Darren continued on through Edmonton, Whitecourt and then finally to Grand Prairie. By this time the scenery had slightly changed. The mountains were growing. The wide open fields had long since past. Pine trees had multiplied by the millions and we were finally beginning to feel
like we were headed into the wilderness.By the time we reached Grand Prairie
it was dark and this was the last semi
main city in Alberta Territory. Already, the daylight had been extended dramatically compared to Utah. By the time it had gotten dark, it was near midnight. We hadn't eaten much for the past 24 hours. We
made up some of our freeze dried meals such as "bacon with
blueberry pancakes" and then later "vegetarian
lasagna" and some sort of disastrous supposed BBQ ... stuff! We were in the desperate mood for something that had a little more substance. With a
little research with the
iPhone, I discovered that there was a last chance Wendy's opportunity and we jumped on it.
With fingers crossed that they had the same hours as many of the American
Wendy's, we pulled up to the menu. A friendly voice met us. After a bit of confusion on the order, we finally got it in. At the window we were welcomed with a smiling Asian man.
We had to wait a bit for some of our order and the smiling Asian man noticed the map in our car and started up a conversation. He asked us, "You not from here?!?..." He could see our confused expressions I suppose and he said, "Map." He asked where we were from and I said, "Utah....." I could see his confused expression and I followed up with ...."uhh, United States." He then understood...and said, "You from Texas!" It was instantly clear that he was not familiar with the layout of our States here at home. We smiled and said... "well, close to Texas." We knew his next question. Smiling Asian Wendy's Man asks, "Where are you going? You stay here tonight?" motioning to the hotels down the road. We told him, "We are going to Alaska." Clearly he knew where that state was and with a shocked look on his face he replied, "You go tomorrow to Alaska?" And we said, "No, we driving tonight to Alaska." He got this terrified look on his face and said, "You drive tonight? .... to Alaska? It's
dark!" We nodded and agreed but told him we weren't staying the night and we were heading out after he gave us our food. By this time there was another smiling Asian at the window, this time a woman and another woman in the back smiling and listening in while making the final preparations to our large order. They asked us again as if in shock if we were really driving on. Finally the Asian man said with utter sincerity, "But it's dark and it scary to drive." You had to be there. It was just hilarious. He was genuinely scared of the thought of driving into the wilderness in pure darkness. Finally our food was ready. The friendly Asian Wendy's people waved us goodbye and we were on the road
again. The next town to fly through was Dawson Creek.
It was my turn to drive so Darren could get some sleep on a full belly. I blew through Dawson Creek and pushed on for Fort Nelson. It felt like forever.... F OO RRRR E E EHHVVV E E E ERRRRR. It was eerie driving in the dark. Even though it was only dark for a few hours....you just know there are moose and bear along the roads and they may jump out at anytime and by the time you see it...it'll be too late to stop. You will have three choices. A) Hit it. A bear would be like plowing into a large hog, full of muscle, low to the ground and will really mess up the front end. And a moose..., well they are as tall as the truck and would likely come right through
the windshield and be fighting, kicking all of it's thousands of pounds on our laps. B) Fly off the road and hope the damage is less or C) Have some major luck on your side and pull of some sort of special-ops tactical driving skills. Luckily, we didn't have to deal with any of those scenarios. My eyes scanned constantly, looking for a glimmer of an eyeball, a shadow along the side, movement of any sort.
I finally got tired and pulled over and Darren took over yet again after a few hours of sleep. We had a deadline to meet. We had to be to Anchorage by Sunday to pick up some of my family and we were determined to make it there on time to get them.
We rolled through some construction areas along the way. The Canadian Construction people held funny little stop signs in these construction zones. In the western part of America where we are from our construction people use large signs on long poles that they flip back and forth with little effort but these signs were small with a little, perhaps 12 inch, handle to hold onto. It looked like an arm cramp to me. The other thing we noticed was the limited gap of slowdown
time between speed limits. Scenario: You're driving down the interstate at 100 km/hr. You see a sign that says 60 km/hr with a little arrow pointing ahead and before you can touch the
brake...BAM! You're already in the 60 km/hr zone! And within seconds there's another sign slowing you down to 30 km/hr. This was a regular thing throughout Canada. Maybe this is fine for the Canadians, but it took some adjusting to. Most of the towns we drove through were empty. Abandoned looking. So it seemed totally pointless to slow down when nobody was there. Good thing we put new brakes on the truck before we left.
We made a few stops along the way, usually in more secluded spots where Kenai could run around like a mad dog stretching her legs and looking for mischief. She loved the rivers that we stopped along. I'm sure that mountain water tasted good!
As our journey continued into the next morning, I noticed we hadn't had cell phone service since Dawson Creek. I knew my parents would begin to worry if they didn't hear from me once a day so each town I continued to check for service. Cars and people were getting further and further apart. When we looked at the map, the void between towns had grown significantly. We knew we were going to have to gauge our mileage and gas carefully. We had packed 7 gallons of gas to spare for that "just in case" moment.
We finally got to Fort Nelson. We fueled, and that was about it and we continued on. The next
town to get to was Watson Lake. Another vast distance of even more millions of trees, miles, pavement, rivers, ghost towns and emptiness awaited us. Each ghost town we passed, was like seeing someone's dream gone to dust. Someone's hard work, fantasy, money, life was tried and had failed. While going by, at 30 km/hr, I could see the many campers, RV's, and vehicles in a
ghost like form. Like how you see on TV when the movie star is visualizing the past, floating people all about in a hazy form, children laughing or maybe even a shrilling scream.
Depends which movie you're thinking about. As we went by, I hoped that one day these boarded up, lost dreams would come to life again as someone else's more successful reality.
Watson Lake was a long ways away, full steam ahead.
Thanks for reading,