The Road To Alaska: Day 4

The fourth day of the first part of our move to Alaska took us out of Montana, through 80 miles of Idaho, and through Washington to Bellingham.

Idaho, at least what we saw of it, is pretty. We passed Coeur d’Alene, and I wish we could have stopped to look around. Here’s a shot from my “Through the Windshield” series:

We then passed into eastern Washington. Oh. My. God. The world resolved into two colors: dull yellow, and yellowish brown. We saw maybe 5 cows the entire time, and several dust devils following in the trail of tractors in the distance. We didn’t stop, because there was nowhere to stop!

After what seemed like an eternity, we crossed the Columbia River, and it started to look more like the Washington I know.

I love driving through mountains, and I maintained my gas conservation by putting the car into neutral and gliding down the mountains without using the brakes as much as possible. With a fully loaded car and a Yakima box on top throwing off the balance of the car, it was kind of a butt-clenching experience. Especially passing slower moving vehicles while going around curves. Add to that my attempts to take pictures with a big SLR camera, and you have a recipe for pucker!

We finally hit Seattle and came to an immediate stop, with traffic lasting well past Everett.

You can see the bug splatters increasing through that series of pictures, which is funny.

We are now on our second day of resting in Bellingham, with my cousins John and Brenda and their children. We’ve also been hanging out with Jamie, one of our friends from Outdoor Adventures, who lives out here now. I’ve taken some pictures here, but I’m webbed out right now, so I’ll post them all later, probably from Alaska!

We’re leaving tomorrow morning, hopefully our border crossing is uneventful. We’ll be in Canada for 4 days, and who knows what ‘net access is like in the wilds of British Columbia and the Yukon.

The Road To Alaska: Day 3

The next morning, I found that the wheel wells of my car were completely caked with mud, within an inch of the tires. It would take 30 minutes with a high-pressure sprayer at a self-serve car wash to get most of the mud off. Throughout the rest of the trip to Washington, we would hit bumps in the road and listen to mud and rocks fall off onto the road at high speeds.

Here’s what we woke up to, in the badlands of Montana:

Montana is very beautiful. Eastern Montana (at least, along I94) is big farms and ranches. About halfway through, we found mountains.

Another candid shot of my navigator (“Stay on I94 until it turns into I90. Stay on I90 until we stop”) enjoying the beautiful scenery:

We finally stopped for the evening, still in Montana, just east of Missoula at Beavertail Hill State Park. We could have rented a tipi for the night, but there was no place to tie off Macgee that wouldn’t have involved the possibility of pulling down the whole tipi. So, we setup our tent again, and I went to take pictures of the river behind our campsite.

The Road To Alaska: Day 2

The second day of our move to Alaska consisted of driving from Wisconsin through Minnesota, North Dakota, and possibly into Montana. The plan was to drive the first 600 miles, and see if I felt like going the extra 100 more miles to get into Montana to our secondary camping site.

The hotel in Eau Claire had a free breakfast, which included a waffle maker and batter, which was awesome! We drove through Minnesota, and in North Dakota, I finally got out my camera and started taking pictures.

Our first stop was Fargo, ND. We tried to find a “Welcome to Fargo” sign, but all we got was a colorful buffalo sculpture.

Further along, we passed a long wind turbine that I caught my attention.

I let Macgee out, and he decided to be photogenic.

What was Skippy doing during this short stop? Catching up after 4 months of hard labor.

We passed field after field of sunflowers. Having only 2 weeks to get back to Alaska, I’m not allowed to stop as much as I would like for pictures, so we’ll all have to make due with whatever I can get through the windshield.

Here’s the fully loaded car, which is currently getting an oil change, tire rotation, and alignment done in Bellingham.

For the sunset, we decided to turn off at a “Scenic View” sign. The scenic view is of a farm.

I took some bracketed shots for use with some software I have for combining several photos into a single, well lit version. I’ll work on that once I’m setup in Alaska.

I decided I should take a series of “Through the Windshield” shots, since that will most accurately reproduce our view for most of this move. Here’s North Dakota:

We rounded a curve, and were presented with a bright red flash from the setting sun. It lasted several minutes, and is one of the coolest things we’ve seen on the road!

Our first campsite was supposed to be in a North Dakota state park, near Medora. The directions on the park’s website said to exit I94 at Pacific Avenue. We saw exactly one exit, which read “Medora ->” and that’s it. We passed it, hoping for another one for Pacific Ave. It didn’t happen. Instead of backtracking, we continued on into Montana, to Makoshika State Park. We rolled in around 10:30pm, and looked through the campsite. The park map noted another campsite called “Artist’s Vista” a little further up the park road, and we decided to try it out.

The park map made it look like the campsite was just down the paved road, but after a half mile, the road abruptly turned to gravel. Shortly after that, we hit our first switchback at about a 15% grade. After a mile of this, we passed a sign that stated “Road may be impassable when wet.” It didn’t look wet, so we kept going. On top of what was apparently a mountain (it was dark), the road turned into a mud pit, with holes the size of my car in the middle of the road, and darkness off of either side. Thank Subaru for all-wheel drive, as we slid around the road, into and out of huge holes, and enjoyed a lot of nervous laughter. At the point the road appeared to dive sharply downhill, we came to a slippery stop, and debated whether or not to continue. We voted to go back, since we weren’t sure we could make it back up the muddy hill in the morning (or maybe die on the way down?), and turned around to go back to the main campsite.

I was so wired when we got there, that I stayed up and took some pictures of the nearly full moon after we setup our tent.