Canada

The end of the road

You know that feeling when it’s 8am on a Monday morning, and you’ve been away from home for over eight months, and you’re wearing more items of clothing than you ever have in your life but you’re still cold because it is -17°C, and you’re wondering when it’s going to be over, and a man pulls over and tells you that he’s driving to Alaska and that you can come along? Oh right, maybe not. Let us tell you: IT IS AMAZING.

That feeling looks something like this:

YESSSSSSS.

YESSSSSSS. Alaska numberplate, Alaska bound.

The man in question was called Chuck (or “Chuck the absolute legend”) and was driving back home from a job down in North Dakota (USA), a mere 3000-mile roadtrip. With more than 1500 miles left to go, Chuck’s thoughts upon seeing us were,
“Why are they hitchhiking at this time of year?” (a valid question), and secondly,
“I wonder if they have driving licenses?”
Steve, ever-ready to be behind the wheel, happily agreed to be co-driver, and away we went on our 36-hour final leg.

Driver 391: Chuck Pinkerton, we thank you.

Driver 391: Chuck Pinkerton, we salute you.

Our poor little brains couldn’t quite compute the glorious truth that, suddenly, we were on our final hitch and were heading to Alaska. We were really and truly actually going to make it, and not only that, but we were travelling through some of the most utterly enchanting scenery we have ever seen.

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We made our final border crossing at 5am on Tuesday morning: the temperature outside was around -30°C and Chuck’s car heater had stopped working, so it was a little chilly. By this point, however, we didn’t care a jot. ALASKA!

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Chuck invited us to accompany him to his home near a town called Homer, giving us a whole day’s worth of Alaskan landscapes to enjoy. En route, Chuck informed us that Homer is the westerly-most point that one can drive to in Alaska, and thus is known as “the end of the road”. Well, what could be more perfect than that?

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So, friends, the adventure is over, and what an adventure it has been. Don’t worry, there’s still time to sponsor us, and there will be a book to come sometime in the future. For now, though, it’s back to Blighty for a nice cup of tea.

DAY 1.

DAY 1.

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DAY 253.

FINAL TOTAL: Number of lifts: 392
Week Thirty-Six distance travelled: 1513 miles/ 2435 km
FINAL TOTAL: Distance travelled from Ushuaia to Alaska: 26,160 miles / 42,100 km

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If you would like to get in touch with us – maybe book us in as part of our lecture tour (!) – please email joey.dj@hotmail.co.uk or steve.dew-jones@hotmail.co.uk.

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Cold toes on the Alaska Highway

With so long on the road now, you’d think that we might have exhausted most of the ups and downs of the hitchhiking adventure. Not so. This week, we’ve managed to: smash our longest-distance-travelled-in-one-week record (previously set in Brazil in July); make storming progress north out of Vancouver; fit in a 900 km round trip after deciding that our original route wasn’t the best one (more on that later); get stuck in a snow drift and have to be pulled out by a farmer (seriously, you couldn’t make this stuff up); and experience the kindness of strangers time and again as various people have put us up and helped us out. Long sentence? Long week.

Monday began to the rhythm of Jo’s thumping heart, as we once again braced ourselves for conflict with laws apparently prohibiting hitchhiking. With three patrol cars passing us in 15 minutes without a hint of interest, however, it seemed they weren’t too bothered by our endeavours, and soon we were sailing out of our final big city. We had decided that our target for the day was Whistler, a famous mountain just over 100 km away; instead we leapt forward nearly 800 km to Prince George, the “Northern Capital of British Columbia”. One of our drivers told us that travelling north would take us on a fast-track through the seasons, and so it was – from autumn one morning to winter the next.

Adding a layer as we head away from Vancover.

Monday: Adding a layer as we waited for a ride just north of Whistler.

Snow on the ground and -7 in the air.

Tuesday: Snow on the ground and -7 in the air.

When chatting to our drivers, we often ask for advice on the road ahead – what it’s going to be like, which route to take and so on. On Tuesday morning, we had two choices – head west on the 16 or north on the 97, both of which eventually join up. We’d been told that Route 16 was slightly shorter and more scenic, so that seemed to be the thing to do. More good progress was made, including our first truck ride since Mexico with Gary, and we were  greeted by an exciting sight when he dropped us off on Wednesday morning at the foot of Highway 37. Next stop Alaska, we thought.

Alaska: on the map.

Alaska: on the map. (Sadly. aiming for Hyder Alaska would have felt like cheating as it isn’t in the main part of Alaska, otherwise we’d be on a flight home by now.)

However, we soon got a sense that we weren’t in the right place. Even though each of the few truckers we spoke to were heading to Alaska (one ride away!!), they weren’t able to take us because of poor road conditions and our not being insured; all car drivers that passed told us they were going only very short distances and suggested we were better off where we were. And then there were the various warnings we received about our safety on a road infamous for a spate of disappearing female hitchhikers. To locals the 16 is The Highway of Tears. When trucker Rosco offered us a ride all the way back to Prince George, we heaved a collective sigh and accepted.

At least the pretty scenery could cheer us up a bit.

At least the pretty scenery cheered us up a bit.

No time for sulking; Thursday morning came, we found the 97 and turned our back on our two-day detour. In so doing, we met colourful character Anthony, 24, with whom we spent most of the day, covering another several hundred kilometres. On our arrival into Dawson Creek, Mile ‘0’ on the Alaska Highway, Anthony decided to take us off-roading to demonstrate his 4×4 capabilities. Thank you to Farmer Joe for demonstrating his capabilities for extracting us.

4x4 x 2 = the formula for getting unstuck from this particular snowdrift.

4×4 x 2 = the formula for getting unstuck from this particular snowdrift.

On Friday, our pattern of long-distance days was dented slightly when by lunchtime we had travelled just 100 km and there remained until sun-down – which, to be fair, is fairly early these days, but time enough to lose all feeling in our feet. The day took another turn for the worse when we discovered the nearby inn had no rooms available, but then neighbours Colleen and John took us in, ran us a hot bubble bath and regaled us with stories of hunting wild animals.

Colleen, John and moose.

Colleen, John and Mr. Moose.

Finally, as if this week hadn’t given us enough already, a fantastically unlikely series of events led to the lovely Leona and Steve taking us from that very same inn all the way up to their house in Fort Nelson, putting us up for the rest of the weekend and furnishing us with snow boots to keep our toes all snuggly until we get on that flight. 1300 kilometres to go!

Steve and Leona - what wonderful company to finish the week with.

Steve and Leona – what wonderful company to finish the week with.

Total number of lifts: 390
Week Thirty-Five distance travelled: 1666 miles/ 2681 km
Total distance travelled: 24,647 miles / 39,665 km

Enlarge the map to see the extent of our detour!

Enlarge the map to see the extent of our detour!

Family matters

It’s been a quiet week on the hitching front with just two days on the road, but we still found time to break our record for numbers of rides in one day (11), affording us ample opportunity to observe Washington State’s stance on hitchhiking.

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We stood beside such signs at nine freeway entrances on our journey from Seattle to Vancouver on Wednesday (12 Nov), a lowlight for law-abiding Jo.

Fortunately, our long day ended with our first taste of Canadian hospitality, as 11th driver Dennis took us home to stay with his wife Marcy and daughter Sam.

They said "eh?" a lot and "aboot" instead of "about". It was perfect.

They said “eh?” a lot and “aboot” instead of “about”. It was perfect.

The rest of the week was devoted to family, as for the first time in the entire trip we happened to have relatives to visit… in several locations.

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In Seattle we saw Jo’s brother Nick, his wife Nat and two kids, Ellie (three) and Amber (one).

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On Vancouver Island, we stayed with Steve’s second cousin Malcolm, his wife Lori and daughters Taylor (20) and Morgan (18)…

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…Second cousin Susan took us for a walk up Mount Doug…

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…Great Uncle Ted and wife Meg bought us clam chowder beside the Inner Harbour…

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…Then paid for us to fly back to the mainland by helicopter!

Jo's cousin Chris and girlfriend Robyn have looked after us in Vancouver.

And here in Vancouver we have been looked after by Jo’s not-seen-in-15-years cousin Chris and his girlfriend Robyn.

… Finally, somewhat earlier than anticipated, we were reacquainted with another old friend we hadn’t seen in far too long…

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Total number of lifts: 376
Week Thirty-Four distance travelled: 334 miles/ 537 km
Total distance travelled: 22,981 miles / 36,984 km

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