Artic Circle Certificates
Inuvik- 1673 Miles from Dawson Creek
What a fantastic adventure and dream come true! Today we made it to the Arctic Circle and the rest of the way up the famed Dempster Highway to the town of Inuvik! We’re so excited to be here.
We got an Arctic Circle Certificate, took 2 ferries across the Peel and Red Arctic Rivers, saw the world’s 10th largest river delta (the Mackenzie), met nice motorcyclists from lower Canada (Rob and Max), and snagged one of the last sites at Happy Valley Campground (our reservations start tomorrow).
The latter took quite a bit of work, but everyone in the campground is so friendly that I was dubbed “campground hostess” by the time we’d finally located a site. I won't tell you how long that took, but we're just happy to be here and have a site.
Lia loves those Northern Lights (see only in the winter)
It is a different sort of traveller who drives and survives the Dempster. Most of these people seem well-traveled, sociable, and articulate. It should be a fun time! They've already called out that the party is all night, the same as the sun.
My oh my- that Dempster Hwy is an adventure unto itself! The road surface is a form of gravel, dirt, or solid rock for 99% of the nearly 500 miles. It changes without warning and can be fine for speeds of about 55, or maybe even 65 mph, and then become suddenly full of potholes, washboard sections, gravel a foot thick, etc.
When we finally arrived in Inuvik and got on real pavement, we thought we were floating on a cloud- What a weird sensation!
There are no edge lines painted on the outside of the lanes. In fact, there are no guardrails; the road sloped away from the center line, and typically, there’s no center line. You just use the entire road surface, as needed, to dodge potholes and then move over only when another car approaches (which is rarely).
Another idea for our movie, “RV 2- We’re Living It!”: A video game similar to Guitar Hero II, entitled, “RV Pothole Dodging” where they come at you in double rows and you have to swerve like a mad person to avoid them with all 6 wheels. I should achieve “expert” status soon!
Interestingly, everyone waves at other drivers on the Dempster, probably because they haven’t seen anyone else for the last hour.
Or maybe they know that you’re their only emergency help, should they need it. And if you don’t need repair or recovery service after driving this crazy, beautiful, jarring, spectacular, white-knuckle driving road, you’re doing great! I cannot believe how well Ciao Baby held up.
Gwich'in Heritage & Visitor's Center - more Arctic Circle Certificates!
We do need to have Ciao Baby’s rear brakes adjusted as they must have bounced out of position- the brake pedal sinks way too far now- it would be scary going over the mountains, although I use a lowered gear that helps. But I do want it fixed before we head back.
Our RV is filthy! Dust that blew up on the gravel roads seeped in through the weep holes and we spent time cleaning up. Everyone’s RV’s here are filthy. It is hilarious! I’m going to take a picture- it looks like the rigs have been in mud fights (and lost).
Daddy loves the ferry too!
Fort McPherson offered the only gas stop today- Charles was disappointed that we didn’t find the Fort itself, but I forgot to look for it, so we’ll try to find it on the trip back down the Dempster. It was a major action location in his book.
A highlight of the day came unexpectedly. We'd emerged from the first ferry to the invitation of an older gentleman to visit the Visitor's Center up the road. We thought he might be selling something, but he seemed so nice that we thought we might just buy it if it were food!
So we went and were so glad that we did.
He showed us old pictures, the displays were fabulous, we were given more Arctic Circle Certificates, we had a wonderful time talking with him, and I think he would have been very lonely today had we not come in. He had just gone to the ferry to socialize until a second vehicle arrived for the day- no tour busses today, he said. He's a grandfather who has lived all his life in the area. We were very grateful for his gift of sharing with us. (Note: Mr. Robert Alexie is an Elder of the Gwich'in Tribe and later spoke at the 50th Anniversary of Inuvik celebration! http://www.zoominfo.com/people/Alexie_Robert_189682363.aspx and http://tinyurl.com/ox2fdh )
Charles and Ciao on ferry
I cannot imagine living here and the Dempster Highway being my only road egress. I bet some island fever would emerge. It is a magnificent road, but I would be really careful what kind of vehicle I drove on it. The pickup trucks seemed to do the best, or something with 4-wheel drive for the gravel (we were sliding a bit).
Love that gravel!
We’re so looking forward to exploring Inuvik (pronounced “i NEW vik” with a short i at the beginning) tomorrow. There are folks at the campground who lived in Inuvik many years ago- the town Homecoming is to celebrate their 50th anniversary.
We really enjoyed our first ferry rides with the RV! They just waved to us to drive up to the edge, lowered the ramp, we drove on, got out of the rig and socialized, then hopped back in and drove off when we reached the shore and they lowered the ramp. It was much easier than I had thought.
We got hot today! It was 81 degrees outside at 9:30 pm in Inuvik! What’s up with that? I’m in the Artic Circle for goodness sake! Really it was beautiful and this is pretty typical apparently.
We’ll switch to wearing our shorts tomorrow. There was a cold wind blowing this morning, as soon as we entered the Northwest Territories (and changed our watches forward- now we’re back to one our behind Texas time).
Okay, here’s my new joke in response to: “Texas? Well you’re far from home!” I say, “Yes, I don’t know what happened. One wrong (or right) turn and here I am!” (harhar!) We’re around 7500 miles on the journey now. Ciao just rolled 110,000 on the odometer today. She’s the best!
Good old Bank of you-know-where lost the notes where I'd called in to tell them about our trip and so 7 weeks later they put a "potential fraud block" on my debit card and would not let Ned authorize it's removal.
So I'll have to use a pay phone to call them tomorrow to try to fix their mistake. I did not follow my own advice to call and put the notes in the file and then to call back to confirm the notes are actually in their file. Ahhh....
Yes, I stopped for this picture- Emergency Airstrip
On the homefront, I had a big emotional breakdown in missing Ned this morning, calling him at 5:30 am. It is very hard being apart from my best friend. We’re all looking forward to seeing him next week. I’m considering altering our trip dates to be able to spend more time together between segments of the travel. Being apart really clarifies the relationship- helps put values in perspective.
We’re going to spend a few nights here- Charles’ birthday is tomorrow! All the kids understand how strange their birthdays and holidays will be this year.
We’ll try to make it something special, but the $350 per person flight to Tuk for a toe-dipping in the Arctic Ocean is just outside the budget. We’ll have to make him feel special with his brownie cake, extra attention, and the wonderful Inuvik Festival. I think he's just happy to be in the Arctic Circle for his birthday- that seems pretty special to us all!
Artic Circle Certificates