Day 91 - Sunday, June 30 - Milepost 6627 - Birdcount 270 - Chicken, Alaska
(BF's Journal). We thought we would get an early start this morning on the formidable highway, but the first couple hours were filled before we realized it. In anticipation of a stone throwing gravel road we tie a carpet to the windshield using clothesline and then fold an old bed sheet around the hood and windshield and wedge it between frame and door. Looks dumb, but who will notice after its caked with mud! Then we wait in line for breakfast at the combination restaurant, giftshop, registration office here at the campground: seems all the campers are eating out this morning. We share our table with a couple who RV full-time and enjoy their company and a delicious sourdough pancake and reindeer sausage breakfast. Shortly after leaving Tok, we turn on to the Taylor Highway, a gravel road heading northeast through rugged uninhabited mountains. We soon encounter the construction zone and are surprised to see them working on Sunday. Apparently the workers got Saturday off because of excess rain, but have to work Sunday instead, even though its still raining. Unlike the construction zones we encountered on our Alaskan entry, this area is less steep, smoother, wider and absent of damaging stones. One feature remains the same: mud engulfs our motor home, towed car and bicycles. Beyond the 23 miles of construction, the road improves until a couple hours later when we switch drivers. Unknowing to me, I take the passenger seat with only six miles left to our destination, and unknowing to Shari, she has to battle a narrow road that forces her to stop whenever she confronts an oncoming vehicle. A half hour later she pulls into downtown Chicken: a gift shop, a bar, a restaurant and a gas station. But if that sounds small, think smaller. The first three establishments are each one room of a narrow ramshackle plywood shack painted to look like separate entities but connected inside so the owner can run between them wearing his different hats. The solitary gas pump stands rustily in the muddy lot, sporting a meter with too few digits to display the high price of gasoline, so the price must be multiplied by ten. With a struggle, I execute a U-turn in the parking lot by edging beside a pickup truck and circling the fuel tanks. The next driveway leads to the only other business in Chicken, another souvenir shop, and we pull into its more spacious parking lot to spend the night along with 50 fellow wayfarers. The proprietor offers free parking, free coffee, free gold panning (including the pans!) and even throws in a flood of free rain shortly after we arrive. In gratitude I buy a Chicken Alaska T-shirt sporting a ptarmigan. (Chicken got its name because the natives couldnt spell their first choice - ptarmigan).
(SF's Journal). We take up the invitation of last night for breakfast at the restaurant. Before we walk over to the little cafe, we make up a windshield protector. We take a piece of carpet that protects the back floor, throw an old sheet over it, tie it down with rope and anchor it in the doors and the hood. Now we look like hillbillies driving an RV but, hey, it works. We share a table with a couple from Massachusetts who are in Alaska to do volunteer work for their church. We have a very animated conversation and the long wait for our sour dough pancakes seems short. Even though an extra $1.00 was charged to share a plate, Bert and I share the breakfast without an extra plate (beat that system which was dumb anyway-$4.75 for two pancakes and $5.00 for three. Arithmetic says order three and share.) After breakfast we head for Taylor Highway and Chicken since everything Ive heard is that it is better than the way we came. After about 20 miles we hit the 23 mile construction. We had hoped to miss it since it was Sunday, but the crews were working anyway due to yesterdays rain and their unexpected holiday. It was raining today too so the attendant at the "wait" point did not know why yesterday was a no and today was a go. After a 15 minute wait we followed the lead car for most of the 23 miles over very smooth gravel. Not bad at all! Then we were on our own for the next 50 or 60 miles and it was much better than we even anticipated however we did get very dirty through the construction. We arrived in Chicken (the sign says "Pop. 25 plus one grouch") for our anticipated stop quite early, but tired anyway. It started to rain very hard right when we had picked up our free pans to pan for gold in the river flowing next to the parking lot where we and 25 other rigs were parked for the night. Nap time. After the nap the sun came out and we tried to strike it rich by panning for gold where the store gives you free pans. How much do you think we got?
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