Shut-your-mouth diplomacy averted the second Our Longest Drive breakdown. Despite Dan driving at the same speed as I, he and Jim think I’m driving too quickly. For the record, I haven’t had a speeding ticket or an accident in the past 30 years, but the impression I’ve created by joking about not wanting to take the wheel is that they believe they can drive better than I.
I should have thought of this earlier. From now on, I’m a passenger, sipping beers, eating Garrett Popcorn and writing blogs in the RV’s back seat.
To be honest, I understand the men’s fear. Dan and Jim behave safer than I. They are sensible, left-brained men who leave little to chance. Dan finds his happiness in working – he’s the first to clean the vehicle, get its oil changed and attach wire mesh over the radiator. Jim, on the other hand, makes lists. He is not the kind of guy that a girl with an eye for a bad boy would want. This does not mean that my way is better than theirs. It’s just different.
The first five miles of the Dempster Highway is like any other Yukon road, only narrower. Then it turns into a long stretch of bumpy gravel, safely driven at 50 mph. You want to be careful of moose because they live in the brush and pop out at the least provocation. But once you reach Tombstone Mountain, you become quite convinced that the stories about tire-blowing madness are bogus. Alas, then the road gets progressively worse. You’ve been had.
If you drive the next 100 miles to Eagle Plains at more than 40 mph, you’ll be sorry. If you drive the final 250 miles to Inuvik at more than 30 mph, you might end up dead. The road has no shoulders. It drops like a guillotine. There aren’t any smooth spots. Such is life heading north by northwest, to the place of endless light.
Right before we arrive at the halfway point in Eagle Plains, we encounter an abandoned RV, dipping starboard into a ditch. We believe the driver and passengers are safe because written in the mud that is caked to its side are the words, “We’re waiting to get towed.” In all, we’ve encountered a dozen cars and trucks heading in the direction from where we’ve come. I wonder how long it took for someone to give the troubled travelers a lift.
Our progress on Day 2 is slowed by two ferry crossings. The second is at Fort McPherson. We break to have dinner, using up the left-over sandwich meat. This is Gwitchi’n land, final resting place of The Lost Patrol. We visit the graveyard. It makes me think of Mike – not the guy in the box we’ve been carrying, but the guy we knew all those years. He died a different death than the one that met those winter-stranded Mounties on a mail call to Dawson. But it seems to me all the same – now you’re here, then you’re not.
We make it to Inuvik eventually. There’s an emotional letdown that hits like a punch from Muhammad Ali. We drove 16 days through seven US states, two Canadian provinces and two territories to get to a place that is barren and drab. Badly in need of sleep, we check into the Nova Inn. The midnight sun makes it seem like the late afternoon, but the time is 11:00 pm. Tomorrow we will meet Mayor Denny Rodgers and play golf at Road’s End.
Till Next Time,