and I got to installing the fixed bracket and reconnecting the belt to the power steering pump. It went in like a dream and I said goodbye to them, eternally grateful for their incredible help and hospitality.
I drove up through Tok and on to the border, stopping for a lunch of canned pears at a rest stop overlooking a gorgeous vista. Gas again at Border City (haha, "city), before the long haul down to Kluane Lake in Yukon Territory, where I planned on spending the night.
Here's the little brave, 421 miles from home at the Alaska/Canada border. This is one of my favorite places on the AlCan for some reason. I mean, it's not very triumphant for me since I'm only leaving Alaska, I haven't driven a thousand miles to get there, but still, I love taking a picture by the sign. The Brave wanted to be in the picture too. I obliged.
LB and I on opposite sides of the border. We're so international.
I didn't take many more pictures that day. The roads in the Yukon are pretty awful, so I had to spend my time dodging potholes and what I like to refer to as "road mountains" (seriously, that's what the signs look like when they warn you of them- I should've gotten a picture of the "road mountains ahead" sign). Frost heaves are not my friend. Whenever a stretch of brand new highway found its way beneath my tires I sighed a huge sigh of relief. New asphalt is Winnebago porn. I would trade my first born for brand new pavement for the rest of the trip. I'm only kidding, but seriously... that's how much I love the buttery smooth feeling of my tires skimming along new asphalt. It feels like flying. You can't hear the road, just the engine. It's amazing. I could go on and on, but I'll save you all my gushing about something as inane as pavement.