Feet Don’t Fail Me Now
Like in the Nam again, I sleep with the curtain and one eye open.
Before heading out of Anchorage proper, I fill the fuel tank with premium gasoline. Everyone at the Gas station walks over to look and ask questions about the car. I feel as though I have become either a celebrity or target for carjacking. The gas in Anchorage is one dollar and fifty cents less than ours in Sitka. After refueling I take an inventory of the car’s tools, spare tire, and driving necessities. I find an old spare tire and nothing else. Not good enough for an eight hundred mile drive through the boonies. I stop at a discount store parking in the handicapped spot closest to the front door. I am now reticent to leave the car unattended for fear of auto theft. Ahhh, the city. Running inside the crowded store, I quickly purchase several items ... a tool kit, air pump, spare tire in a can, additional seating pad, flares, motor oil, flashlights, drinking water, and trail food. No firearms or large knives are allowed into Canada, and a break down in the wilderness could prove dangerous if not deadly.
Running back out the store, I am relieved to see the old car unmolested. There are several unsavory type folks eyeing the valuable piece of merchandise from nearby. I feel as though I am getting out of town just in time. Then again, it could be my PTSD.
The traffic and scenery begin to change quickly as I approach the outskirts of Anchorage. Thank you, Jesus!
The old car and I begin the first leg of the long drive via "The Glenn Highway" to Glennwood in route to Haines, AK (775 mi) to place the classic car on the ferry to Sitka, AK. Anchorage disappears in the rear view mirror.
The Glenn Highway was completed as part of the massive Alcan Highway building project during World War II, which finally connected Alaska to the rest of the North American highway system. Of all the main highways in Alaska, the Glenn Highway was until recently the most hair-raising to drive. The same lay of the land that makes the Glenn Highway an exciting drive has also earned its recognition as a National Scenic Byway.
Glenn Highway, Alaska
As I drive along this spectacular road I listen to every sound the old car emits. Occasionally I press the gas pedal down to make sure nothing is going to break before I get too deep in the woods.
The approaching cars and trucks now appear much more friendly. Several flash their headlights before they pass. Other vehicles honk their horns and wave. A car loaded with college age girls approaches with several girls hanging partially out the windows whooping and waving as they pass. Large trucks pass with the drivers giving me thumbs up signals. I now begin to relax and enjoy the time machine I am behind the wheel of.
The highway follows the Matanuska River valley between the Talkeetna and Chugach Mountains all the way to its source at the Matanuska Glacier, which is plainly visible from the highway. The highway crosses numerous tributaries before climbing up to the divide at Eureka Summit. From there it descends into the Copper River basin.
Road conditions for the first 200 miles are very good. I maintain an average speed of 55 mph the first day to check out all systems. I am surprised the fuel gauge does not move much. I hope the gauge is working. The old car is driving great! Very tight, no rattles or sloppiness in the steering. I do feel the carburetor surging at slow speed and there is a slight whine in the transmission and rear end. I cross toes, fingers, legs, and eyes along the drive hoping that nothing breaks or blows up.
I have an awesome flash back from 1966. Two of my Louisiana high school friends and I drive my 1963 Corvette convertible from Alexandria, Louisiana to my family’s old beach home on Anna Maria Island, Florida. The trip was a total of eight hundred and eighty five miles. Three of us in a two seater sports car convertible. The little car was so crowded we couldn’t put up the convertible top when it rained. This was one road trip my old friends and I will never forget. Three jocks in a chick magnet at the beach! Oh Yeah! On that trip, however, I did blow the engine. Ugggh!
The "Glenn" as it’s called by locals, skirts through the beautiful wilderness. Traffic is light. The last miles before my first night stop are very low visibility and slippery conditions. Rain and dense fog have enveloped the road. This is a perfect time to stop. I do not want a head-on crash in the fog. An accident in a fifty-year-old fragile fiberglass car with no airbags and only lap seat belts could end badly for the car and me.
I stop for the first night at the Caribou Hotel and Restaurant (http://www.caribouhotel.com/), which is the only place open in the town of Glennallen.
I refuel and call home. The car's fuel consumption is a very respectable seventeen miles to the gallon. Not bad even by todays auto standards. I park the classic car and go in the lobby to check in. Two young ladies at the check in desk hurry to the window to look at our car. "Wow"! They say at the same time.
I request a room where I can park the Corvette outside the room window. I go to the restaurant next to the hotel to grab something to eat. The waitress and cook go to the window to look at the classic car in the parking lot. Neither one knows what type of car it is. I overhear one say "What good is that car around here." I remember reading that Glenallen, Alaska receives about fifty-eight inches of snow a year and 27 inches of drizzling rain. I think out loud "You're right about that!" The two restaurant workers look at me with the cook replying, "But, she sure is purty!"
Getting back to my hotel room I look out the window at our "new" automobile. I call Steph and the kiddos to tell them "goodnight". Finally able to relax, I breathe a great sigh of relief that no break downs have occurred with the 48 year old car. Like in the Nam again, I sleep with the curtain and one eye open.
Robert's Service Cabin - Caribou Hotel
A voice is calling, "Clear the way for the LORD in the wilderness; Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God. Let every valley be lifted up, And every mountain and hill be made low; And let the rough ground become a plain, And the rugged terrain a broad valley; Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed, And all flesh will see it together; For the mouth of the LORD has spoken." Isaiah 40:3-5