After the shower I put on some of David’s clothes. The next thing was to sort out my wet bag. I’d had the foresight to put most of my belongings that were in it, inside a plastic bag. I learnt this trick a long time ago. It worked and nearly everything was dry. My clothes were soaked but I could always dry them out at the lodge. Returning to the cafeteria I sat down with David to talk. ----
What an interesting man David turned out to be. He was half Japanese and half American Indian. His mom Mary, whom I’d met earlier, was a lovely person too. I don’t know when it was but when his father was sixty-five he closed their bank account and ran off with a sixteen-year old girl. He’s married now for a third time and has just turned seventy. His present wife is twenty-seven years of age. His father did have some good philosophy though and a few of these ideals David shared with me; “Any man who turns away a hungry man is no son of mine.” Also, “If you’re angry at someone never shout, just go up and whisper what you have to say in their ear. You’ll find that they will listen more this way.” He went on to say, “Often in life when you are annoyed at someone think it out first, because many times, you’re simply angry at yourself.”
During our chat we shared a few beers. I was so happy to be in the presence of this man and I was so grateful to be here. But in saying that, I was tired as well. David’s aura had certainly kept me awake and we talked from midnight until 4:30 the following morning. Outside it was still pouring with rain and it looked like it would never stop.
After I’d slept for a few hours David knocked on my door and told me to put my plans on hold for a while, or at least for a couple of days. During the night a section of the highway had washed away. I couldn’t believe it and at first I thought he was kidding. After I got up and shaved I joined David for breakfast. He said that the weather had gotten really bad around 6:00 a.m. After eating I went outside to see for myself.
In front of the lodge there was a noisy work vehicle trying to dam off part of the road from further problems. I motioned to the driver and shortly afterwards he let me sit on his machine. He was kind enough to take me across the current of water. Behind him was a line of traffic consisting of ten cars or so. When I jumped off of the vehicle there was a wooden gate ahead which closed the highway. Hanging from it and blowing in the wind a hand written sign read, “Closed until Saturday, June 2,” this was a couple of days away. I continued on and followed the route around the lake. The undisturbed water was almost a luminous green and a low mountain followed its edge. I remembered this place on the way up and how the color of the water had mesmerized me.
Half a mile down the road, a fierce torrent of water gushed across the broken tarmac. Rocks and stones were being rolled around like they were nothing. It was so powerful and when I reached the vicious current of water, I was too frightened to cross. Only one third of the roads original surface now remained. I couldn’t even comprehend how they intended to fix this. The glorious landscape that once was, was now an ugly sight.
I walked back along the deserted highway and caught a ride again on the work vehicle. The same line of cars was still present. One in particular looked quite familiar and it didn’t take me too long to realize, it was Ken. I walked up to his van and he proudly showed off his catch of salmon to me. He looked well and like everyone else, he wondered when the road would open again.
Back at the lodge I asked David if I could be of any help. He said his mom would appreciate some assistance in the kitchen so that’s where I spent most of the afternoon. As the day wore on David told me that I could sleep in the staff cabin that night, if I wished. Apparently, every room in all three lodges had been booked by early afternoon.
Later I sat down with David again and we continued our talk. He was saying that due to the excessive rain, there was a huge flood up at Watson Lake. This was about one hundred and seventy miles north of us. Basically we were trapped in the middle of a big overflow of water. In the past twenty years the longest flood at Muncho Lake had lasted for four days. I sure hoped that this one would clear up sooner. Also the Muncho Lake Lodge which we were in, was the oldest lodge on the Alaskan Highway. It had first opened its doors in April of 1949.
I continued to help out in the restaurant for parts of the afternoon until its clientele slowed down. Evening brought the best time though and on this particular night there was a really great atmosphere within the lodge. Ken, eight university students from Florida, an American soldier and a few others were seated at various tables. Amongst us all, there were certainly some laughs.
During our many conversations Ken offered to take me down as far as Dawson Creek, which was 463 miles south. I thanked him and took him up on his offer. But shortly after he retired that night I got talking to Bob, who was the American soldier. His destination was Seattle and he offered me a ride too. This was perfect because I wanted to get to Prince George anyway, which we’d be passing on the way.
I wasn’t being disrespectful to the Hungarians and to this day I’m most grateful for what they did. But it would have been nice of them to have at least offered me a shower or let me clean myself up. It was blatantly obvious that I needed to warm up. After doing just that I would have left. I could quite easily of entertained myself, even if this meant hanging around in the foyer and talking to the desk clerk all night. On that first evening I did leave them a note on their windshield in a zip lock bag informing them of my whereabouts. All I had to do now was leave another, to let them know that I had a ride.
At 1:30 a.m. Bob left and he wandered off to his room. I sat in the dining area with David and we continued to talk. Johnny was there too, he was another wandering soul who David had been kind enough to put up. He was a hitchhiker as well but he was traveling north. He’d cooked up some concoction that he wanted to share with us. As I sat there eating I came to the conclusion that I was enjoying this nineteen hour a day restaurant life. Somewhere within, I felt like I’d done this before in a previous life. It was just an inner feeling and who knows, maybe under hypnosis I’ll find out one day.
David, Johnny and I played cards until 2:00 a.m. and shortly after this I went back to the staff quarters to rest. I was in a deep slumber the following morning when some loud banging on the door woke me up. To my surprise it was Bob. He said that they’d fixed the road during the night and it was open a day early. I must say that I was impressed. After getting my belongings together, I wrote out a large thank you note for David and his mom. Before leaving, I left one for Ken too.
Fourteen years later I tried to contact David and Mary again. By this point the invention of the Internet had come around and it had made finding people a lot easier. I found a web page that had a toll free number for the lodge next door at Mile 462, on the Alaskan Highway. I called them up and asked if I could have five minutes of their time.
The lady that answered had only worked there for a year, so she put me in touch with the owner. This uncaring soul said, “Do you want a reservation?” Calmly I replied, “No, I just want five minutes of your time if you don’t mind. I’m trying to track down the previous owners of the lodge next door.” In a heartless tone he said, “Call back on the regular line.” The man had no compassion whatsoever. I’ve spoken to many people like him over the years and no doubt I’ll speak to many more.
Anyhow, back to the story. I have to retract some words that I’d said earlier on in this book. I’ll admit that the Canadian road workers had done an amazing job of fixing the highway. It was bad and how they did it so quickly I don’t know, but it was a job well done.
After getting underway it wasn’t too long before we saw some moose. They stood at the side of the road and watched as we drove by. After this, the highway ascended and with it came the change in weather. Almost instantly it transformed from a damp cold morning into that of a fierce snow blizzard. The road was covered in the stuff and there was black ice everywhere. The once green pine trees that stood beside the highway were now tall white blobs and nothing else. Driving a light sports car in such conditions was an experience. We slid back and forth across the road like a skate slides on ice. It was gnarly and the visibility was next to zero.
A few hours into our journey Ken passed us and honked his horn. I wondered if that would be the last time I’d ever see him again. He’d been very good to me.
At 10:00 a.m. we arrived at Fort Nelson. The snow was still coming down but it wasn’t as bad. After stopping for gas Bob put on some great music from the eighties. It took me right back to my days at high school.
As the morning wore on the snowstorm finally stopped but this was quickly replaced by a torrential downpour of rain. In the past couple of months I’d disliked a lot of the weather that I’d gone through in Canada and the United States but to be honest I’m glad that I had. The experience had been well worth the challenge.
At Dawson Creek, the Alaskan Highway came to an end and I took a photo of Bob by the town’s sign. It was hard for me to comprehend, that in the past ten days I’d just hitchhiked and traveled about four thousand miles since leaving this place. That’s some distance and I don’t think most people in Europe can really comprehend that kind of mileage until they actually visit a larger country or continent and see it for themselves. I know I didn’t and Australia was a great example of that. I had no clue as to how large a place that was until I actually went there and hitchhiked it myself.
Just after three in the afternoon we left and continued on towards Prince George. Some memories came back here as I passed familiar sights which I’d seen just a few days before. The Bijoux Falls now had a mound of snow at its edge. The run off in turn, had forced its way through causing an opening in the snow. Now it looked like a large white bridge with a small waterfall flowing beneath it.
This time when I passed through the Rocky Mountains it wasn’t the scenery that I was concerned about. The Mazda sports car that I was in was giving us some serious problems. It was intermittently spluttering and acted like it wasn’t getting enough fuel. It wasn’t too long before we were hardly moving at all.
We continued on until it finally stalled at 7:45 p.m. Thankfully two vehicles stopped on the other side of the road and the occupants were kind enough to help out. Both of the drivers were on their way to Homer, Alaska. One was a hippy in a van and the other drove an old school bus. With their help we got it running again and not too long after we arrived in Prince George.
I thanked Bob so much for the wonderful ride. It had certainly been a lot of fun. I wished him all the best and hoped that his sports car would get him back to Seattle. He gave me his mom’s phone number in Florida and told me to call if I was ever near. He was stationed on the east coast but the barracks that he mentioned were unfamiliar to me. Then I closed the passenger side door and watched as he drove off down the highway. I wondered if he could make it back to the States without further problems. After getting change for a dollar I called Lois and she said that she was on her way.
I hope you enjoyed reading this segment from my book, believe me my heart and soul has been put into this for many years. If you would like to get the whole story 'with or without photos,' both are in pdf format to make it easier to read. The link is as follows, thank you:
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