© 2011 jemma

Guest author: The infamous bus trip!

Surprise! Its me! Who is me? I am me. Enough of that then – its Jess. I told Jemma I’d do my part and write a *single* post. Here is that cashed in post. Its good so far eh?

I’ll be covering the epic journey from Whitehorse, Yukon to Anchorage, Alaska. {Thats right – my posts include links}. We had to take a mild hit to the time bank as flying was just way out of the options cost wise. I pretty much forced Jemma into this bus trip with the promise of beautiful sights and colorful characters – did I ever produce! The morning started pretty dam early – the bus leaves Whitehorse at 6:00am so we had to be there around 5:45am. This meant a 5am start.

Short walk to the bus depot – we were up and out of the “Gold Pan Inn” nice and early and hit the road with all our bags. Entertaining walking through Whitehorse at 5am – sun is just peaking over the mountains, no one about nice morning chill. Rocked up to the “bus depot” nice and early – turns out its a guys house and he parks the bus out front.

Long story short – Dave is a pro photographer by day and picks up a bus route for extra cash. Great guy and cool dogs, check out his flickr page for some awesome pics. Bus was pretty empty – Jemma and myself and we picked up 2 other older Aussies. Apart from us – Dave up front driving. We asked if Luna his white Lab could tag along so Luna rode with us (we shared my breakfast bagel) and also Dave’s wife (who’s name I didn’t catch).

The ride from Whitehorse to the border is pretty brutal. The road oscillates between crappy tar to better dirt. The permafrost causes a lot of problems with maintaining the highway as it causes the road to lift and bend. Sucked for Luna the dog as she got thumped around on the floor – at one point Dave hit the brakes hard for a Moose and Luna skidded along the floor all the way to the front. Poor girl. Great scenery and Dave filled us in on all the things to see and do around the area. We stopped in at some cool local places – met some locals and had a yarn. We could see we were headed to hunting country – helluva lot of hanging “critters”, skins and big animals.

Here is an interesting point – customs officials at the land border to Alaska are real nice. We were a bit worried as we had some food but Dave told us not to mention it. As Dave and I were the lucky campers (read; had Canadian passports) we got to chill in the bus as the others were herded away – for what? god only knows. I had assumed probing etc. I did feel a bit bad because I don’t like being split from Jemma in a foreign country.. most importantly at a border. Young customs bloke rocks up at the bus and I’m expecting the 20 questions. Pretty sure he was more interested in patting the dog and having a chat with Dave and myself. Turns out they are stationed in the middle of nowhere (aka the border). He seemed pretty happy – been there for a few years and was just finishing up. Another interesting point, the US has started “pre-clearance” customs, meaning you clear US customs in your home country before entering the US – this guy was shipping out to Montreal in Canada to work US customs *right* in the Canadian airport. Apparently they do this in 17 different countries. After we left Dave said he was a bit sore about it as the US pretty much annex a part of a country for customs use.

Border cleared and on we went!

The second we are on US soil the road is perfect – real nice smooth American black top. They had re-paved the road two years earlier and I’m sure it was meant to be a mild screw you to Canada. Made all the difference. We said our goodbye’s to Dave, Luna and wife at Tok where we changed buses and started the second leg to Anchorage. Our new bus driver Don was a new experience. This guy was through and through Alaskan. Complete with the camo Alaska baseball cap. Cool guy though. Driven trucks for a long time and rides a harley – complete with beard. Don used to be a pretty ace hunter but had to change life style to balance his Karma – the man had already taken two bullets. A point in his favour was he ate everything he shot… including the bald eagle (that he subsequently was taken to court for – and was let off as he proved it was a subsistence situation). The man had pretty much shot it all. Too many interesting stories to recount. Had a good eye as well – spotted a few Moose.

Best bit was entering a road house and there was a table of about 7 or 8 family members and every single one of them was in Camo. Thats when we realised we were well into Alaska. So far no Sarah Palin jokes. The bus trip continued – by this point we both pretty much wanted out. We ended up picking up 2 real young hitch hikers. They were in the absolute middle of nowhere. Idiots had hitched to Delta junction (no link here – not worthy) to visit some family. After we dropped them off Don and I agreed they were a bit foolish. Apparently they had a daughter together.. we put them at roughly 15.

Pulling in to Anchorage and the first thing you notice is the epic military base – it has more serving members than the enitre population of Yukon… roughly 30,000. Couldn’t see anything cool though 🙁 Don pointed out a bunker and told me that was where they kept the nukes during the Cuban problems – then he laughed his ass off at me. They apparently stored small arms ammo there. Darn.

We were pretty dead when we arrived at the hotel – turns out 16 hours on a bus and non-stop talking will do that to you. We survived though. Saw some cool sights. Met some new people. Heard some crazy stories (Don getting shot was up there – did I mention the guy had married three strippers? Outran two of them. Outlived the third… I didn’t question that). Once checked in we pretty much crashed out. Shiny blue skies. New city. New state. New world!

Bonus points; many Alaskans don’t like Sarah Palin. They also consider themselves somewhat seperate to the US and refer to the rest as “the lower 48”.