My trip south to the Kenai peninsula had the desired effect. When I awoke the morning after my arrival in Soldotna, the dark clouds were busily scudding off across Cook Inlet – probably intent on plastering Wasilla with yet another inch of rain.
The weather in Soldotna, for the entire three days of our Barn Hunt trial, we’re a mix of sunshine, non-threatening clouds and occasional stiff breezes. Pretty much lovely July weather. Just what I had longed for.
The “view” from my RV wasn’t exactly scenic, but the magnificent blue sky made up for the fact that we were once again asphalt-camping.
Honestly, I treasure this particular overnight site. I’m able to stay the weekend just across the driveway from the trial site, meaning when each trial day is over, I can simply crawl inside, pull an ice-pack out of my freezer, slap it on my knee and take a short nap – without having to drive anywhere. What a blessing.
It was not yet noon on Sunday when Ronni and I loaded up to head back the way we came. My normal routine at the end of a 3-day trial has long been to head straight for the nearest campground to relax and recoup my strength for a night before driving home.
This has pretty much become a habit ever since I bought the motorhome and retired. Part of the joy of travel is not needing to rush home and it is, admittedly, an indulgence I take advantage of every chance I get. I want to enjoy the drive itself.
But this trip, since I hadn’t entered Rhonda in Sunday’s trial, I wasn’t all that tired, and being only about 11:30 am, I decided to drive at least partway home before stopping for the night.
Oh my, was that ever a mistake! Belatedly, I recalled the other reason I usually spent Sunday nights in the first campground I could pull into.
TRAFFIC! Right around 11:00 am on Sunday, every fisherman, tourist and camper in the Kenai peninsula (and double the usual numbers when the salmon are running!), are pulling out of their weekend or week-long campsites and hitting the road. And the overwhelming majority of them are heading towards Anchorage.
On the bright side, slow moving and sometimes completely stopped traffic, combined with lovely weather, gave me ample opportunities to appreciate the scenery that I would normally zip right by, and take some nice photos.
The longest wait was at the junction of the Sterling and Seward highways, where trucks, boats, trailers and motor homes were backed up for more than five miles on the Sterling Hwy, all trying to turn left onto the already busy Seward Hwy.
It was like we were all part of the vehicular version of a salmon run, with the fish [vehicles] from two different streams [highways] merging together, all intent on fighting their way upstream in a mad rush to be first to the spawning grounds.
Being in no particular hurry myself, I relaxed, listened to music and patiently waited my turn. Rhonda was in a sunny spot on the passenger seat, softly snoring.
Driving a motor home along a busy highway where the majority of drivers (rightly or wrongly) want to go faster than I am going, can be stressful if you let it. I was determined not to let it.
So, once I had joined the throng heading north along the Seward Hwy, I went into what I think of as “mirror-mode”. Knowing that, even going the speed limit, I would invariably end up with vehicles behind me who would rather be ahead of me on the winding two-lane highway, I kept both eyes on the road and simultaneously on my side mirrors.
Frustrated Sunday drivers, in a hurry to get somewhere, can be both foolish and dangerous. I try not to give them any added incentive to be either.
There are a number of long passing zones with double lanes along the Seward Hwy, but impatient drivers, often towing boats or trailers, are loath to wait for these safe alternatives.
Fortunately, there are also numerous small and large vehicle pull-out areas, which I make good use of when I can, swinging off the road to allow the two to five vehicles tailgating me like a trailing swarm of bees, to zoom by me to take up position behind the next truck or motor home a couple hundred yards further down the road.
Rather than allow these drivers to stress me and potentially ruin my good mood (I’m usually in a good mood when I’m traveling), I like to make a game out of it.
My favorite is pretending I’m a State Trooper, deciding whether each vehicle rushing past gets a ticket for speeding, tail-gating or maybe unsafe towing … or they could be innocent travelers just caught up in the flow.
If the pull-out has a particularly scenic view, I will often go ahead and stop, allowing Ronni to stretch her legs while I take a few pictures and use my ever-handy bathroom. On this particular trip, the afternoon lighting was great!
Traveling on. When I reach regular passing zones, I always slow to below the speed limit (sometimes well below if there’s a lot of traffic) to make sure anyone who wants to can pass. I’d much rather have them ahead of me than behind me.
In spite of music, photo ops and bathroom breaks, I eventually wearied of the non-stop Sunday traffic. As I rounded the end of Turnagain Arm and reached the jam-packed Girdwood fuel station, a glance at the clock confirmed my fears – I’d be hitting Anchorage at the height of all this going-home chaos.
I mulled possibly alternatives over as I drove onward, loath to take on Anchorage traffic, especially swollen as it would be with hot, tired fishermen, confused tourists and the normal hubbub of the city.
Without much in the way of conscience thought, I soon found myself in the left turn lane, awaiting a break in the south-bound traffic.
Smiling, I turned Roada’s big white nose into the entrance of Bird Creek Campground, about 30 miles shy of Anchorage. Being not quite 4:00 pm on a Sunday afternoon, there should still be a few sites available in this FCFS campground.
A nice long walk in the woods and a good night’s sleep was just what I needed. I’d finish the drive home in peace and quiet the following [Monday] morning, when all the weekend traffic was off the roads. Life was looking good once again.
Famous last words! It was warm, beautiful and breezy when Ronni and I hit the sack that night.
Sometime in the wee hours of the morning, I awoke to the sound of rain, not pattering gently on the roof, but pelting loudly against the sides and top, being thrown against the rig in sheets by what seemed hurricane strength winds.
Those same winds (I heard later they were upwards of 65 mph in my area), buffeted and rocked the RV, even though we were in a relatively protected part of the campground.
With thoughts of tall, nearby trees crashing on the roof, and prayers for any RVs still out on the highway, I snuggled Ronni close and tried to go back to sleep. There was nothing much else to do at 3:00 am.
It just goes to show; if you don’t like the weather where you’re at, you have two choices. Go someplace else, or wait a few hours. It’s sure to change!
In case you are wondering; yes, I did make it home the following morning, although not in the quiet, peaceful manner I’d hoped for. High, gusting winds were making a playground of the entire Anchorage bowl area, and seemed to think playing tag with motorhomes was great fun.
On the bright side, it had stopped raining!