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4 Things You Should Try on the Top of the World Highway

Charles Kuralt is supposed to have said the interstate highway system allows us to drive across the continent without seeing anything. Sometimes you choose to do things the easy way and you know you aren’t getting the full experience. Think about our four recommendations for memorable travel. Our way almost always is slower, may be more scenic, and probably will involve more learning. You know what we mean — you don’t remember as well the quick victories or the boring days.

These four tips should make most memorable your driving experience from Dawson City to Chicken Alaska on the Top of the World Highway. You will be able to look back and say, “That was a day!” and you will always remember it. It worked for us and we think you would never forget it either.

1. Take the ferry for the river crossing the same day as a 34-rig caravan
2. Invite a 23 year old from Australia to ride with you from Dawson to Chicken
3. Do not turn off the water pump for the driving day
4. Leave both roof vents open with one exhaust fan full-on

Some free things just don’t seem worth the price. Today many folks, after five hours, would gladly have paid premium to cut two or three hours off their wait time. None of us understood just how long the line up would be, and certainly none expected wait times over five hours for this free ferry.

The Airstream caravan’s plan was to line up for the ferry between 9 and 11 a.m. We smartly read in the The Milepost Alaska Travel Planner we should wait until 11 to let the ferry traffic subside before rushing down. We arrived at 11:15 and so many rigs and trucks were waiting, there was no line-up space remaining. We had no idea how long the wait would be, but were pretty sure it was going to be awhile.

Recommendation #1 allows you to stay in a nice place much longer than you planned. It takes a very long time to put 34 additional RVs across the ferry in one day. We abandoned the ferry crossing line, parked the rv and truck in town and shopped awhile. Two hours later we returned and found ourselves seventh or eighth in line. Little did we know, our wait time would still be over four hours.

Some trips no RVs would cross the river from Dawson. Some trips one or two would board and get across. At one point no RVs gained access to the ferry for one hour forty-five minutes. This despite the ferry loading, crossing, unloading, and returning from across the river once every twenty minutes. There were commercial vehicles, local vehicles, buses, whose turn came before ours.

Occasionally we’d see one of our group get across the river and our hearts would briefly lift. The next trip no Airstreams would get across and we realized, we’re here for a long wait. During one such period Debbie struck up conversation with a young woman sitting with other pedestrians awaiting the ferry. Jess, from Australia, is on a one-year sabbatical from university in Melbourne. She explained she wanted to get to Chicken today. Debbie offered her a ride with us. We didn’t have room in the truck cab or bed for her guitar and huge backpack, so we stashed these in the RV.

Finally our turn to board the ferry. Two Airstreams creeped on very very slowly under the skillful guidance of the loadmaster. In a few minutes we had crossed the fast-running Yukon River and pulled from the ferry onto the soft gravel apron, scraping the RV’s hitch on the ground briefly until we pulled away completely from the ferry. And we’re off, climbing upward upward onnto the Top of the World Highway, toward Chicken!

We often share rides from hamfests, rallies, or caravans to reduce the number of vehicles. It’s nice to visit with folks on the way to dinner or a show or museum, too. We haven’t previously shared a ride with someone we met only an hour ago. Recommendation #2 worked out the best — we enjoyed listening to Jess tell us about her family’s dairy farm, her university work to-date, and her travel experiences of the past six months. We hope she feels the same way, considering the day’s events.

Towing an RV, you almost never pull over and see water running out from the floor-line of the entire trailer’s length. When we pulled into one of the scenic overlooks for a brief rest stop, Jim heard the trailer’s water pump running intermittently, rummmph, rummmph, rummmph. Before he could walk to their side, Deb and Jess had hopped out and saw water puddling under the trailer’s curb side.

Jim hopped into the trailer and turned off the pump. Then he discovered the gravity of recommendation #3, above. The very bumpy fifty miles of Top of the World Highway had bumped slightly open one of the trailer’s faucets and bumped closed the corresponding sink drain. Luckily, we were able to discover it when only twenty gallons fresh water had pumped through the faucet and onto the trailer’s floor.

Why are these people smiling? Jess is smiling because her guitar case and her backpack are waterproof. We combined our beach towels with some from friends, Tom and Vicki Johnson, and were able to mop the water up entirely. But wait, what about recommendation #4? Why is this water in the trailer so muddy?

And we thought our formica table and counters were white this morning in Dawson. And the dinette cushions now look brown with undertones of blue. Dust was everywhere. Almost everyone in our caravan had dust infiltration from the longest, bounciest, dustiest road we’ve ever traveled. But we’re the only ones who left vents open to bring in more dust. Close the vents now and we’ll take care of this after we find our campsite.

We arrived at our campground in Chicken Alaska without further incident. The benefit of leaving both roof vents open and one of the fans on is we could spend our wedding anniversary, the day after driving to Chicken, thoroughly cleaning the interior. Our trailer hasn’t been this clean in a long time. Who would have thought of spending all day on their anniversary sharing this labor of love, united in purpose? Perfect!

All the work done, Debbie was available to snap this great moose picture. Some people, with less responsibility, might have spent a long time looking for a moose picture. We finish up our work at the right time and hear the call, “A moose is by the campground”. Debbie can grab the camera and walk right down there, get the best moose picture of the trip. Kinda makes it all worth it, you know?

Jim and Debbie
dreamstreamr odyssey, chasing 75 degrees

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©2007-2012 Dreamstreamr

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Is an Apple Mac in our immediate future?

Shhh! We aren’t ready for our Dell computer to hear we might be planning it’s obsolescence. Most of our work career depended upon IBM-compatible machines. All our applications, for a very long time, were Microsoft DOS then Windows processes. And we would give this Dell up so easily? Not just yet, but. . .

You may already know where we are, if you follow us — our locate us tag at the bottom of our blogs seems to be pretty reliable. A little less reliable in Indian Country, the APRS system relies upon our finding ham radio digipeaters within range of our radio/antenna. While we have darned good range, every now and then our signal just isn’t heard by the right kind of receiver.

Sometimes you may wonder what we’re doing there when we say we’re here. Gee, sounds kinda like what you wondered when your kids said they were here, and you thought they were some there else. Not exactly like “The Library” in LaCrosse, Wisconsin (and similarly named bars probably in most other college towns, too).

We are here, and through Sunday morning the locator will show us at the edge of beautiful Lake Powell in Page, AZ. We arrived yesterday and have enjoyed a very peaceful setting 3/4 mile from, and approx 100 feet above, the lake’s edge.

Most of the other 62 caravanners are on a Lake Powell boat tour and hike to Rainbow Bridge (someone said, “Tenth Wonder”, but I don’t know). Your faithful reporter walked with Debbie to the resort office/gift shop/marina to meet up with the tour group, then I walked back up the hill to start my BIG project for the day.

Everyone else absent is a blessing for me, right now. I am attempting to salvage certain files from our Dell laptop which three days ago suffered crash-dumped memory. I can attend to this project, catch up a little on emails, do a little housekeeping, and keep an eye on some of our caravanners’ rigs.

The project, searching for a few very important files to save to a portable hard drive, is going slowly. The problem is I must attempt to recover tens of thousands of files so I can cherry pick the Quicken data folders and the most recent four weeks’ picture folders.

Our last back-up was, perhaps, a month ago just after completing taxes and just before this caravan. We will face, if we cannot recover any files, loss of the best pictures and our personal expense entries from our caravan’s first month. The pictures are somewhat replaceable. Oddly, our laptop’s recycle bin had almost 2,000 pictures, mostly from this same caravan.

Our camera allows shooting bracketed f-stop exposures (e.g., selected exposure plus -1 and +1 f-stop). We choose the exposure we like best and trash the other two exposures. Fortunately these extra shots survived the operating system’s crash by hiding out in the recycle bin.

We pulled the recycle bin contents into one of our portable hard drives (not the one with the most recent data backups). This morning we downloaded to another laptop a copy of PC-Tools’ “File Recovery”.

I only want the most recent one month’s pictures plus the Quicken files. This lengthy process is yet another instance of the old adage, it takes less time the second time around. Our favorite examples are the instructions for installing desktop computer internal components, replacing the hitch receiver under your pickup truck, and assembling children’s bicycles.

Invariably, it seems, they say the process can be accomplished in 40 minutes or less. And this may be true. But we are comfortable reporting most people will not approach less than five times this time frame on their first try. And the instructions might not include the time required to first remove the existing component or equipment to prepare for installation.

How lengthy is this recover process? I can’t yet say. Three and one-half hours ago I started running the file recovery utility and it has inventoried over 20,000 files thus far. And it may all be worthwhile if we can re-acquire the desired files.

What’s next? We’ll try to save the dozen folders we’re hunting to the portable hard drive. I’ll shut down the laptop, remove the keyboard and bottom cover, and gently blow compressed air throughout the motherboard and components. We imagine our laptop feels an extra few pounds heavier and needs to have a bunch of dust removed.

Everywhere we’ve been over the past several weeks has been incredibly dusty and windy. The blowing dust and sand we’ve encountered has spread throughout everything in our trailer. No doubt, the laptop has tried to store its share too.

Files recovered (or not), dust removed, machine reassembled, then we hope it again works. If it does, we’ll do low level format on the drives and start over with info from our back-ups. If it doesn’t work, we’ll see if there are any parts we want to salvage for some good future trailer or ham radio project.

Friends on our caravan advised us the laptops’ mean time between failures is three years. Two weeks ago our power supply started acting buggy. I’m pretty sure it is a broken wire in the attachment to the power transformer, and I can take this apart and effect some sort of repair. And now this problem with the User Profile Service not in service?

Will we change our back-up schedule? Darned tooting, at least until
we forget this incident. Some of you remember the old back-up procedures we maintained at work. I vaguely remember keeping six daily sets, three weekly sets, and two or more monthly sets of diskettes for our office’s computer.

We ran eleven completely different sets of diskettes, all labelled, and handled very frequently. How far we’ve fallen — Debbie and I were backing up seasonally and recently increased it to monthly. Now we’ll probably go to weekly.

Does this loss of laptop (and vast amounts of data files) affect us? Notice there aren’t any pictures in this blog (loads much quicker, doesn’t it?). We’re tracking expenses with pencil and paper. We can’t look stuff up (a habit I love). We cannot edit our pictures. And we’re vastly behind blogging. Mostly though, we’re experiencing a little separation anxiety toward our Dell laptop.

We’ve been browsing, very casually, new laptops. Didn’t want to upset our current one, you know. Well that’s out the window now! We’re full-on looking for this machine’s replacement. Our kids and friends use Macs. The appeal has grown in the past several days.

Until then, I’m watching our Dell undergo the PC Tools Fire Recover process (up to 21,850 files and counting). And I’m hoping I will find the few folders we want. I hope I’ll complete the gutting, cleaning, and formatting process sometime this afternoon. And start rebuilding — or find an Apple store down the road somewhere.

We’ll see you down the road, or perhaps in an Apple store!

Jim and Debbie
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©2007-2010 Dreamstreamr