The people we
have met along the way have been telling us that the Cassiar Highway
(our next road to travel) is a very difficult drive. Scenic but
rough – over 100 of the 400 miles is gravel. We broke the drive
up into two 200 mile stretches by spending one night along the way.
I hope it works out. We plan to spend the day by getting groceries,
working on the toilet and relaxing for the drive. Having breakfast
at the little restaurant in the campground was in our plan but we
goofed off around the camper and didn’t get there until 1:00PM –
they had stopped serving breakfast. I ordered the ‘special’, a philly
cheese steak, while Rita had a burger. In the turmoil of customers
and being newly in business they managed to loose our order and
we did not get served for an hour. Good thing we weren’t planning
to do much any way. After lunch we headed to the grocery and hardware
in Watson Lake. We had a list of thing we would like but having
the hardware not open on Sundays put a crimp in the plan. The grocery
was certainly the best (only) one in Watson Lake but not all that
great. No diet soda, no brand name chips, and a limited selection
of TV dinners but at least we got some driving carrots and some
lettuce. Driving carrots – if I munch on carrots while I drive I
don’t get tired, with no carrots I am yawning in less than 45 minutes.
Sorry, can’t explain why. Back at the camper I grabbed up the laptop
and headed to the laundromat to use the phone line for the internet.
Nothing important in the email today. I stopped by the office to
get two "toonies" to use in the RV wash. They call their
one dollar coin a "‘loonie" because of the Loon pictured
on the reverse. The two dollar coin is called the "‘toonie"
for what ever reason and that is what the RV wash wanted. The Jeep
was clean after just one coin so I now have a spare. The toilet
was returned to normal operation through the use of a stiff wire
to dig out some impacted toilet paper. To complete the relaxation
we decided to watch a couple of the movies we had brought along
– particularly since the TV was once again all sports and crap.
The movies "Lost in Translation" and "Shanghai Knights"
were selected. After all the hype I have to admit to being severely
disappointed in "Lost in Translation" – very slow moving
and boring. We broke for supper before continuing and then forged
ahead. The second movie was certainly much lighter and more action
filled – catch it on the pay channels. I updated the diary before
packing the PC away. Tomorrow we challenge the Cassiar Highway!!
Well we didn’t
leave as early as some of the people in the park but we did manage
to get on the road by a little after 9AM. We stopped first to dump
the tanks since our site had been a water/electric only site. Next
stop was to pick up fuel. I chatted briefly with a guy that had
been in the same campground last night – he was headed down the
Cassiar as well. The first 25 miles was all up, down, left, right
and uneven road. The remainder was not as bad as long as you don’t
count the 15 mile gravel section, the various other gravel sections,
the narrow roads and all the potholes. We managed to average between
35 and 40 mph for the trip and arrive in one piece. The campground
was not much and only offered 15amp service. The sites were muddy
and soft. The leveling jacks did not raise the camper at all but
they did make some dandy holes in the ground. We decided to leave
the camper as it was – off level. The guy from the gas station this
morning pulled in to the right of us and the camper that had been
next to us at the Baby Nugget pulled in on the other side. Very
limited campground selection on the Cassiar. There was a restaurant
in the park and I have to admit they make a great hamburger. If
you go there have the Tatogga burger. There were no towns nearby
and nothing to do so we closed the curtains on the camper and selected
some DVDs to watch. We had brought along the Matrix trilogy, two
of which we had not seen, and thought this was an excellent time
for a movie marathon. By midnight Neo had saved Zion and we were
ready for bed. The remainder of the Cassiar was waiting for us and
we needed some sleep.
No septic again
last night but since it had only been one night we left the park
without stopping at the dump station. The first part of the Cassiar
had been bad but it didn’t begin to prepare us for the second part.
Gravel, potholes, narrow winding roads you name it and we had it.
There even was a large part where we waited 20 minutes for a pilot
car to lead us through the construction. The scenery was good but
the road was awful until we got to the Bell II Lodge area. The signs
indicated that we were entering a construction zone but it appeared
they had completed their work. The road from here on was great.
We made the turn at Meziadin Junction and headed for Hyder. This
last section of the journey was one of the most scenic of the whole
Alaska trip so far. Beautiful snow capped mountains, numerous waterfalls
and multiple glaciers. If you are going to brave the Cassiar you
have to reward yourself with a trip to Hyder. We passed though the
small town of Stewart, across the Canadian border and into the even
smaller town of Hyder - dirt roads and all. We found the campground
without problem and got parked. Our site had water, septic and 30amps
– the best we had had for a while. They also had free wireless internet
access - everyone shared one dial-up line so it was very slow. The
campground in Steward had cable TV so this campground advertised
their FREE TV RECEPTION. Yes, you could put your antenna up and
get one channel. We selected a seafood place called Seafood Express
or just “The Bus” – the two other restaurants in town served breakfast
only or were closed on Tuesdays. Great fish and very reasonable.
From there we drove out to Salmon Glacier. An 18 mile dirt road
led to the top of the glacier. The road was even worse than the
Cassiar but we were in the Jeep so we didn’t mind. After taking
several picture we returned to town and stopped at a bear viewing
area. The salmon come to spawn in this one area and the bears stop
by to scoop them out. It seemed like it would be fun to watch if
only the bears had shown up while we were there. After a short break
at the camper for supper we headed out to see the town bars. The
Glacier Bar is famous for it’s "get Hyderized" tradition.
The bartender pours you a shoot of some unknown liquor, you drink
it down in one gulp and you are "Hyderized". That was
what they told us anyway. Since I don’t do shoots I did not participate.
A guy came in a little later and went through the process. The bartender
poured way more that a shot into a glass – more like about 3 or
4 ounces. She explained he had to drink it all down without stopping,
he could not smell it first and if it came back up he had to buy
a round for the bar. Down it went – no problem. She turns the glass
upside down on the bar and what little was left formed a small ring.
She then struck a match and set the ring on fire while explaining
that the "shoot" was grain alcohol and that he had been
"Hyderized". He was awarded a small card for his efforts.
I was very glad it was him and not me. Since the bar was also a
liquor store we picked up an 18 pack of Bud Lite for $17. This was
the best price we had seen on beer in some time. The other bar was
called the Sealaska. We had a couple of beers there as well before
returning to the camper for one final beer before bed. The Cassiar
had taken a lot out of me and I slept like a log.
We slept late
and then goofed off most of the morning. I worked on PC projects
while Rita did laundry. The Pizza Factory in Stewart BC was our
choice for lunch. Very good pizza! From there we went to the grocery
store and visited a couple of craft stores before we decided we
might have reached the limit on the number of craft stores that
should be visited in one trip. Rita had bought a card she wanted
to prepare and mail so we returned to the camper. I did some preliminary
leave things while Rita prepared the card. It was a short trip the
Hyder Post Office. The postmaster was out watering the bushes but
was happy to go inside and sell us a stamp. Two gift shops later
we returned to the camper. I took a nap while Rita worked on her
campground notes. For supper we returned to Stewart and a neat little
place called Bitter Creek Cafe. The place was filled with antiques
and their Mexican food was fantastic. After a brief camper stop
we once again made the trip to the bear viewing / salmon spawning
area. This time after about 10 minutes a bear actually appeared.
He walked around, ate a fish and generally impressed the crowd.
I got lots of video before the 10PM closing caused us to leave the
area. As we were leaving a small black bear crossed the road in
front of us on his way to the stream. I think he knew it would get
quieter after 10PM. A brief tour around town completed our adventures
for the day. A little Jay Leno and off to bed.
Up at 6:30 today. We had about 300 miles to drive this day and thought we should get an early start. I messed everything up by suggesting we go to the place that only serves breakfast before we left town. A group of over 10 people had sat down just before we got there so our orders took a while. The toast was excellent!! The hash browns were great and the omelet was delicious. The only problem was that they had ran out of Diet Coke. By the time we left, there was a line of people waiting to get in. I highly recommend the Wildflower Cafe for breakfast if you ever get to Hyder. They are only open from 6:30 to noon so get up early. We finally got on the road about 10:30. After a short stop for fuel about 50 miles out we drove the rest of the way without stopping. The road from Hyder out to the Cassiar was just a beautiful as it had been on the way in. The road south was in pretty good shape but we did encounter two areas of construction where we had to wait for and then follow a pilot car. In an area that was being prepped for resurfacing a passing pickup truck threw a stone up and smashed the passenger side windshield on the camper. It started as a star about the size of a half dollar but had grown to a two foot crack by the time we got to the campground. We were assigned an uphill stall and could not level the camper without taking the rear wheels off the ground. Since the parking brake uses the rear wheels this would not be a good thing to do. The satellite dish almost had enough signal to work but not quite. We had to resort to the antenna as usual. Of the four channels that we could get one was educational, one was just weird, one came in crappy and the last was doing a Will & Grace marathon. Such fun. A supper of leftovers led to a couple beers. Tomorrow I will be looking for a place to patch the windshield.