Day 26: We made it to Fairbanks!!!

November 9
Tok, AK to Fairbanks, AK 238 miles

It took us almost four weeks (holy cow), but we FINALLY made it to Fairbanks!

It was so so so cold this morning! We woke up early to leave tiny Tok and hit the open road for the last time.

We made a quick stop in Delta Junction, where the Alaska Highway officially ends. There was a monument at the (closed for the season) visitors center, so of course we took a few celebratory photos. It was so windy. We picked up the Richardson Highway to Fairbanks, and passed the Trans-Alaska Pipeline! So cool.

As soon as we arrived in Fairbanks, we went to pick up the good ol' Kia, which was shipped from Atlanta. Next we parked the uhaul/Land Rover at the Super 8, checked into our room, then went to check in at Fort Wainwright. We immediately started house hunting. We are anxious to be done with hotel living and find a house because Sam starts work on Monday.

Thanks for following along our journey from Georgia to Alaska! 


Day 25: Welcome to Alaska

and then... 

November 8
Whitehorse, YT, Canada to Tok, AK, USA (!) 395 miles

With the Land Rover secured to a trailer, and the trailer attached to the uhaul, we FINALLY started the last leg of the journey in Canada today. Sam, both pups, and I all crammed into a bench seat in the uhaul. So so cramped and sort of amusing. Luny loved being so close to Sam for 8+ hours, and of course Kaia was scared of every single bump in the wintry roads.

We drove through such remote areas all through Canada. Beautiful snow-covered mountains that were so steep, and endless winding roads. The surrounding snow-covered pine trees were very Whoville looking. We caught a hazy and distant glimpse of Mount Logan in Kluane National Park, Canada's highest mountain and the second-highest peak in North America at 19,551 ft (second to Mount McKinley in Alaska of course!). We were hoping to see a few Bighorn sheep but no luck. We did see a few more wild horses, and that was the extent of our wildlife viewing... darn.

Finally arrived in Beaver Creek YT, which meant we were only 15 miles from the United States border. Hallelujah! Our excitement was crazy. At this point, after all of our challenges in Canada, we were focused solely on getting back to America that we had sort of forgotten that we would be entering the US through ALASKA, our final destination!

We made it through the border with ease, and the border patrol man even gave us dog treats for Luna and Kaia. What a warm welcome! In the nine degree temperature, we celebrated the good ol US of A with a few photos with the Alaska state sign.

America the beautiful! I don't mean to come across as being negative toward Canada, but after everything we went through, you can imagine our excitement and relief to be back in our "homeland." Somehow the mountains seemed more breathtaking, the sunset over the Alaskan Range more captivating... and there's no arguing with the fact that the roads were definitely an improvement! Plowed and pothole-free.

Tonight's destination was tiny Tok, Alaska. Gas prices near the border were about $4.60/gallon. There is a small grocery store here, where we purchased our nutritious dinner of bagel bites and pizza rolls. I also bought some fruit, but ever since Canada the produce prices have been outrageous! Five dollars a pound for grapes!

Anyway, we stayed at the Snowshoe Motel, home of six television channels and lukewarm shower water. :) Still, we were safely back in America and we were grateful. Tomorrow we drive toward Fairbaaaaaankkkksss!


Days 23-24: A scary ride + the most beautiful snowflakes

November 6
Watson Lake, YT, Canada to Whitehorse, YT, Canada: 272 miles (towed)

(Happy Election Day!)

The tow truck was scheduled to arrive in Watson Lake at noon today. Well he was two hours late! And sort of crazy. The dogs weren't allowed to ride in his truck, so I rode in the Land Rover - yes, a freezing car strapped on top of the trailer - to be with the dogs and keep them calm (they suffer from a bit of separation anxiety). My theory was that if it wasn't safe for me to ride there, then it wasn't safe for my dogs either. I told the driver this exactly, and he mumbled something and shrugged (???). So THAT was a crazy, crazy experience. Sam rode in the truck and probably turned around to check on us three girls every few minutes, especially if there was a bump in the road. I felt loved. :) I'll admit that it was a pretty terrifying ride... it was so, so cold but I tried to stay distracted with Christmas music on my iPod. Sam told me later that his experience included incoherent ramblings from the driver, texting while driving, and willingly telling Sam that his truck was broken. Can't make this stuff up.

Even with AAA's free 200 miles of towing, it still cost us several hundred dollars to be towed from Watson Lake to Whitehorse. The tow truck dropped us off at Bernie's gas station to rent a uhaul. The gas station clerk, John, was so nice and helpful. He insisted that the dogs and I wait inside to warm up and offered me free hot chocolate. We were able to get a uhaul truck rental squared away, but sadly they did not have a trailer available for the Rover so we'll have to leave it here tonight and come back in the morning. We stayed at the Yukon Inn, and it was so nice to be together in a warm hotel room after a long day (we got in after 9pm). We had been out of touch with all of the election hullabaloo since we weren't even in the United States for the past week, but we turned on the TV to learn that President Obama had been re-elected.

• • •

November 7
Whitehorse, YT, Canada: 35 miles

After running around town trying to find a uhaul trailer, we ended up having to wait until after 1pm while it was being repaired at a tire shop (I know)... which meant that we had to delay our journey another day (Canadian towns are so spread out that we wouldn't have made it to our next stop before dark, and dark=unsafe).

To make the most of our time here, we took the dogs into downtown Whitehorse (the capitol of the Yukon Territory and also where the Yukon Quest dog sled race begins in 2013!). We bought some local art prints from the Midnight Sun Emporium. We pretty much skipped lunch on this entire trip to save money and time... but dinner tonight was from Domino's!

The snowflakes here... wow, so beautiful. I've never seen anything like it before. I was amazed at how beautiful and intricate the details were in even the smallest of snowflakes, how God has created such beauty in this world for our enjoyment.

So... we picked up the trailer and went back to Bernie's for the Rover (kind of hoping it would be stolen to take it off our hands but no such luck;). Again, John was so helpful! We couldn't have done any of this without the help and genuine kindness from strangers.


Day 22: THIS way to Fairbanks...

^^ ravens are everywhere up here!

November 5
Watson Lake, YT, Canada

Last night still feels unreal. I feel so discouraged... from the extra days spent just waiting around on this trip (from either weather or car issues) to the extra money we've lost to just being so drained and exhausted.

Watson Lake and the Big Horn Motel... yet again our "home" for another night as we figure out our current situation. Watson Lake is very small and has no uhaul rentals (our first choice of transportation). After a lot of effort, we were able to get the Land Rover towed from the side of the road into Watson Lake this morning. We had a terrible time tracking down a AAA tow truck provider - turns out there is only ONE in the entire Yukon Territory and it turns out they are located in Whitehorse and are extremely rude and unprofessional. Sam and a man named Norm rode out to where it was parked, then towed it back to the Big Horn Motel.

To cheer ourselves up, we took the dogs on a walk to Watson Lake's one and only tourist attraction: Sign Post Forest right off the Alaskan Highway. Travelers of the ALCAN stop and leave license plates/signs here, then continue on their way. If I had known about it before, we definitely would have left something to represent North Carolina! There were so many signs! Thousands! It was fun exploring the area, and the dogs loved being out in the snow. The rest of our night was just spent trying to relax.


Day 21: The day the Land Rover died

^^ my personal glove warmer after our heat broke.

November 4
Fort Nelson, BC, Canada to Watson Lake, Yukon Territory, Canada: 318 miles

Craziest day of the trip by far. Let me start at the beginning. We departed Fort Nelson with high hopes in the Land Rover and headed to Watson Lake in the Yukon. We took in the beautiful views of the Rockies and made a quick stop at Tetsa River Outfitters/campground, known for their famous cinnamon buns! Did I mention the heat in the Rover was broken? Warm cinnamon bun to the rescue!

We finally saw MOOSE! I was so excited. We actually saw five overall, plus a few reindeer, bison, a ferret (we weren't sure if it was a ferret, mink or weasel so we affectionally named him the "ferreminkweasel" - you know, my husband is creative). We saw two huge herds of bison plus a few loners. They were just minding their own business, grazing in a snowstorm and moseying across the road whenever they felt like it.

We had hoped to stop at Liard River Hot Springs ("best stop on the ALCAN" according to The Milepost!), where the water temp is 100° year round. Would have been amazing but night was quickly approaching and we wanted to reach our destination as soon as possible...

...and the Land Rover was getting worse. Shaking, loud knocking noises, a smoking engine. I knew it was coming. We broke down for good about 30 miles outside of our destination of Watson Lake, a very small town in the Yukon Territory. We pulled over on the side of the highway as it was getting darker, still snowing, and temperatures were falling with the night. The car wouldn't start. I couldn't help the tears... it was a scary and helpless feeling to be stranded on the side of the road in the Canadian wilderness with no way to use our cell phones, and no way to walk to the nearest town in the dead of a winter night. The ALCAN is such a desolate highway in these months.

We turned on the hazards and Sam began flagging down help while I waited in the car with the dogs (we had been driving all day with no heat, so the car was not even remotely warm when we broke down).

My brave, strong husband stood outside in the subzero temperatures, looking desperately for any signs of headlights, waving his arms at the few passing cars, trying to get us out of there. It's a sight I will always remember, with tears in my eyes watching his face lit up by the flashing hazard lights. Even though I was scared, I felt safe.

A few cars stopped, a few fellow military families also heading to Fairbanks. They didn't have room for us but said they would call a tow truck. Another guy was traveling southbound but stopped and gave us his flares. Another car stopped and said they would take us but not our dogs (thanks but no thanks?).

Then, thankfully, three for real God-sent miners in three separate trucks stopped for our rescue. Seriously, until those guys stopped, we were bracing ourselves for a cold night of sleeping in the car (I had already bundled up in a sleeping bag). Scott from Vancouver, George from the UK, and Dave refused to leave us out there, saying that we would freeze to death in the forecasted -30° temperatures if we stayed. Scott also said that wolf packs regularly prowl that area. Really? This place is no joke.

Kaia and I rode with Scott while Sam and Luna rode with George. These guys were amazing. Even when we finally arrived in Watson Lake, George went ahead of us into the Big Horn Motel and told the clerk that we needed a pet-friendly room... the kindness of strangers. Oh and we found out at the hotel that there are no tow trucks running in Watson Lake (despite the "24 hour AAA towing" sign that we passed), so consider us extremely grateful that we were picked up tonight. We not only gained a necessary ride from these guys, but also fascinating stories.... the things they have seen; the places they have been! I will never forget it!

We called our families, who were very worried since it was so late back on the east coast and they had no way of getting in touch with us. While Sam was on the phone with AAA, I tried to find some dinner in little ol Watson Lake. The only thing we had eaten today was our $5 cinnamon buns back at Tetsa River, and at the time I debated whether or not $5 for a cinnamon bun was worth it... well, considering the situation we ended up in, I would definitely say it was a good spend. Anyway, everything except a gas station was closed, so for $17.00 I got a bag of chips and three bottled drinks... and that was dinner.

We hated leaving our car on the side of the road but we had no other choice. I only grabbed my purse, laptop, camera, and our small safe. Everything else can wait til tomorrow. I'm so thankful that we were picked up and are safe... could have been much worse.