Friday, July 08, 2011
North to Alaska, Part V
Given his demons, it wasn't really much of a choice at all. Dawson City meant Jack London and Robert Service, the Klondike, the Old West, a thousand beloved tropes. He imagined swinging saloon doors and freshly-painted boardwalks, riverboats and grizzled miners, Mounties and old-fashioned general stores. It was a chance to travel back in time to an era he'd romanticized since childhood. He couldn't come this far and miss what might be a once-in-a-lifetime chance.
He turned left, and sealed his fate.
At first, he was surprised by the road's quality. Though winding in all dimensions, the asphalt was smooth and fresh, salmon-pink in sections, a colour he'd never before associated with roads. The road was well-named; it seemed to climb inexorably to the heavens, the valleys and chasms below growing ever distant. The lack of guardrails inspired intense caution; he kept his eyes on the road, though the beauty of the perpetual sunset was compelling. He would stop for pictures, he promised himself, when he crossed the border.
Did he deserve this indulgence, he wondered? Perhaps not. But he needed it, and when the border opened up again some time later, he drove on, renewed. The sensation would be fleeting.
The road steadily improved as he made his way to Dawson City, and then he spotted it, wonder of wonders:
He worried about Sylvia; she would almost certainly think that he'd crashed the car or been eaten by a bear. But what could he do? He certainly couldn't drive to Whitehorse, not after skipping a night's sleep. He could only hope that she wouldn't fret too much, and he would have to put aside his guilt and try to enjoy the town. He was too tired to explore much, so he confined himself to a quick excursion of his hotel's street, snapping an initial round of photos, promising to capture the more interesting sights the next day:
It was the day before disaster.