We woke up at 8:30 am to the familiar bright light outside, packed,
and joined the tour bus which took us to the airport. The airport was
chaos, with nearly 80 people packed into the tiny terminal checking in,
waiting, or standing. We decided to start the boarding line on our own,
which was a smart move, and very soon we were in the plane and settling
in for our flight, Alaska Airlines Flight 144, which took off by 9:45 am.
The view was great at first, but low clouds were everywhere, so there wasn't
much to look at from the airplane except blue sky for much of the flight.
These broke around Fairbanks and we got to see a lot of the northwest city as
we banked over the University of Alaska campus and landed.
By 11:30 am we
had the car ready to go, and stopped at the Burger King on Airport Rd for
lunch. This was a bit frustrating as on leaving the drive-thru we found
they had omitted the fries, and the girl at the counter was sarcastically
apologetic. I fueled up and reserved a room in advance at the Gateway Motel
in Haines Junction. The weather was cool (upper 50s) and partly cloudy as
we headed southeast.
We stopped at North Pole, Alaska so that I could mail a few supplies back
home and send a couple of postcards. In the post office lobby I was
confused by normal mail drops in the building that said "Fairbanks Postmark"
and "North Pole Postmark", both of which were clearly marked "Undeliverable
Mail". I stood there for a minute trying to decipher this cryptic Soviet
nonsense, and finally gave up and took my mail outside and put it in a
curbside mail drop. Even on a Sunday afternoon North Pole was infested
with hurried, impatient drivers with shiny new pickups and SUV's. We
gladly got back on the road and continued southeast.
West of Delta Junction around 2 pm we saw a spectacular multivortex dust
devil in one of the fields near the road. Around 4:30 pm we reached the
Yukon-Alaska border and went through Canadian customs, which took about
20 seconds and was friendly and swift.
About 35 miles northwest of Burwash
we spotted a black bear near a construction area (no one was there but us).
The bear crossed the road behind us. We continued southeast, stopping
only at Burwash so Shannon could take over driving. Traffic was very light
and we skirted by Kluane Lake again under mostly cloudy weather, when
became more and more cold and cloudy as we moved southeast. About 6 miles
west of Haines Junction another large black bear was foraging near the road.
We stopped to watch him -- he was eating grass! He was always observing
what was happening on the road, though; whenever a car passed by or we moved,
he would look and then resume his eating. We watched him for about
10 minutes then arrived at the small Gateway Motel at Haines Junction
around 11:30 pm.
I did find that the Gateway Motel is one of those rare places that uses
an awful PBX-style office phone system. This is okay for typical guests,
but you cannot hook up your laptop to it without a PBX adapter or an
acoustic coupler (thankfully I had one handy). Everything else about
the hotel we liked, including the convenient laundromat and 11 am
Miles driven today: 518
Business ratings (0-4 stars):
Burger King, Airport Rd, Fairbanks AK * 1/2 (order error, attitude)
Alaska Airlines, BRW-FAI AK * * * (good service, legroom)
Gateway Motel, Haines Junction YT * * * 1/2 (good motel, PBX phone system)
Tetlin Junction, AK -- typical segment of road heading
towards Yukon. Great scenery!
West of Haines Junction, YT -- drizzly, cloudy weather
and nearby mountains highlight a black bear, just barely visible
toward the treeline.