Yesterday the group split, with the Eilers and Vidals leaving Watson Lake early for a special event. Eventually, they met up again in Whitehorse.
The group split for most of Tuesday. Ann, David, Fernando and Hugo took off earlier than the others for a special birthday event for Hugo. Before they left, they stopped at Watson Lake’s sign forest. One count places the number of signs at 75,000!! It truly is a forest of signs. It’s so big, that the convoy crew told me they spent almost an hour there. Here is a mix of photos from there.
Marty crafted a couple signs, one for his family and one for Alaska Or Rust.
The reason Ann, David, Fernando and Hugo left early, was due to a special event in Hugo’s honor. To explain it, let’s step back in time.
A BRIEF HISTORY:
In November of 1955 winter had already descended on the Yukon when the three boy scouts from Sao Paulo, Hugo Vidal, Charles Downey, and Jan Stekly, arrived at the Marsh Lake Lodge at mile post 883. There, Hugo left an illustration and message in its visitor’s log book:
Several decades later, the wooden lodge burnt to the ground. It was a total loss. Unknown to everyone, the lodge visitor’s book survived, stored in a basement elsewhere.
In the summer of 2016, Stephen Reynolds was offered a chance to look through the book. He randomly opened a few pages, then came upon the drawing of a jeep with the words Alaska and Brasil. They caught his attention, partly because Stephen had contacts in Brasil. One thing led to another and eventually Stephen was able to track down Hugo, then learned it was Hugo who had drawn the illustration!
Our story might have ended there, but then some crazy jeep nuts from the US decided to launch Alaska Or Rust. They released a press release, which Kaiser Willys picked up and published on its site. Hugo spotted the release in early 2017 and immediately contacted his son Fernando, who was living in the United States by that time. Both requested more information about the trip. That’s when they discovered that the trip organizers had scheduled an itinerary that would take the group past the former Marsh Lake Lodge on August 1. That date just happened to be Hugo’s 84th birthday.
Call it serendipity, coincidence, or fate, but with the stars aligning like that, Hugo and Fernando realized they had a chance to visit the spot where Hugo illustrated the drawing and it would happen on Hugo’s birthday. With that realization, the father-son team knew they had to join the Alaska Or Rust crew. So, they contacted David.
What Hugo was not told was that Stephen Reynolds not only had a photo of the book, but that he had access to the book. That would be a secret between Fernando, Stephen, David, and a couple others.
The Vidals and Eilers arrived at mile post 883 (the Alaska Highway was originally marked in miles) at 11:30am. There to greet us and give us a short tour was Carson Schiffkorn, owner of Inn on the Lake , the lodge that eventually replaced the burnt-down Marsh Lake Lodge. Also there was, of course, Stephen Reynolds. In addition, author Lily Gontard joined us; she recently released a book on the history of Alaska Highway lodges called Beyond Mile Zero: The Vanishing Alaska Highway Lodge Community. It’s a beautiful book!
Two folks joined us who documented the event. One was a cinematographer from the Fiat-Chrysler group that owns Jeep, there to document Hugo’s trip from Watson Lake to Beaver Lodge. The second was a free lance author from Brazil.
Finally, two more folks joined the small get-together. In fact, they’d been traveling with the Alaska Or Rust Group since Dawson Creek.
Hugo’s Brazillian friends Luis and Giselle are two of Hugo’s closest friends, Hugo and his wife have travelled all over South America with them. When Hugo told the couple that he’d being participating in Alaska Or Rust, they asked if they could tag along in their motorhome. Why of course, he told them!
So they picked up their motorhome, which was stored in Phoenix, drove to Los Angeles to fix a snag in their Visas, then high tailed as best one can do in a Class A motorhome for Dawson Creek, arriving, in just four days of driving on the eve our departure! Luis can drive the motorhome like’s its a Porsche. He has little trouble keeping up, whether the convoy makes sudden turns or just cruises down the highway.
As I’m running short ton time, I will have to simply say that Hugo was both thrilled and deeply touched by the event. Here are some photos:
MAKING THE NEWS:
Not long after lunch had ended, Stephen guided the small party to Whitehorse. On the way, Todd Penney shared the fact that Alaska Or Rust was front page news!
THE CONVOY CREW:
As the smaller party dined in style at the Inn at the Lake (a lunch of barbecued pork loin, lemon rice, and vegetables that was wonderful), the rest of the convoy made their way north. Here are some photos from the trip:
If you are driving the Alaska Highway, just before reaching Whitehorse, there’s a turnoff for Miles Canyon. Take it. There are a couple different places to park and see the beautiful Yukon River as it courses through Miles Canyon.
MORE PATTERSON SIGNATURES:
Some more folks signed Patterson and Rob’s bobcat hood. Pictured below are Bev and Doug, who drove in to Whitehorse to see the jeeps. The best part of journey has been meeting all the interesting people!
HUGO’S BIRTHDAY PARTY:
The day wouldn’t be complete without a photo of Hugo opening his present from the Convoy Crew. What do you get a man who travels around with Operation Pineapple on his jeep? A pineapple of course .. not easy to find in the Yukon province!
This morning then convoy crew departs for Beaver Creek.