Extreme Road Test - 2003 Hummer H2: Leg 1, Days 6 and 7
Burwash Landing, Yukon, Canada to Ferndale, Washington
A loud knock at the door awoke us at 11 am. Obviously it was Eskimumu getting us back for waking her up for a late 4:30 am check-in hours before. We brunched downstairs at the Burwash Landing Resort restaurant, chomping down fish and chips before hitting the dusty road.
Winding through desolate, fir-tree-lined Yukon territory, the H2 handled well for an extreme off-road machine. We took turns at 70+ mph with confidence. Never eliciting a single tire howl or loose moment as we chose not to translate all kilometer speed signs into miles per hour, the H2 charged through every challenge. Prudence had us slowing for numerous blind turns, as the rare oncoming vehicle was often an 18-wheeler using more than its share of the road. A hard-charging juggernaut, the H2 wasn't perturbed by the occasional pothole, frost heave crack, or broken pavement.
As we drove deeper into the Yukon, the landscape became increasingly different from Alaska. The forest was denser, small lakes more commonplace, and most notably, the sunrise/sunset schedule became more traditional.
The weekend was focused on logging miles, getting us into the lower 48 as rapidly as possible. Our photo stops were seldom, though more pleasant since opening the H2 doors didn't bring the same battalion-strength mosquito attacks we suffered in Alaska. Suddenly, as we were singing along to high-volume 1980's classics courtesy of XM Satellite Radio, our karaokefest went silent. The thought of thousands of tuneless miles was too much to bear. We read the owner's manual, pushed every button on the dash, and cursed the H2 for critiquing our tone-deaf singing. Parked in front of a general store, we checked the fuses. All appeared fine. For some reason, after removing and reinstalling the radio fuse, the system reset and when the sport/ute was re-started, the stereo was raging loud, screaming Ministry, "...the look in your eye!" With the system working, we were back in business.
Most Canadian townships are spaced out at far intervals, making it essential to strategize fuel stops. In the wee hours, we were below half a tank, scouring the map for villages large enough to have a 24-hour gas station. None were to be found. As the needle slid to a quarter-tank, we came across Tatoga Lake Resort, a darkened assortment of store, gas station, and RV stop. Desperate, we pulled in alongside an aboveground fuel tank and checked the pump to see whether it would work after hours. Despite an Open sign in the decidedly closed store, the situation looked promising. There was a self-serve, ATM-style credit card machine with instructions and we tried in vain to get it to work, realizing we would have to sleep in the truck until morning, otherwise.
With a dog barking at us from the store, we didn't notice a grumpy white-haired man approach from the main building, complaining we woke him up. Wondering what we wanted and how much we'd pay for it, he commanded a $20 premium for the late-night gas, pushing the total to $85 for the fill-up. Compared to the agony of dealing with this walking yard gnome again if we slept in the truck until morn, the price seemed a bargain.
Soldiering on into the night, we followed the twisting asphalt road through the forest, dodging woodland animals out playing in the rain. We had a couple close encounters including one with a wild feline who almost became the "weakest lynx" when we missed it by a whisker.
A series of bridges caught us by surprise, including one so narrow we couldn't figure out how an 18-wheeler squeezed through just moments before we arrived. The high-beams never seemed to aim quite high enough for our satisfaction as the road continually made gradual elevation changes, making us wish we had the optional roof-mounted auxiliary lamps.
Pushing on until we found a town with a proper motel eventually lead us to New Hazelton. We filled up again, fending off a staggering drunk who kept insisting, "They're ripping you off." At 6:31 am, we staggered into a hotel room, and recharged our own and the miscellaneous electronics' batteries.
Getting an early "12:30" pm start on Sunday, we blazed by taxidermy shops and a wildlife museum on the way out of town. We were tempted to stop at the "Internationally Renowned" Adams Igloo, but like most places in British Columbia, the signs that say open really mean closed. The day dragged as we drove and drove, not seeming to really get anywhere. The scenery remained the same, like someone had installed conveyor belts painted with fir trees flanking the Hummer.
Getting a little punchy, we stopped at an industrial tire store to see how the H2 would look shod with some tractor tires. Many hours and pretzels later, we closed in on the U.S. border with the goal of avoiding morning traffic backups. The highway signage was confusing, leading us to drive through a neighborhood before we found crossing station. A stark contrast to the border into Canada from Alaska, this crossing was lit up like Vegas. Stores with flashing lights were hawking duty-free items and needless souvenirs. Capitalism at its finest.
The border guards asked several security questions, disinterested in our adventure tales and unimpressed with our vehicle. Kiwi jumped out and took numerous photos to commemorate the crossing, leading one disenchanted guard to ask, "If he's a professional, why's he taking so many pictures?"
With Kiwi's ego bruised by the badge-wearing curmudgeon, we parked at the first hotel we could find and crashed for the night. The Alaskan and Canadian chapters in our adventure had closed, but all of America now awaited.