Rough Road Ahead

"I sure wouldn’t be driving that beauty on this road."

continued from "Highway One"

Leaving the gas stop, I am soon again awed at the surrounding scenery. The road winds like a slithering snake around the shores of shimmering Lake Kluane. I again listen to good old rock and roll. Life is good.

"Uh Oh!" A flashing red light appears in my rear view mirror. I am hoping this will be a simple law enforcement inquiry stop. I am positive the Corvette speedometer was only reading 60 mph. I begin to try and calculate in my near senile mind, miles-per-hour versus kilometers-per-hour. Or, is my fifty year old speedometer correct? I slow the bright red sports car (Cop Magnet) and pull to the side of the road. ZOOM ... the police car streaks by. I recognize the driver as the same Mountie I had seen at the gas station minutes earlier. I wonder if our paths will cross again up the road.

Once again I can relax and enjoy driving the classic car and the spectacular surrounding views. Kluane National Park and Reserve is a vast area of jagged mountain peaks, vast ice fields, clear lakes, glaciers, and spectacular wildlife. Located in the southwest corner of the Yukon Territory, 150 km (93 mi) west of Whitehorse, the park contains Canada's highest peak, Mount Logan. It is named after the Yukon's largest lake, which borders the park. The park and park reserve, together with Tatshenshini-Alsek Wilderness Provincial Park, BC, and Glacier Bay/Wrangle-St Elias national parks in Alaska, create the largest international United Nations World Heritage Site in the world, covering some 109,000 km (67,739 mi).

Surrounding Mount Logan's jagged 6050 m (19,849 ft.) summit and dominating the park is the world's largest concentration of ice fields and glaciers. Fringing the glaciers and barren rocky mountain peaks is a narrow "green belt" of alpine tundra and lush valleys and forests, providing critical habitat for the park's abundant wildlife." The park is well known for its wildlife, including ground squirrels, caribou, moose, grizzly and black bears, Dall sheep, and mountain goats. Some 150 bird species, from golden eagles to golden-crowned sparrows, inhabit the park.

After leaving the lake there are occasional gravel construction areas and slight delays along the road. At several of these stops, other drivers get out to stretch and make small talk.

At one stop, two men wearing "man dresses" get out of their pick-up truck and walk back to take pictures of each other in front of the Corvette. They do not say one word to me. I get an uneasy feeling from the two men, as I have spent time in the turbulent North Africa and the middle east. I feel now, more than ever, very vulnerable due to Canada’s laws of NO self-defense weapons crossing the Canadian borders (without filing twenty pounds of documents way in advance, paying numerous fees and a long, long wait for some bureaucrat to decide the fate of your application). O Canada! Thank GOD in Alaska we have open carry fire arms laws consistent with our original US constitution second amendment.

I am relieved when the road construction crew "flag follow" car arrives and leads the small pack of travelers. Several miles ahead the two strange bearded men in their shiny new pickup turn off onto a remote gravel road. I kick the Corvette’s gas pedal down to put distance between the 'Vette and the pickup truck. Recent news reports of remote North American training camps for extremists flash through my mind. Our little car is pulling Mach One G’s!

I am relieved when the road construction crew "flag follow" car arrives

I have another flash back to the 1960’s. I am in Stuttgart, Arkansas at a major drag racing event. My opponent is a beautiful nationally known 1948 Ford Anglia dragster pulling up to the Christmas tree lights (starting lights developed at one of my favorite old drag strips, Pel State Dragway, Opelousas Louisiana).

Pushing down on the gas pedal, I raise my engine to 4,000 RPM and pop the clutch. The Anglia and my 1963 Corvette are nose to nose as we power shift through the gears. I shift into forth gear at seven thousand RPM on my tachometer and one hundred miles per hour showing on the speedometer. As soon as I shift into high gear, there is a loud "Kathunk" sound and immediate bad vibration. Out of the corner of my left eye is a UFO passing me. My competition, the Anglia is on my right side. Glancing quickly to my left for a better look causes me immediate concern. My left rear tire is passing me. "HOLY SH*#@!

I quickly surmise my best safe choice is let off the gas slowly and try to keep the now three wheel Corvette top side up as long as possible. Slow down too fast and the car’s shattered rear suspension could dig into the track and flip my little convertible. Upside down would be VERY bad for the driver (me), especially because in 1966 a roll bar was not required safety equipment for my racing class. I steered the car to the left toward a grassy area just off the track. Once on the grass I was able to decelerate until the car tilted over and dug into the grass and dirt. It was a rough stop but no further damage to my Corvette except for a ripped fiberglass rear left finder. In racing, as in flying, any landing is a good landing if you can walk away.

7:45 PM - I have cell phone signal now. Calling home, Steph gives me updates on where to stop for the night. A couple of miles up the road is Haines Junction. Haines Junction is the only place to refuel and hopefully find lodging and food for the night. I find one gas station unoccupied but pumps that are credit card acceptable. As I’m pumping fuel into the 'vette, an SUV towing several ATVs pulls up to me. The driver starts pumping fuel while looking at my ride. Smiling he says to me, "I sure wouldn’t be driving that beauty on this road." I have a nagging mind flash that this sounds as though there may be some rough road ahead.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”

Proverbs 3:5

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