We have been here for 2 weeks. We had planned to stay until the end of October and take the ferry from Haines to Bellingham. Things have changed. Jerry’s brother Bert is in the hospital because he had a heart valve replaced. He is doing less well than we hoped, and will probably need help when he is released from the hospital. We expected to find out more about how Bert is progressing today; there was supposed to be a meeting of doctors and nurses and social workers to decide what to do with him. Jerry called the social worker and the meeting has been postponed until tomorrow. So we have another day of uncertainty.
Whatever Burt’s prognosis is we have decided to go home in 2 days from now. It will take 4 or 5 days to drive home, but only 6 hours to get from Bellingham to Spokane where Bert is. Our time here has been short and uneasy. We went to Fairbanks last Friday to get a month’s supplies, but a few days later we are trying to figure out what we can take back to Lummi with us and what we can leave here.
The drive to Fairbanks did not go as planned. A day before we started Jerry noticed the voltage meter in the truck was registering low. He thought the alternator might be wearing out and planned to replace it in Fairbanks. He borrowed a battery from our neighbor in case we needed it to get to Fairbanks. We needed it soon after we left Manley. About 50 miles along the Elliot Highway the truck battery gave out. As Jerry was replacing it with the borrowed battery a dusty red pickup truck stopped and a young man asked whether we needed help. Jerry explained, and the young man said he and the old gent he was with would wait until we got started again and if he saw us in difficulty on the road he would stop again.
The borrowed battery took us another 50 miles. We were still 50 miles short of Fairbanks. We pulled off the highway into the driveway of Alaska oil pipeline pump station number 7; service a truck going in called the station and asked for help for us. They said security prevented them from doing anything at all.
We managed to get a few more miles down the road when the battery gave its last gasp. We found a place to pull off and waited for the red pickup. I said I would wait with the truck and the dogs while Jerry went to town. When the red pickup finally came (it took time because it drove slowly) Jerry climbed into the back of the cab closed the door and waved goodbye.
I felt forlorn. It was chilly. The dogs and I needed to pee. The pull-off where we were sitting was on the edge of a steep driveway down to an abandoned camp site where there was a derelict camping trailer with a rusty weed-whacker beside it. I put the dogs on leashes and climbed down the driveway where I found a secluded spot. We all felt better when we got back to the truck.
I got out my Kindle and began to read the dog behavior book. Besides that book on the Kindle I have all of the Barchester novels, but I had recently reread most of them. The only one that I had not read when I down-loaded the set was “The Small House at Allington.” That wonderful story kept me company on the ferry and the road trip to Manley. But, alas, I had finished it a few days before. Dog behavior is moderately interesting, but my attention did wander sometimes to how isolated it seemed out on this highway, which goes to Manley — 100 miles away, to Livengood, 50 miles at the start of the Dalton Highway where there’s a sign that says firmly: “No Services.” Beyond Livengood are a few scattered native villages, and finally, the North Slope and oil. The few cars that passed the spot where the poodles and I sat were mostly hunters pulling 4 wheelers on trailers and 18 wheelers pulling oil drilling pipe and equipment.
It was 1 o’clock in the afternoon when Jerry left. I calculated, from the time to Fairbanks and back, and time for shopping for parts, that it would be at least 3 hours before I would see Jerry again.
At 5 minutes past 4 a small white sedan came around the bend in the road with its blinker on and Jerry pulled up with the young man from the red pickup. In the back seat of the sedan was a young woman and two little girls. Jerry smiled broadly as he got out. I was extremely glad to see him. He got to work replacing the alternator and battery, assisted by the young man, Uriah. I got in the car with the young woman, Laura and two little girls, Sophie and Isabella. They were a family from Tenekee Springs. Uriah was a commercial fisherman. He had been hunting birds (the moose season is over) in Manley with the old gent of the red pickup. Laura, his wife, and the two kids came out so that the kids would have a nap.
They were a lovely family. Uriah’s father had been a teacher and had come to Alaska when Uriah was 4. Laura came here from Wyoming a few years ago as a home helper with a child who had severe cerebral palsy. Uriah and Laura had met on a blind date. Sophie, a beautiful blond child was about 4 and Isabelle, also blond was about 2. I hope to find out their address and send a present to the girls, because Uriah refused to accept any money for all his help.
Jerry and I drove on to Fairbanks and stocked up. Now, a couple of days later, I am packing up to take what I can home to Lummi.
Tomorrow I will do the laundry at the Washateria, clean house, pack what we can take home and give away what we can‘t take –stuff that freezing would spoil. the Redingtons will come over for dinner. We will take our last walk up the hill through the woods to the mining track. Thursday morning Jerry will purge the pipes of water in preparation for winter, turn off the propane and the heat, lock up the house, and start down the road to the lower 48.
It’s over almost before it started.