OUR LIFE ON WHEELS - Jerry and Suzy LeRoy travel blog

The Tanana River southeast of Fairbanks

The Alyeska Pipeline makes a river crossing on the Tanana

Zigzags in the pipeline allow for expansion and contraction with the weather

Construction continues on the Alaska Highway

...and continues

Pardon my dust, I just can't get back to solid pavement!

Building a new bridge will make a difference ... eventually

The Alaska Fur Shack offers unique souvenirs

Ethel is NOT for sale, but will she accept rental offers?

The End of the Alaska Highway at Delta Junctionj

Moving back into Yukon Territory shows we are returning home

Undecided? One cheek in Alaska, one in Yukon Territory.

Buckshot Betty's is a great place for a lunch!

Beaver Creek is home to some ... community artistic endeavors.

Look out for those lead dogs! They are on their way and...

No, this isn't the REAL Sergeant Preston!

Our Lady of Grace Church was built from a leftover Quonset hut.

The Kluane River near Destruction Bay, YT.

Black Spruce grows sparsely on the permafrost

The Fireweed is the first to recover from a forest fire.

Tuesday, July 19, was the start of the end of the caravan, but there was still plenty ahead to see and do. We left Fairbanks headed for Tok, and on the way stopped at the Tanana River / Pipeline Crossing. It is quite a structural feat to suspend that huge pipeline across a large river. At the same site is the Alaska Fur Shack selling furs and fur products and other souvenir items. One of the features is "Ethel," a shapely manikin in her world famous Arctic Fur Bikini. No touch!

The next stop was Delta Junction, where the Alaska Highway meets the Richardson Highway. Remember, in Alaska there are so few highways that they are known by their names instead of their numbers.

More importantly, Delta Junction is the end of the Alaska Highway, Milepost 1422 from Dawson Creek, BC. The Alyeska Pipeline Pump Station #9 is just 7 miles from Delta, and Fort Greely, a national missile defense site, is 5 miles south. The Alaska Highway was built during World War II as a supply route to interior Alaska military and air fields. The project took 11 months and cost $115,000,000. Six years later the highway was opened to the public. Today the Alaska Highway is all but completely paved. Construction and upgrading continue each year, but for all intents and purposes it is an all-year highway suitable for any competent driver.

All is not beautiful along the highway, of course. Where the permafrost limits growth and the growing season is short, for example, black spruce trees resemble fuzzy toothpicks. They can be a few hundred years old, three to four inches in diameter, and just a few feet tall. In some places the muskeg they grow in doesn't give them much support and the trees lean at odd angles, giving rise to the phrase "drunken forest." In other areas forest fires have done their damage. The first plant to grow back is the Fireweed, the official territorial flower of Yukon Territory. It grows in road cuts, burns, on the edges of avalanches and rock slides, anywhere it can get a foothold. The First Nations people learned to predict their seasons by watching the changes in Fireweed.

We stopped in Tok, Alaska, for one night (we had spent a night there also on the way north) and the next night in Destruction Bay, British Columbia, crossing the international border along the way. We had to pose for pictures, of course. At Beaver Creek, BC, we stopped at Buckshot Betty's for lunch. She advertises "The Best Buns on the Highway." We can't vouch for Betty's buns, but she serves a remarkable "Shakwak Burger," one of the best burgers we've eaten in quite a while. The café is small and not much to look at, but the food is good and there is ample parking for several big motorhomes, each with a car in tow. That's important to us!

Beaver Creek is home to a series of (not terribly artistic) Yukon Gold Rush Centennial figurines representing mushers, sourdoughs, even an RCMP Mountie. Nearby also is Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church, built in 1961 from a salvaged Quonset hut left over from highway construction days.

Destruction Bay is one of many communities that grew out of the building of the Alaska Highway. Located on the shore of Kluane Lake, it earned its name when a storm destroyed buildings and materials. We had expected to park with full hookups that night; in fact, full hookups were promised to the caravan organizers. Turns out that the campground owner had spent several thousands of dollars getting ready to install sewers but couldn't when he learned that the permafrost under his property would freeze anything that was dumped into the sewers. The freezing would be one problem, but a bigger one might come in the summertime if the sewers began to thaw!

And on that note we'll close this episode. Keep coming back to hear more of ... Our Life on Wheels.

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