By Randi Somers
Editor’s note: Randi Somers is a longtime resident of Homer, one of the originators of KBBI Radio, a veteran journalist and friend to many. Here she writes about her snowbird journey from Homer down the AlCan Highway.
I made it down the highway after wasting almost half a day trying to get on the ferry. I was advised that a big storm would make driving down the Alcan hazardous. Yet, I couldn’t get on standby at Homer and tried to get to Whittier but there was a toll to go through the tunnel about halfway to Whittier and the attendant said I’d have to wait half an hour to pay the toll and go through the tunnel.
I headed instead to Anchorage. Made it before Wells Fargo closed and bought $400 Canadian dollars which about half paid the fuel cost. I put $100 in the tank at one stop.
On Friday night, I slept in my van at Tok Junction. Rolled out of my blankets and drove on at 4:30 a.m. Saturday. Had luck finding gas stations all the way that gave me permission to park in their lot, after I spent a bunch on fuel. Drove long days, fueled on instant coffee in cold water and canned soup mixed into cold water.
In Fort Nelson, I was driving very slowly, and maybe weaving a little, looking for a gas station on either side of the highway. Suddenly, flashing lights made me stop. The trooper pulled in a ways behind me. He was slow getting out of his car, so I got out — but he told me to get back in. He ascertained that I wasn’t drunk and let me go.
Around 10:30 a.m. Saturday, about 26 miles short of Whitehorse, I was getting sleepy and sang old songs and played my harmonica to stay awake. I ate a granola bar and one of the sausages from my cooler. Eventually, I pulled into a wayside and napped awhile. I kept changing stations, looking for good music, but settled for lectures, sometimes. I learned that a woman has written a book about the advantages of uniting the United States and Canada into one country. They were taking call-ins for suggestions including names. I suggested AmeriCAN, but didn’t call it in. I don’t ever use the phone when I’m driving.
The radio says the high temperatures here are between 3 and 10 degrees and I added 32 to make it our usual conversion from celsius to Fahrenheit.
Finally, I found a good “retro western” music station. I broke one of my Alcan rules “top up the fuel tank at every opportunity” because I’m only finding FasGas, which seems very expensive. I remember liking Husky. More math: the speed is posted in kilometers and I have to convert: 90 K is just under 60 mph. I also broke another rule; always stop at Liard Hot Springs. It was cold and raining and I couldn’t imagine swapping my down coat for a swimsuit.
Wildlife added a great deal of interest. Missed a rabbit and a deer (separate occasions), and saw one dead deer along the road and several live buffalo, moose and deer.
In northern California, I found a “scenic route” (they mean downhill 15 mph s-curves) from Yreka to Eureka, near where my grandson Thorin lives in Arcata. He didn’t answer his phone but my son, Dan, did and informed me that Thorin is in Germany at an Octoberfest.
Also missed seeing friends Shirley and Chuck Cannon, who live on a peninsula that belongs to Washington state, but is separated. To get there, you drive around the bottom of Vancouver. I didn’t find the right road after asking dozens of locals for directions, but I did manage to find the highway on south, which was a very nice drive down the coast.
Felt very lucky to find son Dan’s home near El Granada — about 22 miles below San Francisco. I tried to check into Montara Lighthouse hostel, but they said all hostels are full because of the U.S. government shutdown. Apparently some hostels are on U.S. property and they had to close. The hostels on private property got crowded.
I parked down by the harbor below Dan’s house, where a friendly camper told me they charge $45 a night to park there. The hostel would have been $30. Later that evening, he brought me a pulled pork sandwich and some coleslaw which sure beat opening a can of soup, which I was about to do.
So, I’m parked on the street in front of Dan’s home, but have been sleeping inside for the past two nights. He found some chores for me. Bookwork for his business and chopping up some discarded mail to eliminate his address and account numbers. And I got to make a big pot of chili, so I feel useful.
I’ll just live in my van, probably down by the harbor. I am still very attached to the ocean and boats. I love the sound of the fog signals.
If I do decide to give up living in my van, in favor of senior housing, it will have to be close to my ocean.
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