Tuesday, August 01, 2006

From the midnight sun to the first nightfall

I'm intending to document my road trip from Whitehorse to those open skies of Saskatchewan in a series of blog posts. Here is the first, all about the first day:

August has rolled around incredibly swiftly. My end-of-July road trip with a friend is over and done with, and I'm feeling a torrent of mixed emotions, as I knew I would. It was five days of exhilaration, breath-taking beauty, and talks that ran the gamut from silly lightheartedness to the sober soul-revealing variety.

The trip started on Wednesday, July 26th. We arrived at the airport at around noon for our 1:05 flight out of Inuvik. Upon checking in, we were informed that the flight would be late, much to my friend's chagrin. (Henceforth, my friend will be called “S,” as it's hard to write a whole lengthy entry, much less a series, and refer to a key person as “my friend” all the way through.) He was worried that we would not get to Whitehorse in time to go to Mic Mac Toyota to pick up the new vehicle that would take us on the road. In my mind, I thought the delay was auspicious, representing all the unexpectedness that would follow. In the end, the delay was negligible really.

Took a photo of the polar bear at the Inuvik airport to document the start of our trip. S noticed that I was restless and fidgety, and he was right. I was anxious for the trip to start, and worried about it as well. In my mind, it would either be the best road trip of my life, or could be the worst by leaving me unsatisfied and distressed. I was worried about having to say goodbye, worried that I would let my emotions run ahead of me, that I might not be able to say the things that I needed to say. (In the end, I probably never did say all the things that I wanted to, but isn't that always the way it goes?) So, yes, I was fidgeting with the hair-elastics on my wrist, letting my eyes wander aimlessly, getting up to get a drink and a sandwich, etc..

We were the last ones to board the plane, and ended up with the front row seats, right by the emergency exit. The view out the window consisted mainly of the large silver wing obstructing most of the landscape. Took in the Dawson City airport during our brief stopover. We arrived in Whitehorse after some light conversations, which included many playful punches to S's arm (one habit that perhaps I should break). The mother of one of my dear friends (one of my Inuvik “older sisters”) came to pick us up from the airport, and to receive the package that my Inuvik friend had given me to deliver for her. We arrived at Mic Mac Toyota in the drizzling rain. What a way to start our trip – to move from the brilliant sunshine of Inuvik to the dreary greyness of Whitehorse. After what seemed like an eternity, we were ready to unload everything from S's old car (which had been shipped by the movers down to Whitehorse) into the new vehicle. The rain added much to the atmosphere (that of “just our luck!”). We were both craving a good meal of Chinese noodles, so we had supper at the New China Garden before getting on the road.
At 8 pm, we were finally on our way, winding along the two-lane Alaska Highway. The falling night was conducive to some good conversations. S and I kept talking so that he wouldn't fall asleep behind the wheel, but really, the excitement of finally being down the highway gave me such a buzz that there was no chance of falling asleep anyway. At several lodges along the road, we checked for accommodations. (OK, so he checked, while I stayed in the truck.) Everywhere was either closed or had no vacancies. We ended up at Watson Lake at 1:30 in the morning. Originally, we did not intend to stay there, after all the horror stories and warnings I had heard about the town being unsafe. But, it certainly felt good when we pulled into the Watson Lake Hotel and unloaded our enormous bags and had our showers. Our first day was finished, and we had the darkness of night around us once more, for the first time in what seemed like an eternity after being in the land of the midnight sun.

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