Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Al-Can Adventure Part 12: Sleeping Arrangements

The first time we drove the Al-Can I fretted over where we were going to sleep.  I didn't need to.  Granted, if you're traveling the Alaska Highway outside of tourist season and you're looking for a nice comfy hotel to sleep in, well, good luck with that.  In fact, even if you're in the midst of tourist season, unclaimed nice comfy hotel beds tend to be few and far between in the upper reaches of the continent.

Where do people sleep, then?  To put it succinctly, wherever they can.

The bad thing about the Al-Can is that there aren't a string of AAA-rated accommodations situated for your pleasure.  The good thing about the Al-Can is that you don't need 'em, especially if you take your own sleeping arrangements with you.  You'll see pullouts, appropriately called gravel pits, every few dozen miles, and when you get tired you just pull off and sleep.

It's that simple.

Yes, I know that highway patrol in the U.S. get irritated if you try that on our highways.  RCMP probably get just as irritated if you try that on Canadian highways in the more populated areas.  But up in the Yukon and northern BC?  Go for it.

I've already alluded to the fact that some of them have the best toilets available, in the form of cement platforms built atop sewage pits and enclosed in metal or wooden rooms.  They have wide metal pipes coming up out of the holes that are vaguely shaped as a simple toilet might, and atop those are bolted toilet seats. Trust me, after a while it's just plain all right, especially in the wintertime when the more "civilized" toilets are often out of commission due to freezing temperatures.

This last trip we were in a UHaul, which is actually sleepable if you have the driver and the passenger both lean against the person in the middle with enough pillows.  It kinda sucks, I suppose, if you're not a close family unit or you care about how each other smell after a couple of days, but in the early days of June there's not a lot of darkness to sleep by anyway, so you drive, you deal with it, and you drive some more.  

In the gravel pits you'll see bears sometimes, as well as other wildlife, but the good news is that in bear country the Canadians are smart enough to install the bear-proof trash cans.  All you have to do is make sure you leave them closed.  Six times through, and I've never had a problem with large wildlife.

Skeeters, though, are another thing entirely.  At times they scare me more than the bears do.

Most people look at this picture and think they're seeing birds.  That, or maybe airplanes.  Nope.  This was taken in the early dawn hours (3 or 4 am) by my bride on the last trip down.  The black soaring things you see are actually part of the mosquito swarm that surrounded our truck looking for a way in.

They laugh at your supermarket bug spray, by the way.  You can almost actually hear them laughing when they bite you through it.  Citronella to them is like Mad Dog 40/40 to a bunch of teenagers.  The only repellant I've ever found effective against the onslaught of a mosquito horde was a powder named Buhach made from dried and crushed pyrethrum flower that you spilt out into a pile on a piece of tin foil and burnt.  I haven't ever seen it sold anywhere but in Alaska, though.

The skeeter ninja cats were effective, too.

See, it was the fourth trip that I hit Whitehorse with time to camp.  On that trip we were pulling an Airstream, and so we backed the little travel trailer up into the spot we'd rented, plugged in, did our evening touristy stuff, and then went to sleep.

I woke up with a damn cat dancing on my groin.

Luckily I regained my sensibility well before the impulse to send the thing flying across the trailer was acted upon.  Our tuxedo cat, named Mittens like nearly every other tuxedo cat in the world, often slept in our bed but rarely woke me in such a special manner.  As I focused in on the strange dance she was doing, I saw that she was playing a quasi-protective little game batting flying insects.

Granted, I have no idea if her thought was "I should protect daddy from the skeeters" or "hey, this batting skeeters around and eating them while bouncing on daddy's midsection is fun."  But one of my main priorities in life has always been minimizing skeeter bites, and her antics in batting the beasties back and forth before popping them into her mouth were playing right into that priority, so I didn't argue much.

I did, however, roll onto my side.

Turns out you have to be especially observant with older travel trailers.  We'd covered up most of the pathways in, but there was an unscreened ventilation path through the stove that the pesky (and quite intelligent) flying bugs of doom had discovered.  Luckily our two kitties had, in turn, discovered the fun of skeeter ninja'ing.

And speaking of sleep, my bunk is currently calling my name. 

Happy Trails!


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