Sunday, June 24, 2018

Day 22 Haines, AK

After a peaceful nights sleep we, awake to a light drizzle and overcast skies.  Nobody else in the campground seems to be awake yet.  I am a bit worried about getting out of this spot as it is actually about a foot or more lower than the road and with the rain the ground is soft.  After breakfast, I get dressed and go outside to take a look at the situation.  Even though the ground is soft, there is plenty of gravel embedded in the dirt and I also spotted a huge pile of gravel across the street if I needed more.  The mosquitoes are out, so I get back in the van and prepare to back off the mountain of lego blocks I used to get the van level the night before.  I back the van down to the ground and then go out and retrieve the leveling blocks and clean them off as best I could.  They are still a mess so, I just store them on the step to the sliding door.  I back out with no problems and we are on our way.

Our plan is to backtrack on the Alaska Highway to Haines Junction and then head south into British Columbia and then back into Alaska to visit the town of Haines.  This is a total of 382 miles for the day.  It would be a long day, but we have options if we decided to break this trip into two days.

On the way into Alaska, we didn't want to stop and take the obligatory photo in front of the welcome sign.  The sign is on the left side of the road and a bit hard to get to if there is traffic around you.  We stop on the way out and take the photo.  Actually, there are some motorcycle riders there and one of them volunteers to take the photo for us.

The first goal is to make it to Canada and get through customs without any issues.  As we approach the gate, the butterflies start to build up a bit but not nearly as bad as when we made our first crossing back at Waterton Lakes.  I pull up to the window and hand over our passports and greet the agent cheerfully.  It is Sunday morning and if I worked there, I'd be grumpy for sure.  As in the past, he asked us a bunch of questions.  The key to success is to listen to the entire question and answer in as few words as necessary.  He seems satisfied with my responses, welcomes us to Canada and hands back our passports.

The crossing is real close to the town of Beaver Creek and there is a restaurant there that we wanted to stop at on the way out.  You should stop here if you get the chance.  It is called Buckshot Betty's Restaurant and Cafe.  You can't miss it.  We went in and are settled into a booth near the front.  We order coffee and are instructed that the coffee is self-serve as is water if you want that.  I order a traditional breakfast of bacon, eggs, and hashbrowns while Sharon orders a cinnamon roll.  As we wait for our order, we discuss the trip so far.  We are still amazed that we did that loop in such a short time.  We had planned to be gone for months but looks like we will be back home in less than two months.  There are no regrets though as we feel like we saw enough of Alaska on this trip.  When you add in the Canada provinces, it is almost a scenic overload.  Our necks hurt from swiveling our heads looking for the best viewpoint.

Our meal arrives.  Sharon's cinnamon roll is more like a cinnamon loaf.  It is huge and like any good husband, I help her to eat the monstrous portion of sweet goodness.  My breakfast is also very good and I consume most of that.  I think breakfast is my favorite meal.

We load up and start the trek to Haines Junction where we will depart the Alaska Highway and pick up Highway 3 for the trip down to Haines.  Driving along through here takes you mostly through the valley along the rivers and lakes.  There are some small hill climbs, but nothing too steep.  I notice that when we are climbing that the van is not running as smoothly as it should.  It acts like it is missing under load and I wonder about the air and fuel filters.  As we drive along, it starts to get worse and worse.  I tell Sharon that we are having problems with the van and need to find an auto parts store and buy new filters.  The next town of any size is Haines Junction.

We are able to maintain speed all right but the degraded performance concerns me.  Soon, we arrive in Haines Junction only to find no auto parts stores.  Even if they had one, finding parts for a Mercedes Sprinter van out here would be a miracle.  So, we are now at a major crossroad on our trip. Do we get off the main highway and go to Haines or stay on the Alaska Highway and make tracks for Whitehorse.  The safest thing to do is to head for Whitehorse and that is what we decide to do.  Being stranded on the main highway would be bad enough, but being stranded on a smaller more remote road would be much, much worse.

Just before Whitehorse is a small town called Teslin.  There is a river crossing here with a steel decked bridge that made me wonder how anyone on a motorcycle could ride across this bridge.  The steel deck is made up of U shaped sections just wide enough to fit the front tire of a motorcycle into and deep enough that if your tire went into that groove, that you could possibly lose control and crash.  Go slow across this bridge, it seems dangerous to me.  Right after that bridge is a very steep climb.  Steepest so far of the day.  As we are heading up, the van seems to be struggling and about 3/4 of the way up we lose all power.  We are in limp mode.  I quickly check my mirrors and note that there is nobody behind me.  I remember that there is a parking area at the top and we limp into the parking lot.

I open the hood and take a peek at the air filter.  I can see that it is full of dirt and debris and needs to be cleaned at the very least.  I break out my toolkit and remove the filter from its housing.  This requires removing several other parts first but isn't too bad.  I inspected the filter and see that in addition to the debris the foam prefilter is badly deteriorated and needs to be removed.  I clean the filter best I could and replace the filter and all the other parts and stow my toolkit.  We head back out onto the highway and we have normal turbo boost.  Relieved that I might have solved the problem makes the rest of the trip into Whitehorse more relaxing.  It is still missing some but not as bad.  So, I know we need an air filter for sure.  I also want to change the fuel filter as a precaution.

We arrive in Whitehorse and check several stores none of which has the air filter.  I did find a fuel filter and purchased one.  We check into an RV park for the night relieved to at least be in civilization.

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