Stop the Car! I'm Dizzy! Alcan, Part 3

Fascinating wildlife on the Alaska Highway

"For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse." (Rom 1:20 NIV)

I am staring right now at a bumper sticker. Word for word, spelling error included, it says in bold letters: "I Drove the Alaska Hiway and lived!" The bumper sticker then shows a picture of a man in very bad shape, with torn clothing and bandages wound around his head, standing beside a car that seems to have faired even worse. Can the Alaska Highway really be that bad? After all, we had already driven part of it, and we weren't in bad shape...

But then, we didn't drive the original, 1523 mile-long highway, the one that was built in less than nine months...

Let's just imagine standing out in the wilderness in 1942, watching the construction crews struggle to meet their impossible deadlines. Remember to keep your distance, or you might be at risk of becoming unidentified road kill!

The first group to be on the watch for is the surveyors. Remember, it's 1942 and there are no detailed topographic maps or GPSs. These workers have to rely solely on the sparse information provided by the Canadian Department of Transportation and by the First Nations guides. As a result, much of their surveying goes like this: One of the surveyors climbs up a tree (or if he is tired, he will forego the better view for the easier climb and crawl onto a piece of equipment instead). He will then choose an object in the distance, and the crew will work towards it. Everything is done to avoid major obstacles, but as this isn't always possible, creativity is often necessary!

If you are managing to stay out of the way of the tree the surveyors are climbing, you can then stick around to watch for the three bulldozers that follow the line that the surveyors blaze. The first bulldozer goes straight down the centre line, destroying anything in its path (Watch out for your toes!). The next two follow after the first, clearing a road-width swatch through the forest.

Smaller bulldozers follow the large ones. If you've ever had the "privilege" of having three large bulldozers cross your yard, you will understand the job of the smaller machines: To clean up the mess left by the larger ones!

Behind these miniature dozers, other units follow suite. Their purpose is to build culverts and ditches, and temporary bridges that they know will wash away in the Spring. Sometimes they deem it necessary to lay a bed of logs on the rough ground, with the purpose of keeping the road from sinking into boggy, wet marshes. Yuck!

Forty-eight to 64 kms behind these units, the largest unit follows, the Engineering Unit. Its task is to create a plausible road surface that will sustain military transportation. Scrapers, loaders and trucks are used to widen and straighten the road as much as possible. They reroute some of the steepest grades and cover the surface with gravel . . .

Are you starting to get the picture? The original Alaska Highway wasn't a fun road to drive! Definitely not one you would choose for a leisurely Sunday afternoon drive! It isn't any wonder that in 1958 (16 years after this highway was built), the American Automobile Association recommended that anyone travelling this highway bring the following items: "Two mounted spare tires (preferably six-ply or nylon) and tubes, fuel pump, spark plugs, fan belt, light fuses, cold-patch tube repair kit and pump, car tools, a fire extinguisher, tow rope or cable, and an extra coil and condenser."

In all reality, the road really isn't all that bad anymore. It does have the tendency to go up and down and to twist and turn, and it is true that people can literally become seasick while driving this fascinating highway. But the view, as well as the many wildlife encounters (free roaming bison, mountain goats, horses, elk, deer, bear, moose, and even eagles), make every curve and every climb well worth the effort. As we twisted and turned along the Highway ourselves, we couldn't help but thank God for His beautiful creation. Wow! God sure knows how to make masterpieces!

In life, we are always faced with the choice of either thanking God for the beauty of His creation or of focusing on the negative. In a world fallen to sin, we can not expect perfection. This will only come when we meet Jesus face to face. I mean, just imagine: "There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." (Rev. 21:4 NIV)

In the meantime let's focus on the positive, on the beauty that God has surrounded us with. Wow! We can't help but fall on our knees and adore our Lord and Creator!

"Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving." (Eph 5:4 NIV)

"For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving." (1 Tim 4:4 NIV)

Will you join me in my trek through the Yukon? Don't forget to pack those two mounted spare tires and the extra spark plugs! But most of all, be prepared to stand in awe in front of our Creator, who cares and loves each one of us!

Rob Chaffart

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