After months of planning, yesterday we finally got our chance to drive the Alaska Highway! Our stop for the evening would be in Fort Nelson, BC.
Yesterday morning was filled by a sense of excitement for the trip to begin. It was the first day of our five day trek to Alaska. We’d planned to leave at 8am, so hustle and bustle was prevalent early.
David drove to the gas station right after waking. Having never filled up Patterson’s custom stainless steel tank, he had no idea how much it would take. But, after having to run into the store to pay for gas several times because he’d misjudged how much would fit into the tank, he returned to the hotel and staged the DJ, ready to lead the group north. Spoiler alert … up to this point, Patterson had started dependably for the past month.
Naturally, when the big moment came and we were ready to take a quick tour of the local roundabout where his wife Ann was positioned to do a Facebook Live event, he turned the key and …. Patterson wouldn’t start. Joe, quickly recognizing that he was having a problem, gave him a quick push.
Now that he was rolling and, once Merlin also was pushed started (Mortimer and Patterson were in a groove), they drove a short distance, rounded the roundabout and waved at Ann as she streamed them live for everyone to see! Except, there was another slight hiccup. Facebook wasn’t full cooperating, so their FB live was a bust. No matter, they had fun with their little parade.
Their first stop for the day was at the Kiskatinaw wooden bridge, a part of the original (or early) Alaska Highway.
They stopped just short of the bridge so Ann could ready her camera and Luis, Andreas’ son, could prep his drone. David agreed to wait a few minutes (no cell service) before dramatically entering the bridge.
As we waited, David sat in the front of the line in Patterson when a car appeared, then pulled up beside him. The window rolled down and the nice woman told them very calmly, “you are supposed to hurry, the wind is wearing down the drone’s batteries”.
Off they went!
Energized, they hopped back in their jeeps and headed for our next event, a meeting in Fort St. John with Rainer Grimm so they could drop off Rob’s truck and Ron’s trailer.
As they neared Fort St. John, focused on keeping my wheels in my lane as side winds toyed with him, David I barely noticed a built jeep coming from the opposite direction. It turned around, then hopped in front of the Caravan. He didn’t put it together until the jeep led them to the town’s Tim Horton’s that it was Rainer Grimm in a jeep he calls the Monster.
As they pulled into the parking lot, Merlin noticed oil leaking from the underside. They quickly grabbed a spill kit (thanks to the PNW4WDA) and caught most of the oil. After some discussion about the issue, it was decided that to refill the tranny and see if it continued to leak. Not only did it not leak, but the engine, which had been warming up a little high, ran cooler afterwards. It was concluded that someone had put too much oil in the tranny.
As Merlin worked on his jeep, others tested out Patterson’s electrical system to see why it wasn’t starting.
Still others got massages:
Once Merlin was running again, they followed Rainer to his place to drop off the truck and trailer. They waited for a short time at Rainer’s place for his friend to show up, but the crew had to get going. So they left, understanding that they’d stop if chaseddown.
Back on the open road, they were cruising between 45-50MPH, no doubt causing some polite Canadians to become little frustrated with them. About then, they entered the Bermuda Triangle of Canada.
First to go down was Merlin. He was pushing old Mortimer pretty hard. Though the temperature issues were more under control, he began to have oil pressure issues. Not wanting to sacrifice his engine for the glory of driving his Slat Grill MB the entirety of the highway, he pulled over.
Seeing him pull over, David slowed, but did not stop. He was hoping to find a hill so that if he had to shut off the engine he could compression start it again. That plan was flawed by one issue: he was running on a nearly dead battery. As soon as he slowed, the engine coughed into silence. When he rolled backwards to compression start, it was dead. Even the hazards were dead. So, both Merlin and David hooked their jeeps to their newer jeeps so they could tow them.
Minutes later, Russ’ Jeepster “Charlene” began to have a clutch problem. It also had an oil pressure issue, later thought to be fixed with a change it oil types.
As we waited, they got a good look at the Kubota engine he has installed in his truck using the Overland Diesel conversion kit. It was running really well.
With the three slowest vehicles now either being towed or on trailers, the entire caravan picked up speed.
A short time later, Rainer and his friend caught up to them, so Ann and David stopped to talk with them and had them sign Patterson.
With Ann and David in the back, they sped up to the caravan. At one point they spied Marty and Don parked on a side road, so they stopped to see what was up. David wasn’t worried they were stuck or having a problem, since Marty has pretty much an entire jeep packed in his trailer, a welder under his hood, and Don “MacGuyver” Brown as his copilot who, could probably fabricate a running jeep out of tooth picks and a pocket knife.
From there, Marty and David caught up with the group at Pink Top Mountain, a gas stop sized waystop. It marked the halfway point in our trip. There, the crew ate some lunch, before hopping back on the road. It was hard driving after that as they had 6pm dinner appointment at Dalex Auto Services.
Todd and Diana Penney own Dalex Auto Services in Fort Nelson. One local described them to me as a great couple; he said tthey were always ready to help with town events and parades.
Todd had discovered the Alaska Or Rust Crew was coming through months earlier and had invited them to visit. He offered dinner and the crew offered jeeps. It seemed like a great match! Quite a few of the locals dropped by to enjoy the jeeps.
Todd very kindly opened his shop for Don to help Russ fix his clutch problem.
Again, a big thanks to Todd and Diana and the locals of Fort Nelson for making them feel so welcomed!
Just when they thought the night was over, David began receiving picture texts from Bill, who was camping in Fort Nelson, showing a few jeeps from the local Heritage Museum that is next to the campground.
All in all, despite the breakdown of three jeeps, it was an excellent day!