Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Alaska Trip Day 14: Fairbanks to Whitehorse

I've already written a summary about the five-day, Fairbanks-to-Durham drive; that post immediately follows this one. ("Follow" in the temporal sense, not in the blog sense, meaning it'll physically appear above this post on the blog.) Beyond that, I'm just going to post a few pictures and other random thoughts from the drive home, complain about passing through U.S. Customs, and I'll be done recapping the Alaska trip.

Let's start with the first day of the long drive home...

Alaska Trip Day 14 (Wed Jul 7): 588 miles, 10 hr 39 min

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Today's drive was intentionally left "short" (by our standards) to give us time to do stuff in Whitehorse. I'll get to Whitehorse later. But first, we have to get back to the Alaska Highway.

Officially, the Alaska Highway ends not in Fairbanks, but at the Richardson Highway in Delta Junction. This is the commemorative 1,422nd milepost. Alaska actually does label its portion of the Alaska Highway with mile markers in the thousands, referencing the start of the Alaska Highway in Dawson Creek. This has to be the first time I've ever seen mile markers in the thousands. Yukon has kilometre posts also referencing Dawson Creek, and also in the thousands; British Columbia doesn't really have formal kilometre posts at all.

We skipped a couple of chunks of the Alaska Highway on our way up, but on the return trip, we'd finish the Alaska Highway in its entirety, albeit in reverse. How long did it take to drive the 1,365-mile* road from end-to-beginning (not including stops for food/gas/sleep)? 23 hours, 37 minutes, for an average speed of 58 mph. (At the time, I tweeted that the total Alaska Highway drive time was higher than that, but I mistakenly included the Fairbanks/Delta Junction segment in that calculation. 23:37 is the correct time. In real time, it probably took about 44 hours, including two overnight stops.) That's not to say you'll be able to average 58 mph on this road, though. It's highly dependent on construction, which appeared to just be starting up in earnest in early July.

(* - The Alaska Highway was originally 1,422 miles long, and that's the distance upon which historical mileposts - including the Delta Junction commemorative - are based. Over the last few decades, sections of the highway have been rebuilt and the total distance shortened. Google Maps says the road is now 1,365 miles long. Not all current documentation agrees with that number, but how should I know who's right and who's not?)

Fortunately, these fake mosquitoes would be the largest ones we'd see on our trip. I have to say, Alaska's mosquito infestation didn't really live up to the hype. Sure, there are places throughout Alaska where mosquitoes are a big problem. But most of the time, we were fine, including in Denali National Park.

Here are some more random pictures from the drive:

We tried really hard not to take the scenery for granted, even though we were basically just retracing our steps at this point, so we continued taking pictures and going "oooh" and "aaah" all the way to the end.

We took our vacation during the FIFA World Cup, so I was somewhat curious how much of a thing the World Cup is in Canada. Turns out, it's a really big deal! World Cup discussion was everywhere on Canadian radio, especially CBC Radio. CBC Radio broadcast many games live, including the Germany/Spain semifinal which we listened to while driving through the Yukon. That's surprising, considering that Canada has only played in one World Cup ever (1986), and hasn't even come close to qualifying the last few go-arounds. Apparently, the American attitude towards sports - "if we're not good at it, then why should we care?" - doesn't apply in Canada.

(Side comment: One of the Canadian commentators compared the scoreless first half of the GER/ESP match to the fictional Mexico/Portugal match from The Simpsons. "Halfback passes to the center. Back to the wing. Back to the center. Center holds it. Holds it. Holds it..." Have I mentioned I love Canada?)

Recall that on the way up, we stopped at Kluane National Park near Haines Junction, only to have it rain almost the whole day. Well, Day 14 was a much nicer day, weather wise. How about we give Kluane another go?

These pictures are from the Tachal Dahl area north of Haines Junction, which we didn't visit at all on the way up. Gee, I really wish we could have spent more time here...

What time we were going to spend in Whitehorse that evening, we spent in the Kluane area instead. So, we missed the touristy area of Whitehorse and only saw the somewhat sketchy "other side of town" where our hotel was located. Add Whitehorse to the list of places we didn't have enough time to fully experience. Such are the choices you have to make when you want to drive 9,800 miles in 18 days.


Spartangoogle said...

Did you get to see part of the Pipeline? I don't recall a mention of it. We saw where it crossed the Tenana River between Fairbanks and Tok/Eagle.

Chris Allen said...

We missed the pipeline, even though you'd think it would be the kind of thing you couldn't miss. We weren't looking that hard for it, though.