My Home Sweet Home!

Q. How do you know when you’ve made it back from the wilds of Canada to the good ol’ US of A?

A. There’s something besides hockey on hotel room television.

Cliff Notes: We rejoin the rest of the ALCAN teams, I steal a hat, the clutch is beginning to slip, and the first ice race is tomorrow.

Two big events happened today. First, we crossed into Alaska, the 49th state, and one of only 3 that I have left on my quest to visit every one of United States. (Hawaii and North Dakota, I’m coming for ya!)

Second, we finally rejoined the main ALCAN group. When we caught up to Teams 17, 18, and 20 in Destruction Bay, near the United States border it felt like a Lord of the Rings-esque homecoming. Finally we’d reunited the fellowship. It was great to see everyone again, and we found out that we had plenty to catch up on.

Troy (special shout out to Troy’s wife, Kaira, who’s one of my loyal readers) and John we found out that they’d become local celebrities in Whitehorse while they attempted to get their radiator repaired and back on the road. They also claimed to have located a much nicer hotel in Whitehorse, when one might leave one’s gas cans tied to one’s roof all night without fear that they’ll walk off in the middle of the night.

Side note for all of you single rallyists kicking around the idea of doing the ALCAN; John swears that Whitehorse has the largest population of attractive women in one area that he’s ever witnessed in his entire life. After hitting the bars in Whitehorse with John and Troy I can say that while I don’t have any firsthand experience, the odds look pretty good. (Even when the goods are pretty odd—That’s a pretty obscure Mr. T. Experience reference, and if any of you can name the song (don’t Google it, that’s cheating) I’ll take you out to lunch when I get back to the world.)

While John and Troy were busy becoming local celebrities in Whitehorse mom and I, with Marc and Mark (I need a plural noun, but I’m not sure if I can get behind the Mark’ses) were making tracks from Dawson City.

We headed out in the early pre-dawn darkness of 7AM, hoping to minimize the time we’d have to travel at the end of the day, which happens to when all of the wild animals who’ve drawn the short straw have to go out and play chicken on the roads to torment ALCAN teams.

A note on temperatures: After surviving the -28F cold, with high winds, stepping out of the car in Dawson City last night to temperatures hovering just below 0 felt positively tropical, and when the temps hit 20 today on the road we started making jokes about having to run the air conditioning.

After yesterday’s recovery of the shunted Rabbit the clutch seems to be slipping a little bit. Mom and I discussed it, and decided that we’d come too far to give up on the ice races now, and if we need to go out in a blaze of glory then so be it. (Blazes of glory typically are ignited by large piles of credit card receipts, sometimes for new transmissions)

We stopped back at the restaurant in Carmacks to gas up the tanks in our bellies and the ones in our cars. Still think this might be some of the best food we’ve had on the trip so far. I’m not sure when any of you’ll be in the neighborhood, but I’d highly recommend checking it out.

After Carmacks we made the turn just north of Whitehorse when we started to pick up something that we hadn’t heard in days, ALCAN chatter on the radio. Indistinct and scratchy as it was, it didn’t matter. It was a beacon leading us back.

Side note: Still no word from the Eagle Plains detachment, although we did find out when we reached Tok that the highway department had reopened the road around 3PM. If Steve and the rest of his crew and making a mad dash for the top of the world I’m wishing them the best. It’s tough going up there, and running without the safety net of the sweep drivers takes some big cojones.

Godspeed guys, and hopefully we’ll see you at the end of the road in Anchorage.

At Destruction Bay we pulled in to stop for gas and saw the Got Organs team’s M3. After all, how many Dakar Yellow M3s can there be this far north?

Since the Marc/Mark combo didn’t have a working radio they were able to transmit on, and no one was quite sure where the sweep trucks were we decided to keep rolling for Tok with them. We wished the other teams well, and were already looking forward to catching up with them back at the restaurant in Carmacks to gas up the tanks in our bellies and the ones in our cars. Still think this might be some of the best food we’ve had on the trip so far. I’m not sure when any of you’ll be in the neighborhood, but I’d highly recommend checking it out.

After Carmacks we made the turn just north of Whitehorse when we started to pick up something that we hadn’t heard in days, ALCAN chatter on the radio. Indistinct and scratchy as it was, it didn’t matter. It was a beacon leading us back.

Side note: Still no word from the Eagle Plains detachment, although we did find out when we reached Tok that the highway department had reopened the road around 3PM. If Steve and the rest of his crew and making a mad dash for the top of the world I’m wishing them the best. It’s tough going up there, and running without the safety net of the sweep drivers takes some big cojones.

Godspeed guys, and hopefully we’ll see you at the end of the road in Anchorage.

At Destruction Bay we pulled in to stop for gas and saw the Got Organs team’s M3. After all, how many Dakar Yellow M3s can there be this far north?

Since the Marc/Mark combo didn’t have a working radio they were able to transmit on, and no one was quite sure where the sweep trucks were we decided to keep rolling for Tok with them. We wished the other teams well, and were already looking forward to catching up with them in finest watering bar in Tok. (In most of the towns we visit the finest bar in town also happens to be the only bar in town.)

As we walked into the restaurant in Destruction Bay that the other teams had just vacated, I saw a hat sitting on a chair that I was pretty sure belonged to one of the ALCAN teams. Ready to do a good deed, I grabbed it in order to return it to its rightful owner, who was no doubt just a few miles ahead of us, headed for Tok.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t his hat.

Fortunately, I’ve been able to flee Canada before the RCMP was able to issue a warrant for hat-jacking, and I’m actually pretty well equipped at this moment to lead a life on the run.

In hopes of reversing these dangerously high levels of negative karma I turned a positive into a negative by donating the hat to Daniel, of team 20 fame. Since he’s rail thin, and often cold, he didn’t have any qualms about accepting the stolen merchandise and promised to wear the hat proudly.

(There’s a picture of Daniel at the end of this blog post sporting his jaunty new chapeau)

A few notes on the Canadian/American border: First of all, the border features what can only be a demilitarized zone. After passing the Canadian border crossing you still have 30km to go before you catch your first glimpse of its American counterpart. Once there, we got into line, and waited our turn with a women who was without a question the dumbest person I encountered today.

You’d think that anyone working at a customs border station might have some familiarity with the two letter codes for each state. In fact, I’d expect every American citizen over the age of 10 to be able to name them, especially if you spot them the name of the state.

Not this woman. She seemed to get angrier and angrier when the scan on our plates wasn’t working until she finally realized that Iowa is IA, not IO. Whoops!

We couldn’t get out of there fast enough when she finally handed back our paperwork, and we blasted down the road to Tok, stopping only to avoid smearing a herd of deer across the front of the car.

And tomorrow is ice racing, which means that Mom’s going to finally get some use out of her helmet, and that there’s a good chance she’ll be faster than me around the ice racecourse. (This is always a problem when you bring your Mom, and I’m sure Brian on team 18 is having trouble sleeping tonight as he imagines the same thing.)

There’s tons and tons of photos below this blog, mostly Alaska scenes shot from a moving car, so if some of the photos aren’t quite in focus, well, blame Mom.

Also, a note on competition for those of you who are interested in such things. First off, we’re so far out of first place now that the only way we’d be able to catch up is if the entire ALCAN field gets horribly lost on their way to the closing ceremonies we’re doomed. But R.Dale and Paul are sitting pretty, having recaptured the lead they lost, and managed to score only .8 points in 4 TSDs today.

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Thrills and Chills on the Dempster

Well, we made it back to Dawson City, but not without a little bit of excitement.

After finding out that the Dempster was unlikely to reopen northbound anytime soon several teams decided to pack it in and head south.

We rolled out of Eagle Plains with Marc and Mark, team 24. We didn’t have any luck getting their radio to work with a frequency that ours was able to pick up, but instead of burning any more daylight we decided to make a run for it. The Dempster on the south side of Eagle Plains was mostly clear, packed snow and ice, but some sections had nasty drifts that continued to fill in faster than the road graders were able to clear them.

With Marc and Mark in the lead we crested a small rise only to see the brake lights on their Rabbit blazing away. They’d hit a small series of drifts in the road that had pushed their car off the side of the highway.

An off was something all of the teams had discussed the night before. Without the sweep trucks there was a good chance that we’d be unable to extract anyone who left the highway. If we couldn’t pull the Rabbit out we’d be forced to abandon it, and Marc and Mark would have to figure out a way to come back and get it later.

With the temperature gauge sitting at -28F, and high winds blowing we needed to act fast. I pushed the mean machine through the drifts and then we back up to the Rabbit. At first we tried to pull their car back onto the road but after limited success we switched positions and hooked the tow rope onto the clevis pin mounted on our rear tow hitch.

On the first pull the Rabbit moved about a foot closer to the road. I tried again, revving the engine up to 5000rpm as the WRX strained against the strap, the tires sliding across the road. With numb toes and even number fingers I made one last attempt. Mark shouted “Giver tits!” and the wagon jumped forward, but this time it kept going and we got the Rabbit out.

It was too cold to high five each other; we just packed up the tow strap and jumped back into the car. I took the lead in hopes that I’d be able to bust through the rest of the snow drifts.

As we were driving we saw some of the most amazing sun dogs I’ve ever seen. Two bright pillars on either side of the sun, shooting up across the horizon into the mid afternoon sky.

Not sure what a sun dog is? Don’t worry; I already did the Wikipedia search for you: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sun_dogs

We hit Dawson City around 7pm, just as it was starting to get dark. Both teams had already decided that we’d get an early start tomorrow to make a big push to get to Tok, Alaska, which would return us to the main rally group. But first, we had to buy gas.

I should mention that buying gas in the Yukon isn’t like buying gas anywhere else. Most places, you want to buy gas, you pull up the gas station, swipe your credit card, pump, and go. In the Yukon however, the gas station had better be open if you want to buy gas, and many of them close at dark. By 7pm the Esso Station where we’d bought gas the last time we were in Dawson City was closed, and so were two other stations that Marc and Mark knew about. After checking into our hotel room the front desk clerk gave us directions to a gas station that was still open where we able to fill up in preparation for the push to Tok tomorrow.

We’ll also be able to rejoin our driving buddies Troy and John who’ve been facing their own challenges. After losing their radiator on the way to Whitehorse they ended up stuck in Whitehorse waiting on repairs for several days. I’m sure you loyal readers (all 5 of you) will be glad to know that they made it to Dawson City last night with the rest of the main ALCAN group, and yes, they did the toe.

You can follow them on their blog as well, at http://www.waflracing.com/

The clerk also had a surprise for us. Ross and David, the intrepid Mini pilots who crashed into a tree during the Blackwater TSD were back. The last time we saw them they were looking a little tough.

http://twitter.com/#!/AlcanMINI/status/173235979551911937/photo/1

With time running short, and the Mini not running at all, they decided to rent a 4×4 pickup truck and keep heading north.

Their plan is to head for Eagle Plains tomorrow morning in hopes of rejoining the ALCAN teams still awaiting a shot at the top of the world.

At dinner Marc and Mark and Mom and I formulated our plan. We’ll head out bright and early tomorrow morning at 7AM, in hope of reaching Tok by dark.

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The Return of the Lost Patrol

After a discouraging report from the highway safety crews that several miles of the Dempster Highway are impassable, and that the snowblower used to the clear the roads had suffered a mechanical breakdown several teams have decided to pack it and head back south towards Dawson City and Whitehorse this afternoon.

Teams 19 and 22 departed aprox. 30 minutes ago in hopes of reaching Whitehorse tonight while teams 21 and 24 are departing as soon as I finish this blog post. We plan to reach Dawson City tonight, rest up, sample the toe again (it’s free this time, I can’t pass that up) and then prepare for a long transit from Dawson City to Tok where we will attempt to rejoin the main rally group.

Teams 13, 15, and 16 are still undecided, and there’s a sentiment within those groups that the road may open as early as noon tomorrow.

Although, I’ll admit I’m sorry to be leaving Eagle Plains, and even sorrier that we’re missing out on the ice roads. While there’s very little to do in Eagle Plains (bring a book if you’re planning on dropping in) it’s pretty amazing to think that we’re near the top of the world.

I’ll give everyone a full report from the rest of the day when we reach the Eldorado Hotel in Dawson City.

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Home At The Top of The World

Dateline Eagle Plains

The adventure continues. Despite a night of toe sucking and heavy drinking we managed to muster out as planned this morning to head towards Tuk. Despite ominous warnings from Jerry and the news at breakfast that a substantial blizzard was headed our way we still decided to try for Tuk.

Since Daniel and Ryan in the M3 didn’t want to make the drive to Tuk in their car we offered to make space for them in the mean machine. After getting rid of all of the non essential items and limiting ourselves to a change of clothes apiece we were ready to head out.

The first 20 miles down the road were tough. Drifts, near white out conditions, and high winds limited us to a pace around 40 miles an hour. Eventually we drove through the worst of it, and managed to get out in front of the weather and settle into a pace around 70 miles an hour.

Mom got a chance to catch up on her sleep in the back while Ryan did most of the navigating. After some tough miles the road ahead opened and we managed to get up to speed and catch up with some of the cars that had left earlier.

With the weather conditions I thought we’d have the road to ourselves, but it wasn’t long before we started hearing reports on the radio from the other teams about oncoming semis. As the reports grew closer and closer I started to hunker down and prepare for the semi to come by.

As soon as we crossed over small rise we got a visual on the semi, and behind him, a huge snow cloud trailed. When the semi passed us we were enveloped in the cloud of snow dust, and it was impossible to see past the end of the hood.

After a brief and fairly cold stop to refuel in a turnout we finally started to hear reports from the first teams hitting Eagle Plains. Due to blizzard conditions and exceptionally high winds the highway safety crews had closed the road.

Just past the gas station/restaurant/motel the gates were shut and the flashing light was blinking red.   It felt like a crushing blow to have to have come this far, only to be turned back at the top of the world. As all 22 teams packed into the restaurant we began to weigh our options.

Several of the teams started to talk about staying at Eagle Plains in hopes that the road would open, and there would still be a chance to see the ice road at the top of the world. Other teams had seen enough and were happy to head back to warmer climes.

Along with teams 13, 15, 16, 19, 22, and 24 we decided to hunker down at the Eagles Plains and wait for an update from the road crews in the morning. Several of the plow crews and the hotel staffers thought that the road might reopen at noon the next day.

We spent the rest of the day enjoying Eagle Plains, which is to say we didn’t do much. We checked in with family and friends via facetime, and by mid afternoon the dining room was quiet except for the sound of keys clicking as teams updated their respective blogs.

Eagle Plains did have several interesting displays which commemorated two important historical events. One was the capture and murder of the Mad Trapper, which incidentally marked the first use of airplanes by the RCMP, and the other, was the story of the Lost Patrol.  The Lost Patrol was the name given to a group of officers of the RCMP who out in patrol in blizzard conditions in the Yukon became disoriented and unable to find their way back to their base camp. Their bodies were eventually recovered, and a monument was built to honor them nearby.

For more on the Mad Trapper check out this Wiki link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mad_Trapper

Stephen Davidson, from team 13 became our de facto leader. That night in the Eagle Plains we gathered together as a group and discussed our options. The group decided that we would wait in hopes the road would open the next day and give us a chance to make Tuk and see the ice roads. Everyone felt that it was important to stick together as a group since we’d lost the sweep vehicles, meaning we’d be on our own in the event of an off.

After closing down the hotel bar we went to bed, unsure of what tomorrow will bring.

For now, we’re our own Lost Patrol. Cut off from the rest of the ALCAN teams, we’re holding out for one last shot at the Arctic Circle. We’ve come too far to quit now.

I’ll update this as soon as we get new information on the road conditions.

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Gallery

Captain River Rat’s Toe and Dawson City, the Adventure Continues!

This gallery contains 15 photos.

I’m going to lay it out right now. It’s Tuk or bust. Today was a long day, not in terms of driving distance, but in terms of obstacles overcome. After waking up this morning I went out to the parking … Continue reading

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Miles and miles to go…

As Crystal Korth would say, it’s snot-freezing cold in Whitehorse. If you’re not familiar with that kind of cold, it’s a cold that sneaks up on you. One minute you’re buying gas, the next minute you’re wondering why you can’t feel your fingers.
Today was a long day that only seemed to get longer. We put just under 700 miles on the grenade today, starting in New Hazelton at 6:30 in the morning and finally rolling into Whitehorse just before 10:00 PM.
If you’re looking for a cliff notes version of today it’s this: We drove, and drove, and drove. And then we drove some more.
After missing last night’s meeting in New Hazelton due to a snafu I heard through the grapevine that most of the teams were planning on rolling out of New Hazelton early in the morning in hopes of getting a jump on one of the longest days of the ALCAN.
A light dusting of snow was blowing in when we headed out from New Hazelton, and after a quick stop to gas up and load up on caffeine we headed north. At the junction of highway 16 and 37 we made a quick stop to check out what we heard was a field of totem poles. A promised 30 totem poles turned out to be more like 12, and after a quick photo op we were back in the car following our radio buddies, car 17.
There isn’t much to say about the scenery, other than it was spectacular. Rushing rivers, snow covered peaks, and thousands upon thousands of trees lined the road in every direction. Mom had plenty of opportunities to check out the scenery, while I focused on not hitting any trees.
One of our first gas stops was at heli-skiing outfit, where we watched a pair of choppers lift off, delivering skiers to the freshest powder any of us had ever seen. We also ran into a problem that would be an issue for the rest of the day, finding high octane gasoline.
Gas stations are few and far between in the north, and typically they offer two choices: gas or diesel. When Chad at Modified by KC tuned the wagon he made me promise him that I wouldn’t run it on anything less than 91 octane, which wasn’t a problem in the lower 48. Hell, most Shell stations were selling 92 octane.
Up north, it’s a different story. At our first gas stop we used the last can of octane booster, and resolved to hold out for higher octane at the next stop, which would prove elusive. (Note, don’t bother asking local residents where one might be able to buy 91, since they’re mostly of the opinion that you ought to consider yourself lucky to be able to buy gas at all)
Car 17 was dealing with their own issues, as John and Troy discovered that their radiator had sprung a leak. Northern British Columbia, while being noted for its exceptional scenery, isn’t noted for a high percentage of radiator shops. After discussing their options (including the MacGyver trick, which consisted of adding several eggs to the coolant in an attempt to seal the radiator) Car 17 decided to press on.
After all, it’s the ALCAN right? Who’s worried about overheating in -11 temperatures?
We stopped for lunch at the Rumor’s Café, which was notable for the high quality of its lunch offerings. It also offered Wireless internet, which gave every ALCAN team a chance to update their blog/twitter/facebook accounts and check in with folks at home.
Pressing on after lunch we finally hit the Alcan Highway and the beginning of the Yukon Territory. Reaching the namesake road of our adventure after three days felt right. John suggested that finally driving on the ALCAN meant that we weren’t wearing white shoes after Labor Day anymore.
Running hard we made Whitehorse with 15 minutes to spare before the end of the MTC. As we headed into the hotel to check in, I couldn’t help but notice that most of the ALCAN teams had plugged in their battery warmers and block heaters, with electrical cords strewn across the parking lot.
Seeing the extension cords, and feeling the effects of the extreme cold drove it home. It’s finally for real. We’re on the ALCAN. Its winter and its cold outside.
Walking into the hotel was like stepping into a time machine. It was karaoke night in the hotel bar, and the place was packed. It was packed with people who appeared to have stepped fresh out of 1985. I leaned over to R. Dale, and told him I couldn’t believe it. He just smiled and said, “Wait until we get farther north.”
In addition to karaoke night, it also happened to be Rendezvous. What’s Rendezvous you ask? According to the bartender, it’s a festival designed to get people out the house. While Mom worked up tomorrow’s rally math John and Troy and I decided to hit the bar. What follows are a few observations from the bar:
Everyone looked really young, leading John and Troy and I to conclude that we must be getting really old, until we realized that the drinking age in Canada is 19.
The Backstreet Boys are still huge in Canada. I tried to convince Troy that he needed to do a Justin Beiber song, which I hoped would have same effect Marty McFly when he rocked out to Johnny B Good, but no such luck.
Canada might be the only place I’ve ever been where the bartender calls last call and everyone puts their coats on and walks out the door, without lingering over their last beer for 45 minutes.
A number of people appeared to walking home, some in halter tops, and were completely unfazed at what seemed to be suicidal behavior in my opinion.
After a night at the most happening joint in Whitehorse I’m not sure how tomorrow can possible compare. We’ve got 2 TSDs scheduled for tomorrow as well as some ice race practice, assuming the weather holds up. Many rallyists were excited to learn that Whitehorse boasts not one, but two Starbucks. Over-caffeinated rallyists on a frozen lake should make from some exciting times however.
So, until next time!
P.S. Several readers have asked me a detailed breakdown of scoring. Since I believe that we’re currently in 17th overall I may not be the best person to do so, but I’ll make an attempt.
As of this writing we only have 2 TSDs in the books. Day 2 TSDs were scrapped due to weather, and this was a transit day. Below are scores after the first day’s TSDs, per Paul.

Eklund Kraushaar. 6.1
Webb Goldfarb. 6.8
McKinnon Putnam 15.3
Vaysburd Beverley 16.?

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Onward! Upward! Northward!

Day 2, the adventure continues.

Well, we made it New Hazelton, and seemingly in better shape than some. The bumpers are where they’re supposed to be, the lights are still working, and despite a check engine light that won’t go away we’re still running strong.

The ice race this morning in Quesnal was scrapped due to icy conditions that made plowing the track impossible, and I think Mom was actually pretty disappointed that she didn’t get a chance to break out her new helmet. (This may have a lot to do with why the bumpers are still attached to the car.)

Since the ice race was cancelled we headed up to a local k-7 school to show off the cars and meet some of the local residents. On the way up highway 97 leaving Quesnal we managed to avoid what turned out to be a pretty nasty accident that shut down the highway for quite some time, leaving several of the ALCAN teams stranded on the wrong side of the closure.

What happened next pretty much amounted to total chaos. Following our visit at the school we were scheduled to do a TSD listed as 11% grade. At this point it was snowing hard. Really hard. As in flakes the size of golf balls.

Side Note: I got what I asked for, since I distinctly remember complaining to Paul in the bar last night that the first day was lacking in snow.

As Mom and I sat in the car waiting for our minute we heard radio transmissions from the other teams already out of the course. The first cars through the course managed to run into an irate local citizen who, after blocking the road, threatened to call the RCMP and have everyone arrested. As teams kept leaving on their minutes reports kept coming in over the radio that it was nearly impossible to run the course on time, one of the worker cars had slid off course, and several teams were still stranded on the other side of the road closure.

Despite the conditions Mom and I resolved to press on, and we moved into starting position as soon as team 20 took off. Right at the start of our minute Jerry announced over the radio that we were scrapping the TSD, although teams would be allowed to complete it for touring purposes. Since radio chatter suggested that 97 was still closed in both directions we decided to head down the 11% grade.
At approximately half the suggested rally speed the course was manageable and we stayed with a group of cars until we reached the end of the TSD. Once we reached highway 97 we headed for an unscheduled stop in Prince George.

Both TSDs had been cancelled due to the accident and weather conditions, although several teams made it through the second TSD. When we met up with the teams they said it was unforgettable, but it was hard to tell if that was because of the driving experience, or because they had to keep stopping to clear snow off the front of the car to keep it from overheating.

In Prince George we took some time out for Mom’s first Tim Horton’s experience. Let’s just say that she was pretty underwhelmed with what she described as “Dunkin’ Donuts with more choices.”
Leaving Prince George we picked up highway 16 west, and started to make tracks for the hotel. No TSDs and no chances to bolster our scores meant that there wasn’t anything to do except find out what our accommodations for the night would be.

First though, a note about western British Columbia: There are actually quite a few people living here. Judging from the stacks of logs towering over the roof of nearly every house we passed most folks must be heated their homes with wood. We covered a lot of ground today; even saw several Moose, but unfortunately none with antlers.

Passing through Houston we also noted that the town not only boasted a fairly impressive sign leading “DOWNTOWN”, and local graffiti artists, working diligently to change public opinion about abortion. Clearly signs of big city life!

While our accommodations in New Hazelton were better than expected, dinner left quite a lot to be desired. The restaurant served a combination of typical diner fare and Chinese food. I opted for Chinese, and Mom went for the special, fish and chips.

Mom’s meal even came with dessert! (Unfortunately, it was orange Jell-O) For reasons that neither of us could explain, we felt like we had to eat it. I’d say we grinned and beared it, but honestly we grimaced and beared it.

Tomorrow’s a long day, nearly 700 miles, and the word is that gas stops might be limited. With that in mind we’ve picked up a second gas can to bring our operating capacity up to 25 gallons, although it means we’ll likely have to refuel alongside the road somewhere. Still, we’re having a blast, and staying on the road.

Until next time!

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ALCAN–Day 1 is in the books!

And the first day of the ALCAN is in the books! We did tolerably well, if that’s what you call finishing 17th out of 25, although I think both Mom and I can take comfort in the fact that several people did much worse.

The Mean Machine is running well, although we’re still getting a check engine light with a code P172, which means we’re still running pig rich. Since Paul and Blake resealed the intercooler with the new y pipe I think our gas mileage has improved somewhat, but at 16 mpg, it’s nowhere near the 32mpg highway mileage that new Imprezas are getting according to a billboard we passed under earlier today.

Mom’s convinced that the blowoff valve off the turbo sounds likes the engine is going to explode at any minute; she’s taken to calling it the grenade.

We managed to stay on course, and mostly on time. This is only Mom’s second rally, so she’s still getting used to navigating, and the constant stream of math that goes along with it. (Side note, Crystal Korth, have I got some great examples for your Math blog!)

Day 1 of the ALCAN took us from Kirkland Washington up into Quesnal British Columbia. Tons and tons of scenery here and with mostly clear skies we were able to see quite a ways. I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that one the way to Kirkland we passed near Mount Saint Helens, but we couldn’t see anything. Mom’s never been to Washington before, so she asked me where the volcano was. I didn’t so I suggested that she Google it.

Of course, now that we’re in Canada Goggling things has become a fond memory since once we crossed the border T-Mobile decided that they could bill out data at 1 cent per kb. I’m pretty sure the United States government has some kind of a force field around the US border, because once you pass through customs my cell phone immediately switched over to Canadian service.

The first TSD was all daylight running, and we managed to string together some pretty consistent times, except that we were consistently too fast. Fortunately, we were able to fix that issue on the 2nd TSD and we were consistently late at every checkpoint.

Somewhere, somehow, we also managed to lose one of the stopwatches, and the book light that’s mom’s been using for a rally light.

We finished up for the night at the Sandman Inn in Quesnal, where the group gathered in the bar, (par for the course for rallyists). The bar, called the Shark Club, was a Canadian knockoff of Hooters, except slightly classier. (I can just see the pitch meeting where the marketing guy is saying, “So it’ll be like Hooters, but instead of orange shorts and tennis shoes, we’ll have them wear cocktails dresses and 6 inch heels.”) I’m betting the first thing every waitress at the Shark Club does at the end of her shift is take her shoes off.

Most of the hotels that we’re staying at have Wi-Fi, and since I can use my cell phone whenever there’s a Wi-Fi network in range we’re able to make calls home and check in once in awhile.

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