Nostalgia

Discussion in 'Alaska' started by Alcan Rider, Jan 8, 2012.

  1. Alcan Rider

    Alcan Rider Frozen Fossil

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    Fifty years ago this morning I got my first look at Dawson Creek. Arriving off the Hart Highway's miles of rugged wilderness to see before me, spread out on gently rolling hills, a small city with grain elevators spaced along a railroad - it seemed that I had taken a wrong turn and ended up back in Nebraska. That feeling ended within a few miles, as I crossed the curved wood-decked bridge over the Kiskatinaw River and found myself surrounded by spruce forests once again.

    Fort St John back then only knew oil as something that had to be dumped into the crankcase of vehicles to keep their engines turning. Where Wonowon sits now was Blueberry Camp in January 1962, and marked the end of pavement northbound, with the exception of a short 4 or 5 mile stretch at Whitehorse, until back on U. S. soil at Mile 1221.

    A couple of months ago I ran across the logbook used on that trip and chuckled once again at the entries. Filling the gas tank on the little Mercury S-22 two-door never took over $5.00. That was with the Imperial gallon, which equaled 120% of the U. S. gallon. Some fill-ups were on the order of $2 - $2.50.

    In Dawson Creek, the streets on the outskirts of town were literally paved with the carcasses of snowshoe hares. You could feel the tires bouncing over them. As a newcomer, I assumed this was an annual winter occurrence, but an article later that year in the Alaska Sportsman (still published by short, rotund Emory Tobin in those years) mentioned that an historic glut of the critters was the reason for the furry pavement.

    In those early years, lodges and roadhouses were spaced fairly regularly every twenty miles or so, it seemed. And they all stayed open year around, as the proprietors lived in their own accommodations, not closing down and heading for a warmer city down south, as they do today. At every stop one could hear the lively exhaust pop-pop-pop from a single-cylinder Witte, or the 900 hz buzz from a Lister, providing the limited electric lighting that a commercial operation demanded. North of Watson Lake the highway twisted and turned as though it could not make up its mind which way to go. This section might also have contributed to the doubts expressed by this poem, reportedly written by an Army sergeant working on the construction of the historic road "'The Alaska Highway winding in and winding out fills my mind with serious doubt as to whether 'the lout' who planned this route was going to hell or coming out!" Back in its early days, most every one who lived along, or traveled the road, had at least heard that one, or even memorized it.

    As inmate Wheeldog and I reminisced together a few months back on another forum, "It ain't yer granddad's Alcan any more".
    #1
  2. AKDuc

    AKDuc Alaska Born Ducatisti

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    Way cool. Good stuff. As always with you, a good read.

    Yep, really glad I got to drive the old Alcan years ago before it got straightened and widened. Fun to look over and see the grass seeded old curvy roadbed and remember how it was to drive.

    Hey, what other forum where you guys jabbering on?

    Thanks for sharing, Mark H.
    #2
  3. Alcan Rider

    Alcan Rider Frozen Fossil

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    The Ride Alaska forum on Delphi Forums, HERE

    Reading some ride reports these days in which riders complain about the "terrible conditions" between Burwash Landing and the border has me wondering why they hang out on a forum called "ADVENTURE RIDER". They should be posting on the "Armchair Adventure" forum. Two of my old high school buddies rode from Michigan to Fairbanks on their Harleys back in '63, when the Alcan was pretty much like the Haul Road is today, except about 3 times as long. The only mishap was when one (who now lives in Palmer) was checking his oil while riding down the highway and went off into the ditch, requiring a little welding on the frame of his bike when they got to Whitehorse.

    Those really were the "good ol' days" weren't they? :D
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  4. Fighter

    Fighter Head Gruver

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    Jack/Roger... thanks for the link and the memories.
    I particularly like the shot of the Ford van.
    I made my first Alcan run in one just about like that (cargo).
    Buddy of mine bought it new and we flew down to Seattle to drive it home.
    January of 1975. Brutally cold as temps averaged negative 35-40 for what seemed like days and days. We kept the truck running for most of the trip and even when we stopped for the night we switched off getting out of bed every 2 hours to fire it up. Fuel line froze up not far from Burwash and a can of Heet saved our ass. Road surface was good and fairly smooth.
    I remember stopping at Fireside and the place was jumpin'.
    Not anymore! :cry:cry Not sure when it died.

    Fast forward 35 years.
    Took this shot in 2010 whilst southbound on the GS.
    Fite


    [​IMG]
    #4
  5. FLARider1

    FLARider1 Long timer

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    More please!!!! :jump In the back of my mind I am already planning the next trip up there and all the places I wanting to go but just didn't have time in a month long trip!!

    A
    #5
  6. Beezer

    Beezer Long timer

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    1963 was the first time I drove the Alcan... well, my dad did the driving. We went down to California to visit grand parents. One of the things I remember most is the frost heaves on the AK side. The Plymouth wagon was loaded with Mom & Dad & 5 kids and packed like the Beverly Hillbillies. Hitting the frost heaves at dad speed made the roof buckle :rofl.... like about 10 times. Near Northway there was long stretches of deep gravel that he had to get a run at to get through, nearly cleared off the exhaust system. And yeah, Burwash mud and the hill climb at Trutch also stick out. Also something like 1200 miles of dust..... and broken headlights.... actually, in those days the road was better in the winter if you could deal with the cold. I have pictures of the 'ol red Belvedere somewhere.
    #6
  7. BARB

    BARB Long timer

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    We did a '63 trip down the Alcan in a Chevy Greenbrier. My mom, sister and me would sleep inside and dad would roll up in visqueen on the ground and sleep outside with his rifle. We ate bacon and canned pork and beans the entire trip. Barb
    #7
  8. KHuddy

    KHuddy Big Sky Country

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    Like just about everyone else here Jack, I enjoy hearing about the experiences you and others had in the earlier years. You and George up in Fairbanks have great stories to tell, and when I hear them it puts many things in perspective. Today people will spend $20K+ on a bike, another $5K on accessories and $2K on riding gear, complain because their motel rooms have slow WiFi, and consider themselves rock hard adventures. It was great to link you up with George at my place last summer and to hear just a few exchanges about what life and riding were like in years past. Don't hold back on more stories and pictures from your past experiences. For example, just how did you and Maggie first hook-up?
    #8
  9. Tom S

    Tom S Can I ride it?

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    Grandparents in the rig on the right at Green lake.

    [​IMG]

    Our old Plymouth on Fishhook road, Palmer side, late 1940s or early 1950s.

    [​IMG]

    My first time on the Alcan? It was going out, but I was too young to remember it.
    #9
  10. AKmud

    AKmud Muddy Gruver

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    Tom,

    That pic of Fishhook is fantastic! Too bad that rock formation was just removed in the last few years... Keep the pics coming!
    #10
  11. mitch

    mitch Long timer

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    Hi Barb :y0! that sounds like a recipe for disaster :lol3 open windows or pegs for the nose :rofl
    #11
  12. f650624

    f650624 Snowbird

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    One of my ancestors.

    Attached Files:

    #12
  13. hvman

    hvman Been here awhile

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    One my Dad tells is of when they drove to Anchorage in1950, one evening they stopped at a gas station and asked the guy "where is Anchorage?", he said, you just drove through it! They proved up on a homesite while Dad woked constuction at the base, only to move out in 1952 about 3 months B4 I was born, darn , I could have been a real Alaskan!
    #13
  14. legion

    legion Pope's Nose

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    And there are a handful of those old Witte diesels still around. The one below is mine, with an electronic governor tacked on to keep it from running away.

    We flew up in '69 on Western Airlines and then drove up in '70. My folks sold everything and bought a 1970 Ford 3/4 ton 2wd pickup. My little brother and I hopped in the back and we rode that way from Oakland, CA to Anchorage. Bugs? Lots of 'em. That was the one thing about stopping is that the bugs would get serious within a matter of moments. As soon as the dust cleared it would be replaced by a swarm of flying vampires. Dust? There was that, bigtime.

    Can't recommend spending a few thousand miles on a potholed dirt road in the back of a pickup anymore. It seemed like the way to do it at the time though. Might've been a little better with softer suspension but probably not much.



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    #14
  15. AlaskaSolstice

    AlaskaSolstice Alaskan Adventurer

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    Beezer, I could almost cut and paste what you said verbatim, and it was my first trip on the Alcan:

    We "camped" along the way, which means sometimes all seven of us slept in the station wagon.

    Gary
    #15
  16. USBYGS

    USBYGS Riding the World

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    Dad tells us the story of driving up the Alcan in the very late 60's and how bikers took the my older brother...

    Pulls into a diner, sitting down to eat and a group of bikers pull in. They walk in, look around, and say "free rides for the kids!". Then one grabbed my brother, took him to the parking lot, and rode a few laps. Returned him to the table and that was that...
    #16
  17. BARB

    BARB Long timer

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    Why do you think my dad slept outside?
    #17
  18. akrider

    akrider mild adventurer

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    January 1970. New SAAB 99. Studded tires on the front only. Block heater-whats that? Got to Tok and no rooms were available. (something about a snowmachine race). Push on to Mentasta and slept in one of the little cabins (had to share with another couple). Needed a jump to get it started in the morning. Jumper cables-whats that?
    #18
  19. legion

    legion Pope's Nose

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    I stayed on the road a tad too long in '90 and pulled over at Mentasta, too. Got partially toasted in their bar and then sauntered off to one of the cabins where curiously, the previous tenant had left some fairly common contraband behind in the top drawer of the nightstand.

    Sort of like the Mentasta version of a mint on your pillow. :lol3
    #19
  20. Beezer

    Beezer Long timer

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    hey.... I drove down in '67 and went through a forest fire. I think it was around Northway but don't have an exact location.... any body remember... Jack? It was a pretty good fire... on both sides of the road, right up to the pavement. We drove through mebby a couple hundred yards & broke out on the other side. I could feel the heat through the glass, smoke covered the road & started filling up the car. The old man wanted to push through because he thought we might get pressed into some kind of chain gang to fight the fire. Brand new Pontiac Firebird (irony eh).
    #20