Sunday, June 05, 2005

Tok RV Village

Looking over Alaska's Tetlin Wildlife Refuge to the St. Elias Range in Kluane National Park Reserve.

I've been up since 7:30, still most campers had moved on when I crawled out of my tent.

Showered, then set up office in the room where Harold and Jim were playing last night.

Bad connection with "nomadisp" for which I subscribed and paid $40 for one month!

Posted some more photos, but diminishing returns. Time to move on to Fairbanks and more reliable services, I think.

A wild, windy ride from Haines Junction yesterday, a strong front moving out of the northeast. Chased out of the campground by hungry mosquitoes, exhausted by the ordeal. (True to form, however, I was the last camper to vacate.) In Haines Junction, I found the Kluane Visitor’s Center. Quite a nice facility, the staff very professional and helpful. "Elaine", showed me to the theater and started a slide presentation on the Kluane park's back country, which I'll never even hope to see. (Mt. Logan, Canada's tallest peak is hidden deep within the park.)The park is the world's largest internationally-protected preserve, and a United Nations World Heritage Site.

Across the road, the Village Bakery. Just what I needed. The very young staff was more interested in each other, than serving customers. Back in the kitchen, seen through a doorway, a boy was hanging all over and groping a girl, as she tried to work. He refused to leave her alone, even for a moment. Painfully reminiscent of those teen years.

Pulled in at the Sheep Mountain Visitors Center. Through a mounted telescope, you can scan the peak for Dall sheep. The only four visible to us lowlanders were tiny white specks high on the ridgeline. I asked a park ranger if that was it. She said most were high on the northern slope, out of view at this time of year.

Coming up the lake's west side, I found the infamous construction zones (of which other travelers have written.) Lined up with the cars, trucks and motorhomes to await escort through the zone. Taking my cue from those writings, rode up to the head of the line, abreast of the flagger; this to avoid getting pelted by stones or splattered with mud.

HUGE earthmovers were rumbling by, hauling rocks and soil out of the site. When our guide vehicle turned around and began to lead us onward, the vehicle next to me took off, determined not to let me in. But the guide drove a ridiculously slow 5 mph, which I couldn't even maintain, so I would just pull aside periodically, then catch up. I realized no matter where in the line, I would still get covered with mud, so I gave up trying to be first.

Beyond the construction zone, I became acquainted with "frost heaves," sinking, undulating and broken pavement caused by the roadbase freezing and thawing. On the bike, I could weave around many which would be unavoidable in a larger vehicle. Still, they made for an exciting ride.

Rains were now moving in from the northeast, but they were associated with individual storm clouds, not a major front, so it was easy to tolerate.

At Beaver Creek, stopped to refuel. Inquiring where I could get a good meal, I was referred to "Buckshot Betty’s", a short distance away. A small, cabin-like structure, tucked back across an expanse of gravel lot, I took a chance. Very casual and quaint, the cafe also served as the local video store, with one wall of dated VHS movies.

Over a reuben sandwich (with very little stuffing) and curly fries, watched "The Chevy Top 20 Countdown" of country music videos on the TV. After a while, noticed the screen was TINY, yet it didn't matter. It still sucked me in.

Returned to the service station, where I had seen they offered internet access. This world is REALLY becoming connected! Checked my e-mails, setting at least part of my mind at ease.

Met "Bill" who is riding north to Prudhoe Bay on a Honda Gold Wing 1200. He complained loudly about the stretch of road we had just traversed. I wanted to say "quit your whining. If you think this is bad, wait until the Dalton Highway!" But I held my tongue.

A gentleman with two prosthetic legs walked into the station. He was driving a large motorhome we saw off on the shoulder a ways back, unloading a huge bike from the tail. I had heard from others that he was traveling excessively fast over the frost heaves and the motorcycle rack mount gave out. He said fortunately he didn't lose the bike, but he had to ride it into Beaver Creek, where he found a welder who will help him out.

Relieved as the road turned west toward the Alaska border. There would now be a better chance of out-running the weather. The border station was truly provisioned as an outpost, almost a self-sufficient fortress. Back in the land of the free.

Approaching Tok, Alaska. An Alaskan-sized thunderstorm moving in beyond the Tok River.

A final leg for the day, the run into Tok. A thunderstorm up ahead caused a little concern, but I never caught it, just some wet pavement arriving in Tok. Checked into this private, very well run campground, paying a little steeper fee.

"So what do I get for $23 here versus the $10 state campground back down the highway?"

"A hot shower, laundry facilities, free music tonight, internet access."


After setting up the tent, returned to the "community center", where two local characters, Harold and Jim, were performing country tunes on guitar and banjo to an appreciative room full of mostly white-haired travelers. The "Good Sam" crowd. After hearing the "Ballad of Tok" ("a top ten hit in Tok one January"), I slipped out to take advantage of the wi-fi service. But I was tricked! Had to subscribe in order to use it. So, I gave in and signed up for a month. Maybe I can use it elsewhere.

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