Thursday, August 25, 2011

Bumps, Cats, and Troopers

3177 miles. Two international border crossings. Two cats that meowed the first two hours (and then some) every day of 7 days of travel. California, Oregon, Seattle, British Columbia, the Yukon and finally,  Fairbanks. We survived with out a flat tire, cracked windshield or having to call UHaul (which was fortunate since I lost the paperwork with the emergency number in case the trailer broke down), and no one was arrested.
Leaving California

From CA to Seattle, my friend Carrie drove with me. Then, from Seattle to Fairbanks, my friend Susan tagged along. Rather than bore you with the minutia of 8+ hours of driving every day, here are the highlights:

- Oregon prominently advertises it's adult stores so that everyone driving along the freeway is sure to see them.

- The beautiful Oregon scenery was oddly juxtaposed against mind boggling tree carnage.

- Don't be sucked in by hotel names such as "Leisure Hotel". Keep driving.

- This is how I had to open and close the trailer. Every time.

- Spent two days in Seattle visiting Cicilie, Lee and Gordy. The cats were happy not to be in the car for a few days.
Gordy watching the cats.
- In Seattle, saw the Troll...
That's a real VW bug under his hand!
...went to Bainbridge island and thanks to Cicilie, made it back to the ferry on time. Even Mt. Ranier made an appearance as we crossed the sound back to Seattle.

- Changing of the guard in Seattle. Carrie turned over her road trip partner duties to Susan, who flew up to Seattle from the Bay Area and accompanied me to Fairbanks. Onward!

- Crossing the Canadian border at Sumas was uneventful. Susan and I were requested to step inside for a closer look at our passports, but nothing suspicious was found. They didn't even stamp our passports! So disappointing. But the flowers in Canada were spectacular! Truly Canadian.

- Canadian countryside was beautiful. The cats were mildly interested.

- Saw 4 bears, many sheep and goats, a bison, and lots of caribou.

- Canadians really do punctuate every sentence with "eh". That's no joke, eh.

- I became a cat smuggler in Dawson Creek, British Columbia. The rodeo was coming to town which meant hotel rooms were scarce, and the ones with vacancies didn't take cats. I finally found a hotel that didn't make us want to hurl and I declined from mentioning that I had two cats. This hotel I think, would have taken them, but by this time we were exhausted, hungry and needed to be out of the car. The expedient thing to do seemed to be, don't mention the cats. I didn't. After smuggling them into the hotel room and settling in, I tried to turn on the tv. I couldn't figure it out so I called the front desk. Donna said she'd be right over. !!!!!!  Panic ensued. There was a flurry of humans and cat hair as we threw the cats and all cat accessories into the bathroom. Susan sat in the bathroom with the cats to turn on the water if needed to mask cat meows. I waited for Donna. And waited. She finally arrived and straightened out the tv situation. Donna left. Susan decided to take a shower and couldn't figure out how it worked. We pondered what to do. Call Donna? Would she come to the room again? Where would we hide the cats? Skip the shower? Susan decided to go to the front desk. Donna instructed her on how to operate the shower and all was okay.

- More lovely scenery

- Took the cats for a walk in Toad River

- Saw 6000 hats in Toad River

- Haines Junction: we were warned over breakfast of big dips in the road on the way to Beaver Creek, and troopers watching for speeders in Tok. The dips weren't an exaggeration. If we hadn't been aware and slowed down, I would have been looking more seriously for that UHaul emergency number. We didn't see any troopers.

- Need a lift?

- Summertime in Canada and Alaska is also road construction time. We spent a lot time with this view.

Construction workers spent a lot of time with this view!
- We mentally disintegrated approaching Beaver Creek, laughing hysterically over Susan wondering why all the advertisement billboards had Beavers on them. "Such a random animal to use" she said. Then, when she remembered we were in the town of Beaver Creek, well, we thought this was hysterical. Enough to make me aspirate on diet coke while driving and pee my pants.

- The border crossing back to the US was a cause for panic. Immediately after Beaver Creek we saw the signs for the border. I had just taken a bite of turkey/ham sandwich and was spewing said sandwich all over the car as I shouted muffled directives at Susan. "Get the blue folder! Get your passport!" We drove right on through, not even a kiosk to pass through with someone waving us on.

- We had been due to switch drivers but I thought it'd be wise for me to drive the car across the border just in case there should be any questions. After the non eventful crossing at Beaver Creek, we switched drivers. Then, not 10 miles down the road was the real border crossing. By this point Susan was driving, and due to her Catholic guilt she gave a line item inventory of the trailer contents. "Fruit? Yes! We have apples! Do you want one?" She said as she spilled the apple bag and we watched them roll all over the car floor.

- FYI ~ $171 will get you health clearance certificates for two cats that no one at the border crossings gives a damn about. When we crossed into Canada I made the clerk look at the health certificates. I shoved the papers in his face. "Here! I have two cats. LOOK at my papers! They are HEALTHY, EH?"

- Multiple cups of coffee in a day + diet cokes + pop tarts = maniacal laughing outside the gas station restroom, planning a joke on your road trip partner that a) only you will think is funny and b) you are unable to execute because you are laughing so hard.

- Said cups of coffee, diet coke and pop tarts also leads one to direct the driver to turn down a frontage road which in reality is a bike path.

- I learned how to back up a trailer. Down a bike path...

It was for this picture that we made a u-turn and drove down the bike path. So worth it!
- 3000 miles later, Fairbanks at last!

- I knew we weren't going to be arriving until later and I'd be to tired to do the new apartment key pickup/fill out paperwork drill. So I made a reservation at the Extended Stay Deluxe Inn. We arrived, checked-in to our room only to discover that they hadn't given us the room requested. I had reserved a room with two beds and they gave us a room with one bed. Multiple phone calls to "Aimee" (allegedly that's her name) at the front desk and FOUR room changes later, we were in the correct room. Every time I saw "Aimee" after that she wouldn't make eye contact and looked like she was going to vomit or cry. It had been another multi-coffee cup/diet coke/pop tart day. 17 year old Aimee learned that night what it means to piss off a Taurus.

- Upon entering Ft Wainwright to visit Hollie I had an interesting conversation with a guy who wondered if I could help him talk better because his wife complained about his inability to multitask. I told him to listen to his wife -- whatever she says, just do it! Wine was waiting for me and I didn't have the patience to argue the finer points of which gender is more capable of multitasking. Besides, I'd already made a teenager cry that night -- I didn't want to make a soldier cry too.

- We decompressed with wine and catching up with with the gals.

- After a mixed summer in the Bay Area of enjoying catching up with friends and family, but also being glad to leave certain relationships behind, it was with relief that I returned to Fairbanks. I hadn't realized how much I had missed it until seeing that Alaskan Range.

- I showed Susan around town (that took 15 minutes) and she witnessed first hand how confusing driving can be in Fairbanks.

- We received a nice "welcome back" at the Silver Gultch Brewery. Susan and I had dinner there and when we asked for the check, the manager informed us that another patron had paid for our dinner. We have no idea why, nor did the manager. Apparently this guy was at the restaurant with his wife and for whatever reason felt moved to pay our tab. I think all the empty beer glasses and discussion of doing Irish Car Bombs had something to do with it.

- My new apartment is enviable although perhaps my neighborhood is not. Aside from hiding in the bathtub for the first day the cats are fine. Well, until one was missing for 24 hrs. It was upsetting to say the least -- I couldn't even drink! 


  1. It was a true adventure! After seeing Fairbanks I now understand why you laughed so hard along the road when you said "just wait until we get to Fairbanks!". Good times.

  2. Wow!! That was a real road trip. Can't wait to follow your blog. Good writing Heather. I'm proud you are a fellow English Major. Mona