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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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

“I honestly don't think we're going to find the Grand Canyon on this road.”-Ellen Griswold, Vacation


Pretty early on in the trip I saw this truck. My immediate concern was that we were driving into some post-apocalyptic Mad-Max scenario, and I had left my midget and steel-spiked shoulder pads at home.

We made it to the Haul Road. The first I ever heard of the Haul Road was during my first visit to Fairbanks. Over the Hertz® counter there’s a sign that says your rental car will immediately burst into flame if you go on the Haul Road. Beyond that, Hertz™ then lays claim to your soul and any EverQuest stuff you have. The warnings were strong.

If you noted from my earlier post, I said I took four spare tires for the trip. Actually, that’s wrong. I took five spare tires, because the one that comes with the car was packed between the tires under the axle. An aside: you’re just got a flat. You’re irritated. Some goofball in Detroit then puts the spare so you have to crawl under the car to access it. Does that make sense to anyone? You’re in trouble, so we’ll torture you by design for a while? It’s like credit card companies designed that part of the car.

I digress. The speed limit sign is one of the first things you see on the Haul Road. It indicates that the speed limit is 50 MPH (342km/s) for the next 416 miles. I thought about that, and it made sense. If you have a road that has exactly one way in, and exactly one way out, why would you need more than one speed limit sign? It’s not like you could seriously make an argument that you didn’t know the speed limit because you just got on the road.

Missing was the sign that said, “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here,” or, “Here be dragons,” or “Hertz® now owns your soul, keep it clean.”

The next nineteen miles were rough road. By rough, whenever we went up an incline, the stereo would vibrate out of the cavity that holds it, as if it were attempting to break out of its cocoon and become an I-Pod®. The Mrs. and I took turns holding it in place. Inexplicably, nineteen miles up the haul road, the rough, washboard dirt road turns into (fairly) smooth asphalt.

Immediately I began wondering. Was the whole “rough Haul Road” thing a ruse? Do we just tell stories to scare people away?



Here’s the road at mile 19. Look, Ma, no dirt.

No. The paved section (complete with road signs) disappeared a few miles after it started. It was, essentially, a tease. I was like the AKDOT said, “Hey, guys, we could pave this if we really wanted, but, no, we really don’t. Well, now you know what the road could be like.”

It was about this point that I saved The Boy’s life. I had mentioned the day before that we were going up the Dalton Highway. I did this because The Boy must know the name of any road we find ourselves on. Immediately, the little meat microprocessor (his term, really) interpreted “Dalton Highway” as “Dolphin Highway.” I guess he doesn’t like Timothy Dalton, either.

I saved his life by having him stop saying “Dolphin Highway” after he’d done it about 332 times. That’s about the limit The Mrs. has. Fortunately, he never said, “Are we there yet?”

12 Comments:

Blogger Woofwoof said...

Serious question: Why don't all trees grow straight up in Alaska? Is gravity frozen off-axis, or are they trying to make it easier for you to cut them down for heat?

7:35 PM  
Blogger Duck Hunter said...

They only paved a small section because the rest is tied up in some spending bill on Captial Hill. Maybe they funding for the "bridge to nowhere" took some money from this road.

8:52 PM  
Blogger Mary said...

It's OK if you want to steal my Mad Max comparisons. I refrained from taking The Mrs.'s photo of snow in June for my blog, but that's just because I'm scared of her.

9:09 AM  
Blogger Al said...

Speaking of spare tires. No car comes with a regulation size spare. All are the size of a quarter and you are only allowed to drive 50 miles at 43 mph. What a joke.

Since the boy won't ask, I will, "Are you there yet?"

6:12 PM  
Anonymous CWH said...

Did that truck have Wyoming plates with a bumper sticker that said "Ban Mining, let the bas****s freeze in the dark"? Because I lost mine years ago and wondered where it ended up, and your photo wasn't far off from the last time I saw it.

12:34 PM  
Blogger Jill said...

Trees near roads and some trails in northern Alaska stand at a tilt because they're teetering on permafrost, which starts just a few inches below the surface. The road heats the surface and melts the permafrost, which makes the soil contract and subsequently, trees sink and tilt.

9:44 PM  
Blogger Lynn said...

OMG!
This is so great!
Dont know what else to say

6:32 PM  
Blogger John said...

woof,
Drinking. The trees are hopeless alcoholics. But they drink wood alcohol. Or what Jill said.

duck hunter,
I'm thinking that the AKDOT just got bored and took a paving plant up there for the heck of it. No other idea makes any sense.

mary,
You need not be, especially if you bring beer. Besides, I wrote mine, then read yours. Great minds think alike.

al,
I took four full size tires. Regular rims. Not there yet. :)

cwh,
You know, come to think of it, it did!

jill,
Oh, sure, pull out a better explanation than my made-up wood alcohol explanation!

lynn,
Thanks!

10:56 PM  
Blogger Woofwoof said...

And here I was just thinking that things are naturally crooked in Alaska.

9:33 PM  
Blogger Deirdre Helfferich said...

I'm with John: our forests are full of drunken sots. Most of them are vegetables. Okay, so now I'm wondering what the DTs would look like to some sodden spruce leaning at three sheets to the sun--masses of spruce bark beetles? Hordes of tiny chainsaw-wielding men forced out into the cold by their Mrs to get firewood?

heh heh...this has potential!

10:39 PM  
Blogger Anthony said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5:22 PM  
Blogger Anthony said...

I saw the sign you mentioned when I traveled this road in 2004.
http://s12.photobucket.com/albums/a244/AL_Ant/Alaska/?action=view¤t=Saveonsigns.jpg

5:24 PM  

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