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Author Topic: Road trip to Toronto meet, via SE Alaska (long, no photos)  (Read 1501 times)

oscar

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Road trip to Toronto meet, via SE Alaska (long, no photos)
« on: June 25, 2016, 02:36:42 AM »

I went to the Toronto road meet two weekends ago. I got there the long way ... taking more than five weeks, covering about 13,000 miles, and including two weeks of mostly leisurely ferrying around southeast Alaska, with a side tour on the isolated Trans-Canada Highway segment on Haida Gwaii (formerly Queen Charlotte Islands) off the west coast of British Columbia.

I've already posted more detailed reports, with photos, on some of my adventures around Ketchikan, Alaska, and for Haida Gwaii:

Gravina Island Highway: Ketchikan's "road to nowhere"

Auto/passenger ferry to Ketchikan (AK) International Airport

Haida Gwaii (former Queen Charlotte Islands) trip report

I might also post one more photo collection for southeast Alaska, mainly from Ketchikan (the most enjoyable, though all-too-brief, stop on my trip)  This report is a summary of the rest of my trip.

Overview of my mainland travels





^  These maps (click a map to see an enlargeable pdf version) illustrate my basic outbound and return routings, respectively, to and from Prince Rupert BC. That was the jumping-off point for Alaska Marine Highway and BC Ferries auto ferries I took through southeast Alaska, and to and from BC's Haida Gwaii. 

I spent a fair amount of time in Saskatchewan for snagging rural municipalities (what I'm treating as the main "county equivalents" for that province). I also made a point of visiting La Ronge SK, the de facto seat of the province's northernmost county equivalent (I'd been to other parts on earlier trips), which I tried to visit last year but wildfires got in the way. On both the outgoing and return legs, I also gnawed away at segments of US 2 I hadn't previously covered, but I'm still missing many others between western Washington and western North Dakota. Late on the return leg, after a mercifully quick and painless stop at Canadian customs exiting the privately-owned Ambassador Bridge, I re-clinched ON 401 with its newest extension to a future bridge crossing into Detroit, which will help cross-border travelers avoid lining Matty Moro(u)n's pockets at his company's toll booths.

Ferry travels, and others in southeast Alaska

From Prince Rupert, I and my car went on a string of Alaska Marine Highway ferries, to Ketchikan, then to Juneau (overnight in a snug two-bunk stateroom), then back south to Petersburg (which I'd never been to, except on ferries and planes that stopped there but I never set foot in town), then back to Prince Rupert on another overnight in a stateroom.

Both my departure from Prince Rupert and return there two weeks later were at ridiculously early-morning hours (7am departure, with checkin three hours prior, including an extra hour if needed for U.S. customs preclearance; arrival back in Prince Rupert at 2am). These early morning ferry arrivals and departures are to most efficiently use the Alaska Marine Highway fleet, as inconvenient they are to non-"morning person" travelers like me, as well as the U.S. and Canadian customs agents working short shifts in the middle of the night just for ferry travelers.

My stay in Juneau included a float-plane side trip to and from the small coastal village of Tenakee Springs, best known for its hot springs bathhouse, which is what drew me there. Tenakee Springs has ferry service, but is the only Alaska Marine Highway port where you can't take your car or any motor vehicle other than an ATV, since the town's main street and only significant road is only wide enough for two ATVs to pass each other. So I left my car, and most of my gear, in Juneau while visiting Tenakee Springs. Having my car with me on my ferry travels was useful in many ways that for me justified the added expense, including avoiding problems with leaving stuff behind. Sure enough, I got burned by leaving my camera in my car at the Juneau airport during my trip to Tenakee Springs, and kicking myself for that bonehead move.

The northbound trip from Ketchikan to Juneau was on one of the larger AMHS vessels, on its way from Bellingham WA to Homer AK south of Anchorage. That vessel took an express route, bypassing Wrangell and Petersburg, and avoided the tricky Wrangell Narrows between those two cities. My understanding is that the largest AMHS vessels can go through the Narrows only at high tide, so they usually leave the Inside Passage to travel through open ocean waters, rather than try to synch their schedules with the Narrows' tide tables. My southbound trip from Petersburg to Prince Rupert via Wrangell and Ketchikan was on a smaller vessel that carefully zigzagged through the Narrows, on a course lined with dozens of navigational markers.

Neither the AMHS nor BC Ferries terminals or vessels have Internet access available to passengers. When I wasn't catching up on sleep or eating at the ships' cafeterias, I used my notebook offline to edit the photos that I later posted in the Ketchikan trip reports linked above.

Between ferry rides, I hit the road in Ketchikan, Juneau, and Petersburg, and clinched their respective disconnected segments of AK 7. I'd previously traveled all but the newest part of AK 7 in Juneau, and the middle of Ketchikan's, but none of Petersburg's. Combined with travels on my five previous visits to Alaska, I've clinched the entire numbered state highway network in Alaska.

Some miscellaneous notes

-Between my return to Prince Rupert from Alaska and the side trip to Haida Gwaii, I drove the Nisga'a Highway north of Terrace BC to several First Nations communities. The highway is numbered BC 113, for how many years it took the Nisga'a to get official recognition of their First Nation. Perhaps by coincidence, Nisga'a lands along the highway include fields full of a'a lava (old and eroded, might not scratch up your legs as much as the much newer and more jagged a'a in Hawaii).

After my return from Haida Gwaii, I also traveled several other spurs from TCH 16, including BC 118 to Granisle. I'm not sure if there's a story behind that unusually high BC route number, topped only by the obvious BC 395 connecting US 395 to BC 3. I also took the BC 37 spur to Kitimat, a scenic planned community that does a good job of hiding the huge aluminum smelting factories on which the local economy depends.

120 km/h limits on some British Columbia freeways (highest speed limit in Canada) were nice. But my Prius was slowed down by the uphills on the mountain freeways with those limits I traveled, so I couldn't take full advantage. Sure enough, where a long uphill section on BC 5 ended, and drivers started speeding up, Mounties in the median were waiting for them. Also, the 120 km/h segment of BC 97C often had narrow and curbed right shoulders, making it harder for me to pull over and photograph the speed limit signs. That plus the numerous curves made 97C a less likely candidate for a 120 km/h limit than the better-designed BC 5 freeway between Hope and Kamloops.

This trip re-confirmed for me that Saskatchewan's primary highways (except the TCH routes, and most of the major expressway SK 11 from Regina to Prince Albert via Saskatoon) are on average much worse than in neighboring provinces Alberta and Manitoba. (Secondary highways are almost all gravel in Saskatchewan, often paved in Alberta, only sometimes paved in Manitoba.) Some of the primary network in Saskatchewan is gravel, but worse still are the numerous stretches of "broken pavement" with reduced speeds and posted speed limits, and strewn with potholes and other "gotchas" you want to steer around if you can. Believe me, "broken pavement" is often worse than no pavement.

I gnawed away at my remaining rural municipalities in Saskatchewan, helping me toward my plans to next month complete all of Canada's county equivalents. I have 75 or so RMs left in Saskatchewan, out of the excessive 296 total, plus three unvisited counties or equivalents in southern Alberta. But at least the Saskatchewan RMs I still need are in manageable clusters mostly between the U.S. border and TCH 1, and it should take me about a week (lots of driving on lousy Saskatchewan highways, grrrr) to snag them all on my return trip, before completing Canada in the southwestern corner of Alberta.

On this trip,  I went through six border crossings, including clearing U.S. customs in the wee hours of the morning before boarding an early-morning ferry to Alaska, then clearing Canadian customs at a similarly-ridiculous hour on my return to Prince Rupert from Alaska. Those two crossings, and three of the other four crossings, went smoothly. That included the crossing into Manitoba at one of the least-used crossings on that part of the border (north end of MN 89, south of Piney MB), with no line and lots of time for the border agent to give me a hard time if he were so inclined, but fortunately he wasn't. The crossing into Windsor ON via the Ambassador Bridge was particularly speedy, which I really needed at that point since I was running short on daylight for me to view the ON 401 extension. Clearing U.S. customs after crossing the Peace Bridge into Buffalo NY was also hassle-free.

For a minute or two, it was looking like the other low-use crossing, at Fortuna ND (north end of US 85), was going to be same, until the U.S. border agent said "I guess it's your lucky day" to be "selected" for secondary screening (as if he had nothing to do with that!). I guess it was his lucky day that I didn't wrap my hands around his neck! The screening didn't take long, and the agent wasn't otherwise an asshole, but still what I hope was a lame attempt at humor didn't work for me.
« Last Edit: June 28, 2016, 10:04:59 AM by oscar »
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froggie

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Re: Road trip to Toronto meet, via SE Alaska (long, no photos)
« Reply #1 on: June 25, 2016, 07:51:41 AM »

Guessing from the map and your border crossing description that you took all of MN 89 north from Bemidji on the way out?
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oscar

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Re: Road trip to Toronto meet, via SE Alaska (long, no photos)
« Reply #2 on: June 25, 2016, 10:00:38 AM »

Guessing from the map and your border crossing description that you took all of MN 89 north from Bemidji on the way out?

Yes, and I continued on MB 89 to MB 12 in Piney. Before crossing the border, I backtracked a little on MN 89 to snag the short MN 308 connector to MN 11.
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