Monday, April 21, 2003 - Adios Oregon!
Well, it was a perfect day to leave Oregon. The rain on the roof when I woke up reminded me why I'll never spend another winter here, but it stopped long enough to let me unhook everything outside and get on the road without getting soaked. I can't believe I've lived in one place for 7 months, but I have accomplished my goal - between what I worked for and what my dad left me, I have enough to spend the summer in Alaska. And between being scared spitless and spilling over with excitement, I actually am finally on that road for real instead of only in my dreams!
Wednesday, April 23, 2003 - Richmond, BC (near Vancouver)
Our RV park looked like a lagoon in places due to heavy rain last night continuing today, so we decided to check out the Imax Theater. I love 3-D movies and this one was an enjoyable trip into a bug's life in a beautiful rain forest. It's located in Canada Place, that huge white parachute looking building that is so familiar in Vancouver's skyline pictures. It's always fun to see exotic looking things like that in person. I kept marveling at the fact that I'm really in a foreign country on my way through the Canadian Rockies, the Yukon, and into the "wilds" of Alaska.
Thursday, April 24, 2003 - Vancouver Aquarium
Another rainy day, so we decided to visit the Aquarium - not usually on my list of preferred destinations, but Vancouver's is supposedly one of the nicer ones, so we went. It reminded me why I usually don't like to go to aquariums or zoos - no matter how nice or "natural" the enclosures, those wild animals are still trapped and never look very happy about it. It's especially bad with the large animals, like the gorgeous beluga whales that are the stars of the show here. As nice as it was to see them closer-up than normally possible, it was more sad to see their behavior in cement ponds when they should be free in the vast ocean. You could view them underwater on the second floor through the large plexiglass window and the one we watched just swam in a continuous fixed pattern around the enclosure over and over. She would swim upside down one way, come up for a breath at the same spot, then swim right side up the rest of the way. It was interesting to watch at first, but I couldn't help but feel sorry for her.
Of course, I realize my mood always just turns darker in general when I'm deprived of sunshine for as long as I've been lately. Although we had a brief half day of sunshine when we first arrived, it's been raining quite heavily the last two days and nights and it's already on my nerves. Since I've now used up the two activities that appeal to me that could be done on rainy days, I'm especially praying for sunshine tomorrow. I get so disappointed in myself that I can't just be thankful and recognize the gifts of the day without thinking that if I don't get precisely what I think I want, then I judge it as a bad day. I wonder if I'll ever be evolved enough for simple, graceful acceptance. I mean, I'm living a dream life at the moment - not working and don't expect to have to for months -- I'm on a fantasy adventure and am seeing sights I once would never have dared to dream of, and yet I can get depressed and pissed off because it's raining. Sort of ridiculous, don't you think? Like when we saw an old Dame Edna show that was just hilarious, and when asked for her life's motto, she said her "mum" always told her: "As you go through life, let this be your goal - keep your eye on the donut and not on the hole." Of course, she then explained her mum was now in the "home for the bewildered" but I thought her motto was still something to be aspired to.
April 30, 2003 - Happy Birthday?
My birthday today was spent resting from yesterday's trekking and trying not to think too much about the fact that in just 2 more days, Don is heading off in a totally different direction than me. I don't want to ruin what time we have left with tears and futile resentment, wishing that things could be different. It's times like this that truly tests my metaphysical beliefs that things really do happen as they should, cause it would be pretty hard for me to make that case right now.
May 3, 2003 - Solo Flight
Right now I am convinced the current weather is merely a reflection of my mood. It's been gray and gloomy since I left Fort Langley. I drove about 200 miles and now I'm sitting here near Clinton, BC in a nice little RV park right off the highway with one small lake and two big Canadian geese in front of me. The sun is setting on the first night of the rest of my journey alone.
As many knots in my stomach as I had when I watched Don drive off, and as much as the knots intensified when I drove off without him, I knew that even if I was unhappy, I was capable of continuing this journey alone. He gave me that confidence in myself with his unwavering confidence in me. I will continue to be inspired by him and the many things he taught me about life, about love and trust, and how to press on despite fear.
Crying down the road in a 36' RV is not safe, so I began praying about the subject, asking for God's help to get through this sad time. At that moment I very clearly understood that the sadness and loss I feel now is a natural part of a normal life and that while it won't go away all at once, He reminded me that all clouds do part eventually and sunshine is still to come and meant to be enjoyed.
May 4, 2003
I've been thinking of my dad a lot lately and think it interesting that I feel closer to him now than I did when he was alive. I thank him for the inheritance that made this journey possible for me and since I believe those that have passed over to the spiritual side can see and watch over us, sometimes I swear I can hear his voice in my head. I like to believe he is enjoying this trip with me. Travel is something he always talked of doing, but a dream he never managed to make come true. That was one of the dearest lessons I learned from him - if you wait too long and hold out for just the perfect conditions before doing what you want to do, sometimes your dreams just pass you by and turn into the dreaded trio: "woulda, coulda, shouldas."
May 5, 2003 - Snowed in
I woke this morning to a ground covered in snow and larger flakes still falling. At noon, the clouds seemed darker and the flakes thicker, so I went in to pay for another day here at this rather sad little park. I gladly paid to stay safe and warm another night, though, and will do so again tomorrow if conditions are not greatly improved. When I had the thought of trusting the weatherman's forecast of clearing skies tomorrow, the thought rebounded that if I trust God that I am where I'm supposed to be, and if I remember Don's words of wisdom "Wherever I am is where I want to be" I know that if I sit still long enough, the beauty of the snow will be replaced by the beauty of the sun. In the meantime I am comfortable and toasty in my home and hope to hit the road again tomorrow.
Thursday, May 8, 2003 - Muncho Lake and Liard Hotsprings
This was the first day I have experienced what I was looking to find along this highway to Alaska. The beauty is indescribable.
I saw my first moose today - in fact, I saw 4 of them and even managed to get a couple of pictures of them from the road. I also loved that a deer that I came across leaped and ran alongside and in front of me for quite a ways like she was leading me, saying "Isn't this just great???" Since the deer is my totem animal, I considered this a particularly good sign. No bears yet, though.
The roads have been in good condition and I'm driving around 55-60 mph. I've run into some construction, but the areas are well marked and managed. I am surprised at how little traffic there is.
I made it to Liard Hotsprings today in time for a nice soak and rinse off of road wearies. You walk on a boardwalk through a foresty environment that looks like it would be a great bear hangout. I was thankful for the people around, but it wasn't too crowded. It was nice talking to them, a couple from Michigan who moved to Alaska, and a girl who was moving there to be with her boyfriend. She is driving and sleeping in her Toyota pickup truck and was going another 200 miles after she left the springs. I was so wiped out afterwards, it was all I could do to walk back to the RV.
This one, like a lot of campgrounds that say their rates include water, cannot really offer that service at the sites - the pipes are still frozen.
May 10, 2003 - Watson Lake
I was disappointed that when I arrived in Watson Lake, the two attractions I planned to stop there for were not yet open. I really wanted to see the Northern Lights Imax and the Alcan Highway interpretive center. Usually my luck runs out and I am too late for something, but this time I am too early - neither will open until next week and I'm not willing to hang around that long.
I was going to only drive 170 miles today to Mukluk Annie's, a place all RVers rave about in Teslin. They're famous for their salmon bakes and free RV overnight parking spots. A Delaware couple I had met in Watson Lake were going to meet me there, but I left later than they did and when I got there, it also was not yet open. I don't know why with all the research I did before I left I didn't realize that so many places do not open until mid May, some not until June. The payoff, though, is that the roads are so uncrowded. The people I have met who have been here several times say that's why they travel at this time of year. I have met some really nice people - one man is a retired pilot who has an ultralight plane at their home near Anchorage and their son runs a glacier cruise out of Seward. We've made plans to meet when I'm through there and I will get to do the tour for free. I'll see if I have the courage to go up in the ultralight when I see it.
I'm having a little trouble adjusting to the late daylight already. It didn't get dark last night until sometime after I was in bed at 11:30 and it was light when I woke up at 5:00. I'm getting less sleep than I need I think and I'm pretty tired. That's why instead of pushing on to Whitehorse when Teslin didn't pan out, I stopped at the next park that was open in Johnson's Crossing and am thankful for a quiet place with 30 amp service at a reasonable price.
May 11, 2003 - Whitehorse
I got the best sleep I've had in ages last night and made it to Whitehorse, where I decided to stay at WalMart, the first time I've dry-camped since I left. Even the view from here is incredible with snow covered mountains and the company of other RVers seeking a free sleep spot for the night. It's really windy here and the coldest I've felt, but I've got the generator running and am happy to be safe and warm inside my little house.
Sometimes I find myself wondering what in the hell I'm doing in the middle of the Yukon all by myself and then I realize I'm not really by myself at all. As from the beginning of this journey, God continues to send me nothing but miracles and angels. The couple I had met from Delaware in Watson Lake found me here at WalMart. They told me about the side trip they took today to Skagway and convinced me I should leave my RV here and take the car there tomorrow, so that's what I'm gonna do.
May 12, 2003 - Cold in Whitehorse WalMart
What a difference a day makes. I woke up at 1:00 this morning freezing with nothing but cold air coming from my gas furnace. Since less than a month ago I had the same problem and spent $165 supposedly fixing it, I was more unhappy than even I would normally be. So I thought, OK, turn on the generator and charge the batteries and see if maybe low voltage was causing the problem. It wasn't - still no heat. And of course this was the coldest and windiest day so far since I left - it was 48 degrees in my house at the time. So I turned everything off and went back to bed with my long johns and comforter around me. When I woke again at 6:00 I tried to turn the generator on, but now it wouldn't come on either. My Delaware friend advised me to fill up with gas since I was sitting at about half full at that point. I know it has worked before on less than that, but I went and filled up and when I returned, the generator came on. I still had no heat, and my Delaware friends and another couple I met from Vidor, Texas, tried to figure it out with no luck. So I called the manufacturer to find out where I could take it for repair. There was a shop less than 2 blocks from me, and they were kind enough to drop everything and work on it for 3 hours. Since the circuit board had just been replaced, I watched them go through every sequence and finally determined that it was a minor adjustment in the gas pressure and in the electrode gap. Another $150 later and I am warm again.
So I decided I'd boondock again tonight at WalMart since my budget was definitely blown now, but I still wanted to go to Skagway tomorrow since it was too late by then for that trip. I thought I'd throw a pity party for myself and soak away some worries at Takhini Hotsprings, about 30 miles away. Their advertisement said they were open year round. Apparently that means except on Mondays. I was in the throes of my pity party for sure now.
So I went to the store and back to the RV to cook dinner. Sorry, generator won't come on again. Apparently my house batteries just will not hold a charge anymore, even for just a few hours and there just wasn't enough juice to start it. I promptly hooked up and took off for an RV park I'd heard about right off the road that turns to Skagway that is reasonably priced.
When I went into the office to check in, the lady asked how I was doing and I'm sure she didn't expect me to burst into tears in response, but that's exactly what I did. I blubbered about the day I'd had and she literally and figuratively took me into her arms and comforted me. I told her how my friends and family all either thought I was very brave or very stupid to be taking this trip alone and right now I was siding with the extremely stupid consensus. She told me about the travels she had made by herself and that of course sometimes unexpected things happen, but in the end, if we don't hurt ourselves or others, these things can make us stronger and more resilient. She reminded me that I proved that I can handle problems even if I don't like them and it's okay to have a good cleansing cry about it, too.
Sometimes the only thing that keeps me going forward is the alternative of what going back would mean. I might be able to find job security and fewer unpleasant surprises in Austin, but I think it would come at the price of my spirit, and I'm not ready to spend that yet. I'm still willing to trade security for adventure, I only wish I wasn't riddled with the doubts that I have right now and the feeling of failure that comes with being so scared.
But I'm going to Skagway tomorrow hoping for and counting on better days ahead.
May 13, 2003 - Side trip to Skagway
It was like the universe was making up for my mini-meltdown yesterday and gave me an exquisitely perfect day. I left the RV and drove the 100 miles to Skagway along one of the most beautiful drives ever driven. I can tell I'm going to run out of superlatives trying to describe all I'm seeing and I'm not even in Alaska yet! Well, actually, Skagway is located in Alaska, so in that short little drive, I went in and out of BC, the Yukon and Alaska and back again.
Since I have no TV reception, when I got home I put on a tape I had made of an old Oprah show ages ago that I had never watched. It was a series of interviews with immigrants to America - they told what their lives were like before and what they had to go through to get here and how amazed they were at the blessings of this country, even though not perfect. One man talked of seeing an older woman walking barefoot through the desert with the bottom of her feet completely worn off, but she kept trudging along with freedom as the prize in sight. I again was chagrined at how much I bitch about the problems I have when in comparison to 90% of the world I am unbelievably blessed. I went to bed with that prayer of thanksgiving and hope that maybe I can remember that for just a moment the next time I think I've got it so hard just because I don't have all the money I think I need in order not to worry.
May 14, 2003 - Almost there!
Tomorrow I will finally be in Alaska! I can't believe it's been a little less than a month since I left Portland. In some ways it feels like a lifetime. Canada has been great, but mainly just the place to go through to get to Alaska. In some ways it's been a much harder month of travel than I had ever thought of, and in other ways I am amazed at how smooth it went. My emotions have certainly run the gamut, that's for sure. From the loss of my greatest inspiration, Don - to a feeling of accomplishment that I've come so far alone - to doubting the wisdom of ever taking off on such a crazy and risky dream - to being totally and unbelievably excited at the prospect of spending the whole summer in amazing Alaska - I've experienced it all. If one of the things that life is all about is to experience and learn as much about ourselves and others as we can during our time on earth, then I feel like I've lived a lifetime just in the past month. Being the only one to listen to myself cry in fear and frustration or sob in joy and wonder, in that experience I've learned a lot about myself. I've met some great people, two of which I hugged goodbye today after my two nights at Caribou RV Park. One of the owners, Evie, first lent her sympathetic ear and warm shoulder to my cries when I arrived there after my most frustrating day so far, then her husband, Herbert, stopped me on my way out to Skagway yesterday to see how I was and wish me a great day, and when I said goodbye to Evie today, she asked me to remember that I was doing what I was supposed to be doing and this was an adventure of a lifetime that I will never regret having. What angels! - they certainly have been my favorite hosts and favorite place to stay so far.
200 miles later down some of the roughest roads so far - 8 miles of washboard-like gravel wherein I drove 10 mph, I'm sitting here now in my warm RV at 8:00 p.m. in the daylight with my binoculars watching birds and ducks fly by Lake Kluane, who is reflecting mountains that are growing shadows. When I checked in here at Burwash RV Resort (and that term must be used very loosely around here), they told me it snowed today in Tok, Alaska, which is my destination tomorrow. So after checking the weather in the morning, I may just stay here another day - that wouldn't be too bad a prospect I guess. This place is cheap with a pretty view, and a day of just total rest could be handled okay about now anyway.
And, oh my God, it's now 8:10 and it's snowing! Blowing from the north and across the lake and is breathtakingly beautiful - tiny but distinct flakes that melt as they hit the windshield. Well, if they decide to congregate and stay on the ground tomorrow, I'll be staying put, that's for sure.
The people who checked me in here are very nice, also. I have plenty food at home and they have a restaurant, so I'll be fine if I have to stay longer than expected. I know I'm not the only single woman RVer who has ever made the trip through here, but you would think so with the reactions I get from most of the people I've met so far. Mostly it's the women who are amazed as they vow they could never do such a thing. I beg to differ since I can be found just as guilty as anyone of doubting myself, so I firmly believe that if I can, anyone can follow their dreams if they really want to.
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