Wednesday, August 8, 2012

August 6-7th: From Seward to Valdez

After resting on the fifth, by resting I mean shopping at all the gift stores in Seward, we left for Valdez. Our first day’s goal was to drive to Palmer, where we would get our prescriptions refilled and fill up the larder before Valdez. The second day we planned on maybe driving all the way to Valdez, a long day for us at about two hundred and sixty miles of Alaskan roads.

The drive to Palmer was actually quite easy and again the low coolant light did not come on. Did we finally have all the air blocks filled up? Reaching Palmer we parked at an rv park next to the highway and then went to the Wal-Mart in Wasilla.

The next morning we took off and begin the long drive up the Glenn Highway. The road quickly narrowed and for twenty five miles was a winding narrow road with no guardrails and long drops to the river valley below. It was quite scenic, at least that’s what Renita told me as I concentrated on staying alive.

After the bad stretch the road improved and became one of the best stretches of Alaska Highways we have traveled. We enjoyed the glaciers and especially enjoyed Sheep Mountain where we glassed fifteen Dall sheep. All good things come to an end and so did the road quality as it became a myriad of frost heaves and expansion joints and I had to slow down. Still we made good time and made it to Glenallen by noon.

From there it was only one hundred and seventeen miles to Valdez, so we decided to continue on. The road was really good at first but it then deteoriated into really bad frost heaves. Many were so bad that the highway department had removed them entirely, leaving serious edges with dangerous drops. and large gravel 

We had to slow down to fifteen miles per hour and so it was speed up and then slows down for quite a while. We also had to wait for pilot cars in two places and so the drive stretched on and on. Reaching the last pass before Valdez we started down one of the steepest grades we have driven here so far.

Using the engine and transmission as a brake I overheated both but by stopping at a turn out we were able to get the temperatures back to normal operating ranges. The last few miles into Valdez were filled with beautiful waterfalls and glaciers and really was a spectacular drive.

It was a relief to finally arrive in Valdez and when we opened the door of the fifth wheel the pantry had bounced open and a mixture of rice, oatmeal, breadcrumbs and canned goods littered the floor. Tired we grouched a bit but finally got parked and cleaned up the mess.

It was by far the worst roads we have traveled on this trip, even worse than the Top of the World Highway. We have heard that the Alaskan Highway near Destruction Bay is even worse but we will check that out after we leave Alaska and head south. For now it’s concentrate on enjoying Valdez! Clear skies.

1 comment: