A Slow Leak
~Sunday, July 10, 2022~
Day 756 (Travel Day)
Day 20 of Alaska Trip
Well, the bike rack cover has officially failed, far exceeding its lifespan of daily exposure to wind, dust and UV rays. Safety pins (yes, we actually had these on hand) should do the trick to get us through until we can have a new one shipped to us in Anchorage.
We were shocked to see how we maintained a good water supply over the last 5 days. Our methods definitely helped with fast showers and dish washing only once a day. To lighten our load for the upcoming drive, we dropped what water was left, realizing that we could have easily gotten another day out of what was left. 6 days on a 40-gallon freshwater tank….not bad! At least now we know, it IS doable. Sad to be saying goodbye to this funky, unique, yet striking place. It’s hard to imagine there will be anything better in terms of scenery. But we keep saying that, and yet every place we go continues to amaze us! Nothing like starting Alaska off with a bang!
Doing my normal glance of the tires, right before hitching up, I noticed the back right trailer tire was significantly lower than the others. Shortly after turning on the TPM (tire pressure monitor), it alarmed 31 PSI (normal is 68 or so). Once again, this means a slow leak from some foreign object. 😡
We were already behind in our departure with this debacle setting us back at least another hour. Thankfully we have 2 spares for the trailer and 1 spare for the truck, so we’re good there. We couldn’t see any noticeable culprit until we removed the tire. There it was…just on the inside of the tire….a small nail barely on the sidewall of the tire. It would be iffy that the tire was even repairable. Being a fairly new tire, we sure hoped so. Jeff remembered at the entrance to our camp that there was a sign that read, “Tire repairs….$30”. So after about 30 minutes of putting on the full spare, we then drove to the entrance where we met handy Mike…….the general manager of the place. He’s the e-bike guy, the tire fixer guy, the art guy, the Alaskan political activist guy…..you name it, he does it. And we were so grateful he repairs tires on site and for way less than some of the other places we’ve been. And he was available on a Sunday. Good news….the tire WAS repairable. While Mike did his thing, we enjoyed hearing about his adventures in Alaska, and his passion for political justice, though not in an “in your face” kind of way.
He’s currently the chair for the Alaska Libertarian Party and co-founder of United for Liberty-Alaska which is a broad based association of right leaning parties. When he asked where we’d been so far in Alaska, our reply warranted an explanation of his commissioned work in the town of Eagle (the town we were supposed to visit while staying in Chicken). Now there’s another reason to go back to Eagle! It would have been nice to connect the town to the artist we’re meeting today. He is recognized as one of the premier landscape artists in Alaska and he’s fixing our tire!! Without our misfortune today, we wouldn’t have had the pleasure of meeting Mike. We wished we had more time to check out his art, but we were already behind schedule. We will be back! You can check out his work at www.artistinalaska.com.
We were supposed to get more than just a drizzle of rain last night, continuing into today, but the fact that it didn’t, was good for our travel day. It will be strange to feel smooth pavement again after the 116 miles of dirt and gravel this past week. No more flat tires please!!
Once we passed through Chitina, I spotted a beautiful, black wolf not too far off the Edgerton/McCarthy Highway. From then on, I was in full wildlife viewing mode, hoping to spot a moose or bear. Nothing. Since we didn’t have a definite plan for tonight’s stay (especially after days of not having cell reception), we became reliant on our handy dandy Milepost “bible” to give us some recommendations, one of which was the Kenny Lake Mercantile and Campground (about 90 minutes from our destination of Valdez). Once we did get into cell reception I investigated this park to only find unfavorable reviews stemming from rude ownership. The funny thing was we didn’t know that we had already passed it when our GasBuddy app put us back there for a $6.15/gallon fill up. Evidently, they pride themselves on having the cheapest gas in town). Interesting that some stations have their gas tanks ABOVE ground. I would imagine it’s a cheaper alternative to digging a hole. While waiting for our fill up, we looked into other options for lodging and found a 5-star RV park in Valdez. It would definitely be above our budget, but a good place to reboot with unlimited showers, tend to a few repairs, do laundry and connect with our peeps again. Destination…..Valdez RV Park, about 90 minutes away. In trying to recall the last time we were at the ocean, we think it was Magnolia Beach in Texas, last November! Wow, it has been a while. But getting to sea level would mean a lot of downhill today (sorry Hank!). Since we’re in for 10 days of clouds and rain, it’s a good thing that we witnessed what we did TODAY!! To get to Valdez from our direction, you have to take the renowned Richardson Highway. All I can say is make sure to clean your windshields before embarking on this gem of a highway in Alaska. We felt like we were on a Lord of the Rings film set, what we envision the south island of New Zealand to be like.
Around every turn, there is a waterfall drizzling down the steep, luscious terrain, with even steeper snow capped mountains and glaciers behind (the Chugach Mountain Range). This stretch of highway into the interior of Alaska, is basically a scenic byway. We had the privilege of going through the Thompson Pass at 2,600 feet (one of the notoriously snowy passes in the state) and the Worthington Glacier which we’ll be sure to visit again while staying in Valdez. I think I must have said “holy cow” at least a dozen times. It’s that breathtaking!
While we were driving along, awestruck, I noticed the sign for Blueberry Lake State Recreation Area which was originally on the top of our list to stay in Valdez. We didn’t realize it would be a good 30 minutes away. Anyway, we took a detour into the campground to have a look around. It appears Campendium (a normally reliable app we use for finding campgrounds) was way off. First of all, it doesn’t have 25 first come/first serve sites. It has more like 15 AND it is reservable. Ugh!! It looked like there were maybe 4 sites that would fit our rig that overlook the small lake. And the background…..stunning (a word I will be using a lot in Alaska!) Well, it looks like we won’t be staying there after all but what we might do is have a few nights just on the side of the highway (a very common thing here in Alaska) with fresh water loaded and gray/black tanks empty. The views are the same, and it would be FREE!!
Entering Valdez, we got our first glimpse of the Alaska Pipeline. Wow!! Definitely something we plan on seeing up close and personal in the coming days. Checking into our RV park, which is basically a gravel parking lot with picnic tables, it is the location and the views you are paying for….360-degree views of steep green mountains and white-capped peaks. Our front window even faces the waterfowl refuge and port Valdez. While getting us connected to sewer and electrical, Jeff had the honor of spotting his first bald eagle of the trip, flying right over the waterfowl area. Lucky guy!
After our tiring flat tire 175-mile day, which felt more like 300 because of that 59-mile gravel portion in Wrangell St. Elias that took us 2-½ hours to get through, no one was in the mood to cook. Plus, we arrived pretty late (around 7:30). It was clear any necessary chores would not be taken care of until tomorrow, warranting another night’s stay. With most restaurants closed, we made the 2-minute drive to Safeway to pick up a few frozen dinners that would satisfy tonight’s meals. We can’t wait to be rested to take in the beautiful Valdez!