Wilder by Far

A look at life with the Wilder family. Updated most weekends and some vacation days. You can contact me at movingnorth@gmail.com..

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Location: United States

Saturday, August 27, 2005

"Six pints of bitter, and quickly, please. The world's about to end." Ford Prefect - Hictchhiker's Guide


So we continued on our way through the smoke toward Delta Junction. The Boy alternated bouts of extreme boredom with bouts of irritating noises. I saw a bridge coming up in the distance, and said, "Hey, Boy, look at the bridge ahead."

He looked and saw the large supports of a suspension bridge up over the trees. He thought for a moment, and yelled, "THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE!!!!!!"

Did I mention he's a four-year-old bridge junkie? And I don't mean the sitting and gossiping about your neighbors with old ladies bridge, I mean the steel, concrete, and sweat-constructed force vectors that support our daily driving.

After I calmed him down, we stopped and talked about how suspension bridges worked. The above picture is the suspension bridge in question. More interesting than the bridge itself is what it supports: The Alaska Pipeline, as it crosses the Tanana River.

The Alaska Pipeline is important to Alaskans. It's the cash register. All of that oil produced on the North Slope is pumped through this line down to Valdez in the south. One out of every eight or so barrels belongs to the State of Alaska. If we Alaskans allowed the politicians to spend all of that money right now, Alaska could have its own space program. We could probably put something a little bit better than the shuttle together. I mean seriously. It's 2005. Couldn't we think of something better to coat it with than clay coasters?

As it is, there's this huge (about $50,000 for every Alaskan) bank account sitting someplace that has our money in it. It's probably not in France. Where ever it is, they ship us some of the money from there every year. It's officially called the Permanent Fund, but most people call it, "That check I get every year that lets me buy a new snowmachine." Complain about oil prices? Probably not too much up here. By the way, California? Thanks for driving so I can have a new snowmachine.


The "Not Golden Gate" bridge is just outside of Delta Junction. Delta Junction is the official end of the Alcan Highway. The Alcan was built during World War II because there was no road to Alaska, and we just couldn't have the Japanese in control of the tundra. So, being Americans, we built a road. The "official" end of the road marker is shown below, though there used to be one in Fairbanks, 101 miles up the road, but they got rid of it when the Official Alaskan Side Of The Road Landmark Committee got wind that the road between Delta and Fairbanks already existed when they built the Alcan. They tested some of Lance Armstrong's urine from when he was six, and after finding it tested positive for Pez, they thus ruled that Delta Junction was the terminus (from the Latin for "term" - meaning "school year", and "inu" meaning "innie belly-button" and "s" meaning "s", so, literally 'school-year-innie-belly-button-s') of the road. It was nice that the dispute ended without bloodshed. I hate it when that happens.

Regardless, there's a Visitor Center right near the milepost. Inside was a nice young clerk, a gift store with all sorts of Alaskan stuff ("I watched the Super Bowl in Alaska" shirts, etc.), free coffee, and free maps. Did I mention that the boy loves maps?

The Boy walked up to the clerk and said, "This is a nice map," indicating a map that showed the location of all fires in Alaska.

The clerk said, "Thank you."

The Boy: "I can't have it."

The clerk: "No, I can't give this one to you, but you can have this one," presenting a brand new road map, complete with the signature and official seal of the governor. "Are you from around here?"

The Boy: "Yes."

The clerk: "Then why don't I know you?"

See, Alaska is like that. If emptied out Denver and moved every single Alaskan in, you'd have four empty houses for every occupied one. And then the Alaskans would proceed to cover all the houses in duct tape, for no other reason than they're Alaskan. But, the point is that Alaska is big in size, big in spirit, but has fewer people in it than in your first grade class in elementary school. The lone Alaska Congressman represents fewer people than are in a typical rap-star's entourage.

We explained that we were from Fairbanks. The clerk said, "Oh, if he was around here, I'd know him. I'm the piano teacher."

Not a piano teacher. The piano teacher. Alaska's like that, too.

Delta Junction is also home to Ft. Greely. Ft. Greely is the home to our ballistic missile defense system, where they have some missiles meant to intercept incoming bad-guy missiles. It's a pretty place, and the residents will know about a half an hour before the rest of us if the end of the world is at hand. Not a bad deal, front row seats for the apocalypse, as it were. I would so ignore my bills if the apocalypse was coming.

It was just south of Delta Junction when we saw the first mountains. I was driving and saw the outline of one slowly fade in as we passed through successive concentrations of smoke at 65 miles per hour. Not often that a few cubic miles of rock can be sneaky, but this one was. What we saw is pictured below.

Finally, I saw a road heading back to the east, a gravel road that showed promise. I whipped on to it, and we drove over a trail as rough as Mickey Rourke's face. It went miles. We stopped, and had a nice picnic, eating the sandwiches The Mrs. had packed for just this occasion. The Boy and I went for a hike, after I strapped on the .45 auto. This did look like bear country, with lots of low berry-bearing branches, moose sign, etc. Although you might not think a .45 is big enough, it was shooting full metal jacket rounds so 14 of them (two magazines) would have at least irritated a grizzly, had we seen one.

Below are a few shots of the canyon we drove up. I'll put more of them in the next post. All of them open up bigger if you click on them. If you right click on them, you can open them in a new tab or window . . . oh, okay, I won't micromanage your surfing.

If you don't think this road is pretty, there's something fundamentally wrong with you. Not to be judgmental, or anything.


Oh, there's ore in that thar hill!


Dang. Just dang. Views like this are what it's all about.

Thus endeth part the second.

7 Comments:

Blogger the Witch said...

Ya gotta tell me - what was the weather like? Temp? wind?

12:59 PM  
Blogger Woofwoof said...

How about this trade? We give you the real Golden Gate Bridge, and you send us a million barrels of oil? You wouldn't notice them missing anyway.

9:12 PM  
Blogger GreyGuy said...

It looks like Scotland.

3:28 AM  
Blogger John said...

witch,
still. varied from a high of about 60 to a low (on the drive home) of about 37. Not as cold as it sounds. Really.

woof,
DONE! We can swap deeds when you're ready.

bonhomme,
This place varies so much . . . dense forest, craggy mountains . . .

12:22 PM  
Anonymous wayne said...

I missed driving the entire Alcan by 110 miles by turning off to go to Anchorage. Maybe next time. A new AK trip is in the works for October, can't wait!!!

12:25 PM  
Blogger Aaron the Truck Driver said...

Haaaaaa

You added the non spam spam controller word check!

Your not getting off that easy!!!

Speedy haircuts now open!! Discount for alaskans. Speedy haircut

Oh.. nice post too

7:08 PM  
Blogger John said...

Wayne,
Worth it. Every mile.

Aaron,
Oh, like I don't know where your website is!!!

7:24 PM  

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