Day 4, October 14, 1997: Snowed in at Watson Lake, Yukon Territory

Who was it that talked about "deja vu all over again"? Well, that is what I'm feeling now.

I got up early this morning and checked out the weather ahead via the Environment Canada web site, looked around outside, and decided to give it a try. Got the car packed up, got my Nissan mug filled up with high-octane coffee at the truck stop, topped up the tank, and set out toward Fort Nelson.

The going didn't seem all that bad at first. I heeded the advice about winter driving given by the old-time automotive writer Tom McCahill to "drive like there are raw eggs taped to your pedals" and finessed the steering and managed to motivate 30 miles out of Watson Lake. My progress came to an end at the long steep grade that follows the Hyland River bridge. I made it 90% of the way up before I lost traction. Managed to do a sloppy 3-point turn and drive back down and try it again. Results were the same the second time so I bowed to the inevitable and came back to the motel room I had left earlier.

The people at the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) post said that by tomorrow morning the road conditions would be vastly improved by plowing and sanding and warming temperatures. The Mountie who was telling me this certainly didn't fit the Dudley Doright mold of Mountie-dom, being pale, weak-chinned, and of expansive girth. Guess that too many years riding a desk rather than the traditional horse or dogsled has an effect on an officer.

As an aside on the subject of trip preparation, I heartily recommend that anybody considering this sort of drive give some extra thought as to the recorded music they carry along. The fact that radio stations are few and far between up here means that you are on your own for entertainment. Due to my problems with the movers grabbing things and packing them I was left with a sorely limited collection of cassettes: 2 anthologies of dowop classics, 1 Platters anthology, 1 recording of Hawaiian music by a performer who's name I can't recall, 1 collection of J.S. Bach harpsichord and clavichord music, and a tape of the Celtic group "Silly Wizard".

The Hawaiian recording seemed an especially cruel thing this morning since, as the singer was extolling the virtues of "white sand beaches" I was sliding around on something far more white and not nearly so pleasant. I discovered early on in the trip that listening to Andy Stewart of Silly Wizard too closely as he sings beautiful maudlin songs in Scots dialect while I am surrounded by majestic scenery is enough to choke me up a bit.

I guess that I'll do some reading while I'm here as I did bring along a half-dozen novels. Perhaps I should continue reading "Independent People" by Halldor Laxness. A bleak book by a depressed Icelandic author seems appropriate somehow...

Not much in the way of photography today. The attached image shows something called the Northern Lights Center and I have not a single clue to what it might be. It is clearly set up for tourists with lots of parking, etc but beyond that it is a mystery.

Tomorrow I may press on to Fort Nelson, British Columbia if the road and weather look OK. Otherwise it may be time to start looking for a house for the winter (just kidding, Mom!). And maybe the next leg of our 12,000 mile solo tour driving on the edge of the US continues.


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