Friday, September 21, 2007

More on the Road Trip to Whitehorse

• Does YOUR state have milemarkers that are 4 digits? What a rare and wonderful thing, to have a highway spread out before me, more than a thousand miles in length. Yeah, some of the interstates in the Lower 48 add up to more than a thousand miles, but you have to start over at each state border with the mile markers.

• On my 13 hour drive to Whitehorse, there were about 6 hours of driving when I had no radio stations. It was a delight to get far enough into the Yukon to pick up a CBC station and hear Barbara Budd say “This is ‘As It Happens.’” The areas without radio have shrunk since I first drove the Alcan, but I still got to see the sign that says Now Leaving the Emergency Services Corridor. After that point, if something happens to you, you’re on your own. Limited local budgets can’t afford to send ambulances hundreds of miles out. That’s why it’s still a law in Alaska that travelers must stop on the highway and render aid if needed. If a car breaks down or there’s any sort of emergency, no matter what time of year it is, it could become life-threatening if any passing vehicle wasn’t expected to stop and help.

• I’m too cheap to get a decent cell phone plan. It makes me drool to watch all those mean ads on TV where Jamie Lee Curtis is showing off the latest phone with a $29,99 plan on Verizon or whoever. Those carriers don’t offer plans to us who live in Alaska. Sometimes your phone will work up here, but if we say we live here, we can’t sign up for that company. Alaska plans are so much more expensive than the national plans available in the Lower 48 since we have so few people to spread the cost to. I had a great $19,99 AT&T 1,000 free long distance minutes plan when I lived in Minnesota. Now I’m lucky to have a $39.99 plan with 500 free long distance minutes through Alaska Digitel. I discovered shortly after signing the two-year contract with them that I couldn’t actually get reception at my house, squarely between Palmer and Wasilla on a high hill. For two years I heard that they were building new towers as we spoke. A month after I was able to leave that company, I suddenly could talk inside my house, without having to walk down the driveway 200 yards to not lose a call, so I decided to stay with them because they are the least miserable choice. I’m supposed to have an “All Alaska” plan. I couldn’t figure out why no one was calling me on that trip to Whitehorse as I drove across Alaska on the way there and back. On my return, I was only four miles outside of Palmer when my phone “came to life again” and alerted me that I had voice mails—42 of them, from the past four days.
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