September 5th 1981

posted in: Innocents Abroad | 1
The Al-Can highway

An hour better again – 7, this time.  Same breakfast as yesterday, then on the road in good time.  We were only a few hours away from Dawson Creek, which was where we would be parting company, but it looked several times as tho’ we’d never make it – the camper was blowing out oil, so every hour we’d have to stop, + Hank would fill up with oil.  As it turned out, we were at Dawson Creek by 1, so we made fairly good time.  We said goodbye – I’d enjoyed meeting the guy, a real urban cowboy, with a welder + pick-up – + headed off towards Prince George.

First we bought ourselves some groceries, then over the road + hitching.  Ate some lunch + I shaved while we hitched – no small achievement.  After about half an hour or so we got a ride, with a native guy + two women who were going to a rodeo in Chetwynd, 60 miles or so on.  They were very friendly, tho’ rather a bunch of misfits – the guy stuttered, + one girl had a harelip.  Weather looked a bit threatening, but got picked up quickish for a short run, out to a garage.

Were there for a while when a guy going in the opposite direction stopped to offer us a ride – he’d been with his wife + passed us once, dropped her in a café + came back for us.  Took us up there – we had coffee + cheese sandwiches, then on the road, on the way to P. George.  Car was pretty full – they were helping a relative move – but we squeezed in 3 across the front, 1 in back.  He was native, called Clarence, his wife was Kathy.  He was, in some ways, a slob – ash-trays emptied on the road, beer bottles thrown out the window – but was also friendly, giving us bottles of beer +, of course, taking us all the way to Prince George.  We stopped for a hamburger at McDonald’s + then started to walk towards the Terrace road, when 2 guys in a pick-up said hello, then offered us a ride.  It was dark by now, raining + very cold in the back, but we were still grateful.  Tried hitching for a short while, contemplated a motel(!), but saw a light thro’ the trees, + asked up there.  It was a fire station, and after some heavy hints, they gave us coffee, let us shower, watch TV, then gave us an empty trailer out the back.  Amazing!

Amazing as ever, I am tempted to say – someone certainly seemed to be looking out for us, with the fire station as the cherry on the cake.  Along the way, as he lobbed another beer bottle out the window, Clarence told us they used to send their kids out to collect bottles for the deposit levied on them, so I suppose making them search along the highway, rather than just giving them the bottles (or the money) was a way of encouraging self-reliance… or something.

Apologies for the somewhat over-direct way of commenting on someone’s disabilities; yet another thing that has changed in recent years (and, despite all the barbs about political correctness, for the better.)

  1. Pamela J Blair

    I’m reminded of a time we were driving in southern Iraq, toward Kuwait, and crossed a desert where we scrupulously refrained from throwing out our garbage (though it would have been picked up and probably used by a passing nomad). When we reached Basra, we found the youth hostel and asked the manager if there was a place where we could deposit our garbage. “I’ll take it,” he said, and, opening a window, threw it down to the alley below. Probably he knew the dogs or some other vermin would claim it. It’s another time when I realized that I can’t put my values on people in other cultures. One of the more important lessons of the traveler’s education.

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