Picked Ross up from the airport yesterday.

David and I drove to Kelowna this morning to get stuff out of the MINI.  The mechanic showed us where the frame was bent, which would require removing the engine to straighten.  MINI Kelowna is a little surprised that the insurance company wants to write off the car, but they said it's common that American insurers do that when the car is in Canada.  The salvage value is no more than $5000. 

We also noticed that the rack did quite a bit of damage to the roof, including a bit of twisting, which would not have helped.  The amount of damage - despite the car being driven away from the crash site - is in some ways quite remarkable.  The downside of cars that take impacts a lot better than in the past is that they also crumple slightly even in an otherwise fairly trivial low speed collision.

David gave away his NATO gas cans to a BMW driver who was passing by and asked questions about the crash; apparently a fellow Land Rover owner, which pleased David to no end.  Most of the rest of the gear got packed into boxes, secured by gaffer tape, which we took to the Greyhound Express counter about a block away..  We sent a huge goalie-sized duffle bag and 4 boxes to NY for $900. The heaviest box was 93 lbs.

Shipping the stuff - and the hit in the wallet - caused more anxiety for David than anything so far on the trip.  He was totally composed during the MINI crash, towing it south for a day, the truck rental, stuffing the truck on the Dempster, driving on ice roads, getting hit by a tractor trailer while sitting in the truck - but shipping boxes nearly made him apoplectic. 

Fortunately, everything else should run smoother - I bought first class airline tickets for both of us to head back east, which gives us each 140 lbs of check in baggage allowance.  I flew west with carry on only, but am returning with a huge duffle bag and a very heavy compression sac of food and sleeping bags.

Unfortunately, I'm flying out of Kelowna, while I could only get a flight for David out of Vancouver, so we rented one way to Vancouver.  When we returned the truck, they liked us so much they gave us the same truck back for the one way.  I guess Enterprise rentacar now gets to deal with the smashed mirror.  Speaking of which, there is no deductible on my credit-card based collision insurance on the rental, which is lucky.  Also, it doesn't affect my own car insurance, which is a lot better situation than David.

Anyway, I'm spending the day in Kelowna Airport, and will be home tomorrow.

The Icefields Parkway is closed, but David and I really enjoyed the drive through Jasper National Park.  We stopped for a couple herds of elk, one of which crossed the road.  We also watched some small-horned sheep in a group by the highway, which crossed behind us when a truck blared its horn.  David rode a ways in the back of the truck, shooting the scenery and sheep.

As we approached another herd of elk, I pulled over on the full-width shoulder. After I took some shots of a rail bridge about 30 yards ahead, while walking back to the truck I noticed that two tractor-trailers were about to pass beside where our truck was parked.  I was worried that one would hit my mirror, so I stopped walking toward the truck.  The truck cleared the mirror by the smallest of margins, but the rear of the trailer hit the edge of the mirror going about 90km/h.  Glass and plastic came flying toward me, as I covered my face. 

David was sitting in the passenger seat, and no one was harmed. About 1/3 of the mirror is missing, and the housing will have to be replaced. 10 miles down the road, I used a payphone to call and inform the credit card company's insurer of the accident.  David and I thought it was bad when we got a big chip in the truck windshield for the first time yesterday.  

Now we both have insurance claims on this trip.  Our joke is that it's a good thing that we didn't lose a headlight, or they might write off the truck (like the MINI, which didn't have much damage, but the insurer wants to write off the car!)

The trip from Ft. Nelson BC to Hinton AB today was fairly uneventful.  We passed more trucks today than the rest of the trip so far combined - many times over.  The volume of economic activity from Ft. St. John southward is enormous, and it all seems to involve moving large amounts of materiel around.  We pass an oversize/overwide load at least every 15 to 20 minutes, often more frequently.

We made a stop in Dawson Creek and walked through town, to take photos of ourselves with the Mile 0 marker of the Alaska Highway.  The achievement of building the road in only 8 months is even harder to believe now that we've driven so much of the road.

The volume of traffic south of Ft. St. John picked up dramatically, and soon after crossing into Alberta, the highway widened to 4 lanes.  Once in Hinton, we knew we were in civilization since the gas was cheap (1.13/L rather than up to 1.85 the day before) and the hotel was very reasonable ($65 rather than $150).

 

Tomorrow we will take our time touring Jasper and Banff parks on the Icefields Parkway

We had a great drive down the Alaska Highway today, from Teslin, YK to Fort Nelson BC.  In the Liard lowlands we saw wolf, moose, caribou, ptarmigan and many bison.  A couple times we would just stop the truck in the middle of a herd of bison, which would largely ignore us.

Later, we entered the Northern Rockies, which were just beautiful at sunset.  I would have liked to have stayed at a hotel nestled in the mountains, but David wanted to push on, so we drove for another 3.5 hours to Fort Nelson in the dark.  The road was narrow and twisting throughout most of that portion of the ride.

At least we finally arrived at our destination (barely) before the last restaurant in town closed, so we were finally able to eat a nice dinner, the first in about 5 days.  David brought enough tuna and salmon to eat for a month, but I like to keep it to only one meal of it a day.

Both David and I remarked on how it was yet another incredible day in a long string of them - usually any single one of these days would be the highlight of most vacations. The Alaska Highway is a truly remarkable road, and I can barely wait for my kids to be old enough to take an entire summer to tour the Northwest.

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