You can take the girl out of Spenard but you can't take Spenard out of the girl.
December 26 - 30, 2006
Day 9: Boxing Day
The sun is up noticeably earlier in the morning. I'll be steadily gaining light every day - which hopefully means I'll be covering a little more ground every day. That would mean less time to kill just sitting in the car at a rest stop. I think the Blueberry Motel in Wonowon will be the last hotel of the trip.
When I checked out this morning, the nice Japanese lady wanted to know "Why such pretty lady spend holiday alone?" I smiled and shrugged. I have no answer to give her. Not a brief one anyway. I fill up the tank and head off down the road.
From this point on, Donner the Dead has a window seat:
Even less wildlife than yesterday, though animal tracks are numerous along the roadside. Still plenty of roadkill for the ravens to dine on.:
The animals use this road as much as the people do. Hell, in the last week I've seen just as many animals as I have people. For miles and miles, tracks of all kinds line both sides of the road. Caribou and deer stand in the road, licking salt from the surface. Ravens can be seen navigating by the road - flying directly above it, even following the curves. Scavengers know that where there are people, there is food - whether in the form of roadkill or trash.
As I keep moving south, the road will turn into just a road: a means of moving men and goods from Point A to Point B. But for now, I'm going with the flow of this asphalt river.
As the sun sets, I pull into a rest stop. It's about 14 hours the sun comes back and I can start driving again. I open one of the beers I bought last night and settle in with a book: All Quiet On The Western Front.
Day 10: Civilization looms
Much more traffic. You can barely go ten minutes without seeing a vehicle of some kind. The towns are closer together. Fences and power lines appear along the roadside. Stoplights - now there's something you don't see every day. More and more drivers on the road are assholes. Must be getting close to America.
The last bit of winding mountain road to get through in Canada is around an area called Hell's Gate. Up, down, all around - like a rollercoaster. I was hoping to make it through this area before dark. The sun was sinking fast and I wasn't sure how far I still had to go before the road straightened out.
But then some asshole trucker starts tailgating me. Not a pickup truck, mind you, but one of those big-rig semi-trucks. And I mean tailgating - he's practically in the backseat with Donner. I'm going down this mountainside at about 45 mph but apparently that's not fast enough for this prick. He rides my ass for miles and there is nowhere for me to pull over to let him pass. When I look in my rearview mirror, it's like a scene from Maximum Overdrive.
Don't get me wrong. I like truckers. I got a real soft spot in my heart for them. They are princes among men and kings of the road. But this guy was a dick.
A passing lane finally appeared and I moved to the right to let him pass - which he did. But once the dickhead is in front of me, he slows down to about 30 mph, showering my car in dirty slush. I'm driving blind and slow down to about 20mph. I see a pullout and decide to just stop there for the night. My arms ache from the white knuckle ride. I can drive no further. Time to polish off those two beers left from the motel in Wonowon.
Tonight I am going to read Dicken's A Christmas Carol. Sure I already know the story, but I've never actually read the book. It's short so I should be able to finish it in one sitting. I was able to read All Quiet On The Western Front all at once last night. Damn, that was a good book. I've had that paperback for 25 years now and had never read it. I don't know why I never read it - always meant to but never did. If you haven't read it, do yourself a favor and get a copy. It's as relevant now as it was when it came out 80 years ago.
Day 11: Break on through to the other side
This morning I finish traversing Hell's Gate and it's steep, winding turns and series of tunnels.
When I emerge from the final tunnel, it is as if I jumped ahead in time a couple months. Grass is green. Lakes are not frozen. The air is warmer. What the fuck just happened? How is this possibly still December?
I stop at a little deli in the first town. The teenage girl behind the counter doesn't mind if I plug in my computer and camera to let them charge up. I order a roast beef sandwich and an Americano. An old German man strikes up a conversation with me and tells me about when he lived in Alaska back in the '70s. I watch children in the parking lot point and laugh at the caribou in my car.
I reach the border around noon. Cars are backed up. It's about a 45 minute wait according to the guy on the radio - and that's just how long it took. The line of cars creeped closer and closer to customs until it was finally my turn to be welcomed back to the bosom of America.
Well, that's not quite how it worked out. I pulled up to the customs agent's booth and handed her my driver's license. She asked if I had anything to declare. I declared that I had a caribou head in my backseat and gave her the paperwork from Fish & Wildlife. She screwed up her face a little bit.
She came out to take a look at Donner through the window. She said "I bet that freaks people out. I'm getting freaked out just looking at it." I wanted to tell her Nope, honey, it's just you. But I didn't.
She then asked to see my birth certificate or passport. According to everything I'd read, driver's licenses were all that were required for land travelers to cross the border - at least until another year or so when new rules go into effect. But I'm not going to argue with her. I ask if my driver's license doesn't prove my citizenship. She smugly says "All that proves is you're licensed to drive in Alaska."
She says I have to go inside the main building anyway to declare Donner so I can show them my birth certificate or passport. I want to say that a birth certificate doesn't definitively prove my citizenship - only that I was born here. It is entirely possible that I renounced my citizenship to the empire and moved to Canada. But once again, I think it best to hold my tongue.
I bring Donner's paperwork and my driver's license inside. There's a big "DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY" seal on the wall and everyone is wearing a black uniform and a side iron. I hand over the papers and say that I have a caribou head in the car.
"A caribou head?" the confused agent asks. "Is it fresh?"
Um....no. It's a stuffed trophy head.
"So, there's no brains or anything?"
I stop myself from telling him the caribou's name is Donner the Dead and making a brain-eating joke. Um...no....no brains. Just a stuffed caribou head. You know, like you'd hang on the wall.
"Wait right here." He calls a colleague over to look at the paperwork and explains "This lady has a moose head in her car."
Actually, it a caribou.
If there was any doubt I was no longer in Alaska, it was now forever erased.
They send me out to my car to hunt for my birth certificate. Fortunately, I actually have it in the car and it only takes 5 minutes to find it. The customs agent is surprised to see me return to the counter with a fragile document taped to another piece of paper.
"Is this the original?"
"And you carry this with you?"
First you want to see my birth certificate and now you want to why I have my birth certificate. What kind of fucking morons work for the Department of Homeland Security. They really let you have a gun? It's not really loaded, is it? And seriously, what grown man in the Pacific Northwest doesn't know the difference between a caribou and a moose?
Actually, I didn't say that.
They let me go, but not before photocopying Donner's paperwork. You'd think I was the first person to bring a hunting trophy across the border.
I decide to skip the stop in Seattle. It is smack dab between Christmas and New Years. A couple of my friends there are back in Anchorage for the holidays. Others in Seattle will no doubt be busy with their own families. It took me so long to cross Canada that I feel it is best to go straight to California and try to make up some lost time.
I had the bad luck to hit Seattle at rush hour. Not only that, but my car had acquired a very noticeable shake. I found that if I kept the car between 45-50 mph, the shake wasn't quite as bad. I just hoped to make it out of the city before something went seriously wrong. The car had been doing so well up 'til now (except for that oil leak I never took care of).
So there I am, rush hour in Seattle, three lanes from the shoulder. Next thing I know my car starts shaking like the shuttle breaking up on re-entry. I manage to get over to the shoulder (which would've disappeared in another 40 feet). I put on my hazards and step out to inspect the damage.
My front driver's side tire is shredded beyond repair (as well as missing the hubcap). I have never changed a tire by myself but I've seen it done. What choice do I have? Nobody is going to stop to help me. I don't have a cell phone. I have to do it myself.
I proceed to empty out my trunk to get the donut spare at the bottom. Cars are whizzing by at 75+ mph a mere three feet away and I'm pulling out shoes, camping gear, dirty laundry, Donner's antlers, etc. and piling it up against the barricade. I pull out the donut spare. I search for the jack. Where's the jack? There's gotta be a jack in here. And a tire iron. I need a tire iron. FUCK!
Quel surprise! Jackie is woefully unprepared to tackle life's problems.
Just as I was contemplating the usefulness of making an SOS sign with notebook paper and a magic marker, flashing lights appeared. A truck marked "Incident Response" pulled in behind me. Help had arrived!
I explained the situation and he pulled out a jack and tire iron. When it turned out that my donut spare was flat, he pulled out his tire inflator. He even offered to let me use his phone, but who would I have called? Hey, Angela, guess where I am?
I remarked that this really wasn't my day. He replied "Sure it is. God sent me to help you." Who was I to argue? This man was my Christmas miracle. He changed the tire free of charge and left me with a "God bless you." Less than a mile down the road, I saw him pull over to help another stranded traveler.
What a great job to have! To play the hero all day. Everybody must always be so glad to see you. I think it must be very satisfying.
I got off the interstate to search for a place to buy a new tire but it was already after 6pm and everybody was closed. I continued another hour down the interstate to a rest stop just past Olympia.
This rest stop not only had free coffee provided by the VFW but also had WI-FI. I pulled the beach chair out of the trunk and set myself up near an electrical outlet where I proceeded to kill the next 5 hours. I did feel a little dumb sitting outside in a pink beach chair, wearing a green parka, typing away on a computer. But it's not like I'll ever see any of these people again.
Day 12: On to Oregon
The next morning I got back on the road, took one of the first exits and found a tire service center. They pointed out that my other front tire was on its way to the same fate as the first so I bought two tires. It was only $100 to have two brand new tires put on the car. Being an Alaskan means being exempt from Washington sales tax, so that saved me a couple bucks too.
Located directly behind the service center was a cemetery. I love cemeteries! While my tires were being changed, I took a leisurely stroll amongst the graves. Half an hour later, I was back on the road.
The rest of the day was fairly uneventful. Originally, my plans included a stop in Portland to visit Stan: a very handsome man who also happens to be my ex-boyfriend from a million years ago. Alas, Stan is currently in Budapest so I do not stop. Instead, I drive south until just before Grant's Pass where I pull over at another rest stop.
Day 13: California here I come...
It's exactly three thousand miles from Spenard to the first rest stop in California.
For the first time since I've been back in the states, I leave the interstate and venture off onto state highway 3 - a mountain road that takes me back up into snowy territory. A sign warns of a "steep and winding road ahead" but the sign should really say "miles and miles of 180-degree turns ahead."
I finally make it up and over the mountains and am deposited on the coast where I take the 101 south. I head to the house of former Alaskans, Ty & Hillary, in Humboldt County where I will get to shower, eat real hot food and sleep in a horizontal position.
Hillary & Ty
December 23 - 25, 2006
Day 6: Where the buffalo roam...
When I checked out of the motel, one of the ladies gave me a free coffee and cherry tart for Christmas. Nice way to start the day.
The sun came out this morning - and I wish it hadn't. It was absolutely blinding as it rose over the mountains. Not so bad after an hour when it had climbed a little higher.
Passed through Watson Lake today - home of the Sign Post Forest.
I stopped to take a few photos but didn't linger. I've twice spent a good amount of time wandering through the thousands and thousands of signs that people have hung up here over the decades.
Back in '94, I hung my own sign here. Actually, it was the tailpipe from the Oldsmobile Delta 88 I was driving - it fell off before I even got out of California. When I got to Watson Lake, I pulled the tailpipe from my trunk and painted my name on it as well as the names of the two cats traveling with me. In '98, I trudged through the snow for hours looking for my old tailpipe - but never found it.
This time, I didn't bother looking for it. I figure if it took only 16 years to rust off the car - it probably rusted right off the signpost in the last 13 years. But I did find this sign for MyAmericanJourney.com:
That guy's on an even longer, crazier roadtrip than mine. Check him out.
Lots of wildlife today. Saw about a couple moose, about 25 caribou and 75 buffalo. I don't think I've ever seen wild buffalo. I've seen a couple kept in pens as tourist attractions and I've eaten a couple buffalo burgers in my day, but it's nice to know there's someplace that they still roam free.
I got to Liard Hot Springs just before dark. Unfortunately, the cheapest room the lodge had was $108 plus tax. That could only mean one thing: Car Camping! Yes, it was about time I had to suck it up and sleep in the car. Eighteen hours to kill.
I pulled the car into a rest area just down the road. I dug out the lantern and fresh batteries I'd been saving. I settled in for the night with a few back issues of Backyard Poultry (it's never too early to learn about predator control and dealing with mite infestations).
It made me smile to see Orion rising directly in front of my windshield. I was also thrilled to see the northern lights directly behind me. I turned the car around so I could sit/lay in the front seat and watch.
I wish I was watching the light show from the hot springs. That would be sweet. I visited the hot springs the first time I drove the Alcan back in 1994, but that was in the springtime. There's no way I'm going to the hot springs and return wet and shivering to my car in the 10 degree weather.
I can't help but think of a very similar night in 1998: Trying to sleep in my car on a crystal-clear winter night perhaps 60 miles from here. Just like tonight, every star in the sky was out. And just like tonight, I was thinking about the same man. Of course, this time I'm also thinking about the five and a half years in between that I wasted on that lying sack of shit, Tom Hibbs. At least it is 20 degrees warmer tonight than it was back then.
Day 7: Christmas Eve
Last night, I stuffed my boots and gloves with toe and hand warmers. I positioned my feather pillow to hide the most uncomfortable lumps of the driver's seat. I tucked a couple sweaters over the other lumps. I draped a down parka over my already bundled body and tried to sleep. Sleep didn't come easily, but it came.
Up and at 'em early. Went back to the lodge to fill my tank and was on the road at about 8:45.
It was clear again today. When the sun cleared the mountains a couple hours later, I was headed directly east - and uphill. Every single smear-blemish-nick-crack-stain on the windshield was illuminated. Can't see a damn thing. But I can't stop because I'm going uphill. If I stop now, my little putt-putt car will have a difficult time getting traction again. Must...keep...going...
No more buffalo today - but lots of caribou. And a couple more moose.
Despite the sign, I never did see any sheep.
Stopped in Toad River for lunch. First food in two days, with the exception of yesterday's cherry tart, that didn't come out of a bag. Pressed on until reaching Fort Nelson in British Columbia.
I drove around to about 10 hotel/motels to get rates - each one more expensive than the last. Was starting to think I'd be spending Christmas Eve in the car when I came to the last one: Fort Nelson Hotel.
I almost didn't go in - it looked too expensive. Surprisingly, they had the cheapest room - and a wireless connection too!
I get a salad from the restaurant downstairs. My body is grateful for leafy greens and vegetables. I also get a six-pack from the hotel's pub and retire to my room for a few hours of internet surfing.
Being Christmas Eve, almost everything on the television is Christmas-themed. It's A Wonderful Life is playing on a few different channels. One station is playing 24 solid hours of A Christmas Story. Not feeling very festive, I search for the least Christmasy thing and find Battle For The Planet Of The Apes - the last and by far worst of the Planet Of The Apes movies. It's perfect. After that, for background noise, I tune it to Tootsie dubbed in French.
Soon it will be time to go to sleep. Tomorrow - Christmas Day - I will get back in the car and keep driving south.
Day 8: Christmas Day
Somewhere along the way I think I crossed a time zone. I ended up waking up an hour later than I expected. Another late start. For a change, I was not the only guest in the hotel - but I was the only one checking out today.
Very little in the way of wildlife - especially compared to the previous two days. In fact, most of the animals I saw today were roadkill - Christmas feasts for the ravens.
I find one of my favorite informational signs that dot the highway - the one about Suicide Hill. Even though this road is not what many of you in the Lower 48 would call a "highway" - this photo reminds you that the road is much better than it used to be.
"Prepare To Meet Thy Maker: military vehicle approaches Suicide Hill, 1942"
I make it as far as the town of Wonowon where I stop at the Blueberry Motel. It's run by a very nice Japanese couple whose English is not that great (but far better than my Japanese). They kindly give me a room with a kitchen at the same price as one without. I actually get to cook hot food in my room tonight. I buy some groceries at their little store. The lady even loans me a partial bottle of cooking oil so I don't have to buy any.
Once again, I am the only guest. I take the opportunity to do some major repacking of the car.
December 18 - 22, 2006
Day 1: And so it begins...
I didn't make it very far the first day - just 200 miles to Glen Allen. It's a surprising 7 degrees F outside - downright balmy considering it was 44 degrees colder a couple weeks ago.
I got a room at the Caribou Hotel - well, actually a room in the annex of the Caribou Hotel. It's a small dorm-style room in a prefabricated building. It's not much to look at, but it's warm. But for $59 a night, I should not have to share a communal bathroom (even though I was the only person in the building). Also, the window lock should not be broken and the previous guest's trash should not still be in the room. I'm not sure if the sheets are unwashed or just old - or perhaps both. The room does come equipped with a Bible and current hunting & trapping regulation books though. Extra bonus: The previous guest left a couple bucks of change in the dresser drawer.
At $59 a night, you'd think they could afford some Windex.
My room number was on a piece of paper taped to the door.
I'd hoped to make it to Tok tonight, but I didn't start driving out of Anchorage until 11:30. It snowed almost the entire way. Since there's only five and a half hours of daylight, it was already dark by the time I got to Glen Allen - just a hint of light still left in the western sky. Tomorrow, I will get a much earlier start - well before sunrise. I'm really hoping to make it to Whitehorse tomorrow night.
My throat is sore and I'm sneezing. I hope I'm not getting sick. Guess I'll go to the restaurant next door and get a good meal. All I've had today was coffee and beef jerky.
The sky cleared up and the aurora borealis came out briefly, low in north. Saw Orion rising. There's something about Orion that makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. It's the only constellation I can spot in the sky besides the dippers. If I can find Orion in the sky, I don't need a compass.
The last time I drove the Alaskan Highway back in February of 1998, the huntsman was always the signpost pointing back to Spenard. I could envision him rising over Rancho Spenardo - and as long as I was heading towards Orion, I was heading home.
Now that I'm headed in the opposite direction, I'm not altogether sure I'm going the right way.
Day 2: Drivin' & Cryin'
I'm making abysmal time. A mere 250 miles today. I'm still hours away from Whitehorse. I stopped at the first lodge I came to after passing the Canadian border - after customs agents ransacked my car and left me to repack in the freezing cold. At least they were polite.
Before I left, Angela said that after customs agents saw the caribou head in the car, they would do one of two things: Laugh or go through everything in the car. Well, Angela, they did both.
I got a room at the 1202 Motor Inn in Beaver Creek. Actually, I got a room in the annex of the 1202 Motor Inn. Initially, I was told the cheapest room was $75. The look on my face told the lady behind the counter I wouldn't pay that much. I said I was leaving early in the morning and wouldn't make a mess. She dropped the price to $65. I still wasn't willing to pay that much - especially after shelling out $59 the night before).
A man I assumed to be her husband mentioned the "cabin rooms." He explained they usually only rent them in the summer to backpackers and such. At $31, it sounded good to me.
It's a another pre-fab building located behind the main building. There's four bedrooms and one communal bathroom. I was told I would be the only person in the building so I could choose any of the bedrooms I wanted.
Only two of the bedrooms had TVs. Of those rooms, only one had extra outlets so I could plug in the computer and alarm clock. Unfortunately, due to the jerry-rigging of the TV cables, this is the only room that does not lock. In fact, the lock has been removed and the door doesn't even close. The building itself doesn't have a lock either but I'm the only one here so I don't mind.
I really wish there was hot water though. I really wanted to take a shower. I guess it's a Yukon whore's bath for me. I'll fill the sink before going to sleep so the water can warm up to room temp by morning.
The store in the main building had a pretty crappy beer selection: Bud, Coors Light or Moslon's. I got a six pack of Molson's and a bag of chips then retired to my room (where I'm writing this).
My throat's still sore, but otherwise I feel fine. It's not helping that I'm smoking too much. Don't fucking lecture me about it. I'm quitting when I get to Alabama. No job = no money = no cigs. Can't afford it. I can make my own beer, but growing tobacco sounds like too much work.
But there's no way I'm going to quit smoking in the middle of a cross-continental road trip just as my life's tectonic plates are crashing about. Besides, one of the customs agents already gave me shit about smoking, so back the fuck off.
Day 3: The longest night of the year & I'm invited to a party
Didn't even make 200 miles today. Only got as far as Haines Junction. By the time I got to Destruction Bay this afternoon, the wind was blowing so much snow around that it was near white-out conditions.
I stopped at a motel/cafe/laundromat/gas station to top off the tank & kill a little time - see if the weather cleared up. The guy there said that trucks were getting through okay to Haines Junction. That would be great if I was driving a truck instead of my little putt-putt car.
I wasn't hungry but I ordered a grilled cheese sandwich & Coke. After an hour, the snow had let up a little & you could see the mountains across the bay. It was only 1:30 - still hours of daylight left. I inquired about the price of their cheapest room. It was $79. That helped me decide to press on & hope the weather wasn't worse down the road. But, of course, it was.
I haven't seen much wildlife yet - just a red fox and lots of ravens. But today I had a curious encounter with four birds that I later learned are gray jays.
I'd stopped at a roadside rest area to pee & stretch my legs. These aren't like the rest areas in the Lower 48. Rest areas this far north aren't that fancy: just a couple outhouses & a bear-proof trash receptacle.
When I came out of the outhouse, I saw some birds in a nearby tree I paused to take a photo of them with the mountains in the background. One by one, the birds made non-threatening swoops at me - just checking me out. Within a minute they were landing on my car and soon they were hopping on the ground around my feet. They were unbelievably unafraid of me. I've never seen such behavior in wild birds.
I thought perhaps they'd become familiarized with people & had come to equate us with food. But the same could be said of ravens - and even ravens aren't this bold. And then I looked around this desolate winter landscape and thought "What people? There are no people here."
I bet if I'd spent 30 minutes, I could've coaxed one to perch on my arm. But it was windy - which made it cold. After ten minutes with my bird buddies, I climbed back in the car & kept on putt-puttin'.
It was that wind that made the weather so miserable. The wind whipped the dry, powdery snow into fog-like clouds that, at times, brought visibility down to the hood of my car. More than once I had to just stop in the middle of the road for a few seconds because I couldn't see a damned thing. Then the road would reappear and I could continue my 20 mph creep down the highway.
The 65 miles between Destruction Bay and Haines Junction took me two and a half hours. By the time I pulled into Haines Junction, it was starting to get dark. I checked out a few hotels and chose the cheapest one - $58 at the Kluane Park Inn. Plus, there's a bar downstairs. Even better, I got invited to the staff Christmas party in the bar tonight.
When I first got to my room, I switched on the TV for background noise but the only channel is one of those videos of a crackling fire. I pull out the laptop so I can play music, but I find that the room has the wrong kind of outlets. I know there's an adapter in the car, but it would take forever to find it - especially after what customs did to my jigsaw puzzle-like packing job.
I draw a hot bath to the sound of a crackling fire. I proceed to scrub, shave, shampoo, manicure, brush, powder, floss & moisturize myself into feeling like a civilized person again. I hadn't showered since Sunday & I'd been wearing the same clothes for three days. C'mon! I'm going to a party!
Day 4: Finally - Whitehorse!
I got a late start this morning. I didn't wake up until 10:30am. I completely forgot to set my alarm last night. I don't even know what time I went to bed.
I had a good time at the party. Probably too good of a time - which is why I felt like shit when I finally woke up. But everybody was really cool - a wonderful eclectic mix of people: the pot-smoking college student, the dog musher, the German-immigrant hotel handyman, the wildlife biologist (who identified the gray jays for me and said they're also called "whiskey jacks"), the ornery redneck guy, the hard-working bartender who doesn't drink and numerous others.
There was even a politician: Gary McRobb of the Yukon Legislative Assembly.
Gary & I
Since it took me so long to get to Whitehorse, I lost out on my free place to stay as the owner of that particular couch is now out of town for the holidays.
So I am yet again paying for a place to stay - this time at the Chilkoot Motel. It's a good-sized room with cable TV. I even have a little balcony with a great view of the sign.
There's a cat in the lobby. It's very sweet and the people at the motel are trying to find it a permanent home. If there was room in the car, I'd take him with me. It'd be nice if I could just bring him up to my room tonight so he could catch the mouse that's in here.
Day 5: Rancho goes to Rancheria
Other than seeing a couple deer, it was a fairly uneventful day of driving. The weather was good, if a bit dreary. But it beats snow and wind. It would be nice to see the sun again though.
The most sun I've seen all week
One thing I've seen enough of is the word "closed." As in "closed for the winter." But that's what happens driving the Alcan in winter. I remember this from 1998. This is why I never let my gas tank get below half.
It's been warm enough to sleep in the car, but I just can't face the boredom of 18 hours of sitting in the car after six hours of driving. It wouldn't be so bad if I could build a campfire and sit outside listening to the silence. It's not that I mind staying in hotels. I like it a lot. I just can't afford it.
I stopped into a little cafe/motel/laundromat/gas station in the tiny map dot of Rancheria and got a room (truthfully, it's not even on my map). I also did a load of laundry (cold water only), showered (yay! hot water) and ordered a kick-ass burger.
There's also an adorable cat that has taken a shining to me. Cats can spot a cat lady a mile away.
I'm the only guest in the motel. I was also the only customer in the restaurant except for a couple truckers who stopped for coffee to go. The two ladies who run the hotel & restaurant played cards at a table in back. The bartender and the gas station attendant sat in the lounge yelling at the hockey game on TV. I enjoyed my burger and read the current issue of Yukon News. Afterwards, I got a couple beers to go ("off-sales" in the local lingo) and retired to my room to write this.
There's a TV in the room, but it only gets one channel and it only shows whatever the people who live here are tuned into. Right now it's a black screen playing Top 40 music. At least I can plug in the laptop here. I've got the last couple episodes of The McLaughlin Group on my hard drive for just such an occasion.
December 17, 2006
I'm a big, fat liar.
I posted Saturday night on MySpace that I was leaving Sunday morning. I lied. Well, I didn't really lie. At the time, I really thought I was leaving Sunday morning. But then, right after I turned off the computer, there was a knock at the door.
The lure of one more leisurely Sunday afternoon in his company proved too strong, so I spent one more day in Spenard. Had to do the goddamned goodbye thing all over again though.
But this time I mean it: I'm leaving in the morning. Just like every adventure in my life, I am unprepared and overpacked.
For the most current updates, check my MYSPACE page.
December 15, 2006
Too many goodbyes
I'm leaving this Sunday. I mean it. I know that many of you are beginning to doubt my sincerity, but I'm really going to leave.
I've already sent about a third of my stuff to Alabama. I'm almost done boxing up the last stuff to be shipped down on a pallet. The car is almost packed. Donner the Dead and I both have our respective government paperwork to allow international border crossings.
I've been saying goodbye so much the last month that I'm almost getting used to it. But today held two of the most difficult goodbyes of all - goodbyes that I cannot bear to do a second time. It's time to go....
December 9, 2006
Donner...Party of 2
Yeah, I'm still here. Haven't left yet. Soon though....soon. I'm furiously packing boxes. Even though I've sold, given away and trashed a lot of stuff, there's still tons of it left. As soon as the last box is packed, I'm outta here. I guess it'll be Sunday or Monday.
At least I won't be making the trip alone now. My new friend, Donner the Dead, will be riding shotgun.
Donner is a caribou. Well...technically he was a caribou.
He's wearing a hat because he's a little self-conscious about being seen without his antlers. It just didn't seem safe to let him wear the antlers in the car so I put them in the trunk. All those sharp, bony points aimed at me - it would be like driving in an iron maiden.
In case you didn't know, caribou are basically the same as reindeer. Caribou are wild and reindeer are domesticated. Since my road trip takes place over the holiday season, Donner the Dead seemed like the perfect traveling companion. Besides, he hasn't seen the Grand Canyon before either.
December 4, 2006
common sense has never been my strong suit
So it's December and I have not left yet. But I have set a departure date: Friday morning. It's a much later start than anticipated. December is not exactly the ideal time of year to drive the Alaskan Highway - especially for someone who doesn't like to drive at night
I guess that this is the price I must pay for squeezing every last day I could out of Spenard. It's hard to leave the one place where I truly felt as if I belonged. Spenard was the square hole that fit this square peg like a square glove.
I have lived on the same block for over a decade - nine years at Rancho Spenardo and the previous two years directly across the street at Disgraceland. I have the best roommate in the world, Angela Ramirez. We've lived together so long that many assume we're "partners."
I have also enjoyed 9 years of the greatest landlords ever: Steve and Johanna. They live nextdoor in this Spenardian oasis known as Rancho Spenardo.
For the last eight years I've had the best job with the best boss. Ever since I was twelve years old, I thought it would be cool to work at a recording studio. And you know what? I was right. It was cool.
Of course, there's all my wonderful friends. Especially one dear friend that I've been keeping company with for the last several months - an old flame that burns brighter than ever after ten years.
With everything in my life looking so goddamned rosy, I can't believe that I'm pulling up stakes and moving 3500 miles away to a town so small the entire population could fit into the south stage at 'Koots.
In case you aren't aware of what I call "my plan", here it is: I'm going to be a farmer. There'll be chickens. Goats and/or cows to eat the kudzu. Definitely a dog. (If my inner catlady emerges, there will also be a couple dozen half-feral cats all named Oscar.) I can hardly wait to tell you all about the "maggot bucket."
There'll be a trailer on the property when I arrive, but I'm going to attempt to build a small cabin out of salvage from my grandma's house and barn. I have absolutely no carpentry skills but I do have some books bought from Amazon and some nearby cousins who've offered to help. Oh...and moxie - lots of moxie.
I'm going to grow a variety of vegetables the first year - mainly food for myself. I don't know if I'll be able to eat any of the chickens because I'll probably name them all and anthropomorphize the hell out them and will never be able to slaughter one of them, much less EAT them. Perhaps, if one of them really pisses me off...
At the very least, I will have LOTS of eggs. Goats and/or cows means milk which means I can learn to make cheese. Life without cheese is not worth living. I'm going to start brewing my own beer again because there's no alcohol sales in the county. I also have a chest freezer of venison waiting for me.
I have no previous farming experience. I've had backyard gardens and my tomatoes won the blue ribbon at the 4H fair in 1978 - but beyond that, nada.
Oh yeah - and in my spare time I want to do an amateur archeological survey of the nearby site of my family's 19th century homestead and cemetery.
My father says I read too much Thoreau and should think about getting a full-time job once I get there. I was too embarrassed to admit that I've never read Thoreau. To me, Walden is a college in Doonesbury.
But I did tell him that if I wanted to live in a trailer and work at WalMart, I didn't need to move 3500 miles to Alabama to do it. The same damn thing could be achieved in Spenard without having to sell my record collection or be more than a block from a liquor store.
The first day of my trip will be spent driving from Anchorage to either Glennallen or Tok. The second night I'm staying in Whitehorse, YT, with someone I found on CouchSurfing.com. If I time it right, the next night will be spent at Liard Hot Springs. It's another day or two to Seattle where I will have a few days to rest and hang with friends.
If you've ever been in my car, you know what a grandma driver I am. My slow speed coupled with my dislike for driving in the dark means I'll be making slow time to Seattle. The sun is up for less than six hours a day right now. And don't get me started on my fear of heights and how much I hate driving in the mountains.
From Seattle, it's down the coast with a few stops until I reach my old stomping grounds in Hollywood, California. I'll be there for at least a week before heading east through Phoenix, Austin and New Orleans - finally reaching Alabama sometime in January.
While on the road, I won't always be able to update this site. It'll be far easier to just use MySpace. So if you really want to know if I make it out of Canada alive, go to my MySpace page.
Comments? Questions? Spare change?
Send it to Jackie @ RanchoSpenardo.com
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