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Stories of the Road – on the Way to Dawson Creek and the Alaska Highway

December 13, 2016
All materials © Henderson Productions/Sue Henderson. All rights reserved

In the summer of 2016, Henderson Productions and Poggio Amorelli B&B set off for a culinary and photographic journey through British Columbia, the Yukon Territory and Alaska.    Stories of the Road is a series of snippets of that journey.   Stay tuned over the coming months for additional stories of this and other journeys.

Spent the early morning cruising through some lovely little towns.  Quesnel was the largest with at least 2 stoplights and tons of flower beds lining the highway through town.   Annuals.   Hand planted.   For at least 4 miles on both sides.   It’s indicative of the gorgeous flowers we’ve seen everywhere.   Even caught a pic of huge baskets hanging above the gas pumps during one stop.

Even the gas stations have flowers in British Columbia

Even the gas stations have flowers in British Columbia

Enjoyed the scenery immensely today.   Enough cloud cover to be big puffy or dramatic or highly lit as we passed up and over the top portion of the Rocky Mountains with valleys and landscape moving between big wheat fields with round hay bales scattered like giants’ croquet to mountain passes with rocky ledges and shores down to running rivers.  All with those clouds hovering over.   Had a great time shooting out the back window while reclined on a big comfy bed.    Oh the luxury.

Plenty of clouds and farmland to see out the back window

Plenty of clouds and farmland to see out the back window

The General store does just about everything

The General store does just about everything

We stopped for a few minutes at the McCleod Lake General Store and a chat with Arlene behind the corner.   McCleod is a population 70.    I’m thinking that’s pretty close to her age.    She was the sort of woman you’d gladly sit next to the camp stove in the back and while away a few hours listening to her stories on a cold winter’s day in central BC.    It was a dinky little place lines with refrigerators and chest freezers packed and labelled with fish in this one (all varieties inside listed on the lid), ice cream and frozen pies in another, “vagitables” in one, and “ready-made frozen” in another.   Had a small ice cream and she handed me a plastic spoon with an apology for “not having the proper, old-fashioned wooden paddle kind”.    Nice.

We passed the region of the hydro-electric dam with huge power lines strewn across the mountains and valley to be disbursed to the hinterlands.   Spent some entertaining time coming up w a good analogy for your edification and eventually came up with “The mountains were no longer naked nature but sending civilization over the Rockies in giant arcs looking like a zip line playground for Sasquatch.”    We had TONS of other options but we liked this one best.   LOL

Power lines on the Continental Divide in northern British Columbia

Power lines on the Continental Divide in northern British Columbia

Saw a great sign today.   “Use Caution – Obey Sins”.   Along the way north of McCleod Lake.   Giggle.

Stopped in Chetwynd for lunch alongside the current batch of 12 winners of the International Chainsaw Competition.    The previous winners are scattered all over town but the annual winners are displayed in a group in front of the visitor’s center.   Spectacular carvings – many over 12 feet tall – all on a lovely, vivid floral pathway.     Clowned around with friends mimicking some of the statues.    Super nice lunch break.

What ARE they doing - in Chetwynd, BC with the amazing woodcarvings

What ARE they doing – in Chetwynd, BC with the amazing woodcarvings

Hmmmm - we have fun friends!

Hmmmm – we have fun friends!

Then on to Dawson Creek – officially the beginning of the Alaska Highway.    Took some obligatory shots at the huge archway.   Chatted with a young couple from Calgary who were not headed to Alaska but up to the far northern Yukon because “with our dollar we can’t afford to visit you all this summer.”

Stopped in at the absolutely wonderful Dawson Creek Visitors Center to be greeted by Bo Aganava– a black cowboy dressed in boots, jeans, red plaid shirt, and a cowboy hat with a red electric guitar slung across his chest and offering a “Highway Howdy”!    Don’t that beat all?  The two young gals behind the counter quizzed us on our needs and offered a big stack of free info (I’m an addict) and threw in a free copy of the dvd The History of the Alaska Highway.    Cool.

We walked through their little museum of the 1940’s era train station and station master’s home before chatting a little more with Bo.   He’s playing tonight at the big Ranch Day at Sweetwater 905.   Was working on some material while he worked his “day job” at the info center.   Told me he was mixing it up with some originals and some covers and handed me his playlist.    He’s maybe 20.   Maybe.  He’s planning Blackbird (Beatles), Blowin in the Wind (Pete Seeger), and Come Fly with Me (Sinatra)!    On electric guitar.    I asked him to play the Sinatra.   Had to hear it.    Nice jazzy version but he was glued to both chords and lyrics on the computer behind the counter.     Great smile.   Nice voice.   Decent fingering.    Gave him a little grief about not knowing all his material before the gig and wished him well tonight.    If we were in town we’d have gone out to check out Ranch Days – and caught a little of his act.

Peace River oil suspension bridge, Yukon Territory

Peace River oil suspension bridge, Yukon Territory

Hit the road again for an hour or so of drizzle then rain as we crossed the Peace River bridge reading all about how hard it was for this to be constructed in 1942 as a 2100 ft. suspension bridge.    The original fell to flood impact on the northern pedestal in 1957 and wasn’t replaced til 1960 with the current.    But the oil pipeline “bridge” across the river was intentionally constructed with a suspension design to honor the original.

Oil rig pick-up/drop-off signs along the highway in the Yukon Territory

Oil rig pick-up/drop-off signs along the highway in the Yukon Territory

And so began our 100 miles of oil patch debris and signs and shanty towns made of cargo boxes.   It was somewhat surprising to see so much industrial after 2 straight days of wilting small towns and big vistas.  Not horrible but junky and dingy and, frankly, not worthy of the landscape.   Only saw one visible rig but dirt road pull offs up and down the highway with dusty trucks parked waiting for their owners to finish a shift somewhere down that trail.   A whole other world but a true reflection on the grit and toughness of the folks who’ve built this region into their homes.

 

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