Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Dawson Creek, Day Two

Our "obligatory" photo under the Alaska (Alcan) Highway sign:
The Alcan Highway
After the photo-op, we saw a wonderful PBS documentary on the making of the Alcan Highway. The short version: after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Military realized that Alaska was in jeopardy from a Japanese attack via the Aleutians. To arm the Alaskan outposts, a road would need to be built to supply arms and personnel. The instructions were stupidly simple and yet a logistical nightmare: build a 1400 mile highway from British Columbia to Alaska, any way you can, through uncharted wilderness and across the Rocky Mountains, and do it in 8 months. Hardships were many:
  • In wintery months, the temperature sunk to 40 degrees below zero, so cold that eyelashes were frosted
  • In summery months, the temperature hit 90 degrees above zero coupled with mosquitoes so fierce that bare skin could not be shown
  • Permafrost areas melted when insulating trees were cut, turning everything to deep, unforgiving mud in which even bulldozers got stuck
  • The road in these muddy areas had to be built by laying down one hand-cut tree at a time, butted against each other and parallel to the road
  • After 12-hour workdays, nights were spent in sleeping bags under trees -- and there were no days off
  • Diets might consist of three meals a day of pancakes, or weeks and weeks of Spam
And the Army did it.

Another Lesson For Us To Learn
You'd think by now we'd both know just about all there was to know about shopping for groceries, but Canada had one more thing to teach us: locked shopping carts.

We stopped at the grocery store, grabbed our stash of eco-friendly reusable shopping bags, entered the store, and immediately found ourselves feeling confused and perhaps a bit stupid because we could not find any carts. We knew the store had them -- we could see other shoppers with carts. None outside, none at the front. So we asked a clerk, who grudgingly pointed outside and said they were in the cart corral.

"What a cheap store!" we think. "They can't even send someone outside to get them."

But this is what we find when we go out:

All the carts are locked together, and it takes a looney (a $1 coin, called a "looney" because it has a picture of a loon on the reverse) to free one. Once a coin is inserted in a slot on the cart, the lock is freed, but the coin is trapped.
When the cart is returned and re-locked, the coin is freed and you get it back.
More Murals
Dawson Creek has murals throughout the town to commemorate its past. The Alaska Hotel is especially decorated -- the alley to its right is fully muralized as a re-creation of an historic street.
Moose detail:
This mural is at the back of the alley. Note the telephone pole and pole support have also been painted:
Even the doors are painted works of art:
Pioneer Museum
We also visited the Pioneer Museum which has on display original and recreated buildings from Dawson Creek's past. We happened to meet a very interesting gentleman there -- John Wright, who was at one time the Fire Captain. He told us about the area's history and geology, and then we got a personalized tour of the village's firehouse. Thanks, John, it was a lot of fun!
On Our Way
Here is the Mile 0 Sign:
Tomorrow we begin our journey on the Alaska Highway!


Cookies Travels said...

I can alwats count on you for my history lessons!

Ronald said...

I keep a looney in my back pocket to mark my balls.

birdladydeb said...

Arn't those Murals Something... such depth and 3D hey?.... beautiful. they look as beautiful as one's eye 5yrs ago. US...Thx for the historic AK hotel....Enjoy DawsonCreek now Onward to AdventureLand AK Highway...lots & lots to C.