So it was off down the Richardson Highway today, looking back wistfully on Fairbanks and North Pole in the rearview mirror. Time spent with good friends always goes too fast and that's been the hallmark of this trip thus far. But now I'm on my own, just ranging through the mountains and across the tundra, looking to see whatever there is to see. I have only an idea of where I'd like to go at this point, and it can change in an instant if a reason materializes.
First off, the scenery going down this highway is incredible. I drove much of it with my mouth open, in awe of the majesty of the mountain range I was passing through. This highway is a must-see for anyone who wants to see some fantastic nature in the raw, and my trip was complete with the spectacle of a herd of caribou swimming in a small lake. I stopped to watch them and they climbed out and crossed the road only a few dozen yards from me, close enough that I heard their hooves on the pavement. That alone was worth the added cost of driving vs. flying to me.
And speaking of flying, as I was entering the outskirts of Delta Junction, coming in just below supersonic, I saw red and blue lights flick on ahead of me. I was alarmed for the briefest second as I saw an Alaska Trooper light up, but then I realized that he was only making a u-turn to tag a van that was traveling ahead of me. Poor trooper...if he'd only waited a few seconds more, I'd have likely melted his radar set down. Sucks to be you, van guy! But what are the odds? 365 troopers in the whole state and that one had to be right where I wanted to speed. Life can be so unfair sometimes.
Lunch came from a "lodge" in Paxton, where I had the privilege of paying $16.50 for a burger (with fries, of course) in a restaurant where bare plywood was the decor of choice. Not surprisingly, I was their only customer. But to be fair, the burger was good, and they put ham and eggs on it.
As I write this, I'm sitting in Valdez. In a few moments I'm going to hit the best two local bars and then walk down along Prince William Sound for a bit before calling it a night. It's rainy and foggy out there but I'm right across the bay from the Alyeska terminal where the Alaska Pipeline comes to an end, 800 miles from Prudhoe Bay where it begins. There are otters out there in that water and I'm going to try to feed them, hipefully without encountering any of the bears that are reportedly roaming through town at night lately. Worst case, I hope the bears are small, because I've only got a .40 with me on this trip. (Not my first choice, believe me, but my only option, sadly.)
Anyway, I'm wasting drinking time and I want to get up and out fairly early in the AM, so if I want any sleep tonight, I gotta wrap this up.