There I was driving to Anchorage on March 25th, 2009 in my F-350 Ford crew cab pick-up at about 10:00 Am. My lone passenger was my wife Taby and we were making a quick dash to Anchorage with plans on returning that evening. Now driving in Alaska often times gives you the chance to test your driving skills with the many different elements and different weather patterns that are present here. Often times you may even see a large variety of these on the same day.
As we were leaving Sterling we were greeted with high winds that could even be felt on the heavy truck from time to time. My thoughts were more concerned with watching for moose running out on the road then I was the wind at that point. I was also listening to the radio for information about Mt. Redoubt erupting and hopefully that wouldn't be something else I was going to have to deal with. I have never had the misfortune of having to drive through a plume of volcanic ash before and was hoping it wasn't going to be today either.
The roads appeared to be in good driving condition and I was hoping to make good time traveling that would allow me to return home as quickly as I could safely do it. Traffic was light at this point and I was making pretty good time. You didn't actually think I was going to tell you that I was speeding do you? That would just be my luck, even though I have not had a traffic ticket other than a seat belt violation since 1984, to get a ticket from the Alaska State Troopers for admitting here that I got to Anchorage too fast from Soldotna!
All was well till we got to the Y and then the snow started to fall and little by little it increased till it was near white out conditions. The roads were getting slippery and going from partly icy to snow covered and slippery. I had to cut my speed considerably and was thinking about all that we were facing up to that point. We had bare roads, ice covered roads, threat of a volcano erupting, high winds, moose, and now snow covered and slippery roads. Don't you dare even think about mentioning an earthquake, either!
By the time we got to Summit Lake we caught up to the Alaska version of a slow moving vehicle which often times isn't much faster than an Amish buggy although the exhaust ( blowing snow) is much more pleasant then that coming out of the rear of the creature powering the Amish buggy. This vehicle I am now following at about 25 MPH is a (are you ready for this?) Snow moving vehicle! Yes the plow truck that obviously gets paid by the hour and not by the mile! Yes Mr. Snow Moving Vehicle Driver, I know the sign on the back says in big letters "STAY BACK 50 FEET" but every time I got out to measure the distance between my truck and yours you drove (or should I say crept off) leaving me standing there on the road with my tape. But tell me who wrote that sign for you anyway? Governor Palin? You? Your children? Is it a legal sign and is that the law? If I drive 2.5 car lengths behind you at 25 MPH can I be arrested? Well if that is the case I hope Mr. Trooper has better luck measuring the distance then I did!
No, you did not pull over once we reached the magical number of 5 vehicles you were holding up nor did you pull over once the number was considerably higher even though the Alaska State law says you must if you're holding up 5 or more vehicles. Maybe it does not apply to snow moving vehicles I simply do not know. How can I officially test my truck against the Alaska elements if you remain in my way and no that is not quite the way I worded it from inside my cab!
Eventually we made it to Girdwood and no none of our convoy got a ticket for holding up traffic, following too close, driving too slow or fast but let me tell you this the red F-350 Ford was in the parking lot first! I had outmaneuvered the slow moving vehicle on the straight away and found out I could safely drive just a little faster than the snow plow that apparently was mounted on the shell of a turtle that had no rear view mirrors.
The rest of our trip was also unique as we drove through fog, light rain, roads that had pockets of water on them that were deep enough to cause a lighter vehicle to hydroplane. Then there were those other signs warning us of yet another possible thing to deal with.. Avalanche Area, Do not stop! Wow we are already hiding out from an angry volcano, wind, ice, snow, moose, and slippery roads, SMV, and then you throw the threat of an avalanche at us!
The radio was talking about flooding at Drift River besides everything else we were facing on our trip to Anchorage and I thought only in Alaska! As I drove around Turnigan Arm I thought of a couple more dangers that were also present, rocks falling, driving off the road and going into the ocean or possibly hitting a train! It is almost like everything has ganged up to protect Anchorage from us attacking from the south.
In Anchorage I found a parking garage that says 8 foot clearance but once you're inside it drops down to 7 feet! Not good for a truck with a topper on it! I did manage to get backed out without wrecking anything but wasn't very impressed with that whole ordeal either.
Yes our trip was about the same going back home as it was driving to Anchorage except there was one more element added, darkness. More snow and wind and yes I got to follow another snowplow, too. I was even passed by a semi as we were going uphill in almost white out conditions! Yes I mumbled a few words about him too but more thankful just to have survived the whole ordeal.
My wife told me I was the best driver that she has ever ridden with which is a pretty strong comment considering her age and all! I also complimented her on her skills guiding me out of a tight spot in the parking lot with my crew cab pick-up at Providence Hospital. Perhaps she can better explain her method to those of you who know her better than I can. There she was signaling me to back up while shouting go ahead! It was a good trip and yes we arrived back home that evening. We did get the chance to visit with two peninsula residents who are hospitalized at Providence. Dick Hultberg is recovering from back surgery and we also visited with Charlie Stephens who is there with his daughter Leah who is recovering from injuries she got in the car accident near Solid Rock a few months ago. Please keep these people in your prayers.
See you next week!
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