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  • Stephanie Lambdin

Yukon Gold


"Screwdrivers are OK"

continued from "Feet Don't Fail Me Now"

September 02, 2012 - 7:30 AM

I check in at home via the cell phone. Steph gives me the updates on weather and road conditions, as well as, facilities along the route. There will be a crossroad turn 120 miles ahead in the town of Tok. Weather clears up early morning. The road ahead dries out, and driving conditions are excellent. I feel more confident with the car as miles accumulate. The surrounding scenery is nothing less than … Spectacular!

"River Runs Through It" . Glenn Highway, Alaska

I feel confident enough to put on headphones to listen to the Beach Boys, ZZ Top, and my old fishing buddy blues man, Taj Mahal. Memories of 1960’s flow through my mind like the wind. The 1964 vintage auto has become a real Time Machine. I remember in 1966 driving my '63 roadster to an Eric Burton and the Animals concert in New Orleans. Their song "The House of the Rising Sun" fitting in perfectly with the surrounding French Quarter's aurora.

I snap out of the day dream as I spot coming toward me a huge caribou head and antlers. I slow down as a camouflaged pickup truck passes with the giant trophy strapped on the roof. The driver looks at me mouth open in surprise the same way I am sure I am looking at him. Shortly thereafter I pass another and then another pickup and RV bringing home the bacon (Caribou not piggy wiggy) and trophy heads to be mounted.

I now realize I am driving straight into the Caribou seasonal hunt zone. All along the drive are roadside camps for hunters filled with Recreational Vehicles, ATVs, and pickup trucks. The Caribou annual migratory trails are parallel with the highway. Thousands of these animals travel together in large herds along these well-worn trails. I hope there are no errant bullets traveling my direction. I know how it feels to be shot at. Not very pleasant, much worse if one hits you.

Soon after I am past the heavily hunted zone, I pass a lone bicycle rider flying a Japanese flag and overloaded with gear heading toward the next town ahead, Tok. I wonder if the Japanese bike rider is carrying a firearm for protection. Firearms are a necessary piece of survival equipment when deep in bear and wolf country. I also wonder if the Japanese man knows the history of Tok or of Alaska. Since the end of WW II the Japanese culture has become anti-firearm. My mind flashes back to little known events of WW II and my life time extensive studies of Japanese, as well as, Korean, Okinawan, Chinese and, US, martial arts and military history.

The Japanese invaded Alaska six months after they attacked Pearl Harbor December 7, 1941. Japanese forces stormed ashore and seized control of several outer Alaskan Aleutian Islands on June 3, 1942. Tok originated as an Alaska Road Commission camp for the construction of the Alcan and Glenn highways in the 1940's. The name Tok was believed to be derived from Tokyo Camp which was a road construction camp in 1943. The camp was part of the major military hyper-accelerated push to improve transportation for troops and weapons north. During WWII Tokyo Camp was shortened to "Tok."

On May 11, 1943, the US and Canada launched a major military operation to take back the Aleutian Islands from the Japanese. After fierce fighting, freezing temperatures, and overwhelming forces, the Japanese were surrounded. The Japanese commanding officer, adhering to the "Bushido Code-Way of the Warrior," ordered his surviving soldiers to attack with no surrender. This Banzai suicide attack was the largest of WW II.

Over two thousand Japanese soldiers, down to the last man, died while killing over one thousand US and Canadian fighters.

Today Tok, is now well known for the Race of Champions Sled Dog Race, one of the oldest in the state. The exciting race is held each March. Tok is one of the centers for dog breeding, training, and mushing.

Upon reaching the Crossroads at Tok, I stop to check in at home. There has been with no cell phone signal for over two hours. She advises me that I should refuel before continuing further. Before topping off the car with fuel and fluids, my stomach and bladder tell me I need to do the same.

Fast Eddy's Restaurant - Praised Throughout The Northland

As I pull into the busy local roadhouse, Fast Eddy’s http://fasteddysrestaurant.com/ I can’t help but notice all eyes in the restaurant windows turn to look at our little red car. Going inside, the eatery is buzzing with conversation about old cars. It appears lots of folks like classic cars. Fast Eddy’s turns out to be a great place to eat and watch the widely varied vehicles going up and down the ALCAN Highway (two lanes).

I best get moving. The ferry in Haines is still a four hundred and forty miles away, and the ship always leaves on schedule. I refuel and check the engine fluids and tires. Several other customers come over to look at the Car. One silver haired fellow says to me, "I used to have a '67 Vette. Wish I would have never gotten rid of it." I totally understood where that statement came from. On the road again!

1:30 pm - The drive is beautiful. The sporadic flow of traffic coming toward me lessens the further south I get. There are some spots in the road that have loose gravel. I try to avoid these as well as avoid flying rocks from oncoming vehicles. Occupants of oncoming cars and trucks continue to honk and wave. The car is an absolute pleasure to drive, even though she is a bit loud and hard on bumps.

2:15 pm - I pull up to the last US gas station before entering Canada. Gasoline is much higher priced at the pumps. There is no high octane fuel available. After refueling, I go into the station to pay. It is a rustic building with a small restaurant and minimum auto supplies. Luckily the store has a couple of bottles of octane boost additive. The older high-compression engines do not like today’s ethanol blend gas. The "muscle" engines also burn more fuel on low octane unleaded than premium gasoline. The cashier is an old guy about my age and wearing a Viet Nam veteran hat. I ask him about why no high octane gasoline. He grumpily mutters "Just ain’t!" Trying to break his icy demeanor, I ask him, "Who were you with in Nam?" The guardian of the cash register barks back "Doesn’t matter!" Ok then. No further conversation was needed.

2:35 pm - I cross the Alaska US and Canadian border. The road conditions after crossing into Canada are bumpy and filled with gravel, dips, and holes. I now remember the warnings about the abusive roads and flying gravel threats to the classic car. Welcome to the Yukon Territory!

I slow to a stop at the Canadian Customs border crossing station. There is no line to deal with. I am the only vehicle in sight. At the "STOP" sign is a lone female customs agent. The serene border guard begins to recite a list of items. "Identification, please: Passport, auto registration, driver’s license, birth certificate." I hand the pleasant border agent all the documents she asked for. "Destination?" The official continues with her questions as she looks over my ID’s. "Any guns, firearms, knives, explosives, or weapons?" I realize that I have to hold back my laughter and not make a smart ass comment, but I can’t help myself. I answer smiling: "Haines Ferry. And No to all of the prohibited items. How about screwdrivers in my tool box?" Ooops! I wait for a dismount order. It appears the determiner of my fate has a good disposition. The nice lady informs me: "Screwdrivers are OK." Smiling, she hands me back my documentation papers and responds, "Welcome to Canada! Have a nice day. Nice Car!" She then waves me through the checkpoint.

“The Lord will guide you continually …” Isaiah 58:11


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