Published: September 14th 2009September 13th 2009
I left Palmer this morning in a drizzly fog. For the first hour of driving I was tired and bored and all I could think about was the fact that I still had 3000 more miles of driving before I reached home. It was starting to feel a bit overwhelming. But then the fog lifted, it stopped raining, the sun came out, I put the top down on the Miata, the scenery was fantastic and all was right with the world! The rest of the day’s drive was excellent with partly to mostly sunny skies and only a few scattered showers late in the afternoon.
I stopped to visit Matanuska Glacier mid-morning. I was able to get the car within about ¼ mile of the glacier and walked the rest of the way. Unlike Exit Glacier (two days ago) you can walk on Matanuska Glacier, but you have to sign a waiver before you go in. It’s a pretty big chunk of ice, but very dirty this time of year (see photos).
Most of my drive today was on the Richardson Highway which is “new” to me. It parallels the Alaska oil pipeline, so I was able to get
some pretty good views of the sections that are above ground. About half of the pipeline is buried underground and the rest is above ground. Basically they bury the pipe wherever they can (for stability and appearance) but elevate the pipe through permafrost terrain (to prevent melting the frozen ground) and in areas of rough terrain (like mountainsides and river crossings). It’s a pretty amazing structure that extends for 800 miles across Alaska.
Ironically, Alaska only has two oil refineries that primarily produce jet fuel for commercial and military aircraft in Alaska and they don’t produce enough gasoline for the state. That means that some of the Alaskan oil travels 800 miles through the pipeline to Valdez where it’s put on tanker ships and taken to refineries in the lower 48-states (like in Washington). There it’s refined into gasoline and shipped back to Alaska. Now I know why gas costs more here!
I saw my ninth moose today, but this one wasn’t fun. An SUV smacked a moose just minutes before I came along on a stretch of the Richardson Highway late this afternoon. The moose was in the middle of the road and was obviously dead. I
was the third vehicle on the scene. I am grateful for three things: (1) that the moose was dead rather than badly injured and suffering (that would have been “really” hard for me to watch), (2) that nobody in the SUV was injured, and (3) that it wasn’t me that hit the moose. I’m constantly looking for animals as I drive, but this was a sad reminder that I need to be even more vigilant as I drive. I took a picture of the scene but decided not to post it here.
My B&B reservation for Delta Junction had to be changed because the owners had a septic tank problem, so they pointed me to another B&B in the area that turned out to be pretty nice. The owners moved here from Kansas in 1981 and acquired the rights to homestead on 80 acres of property at a total cost of $26,000. As long as they improve the property and do a certain amount of agricultural work on the property, then the property is essentially theirs (and they pay no property tax!). The property will always be “owned” by the State of Alaska.
By the way, for those
of you who have noticed that I'm always wearing the same plaid Pendleton shirt and are wondering if I ever change my socks and underwear, the answer is yes. The Pendleton shirt, which I've owned for more than 30 years, is basically my "jacket" when I'm driving the car. It's warm, light-weight and non-confining when I'm driving, so I'm usually wearing it when I jump out of the car for a quick photo. And now you know!
Tomorrow is my last day in Alaska. I’ll be crossing back into Yukon Territory in Canada. My visit in Alaska has been fantastic and I was reminded once again today of how lucky I’ve been with the weather when the owner of the B&B told me that he has never seen such good weather in September in the 28 years that he’s lived here. Pretty cool!
There are more photos below