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Travelogue - 07/03/04                                                                                                                               Links to all Travelogue pages


Yukon wildflowers


I was in Whitehorse, Yukon for three days. It's a lively, friendly town that was once an important transportation link between the coast and the interior.

In its heyday a fleet of paddle-wheelers carried cargo and passengers in and out along the Yukon River. Today Whitehorse depends on the short summer tourist season to boost its modest economy. 

Many families also rely on the successive hunting seasons each year to supplement their food supply with caribou, moose and salmon. They kill, butcher and freeze their legal limit. It's an important part of their livelihood. One family I talked to told me they all go on these hunts together, so the kids are growing up with it just as their parents did. Their 11-year-old son had bagged his first caribou recently, a rite of passage towards adulthood and a boon to the family's larder. Hunting isn't a sport for the people who live here. It's necessary to make ends meet, to feed themselves and their families. 

I spent most of my time in Whitehorse in a mechanic's shop having the RV's gasoline-powered Onan generator tuned up. That temperamental contraption confounded two very good mechanics for two entire days. In the end it ran better than before, but it still doesn't always want to re-start after it has been running, which was the main reason I sought help with it in the first place.

By the time I left Whitehorse, the atmospheric smoke from the 100+ wildfires burning all over the Yukon was dense enough to reduce visibility to as little as a half-mile. That afternoon I drove by vistas of exceptionally high, handsome mountains, or so I read in the guidebooks and signposts. I didn't see any of it. 

Everything was hidden behind a shroud so thick even the sun could not penetrate. It was like twilight all day, and the air had a burnt odor to it and irritated the back of the throat. Kind of like the New Jersey Turnpike minus the traffic.

On the bright side, I did find a solution to my RV mosquito problem while I was in Whitehorse. A nylon mesh bed tent now lets me get a good night's sleep even when the little buggers do get into the cabin, which they're still doing at most of my out-in-the-bush campsites. Damned if I can figure out how they're doing it, though.


I crossed into Alaska on the afternoon of Monday, June 28th, about 3 months and a week, and 9,500 road miles, after leaving Rhode Island.  (Odometer reads 61,383)


After picking up mail from General Delivery at the post office in Tok (pronounced toke, rhymes with poke), I drove south hoping to escape the wildfire smoke (rhymes with Tok), but a northeast wind wafted it right along with me. It wasn't quite as bad as it had been, but the sky was still gray, not blue, and sightseeing was limited to whatever was within a mile or two of the road. Still, that was enough for me to catch glimpses of some bold mountains, a prodigious river valley and, on the far side, a brilliantly white glacier spilling out of hidden ice fields.

I grew up next door to a family of 14 kids. The Leary's included Michael, Tony, Sheila, Brian, Timmy, Bethany, Kit, Molly, Meg, Kate, Dan, Sean, Noreen, and Mat, and I can still rattle off those names as fast as any of them can. I'm in touch with Kit Leary once in a while and he told me that Molly and Megan both live in Alaska. Now my road was passing close to Molly's town, Wasilla, so I contacted her and we met up. 

It's weird seeing someone you knew as a kid and haven't seen in nearly 40 years. You have this image of them in your mind. Mine was of a skinny little girl with pigtails and freckles. Molly, the classic girl next door. Of course, she doesn't look exactly like that anymore.

And yet I kept seeing that face in the woman I was visiting. The mischievous twinkle in her eyes, the honest cant of her smile. I believe it's true, what they say, that inside every woman is the little girl she once was.

Molly and I had a great time. We talked for hours on end, reminiscing, catching up, relating stories of other neighborhood "kids" we're still in touch with. It was great fun. There is something uniquely comfortable about visiting with someone you knew well as a child. There is no pretense or posturing in the conversation. It's like hanging out with family.  

I'll be heading down toward Anchorage and then the Kenai peninsula now. Meanwhile, I've had a request to post shorter travelogue pages more often. I don't know if I can make a habit of doing that. It depends on when I get around to writing up a page, how often I get online where I can upload it, etc. I'll do that when I can, beginning now.

Next Entry: 07/14/04


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