I was in Whitehorse,
Yukon for three days. It's a lively, friendly town that was
once an important transportation link between the coast and the
its heyday a fleet of paddle-wheelers carried cargo
and passengers in and out along the Yukon River. Today
Whitehorse depends on the short summer tourist season
to boost its modest economy.
families also rely on the successive hunting seasons each year
to supplement their food supply with caribou, moose and salmon.
They kill, butcher and freeze their legal limit. It's an
important part of their livelihood. One family I talked to told
me they all go on these hunts together, so the kids are growing
up with it just as their parents did. Their 11-year-old son had
bagged his first caribou recently, a rite of passage towards
adulthood and a boon to the family's larder. Hunting isn't a
sport for the people who live here. It's necessary to make ends
meet, to feed themselves and their families.
most of my time in Whitehorse in a mechanic's shop having the
RV's gasoline-powered Onan generator tuned up. That
temperamental contraption confounded two very good mechanics for
two entire days. In the end it ran better than before, but it
still doesn't always want to re-start after it has been running,
which was the main reason I sought help with it in the first
the time I left Whitehorse, the atmospheric smoke from
the 100+ wildfires burning all over the Yukon was
dense enough to reduce visibility to as little as a
half-mile. That afternoon I drove by vistas of
exceptionally high, handsome mountains, or so I read
in the guidebooks and signposts. I didn't see any of
was hidden behind a shroud so thick even the sun could
not penetrate. It was like twilight all day, and the
air had a burnt odor to it and irritated the back of
the throat. Kind of like the New Jersey Turnpike minus
the bright side, I did find a solution to my RV
mosquito problem while I was in Whitehorse. A nylon
mesh bed tent now lets me get a good night's sleep
even when the little buggers do get into the cabin,
which they're still doing at most of my
out-in-the-bush campsites. Damned if I can figure out
how they're doing it, though.
into Alaska on the afternoon of Monday, June 28th, about 3
months and a week, and 9,500 road miles, after leaving Rhode
Island. (Odometer reads 61,383)
picking up mail from General Delivery at the post office in Tok
(pronounced toke, rhymes with poke), I drove south hoping
to escape the wildfire smoke (rhymes with Tok), but a northeast
wind wafted it right along with me. It wasn't quite as bad as it
had been, but the sky was still gray, not blue, and sightseeing
was limited to whatever was within a mile or two of the road.
Still, that was enough for me to catch glimpses of some bold
mountains, a prodigious river valley and, on the far side, a
brilliantly white glacier spilling out of hidden ice fields.
I grew up
next door to a family of 14 kids. The Leary's included Michael,
Tony, Sheila, Brian, Timmy, Bethany, Kit, Molly, Meg, Kate, Dan,
Sean, Noreen, and Mat, and I can still rattle off those names as
fast as any of them can. I'm in touch with Kit Leary once in a
while and he told me that Molly and Megan both live in Alaska.
Now my road was passing close to Molly's town, Wasilla, so I
contacted her and we met up.
weird seeing someone you knew as a kid and haven't
seen in nearly 40 years. You have this image of them
in your mind. Mine was of a skinny little girl with
pigtails and freckles. Molly, the classic girl next
door. Of course, she doesn't look exactly like that
And yet I kept seeing that face in the woman I was
visiting. The mischievous twinkle in her eyes, the
honest cant of her smile. I believe it's true, what
they say, that inside every woman is the little girl
she once was.
I had a great time. We talked for hours on end, reminiscing,
catching up, relating stories of other neighborhood
"kids" we're still in touch with. It was great fun.
There is something uniquely comfortable about visiting with
someone you knew well as a child. There is no pretense or
posturing in the conversation. It's like hanging out with
heading down toward Anchorage and then the Kenai peninsula now.
Meanwhile, I've had a request to post shorter travelogue pages
more often. I don't know if I can make a habit of doing that. It
depends on when I get around to writing up a page, how often I
get online where I can upload it, etc. I'll do that when I can,
Next Entry: 07/14/04