Thursday, July 17, 2008

Call of the Wild - July 4 - Fairbanks - Yukon River

Note: the story begins here:

We woke up at around 10, loaded the luggage back in the car, and headed to the GoNorth location where our RV was waiting for us.

The RV was a 24’ Winnebago. None of us have ever been inside an RV, and we were impressed. It was like a studio apartment – except with more sleeping areas. Restroom, shower, two sinks, a gas stove, a propane-driven generator, two permanent beds – one in the rear, another above the driver’s cabin, and a table and two couches that may be converted into another bed. The space is similar to a small hotel room.

There was a bad side, too – as it turned out, we were responsible for all cracks, chips, and damage to paint and the glass, as well as tires. The insurance did not cover any of that, and where we were heading they were pretty much a certainty. Oh, well.

After learning how to operate everything and unpacking the luggage, we loaded into RV and drove to the airport to return our rental car. Then we stopped in Fred Meyers for more food – mostly water – and Arctic Outfitters for the bear spray (I picked up some ammo for the shotgun as well – it was much cheaper there than in Fred Meyers) – and headed out of town.

We had time to drive to Yukon that day. It is about 60 miles from Fairbanks to the beginning of Dalton highway. The pavement ends at this point.

I quickly found that with or without the pavement, the fastest speed the camper can drive is 50 mph. Go faster than that, and it starts oscillating in the vertical direction – jumping up and down too quickly when it hits the places where the road is curved. Also, “swerving” does not exist as a concept – the mass is too high for it to quickly change directions. So if you notice a defect in the road surface, 9 times out of 10 you can’t do anything to avoid it. The camper just keeps driving where it was going, even when the steering wheel is turned – an alarming sensation.

Dalton Highway does not have many services, and the ones it does have are heavily concentrated in the first half – between the beginning of the highway and Cold Foot/Wiseman.

The first service station (maybe, “minus first” since it’s actually BEFORE the Dalton) – complete with snacks and gifts – mostly Arctic Circle stuff, which, according to numerous panels, we had “almost” crossed. “Almost” is a relative term – Arctic Circle was still 120 miles away… But it wouldn’t be the last gift shop feeding off the proximity.

Yukon crossing is 56 miles from the beginning of the Dalton Highway. We drove into the parking lot next to the visitor’s center, had watermelon for dinner, and went to bed.

No comments: