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Published: October 17th 2006
okay, I'll get to the title of my blog in just a moment. The last couple days of this weekend trip have been one laugh after another. Where to start with my observations and ramblings...
We rented a car and headed out to Skagway, Alaska on Sunday. Suprisingly, the town is only 180 km away from Whitehorse. and the South Klondike Highway was recommended by many to us for its scenic beauty. Luckily, we were not lead astray; it had just snowed and the mountain tops and treelines were covered in a fine sprinkling of snow. Next to us for most of the drive was lake after mountain lake with a blue-green irredescence. The road we took to Skagway cut through the Yukon, northern B.C. and Alaska. I felt rather bad for the B.C. Department of Transportation as they had to maintain a small section of the highway (in the middle of nowhere) approximately 60 kilometres or so long that was only accessible by the Yukon or Alaska.
So usually, usually Canadian and American customs are side by side. Here, not so. The checkpoints were 20 kilometres apart. Who would come to the rescue if your car died? AAA or
BCAA? On an interesting note, the canadian checkpoint was at Fraser B.C. This town had a population of 10 people, all of whom worked for Canadian Customs & Immigration. Our stop at the U.S. customs took us a good fifteen minutes and there was really no one in front of us nor behind us. I could tell the officer was quite lonely as he was quite concerned over the question of whether I had ever lived in the U.S. and asked me repeatedly. I walked away from this trip knowing that my passport was stamped and signed with an ARC code - meaning Alien Resident despite only loitering in Los Angeles for three days last year on my way back from India. The officer advised me to bring paystubs or a university schedule to prove that I had not, lived in the U.S. to avoid future customs delay. Does this now mean I could sneak into the U.S. and work in Idaho, Arkansas or Alabama?
Skagway is located in a coastal inlet of the Pacific Ocean. I think this town depends about 99.5% on U.S. cruise ship tourism as the one-street town had many delightful false-front finishes to the
tourist stores recreating the boomtown feel of this Klondike Gold Rush Era. I say 99.5% as this place was really a ghost town. On that fine sunny Sunday afternoon, there was 2 cafes, 1 hardware store and 1 tourist store open. I stood in the middle of the main street for a good five minutes and was in no fear of being run over. The ghost town feel would have been complete with tumbleweed blowing down the street. The town did have a Klondike cemetary with famous deceased residents in lying including a bandit named "Soapy" and harlots.
Back at the border into Canada, the Customs Officer asks Jo-ann what relationship she had with me. He then asks, if we are married. I think he saw Jo-Ann's wedding ring and perhaps, he doesn't see a lot of women in their 20s driving together in a car in the off-tourist season. We were quite amused - I suppose we could have taken time off from our busy school work to elope in Whitehorse and drive to Skagway as a brief, but memorable afternoon honeymoon to Skagway. Somehow I have a feeling that Jeff would feel slighted over the loss of
his conjugal rights.
On the drive back, we passed The Yukon Suspension Bridge & the Carcross Desert. The Yukon Suspension Bridge looked like a lovely tourist trap designed to part tourists from their dollars. Even better was the fact that the Yukon Suspension Bridge wasn't even in the Yukon... but actually in B.C. Carcross, B.C. was a small town that was in clear contrast to Skagway. The main focal point of the town wasn't in town itself but 500m up the highway to buy your gas, groceries and wash laundry. Just outside Carcross was the supposedly "The World's Smallest Desert". In the middle of this boreal environment was a sand dune left over from a lake long, long ago. It was here, in the middle of nowhere at a desert that Jo-Ann ran into her brother's friends. It was the oddest coincidence.
Other random tidbits:
"It's Yukon Time" is a popular phrase up north and seems to perfectly describe the pace of life and attitude of the people who live up here. This phrase extended to our wait to pick up our rental car, our absent-minded server at the coffee shop serving us our overtoasted breakfast bagels and
our leisurely fifteen minute chat at U.S. Customs.
Many people seem to work two jobs in Whitehorse. Some of these dual occupations are in clear contrast to each other. For example - rental car supervisor and moonlighting as a pizza delivery man.
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