Backroads of Dawson

My friend Nathalie is currently in vacation mode with a lot of time off AND she has a 4×4, high clearance vehicle perfect for driving on washboard routes. So, she has been very content over the past two days to show me some of the far reaches of the Dawson area that she discovered over the course of her winter here.

Our adventure started last night, with a bit of a tangent. We went out just before 9 and spent so long trying to decide what we wanted for dinner that our only inexpensive option wound up being the casino. The dining choices in summer-time Dawson are incredible! We didn’t realise just how big the variety is until we started the whole “Greek?” “Nah. Italian?” “Nah. Fish and chips?” routine. We wound up getting pizza at the casino and then sharing a veggie dog from the hot dog cart. 🙂

We left Gerties just before the 10:30 show because we were in a talkative mood. Nathalie suggested we hop on the ferry so she could show me the location of west Dawson and Sunnydale, two neighbours on the other side of the Yukon River where homes are 100% self-sufficient. She and I are sort of interested in buying property in the area and have pretty much narrowed our options to west Dawson, so we also spent some time looking for and at empty lots.

West Dawson feels like a remote suburb–houses are fairly close together but there is quite a bit of tree coverage for privacy. Sunnydale, though, is isolated. Roads are maintained in west Dawson so folks can go to town in their vehicles in the winter via the ice bridge, but Sunnydale residents rely on snowmobiles and dog sleds. There are a few businesses on that side of the river, including a kennel and the Top of the World golf course, but otherwise it’s still almost pristine wilderness.

Let me pause here to get back to the buying property topic since I know that raised a few eyebrows. I’m entertaining the idea of buying a small chunk of property that I won’t need to build on just to have a physical address of my own to firmly establish my ties to Canada and Yukon. I would like for it to be RV accessible so that I could use it as an RV pad. I started to think about this last year, and the idea continues to grow on me. If I choose to buy in Dawson, the time to do so is now as prices are starting to sky rocket. This is still very much a project written in sand.

Today, we were going to go gold panning again, but decided instead to check out the gold fields route. I will come back to this route in greater detail when we go again since today was really a scouting mission with no time for pictures. As a teaser, I will say that this route has you climb up so high above the Dawson valley that rivers were still choked with ice and there was several feet of snow in places even though the mercury was at over 30 degrees!

I can’t get over how big this country is, country in terms of the wilderness expanses. There is just green as far as you can see with a swath of golden road cutting through it. I have to say it–it’s like driving on the yellow brick road through the Emerald City!

We’d been driving for over an hour when I started to get concerned about returning to work on time. The landscape was always the same and we hadn’t seemed to make any progress, so I was happy when Nathalie recognized a landmark and told me we were 45 minutes out, giving us an at home ETA that would give me a half hour to spare.

Throughout our drive, Nathalie shared her tales of life in winter Dawson and told me about a really colourful local character. I may come back to him if I get to meet him and he agrees to give me a formal interview. He officially made life in Dawson feel like a novel. 😀

In other news, the weather is HOT and DRY and SMOKY. The fire season is almost a month early this year and it promises to be a bad one. Anyone heading north better keep on top of road closures. A very bad fire just west of Tok closed the road between Tok and Fairbanks and nearly took out a full community. Meanwhile on the 40km up the Dempster highway a huge fire broke out today and will most likely close down that road within a few days. Interestingly enough, it’s the same customers who complain that we’re in a territory-wide fire ban (What, no fire pits?! You guys suck!) who also complain that there is poor visibility on the Top of the World and Dempster Highways. *shakes head*

It’s been a couple of full days and I can’t believe that we’re about to roar into June!

A Very Full Day

I don’t know what it is about the long sultry summer days of the Klondike, but I seem to wedge twice as much into a day as would seem feasible. So, today:

A Ferry of My Own!

I was out at Gertie’s a little bit later than I should have been last night, so this morning’s awakening at 9:20AM by my iPod Touch alarm clock was a tad brutal. I’d promised friends across the river that I’d help them move back to Bonanza, so I was up and at ’em in minutes. In fact, I was at the hostel with the car nearly packed within a half hour, including a short wait on the ferry. Not bad!

We had to wait for the ferry to cross back, less than ten minutes. I had the ferry to myself, which was kind of cool. I would have thought that they would wait to load up, but nope. They take the passengers who are there, or at least as many as they can fit, and then they cross. Back and forth, all day, every day. What a service!

Once back at the motel, I checked them in, dumped their luggage, grabbed some toast, gulped down coffee at the office and started my day.

Beds and Bundles!

Housekeeping was shorthanded this morning, so I spent an hour stripping beds and then running linens and towels up to the rooms. I needed to be back at the office for noon, which enabled me to discover that I can make two beds in fifteen minutes. I’ll have to look up my record for last summer and see if that’s good or bad. 😀

Back in the office, it was the usual zaniness. During quiet moments, I continued to make little bundles out of our check in cards in preparation for inputting into our computer system. I designed and implemented a new database this week, so I have a huge backlog to go through. I don’t mind since I love data entry AND I’m doing it on a Mac! Yes! We’ve got a Mac in the office this year and I can do 90% of my work on it! Yaaaaaaaaaaaay!

I was relieved at quarter past two and headed home to play with my iPod some more.

iPod Breakthrough!

After getting in a little work at my contract (subject of a future post), I decided to focus on the iPod and try to get more ebooks on it. I put together a few semi-related pages and came up with a way to connect the iPod to my cellular connection! This finally gave me full iPod use, limited only by my bandwidth restrictions. I was given a huge cd filled with tons and tons and tons of wonderful ebooks and I transferred a few of them to the iPod. Then, I discovered that you can actually bookmark and annotate books in the Stanza app. Amazon Kindle? Pfft.

Oz!

I went back to work at quarter past five and it was the usual zaniness until a customer checked in with a bunch of dogs and the manager decided to adopt one. Well, she’s trying him out tonight on a trial basis, but they’ve bonded, so I know he’s staying. 🙂 Somehow in the middle of this, she and I agreed to coparent him this summer, so I sort of have a dog now! He’s a Jack Russell, the only breed I have any experience with since that’s what I had growing up, and we named him Oz! I will be taking pictures soon. 🙂

The Night Is Young!

It’s presently 8:40, dinner’s in the oven (chicken and lasagna), laundry’s in the washer, I have work to do, I want to play some more with my iPod settings, and I want to finish the short story ebook I’ve started.

Just another day in paradise and I’m lovin’ it! 😀

Out and About

It’s amazing what you can do in a couple of hours on a HOT Dawson afternoon!

I needed to pick up a package in town (more on that in my next post), so I decided to treat myself to lunch, opting for Sourdough Joe’s. The food, while excellent last year, was much improved, especially in the French fry department! I enjoyed a chicken burger made with a real chicken breast as well as sweet dark brown Quebec-style fries. Lunch with tip came to a reasonable $14.

Next, I went to pick up my much anticipated package and then off I went to meet up with my friends G & F, whom I met the day I arrived in Dawson and took to the dump.  We crossed the river on the ferry so they could show me their digs at the hostel. They weren’t happy with their accommodations so I suggested we drive back to Bonanza to speak with the manager to see if she could give them a good deal for their last three weeks here. Of course! That settled, I promised to go pick them up Saturday morning to move them back here and then went back into town to drop them off at the library.

Now, I have a half hour left to play with my new toy. Care to guess what it is? Andy Baird is not allowed to guess, if he’s reading this. 😉

Déjà Vu Between Nanaimo and the Chasm

Being very tired, I decided to go to bed early in Nanaimo, so I hit the sack around 9:30. I also figured that it would be a cold and noisy night and that the longer opportunity I had for shut eye, the better. Well, the joke was on me. The Nanaimo Walmart was super quiet, much more so than Croft’s driveway! I slept soundly until about quarter to four, rolled over, and slept until 6:30.

I got up at 6:45 and went off in search of coffee (no propane, so couldn’t make my own!). The Walmart opens late, at 8, so that McDonalds wasn’t a possibility. I was going to cave and go to Timmy’s when I saw the familiar green and white of a Starbucks. There, they didn’t have the dark roast I favour so they made me an Americano for the same price. I love when that happens!

The streets were fairly quiet when I set out around 7:30 and it was an easy drive to the ferry terminal. Most of it was downhill, so I practised gearing down and did quite well. It had cost me $193.65 to cross in October and $214 today. Insane! I could tell they disbelieved my claim of 50′, but I had my receipt from October and was ready to show it, however I was processed without any undue fussing.

It was a short wait, maybe a half hour, at the very most, to board. There were a couple of sharp turns, but also plenty of manoeuvring room. I applied the parking brakes, hugged the kitties, and headed up to the passenger decks.

I hadn’t brought any magazines this time, so I treated myself to a copy of Woman’s World onboard, mostly for the crossword and recipes. We had a smooth sailing with mostly clear weather, but boy was it windy! I made the mistake of going on deck without putting on my coat first and it just about blew out to sea!

Disembarking was equally easy and I found myself on the east-bound Transcanada. I took a moment to say good-bye to the Pacific Ocean since my life on the road has thus far been working out as planned. If the trend continues, I will not see the Pacific again for several years. But salty water still beacons in 2010, when I will dip my foot in the Arctic Ocean!

When I came to the Island in the fall, one of my reasons for choosing the Sea to Sky highway was to avoid having to cross the whole of the GVR. I debated crossing back to the Mainland from Duke Point, but that would have put me in the bowels of Tsawwassen and I wasn’t convinced that navigating through Delta and New West was going to be any easier than sailing down the congested Transcanada through Vancouver. I decided to take the most direct route, armed with my knowledge of the route and the exits that would, hopefully, remind me when to bear left.

Getting through Vancouver turned out to be easy. Sure, there were a lot of cars and everyone merging on the highway expected me to slam on my brakes for them, but I was calm, remembering that this was nowhere near as bad as was crossing Montreal with only Miranda!

I had to stop at the Ikea in Coquitlam and Google Maps made this seem like an easy thing to do, just a blip off and on the highway. Ha ha ha ha. The Ikea does not seem to have any overheight parking whatsoever. I turned into an open area of parking and could not see any place to park, much less turn around, so I kept going down the main laneway. It led me to three choices: turn left to a covered structure much shorter than Miranda, unhook and back up out of there, or go the wrong way straight down an entrance that would take me back to Lougheed highway. I picked that option and got a lot of honks even though I was not blocking traffic and was in a position to make a turn into the right direction of traffic once all the cars passed.

Back in the mad rush of traffic, I decided to try parking near Rack Attack, remembering from last year that there was street parking there. Well, there was a police auction yet again and one side of the road is now blocked to parking. I circled right around the Ikea and decided to take my chance at the Canadian Tire nearly a kilometre away. There, I found a place to park with an easy exit, so I locked up and schlepped to the Ikea.

There, I was reminded that I hate shopping at Ikea nearly as much as I hate shopping at Canadian Tire. I had a clear shopping list and it still took almost an hour to find the right floor and section, then get some help to locate the items in question. I wasn’t even remotely tempted to shop for myself by the time I had my friend’s stuff!

Mission accomplished, I slung the heavy bag over my back and marched back to the rig. The things I do for my friends! 😀

The feeling of déjà vu was very strong as I headed back out onto Lougheed highway to catch the exit for the Transcanada. I remembered from last year that I had to be in the left lane and ready for some very tight turns, so it was smooth sailing out of Coquitlam and an easy drive to Chilliwack.

I also remembered from last year that the Husky at the corner of Vedder and Luckakuk is super convenient for gas and propane, so that was my next stop. I goofed and went to the cardlock propane tank, but was able to circle back to the correct one within the parking lot. From there, I just had to move up about five feet and over two to gas up. The propane cost $40 and I put in almost a 100L of fuel at 105.9 (same as on the Island, gah).

I thought of getting groceries in Chilliwack, but when I saw how hard it was going to be to get out of the Husky I changed my mind. I just had to do a right hand turn, but the traffic was solid. Every time it cleared after a green light another wave of cars would pull up from the previous light. I needed all three lanes of traffic to stop and let me in so I could do my turn, but everyone was too selfish to do that. I sat there for about twenty minutes, not willing to risk an accident and force myself into traffic, when a red Jeep cherokee stopped and waved me through. I started the turn, as sharply as I could, but I really did need all three lanes. I was blocking the first and part of the second as I turned and two cars in the second and third lanes just whizzed by me honking instead of taking two seconds out of their day to let me through. Soon as they were through I hit the gas and was able to complete my turn, finding myself in the wrong lane for the onramp back onto the highway. Thankfully, I was able to get over once I’d cleared the intersection and was finally on my way!

Once I hit Hope and turned onto the Gold Rush Trail, I was able to assess how I feel about being back on the road. I was relaxed and happy. Ikea notwithstanding, none of the day had required white knuckled driving and Miranda was practically purring.

The kilometres ate themselves up as I pushed north, marveling at the changing landscapes. I pulled over a few times to stretch my legs and admire the view, but drove determinedly to the Chasm. I had been tempted to stop to do some work, guessing correctly that I wouldn’t be able to at the Chasm, but decided that I’d just take Saturday off and catch up at Les’ Sunday and Monday.

One of the reasons I gassed up in Chilliwack was that I did not want to have to do so in Cache Creek. I’ve stopped there twice for gas and have had three accidents almost immediately after. I never thought I was superstitious until now!

I would have liked to arrive at the Chasm with beer and a treat for dinner, but it wasn’t looking up for that, so I was delighted to find a small food store at a Shell gas station next to a liquour store in Clinton, just a few kilometres from the Chasm turnoff. I was able to park on the street right in front. Awesome!

While small, the grocery selection was thorough and prices were competitive. I picked up a cucumber, red pepper, package of fancy sausages, sour cream, and sun dried tomato tortillas to make wraps. The liquor store didn’t have cold beer, so I put my six pack in the freezer. Having spent most of Friday with the fridge on battery power, everything was still frozen and there wasn’t much catchup to do once I turned it over to propane. The fridge had warmed just enough to make defrosting it easy.

It was nearing if not past six when I turned off to the Chasm and drove the seven bumpy kilometres to the turnoff. It was in great shape, albeit as unlevel as ever. I put the passenger side up on two sets of levelers; it wasn’t quite enough but okay for one night.

Like last year, it started to snow the second I got settled and began to prepare dinner, then the sky cleared. I made sure the fridge was working and tried the water heater, but it’s definitely toast, so getting the part for it will be a top priority once I get settled in Dawson.

I really hadn’t expected to have internet at the Chasm, so I wasn’t disappointed that I didn’t. I settled down to write this entry, had a wash, put on my new jammies, and curled up in my recliner with a good book.

Being back on the road is awesome. What a difference a year makes.

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first glimpse of Vancouver!

first glimpse of Vancouver!

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turnoff just north of Hope

turnoff just north of Hope

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entering Ashcroft--back to desert after a winter in the rain forest!

entering Ashcroft–back to desert after a winter in the rain forest!

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I'm just south of Cache Creek here

I’m just south of Cache Creek here

A Wee Bit of Trouble Getting Out of Campbell River

I have to salute the three heros who got me to Nanaimo today!

As is normal for me on the night before departure, I hardly slept a wink. After tossing and turning for what felt like hours, I got up around seven and finished prepping the inside. I was shocked by how quickly everything came together even if there are lots of things that still need to be properly organized. I finished putting away everything outside and then joined Croft and Norma for coffee before starting the Great Big Vehicle Ballet–we had two cars, two motorhomes, and a dolly to move!

Hero no. 1, Croft, made sure I hit the road with some breakfast and was quick to solve my first motorhome issue today: the stairs would not fold up! He found a bottle of a miracle product called ‘Moovit’ and that did the trick. Impressive stuff!

Getting out of the driveway was a piece of cake. First, I drove my car to the gas station to get it out of the way and then Croft guided me back onto the front lawn and forward into the laneway. So, obviously, Miranda started without any problems. I did trickle charge the battery yesterday, but it wasn’t really necessary. Croft’s latest post reminded me that the new brakes squealed something awful as I left the house, but they were silent by the time I reached my first stop.

I headed to the gas station to dump and ended up taking a shower. There’s a water hose there for cleaning up and it is super high pressure. I started it and it flew out of my hands soaking me with water! Pfft, pfft!

Next, I took on 150L of fuel (three quarters of a tank) and then hooked up the car. Everything was good and all my lights and blinkers and whatnot were working.

The oil change place is called Lube-X and is located on Ironwood Street. I’m glad I used my knowledge of Campbell River to get there instead of the GPS because it would have had me climb a steep hill for no good reason. I parked, went up to confirm what bays I should be in, unhooked the car, and brought it up to Bay 1.

I went back to move Miranda which is where, at first glance, my day went to hell:

I could not move her out of park.

Hero no. 2, the gang at Lube-X, moved heaven and earth to get me back on the road. I called Croft at one point to see if he’d encountered this issue with his rig at some point (our motorhomes have the same truck chassis), but no.

After doing a few things, like moving the steering wheel to unlock it, a call was placed to an expert who suggested that unhooking the toad might have tugged Miranda back enough after she was parked to make something stick. It was suggested we nudge her forward with another vehicle to unjam the thingamabob. It took a few tries, but Shawn, the Owner/Proprietor, finally got me into gear! I was advised to keep her in neutral with the parking brake on until we figured out what was going on.

That excitement must have taken an hour and I was finally able to move Miranda up into the bay for her oil change. That didn’t happen. Bob would not allow it, saying that my oil was still pristine (it had been changed in Pemberton and I’d only done a couple hundred kilometres). He doesn’t buy into the whole ‘do it every few months no matter how much it’s been driven’ rule. He also said that I hadn’t driven enough since my last differential fluid change to make that worth checking.

However, my transmission fluid was a bit thick and cloudy and it was pretty evident that one service was missed. Miranda has about 78,000km on the odo, which means that this was something the previous owners should have had done. I’ve since gone over my notes from the inspection and discovered that I had been advised to have the transmission fluid changed within a year or so and it was also mentioned on the Pemberton paperwork that I was coming due for a transmission service.  I could have probably waited a bit longer, but why? I really believe in doing things before they absolutely need to be done, brakes notwithstanding. 🙂 Megan took charge of my transmission fluid exchange and I was so impressed by the machine I took a picture!

Meanwhile, Bob called a nearby repair place to ask them if they could look at my steering column issue. I was told that they couldn’t do any work today, but I managed to get them to agree to just take a look at the problem to determine my next move.

Both vehicles still had the exact same tire pressure they had when I parked six months ago. I’m going to assume this is a good thing!

Finally, Shawn went way above and beyond and took it upon himself to derust and grease my towbar pins!

Oil change and filter for the toad + transmission fluid change and new wipers for Miranda: $349. Hardly noteworthy and a lot less pricey than the maintenance done on Miranda alone last spring.

All was going so well until I pulled out of the bay, parked Miranda in preparation for toad hook up, and moved the gear into park. I can be such a dumb blonde sometimes!

Shawn came and worked his magic again, very quickly, and discovered something very odd: I could not shift into gear with the truck started and my foot on the brake, but I could with the truck off and the key moved just one notch past off. Armed with that knowledge, I was able to head off to the repair place.

If you need an oil change done in Campbell River, Lube-X is definitely the place to go!

The repair place, Seymour Services, just north of town, is where I met today’s hero no. 3, Loren, who came out to look things over. He jiggled a few things and then asked me an odd question: did I have a brake light? I replied that I did when I left the gas station and hadn’t even thought to check it at Lube-X.

Well, I didn’t. The gang at Lube-X and I were so focused on getting the gear changer moving that we missed that completely!

My heart sank. This was getting to be a bigger and bigger problem! I could just envision the wiring job I was going to need in addition to a new steering column! And what if there was a problem with the transmission?! As someone who favourites manual transmissions, I am very suspicious of automatic ones and whenever something goes wrong I assume I need a new transmission. 🙂

Loren grabbed a multi-metre and checked all my fuses, spending an inordinate amount of time with the ones under the dash inside the cockpit. He came up for air holding a very corroded fuse, the very fuse the feeds the brake light.

He had some bad news for me: the dampness this winter caused some condensation in the fuse box and it will need to be replaced in the nearish future. It’s something that can wait till the fall, but not indefinitely.

He also had some good news for me: the problem with my gear lever was not mechanical, it was electrical! Turns out this was a very clever safety feature: the truck was telling me that it couldn’t go because there was a problem with a vital system, but still gave me a way to shift into neutral for towing. Loren replaced the fuse and both problems were fixed, just like that!

Of course, I had to pay for the help, which amounted to a grand total of 1,000… pennies. Yup, just ten bucks, hardly worth the multiple heart attacks I had! 😀 Thank you so much, Loren!!!

After that, it was fairly smooth sailing to Nanaimo, departing at about 3:30 with an arrival around 5. The day had started off hot and sunny but slowly turned to rainy, overcast, and windy to the point that I considered pulling off the highway after one nasty gust just about blew me into a ditch!

I’d set the GPS to take me to the Walmart, but it obviously has older information because it took me right by the Walmart telling me I still had 13km to go! I caught the sign announcing the mall, so I was able to turn in. I had wanted to get propane tonight; I’m completely out, but I was exhausted There’s nothing in the fridge or freezer that’ll go bad by tomorrow, I can do without a shower for one night, and I have enough blankets to make up for not being able to turn on the furnace.

This is a good Walmart for overnighting as it is very roomy. I am tucked away near the road and not blocking anyone.

For dinner, I was looking forward to going to a Japanese restaurant at the food court, but it was closed so I instead had some yummy Greek food. I then went into the Walmart to get a new water pressure regulator and decided to treat myself to some new pyjamas. It was either that or cheesecake and I decided the jammies would be better for me. 😀

It’s been a pretty good day back on the road and I feel I can relax now that I know that both vehicles are in top mechanical shape.

Tomorrow, I will get up and going when I do and I don’t care at what time I catch the ferry, although the 10:30 would be ideal. I’m heading up to the Chasm, so a mid-afternoon start from Coquitlam would be just fine, but I could go a little later if necessary.

I’m writing this post while sitting in my new recliner and it it is SO comfy and superior to the bucket chairs! I put a tray on my lap for the computer and I may never move from this position. 😀

Finally, here’s another shot of the blue water jug resting on the counter. It pours beautifully, but it drips for a short moment after turning off the tap, so it’s important to not pull away your glass too soon.