Day 10 Thursday 12/14/2017.
The usual. Feed the dogs walk the dogs and feed Spike 20 gallons of diesel. Got up at 6:40 but didn’t get on the road until 8:00.
Got through Memphis no problem except I missed my turn. That want the worst of it as there was a slightly longer route. The problem was fuel. I tried to get into three different places but the truck/trailer combo was too long. Finished up my self imposed detour and got on I-22 to Birmingham. After having wasted almost an hour on the detour and fueling fiasco, I found a real truck stop. A good thing too. I had only about 80 miles of fuel left and B’ham was over 90 miles away.
Had Summer try to contact my cousin to no avail. When I got to Birmingham, I called my high school buddy, Melvin. He lived between B’ham and Montgomery. I told him that I’d be along at about 6:00 for our first meeting since 1963. When I got to his house he and his wife were very gracious. They offered me dinner and shelter for the evening but I declined. I declined because she would have been cooking only unfortunately me and because I traveling with two dogs. They have a very nice pet free home that In which I didn’t want any accidents to occurring. Also, I was anxious to get on the road tomorrow as early as possible. I’m about 6-7 hours from my destination and I want to sleep in a bed that isn’t on the floor tomorrow night.
Returned to I-65 and drove down to the Jemison exit and got off the highway. There were several trucks parked in a vacant lot next to the Burger King. They have gravy and biscuits for $1.99. I know what I’m having for breakfast.
Dinner consisted of slices of his chicken breast topped with Vidalia onion and pepper jack cheese. Dessert was several ginger snaps.
Day 9 Wednesday 12/13/2017.
Got up and took the dogs out. Brushed my teeth, sort of and left the Walmart parking lot for the Dodge dealership. I spent the night in Nebraska and drove to Iowa to have Spike serviced. Yep. It was all of about 4 miles. Got to the dealership at about 8:00. Drank several cups of coffee and talked with some of the locals who were having vehicles serviced. I dropped the trailer in a defunct Ford dealers lot and put the dogs in the trailer. Every 30 minutes ur so I checked to make sure that they were okay.
Finally, at 11:00 they cut me loose. I jumped back on I-29 and went south to Kansas City. Aside from being nearly run off the road by idiots on their cell phones getting to KC was very boring. From there I caught I-70 to St. Louis. I had intended to stay the night there but they have so much violent crime that I thought it might not be safe even in a Walmart parking lot. It was only about 90 miles on to Cape Girardeau. I opted to drive the extra 1 1/2 hours just to be safe. Arrived at the Walmart at 10:00.
I’m hurrying every chance I get so I’m not doing much in the way of sight seeing. I understand that Rush Limbaugh’s boyhood home is here somewhere but I’ll be moving on in the morning without seeing it. I am going to attempt to make it to Bessemer, AL to see a cousin I haven’t seen since I graduated high school in 1963. Graduated may be a serious over statement of the facts. I was released with a piece of paper that said. ” Yep. He attended all 12 years.” My academic career stalled when I discovered the School Library at the beginning of the 10th grade. From then on I read 4-5 books a week. I only read text books at the beginning of each school year. The only books I ever took home were library books. I discovered something odd about my education a couple of years ago. I somehow skipped the sixth grade. Moved to Alabama to live with my father and I was just starting the 6th. Started Brighton School in the Seventh. I didn’t start school until I was 7 but I ‘graduated’ at 18. Didn’t seem to make any difference.
The dogs have been fed and are asleep. Seems a damned shame to wake them up for their evening walk. If I don’t take them out Gandy will get me up at 3-4 in the morning.
Covered 628 miles today in 11 hours. Average speed 57.1 mph. Not a bad day of driving. The temp is a balmy 49 degrees.
Dinner was sliced chicken on honey wheat with a slab of Vidalia onion. Dessert was a handful of ginger snaps. All of it washed down by vodka-seven.
Day 9. Tuesday 12/12/2017.
I was thinking about all of the people my age. So many of the retire to a rocking chair and either die or become ill. You can’t account for genetics but I figured out that it isn’t ‘use it or lose it’ it is ‘use it or die’. If you’ve just been hanging out waiting for the grim reaper you might as well go for a walk. You could get run over by a bus or you might live a few more years. I almost died from a heart blockage 15 years ago. The doctor actually said to me, “Mr. Steele, I don’t know why you are still alive”. A wake up call, if there ever was one. Get off your ass and onto your feet. A few steps are better than none.
After gorging myself on a blueberry muffin and coffee, the dogs and I set off for Sioux City, Iowa.
Topped off the fuel and put in a container of DEF we were ready to move along. Noticed that the fuel mileage dropped radically it went from 10+ to just over 7 MPG. Pulled over several times to check the trailer brakes.. Each time they weren’t overheated. It was a mystery. Refueled twice before it dawned on me that it might be the DEF fluid was probably bad. Someone told me that without the DEF the mileage would drop radically. On the third fill up I put in a DEF from a different source and by the time I got to Sioux City the MPG was up to 8.9. Now I bought the original DEF at a place at an independent dealer owned by little brown people. I don’t know if they tampered with the contents or if the contents were not as advertised. Either way, I’m going to the Dodge dealer in the morning. A diesel engine is a terrible thing to waste. Oil change and fuel filter warnings came on plus I need to change from snow tires to street tires.
Did you know that there are three Sioux Cities. They are North (S Dakota), South ( Nebraska) and the actual Sioux City in Iowa. I’m spending the night at the Walmart in Nebraska and then going to the Dodge dealership in Iowa.
Turned on the heater, walked and fed the dogs before going into Walmart to find dinner. Without a stove, I’m pretty much limited to sandwiches. However, I found some small cans of pork and beans and a small container of coleslaw. Heated the beans on the space heater. Dinner was hot beans, coleslaw and a toasted chicken sandwich. I toasted the bread on the space heater. Dessert was ginger snaps.
The temp outside is about 30 degrees. I’m going south as fast as I can. It has snowed here but not recently and I don’t want to be here when it snows again.
I’m only about 1200 miles from Liveoak, FL. I could do it in two days, if the truck didn’t need to be serviced. Might still do it in two days, if they get me in and out quickly.
Day 8 Monday 12/11/2017.
Got up at about 6:30. Walked the dogs, fed the dogs did a tire check and Left Lloydminster at about 7:30. Made my way to Saskatoon and to the Fountain Tire Store to get the shredded tire from Sunday replaced under warranty. They replaced the tire so now I have two spares. This ate up over an hour of travel time but assured me that any further tire problems would be a simple matter of changing the tire.
Tire problems solved I set out for Winnipeg. The temp when I left Saskatoon was 34 degrees. The temp when I arrived in Winnipeg was -3. The dogs and I could not stay in the trailer at such an extreme temperature. I found a Motel 6 and checked in. Suzy, Gandy and I were living in the lap of luxury for about 10 hours.
Covered 618 miles today to arrive at the motel at about 10:30. It was a very tiring day.
After making four trips in with dogs and gear, I went back out to the truck and used a convenient outlet to plug in a 250 watt heat lamp which I placed next to the oil pan on the engine. Spike would start in below zero but he wouldn’t like it. No point in stressing out the engine at low temps. Warm oil is good oil.
Got up at 7:00 expecting a breakfast down in the lobby. There was only a few muffins, some corn flakes and some yogurt. Very disappointing. I was hoping for some boiled eggs and bagels. I partook of what was available along with coffee. I had already loaded the dogs and was letting the truck warm up.
Didn’t really have any dinner last night. I had no Canadian currency and that was all the vending machine would accept. Ended up eating Suzy’s turkey slices and Suzy’s apple. There were only 3-4 slices of turkey in the pack and a half of an apple.
It is odd but you can become accustomed to not eating three times a day plus snacks in between. You get to a point where you only think of food when you suddenly realize that you a very, very hungry.
Day 7 Sunday 12/10/2017.
Thought I’d be only one or two days from Live Oak, FL. By now. However, weather, road conditions and equipment failures has slowed progress. I’m less than happy but it is what it is. I’m alive and well in spite of two ex-wives, likely, wishing otherwise. I am the poster boy for ” You can’t fix stupid”.
Traveling these atrocious roads is a lot like drag racing. There is no substitute for ‘cubic money’. Left The racist town of Whitesport in the pitch dark at about 7:00 AM. About 8:30 the new tire from yesterday came to pieces. It was light enough that I could see the tread flapping before it cam off the rim.
A long relatively slow ride to Edmnuton ensued. There I found a chain store called Canadian Tire that had two tires with rims. Only problem was that they were at a store 12 miles away. Still with no tire on the rim I drove across town with about every other car waving at me and pointing back at the trailer. I kept waving and nodding. This happened all along the 4 lane, rutted, bumpy, broken road that the Canadians cheerfully refer to as a “freeway” It is free but it is barely a “way”. I made my way across town by listening to the Google Maps lady. After about 3 hours and $400 later I had a good tire on the ground and a second spare.
Finally, on the road, I set the Google lady to work getting me to Saskatoon. As near as I can figure she didn’t want to go. She led me down side street after side street and, ultimately, down a residential culdesac. I was stuck in a place where turning Spike and the 28′ trailer around was a near impossibility. If there hadn’t been two cars in the circle it might not have been such a hassle. It took me twenty minutes of maneuvering to extricate myself. After that fiasco I decided to ignore the Google lady and just look at the map and navigate myself. I’m old enough that I still know how to read a map.
At 5:30 PM in the pitch dark I ended my trek in Lloydminster. No one I asked could explain the name. Pulled into the Home Depot parking lot for the night. There was a Denny’s about 100 yards back down the parking lot and a liquor store behind me about 100 feet. What a wonderfully awesome coincidence.
I fed the poor put upon canines, Suzy and Gandy. They’d had a very difficult day barking at passers by and the crew at the tire store. Lighted the heater while they finished eating and called it a day. The wind is blowing like crazy and shaking the trailer so much that the tip over switch keeps tripping and turning the stove off. I will likely move the trailer so that it is facing into the wind instead of broadside to it.
I’m sitting here trying to decide Grand Slam or Country Fried Steak. The last restaurant food I’ve eaten was McDonalds back in Anchorage. Mostly been eating C Store sandwiches or making myself a sandwich after I have fed the dogs.
Moved the truck/trailer to face upwind I decided to skip Denny’s. I’ve done a bit of sailing and I can tell you that the wind is 30+ with gusts well over 40. It’s another roast Beef/Frito sandwich for me tonight.
Day 6 Saturday 12/09/2017.
Got up real late from my first night of undisturbed sleep. Took the dogs out and discovered a flat tire on the trailer. It was the last of the factory supplied tires. Not having a plan, I decided to brush my teeth and my stringy gray hair. No restaurant or convenience store closer than a mile and I was desperate for coffee.
I started Spike when I started walking the dogs so he was warmed up and ready to go after I finished brushing. I had decided to limp into town and find someone who would change the tire. I have the stuff to do it but not the will to do it. Kneeling in the snow to jack the trailer up and change the tire is more than I was up to this morning. It was just as well as the Fountain Tire Goodyear dealer discovered that the spare was flat due to a split in the rim. I was screwed no matter what, on my own.
It turns out that 6 lug 15 inch rims are very rare. If they are so hard to find why did the trailer builder use the damned things? Luckily one of the management people decided to look in their dead stock and found a chromed aluminum rim of the correct configuration. They had no steel rims and couldn’t find any in town.. One tire, one rim and 2 1/2 hours later I was again on the road after drinking six cups (very small) of their coffee.
Took a wrong turn out of Dawson Creek and drove 15 miles out of the way. Ended up in Grand Prairie anyway. Lost about 20 minutes of my life going the long way. At least, I wasn’t going toward Alaska. Drove almost 4 hours to that racist city of Whitesport. There I filled up the fuel tank and the DEF tank at an ESSO convenience store before moving to a very large truck parking lot next door.
Made a vodka-seven, fed the dogs, walked the dogs and, finally made myself a roast beef/Frito sandwich. No matter how disgusting a sandwich might be the placing of his Fritos inside it will make it, at the very least, palatable. The roast beef was very good, I just wanted some crunch.
Two vodkas and I’m calling it. Going to the C store restroom to brush my teeth and go to bed. It’s only 8:30 but I am tired and I intend to get an early start tomorrow. I need to do 600 miles tomorrow just to get back on schedule. It will be wonderful to get back on US highways. These Canadian highways are barely marked. At night you could be driving on the shoulder of the oncoming lane and he not know it. No matter how screwed up you think American roads are they are only 10% as screwed up as Canadian roads.
Day 3. Wednesday 12/06/2017.
Meant to leave Tok, AK at about 7:00. But the little propane heater quit during the night and I spent most of an hour trying to get it restarted. I gave up and threw some extra covers on my bed. Alarm went off at 6:00 but I just couldn’t force myself out of the warm bed. I got up at 7:00, fed the dogs and warmed up the truck. Since I was parked behind a convenience store I fueled up got a sausage egg biscuit. Pulled out of Tok at about 8:20 on my way to Whitehorse. Got to the border and found that the Canadian Customs was 20 miles into Canada. When I got to the Customs stop, I got everything but a cavity search. A scruffy old man with two dogs pulled off to the side where they went through every nook and cranny of the truck and opened every trash bag full of clothing, took the vacuum cleaner apart and went through every tool box and bag. While they were wasting my time and theirs, I figured out that they were training the new guy. Just the old Steele luck kicking in again. Stopped for fuel again at Destruction Bay. Wondered about the name but no one knew. I made 219 miles in spite of the dogs and I having to stop 3-4 times. Hung around for about twenty minutes or so pumping the fuel and walking the dogs again. Made it to Whitehorse at about 5:30. Me and my travel companions drove through blinding snow for about an hour. Sometimes you couldn’t see the road. Fortunately about every 100 yards they had posts on either side with reflective tape on them. All I had to do was stay between them and find the next set. They didn’t know the difference but I was seriously concerned. In 270 miles up to then I had seen only 7 cars and three Semis. Going off the road there was going to mean a long wait for help. There could have been a house 150 feet off the road and you wouldn’t have seen it. Let me change concerned to scared. At that elevation the temp was 30 degrees. As went went off the mountain and got to lower ground the temp went up to 36 and it was 42 when we rolled into Whitehorse.
Parked in the Walmart lot and went into get a new heater. They were out but recommended the place next Canadian something or other. They had it and I bought it. We’d sleep comfortable tonight.
After feeding the dogs, I went to the McDonald’s in the Walmart for dinner and then back to the trailer to end up feeding most of the chicken to the dogs.
Hit the sack at about 11:00 after using bottled water while brushing the nasty taste of McDonald’s out of my mouth and walking the dogs.
Will try to make the 404 miles to Liard River, BC tomorrow.
The 6:00 o’clock alarm that I had set jangled me awake but like a punchy boxer I couldn’t answer the bell. I awoke again at 7:00. This is where I got into such a hurry , I left my MacBook and the charger.
Got out of Anchorage as quickly as possible. Out on Alaska 1 the scenery was fantastic. I wish I could have seen more of it but iced sold roads prevented my gawking. Later I was driving 55-60 on an inch of ice covered with fresh powder that was falling at a prodigious rate. There were times that I couldn’t see more than a couple of hundred feet. Not a white out but close enough for me.
Got to The Hub, a Tesoro convenience store, just after 1:00, refueled and walked the dogs. At The Hub you go right to Valdez or left to Tok. The road to Tok is called the Tok Cutoff. It should be referred to as The Tok Shock Absorber Testing Lab. There are so many bumps and ice heaves that go from a gentle 4 inches to near a foot deep that it is more like a roller coaster than a road. Aside from the ice on the road the max speed in some of the areas is about 20 mph. It is 124 miles of torture road for whatever you happen to be driving. It took 3 hours to cover those 124 miles.
I pulled into a Chevron convenience store after dark and asked about an open RV park. There was only one and it was closed for the season. They probably have a condo in Florida. After talking for a bit she said her husband would not mind if I parked out back for the night.
Suzy, Gandy and I parked the rig out back and they wanted to out. I let them do their business and put them back into the warm truck. I went into the trailer and made up our bed on the floor and lighted the propane heater. After that I put the dogs in the trailer and fed them. The heater had it pretty toasty in a matter of minutes. I ate expensive, disgusting road food and the resorted to a couple of vodkas to get the taste of greasy chicken out of my mouth.
Made 319 miles today. Not the 400 I had planned but pretty good in snow, ice and atrocious roads…