Leaving Alaska, Getting to Canada

I left Homer in the rain, waiting in the driveway for my ride to appear. Nancy, a woman who worked in town, arrived in her car and whisked me away towards Palmer. We stopped briefly to pick up her daughter, and we were off heading North.

I drove most of the way, we stopped once and she smoked me out, we continued. She had one headlight out, and darkness exposed that. As we got into Palmer I kept my eye out for my turn off which I had vaguely memorized from a glance at the map earlier. Right away we were pulled over by a cop working the state fair traffic, it was for the headlight, he wrote a correction ticket meaning she had to fix her headlight in the next two weeks or else a $50 fine would be doled out, to me since I was driving, but I trust she'll fix it.

Coincidentally he stopped us just 50 feet before the road I had to turn off to, we would have blown by if he hadn't stopped us. Not seeing the street number I was looking for I jumped out and let her drive off, I checked my email and got loose directions and found the house without a problem, this was the house of a couchsurfer Mandie had found for us to stay and meet up a night before hitching to Canada, Mandie is a girl form the Collective I met.

I found a note on the door saying to come in and Tara, the host, would be asleep. I walked into a quiet house where I expected to see Mandie, Walter (I'd be hitching with him too), and Nick (the volunteer chef and all around good guy from the Collective). It was just me there though, Tara emerged from her bedroom 20 minutes after I got there, apparently everyone else was held up back in Anchorage from a slow day of hitching and other hold ups.

Tara and I talked for a bit, she was a really nice girl, and retired. She went to Iraq with the air force, when she came back she got hit by a car and suffered some brain damage, she can't remember anything from 7th grade up until going to Iraq, and suffers somewhat random short term memory loss. She offered me pizza in the fridge and some milk as she went off to sleep, I filled my belly and slept on a bed.

In the morning I popped out of the shower as everyone else rolled in, Nick was happy to see his laptop. Manide had hitched out of Homer the day before me with the laptop, she'd accidentally left the case in the first car that picked her up, luckily numbers were exchanged and the guy who drove her came to the house in Homer and left me with the laptop so I could bring it back.

Tara made us pancakes and then we went other state fair, we came home and had burgers, and then Tara decided she'd drive us the first little leg of our trip towards the border. About an hour in we hit construction where all cars were stopped, engines off, waiting in line for oncoming traffic to get the first turn. Manide eventually started asking other cars near us if we could get a lift, a trucker going to Tok finally agreed to take the three of us, me, Manide, and Walter. We said our goodbyes to Tara and saved her some extra driving and hopped into the truck, our bags thrown in the refrigerated back with all the fish he was hauling.

We hauled towards Tok swapping stories with Scott the trucker, he bought us some food and coffee along the way, we found ourselves on our feet again at a gas station just past midnight looking for a place to camp. We found one quickly, set up camp, smoke, drank, and told some stories from our travels. Manide and Walter passed out in Walter's tent, me in my sleeping bag and bivy sack.

We all awoke to rain in the morning, one by one getting up and using the gas station bathroom and found ourselves beneath an overhang repacking our wet gear only 90 miles from the Canadian border. We wandered to the gas station, asking some people for rides, one of us going to the corner thumbing for rides, and before too long Walter found someone to give us a lift closer to the border. An hour later we were at a gas station about 40 odd miles away from Canada.

We warmed up a bit, it wasn't raining now. We asked some people for rides and took turns thumbing at the corner. Walter found another ride, but they only had room for one. Walter took the ride, his visa was about to expire so it was most important that he cross the border, we decided he'd wait on the other side, "See you soon!", he said as he hopped in the car. With only 40 miles to be between us "soon" seemed appropriate, that wouldn't hold true though.

Mandie and I stood on the corner thumbing the cars as they passed, few and far between. After hours we started walking down the freeway for a change of scenary, some forward motion. Still no one stopped, only us every mile or so to rest our shoulders. We played travel scrabble on the side of the road a bit and kept walking. We walked miles more until it got dark enough where we had to start thinking of a spot to camp, there were more gun shots heard than cars seen for a long stretch.

We found a nice spot off the road and started gathering sticks and rocks to make a fire ring, without Walter's tent we didn't have much rain gear and shelter for the two of us really. Manide surrounded our camp site with moth balls, a trick she heard would deter bears, I got the fire roaring pretty good. We enjoyed the fire for a while, laughing at our situation, a car passed and much to our surprise... they stopped, backed up and Manide ran to it. Next thing we knew we were gathering our stuff and hopping into a car in the middle of the night abandoning our fire and campsite.

The man was drunk, his wife was giddy, they lived 3 miles up the road and were offering us a bed in their trailer to sleep in. "You're not gonna skin me alive are you!? If we don't wake up in the morning we'll know what you did!", the guy made the same drunken joke throughout the night. Their son played video games in the background as we went to sleep.

They went to work in the morning leaving us behind to sleep in. When we got up we loaded up on some of the food available that they had offered us, then headed back to the road in the light rain. Very few cars passed us, uninterested. A woman driving in the opposite direction slowed down and stopped looking frightened, asking us if we were ok. She pulled over and said she may be able to make room for one of us and take us to the border, she didn't have any room though, her car was packed with all sorts of junk. She instead gave us a tent and went on her way.

We decided to walk up the road to stay warm, we both knew that we likely would find nothing but more road and trees ahead. We walked, thumbed, rested. Mandie became more hopeless, she thought we may have to walk the next 30 plus miles to actually get to Canada, I was prepared for such an event, but knew we'd get picked up, eventually. She started waiving frantically at cars, just shy of actually jumping in front of them. This actually worked a couple cars later, an RV pulled into the shoulder of the road, slapping huge grins on our faces as we ran forward to it.

Inside was a Swiss couple, we headed for the back and sat at the table with music playing, us smiling at each other and watching the scenary fly by out the window at an incredible rate. We finished our game of Scrabble, Mandie won. We stopped for coffee and talked to the couple more, they drove us right through the border, we crossed without incident, no searching my bag, no asking how much money I may have, easy. Just over the border we pulled over and the couple made us sandwiches and we shared stories.

They dropped us off at a gas station and motel with daylight dwindling, we were finally in Canada, just past Burwash Landing where I had slept one night on the way up to Alaska. We stopped in and Mandie bought a glass of wine for herself, a beer for me, and some fries for us to share. They had a slow internet connection I used to check my email, there were a couple messages from Walter waiting. He'd made it all the way to Whitehorse and was looking at spending another wet night there, he hadn't hooked up with the couchsurfing host we'd found yet. We shot him a message telling him our story and that we'd likely make it there tomorrow.

The guy at the restaurant told us of a camping spot nearby, but after he talked about all the bears in the area, that and the rain outside, Mandie was pulling out her credit card with a room on her mind, they gave us the keys to room 11 and we smiled our way into a nice room with a couple huge double beds. We immediately headed to the saloon before it closed, I had a couple beers, Mandie a couple red wines. We headed back to the room, jumping up and down on the beds, she took a shower, we slept comfortably with a roof above our heads.

In the morning all the cars that were in the parking lot were now gone, we'd slept in, but our spirits were still up. We loaded up on coffee, suasage, eggs and potatoes, then back to the corner with our thumbs. The traffic, if you can call it that, was very slow. After hours of waiting, an RV pulled into the shoulder, we hopped in the pickup truck driven by a German couple towing their trailer home, they were headed to Haines Junction.

We stopped at a rest area for hot chocolate and chips ahoy cookies, something we'd been day dreaming about for days while waiting for rides in the rain. We continued on talking about Austrailia, Mandie's home country, Germany, American politics, and Canadian landscapes. They dropped us in Haines Junction where the traffic was a little more prevalent, we set up on the side of the road waiting for our next ride, a sign saying "Whitehorse 159" right behind us, this of course being Kilometers.

We waited a long while despite the slight increase in traffic, but finally another RV stopped, a husband and wife from Wisconsin headed to Whitehorse for the night. We were excited to finally be getting where we were going, thinking of how we may find Walter. Once we got into town they drove us around a bit looking for the Baked Cafe that Walter had mentioned in his message, when we couldn't find it we hopped out and said thanks, on foot we looked for a spot to use the internet, it was now around 10 at night.

We found a hotel that had wifi, Walter had just sent a message saying he'd be in Titan Comics until midnight, we'd just passed the place coicidentally so we knew just where it was. Off we went to reunite with our friend, the 40 minutes that had turned into over 2 days of seperation. We walked down the steps into the comic internet cafe kinda place to see Walter slumped at a table in the corner, we smiled and shouted, then sat down to share our stories and catch up.

Walter had been sleeping near a model ship in town, he'd never caught up with the couchsurfing host. The people who worked at the ship were nice, inviting him in for muffins when they saw him the morning, they watched movies too. I made a phone call to Caley from the comic phone and left a message when she didn't pick up. We started to talk about where we'd sleep tonight, be it a hostel or camping. Before we came to a conclusion the guy at the resister asked if one of us was Kenny, Caley had called back, I jumped on the phone and the next moment we were headed up the steps waiting for her to pick us up.

Caley took the three of us back to her place, we met her roomate Pam, and the three of us caught up more, had some wine and pasta, we discussed what our next move may be and then went to sleep. We woke up in the morning and headed out to coffee shop to catch up on emails and possibly think of our next move. Nothing is set yet, how we'll get out of Whitehorse, where to next, or when.

This town is nice though, so we'll see how it goes. I love hitchhiking despite the waits you sometimes have to endure, the Alaskan highway is an extreme example of this. I got a message that one of my neglected credit cards may be tied to my step dad somehow, meaning I'll have to perhaps actually start paying montly again, but the details of that are still sketchy. Either way it just means finding a small amount of cash every month, good times are rocking and rolling, eh.

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